Nauvoo Pageant entertains and educates

More than a thousand actors and never-before players flock to the city of Nauvoo during July to perform what's called the Nauvoo Pageant.

It's a play featuring the history of Nauvoo and the Mormons with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who called it home.

And what's behind the scenes may surprise you.

KHQA's Melissa Shriver discovered this production has become a working vacation for families across the country.

Jeff Dickamore is two weeks away from college graduation. Before he takes home a law degree from Brigham Young University, he's volunteering for his church...portraying Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Pageant.

He said, "I felt really drawn to it."

He's not the only one. Folks come from all over the world to participate. Alexandra Mackenzie traveled from the British Isles to volunteer as the production's associate director.

These volunteers spend their summers here on the outdoor stage in Nauvoo's historic area. Dickamore is part of the core cast of more than 20 with speaking roles. The rest of this on-stage cast of more than 150 people is actually families with children from all over the country who rotate onto the stage every week. When families arrive...

Pageant Associate Director Alexandra Mackenzie said, "We throw them straight into dance rehearsal and they start learning the dance."

It's a flurry of activity. Historic costumes for all 150 are altered to fit within two days of arrival. Then families spend the first week practicing their roles for the pageant and run these historic pre-show activities from round dancing to crafts and chores.

Within one week...these families evolve into professional actors...taking the stage and performing for thousands every night...rain or shine.

Mackenzie said, "They throw themselves in wholeheartedly and you see fathers who have never been on a stage in their lives dancing and flailing their arms in the air and loving every second of it. The children, early on when we're rehearsing on stage, they're nervous and well-behaved and by the end of rehearsal they're comfortable and you never know what kids are going to do."

And then comes time to face the music and an audience.

Mackenzie said, "The miracle of this to me is probably three thousand people come to volunteer over 300,000 volunteer hours each summer and create something that's bigger than all of us. "

Director Ray Robinson said, "Not theatrical training or desire. They just want to come because they want to tell this story."

More than 50,000 people enjoy the Nauvoo Pageant performance every summer. .

The last show is this Saturday night.