Behind the Scenes


When I was growing up, every year or so my stake would hold a “roadshow”—a night of laughter and fun as each ward performed an unashamedly amateur melodrama before the rest of the stake in the crowded cultural hall. For weeks before the event, leaders in the wards would concoct unlikely plots, create ridiculous songs and dances, and coerce reluctant youth into wearing outlandish costumes. Our roadshows could hardly be termed theater, but they were a lot of fun.

Of all the stake roadshows I took part in, one in particular stands out in my memory. The year I was 16, the stake presidency, of which my father was a member, decided the wards would not be allowed to use glitter in their costumes or makeup. Although the shimmering flecks looked wonderful on stage under the spotlight, they invariably found their way into the carpets and furniture of the rooms the wards used for preparation. Because the roadshow was to be held on Saturday night, the stake presidency hoped this measure would help keep the building clean for the Sabbath.

But in the enthusiasm and good-natured competition of that year’s roadshow, the stake presidency’s counsel went largely unheeded. After the performances concluded, I looked for my dad among the members slowly trickling from the building. They all seemed to have had a night of friendship and amusement. When I finally found my father in one of the rooms used for preparation, I could see that he was not amused. He was walking slowly around the room, gravely surveying the sparkles scattered about the floor.

“Most of the wards used glitter,” I said, stating the obvious.

“It’s like this in almost all the rooms,” he said and sighed. “Weren’t we clear about not using glitter?” he asked in frustration.

“I think you were,” I said, hoping to ease some of the tension.

By the time we found the rest of the family and went home, it was already late. But after seeing the younger kids to bed, my father took his car keys and went to the door.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Back to the stake center,” he said quietly. “I’m going to see what I can do to get it ready for Sunday. Do you want to come?”

I didn’t have any special desire to spend what remained of my Saturday evening cleaning, but when I thought about my dad doing all that work alone, I agreed to go.

By the time we reached the stake center, my dad’s attitude had changed. As we cleaned, he seemed less discouraged and even somewhat enthusiastic about the challenge before us. He spent the time asking me about school and my friends.

Although the cleaning took several hours, we both felt a certain pleasure in our work and tried to be as thorough as possible. It wasn’t until after midnight that we felt the building was ready for church in the morning.

The next day, I felt special satisfaction as I looked through the clean rooms and remembered how they had appeared the night before. I considered telling my friends about my one-night stint at janitorial work, but that didn’t seem appropriate. Apparently, my father felt the same—to this day I can’t remember him mentioning that night to anyone.

Today when I think back to that roadshow, I can’t remember any of the humor or costumes or music. What comes to mind are images of my father vacuuming and sweeping and picking glitter from the floor of the church—doing behind-the-scenes work in preparation for the Sabbath.

[illustration] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson