Presenting the annual outdoor Mesa Easter Pageant, titled “Jesus the Christ,” could not happen without the hundreds of volunteers – on and off the stage – that make it all possible.
Each one has personal, testimony-building experiences in helping to present the life, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ through music, dance and drama on a massive stage on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple. For many, that motivates them to return year after year.
David Zimmerman has the unique experience of portraying the Savior; this year will be his seventh time. He and Tyler Maxson share the role, alternating performances.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” said Brother Zimmerman, a member of the Mesa Arizona Boulder Creek Stake, where he serves as stake Young Men president.
He explained that while many actors do a “character study” before playing a role, he reflects on an entire life learning about his Savior. He said he seeks the Spirit in all that he does, looking closely at his relationships in his family and others he associates with.
“I try to follow the impressions that come,” he said.
His wife, Shelly, and their six children – ages 7 to 17 – are also in the pageant. The parents agree that it is spiritual experiences they’ve had as a family that keep them coming back.
“We can’t deny the testimony-building experiences that we’ve had,” Brother Zimmerman said. “It’s very special. I pray every day for all those involved.”
The 65-minute pageant, which opened April 9 and concludes April 19 (excluding Sundays and Mondays), tells the scriptural story of Jesus from His birth to Resurrection in 32 scenes, with text taken from the King James version of the Holy Bible. The performance on April 12 was presented in Spanish; American Sign Language was available during the first week.
The pageant’s director, Jenee Wright Prince, said it is a “tremendous and humbling honor” for all who participate in the pageant.
“The power of His life and the beauty of His teachings uplift and edify everyone — staff, cast and audience,” she said. “As a cast, we are there to present the story of the Savior and to bring hope to the community during this glorious Easter season.”
This year, with clear, warm spring evenings, pageant officials expected the total attendance for nine public performances to reach nearly 80,000.
Sharon Lindblom, of the Mesa Arizona Kimball Stake, is part of the cast for the first time with her husband, Chris, and their youngest son, 13-year-old Craig.
“I’ve been watching it my whole life but I can’t believe how amazing it is being in it,” she said.
All cast members were set apart by their bishops before rehearsals started.
“That is the key to everything,” Sister Lindblom said. “That’s what brings the Spirit. None of us could do this without Heavenly Father’s help; that Spirit blesses lives.”
This year there were about 450 actors in the cast and an equal number who helped behind the scenes, including sharing their time and talents with costumes, makeup, wigs, lighting and sound, hosting and security, among other duties.
Setting up the 10,000 chairs is a monumental task in itself.
Loran and Marilyn Webb, of the Mesa Arizona Maricopa North Stake, have been in charge of setting up the chairs for more than 30 years.
Brother Webb said his father first had the assignment, which soon passed to him. Over the years their six children grew up helping and now some of their 19 grandchildren are involved.
He said about 32 local stakes each haul in about 300 chairs. His family marks out where they are to be set up and directs the massive effort. He said his family is quite familiar with the pageant and how it works.
“My favorite part is how much my family has always looked forward to it,” Brother Webb said.
The Mesa Easter Pageant is presented annually the first two weeks prior to Easter.