BOUNTIFUL—In this day and age television is just part of our daily lives, but there was a time it didn’t exist until a determined young man from Utah invented it.
Students at Valley View Elementary are honoring that man, Philo T. Farnsworth the inventor of television, through song and script in the original play “Meant to Invent.”
“Our mission is to inspire, educate and entertain through true stories,” said Deborah Ericson, a parent volunteer. “It started with our play about the ‘Candy Bomber.’ It was such a great success we decided to celebrate awesome local true heroes and entertain but inform.”
The theme of the production is, “Inventors Seek Solutions.” Written and produced by Meagan Becker, a parent with three children in the play, “Meant to Invent” follows Philo through his youth and into adulthood with his wife Pem by his side.
“I’ve always been impressed with the story of Philo,” said Becker. “I’m not from Utah and I didn’t think it could possibly be true that he lived in Utah. My background is in television and while I was at San Francisco State we went over his story. I was always throwing in that he was from Utah. His story has so many parallels for the children. He had insurmountable odds against him and he never really saw the outcome.”
Becker said she used several books as reference in writing the play. “Most notably his wife’s book, ‘Distant Vision,’” she said. “I also used children’s books and geared it more to him as an inventor rather than later in his life. I focus on the fact that he was young when he invented it (TV). He had an idea. Young people can invent too, especially when they work hard and apply themselves.”
In Pem’s book she describes how Philo even trained himself to use his sleeping time to work, Becker said. “He was such a bright mind. These kids can do the same and they will.”
Andie Kjar, a sixth grader, plays Pem in one of two casts. “It’s been really fun,” she said. “I’ve been in all of the school plays that they’ve done. I want to be an actress. I’ve had to learn a lot of lines. It’s helped me learn history, especially since it all takes place in Utah.”
Fifth grader Gavin Frogley, who plays Philo as a teen agreed. “It’s definitely helped me learn more about the history of Philo Farnsworth,” he said. “I’m always doing plays and being in the spotlight. I don’t want to act for a job but just for fun.”
There are 150 students in the production and the parents have written most of the songs. “We have a father who wrote music for the ‘Candy Bomber’ but no longer has kids here. But he continues to write for us,” said Ericson. “His scores are awesome, he does it for a living. We’ve also created a video with 30-second spots of the children explaining what they would invent to make a difference in people’s lives and impact the world. It will play as people come into the performance.”
Ericson said the principal and teachers have helped by incorporating the theme into their lesson plans and curriculum. “It’s neat to see it across all levels. They can relate to a real person who did a real thing.”
Those involved hope sharing a true story will inspire the students and audience members to achieve their goals. “These hometown hero stories show that people have real challenges that they had to overcome,” said Becker. “It also creates a sense of Utah pride. We want these kids to feel like they’re from a place and part of something bigger than us. We’d love to share the same messages with other schools in the state.”
The show runs Feb. 28 through March 4 at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with two matinees on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available online at valleyviewmusical.org or at the door. Valley View is located at 1395 S. 600 East in Bountiful.