The Road Show, by Braden Bell, surprised me and I found that I enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. The story focuses on the people within a ward that come together for the annual road show. Each of the five main characters has a need to be healed, whether spiritually, emotionally, or physically. In Scott, Braden Bell has bravely addressed the growing plague of addiction to pornography. Scott is wrapped up in the consequences of a life devastated by his addiction when he receives the call to direct and write the ward’s road show.
“He healed and blessed so many, But that was long ago, Today, I too have sorrow, sicknesses, and sin, And wonder where to go. Why doesn’t he still heal? Why can I not be whole? Will he not calm the tempest That rages in my soul?”
With the aid of a talented musician, Scott writes a show where the life of the Savior is portrayed in scenes inspired by well-known paintings from the Savior’s life. The Savior moves from one scene, to the next, each scene coming to life. The story of the book mirrors this as the reader is taken from the life of one person to the next, experiencing the Savior’s healing power in each. I came to care about these people, and found myself hoping that they would receive the courage, strength, humility, or love they needed.
In the ward’s production, the Savior is played by Curtis, a businessman with previous theater experience, whose life seems perfect, yet is somehow empty. As the ward Elder’s Quorum President, he struggles with his pride and impatience for the members who make demands upon him. Not a moral sin, or physical challenge, his pride nevertheless leaves him separated from his Savior. As with the other characters, in The Road Show, Curtis finds himself being healed.
“In that instant, it all came together. The kaleidoscope finished turning and resolved with perfect clarity. As he stood on the stage dressed as the Savior, saying the Savior’s words, [Curtis] felt that he stood on holy ground.”
My favorite character would probably be the musician, Ed. I liked his dedication to his faith yet his intelligent questioning of its traditions. However, because he remained true to himself as a person, he did not seem to fit the “Mormon Mold;” dressing casually in sandals, with long hair, and never a tie. Ed grappled with loneliness. As the final performance ended and the cast members in their period costumes congregated backstage, “Curtis looked up and saw Ed. Ed’s long hair and sandals fit right in.
“He looks like he belongs here.
“Another rush of understanding illuminated Curtis’s mind. He comprehended with painful clarity the years of loneliness, alienation, and exclusion. At that moment Curtis knew that Ed did belong.”
Because of its enjoyableness, and the pace of moving from one character to the next, The Road Show reads quickly. I would recommend it to everyone.
Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah, and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a PhD in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife live with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog.
It was great to be able to interview Braden Bell:
Me: As a former bishop, you have helped people with many challenges. Did you find it heart-breaking to write about Scott’s addiction?
Bell: Yes, I did. I find every aspect of addiction heart-rending–both for the addict and for those he or she loves. These problems destroy lives and it’s so easy to be judgmental, but I feel we, as members of the Church, need to be much more understanding and supportive. They need love and support.
Me: I found myself relating to various aspects of different characters. Did you have a favorite character?
Bell: Like you, I actually related to different parts of each character. They are like my children a bit in that I love them all, but for different reasons. I really can’t identify a favorite.
Me: As an author, when is your favorite time to write?
Bell: Since I have a family and a job and a Church calling, the only time I really have is late at night since I’m not a morning person. I really do enjoy those quiet hours.
Me: What projects are you working on now?
Bell: I have a middle grade suburban fantasy that I’ve been working on for a year or so now. It has some Mormon themes and was inspired by some Mormon theological ideas, but it’s written for the national market.
Me: Tell us about your family.
Bell: My wife, Meredith, and I have been married for nearly eighteen years now. We met at BYU, got married and started an adventure together. We have five children, the oldest is 16 and the youngest is 3. They are an incredible support to me. I’ve been trying to spend more time with them lately since finishing the book and promoting it have been so time intensive. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with them.
Me: Aside from the scriptures, what are your all-time favorite five books?
Bell: This is hard because I am a compulsive reader and it’s hard to narrow it down! Les Miserables, The Sherlock Holmes adventures, Silas Marner, The Jungle Books, and Where the Wild Thngs Are.
Me: With your impressive theater background, have you been called before to direct a Road Show? If so, did you silently groan?
Bell: Yes–and yes! Actually, it ended up being a wonderful experience, but it was very stressful and I was apprehensive about it. However, it is one of my favorite memories of a Church assignment.