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”
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 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.
Performed by Kristin Lyn Crase. Directed by Heather Parish.
November 6 – 21, 2015
at The Voice Shop in Fresno’s Tower District.
Factual details of the 2006 Nickel Mines School Shooting contained in The Amish Project:
- The shooting occurred on October 2, 2006.
- There were 10 girls shot, five lethally.
- The boys and the teacher were ordered out of the classroom by the shooter.
- The age (early 30s) and occupation (milk delivery) of the gunman.
- The description of the shooter and of the schoolhouse are accurate.
- The news reporting by CNN – the descriptions of the footage and reporting are accurate.
- The order of events in the hostage-taking dramatized are accurate according to the surviving victims of the shooting.
- That the Amish extended forgiveness to the gunman and condolences of the family on the very day of the shooting.
- That members of the victims families visited the shooter’s wife and children to extend condolences. (They also visited other members of his family and some attended his funeral).
- That some locals look askance at the Amish farming practices versus modern farming regulations and practices.
- That some locals are somewhat distrustful of the Amish for their unfamiliar way of life.
- That Lancaster County, PA is a diverse region with many minority communities in residence, not just the Amish.
- That the Amish make extending forgiveness a daily practice and that extending forgiveness is part of their regular religious habits.
- That the Amish don’t talk publicly to reporters themselves, but will have a spokesperson do so for them.
- That various Amish communities differ in the amount of modern conveniences they use.
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
The Facts: I absorbed a great deal about the Nickel Mines shooting just from watching the news when it occurred, and so in preparation for writing the play, I focused my attention on researching the Amish themselves. I am indebted to Donald Kraybill for the many books he has written on the Amish; they were the backbone of my research. Once the play was written and the characters firmly established, I included more details of the shooting that I felt would strengthen the texture of the play.
The Fiction: I was highly aware through the entire process that somewhere out there are the real people who went through this event—the widow of the Nickel Mines gunman and her children, the Amish families of the girls who were targeted in the shooting… In an effort to balance the conflicting desires to remain sensitive to the real people who were affected by the shooting, while giving myself creative license to write an unflinching play, I purposefully did not research the gunman or his widow, nor did I conduct any interviews of any kind. The characters in The Amish Project are fictional, and should not be misconstrued as the real people.
The Play: July 28th, 2008, my director and I traveled to Nickel Mines to find the location of the shooting. We had read that without an informed guide, it was nearly impossible to find, as shortly after the event, the Amish tore down the school and replanted the area; it is now a simple field where animals graze. The only indications of where the shooting occurred are three maple trees.
As we drove through the small intersection of farmland that is Nickel Mines, I realized that every person we saw, gardening or hanging clothes on the line, had likely grieved the loss of a child, or the children of friends… As the sun was setting and we stood quietly looking at the three maple trees and the vacant space where they used to shade the one room schoolhouse, I could feel the tragedy that had occurred here, but even more I could feel the presence of those we had passed en route, the people who carry the memory of that day with them… It is my private prayer that this play, should they ever know about it, would not hurt them further, but somehow honor the goodness they forged in the face of such tragedy. In my mind, that is the legacy of the Nickel Mines shooting.
“Amish School Shooter’s Widow, Marie Monville, Speaks Out” An news article with details about the Nickel Mines shooting and acts of forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish community. http://abcnews.go.com/US/amish-school-shooters-widowmarie-monville-remembers-tragedy/story?id=20417790
“Lancaster County: The Amish” A brief description of Amish culture and beliefs http://www.padutchcountry.com/towns-and-heritage/amishcountry/amish-lifestyle.asp
WHAT: “The Amish Project” by Jessica Dickey. Directed by Heather Parish.
WHEN: November 6 21, 2015.
WHERE: The Voice Shop. 1296 N Wishon Avenue in Fresno’s Tower District.
WEBSITE: http://www.newensemble.com BOX OFFICE & INFORMATION: 559-3768803
TICKETS: $10.00 $12.50.
THE NEW ENSEMBLE PRESENTS SOLO PLAY “THE AMISH PROJECT”
A poetic one-woman show exploring the Nickel Mines Amish School Shooting of 2006and the ripple effects that tragedy and forgiveness have on a community.
Fresno, Calif. – The New Ensemble (TNE) presents the Central Valley premiere of THE AMISH PROJECT, a
solo-play by award-winning writer Jessica Dickey at The Voice Shop in Fresno from November 6th to
November 21st. At a time when mass shootings happen almost daily in our country, the events
surrounding the Nickel Mines killings stand out in our memories – not only because most Americans
could never comprehend such a thing happening among the pacifist Amish, but because the Amish
families of the victims extended forgiveness to the shooter and condolences to the shooter’s family.
Called “a remarkable piece of writing” by The New York Times and “unique, uplifting, and unforgettable”
by Chicago Theatre Beat, this powerful and poetic piece is a fictional exploration 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.
“Many people remember the Nickel Mines shooting and still, to this day, the first thing they ask is ‘The
Amish forgave him, didn’t they? How could they do that?’ says director Heather Parish. “THE AMISH
PROJECT’ touches on the how, but more importantly, it explores the why: why forgiveness, compassion
and grace is increasingly important in our society- even during our very worst moments. It is an antidote
to the pervasive blame, shame, and finger-wagging we all experience in our daily lives.”
“Jessica Dickey explores this with a very clever trick. She’s taken the factual outline of the events of the
Nickel Mines shooting, but rather than exploit the story in its exactness, she has told it through the loving
lense of fictional characters. These characters are inspired by the events in Nickel Mines, but by making
them fictional, they could exist anywhere. . .and could be in our community right here and now.”
THE AMISH PROJECT first appeared at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2008 and has since
been performed internationally. Playwright Jessica Dickey has been awarded the Barrie and Bernice Stavis
Playwright Award from the National Theater Conference 2015. The Stavis Award is given to an emerging
playwright for outstanding achievement in American theater.
The Amish Project plays November 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 & 21 at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees on
November 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. at The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Avenue in Fresno’s Tower District. THE
AMISH PROJECT is rated PG-13 for moments of adult language. Tickets are $10.00 in advance or
$12.50 at the door. Advance tickets are available online at http://www.newensemble.com. Will-call reservations
can be made by calling or texting (559) 376-8803. For more information about THE AMISH PROJECT or