In Suzan-Lori Parks's In the Blood, which scenes exemplify theatricality?

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In the Blood is a play written by Suzan-Lori Parks. It is inspired by the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The play centers around Hester, a struggling mother of five children with absent fathers.

When discussing theatricality, I like to think about how directors might stage the show, in addition to what the playwright has printed on the page.

For example, Hester's five children are played by adult actors that also double as other characters such as the Doctor, the Reverend, and the Welfare Lady. This raises some theatrical questions: to what extent should the performers act like children? How does the production differentiate between characters through acting, costumes, or a combination of the two? Throughout the play, the characters are given soliloquies about their relationship with Hester. Theatricality can be discussed in these scenes, in terms of how they are staged and how the speeches are delivered by the actors.

In the script, Parks says the place is "Here" and the time is "Now." She says "the setting should be spare, to reflect the poverty of the world of the play." In scene one, which takes place "home under a bridge," we see "the word SLUT scrawled on a wall." Readers can imagine that this graffiti would stand out on a sparse stage. In this scene, Hester also demonstrates the only letter she knows: "With great difficulty Hester makes an "A" in the dirt." This stage direction inspires some production questions: Is there actual dirt on stage? How can this be made clear to the audience?

The motif of drawing the letter A on stage returns at the end of the play, when Hester's son Jabber repeats the word "slut" over and over again, and in a rage, Hester beats him to death. Theatricality can be discussed in this sequence, as Hester draws the letter A with her son's blood.

Another theatrical scene is the finale in the prison, when the cast surrounds Hester (as they did in the prologue), repeating the same phrases they said then. Hester stands with blood-drenched hands. These final sequences tie in to elements from the beginning of the show. This theatrically creates the feeling of circular text, while also making the differences stand out: it is very different to see "A" drawn in dirt versus blood.

Another interesting theatrical aspect is the use of music. One song, written by Parks, appears in scene seven. We can think about why Parks might have done this and what affect it has on the audience.

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