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Welcome to the Arden Theatre Company blog, where we share behind-the-scenes stories and current happenings with you. You will hear from the Arden staff as well as actors and other visiting artists, and we hope to hear from you, too. If you have an idea for a topic, please post a comment about it. We can't wait to hear what you think!
Arden Theatre staff, teens and artists at the Gift of Life Family House.

Arden Theatre staff, teens and artists at the Gift of Life Family House

In the case of real-life organ donation, the lights don’t come up. There is no audience to applaud actors and designers. And for the transplant patients waiting for vital organs, life goes on. Patients and their families must wait and endure, with total tolerance of the system in place; the capital “L” List.

For the duration of the run of Under The Skin, the Arden Theatre teamed up with neighboring Old City organization, Gift of Life to raise awareness about organ donation. Gift of Life organizes real-life organ donation, here in Philly. And at Gift of Life’s Family House (a hop-skip away from their main building on 3rd street) families come together to live away from home long term, while receiving treatment or waiting for a vital organ. To facilitate this closely-knit living situation, Gift of Life uniquely operates a program called Home Cook Heroes.

Home Cook Heroes happens every night at Gift of Life. Groups from all over Philadelphia gather at the family house to cook dinner for the residents. Volunteers cook for an average of about 50 people per night, and the meal is provided free of charge, served with a lot of love and good intention. This is what happened on the day the Arden became Home Cook Heroes.

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The day arrived swiftly. Fellow apprentice Gil Vega and I set out to buy the ingredients for the meal, (supplemented by a generous donation of produce by Iovine Brothers in Reading Terminal Market). Equipped with backpacks and two large rolling suitcases, kindly provided to us by Arden props master Chris Haig, we trudged through the slush and slick ice to the Super Fresh on 5th and Pine.   We were tasked with carrying back 50 people’s-worth of ingredients, and we chatted happily in the sunshine, convinced we were up to the challenge.

And it turns out that we were, although the bumps in the snow and ice turned out to be the least of our concerns that morning. It soon became extremely evident that shopping for 50 mouths is heavy. We whipped out a smart phone and frantically did measurement conversions all up and down the fluorescent-lit aisles, determined to get the most out of buying the least. However the real trouble hit us when shopping for sweet potato mash, as according to the recipe, one serving required one sweet potato. How were the two of us going to manage 50 potatoes all the way back to the Arden, that is, if we could fit it in our luggage at all?

With time already cutting into Gil’s allotted lunch hour, we settled on 35 potatoes and hoped that the rest of the meal would disguise a shortage of sweet potato mash. Moving at a much slower pace, but satisfied that we had been the ultimate shoppers, we struggled our way back to the theatre to sort the food and make final preparations.

The next 5 hours flew by, and with all that needed to be done just coming together, as often happens in world of theatre, it was time to walk over to the family house.

Donning the provided aprons, we swept through the 2-stove, 3-island kitchen at the house feeling like contestants on a cooking show.  But as the feverish preparation commenced, punctuated by my announcements of remaining time as self-appointed timekeeper, roadblocks popped up. We didn’t have the physical manpower to peel even the compromised number of potatoes. Also, the centerpiece of the meal, the chili, seemed all at once to be too little and too bland. Thankfully, Under The Skin actress Alice M. Gatling, formerly a caterer herself, knew just what to do save the dish. With just about 3 minutes to dinner service, we were dishing food into serving bowls and smell of southwestern comfort had people gathering in the attached dining room.

Teen Arden Council members Kieran and Maria chop and season the salad

Teen Arden Council members Kieran and Maria chop and season the salad

Dinner turned out well. The sweet potato mash came out late, but if that was all we had to regret after hours of fitting the day’s jigsaw pieces together, I was a happy planner.   What’s more, Home Cook Heroes was such a fun experience; cast members, staff and Teen Arden alike were challenged as a team to perform what seemed a near-impossible task.

As dinner started, one resident approached us to share his story. His family had been in Philly for several months but hailed from Virginia. Another family had come to see Under the Skin, and expressed how personally touching they found the play. As they shared their family’s experiences with us, we were reminded in the sober reality of needing an organ donation. It’s safe to say we ended the night, a really grateful bunch of volunteer cooks. And I went home convinced of one thing: Home Cook Heroes is a misleading title, as those that make the food are barely heroes in comparison to those who eat the food.

