Category: Reviews

The Amish Project: Reviews and Responses

From the Fresno Bee’s Review of The Amish Project:

THE AMISH PROJECT is a “gutsy little production” and “There is much to admire in this well acted and directed production…In a violent world, The New Ensemble delivers provocative theater.”


“Go see The Amish Project! Major kudos to Heather Parish and The New Ensemble for this breathtaking show. In the wake of so many mass shootings, I think it’s easy to become desensitized. This show made the tragedy of those events intensely personal but at the same time presented a broader view of what humanity really is and how to forgive. It’s a must-see!” – Nikki Valentine

‘The Amish Project’ explores the themes of forgiveness and compassion. The solo performance by Kristin Crase, who played 7 different roles was mesmerizing. I know there is a lot of theater out there, but this is one you won’t want to miss.” – Anita Morris

“Kudos to Kristin on her FANTASTIC one-woman show, The Amish Project. A thought provoking piece of theatre that explores forgiveness in a moment of absolute horror in a community. Today’s tragic events in Paris made this production that much more relevant. Congratulations again to Kristin and to Heather and thank you for bringing this important piece to the valley! Go see this show. Seriously.” -Miguel Gastelum 11/13/15

” It was so well-played and moving. I’m not often moved to tears by a play –jaded theater professor that I am–but that ending got to me, which says something about the non-sentimental writing AND the performance.” -Julia Reimer, professor of theater at Fresno Pacific University about The Amish Project.

“What a moving, thought-provoking, amazingly timely piece of theatre. Thanks to you both for this!!!” -Joel C Abels, artistic director of StageWorks Fresno about “The Amish Project”

A Reflection on The Amish Project from Manuel Bonilla, audience member:


My reflection on this play and why I think you should go…


As the debate rages on about how to respond to violence and “evil” in this world, The New Ensemble’s current play, The Amish Project, offers an idea…forgiveness.

In this one-woman show,Kristin Crase embodies seven characters that we journey with as they experience the tragedy and grace surrounding the Nickel Mines Amish School Shooting of 2006. For those who are not familiar with this story: In 2006, a gunman entered an Amish one-room schoolhouse, took hostages before shooting ten girls, killing five, before committing suicide.

In my opinion, there are three central themes the play explores: grace is as hard to accept as it is to extend, extending grace is an exercise of one’s faith, and we all have in us, the ability to do good and evil.

After any tragedy a couple of questions come to the surface, like where was God? And why did this happen?

Somewhere in the mix, politicians (professional and amateur alike) grandstand to advance their personal beliefs or agenda, and often we are drawn to conclusion that such events could only be done by an evil person. This play helps us to understand that the world is not so black and white. We all have in us something, that when stretched to its breaking point, might be considered evil to someone else.

Fortunately, we also all have in us, the ability to move beyond human nature and offer grace from somewhere deep in our heart, when the world whispers vengeance in our ear.

The play doesn’t seek to answer the “why” question. In fact, the shooter’s character is upfront with the audience that he’s “more than the why”…and he’s right. All of the lives affected by the tragedy are “more than the why.” And to the surviving family members the “why” doesn’t matter. No amount of justification or reasoning will bring back their loved ones. So all they are left with is, “how do I respond?”

Without giving too much away, in the majority of the play we see Carol Stuckey, the shooter’s widow, experience backlash from the community until one fateful night when members of the Amish community arrive at her home. Carol’s internal battle in that moment reminds me of Javert’s (Les Miserables) struggle to live in a world where someone can offer abundant grace and where it is difficult to accept that grace. The one-actor nature of the play reinforces the idea that at any moment one can be any of these characters.

Finally, in the most moving scene, the audience sees the other side of the forgiveness decision. A man, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, sits alone in his home. Through the eyes of his daughter, we get a glimpse of the internal struggle to offer forgiveness to the Stuckey family. I got the sense that his struggle was not “why me”, rather it was “I need help to do the impossible”. Although, the audience never hears from him, his act of forgiveness is it’s own character.

So, again we come back to the question “where was God?”

God is here…keeping looking.

It should come as no surprise thatThe New Ensemble produced such great piece. Heather Parish and the New Ensemble are consistently choosing and producing relevant and thought provoking plays. If you want more art in Fresno that challenges you, please support the group by going to see this play this week. Shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm.

The Amish Project: Information and Media

amish project posterThe Amish Project is a fictional exploration of the Nickel Mines schoolhouse shooting in an Amish community, and the path of forgiveness and compassion forged in its wake.


Fresno Bee Q&A with director Heather Parish

Fresno Bee Review of The Amish Project

Called “a remarkable piece of writing” by The New York Times and “unique, uplifting, and unforgettable” by Chicago Theatre Beat, THE AMISH PROJECT is a powerful and poetic piece inspired by the 2006 killing of five girls in a hostage-taking at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. One actress (Kristin Lyn Crase) conjures seven characters, from gunman to community members, to victims and family, and delves into how communities are indelibly tied together in such a crisis, as well as how forgiveness and compassion are forged in the wake of tragedy.

Performed by Kristin Lyn Crase. Directed by Heather Parish.

November 6 – 21, 2015
at The Voice Shop in Fresno’s Tower District.

