Dordt College News

Dordt Theatre production opens Feb. 22

February 16, 2007

As It Is In Heaven

The Dordt College Theatre Arts Department offers a fascinating and thought-provoking slice of Americana with the upcoming theatre production, “As It Is In Heaven,” based on an 1837 Shaker community in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Opening weekend for this production is Feb. 22-24, with a second weekend of performances offered March 1-3. All six performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Te Paske Theatre, located at the Sioux Center High School, 550 Ninth St. NE. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 722-6430, or reserve tickets on-line at

The title of the play reflects the Shaker philosophy “Hands to work, Hearts to God,” which inspired 18th and 19th century Shakers to work hard, live simply, and strive for perfection here on earth. The term “Shaker” was applied to the group because of their religious fervor and movement in worship as they felt the spirit led.

“It’s an intriguing story that challenges us all to look at how we deal with change,” says director Jerelyn Schelhaas. As the story unfolds, traditional ways are challenged when a young newcomer claims visions of angels. Soon all the young women are receiving spiritual “gifts” of songs, drawings, ideas, and exuberance, upsetting the structure and balance of the Shaker community.

“The production doesn’t answer the question of whether or not these were real visions, but does open up the question of whether the visions of the young can find room in the habits and traditions of the old,” commented Schelhaas.

Nine Shaker “sisters” make up the cast: Anna Venhuizen (Burnett, WI), Becky Lancaster (Cedar Rapids, IA), Jenna Veenbaas (Abbotsford, BC), Melissa Schans (Denver, CO), Sarah Hoogendoorn (Sioux Falls, SD), Justine Moelker (Chatham, ON), Emily Stam (Oskaloosa, IA), Danielle Roose (Sioux Center, IA) and Ashley Laverman (Kellogg, IA).

Other students assisting in the production are stage manager Jonathon Shaffstall (West Milford, NJ); Heather Boer (Lansing, IL) and Dan Fynaardt (Pella, IA), assistant stage managers; Laura MacMillan (Elmhurst, IL) and Amanda Arkema (Pella, IA), makeup/hair design; Dan Den Boer (Sioux Center, IA), sound design; Lee Mellema (Sioux Center, IA), Aileen Nyman (St. Albert, AB), Bree Wierenga (Gilbert, AZ) and Whitney Powell (Hastings, NE), light runners; Jasmine Palmer (Sheboygan, WI) and Mallory Ooms (DeMotte, IN), house managers; T.J. Lagestee (Lansing, IL), assistant box office manager; and Rob Haan (Sioux Center, IA), graphic artist.

The student choreographer is Joelle Riezebos (Sioux Center, IA), who researched authentic Shaker dance to recreate it in the production. Performers will also sing a capella hymns in true Shaker style.
Costumes were designed with authenticity in mind, beginning with hand-dyeing muslin fabric to Shaker colors. The costume designer was Susan Blom, Dordt’s award-winning Theatre Arts seamstress and costume shop supervisor.

The set design has been created based on photographs of the original location in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. The technical director, set, and lighting designer is Jim Van Ry, Theatre Arts technical director and auditorium director at Dordt.

Director Jerelyn Schelhaas is an instructor of Theatre Arts and English at Dordt College. Schelhaas also directed the award-winning 2004-05 production “All My Sons” which was selected for regional American College Theater competition and held for national consideration.

Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 722-6430, or reserve tickets on-line at

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