Digger • A Play

Digger • A Play

by Rob Lauer

(For production by Professional Groups, College/University Groups, Community Groups, LDS & Other Church Groups, Youth Groups)

Winner of the 1982 Mayhew award for Drama, “Digger” explores the early life of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, his youthful involvement in folk-magic and his evolution into an American frontier prophet. Produced as a Graduate Production at Brigham Young University Department of Theatre in Dec 1982 to sold-out crowds, “Digger” was praised by critics as “ground breaking” in the genre of Mormon drama. The play was published by Sunstone Magazine in 1988.


  • 6M 2F
  • About 2 hours
  • Several Simple Locations
  • ORDER #2040


“Digger” is a play about Joseph Smith before he was the prophet Joseph Smith; a play about an ordinary frontier boy who became the extraordinary founder of the Mormon religion; a play that gives a dramatic glimpse of God coming through the fourth wall in modern history. The play gives us a fascinating glimpse into an unlikely prophet and the strange combustion that produced a new American religion.

—JANE BARNES, author of “Falling in Love with Joseph Smith,” and co-writer of the 2007 PBS/Frontline series “The Mormons”(Jane’s website)

“Digger: Art as Religious History”
By Scott Dunn
“Sunstone Review” March 1983
“…Mormons have seen and heard much debate over the writing of their history. There have been border disputes over the fine line between certain religious assertions and historical observations, and “the fertile middle ground” identified by Martin Hill has suddenly become something of a battlefield, exalted by some and excoriated by others.
In the midst of this “war of words and tumult of opinions,” has come a new synthesis of Mormonism’s colorful history and spiritual ideals that is—surprisingly—neither history nor apology, but art. In “Digger,” a new play by BYU student Robert Frederick Lauer, we have an impressive attempt to do what neither objective history nor devout apologia can—recreate experiences that are deepest in the Mormon psyche and significant to Mormon historians.
“Digger,” which won second place in the drama division of the 1982 Vera Hinckley Mayhew Contest, was recently performed as a graduate production in BYU’s Nelke Experimental Theatre. The play is based on early historical accounts of Mormonism, notably the 1826 Bainbridge trial, in which Joseph Smith was convicted of being a “glass-looker” and the 1832 account of the first vision.
“Digger” focuses on Joseph Smith’s courtship of Emma Hale during the time he was employed as a “money digger”…
….If this doesn’t sound like the kind of Joseph Smith you heard about in Sunday school, don’t be too quick to judge. For while Lauer’s play definitely shows the human side of Joseph Smith, it also portrays the divine: the recital by Joseph of his first vision is one of the most moving and convincing moments of the play. Lauer’s ability to synthesize the prophetic and human qualities into a consistent, believable character is, for me, one of the play’s greatest strengths.
Yet the real protagonist in the play is Emma, who develops from hardened skepticism to enlightened discipleship. Emma’s transformation is portrayed not as mere devotion to the young prophet, but to the ideals that his view of life provides. It is through Emma that Mormons—whether converts or “lifers”—re-experience their conversions and contemplate the sacrifice it has required.
Historians may quibble over details, asserting for example, that it was probably a silver mine and not golden treasure that Josiah Stowell sought. But the references to gold in the play serve purposes more important than historical accuracy, both as a symbol of the quest for something precious and as an illusion to the yet-to-be-discovered gold plates: “God…has chosen me to do his work,” Joseph tells Emma’s father, Isaac, “maybe because I believed there was buried something golden, just waiting for someone to wake up and claim it.”
Lauer said the play was intended to be neither pro-Mormon nor anti-Mormon. Nevertheless, for me at least, the play succeeds in conveying a deep spirituality. The dry pump bursting forth with fresh water and the seer stone effectively symbolize the divine power transmitted through Joseph Smith to refresh a parched world…
The play is a milestone in Mormon drama…Through “Digger,” Lauer has given us what objective retellings and sincere apologetics never can: the re-experiencing of religion’s hardest questions and life’s crucial turning points. But then, that has always been what art does best.”

Available to ALL producing groups.


  • The Perusal pages PDF file is available DiggerPERUSAL (It contains the first half of the script.)


  • Script in PDF format — Order #2040a : $20.00 (from which you will be authorized to copy for your production)

  • First Performance Ward/Stake/Amateur/Educational Royalty — Order #2040d : $75

  • Second Performance Ward/Stake/Amateur/Educational Royalty — Order #2040e : $65

  • Professional Performance License can be granted by filling out the Performance License Application: No production rights can be granted until this application is filled out and sent to us. This is a filler form that after you click “SUBMIT” will send directly to our email address. Response averages 2-3 business days.


  • Earl Hamner Jr. Theatre in Charlottesville,VA — AUGUST 2013 (A very successful production)
  • Greg Prince Theatre Group, Washington DC — OCTOBER 2013
  • Premiere at Brigham Young University


From the catalog of