Monthly Archives: July 2012

Ben J. Pierce in A Shakespearean Tale!

Ben J. Pierce as Will Surrey

FFP’s recent production (and world premiere!) of A Shakespearean Tale! featured Ben J. Pierce in the role of star and storyteller, Will Surrey, proprietor of the single gas station in the “charming” town of Stratford Corners, Alabama, in 1955.

Ben began in our homeschool co-op drama class productions years ago. You’ll recognize his smiling face in the header of the FFP website. He was always a delight to work with, easy to coach, eager to be expressive, and blessed with a very good memory for lines.

He discovered he really liked acting and now he’s a professional with an agent. We thought we’d tell you a little about him.

When Ben was 10 years old, he loved watching the Nickelodeon television show BrainSurge.  He asked his mom how he could be a contestant and she told him to do some research to find out.  He had to be 11 to audition. Close to his 11th birthday, he got an email that BrainSurge was opening up auditions for their second season.  Ben made a video audition and, 10 days after its submission, the show called and offered him a spot.

Here’s how Ben’s mom, Cynthia, describes what happened:

Ben gets slimed on BrainSurge with Jordin Sparks

Within days we were flying out to Los Angeles to tape. He was assigned to the special episode co-hosted by American Idol’s Jordin Sparks. He competed alongside 5 other great contestants and ended up winning the whole competition. In traditional Nickelodeon fashion, he was green slimed along with Jordin Sparks!  It was such a fun experience and it sparked a desire in him to “do more.” We prayed about it and decided to leave it in God’s hands instead of me doing research and finding out how to get started in the television/film industry. Within weeks, a fellow homeschool acting family posted that Cathryn Sullivan, acting coach to such big-name stars as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, had moved her studio to Lewisville, Texas, and was opening up her very first homeschool class during school hours. This felt like an open door to us, so we walked through it.

It has been three years now and Ben has since then been blessed to be signed with The Campbell Agency and has worked in short film, commercial, fashion show, print, and now theater with the excellent Family Friendly Productions group. He even had the fun opportunity to perform an original comedy routine at the Hyena’s Club in Dallas last fall. He was most recently cast for a kid’s variety show that is in “workshop phase,” so only the Lord knows what may or may not come of it. But all along the way he has had a blast and is enjoying meeting so many new and talented people.
As for the Totinos Pizza Rolls commercial, (done during rehearsals for A Shakespearean Tale!) this is his first official television commercial. He has done industrial commercials, which are like in-house training videos for companies. His were for educational materials. The funny thing is, I didn’t ask his agent for any of the details.  I probably should have, but we were just so happy he was chosen out of so many wonderful and talented boys who auditioned. It is such an honor. We give God the credit for all his opportunities. I don’t even know how much he is getting paid!  Crazy, huh?  He doesn’t do it for the money, he does it for the love of acting.
Ben fit right into the cast of A Shakespearean Tale!, befriending all, clowning around, leading by example, and easily working well with everyone, from the adults to the youngest actors. No “I’m a pro” attitude with this fellow — he’s just an all-around great young guy, as he has always been.

Ben’s mom added the following comments on what it takes to launch an acting career:

Keep that eye peeled!

It is amazing how much hard work and time (and money on training) goes into developing an acting career. He has worked for three years just to get to the place of booking his first TV commercial. There is no such thing as an overnight success. People who we see show up seemingly out of nowhere into stardom have actually been working for years and years to get that kind of recognition. It’s just that no one recognized them before!
Well, as Will Surrey would say, keep an eye peeled for this young ‘un. He’s well worth watching!

Curtain Closes on Spectacular Night!

A Shakespearean Tale cast in their start-of-the-play costumes

We were concerned. Friday night’s performance was so well done, could the cast do even better on Saturday night? Could they top it? Could they go out on the “highest note”?

Yes, they could, and yes, they did!!

It was actor and audience chemistry at its best. The house was literally packed (stuffed!), but everyone laughed and clapped and cheered and “aw-w-wed” all through the production, pushing the actors to new heights. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The energy of actors and audience feeds off the other and creates the best experience for both. Each side gets invested in the story and the songs, then literally “work together” to create a thoroughly enjoyable journey into the imagination!

