HOLLAND – The Department of Theatre at Hope College will present “The Shakers of
Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month” by Arlene Hutton on Friday-Sunday, Nov. 15-17, and Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 21-23, in the DeWitt Center main theatre as part of a new consortium committed to developing new plays dedicated to peace and interfaith dialogue.
The performances on Nov. 15, 16, 21 and 23 will begin at 7:30 p.m., and the
performance on Friday, Nov. 22, will begin at 8:30 p.m. The performance on Sunday, Nov. 17, will be a free matinee beginning at 2 p.m.
Directed by Richard Perez, assistant professor of theatre, “The Shakers of Mount
Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month” follows the Mt. Lebanon Shaker community as the North Family and South Family grapple with tensions surrounding how to run their communities. The play raises the question: can individuals with polarized views learn to live in harmony?
Hope is presenting “The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This
Month” as one of the 12 colleges and universities nationwide that belong to the Big Bridge Theatre Consortium, which is a new initiative that biennially commissions a play that directly addresses issues of faith and peace. Arlene Hutton is the first commissioned playwright for the project, and during a week- long, on-campus residency worked closely with the student cast and Perez on final edits and revisions of the play. Hope was the first college in the United States to start rehearsals for the play, although it will be premiering a day earlier at another of the participating schools, Point Loma Nazarene University.
Caroline Dargay (’22) writes about this unique opportunity on Hope College’s blog;
“Arlene Hutton’s residency was a completely new theatre experience for me. I, like many of the other students involved, have never been in a room with a playwright actively revising the play we’re preparing to create. After each rehearsal and read -through, Arlene provided an opportunity for the actors to express their thoughts, letting the group be vocal about what they liked and what they were confused about. It demonstrated her willingness to listen and work with us theatre students. She listened to the ideas presented and took each into consideration, letting the conversation flow as a respectful group discussion when trying to decide whether or not to make a change. One of the key phrases Arlene asked the group to frame their thinking around was ‘What if?’ This phrase places people in a more open mindset, allowing themselves to think about the possibilities of a script or a change and not focus on a negative ‘I don’t like’ statement, which ultimately adds nothing constructive to the script writing process.”
The play is inspired by true events that took place in Mount Lebanon, New York, between1901 and 1905. Perez described his love for the play and the Shaker lifestyle:
“For me, the more I learned about the Shakers, the more I began to romanticize their
lifestyle. There is something to be said about abandoning the trappings of our busy lives and turning to a simpler way of living. ‘Hands to work and hearts to God,’ as they say. Unfortunately, their utopian society came to an end because of their practice of celibacy, but in their 200-plus years in existence, the Shakers were an extraordinary achievement in what it is to devote one’s life to work, peace, mindfulness, and, most importantly, God.”
In addition to Perez the production team includes Michelle Bombe, professor of theatre
and department chair, as costume designer; Erik Van Tassell, assistant professor of lighting and design, as lighting and sound designer; and Richard Smith, professor of theatre, as the scenic and properties designer. Staff members Stephen Krebs and Darlene Veenstra serve as technical director, and costume shop manager respectively. Also on the production team are several students: Caroline Dargay of Clarkston as stage manager, and Emily Dykhouse of Holland, Katherine Hayduk of Chelsea and Jack Slevin of Glen Ellyn as assistant stage managers.
The cast of students includes Cameron Baron of Oak Park, Illinois; Grace Davidson of
Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Ryan DeWitt of Holland; Timothy Embertson of Lake City; Julia Erb of Keller, Texas; Lisbeth Franzon of Whitehall; Tia Hockenhull of Southfield; Beata Huntington of Salmon, Idaho; Alex Johnson of Indianapolis, Indiana; Abigail Kroening of Nairobi, Kenya; Fara Ling of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Madison Meeron of Oxford; Sofia Munoz of Elmwood, Illinois; Leslie Olivarez of Chicago, Illinois; Zandra Paxton of Quincy; Zach Pickle of Schoolcraft; Brenden Trojan of Barrington, Illinois; Emma Walilko of Wake Forest, North Carolina; and Sarah Wisser of Kalamazoo.
Tickets are $10 for regular admission; $7 for senior citizens and Hope faculty and staff;
and free for Hope College students and students ages 18 and under. Tickets are available at the Events and Conferences Office located in downtown Holland in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The ticket office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 616-395-7890. Tickets may be purchased by calling or visiting the ticket office, online at hope.edu/tickets, or in person at the performance.
Audience members who need assistance to fully enjoy any event at Hope are
encouraged to contact the college’s Events and Conferences Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 616-395-7222 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The DeWitt Center is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue between 10th
and 13th streets.
Written by Madison Meeron and Emma Walilko