This week, the Deerfield Academy Theater Program will present The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey, a play widely regarded by reviewers as “shocking,” “sublime,” and “unexpected.”
The play, inspired by the killing of five girls at an Amish school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, focuses on the compassion shown by the Amish community in response to the shooting. The play forces viewers to question how they would respond to an incident of school violence: with grief, rage, or forgiveness.
Healy Knight ’16, who plays a six-year-old victim of the shooting, told students to “expect an abstract view on a tragic event that tells the tragedy through positive impacts, which reflects on what the Amish people are about.”
After the fall comedy and the winter children’s play Mrs. Hynds, the director, has been excited to work on a play that is somber and “looser,” that forces her actors to “be more imaginative and creative in order to flesh out the bare bones given to us.” She recounted preparing The Amish Project as “a rewarding experience for us, because we have invested in it so much of our own creativity.”
Mrs. Hynds and the actors have explored the closed-off culture of the Amish and focused on how society copes with tragedies, as well as how intolerance and preconceived notions affect us.
Co-assistant director Haidun Liu ’15, along with Sidney Hulburd ’14, described the play as one that will “change [our] perspectives and impression of the Amish world.” Hulburd described the play as one that is “extremely intense and very powerful” and “makes you think about our world.”
Liu spoke about the impact of this play on daily life at Deerfield by stating, “Faith and forgiveness are very relevant to Deerfield life. Many characters in the play, like many students at Deerfield, cannot comprehend the prospect of people ‘living out their faith towards Jesus,’ and how spiritual principles such as ‘pray for your enemies’ can be possible in the real world. The Amish Project tells the story of a community that has carried these principles out with sincerity and wholeheartedness, and it will be meaningful to reflect on the impact of these principles on the greater community.”
The play will introduce new actors, including Healy Knight ’15, Lilah Lutes ’14, Mamy Mbaye ’15, Molly Murphy’15 Paulina Sengeridis ’15, and Francis Simmons ’17, and will also showcase returning actors including Nhyira Asante ’16, Kate Ginna ’14, and Austin Parenteau ’15.
The 17-actor cast of The Amish Project will be performing five shows for the Deerfield community in the White Church from May 20 to May 24.