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Tracy Frank, Published March 09 2014

Making a Scene: Married couple plays off each other’s strengths

FARGO - Darcy and Lauren Brandenburg didn’t set out to direct musicals.

That all changed the summer before they got married.

Darcy heard the LaMoure County Summer Music Theater, the theater he’d been involved in throughout high school, was looking for a music director the summer after he and Lauren graduated from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.

He and his then bride-to-be had degrees in music education, and they were looking for summer jobs.

When the community theater asked them to direct the entire show instead, they weren’t sure at first if they could do it. But the couple had performed in musicals and taken some theater classes in college, so they decided to give it a shot.

“That summer was one of the most rewarding summers of our lives, meeting the people, watching them grow and making a piece of art together,” Darcy said.

“We grew a lot, too,” Lauren added. “There was a lot to learn.”

“Theater started teaching us a lot of life skills, such as there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it or asking people to volunteer,” Darcy said. “It’s a hard skill to learn, but we’ve learned to empower people.”

A few years later, the Brandenburgs helped start a community theater in Casselton, N.D., where they both work in the Central Cass School District.

Darcy instructs bands for fifth- to 12th-graders. He also directs the school’s one-act plays. He won CSTAND (Communication, Speech & Theatre Association of North Dakota) Class B Theatre Director of the Year for the third year in a row this year.

Lauren teaches elementary music and started an extracurricular children’s choir at the school.

The couple was also instrumental in starting a Young Musicians’ Festival in Casselton for anyone in fifth through eighth grade to create more musical opportunities for kids.

The Brandenburgs, both 28 of West Fargo, recently held auditions for the Rural Cass Community Theatre’s summer production of “Les Misérables.” They are also directing the April performances of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre.

“Joseph” was also the first show they directed for their Casselton troupe.

Q. When you direct a show more than once, how do you keep it fresh?

Lauren: The new people keep it fresh. They have different strengths and bring different things to it.

Darcy: There are some things that are similar, but it’s not by any means all of it.

Lauren: It’s really fun to do a show for a second time, too, because you know it.

What are the benefits and challenges of working on musicals as a married couple?

D: When we first started out, we did almost every bit of the production together. And of course there would be creative differences. We were just married, so we were learning each other’s personalities and each other’s strengths. We had to be careful of the creative mind because it’s very sensitive.

After doing a production or two, we got into a groove and we know exactly what I’m going to do and what Lauren is going to do. We almost don’t have to communicate anymore. We know that Lauren is going to be choreographing this scene. I know I’m going to be blocking that scene.

L: Darcy’s really strong on blocking and acting, and I do a lot more of the dance, movement and some of the more detailed stuff. He’s really good at the big picture, and I focus more on the details.

Would you direct a show without the other person?

L: Darcy has directed high school productions without me.

D: Working with somebody who you know and can open up so freely to is such a huge asset to any show.

When you’re working with anyone else, no matter how great your relationship is, it’s not as close as ours is. The candor that we can have with each other is very, very valuable.

When I’ve directed other shows, it’s harder. I’m not a detail-oriented person. I’ve even gotten to the point where I’ll just bring her in.

Do bring your work home or intentionally leave it on the stage?

L: It goes everywhere with us.

D: But it’s always positive between us.

L: By the end of the show, sometimes we’re ready to be done, but the nature of theater is you do it for a couple of months and then you’re done.

D: With our jobs, too, Lauren and I talk on the way home, and we talk about what we can do to collaborate in the music classrooms, and it never, honestly, feels like work.

If You Go

WHAT: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

directed by: Darcy and Lauren Brandenburg

where: Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre

when: 7:30 p.m. April 4-5, 10- 12; and 2 p.m. April 6, 12-13

tickets: Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre Box Office at (701) 235-6778

online: fmct.org

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526