Sight and Sound

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | May 08, 2010

"Everything we have done at Sight and Sound began with a thought."
Glenn Eshelman

There aren't very many people in this part of the country who haven't heard about the Sight and Sound Theatres of Lancaster, PA. Each year over 800,000 people attend what some have called "the largest faith-based theatre in America," "the Christian Broadway," "one of the top three theatre destinations on the East Coast." 

To understand the phenomenon of Sight and Sound one must hear the story of its founder, Glenn Eshelman. I met him for the first time here on our campus when he came to share his story with our students. We were both surprised to learn how much we had in common. We both have a Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. We were both raised in the Church of the Brethren. And, we are both still farm boys at heart. 

Mr. Eshelman traces his creativity back to the two paint brushes and five tubes of paint his parents bought for him as a child. Over the years he has painted over 1000 Lancaster County farm scenes. 

As an artist, Mr. Eshelman also picked up a camera. Soon he and his wife, Shirley, were traveling the country with their multimedia slide shows utilizing a single slide projector and a screen, along with a turn table and microphone to provide the sound. Sight and Sound had its earliest roots in Eshelman Studio, many years before the first theatre was opened. 

One of the most striking qualities of this 70 year old entrepreneur is his deep spirituality. His eyes sparkle when he speaks of his love for God, his family and the people who are influenced by Sight and Sound. "My pulpit has become my stage," he says as he explains the Divine calling he received to shift his creative gifts to the powerful medium of drama. 

In 1975 the first theatre productions began and by 1976 they moved to their own auditorium. By 1987 Behold the Lamb debuted with the first full-length live stage production. First time visitors are amazed today at the 2000 plus seat Millennium Theatre with its 300 foot stage that wraps around three sides. 

Mr. Eshelman has often been asked, "Where do you get your inspiration?" He said that we are all inspired by something. He spoke of God's creation which inspired his drawing and photography. He spoke of a Sunday School teacher whose artistry inspired him. He spoke of his parents and particularly his father who was "the best Bible story teller I ever had." 

Since Evie and I attended Sight and Sound several years ago for the production of Noah-The Musical, I was fascinated to learn of its beginning. Mr. Eshelman had been praying for a creative idea for a number of weeks and it just seemed as though his prayer was not being answered. But one day as he and his daughter were walking through the cattle barn at the Harrisburg, PA Farm Show, he saw a Jersey cow and in that moment Noah-The Musical was born. He went home and stayed up all night writing out every scene. Since then, over four million people have seen that production. 

The Sight and Sound story has not always been easy. In 1997 a devastating fire destroyed the Entertainment Centre. Sight and Sound could have ended there but in 1998 the all-new Millennium Theatre was opened. In May, 2008, another theater like it was opened in Branson, MO. Over the years 16 inspiring productions have graced the Sight and Sound stages. 

Long before Sight and Sound Mr. Eshelman was offered a prestigious job with the Walt Disney Company. With deep gratitude for God's blessings, he reflected, "How different my life would have been if I had spent it drawing a mouse and a duck." 

Next time Evie and I go to Sight and Sound to experience the newest production, Joseph, we will be grateful, too. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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