Terri Weagant portrays seven characters in The Amish Project this weekend at The Merc Playhouse. Photo by Anna Curtiss

Terri Weagant portrays seven characters in The Amish Project this weekend at The Merc Playhouse. Photo by Anna Curtiss

By Laurelle Walsh

Seattle-based actor, director and teaching artist Terri Weagant brings a solo performance of The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey to The Merc Playhouse in Twisp in two shows, Friday and Saturday (June 6 and 7), at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for youth 18 and under.

Weagant will also be leading a solo performance writing workshop for teenagers and adults called “On My Own!” on Saturday from noon – 3 p.m.

“We’ll see what stories people are interested in telling — autobiographical, character-driven, historical or comedy — and each will craft a short piece to perform during the workshop. Hopefully it will propel people to take it home and work on creating their own solo performance,” Weagant said. Cost of the workshop is $15.

For more information contact The Merc at 997-7529 or go to www.mercplayhouse.org.

The Amish Project follows a shooting at an Amish school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 2006, in which five girls were killed. “It was the 23rd school shooting in the United States that year alone,” said Weagant. “But the media latched onto this one in particular because this was a group of pacifists who were the victims.”

Weagant, who has been studying the Amish in preparation for this production, said the incident was remarkable in part because the shooter was someone outside of the very insular, religious community, and yet the families of the victims “immediately forgave the gunman … They donated money to his family; they went to the funeral of the gunman.

“Ultimately, it’s a play about forgiveness,” Weagant said. “And performing these characters makes me question whether I’d have the ability to forgive somebody who had killed a member of my family.”

The actor plays seven characters in the story, which revolves around five major characters: the gunman, the widow of the gunman, a professor of religious studies “who gives context to the culture,” a local farmer, and a 16-year-old, pregnant Puerto Rican girl who lives in Lancaster.

“People don’t realize there’s a large Puerto Rican community there. She adds moments of lightness to the story,” Weagant said.

Weagant acknowledges comparisons to The Laramie Project — performed last year at The Merc — a play which examines the impact of the murder of a college student on a small community.

“The difference between The Laramie Project and The Amish Project is that Laramie was taken verbatim from interviews and press conferences in the aftermath of that killing.

“This [The Amish Project] is a fictional account of real events. The playwright didn’t want to impose on the Amish after they had been through so much. She even changed the names of the gunman and his widow,” Weagant said.

Weagant closed six performances of the show in Seattle last Saturday at the Theater off Jackson. She said her performances last week “were a little more sad” after shootings in Isla Vista, California, left seven college students dead.

The Amish Project is recommended for ages 12 and up, Weagant said. “There are some really dark moments. It’s a poignant, topical subject,” she said.

All the more so each time a gunman breaks the heart of a community somewhere in the United States.