November 18, 2011

Regent Theatre to Explore Shaker Culture

By Rachel Judy

The religious order of Shakers—often known for their quality furniture craftsmanship and an intense work ethic—is the subject of the latest offering from Regent University Theatre. Arlene Hutton's As it is in Heaven is set to open on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Communication & Performing Arts Center.

 The play tells the story of a group of Shaker women confronted with a spiritual revival in their midst. Sparked by an outsider who joins their group, the revival forces the women to question the traditions they cling to.

 The play's director, theatre instructor Derek Martin, is hoping to convey the simplicity of the Shaker life through the dialogue, the sets and, yes, even the Shaker songs and dances incorporated into the production.

 "The audiences can expect to see a simple production that deals with complex themes, which are some of my favorite productions," Martin explained. "The play moves fast; scenes move seamlessly from one to the next." Also, he adds, "the audience will see the Shakers doing what they are famous for—shaking."
The Shaker name came from the ways members would shake during services. Martin and his actors are attempting to recreate the unusual movement.

 Ultimately, Martin explains, the play is about much more than the historical retelling of a religious order's practices. "A young shaker begins to see visions and the older shakers don't believe her because they think if God was going to reveal Himself, He would first visit the elders," Martin said. "This theme speaks to Jesus' commentary about the Pharisees of His time. We see, at times, that this still plagues the church and I believe this play speaks right to the heart of it. The play is saying to us, 'Don't miss God!'"
MFA in acting students Diana Coates and Madeline Ranson will perform their thesis roles in this production.
As it is in Heaven runs Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4.

 Purchase tickets through the Regent University Box Office.

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