A standing ovation for a faith-inspiring play

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Jane, played by Josianne PM, stands in front of the red curtain to introduce herself and her story. Photo credit by Elliott Miller
Jane, played by Josianne PM, stands in front of the red curtain to introduce herself and her story. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

Cast and audience members alike connected with the struggles of characters in a play about the first black Church members during the last week of Black History Month, Feb. 25–March 1.

“I am Jane” is an award-winning play about Jane Manning James, who endured a pioneer pilgrimage as one of the first black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her tale of faith touched many in the crowd at the Education in Zion Theater.

Harry Bonner, an audience member who attended the play on opening night, said he was able to connect with Jane’s story through her tenacity of requesting her temple ordinances.

“She was so right, so perfect and deserving, yet denied her ordinances,” Bonner said. “That’s what I identified with and I have experienced.”

The director, Bree Ball Rivas, said she saw the play really come together in the last week of rehearsal and was pleased with the result. She felt it was important for people to relate to Jane’s story.

“In just reading the script, I could feel Jane’s love and compassion,” Rivas said. “People in the Church have a hard time seeing that other people face hardships similar to theirs, and through this play people can relate to Jane’s story well.”

Margaret Young, playwright of “I am Jane” and BYU English professor, said Jane’s story always moves her even though she knows it by heart. With her critical eye, Young watched kinks work themselves out as the cast learned their lines and connected with their roles. Miracles happened between rehearsal time and showtime, when the cast was able to live their characters’ lives rather than simply act them out.

Many cast members have been moved by Jane’s story just as much as audience members. Some of the cast played characters that became real to them.

Young and Rivas both explained the struggles Josianne PM went through to play the main part, Jane. Rivas said PM lives Jane’s life every day through different trials.

“I always knew Josy had the passion to play Jane with the intensity the role deserves, but I never saw it until tonight,” said Young. “She went every place she needed to to be able to pull it out and was able to express the character and herself.”

Cast members sing about freedom to tell their story as free black Church members. Photo credit Elliott Miller
Cast members sing about freedom to tell their story as black Church members. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

Other cast members connected strongly with the play. Adam Baird, cast member playing the part of Joseph Smith, said there was a reason PM had to play Jane. According to Baird, he feels the script is describing PM’s life and she shares many similar experiences as Jane.

Baird said he is a descendant of Eliza Partridge. In the second act, Jane gave a sack of flour to Partridge to save her family from starving.

“Maybe if Jane didn’t give flour to Eliza Partridge and her son died, I don’t know if I would be here,” Baird said

The play will continue to run until March 1 in the Education in Zion Theater, B-192 JFSB. Productions will be at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Wilkinson Student Center Information Desk. Tickets cost $3 per person or $5 per couple.

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