Musical Drama   By E. Thomalen
15M, 15F (doubling possible)
The Shakers begun in England in the late 1700s by Mother Ann were persecuted there for unconventional beliefs and practices and immigrated to America just before the American Revolution, founding communities in New York, New England, and eventually Ohio and Kentucky. This utopian, millennial, religious sect experienced a revival in the 1820's-1850's but after the American Civil War gradually lost appeal for younger members and now exists only as a single, small, elderly community of sisters in Maine. The Shakers, however, left a rich legacy of music and art and were known, also, for their exceedingly fine manufacturing products. It was, and is, a celibate community where love of God and service to their community and fellow man were valued over singular attachments. But this could be problematic from time to time as the play relates. It was a self-sufficient community and provided a home for orphaned and abandoned children as well as lifetime care for its own sick and elderly members. The play set in the period from 1830 - 1850 introduces the audience to many of the Shaker songs and dances. It tells the story of a young girl whose parents died under the harsh living conditions of the nineteenth century and was taken in by the Shakers. A boy whom she knew before her Father died, also joins the Shakers to escape from his Father. It shows how the Shaker community shaped their lives and values and tells something of why one of them eventually left. Hair and A Shaker Story perhaps belong as opposite bookends on a shelf of musicals of the late twentieth century.