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  1. Love Those British Boys

    January 6, 2013 by Leah Baker

    What American doesn’t love listening to a British accent? How about a couple of seven year-old boys who can sing with one? Irresistible!

    Aaron the Artful Dodger and Charlie as Oliver in The New Year’s Review.

    When Aaron received the news at the first cast meeting for the New Year’s Review that he would be singing “Consider Yourself,” from the musical Oliver, he had no idea how fun it would be. He was assigned the role of the Artful Dodger. Never having seen the musical or movie he didn’t know what this character was all about. When I explained that he was a very gifted pickpocket, he was overjoyed. “Woo hoo! I can totally see myself as a pickpocket!” he said. The funny thing is I could kind of see it too. (In another life, of course).

    We looked up the song on the ever-helpful YouTube and watched a few different versions, but mostly the 1968 movie production of the musical. Of course it is set in Britain and all of the characters have a British accent, and therefore sing with a British accent. So what does Aaron do? Start singing it with a British accent. And he couldn’t stop! I asked him to try singing it with normal American pronunciations. “Mom, I just can’t help it. I can’t sing it any other way!”

    When it came time for his first rehearsal, I said to the director, Bryce Hendrickson, “He can’t stop singing it British!” Bryce didn’t miss a beat, and said, “That’s OK, we’ll go with it!” And then he fine-tuned it by making sure he had all the correct cockney-style inflections. As it turned out, Aaron’s singing partner, Charlie, playing the role of Oliver had been singing in a British accent as well. With dance moves to boot, together they are an adorable dynamic British duo who have been melting audience members’ hearts all weekend!

    Today is the last chance for viewing this limey pair. Can’t wait! But, ‘oo knows where else a cockney accent will come in ‘andy?


  2. Didn’t Miss Christmas for New Year’s Revue

    January 3, 2013 by Leah Baker

    All actors are eager to work, but every thespian has their limits. My son, Aaron, had his first big role in a children’s theater production of Humpty Dumpty Is Missing. He played the character Little Billy from Three Billy Goats Gruff which included a show-stealing rendition of the 80’s dance move “the running man.” A demonstration on how he “trip-trapped” across the bridge in the famous story book tale. My daughter, Tessa, was Little Bo Peep in the play too and they had a fantastic experience.

    The only drawback was that the opening performance was on Halloween night. When Aaron learned this he was none too pleased. With call time an hour before the show it didn’t leave much time for trick-or-treating.  They were able to take part in their parties at school and with a few early candy stops at the neighbors he was at least pacified before the performance. The director made it fun for the kids too. They each made their own Halloween bag and dressed in costumes after the show for a pizza party. In the end he said it was the “best Halloween ever!”

    Early trick-or-treating on Halloween. Elvis, Taylor Swift and Flo from Progressive!

    By the time the Humpty Dumpty run was complete both kids were begging to audition for the next performance opportunity. The day the show ended there were auditions for the New Year’s Musical Review, a show for all ages showcasing several Broadway songs in solos and group numbers. I was reluctant to jump into another show right away, but it had been such a positive, confidence-building experience I had to relent. But, when Aaron heard that there would be practice over the Christmas break it gave him pause. He pulled me aside and said, “Wait – when is this show? I am NOT missing Christmas!” No matter how much he wanted to be in the show, missing Christmas was his line in the sand.

    Lucky he didn’t have to make that choice. The New Year’s Musical Review runs this weekend at the FMCT. Show times are Jan. 4 & 5 at 7 :30 p.m. and Jan. 5 & 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets and more information can be found at:

    More than 50 area voices will sing over 30 Broadway songs. Along with some group numbers, Tessa will be singing a song from The Secret Garden and Aaron is playing the Artful Dodger from Oliver in the song “Consider Yourself.”


