Sunday, 4 August 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 10

Head over heels!

Photos by Marie Barber

That was such a brilliant day, probably one of the top 10 days ever. There was the inevitable sadness and tears of having to say goodbye to my Pageant family, but it was great to have so many members of my own family there, my mum and dad, brother and sister with all their families, aunt and uncle and their family and lots of Lynne's family.

Lynne's leg was so much better today, she was able to put some weight on her leg, which made getting round so much faster! So tonight she was able to do all her scenes (except for the dances). Tonight with a big Scottish crowd in, the best part of the evening was the roar when the Scottish dancers came on.

On stage tonight I think the Lord may have spoke directly to me while we were doing the book of Mormon scene, where the family cast come on and read the Book of Mormon, I had opened the Book of Mormon at a random page and was pretending to read, I couldn't see the words as I didn't have my glasses on and the light was quite dark. Lynne then pointed to a verse, I brought the book closer to my face and squinted and was able to make out the following phrase "Shave with a razor"! (2 Nephi 17:20)

Some exciting news that we received is that there will be meetings for the cast and work crew on Thursday and Friday evenings with senior general authorities. I would be extremely excited at this prospect except that I will be very unlikely to get the time off work. Hopefully Lynne's recovery will be speedy and she will be able to drive down with Charlie. 

Today we also had a red cast testimony meeting, where many of my new friends shared thoughts and experiences similar to the ones I had. There was a definite sadness about it being the last time that we would all be together, I had thoughts about the next life thinking it would be cool if we were able to have some kind of 2013 British Pageant reunion and a one time extra show.

Tonight before the show, all the cast in their outfits got a picture in front of the temple, it was then highlighted the symbolism of the photo, the fact that we represented the early british saints who left this country in their thousands to head to Nauvoo so that they can be close to the temple and here we were around 160 years later, representing them in front of a temple in our own country.

It is sad to think that the Red Cast is now over, however by some small miracle I may get to go back on Thursday and Friday to see the modern day Heber Kimball's coming to this land. If not I will have the privilege to see the final performance of the show next Saturday, with all the positive reviews those tickets will now be like gold dust, I could get a fortune for them on ebay!

When I was set apart, it was for the duration of the pageant, so for this week I will try hard to keep up the good and positive feelings that have come to me. I will write one last blog entry to put down some overall reflections on my pageant experience as well as my thoughts on actually getting to see the show. 
Best of luck to the blue cast, hope your experience is a great one.

Truth will prevail!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 9

It was the morning after the night before!

Considering what had happened yesterday, Lynne awoke in fine spirits. She was still upset about how the show ended for her last night, but she chose to focus on the overall positives of the Pageant experience. There was considerable sadness about not being able to get on stage tonight but there was a level of acceptance in it. For breakfast we went to the same greasy spoon café that we had done yesterday to give the couple the pass along card inviting them to download the music of the Pageant.
Whilst we were there I received the following facebook message from a fellow red cast member (and my former MTC teacher) Richard Cook:

We were so sorry to hear about Lynne's accident yesterday. Your blog expresses wonderfully your heartache, but faithful determination to continue serving in ANY way. It was very moving.

Now then, a carpenter I am not, but I do believe in the pageant, and I do believe in you two! I am busy making a solution which I hope will allow Lynne to continue onstage, though I'm afraid it won't have power to let her do the Highland Fling tonight I'll bring it with me this afternoon, but obviously it's up to you whether or not you tell her.

God speed brother!


As Lynne and I sat in this greasy spoon café, we felt very overwhelmed by this kind note and gesture, later at the talent show. Richard showed up with these old fashioned styled crutches:

Brother and sister Cook with Lynne and the crutches they made with the sides off a bed - I hope one of their children isn't sleeping on the floor tonight.
This made Lynne feel comfortable enough to go out on stage for a couple of scenes, I think it was important for her personally to not feel that the Pageant had ended by limping off. It was physically quite tough for her, but she seemed to get some sense of closure, I get the feel from her that she may just enjoy it from the audience tomorrow evening, but that's the great thing about Lynne you just never know what she's going to do next!.
This kind action by Richard demonstrates what the Pageant is doing for everyone involved better than words ever could. A protective bubble has been created around those involved, teaching us all that a community of Zion is possible. It was this hope that led the early British saints to the boats crossing the Atlantic and the long journey westward.
Another highlight for me was our family's pioneer was in the audience. My Granny Day was there and it was her along with my Grandad who were the first members of the church joining over 50 years ago.

