Featuring Anna Leverett

This critically acclaimed one woman show by Jessica Dickey explores the events surrounding the Nickel Mines school shooting in an Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2006.

Where: Springhouse Ministry Centers—Garden Sanctuary (610 W 28th St., Minneapolis, MN 55408)

When: November 2-10, 2018

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About the director

Ellen Fenster is a Twin Cities Theater artist who works as a director, teaching artist and program director. Recent directing credits include A Steady Rain at Gremlin Theater, The Diary of Anne Frank at Park Square Theater, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot with the UofMN/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and The Great Divide at Pillsbury House Theatre. Ellen has been an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre since 2001 where she was the artistic director of the Chicago Avenue Project for six years and acted and directed with Breaking Ice, a custom theater experience that helps groups address issues around diversity. Ellen is an artistic associate with the Illusion Theater where she facilitates programming for emerging artists and for seven years produced the Lights Up! series, an annual performance featuring new work by emerging artists. As a teaching artist Ellen works in area schools, is the Artistic and Executive Director of Twin Cities Theater CAMP!, (tctheatercamp.org) and was the director of the South High School theater program for nine years.

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About the performer

Anna is a co-founder of the Orchard Theater Collective. She directed their last production, "Thomas Tallis" and played Christine Linde in "A Doll's House" at the James J. Hill House directed by Craig Johnson. Regional credits include Highland Center for the Arts, Lost Nation Theater (VT) and the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Upcoming credits include "Til Death: A Marriage Musical" produced by Bucket Brigade in St. Paul and some very exciting Orchard news!

Our Q&A with the Director...

How would you describe The Amish Project to someone who has never seen or heard of it?

ELLEN: I would say it is a one-person play that explores a horrifying incident in a profound and provocative way. It is a play that grabs you and asks you "where would you fit in in this scenario? And where do you wish you fit it?"

What drew you to directing this production?

ELLEN: I just had a baby and told myself I wouldn't direct a play until the end of the year, but this opportunity helped me break my rule! At first I was scared of the subject matter, a school shooting, I was feeling particularly sensitive having just brought a child into the world. But while reading the script I felt like while the play is indeed about horrible evil, it's mostly about grace, forgiveness and how sometimes the only thing that can save you is love. I said to myself "not doing this play is not going to stop school shootings. But doing this play is going to give me a lot of opportunity to think about having grace in this sometimes awful world, and passing that capacity for grace along to my son."

Are there any special directorial challenges that arise from working on this script in particular? 

ELLEN: I have done a one-person show once before and they are hard for sure. A big part of my job is just to be Anna's cheerleader because it is such a remarkable thing an actor is doing, getting up there to tell the story all alone. We are about halfway through rehearsals and they are going great! The directorial challenge for me is to not get too complicated or too busy. Let the story and the actor do their work, don't over complicate it. But it takes a while to figure out where that balance is of structuring the story telling and also letting it breath.

How is working with Anna Leverett as a solo performer?

ELLEN: She is great. She is a very hard worker and very prepared. Her technique is really fun for me because it's more of an outside-in process, which is the opposite of how I usually work. So, we sometimes prance around my basement together trying to find a character's walk so she can crack the code of who that person is. I love actors and how their brains work and I am having a lot of fun watching Anna build these characters live right in front of me. She messes around with their behavior and their voices, and it's so fun to watch that and then see something that works, and see it really drop in. It is a pleasure working with Anna.

 Any last thoughts or feelings about the play? Why should people come see it?

ELLEN: I think the play is really relevant, and for me, very spiritually nourishing at this particular time. As a country we are having trouble communicating with each other, living together, loving one another. The news is disturbing and we get numb. And while this play is hardly offering any solutions, it does portray some people surviving with incredible strength and grace, and that is inspiring.