  3. Humpty Dumpty Puts The Pieces Together

    November 1, 2012 by Leah Baker

    Little Bo Peep & Little Billy Goat Gruff

    In the well known children’s nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, the larger-than-life egg is the unfortunate victim of a fatal accident. But, was it an accident? And was it fatal? The Fargo Moorhead Community Theater Children’s Production of Humpty Dumpty Is Missing begs to answer these questions. Directed by Bryce Henrickson, this talented cast of performers bring to life many story book characters who are suspects in the alleged crime. The scene is set as an old-time detective story – think, a kid’s version of Mickey Spillane’s seasoned detective character, Mike Hammer. In Humpty Dumpty Is Missing’s case the detective is “Sammy Scoop.” And the word play doesn’t end there! Filled with quick-witted, snappy dialogue it is surprising treat for adults and kids alike.

    After participating in “Annie, Jr.” last spring, my daughter Tessa was dying for a chance to audition for the FMCT stage again. Humpty was the next opportunity that worked for us. This time my son Aaron announced that he was auditioning too. They had a wonderful time at auditions and wouldn’t you know it, they both got parts. Making his big stage debut, Aaron received the role of Little Billy (a.k.a. Billy Goat Gruff). He provides a very comedic performance with the troll who lives under the bridge! Tessa is playing the part of Little Bo Peep, who needs the detectives services to locate her missing sheep.

    It has been another great experience with the FMCT’s very talented directors, staff and performers. Through this theater experience they’ve gotten a chance make new friends from many different schools and gain encouragement and support from the “older” actors. The entire production is made up of kids from ages 7-16.

    If you want to reminisce about nursery rhymes from youth, introduce your kids to these characters or just be entertained. Go see Humpty Dumpty Is Missing at the FMCT. You will laugh! I guarantee it. Performances are Oct. 31 – Nov.3 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. For ticket sales and additional information check out

  4. Biggest Fans

    February 17, 2012 by Leah Baker

    Putting on a show before a live audience is a thrill for any performer. But, to look out in that sea of faces and find someone familiar gives it an extra punch. It means so much to these young actors and actresses to feel the support of family, friends and mentors. After the first few scenes you might hear an excited proclamation back stage, “I saw my choir teacher in the front row!” It puts an extra zing in the step to be sure.

    We are very appreciative to have had several family members and friends attend the Annie Jr. production at the FMCT. But yesterday was a special day for my daughter Tessa when almost the entire audience was made up of the student body from her elementary school, including the whole 3rd grade and it’s teachers. Annie Jr. was scheduled to perform seven matinees for schools throughout the 14 show run. It was happenstance that Tessa’s school had already signed up to see the show before she had even auditioned. We didn’t know how lucky it was until we learned that all the school matinees were sold out before rehearsals began in December!

    Tessa, Mrs. Parker and some of her 3rd grade classmates after the school attended a matinee performance.

    At this particular matinee she could look in any direction and see someone she knew. I snapped pictures after the show with her teacher and some classmates. Even though there wasn’t a meet and greet with the cast we were in the right place to see her schoolmates as they filed out. She got hugs from teachers and so many nice words from fellow students:

    “Great job Tessa!”

    “You were awesome!”

    “I saw you the whole time!”

    “Tessa you rocked it!”

    It was surprising, humbling and elevating. She commented, “Mom, even 4th graders were saying stuff to me!” Tessa was feeling the love, and was so proud to have them all there. I couldn’t help thinking what a nice bunch of kids. I was proud of her and the school kids too. Her whole class was so supportive during the audition process, really pulling for her. They were curious and complimentary during rehearsal time, and excited to finally see the show.

    She will have missed four days of school in order to make all the matinee performances during the week. We can’t thank her teacher enough for being organized and making sure she had the opportunity to do all her make-up work ahead of time! (Mrs. Parker – thank you! A relief to not have a week’s worth of homework hanging over our heads!)

    Today she brought home some notes friends had written to her before they saw the show and after. They are so darn cute it must be put into print:

    “Good luck on your play!!! You aren’t the star of the show but you’re the most exciting part for me! P.S. If I were the casting director I would so pick you for ANNIE over anyone. You are the best actor I’ve ever seen, under 10th grade of course (actually the best). Also, you will do great!! Be the theatrical Tessa I know! Love, your biggest fan”

    Before: “Good luck Tessa. I hope you remembered your lines. You’ll do great and I will be cheering you on. P.S. Don’t disappoint me! Just kidding! I’m your biggest fan.”