My grandparents have always been great examples to our entire family and it is part of my own personal heritage. They were the first members of our family to serve a mission, going to the London temple for 18 months when I was a teenager. Just over ten years ago it was my Grandad who sealed (the phrase we use for temple marriage) Lynne and I together, at this point of his life his health was very poor, his eyesight and hearing were terrible, however as he took his place in the Preston temple, he took on the persona of the patriarchs of old. It has been 8 years since he passed away, but Charlie was named after him and it seems like he inherited the same 'wicked' sense of humour.
Seeing my Gran and auntie Lesley sitting in the second row made the whole event feel even more special, tonight's show was amazing. Everyone just seemed so happy.
There is a general feel of apprehension among the Red cast that tomorrow is our last show, people are perhaps not quite ready to leave this place, where we are enjoying this bubble. We are not quite ready for the tests and trials of our 'other lives'. Although I hope that everyone involved in the Pageant will be able to take a bit of what they feel back to their families, communities and wards, thus allowing the Pageant to continue to change the lives of others long after the theatre is dismantled. I think that the emotion will be high tomorrow and the show will be the best yet.
The very definition of a great and terrible day!

Friday, 2 August 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 8

They said "Break a leg!"

Lynne is probably the only person I know that would receive so many visitors in a hospital waiting room (and outside visiting hours!)

Today is undoubtedly the saddest day of our Pageant experience. Tonight while on stage, we were doing the dance that welcomed the apostles to Britain, Lynne ruptured a tendon in her calf, we had to miss out on most of the show and sadly it looks like Lynne will miss out on the last two shows that the Red Cast is in. I can't tell you how sad she is about that.
For me, when I was doing the tonight's show I was absolutely loving it, so I also felt very sad at having to come off stage (and right before my favourite bit), but I could see that she was in considerable pain and was very concerned. A big shout out to some of the unsung heroes of the pageant are the medic team who did an amazing job.
Lynne despite being in some pain is very upbeat about it all, she is taking the view that she was set apart as a "representative of Jesus Christ for the duration of the Pageant" and whether she does that on stage or not will not affect her goal at the Pageant, just the way that she does it. Even today she was amazing at this inviting a couple at a greasy spoon café, two ladies at the laundrette, the Travelodge man and a couple at the accident and emergency room to come and see the Pageant and download the music.
The Pageant has a scene it while we are on a boat setting sail for America, the Cannon family all sit round their sick mother. After a short dialogue she passes away, and through music and acting we see her move from this world to the world beyond. To me it is the most powerful scene of the whole show, I can envisage myself in the position of the Cannon's, to feel the pain of losing your wife and the mother of your children it makes me realise how grateful I am to have Lynne to be my wife and Charlie's mum.
In the dance, initially when I saw something not quite right with Lynne, I just thought come on Lynne there are 1600 people here, don't embarrass me! However, after a twirl I saw that she was in some distress, at that point I completely forgot about the 1600 audience and the 120 folk on stage and just had to get Lynne off and get her seen to.
These feelings are in keeping with the Pageant experience. It shows how the Pageant is very different to other shows, the Pageant is a teaching experience, I am unable to act or portray feelings with my very limited acting skills. However I believe that I am able to express the actual feelings in my heart. I could not teach the audience my belief regarding the importance of families, if I was willing to pretend to be happy for the sake of the show, whilst Lynne was in such pain.
It's too early to say if I'll get on the stage for the red cast's last two shows, it just wouldn't be the same without her. This has very much been a family occasion and we've grown much closer together and been so happy.
Please can you remember her in your prayers - I believe in miracles.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 7

What an awesome experience.

To be part of the premier showing the British Pageant was an amazing experience, a memory that I will always keep. There were too many highlights to name but I really enjoyed being able to meet many of the visitors before and after the show, the reception we got from the audience  was breathtaking and it seemed like everybody loved it. There were many people touched by the spirit and when we got down from the stage it felt very natural to greet and embrace them.

Leading up to the Pageant was another tough day, we rehearsed from 8:30 am to around 5 pm. During this time there was an air of fatigue, some of the kids were struggling to redo the scenes over and over again, we let Charlie rest for much of the afternoon. However as we broke for dinner and were changed into our costumes there was definitely an increase in the nervous energy amongst the cast.

Around half an hour before the start of the Pageant, the nervous energy got a bit too much for me and I had to go to the toilet. After doing my business, I went to wash my hands I pulled up the tap and put my hands into the water. However, the water was absolutely boiling hot, my body's instinctive reaction was to pull my hands out of the scalding water stream, in doing this I splashed a large amount of water onto my costume directly over the crotch area! Now I no longer had any nervous energy but blind panic, I did not want to be referred to as the cast member of the Pageant who had peed their themselves. In a scene that wouldn't be out of place in a Mr Bean sketch, I went into one of the cubicles took my trousers off and waved them in the air vigorously to dry them off, after a few minutes they still felt quite wet, but the large wet patch seemed to fade quite quickly. I put them back on and nobody was any the wiser (or at least no one said). Phew!

