birth of an original

High school juniors across the U.S. delve into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter every year—and you were probably one of them. UIndy unveiled a new dimension to the story this year, however, bringing Hawthorne’s characters to life in the form of an original musical theatre production, called Shame.

Written by a pair of UIndy profs, Pete Schmutte, associate professor of Music, and Brad Wright, associate professor of Theatre, Shame is an original interpretation of the 160-year-old story, which follows Hester Prynne, a woman shunned by her Puritan New England community when she has a baby out of wedlock.

“There is a reason this novel is an American classic,” Wright said. “Hawthorne really hooked me as I started to read between the lines.” Schmutte originally began work on a Scarlet Letter musical with two colleagues in the 1980s, but the project was shelved after a short run at a local theatre. This summer, Brad Wright joined the project, and he and Pete Schmutte took the original script and music and reworked them almost completely. Shame was a great learning oppor-tunity for faculty and students alike. The writers continued to tweak the show right up until its run began, and cast and crew had the chance to see how a show evolves from concept to production.

Jen Alexander (associate adjunct professor) directed, and UIndy junior Arianne Villareal captivated audiences with her performance as leading lady.

“We were all a little nervous at first,” Arianne said. “This is the largest part I’ve ever had and the opportunity to originate a role is amazing. There’s a lot more pressure to get things exactly right because I know they want their work to be represented well. But we really got to know the intention behind the words and songs with them there, and that’s really helpful.”

Shame debuted to a packed house —and rave reviews from local media, including a 3.5-star (out of 4) review from Nuvo Newsweekly, which noted that the show “often met and sometimes surpassed the standard” of a Broadway production.

—Jacki Dillman ’12