Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Easter Pageant Over - My Story

Fall of 2006 Bishop Willis asked me if I was interested in being in the Easter Pageant. It’s a sixty-five minute presentation that our faith produces at the Mesa Temple grounds based on the birth, life, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Last year was the 69th year that it has been running, this year being the 70th. Being 31 years old and attending a singles ward I wasn’t really sure if this was something I was really going to be engaged in. In so many words he said I have a good look and if I could grow a beard, I would almost be a shoe in for a good part. I had seen the pageant 2 times previously, both with a group of distracting and entertaining friends. Each time I went I knew that it was something worthy, but I don’t think I was prepared to feel the spirit. I was there for a social motivation more than anything. So going into the pageant, I didn’t know what to expect, nor was I looking for a life altering experience.

Little did I know the impact that it would have on my life and how I now feel about the necessary growth I need to come closer to my Heavenly Father. To understand my journey, you really must understand who I was, what I’ve gone through, what I perceived, I needed, to be happy. It’s still an ongoing process and I’m learning everyday and I hope to learn more, but my experience with the Easter Pageant has been incredible.

I was searching for a catalyst to help my spirituality, and put me on track. An added push to be better to feel the spirit more in my life, so I thought that the pageant could be that source. I had some reservations, but having Bishop Willis, who happened to be the President of the Pageant and Brother Ivard Brimley also helping out, made it easier to jump aboard. Another motivating factor, I have been struggling in finding new and exciting people to meet. The people I meet lately are shallow in spirit and heavy in maintenance. I guess in the long run I was hoping the pageant would introduce me to another group of people that I’ve never had an association with.

After completing my application for the pageant, I started growing out my beard and hair…I didn’t realize how much of a love hate relationship I was going to have with growing out my hair. Some days it was a relief not having to shave or waste the time on getting a hair cut, but there were other days when I couldn’t stand being hidden behind all that hair. My social life was torn as well, girls wouldn’t go near me, but couldn’t help be intrigued that I had this monstrous beard. So the process of growing the beard was difficult.

Early January we had Pageant tryouts that consisted of taking a picture and standing up in the chapel off of 1st Ave and Robson and lightly displayed our general acting abilities. The Pageant Presidency was there along with the Directors; they took notes and scheduled call backs. I was fortunate enough to be called back the next day to try out for Judas and John the Baptist. I really went into the Pageant wanting the part of John the Baptist, but felt good about doing anything, understudy Jesus, Judas, one of the 12 apostles, or anyone of substantial characters. I really didn’t to go through the trouble of growing out a beard for a multitude part, I know that’s the wrong attitude to have, but a 3 inch beard isn’t a pleasant experience. Nancy Wudel told us that over 850 people tried out for the Easter Pageant on they only had capacity for 350 people. I was pretty confident that I would get a part, but which part I was unsure of.

After about a month of waiting I got a call from one of Nancy’s assistances asking me not to shave my beard and to continue growing out my hair until I heard from Nancy. Two days later, on my birthday, I got a call from Nancy asking me if I would play the part of John the Baptist. Not having great birthdays in the past; this became the best news I could have asked for. The excitement could hardly be contained. At some point I realized that I was going to portray the profit who would prepare the way for the Lord, the actual cousin of Jesus. I didn’t realized it then, but I do now…I was going to be tried and tested, the adversary worked on me so hard, he wanted to disrupt the Pageant and do whatever he could to bring it down. I know now, any time I get anxiously engaged in the work of the Lord, there will be works of frustration coming from the opposition. It’s important to understand the humility of John as well as the important role of preparing the way. Some nights, I have felt more connected to John than others; it was all on my shoulders to be prepared to feel the spirit.