    After: “Great job Tessa! You did great. You should be on a show called ‘How to Act.’ You must have worked really hard and you didn’t disappoint me. I can’t wait to see you in another play. P.S. You are a star!”

    What great friends! As a performer it just feels good to know that there is someone (or many someones) sitting out there in that audience who already think you’re a star. I know she feels the same way about them too!

    Thanks to all our family, friends and community for the support!

  5. Performances packed! Opening weekend draws full house

    February 14, 2012 by Leah Baker

    "Never fully dressed without a smile!" Orphans Jaylen, Tessa & Brooke

    The opening weekend of Annie Jr. at the FMCT can only be considered a success. The cast of kids sang and danced their hearts out for sold out crowds. We had a big group of family who traveled to take in an evening performance. And they agreed a ticket to this show is well worth it! From Annie’s melodic version of the melancholy ballad, “Maybe,” and the spunky, down-trodden orphan chorus of “Hard-Knock Life,” to the saucy “Easy Street” number performed by Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily St. Regis, there is not a single number that disappoints. The entire cast is involved in a musical scene with a catchy song called “NYC,” that’s not included in the 1982 movie version, but I have not been able to get it out of my head since my daughter started rehearsals!

    Tessa was feeling the love with many family members taking in an opening weekend show!

    I witnessed several audience members, young and old, singing along with the upbeat number “Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and the classic, “Tomorrow.” All of this and I haven’t event mentioned the dancing! The choreography for this production is outstanding and pretty polished too. You forget that most of the cast is under age 12 and there is no one over 18. There is a ton of young talent packed into this musical! It is entertaining and uplifting. There’s only one more weekend available for a chance to see the show and many of those performances are close to selling out!

    The remaining performances are 7: 30 p.m.,  Thurs., Feb. 16 – Sat., Feb. 18 & 2 p.m., Sun. Feb. 19. Tickets available at

  6. Dressing Room Adventures: Back of House at Annie Jr.

    February 9, 2012 by Leah Baker

    At the back of the house on the Annie Jr. set it’s: hot rollers, hairspray, braids, pig tails, nylons, shoelaces, hats. Eyeliner, blush, lipstick and microphone tape — these have been my surroundings for the past few nights as I’ve volunteered on the tech crew, back of the house in the dressing room. For anyone not familiar with theater terms, back of the house is any activities that happen backstage, that the audience doesn’t see. Front of the house would be ushers, ticket takers, concessions and the like.

    The adults in the dressing room assist the actors in and out of costumes, perfect hairstyles and apply make up. (I’ve become sort of the eyeliner and lipstick specialist.) And I can say it’s a good thing orphans don’t need any complicated hairstyles. If it looks a little messy, all the better!

    With 31 girls in the dressing room things can get a little tight and a little crazy at the quick changes. Clothes end up in wild piles or places and amazingly somehow, someone is always missing something at the end of the night. It is interesting to see the differences in how the girls operate. They all dress in different gears, beginning in low all the way up to cruise. I’m happy to report my own daughter is a phantom changer. I see her come in and the next time I turn around she is gone, and all her clothes are hanging up. This is not what her room looks like at home, but I’m glad that at the end of the night on the set, she has never been missing her pants! (Yes – it has happened.)

    Tonight is preview night for family. Hair and makeup for an hour or so and then a seat in the audience for me. Can’t wait to see it come to life! (I’m especially going to be checking out all the eyeliner and lipstick!)