If you’d like to learn more about Gift of Life or the Home Cook Heroes program please visit:

Arden Apprentice at Home Cook Heroes

Eliana Fabiyi is an Arden Professional Apprentice who hails from  Baltimore, Maryland. Her interests include bluegrass music, community nutrition, Shakespeare and improv comedy.  

On the first day of rehearsal, Alexander Burns, the director of Macbeth, instructed the assembled cast and crew to hold hands and say the title of play three times, followed by the words “Hail King,” and ending with one more “Macbeth.” The idea was to summon the spirit of the dead king, honor him, and then release him. This odd ritual was a concession to a long-held superstition among theatre-folk that that saying “Macbeth” in a theatre will lead to an avalanche of bad luck. Many theatre professionals refer to “The Scottish Play” rather than using the title of the show in an effort to stave off the injuries, accidents, and even deaths that allegedly befall productions of the play. By summoning and honoring the spirit of Macbeth, we hoped to lift the curse before it had a chance to do any real damage.

This curse has a few origin stories. Legend has it that Shakespeare used incantations from real witches in the play. One night, some practicing witches attended a performance, took offense at Shakespeare’s audacity, and placed a curse on all future productions, or so the story goes. Another less superstitious version cites the dangers inherent in the production—the text requires complicated sword fights, frequent low lighting, and sometimes trap doors. In the days before contemporary safety precautions, accidents were bound to happen.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the curse, the specter of it hovers over all productions of Macbeth. Every theatre professional has their own way of dealing with it. The video below shares some the ways in which the Arden’s Macbeth cast wards off evil spirits.

Chris Mullen as the Porter

Chris Mullen as the Porter

Many scholars agree that one of the chief purposes of the Porter’s speech in Macbeth is to give a much-needed comedic breath to a very dark story. Whether this scene is meant to decrease tension (by injecting some lightness and pausing the story) or increase tension (by the insistent knocking and delaying the discovery of Duncan’s body) is up for debate, but that it is meant to be humorous is impossible to deny. In the Arden’s production of Macbeth, we wanted to honor this intention, which, for us, meant updating some of the language.

As Bruce Graham, playwright of our upcoming production of Funnyman has said—nothing goes stale faster than comedy. Even Shakespeare is not immune. Much of the Bard’s work is universally comedic—gross-out jokes always kill. But some of his comedy is specific to the time and place for which it was written, and many of the topical references fall flat for contemporary audiences. One of the best examples of this is the Porter’s reference to equivocators: “here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale.” Shakespeare here alludes to the infamous trial of Henry Garnet, recently hung as a traitor. While Shakespeare experts might know that this trial was likely on the minds of the Jacobean public, for most contemporary audiences, the word is unfamiliar and the reference impenetrable. Thus humor is lost.

When director Alex Burns and Chris Mullen, who plays the Porter, started working on this scene, they began with the text. After a few times through, Chris asked if he could try to change the text a little bit to make it more his own, and Alex enthusiastically agreed. They wanted to honor the spirit of the Porter scene while ensuring that the jokes weren’t obscured by the language or the distance between our world and Shakespeare’s. Together, Alex and Chris played around with language, letting Chris improvise using contemporary equivalents for some of the characters the Porter mentions. He went very far in some cases—at one point, a stock-broker awaited admittance to hell. Shakespeare’s equivocator became a lawyer, because, in the words of Chris Mullen “lawyers are always funny.” After a few rounds of improvisation, Alex and Chris set the text, using the cast as a test audience to see what was funny and what fell flat (see below for an example). They continued to refine over previews before landing upon what you saw in the performance. In the end, the essential beats of the Porter’s speech remain, as does the subject matter, and even some of the words.

Often in Shakespeare’s day, characters like the Porter were the specialty of clowns, who were allowed freedom to play with the audience—to go off script and improvise. Here was the audience’s much relished chance to interact directly with the performers. How much those performers talked back is still debated. Many scholars believe the role of the Porter to have originated with Robert Armin, the prolific clown of Shakespeare’s company, who was known for his intelligent humor, and is often credited with the complex philosopher-fool characters of some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, including the Fool in King Lear and Feste in Twelfth Night. Armin’s portrayal of the Porter—filled with topical references and perhaps even imitations of public figures—would have had audiences rolling in the aisles. He had the advantage of speaking the same language as his audience. We wanted to give Chris and our audiences the same opportunity by honoring the spirit of Shakespeare’s text and his favorite clown.