Gidion’s Knot- Media and Production Stills

rotten-to-the-core fb

Press Clippings:

New Ensemble presents ‘Gidion’s Knot,’ a parent-teacher battle for the ages.  10/23/14 The Fresno Bee

Gidion’s Knot Presented by The New Ensemble.  10/29/14 Kings River Life Magazine

Production Photos:

Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde

Fresno Bee/Beehive Review:  May 2nd, 2013

Kings River Life Review:  April 24, 2013

Fresno Bee Preview:  April 19, 2013



The Softer Side of HAMLET

Press Clippings:  

Read the review from the Fresno Bee

 The Softer Side of Hamlet

~Haley White, The

The New Ensemble is set to open a female-driven version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet next week at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno.

The production not only features TNE founding member Brooke Aiello in the typically male lead, but showcases the talents of four other women in the eleven-person cast. This, too, is rare for a play usually performed with as little as two actresses.

TNE Artistic Director Heather Parish said her casting selections were as simple as “I had several incredibly talented women audition, and they were cast.”

However, once it became obvious that the show was going to end up taking on a feminine mystique, there were issues that needed to be immediately addressed.

“We adjusted things like giving the society more matriarchal themes and making sure it was one that would be open to a lesbian relationship,” said Parish.

This meant lifting the text out of Elizabethan England and placing it in a post-modern, dystopian world; a concept that not only allows for the mostly out-and-open gay love story between Hamlet and Ophelia, but also helps get the best use out of the confined space that is the Broken Leg Stage.

The girl-on-girl love affair is one of the more obvious modifications to Shakespeare’s script, but according to Aiello, at its core, it’s not much different than what the Bard originally intended.

“Love is love and people are people,” she said. “The betrayals are still the same.”

Cast members agree that most of the changes brought on by newly female perspectives are subtle, yet beneficial to the storytelling.

According to Gabriela Lawson, who plays Hamlet’s BFF Horatio, “It’s been fun to discover the nuances of affection between girlfriends not readily provided in the traditional telling where both characters are male. The bond of sisterhood allows for a tenderness, a closeness and an intimacy exclusive to the love between female friends.”

TNE founding member Kristen Lyn Crase plays Hamlet’s mother Gertrude.

“Playing opposite a female Hamlet allows a certain amount of rivalry to develop between the characters,” she said. “A mother-daughter relationship has such a different feel to it than a mother-son one.”

Parish said that in order to make this vision work, she and her cast had to “come to terms with the idea that these female characters are not always going to be Heroines…they’re flawed and confused and occasionally unsympathetic-but that is a way in which we need to come to grips with women’s equality. Women are as allowed to be fully flawed people as much as men are, even while their strength can see them through.”

Hamlet opens April 13th at 8 p.m. at the Broken Leg Stage and runs for three weekends. Additional shows are: April 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 at 8 p.m. and April 14, 21, and 28 at 2 p.m.

*Appropriate for high school and up, parental guidance suggested. No latecomers admitted. For questions, email Artistic Director, Heather Parish at

Chesapeake Press, Info, Photos

Read the Review from the Fresno Bee

The New Ensemble presents CHESAPEAKE just in time for presidential primaries.

Kerr wanted to transform politics.  Art transformed him.
Just as the presidential primaries heat up, The New Ensemble Theater Group opens its 2012 season with its politically driven comedy,CHESAPEAKE by Lee Blessing on January 6, 2012 at 8 p.m.  An hilarious tale of art, politics, dogs, and the meaning of life, CHESAPEAKE asks us to examine how we vote our consciences and to take a look at the type of people who represent us as artists and as politicians. 
When performance artist Kerr, known for his outrageous productions that include everything from Dada nihilism to Italian futurism to extravagant disrobing, is awarded a National Endowment of the Arts grant to further his artistic ambitions, he finds himself in the cross hairs of Senator Therm Pooley. Pooley is a conservative who has focused his re-election campaign on the elimination of federal funding for the arts. Kerr’s efforts to exact revenge on Senator Pooley form the crux of the play, a wild ride that includes kidnapping, canines and the possibility of past and future lives.
As our own political process ramps up, CHESAPEAKE is as timely as ever. With major candidates such as Mitt Romney promising “deep reductions in the subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation” (USA Today op-ed, 11/3/2011) issues of how we vote and the motivations of those for whom we vote are questions that run deep beneath the surface of our political life. Would culture cuts benefit us in a time of economic crisis? Or is now the time that culture becomes even more important for our national identity? And who really gets to decide? CHESAPEAKE is a smart, funny play that addresses this part of our national life in a sharp and focused way.
New Ensemble Member James Sherrill (The Pillowman) plays Kerr and every other character in this one-man tour de force. Anthony Rico Nan directs. With its mix of art, politics and dogs, CHESAPEAKE is a wonderfully funny and thoughtful beginning to The New Ensemble’s second season.
All performances of CHESAPEAKE will be performed at the Broken Leg Stage in Fresno’s historic Tower District, 1470 N. Van Ness between Floradora and McKinley.   Evening performances are January 6, 7, 12, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees on January 7 and 14 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10 online or reserved in advance, and $12 walk-ins.  Thursday, January 12 is Cheap Seats Night with all tickets only $5. Reservations are recommended as the Broken Leg Stage only seats 50.  (559) 457-9613 for will-call reservations or for information or online tickets. 
The Word to the Voice to the Action…The New Ensemble Theater Group formed in January 2011, producing in a tiny store-front Tower District theater.  In just 12 months, TNE has produced four shows, five staged readings, and has  been called “some of the most exciting theater in town” by audiences and “one of Fresno’s dynamic small theater companies” by critics. TNE provides an engaging mix of contemporary and classical plays presented in a raw and intimate style for Fresno audiences–theatre that encourages a bold relationship between audience and actor.