But the acclaimed “The Amish Project,” by Jessica Dickey, will shine a light in the darkness, said James Douglass, who is directing the play for Rochester’s Absolute Theatre. The play opens Feb. 2.
“I think people will go away lighter than they expect to, because of the way the Amish community reacted to it,” Douglass said. “There are some comic moments. But,” he added, “it’s not a rip-roaring laugh fest.”
The play, a fictional exploration of the Nickel Mines school shooting in 2006 in an Amish community in Pennsylvania, is a one-woman show, with Kami Sim portraying female and male characters of a variety of ages. The shooting, in which five Amish girls were killed, attracted national attention when the Amish community publicly expressed forgiveness.
Tackling such a difficult subject is one thing. Doing it with only one actor ups the ante.
“This is the first one-person show I’ve ever directed,” Douglass said. That has necessitated a change in habit. Instead of watching actors react to one another, Douglass said, he’s confronted with only one actor. “That’s the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make,” he said. “It’s scary, but it’s one of the things I was really excited about with this play.”
In casting the lone person who would carry the play, Douglass said he was looking for versatility. “I had to look for somebody who could capture different genders, different ages,” he said. “The audience has to be able to identify who’s speaking.”
Sim had a small role in Absolute’s initial production, “Frost/Nixon,” which Douglass also directed. “I knew her work ethic,” he said.
Speaking of “Frost/Nixon,” Absolute returns to the site of that production, with “The Amish Project” being presented in the Education Conference Center at Christ United Methodist Church. “I think our audience really liked that place,” Douglass said.