The following is from Seton Hall University
A story set in 1830s America within a Shaker community by playwright Arlene Hutton, As It Is In Heaven, will be presented free to the public by the Seton Hall University Arts Council as part of the College of Communication and the Arts Theatre Program. The story depicts young women who celebrate their faith through work, song and prayer. A new member disrupts the women’s routine with her ideas and visions leading to a confrontation of faith among the community.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. on Thursday through Friday, Feb. 9 through 11, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 12 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), One SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ. To reserve the free tickets, please contact the SOPAC box office at (973) 313-2787 or visit www.sopacnow.org.
First time director, theatre major Melanie Weir, was given the opportunity to take control over the production under the guidance of theatre faculty and mentor Kara-Lynn Vaeni, including oversight of the auditions and choreography. Making her directorial debut with a mainstage production, Weir has a unique audience to consider. In addition to the Seton Hall and South Orange Community, the cast and crew are preparing their performances for several judges from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. If the production scores well, the cast will perform at the festival next year in front of theatre professionals from colleges across the country.
Earlier this year, Professor Vaeni and Theatre Professor Peter Reader mentored five Seton Hall theatre students at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Professor Vaeni met with and coached these students for several weeks on their competition pieces, prior to the festival.
As It Is In Heaven is based on the true events of a Kentucky Shaker community in the 1830s. Much of the show focuses on the Shaker communities’ ideals of living simply and avoiding creative or controversial behaviors, such as art or dancing. The seven-person-cast features rebellious women struggling to balance the Shaker life with their own spiritual beliefs. As they attempt to branch out from their simple life, the women create major changes in the structure of their society.
Weir wants people to feel both the depth and the simplicity of the script. “I want the play to come across as simple, deep, and pure as the playwright intended so the focus is on these wonderful women and how they help each other. I’ve always believed that it is the characters who truly paint the story.”
The play is heartwarming and surprisingly relatable. Professor Vaeni is confident of a solid performance, stating, “Melanie and the cast have been working tirelessly to bring this script to life. I am really impressed with the risks they are taking in rehearsal, the energy and joy of the ensemble they’ve created, and the resonance of what the piece has to say about power, especially in light of our current political climate.”
The audience can expect a quick-paced performance with a few surprises and significant mood shifts. As Weir puts it, “The audience should be ready to be laugh one minute and cry the next. This show has a wide emotional range which makes the storyline really impactful.”