    Opening night on Friday, Feb. 10. Very few tickets left for opening weekend! Get yours at



  7. No More Sneak Peeks: Annie Jr.

    February 6, 2012 by Leah Baker

    Annie Jr. at the FMCT opens this weekend! (Get your tickets at As of last week rehearsals have been “closed sessions,” which means no one is allowed in the theater except the actors and directors. I have enjoyed coming a bit early to pick up Tessa from practices and watching them work on the musical numbers. It is really something to see things come together. But, the directors would like to have an “HGTV reveal” for parents and not have them know everything that is going on with the production. Director Scott Brusven says it is a “magical moment” to see it for the first time. And I believe this is probably true. We sneak-peekers haven’t seen anything finalized, nor any of the costumes. So, it will be magical to all see the kids transformed into orphans, servants and New Yorkers from the 1920/30’s. And unless they closed the set we would probably still be taking it in a little at a time, lessening the chance for magic. Magical moments are sometimes few and far between in this life. I guess we should appreciate the directors for forcing us to stay away and adding some mystery to the experience.

    Until then we’ll be hearing the strains of “Hard-Knock Life,” and “Tomorrow” from the hallway, maybe catching a glimpse of an actor crossing the stage through the crack in the double doors (I won’t admit to this, but I’ll admit I’m not the only one!) But, mostly we’ll be anticipating the magic!

    Annie Jr. opening night, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10 at the FMCT in Fargo, ND.

  8. Rehearsal Is No Chore

    January 19, 2012 by Leah Baker

    Orphans, millionaires, hoodlums, and the many other characters of New York in the 1920’s have been hard at work in rehearsals bringing the musical, Annie Jr., to life at the FMCT. The show opens Friday, Feb. 10 and the cast of kids, all 18 and under, are well on their way to pulling things together.

    It started with an “Annie Boot Camp” from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. over one day, during the last week in December. They got a crash course on the show music and did some blocking for scenes that included the entire cast. Since then practices have been scheduled for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. In these beginning days the practices are broken down into specific scenes or musical numbers and cast members need only to attend when it pertains to them. For Tessa and the orphans this has mostly been Sunday and Thursday evenings, which has worked out great for scheduling with her other after-school activities: basketball, dance and music.

    As we lead up to the show it will get a little busier, but Tessa certainly doesn’t mind. I’ll say, “How was rehearsal?” She quips back,  “It was so much fun I can’t even describe how much fun it was!” I guess pretending to scrub the floors and windows is way better than actually doing it! At pick-up time Aaron and I have gotten a sneak peek at a few of the numbers. It looks like everyone else is having fun too. I can’t wait to see the final product.

    Tickets are on sale now!

    Annie Jr. performances:   Feb. 10-11 & Feb. 16-18 at 7:30 p.m.,  Feb. 12 & 19 at 2 p.m.

    Ticket prices are $14 for adults, $10 for over 65 & students over 13, $6 for 12 & under.

    Click here for more information on the FMCT and to purchase your tickets online:

    See you at the show!

  9. Christmas Tunes Delight, Annoy

    December 25, 2011 by Leah Baker

    Christmas. This single day of the year is the only holiday to spawn an entire music genre. It is big business. Almost every major recording artist has taken to releasing a Christmas inspired tune, if not their own album (or two or three). I have to admit that I love it! The day after Thanksgiving I am the first one to turn the knob to that “all-Christmas” radio station, looking forward to hearing a whole month’s worth of auditory bliss. I love almost any of the holiday inspired tunes and have no problem listening to them over and over again. I could listen to back to back versions of “Santa Baby” or “O Holy Night” any day and keep right on singing along.

    There is however, one song unfortunately lumped into this class which continues to beguile me. “Last Christmas,” written by George Michael and released by Wham! in 1984, has been a widely successful “Christmas” song, reaching numbers high on the billboard charts in many different countries and by now recorded and released by almost 100 different artists.

    It is a well known fact around my household of my dislike for this seasonal diddy, and my children love to get my goat, at any time of the year, by merely humming the first few bars.  This year the song has been particulary present, with the original Wham! version, the cast of Glee and Taylor Swift recordings in regular rotation. Much to my dismay, it was even on my new The Blenders Christmas CD. It follows me from the house to the car, into the store, and back out again.

    There are some minor lyrical details that bug me, but my major problem with this song is that it is not about Christmas. It merely mentions that Christmas is the unfortunate time of year that a certain relationship falls apart. Nothing Christmasy about that. So, to me it feels like a regular wistful pop song about love gone wrong. But, old George thought of setting it at Christmastime. This idea just so happens to capitalize on the holiday market a little (or a lot)!