The show itself was so much fun to do, everyone seemed to get their second wind. Lynne, Charlie and I all got our cue's at the right time. The Primary children in the cast were amazing, they are an example to all of us. I felt very proud of Charlie, to be brave enough to do something like that.

Tonight I really learned, that music, acting and dancing are all tools to help teach the gospel. As a missionary I focused mainly on speaking and service to teach the gospel, but while I was on the stage I wasn't acting, I was teaching. I only tried to amplify the feelings I had in my heart, whether those feelings were joy, pain or of spiritual awakening. For me getting on the stage to do something like this is not natural, but I can react to how it would feel to be taught by Heber Kimball, or going to docks to leave your native land forever, or seeing the pain of children who just have lost their mother.

My feelings now that the first show is over are very similar to being told I have passed one of my exams - relief. It is not so much a feeling of elation, probably because of the tiredness that I feel. There are three more shows to go and I hope they just get better this feeling grows and grows.

I don't want to drive back to Dunfermline on Sunday, I want to float back.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 6

It's the final countdown (de de doo, de de de de doo)

Today was a tough day, I felt a lot of people were struggling at points today, there seemed to be a lot of technical issues that were needing sorted. We were there from 10am and only got back to our room at 11pm. Although I think everyone would agree that the evening ended very positively with the dress rehearsal played out in front of a  small crowd of a couple of hundred of people. I was especially amazed at how well the children did given they had been rehearsing for about 24 of the previous 36 hours.

I particularly enjoyed getting to move from my official Pageant t-shirt to my 1830's outfit:

I think I was born 200 years too late, I would have been a catch in the 1830's!

Much of the positive feel surrounding the Pageant has come from the leadership of the Pageant, the leadership is made up by 4 very talented ladies, they are:
  • Alex, the director she is incredibly talented and has an amazing way of talking to everyone, her words are positive and make us feel good about ourselves and give us the desire to try harder.
  • Amy, the choreographer whose vision has been able to design and teach us 3 dances involving over 100 people that are so full of life and has done it such a calm and laid back manner.
  • Charly, the stage manager who is managing to run a very large work crew with a lot of props moving around the stage and controlling much of what goes on.
  • Beth, the music director who takes the choir and has even managed to teach me how to sing - no small feat.
These individuals have really set the tone for the Pageant, as time has gone on I have appreciated their examples, I have tried to soften the tones I use in speaking with my family. I am now even convinced that as a Young Men's President, I can teach and help them without the need of shouting at them or trying to force them. Following their examples has made our family a happier one this week.

I was blessed to grow up in Dundee, which is famed for its strong women. In the early/mid 1900's Dundee had lots of jute mills and at that time mill owners could pay smaller wages to women, this meant women worked and their husbands were unemployed. This empowered many of the women of the city, I was therefore blessed to be raised by a strong and principled mother, and surrounded by similar grandmothers and aunts and went on to marry Lynne who is also very much like this. These individuals have always shown me the best example of how to treat our brothers and sisters in this world.
I appreciate the vision and teachings of our living prophets and apostles who teach love and fairness for all and want to reach out to everyone. Sometimes this message is diluted as it comes down as we hold on to many of our incorrect traditions. However, through time I believe it is improving all the time.

One of the main difficulties that I had today was as the director took a back seat in dealing with the cast to deal with the different technical issues or something or other. We were left in the hands of others, I didn't feel that we were dealt with in the same "British Pageant" spirit that had help create the level unity that has been achieved. There was a different atmosphere amongst the cast at points today, it felt like the spirit was decreasing. Not ideal for Pageant eve!
Now for this Pageant we have been called as special representatives of Jesus Christ, to teach the gospel through the show. I have no talent to act, sing or dance (and within the Red Cast I don't think I'm alone). So to teach, I need to be feeling love in my heart and hope it can transcend from the stage to our audiences.

However as the director gave us a rousing pre-match speech, I felt lifted, the dress rehearsal went well and the audience were touched. Our spirits were lifted and we are back on track to be able to teach people through our performances.

By this time tomorrow the first ever official pageant shown outside North America will be completed, we need all the prayers we can get. It's an early start tomorrow, so better get some sleep, although I am going to struggle with all the excitement, feels a little like Christmas tomorrow!