Everyone went “down yonder on a Saturday night,” suspended reality for a couple of hours, and had a great time!

FFP wants to thank all those involved, all those who came, and all who wished us well on our first venture into the public arena. We look forward to packaging our materials, planning more projects, and seeing as many of these kids again as possible in the not-too-distant future! And new kids! C’mon along! You’re all welcome!

A happy cast after the final curtain in their end-of-play costumes. Cheers!


Petruckio does it again! He tames Kate.

Clowning on the set.

Rosie & Will Surrey & Shakespeare the dog.




Now They’re Really Acting!

Petruchio/Petruckio — Can you believe he used to be shy?

I don’t know how to describe the joy, fun, gratitude, and pride a writer feels when a young actor stops reciting lines and thinking about “being in a play” and suddenly grabs hold of their character, throws themself into a role, gets beyond confidence, thinks on their feet, connects with their fellow actors, plays to the audience, and suddenly has a great  time really, really acting! And reacting!

These two have never been shy!

That’s what the cast of A Shakespearean Tale! did last night (Friday, July 20). Believe me, it’s a thrill for a writer/director!

They get  it! They’re having fun! Now the audience is having fun! Everybody’s into it. Finally — the script comes alive!

We had another full house and the energy in the story and the songs rose to a new level. We are grateful for lots of serious compliments. Thanks to the couple with literary and drama background who saw the poster, came to the show, and loved it!

Now we get ready for our first “Closing Night.”

Three cute little mice! And great little actresses!

It’s fun, it’s relief, it’s exciting, it’s poignant. Working with this entire cast and their families has been a complete delight, extremely rewarding, and well worth the stress of making it all happen.

Opening Night a Success!

The opening night of the world premiere of A Shakespearean Tale was a great success! (According to us and everyone involved!)

As this is our first paid, public production with more than one show — in contrast to our years of one-show, homeschool-drama-class productions — this was our first “Opening Night”! We’ll go at it again tonight (Friday), and Saturday, July 21, 2012, will be our first “Closing Night.” It’s a whole new wonderful and exhausting experience.

The whole cast did a great job! Scenes, lines, and songs went remarkably well. Acting was expressive. The head mics worked. The batteries held out! Everyone worked together and helped one another. Drama is the ultimate team sport. (We’ll blog more on that later.)

The venue is relatively small, but we had a packed house and were thrilled about it. And the audience learned a little Shakespeare, realized how often they unknowingly quote Shakespeare, giggled, “aw-w-wed,” and laughed, and heard some great fiddle music by Denton-area musician George Merritt (with his wife Susan on the keyboard).

As soon as the curtain (we’ll blog about that curtain, too) closes Saturday, we’ll get back on the process of packaging A Shakespearean Tale for the website catalog!

As Will Surrey says, “C’mon along! You’re all welcome!”

The Rose Effect — Costumania!

It has oft been said over the past 11 years that the most fun of one of our drama productions is the zany trip to Rose Costumes — the “Alice in Wonderland” destination in Denton, Texas.

There is nothing like a good costume to get a young actor (or any actor, for that matter) in the mood. It can be a transforming experience. And…, it’s just a lot of fun!

Jared, Brandon, Zach, Aly, and Raegan with Rose Costumes manager Annemarie

Some of the cast members of A Shakespearean Tale made their “pilgrimage” recently. Our dashing Will Shakespeare asked, “There’s tights?!” It was a revelation!

Abbie, Jared, Brandon, Zach, and Raegan. Nice pants, Zach!

Petruckio of Alabama finds an additional identity as Petruchio of Verona. Stuffy and selfish lawyer Katherine Macbeth of New York discovers her alter ego — Katharina of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Legal secretary Phebe Hamlet becomes Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and queen of Denmark. And Stratford Corners, Alabama’s own Ofello finds himself stepping into the pointy-toed, high-heeled shoes of William Shakespeare — and tights!

Remarkably, they all threw inhibition to the winds and found the costumania to be a great time. Rehearsals will take on a new dimension as these actors can now “feel” the grand substance of their character.

Rose does it again!