A comparison between the original text and the Arden's update

A comparison between the original text and the Arden’s update

Robi and Marielle

Robi Hagar (left) and Melanie Horton (right) sing “Wick” from The Secret Garden

Eli Russell of Teen Arden gives audiences a peek behind the scenes of the Cabaret of Duets, an evening of cabaret which paired professional performers with members of Teen Arden.  Teen Arden is an extracurricular program for 9th – 12th graders, comprised of kids who are passionate about developing an arts community among peers from diverse social and economic backgrounds. We give teens full access to Arden Theatre Company resources as well as open channels of communication between them and the professional artists who have helped build Philadelphia’s theatre community.

On my first day at Arden Summer Camp, everyone gathered in a circle and we introduced ourselves, sharing our name, age, and favorite place in the world. When my turn came, I bent the rules and shared a fantasy destination combining the comfort of my bed, the beauty of a Jamaican beach, and the atmosphere of the Arden. When I hosted the Cabaret of Duets on December 15, I realized that this daydream wasn’t so fantastical after all, as I could find all three qualities–– comfort, beauty, and atmosphere–– in abundance at the Arden.

The audience for the Cabaret of Duets. Can you spot Artistic Director Terry Nolen?

The audience for the Cabaret of Duets. Can you spot Artistic Director Terry Nolen?

The Cabaret of Duets, which took place at the Hamilton Family Arts Center on December 15, featured a dozen duets between Teen Arden members and professional artists like Jeff Coon, Rachel Camp, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins. Behind the scenes, teens were involved in all stages of planning, writing, and producing the event. It was an audacious undertaking, but our adult directors Jonathan Silver and Amanda Morton ensured that the process of producing the Cabaret of Duets was a comfortable and fun experience. Everyone was convivial as we brainstormed themes, divvied up tasks, and managed the hundred other minutiae that goes into an event like the Cabaret of Duets. One thing that makes Teen Arden special is that the adults involved expect a lot of us, which feels great as a teenager looking to be seen as more than a walking lump of angst and puberty. I doubt that many theatres would entrust teenagers with as much responsibility as we were given in the planning stages for this event. I felt the impact of this trust especially as I wrote the script with my co-host Sydney Chin. Obviously, not all of my jokes made it to the final script, but Sydney and I were grateful that Jonathan took all of our ideas seriously and treated us as equals in the writing process

My fantasy destination included the somewhat generic beauty of a Jamaican beach. I now know that there is a much more meaningful kind of beauty at the Arden (although I certainly wouldn’t mind a Caribbean vacation). First of all, the performances at the Cabaret of Duets were stunning. One thing that made them so beautiful is how different they all were. Who would think that a hard-hitting rock anthem from Rent (performed by the ever-awesome Iyke McCoy and Michael Philip O’Brien) would pair so well with a heartwrenching mother-daughter duet from Next to Normal (performed by actual mother-daughter duo Krissy Fraelich and Zoe Hunchak)? Knowing that the final product was the culmination of many people’s hard work made the event all the more beautiful and inspiring. At the Arden, a lot of emphasis is placed on the process. Everyone was engaged in the process at different stages, bringing their own skills to the table with the common goal of producing a great event.

Co-emcees Eli Russell and Sydney Chin

Co-emcees Eli Russell and Sydney Chin

The theme of the evening was “Autumnal Campfire,” and we found plenty of parallels between the Arden and a campfire. As I sermonized while emceeing, “the Arden Theatre Company is dedicated to bringing to life great stories by great storytellers, and what do we do at campfires? We tell stories! Some are scary, some are hilarious, some have music, some are classics, some are original, the list goes on.” Most of all, both are warm and inviting environments. I know that I can always come to the Arden for support or advice and I’ll be warmly welcomed by my friends and instructors. I could especially feel this warmth at the Cabaret of Duets (and not just because Sydney and I were sitting in front of the lighting booth). The professional artists were friendly and supportive and the audience blew us away with their responses to our emcee schtick and the beautiful duets. Lastly, the Cabaret of Duets demonstrated the Arden’s low-key atmosphere. Whenever I attend classes at the Arden Drama School, I am impressed both by the expertise of the instructors and their modesty. There is plenty of incredible and brag-worthy artistry going on at the Arden, but the theatre maintains a refreshing lack of snootiness or competitiveness. This comfortable, beautiful, and warm atmosphere is what keeps bringing me back to the Arden.