    This might sound a tad “Bah-humbug!” But, the reason I’m writing is to say that I’ve turned a corner. I’ve decided that I shouldn’t be a hater at Christmastime (even if the song that I’m hating isn’t even about Christmas). Since I can’t get away from it, I’ve been trying to hum along and even sing a few words of the chorus. My kids have noticed, “What…? Mom, you’re singing it!”

    I figure maybe it will grow on me,  like fungus, mold or a helpful bacteria. I might not like it, but in the Christmas spirit, I will at least learn to live with it!

    Does anyone care to share their most favorite and least favorite Christmas tunes?

  10. Make Room In The Orphanage

    December 17, 2011 by Leah Baker

    It’s a long way from the 1930’s, but we do have an orphan in the house! Hooray! The cast list has been posted and the roles for the FMCT’s 2012 production of Annie Jr. have been decided. On Wednesday night Tessa was privileged to join seven other girls in the callback session for the role of Annie. They ran through a few lines of the ballad, “Maybe,” as a group. Director Scott Brusven gave them a few tips and then they each had to sing it on their own. It was a closed audition, but out in the hallway where parents waited, voices were sometimes audible and you could make out some beautiful voices behind the doors. When Tessa came out she admitted she was in some very good company.

    Tessa and Brooke strike a pose before callback auditions.

    All eight girls were asked to stay for the next round of callbacks, which was for the orphans. They joined 22 other girls in learning a few bars of the rousing, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.” Tessa was really excited for this session since it included a friend of hers, Brooke, who had also auditioned. They practiced several times and were asked to sing in varying groups. Parents hung out in the hallway while their daughters were singing away in the next room. Some of the parents might even have been more nervous than their daughters. Before he closed the door, Brusven gave a final glance back at the anxiously awaiting moms and dads and said, “Don’t worry. Just relax, they’ll do just fine!” I will admit it is a little nerve-wracking not being able to see and hear what’s going on and just hoping it’s going well. Tessa and Brooke both came out and said they had a great time! We weren’t out the door and she was already wishing for it to be the next day so she could know the results. I assured her that she had fun, did her best and that was all she could do. But, still waiting is agony!

    The cast list was up by Noon the next day. I knew Annie would be a long shot. We were just really proud that she had even made the callbacks. There were 120 kids who auditioned and only 40 were cast. She was one of the lucky ones to be named an orphan! Adding to the excitement, her friend Brooke was listed as an orphan too. I’m sure by the end of the production they’ll have many new orphan friends. Tessa had already begun making making acquaintances during auditions, and said everyone was really nice. It seemed too that she agreed with the director and had already pegged the girl who earned the role of Annie. “I knew she was going to get it! She’ll be great.”

    Tessa was a tad disappointed at first, not to have gotten “an orphan with a name,” but quickly got over it as she realized what an honor it was to have earned a part out of the many talented children who auditioned. I told her I couldn’t wait to see her up on the stage. She grinned and said, “I can’t wait to be on it!” I know she’ll have a great experience being an orphan. There will be many rounds of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” sung around the house as we gear up for the show. Hhmmm, now, if only I could get her to scrub the floors….

  11. Why Not Annie?

    December 13, 2011 by Leah Baker

    Director Scott Brusven must be channeling a bit of Miss Hannigan right about now. “Little girls, little girls, everywhere I turn I can see them….” The only difference is, instead of Miss Hannigan trying to get rid of them, he’ll be deciding which ones to keep. The Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT) held auditions earlier this week for a February production of Annie Jr.

    Annie Jr. is a cast made up of actors all under the age of 18. On Sunday night alone there were approximately 75 kids who showed up, (mostly girls) and my daughter Tessa was one of them! The buzz was that they were expecting around 200 kids to vy for roles. Tessa had been looking forward to the chance to audition for this musical since we saw it on the schedule last summer. I was looking forward to it too. She’s been in some musicals already, and there will be many more opportunities. But for a little girl, there is really nothing like Annie. The idea of being able to play the spunky, curly, red-headed, rags-to-riches orphan or one of her rough and tumble cohorts is irresistible! The classic tunes and the punchy dialogue are beloved by many.

