Plays at BYU-Idaho seek to combine high standards with a high-performance level.
“It’s not that everything has to be cookie-cutter or everything has to be with a nice soft glaze, but ultimately we have to remember the institution and the audience that we are working for and then trying to entertain,” said Trevor Hill, a theatre and dance professor.
Hill uses Brigham Young’s 1862 talk “The Propriety of Theatrical Amusement” along with prayer to decide on plays while meeting with other professors.
“He talks about how we need to not be afraid to tackle difficult subjects,” Hill said. “His reasoning is that if the adversary knows everything about the plan of salvation and the goodness of the potential that we have, shouldn’t we understand him as much as we can as well — his craftiness, the way that he can tether us — so that we can be better prepared to battle it?”
Hill also believes in portraying the world more accurately by showing that the world has some evil in it.
“You might have to play a character that does and says things you would never ever do,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, you’re vicariously doing that. You got to share with the audience something truthful about the consequences of action. If you do it honestly and truthfully, you’re doing it right.”
Hill looks to the Lord for guidance by using 2 Nephi 32:9, which explains that prayer can consecrate performance. The professors also use prayer to select plays and casts.
He hopes relying on the Spirit throughout the process will help students in their futures, whether or not they pursue theatre.
“We are hopefully training the students that come out of this program to call upon the Lord even if it’s just a blocking rehearsal. I think it really makes the experience different,” Hill said.
Emma Welch, a junior majoring in theatre studies, believes that representing the university standards is also important in choosing a script.
“Because of the message that the school wants to send out, it’s important that the theatre department also represents that as part of the school,” Welch said.
She also thinks the school’s standards encourage students to think creatively and pick unusual plays.ac
“When you know the caliber of your students and you know what standards you have, that confinement can really yield the creativity of shows that are less well-known, that really are well-written, have a good message and are fun for students,” Welch said.
She believes rather than limiting which plays can be put on, sticking to the standards allows her to bring the Spirit to audiences and teach eternal truths.
“It’s shown me that I can create good art and have good experiences without pushing my standards,” she said.
Without it, Welch believes her art could be compromised.
“If I feel good playing the character, honesty will show through the character, but if I don’t feel comfortable, I feel that there will be a lack of ‘genuinity’ to the character,” said Welch.
Welch enjoys the emotional aspect of theater and thinks her beliefs can play a critical role.
“I’m in the arts because I think it’s a way to share my testimony, and being on stage, I can give thanks to God. So it’s important … that we can create a place through the material for the audience to feel the Spirit,” said Welch.