The first contact I had with the Pageant was meeting with Nancy, Robert Allan, Doug Shumway, Jerry, and Kevin to discuss the baptism seen on the Sunday before Super Saturday. We reviewed the blocking and the general positioning of John the Baptist and the entrance of Jesus. It was then I started to feel the excitement of the Pageant. That Tuesday we all met up again to color our beards, mine needed to be darker and Robert’s, Doug’s, and Jerry’s beard needed to be all the same shade. So we met at Kevin’s house to color and trim. We had some great discussions about our roles and the preparations that we have done up to that point. Doug shared some of his experiences being Judas from the previous year and some things he had learned about Judas. He was the treasurer of the 12 Apostles and maybe a reason for his betrayal. Judas was a businessman and there is a theory that Judas was trying to provoke Jesus in being the Political/Military leader he was looking for. He thought that if the guards would arrest him, he would fight back and spur Jesus into him rising up. Obviously, there was a moment of weakness on Judas’ part. None of us think Judas had a motive from the beginning. Kevin talked about the physical control of Jesus. When he was getting beating and scourged, he never wailed or cried out in paid, but stayed in control and always loved those who were doing these things to him. My own thoughts, it takes a spiritually strong individual to control his physical body; hence the Savior was perfect and had full knowledge that his spirit could control his mind and body. I asked Kevin if anyone of the first Presidency or the 12 Apostles had ever come down to watch the Pageant. He told us a story of Boyd K Packer visiting and had the directors call a meeting of the 12 men that were playing the Apostles and a few of them decided not to show up, thinking it was just a routine thing as well, they didn’t know that Boyd K. Packer wanted to give them instruction and give them a devotional. That was nice to get to know each of them.

Super Saturday is always a great day, we basically run through the multitude scenes and the basic motions of each scene. The first year I really meet anyone and I shared a shade tent with Ivard Brimley, Augie, and Bishop Willis. This last year I got to catch up with old friends and spent more time getting to know new friends. The next week was reviewing individual scenes with principles only so I really only needed to be there for the one baptism scene. The first year I listened to the CD and went over the scene in my mind and became comfortable in my movements and motions, by the end of the Pageant, I felt comfortable with how I felt the audience would be able to connect with John the Baptist. Each time I did my scene there was a feeling of humility and excitement when either Robert or Doug would come around the corner of the rock. I don’t think I ever really could understand the feeling that John had when the Jesus asked him for baptism. It would be like having President Hinckley asking me for a blessing…or something like that. My experiences from doing “Reflections of Christ” has given me more insight on the feelings of being unprepared and unworthy, something I still feel a sacred blessing to do. That is an entirely different experience.

The second Saturday we run through the multitude scenes one more time and then ran through the entire Pageant from beginning to end. The first year it wasn’t all that fluid, but we caught the gist of it. This last year, things came together so quickly and people caught on quickly. At this point everyone starts to develop a friendships, I hope that I can eventually remember all the names of the individuals that I had…some I only know by their Pageant name. Suzi, Nichelle, Austin, Russell, The Lunts, Joe (played the male narrator), Melanie (fell in love with her spirit, talked with her everyday, she’ll be one that I’ll truly miss through out the year, and she was a wise men follower), some of the 12 Apostles; Al, JC, Shane, Preston, Mark, Howie, and Gilbert. Jennifer and Tina played the baptized girls, her daughter Grace, Robyn, Aaron (crucified Jesus and Joseph, the husband of Mary), Jeff (played Joseph during the birth), the Angles; Aaron, Brandon, Charish, Elizabeth, Mandie, Julie, Joseph, Krista, Brittney, Kayson and others. The make-up crew; Debbie, Jamie, Dee Dee, Becky and the wigglets. Rick Bodrero (I already new him, but he played a Roman soldier, he’s my stake clerk), Boyd, (One of the Jesus’),Deuce Lutui (last year played a Roman soldier plays offensive guard for the AZ Cardinals), Bill Pollard (head Sadducee), JP (not a member last year, but got baptized 3 weeks before the pageant this year. She was a member of the Baptist church of motorcycle ministry??) Allen Family; Robert, Norine, Jacob, Bethany, Matthew, Jeana, and Sara, they adopt me every year, give me dinner a few times. Robert played the English Jesus. They have been in the Pageant for 7 years now. Last year Bryce, Karlie, Wesley, and Annie Burnham. The other members from my family group; The Jacksons and Paces and Nancy’s daughter and her family, but I just can’t remember their names, but I’ll never forget their faces. The Roman Soldiers; Jeremy, Ron, Paul, Corwin, Chuck, and Brian. Adam and Eve where played by Blake and Lindsey. Jerry (baptized and Spanish crucified Jesus), Doug, (Spanish Jesus and Peter), Clarissa (Howie’s wife and part of Peter’s Denial), Lisa (Mary), Chalyse (Mother of Nain), some of the virgins; Kayli, Kelly, Kimber, Elena, and Kacie. Dallin (Tomb Angel), Shauna (Blind Man’s wife) and so many others.

