Did You Know You Teach Your Audience to Give You Those Laughs? Or to Hold Them Back?!

Full house DVD watch party

Full House for the DVD Watch Party

Now that A Most Fantastical Pirate Tale! production is Opera House history, and we are all enjoying watching the wonderfully edited DVD that draws from all 4 performances, let’s see how the DVD can improve our acting and, in particular, the laughs we get from our audiences!

Yes, young actors, there are a number of ways that you actually cue the audience to laugh, or not to laugh. If you pay attention to the DVD, you will begin to see the most obvious laugh killer ~ it’s not stepping on the lines of your fellow actors ~ it’s stepping on the laughs of your audience! Watch and learn how you actually train the audience to hold back their laughter (in all but their most boisterous moments) because the audience is afraid their laughter will drown out your next line. They want to hear you, so they chuckle quietly. When you charge ahead too quickly, without a slight pause to see if the laugh comes and for how long, you actually teach the audience to hold back to avoid laughing over your next words.

You can see it best in television shows that are recorded before a live audience. Now, those are edited ~ and scenes, even though live, are shot and reshot. The audience is prepared for that. The audience is also “warmed up” and actually has cue signs. But you can tell a real laugh, and you’ll note the actors pause just long enough each time, allowing the audience to respond.

Now, “you lot,” on the stage ~ no cue signs, no retakes. The stage is true actor/audience interaction. It’s the real deal. And that’s why all the best actors love it the best ~ and often go back to it, during and/or following successful movie and television careers.

So,…observe the DVD carefully and think about the most important thing about the performance ~ the live chemistry and energy exchange between you and your audience. It is certainly something that comes with experience and practice ~ the feel for audience response. How long to pause for a laugh, without pausing too long and slowing or even disrupting the flow of the play.

Want more laughs? You got quite a few, but you can get even more! Watch and learn, pirates. Watch and learn!

Our Pirates’ Tale Transformed into “Most Fantastical!”

Most Fantastical Pirate Tale full graphicThe 6th public production for FFP ~ the 4th to be staged at our new home, the Pilot Point Community Opera House ~ turned out to be the biggest, best, most spectacular show we have ever done. Our Christmas 2014 performance of A Shakespearean Tale! was a huge success and very well received, with some of our best acting to date ~ and some exceptional singing. But this latest “Tale” has generated the biggest “buzz” ever. Four large audiences (over 425 counted) heartily agreed with four spontaneous standing ovations!

Fri PT The Sing OffWe had a large, new influx of cast members, including an exceptional singer and actress who led our “pirate crew” to unforeseen heights. We went all out on the multi-level set, which became a star unto itself, including Bob the Octopus and three sails swinging from the rafters. We added several new Broadway-style musical numbers for a total of 9 original songs (plus one transformed traditional pirate ditty). Characters and story were greatly fleshed out and reworked, and some new characters added ~ including our favorite butler Jeeves who sailed in from last summer’s The Girl I Left Behind Me. He was a hit, to be sure. “A lint roller?! Westerly, are you responsible for this?!”

So we now have A Most Fantastical Pirate Tale!, with its own soaring song, in classic Broadway style, “a most fantastical, most magnificent, most peculiar, pirate tale!!” delivered each time with inspiring energy and enthusiasm.

Much more to come, on this and other subjects. The action has been centered on our Facebook page this past year, as the casts and audience members tend to hang around that neighborhood. But we’re determined to revitalize the blog and integrate it more with the Facebook. Please join us!


Christmas Fun with Shakespeare, Mice Tails & Music!

A Shakespearean TaleAnother opening, another show! A Shakespearean Tale! is back! FFP’s very first public production back in summer 2012 will revive in December 2014, this time at the Pilot Point Opera House.

A cast of 29 (or so, not counting a few “young’uns”) is ready to take it on, only one of whom was in the first production. Rehearsals are underway and performances are scheduled for December 12, 13, and 14, with 7 pm shows for Friday and Saturday, and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday.

Shakespeare the Dog is back, in all of his stuffed glory, all cleaned up and ready to charm the youngsters. Originally a Costco bear, he was reborn a dog with floppy ears. Abby the artist and costume designer is creative that way. Our version is plenty big enough, but when we walked into Costco last week, there sat a truly massive stuffed bear that stopped almost everyone (including us) in their photo-phone tracks. See the Facebook page for that picture!

To see photos of the first FFP production, and the original homeschool co-op show, click on the blog category A Shakespearean Tale.

Now on Amazon!And now A Shakespearean Tale! has joined the world of ebook and print-on-demand self-publishing. Ebooks are up at Amazon, B&N, Apple and elsewhere. The full-color print book is awaiting the first proof at IngramSpark.

So, come see the show! And get the book for a great Christmas treat and a truly fun way to introduce family members of all ages to Shakespeare, Southern charm, and the power of a few good words!

Paint Horse Rides Out With a Bang!

