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West-side communities look for roadshow revival

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Not all LDS roadshows are created equal.

Despite their disappearing nature, memories of some last longer than others, while a few resurrect themselves in a different theme, music or an entire script. One factor is certain, though. The friendship built is not soon forgotten.

"Anytime you get a group together, you get to know each other better," said Sharon Rudd, a long-time resident of Salt Lake's Fairpark area. "Good participation helps in a sense of community."

Three LDS stakes on Salt Lake's west side, Rose Park North, Pioneer and Riverside recently concluded several months of rehearsals. These were topped off by four shows performed in three days at the Riverside Stake Center, 1148 W. 500 North and the Rose Park North Stake Center, 1155 N. 1200 West.

While church roadshows continue to survive, they don't thrive as they did 40 years ago. You might even say they're on life support.

Robin Hicks, another Fairpark long-timer, said the productions create "camaraderie" among church members and throughout neighborhoods. Besides, "It's great to see the other shows" and meet people. Themes may or not be directly church-related, but tend to emphasize church history, neighborliness and humor.

Reasons for the scarcity of roadshows are as varied as the people who participate in them. Todd Mabey, second counselor in the Pioneer Stake presidency, said the rivalries aren't the only thing gone. "The interest isn't there. Like church basketball, there's no trophy" as there once was.

"I think that's a lot of it and why (the competition) was eliminated," he explained. "It's the 'we've got to do whatever it takes to win' attitude."

Mabey, a native of the Poplar Grove area, noted in years past some competitors seemed so bent on winning first place that directors, "looked for the best and would not allow all to participate so they became part of the stage crew."

Now, interest has dropped so significantly that some see roadshows going the way of the dinosaurs. Teen participation, for example, has apparently fallen through the floor in the Rose Park North Stake.

"I'm really disappointed in our youth," said director Liz Tabish, "who didn't even help (tend) children. It gives you an idea of how times have changed. They don't want to work or give their time."

The Rose Park native believes even while roadshows are receding, they won't disappear. It hurts, though, that "People don't want to come, due to the overload of activities."

With numbers down, Tabish was grateful for the flexibility of Rose Park North script writer Steve Asay's play about a ward budget dinner and fund-raiser, which she said could fit a cast of three or 300.

In past years, many roadshows leaned successfully on youth participation, but not now. "Young kids have probably never seen a roadshow," said Mabey, who estimates most under 40 haven't.

Hicks remembered LDS theater "was something we all did as part of Mutual (now Young Men and Young Women) and all the youth were in it." Fifty participants, including teens and young married couples used to be the norm. "In those days, we did it even if we were tired or didn't feel well."

Rudd said roadshows used to involve the community, which is something you don't see any more. "Everybody's too busy with other things. We need to sort out what's really important."

While roadshows can be stressful, making it fun with new ideas helps to make a light atmosphere and keep people involved, she said. "Unfortunately, unless things change, roadshows will only be in (personal histories) and die out."

"I just hope we do it again," said Rudd. "With more people involved, it could be fun."