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Intellect

BYU's Lee Library seeks LDS-themed scripts

Scripts of theatrical performance, films and musicals written or composed by Mormons—or about Mormons—are being sought by Brigham Young University curators for placement in the Harold B. Lee Library's circulating materials and in Special Collections.

Texts must have been published or performed for audiences larger than typical LDS wards or stakes, according to English literature librarian Robert Means, who is coordinating the collection project in the library.

The initiative to collect and archive the numerous scripts is being led by Don Oscarson, advisory council chair for BYU's College of Fine Arts and Communications and an author of several performances himself.

Oscarson co-wrote "Sand in Their Shoes" with Crawford Gates. The outdoor play included 500 BYU students and the school's symphony orchestra and was performed for 11,000 spectators during three evening performances in the 1960s. Then-president Ernest Wilkinson, proclaimed that the university had "arrived" for drawing as many people to see a cultural event as an athletic one.

Oscarson also produced Nauvoo's annual "City of Joseph" pageant as well as several seminary films.

"Some time ago, Don Oscarson contacted me about our collection of play, musical and film scripts by and about Mormons," says Means. "We reviewed the collection and were surprised at how little we had." Library personnel knew there were more scripts out there and began creating a policy and procedure for actively collecting them.

Means asks that contributors include two unbound copies of their work(s) with a cover letter. One of the copies will be available for checkout, while the other will be archived in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections where manuscripts and music from well-known artists, such as Cecil B. DeMille and Jimmy Stewart, are kept.

Along with collecting the scripts, the Lee Library also wants to add information about Mormon authors to its existing "Mormon Literature Database." The database is seeking biographies from individuals who have created worthy performances, and artists can enter their biographical information on the Author Submission Form on the database's Web site, http://web.lib.byu.edu/mormonlit/html/submission.html. Dates and locations of performances must be included, and presently the database is focusing on authors of literary and dramatic works. Composers and other musical artists will be included in the second phase of collection.

These scripts and other artifacts will be available to patrons at the Lee Library and online at the library's Web site (homepage: http://web.lib.byu.edu/mormonlit/index.php). Those submitting their work should first obtain a copy of the collection policy and submission instructions from Robert Means. He can be contacted at 801-422-6117, or robert_means@byu.edu.

From the beginning, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been producing memorable performances of music and theater. On April 24, 1844, the Saints in Nauvoo performed "Pizarro," a play that included such cast members as Brigham Young, playing the part of the High Priest, and Mrs. Young as Alvira.

The production poster proclaimed "Smoking not allowed" and "Front seats reserved for the ladies." Such productions served as cultural entertainment for the citizens of Nauvoo while binding them as a community.

Since then Latter-day Saints have been writing and producing plays, concerts, operas, road shows and every other type of artistic performance, according to Means.

There seem to be many more performances written and produced by Mormons than may be imagined. Clearly, the well-known works like "Saturday's Warrior" and Mormon-genre movies that have popped up lately—including the on-screen version of the Book of Mormon—are the most evident, but there are also other productions out there that have not received the same attention. These works of art also warrant archiving and preservation for future generations, much like personal or family histories.

"From the first play in Nauvoo to the most recent rock opera at BYU, LDS writers have been adding to a potentially massive group of performances for members and non-members alike to enjoy. There is also added value in these pieces when new artists strive to emulate what has been done and create their own projects," Means said.

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