Hester Prynne, the heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th-century novel The Scarlet Letter, seems an unlikely candidate for a 21st-century crusader.Hester was a member of a Massachusetts Puritan colony in the mid-1640s when she bore a child out of wedlock and was forced to wear a scarlet letter identifying her as an adulterer. Hester refused to name the father of her child so he escaped her humiliation.Theatre Calgary is presenting Phyllis Nagy’s 1994 stage version of The Scarlet Letter, which portrays Hester not as a victim but as a strong-willed, defiant woman who proudly owns her reputation and her letter.Heather Pattengale, who plays Hester in TC’s The Scarlet Letter, says her character “proudly chooses to live apart from the society that surrounds her. She questions the strictures of her society and that is an important quality to have no matter if you’re living in a 17th-century Puritan community or in 21st -century Canada. It is always good to question what others take for granted.”As with Hester, faith is an important part of Pattengale’s life. She lives in a Christian community in Rosebud with her husband, singer and songwriter Paul Zacharias.“Our community in Rosebud is faith-based but we are also artists and we’re quite liberal. We believe in forgiveness and grace and that we do not have the right to judge or punish others, which is the exact opposite of the community in which Hester lives.“These days, I see the rush to condemn others in society at large far more than in my Rosebud community and it really terrifies me,” says Pattengale, in explaining why she doesn’t own a cellphone or participate on any social media.“I see more and more that social media is controlling the people who use it. It has made so many people in our society quick to be offended and to lash out as a result. Again, this is what happened to Hester and this is why the play seems so relevant today.“In a really strange, non-religious way, society is reverting to the Puritan way of demanding public punishment. There is so much name-calling going on and people seem to delight in the downfall of others. They want to watch other people suffer publicly and that is what Hester endures in The Scarlet Letter.”Pattengale says she hopes she can find the same strength in her life as Hester does.“So many really horrible things happen to Hester yet she has the internal strength to rise above them. She knows who she is and what she wants from life. She knows she does not have to accept as truth what other people say, especially what they say about her.“The strongest people always know and hold onto their own truths.”Pattengale says the exciting thing about Nagy’s stage version of The Scarlet Letter is the way she has put a very modern spin on Hawthorne’s original dialogue. “It’s a real mash-up of the two eras.”In 2016, Nagy received an Oscar nomination for her adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel Carol, and her version of The Scarlet Letter has won accolades on both sides of the Atlantic.TC’s version of The Scarlet Letter is directed by Micheline Chevrier who, in her 35 years as a Canadian director, artistic director and dramaturge, has worked at most of Canada’s regional theatres, including TC, Alberta Theatre Projects, The Shaw Festival, the Citadel, The Globe and the Centaur. She is currently the artistic director of Montreal’s Imago Theatre.Starring opposite Pattengale are Kristen Padayas as Hester’s daughter Pearl, Christopher Hunt as Roger Chillingworth — a doctor determined to discover the identity of Pearl’s father, and Charlie Gallant as Arthur Dimmesdale, the young minister who is Hester and Pearl’s only real ally. Paul Cowling, Bobbi Goddard and Declan O’Reilly round out the cast.The Scarlet Letter runs in the Max Bell Theatre until March 23.