Old Cowhand, his Paint Horse and the cow punchers

Old Cowhand, his Paint Horse and the cow punchers

The Girl I Left Behind Me drew over 430 people to the Pilot Point Opera House over four performances. Audiences were supportive and responsive and the cast got three standing ovations!

With each show, our 24 young actors and two adults continued to improve and enliven their characters, their delivery, and their team work. By the final matinee, the newbies to the stage looked confident and comfortable and the veterans were obviously enjoying themselves!

We devised new ways to entertain the crowd between curtain pulls, during scenery and mic changes. The Paint Horse was a big hit! (Thank you, Alex!) Calamity Jane and the Paint Horse invented even more creative antics for the last, big scenery switch. (See our Facebook page!)

Big Chief Heap o' Trouble and Scouts

Big Chief Heap o’ Trouble and Scouts

Compliments from the audience flowed freely, for the cast and for the original script and music! That always makes the crazy writer/director feel mighty good!

The band ~ guitar, keyboard, and drums ~ enjoyed the very lively addition of George Merritt’s fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. The music was toe-tapping, for sure.

The young actors benefited from some history lessons and a little cultural literacy. We oldies are realizing that the memory of our Western heritage ~ a subject in which everyone was once so well versed ~ is fading. We had to explain “dogies” and “cattle puncher” and “cattle rustler” and “noose,” and we found that the song Old Chisholm Trail was no longer familiar, even to many parents! And this is Texas!

We also had to explain the old phrase, “the cattle are lowing,” which is the first line of the second verse of the very well-known Christmas carol, Away in a Manger. We made a joke of the “lowing,” and thankfully, many in the audience seemed to “get it”!

Enjoy these photos, then click our Facebook icon and go look at all the “during the show” action shots on our public fan page. Leave a comment on the blog! Like a photo on the Facebook! The Paint Horse will get all excited!

As you can see, this rip-snorting, prairie Western musical was a lot of fun for everyone!! It’s hard to let the Paint Horse go!

But before we do, let’s watch Lilly twirl that lasso!




Sarsaparilla Sal, Calamity Jane, and Lasso Lilly

Sarsaparilla Sal, Calamity Jane, and Lasso Lilly


No Whoa Joe, Kate, Adeline, and Gil

No Whoa Joe, Kate, Adeline, and Gil


The City Slicker and Admiring Prairie Town Girls

The City Slicker and Admiring Prairie Town Girls


Philadelphia color

The Girl He Left Behind in Her Philadelphia Parlor


New Show Packs Pilot Point Opera House!

Full cast 2Yeehaw! The Paint Horse is really excited!

The first performance on Sunday afternoon, June 8, of The Girl I Left Behind Me just about packed out the Pilot Point Opera House. It was a very good opening show for this cast of 24 young people and 2 adults. We need to iron out some microphone glitches and a few lines and some backstage business, plus introduce a little more “scenery changing” entertainment for the very-patient audience. But the cast did well and had a good time and the audience laughed and applauded and seemed to really enjoy it.

After one more technical rehearsal, we’ll tackle Friday and Saturday nights at 7 pm and do our final performance on Sunday, June 15, as a 2 pm matinee.

Paper storyThe historic Opera House on the square in Pilot Point, Texas, is turning out to be a wonderful venue and location for FFP. Our first production there was the Tuesday night December 2013 performance of Sam Shade. It went so well, they wanted us back.

The Girl I Left Behind Me is a classic prairie Western set in North Texas in the latter 1800s, so we just wrote the town of Pilot Point, the 1800s Opera House, the original 1800s bank and newspaper all into the play. They are all still operating, by the way!

And the Pilot Point Post-Signal has given us some great coverage! The story at left was featured while we were still in rehearsal (so costumes were not all there yet).

Of course we took a good bit of creative license with the very real history of the era, since this is a romantic musical comedy, and an often slapstick one at that!

Please see our public Facebook fan page for lots of pictures and news and comments regarding the play.

It’s Western Time! Ye-haw!

GirlLeftBehind _ Logo_TransWe start rehearsals today for the new and greatly improved and enlivened script of The Girl I Left Behind Me!

Some new characters, a longer script, more action, and some new songs. We have a great cast of 24 young people and one adult — a number of new faces in this crew. Lots of exciting potential. We’re anxious to pull the talent out of veterans and newcomers alike!

This is a crazy script! It was fun to write and I can’t wait to have a really good time bringing it to life. However, just beneath the giggles and the slap stick is a serious poignancy that celebrates the courage and faithfulness of those who came before us — the individuals and families who tamed the very land on which I now sit, typing this blog post. Those tamers of Texas can never get all the credit they truly deserve for what they faced, endured, and overcame. It begs the question — could we do the same again today? I’m not sure I’m up to that task.

The Searchers smallIt just so happened that, while I began to write this new version of the play, I was reading a new book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Frankel. Called The Searchers, the book examines, in a heartfelt and personal way, the history of the Parker family and the famous abduction of 9-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker in 1836, following the story into the 1900s.