Eli Russell is a junior at Abington Friends School, where he leads both the Cappies team and a National History Day club. He has been involved with Teen Arden for three years and is currently co-chair of the Teen Council’s Artistic Committee.  Eli performs in Arden Summer Camp’s Musical Theatre Studio productions, and will be one of three head writers developing an original play to be presented in this year’s FringeArts Festival.

By Jonathan Silver, Assistant Director for Under the Skin

Jonathan Silver (left) as Timms with Michael Doherty (right) as Posner in the Arden's production of The History Boys

Jonathan Silver (left) as Timms with Michael Doherty (right) as Posner in the Arden’s production of “The History Boys”

“This blog post is not about kidneys.”

The last time I was involved in a creative rehearsal process with Terry Nolen was 5 years ago during Arden Theatre Company’s 2009/2010 season opener The History Boys.  During those rehearsals a half-decade ago, I had the privilege to focus my attention on my portrayal of Timms, the role I was cast in (and my first professional acting experience post-college!). This time around, I have the honor of serving as Assistant Director for this world-premiere piece.  But that’s not what this blog post is about – nor is it about kidneys.

Like a human being, every production of a play or musical is its own unique, individual entity that requires natural evolutionary growth and exploration.  For the actors, director, and design team, the seeds of this growth happen during the first few days of rehearsals sitting around a table reading the text, discussing the text, rereading the text, discussing more of the text, rereading the text again, discussing the … well, you get the picture.

For Under the Skin, Terry Nolen (director) and Michael Hollinger (playwright) led the cast through 5 days of table work (5 days x 6 hour rehearsals = 30 hours of sitting, reading, and discussing).  Under the proper leadership (which we are), these rehearsals can be the most exhilarating – it’s the point in the process where the cast is getting to know one another and seeds of ideas are being planted and the themes and motifs begin to take shape.  The repetition of the above stated reading, discussing, etc., is a chance for the actors to familiarize themselves with the text and for Terry to encourage the actors to “feel free to explore the wrong choices,” and “Find your footing in the text,” and “MORE READING, LESS ACTING!”  For Michael, these rehearsals are to experience his words spoken aloud and alter words, sentences, or punctuation.  It also provides him with an opportunity to hear different versions of scenes he has written so he may discover a multitude of possibilities then narrow in on orchestrating the story he wants to tell (As of the writing of this post, we received five interpretations of one particular scene and six rewritten scenes).

Because Under the Skin focuses on a family crisis and the figurative walls they need to overcome, while at the table, the cast was also invited to share (or not) personal stories that related to those said walls.  Since the rehearsal room is a sacred place, I’m not at liberty to delve into what was shared (or not) but I can say that Terry, Michael and the cast opened their hearts to one another and instantly created an environment of safety and sincerity. You won’t hear their personal stories, but you will sense a depth of connection between the performers that is a result of this kind of sharing.

When a playwright brings in new pages to replace the original ones, they are printed in color. Each of these colors represents a new set of pages!

When a playwright brings in new pages to replace the original ones, they are printed in color. Each of these colors represents a new set of pages!

After these revealing 5 days were over, the work from the table was implemented when we started staging the show on our feet.  Without the table work – the intellectual exploration of every punctuation mark, word, sentence, plot point, etc. – it would prove rather challenging to dive into the physical and emotional journey that takes place during staging.

For me, table work is the most electrifying process of rehearsals.  It’s the point in a production’s development where the show only exists in my mind’s eye – it remains on the page and is not yet tactile.  As these sessions at the table progress, preconceived notions of what I thought the show might be slowly disappear and the real nature of the play takes shape.  What you saw when you came to the Arden and witnessed Under the Skin is the product of Michael Hollinger’s imagination, Terry Nolen’s orchestration, and the ensemble’s passionate dedication to executing a great story…

not about kidneys.


