The Nauvoo Theatrical Society

I’m so glad that the Nauvoo Theatrical Society still exists. Not in an official theater, mind you, but in the minds, hearts and perspiration of its creators Scott Bronson and Thom Duncan. And Scott’s backyard. I went to the staged reading of Thom’s “Matter’s of the Heart” on Friday. Great show (review forthcoming). And as much as I was impressed with the show, I was even more impressed with the individuals behind the performance.
I look at the setbacks which Scott and Thom have had, the near completion of a dream, only to have the theater they worked so hard to get into not be able to initially support itself; Scott’s battle with cancer (which he won. Twice.); the difficulties of supporting self and family, while reaching to accomplish an impractical career, taking whatever odd jobs will pay the bills; blows to both of their personal lives– the struggling, the straining, the aching to achieve in a field where there are few success stories and even less money. Where non-profit is the route most theaters have to go, just to keep their heads above water.
It’s not an easy path they (or any of us in the theater field) have struck upon. People think that LDS Cinema has been having a hard time of it lately. Well, take a look at LDS Theater! It’s been limping along ever since Saturday’s Warrior initial success. What we have to show since then is an influx of quality plays: Huebner, Eric Samuelsen’s plays, James Arrington’s one man shows, Tim Slover’s plays, Elizabeth’s Hansen’s plays, and the new up and comers like Melissa Leilani Larson, Morag Plaice, Tony and Leslie Gunn, etc. (I like to call us the “New Mormon Playwrights”). But if it wasn’t for schools like BYU and UVSC who have been so gracious to sponsor the work of LDS playwrights, would we even exist?
If Scott and Thom have anything to do with it, we will. Even if it is in a backyard.
About that backyard. It was quite intimate, quite lovely. They had some risers set up and stools upon which the actors sat. They had lighting and seating. It was a small audience (was Saturday’s larger, Scott?), but those who were there were enthralled (sitting next to me was fellow AMLer Nan McCulloch and her friend. Right now I consider her the #1 fan of LDS Theater. She had attended the readings of mine, Scott and Thom’s plays in just the past few weeks!). As the performance went on the sun set (creating a nice effect) and the intimate outdoor ambience was joyful, peaceful. It was a magic moment among my experiences in theater.
The joy of theater, and one of its few artistic advantages, is that from its beginning roots in Greece (or even before that in religious ritual and re-enactment), it hasn’t needed more than a story, some actors and a space to perform it in (even if its in somebody’s apartment or the great outdoors!). But a real theater would be nice. People like Scott and Thom deserve it.
So here’s the plug: support a local theater that you enjoy. For those in the area of Utah County or Salt Lake, attend the Nauvoo Theatrical Society’s readings and go to the original works presented by BYU and UVSC. Find the theaters (like Provo Theater Company, who are now on a kind of sabbatical to collect funds) who are striving to create QUALITY work, but are still straining to make ends meet. For those in the fortunate position of having a little extra cash to donate, you may not enough to really make a dent in the progress of Dutcher’s Joseph Smith biopic, but you may have enough to help the Nauvoo Theatrical Society get a show out of the backyards and into a more public place. The arts have always needed patrons. Even if it just to buy a ticket or attend a free staged reading.

Author: Mahonri Stewart

Mahonri Stewart is a national award winning playwright and screenwriter who resides in La Mesa, CA, with his wife Anne and their two children, where he teaches English and Humanities at High Tech High International. Mahonri recently received his MFA from Arizona State University's Dramatic Writing program and received his Bachelor's in Theatre Arts from Utah Valley University. He currently teaches Written Communications and Humanities at Provo College, and Playwriting/Dramatic Literature at Pioneer High School for the Arts. Mahonri has had over a about 20 of his plays produced by theatre venues and organizations such as Utah Valley University, Zion Theatre Company, BYU Experimental Theatre Company, Art City Playhouse, the Little Brown Theatre, Arizona State University's Binary Theatre, and the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City. In addition to the Arts, Theatre/Film, and Literature, Mahonri also loves superheroes, board games, lasagna (with cottage cheese, not ricotta!), and considers himself an amateur Mormon History buff.

2 thoughts on “The Nauvoo Theatrical Society”

  1. Thanks for the report, Mahonri.

    I wish I could have attended. That’s the problem with theater — it’s so geographical.

    I find the funding disparities between film and theater to be understandable but it still makes me wince to see the budgets from some of the films made for the Mormon marketplace and think about how many editions of a novel or stagings of a play could happen with just a small percentage of the money fronted for a film.

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