Monday, March 30, 2009

Barn-Raising for THE AMISH PROJECT

The Amish Project, a one-woman play written and performed by Jessica Dickey, had a very successful run last summer at the New York International Fringe Festival (here's our review), and just completed a developmental workshop at Cherry Lane Theatre. Dickey and her dedicated collaborators are hoping to bring the piece to a full-fledged off-Broadway run, but the economic situation has affected these plans. So now they're tackling the fundraising on their own. I asked Jessie to tell the readers of the Good News Theatre Blog more about this project. Here's our cyber-conversation:

Me: What is The Amish Project about? What inspired you to create it and how did you go about developing it?

JD: On October 2nd, 2006, the local milkman of Nickel Mines, PA, walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse, shot all the girls and then himself. This strange tragedy caused a media frenzy as the gruesome details of the gunman and his young Amish victims emerged. But then the story turned: Hours after the attack, the Amish reached out to the family of the gunman and offered their condolences and forgiveness.

The Amish Project is a fictional exploration of the Nickel Mines shooting, following seven characters (including the gunman’s widow and two Amish girls) through this extraordinary chain of events. Imbued with poetry and humor, The Amish Project is ultimately about the power of forgiveness.

We have an amazing creative team: Directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, scenic design by Lauren Helpern, lighting design by Nicole Pearce, and sound by Jill BC DuBoff, with stage management by Ryan Raduechel.

Me: What are audiences telling you about the experience of seeing the show that is propelling you forward?

JD: Audience members always express a profound connection with the characters; it’s incredible to perform a play that inspires such universal catharsis... One guy came up to me after the show, tears rolling down his face, and said, “Now I know how to be a better human being.” As sentimental as it sounds, The Amish Project touches on something very profound, something that compels its audience to reach out to one another and discuss.

So when the money fell through for our official world premiere, there was a strong consensus among the creative team that we had a unique opportunity: So many people had already seen the play and been deeply touched (through our run in FringeNYC and our workshop at Cherry Lane) -- if everyone gave even a little, we could raise the money to bring The Amish Project to the wider audience it deserves. Thus began our Barn Raising campaign.

Me: What’s the barn raising idea all about? What are you trying to accomplish and how can readers help?

JD: The Amish have a tradition of rallying around a neighbor in need, and barn raisings are an authentic example—the entire district brings food and works together to build the barn, not for personal benefit, but for the benefit of the community. It seems completely appropriate that in an artform whose main ingredient is community (the creative team, the cast, the audience), and a play that seeks to honor the incredible journey of a particular community, we would find ourselves reaching out to our own community! So The Amish Project is raising a “barn” of $50,000 for our world premiere. And it’s working -- we’re halfway there -- but we still need your help.

It is no coincidence that what is happening with The Amish Project reflects a trend in our theatre community (and indeed our country)—as we face this economic crisis, many will be forced to collaborate to survive. But I believe this is a good thing. The tragedy at Nickel Mines left us much to ponder on forgiveness and faith, but lately I am most struck by the idea of togetherness. Perhaps in our ailing times -- financial, spiritual, and theatrical -- this is the most important ingredient of all.

Please visit our beautiful website to learn how you can get involved:


Crystal said...

The Amish Project is a beautiful, beautiful play. I was happy to donate and can't wait to see it again!

Todd Reichmann said...

I was very moved by this play...saw it at Cherry Lane in January. Jessica Dickey is amazing in it. A socially important play as well...let's raise the barn!!!