Located a few miles south of Palymra, NY (the "Queen of [Erie] Canal Towns") is the Hill Cumorah Pageant. The Hill Cumorah is where Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni revealed to him the location of a buried book of golden plates, which he says he found in 1827:
Later, Smith dicated the Book of Mormon by claiming to read the reflection of the plates from the bottom of a white stovepipe hat while using "seer stones". Since the 1930's, the LDS church has been doing a show on the site, and it now features hundreds of volunteer performers and a seating capacity of 9000.
I'm a fan of big spectacles of most any variety, and I've long been fascinated by this story, so I stopped by to catch opening night last Friday. I had hoped that the pageant would cover Smith's history in the area and his discovery of the plates, but instead it mostly told a condensed story of the book of Mormon itself. It's an impressive production, and the massive, volunteer cast pantomimes to a prerecorded soundtrack.
There's a lot of fire effects:
And, of course Jesus even makes an appearance.
Before the show, actors mingle with the crowd:
There were Christian protesters:
I talked to a couple teenage cast members, and they told me they had arrived earlier in the week, were cast early in the week into various roles, and then rehearsed throughout the week. They did two shows last weekend and three this week.
I talked to the sound engineer, who said that the sound and lighting systems were brought in from the main LDS church in Salt Lake by a small crew of four professionals:
(Yamaha M7CL, EV Line Arrays, and ETC Ion (I think) lighting console--they remove the tent for show time) The sound was pretty good given such a large coverage area, and the massive set is installed each year for the pageant, and removed shortly thereafter by a crew of Mormon missionaries:
They even remove the lighting towers:
The show runs Thursday-Saturday this week, more pictures here.
The NY Times (photagrapher, at least) was at the show the same night as me (you can actually see him in the foreground of one of the photos above) and now has a writeup posted.
Oh, and it turns out, according to the LA Times story, that the Pageant Staging Director is also named John Huntington! Not me, though.