Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Fabric of Theatrical Entertainment

Bertel Skolborg and his New Yorkers about 1938 in Europe

Bertel Skolborg and his New Yorkers about 1938 in Europe

Sam Shade is a 1930s jazz-era script with jazzy music. And, wow, did we get a totally unexpected jazzy treat when we went to Scenicsource  in Dallas to get some theatrical fabrics for our scenery needs!

We met owner Niels Skolborg (pronounced “Nils” — he’s Danish), a wonderfully knowledgeable and generously helpful guy who guided us in buying the right material, in the right amount, to construct our scenery flats. (Look for more on that later.)

Band leader Bertel Skolborg and Duke Ellington

Band leader Bertel Skolborg and Duke Ellington

A question about our project produced the key word “jazz.” Well, turns out that Niels’ father was Bertel Skolborg, a Danish big band leader and jazz guitar player in Europe who played with none other than Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Out came a box of fantastic, priceless photographs of Bertel and his New Yorkers, along with pictures of the Duke, a very young Satchmo (Louis), Louis’ wife, and more.

Niels very graciously gave us copies of a few photos to share with you.

From Bertel's photo box, Harlem in the 1930s. Jazz cats? Too cool or what!

From Bertel’s photo box, Harlem in the 1930s. Jazz cats? Too cool or what!

We asked Niels if he played an instrument and he said, no, his father firmly steered him away from the band life — Bertel considered it too rough a business. “But,” said Niels, “I got into entertainment behind the scenes.” With theatrical fabrics. One big customer is none other than Disney. Look at the Scenicsource.com website and see what all can be done with these amazing fabrics.

Bertel with the Duke on piano

Bertel with the Duke on piano

Theater weaves together all manner of interesting disciplines, subjects, and interests. In our last post, we talked about the many ways a production is also a workshop, and mentioned a myriad of challenges and learning opportunities you might not think about encountering by joining a cast. The “fabric” of theater is full of surprising benefits.

At FFP, we love jazz and we love history. What an unexpected delight to encounter both on a shopping trip for scenery!

An FFP Production! Why Do We Call It a Workshop?

Making New Friends

Making New Friends

Being involved in a live stage production is fun, challenging, and a whole lot of work!

These young gangsters from our current Sam Shade production don’t look like they’re working! Would you guess they were all new friends? Making new friends is part of the fun, as is goofing off a little during breaks in rehearsal.

But working very hard at something you enjoy is also “fun,” even though it can be tiring and even a little stressful. There is good stress and bad stress. Good stress is good for you! No matter what your age, taking on new challenges is good for you! Imagine a life with zero stress. That’s called boring and purposeless.

There’s nothing boring about a live stage production. At FFP, we’re working mainly with young actors, anywhere from 7 to 20, and even some adults. We take everyone who is serious about joining the cast. We work with every level of experience and inexperience. Our purpose is to give young people nurturing, family-friendly opportunities to be on the stage in front of live audiences and to benefit from all the aspects of being a cast member.

Developing Real Stage Presence

Developing Real Stage Presence

Let’s list some of those benefits — learning the meaning of real commitment, personal responsibility, and selfless teamwork. We’ve had actors perform with a fever, for the sake of the show and the team. Showing up for rehearsals with lines, cues, and moves learned builds character as well as memory. Learning how not to upstage others, and how to help others pick up dropped lines is valuable in building relationships. Learning how to take direction — now, that‘s a valuable skill! Analyzing a character and exploring a personality that’s different from your own — that’s a challenge! Learning about people and things in a different time period — that’s educational!

The stage builds confidence and personality “presence.” We work on projecting the personality as well as the voice. We work on moving and speaking to the rhythm of a song (speaking can be harder than singing!), delivering a song, singing harmonies, and how to properly use a microphone.

But here are a few things in this “workshop” you might not readily think about. Yesterday’s Sam Shade rehearsal involved how to walk in heels, how to move, how to stand, how to sit, how a guy walks and moves in a suit, handles a hat, how a girl straightens a man’s tie, how to do a prat fall, how to handle a violin and a violin case (and carry it like a “tommy gun” and what is a tommy gun!).

The “list of learning” involved in live stage productions is almost endless. An FFP production is definitely a valuable workshop for every actor. So, join a cast! Work hard, learn a lot, make new friends, and have some fun!

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