FC Fall 2023

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Behind the Scenes with FPA

Moving a Production from Page to Stage or Screen

Loading in FPA’ stage-wide LED screen. Ken Denison (top) working with The Screwtape Letters actors Brent Harris and Anna Reichert. Rehearsing a choreographed fight scene for The Great Divorce. A theater marquee promotes the show. Audio Mixer Preston Dunnavant and Production Manager Scott Denison at the sound and light board.

It’s a sight seen many times each month in leading performing arts venues or on college campuses from one end of the country to the other.

Just prior to an FPA production taking the stage, expansive lobbies fill with eager patrons. The house manager declares the house open. Seats fill. There’s a buzz of anticipation.

Then . . . the lights go down.

For the next 90 minutes, audiences will be engaged, entertained and, hopefully, encouraged to go deeper in the Christian faith.

However, years of development, months of planning and days of coordinated effort precede Max McLean taking the stage as C.S. Lewis, or Brent Harris standing at the lectern as His Abysmal Sublimity, Screwtape.

A key figure behind the scenes is Executive Producer Ken Denison and his company, Aruba Productions.

“Max and I have been working together for over 16 years,” Ken said. “As EP, I enjoy creating new programs for FPA, from the live productions, to virtual broadcasts, to collaborating with marketing, philanthropy and programming. I enjoy working with all the departments to see us all moving in the same direction. With the mission in mind, all aspects about the production are guided by one word – excellence.”

And it is going well.

“We’re seeing unprecedented levels of audience engagement with the simultaneous tours of C.S. Lewis On Stage: Further Up & Further In and The Screwtape Letters,” said Max, FPA’s Founder and Artistic Director. “We wanted to show you what goes on behind the scenes for an FPA production to make it to the stage or screen.”


It can take years for a new FPA play to make it from “page to stage,” and FPA is fortunate to have a deep bench collaborating in that effort. 

Ken is a respected veteran of Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional and international tour productions. He served 15 years as general manager and director of production at the renowned Old Globe Theater in San Diego and as associate producer of 13 international tours of Disney’s The Lion King.

Among Ken’s many responsibilities is to look down the road, often years in advance, to ensure FPA will have a product ready to tour or distribute. That can include considering new works or determining existing productions to revive.

It covers touring productions, performances in New York City and virtual works. Such work takes place before there is even a script to produce.

“Working with Max, FPA will have a script for a new work. I’ll then start assembling the best creative team the budget allows,” Ken said. “We want them to understand the mission of FPA and for that to be reflected in everything about the production, from set design, to lighting, to sound, to costumes, to the vision of the director.”

Ken and Aruba call on an experienced team to execute the nuts and bolts of designing sets, lighting, music, costumes and more: everything needed to get to rehearsal and then the stage.

Ken also served as Director for C.S. Lewis On Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert and its sequel, Further Up & Further In. 


“We are painstaking in the process of selecting venues for a touring show with so many factors playing into that,” Ken said. “And that goes beyond our history with each venue, the quality of its acoustics, the overall audience experience and its in-house crew. It includes where we can best reach our existing fan base and reach out to those not yet familiar with us.”

The morning of the show, an 18-wheel, semi-tractor trailer rolls into town, and FPA’s road crew works with the in-house staff to load-in and assemble the set, lights, sound system and projection screen, if needed. This talented group, under the direction of the production manager, is expert at spotting and solving problems.

 This season, both tours routinely are experiencing full houses. The same level of involvement from the executive producer and the FPA team move our virtual, online productions forward as well.


“While shows still are on the road, I’m looking ahead to the 2024 and 2025 seasons,” Ken said. “While we’re putting excellence on the stage, we’re considering what to put on the stage years down the way.

“All of the factors above weigh into the budgeting and planning process so that FPA is ready well over a year in advance of launching a new production or relaunching an existing work.”

An extensive developmental process of over a year goes into actually putting Max in front of the camera as C.S. Lewis.


An extensive developmental process of over a year goes into actually putting Max in front of the camera as C.S. Lewis.

With the success of FPA’s first film, The Most Reluctant Convert, for which Ken also served as executive producer, a similar developmental and production process kicks into gear for a planned second film. The script is under development. Ken was in the U.K. this summer planning the schedule and hiring the team to make the film. 

“There are hundreds of people who play a role in getting from page to stage or screen,” Max said. “We’re fortunate to have a committed and talented team and for Ken’s leadership, and we are well aware that you, our Fellowship Circle of supporters, make it all possible.”

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