|Maryanna Lauter and Madison Krumins play Amish sisters Velda and Anna|
Drama is hard. Tragedy is tougher. Tragedy based on true atrocities? That’s a real gut check. Such is the challenge faced by The Farmington Players as they present The Amish Project, a fictional exploration of the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA. Jessica Dickey’s play is a dramatization of the tragic event, and it is admittedly a very difficult subject matter. Amy Lauter, who plays the widow of the gunman, says, “Although the play is not an exact factual account of the incident, it is based on a true story. So trying to wrap my head around what this woman went through has been a challenge.” Amy’s daughter Maryanna Lauter plays one of the schoolgirls, so the drama hits very close to home.
The Amish Project is the Barn’s entry into this year's Michigan AACTFest competition (American Association of Community Theatre). The first round of the festival is hosted by Owosso Community Players this weekend (March 27-29). Eight community theaters from around the state will participate. (See information on show times and tickets below.)
Based on the preview I saw at the Barn last weekend, the Farmington Players have selected a very challenging piece, but it is executed superbly. It is honest and emotional without being sentimental or preachy. I wondered how hard it must be to make the characters human when what happened was so inhumane. How do you give voice to people who have committed or lived through such an unspeakable horror? Director Terie Spencer says, “The playwright's emphasis is less on the details of the tragedy and more about the path of forgiveness and compassion forged in its wake.” She describes the characters as going through personal journeys during the course of the play and dealing with issues such as loss, guilt, anger, forgiveness and ultimately, hope.
The cast includes: Maryanna Lauter as Velda (Farmington Hills), Madison Krumins as Anna (Waterford), Amy Lauter as Carol (Farmington Hills), Dan Tarjeft as Eddie (Southfield), Paige Osgood as America (Brighton), Bonnie Fitch as Sherry (Southfield), and Steven R. White as Bill North (Plymouth). The Farmington Players performance of The Amish Project will be on Saturday March 28, starting at 4:40 and followed by an adjudication at 6:00. Individuals can register for the whole weekend for $70 (which includes VIP access to receptions and the awards brunch), or session tickets may be purchased for $10 (two shows per session). Tickets and more information at www.owossoplayers.com. The first round of Michigan AACTFest is hosted by the Owosso Community Players and will be held at the Lebowsky Center (122 E. Main St, Owosso, MI 48867).
Theaters competing include:
Center Stage Theatre (Midland), performing The Sugar Bean Sisters
Tawas Bay Players (Tawas), performing Women of Lockerbie
Ichabod’s Little Theatre (South Haven), performing Belle of the Bijou
Holland Civic Theatre (Holland), performing Revival at Possum Kingdom Community Church
Riverwalk Theatre (Lansing), performing The Passion of Richard II
The Farmington Players (Farmington Hills), performing The Amish Project
Rosedale Community Players (Southfield), performing Dear Me
Players de Noc (Escanaba), performing The Hairy Ape
Two of the eight competing teams will advance to AACTFest regionals in April, which are being hosted by the Midland Center for the Arts in Midland, Mich. Grand Rapids will host the national competition in June.