Orphans “Star” in First Sam Shade Rehearsal

Kyle, Keaton, Lydia, Jackie, Hailey, Abby G., Taylor, and Riley get first look at script

Kyle, Keaton, Lydia, Jackie, Hailey, Abby G., Taylor, and Riley get first look at script

If Tommy Teletype had been there, he would have said, “Whoo–ee!” But it was an orphan-only first rehearsal for Sam Shade and The Case of the True Meaning of Christmas.

Our fabulous “gang of 8” got their first look at the script, went over all their songs, and generally had a good time getting to know each other. This is a cute, smart, talented group with some good singing voices and the ability to grab hold of a role quickly.

In the spirit of our recent blog post on “Success is a Good Thing” and the Unlimited book and movie, our orphan gang agreed that we should set the bar high and reach for the stars! We think they can do it!

"Joey" (Jackie) pretends to hold back "Flossie" (Lydia) as the other girls look on

“Joey” (Jackie) pretends to hold back “Flossie” (Lydia) as the other girls look on

They will be a pleasure to work with, and they will bring a lot of entertaining energy to this show! Actually, 6 of them were part of A Pirates’ Tale cast this summer.

Chip Conrad was on hand to help with rehearsal, and Abby Cranfill took some great pictures as these kids got their first introduction to FFP’s exclusive, all-original tale of Sam Shade, private eye.

Later today we have the whole-cast read through. Everyone finds out who they are!

The "Gang of 8" -- Blind Bart, Einstein, Nan, Millie, Joey (Josephine), Becky, and Sparkie

The “Gang of 8” — Blind Bart, Einstein, Nan, Millie, Joey (Josephine), Becky, Flossie, and Sparkie!

Look for more pictures as rehearsals roll along and this show comes together.

Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and keep up with both our FB posts and our Blog.

And mark your calendars for Sam Shade Christmas fun and entertainment in December!


Success is a Good Thing

FFP LogoYes, indeed, success is a good thing — because genuine success will improve the lives of others, inspire others, and benefit you and those who depend on you.

We want FFP to be successful. We want each production and each product to be successful. And we want every FFP cast member to be successful.

Now, how do we define and measure success? Many people will think first about money, because, without someone, somewhere, making a profit, no business and no family can survive. Someone has to make a profit to support “non-profits” — churches, ministries, services, and, yes, even the government. Profit is a good thing.

When we measure the success of one of our productions, we ask these questions:  Did we make a profit? (Enough to continue to exist!) Did we reach new people? Did we get positive feedback? Are cast members, and parents, and audiences pleased? Actually, in the relatively short time FFP has existed, we have been investing — in creative material and in people — with the intent that those investments will produce a profit in our publishing projects.

Happy Cast!

Happy Cast!

When we look at an individual cast member, we ask these questions: Did they enjoy themselves in a nourishing environment? Are they pleased with their performance? Are they more confident? Did they improve their communication and performing skills? Did they learn something “profitable” to them? Did they make any personal breakthroughs? When you see a shy young person suddenly (or gradually) become excited about theater, performing, and being creative, then those are dividends that feed the soul and inspire more creativity.

We call that success! Now, if we can manage to create a profit somewhere, we can continue to provide family-friendly opportunities for young performers, and produce new creative material that others can use and enjoy.

What inspired me to write about success? I read a book titled Unlimited by Christian writer Davis Bunn. (It’s fabulous!) It was written to accompany the movie Unlimited, soon to be released. It is all based on the true story of an extraordinarily successful man named Harold Finch. This man invented the “bar-b-que” roll for the Apollo space program that dispersed heat and cold around the capsule and allowed the astronauts to survive — and to reach the Moon! Tom Hanks mentioned it in the movie Apollo 13.

Harold went on to establish and then sell two very successful businesses and to travel the world, teaching his “keys to success” to tens of thousands of people — professionals, students, everyone. His success allowed him to establish his family’s Wellspring Foundation and sponsor a thousand missionaries, and inspire hopeless, cast-off orphans to achieve great personal success.

