‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ takes another poke at Utah culture

Thursday , June 19, 2014 - 5:29 PM

By AMY NICHOLSON
Standard-Examiner correspondent

The past 12 months provided Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht, the writers of “Saturday’s Voyeur,” with a smorgasbord of topics to fuel their script.

According to cast member Justin Ivie, this year’s show is loaded with political references and satire.

“The show has a lot of fast and furious references,” said Ivie, a 1996 Weber State University graduate. “Depending on what is important to you determines what stands out to you the most. The writers like to throw out one topic after another and put topics next to each other that you might not have thought to put together before.”

This is Ivie’s sixth season performing in “Saturday’s Voyeur,” a tradition that has thrived for 36 years.

“Every year, I am shocked to remember how many people flood to see this show,” Ivie said. “When I talk to them, they tell me they wait all year for it. I think there is a certain segment of the population in Utah who feel disenfranchised, isolated and left out of the conversation because they don’t happen to agree with the mainstream ideas they find around them. This is one of the few times they are surrounded by people who agree with them and they can let their guard down. It is a freeing experience.”

Ivie, now a Salt Lake City resident, plays Elder Meldon Marriott, a recurring character that changes from year to year. Ivie describes Marriott as a very conservative Mormon, working at the Church Office Building, who considers his Republicanism synonymous with his religion.

“He is very politically active and very sure that he knows the difference between right and wrong, and that anyone who disagrees with him is evil,” Ivie said.

But, this year, a new side to Elder Meldon Marriott is revealed.

“We learn he has some secrets that give us insights to who he is,” Ivie said. “What he says on the outside is not always what he is feeling or thinking.”

Some hot topics alluded to in this year’s production include the Ordain Women movement, Utah Constitutional Amendment 3, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are gay and ignore who they are to continue practicing their religion, and the poor air quality along the Wasatch Front.

“John Swallow” makes an appearance, and writers didn’t forget to reference the story of the beauty queen who was stripped of her title for making bombs, or the Scout leaders who filmed themselves knocking over hoodoos in Goblin Valley.

This is former Weber State University student Austin Archer’s fifth season with “Saturday’s Voyeur.” Archer, of Salt Lake City, plays Elder Elder, who he describes as the voice of common sense.

Archer is also returning in the role of Nephi Jensen, a worker at the Church Office Building, who has turned more conservative this year than in previous years, when he was the token Democrat of the office.

“He is kind of sleazy and nerdy, and hits on all the young girls around the office,” Archer said.

Archer also appears in the role of the mannequin of Joseph Smith that was once part of a display at the Temple Square Visitor’s Center and has since been removed. The mannequin has come to life and has Joseph Smith’s memories.

“He is kind of scratching his head and trying to figure out why the church is trying to distance themselves from him,” Archer said.

Though he has not yet finished his degree, Archer said his training at WSU helped him get to where he is today. He has been working solely as a professional actor with Salt Lake Acting Company and Pioneer Theater Company for the past two years, as well as finding time for community theaters in Ogden such as Good Company and the Ziegfeld.

“I think Weber State has one of the top theater programs,” Archer said. “So many people in the classes around me are working in theater. Our students are really doing well and representing the program well.”

This year’s story takes place right before the October 2013 General Conference session.

Jenessa Bowen, of Ogden, graduated from the WSU musical theater program this spring. She is returning to “Voyeur” for a second season to play Gayle Godzika and the ghost of a docent who passed away when she mistook her personal taser for her cell phone.

“Gayle is kind of a special treat at the end of the show,” Bowen said. “She is there to whip the women who want the priesthood into shape and remind them they should be homemakers supporting their husbands.”

In her other role, her character is wondering why she hasn’t been called up to the Celestial Kingdom — a level of heaven defined by the LDS church — by her husband, who has also passed away.

“The show is very loaded,” the actress said. “We hit a lot of stuff that happened, because there is just so much that happened this past year. I think it is going to be really great. We are bringing back a lot of characters, but half or more are new.”

Eb Madson, who grew up in Farmington, is back for a second season with “Saturday’s Voyeur.” He currently lives and pursues work as an actor in New York, returning to Farmington during the summers.

He plays the statue of the Angel Moroni that was struck by lightning and came to life to reside in the basement of the Church Office Building.

“He is kind of a burn out,” Madson said. “He started smoking and drinking. He is a big believer in doing whatever makes you happy.”

Madson’s character befriends the ghost of the docent played by Bowen.

“She is trying to fix him up and he is trying to help her be more relaxed and less uptight,” he said.

Madson also plays Sen. Mike Lee, who is excited about being a special guest speaker at the Miss Modesty Competition.

“To me, I think one of the main subjects of the show is being true to oneself and not worrying about what other people think of you and trying to change for them,” Madson said. “When people hide their true selves, that brings a lot of pressure.”

Archer hopes those who already love “Saturday’s Voyeur” will come, as well as new audience members.

“It is always the same sharpness of wit,” Archer said. “I highly recommend it to people who haven’t seen it before. If you’ve been living in Utah and you are a member of the counter culture or even if you are a member of the predominant culture, it is absolutely something to do once, to take part in a tradition that has lasted nearly 40 years. It is just a lot of fun.”

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: ’Saturday’s Voyeur 2014’
  • WHEN: June 25 – August 31, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday
  • WHERE: Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
  • TICKETS: $45-$55; 801-363-7522 or www.saltlakeactingcompany.org
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