    I have to admit that around fourth grade I myself once auditioned for a production of Annie. I didn’t end up getting a role (my mom swears it was because of some small-town politics). But, I remember the masses of girls who showed up with the same hopes that I saw the other night. And even though I didn’t end up being cast at that time, it was a great experience and it fueled a little fire in me to go on and participate in many other productions.  So this was the hope that I had for Tessa. I wanted her to be able to audition for a larger production and have a positive experience.

    When I first mentioned last summer the opportunity of auditioning for Annie she asked if I thought she had a chance of getting a part. I replied that I thought she had a good chance for one of the orphans. And she said to me incredulously, “Why not Annie?” Well — why not, I thought? If she has the confidence and courage to shoot for the moon, why should I hold her back. So I said, “Well, I don’t know what age they’re looking for but, sure why not, of course you could have a chance at the part of Annie. You go for any part you want and the directors will decide who is the right fit.”

    With that kind of goal in mind I was a little worried about how it would be if she didn’t get a part or was only offered a small part. So on the way to the auditions I tried to prep her a bit. I asked if she would still want a part, if she got one of the extra roles? With the best attitude I could’ve hoped for she said, “Of course, any part is better than no part!” I was relieved for that response. Especially when I saw all the girls at the audition. I can’t imagine trying to weed through all that talent!

    It was a closed audition. They took in 10 kids at a time and they each performed around 16 bars of music for four people including the director, choreographer, music director and assistant director. So in this way I had no idea how she did, or really anything to compare her to. However, Tessa came out and told me it went great. “I nailed it,” were her words. Unshakable confidence, I tell you. Where does it come from? I don’t know, but that kind of brass is definitely what you would need to live the “hard-knock life.”

    I was constantly checking the website this morning waiting for the callback list to be posted. Promptly before Noon it popped up and lo and behold Tessa’s name was on it! I was so thrilled and couldn’t wait to tell her. There were three callback times and she has the first time with the smallest group of girls. Looks like a good sign, but I am not going to jinx anything here. We are so proud of her for doing her best and making the callbacks. I would love for her to have the experience of an Annie Jr. production. Maybe I’ll be able to live vicariously through her and finally get the experience I was robbed of so many years ago…. 😉 OK, OK, it’s not really about me. It’s all about her and I’m already as proud as I could be!


  12. Everyone’s An Actor On Halloween

    November 1, 2011 by Leah Baker

    2011 boy costume: A mini flyweight boxer, with a requested black eye.

    Halloween is a day for all amateur actors, whether they think of themselves in that way or not. Anyone of any age who is inspired to dress in costume is getting in touch with their inner thespian. It is the one day where it is completely acceptable for people to be someone (or something!) they’re not. For one night children and adults can publicly fulfill their fantasies of being a super hero, cartoon character, movie star, monster or political icon. It is amazing to me the number of people who get into the spirit well into adulthood.

    The creativity that surrounds this holiday is especially appreciated by me. I love a good old homemade costume. Not one that is necessarily home-sewn, but one that has been put together with things around the home, with maybe a few outside accessories. The risque costumes available for girls and women in the Halloween aisles have been much talked about lately, not to mention their hefty price tag. So I would just say,  next year stay out of those aisles and go to your own closet or the thrift store. Buy some classic accessories that could be used over and over for different costumes.

    2011 girl costume: Flo from Progressive Insurance informed all of the "safe driver discount."

    But, whether it is a store bought costume or home-made, today’s Halloween speaks to the theatrical spirit. There are no auditions and you get to choose your own part. Just don’t forget to stay in character!

