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!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 3

I think we are all starting to go mad!

Charlie with fellow red cast member (and gnome) brother Kennedy.

Another hectic day of rehearsals, it seems that very slowly but surely a number of scenes are being committed to memory. However the overriding emotion that I feel is one of confusion, when to come on the stage, when to leave it etc. We had a run through of the first half of the pageant this evening, on the stage I would say that there was mild chaos, but backstage felt like it was edging towards carnage (but a fun kind of carnage).
Undoubtedly the highlight for me today was this afternoon, we were practising the dance routine that celebrates the arrival of the apostles to Britain. After three hours we had a final attempt at this and it totally worked, the feeling among the 120 or so cast members on stage was complete euphoria. Not only that it seemed like everyone had lots of fun doing it. It seemed everyone was smiling from ear to ear.
At lunch there was also some excitement regarding the arrival of the 'official pageant t-shirts' available to anyone (not just cast members) for £11. Unfortunately we were not planned enough to have ordered these in advance, so ours are on order. So hopefully by this time next week we will be able to exclaim - the British Pageant, been there, done that, got the t-shirt!
As I have been able to spend time getting to know many of the people in the pageant, I have been impressed by their willingness to give of their time to give service. It is amazing to think of the sacrifices that are being made to allow the Pageant to go ahead, literally tens of thousands of man, woman and children hours will be volunteered to put this together.
This is one of the things that make Mormons particularly in Britain, such a peculiar bunch, more often than not there is positive reply to the call to serve. The willingness of people to take annual leave from work to run youth camps or temple trips. Take time out of their schedule to run activities or teach lessons. People like my younger brother with a busy job, young family and studies also giving so much as he serves as a Bishop. It is made even more amazing by their attitude and willingness to go the extra mile when required.
Without the focus to serve God and his children, the Pageant would simply not work. It would be difficult to justify the effort levels and sacrifices, not without people being compensated or rewarded in worldly measures. It is a witness to the strength of testimony that exists within my red cast.
When it comes to Mormonism, the strap line could easily read "been there, done that, paid £11 for the t-shirt!

Friday, 26 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast - Day 2

Well that felt like a long day!

I think that today we all understood a bit more of the enormity of the scale of what is trying to be achieved. If I had enough time to think about it logically, I would be feeling pretty scared. Thankfully everyone in charge of organising the Pageant seems to be calm, now whether that's because everything is going according to plan or they are lulling us into a false sense of security I'm not too sure.
Particular highlight for us today, was being placed in the Scottish section of British Dance routine, hopefully all those Scottish country dancing lessons I had at Primary School (where they made me hold actual girls hands) will now pay off.

Today we were given a couple of items to help us over the next ten days, the first was a guidebook giving us all the relevant information we would need, it contained our schedule over the next few days. However over the next couple of days there is not much variation on what is being done, we rehearse in the morning, we then rehearse in the afternoon and to mix it up a little we rehearse in the evening.
The second item we received were very official looking pageant badges:


The last time I wore an official badge was as a missionary, I wore it everyday with pride and happiness to be representing Jesus Christ and the church, and I had some similar feelings today at seeing my name on the British Pageant badge.
In my life the following names are very important to me - Thiriot, Marteaux, Alder, Greig, Flint, Kunst, Murray, Nemeth, Burnham, Lindquist and Regimbal. Now for anyone who knows me will be thinking that this must be the starting line-up the last time my beloved Dundee United won the cup, but these were  actually my 11 mission companions, with whom I was able to share some of the best experiences of my life.
Perhaps the greatest thing about being part of the Pageant is being able to serve with my choice of companions. I love the fact that I am now serving in the exact same calling as my 7 year old son, I think that we have a special relationship (which generally involves tormenting Lynne) and if I could give him any experience from my life it would be the opportunity I had to serve a mission. I hope that over the next 9 days we will be able to grow closer together and his desire to serve will strengthen.
Lynne and I look forward to our retirement and the many missions we hope to serve, this experience, I hope, is really just a taster for that future life. The stories of the early members of the church in Britain are helping us to get a better perspective of the important things in life, really that when all is said and done in this life it is our relationship with our family as well as God that will remain. The other good thing about serving with Lynne is she always has something to say, so I can relax and not worry about those awkward silences that I seem to suffer from.
Oh and Lynne is by far the best looking companion I have ever served with!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

British Pageant Red Cast Day 1

Well that was an amazing day!
My day to day life is generally full of spreadsheets, mathematical models and studying. I have also spent the last ten years being surrounded by fellow maths geeks. The combination of these things have meant that I don't really have much of an appreciation for the performing arts or indeed possess any actual skills in doing this kind of stuff.  As part of our application to the Pageant I admitted that our family didn't have any obvious skills to being part of such a production but at a minimum I promised that we would be enthusiastic, thankfully this seemed to be enough.
Today I have been absolutely blown away by the skills and talents of so many people who are part of the pageant. From the core cast who ran through the whole pageant performance tonight and were excellent, to the choreographers who, in a few hours, managed to get around 120 people to complete a dance routine. The artists who created the Preston Skyline on the stage, and the music directors in just a short hour even seemed to get us singing in tune, which was particularly tricky given one of the songs is in Welsh! I was also impressed with the Director of the pageant, who not only seemed comfortable organising 100+ people, but was able to do so while feeding her baby!
In looking around at so many talented individuals, it is very easy for me to feel out of my depth. I consider myself retired from "show business" after three performance as Naphtali (or brother number four) in Dundee Stake's production of Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat, when I was 16. However at this morning's induction, we were reminded that this wasn't really show business, but that we had been set apart as missionaries to share an important message with everyone who was going to come.
Now this is something that I can handle, spending two years in France as a missionary I understood the idea of being an instrument in helping people become closer to Jesus Christ and that there were many ways to do this. As a family cast member, I feel my main role is to help set the scenes that will assist the core cast deliver the message of the early British saints, this will add to the feeling and the spirit of the show giving visitors a powerful experience. It is a privilege to be able to serve in this way, and if all that is required from me is to walk across the stage a few times looking like I live in the 1840's then I will do it with all the enthusiasm I have!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Day zero of the Pageant

Well we are finally here!

It seems like ages ago since we got the phonecall saying we had been accepted as members of the family cast at the British Pageant, but we have just arrived at the hotel and have got ourselves settled and we are just waiting for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning to get started.
As part of the preparation to take part in the pageant we have been given a lot of information on things to do and expect as part of the pageant, the two things that have really stood out are:
  1. The importance of writing down our experiences, thoughts and feelings.
  2. To expect to see miracles.
Under number 1 this is pretty tough for me, I have never really been any good at keeping a journal so I am going to try a blog for something different, perhaps the pressure of knowing that family and friends will be reading will motivate me to record something daily.
Under number 2 this is why I am really excited.
I have called this pageant day 0 as I was at work today by 4 o'clock today I was still in the middle of my annual appraisal  and then spending the evening travelling to Chorley. However in our excitement we decided to stop at the temple grounds to take in the "giant" marquee and see if there was anything still going on. As we drove into the car park we saw a lady that we had never seen before wearing "period" costume. When we got out of the car she came over to us and said "you must be Lynne, Charlie and Gary". It was quite the welcome, miraculous even, and very unexpected given we were there 13 hours too early. It turns out that Caroline is going to be our district leader and had seen our pictures previously, it's good to know that we will looked after by someone with such attention to detail.
So now time for bed, I want to be on top form tomorrow!
Let the miracles begin...