In Contemporary Mormon Pageantry
, theater scholar Megan Sanborn Jones looks at Mormon pageants, outdoor theatrical productions that celebrate church theology, reenact church history, and bring to life stories from the Book of Mormon
. She examines four annual pageants in the United States-the Hill Cumorah Pageant in upstate New York, the Manti Pageant in Utah, the Nauvoo Pageant in Illinois, and the Mesa Easter Pageant in Arizona. The nature and extravagance of the pageants vary by location, with some live orchestras, dancing, and hundreds of costumed performers, mostly local church members. Based on deep historical research and enhanced by the author's interviews with pageant producers and cast members as well as the author's own experiences as a participant-observer, the book reveals the strategies by which these pageants resurrect the Mormon past on stage. Jones analyzes the place of the productions within the American theatrical landscape and draws connections between the Latter-day Saints theology of the redemption of the dead and Mormon pageantry in the three related sites of sacred space, participation, and spectatorship. Using a combination of religious and performance theory, Jones demonstrates that Mormon pageantry is a rich and complex site of engagement between theater, theology, and praxis that explores the saving power of performance.
“Contributes to a richer understanding of religious performance by exploring aspects of a faith that isn’t known for being liturgical and whose other sacred ritual performances are closed to outsiders—analysis of present-day Mormon practice is a welcome addition to the scholarly literature . . . An important and highly readable book that will interest readers across several different fields.”
—Tona Hangen, Worcester State University
“Reveals the distinctive relationship between theology and theater in the Mormon church. Through compelling and astute analyses of several annual pageants, Jones demonstrates how elements such as space, acting style, and spectacle are deployed in order to strengthen the relationship between the living and the dead, both for actors and spectators . . . this book [will be] accessible to a broad audience and a significant contribution to scholarship on religion and theater.”
—Jill Stevenson, Marymount Manhattan College