Reader's theater to depict struggles of early pioneers

A reader's theater at the Museum of Church History and Art will bring to life the struggles of pioneers who sailed the Atlantic from England and trekked to the Salt Lake Valley in the 1850s.

"The Enoch Train: Gathering to Zion" will be presented free of charge Nov. 14-18 at 7 p.m. in the museum's theater.The Enoch Train was a 19th Century packet ship that carried Church converts from Liverpool to Boston on the first leg of their journey to the Rocky Mountains.

A model of the ship has been on display at the museum for the past five years, part of the museum's permanent Church history exhibit.

Museum director Glen Leonard said the 90-minute presentation will dramatize the struggles of the British converts who made up the first two of a series of handcart companies who walked from Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley after coming from England.

The reader's theater picks up the story as the ship prepares to weigh anchor in Liverpool Harbor on March 23, 1856, and goes on to recount the ocean crossing and arrival in Boston.

"The action then follows them as they are shuffled among railroad lines, riding box cars, cattle cars and freight cars and sitting on wooden slab seats or their luggage with barely room to breathe," Brother Leonard said.

Arriving at the end of the line in Iowa City, Iowa, the immigrants are outfitted with handcarts and set out on the 1,300-mile trek to the Utah Territory. The entire journey, from Liverpool to Salt Lake City, took just over six months.

Brother Leonard said much has been written about the legendary handcart companies, "but for these emigrants the journey was a complex one which required ships, trains and handcarts. The play shows the whole sweep of their experience."

Written by Robert O. Day, the play is in the style of interpreters' theater. Readers interpret quotations selected from the emigrants' diaries and reminiscences while occasional scenes are acted out. The play is intended for adults and youth 12 and over.

The performances are free to the public, but seats must be reserved in advance by calling (801) 240-2299.

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