"SHUNNED" - SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN REPERTORY THEATRE : SART
The Amish community faces growing pressure from the outside world, with the growth of technology and the incursion of tourists into their lives, curious about how they live. One Amish community in Northern Indiana was plagued by barn burnings. Levi Yoder, a young Amish man, suspected Amos Bontrager, shunned from the community and living as Gary Smith, was the barn burner.
Levi saw a rehearsal of a play, OUR TOWN, at a barn theater when he was delivering produce. Intrigued by what he saw, he wanted to see more plays and then write plays, to reveal to the world what the Amish are really like, but he knew his father, Aaron, would not approve.
One of the customers at the Yoders produce stand was Mark Cummings, who owned a bed and breakfast in nearby Shipshewana. Mark and Levi struck up a friendship, because he was someone Levi could talk to about theater, and Levi always showed Mark the wonders of nature on the Yoder farm.
Levi revealed his interest in theater and his friendship with Mark to his father. Aaron told Levi Mark was gay, which Levi did not understand before. He forbade the friendship and also Levis interest in theater, since it was too worldly. Levi agreed.
A customer accidentally left behind a tube of lipstick at the produce stand. Mary, Levi’s sister, found it, and, in a fit of laughter with Levi, she mimicked the Englishers, or non-Amish, customers. She painted her lips, removed her bonnet, and hiked up her skirts, and she and Levi were consumed with gales of laughter. Unfortunately, their father, Aaron, discovered her and decided she must be shunned for four weeks. She could not speak to anyone, could not see her beloved horse, and had to take her meals alone.
Levi tried explaining to his father that there was no sin in Mary’s heart, and that they were just funning, to no avail. Furious at his father for shunning his sister, Levi decided to take his rumspringa, go into New York with Mark and his partner, and see theater.
In Act II, Levi returns home. As Levi and Mark relive some of the more-memorable moments of their New York trip together, Gary Smith happens by. Gary, the shunned Amish young man, full of bitterness and hatred for the Amish community, torments Levi and Mark, because he knows Mark is gay. Mark offers to get psychiatric help for Gary, infuriating him even more. Gary swears he will seek revenge.
Levi’s father welcomes Levi home, washes his feet, and they plan together Levi’s future there on the farm, now that he will be baptized an Amish man. They share a meal together, and the family goes to bed, anxious for the next morning when Mary will rejoin the family, and they will be complete again.
That night, Gary returns to the Yoder farm and burns their barn. Mary runs out to the barn to save her horse, but he is overcome with smoke and falls on her. They both die.
Aaron learns the truth, that Gary was infuriated
at Mark and Levi, that Levi went away to see theater in New York , which
Aaron forbade, and he went with the “abomination,” Mark, with whom Aaron
forbade Levi from further friendship.
All the characters in SHUNNED are, in some way, shunned themselves, emphasizing the overriding theme of the universal feeling of isolation. The play presents a realistic portrait of Amish life and philosophy, and problems facing the community in today’s world.
What the critics say
THEATER REVIEW: SHUNNED IS POWERFUL AMISH DRAMA
“Shunned” is powerful Amish drama
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.
A MOVING PORTRAIT OF THE AMISH AT SART
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.
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.