Unlimited book imageUnlimited takes place in one of those orphanages and one of the main characters is directly inspired by one of those “hopeless” orphans. The young leading man of the picture is from University of North Texas! The movie is already coming to Arlington, but we in the Denton region need to request that they bring it to Denton! Look up “UnlimitedtheMovie” and get a copy of Bunn’s book. You’ll be glad you did. Then you can get a copy of Harold Finch’s book and you’ll really be glad you did!

Here are a couple of quotes from Harold:

God has instilled in each of us a powerful reservoir of talent and ability — largely untapped forces ready to be unleashed to supernaturally energize His wondrous plans and purpose for our lives.


What my mind can conceive, believe and desire, I will achieve!

Of course, that’s in the context of the first quote!

Those are from The Three Keys that Open the Door to Great Success. I’ll be writing more about this soon, so stay tuned!

Recording Songs from A Pirates’ Tale

Singing and Waiting for Your Cue!

Singing and Waiting for Your Cue!

As a number of our singers have discovered, recording is a discipline unto itself! It is not easy. It definitely is not the same as performing on stage!

There is no audience and no cast interaction and so there’s a lot of energy missing. The recording talent have to create their own energy. Plus, they need to do their best to sing with the full expression of their character while staring at the right spot on the microphone. They can’t make noise with their music/word sheets which they need to hold because metal music stands bounce sound.

Jackie & Kelsey await their turn while Taylor solos

Jackie & Kelsey await their turn while Taylor solos

We have to select the smallest number of performers possible to do all the songs, due to limits of microphones and studio size. And, we have to select the ones who can best “perform on command” and hold up under the pressure.

We do a “live” style recording because we don’t have the luxury of an expensive, professional sound studio. However, it gives the recordings a livelier feel — we can all hear and see each other, singers and musicians — it can be even more difficult to record with headphones. So, appreciate those professionals!

It can be tiring and tedious and a little nerve racking. One mistake by anyone and it’s “oops, do it again.” “And again!” But our kids have truly risen to the occasion, through a number of sessions over the past year. With no training or experience, at their young ages, these kids have done an amazing job, smiling all the way. We have all been pleased and impressed at their willingness and their attitudes. And they’ve worked together and supported each other with a generosity of spirit.

Our good friend Doug Raney does an amazing job with the kids. If you ever need a great guitar teacher, give him a call!

Doug Raney educates about singing into the mic

Doug Raney educates about singing into the mic

Our pirate guys — Brandon, Ben, Zach, and Isaac — did their Pirate King song. All but Zach were new to the process, but they all did a great job. Emily and Bekah came in to do Dindercella and the Dread Pirate Roberta. Taylor, Jackie, Josh, and Kyle pretended to be 16 orphans, and our three “experienced pros,” Jillian, Aly, and Kelsey, came in to do their Where’s the Man Who Will Rescue Me song, plus sing leads and backup for a number of others.

We should have gotten pictures of the whole crew, but it’s easy to overlook when under the pressure of getting the recordings done in the time allowed. Sorry, guys! However, they all have good pictures on previous posts.

And, we’ll add those songs to the FFP site as soon as we can!

Pirates’ Tale Production a Roaring Success!

Call me Dindercella!

Call me Dindercella!

If Gunpowder Gertie could have set off the ship’s cannons to close the show, she would have! And if the whole cast could have come back on stage and repeated Saturday night’s performance, they were ready and willing to do so! It was just too much fun to stop.

Dread Pirate Roberta

Dread Pirate Roberta

However, we had to stow our gear, return our magnificent costumes, raise anchor, and set our sails for new adventures — a swinging, jazzy detective mystery for this Christmas season! Get ready for Sam Shade and all his crew! Stay tuned for details!

Somehow, all 41 (!) actors in this cast of A Pirates’ Tale — from ages 7 to 17 — got their heads and arms around their lines, the songs, the choreography, the staging, and each other, and pulled with all their might and landed a wonderful performance on stage all 3 nights.

Thursday started off great, but Friday and Saturday nights got even better and bolder as they truly started acting and reacting, working together, helping each other, recovering a dropped line, keeping the action moving, and having an obvious good time with their characters and the audience.

Confidence blossomed, and charisma followed!

I had to make myself take my eyes off the script and the music and just sit back and enjoy the show (when we weren’t playing for a song). It now genuinely belonged to the kids. “We got this!” their performances demonstrated, with flair.

