Sanctuary: The Story of Zion

This summer, Dixie State University brings to the OC Tanner stage at the gates of Zion National Park a musical celebration of the people, projects, and passions that made Zion the Sanctuary that it is today. Producer Steve Lemmon has brought together an extraordinary creative cooperative to present the journey of Zion through theatrical story-telling, original music and song, archival photos from the National Park collection, and multi-media video elements. Sanctuary: The Story of Zion is described by Lemmon as a “neo-variety show” and is written by award-winning story-teller and song-writer Sam Payne.

Musical director Ryan Tilby not only uses original compositions to help Payne tell the story of Zion, he also incorporates old standards reflective of the eras through which the musical journey travels. Sam Payne and Suzanne Christiansen, both well-traveled professional story-tellers, narrate Sanctuary as musical-protégé Ryan Tilby leads the musical accompaniment. They are joined onstage by acclaimed Nashville musicians Drew and Lacey Williams, and high-energy vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nic Chamberlain. This all-star cast may be the most talented group of musicians ever assembled on a single stage in Southern Utah.

The production is aptly named Sanctuary as it captures the unique meaning that the beloved National Park has held for its visitors and residents throughout history. “It’s our sanctuary,” the chorus of the title song proclaims, “The canyon is our shelter from the storm/And it holds the memories/Of the people who knew Zion was their home.” The show features cameo appearances from world-renowned rock-climbers and extreme athletes, search and rescue personnel, park rangers, and a Native American tribesman, all of whom explain their love affair with Zion and what the unique canyon environment means to them. Sanctuary appeals to outdoor enthusiasts, students of local history, descendants of first peoples and pioneers, and anyone who loves to hear a compelling story told with humor and music.

The O.C. Tanner Amphitheater, which will host the production, is owned and operated by Dixie State University. Built in 1978, the Tanner itself is worth the price of admission. The amphitheater sits in a quiet side canyon off the main road running through Springdale. Directly behind the stage, the audience gazes at the towering red cliffs of Zion, which serve as the perfect backdrop against which to unravel the story of Zion National Park.

Sanctuary: The Story of Zion opens at the OC Tanner Amphitheater in Springdale on July 1 & 2, subsequent shows follow July 22 & 23, August 19 & 20, and September 3 & 5. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for youth, and the entire family can attend the show for $38. Purchase tickets at or, or at the door on the day of performance.

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