Jimmy Carter is in the White House. The Gibb Brothers dominate the charts. A gallon of gas is 63 cents a gallon. Homes are $62,000. Eggs are 82 cents a dozen. A first class stamp is 13 cents.
This is 1978.
And it is the first year Salt Lake Acting Company puts on a little show called "Saturday's Voyeur," a satirical sendup of all things related to living in Utah.
"Going through (the past scripts), I started getting a sense of how much it was. Thirty years in 1978 I was 35, my children were 7 and 9. Now I'm 65, my kids are 40, and my grandchildren are watching rehearsal. It's amazing," said Nancy Borgenicht, "Voyeur" playwright for all 30 years.
Taking a break from tech rehearsal, she's happy to "pass the baton" at this stage in the rehearsal process ("Tech is not my thing") and sit back to reflect on the "Voyeur" legacy during a phone interview.
"I didn't really want to deal with the '30 years' in the show, I just wanted to move forward." But choreographer Cynthia Fleming and Allen Nevins, Borgenicht's writing partner since 1990, insisted. "They said you have to, you have to."
"How do you move forward and still recognize the fact of 30 years?"
Borgenicht wrote "Beneficial Life," a song set to the tune of "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame," from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "South Pacific."
"This is our homage to the last 30 years," she said of the song that takes a fun trip down memory lane: From losing Hotel Utah, to the mannequins at ZCMI; from cold fusion, to Enid and Joe; from the Olympic scandal to Main Street Plaza, it's been quite a ride.
"I think 'Voyeur' serves our community as a cathartic event for those who feel oppressed," chuckles David Chambers, managing director of SLAC. "We have people who have been coming for 20 to 30 years with groups. It's an annual summertime event for them. They love to laugh at themselves, laugh at the politics, laugh at the dominant culture it's way for them to have a release."
But the numbers are nothing to laugh at. Every year "Voyeur" brings 12,000 to 15,000 people through the old chapel doors of SLAC, and "Voyeur" is responsible for 25 percent to 30 percent of SLAC's income.
Chambers notes with a season offering that's more eclectic than most, "Voyeur provides income for us to do other shows throughout the season."
The process of putting together an annual Utah roast is a daily commitment. "Both Al and I, in our separate domiciles, read two to three newspapers a day," Borgenicht said. "Every single day of our lives, as long as we live, we cut out articles. And every day we talk about, 'Hey did you read this?' 'Did you see what so-and-so said?' It's ongoing there are ideas all the time."
"It's wonderfully therapeutic," said Tony Larimer, who has the distinction of having seen all 30 Voyeurs. "It gives you a wonderful chance to laugh, maybe sometimes with an edge to it. But generally just enjoying the satire and everything that is funny; particularly in those people who take themselves too seriously, and sometimes those who are just a little pompous."
"There have been years when I think they didn't quite make it, or they were just perhaps a little too cruel, but for the most part, we've always enjoyed it."
Being mean, or even "Mormon-bashing," is a comment that Borgenicht and Nevins have heard before.
"Certainly the Mormon/non-Mormon issue is an issue and the divide is an issue," Borgenicht said. "In a dominant culture, the show is for the unrepresented, it's for the not-included, it's a show about the powerless versus the powerful."
Are they being mean? "I would deny that we're mean-spirited about it. That's a criticism that makes me sick inside. We've always said, 'This is a play about hypocrisy and exposing it wherever it is.' It's about exposing the lie or laughing at the lie."
"The show really comes out of the letters to the editor. The mindset of what's been in the news, what's been in the Legislature. It has to be about what people would have written themselves in a way. If anything, I think 'Voyeur' in 30 years has helped open us here," Borgenicht said.
David Chambers added, "I think it's an amazing accomplishment for Nancy and also Al, to have the stamina and energy and creativity to go after it every year it's really an accomplishment."
Will Larimer be there this year, and maybe next? "Oh yeah, oh yeah, I want to see what happens next. I want to see what they do this year. I think the good lord willing and the creek don't rise, another 30 years maybe.""I think that's one of the reasons for its longevity is that it's about them," Borgenicht said. "The audience knows it's about what they're thinking and feeling. It's great to know that people are saying, 'This is gonna be in "Voyeur" this year!"'
If you go . . .
What: Saturday's Voyeur, Salt Lake Acting Company
Where: 168 W. 500 North
When: Wednesday through Aug. 17
How much: $39-$54
E-mail: [email protected]