Social Class in the 1920s

By Shelley Graham, Dramaturg

socialclashChariots of Fire takes place in Britain from roughly 1920 to 1924, a time period in which established social mores were changing rapidly. Throughout the play we see the various social classes represented. As Britain emerged from the ravages of World War I (or The Great War, as it was termed then,) there was a major rift in those social classes. Throughout the twenties, the working class would see poverty growing at an alarming rate, while the middle and upper classes fought for cultural prominence.

Early in the play we see wealthy young men arriving for their first day of school at Cambridge University. They are confronted almost immediately with men of the working class. This was the population who was most adversely affected by the war, having largely served in the infantry. Many of the working class who were fortunate enough to make it back home had serious scars and injuries resulting from their service.


The middle classes fared a bit better, having had more opportunities for self sufficiency both before and after the war. Though many of them lost inheritances and had to start over, they had a culture of industry that helped them start over again. The Liddell family is represented in this class. Continue reading


By Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The cast of BYU’s Pride and Prejudice has been in rehearsals for over a month, working together four nights a week and Saturdays. With that much time together, friendships are developing on social media as well as on the rehearsal floor.

Here is a sampling of Facebook posts from the cast, staff and fans. [Names in bold are the names of the people who made the posts.]


Laurie Koralewski Payne: Tra-la!! Marvin Payne will be playing Mr. Bennett in the fabulous Melissa Leilani Larson’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice directed by the also fabulous Barta Lee Heiner at BYU this season! What could possibly be more awesome than that?


Misty Flinders: I started rehearsals today! I’m playing Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s dog Pippa in BYU’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Melissa Leilani Larson: It’s Pippa Wentworth. For the record.

Misty: Pippa Wentworth Fitzwilliam de Bourgh. 😉

Misty Flinders (Pippa Wentworth Fitzwilliam de Bourgh) and Hillary Andrus Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh)

Misty Flinders (Pippa Wentworth Fitzwilliam de Bourgh) and Hillary Andrus Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh)

Hillary Andrus Straga: I amused myself on the drive home by reciting my Lady Catherine lines in my best Jennifer Tilly impersonation. I was “charmed, charmed, charmed.”


Melissa Leilani Larson: Meet the Bennets.

Back row: Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet), Laura Wardle (Mrs. Bennet), Marvin Payne (Mr. Bennet), Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet). Front row: Pearl Corry (Mary Bennet), Lindsay Clark (Lydia Bennet), Cosette Hatch (Kitty Bennet)

Back row: Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet), Laura Wardle (Mrs. Bennet), Marvin Payne (Mr. Bennet), Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet). Front row: Pearl Corry (Mary Bennet), Lindsay Clark (Lydia Bennet), Cosette Hatch (Kitty Bennet)

Lindsay Clark: “Humidity is a refreshing trait in a gentleman.” #misreadlines


Melissa Leilani Larson: Laughter in this rehearsal room always seems to melt into coughing. New title: BYU presents PRIDE AND THE PLAGUE.


Many cast members shared a version of this post:  In the rehearsal room: a chalkboard character map of Pride and Prejudice:

PnP Chalk art 2


A picture of the playwright’s “Command Center” as Melissa Leilani Larson revises during rehearsal…

PnP Mel revising



Melissa Leilani Larson: If Lydia Bennet were here today, I would admire two things about her: 1) her tenacity and 2) her Pinterest page.

Lindsay Clark: She’d have a board devoted entirely to bonnets.


Becky Maskell:  When you show up to rehearsal in coordinating colors it only means one thing…family portrait!

Becky Maskell (Anne de Bourgh), Ted Bushman (Mr. Darcy) and Hillary Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh).

Becky Maskell (Anne de Bourgh), Ted Bushman (Mr. Darcy) and Hillary Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh).


Melissa Leilani Larson: The regiment is leaving for Brighton. Sad day.

Lindsay Clark (Lydia Bennet) and Cosette Hatch (Kitty Bennet)

Lindsay Clark (Lydia Bennet) and Cosette Hatch (Kitty Bennet)


Ted Bushman: Purple was the order of the day for the cast of Pride and Prejudice. That’s my aunt, and that girl I dig, and her sister.

