The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres presents the premiere of a new musical, "The White Buggy," Book and Lyrics by Frank Ramirez, Music and Lyrics by Steve Engle, Conceived by Richard Pletcher. One Night Only, Monday, September 17, at 8:00 PM. Tickets $15, groups of ten or more $10, special Haystack Dinner $9.95 served 6:00 - 7:00 PM. For reservations and information call the box office at 800-800-4942.
The picture of a briskly moving black buggy, wooden wheels rattling, horse's hooves clattering down a modern road at its own pace, an Amish family on board, the men in long beards, the women in muted colors in black bonnets, is a familiar meme in our harried, hurried world.
Many people tend to project their own ideas of what it means to be Amish, imagining that here is a culture frozen in time, shutting out and ignoring the modern world. Yet these interpretations say more about their owners' imagination and have very little to do with the human beings actually guiding those black buggies, or their beliefs.
So what does it mean that the Round Barn Theatre is presenting a musical called "The White Buggy?" Perhaps a more realistic vision of who the Amish are and what their lives are like in a world they gladly share with their "English" neighbors but from which they stand out in marked contrast to modern values, or lack of them.
"Amish life never fails to surprise, delight, and challenge us," said Frank Ramirez, one of the authors of "The White Buggy," which has its premiere in a special stand-alone performance Monday, September 17, at 8:00 PM, at the Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee. "The more you know the less you know. But one thing you can be sure of -- the Amish prove that good things last."
To some outsiders the Amish seem a quaint culture frozen in time, but to those who live among them know this is a vibrant, ever-changing society. What separates Amish from the larger American culture, aside from their non-resistant Christian stance, is their determination to set their own boundaries and change at a pace of their own choosing, without pressure from the larger world.
So what's "The White Buggy" about? It's about an Amish widower, Hyrum Yoder, who's engaged to a middle aged Amish woman, Lily Bontrager, who hasn't married yet because she was taking care of her aging parents. It's about two filmmakers from Los Angeles who come out to Nappanee to get what they imagine is the "dirt" on the Amish for a tell-all reality show they want to produce.
It's about an older printer, Martin Zook, who publishes an Amish-Mennonite newspaper called "The Vision" that in contrast to mainstream papers is so successful he can't keep up with demand. However, his children are grown and have followed their own careers, so he's wondering what will become of the paper when he's gone.
It's about the four Amish scribes who are among the hundreds of folks who fill the pages of "The Vision" with news about their kith and kin. Oh, and there's this Mennonite assistant to the publisher who's not the sharpest tack in the box, and two Amish farmers who regularly face off to determine who's the most humble.
The show was conceived by Round Barn Executive Producer Richard Pletcher, who asked himself: In an era where print media struggles -- some say it is dying -- why do several well-known Amish weekly newspapers published from Indiana to Pennsylvania and Ohio to Ontario thrive? What does this say about the permanence of Amish culture, and what does it say about the larger American society as well?
In 2014 Pletcher shared these questions with his friend, author and pastor Frank Ramirez, who had recently moved back to Elkhart County. Ramirez in turn contacted his writing partner, composer Steve Engle of Alexandria, Pennsylvania, which whom he had co-authored four other musicals.
Now, after four years of writing, composing, rewriting, and consulting with each other, (along with a workshop performance by an amateur cast in 2016 and staged readings of a revised script by the professional company at the Round Barn) "The White Buggy" is ready to roll. It's designed to delight audiences with sharp, witty dialog, a fast-moving plot, and bright, crisp music and lyrics. For those who might wish to produce the musical in the future, "The White Buggy" is deliberately written to be performed by a cast of ten to fourteen, with a length of two hours, including intermission.
Ryan Schisler, Artistic Director at the Round Barn, is directing the show. He noted that the while the Round Barn's flagship production, "Plain and Fancy" (which he has appeared in many times) preserves the experience of the Amish in the 1950's like a fly in amber, "The White Buggy" presents a picture of Amish life in the twenty-first century, with all its contradictions as well as all that is admirable about the culture. "What I love about this show is, it brings Amish culture to the 21st century and gives audiences a real chance to relate with these people."
"Mostly," said Ramirez, "this musical is about the fact that good things last, and that ordinary people do extraordinary things. It's about us."
The cast includes Travis Bird as Martin Zook, Derek Brookens in the role of Hyrum Yoder, Ingrid Lund as Hyrum's daughter, Danae DeShazer as Lily Bontrager, TJ Lewis as T.S. Miller, Jake DuVall-Early in the role of Wintrop Llewis, Sarah Leigh Beason as Jenna Wentworth, Lorri Krull as Sarah Buckwalter, Pam Gunterman as Ruth Yoder, Anthony Venable as Marvin Graber, Bonnie Macgowan as Judith Miller, and Frank Ramirez as Galen Miller.
For more information call the Box Office at the Round Barn Theatre at 800-800-4942, or go to www.amishacres.com.