Jonathan Silver is a director and actor. Arden: Cabaret of Duets (Director), Incorruptible (Assistant Director), The History Boys (Timms). Regional: Old Jews Telling Jokes (Penn’s Landing Playhouse); Max in Lend Me A Tenor, and Professor in South Pacific (Delaware Theatre Company); Elliot in Completeness (Round Table Theatre Company); Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady (Act II Playhouse); Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). Television: Alain on Pokemon (Cartoon Network). Education: BFA in Dramatic Performance from University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. 

In Beauty and the Beast, we use a lot of small objects to create big shadows!  Those shadows create the rose garden, the wolves, Belle’s bed, and more!  Making shadow puppets of your own is easy, and a great way to tell your very own stories!  We asked Sebastienne Mundheim of White Box Theatre, who created all of the shadow puppets that we use in our show, to tell you a little bit about how she makes them so you can try it yourself! 

You can make a shadow puppet using stiff paper and a pair of scissors and a little tape or glue.  If you are older you might use an x-acto knife which is tool some people use for cutting very exact lines into paper.  I like just using scissors.

I start by making a drawing of a character or an object on the stiff paper.

I cut out the big outline first.

Then I use my scissors to cut out the most important lines inside the drawing.  I have to choose carefully so I don’t cut too many lines.

Sebastienne at work cutting puppets

Sebastienne at work cutting puppets


I like to make lines that show the action, gesture or expression in the drawing.

That means lines that show where parts of the body might change direction.

Smiling mouths and eyes give expression and change the direction of the face. Your mouth and eyes have lines that express happiness, sadness, surprise.

If you turn your head, you can feel where your skin crunches together between your chin and your neck.

Or if you bend your knee, there is also a line on the back of your leg where the skin folds or crunches together.

I think about which of those lines tell the most about the character I am making.  Is it most important that my character is running?  Smiling?  Jumping? How do the lines I make show that?

For example, when I made the running wolves in Beauty and the Beast I made a very few simple lines to show their muscles and how active they are.

Some people like to make lines that show the decoration on something — the textures or patterns of clothing.  See if you can notice different kinds of lines in the world around you.  Ones that show gesture or expression or ones that show texture and pattern.


Once I have made my drawing I cut out the big shape and then I cut away the important lines.  For me those are the lines that show the most expression or gesture.

If I need to get into the middle of the paper to get to my line, I just cut straight to my line and cut away the section where I want the gesture to show.  I tape up the cut I made to get into the center.

I check my cut outs as I go by holding them up to the light to see how the shadow looks.

That’s the best part.  The shadows are always beautiful.

Different kinds of lights make different shadows.  We use a single bulb LED flashlight for our show.  It makes a really clear shadow!  But the sun makes good shadows too!

Take a look at these photos of us experimenting with our shadow puppets and lights to see what would look the best!


Testing some of the shadows used in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Testing some of the shadows used in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

YOU can make shadow puppets at home, just like the ones we use onstage in Beauty and the Beast!  With those shadow puppets, you can create a new imaginary world of your own and tell your own stories at home!  If you make a shadow puppet, have an adult help you take a picture of the shadow it creates and share it with us on social media! Make sure to use the hashtag #ArdenBeast so that we see your photo. 

Everyone who shares their shadow puppet photo with us will be entered to win four tickets to see The Jungle Book this spring.


The Arden’s upcoming production of the world premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Under the Skin has sparked some interesting conversations about kidney donation within the Arden community. Would you give up your kidney for a parent? For your child? For a sibling? For all of your siblings? For a stranger? Below are three stories of people who answered yes to someone. If you have a story about how you or a loved one has been affected by organ donation, please use the comment section to share!

Joan Saltzman:

I found John, my Mr. Right, when I was forty-six. He had end-stage kidney disease. John’s nephrologist suggested I become a living donor. No way, I thought, this medical malpractice lawyer was not volunteering for unnecessary surgery. John became more ill; he was ashen. I changed my mind. I saw John just after my kidney was implanted; his skin was, miraculously, already pink. Giving John my kidney was the best thing I have ever done. I had given new life to someone I already loved.

