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Tragedy examined in The Amish Project

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On Oct. 2, 2006, a man walked into a small Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, shot 10 young girls and committed suicide. While a tragic blow to a tight-knit community, the response from the Amish community emphasized forgiveness and understanding rather than antagonism and hate.

The event inspired writer and actress Jessica Dickey to create the critically lauded off-Broadway play The Amish Project, which Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep) brings to Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave., this weekend.

The play’s most intriguing feature is its character representation, which requires one woman to play seven parts. Originally performed by Dickey, CityRep has chosen actress Katherine Michelle Tanner for this run.

Despite the solitary nature of the performance, she doesn’t feel alone. The spirit of the girls, each character she embodies and each person in the audience is with her at all times.

“It is very full, and surprisingly, I’m not alone at all,” Tanner said. “We are all there that night to suspend disbelief and go on a journey.”

The play’s themes focus on the ability of communities to mend themselves following tragedies in ways that emphasize the humanity of all involved, including the gunman and his family.

“What stood out most [in my research for this play] was the overwhelming amount of forgiveness from both the Amish community and non-Amish community,” Tanner said.

Donald Jordan, CityRep’s founding artistic director, believes this message of pervasive and proactive reconnection has perpetual relevance.

“The piece speaks to both a human societal problem that is global and to the age-old question of how we respond to the insanity of violence,” Jordan said.

While the performance and characters are inspired by the 2006 shooting, Dickey makes clear that the piece is fictionalized and populated with her imagination more than reality.

In addition to characters such as the gunman and victims, the play includes seemingly unrelated roles, like a professor and a Hispanic grocery clerk.

“In both the Amish story and our own [with the Oklahoma City bombing], you see the goodness of thousands of kind and good people wrestling with and overcoming the evil perpetrated by a tragically broken human being,” Jordan said. “This is both a reminder of our past and an example of the way forward.”

Print headline: Common bonds, Coinciding with the 20-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, The Amish Project connects the tragedy between communities.

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