Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gearing Up for Easter Pageant

The stage for the Easter Pageant 'sprouts' new props almost every day as pageant nears.  The excitement is mounting and the preparations are moving forward quickly.

One morning as I was looking out the Visitors' Center doors I saw the arrival of an actor of a different variety.  This pretty horse came to help with the animal contingency in the production.

A donkey was being coaxed to go up the ramp, but she wasn't the least bit enthusiastic.  In the scene depicting the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem the donkey is supposed to carry the Savior up the ramp midst the excited multitudes waving palm fronds and singing hosannas.  Sorry to say, this actress was being "as stubborn as a mule" and didn't want to cooperate. 

To the east of the Visitors' Center large trailers have been set up for restroom facilities.  Because the Visitors' Center was built lower than the temple so the temple could be seen from the main road, the sewage pumps can't handle the increased volume of 'material' that has to be pumped up to the level of the city's sewer system.  Thus, the Visitors' Center restrooms are closed during the pageant.

When evening rehearsals commenced the technicial people added large spots to the towers so that the stage would be illuminated when darkness fell.  There are three of these huge light stanchions across the front of the stage.

On March 17th there was a meeting for all the cast and full-time missionaries who were involved in the pageant.  The two mission presidents in this area spoke and pageant officials gave instructions to those present.  After the speakers got everyone 'pumped up' about doing missionary work, the attendees were given an opportunity to practice what they had learned with the people sitting next to them.

The pageant director, Jeannie Prince (right)  took a quick minute to pose for the camera before heading to the 'bowl' for an all-day rehearsal with the cast.  Her staff is well trained and very efficient in making sure everything runs smoothly.
Don Evan is the Pageant President.  He is the priesthood leader who brings everyone together and handles the million-and-one details that ensures the pageant's success.  This will be his last year because he has accepted a call to serve as a Mission President in Norway beginning in July.

Inside the Visitors' Center, Theater #1 has been cleared of chairs and is being transformed by Jon and Becki Jackson into a photography studio.  A couple of years ago Brother and Sister Jackson came up with the idea of offering free pictures with the cast for pageant visitors, and it has turned into a wonderful missionary tool.  People willingly give their home address and agree to let missionaries bring the picture to their home 'with a short message' in order to get their free picture.   Once the missionaries have their address and permission to visit the door is open for further teaching.
Lots of props are used to transform the room into a scene from ancient Palestine.

Family members are recruited to help put everything into place.   A local artist donates beautiful pictures of the Savior's life to add a special spirit to the room.
Lots of urns and greenery add beauty to the setting.
These are the three areas where pictures are taken.  The Jackson family match each developed picture with the guest who was in the picture.  It is a laborious task, done with great love and sacrifice, but the resulting referrals are their reward (along with many other blessings.)
On Saturday morning, March 24th, 10,000 chairs magically appeared in the bowl.  It seemed like they just sprang up overnight.  I wish I had been here early enough to see the whole thing unfold. 
Next year I'll remember to get up with the chickens so that I can watch the chairs being set up.  Many, many wards and stakes donated chairs from their buildings to make seating available for the nearly 90,000 people who are expected to attend the pageant.

Part of our assignment as directors is Public Relations.  In keeping with that charge, we spent Monday and Tuesday prior to pageant at Arizona State Univeristy meeting with the faculty and students at the Tempe Institute.  Our goal was to encourage the students to bring their nonmember friends to the pageant and visitors' center.
We were impressed with the lovely institute building available for the students right in the center of campus. 

During the lunch hour we took a short walk through campus to enjoy a program presented by the Institute choir.  We passed the student union as we walked.  Students had just returned from Spring Break, and were hurrying to their next class.
This is "Palm Walk," which extends for several blocks through the center of campus.  We were amazed to learn that ASU has 70,000+ students, which makes it the largest university in the United States. 

The Institute Choir was already singing when we arrived, so we quietly tip-toed inside and enjoyed their beautiful music.  The choir is directed by Brother Hofeling, one of the teachers on the institute staff, who does an excellent job training the singers.
The chapel is a non-denominational building built and funded by the Danforth Foundation.  There is some talk of having it torn down, so campus groups are rallying their forces to debate the issue.

Right beside the chapel were these beautiful trees covered with brilliant fuchia flowers.  The campus library is through the pillars and down some steps into a huge underground facility.  It was a pretty spring day - warm and sunny.  I LOVE Arizona! 
We were delighted to receive a visit from some of our long-time friends from Bountiful.  We enjoyed taking them to the Visitors' Center and sharing some of the exhibits and films that are available there.
As a P-day activity we invited the Bearnsons to join us in a visit to the famous Arizona Swap Meet.  I couldn't resist getting a picture of these 'unique' toilet paper holders!  I haven't ever seen anything like this before.  Never. 

Just pick your favorite animal and they will cheerfully hold your TP in any bathroom in the house.  I don't know how I've managed all these years without one! 

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