  13. Bait And Switch

    October 20, 2011 by Leah Baker

    A poster advertising a free skateboarding, BMX and hip hop dance event caught my eye a couple weekends ago. There wasn’t much information on the advertisement other than the essentials: time, date, place, a photo of skateboarders and most importantly, free admission! I knew this would be something my wheelie-popping, break-dancing son would like. I do a lot of extra activities with my daughter, and I thought this might be a fun outing for a mom and son.

    My son, Aaron, was really excited to go and he decided to bring a buddy along too.  Not really knowing much about the exhibition, my husband wondered if it would be an appropriate crowd for a 6 year-old. I said, “Well, it’s free. If isn’t appropriate we can always leave.” I was a little comforted as we pulled into the parking lot and I saw families with young children pulling in beside us. When we walked into the arena and I saw the middle-aged ushers all in matching baby blue t-shirts I started to wonder the opposite. Is this really the type of crowd that comes to a skateboarding, BMX show? I glimpsed a few t-shirts with bible quotes on them and what looked like maybe some church groups. That gave me a clue as to who might be sponsoring the event and I started to wonder about the caliber of the show. Not that you can’t be a believer and a good skater too. They just aren’t usually promoted together.  As we found our seat I saw the stage, several ramps and some quarter pipes set up, so compared to our driveway I thought it would be able to give a thrill.

    The lights went down and a hip hop dance number came on. The dancers were good. When they finished, the skateboarders came out and showed off some tricks. It was no X Games, but they were decent enough to impress my crew. The skaters were pulling out some gnarley “50-50 grinds, 180 pop shoves, kick flips, heel flips and trying hard to land “360 flips.”  (I learned a lot of new skateboarding terminology.) The master of ceremonies (MC) claimed to be an old-school skater from back in the day and he even showed of some his own moves mid-show. He couldn’t quite keep up with the young skaters, but he did “pop an ollie” or two.

    After a couple dance numbers and a skateboarding display and tricks from some local BMXers, the MC also shared his personal testimonial of coming from a broken home and heading down the wrong path until he accepted Jesus into his life…. Ah yes, so that was the catch with the free admission! A little evangelizing thrown in with some secular enterainment. But before anyone could get too uncomfortable they switched it up with another dance number, then some more tricks, then maybe a testimonial from a dancer and then a little video clip and so on.

    It turns out that the organization, GX International has world-wide campaign with five different teams traveling in many countries in a crusade style ministry. Their message of Jesus’ Gospel is meant to come across in “21st Century style relevant ways,” hence promoting the hip hop dancing, skating, etc. And following up with a pitch every so often.

    It was entertaining for the boys though and as the event came to a close, they were even more engaged than I imagined. The MC did a bit of preaching and then asked the anyone in the crowd who was ready to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ to raise their hand. Without hesitation two little hands shot up next to me. “If your hands are in the air, I want you to stand on your feet,” said the MC. Two little bodies jumped right up off their chairs. Then he asked all of those standing to come on down to the front of the stage. Aaron was making his move to head right past me and down the aisle. I had to throw in a block and he got pretty agitated with me. Why couldn’t he go down there? The stoic Catholic in me just didn’t want to join the throngs gathering around the stage. After a little guilt trip laid down on those left in the audience, the MC asked the scattered ones left in the seats to ask the person next to them if they were right with God. The boys did so, we all said yes, and I figured this was our cue to leave. We were all good.

    I later learned that this “bait and switch” promotion is a popular recruitment tactic among evengelicals, who have a mission to convert nonbelievers. It has even been the subject of a show segment on NPR’s This American Life program.

    We definitely took the bait. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I wasn’t necessarily disappointed. I think it’s OK to mix Jesus and skateboarding, just don’t ask me to come down and testify. The boys had an “awesome” time and were exposed to a different style of religous gathering. On the way home I was amused to hear them in the back of the car playing their own invented version of an age-old game: “Rock, Paper, Scissors, God.” They each had their own symbol for God and the rules were each person could only use him once, since he beats everything else. In our case, GX International might’ve considered it a successful crusade. A skater might even call it “gnarley.”