 Hillary Andrus Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet), Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet) and Ted Bushman (Mr. Darcy).

Hillary Andrus Straga (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet), Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet) and Ted Bushman (Mr. Darcy).


Becky Maskell: I’m scheduled for another costume fitting next week! Real silk…custom made dress…just for me! This is so exciting guys!!!!!!!!!!


Hillary Andrus Straga: Hey, Ted! Where’s that purple picture?

Ted Bushman: Look up.


Hillary Andrus Straga: Lizzy and Jane [far left] cuttin’ a rug.

Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet) and Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet)

Karli Hall (Elizabeth Bennet) and Aubrey Reynolds (Jane Bennet)


And Pearl Corry made a Lapse-It video:


Lindsay Clark: Getting ready to run through Act 2 of Pride and Prejudice tonight. Have we really almost blocked the whole show? #timetostartmemorizing


Cast members are posting on media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can follow them at #BYUPandP.

Religion, L’Engle, and “A Wrinkle in Time”

by Patrick Hayes, dramaturg

Scholar Jean Fulton wrote, “L’Engle’s fiction for young readers is considered important partly because she was among the first to focus directly on the deep, delicate issues that young people must face, such as death, social conformity, and truth. L’Engle’s work always is uplifting because she is able to look at the surface values of life from a perspective of wholeness, both joy and pain, transcending each to uncover the absolute nature of human experience that they share.”

– “A Wrinkle in Time”. Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature

Today’s blog topic looks at the religious symbolism and spiritual connection woven into A Wrinkle in Time and examines some of the reasons why L’Engle’s wrote about religion.

Personal Religious Beliefs

wrinkleMadeleine L’Engle’s fantasy works are in part highly expressive of her Christian viewpoint in a manner somewhat similar to writer C.S. Lewis. Like Lewis, her characters  events, and settings depict or loosely reference Christian ideas or characters. In her personal life, Madeleine L’Engle was an Episcopalian and believed in universal salvation–a trait not shared by main stream Christianity. On the subject she wrote that “All will be redeemed in God’s fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.1” Her beliefs, like Lewis, helped to shape the world of the book. Furthermore, her views on divine punishment were similar to those of George MacDonald (1824-1905, a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels.), who also had a large influence on her fictional work. L’Engle said, “I cannot believe that God wants punishment to go on interminably any more than does a loving parent. The entire purpose of loving punishment is to teach, and it lasts only as long as is needed for the lesson. And the lesson is always love.2

L’Engle’s liberal views on Christianity has been the target of criticism from more conservative Christians, especially with respect to certain elements of A Wrinkle in Time. namely the view of universal salvation as represented in Charles’s story arch. As a result of her promotion of Christian universalism and other beliefs, many Christian bookstores refuse to carry her books, which were also frequently banned from Christian schools and libraries. On the other hand, some of her most secular critics attack her work for being too religious.

A Few Religious Themes in A Wrinkle in Time

The novel contains several references to Biblical verses (in addition to quotes from various famous philosophers, poets, and playwrights). The most well-known of these is a quote from 1st Corinthians from which the book’s final chapter derives its title. Mrs. Who advises Meg, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty….” —1 Corinthians 1:25–28

Another major Biblical reference is the hymn of praise sung by the centaur-like beings on the planet Uriel which translates to a very close paraphrase of lines from Isaiah and the Psalms, “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein”; similarly, the alien that Meg calls ‘Aunt Beast’ quotes a line (without attribution) from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans concerning being called and justified according to God’s purpose, another line from the same is earlier cited by Meg’s father.

The theme of representing the fight of good against evil as a battle of light and darkness is a recurring one. It is reminiscent of the prologue to the Gospel of John, which is also quoted once. When the “Mrs. Ws” reveal their secret roles in the cosmic fight against “the darkness” they ask the children to name some figures on Earth (a partially dark planet) who fight the darkness. They name Jesus, and later in the discussion Buddha is named as well, along with various creative artists and philanthropists. The three women are described as ancient star-beings who act as guardian angels.3

More themes and symbolism can be found in BYU’s upcoming production. Please check back for future posts and developments on the show.



