This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s.
For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality. He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months preceding his death. She authored a book about the experience, Goodbye, I Love You, and has sought through her works to encourage understanding among gay members and their families (including the recent No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones). Of her effort, she’s said “I love the Mormon community … and I have a unique opportunity to build bridges.”
This sponsored performance follows other notable developments within the Church this past year, including the Church endorsing a gay rights initiative in Salt Lake City and prominent efforts by the Oakland Stake in California to reach out to gay members and heal the rifts that developed in the wake of Prop 8. I personally find these attempts at bridge-building very gratifying and am certain that they will help to soften hard edges and result in greater understanding. I’m curious, however, what others make of these efforts, and whether they believe these occurrences are simply anomalies or are the sort of thing we are likely to see more of in the coming years.