There are so many other people that I can recognize by seeing them and I hope that I can always recognize them when I see them at the temple, or store, or wherever. I was so blessed to be in a situation where I could talk to everyone and share my excitement about the Easter Pageant.

As we start dress rehearsals and performances, the spirit is felt frequently and with convincing power, it is impossible to recall every single one of them. In general, the first year I’ll always remember the many conversations with Augie about the overall feeling that we were experiencing being a part of the Pageant and how much we were going to miss it. As well has thinking about the scenes we were in and how it would have felt and how we would have reacted being apart of the miracle of Jesus. There were some nights were it would bring us to tears and our joy was full because of it. There were always late night conversations about the performance and what our favorite part was that particular night. In general, I really enjoyed Mary’s lullaby, partly because there is a part when Mary dances her way over to the Rock, (I’m standing right there preparing for the baptism scene) and when she sings the words, “For you are a King” and Boyd, the man who plays Jesus, stands…I know from a witness from the spirit that Jesus is the Christ.

The night that stands out the most is the Spanish nights. The first year had some mixed feelings going into that weekend because I don’t speak or understand Spanish, but above and beyond any other night, it was that night I felt the spirit the strongest. I have my reasons why I think it was that way. One, in the pre-show I could not understand what the missionaries were saying nor could I understand what was being said by those on the other end of the conversation, but I could follow every 6th or 7th word and I could fill in the rest. I had to concentrate and listen, and it was always tender moments when I know that the spirit was filling in the blanks.

This last year was so much different, I didn’t have to concentrate on my lines, my blocking, my cadence, or speed as much. Rather, I focused on the true feelings I might have had if I could have witnesses those actual events; the birth, the baptism, the calling of the twelve, the healing and teaching, the triumphal entry, the last supper, the betrayal, the trail, the crucifixion, and most importantly the resurrection. Some nights were real for me, even though I was not actually present, really believe that the same spirit that was present in days of old was present to testify to me that these events are not just a story, but really happened.

I was fortunate enough to have most of my family members come down in the past two years. Mom, Grandma, Travis, Cara, Spencer, Troy, Amy, Jill, Matt, Darcell, Wade, Sam, Whitey, Marshall, Leslee, and Lynzee. I can’t want to have my Dad come down; I’ll probably keep trying out until he’s able to see it.

After all that has been written about my experiences regarding the Easter Pageant, I would like to say, my faith is not based on the pageant itself, it is on my personal Savior Jesus Christ. He was born of humble birth in Bethlehem and the wisest of the wise and the poorest of spirits testified of his majestic birth. He grew grace for grace, walking through his life with his Father, whom he always sought, to whom he always prayed to for thanksgiving and strength. Jesus healed the sick, he raised the dead, he blessed the humble and he confounded the wise. He truly lived a life of greatest respect and perfection to only sacrifice himself as the unblemished lamb so that our sin might be blotted out. For unto a sinner such as I, I will be grateful my entire life, even if I was the only person to even walk the earth, I know that the Jesus still would have came for me. After the last supper, with a heavy heart the Savior carefully walked into the greatest event of mankind. No one will understand the intensity of his pains. The power to over come the sin of all my kind needed to be so great, it needed to be infinitely convincing in it’s persuasiveness that Jesus could stand in our behalf and say, “Not for their sake, but for my sake, let them enter into thy presence.” Then his betrayal and trail, whipped, beaten and humiliated to descend below all things in order for us to return home. Many people at that time felt like his life were a complete failure, but he did not break away from our Father’s plan and his role in that plan. He took that weight upon himself, he was taken to Calvary and in the third hour they crucified our Savior and darkness came upon the earth. After three days an angel came and testified, “He is not here, he is risen.” That is my testimony that he lives. He is the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

1 comment:

bec said...

Thank you for a number of things. First of all, for sharing your beautiful testimony of the Savior. Also, for sharing your journey and experiences of participating in the Easter Pageant - specifically for including so much of you, personally, in it. These are the best testimonies to hear, because they exemplify the reality of the testimony you bear, and the promises available because of Christ.
Also, I doubt that you know how loved you are by people, and how great of a blessing you are to others simply by your sincerity and faith in action. Thank you for loving life and the Lord.
And if a girl is ever gonna let a beard get in the way of YOU, there's something seriously wrong. Grizzly Adams or John the Baptist...I'd hang out with you and your beard either way.