1John Wilson. “A Distorted Predestination”. Sept. 1, 2003

2Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson. Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. p. 171.

3Hettinga, p. 26

2 plays, 1 night

By Ariel Mitchell, Dramaturg

There has been a lot of confusion about what The Cleverest Thief and Selections from Gone Missing is. Throughout this blog, we’ve shared our process and tried to give background about our project. But, I am remiss to say, that maybe after 10+ blog posts, readers are still unsure what this performance is.

I’d like to rectify this.

The Cleverest Thief and Selections from Gone Missing is a BYU main stage production of two plays in one night: Gone Missing and The Cleverest Thief.


Gone Missing is a devised play (see other blog post) created by the Civilians in 2003. The members of the company went out into New York to interview people about things they’ve lost. The company then took these interviews and created monologues and songs to create a play they called Gone Missing.

lost and found orchestra



The Cleverest Thief is a play created and written by BYU students using interviews of members of our community in Provo. Like Gone Missing, it has great monologues and songs.

So basically The Cleverest Thief and Selections from Gone Missing is a night of one acts. One about loss in Provo, one about loss in New York. Both incredibly enjoyable.

If this sounds interesting to you, tickets are now on sale here:

You won’t be disappointed.

Adventures in LA

by Janine Sobeck, dramaturg

kcactf_bannerFor the last week, a majority of the cast and production team for The Servant of Two Masters traveled with a group from the BYU theatre department to Los Angeles for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Though out the year, colleges and universities from around the country are judged on the different shows they produce – everything from the acting to the design to the dramaturgy to the stage management.  Students have the possibility to be nominated for different awards and then every year they come together at KCACTF to compete.  KCACTF starts as a regional competition (Utah is in Region 8, along with Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and parts of California), and the winners from each category travel to Washington DC to compete at the national level.

The week in LA was a great opportunity to see the cast and production team in a new light.  Not only were they competing in their nominated categories, but many were involved in different workshops and opportunities throughout the week.

Now that we’ve returned to Utah, its time to kick rehearsal into a whole new gear.  We have about a week and a half before we start technical rehearsals, where we will add costumes, lights, make-ups, wigs, sound and the set to the world that is being created. Until then, the time will be spent polishing and refining the work that was done before KCACTF. In other words, this is where the fun really begins.

“Let us…on your imaginary forces work.” Henry 5 Prologue, Act I

By Anne Flinders, dramaturg

The second week of rehearsals for BYU’s Henry 5 is completed, and the show is taking shape with an exciting look and sound that is unlike most Shakespeare plays.

The cast, directed by Megan Sanborn Jones, worked this week on incorporating movement from last semester’s Contemporary Performance Studies class into the play. The opening scene was developed on Thursday using viewpointing for blocking the cast’s interactions with each other and the audience as they present the prologue of the first act.  It will be a highly theatrical opening Shakespeare scene!

Henry 5 Movement rehearsal led by Dr. Jones

Henry 5 Movement rehearsal led by Dr. Jones

Another major element of the play is the sparseness of the set and props. This play will be a touring show, and from February through April the cast will travel to elementary schools twice a week across the Wasatch Front. The play is designed to be easily portable and able to be accommodated by a variety of school settings. Dr. Jones led the cast in exploring ways of using simple prop pieces of various sizes to represent all kinds of war implements and courtly decor. Four large square blocks serve as the only set pieces, and are being moved, stacked, and restacked by the cast in a variety of ways to create the many settings in which the play takes place.

The underscoring of the play is being designed by Michelle Ohumukini, who is bringing the sounds of rock bands, string quartets, indie-pop singers, and symphony orchestras to the play’s soundscape. The music of the play is an integral ingredient to the energy of the plot and its audience appeal. This is Shakespeare like you haven’t heard it before.

The on-BYU-campus performance of Henry 5 runs from February 6th through February 16th. Tickets are on sale now.