Frankel then relates the career of Alan LeMay who, in the 1950s, saw his book of the same title made into the legendary movie by John Ford, starring John Wayne. Frankel then relives the making of that fascinating film.

Warning: the book by Frankel is not family friendly. Please note that it is a mature read, well researched and very well written. It is not sensationalized. It’s just that straightforward Texas history is not for the faint of stomach or the young soul. It’s very grown-up stuff.

Now our play is definitely family friendly! But here’s a magnificent quote from Frankel that I found, while reading after I wrote the script, that affirmed those thoughts one absorbs when growing up with “the Westerns.”  Writing about the groundbreaking and famous 1902 novel The Virginian (which I read when I was young, but not in 1902), and the genre of popular Western fiction, Frankel states:

Whatever the particular plotline, the Western was grounded in the enduring foundational myth that the American frontier was an untouched, pure new world, and a place to test one’s mettle and faith. The land was a metaphor for the mission: taming the savage wilderness, after all, meant taming one’s own soul.

As we have a fantastical fun time with the wild and wooly Girl I Left Behind Me, let’s stop and thank the ones who came before us! They are why we are here.

Sam Shade Fills the Pilot Point Opera House!

A Real “Step Up” for FFP!

Kitty Kindly last song all cast PP“Somethin’s Up,” sang the cast. They were up. They climbed the steps to look down from a nice, big stage with a real curtain! Wow! What fun!

Tuesday, December 17, at 7 pm, the 4-piece band cranked up and Sam Shade and The Case of the True Meaning of Christmas opened to a full house. The cast and the parents and FFP were all excited, the Opera House board was thrilled, the audience was lively and responsive, and everyone had a great time! Sam Shade was a hit in Pilot Point. What a way to end 2013 ~ a year with our second and third public productions, two great new venues, two big casts, our first matinee, and a new (as of September) Facebook fan page. Our four performances at Global Spheres Center also went very well!

“Want Us to Ice Someone, Boss?”

“Want us to ice someone, Boss?” yelled gangster Moe as he pulled out his little pistol and everyone’s hands flew up. That was funny, but the Big Boss really did “ice us” here in North Texas ~ very early in the year ~ with a major ice storm that lasted almost a week, cancelled several strategic opportunities for advertising the play, and wreaked havoc on our dress rehearsal schedule. Other area events were cancelled and delayed, which then pitted us against one another the next week. But we were grateful our performances weren’t iced out or “flued out” and that Sam Shade triumphed over numerous obstacles. We were blessed.

A New Face on Facebook

In September, we launched our new, business Facebook fan page. Click our FB microphone icon at the top of our website sidebar and see lots of pictures from Sam Shade. Click our “Follow” button and give us a Like! And subscribe to our website emails ~ they only arrive when there is genuine news, and emails are kept private. The new Facebook page is one reason there aren’t any blogs for December. Our new “toy” kept us busy. But we’ll be blogging again soon, so keep up with both!

Sam Shade ~ A Really Big Show!

Social Worker Kitty Kindly talks to orphans as Thelma Typefast and Sallie Socialite look on

Social Worker Kitty Kindly talks to orphans as Thelma Typefast and Sallie Socialite look on

Well, for FFP, anyway, it is indeed a big operation! With a cast of 31, eight musical numbers, the Broadway Wannabes play within a play, a four-piece band, two venues, five performances, and everyone’s busy schedules, it’s a tall order!

It’s Christmas Eve, 1933, and Sam Shade and the Case of the True Meaning of Christmas is taking its “jumpin’ jazzy caper” to the Pilot Point Opera House, and then to the Global Spheres Center in Corinth (Texas). This is the biggest, best Sam Shade yet, and the show’s public debut, smaller versions having been previously put on by several private homeschool and church groups. A longer script, more characters, more songs — Sam has really grown up!

Mario practices his "O Sole Mio"

Mario practices his “O Sole Mio”

This is FFP’s third public production and our first time in Pilot Point (TX). Everyone is excited about opening the show in the historic opera house! Not only does the cast get a “real stage” with a “real curtain,” they get to learn to ad lib when the train comes through town! Yes, the opera house just happens to be very close to the train tracks. This will be an interesting experience for these kids. (And their directors!)

But Sam is a snazzy, jazzy, show and we aim to have a whole lot of family-friendly fun with the cast and the audiences! So, grab your hats and coats, load up the kids and the grandparents, and the friends and the neighbors, and anyone who enjoys some good holiday entertainment, and come get in on the action! In both Corinth and Pilot Point!

Gangsters Moe & Joe

Gangsters Moe & Joe

We’ll all have a great time!

Meanwhile, keep up with our blog and visit our Facebook page for lots of pictures, interesting tidbits, and breaking news.

If you’re new to our site, scroll down the blog and see pics from our other productions. Visit the Sam Shade Show page, and reserve your Sam Shade tickets on the Tickets page.

And… go to the Home Page, click the Productions button, and find out how YOU can get in on the fun!

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 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!