By Melissa Mc
If I were smart and witty I would write today’s post in iambic pentameter…but alas, I am not. It is preview week and opening of The Elephant Man tomorrow night for my DH. He is an artist, but not on canvas, on the stage. He produces regional theatre here in our southern hamlet, and his been living out his passion since graduating from college and co-founding an LDS theatre company in NYC. Our daughter was 18 months old when she saw her first Shakespeare. It was The Tempest, in the park, so before you start judging me for taking a toddler to theatre, she slept thru the whole thing. Her next Shakespeare, at 4 yrs, was Much Ado About Nothing; this time she seemed genuinely interested, but I think it was because the actors frolicked thru the audience and hid behind trees. Her brother, then 18 mos, followed closely in his sister’s earlier footsteps and slept.
My husband knew early on he would never succeed as an actor, so it was with marital glee that I made my “Broadway debut” before he did. The story is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds – I was pulled out of the audience to dance with the MC in the revival of Cabaret before the second act – it was a debut, it was on stage, it was on Broadway – I don’t bother with technicalities.
Theatre is a necessity in our house, like breathing. But our profession in “theatre” has often caused judgmental glances and snickers from our fellow ward members who seem to view us as the den of thieves to TRUE artists, like musicians, singers or painters. In the 8 years we’ve lived here, I can count on one hand the number of members who have bought tickets and seen a production. Brigham Young was quoted as saying, “If I were placed on a cannibal island and given the task of civilizing its people, I would straightway build a theatre for the purpose.” According to Carol Lynn Pearson, in an Ensign article, “Joseph Smith not only approved of but actually encouraged the theater. Along with all the other developments in his beautiful city of Nauvoo…Joseph established a dramatic company. Brigham Young, Erastus Snow, and other of the leading brethren took part in many of the plays. Brigham Young himself played the part of the high priest in Pizarro, a popular drama of the day.” Why do dramatists get such a bad rap? Are stage plays, musicals and dramas LESS “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” than symphonies, ballets or art exhibits? Have former church members and BYU theatre grads, playwright Neil Labute and actor, Aaron Eckhart, poisoned the well for those who want to support theatre? Are the only worthy theatrical productions ones produced by Michael McLean or Lex de Azevedo – or starring Donny Osmond in a skirt and multi-colored coat?
If “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143 – why, in my experience, does it seem that members are avoiding the players and the stage altogether?
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