Joan has written a book about her experience entitled Mr. Right and My Left Kidney

Marie Manley:

My husband, Bob and I have four children and we were very involved in our parish and neighborhood while the children were younger. We moved a few years ago and it was while sitting in our new church one Sunday that I thought about how little we were doing for our new community. The following Sunday I read a plea for help in our parish bulletin, a request from a young woman, Christine for a kidney. After reading the letter and finding that I met the initial criteria, I leaned over to my husband and said, “I can do this”. That morning, every hymn, reading and the sermon itself were all about giving. We were both touched by the ‘sharing’ message and after Mass Bob said, we should go for it. So hand in hand, as we approach all things, Bob and I began the process. We decided that we would research the logistics before presenting it to the children. My concern was that our decision would further burden us financially, which turned out not to be the case. Bob was beginning a new job and we were tuition-poor with our girls away in college and our boys attending Cardinal O’Hara high school. My first search on the computer was for “the financial risk to a kidney donor”. Without my knowing it, our drama queen, who was home for the weekend, began reading over my shoulder and shrieked, “Are things so bad now, that you’re selling your organs?”…so much for not involving the kids! I explained to her what we were considering and told our other children, knowing it was too big a secret for Sarah to keep. The girls were a little more anxious about the plan while the boys were more like yeah, well, that is a little weird Mom even for you!

Once we met with the transplant coordinator and began the testing, our daughters went to some of the appointments so that they could hear first-hand, the risks and benefits of organ donation. Our nurse was terrific explaining in full detail the entire process. She was a wealth of information and made us all feel confident that we were making an informed decision. After those meetings, the children gave us their blessing and supported Bob and I throughout the process. It was a family gift to a person in need. At this point I still had not met my recipient. I decided to remain anonymous for a few reasons; one of which is that I wanted our children to have the last say and if they were not comfortable with the surgery, I would have had to back out.

Another reason was that I did not want Christine to worry about me. I was sure she would be concerned about the ‘donor’ but if she did not know me personally, I hoped she could concentrate more on her own healing. The last reason to remain anonymous was that I did not want to be interviewed by Oprah. You laugh but right after our surgery, it was all over the news about the Starbucks barista who gave to a customer, a Minister who donated to a Rabbi and the first simultaneous six-way transplant at John Hopkins in Baltimore. Everywhere I turned there was a public kidney-thing going on! This publicity was not for me. My kidney was a personal gift to Christine and it would feel boastful telling anyone else about it. Besides, this gift was not about me. My prayer every morning before I even get out of bed is “Lead Me Lord”. …and He did.

My prayer for direction intersected with Christine’s prayer for help…it was as simple as that. The surgery went very well and a month later I was asked to talk to a potential donor. After listening to the woman talk about donating to her friend, I felt something missing in our experience and I e-mailed Christine. We met on Mother’s day, 2 months after our surgery. We developed an immediate and very close relationship, one that defies explanation. We are closer than friends are, different from family. I thought I had everything I needed, that my life was complete until I met this young woman and her family. Yes, I am her donor but more importantly, I am a recipient. It was through my giving to Christine that I received– renewed faith, enhanced compassion and empathy for others, gratitude for all of God’s blessings. I continue to learn courage and determination, witnessing the daily challenges of the chronically ill. My life was transformed by this awesome experience. I thank God for the direction and I thank Christine for her request.
On March 11th it will be 5 years since the transplant. As Bob and I volunteer with Gift of Life, I am slowly ‘coming out’ of the anonymous closet. I understand now that the importance of promoting donor awareness supersedes my need for obscurity.…and again, just when I thought life could not get any better…my journey took another turn…This kidney is the gift that keeps on giving.

When our oldest daughter Kristin became engaged, I felt it was time to go back to work fulltime. For twenty-four years, I was able to work part time and be home with our children. Then all of a sudden I was home and they were not! My friend suggested looking at area hospitals for openings. This did not make a bit of sense to me since I had been a retail vendor most of my life. Nevertheless…again… I followed direction and the first hospital and the first position that came up in my search was Transplant Assistant in the Lankenau Kidney Transplant Program.
I know this was not a coincidence. I have loved my job for more than 5 years now. I witness first hand how the frail and needy among us receive hope and healing through selfless acts of others. The look on their faces the morning after transplant is priceless and humbling.

