One of the Bible’s best-known stories comes to life on movie screens for a special nationwide event April 9, 11 and 13. Filmed in front of a live audience, Sight & Sound’s NOAH is the dramatic, musical version of the man who trusted God in the toughest circumstances. More than 5 million people have experienced the live performance of NOAH at Sight & Sound’s theaters in Lancaster, PA, and Branson, MO, – making it Sight & Sound’s most-attended show in their 42-year history. We spoke with Katie Miller, whose Grandparents came up with the live theater concept in the 60’s and refined their presentations until today their productions have been seen by millions of people. We asked her about those early days, and how things have changed since then.
AMFM Magazine: I saw the Noah screener and I thought it was really, really good, congratulations on that. I know that you’re a third generation for Sight and Sound so you grew up in it, but did you ever think there would be a time when something like these huge cross-country Fathom Events would take place?
Katie Miller: Well this is our third fathom event. We launched this effort two and a half years ago. We have had Jonah and Moses in movie theaters, which both have just outshined what we even expected them to do. And so now we’re very excited to be taking Noah into movie theaters this April.
AMFM Magazine: So I have to ask you how how long does it take to put together a production like this?
Katie Miller: I mean, it’s a big effort. It is a big effort from the time our story department kicks off doing research for the show, writing the show, the time that goes into our production teams with our designers and construction and costumes and all the different elements. It’s about a three and a half year process for us to produce a brand new show.
AMFM Magazine: Okay. That’s a long time. So you’ve got a lot of preparation and a lot of things that could possibly go wrong do go wrong and do go wrong in all that time.
Katie Miller: Yes, it’s true. Part of the creative process though, you know, you try things and some things work and some things don’t. And we’re very used to that around here. We’re a creative organization with lots of space for trying new things.
AMFM Magazine: You get to try it out beforehand. I guess the really cool thing about this is you get to try it out on live audiences before you take it to the Fathom Event, so you know already that you’ve got something there before you take it to the wider audience, correct?
Katie Miller: Yeah, and Noah specifically is such a special show for us. It really is our landmark production. It first premiered on stage in 1995 and was the first big, large scale biblically epic show that we ever did. It created an “Aha” moment for us as an organization. “Oh, this is the thing.” So we’re really passionate about bringing Bible stories to life on stage and we’ve never looked back. We’ve been producing Bible stories ever since. And so now we’re able to take this show, which first premiered so long ago and has been seen by over 5 million people live in our theater, into a nationwide event is just something that feels so special to us as an organization. And we can’t wait for April to get here. It feels like it’s taking forever we are so excited.
AMFM Magazine: Oh, I’m sure. So what is the anticipated audience?
Katie Miller: We don’t have a number. We actually were just talking about that a couple of weeks ago when we set out to do this effort a couple years ago with the very first Fathom Event that we did, when we intentionally didn’t actually put a numbers expectation. To us it was a lot more about our passion for these Bible stories and being able to take them and extends the experience beyond our two locations.
We know that not everyone can come to us and we want to see our mission continue to expand. And so it has not been something that we’ve set sales goals, numbers, goals, or even expectations too because we were really just trusting that the Lord is going to continue to do what’s the wants to do with these Bible stories.
AMFM Magazine: That is definitely a passion project for sure. So out of the passion was born this enormous undertaking that has become quite sensational. What is the one thing that you hope for the future for more shows like this, and how do you decide what you’re going to do next? Because there’s so many great stories in the Bible.
Katie Miller: Yeah, I mean there are, and it’s the best selling book of all time. These stories are so timeless and are able to transcend current culture and current experiences. The messages within the stories, you know, they all carry a thread of hope and redemption and Grace and second chances and the faithfulness of God. Actually the message within the story is the piece we are most excited about. We just recently came out of the process of deciding what our next new show is going to be for 2022, which I can’t quite share with you yet, but that it’s very collaborative.
I know, I’m sorry! You gotta stay tuned for more information. We have such a collaborative group of people that between our leadership teams and our brand development teams we have not just the opportunity to have a spectacular show (which is really important to us because entertainment value matters a lot) but at the same time particular messages within the story that we want to tell.
That whole group of people come together and we whittle some options down. We allow our story team and our producers to come back with some different ideas to pitch.We spend a lot of time in prayer together actually just seeking what the Lord has and all come together and land on what story is going to be next for Sight and Sound. So it is a process for sure and probably one of the most important decisions that we can make because each show is a piece of our future and becomes a part of our story.
AMFM Magazine:: Again, I have to congratulate you on it being not just timely but also so current. The vibe of the production is present day. I wonder how how has it’s changed since 1995 untill today?
Katie Miller: I mean to keep it current, We want to do these stories justice. They are spectacular without all of the big spectacular elements. The stories in and of themselves, I mean, a giant ark full of animals floating on a flooded earth is just mind boggling, so the heart of the story has remained the same since 1995, but we definitely have added new elements and special effects . We have live animals, animated animals and puppets of animals throughout the show.
We’ve made some tweaks to the story and changed some songs and added some elements but the crux of what the show was in 1995 is still very similar today. More like an updated current version.
AMFM Magazine: The character development stays the same then. Tthat’s what I really liked about it – is they were so relatable. Noah was relatable, the wives were relatable, their interactions with each other seemed so down to earth and everyday. Has that element changed or is that the way it’s always been?
Katie Miller: The character development has definitely been a focus for us over the last 10 years or so. I think it’s really easy whenever you’re reading Bible stories or hearing about them to think, “okay he heard from God and that’s great,” but we do forget that they were people, I think were people just like us. They had relationships, they had heartache, they had joy, they had hopes and dreams for their own lives.
