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RCHS one-act gets one shot at nationals

Photo of The Amish Project cast, left to right: Emily Johnson (director), Braden McCollam (Edward Stuckey), Alexis Murphy (Carol Stuckey), Jeriann Villegas (Anna), Gwen Riddoch (Mary), Savannah Ryan (Velda), Anna Benevento (America),

The Amish Project cast, left to right: Emily Johnson (director), Braden McCollam (Edward Stuckey), Alexis Murphy (Carol Stuckey), Jeriann Villegas (Anna), Gwen Riddoch (Mary), Savannah Ryan (Velda), Anna Benevento (America), Olivia Potter (Sherry), Kieran Williams (Sherry), and Elyssa Jennings (Elizabeth North).

The first week of December marked the 57th Annual Thespian Conference (ThesCon), a state convention allowing for middle and high school theater troupes to interact with, learn from, and perform for one another. This three-day gathering, held at the Denver Convention Center, also has a competitive element for students to showcase their abilities. This year, Rock Canyon High School’s (RCHS) one-act, titled The Amish Project, was the only one-act chosen to represent Colorado at nationals.

The Amish Project is a play about an Amish school shooting taking place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the early 2000s. The performance took an unusual approach by diving into the mind of the killer, Edward Stuckey, and aimed to show the complexity of people’s inner struggles and darker sides.

“We picked this play because we wanted to present a deep, emotional piece that would leave an impact on people,” play director Emily Johnson said. Johnson has been involved in theatre for about three years, but, just like the rest of this cast, this was her first time at ThesCon. “The show itself was hard content to continuously perform every day considering the weight of it, and yet we had to really run the show over and over again just because there was such a short amount of time to prepare for it.”

The event the play is based on did actually happen, but creative liberties were taken, especially for parts such as characters and their personalities. The 10 RCHS student actors involved worked to present the same story from multiple perspectives, from the Amish girls’ and townspeople’s to the killer’s and the killer’s wife. All characters were impacted by the shooting in one way or another, despite their differences.

“We prepared about three times a week during our theater class time. The progression of rehearsals looked like this: reading through the script and getting assigned roles at school, going deeper into the character and memorizing lines at home, blocking and staging the show at school, and constantly trying to find out more about your character in order to develop a more 3D person.

Then, we ran it over and over again, showed it to other classes and our drama teacher for critique, and then kept running the show with costumes and props up until we performed,” actress Olivia Potter said. “We all had to get really in the zone. We live our character’s life for those moments on stage. Since The Amish Project is such a deep and emotion-filled show, doing this amount of rehearsal and show prep can be quite emotionally taxing. It’s a weird feeling to be feeling emotions that aren’t really truly yours,” Potter continued.

Potter worked with Kieran Williams, and they split the part of the character Sherry. “Sherry is basically the town gossip who believes everything she sees on TV, which allowed us as actors to portray the contrast between the outside world, and the Amish community, who, in the show, never watched the news. Sherry’s character is meant to explore the stigmas around the event and the people involved, and to show that problems are never one-sided,” Potter said. “I was so very fortunate to be able to work alongside Kieran. We co-directed this show and we were able to get very close, so it made sense that we shared an interactive role.”

The Amish Project will be moving on to represent the state of Colorado at nationals in Indiana in the future. RCHS theater students will also be performing class plays and skits in the end of January, the musical Matilda in early spring, and a spring one-act event.

“We were all jumping up and down when we found out about The Amish Project going to nationals, but we also have so many other upcoming events! Definitely come check those out,” Potter encouraged. “If anyone wants to get involved or know more, follow @rcdrama on Instagram. They also post when show tickets are available there too.”



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