Design by Madge Slack with photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Pixabey, Max Pixel and Flickr

 

Every actor draws a line: at some point, one must decide if there are roles that one is or is not willing to accept based on one’s personal beliefs and morals. But where do active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints draw their lines?

The theater has played a role in the Church since the early days of entertainment and recreation, and was also used to reinforce the messages of the Church. There are countless LDS centric plays and films produced by members of the Church, especially here in Utah. Brigham Young University’s (BYU) theater department emphasizes, in their mission statement, a desire to “promote literacy, creativity, and spirituality by exploring their interrelatedness in the arts of theatre and media, in an effort to illuminate and confirm truth and the infinite potential of the human soul.” The BYU theater program is certainly producing young LDS actors and playwrights, but where outside of the Church can BYU theater graduates find work?

Profanity, nudity, simulated sex acts and alcohol consumption inevitably end up in plays and musicals, all of which could cross the line for an actor who is also a member of the LDS Church. The LDS Church is very clear on the prohibition of acts of consuming alcohol, intimacy outside of marriage and profanity for its members. Of course, when acting, one isn’t actually drinking alcohol or copulating, unlike swearing where the actor themselves is speaking the words. Some LDS actors may choose to avoid roles, or even entire shows, which contain these elements. Others may accept a certain level of compromise.

Below is a list of the top ten most popular shows playing on Broadway as of Jan. 2018. The list examines whether there is profanity, sexuality or nudity in the show, as well as a consensus on whether or not an LDS actor would be likely to participate in the show.

“Aladdin”

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: Disney has always played an important role in our culture as family-friendly entertainment. With important lessons relating to self-worth and valuing goodness over riches, the theatrical rendition is no exception, making it an excellent choice for LDS actors to participate in.

 

“The Book of Mormon”

Profanity: Yes. F-words and other examples of profane speech abound.

Onstage sex or nudity: No, but there are references to sex and genitalia.

Consensus: ‘The Book of Mormon’ contains almost shocking levels of profanity throughout the show. In addition to profanity, the musical itself mocks the LDS Church and its teachings. Forget participating in the musical — many members of the LDS Church may choose to avoid seeing the show altogether. The content in the show, however, didn’t stop BYU alum Clark Johnsen from playing a missionary in the show. Johnsen even told the Daily Beast in an interview how playing a missionary on stage was one of the most meaningful experiences of his life. “Some nights I’m beaming with laughter and some nights I feel like crying because it’s so meaningful to me to be coming full circle. It feels bizarre in the most wonderful way.”

“Chicago”

Profanity: Yes.

Onstage sex or nudity: No. However, sexual content is referred to and in traditional burlesque style, the costumes are often scant, showing everything but.

Consensus: “Chicago” is an unlikely choice for LDS actors, given the general themes of infidelity and crime, especially in a setting which does little to demonize those acts. In fact, the main characters profit off of their misdeeds and show little to no remorse, best summarized by the line “it was a murder but not a crime.”

“Come From Away”

Profanity: No. (Some sources online say no while others say that there are some expletives in the show, so I’m not 100 percent sure as I haven’t seen it)

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: “Come From Away” is the theatrical depiction of the events on 9/11. While the show no doubt deals with heavy themes, there seems to be little content which could be deemed morally compromising. However, there are drinking scenes. 

“Hamilton”

Profanity: Yes. Although much of the original script which contained profane language was removed or toned down, there are still particularly powerful moments where swear words are used.

Onstage sex or nudity: No. There is no simulated sex onstage or nudity, however, there are references to sex and infidelity.

Consensus: While there is some profane language in the show, many characters do not speak it. Thayne Jasperson, a devoted member of the LDS Church, has been a part of the hit musical on Broadway since the beginning as a member of the chorus and as an understudy for several other roles.

Courtesy of Pixabay

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: The “Harry Potter’ franchise is beloved in popular culture, and members of the LDS Church are no exception. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” would be a perfectly acceptable choice for LDS actors.

 

“Kinky Boots”

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: “Kinky Boots” is ultimately a lesson about accepting yourself and accepting others. Based on a true story, it’s a feel good and even kid-friendly show with plenty of roles for LDS actors. A more recent run of the show on Broadway cast DeLaney Westfall, a BYU grad, as the factory worker Lauren. Westfall has also starred in other productions on this list, including Christine in “Phantom of the Opera.”

“The Lion King”

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: “The Lion King” is a family-friendly stage rendition of the cherished Disney film and, like “Aladdin,” is free from potentially immoral content.

 

“The Phantom of the Opera”

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: There is little doubt over whether the “The Phantom of the Opera,” which is one of the longest-running Broadway shows, is acceptable for LDS actors to participate in, as BYU performed the show in 2013.

Wicked

Profanity: No.

Onstage sex or nudity: No.

Consensus: “Wicked” is the touching retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” from the Wicked Witch of the West’s perspective. Just as innocent as the story it’s derived from, “Wicked” lacks questionably immoral content.

This list, of course, does not address all of the potential conflicts for LDS actors. The LDS Church places a strong emphasis on starting and supporting your family. Acting isn’t always the most lucrative career path. One can’t always depend on getting an audition or having a steady income. If one does land a reliable gig, rehearsals and showtimes may be challenging for someone also raising a family.

What this does show us, however, is while an LDS actor may pass over some roles, there are still plenty to choose from. Even shows which at first glance seem questionable have examples of current members of the LDS Church taking on roles. These examples show us faith in no way limits your passions, even in an industry which constantly pushes the boundaries of religious morality.

This article is part of the Poynter College Media Project. Click here for more stories and information on the topic “Are U Mormon?”

a.marielle@dailyutahchronicle.com

@mariellerrrr

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