Hope College has the honor of being a part of the rolling world premiere of The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month along with four other universities nationwide. This play was commissioned by The Big Bridge Theatre Consortium, of which the Hope College theatre department is a part. This group is comprised of 12 colleges that are commissioning new plays biennially with a focus  on faith and peace. Arlene Hutton is the first commissioned playwright, and we started this process knowing that though the play has a historical basis, it has relevance for the events and issues in our society today.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing was a society of believers that began as an offshoot of the Quakers in Manchester, England at the beginning of 1747. Later, the group was dubbed as the “Shakers” because the believers commonly expressed their faith through dancing, trembling and shaking. 

The production is set in the early 1900s within a small community called Mount Lebanon. The plot follows Sister Anha and Brother Robert as they work to restore their community of Shakers. While they are both working toward a common goal, the two elders disagree on the best methods by which to build their community. Sister Anha takes a more liberal stance on the process whilst Brother Robert takes a very conservative view on the matter. During the time in which The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month was set, there was quite a bit of anti-semitism. This also surfaces in the play. Strong hatred of a religious sect is a human pattern that echoes forward throughout history to the present.

Throughout the story, we watch differing outlooks manifest as a significant conflict amongst the characters. As the play develops, the characters explore underlying issues very relevant to our world culture today, including gender equality, gun control, political division, and religion. The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month paints a strong picture of how our society tends to repeat patterns, helping to give another perspective on where our current culture has arrived.

The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month playwright Hutton spent a week’s residency at Hope College in September during which she collaboratively revised and edited the script with the cast and director Richard Perez, assistant professor of theatre. The production includes a cast of over 20 Hope students, ranging from freshmen to seniors. The creative team is made up of Caroline Dargay (stage management), Professor Richard Smith (scenic and properties design), Assistant Professor Eric VanTassell (lighting and sound design), and Professor Michelle Bombe (costume design). The production’s assistant stage managers are freshmen Emily Dykhouse, Katie Hayduk, and Jack Slevin.

Tickets to see this inspiring and thought-provoking production can be purchased at the Hope College Ticket Office, by calling 616-395-7890 or by going online. 

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, November 15 and 16, Thursday, November 21, and Saturday, November 23. There is a free Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on November 17 and an 8:30 p.m. performance on Friday, November 22.

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