Monday, August 28, 2017

Performing in the Nauvoo Pageant

One of the highlights of our summer was participating in the Nauvoo Pageant! For those who haven’t been, it’s a musical production that runs for four weeks during the summers. It’s powered by ~30 core cast members and supported by about 150 “family cast members” who are the ensemble performers. The family cast rehearses for a week and then performs for a week.

We drove out early on a Saturday morning, which was a little bit crazy given that John, Joseph, and Katrina got back from Boise on Friday night, and Annemarie and Maria returned from Girls Camp late Friday night. On the way to Nauvoo, we stopped by Cheyenne and saw Richard and Judy Brown, as well as the apartment complex where John was a missionary.

As part of the family cast, we arrived Sunday night, started musical rehearsals right away, and got our costumes!

We were looking good!

During the week of rehearsing, the family cast members help run the “Country Fair” that is held from 7-8:30 PM every evening. We learned how to do the Country Fair Monday, and by Tuesday we were “at work” running our station at the Country Fair. We were in charge of “Children’s Games” and had a lot of fun interacting with other people. Levi was one of the dancers, and although he may not have been initially enthused about it, he wound up enjoying it.

We were extra happy to see special people in Nauvoo. Among these were Anne and Denny Anderson. John helped teach Anne in Boulder, CO in 1998 and they have been in touch for all of these years. They provided our kids with the “Duck Tape Merit Badge,” which led to a lot of cool creations being made while we were in Nauvoo.

There were two separate pageants – the Nauvoo Pageant that focused on the events in Nauvoo, and the British Pageant, that told the events of the Saints who gathered from the British isles. As such, there were a lot of songs and dances to learn. The rehearsal schedule was pretty demanding – 8 AM – 12PM, then 2 PM – 4PM, then a cast meeting at 6 PM, followed by the Country Fair. We also appeared in the Finale of the musical, so we stayed there until 10:30 PM each night.

The whole thing was enjoyable, but the first few days were particularly hard as it was hard to remember all of the dances and we frequently felt jumbled up. But the choreographers worked extremely well with the children and teens to help them learn their parts and have a good experience, and by the time we were supposed to perform, we were ready.

Fun side note – my first time going on stage for the British pageant as part of the finale – I was ready and pumped. I ran on stage and immediately a bug flew into my eye. So I’m trying to do the dance and sing with the bug in my eye, trying not to wipe it with my eye, etc. Hank Smith was there and afterwards he said, “Did a bug fly into your eye? I could totally tell.” He was cracking up because he could see my efforts to get rid of the bug.

Our performance week flew by. With a lot less rehearsal time, we were able to visit several Nauvoo sites. My favorite is the Lands and Records office – we went to the spot where Jesse N. Smith’s home was and walked the trail of hope with the performing missionaries. Beautiful. My favorite thing about being in Nauvoo is pondering people like James Fife, Joel Hills Johnson, Charles Shumway, Lorenzo Hill Hatch, Anne Ratcliff, and many other ancestors. Walking where they walked, trying to feel what they felt and so forth. For me what touched me the most was the dedication and strength of my ancestors and knowing that they live in me, and I am a reflection of them. More than anything else, I would say that I felt a deep connection with my ancestors and this has been a touching and valuable thing. I learned (relearned) more about many of them, and made several connections between them and the Pageant. For example, I hadn’t realized that King Follet and my ancestor James Fife were neighbors.

As the time went on, Rehearsals were good, the weather was a lot cooler, continued to have great conversations. Our kids solidified friendships and it was great to be together as a family working in a good cause for 12 hours a day. The pageant was also a great opportunity to share the gospel with others. We had many meaningful gospel conversations, particularly with Nancy and Nick who have been meeting with the missionaries and would like to be baptized.

As a beautiful end to our trip we stopped by some key Missouri sites – Independence, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and Far West. We also spent some happy times with Olsen cousins in Independence and in Denver with Lani’s brother and family; John also enjoyed driving through the streets of his mission, and in particular visiting Angelica, a woman he taught as a missionary.

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