It's time to be part of history!

Monday, 29 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 5

Less than 48 hours to go aaaaaagh!
Well today was pretty much rehearsals from 9am to 10:30pm, it was exhausting! I can't believe how well everyone coped with the schedule all the young children just seems to keep on going it was truly miraculous. The plan for today was to learn our third and final dance, look at what was required for the second half of the show and then tonight do a full run through of the British Pageant, this was extremely ambitious but by the night it seemed to have paid off.
Personal highlight for us guys was the arrival of our sky blue pageant t-shirts (see day 3 blog for further details). Personal lowlight was at dinner while feeling extremely hungry, the fire alarm at the accommodation centre went off just as we said amen to the blessing of the food - very frustrating!

Been there, got the t-shirt - not yet done that
The phrase that has been in my mind today is "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." It has been a tough few days for all people involved in the pageant I think there are a few people who are surprising themselves with what they are actually capable of. This is a lesson I have relearned over and over again. We are able to do hard things, and when we put our mind to it and have the goal in mind we can accomplish things that seem impossible.
Our ability is then further enhanced as we look to do God's will. It seems that our limits in life are the one's that we give to ourselves or allow others to give to us. We can let fear or doubt clip our wings and stop us from soaring. Today people believed in us, we believed in our children and they had focus and worked for close to 14 hours. Everyone left the theatre with a new understanding of tiredness but they also had a smile and the satisfaction that we had all come so far.
It makes me think of a personal hero of mine, Mohammed Ali, he accomplished phenomenal things in the face of tough times, he did this with the help of his personal motto:
  • As a young man, before he became the champion of the world his motto was "I am the greatest".
  • When he was heavyweight champion of the world his motto was "I am the greatest".
  • And now after his retirement even with his illness his motto remains "I am the greatest",
His motto didn't change, it was never "will be the greatest" or "was the greatest" and a look into his life shows the efforts and work accomplished for him reach his goal and be the greatest.
As a youngster, I always loved the idea of being some kind of genius (something akin to Matilda) but was never really naturally that gifted. As I've gone through life I have learned that natural genius is always trumped by good old fashioned hard work, all I need to do is trust God and remove the artificial limits I put on myself.
To the world I say "Come and see the British Pageant, it is the greatest!"

Sunday, 28 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 4

Welcome, welcome Sabbath morning!
At last night's rehearsal the red cast were given the unexpected news, that for Sunday we would be free from rehearsals. At 9am we had a special sacrament meeting in the pageant theatre, which was a very unusual experience, the highlight being a talk from a young woman from the work crew, she was a new member and gave a very sincere testimony about her introduction to the church. We then had an hour and a half of choir practice, this was a very uplifting experience. Usually I would say singing hymns is not my 'thing', but some of the arrangements are so amazing, the main difficulty I have (and I'm not alone in this) is not being able to sing as I feel like I'm welling up. I had such a great time that I am considering making the suggestion for the church to replace Sunday school and priesthood lessons with "Adults singing time".
With a free afternoon, I would have thought leaving the temple complex would be just what I wanted, however we found ourselves just wanting to stay on site and be with fellow cast members we had lunch at the accommodation centre which was a hive of activity with so many people. Everyone just seemed so happy to be together, there is a growing sense of unity among pageant cast members. I was the recipient of some service:

Me rolling around in agony

Tuesday Palmer (a fellow cast member) gave me some reflexology (special kind of foot massage), I say that she provided me with some service and reflexology however it was sheer agony, Tuesday could get a job with MI6 torturing terror suspects! As time went on a small group of sisters gathered round and seemed to take huge amounts of delight in my pain - the more I groaned with pain, the louder they laughed. It was the least manly I've felt since I grew my beard.
The social aspect  is not really something I had anticipated in preparing for the pageant. As British members of the church, I think that we can be quite envious of members in Utah. Membership is so high there.  Many of the youth here find themselves as the only member at their school, whole towns and villages only have a handful of members. This can be a very challenging aspect of church membership in Britain. Experiences like this make me to desire to live in a place like Utah and be surrounded by other church members, however I really believe it wouldn't quite be right, the people there are just too different, not better not worse, just different.
The pageant really focuses on all the things that are great about Britain and the British, it is helping me realise how proud we should be of our heritage. The feelings that I have being surrounded by the British members united in service are very powerful, I know that I will not want to leave.
I find myself thinking it would be amazing to buy up a lot of land, so that we can build a British Mormon city, it would be a unique city in the world with LDS chapels on every second corner and a fish and chip shop on every other corner :).
I think I may have found a new definition for Zion!