As the writer, I always hate to see a good line dropped, but as the director, I thrill to see my actors take that “negative” opportunity to actually stay in character, think on their feet, help each other, and keep the script on track!

It’s also a treat to see an actor express their character or a line in an effective way that I never could have directed — I never would have thought of doing it that way, but they did! Now, they’re really acting!

Samantha Axe, Smee, and Fee take on Bob, the resident octopus

Samantha Axe, Smee, and Fee take on Bob, the resident octopus

A Pirates’ Tale was not originally written for 41 cast members — I’m not that crazy! But our unexpected blessing of such a large turnout at auditions became an opportunity to add what have become some grand new characters, two new fun songs, and a boat-bursting load of energy on stage.

It was quite a staging challenge, especially since the majority of the cast is on stage most of the show. It made for some tiring rehearsals, especially for the youngest, but this cast was outstanding in their patience and willingness to cooperate. Thanks, guys!

Speaking of thanks, the Global Spheres Center went graciously above and beyond to support our project. All of their help is greatly appreciated by cast, crew, parents, audiences, and FFP!

We also want to thank all of those who advertised in our program — the Music Academy & Performing Arts of Denton, Point Bank, Ray of Sunshine Sitting Service Registry of Denton, Turning Pointe Dance Studio, Dave’s Foreign Car Service (Dave’s a theater veteran!), Sky Guitars, Krum Friends of the Library, Maidpro, Amitea, Eagle Express Courier, Rose Costume, Excalibur Muffler & Automotive, and Old House BBQ.

We are especially grateful and pleased that many of our cast members are already lining up for the next production, and that a number of new people in our audiences or through our website have asked how to get into one of our productions.

Well, that’s easy! Just check our website, sign-up for our special email notifications, and keep up with our blog!

Kidnapped from the London Docks

Kidnapped from the London Docks


Kidnapped Teachers

Kidnapped Teachers


The Gentlemen Pirates

The Gentlemen Pirates


The Lady Pirates!

The Lady Pirates!


PT Whole Cast Bigger

A Pirates’ Tale Opening Night a Success!

Wow, what a cast!

Wow, what a cast!

Did I say before that we have 41 actors on stage, often all at the same time, in this production of A Pirates’ Tale?!!

The Gentlemen Pirates

The Gentlemen Pirates

Needless to say, it was a LOT for this director to wrap her head around in getting everyone and everything shipshape. Wow! Plus we had the largest and youngest group of kids we’ve ever worked with — 16 “poor and orphaned” kids kidnapped off the London docks, some of whom had stage experience, and some didn’t. And these kids had a lot of rapid-fire lines and were on stage almost the entire play. That’s a lot to ask of a bunch of youngsters from 8 to 11 (one is 7, only one is 12). It’s also a lot to ask of our young stage manager, Elaina, who had to line up all these “little varmints” for at least 3 entrances. I considered giving her a sword!

BUT, these little troopers hung in there and hunkered down and studied hard and pulled together and burst out like a real team on Thursday night. In fact, the energy level from everyone on opening night was such that our wonderful, incredible sound guy, Chip, was scrambling to turn down the mics! This was true for the entire cast, the older ones ranging from 12 to 17.

Clowning on Set

Clowning on Set

The really wonderful thing was to watch ALL of them help each other, cover for each other, improvise when things didn’t go quite right, and turn possible negatives into positives. They genuinely rose to the occasion! Now that warms a director’s heart, for sure!

So, through a very short month of not-that-many rehearsals, we toiled, and worried, and almost despaired, and pushed and drove and coached and encouraged — and they worked and studied and waited around and practiced and got tired and hungry and suffered info overload — and it finally, at the last minute (literally) all came together.

There was hope. Then, Thursday, there was success. They did a really good job, and had fun doing it. But the story isn’t over. Stay tuned!

Crazy Fun with Noah

Build an Ark ending

Starting Over Again

“Hey, Dad. What is rain?”

Starting Over Again is FFP’s fresh and funny perspective on an ancient and mind-boggling story — Noah and the Ark.

Major General Angel inspects new recruits

Major General Angel inspects new recruits

Here are some moments from the recent upper-grade drama class production for our homeschool co-op program. The kids had a great time and did a fantastic job. You can see that the costumes are not exactly “historically correct”! That’s all part of the fun.

