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The Front Porch Theatre at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts raised the curtain on "As It Is In Heaven" by Arlene Hutton last weekend.

The play, about women in a Shaker community in 1870s Kentucky, is as circuitous as the Shakers songs and dances depicted during the scene transitions.

“The skill of the actors, directors and designers is very high with this production,” says Front Porch Theatre artistic director Matt Lutz . “We are undertaking a deeper, richer work this spring with As It Is In Heaven than perhaps any other show we’ve produced.”

Due to the small stage at the Arts Center, the show’s director Candice Dickenson has chosen to use the entire theatre space as a canvas for the show. This staging strategy has been used throughout this sixth season, creating an intimacy that may not have been achieved by positioning the action up and away from the audience on the stage. The effect is mesmerizing.

"As It Is In Heaven," presented by agreement with Dramatist Play Service, premiered on May 10. Showings will be held on May 17 and 18, and May 24 and 25. All showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Matinees at 2 p.m. on May 12, 19 and 26 will be presented as well. Tickets are $20.

“By design the entire cast, crew and creatives of this production are women,” Lutz said.

“Creating opportunities for women is something we feel strongly about.” Black Mountain Center for the Arts executive director Gale Jackson said. “We have traditionally created a piece that not only appeals to women for this spring show, but also one that is dominated by their skill and creativity onstage and off.”

In the show, nine women depict a utopian society devoted to faith that is disturbed when several newcomers claim to see angels. Order and faith are shaken as the drama unfolds.

“We are excited as ever to share this beautiful piece of theatre with our audiences,” Lutz said. “'As It Is In Heaven' promises to enlighten and challenge. It is the kind of art that stays with you long after you’ve gone home.”

Tickets are available at blackmountainarts.org by calling 669-0930. The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is located at 225 West State Street.

Shaker Song Workshop to Compliment Play

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is partnering with the Swannanoa Valley Museum to offer a Shaker Song Workshop led by local ballad singer, folklorist and documentarian Saro Lynch-Thomason from 1 - 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18.

This workshop will unpack aspects of Shaker culture by teaching 18th- and 19th-century Shaker songs, including "rounds" that layer to create interesting polyphonies, as well as a harmony song or two.

The songs will be taught in a "sing and repeat" style, so attendees do not need to read music in order to sign up. The cost of the workshop is $25. Anyone who has attended a showing of "As It Is In Heaven' will receive a $2 discount.

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