UNCG Theatre will present “In the Blood,” a contemporary adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic “The Scarlet Letter,” in Brown Building Theatre April 17-22.

In the adaptation, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Hester is a homeless African-American woman with five children. As they struggle to make ends meet in their “home under the bridge,” their lives become more fraught because, as Hester notes, “ends got further apart.”
“In the Blood” demonstrates the ways in which the most vulnerable among us sometimes fail to get the genuine help they need while in the depths of poverty. Hester is exploited by the things and people who are charged with helping her — medicine, religion, welfare, even her lover and her best friend —  ultimately conducting an act of violence that shatters her world and abolishes what little hope she had left.

Performances of the play will be at 7:30 p.m. April 17-19; 8 p.m. on April 20-21 and 2 p.m. on April 22. Tickets are $18 and may be purchased online at boxoffice.uncg.edu, by calling 336-334-4849 Monday-Friday between noon and 5 p.m. and at campus box office locations. Discounted rates are available for seniors, students, UNCG alumni and groups of 10 or more.

Playwright Parks is noted for the theatricality of her writing, stretching the limits of evocative wordplay, said Christine Woodworth, the play’s director. In many ways “In the Blood” is a play about language,  Woodworth, a faculty member in UNCG’s theatre department, added.

“As the play opens, it is clear that Hester is illiterate as her 13-year-old son, Jabber, teaches her how to write the letter ‘A,’” Woodworth said. “Language and literacy can be the keys to liberation but language can also contain, oppress and damage. Throughout the play, Hester is defined by other figures in fairly derogatory terms, illustrating the negative power of words.

“We’ve attempted to underscore the ways in which language operates in Hester’s life as both promise and a prison. Additionally, given the doubling of characters that Parks calls for, we’ve fully embraced that theatricality by situating all transitions within the space, in full view of the audience. This production will be staged in the round (with audience on all sides of the playing space), inviting the audience to bear witness to Hester’s story but also to bear witness to each other as we watch this world unfold.”

The opportunity to direct a run of “In the Blood” fulfills a long-held desire for Woodworth. “‘In the Blood’ is a play that I have wanted to direct for almost a decade,” she said, dating back to one of her first academic presentations. “I find (Suzan-Lori Parks’) entire body of work to be daring. She confronts history and language in a wonderfully provocative manner.

“I’m fascinated by contemporary adaptations of literature and this piece is a riff on Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ Instead of an adulterous religious and social outcast, however, Parks’ Hester is a homeless African-American woman with five children. Parks weaves a compelling story that illustrates the complexities of poverty in contemporary culture. ‘In the Blood’ illustrates the ways in which institutional systems that are set-up to help those on the margins of society can sometimes fail to do so in extraordinary ways.”

UNCG’s presentation of the play is also a wonderful challenge for theatre students, she added. “Because the cast is so small — with just 6 actors — it is a wonderful challenge to build ensemble and create a dynamic and taut performance.”

For more information, contact Jody Kaizen at (336)-334-4601.