PLAIN AND FANCY Returns to Amish Acres
Some shows the more you see them, the more you love them. Like "A Christmas Story, "Ground Hog's Day," or even "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
It's the same and it's different with "Plain and Fancy," which opens for the thirty-first time at Amish Acres. There are those who can't wait to see this show they've come to love over the years. The difference is that every year it's the same, and yet it's very different as well.
Different cast members bring new life experiences into their portrayal. Different directors bring new insight to the overall view of the show. There's a different look to the set or the costumes or the lighting.
And yet it's always about a clash of cultures that does not end in chaos, but is resolved as people learn to live with and honor their differences while maintaining their own integrity.
Amber Burgess, Artistic Director for the Round Barn Theatre who is directing this year's production of "Plain and Fancy" is excited about the changes for this year's show.
Burgess emphasized "One of the strengths of Joe Stein's writing is that each show is beautifully fleshed out, but there's also room for the individual actors to be who they are within the character. That's part of what makes him a great musical writer."
Among the newcomers is Martin Flowers. "He's a local performer, who graduated from Goshen College last year. He has a beautiful voice, and has an incredible work ethic. He'll play Peter."
In addition two familiar faces join the long list of people who have taken part in the thirty-one year history of "Plain and Fancy" at Amish Acres. Katie Barns, who has directed the kids theater camp is playing Emma, while Kristin Brintnall, who played Tzeitel in last year's "Fiddler on the Roof" will play Katie.
Also among the returnees, Don Hart will be back to play Isaac, and David Goins will play Papa Yoder during the first half of the season.
Others in the cast include Katharine Barnes as Emma Miller and Ian Connor as Ezra Reber.
Some of the returning cast members won't make their reappearance until the midpoint of the 2017 season, when the needs of the company changes. "They will join the cast later this year, when there are some changes in the company to accommodate the production of 'Guys and Dolls,'" Burgess noted. :"or instance Justin Williams, who played Peter, comes back to play Ezra. Travis Bird, who played Papa Yoder in the past, will play that role again."
The New Yorkers, interlopers to the Amish culture of Lancaster County, will played by Round Barn regular Ryan Schisler (Dan King) and singer-songwriter Mikaela Brielle (Ruth Winters). One way Burgess as director contrasts the New Yorkers from the Amish characters is through costume.
"We try to make the New Yorkers as sleek as possible. The Amish have no hard edges in their culture. It's so influenced by their faith, and we make a beautiful connection to that with nature. Like when Jesus says 'Consider the lilies of the field." God is not going to outfit you with less splendor.
"That is contrasted heavily by the sleek lines with the New Yorkers. Ruth tends to wear something very sleek and impractical and fashion forward. In the second act she 0tends to wear a fuller skirt, something a little more flowing and feminine, representing a mild assimilation into the Amish culture and the learning she's had in her experiences," Burgess continued..
"We see the opposite movement equally represented by the Amish woman Hilda trying on English clothes to go to the carnival. The exchange is very important in Plain and Fancy. That is the lesson of the show, really. These people learn something from each other. Each character is very dynamic. Not all shows feature so many people who grow. In Joe Stein's writing every single one of these people goes through a change, some in lesser and some n greater degrees."
The look of the show is important. "We make beautiful choices about the line and color of the show. We try to piece all of that together in design elements. It's inherent in the set pieces. Costumes, props, everything, we tell something about the cultures with different color choices. The New Yorkers arrive in this cherry red car, a color that isn't found anywhere else in the Amish world except for their vegetables and fruit. Then we have this beautiful set that Richard Pletcher has designed and built. It's the ideal set for 'Plain and Fancy.'"
The biggest difference, Burgess said, is that this year's production will add back the character of Sarah Miller. Not only that, she'll be played by a child.
"Amelia Lowry of Bremen will play the part," she said. "We have never before done the show with children." Children were part of the show originally, but at the Round Barn, "The children's roles were converted into adult Amish roles so it wasn't such an unwieldy cast. But there are lines meant to be said by children in the original script."
Amelia will have a major part in the Alphabet song because, "It's supposed to be a children's lesson. That's the way it was played in the original show."
Burgess added, that several "nods to Amish Culture" she added to "Plain and Fancy" last year are still in the show.
"Plain and Fancy" has been performed over 3,600 times at Amish Acres, and has been seen by over 350,000 theater goers. The show will run May 24 through October 14. For reservations and information call 800-800-4942 or go to www.amishacres.com.