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'Human emotion in frontier turmoil'

Turbulent days in Missouri frontier history became family entertainment on an epic scale when the Church's annual outdoor pageant played here Aug. 28-31.

Enacted for the seventh year, "A Frontier Story - 1833" began at dusk each evening with free admission in the natural amphitheater adjoining the Independence Visitors Center.Executive producer Gerald Harris said this season's performances were rescheduled so they could take place at the time of the city's traditional Santa-Cali-Gon Festival, an event of western shows, crafts and a carnival. The festival commemorates Independence being the location from which the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails started.

"Essentially the pageant is an exciting and moving historical drama," he said, "of human emotion in frontier turmoil, with the faith and love of two families ultimately overcoming tragedy."

A cast of 300 performed for an hour and 23 minutes each evening in colorful costumes of the period under the direction of Cheryl Blasnek.

She said the volunteer cast represents many communities in Missouri and Kansas, and includes some who are not members of the Church.

Many of the performers, Sister Blasnek added, are descended from pioneer families. Principal roles were played by Becky Welbern and Sara Stehmeier-Woodward of Kansas City and Ross Schreiver of Liberty.

Re-created in a football-field-sized setting was the Village of Independence as it might have looked in 1833. Most of the structures were actual buildings rather than stage fronts. This year a sheriff's office and church/

school were added to the Jackson County Courthouse, mercantile and Evening & Morning Star newspaper building.

Featured in the production was a rollicking Fourth of July celebration with an actual, frontier-style horse race, authentic covered wagons and stagecoach, plus original music, choreography and special effects to create the illusion of thunder, lightning, fireworks, burning of cabins, and various sounds.

Lighting was augmented this year with more than 100 computer-controlled lighting instruments on four steel towers, and sound was reproduced over 22 speakers from a state-of-the-art, digitally recorded sound track.

Seating was provided, but many spectators brought their own deck chairs or lawn blankets. For the hearing impaired, "signed" narration was provided.

Preceding the pageant each evening was the popular "Frontier Fair." In front of the stage sets were working demonstrations of soap-making, quilting, rug-weaving, and wood carving, accompanied by harmonica and banjo duets - all as they were done in the 1830s.

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