“‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘Tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.”
– a Shaker hymn
“In the valley of love and delight…” Ummmm, perhaps not what you’re thinking. For the Shakers, there was a big difference between love and lust.
“Angel Reapers” – the new stage work by Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry that lands at Proctors in Schenectady for one-performance-only tonight (Friday, October 21) at 8pm promises to be a haunting and provocative evening at the theater.
Beyond that, however, it’s difficult to explain. Even director-choreographer Clarke isn’t quite certain how to describe the performance. “It’s a mongrel. It’s neither theater nor dance,” says the MacArthur Foundation genius grant recipient. “It’s its own animal.”
With “Angel Reapers,” playwright Uhry (who Midas-touched resume includes a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and two Tony Awards) examines Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers – whose settlement is still a historical site in Colonie today – from a dark and unusual angle, exploring the sexual tension and repression that bubbled up in the utopian religious sect that demanded celibacy.
Watching a rehearsal last month at the Gibney Dance Center on Broadway in Manhattan, it was clear that the cast of 11 dancers/singers/actors were quite capable of conjuring up some seriously steamy moments of lust despite the fact that they were fully clothed in a bare, brightly lit, slightly chilly rehearsal hall.
And while you may think of the Shakers as a part of America’s dusty, historical past, make no mistake about it – “Angel Reapers” is a thoroughly modern, thought-provoking performance piece.
“Angel Reapers” will be performed at Proctors in Schenectady at 8pm tonight. Following the performance, director-choreographer Martha Clarke will give a free talk and conduct a Q&A. Tix are $20, $35, $45 & $65.