NORTH SALT LAKE - Members of the cast, crew and audience of “Savior of the World, Act II: His Resurrection,” often find their testimonies changing and growing through the experience of the play.
The Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is presenting the production on Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 19, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., at the Bountiful/Woods Cross Regional Center, 835 N. 400 East, in North Salt Lake. The performances are free and open to the public.
The stake put on the full production two years ago, according to Leslie Giles-Smith, artistic director for the stake’s play.
What she found then is being confirmed this year - that participants find their faith growing through the production.
“It’s a collective learning experience. It’s a collective testimony experience,” that goes beyond anything a secular play could, she said.
Much of that, of course, comes from the story, but another portion comes from the commitment to the message from the actors and others involved in the play, Giles-Smith said.
“It adds a whole new layer that you don’t have in other productions,” she said.
Giles-Smith explains that for most of those involved, there comes a point in the production where they have a deeper understanding of those being portrayed as having been real people, rather than characters in a book.
Often, an actor will have a sudden insight into something about his character or about the scripture the scene is taken from, she said.
The production is the last half of the full “Savior of the World,” play that tells the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, life and resurrection.
It was put together in such a way that each act could be staged on it’s own, and produced as either a Christmas (Act I), or Easter (Act II) play.
Having a play focused on the Easter message is exciting to Giles-Smith. Because the production only lasts 45 to 50 minutes, “it’s easily accessible to families with children,” she said.
“I want families to feel comfortable coming to the production,” she said, adding that parents have a legitimate concern about taking their children to a lengthy production.
From a technical viewpoint, a shortened play is also easier to stage.
The ensemble cast is made of 64 performers from the stake.
Among those involved are those who bring a wealth of experience to the stage and behind the scenes.
Daniel Webster, who played Jesus in the production two years ago, will reprise his role. He’s also been involved in other LDS-sponsored productions.
Tandy Lefler will play Mary Magdalene. She comes from a strong performance background at Brigham Young University, and her experience shows, Giles-Smith said.
Kerry Johnson is playing Peter. He played an apostle two years ago, Giles-Smith said.
Michael Stanger is playing Thomas, a pivotal role, and one that requires skill as he goes from doubting to believing, Giles-Smith said.
Dana Fisher is the play’s costumer. A member of the stake, she has designed the costumes for the Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York for seven years.
“She has a wealth of experience with period costumes,” Giles-Smith said.
Giles-Smith also has high praise for the staff at the regional center.
“They’re the best people to work with,” she said.
“Our hope is that we draw people, not just from our stake, not just from the LDS community,” Giles-Smith said.
“We’re so excited to offer this to the community, whether you’re Mormon or not,” she said. “The message is universal and the majority of the play comes straight out of scripture.”