By CASEY STEPHEN
Every once in a while something hits me over the head to remind me why I’m at this school.
Being a faithful BYU theater fan I saw “Free at Last” Saturday night — an original script by a BYU graduate portraying three black mens’ experiences with regard to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly before the 1978 church declaration extending the priesthood to all worthy males. I was prepared for something a bit different from the typical classic play I’ve heard hashed over and over in English classes, but I wasn’t expecting the experience I had.
It wasn’t really the play itself that struck me — not that I wasn’t touched by the Spirit during many of the scenes, or that the play didn’t cause me to ponder and think about the issue at hand with a new perspective — it’s just that what came later had even more of an effect on me.
After the end of the play, the cast came back on stage, not as characters, but the actors who played those characters. The director (Charles Metten — a teacher in the true sense of the word who has touched numerous lives during his 35 some years at BYU) opened the play to discussion and the reaction was fantastic.
Audience members and cast shared their experiences, feelings and testimonies as they discussed the Gospel, the teachings of Christ, the difficulty of understanding the long wait black church members had to receive the full blessings of the Gospel.
People expressed personal experiences, many shed tears. One actor explained that during the production he had been touched by the Holy Ghost and had, for the first time, come to truly understand what the 1978 declaration must have meant to black members of the church at that time.
Discussion extended beyond intellectual perceptions to a spiritual level. People communicated their deep-felt feelings and many were touched by others.
I would be absolutely astonished if this kind of discussion were to take place at any other university’s theater production. But at BYU I was reminded that this kind of experience is exactly what made me want to come to BYU in the first place and why I should be grateful every day for the opportunity to be here.