Sam Shade

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!

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!


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!