Scenery

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!