‘As it is in heaven’ celebrates religious history, female empowerment

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Jeffrey Davis

The nine actresses from CSUSM Theatre’s rendition of Arlene Hutton’s “As it is in Heaven.”

Shannon Gallacher, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor


 

CSUSM’s theatre department took on the task of bringing playwright Arlene Hutton’s play, “As it is in Heaven,” to life from March 9 to March 13 in the Arts Building Performance Hall, bringing something new and innovative to the campus stage.

The story is set in 1837 and focuses on a Shaker community in Kentucky. When newcomer Polly arrives to the town and claims to have had visions of angels near the edge of the community, elder women Hannah, Betsy and Phebe begin to question their devotion to their faith.

The cast consists of nine CSUSM actresses/students including: Laurissa Rudgers (Hannah), Kenia Ramirez (Peggy), Brianna Dodson (Betsy), Ronja Breili (Phebe), Dominique Duren (Izzy), Christine Dillard (Rachel), Erica Rothman (Polly), Taylor Mu’min (Fanny) and Autumn Destarac-­Saldana (Jane).

The cast did a spectacular job and each of their talents were highly showcased due to the simplicity of the set, costumes and spectacle, allowing them to really connect with one another and with the audience.

Speaking on why this play was brought to CSUSM, student Rothman explained, “I think [Kaja Dunn] realized that there’s a lot of strong women in our theater program and the show she was doing…was great for one woman, but then she realized that there were at least nine of us.”

Duren noted that it was difficult at times for fellow actresses and herself to correctly portray each of their characters.

“It was a very organic process,” said Duren. “I think you really had to come out of your shell and do things you were casted for and sometimes that was really difficult—bringing that character justice.”

Although the actresses felt artistically challenged, Director Dunn is proud of each of their performances and the show overall.

“There was a lot of historical background and finding our feet, but I think the best part was watching them find their voices…we didn’t audition for singing when we started the process,” said Dunn. “Watching them grow and blossom into these roles was a very special thing for me as a director.”

Dunn also said she is proud to have been part of a play that showcased the talent of nine powerful women.

“To have nine women on stage talking to each other and not about men doesn’t happen very often in theater and there’s not a small part in the show and there’s no scenery to fall back on, so it’s [just] them and that was a really special gift,” said Dunn.

When asked what they wanted viewers to take away from the show, Dillard said, “I think it’s extremely important to realize that [this is] just a group of women who love each other and love something bigger than themselves and will do anything to protect it… and taking that away rather than, ‘That character was really mean.’ It’s really about love and community.”

CSUSM’s production of “As it is in Heaven” will definitely leave a lasting impact on audience members. Their performance exemplified a cast of strong women who are unafraid to put themselves out on the stage for their love of acting.

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California