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Fulsebakke new to the Village Arts’ stage

However, Rugby band instructor is an accomplished performer

June 11, 2010
Deb Jenkins

A new and beautiful voice has been transplanted to the city of Rugby.

After more than 40 roles in opera, operetta and musical theatre across the nation, local high school band director, Gary Fullsebakke will step on the Rugby stage in his leading role as Sid in Village Arts' "The Pajama Game."

In his role as Sid, he works as a manager for the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, but falls in love with Babe (Michele Lind) a laborer.

He reverses his hard-nosed management career, and becomes an advocate for the common worker. All out of love. Amazingly, his personal life, echoes his stage career reversal born out of love for people in unexpected places.

Fullsebakke grew up in the Dunseith area on a farm near the International Peace Garden, graduating from Dunseith High School. After completing his Music Education degree at Minot State, Fullsebakke attained his Master's degree in vocal performance at the University of Missouri's Conservatory of Music in Kansas City. While living in the region, he sang at the Kansas City Lyric Opera, at the Opera Theatre in St. Louis and for the Wichita Music Theatre company.

When Fulsebakke was invited to participate in the Julliard School of Music's Opera Apprentice Program, he moved to New York City where he not only sang under the bright lights but also embraced a very different vocation. "I put music on hold." Fullsebakke said, "and worked in Spanish Harlem with inner city youth, holding Bible Studies and counseling gang members and drug addicts through the Manhattan Bible Church's Christian school."

Fullsebakke made the decision to lend his voice and life to Christian ministry, leaving New York and professional opera behind for seminary. Once ordained, he became pastor and music minister for churches including one in Virginia. Six years ago, he left his church in Virginia to return home to North Dakota in order to be closer to family and especially his 91 year-old mother. He works not only as band director in Rugby, but also as pastor for Christ Lutheran Free Church in Devils Lake.

When asked which role he most enjoyed playing over the years, Fullsebakke answered

"Tony in West Side Story", without hesitation. He also recalled an enjoyable but unusual occasion when he sang as the only white cast member of a concert version of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" with the Roanoke Orchestra in Virginia.

Fullsebakke was excited about the opportunity to work with the local Village Arts cast and crew. "It's great to work with community theatre where people are certainly not in it for the money,'' he said. "There is so much talent in this community. It has been great to see the kids I work with at school, loosen up and have fun, doing creative things we don't get to do during the school year."

Performances will be held on June 21-24 at Rugby High School's Tilman Hovland Auditorium at 8 p.m. each evening.

Advance tickets for "The Pajama Game" are on sale at Backstage downtown and can be purchased there or by phoning 776-ARTS. Tickets will also be available at the door on a first come first served basis.



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