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Live From Fargo-Moorhead: FM Community Theatre

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT) Executive Director Eloise Breikjern and Artistic Director Adam Pankow tell us about the 72-year-old organization that gives opportunities to anyone who wants to participate in a theatre experience.

Upcoming events

Calendar Girls
March 16-18 & 23-25 at 7:30 p.m.
What happens when eight strong women put their heads together to raise money for a local hospital cancer wing after the death of a loved one? They make a blush-inducing calendar, of course. Calendar Girls is a heart-warming comedy that tackles the topic of grief while celebrating the tenacity, creativity and sass of the female bond.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
April 20-21 & 26-28 at 7:30 p.m.
April 22 & 29 at 2 p.m.
This 11-time Tony Award nominee is a hilarious battle of cons that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing all the way to the French Rivera. Based on the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, this high-energy musical caper is a local premiere.

Disney’s Mary Poppins

  • The Laramie Project
  • A Christmas Story
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Tuesdays with Morrie

Q&A

How did the FMCT come to be?
Eloise Breikjern & Adam Pankow: FMCT was created in 1946 by a group of community members who wanted live theatre available to the larger community — outside of high school or college productions. FMCT productions were held in the Fargo Arena, a church, school auditoriums, the Fargo auditorium, service clubs and Red River Playhouse, a former vaudeville theatre. In 1967, a building was erected in Island Park as a permanent home for FMCT. Over the years, the building has increased its footprint. The latest renovation was the front pavilion, which was built with donations from the Burgum family.

How do you choose the shows you produce during your seasons?
EB & AP: There is no magic formula in choosing a season. Ultimately, there is a want to schedule a mix of shows that draw a variety of volunteers and patrons to our theatre. The lineup will likely include tried-and-true plays and musicals that are familiar to many, but also new up-and-coming titles that are just now available for amateur groups like high schools, colleges and community groups to produce.

In what ways can people get involved — on stage or off?
EB & AP: Auditions are open to all community members on a volunteer basis. We have individuals audition who have never been on the stage or have not acted since high school. Some of the actors are theatre majors and have extensive experience. They are all welcomed and we’re thrilled when they can take one of the roles.

Technicians are an integral part of the production process as well and always seem to be in short supply. For individuals interested in working behind the scenes, we can train them on how to run the light or soundboard, shift scenery, help with costumes, hair and makeup or how they can serve as a stage manager. Assistance building sets or constructing costumes is also an ongoing need leading up to performances. For those interested, we offer front of house volunteer opportunities, such as selling concessions, ushering and much more.

How do live entertainment options affect a community and the culture?
EB & AP: Theatre is a shared, reciprocal experience — actors will feed off the audience and the audience feeds off each other. There is an energy inherent in a live theatre performance that is distinct from other entertainment mediums. For example, unlike film, if you come to see a show twice, it will be different each time. Because theatre often reflects the human condition, it can evoke a wide array of responses from individuals or from the larger group. Theatre is very personal in that way. It can make you laugh or cry, but theatre always makes you think.

What about FMCT specifically adds to the culture of Fargo-Moorhead? What’s unique about it?
EB & AP: FMCT has been serving the community for 72 years and that is amazing, as most community theatres do not have this long of a lifespan. This theatre holds great memories for many people; it has grown with the community and we are the only theatre that actively provides opportunities for all community members. Through our performances and educational programming, FMCT strives to be an all-inclusive place that champions art, the artist and the artistic experience.

Is there a story you’d like to share about its impact in the community?
EB & AP: It’s our belief that theatre should be available to everyone. Our sensory-friendly performance in February was an example of FMCT following its mission. We brought up the lighting in the audience, we removed any loud or jarring sounds from the production, created a quiet space for children who needed to take a break and we did not judge if the special needs individual had to move about during the show. Families with special needs children were thrilled that this production was held. FMCT plans to do more sensory-friendly shows in the future.

FARGO-MOORHEAD COMMUNITY THEATRE
FMCT.org
333 4th St. S, Fargo

Written by Kara Jeffers

Fargo Monthly Editor Kara Jeffers is from Garrison, North Dakota, a small town north of Bismarck, North Dakota, on Lake Sakakawea. She graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in theatre arts. In addition to working at Spotlight Media, Jeffers also works at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center, where she’s one of the first people (and, at times, the only person) visitors meet when they arrive in North Dakota—talk about pressure.

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