  14. Now Showing…

    October 2, 2011 by Leah Baker

    The week after shooting the Parents LEAD commercial, I was surprised to get a phone call from my mom who said, “I just saw Tessa on TV!” What a quick turnaround time. I didn’t expect it so soon. So, I turned on the TV for the rest of the day and of course never saw it myself. Tessa caught it once and told me about it afterwards. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said. “Because, I wanted to hear myself talk!”

    Tessa in the Parents LEAD commercial:

    I was happy to finally to get a link from her agent, so I could take a look myself! For anyone else who’s interested, here is the link to the ND DOT’s Parents LEAD website and commercial:  It turned out really well and spreads a great message.

    The United Way video, which includes Tessa’s role as a Girl Scout (and mine as a door-opening homeowner) is also available for viewing at, on the lower left hand corner of their home page. This is another really well done piece. It pulls at the heart strings, and shows just how much the United way does for a community. The video is about nine minutes and our piece is about 3/4 of the way through.

    When you don’t always have the luxury of choosing which projects come to you, it’s been great to be able to be a part of two socially conscious campaigns: LIVE UNITED & Parents LEAD (Listen, Educate, Ask, Discuss).

  15. Bonafide Gig

    September 14, 2011 by Leah Baker

    She’s bonafide! Tessa landed her first paying gig with a commercial shoot for the ND DOT’s Parents Lead campaign. She played the role of a seven year-old talking with her mother. Now that she’s nine, it was quite a stretch! Not really. Child actors are expected to be able to play up or down from their age by about 2-3 years either way. But, it was funny hearing her tell everyone she was playing a seven year-old. As if it would be so different from “acting her own age.”

    For her segment of the commercial she was shown brushing her “mother’s” hair and talking. Tessa’s line was, “Mommy, why is it OK for mom’s and dad’s to drink alcohol?” And the mom shows surprise and sort of hems and haws at a response. The whole point of the campaign is to encourage parents to talk to their kids about the rules and dangers of alcohol early and often. If parents are unsure what to say they can easily reference the ND DOT’s website: for information and ideas.

    So guess what this experience prompted me to do? Of course, talk to my kid about alcohol. As she’s practicing her line, Tessa addresses her real mother (me.) “So mom, why is it OK for mom’s and dad’s to drink alcohol?” I said, “Good question,” and not having yet referenced the website did the best I could and talked about responsibility and the maturity to make good decisions. I did check it out later and thought I did OK.

    We shot her portion for a a little over an hour and I thought she was a trooper. Tessa’s “mom” in the commercial, Debby, was very nice and a very believable likeness as her mother. They made a nice blond team! Debby was a trooper too, having Tessa brush her hair in the exact same spot for an hour straight. Tessa remarked that she thought Debby’s hair looked longer by the end!

    Results Unlimited was the production team on the job. They were great on the shoot and it was fun to see the little tricks of the trade. They pulled out some clothes pins to rest behind a framed print, changing the angle of the reflection off the glass so as not to interfere with the lighting of the shot. I was equally impressed when the camera man’s trained ears caught the refrigerator start to run two rooms away. The humming noise might have been enough to ruin the shot and I hadn’t even noticed.

    It was a school day and I was a little reluctant to have her miss school for this, but knew she might not get many similar opportunities so close to home. The production team was really great about keeping a tight schedule and getting us out of there in time to get back for the last half of the day. As we left, the representative from Results Unlimited paid Tessa a very nice compliment. He said, “Good job today. You were very professional.” This was really nice to hear since she’s just started in the industry.

    However, once we were out of ear shot on our way to the car she said to me. “So mom, when do I get paid?” I told her she’d have to wait for her paycheck just like everyone else. “What?” she said. “I wasn’t being greedy, just wondering.” I guess if you usually work for free, you don’t know the drill.

    It was a really wonderful experience full of encouraging and professional people involved on camera and behind the scenes. I can already see a difference between the first commercial we were a part of and this one. Tessa is learning and catching on to the little details and nuances.

    Parents Lead can definitely count their first success of this campaign before even hitting the airwaves. Their message works. Because of this commercial I talked to my kid about alcohol and I would bet that others will too.