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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended July 27, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 26Jul01

By Rosemary Pollock

'City of Joseph' Pageant Starts; Expects to Draw 50,000

NAUVOO, ILLINOIS -- Nearly 1,000 cast and crew members gathered in Navoo, Illinois this week, as preparation for this year's "City of Joseph" pageant got underway. It is estimated that 50,000 people will attend the two week pageant that will tell the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's prophet Joseph Smith and the founding of the city of Nauvoo in 1839.

For the McGraw family, and eight of their ten children, it will be their fourth year the family has participated. For the Clinton family of ten, it will be a two week summer vacation that no one wants to miss. "It's just the most wonderful thing to do with family," said Ellen McGraw of Roanoke, VA. "There is so much bonding that goes on." After the first year, the kids just won't let us not come," she added.

Last year, Matt Clinton, now 17, saw the musical, "City of Joseph" for the first time. "I thought it was really cool and I could do the stuff that they did so I knew I wanted to be in it," he said. But the best way for Matt to join in was to convince the Clinton family that they should try it too. "We were told the best way for Matt to be in was if our whole family was in it, because they only take whole families," Yvonne said. "And I said, 'Oh, can you imagine our whole family?'"

"When we got that letter of acceptance, there were shouts of joy around here," Yvonne said, surprised that all of the family shared Matt's desire to participate. "They were so excited. In fact, we've had complete unity." The family will stay in a cabin and eat their meals in a mess hall. Yvonne compared the costs of staying home and buying groceries and they were the same. The opportunity to be in close proximity to other cast members allows them to have more interaction with people from all over the country.

Brik Eyre of Libertyville, Illinois will play Joseph Smith and is practicing with the cast for the first time. He and his wife, along with their five children, are all in the show. Their 2 and 1/2 month old baby will be carried on the outdoor stage in a family scene. Eyre said he knew the story of Nauvoo and Joseph Smith, but really began to understand Smith and the times he lived in while researching the role. "That's been actually a very humbling experience," he said.

"City of Joseph" was written in the 1970's by R. Don Oscarson and co-author Maughan W. McMurdie. Oscarson will be returning to Nauvoo this year to play the part of narrator Walt. Lynn Bodily, a choreographer with the Schubert and Ariac Crown theaters in Chicago, will director the current production. She said the Church has spent some $13,000 on new costumes for this year's pageant along with a new Nauvoo Temple prop showing the structure from a somewhat different angle. "They thought it could be more authentic," Bodily said.

Like the town of Nauvoo, the musical captures the feel of the 1840's through the authentic costumes, some made by cast members, and the sets. "Brent has had to grow a beard, all the boys had to grow their hair out because boys wore their hair longer then and the dresses are very period dated," Yvonne Clinton said. "I'm past the itch part, so it's been OK, but I'm looking forward to shaving it off," Brent Clinton said. "People wonder why I'm growing a beard in the middle of summer. Well, this is why."

Vigorous rehearsal schedules, 15-hour days and the sweltering midday sun are all taken in stride in preparation for Friday night's first performance at 8:30 p.m. at the outdoor amphitheater across Parley Street from the Nauvoo Restoration Inc.Visitors Center.

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday with the show resuming July31 and running through August 4. Some seating is available but lawn chairs and blankets are welcome. "City of Joseph" is second in attendance only to the "Hill Cumorah" pageant held in Palmyra, N.Y.


Nauvoo readies for annual pageant
Burlington IA The Hawk Eye 23Jul01 A1
By Stephen A. Martin: The Hawk Eye
Cast and crew of 1,000 gather for retelling of Mormon story.

Clinton family to take part in 'City of Joseph' play
Clinton IA Herald 24Jul01 P2
By Don Berger Herald Staff Writer


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