SHUNNED, a powerful drama by Larry Parr, has been published by Stage Rights Publishing Company. It is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
Young Levi Yoder is exposed to theater quite by accident. It speaks to his heart more than anything ever has, yet it goes against everything in his Amish upbringing. Will he follow the faith and love of his family, or will his life take him in a different direction? This play about am Amish family in Northern Indiana has been published by Stage Rights Publishing Company, and it is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
Awards for SHUNNED:
Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater’s ScriptFest Winner
Utah Shakespeare Festival
New American Playwrights Project
July Harris Playwright Award Finalist
THEATER REVIEW: SHUNNED IS POWERFUL AMISH DRAMA
“Shunned” is powerful Amish drama
Tony Kiss, firstname.lastname@example.org 8:52 a.m. EDT June 6, 2014
Even in a world of smartphones and instant communication, the life of the Amish remains something of a mystery. The fine new drama “Shunned,” getting its world premiere at Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre in Mars Hill, peels away some of those layers to reveal that all is not what it seems with these quiet and reserved people.
Written by Larry Parr and ably directed by Jessica Phelps West, “Shunned” benefits from a superb cast that includes SART regular and standout Chris Allison as the tough family patriarch Aaron Yoder, who is determined to keep the old-world Amish traditions, no matter what the cost.
The story mostly involves his teen son Levi (Allen T. Law), who must choose between family and faith or exploring the great outside world he knows nothing about. Levi’s growing interest in theater, and his friendship with gay innkeeper Mark (Iain Alexander), presents a growing split with Aaron.
Rounding out the family are mother Katherine (Traci Gardner), once a famous painter, who gave up art to marry but was never really accepted as an equal. The innocent antics of playful daughter Mary (Shelby Folks), eventually lead to a family crisis.
Another solid SART veteran, Kay Galvin, is the aging Sarah Miller, an Amish gossip who has wormed her way into this family, and Daniel Henry is a one-time community member now banished and anxious to seek revenge.
Throughout Parr’s story is the threat of being shunned — thrown out of the Amish world temporarily or for good. It’s a powerful punishment for these simple people whose lives are built around their religion and close relationships. The play starts quietly but builds in intensity. There’s a big plot twist that turns this bunch upside down.
Allison’s strong performance as Aaron dominates the show, but the others are equally believable, with Law getting most of the lines and dramatic moments. Alexander’s smaller performance as the gay Mark is another solid turn.
“Shunned” is a fine beginning to the 40th professional SART season which will see two more world premieres at historic Owen Theatre at Mars Hill University.
A MOVING PORTRAIT OF THE AMISH AT SART
SHUNNED, winner of Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater, is currently playing in Mars Hill. It’s easy to see why this script won. It’s the riveting story of a splintering Amish family and the son, Levi Yoder, who faces temptations from the outside world.
The cast features excellent performances from some SART veterans and newcomers. Leading the cast is Allen Law, as Levi Yoder, the young man who is unsure of the world and his place in it. The strong supporting cast includes Chris Allison, the Yoder family patriarch, who will do anything to preserve the Amish way of life, Shelby Folks as Mary Yoder, Levi’s sister, Traci Gardner as Katherine Yoder, the mother who was once of the world but wants to be accepted as Amish, Iain Alexander in a wonderful performance as a gay neighbor, Gary Smith, as a shunned Amish man, and Kay Galvin, who is hysterical as the neighbor.
Playwright Larry Parr gave each of the characters in his play complex personalities that reflect the show’s themes. Levi Yoder is simultaneously intelligent, curious, and naïve. His father, driven by love, is unbending in his conviction the Amish way is the only way. He is highly spiritual yet bawdy and earthy. His mother has left her success in the world for her family, and she is more apt to see both sides of issues. Mary Yoder, Levi’s sister, is young, innocent and full of life and fun, which leads to a major family crisis. Another young man hates the Amish who shunned him, yet wants to return to the only life he knows how to live. And a customer at the Yoder’s produce stand who Levi befriends turns out to be gay much to Levi’s shock. “I never knew there were any gay people in all of Indiana.”
The show’s themes of alienation and the universal feeling of loneliness enhance the wonderful storyline that is in turns hilarious, touching, and tragic. The play captures the audience’s attention, never letting our interest wane.
The questions it raises are complex and deep, and the playwright wisely allows theatergoers to answer these questions for themselves. This is very fitting, in a play whose major theme is the idea of there being many different paths through life, many ways to find God, and who is to say only one way to live life is the only way?
The night I saw shunned, it received an instant and lengthy standing ovation. Don’t miss it. It may well be one of the most thought provoking shows you’ll see in a long time.
Parr’s script is bold for its capacity to pose such complex questions in a short span of time. Yet while disputes about religious dogmas and their social effects can often become tense and personal, Shunned makes its query in a way that dignifies both sides of its conflict and thus forces audience members to consider it for themselves. This, of course, is one of the text’s greatest strengths: as ARTS/West’s own Janice Evans put it, “it asked big questions and didn’t pretend to answer them.” Rather, the play puts audience members in the shoes of its Amish characters, prodding them in the process to examine their own and others prejudices from a new (some may contend “old”) standpoint. Athens Community Critical I.
We all were moved to tears and strong emotions by not only the wonderful performances of the actors, but by the story. The theme of being the “other” in a world so sure of itself and then discovering breaks as the web develops faults. Parr expressed so well the sacrifices we often make to remain in a covenant that is known and safe. And the choices we make to leave that safety for so many reasons: love, family, freedom, faith, loss of faith or a new truth we never knew existed. We all appreciated the language Parr wrote to express joy, pain, and wonder. Andrea Globokar, Utah.
I just saw a staged reading of Shunned and want to tell you how deeply it affected me. Thank you for a great play. The cast, especially our Levi Yoder, Rhett Guter, was superb. These issues of guilt associated with pursuing the dreams of our hearts – and theater represents every dream of every heart – at the expense of our other vows – is universal and certainly resonates with me. Jane Hallstrom, Cedar City, Utah.