FARGO-"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" isn't the first play directed by Adam Pankow, but it's a significant step for the artist.

The comedy, which opens Friday night at the Stage at Island Park, is the first play Pankow has helmed since taking over as artistic director at the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre in September. It offers the public its first chance to see an example of what the 37-year-old can bring to the 72-year-old organization.

"I look forward to showing my aesthetic panache to a different crowd," he says. His style will be on display in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" as "a quick, fast-moving show".

He has plenty of experience leading successful productions. For the past decade he has been a fixture in West Fargo high schools, teaching English and theater.

While he liked the energy that surrounded high school performances, he likes working with a more varied cast and crew.

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"It's neat to direct diverse ages and backgrounds of people," he says. "That's the best part of community theater, we're on stage creating something together."

Related contentHe inherited this season's lineup, but got to have a say in next season's titles, calling the programming "a thoughtful mix of classics and contemporary works".

Things start in the summer with the musical "Xanadu," followed by "Disney's Mary Poppins" in September, which will show off how the theater can function as a space, Pankow explains.

The mood switches from family fun to social justice for "The Laramie Project" in early October. The drama marks the 20th anniversary of the brutal murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.

For the Halloween season FMCT will stage a (radio) play-inside-a-play with "War of the Worlds".

Following that will be a a holiday production of "A Christmas Story".

After a New Year's break, the troupe will produce "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" in February. The story follows a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, or high-functioning autism.

"We've had a recent request to diversify our performances," Pankow says."What we present onstage reflects what's happening in our community."

Next March FMCT will stage the children's comedy "Miss Electricity" and the stage adaptation of the popular book, "Tuesdays with Morrie".

An as-yet-unannounced musical in May 2019 will close out the season.

Over the last several years we have been building programming," says Eloise Breikjern, executive director of the FMCT. "One of the things we liked about Adam, as a well as the high quality of the work, is that he knows the community. We know he's going to bring us to that higher level of quality we've been looking for."

Pankow says his influence should spread even beyond the stage, as he seeks to bring in different events and educational opportunities.

"How can we serve our community in a greater way," he asks. "One of the perspectives I can bring to this job as an educator is that there's no wrong answer. We learn from our mistakes. We'll make mistakes, but we'll also make bold choices and see what sticks to the wall."

If You Go

What: "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with performances next week as well.

Where: The Stage at Island Park, 333 4th St. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $15 for students and seniors and $20 for adults. www.fmct.org, (701) 235-1901.