A number of the songs in this musical are drum-driven, so we brought in our own “Vic the Stick” Cleaver with his electronic drum set to provide the upbeat rhythms we needed, plus some great sound effects. Added to our regular keyboard and guitar, we were cookin’! Live music is always the best way to go if you can do it! And most groups either have, or can find, willing musicians.

Look for Vic in the blog posts about our recording sessions for Sam Shade. And, if you’re in the Denton, Texas, region, look up Vic Cleaver for drum, piano, and guitar lessons. He’s a great teacher!Noahcast


Seasick?! We have enough to clean up already!

Seasick?! We have enough to clean up already!

Does Noah have both oars in the water?

Does Noah have both oars in the water?

No Mystery It Was a Fun Show!

RKClumpgroupTheRadioKidsFFP’s own Radio Kids revealed The Mystery of the Clump in the Night at our end-of-semester, homeschool co-op program and had a great time! And so did the audience!

A co-op of some 50 families draws a substantial audience, but there wasn’t any nervousness visible in this performance by our lower-grades drama class (elementary grades). The kids did a wonderful job, and they only get to rehearse once a week, for about 50 minutes, for only 10 weeks, with two quick dress rehearsals. Anyone who has ever put together a reasonably substantial show knows that’s insane. It is. But we do it anyway. And it works. The bar stays high, in spite of our limitations. And the kids reach for it!

RKClumpIntheMicA radio play is something of a “different animal.” It is a skill in itself. It requires the actor to hold a script and read from a script, always into a microphone, while acting for two audiences — the imaginary one, and the live one in front of them. And The Clump is a radio play within a play. It begins as a regular play, with no scripts, as the audience gets to know The Radio Kids as everyday kids who are local radio stars in 1940 America.

Our modern-day, cell-phone-using, television-watching, internet-using, elementary-school-level kids had to learn some things about American culture in 1940. It was fun! And they enlightened the audience with a little cultural literacy in an entertaining way. Nan may have her dad’s Popular Mechanics magazine with a story about the 1939 New York World’s Fair and the amazing new “telly-vision,” but, as Swell Sammy Sakowitz makes clear, “It’ll never replace radio!”

RKClumpBobAnother new challenge was the use of pantomime. The actors met the challenge of helping the audience (and themselves) “see” a bologna sandwich, a baseball bat, and “the clump”!

And, of course, with a radio play, you have to have sound effects (SFX)! Our SFX actor did an amazing job of playing 5 parts, as a Radio Kid who also played “Mom,” and as Bob the Bologna Man, and Bud the Baseball Slugger, while doing physical SFX with wood and pans and cans and other SFX with her voice into the microphone. She literally wore several hats (and coats).

RKClumpsingThis was the “world debut” of this brand-new play and it features two radio jingles (yes, we added one). It is perfect for elementary-school plays (public or private schools), but it could also easily be done by middle school, junior high, or senior high students. It would really be funny with adults dressing and acting as kids!

Did we find out what “the clump” is?! I think we have to wait for the next show!

Meet “The Radio Kids”!

TheRadioKidsIt’s 1940 and The Radio Kids of Station KTIQ (the smart place to be!) are ready to bring you a number of fun and funny radio plays! The plays are “slightly musical” in that the kids always sing their own radio jingle and sometimes sing jingles for their “sponsors” and occasionally a short song.

FFP’s newest script is ready to go live on the catalog, featuring The Radio Kids in something they really love to do — a mystery! It’s called The Mystery of the Clump in the Night! Stay tuned for more on that, soon!

Another play called A Day with the Bickersons will be ready for our catalog very soon — right after we finish getting all of the A Shakespearean Tale! materials ready to upload.

Doing a radio play is a great challenge for any actor, but especially for young actors. It’s not the same as memorizing lines and moving around the stage as they normally do. The actors actually have to act as they read, holding their script, turning the pages, and delivering their lines into the stand-up microphone while staying in character. They are acting for a “pretend audience” in front of a real audience — so they have to think on several levels. It requires a lot of directed energy.

