Monday, January 13, 2014

Road Show

The Church (LDS Church for those wondering) was quite different when I was growing up then is it today. First, we did not have the consolidated meeting schedule as we do now. The new schedule did not come about until February, 1980.

So, during my childhood, Church was an all-consuming event. All Priesthood holders went to Priesthood meeting sometime in the morning. Later that day was Sunday school which was split between Junior and Senior Sunday school. Sometime later there was Sacrament meeting. So most the day was spent getting ready for church, going to church, or being at church.

Primary was held mid-week. For us it always seemed to be on Wednesday. At Primary we all met in the chapel for opening exercises and then split off our different classes after that. Each class had its own distinct name like Sunbeam, Merry Miss, Gay Note (I think that one died an ignoble death), the ever popular Blazers.

Mutual Improvement Association, sometimes called MIA or Mutual, was also mid-week and was intended for the youth from 12-18 years old. Like Primary, Mutual started with opening exercises in the chapel and then each age group separated for their different activities. In those days, all boys, regardless of age, were in one ward scout troop.

The point of Mutual, at least one of the points, was to provide the youth the ability to socialize in a non-threatening, well –controlled environment. It was also a way for the youth to interact more informally with adults. We really got to know our bishopric members and adult leader a lot better through MIA.

One event that really got adults and youth to work together was the Road Show. In those days, the Road Show was a huge event. All wards participated and we all took the competition seriously. Yes, there were winners and there were losers. This was well before the days when winners and losers were outlawed.

Here is how it worked.

The stake would create a Stake Road Show committee and they would set the theme for the show. The theme was broad and allowed each ward the creativity to do anything within the theme. (Rarely or almost never was the theme religious. We had enough of that religion stuff going to church all day on Sunday.) If a ward decided to go outside the theme, no one really cared. But you did risk getting a lower score. (You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.)

Once the theme was established, each ward would call a Ward Road Show committee. They would determine the resources, create the script, and sponsor auditions. Yes, you had to audition for the parts. This meant someone was going to be upset because they didn't get the part they wanted.

Mutual provided a built-in time for rehearsals and preparations. Road Shows were usually performed in the early spring so much of the class activities during the winter months were replaced by Road Show practice. This would have upset the Scout Master, but the Ward Road Show committee did its best to give the Scout Master a significant role to get his buy-in. (Ah, Mormon politics.)

Road Shows were low on real acting an heavy on song and dance. You also were judged on how many people you used in your cast. The goal was to get all the youth involved somehow. There were speaking and acting part, singing parts (mostly in big groups to drown out the lack of talent), and, of course the sets and props.

Now, the key to a successful Road Show, to make up for the lack of any real acting skills, was the props. The more elaborate the set, the less people focused on the acting and singing. However, these were truly Road Shows. These meant you had to transport all actors, stagehands, and props between the three or four buildings in the stake.

Transporting the people was relatively easy. The trick came in transporting the props. The true miracle workers of these armature plays were those who built the props. They always had to keep in mind that all the props had to fit in pickup trucks and had to be moved around mostly by youth. Size, weight, and durability were essential. I don’t think they ever asked my Dad to make too many of these props as he would have built them with ¾ inch plywood and they would have weighed a ton.

Another aspect to a successful Road Show was a the costumes. Visual things really compensated for lack of talent. For weeks moms, Young Women leaders, and when necessary, the entire Relief Society would pitch in to make the costume. Sort of like back in the Kirtland and Nauvoo days.

Then came the makeup. How do you get 20-30 teenagers all in one room getting their makeup on? That is another one of those miracles.

A few days prior to the Road Show performance, and we had to do this for two nights, each ward got assigned their building rotation. One of the important criteria was setting up your stage and being ready to start on time. Typically each ward had 15 minutes to set up and be ready to go. If you were late, you were docked points.

This schedule also meant we had to make good time between the buildings to avoid being docked points. As you may have guessed, each year, someone in some ward got a ticket for speeding in order to make good time to avoid the point penalty. Mom was pulled over once wearing a raggedy-Ann costume. That was before I was old enough to be in Road Shows. I think the police were aware when our stake was having its Road Shows because they seemed to be out in force on those nights.

I was involved with at least three Road Shows -- Monopoly, a spoof on the Snow White story, and the Dunky and Moron show (each one will take some explaining) and they all followed the same pattern.

Step 1: Everyone is excited and all want to get involved. In fact, everyone tries for the lead rolls knowing only losers get stagehand duties.

Step 2: After so many weeks of practice, many of the youth start to lose interest.

Step 3: As you near dress rehearsal, the whole thing falls apart. Youth forget to tell the adults they will be out of town, the set is not coming together, and the piano player had a baby.

Step 4: On the night of the performances it all comes together. However, on the second night it rains which wreaks havoc on the make for streaks all the paint on the props.

Step 5: When it was all over, everyone is sad and can’t wait until next year’s Road Show. 

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