When the folks up in Christopher Creek get together at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and hoot and holler and laugh until their sides ache and tears are streaming from their eyes, one woman holds a lion's share of the responsibility -- Annette Godfrey.
Modest, Godfrey, who has lived in Payson for four years, would say she only has a minimal stake in the community entertainment that draws more and more participants and bigger audiences every year.
"Christopher Creek is blessed with incredible people with tremendous skills and talent," Godfrey said.
They are also people who are able to reach out and include their neighbors in the annual musical melodramas that take an entire year to put together -- Godfrey is from Payson, this year's props manager is from Pine, cast members and others came from the Phoenix area.
The most recent production, "The Pleasant Sally War," just finished its run this weekend and the people responsible are already starting to work on next year's program.
"The Christopher Creek melodramas started about four years ago," Godfrey said. "The LDS Christopher Creek building was just about to be finished and group of us were talking about the fact that it would be the biggest building ... and it would be nice to use it for socials and community activities."
She said there were about six of them visiting and someone suggested a melodrama.
"I said I'd been in one and I could do that. So we asked around to see what the interest would be and about six others became involved."
The group found a script and started rehearsing in a little trailer before the church was even completed.
"It was welcomed and well attended and when it was done everyone was saying, ‘Let's do it again'," Godfrey said.
The first year about 25 people were in the production; the second year there were around 35 involved; and this year there were 50 people participating. The age of the 2004 cast ranged from 14 to 83. All three years the performance has been presented over four nights, with one matinee.
"We could do more, but we have no more energy," Godfrey said with a laugh. She said the average age of the participants is around 65.
For this year's performance, the group started rehearsals in February, but had actually been planning the production since the fall.
"We're looking for a playwright to take a book and make it a play," Godfrey said the activities already under way for the 2005 production.
The book to be converted is by Christopher Creek resident Larry Gesell, "Squirrel Tooth Alice."
"Wanda Palmer wrote this year's play and music," Godfrey said. "Claudia Gesell, Larry's wife, did the costumes. She has a degree in costume design and was on her way to Broadway. Fortunately for us Christopher Creek was a far as she got."
Others making major contributions to the 2004 production were director Kathleen Kelly; Sandy Human, props; Diena Burns, pianist; Jack Burns, lights and sound.
"This is the first year we have had really special lighting and sound," Godfrey said of Jack's contribution.
While all the hours and skills and talents are contributed to make the melodramas a success, some funds are required as well. Godfrey said the program has support from both the LDS Church and the community of Christopher Creek.
But it is the success and fun of the programs that keep them alive and growing, according to Godfrey.
"Melodrama is uniquely American. It has a hero, a heroine and a villain and there's great audience involvement," Godfrey said.
"The cast spends a great deal of time in the audience. The first year the hero chased the villain through the audience, last year we had a laundry fight in the audience and this year we threw dynamite. It's just raucous.
‘It's so much fun to prepare it, we laugh, we encourage each other. By the last performance everyone is doing so much ad-libbing, no one knows what to expect.
"It's just a hoot. That's why people come, that's why it's growing. It's not work. It's a place to go and laugh and enjoy and let your hair down."
Name: Annette Godfrey
Occupation: retired school teacher
Employer: a district out of state
Family: husband, Lynn; four children and 10 grandchildren; parents, Paul and Isobel Batty
Personal motto: Every minute and every person is exciting.
Inspiration: My father. He invests himself in others, he sacrifices for others, he develops them and brings out the good in people.
Greatest feat: My husband and I spent two years in China, teaching English in universities from 1998 to 2000. But now my children and grandchildren are my focus.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: I don't have a favorite, but I play dominoes weekly; the melodrama; and having my grandchildren here for a month every summer, we explore Payson, hike and camp.
Three words that describe me best are ... Adventurous, spiritual, cheerful.
I don't want to brag but ... I fought with a kangaroo over a bag of popcorn.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Gandhi -- because I respect his quiet commitment and persistence and his love of his people.
Luxury defined: A home in Payson -- I just love it so much here.
Dream vacation spot: Riding camels in the Gobi Desert.
Why Payson? My parents are here and in their 90s and it was time for their children to be with them.