Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mormon Times Article

Behind the special effects at the Hill Cumorah Pageant
Author: Toi Clawson
16 July 2010 7:00am

Brock Allen, 18, center, of Sammamish, Wash., is one of the 26 young men who gather in New York to be on a Hill Cumorah Pageant work crew. The crew is in charge of safety, running the 12 light towers and creating all of the special effects.Provided by Fife Photography

MANCHESTER, N.Y. — Brock Allen sets off fire balls and shoots water canons. And if the 18-year-old does his job right, the audience won't notice him or the other 26 teenagers on the Hill Cumorah Pageant work crew who come from across the country to spend four weeks in upstate New York.

They are charged with the safety of the 700 cast members as well as running the 12 light towers and creating all the special effects.

Specifically, Allen is part of the "ground crew." In addition to making water and fire fly, they hoist the enormous sail for Lehi's boat.

These are dramatic and powerful effects to witness during performances, especially considering that few of the young men have ever done any stage crew or theatrical work before coming here.

"I have always known I would come here," said Allen who is from Sammamish, Wash., and attends the Issaquah 2nd Ward, Bellevue Washington Stake.

The 2010 Hill Cumorah Pageant performances began July 9. Braving scattered showers, nearly 4,000 people filled the audience. The cast members have come from as far away as Vietnam and South Africa and across the U.S. and Canada. The work crew has learned their parts, and each evening they make the magic happen on stage to move the story of the pageant along. From the fiery destruction scene to the water curtains of vision sequences, the work crew is a vital part of the pageant.

"This pageant is amazing," Allen said, "it opens your eyes to why we are willing to dedicate ourselves to doing Heavenly Father's work."

With enthusiasm and dedication, the work crew carry out their work night after night.

Allen was adopted as a baby from the island of Kiribati in Micronesia. His parents, Kris and Owen Allen lived in Arizona at that time. From age 5 to 8, Brock Allen lived near Hill Cumorah in western New York. During those years, Allen loved hearing his teenage aunts and uncle describe their experiences being in the pageant in the late 1990s. Brock looked forward to one day being in the pageant himself, and was excited to be accepted on the work crew this year.

Yet there was another connection he didn't expect. Just two days before leaving for work crew, Allen's family received word about his birth family.

Elder Tikaua Taratai, who is serving in the California Sacramento Mission, heard about a family in Arizona who had adopted children from his island. Hopeful to learn where his baby brother was now, Taratai sent information to that family, who knew the Allens, and they relayed all the details. With the paper work the Allens had from the adoption, they confirmed that everything matched. Allen said he is excited to learn about his roots and has plans to meet Taratai after the pageant.

In the meantime, he is busy at work each day, preparing for the nearly 6,000 audience members who come to see the pageant each night. The Allen family, include his parents and three siblings — Lindsay, 15, Brett, 12, and Becky, 8, — are planning to be at the final performance Saturday, July 17.

Performances continue this week through July 17. For information, visit

Toi Clawson is the Hill Cumorah Pageant public affairs director.


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