THE AMISH PROJECT is a solo show exploring how the forgiveness and compassion extended by the Amish toward the shooter of the Nickel Mines school shooting had ripple effects in the community at large. The situation has elements of religion and cultural attitudes involved, but ultimately, the themes in The Amish Project are universal – they are about how we want to exist in the world.
While the Nickel Mines story is nine years old, we still experience shootings regularly, atrocities throughout the world and in our communities, offenses, insults and slights in our everyday lives by people we consider to be different from ourselves. At a time when the chasm is widening between people with different beliefs, a play like The Amish Project can help all of us to ask a little more of ourselves.
While the show isn’t specifically crafted for a religious audience, the Amish belief in a radical forgiveness takes center stage of the piece and shows the concrete effects of extending compassion toward others. It illustrates how people react when confronted with active graciousness rather than anger, and how that challenges their own behaviors and beliefs as a result.
There is a tension in American life right now between the secular outlook and religious beliefs, but I was attracted to this play specifically because it bridges those two perspectives. The Amish Project speaks to the secular in terms of the real benefits of forgiveness and understanding in non-religious life, while it illustrates to religious people the importance of a concrete, active understanding of their spiritual beliefs.
We hope that The Amish Project will compel discussion between the religious and the secular on how we have more in common than we might always admit, and how we can extend understanding and compassion to one another to navigate this world together.
Founding Director, The New Ensemble