‘Heaven’ hits the Union stage

“As It is in Heaven,” Union’s fall play, boasts an all-female cast portraying a Shaker community. Sarah Love (left), freshman biblical studies major, and Allison Hearn, freshman business administration major, play newcomers to the community. Their characters claim to see angels in the forest. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Zach Palermo

The production “As It Is In Heaven,” a play about the beginning of the second Shakers revival, showed Oct. 28 – Nov. 1, at Union.

David Burke, professor and director of the theater, said the Shakers are a religious movement that began in England and spread to American people near the time of the American Revolution.

Shakers emphasized utilitarianism and celibacy — both of which were manifested in the simple, yet well-made, craftsmanship of the furniture style, for which they are famous  — and increasing their numbers through conversion instead of reproduction.

Shakers are controversial figures among some denominations because of their emphasis on what Burke labeled “the feminine side of God,” which is a look at the sympathetic side of God as a Father.

The play depicted an upset in traditional Shaker culture that takes place when a young girl begins to have holy visions, something their culture dictates can only happen to elders in the community.

Burke, who directed the play, said the story made him think about typical reactions to anything new in both the church and mainstream society and what they say about humanity.

“It’s a little bit intense, but at the same time it’s quite enjoyable,” he said. “This play is different. It’s forced us to really question our own belief-system and how open we are to something new, different or strange.”

Burke said working with his cast was amazing.

“I don’t believe in anything happening by chance,” he said. “I believe God drew us all together. Just talking to them about how they all arrived at where they are now is quite intriguing.”

Burke said he had originally planned on filling the nine roles with returning theater students, but was surprised when only two auditioned. Of the seven other roles in the play, five were incoming freshmen. Burke said he was pleased with the newcomers.

“The actors God sent us are awesome,” Burke said. “And they love the play.”

Allison Hearn, freshman business management and theater double major, said she enjoyed working on the play.

“It really challenges us and asks if our lives are stuck in a routine,” she said.

Hearn said she was also glad for the respect returning students gave to both her and the other freshmen.

“When people met, they treated everyone like adults,” Hem said. “The rehearsals were good for meeting people and getting to know them.”

Hallie Hardin, junior social work major, agreed.

“It’s just been really great,” Hardin said. “The freshmen girls are all sweet.”

Hardin said she also enjoyed the play itself.

“I think it’s cool because it makes you examine your faith, which is never a bad thing,” she said.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.