Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. The Burgundy Letter by Kirk Shimano is a comedic retelling of the classic novel The Scarlet Letter set in a high school and reframed for a digital age.
In an online community, Hester90 is publicly shamed and shunned for a racial slur against another student, but refuses to name her cohort in the hateful conversation. RoChi wants the conspirator found out and humiliated. Climate_Dale wants everyone to come to his annual Earth Day address.
How do we strike a balance between holding individuals accountable while still having compassion for those who apologize for their mistakes?
Why did we publish this play?
We love adaptations here at Theatrefolk and The Burgundy Letter is an excellent example. It’s a comedic retelling of the classic novel The Scarlet Letter set in a high school and reimagined for a digital age. There’s a lot to be explored about how public shaming currently works in social media and this play offers so much in terms of conversation about how we can strike a balance between holding individuals accountable for what they say while still having compassion for those who apologize for their mistakes. Add to that, we love complex teen characters and this play has so many wonderful roles for student actors to play! This play might have our favourite character name of all time:
1. Why did you write this play?
There are many ways in which the challenges of navigating social media are completely unprecedented, but ultimately we’re all still human beings just trying to share our lives together. I thought that using a classic story as a way of exploring a modern phenomena would be a fun way to build an old perspective on a new problem.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
This is a story about transgressions and forgiveness. How do we hold people accountable for their actions while leaving room for someone to grow?
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
Every action in this play revolves around the moment when Hester90 stands in front of the monitor declaring “SHAME” while wearing her burgundy letter.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Nothing in this story is a simple case of right versus wrong. When we get into arguments on the Internet, it can be so easy to take sides and lose sight of the gray areas. Each character in this piece should be given the opportunity to connect with the audience.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
I think they’ll be able to find the events in this play directly relatable to their own experiences and bring their own perspectives to the telling of this story. I hope that their generation will be the one to teach the rest of us how to coexist harmoniously online, and I think that this play will help them to continue the conversation.
6. Do you have any advice for people looking to perform this play online or socially distanced?
It’s a story that takes place entirely online, so I encourage them to be creative in thinking about how an online medium can be used to enhance that story!