PHOTOS PROVIDED BY FMCT
FEATURE PHOTO BY PERRY RUST
As the longest running community theatre organization in the Red River Valley region, the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT) is the embodiment of community, offering a wide range of theatrical experiences and educational opportunities. Founded by and for the people with no use of capital funds, the inaugural members of FMCT were pioneers of theatre in the area.
In honor of their 70th anniversary season, we sat down with executive director Eloise Breikjern to reflect on FMCT’s history and preview the magic that will be created on and off the stage this season.
FMCT started in 1946 and, as I’ve read the history, there really wasn’t theatre in Fargo- Moorhead at that time. The colleges didn’t have it, the high schools didn’t have it. It was a group of people who really wanted to bring theatre to the community. So they joined together and created this non- profit, way back then,” said Breikjern.
Nestled in the trees of the Downtown Fargo park, The Stage at Island Park was a place for the volunteer performers to call their own, no longer having to shuffle their performances between a variety of places in the community.
“It wasn’t until around the 1960s that they decided, ‘Now we need a home.’ They worked with the Fargo Park District and were able to get this space. One gentleman on the board owned a construction company so he actually had his workers and other union workers come here and help build, free of charge. It was really put together by the community, a big community collaboration,” said Breikjern.
FMCT’s first show of this year’s 70th season was the Tony Award-winning origin story called “Peter and the Star Catcher.” Directed by Shannon Hill, the performance brought the magic of Neverland to life in the lesser known tale of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys.
FMCT’s most recent show to be performed on The Stage at Island Park was a play inspired by famous novel, “The Shining.” Adapted by Jason Levering and Aaron Sailors, the historic version captured audiences with intrigue and horror and engaged author Stephen King himself.
“We wanted to do ‘Misery’ originally but it was on Broadway so it wasn’t available to us. Our artistic director at that time sent an email to Stephen King. Within 20 minutes, he responded along with his agent and said, ‘Can we help these people out?'” said Breikjern.
Arguably his first big hit, “The Shining” was originally written by King in play format but was converted to a novel, stylized for the movie starring Jack Nicholson and finally reworked back to a play.
“In Omaha, they had just completed a first-time-ever play version of ‘The Shining’ as a fundraiser to save an old theatre, and then we were able to get it from that point. So you may never see it again. It depends on what the company and Stephen King wants to do with it moving forward,” said Breikjern.
A Winter Wonderland
Harnessing the soul of the holiday season, FMCT’s next production will be Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas The Musical.” Following the journey of two famous producers who fall in love with a sister act and come together to save a Vermont Inn, this family Christmas classic directed by Daniel Damico will surely warm the hearts of every audience member.
Q: What should the audience expect?
A: “If people are familiar with the movie, it pretty closely follows that. When you’re going to do a production like this, you have to contact the theatrical rental agent. It took us awhile to be able to get this. They put very close restrictions on how you do your logo, design, everything. So they’re very strict with it, in fact, after we got permission to do it, just a month or two later, they took it off the market so no one else could get it.”
Q: Do you have any idea what the set or costumes will look like?
A: “I do, but I don’t want to give it away too much. That’s what we’re working on right now. We have a scenic designer that will be coming in from out of town, and she has done some mock-ups of that. A scenic designer will provide you with drawings and sometimes a model of what the set looks like and, from that, she’ll take an even closer look at the stage that we’ll start building. We can see a picture of her visualization of it, but it always changes a little bit.”
Q: Can you talk a little more about the choreography that will be in the show?
A: “Well, this show is from the 1940s so there’s tap, which is quick and fast- paced. You think of the old movies, that’s what you’ll be seeing. The others are the big orchestrations of music where men and women are dancing, that type of thing. Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney were in the original, so that type of look and effect is what we’re going for. This particular musical was done very close to the end of World War II and there is a salute to our military within the show.”
Honing Their Skills
In addition to the five main stage and two studio series performances put on by FMCT this season, the community organization continues its dedication to providing educational theatre programs offering Theatre for Young Audiences, Education Programming K-Adult and FMCT ED.
“During the year, we do what is called Theatre for Young Audiences,” said Breikjern. “We have college students from Minnesota State University Moorhead come in. They’re the actors in the show, and then we invite area schools. Fargo Public Schools invites every kindergarten and second-grade class in the district and some outlying schools that come in to see this. We’re also doing public performances this year.
“We do a senior program in the spring, and then the entire summer we are working with children’s shows. Kindergarten through third is one program, junior high is another that we collaborate with Moorhead Community Education on, and then we collaborate with Trollwood Performing Arts for high school.”
FMCT ED is a program offering acting classes for students in the fall and winter semester. Five classes total all occurring on Saturdays are available for children from five years old to eighth grade.
“When they step on to a community theatre stage, they’re honing their skills, they’re learning. We invite everybody in, even if they’ve never acted before, you never know what your ability might be. Same thing with technical work. If you want to come in and help build or learn lighting or sound, come join us, the door is always open,” said Breikjern.
70th Anniversary Season Upcoming Shows
Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas the Musical”
December 9 – 11, 16 – 18
“Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz
January 27 – 29 and February 2 – 4, 2017
“Billy Elliot the Musical,” book and lyrics by Lee Hall
May 5 – 7 and 11 – 14, 2017
Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo
August 3 – 5, 2017
“Almost Maine” by John Cariani
April 6 – 8, 2017
Theatre for Young Audiences
“Frog and Toad” – Directed by Kody C. Jones
February 11 and 8, 2017 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Education Programming K-Adult
“Rocking to the Oldies a Musical Revue” – May 18 – 21, 2017
“The Aristocats Kids” – June 2017 “Legally Blonde The Musical Jr.” – June 2017
Fall Classes: September 24 – October 22
Winter Classes: January 28 – March 4
For More Information:
The Stage at Island Park
333 4th St. S, Fargo