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Theater goes on the road: FMCT founds N.D.'s only professional theater troupe

The Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre is hiring actors for the only professional touring company in North Dakota and the only theater in the state to employ actors full time.

The Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre is hiring actors for the only professional touring company in North Dakota and the only theater in the state to employ actors full time.

The five-member cast will join Northern Prairie Performing Arts in February and hit the road with two shows, "I Believe in Make-Believe," a musical based on Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and "Goodbye Marianne," Irene Watts' play about the plight of Jewish children in cusp-of-World-War II Germany, on March 13. Both shows are geared toward school audiences in the region.

"Fargo-Moorhead is a hub city, and it needs a professional company," says FMCT artistic director Charlene Hudgins. "I think this is really going to help the arts reputation of Fargo-Moorhead."

FMCT launched touring shows as part of its programming in 2001 with the play "Special Class." That tour performed 26 shows at churches and school auditoriums throughout eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota drawing more than 6,000 people, says Sherry Shadley, business development director for FMCT.

But the popularity of the shows with regional audiences clashed with the limited availability of volunteer actors. The new company will be able to stay on tour longer and venture farther, covering larger swaths of North and South Dakota, Minnesota and other states.

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Shadley says actors will be paid $375 to $400 dollars a week while rehearsing and touring, with food and lodging provided.

"The thought of actually being able to make a living as an actor is a dream most actors have but know might not happen," says Martha Olsen, Lake Agassiz Arts Council executive director and one-time theater major at North Dakota State University. "To be able to do that is such a gift."

Olsen says the launch of the company might help stem the outflow of area acting talent to the Minneapolis area and beyond.

Shadley said the group will likely expand to include additional members in 2007. It will be the only professional theater between Minneapolis and Missoula, Mont., she says.

The Northern Prairie Performing Arts company is funded with a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (awarded in 2004), and a $30,000 grant from the Bush Foundation (awarded in March). Shadley says she plans on writing more grant proposals and seeking corporate sponsorship.

Auditions for Northern Prairie Performing Arts will be held Dec. 3 by appointment only. To book an audition time or a show, call (701) 235-1901.

Forum Features Editor John Lamb

contributed to this report

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

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