Cast of Mesa Easter Pageant Honored to Portray Life of Jesus

Contributed By Jill B. Adair, Church News contributor

  • 5 April 2015

A scene depicts Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Photo by Scott P. Adair.

“It is humbling and wonderful to be able to be ‘disciples of Christ’ and to serve as missionaries through the pageant experience.” —Kevin Hunt, pageant participant

MESA, ARIZONA

The spirit of the Mesa Easter Pageant is felt by those who view it each year and by those who present it onstage, prompting many in the cast to want to return again and again.

“It is such a great blessing and opportunity to be in the cast for the Mesa Jesus the Christ Easter Pageant,” said Kevin Hunt, who, with his wife, Lou, of the Mesa Arizona South Stake, have been in the cast 12 times in the past 20 years and are participating with a grandchild for the first time this year.

“It is humbling and wonderful to be able to be ‘disciples of Christ’ and to serve as missionaries through the pageant experience,” he said.

“We started [participating] when our kids were all young,” he said. “Now they are grown and they all say that the Easter pageant experience was one of the greatest things that we ever did for them. It cemented in their minds forever a love for and a testimony of Jesus Christ—His life, mission, death, Atonement, and glorious Resurrection.”

Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the scenes portrayed in the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

A dramatic scene in the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant depicts two angels appearing to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

A scene in the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant portrays Peter examining Jesus's linen clothes at the empty tomb. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

A scene in the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant portrays Christ appearing to 11 Apostles after His resurrection. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

In the final scene of Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant, the actor portraying Christ is lifted high above the two-story stage as the cast turns to face him. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

For decades, the message of Easter, taken from the Bible, has been presented on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple. The 65-minute production includes grand pageantry, inspiring music, and graceful dance.

This year’s performances ran the evenings of March 25-28 and March 31-April 4. One evening was presented in Spanish and a total attendance of more than 70,000 was expected this year, according to the event’s spokesman, Stephen Harms.

Jenee Wright Prince, director of the pageant, said it is a “tremendous and humbling honor” for all who participate in the pageant, in even the smallest way, to present a portion of the life and mission of the Savior.

“The power of His life and the beauty of His teachings uplift and edify everyone—staff, cast, and audience,” she said.

The cast includes nearly 500 actors, many who have returned from years past.

Summer Allen, of the Mesa Arizona Central Stake, along with her four children, ages 8 to 15, participated last year. This year they returned, bringing along the children’s dad, Justin.

“I was in it at 16,” Sister Allen said. “It was there that I gained different aspects of my testimony of Jesus Christ, and I wanted that for my children.”

Last year Brother Allen thought he would be too busy to participate but after seeing the wonderful experience his family had he promised them that they would all audition again as a family and they were selected for the cast this year.

Their oldest son, 15-year-old Hayden, said the two weeks of rehearsals and two weeks of performances keep him very busy.

“You pretty much have to give up everything else,” he said. “But it is so worth it. Instead of sitting home playing video games I get to depict the life of Christ.”

His brother, Joseph, 13, said he loves the “downtime” backstage when he has time to sit and listen.

“When I’m waiting backstage I just sit there and listen to the music,” he said. “It’s really nice, and you can just think about Christ.”

Their sister, 8-year-old Chaislynn, said her bishop suggested she write in her journal about her experiences, and she takes it with her daily.

“If I keep it and I look back when I’m older, I’ll get to see all the things I got to do,” she said.

Her sister, Addison, 11, said her favorite scene is the ending when the actor portraying Christ is lifted high above the two-story stage as the cast turns to face him.

“He’s all in white, and everything is on him, with all the angels,” she said. “It’s just perfect, I guess.”

The actor portraying Christ interacts with followers. Photo by Scott P. Adair.