Depending on how this goes, you could be locally famous when we’re done. Probably not, but stranger things have happened.
The American Fork Heritage and History Pageant is being revived this year on the evenings of Friday, August 25; Saturday, August 26; and Monday, August 28.
This is my last-minute casting call for one of the vignettes. I’ll tell you a bit about the pageant, and then I’ll tell you the roles we’re trying to fill and some information about filling them.
Here’s something I wrote about the pageant in 2008, excerpted from my old blog.
When I first heard of American Fork’s annual History and Heritage Pageant — more familiar to some as the “cemetery pageant” — I thought the idea was a little strange, and I assumed that the event would be dull and amateurish (in the lame and cheesy sense of the latter word). That was about nine years ago. I have long since changed my mind. I now believe it to be an excellent thing, a lot of fun, and an important way of remembering and celebrating our collective heritage.
This year’s Pageant will run for three evenings, as usual. . . . Some activities end before dark, but others continue until as late as 10:00 p.m. Buy your relatively inexpensive individual or family ticket one evening, and it’s good for all three evenings. There are carriage rides, watermelon, ice cream cones, and good music (often of professional quality) at certain places and times around the cemetery. For that matter, the view of Utah Lake and the valley from the American Fork Cemetery is excellent, especially in the evening. But none of this is the focal point of the Pageant. [Note: some details may be a different this year. I’ll try to find out.]
Each year there are several short historical vignettes playing at different locations in the cemetery. These are brief dramatic productions, ranging from about eight to 24 minutes in length, about the lives of people who have lived in American Fork, some of whom are actually buried at the cemetery. Generally, you can watch one, then walk comfortably to next one before its next performance starts. These little productions are not professionally written, produced, or acted, though you will often see a burst of excellence. In any case, the productions tend to be enjoyable, and there is some risk that you may learn some history from them, too. Some of the vignettes are new each year, and some have been done before.
A great deal of work goes on behind the scenes, as scripts are researched and written, cast members recruited, costumes prepared, and so forth. This leads me to something that’s not exactly a secret, which you yourself might observe when you’re at the Pageant: being in it is even more fun than attending it.
A few years ago, I played one of my pioneer heroes, Levi Savage, in a dramatization of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies. Last year, I wrote the script for a new vignette about pioneer Thomas Featherstone, based mostly on his journals. It was a research and writing project I thoroughly enjoyed.
I wasn’t planning to be in the cast this year, but they came to me a week and a half ago with a late offer I could not refuse. I and an even larger man have this very week taken a script from a past Pageant, rewritten it, and cast ourselves as a deputy US Marshal and a polygamist on the lam. I’ll be wearing a badge. He’ll be wearing a dress. If the audience has half as much fun as we’re having in our little, eight-minute production, it will be worth the effort.
If you go, and it looks like fun, tell one of the organizers that you’d like to be involved next year. (There are a few dozen jobs to do which aren’t acting, if that’s not your cup of herbal tea.) Or send me an e-mail, and I’ll pass it on. There’s always room for more cast members.
Since then, I’ve written more scripts, acted in a couple of them (even learned a Scottish accent) — and the same friend and I switched roles to reprise our comedy, so he was wearing the badge, and I was wearing the dress. Not sure where the pictures of that went, but here are some pictures from the year when I wore the badge.
[Updated 20 August 2017]
The vignette I’ve written (confession: I’m still polishing) and will produce this year is about Margie Beckstead Terry, who lived much of her adult life in American Fork, including a few decades as secretary at Forbes, then Barratt Elementaries. When she was sixteen, on December 1, 1938, she was terribly injured in an accident in Sandy, in which her school bus was hit by a freight train. The bus driver and 23 of her fellow students were killed.
The vignette begins on the day of the accident, and the last scene occurs a few years later. There’s shock, sorrow, gratitude, joy, a bit of romance, and some humor.
Here are the roles and some notes, to help you see where you might fit:
- Margie [FILLED]: The lead role. A dancer at 16, and some scenes in her mid-20s. Sometimes onstage alone. For one scene, it’s important that she can read aloud, naturally and well. Able to speak calmly of grisly things. Some stage experience would be helpful.
- Mother [FILLED] and Father [FILLED] (of a teenager): A couple would work nicely, but these two don’t have to be a couple. Modest speaking roles, some emotion.
- Radio Announcer [FILLED]: Strong, male voice; needs to sound natural reading copy.
- Earl [FILLED]: Male adult. One scene. Bearer of bad news, but could be a scene-stealer.
- Nurse [FILLED]: Adult female, speaks calmly and gently of bad things.
- Dr. Snow [FILLED]: Fairly large speaking role. Orthopedic surgeon.
- Millie [FILLED]: High school girl, a friend who visits in one short scene and unintentionally wreaks havoc.
- Ona [OPEN]: Mid-twenties, one scene, but a potential scene stealer. The kind of girl who’d be engaged to one man and go on a blind date with another (but would also be Margie’s friend).
- Dell [FILLED]: Mid-twenties, handsome, could plausibly be a soldier home on furlough. Only has two scenes; I wish it were more. At least he gets the girl in the end.
- Offstage Roles [one filled, could use one more]: If there is anyone who would like to help with props, costumes (minimal), and other offstage and administrative matters, we could use the help. We’re doing this on a very short clock. It will work, but it will be work.
We perform outdoors, unamplified, with minimal sets, with the cemetery lawn for our stage, and with a few rows of folding chairs for the audience.
Here are the dates when you absolutely must be available.
- Thursday, August 24, probably 6:30 p.m. Dress rehearsal.
- Performances from 6:00 p.m. to dark:
- Friday, August 25
- Saturday, August 26
- Monday, August 28
We’ll need some additional rehearsal time before then, but it’s flexible.
We need people who are available, who have reasonably strong voices (for performing outdoors without amplification), and who won’t be scared speechless by an audience that’s two feet away. On the other hand, everyone knows these are amateur productions; that’s part of the charm of it. (I may write professionally — usually not scripts — but I’m absolutely an amateur at direction.) We do need people who, in age, gender, and physical appearance, fit somewhat plausibly into the roles.
If you’re interesting, or think you might be, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook, and we’ll chat by phone — or in person, if it works out.
If you’ve never acted, but think it sounds fun — it is — this is a fun, low-pressure way to start.