I understand that living donation is not for everyone…but I ask you for two things: One: please consider donating your organs and tissue after you no longer need them. One person can save or enhance the lives of 50 people. What a legacy you can leave behind…what an ultimate gift…offering someone a second chance!
Secondly, please share your decision with your families. When the time comes, if your loved ones do not know what you want, they are asked to decide for you which may add more anguish to an already very difficult situation. Thank you and God bless you.

Marie Manley (left) and Christine, her recipient (right)

Marie Manley (left) and Christine, her recipient (right)

Marie is now a Transplant Assistant at Lankenau Hospital, a job she took a year after her own donation. This is excerpted from a talk she gives about donation.

Patsy Semple: 

In 2010, I was going to donate my kidney to my husband, and my antibodies weren’t quite a match, but they were a perfect match for a young man on the registry. A doctor at Georgetown in DC presented an idea of doing a huge swap. 32 of us would participate. The doctor’s name was Keith Melancon, he is no longer at Georgetown in DC. It was his idea to do the share. There were going to be 40, but when the time came 16 of us went through—16 donors and 16 recipients. He sought them out from three hospitals. Some recipients came from out of town and certainly donors came from out of town. He presented this idea of sharing. It was like: “My niece wants to do it but she’s not a match for me, but she’s a match for so-and-so.” Well when you have a family member, you’ll do anything. And you have trust in your doctors, and if you can helps someone live a little better life, why not?

My kidney went to a young black man who had been born with just one kidney. We didn’t know who was getting it until after the surgery when they had us all meet. And that’s when I met Jonathon. The poor guy when he found out I was his donor, his eyes bugged out because I was older than his mom and I was this Caucasian lady with white hair. He’s a great kid, a young man. His mother took part in the share and her kidney went to a sixty-nine-year old engineer of Indian descent. A couple of people involved just did it altruistically. To see the diversity of ages and nationalities participating in this share was a moving experience; it was made possible because of a group of people determined to donate the gift of life to help a loved one, a friend, or someone in need. If you can help someone live a little better life, why not?

Patsy is a Kidney Donor and Advocate. Excerpted from an interview with Patsy.

 During rehearsals for Under the Skin, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about kidney donation from the recipient perspective, which you can read here.

A costume designer is the person who decides what the different people in the play will wear. Here is what Richard St Clair, the costume designer, thinks about being a costume designer and how he thought about the costumes for Beauty and the Beast:

I really believe this—a costume designer has to be one of the smartest people in the room.  You need to know about costume history, art history, world history, psychology, geography, music, pop culture, movies and MANY other things. Each new show gives you an opportunity to learn more things which is very exciting.

Because so much of the storytelling for Beauty and the Beast happens through shadows, I felt that the costumes should give a feeling of time and place (around the year 1800 in England), but be simple enough not to distract us from the shadows.

The costumes focus on three areas:  shape, color and texture.  With these three things the clothing tells the story of Beauty and the Beast.  There are four sets of costumes and each one looks different:

A sketch of Belle's Devon costume

A sketch of Belle’s Devon costume

  1.  LONDON—Belle and Cassandra’s father is a wealthy merchant and they wear expensive looking clothes, made out of very nice materials like silk and brocade. Everything is CHOSEN to look expensive because at this point of the story they are rich.
  2. DEVON—Belle and Cassandra are now poor because their father has lost all their money in the shipwreck. They have matching simple dresses of plain cotton with a rustic weave.  The father has a coat of brown linen with wooden buttons.  The colors are sad and country looking.
  3. THE CASTLE OF THE BEAST—Belle puts on a blue wool hooded cape to travel to the Beast’s castle.  When we are sad, we say that we are blue, and blue felt right for Belle for now. The Beast and the Housekeeper are in shades of black and grey.  They live literally in the shadows, and there is no color left in their unhappy lives. The Housekeeper has magical powers, but Whit, the director, liked the idea of keeping the secret until the ending, so her colors are simple and ordinary—grey with a white collar.

    A sketch of Belle’s red dress, inspired by the color of the roses she loves

  4. TRANSFORMATION—This play is all about transformation—turning one thing into another.  And not just the Beast, who turns into a Prince.  Belle transforms from a frightened girl into a confident young woman.  Cassandra transforms from a selfish sister into a young bride.  We have used very little color since the move to Devon in Act 1, so the director and I wanted the costumes for the end of the play to have a splash of vivid color to create a fairy tale ending. Suddenly the color palette for the show has changed from poor and sad to HAPPILY EVER AFTER!


