Building Zion Theatre Company

Zion Theatre Company Logo Zion Theatre Company. It’s been a singular focus for me lately, a near obsession. I’ve been working exceptionally hard to get this theatre company I started last January into full throttle. My summer hours are being poured to get the foundation layed, so that things will run smoothly once my time becomes more limited in the Fall. Why do I do this?

Obtaining theatre spaces to perform on, creating posters and ads, looking into liability insurance, organizing the on the ground producers in Utah, obtaining rights to scripts, looking for affordable ad space, sending personal (and probably annoying) fund raising letters to close friends and family, soliciting directors and designers and cast members, trying to sell videos to gain more capital, working the Facebook groups, attaching links… and that’s just on my end. I have producers, directors, playwrights, videographers, web designers and others who have been clocking in a lot of hours to get this group on its feet.Why do I do this?

The timing is pretty awful. I’m going to grad school  this Fall at Arizona State University. I live in Arizona while the shows I’ll be producing are in Utah.  I have a 9 month year old daughter, a 5 year old son with sensory processing disorder who’s starting kindergarten, and a very patient, supportive wife whose patience and support are being taxed, I’m sure. Why do I do this?

“>Farewell to Eden Trailer on You Tube

Why do I do this? Because it has been my dream to open a religiously and morally focused theatre company since early high school. Because, to paraphrase Eric Samuelsen, every Mormon Shakespeare needs a Mormon Globe. Because I love it. And because I believe not only is it what I want to do, but what I’m supposed to do. Because, if we do it right, I believe with all my heart it can be successful.  And  because we’ve had some wonderful doors opening for us lately which have seemed more than a little providential.

I was looking for some theatre spaces for us to perform in. Our former space which we rented ZTC Fall Fantasy Series copyfrom Provo Theatre Company, which is beautiful but small and limited, is currently up for sale and rental fees were becoming a hardship. So the writing on the wall seemed to indicate that it was time for Zion Theatre Company to find a new home. I approached the Castle Outdoor Theatre in Provo, and if I can find liability insurance, we’ve got a great deal with them for our early Fall shows. But that only filled a temporary need, as we needed somewhere where can perform year round.

Contemplating the issues and obstacles I was facing, I wrote a post over at the Association for Mormon Letters blog. It caught the eye of one Jeffrey Driggs who mentioned in the comments that the the Off Broadway Theatre, which he works for, may possibly be interested in allowing us to use their space when it wasn’t being used with their own season. One thing led to another, I met with some of their lovely management, and voila! If we perform well with our first play with OBT  in November, The Hobbit, then we have a new home for our 2012 season!

But then there is that pesky issue of funding. We already have a lot of the costumes, etc. we need for some of our early shows, but then there is liability insurance we have to come up with for the Castle Theatre, and every show has its costs, especially if we want them to be high quality shows. So, to start out with, we had to come up with a way to raise Fading Flower ad (David)more funds. I thought about doing a Kickstarter fundraiser, which I still may consider later, but I really wanted to try something that could provide some sort of product to the person giving. Adam Figuiera had made some high quality recordings of my previous ZTC shows (as well as one from Alex Barlow for Fading Flower, which was actually produced by New Play Project, not ZTC), so I zeroed back on the idea of really pushing these DVDs/Blu-rays again. I hope that works, because our videographers really have done some excellent work with them and I want them to find a wide audience anyway.

So I’m going through all of this until my eyes are sore from looking at a computer screen, my fingers are tired from typing, and I’ve racked up a lot more minutes than usual on my cell phone. Why do I do this?

Because it gives me peace. For so long I told myself I needed to build towards my theatre company. I needed to focus on an individual show, or establish a reputation as a writer, or work with another theatrical group. But around the time I got accepted to my MFA program, I started to feel that all of that kind of thinking was in the past. The time for building was now, despite the inconvenience, despite the extra hours, despite the expert juggling. It was a deep, abiding impression that is fueling me even at this moment. This was going to happen, I had to know that. The gears were in place, and now it was time to work, work, work so that when I come back to Utah with my graduate degree in hand, I will come back to an already living, breathing thing.The Death of Eurydice ad

To me, Zion Theatre Company is more than just a place to perform my plays. It’s definitely not just some vanity project. And I’m certainly not in it for the money, for if that had been in the case I would have gone for a much fatter cow than the arts (especially in this economy!). For me it’s bound up in my covenants, my way to consecrate to God what is inside of me and what I can do with my talents, and help others to do the same. I didn’t choose the name “Zion” idly, for I believe that the theatre has a special power to bring people together and cause a kind of sacred communion.

Brigham Young once said if he were placed on a cannibal island and given the charge of civilizing its inhabitants, the first thing he would construct would be a theater. I understand what he meant by that. For so long there have been those who have harnessed that inherent theatrical power for base or superficial purposes. I want to go back to the element of theatre that was used by the Greeks, that caused them to perform plays for their religious festivals, and integrate it into their worship. I want to go back to the instinct of Joseph Smith to use it as the primary instructional tool in temple worship. I want to go that part of our soul that recognizes that there is something sacred in enacting a story, even a fictional one, but one with deep truths embedded in that fiction.

We’ve all been given the charge to civilize the world and to help lead it to something Celestial, Some One Celestial. My contribution to that effort will be a Theater.

ZTC 2012 Season

6 thoughts on “Building Zion Theatre Company”

  1. Very cool, Mahonri.

    And you I don’t think you come out and say it, but the DVDs can be purchased at the Zion Theatre Company website.

  2. I know there are some who have lamented that because they live outside of Utah, they can’t experience the Mormon Theatre scene. DVDs like these are designed to remedy that. Just sayin’… 🙂

  3. Mahonri,

    Great post. I can feel your passion. I hope it is ok but I re-posted your story on my personal blog that encourages others to get involved in philanthropy. I encouraged my readers to read your story and then reach out with donations if is resonated with them. I wish you all the best!


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