Chris Clark: Mormon Director

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Chris Clark Mormon Director
Courtesy Deseret News

Christopher L. Clark was a theatre professor and director, and had adapted several of Shakespeare’s plays. He was the chair of the Utah Valley University’s Theatrical Arts for Stage and Screen department, where he worked since 2006. He passed away on June 5, 2020, as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

"Topher," as he was known to his family, was born on July 30, 1972, and earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. He had originally entered BYU with a passion for theatre, complete with a theatre scholarship. While serving a full-time mission to Finland for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he decided he couldn’t support a family on that degree, so he switched to English. After four years of retail management with Barnes and Noble, he decided to go back to his passion, so he and his wife, Lisa, and their two sons moved to England where he earned his MFA with distinction in directing Shakespeare from the University of Exeter. As part of his education, he was trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company and was able to perform parts of Shakespeare’s plays in the renowned Globe Theatre. He returned to Utah and, upon the suggestion of a friend, enrolled in the educational leadership program at BYU to earn his PhD. He received this degree in 2012.

He also trained as an actor with The Steppenwolf School, Viewpoints, and Chicago’s Second City. He has acted on stage with Eurydice, The Fantasticks, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Rabbit Hole, and Frankenstein, to name a few. He has acting credits in movies and television shows, such as Romeo and Juliet, 17 Miracles, Pretty Darn Funny, Stalking Santa, Saints and Soldiers, and Brigham City. He portrayed Paul in the Bible videos created by the Church of Jesus Christ.

Under his direction, the UVU program won awards at the 2013 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. He was distinguished as Outstanding Director. The production “Vincent in Brixton” won six awards. In 2013, Clark was honored with the Theater Educator Award at Utah Repertory Theater Company’s Gala. He also won the Distinguished Directing Award at the 2009 Kennedy Center Festival. He won the Deseret News Best of Theatre Award in 2005, 2006, and 2010. He also won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Play Choice (She Stoops to Conquer, 2011 and Nosferatu, 2009). He was Utah Valley University Faculty Scholar of the Year, 2009, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Scene Choice twice.

In addition to directing at UVU, Clark has also directed at BYU, Utah’s Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, Hale Center Theater (Orem, Utah), and Hale Centre Theatre (West Valley, Utah), Sundance Summer Theatre, Scera Shell Outdoor Theatre, and Nauvoo Theatrical Society.

He wrote one play, The Marrying Man, which he considered more of a compilation, which won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Meritorious Achievement in Playwriting Award in 2006.

He was a guest lecturer all over the world, traveling and speaking at conferences about Shakespeare and Viewpoints. He came home to serve his congregation in Bishoprics, Scout camps, and Young Men Activities and meetings.[1]
He was a masterful storyteller in his writing, his directing, and his retelling of every strange encounter with what seemed to be an endless line of odd misfits that came from all around the world just to be in his life long enough for all of us to hear about them; and love them like he did.[2]

He was the father of five children. His obituary stated, "He talked about his kids all the time. He is excited and proud of who they are. Christopher was a fun father; he sang to his kids and got them to do funny lip syncs with him (which he took very seriously). He constantly introduced them to different kinds of music and took them to concerts and movies and plays to show them all the beautiful things in life. He encouraged his kids to find their own creative pursuits and expressions, and encouraged them to work hard and help their mother. He guided them with wisdom from his experience and told funny stories—the funniest stories. He gave them priesthood blessings, and taught them the Gospel of Christ by example."[3]

At his memorial service, his sister, Stephanie Nielson, said that she had been studying the life of the Apostle her brother portrayed. She remarked, “In the end of Christopher’s life, he was tested, he was tried, he was tired, he was weak, but he was also strong and steadfast. He was a perfect example of living the way the Apostle Paul teaches us to be. And in a sense, Christopher was not just acting as Paul for the Church in the Bible videos, he was living Paul’s life and example.”