As It Is In Heaven graces BYU-I’s Stage

A woman teaches her fellow Shaker how to read the scriptures Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

BYU-Idaho produces As It Is In Heaven from Feb. 15-18 and 21-25.

Set in 1838, As It Is In Heaven is a story of faith and devotion. Nine women of various ages and life experience come together through their unique trials, seeking to better understand the meaning of gifts, angels and Heaven.

The Shaker community gathers together for a picnic
The Shaker community gathers together for a picnic Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

“This show is about the women in the shaker community experiencing new ways of worship and different changes that both challenge their faith and strengthen it,” said Sydney Strong, who plays 15-year-old Izzy in the play. “At first some of them have a difficult time accepting the changes, but in the end they all come together.”

In the 1800s, Shaker communities were established with chastity and honest labor in mind to fight off the evils of the world. This musical follows one such community, as they grapple with healing and overcoming hardship.

“The characters are relatable, multidimensional and human,” said Sarah Nicholes, who plays Phebe.

The women wash their faces and prepare to experience the spirit
The women wash their faces and prepare to experience the spirit Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

Each character, from the head of the community to the newly welcomed, experience worship in new ways. When newcomer Fanny claims to see angels, other sisters begin to proclaim visions as well. Hannah, one of the deaconesses, wrestles with this and the effects it has on those she loves when she has yet to have visions herself.

On all sides, faith is challenged and wounds tasked to heal.

Actors describe the deep wells of emotion they experience on stage as “transformative” and “therapeutic.”

“Phebe is a deaconess … She is a woman who seeks righteousness, isn’t afraid to make a point, and greatly values her role as a leader,” Nicholas said. ” I feel like Phebe is the ‘dark side of the moon’ for lots of people — quick to temper, frustrated when people don’t do what they’re told, can be rude and mean.”

Hannah humbly washes the Fanny's feet as the other women look on
Hannah humbly washes the Fanny's feet as the other women look on Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

Beauty and triumph are found within each character as they navigate their lives together. Each wants confirmation of heavenly providence and the knowledge that angels truly are there. It’s a stunning journey for each woman, how they discover angels for themselves and share that with others.

“(Phebe) has a beautiful transformation into someone that people can relate to and understand deeply,” Nicholes said.

As It Is In Heaven, chosen by director Jennie Pardoe, is unique because it is an all-woman cast. Throughout the show, these nine actresses perform hymns in acapella, showcasing the breadth of talent among them.

“Singing is not one of my strong suits so it has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” said Ashleigh Brown, who plays Polly. “But I love what it adds to the show and the spirit it brings.”

And if an actress is not singing or dancing or speaking front stage, she’s still onstage. Actresses learned how to quilt and do so during production, not a single one going off stage for the majority of the show. This incredible atmospheric touch truly depicts the simple and humble life of the devoted Shakers. It also separates this show from others by utilizing each actor at all times.

The cast of As It Is In Heaven stands together after the show
The cast of As It Is In Heaven stands together after the show Photo credit: Kennedy Nash

“I feel like you don’t see an all-female cast that often,” Strong said. “That has been really special to me, getting to tell this story about these strong women in history while also bonding and learning from my amazing cast members who are strong women too.”

The show will play in the Snow Drama Theatre in the Eliza R. Snow building on campus. As It Is In Heaven begins at 7:30 p.m. every night Feb. 15-18 and 21-25. Tickets are $6 and students can purchase them for $3.

As It Is In Heaven is a wonderfully spiritual show that will make you laugh and cry,” Brown said. “Come see it if you want to have a truly human experience and possibly learn something about yourself along the way.”

Tickets can be purchased online at the Ticket Office.