Actors (left) Anna Dalgleish, Kelsey Krogman, and Esther Koepnick rehearse for The Amish Project. Courtesy Morris Ertman

Langley professor directs play about violence and forgiveness

Langley’s Angela Konrad is directing The Amish Project beginning Wednesday, Feb. 20 in Vancouver.

A Langley director is the artistic force behind an upcoming play that explores a tragic school shooting.

Dark Glass Theatre is presenting The Amish Project in Vancouver next week, and is directed by Angela Konrad, artistic director of Dark Glass Theatre and theatre chair and professor at Trinity Western University.

The Amish Project is a fictional exploration of the events of the Nickel Mines shooting in Pennsylvania in 2006, in which a local milkman walked into an Amish schoolhouse and shot multiple girls and then himself.

The Amish’s response to the crime was to forgive the gunman and embrace his family as victims.

“No matter how much time I spend with this script, no matter how deeply we dive into this story, no matter how much I know about the events that inspired it, I cannot wrap my mind around the enormity of the forgiveness that the Amish community extended in the face of this tragedy,” Konrad said.

Konrad explained all seven characters in the production are played by four female actors. The main character Carol is the widow of the gunman.

“She’s dealing with ‘who is this man I married. How can I love someone who can do this,’ and also wrestling with the outpouring of compassion that the Amish community piles on her. One of the things the playwright [Jessica Dickey] does marvelously is gives us an opportunity to see how this tragedy affected lots of different people. It’s quite powerful,” explained Konrad.

Konrad first directed the play last summer in Alberta’s Rosebud Theatre, and is excited to bring it back to B.C. for six performances.

“It’s incredibly beautiful and powerful. It’s not a depressing play, but it is a moving play,” she added.

While directing the show and “living inside the story,” Konrad said it’s been a “healing process” for herself to see how much forgiveness a community can offer.

“To go to work every day and be confronted with the questions around how people forgive cruelty and atrocity, and how you go on with your life after terrible things happen – it was quite a gift.”

While there’s challenges to directing any type of show, Konrad said The Amish Project has been more challenging for the actors than for herself.

“An actor literally puts on the shoes from another human being and looks at the world from another perspective. One of our actresses plays the murderer and for her to take that journey is pretty harrowing.”

Konrad explained there’s a scene in the schoolhouse when the shooting takes place, so as a director, she has to be careful not to run sensitive scenes for too long.

“The actors have to be aware of where their boundaries are in what they can do, and they have to have healthy practices around not just putting on those shoes, but taking them off after rehearsals.”

Everyone involved in The Amish Project is female with the exception of a male sound designer.

“Women in general in theatre are quite under-represented. There’s almost always more roles for men than there are women,” explained Konrad.

With Dark Glass Theatre, Konrad said she aims to ensure all diversities and genders are given a voice.

“Ideally there’s a diversity of all sorts, and being somewhat women-centric is one of our goals.”

The Amish Project runs from Wednesday Feb. 20 to 23 at 8 p.m. at Studio 1398 at 1398 Cartwright St., Vancouver.

Two matinee showings are on Feb. 21 and 23 at 2 p.m.

Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased online at: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3914101

For more information on Dark Glass Theatre, visit: https://www.darkglasstheatre.com/

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