The Front Porch Theatre (FPT) at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts (BMCA) has presented a season full of timely, thought-provoking works with staging that draws the audience in and acting that captivates the imagination. The spring production of Arlene Hutton’s As It Is In Heaven at the intimate Arts Center’s theater is no different. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays, May 10–25, at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Sundays, May 12, 19 and 26, at 2 p.m.
In the 18th century, the Shakers set out to create a communal Utopia of godlike simplicity based on celibacy, pacifism, hard work and communal living. Notable for the period, women assumed leadership roles within the sect.
The Shaker name was derived from the ecstatic nature of their worship. Music and simple singing was integrated into daily life and was a key element of worship. In this riveting script, which includes singing, Hutton evokes a Shaker village in Pleasant Hill, KY, circa 1930, whose community is upset when some of its female members begin to see visions. The elder members of the community doubt the authenticity of the girls’ behavior and view it as a disruption of the Shakers’ preferred, orderly method of worship. A crisis of faith and trust drives the conflict and the resolution.
“I am as excited about this production as any that we have produced thus far,” says FPT artistic director Matt Lutz. “Plus, it makes use of so many talented women and that greatly appeals to me.”
Directing the show will be Candice Dickinson, a graduate of T. C. Roberson High School, who recently moved back to the area after working in theater for three years in New York and at many prominent regional venues. The play is depicted through the talents of nine women interacting within a spare set that utilizes chairs and benches to create each environment. Aiding the intricate choreography will be Amanda Klinikowski, who is also acting in the piece. The historical nature of the play and the specifics of the Shaker society and customs will be overseen by dramaturg Marianne Lyon with stage management by Genie Gunn. Audience members may be familiar with some of the tunes depicted in the play, such as Simple Gifts.
“The quality and scope of our Front Porch Theatre productions continues to impress and offer audiences thought-provoking and challenging material,” says Gale Jackson, executive director of BMCA. “For all the permanent residents and people who are with us seasonally, this is a great opportunity to engage with all that BMCA has to offer.”