The Power of Spectacle in BYU’s Phantom

by Nicholas Sheets, dramaturg

As The Phantom of the Opera continues to show strong at BYU I began to reflect a little on the power of the spectacle, due in part to my love for works by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Other musicals by Webber, besides The Phantom of the Opera, are also very popular: Jesus Christ, Superstar; Cats; Starlight Express; Love Never Dies (the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; and Evita. As the pictures show, there is a lot of eye candy in each of these shows, whether through costumes, musical numbers, scenery, lighting, or even directorial choices. Wherever a Webber musical arises, there are sure to be “wow” moments that send the audience on a roller coaster of fun.

Starlight Express's rollerskating set

Starlight Express’s rollerskating set


Love Never Die's Coney Island Spectacle

Love Never Die’s Coney Island Spectacle


Cats-the costumes are absolutely incredible

Cats-the costumes are absolutely incredible

Now let’s return to BYU’s production of The Phantom of the Opera and take a closer look at what Tim Threlfall’s directorial decisions are to make this show a spectacle like the one on Broadway. Let’s begin at the beginning. We have combined both the orchestra and sound bytes to help portray the show in a manner that envelopes the audience. This isn’t like Oklahoma, where all the music comes from the microphones and orchestra pit. This show has pre-recorded music, such as frog croaks and Phantom voices. Also, Doug, our student sound designer, has the voices moving across the speakers, so it appears the Phantom is moving as well. This is all to create a more spectacular experience as you view the show.

Also, when the Phantom decides to rain on the Masquerade parade, he enters with a very menacing costume. I was very tempted to add this to my display outside of the DeJong Concert Hall, but I want this costume to be a moment of surprise for those who will attend, and hopefully it was for those who already attended. Deanne DeWitt did an amazing job constructing this costume.

What would this production be without fog and a boat? Well, pretty much nothing according to our standards. So, we have fog and a boat. This is a remote controlled car that navigates among the fog during the iconic Phantom song. Once parked on the side of the stage, it is very easy to take it off stage left. To see an up-close picture of this sequence, go to the HFAC display on the south stairwell.

Our director had some issues to clear up before we could fully present this musical. For instance, how do we make the Phantom disappear during the scenes where he is supposed to drop through a trap door? The answer comes twofold: fog and flying. First, we have used a lot of fog to help eradicate the audience’s view of the Phantom. This also serves as a neat effect that fills the stage with an ominous feeling of obscurity. The flying is a neat addition that helps the Phantom appear as a master magician, as Madame Giry informs us. Many hours of practice have passed so all those who are hung/flown in the musical would do so in a safe manner.

These are only a few ways in which this musical has kept its spectacle at BYU. For those who have already seen this musical at BYU, why don’t you let everyone else know your favorite parts that really stood out to you as a spectacle within the show. This could be costumes, dance routines, lighting, sound, etc. Be careful of spoilers though!

“I am Boy to them all.” Henry 5, Act III, Scene 2

by Anne Flinders, dramaturg

Live theatre is always an adventure. And this new year has provided a big one.

Rehearsals for Henry 5 began on the 8th of January, and began with quite a surprise. Due to some special circumstances, we had a cast member who had to relinquish her spot. Which means we were faced with the challenge of finding a replacement.

The difficulty in filling a newly opened role for this production lies in the fact that the play’s rehearsals are held from 8am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays during January. Most students, of course, have classes during these times. With only about ten rehearsals on the schedule to prepare the play, a replacement needed to be found quickly. After some brainstorming and phone calls, a new cast member was located from among the list of last spring’s auditioners. Her talents are considerable, and her schedule was flexible enough to allow her to step right in during that first rehearsal!

We are happy to announce that Sarah Flinders will be taking the roles of the Bishop of Canterbury, the King of France, and the Boy. We wish her, and the entire cast, great luck as they prepare to present BYU’s Young Company Production of Henry 5!

Behind-the-Scenes with the Phantom Choreographers and Dancers

by Nicholas Sheets, dramaturg

This week I slipped into rehearsal to see what was going on with the dancers for Phantom. What I found was super neat. Just like the costume department, the dancing routines are divided as well. In other words, the dancing in this show is so intense that there are two faculty members at BYU heading up this show. Let me give you a breakdown.