Now it’s your turn to think like a costume designer!

Richard talks about how many of the people in the play transform from one thing into another. If you were the costume designer for Beauty and the Beast, what would your Beast look like? What clothes would he wear? Would he have a mask? What colors will you use? Now think about what your Prince looks like? Does he wear the same clothes as the Beast or something totally different? Draw the two characters next to each other like you see below.

A sketch of the Prince, after transformation

A sketch of the Prince, after transformation

A Costume Sketch of the Beast's costume

A Costume Sketch of the Beast’s costume

weast_nielsen1Beauty and the Beast is a very old story that has been told many times, in many different ways, and in many different places. Sometimes what the beast looks like changes (a pig, a bull, a monkey, a frog, even a fish!). Here are some of the other versions of the story. You can find these stories, and many others, in your local library.

La Belle et La Bete: The first written-down version of the story titled Beauty and the Beast was written by a woman named Madame Le Prince de Beaumont in 1756. In this version, Beauty has two older, lazy sisters. When their father is about to take a long journey, the sisters ask for expensive things, but the youngest asks only for a rose. From there, the story is very similar to the one you saw at the Arden or might know already.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: This version is even older than Beauty and the Beast and comes from Scandinavia. In this story, a young woman is made to leave home and marry a bear. It turns out that the bear is really a prince. He was enchanted by an evil troll, and becomes a man again at night.

The Clinking Clanking Lowesleaf: Instead of a rose, in this German version, the youngest daughter asks for “a clinking clanking lowesleaf” from her father. Even experts aren’t sure what a “clinking clanking lowesleaf” is, so it isn’t surprising that Beauty’s father can’t find one. Fortunately, a beast—a giant black dog—is able to help him locate the leaf. But of course, the gift comes with a price!

The Fairy Serpent: In this version from China, the Beast is an enchanted snake, and he insists that Beauty marry him while he is still a snake. He is so nice to her that Beauty comes to like him. Eventually, when she learns to love him, he turns into a prince.

Little Broomstick: This is another version of the story from Germany. In this story, Beauty has a best friend named Little Broomstick who goes with her to the Beast’s castle.

These are just a few versions of the story. There are others from places like Denmark, where the beast is an enchanted horse and Italy, where Beauty is called Zelinda. There are even grown up versions of this story like Jane Eyre written by a woman named Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice written by a woman named Jane Austen.

Can you tell your own version of Beauty and the Beast? What would your beast look like? What would Beauty ask her father for as a gift? Would Beauty have brothers or sisters or friends?

In this adaptation, six actors play over 40 characters to bring Dickens’ novel to life. That requires actors with broad range who are capable of making each character distinctive and memorable. In addition to costume changes, the actors create characters by changing their voices and their physicality. Here is how Doug Hara, who plays Herbert Pocket and Mr. Wopsle among others, created some of the many characters he plays:

In this play we switch characters so often, and sometimes for just a line or two at a time, so it seems friendly to the audience to make sure I make clear and strong choices and lean deeply into those choices with each character turn.

Herbert Pocket:











Herbert is Pip’s true and loyal friend.  He is highly educated and cultured, so with Herbert I have focused the most on speaking with proper high-class British elocution.  But he also needs to be accessible and likable, so I’ve placed him in a higher register and I always give him a smile to keep him warm.

Mr. Wopsle:











If there is a clown in this play, Mr. Wopsle is probably it.  He is a provincial man with grandiose ambitions.  I’ve given him a bit of a crooked eyebrow-y smile, and an artificially deep resonant affectation.  When I speak I’m conjuring a little Sam the Eagle from the Muppets and Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore Show…only British.

The Coachman:











I literally say 5 or 6 words as the Coachman.  Years of whiskey and cigars, gravelly and rough and lower class.  A Cockney Tom Waits.

The Sergeant:  He’s an imposing character who interrupts Christmas dinner and hunts down convicts.  As the shortest person in the cast (by a lot), I’ve taken to leaping onto a chair as soon as I enter (Seriously, I stand on a chair so I can look down on everyone.  It totally helps).  I put my voice in as deep a resonance as I can muster without sounding fake.  He’s an authentic fellow.

©2009 Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. For tickets, call 215.922.1122.
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