You’ll find that some great little actors (and maybe some big ones) have serious problems reading from and following a script “on the spot.” They will take some extra attention. Many have learned to compensate with their memories, but they still need to learn to follow each page in some fashion. Figure out who these actors are right away and don’t let them get lost or discouraged. Support them from the onset and they will usually find a way to get the job done.

Radio plays are great fun, and also excellent opportunities to create some interesting and entertaining ways to enhance cultural and historical literacy for both the actors and the audience!

Recording Sam Shade Songs

We finally have all the Sam Shade songs “in the can”!

It has taken longer than we thought, and our battle to conquer our innovative delivery system (innovative for this industry!) has finally been won (we’re pretty sure). We have vocal tracks (for rehearsal, the “here’s how it goes” tracks) and instrumental accompaniment tracks for those who just aren’t able to muster their own musicians.

Recording with Doug is fun!

Recording with Doug is fun!

Here you see our wonderful sound engineer, Doug Raney, clowning  a bit with Zach and “the girls.” From left to right, you see Shannon furthest from the camera, then Aly and Sable. This particular session featured Zach as Sam Shade with Aly in her role as Sylvia Songbird, together singing “the blues” in their version of It Looks Like Christmas. Later, the girls recorded the full version of It Looks Like Christmas, in the roles of Thelma Typefast, Kitty Kindly, and Sallie Socialite.

Abby adds a track and Doug clowns!

Abby adds a track and Doug clowns!

Zach took on the role of gangster Bugsy Bigtime and helped the girls record the swinging Out on the Town Tonight. Next came the girls doing an entertaining job on Broadway Wannabes. Then the girls “lamented” the bluesy, jazzy That Man of Mine.

Our younger “Down Yonder Gang” managed to lay down We’re Orphans in one take! Then they made remarkably quick work of  Jesus is Christmas.

The grand finale is the upbeat The True Meaning of Christmas which brought all 7 girls together. With me on guitar and Susan Merritt on keyboard, poor Doug was outnumbered 9 to 1 in his little studio! But he just grinned and held up very well!

Vic the Stick makes it all swing!

Vic the Stick makes it all swing!

“Vic the Stick” Cleaver put the finishing touches on the recordings with a cool combo of his regular trap set and his electronic drums. Now we’re really bluesy and really swingin’!

Our good friend Victor Cleaver is a popular instructor of piano, guitar, drums, and percussion in the Denton, Texas, area. Find him at vcleaver (at) (use the “at” sign).

Doug Raney is a really cool guitar teacher, songwriter, and performer in the Denton area. Find him at

Now, to finally finish prepping the materials and get all three Sam Shades up and running!

Sam Shade Solves the Case!

Listen up, Bugsy Bigtime! Sam Shade does it again! He solves the Case of the True Meaning of Christmas!

Sam and orphans rehearse

It’s a jazzy, action-packed, laugh-loaded musical with a message, and a track record for pleasing both casts and audiences. It’s fun for the whole family. It’s a show that can be made as professional and grand and sophisticated as you have the resources to do so — or it can be scaled down for a class of youngsters.

Armed with his signature lollipops, our tough but charming detective led a cast of 30 for our own homeschool co-op drama classes, both upper and lower grades. Our 3rd through 6th graders played the “urchins,” while all other parts were played by our 7th through 12th graders.

The nice thing about this script is, if you happen to have two classes like that, you can actually work with them separately and then put the whole show together during the last extra rehearsals. It works. We’ve done it more than once.

Bugsy Bigtime and Sylvia Songbird

We did the “middle-level” version of the script (see the Catalog Page)  that features all 7 songs with a simpler story for a smaller Backstage Crew. If you produce either of the 7-song versions, you can easily schedule your cast in three sections during early rehearsals.

The “basic” version features 4 songs and is ideal for a younger cast (as opposed to high school or adult) and/or a smaller cast. The “full-blown” version is 7 songs with a true play within a play, involving more characters in the Backstage Crew (the Broadway Wannabes) and more interaction between the “front stage” and backstage.

Pesky gangsters Joe and Moe

The basic version is ready to go into the Catalog. We are working to schedule another recording session to finish the songs for the other two versions. Keep checking. We should have them ready for business in January.

Of course, we did ours with live music — keyboard, piano, guitar, and drums. Future plans are to have it scored for a full jazz band!