The Servant Becomes the Queen

I almost didn’t make the call.

We were searching for our Queen, the Queen of Nineveh. I had in the back of my mind Katherine Nelson, who had played Abish, a servant in the court of King Lamoni in our second Liken some five years ago. Regal and blessed with just a heavenly voice (evidence: go here and click on “This Light”), she’d make the perfect queen, who can both comfort a child whose doll has been broken and inspire a weary king to hang onto his hope until such time that divine intervention can arrive save his people.

Katherine Nelson as Abish

Katherine Nelson as Abish

Katherine had given such a wonderful performance in the role of Abish that, in retrospect, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it. In fact (and this is going to sound wrong, I suspect), while we were in post production on that project, my girls got their first dog, and they decided to call her Abish. To non-dog people (which — I have to confess — I sorta am, and am sorely outnumbered on that front in my home), that might sound a tad demeaning, but you have to understand that in this household, that dog is much loved. That she was named Abish is pretty much the highest honor my little women could bestow. (I, on the other hand, was pushing for “Sandy,” because that’s the color of our dog, and that would make our dog Sandy Agle, which sounds pretty close to the name of the city where all my girls were born. That notion was decidedly shot down on the first ballot.)

Back to Katherine. Seemed like such a long shot. For one thing, since she had been our servant Abish, she had gone on to star in a fairly sizable feature (in the title role, no less), called “Emma Smith: My Story” (2008). Frankly, Liken projects are far humbler in terms of budgets and working conditions.

For another thing – and in Utah this is no small matter – our production will be staged during the heart of winter, and Katherine lives over an hour away. We get snow storms here that can turn an hour drive into a multiple-hour, white-knuckle, repentance-inducing experience.

But I decided to at least call her and discuss it. Surprisingly, she didn’t shoot me down on the first ballot. She graciously expressed her appreciation to Liken, saying that if there were no Abish, there would have been no Emma. She asked for some time to think about it. I sent her the script and music and waited.

When we next spoke, I had fully expected her to politely decline. Instead, she was more concerned about whether she could pull off one of the songs (the Queen has some notes somewhere up in the stratosphere). We decided I would share her concerns with Aaron Edson, our composer, to see how he felt about it. Aaron had no qualms and was comfortable that it would work.

Katherine recording the Queen of Nineveh's song

Katherine recording the Queen of Nineveh's song

I just returned from the recording session (we’re preparing an “original cast” soundtrack), and I have to say that Aaron was right. There were several moments in the recording session where I was listening to the beautiful music coming out of the booth, and already I was getting that feeling that Katherine is the Queen of Nineveh.

So glad I picked up that phone. This is getting good