To be able to bring those characters and remind us all that, just like Noah we have hope, we have the opportunity to make decisions. We have the opportunity to rely on God’s faithfulness just like he did and really bring out that humanity within the characters is absolutely crucial to
AMFM Magazine: Beyond that, what is your greatest hope with this wide exposure of the story of Noah?
Katie Miller: Our greatest, Hope Whether it’s an audience member who comes to one of our two locations or has an experience in their own backyard and their movie theater. We want the audiences to walk away reinspired to connect to the Bible, to connect to the stories and the messages and hope within them. There is no greater compliment than we can ever get than somebody who has the Sight and Sound experience and writes us a note later and says “you know, I went home and I wanted to read the story for myself, So we’ve got the Bible out and we read it together as a family and we talked about it and realize that we never saw this aspect of the story before.”
To be able to experience these stories in a different way that is personally connecting to our audiences is our greatest hope for any show that we have.
AMFM Magazine: Can you share with me any thing that you have heard as far as feedback that is one of your most remembered?
Katie Miller: For us it’s when we get to have the opportunity to have an ongoing connection in people’s lives. It can be so humbling. We’re in our 43rd year! When we get letters that say,”I remember coming to Sight and Sound as a kid and experiencing Noah and now I’m experiencing it with my kids.”
To be able to watch the show through their eyes or to be able to walk away having some of the same conversations with them that I remember having with my parents. It’s such an honor. We don’t take that lightly. It is such an honor to recognize that people have allowed us to journey alongside life with them and all their different stages. Continuing to grow that audience and start new family traditions, and to be a part of people’s shared experiences is something that continues to humble us on a daily basis.
AMFM Magazine: What was it like to be raised in that theater environment?
Katie Miller: It was a lot of fun. I would say that for sure. I grew up on the stage . But at the time, when I was a child, we were a much, much smaller enterprise. We had a 600 seat theater. Most of our employees were family members or neighbors, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, so It truly was and still is the family business.
But now we have 650 employees – we’re by far outnumbered as a family. But when I was younger, it was more just family and a few friends. And so to have that experience, and all those memories of being onstage and adding animals for the first time, adding multimedia for the first time…adding all the different elements throughout the years. To grow up right alongside the organization was a really unique and special experience that I treasure. We do have a lot of fun. It’s such a unique place to work even now. When you’re a theater company that does Bible stories with live animals there’s never a dull moment.
It’s not unusual to be sitting in in a conference room and all of a sudden, an animal handler walks by with a goat that they’re acclimating to the theater and we all stop what we’re doing and go and meet the goat and welcome him into the Sight and Sound family. There’s always something interesting happening. It was that way today and it was even more so when I was a kid. Being able to learn from my grandparents and my parents and that environment was such a cool experience.
AMFM Magazine: That’s awesome, such an unusual upbringing. Can you talk a little bit about the impetus for the original start of the Sight and Sound Theater?
Katie Miller: Yes. My grandfather grew up as a dairy farmer and thought that that was what he was going to do for the rest of his life.
Through a series of tragedies, his father ended up making the decision to sell the family farm. So my grandfather found himself as a young adult engaged to be married without a vocation and began relying on his creativity to make ends meet. He was peddling paintings out of the back of his car and using photography throughout the community. One night his pastor said to him, Hey, Glenn, would you mind putting on a multi-media slide show (this was the 60s, so it was kind of a big deal), for our Sunday school class on Sunday night?” So my grandparents said “Sure, but if we’re going to do this, we’re going to make it really interesting. They pulled together a bunch of his scenic photography and narrated the whole slide show. They put music to it.
After that one single night the response was so overwhelming that they had a constant request to do this. They took this show on the road, and after a few years of traveling, they had started a family. They decided to say, “Hey, what if people would come to us. And so they worked through a summer to save enough money to put a down payment on a plot of land and built our very first theater, They started with just multi-media in the way that they had been doing it. Then they realized very quickly they needed to continue to make it a little bit more interesting to have repeat customers and have people come back. And that’s where the live theater element really started to come into play in the mid seventies. It truly (not to be too tongue in cheek) did set the stage for what we’ve grown to today.
We just kept adding different things and growing bigger and changing the style of shows as time went on. And here we are 42 years later and to think my grandparents are still both alive and live right down the road from our original location. On a regular basis they say they’re so overwhelmed at what it grew into. They never set out thinking it would ever be something like this.
As Corporate Communications Manager, Katie Miller works with theLeadership Team, Management Teams and individual departmentswithin the Lancaster and Branson locations to bring synergy, cohesionand direction to internal and external communications. As a member ofthe Brand Team, she serves as theprimary liaison for all PublicRelations efforts.
Her long career at Sight & Sound also includes support to theExecutiveLeadership Team, serving in a supervisory capacity in the Contact Center, and managing corporate and employee relations through her years in the Human Resources department as the Corporate Events Planner.
As the oldest grandchild of Sight & Sound’s founders, Katie was the first member of the family’sthird generation to officially work within the organization. She stepped onto the stage when shewas two years old andperformed as part of the cast until she was 13. Her unique, rich perspective into the company’s formative years has been leveraged in everything from publicity opportunities to future succession planning.
Since its inception in 2013, Katie has served on the Board of Directors forthe Sight & Sound Conservatory, a performing arts academy which provides professional training to students from a Christian Worldview. Outside of Sight & Sound, Katie is an insightful blogger, avid baker and, along with her husband, actively involved with her three young children – who are now fourth generation family members