First, we have Lisa Stoddard in charge of the Masquerade section. I spoke with her and asked her what it felt like to be choreographing a very important scene in Phantom. She mentioned it was kind of scary to take on this project. “It’s overwhelming, but it’s also fun.” She finds it neat to fulfill expectations of how people view the musical, but also to add her personal touch to the show through her choreography. Here is a clip of some of the masquerade dancing you’ll see when you come to the show. (I caught them with my camera phone, so forgive the quality!) Obviously when you come there’ll be lots of lights, music, and costumes.

Next, I spoke with Shani Robison, in charge of the dancing found in the opera scenes of Il Muto and Hannibal. She told me she had choreographed operas in the past, and that it had been a dream of hers to choreograph musical theater. She considers this opportunity an exciting honor. She’s working double-duty because she’s also in charge of BYU’s Theatre Ballet. Here’s a peak into her choreography for the show.

After rehearsal I spoke with Paige Hollingswort, Natalie Taylor, and Hilary Wolfley, all three members of the Ballet Ensemble within Phantom. Paige expressed how it had always been a dream of hers to dance in this musical. Now it’s come true! She’s also grateful to be around so many talented people. Natalie said her first show she saw on Broadway was The Phantom of the Opera. Since then she’s worked with professional theatre and now is combining her dance and theatrical talents in this production. Hilary loves the collaborative aspect of this show. For her it’s neat to work with different departments on campus like the School of Music, MDT (Music, Dance, Theater), Theatre, the Philharmonic Orchestra, etc.

There are so many integral parts to this show. You’ve seen the scenic designer’s work, the costumes, and now the ballet ensemble. In the next post you’ll see a little of what I did as a dramaturg to show the actors a bit about where they would live during the 1880’s in Paris. I pulled together this research to help them delve into their roles.

Until then, thanks for visiting!

The Study Guide Process at BYU, à la Phantom

by Nicholas Sheets, dramaturg

Here at BYU we produce playbills for each of the shows. When you arrive, one of the ushers hands you a playbill so you may learn a little bit about the actors and the world of the play. Here are some examples of previous performances’ study guide covers.


As dramaturgs we are responsable for the study guide found in each of the playbills for our shows.There’s a lot of work that goes into each of these study guides. As an example, I would love to illustrate our process for Phantom of the Opera.

Each year advertisers buy ad space to help pay for the costs of producing each show’s playbills. The playbill is the program we pass out at the beginning of each show. Inside we have a director’s note, a dramaturg’s note, the cast for that particular show, a list of our donors, and advertisements. The BYU dramaturgs are mainly concerned with the pages found in the middle fold-out of the playbill.

The process for the Phantom study guide began a few weeks ago when co-dramaturg Dr. Tanner and I met to discuss content. After speaking with the director, Tim Threlfall, we were able to decide on a few articles that would help our audiences with some interesting facts and sometimes confusing information about the musical. For example, how did the Paris Opera house come to be? (Which is one of the articles I am writing for our study guide.)

After we wrote our articles, we sat down in our dramaturgy class to, well, dramaturg our articles. We spoke about the positive aspects of our articles and some opportunities that could help them be more accessible. Our ultimate goal is to help the audience have a more meaningful experience with our production. Through that discussion we were able to garner some helpful tools to rework our writing.

Here’s an example of Bianca Morrison Dillard’s study guide for our current production of Holiday.

For Phantom, Dr. Tanner and I are currently in the process of reworking our articles and working with our graphic designer to set up how they will ultimately look. However, one of the difficulties for putting together a study guide is finding pictures. There are millions of pictures found on the internet. Easy to collect pictures then? Wrong! Boy, have I found out that finding the right quality of picture can be difficult sometimes. Our restrictions for pictures are that they should be at least a few megabytes in size, as well as .TIF format.  In other words, there’s a specific format for us to follow for us to bring high quality to pictures to go with our articles.

(Photo courtesy of Richy 19 at

I hope this has been a neat glimpse into part of the job of our dramaturgs here at BYU. The next time you attend one of our productions, feel free to peruse through the middle section of the playbill to see the work of your local dramaturg.