Holy Day pageant turns Austin into garden of delight

Members of the 12th Day of Riḍván pageant cast in Austin, Texas, take a bow. Photo courtesy of Anne Perry

Dallas and surrounding north Texas communities have become familiar in the past 15 years with various Riḍván pageants put on by Anne and Tim Perry and a host of willing participants and tech assistants, but Austin hardly knew what it was getting into when the Spiritual Assembly invited the Perrys and another couple to stage a celebration on the Twelfth Day of Riḍván.

“It was rather magical being invited,” says Anne Perry. “When the email arrived, I had just reread the Dec. 29 [2015] letter of the Universal House of Justice and made the decision to focus on Holy Days and special anniversaries for the next five years. Yes, we had offered a few months earlier, but the timing was a confirmation of how individual intention to arise can be met with opportunity.”

The Perrys and Laurie and Dan Eley arrived on Friday, April 29, and were met by "angelic volunteers" appointed by the Assembly to assist with the weekend plans. They unloaded two vehicles full of costumes, props, lighting, sound equipment, cameras, stands, banners, velvet curtains, sandbags, and the like.

Then came two and a half days of rehearsal with volunteers from the area, many having no idea what to expect. The mother of one child in the program found herself not only getting involved but as a dancer! An audio-visual helper arrived thinking he would just be setting microphone levels and was astonished by the level of tech being set up and utilized at the Bahá’í Center.

A capacity crowd of about 150 attended the program. Tents were set up outside with red roses so that guests could enjoy the outdoors before being invited into the “garden.” They entered to the entrancing sounds of birds, water and music.  

The program on Sunday, May 1, included dramatic readings in English and Persian; music and chanting by musicians; choreography of elements such as a boat, water, and a red roan stallion; a dance piece; and the distribution of roses to everyone in the audience at the end.
The artistic and spiritual elements were designed to provide everyone with a closeness to the history and reality of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration of His mission in the Garden of Riḍván, Anne Perry notes.

“The key to the success of the event was that the Spiritual Assembly of Austin was completely supportive, providing hospitality, gas money, and angels to help us,” she says. “And we had an extremely receptive and talented group of volunteers in the program — willing to sacrifice their weekend time for rehearsal and preparation.”

One University of Texas student came because she had an assignment to do a podcast on a religion not her own, and produced a piece that reflected her own interest in learning more about the Faith. A video student from the Art Institute of Dallas came down with her mother to help with tech aspects.

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