Harold I. Hansen

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Harold I. Hansen was a theater professor at Brigham Young University and is perhaps best known for his work with the Hill Cumorah Pageant from 1937 to 1977.

Hansen was born on March 14, 1914 in Logan, Utah. He completed his undergraduate work at Utah State University in 1937 and earned his master’s degree in 1940 from the State University of Iowa. He earned his PhD in 1949.

In 1937, while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Eastern States Mission, he was asked to direct the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, New York. He directed the next seventeen annual presentations (excluding 1943 to 1947 when the pageant wasn’t held due to World War II).

When he was asked to return to Palmyra and direct the pageant again, he was teaching summer school at the University of Iowa with a full course load. But the way opened up for him to take the assignment. As he remembers, reviving the pageant was a big job. “Parts of the stages [had been] built into the walls of chicken coops. Some costumes and props had just been thrown away to make the storage space available for things that seemed more important at the time.” But the pageant came together and performed to 80,000 spectators, Hansen went back to his position at Utah State Agricultural College, and returned for the 1949 pageant. For the first time, the pageant was televised during one performance that year. He directed the pageant each year until he received a formal release from the First Presidency in 1977. He was the longest-standing director of a single production in the history of theater.

From 1941 to 1942 Hansen was a seminary and institute instructor with the Church Educational System. He performed at The Cleveland Play House until 1945 when he joined the faculty of Michigan State University. He then returned to Utah State University where he joined the drama faculty and earned his Ph.D. with the subject of his doctoral dissertation being a history of Mormon Theatre. In 1952 He became head of the drama department at Brigham Young University where he served until 1966. He retired in 1979. Hansen received the BYU Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Teaching Award in 1971.

From 1960 to 1967, he co-owned and co-directed with Lael J. Woodbury the Ledges Theatre in Grand Ledge, Michigan. The American Educational Theatre Association and the United States Department of Defense invited him to provide shows for US Servicemen, and he did so from 1956 to 1974. Through this work with the United Service Organization he earned a Distinguished Service Award, the position of director of the USO, membership on the council of the USO, and chairmanship of the Overseas Touring Committee of the National Education Association.

Hansen married Betty Kotter, whom he met in Palmyra, on July 16, 1940, near the flagpole on the Hill Cumorah. They were sealed in the Logan Utah Temple the following August. They were the parents of four daughters. He died in 1992.

External Sources

Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 13, no. 1–2, 2004

BYU biography of Harold I. Hansen