Kent’s and Jonathon’s recent posts about Road Shows have me reminiscing. Well, that and the fact that I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last month writing/organizing our ward’s sacrament meeting Primary program and pondering a poem/essay request for our upcoming Enrichment meeting in December. (I know we’re supposed to just refer to it as a Relief Society meeting, but I have to say I find it useful to have a term that designates it as the quarterly weeknight meeting and not the Sunday one. Old habits die hard, I guess. Anyway. . .) See, as a kid I was in a few road shows which was fun, but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I began to realize how much time non-writers in the Church spend writing.
Besides the fact that we all give talks and lessons, which require writerly-type skills, many, many people are asked to write not only road shows, but reader’s theaters, Primary programs, Christmas programs, Relief Society birthday programs–and the list goes on. Over the past 7ish years that I’ve technically counted as an adult (you know, married and living in a family ward) I’ve written several poems for Relief Society Enrichments, a monologue for a Relief Society birthday event, a reader’s theater about gratitude, another reader’s theater about metaphorical and metaphysical connections between light and Christ’s forgiveness, a road show entitled “The Legend of Johnny Gringo” (the concept was assigned to me by our ward’s activity chair and reeks of that pun-ny brand of tacky Mormon humor that thrives in road shows), a more serious play that chronicles the real-life story of a convert in California during WWII, a Christmas program, 3 Primary programs, and even a faux news program detailing the Book of Mormon account of the destruction of Ammonihah (for our ward Seminary class). That’s a lot of hours in front of my computer and my scriptures!
Looking over that list, I have to admit that it all sounds a little crazy–especially the Johnny Gringo. But what surprises me most is how happy my memories of those writing assignments are. Writing them brought out what is best about the writing process for me: getting the chance to ponder what the world looks like from different perspectives–including the perspectives of my characters and my audiences; getting a chance to immerse myself in scripture and applying it to myself; getting a chance to share a real part of myself that otherwise wouldn’t get noticed; getting the chance to struggle with language and meaning and symbols and come away invigorated. I don’t know that any of the pieces I created are great literature or would hold up under any kind of editing process, but I’m still proud of them. I like them for what they meant to the performers and listeners. I’m like them for the community effort they represent. Most of all, I’m proud of the closeness they brought with the Spirit and the moments of consecration writing those pieces allowed.
I find that I actually crave those experiences now. Every fall I find myself hoping that someone will ask me to write another Christmas program. In the Spring, when I know the Relief Society birthday is coming up, I wonder and wonder if they’ll ask me to contribute something. Pioneer day often provides good opportunities too. . . and the year keeps turning and I keep hoping.
Our ward Relief Society used to have a yearly garden party and poetry reading. I’ll admit I was behind it every year it happened. I loved writing something for the sisters to hear but even more than that I loved hearing what all the other writers–especially the ones I didn’t know were writers, the writers who had no training or airs–were writing. They were a sort of literary proletariat and their work had such honesty and fervor that seeing them read their works aloud (usually for the first and only time) always fired me up.
This year’s Primary program is one of my best (I like to think, anyway) and a beautiful, sensitive, intelligent friend of mine is putting together the Christmas program and my breath is fully baited with waiting. Now if only we could get another road show or open mic night on the ward calendar, because, wow, there is such an essential creativity in the Mormon experience. It begs to be shared.
Tell me, what have you written for a Church assignment? How was the experience for you? And most importantly, do you ever cringe at Mormon road show titles?