Pulitzer, Tony, Academy Award winning Alfred Uhry’s Angel Reapers leave the audience “trembling”. Trembling because the Shakers gesticulating, dancing motions and ecstatic nature of worshiping gave the Shaker sect their name and will leave the audince with a vivid picture of strict believers in celibacy and maybe some of us repenting ourselves. For tickets visit www.Joyce.org or by call 212-242-0800.
This lossley based production of what we may see as the appressed Shakers, Angel Reapers paints a colorful picture for the audience. This dramatic production told through song and dance highlights the strict disciplined lives of the Shakers. Angel Reapers audience members are presented with a simplistic picture to compare our modern lives of today with their 18th century beliefs. The Joyce Theater Foundation should be praised for producing a show that will inlighten all that attend.
In Angel Reapers, the dichotomy between the prudish teachings and the hot-as-fire passion of the Shaker community is explored in this unique collaboration between two contrasting artists – Alfred Uhry, one whose work is typically rooted in narrative structure and Martha Clarke, one who tells stories through movement and image-making.
Angel Reapers, a collaboration between Pulitzer, Tony, and Academy Award winning writer Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient director/choreographer Martha Clarke, Angel Reapers a work suggested by the life of Ann Lee (1736-1784), founder of the Shaker movement. The Shakers were one of the first to look to women for leadership and Ann Lee with the loss of her four children in infancy was that leader. Known as “Mother Ann” to Shaker followers. Choreographer Martha Clarke could also be called “Mother Clarke” because of her multidisciplinary leadership and following from the artistic theatre, dance, and opera community. Martha Clarke recieved the 2010 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The Angel Reapers production team has coloured the songs by adding harmonies and rhythmic dancing to the dialogue. Expert theatre goers of today have a very trained ear and the use of the original Shakers songs without harmonies or A, B, C melodies added to the score would not have taken this audience on the same journey. Angel Reapers leavs the audience with a message that the Shakers were proud of, known for their cultural contributions and style of music.
Imagine years ago when only a Priest could sing during a sermon. The religious songs were very simple with no harmonies more like a Buddhist who humms with the vibrations of the voice to inspire the congregation. With the well trained ear of today’s theatre patron a 75 minute show of simple chords being sung without an added B melody to the A melody or the use of harmonies in the songs Angel Reapers production may have been more authentic to a Shaker but would not have the same effect on this educated Joyce Theater audience.
The same method for songs is taken in movement with rhythms being added to the dialouge, again not all rhythms authentic to Shakers but this kept the production and story moving. The use of the chosen characters in Angel Reapers are brilliatnt as the Shakers’ were known for taking in anyone including homeless, adoption of orphans, convicts and known for gender equality. The Shakers included all which left no boundaries for gender, education or social class.
Shakers did not practice procreation themselves in Angel Reapers we witness a young couple in love. When the young girl takes off her veil in a moment of passion and arrives to her mother pregnant the mother feels she has rejected the Shaker family ideals… spinning, weaving, cooking, sewing, cleaning, washing. The musical includes “spirit gifts”, speaking in tongues, visions and Shakers precise choreographed dances that emerged with their beliefs.
The other artists who should be praised and commended are Music Director “virtuosic” Arthur Solari who brilliantly uses authentic Shaker songs but embellishes on them to create Angel Reapers. Costumes Designer Donna Zakowska, Lighting Desinger Christopher Akeland, Vocal Coach Richard Armstrong, Production Manager Steven Ehrenberg/Eberg Stage Solutions, Rehearsal Director Gabrielle Malone, Techinical Director Michael Faba and Production Manger Steven Ehrenberg.
The talented cast giving every ounce of energy to this important piece of work are: Sophie Bortolussi, Asli Bulbul, Patrick Corbin, Lindsey Dietz Marchant, Birgit Huppuch, Gabrielle Malone, Peter Musante, Luke Murphy, Andrew Robinson, Whitney V. Hunter, and Isadora Wolfe.
“Mother Ann, as she became known, was a visionary, mystic and powerful spiritual leader. Preaching celibacy, she demonstrated that through shaking and trembling movements, sin could be purged from the body. These gesticulating, dancing motions gave the Shaker sect its name. Angel Reapers is not biographical in the usual sense; the staging is more loosely constructed, slipping in and out of reality and embracing Ann’s visions and those of her followers. The plot is woven throughout with movement, song and dance to bring to life this extraordinary 18th century woman and the singular world she created. It examines the contradiction between the prim prudery of Shaker tenets and the wild, sexual nature they suppressed.
The Joyce Theater Foundation presents the NYC premiere of Angel Reapers, a new dance/theater piece with text by Alfred Uhry and direction and choreography by Martha Clarke for a two-week limited run from November 29 – December 11, 2011. Tickets are $10-$59 ($10 – $44 for Joyce Members) and are available through JoyceCharge at www.Joyce.org or by calling 212-242-0800. Please note: ticket prices are subject to change. The Joyce Theater is located at 175 Eighth Avenue NYC at 19th Street, in Chelsea.
by Richard Cameron of Theatre Chat. Cameron’s articles have featured conversations with Tony Award winning Producer Stewart Lane, Emmy Award winning Casting Director Jeff Greenberg, multiple Broadway and TV stars and creative teams bringing arts lovers together around the world for the largest social media arts movement. Tag You’re It! Subscribe and share with your arts community.