OGDEN -- Member-participation plays have become a tradition at the Congregational United Church of Christ.
This month, Nell Heller of Ogden, a professional dramatist and writer, has adopted a reader's theater-style version of "The Other Wise Man" to fit the creative talents of about two dozen members who are to perform at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 28.
The public is invited to this Palm Sunday service, which will begin with a processional with palms at the church located at 3350 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden.
The story of "The Other Wise Man" is about a fourth wise man who is not represented in the Bible. The story is by Henry Van Dyke, who took a decade to perfect the work.
As the story is told, a man named Artaban was late to the meeting with the other three wise men because he stopped repeatedly to help other people -- a sick man on the road, a woman and child frightened by Roman soldiers, and a young girl about to become a slave.
After 33 years, he finally catches up with Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.
In the story, Artaban says he is sorry that he was not able to give his gifts to Jesus, until Jesus tells him that when he helped others, he was indeed with Jesus.
Heller said she enjoys the challenge of adapting works for church groups.
"In church groups, you try to fit into their schedules and abilities," she said. "They're involved because they're interested, not because they auditioned for a part. You want to build up interest and appreciation for the art because you're working with children and adults, beginners and those more accomplished."
Heller said a certain enthusiasm springs from reader's theater that she hopes participants will capture when they attend the performance.
"There's not the pressure of perfection," she said. "People can let it come from inside. Most people feel like it's something they can do."
One of her favorite scenes in this production is a basket dance young children happily perform in a non-structured manner just before an awful scene where soldiers kill babies as ordered by the king.
"To let them express their own movements is really fantastic," Heller said of the children's dance. "We all have this inner art ability. It just takes something to let it come out."
She said she selects "material that is spiritually applicable every day, not necessarily Bible related."
Heller said the theme for "The Other Wise Man" is about many ways of giving and receiving.
"It is so beautifully written," she said. "It points out that although we may not reach our goal of what we are seeking, we are accomplishing great things when we are with Christ."
Heller is assisted in this production by Susan Smith of Layton, who has created original works for the church, most recently a historical pageant performed last August and directed by Heller.
Aaron Loftus of Ogden provides the music and Amy Hiller-White of Mountain Green is doing the costuming for the program.
Pastor Bob Nuhn is Artaban and Smith is Esther in the production.
For more information, call (801) 392-5012.