Posted by: Ascentury | Monday, 8 September 2008

The Parley P. Pratt pageant

This is the rough draft of my mother’s Parley P. Pratt Pageant, as per a request by Patricia Karamesines in A Motley VisionCaveat emptor:  I have no theatrical experience whatsoever, so I’m hardly qualified to talk about this pageant.

She textually based it on The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, with little reference to outside sources. I’ve edited the text to clean it up a bit, and I’ve standardized (some of) the formatting.

Her description of this is as follows:

We moved to Alma, Arkansas and found that we lived a mere 2 miles from the grave site of Parley P. Pratt. At first I didn’t know much about him. In fact I barely knew he was one of the first apostles.  The Stake had an annual Parley P. Pratt 5k run which changed through the years, but was always held in some form. I always thought I should learn more about Elder Pratt.

During our time in Alma, a wonderful new Performing Arts Center was constructed at the High School. I had the opportunity to volunteer there as a ticket agent for events. This was when I learned that the rent for the center was very minimal for members of the community. I also learned that people in the community didn’t think too highly of the church or Parley. So the idea began to evolve.

Why not have a pageant for Parley? It would honor him, bring attention to the church, and provide a good activity for our ward and stake to sponsor. It had great potential and was an exciting idea. I identified people in the stake who could potentially help with the music and staging of a play. Then I got to work.

Having never written anything like this before, I knew it would be really rough. I bought Parley’s autobiography and began writing. The most productive week I had was when my boys and husband were at scout camp. I would sit for hours at a time and mentally visualize each scene. I remember (at least once) having a very strong confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I felt that he truly, sincerely loved everyone he met and was interested in their well being. Thinking through what Joseph and Parley would say in my scenes, brought them to life.  Parley P. Pratt was amazing. He was born to be an apostle of God and he had this desire at a very young age.  My testimony was definitely strengthened.  I finished the writing, gave it to a few people to read and then let it drop. We have since left that area.

This past year, Parley’s family received court permission to exhume Parley’s body and move it to Utah. I felt this was wrong. The saints in the Alma area have taken good care of his grave site for a number of years. Well after much searching and digging, the crew packed up and went home empty handed. The remains had deteriorated too much to salvage anything. I was joyful that Parley was to remain in Alma, AR.

The pageant will probably never be developed beyond the current format.  However, it served a purpose in my life by giving me a spiritual focus and greater testimony of the founding of our church. I’m grateful I followed the prompting to write this script.

It is a first draft, but with some work it could be advanced. I think the main points that need to be addressed are that there are too many scenes and no overarching, uniting theme.

On a minor note, the language is often inconsistent in usage, and anachronisms will have to be taken out. There are a few obscure passages, but that’s no worse than the Bible, for instance.  From a technical standpoint, scene numbering and stage directions need to be updated.

My personal opinion on the storyline: The agony of Parley’s apostasy in Kirtland should be dealt with in far more detail, and I think Thankful’s death immediately afterwards as well. Basically, a theme needs to be picked for the story of Parley’s life (probably devotion in adversity) and all scenes, and their inclusion, need to be evaluated in its light. Some foreshadowing of Orson’s troubles, and the brothers’ relationship, would be a nice touch.

Huh.  After writing all of that, I’m thinking about encouraging her to start working on it again, or do so myself.  Parley is certainly an important enough figure in Latter-day Saintism to merit his own pageant.

The Parley P. Pratt Pageant, 2008.09.07, by Marilyn Davis


  1. Thank you for being willing to post the copy of the pageant. I could not find a link to it in your post. Could you help us? Thanks again.

  2. The text at the very bottom, “The Parley P. Pratt Pageant, 2008.09.07, by Marilyn Davis” shows up as the link for me in FF and IE7.

  3. That is a neat thing to be sharing, and you even converted it to pdf.

  4. Neal, thanks for putting this up. It was an intriguing and compelling read.

    I’m not familiar with the standard format for pageants, but this piece seems to be more of a full-blown play in that it has greater and more complex dialogue and narrative substance than the two pageants I’ve seen. It also seems to carry less of the “pageantry” — the spectacle and the “through the ages” chronological spread. Smaller cast, too — seems like pageants depend for at least part of their effect upon as large of a cast of characters as they can muster.

    But I’ve seen only two pageants, so I don’t really know. What’s your experience?

  5. As far as pageantry goes, I won’t argue that Parley P. Pratt Pageant isn’t perhaps a misnomer. It just rolls off the tongue.

    I’ve seen the Martin Harris pageant (or is it a play?), the City of Joseph Pageant, and the Mormon Miracle Pageant. The latter had larger casts, the former a smaller one, as I recall. And 1856, the musical, but that’s different.

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