Latter-day Saint Life

Actress’s meeting with a nonspeaking young fan showcases ‘the songs we cannot sing’

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Latter-day Saint actor Michelle Blake, Sophie Moonshower, and her mother Sophie after a performance of “The Light in the Piazza” at the Hale Center Theater.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Blake

Eleven-year-old Sophie Moonshower is passionate about the theater. She and her mother, Sharon, often attend local theater productions, and Sophie’s enthusiasm for live performance, song, and dance often warms the hearts of those in attendance.

Last month, Sister Amy A. Wright, who was recently released from the Primary General Presidency, got to see Sophie’s enthusiasm up close when they happened to both attend the same production. Sister Wright was so touched that she shared the special moment on her personal Instagram account.

On that night, Sister Wright and her husband were attending a performance of The Light in the Piazza at the Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy, Utah, when they noticed young Sophie. Sophie was diagnosed with holoprosencephaly (HPE) before she was born, which caused her severe spastic quad cerebral palsy, profound deafness, and hydrocephalus. According to her mother, Sharon, Sophie’s physical abilities are very limited, and she needs complete assistance with everything. But her family has recognized—and embraced—Sophie’s love of live theater and filled her life with as many opportunities to sit in an audience as they can.

Sophie has become somewhat of a well-known and well-loved patron among the cast and crew at the Hale Centre Theatre, partly because she is just a frequent visitor. “It is our favorite theater,” Sharon said. “We have had season tickets for the past four years. We see every show multiple times, at least three times.”

When Sophie is in the audience, her delighted squeals are unmistakable. So when she and her family sat on the front row for one of the final performances of The Light in the Piazza, the cast instantly knew Sophie was there. Latter-day Saint Michelle Blake, the actress who played the leading role, shared her side of the story.

“That evening during the curtain call, I came out onstage, took my bow, then waved to the audience as I usually do. … As I was waving, I looked to my right and saw Sharon, Sophie’s mom, standing and holding her up. Sophie’s big, bright smile was spread across her face and her arms were stretched out toward me. I felt so much love coming from her and blew a kiss her way. … As the cast began to move offstage, I made a split decision to do something I’d never done before. Instead of leaving the stage, I walked over to her and blew another kiss. Her mom held her up, so I walked to the edge of the stage and knelt down to take her hands. I thanked her for coming and talked about how I could tell that she loved the show … and that I loved seeing her in the audience.”

During its run at the Hale Centre Theatre, Sophie saw The Light in the Piazza an impressive nine times, and Sharon said that it was certainly one of Sophie’s favorites, and like Sister Amy A. Wright’s husband noted, her attendance may have created “the best part of the entire production.”

In their brief interaction after the curtain call, Blake was able to meet Sophie, talk with her mom Sharon, give Sophie a big hug, thank them again, and take a picture with the family.

“A meeting with a child like Sophie is a gift,” Blake shared. “I reached out to her to thank her and her mother for the joy their presence in the audience brought me, and in return, I was gifted with even more love and joy and friendship. …To have Sophie on the front row, who is unabashed in giving her energy to that electricity, is something to never be forgotten.”

Sophie’s and Sharon’s presence at this particular show hit on another important note with Blake. The premise of The Light in the Piazza focuses on a mother and her developmentally disabled daughter, the emotional challenges they both face, and a central message that everyone deserves real love in their lives.

“Sophie is nonspeaking,” Blake says, “but her personality is big! You can feel her joy and love, and being around her feels like sunshine. … Seeing the joy that a performance brings to audiences is one of the reasons we [as actors] do this. It’s not about accolades or being fawned over; it’s about making people think and smile and laugh and feel. To see a beautiful child like Sophie experience that and feel the joy it brings her without her saying a word is a gift.”

In her photo caption on Instagram, Sister Amy A. Wright drew connections between her experience seeing Sophie experience and the second verse of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today.” She wrote,

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

It was obvious that this precious child felt music deeply as others expressed the songs she could not sing.

Every child has a song in their heart that is unique to their story. Some songs are easily understood while others require additional patience and care.

Blake also appreciated the connection Sister Wright’s made to that particular song.

“I have often thought of that line—‘And Jesus listening can hear the song I cannot sing’—as a tribute to not just those with disabilities, but also to those who are grieving or hurt or broken in some way. We may not be able to express ourselves in words for one reason or another, but the music in our hearts and souls will express those feelings for us. … Jesus really can hear the song we hold in our hearts.”

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