Steve Fidel, Deseret News
Pat Davis, right, holding flowers, accepts applause from Heritage School cast of "Fiddler on the Roof" in 2005. The school is doing "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" this weekend.

PROVO — What began as a 16-year-old's hobby is now a 78-year-old's full-time gig.

Director Pat Davis mines the talent of young people to create musical productions. She directs the young performing missionaries who sing and dance through Nauvoo each summer, as well as at-risk youths who perform at the Heritage School each year in Provo. The Heritage School will perform "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" this weekend.

"If you ask me about my training, it came through the LDS Church and a bishop who cared about me," Davis said.

She was asked by her bishop at age 16 to oversee the ward roadshow, which she wrote, directed and starred in. She's been in show business ever since. She directs in Nauvoo for six months of the year, comes home for three or four weeks in July to cast the Heritage production, and returns home from Nauvoo to work full-time with the at-risk youths in August.

"I'm opposed to people retiring and not continuing to do something and give something," Davis said. "Your gifts are there forever; you brought them when you came and you'll take them back when you leave."

The Heritage School, a not-for-profit institution, assists at-risk teens in catching up on their schooling. Teens may attend Heritage because of depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, among other reasons.

"I don't know what their problems are, and I don't want to know," Davis said. "In all of my years there I've never been shown disrespect."

Each year students at Heritage School have the chance to audition for and perform in a musical. The musicals rotate from "Joseph" to "Fiddler on the Roof" to "West Side Story" to "The Wiz." Davis chose each musical for a reason, including "Joseph," this year's production.

"It's a true story; it's about kids in trouble," Davis said. "I want the young people to understand that forever there have been problems among siblings, and parents have been very proud of the child who does what they want him to do."

Just as Davis helps the students relate to the story of the musical, she also relates to the students themselves.

"Pat is an amazing lady. She can scope kids' talent and mold them and pull it right out of them, and get them to really risk on stage," said Glen Zaugg, CEO of the Heritage School. "She makes all of those kids feel great."

Musical theater provides the 14- to 17-year-old students with the opportunity to start and finish something. They also learn team-building skills, memorization skills and how to follow directions.

"Muscials require the utmost teamwork," Davis said. "On stage they join their talents and courage. With the idea of performance comes completion."

Both Davis and Zaugg have seen therapeutic progress with the young men and women during the rehearsal process and the performances at Heritage.

"You can ... become someone else for a little while," Davis said. "If you can get out of your own anger for a little while you can come back and face it."

Each year the audience, composed of therapists, juvenile judges and parents, applaud the students for their performances. One year a parent rose to her feet each time her son was on stage and yelled, "That's my boy!" Zaugg said.

"When they stand on that stage ... they see an entire audience of 600 people applauding them," Davis said. "That is a higher high than any chemical could ever offer them."

The Heritage School recently built a new theater designated for the annual performance. Davis made requests, such as to make the stage wide enough for all of the students to stand in a row and be seen.

"It's unlike any other theater in the U.S. It was built solely for the purpose of helping these kids," said Davis, describing the new theater that bears her name."Usually you have to die for something like that to happen."

"Joseph" will run today through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online at heritagertc.org/.