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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!

Jon Ward, Properties Master at the Arden, discusses the tricky prop of Something Intangible.

When a play opens at the Arden, the Production Department is the first to kick back and celebrate. We’re the ones who have been putting in 10, 12, even 14 hour days during technical rehearsals and previews, after all. When a show is finally “locked”, we’re more than happy to hand over the day-to-day running of it to the trusty stage manager, her crew, and the cast.

But a Prop Master’s work is never done, as it turns out. Not really. Take Tony Wiston’s tennis racquet in Something Intangible. Bruce Graham’s script calls for Tony, the world renowned Hollywood cartoon mogul, to smash his racquet in half night after night as he puts the fear of God into rebellious whiz kid animator Leo Baxter.

Something Intangible runs for 7 weeks. That means 67 separate smashings, not including what happened during rehearsals and previews. Now, in a perfect world, we could purchase enough tennis racquets for the actor to smash a new one every night. But the world’s not perfect, and my budget’s not limitless.

Solving the – ahem – “Tennis Racquet Problem” has been one of my greatest challenges all year. Preview after preview, I’d gather in the house for notes with the director, the set designer, and the rest of the production team. What could we do? How could we design a racquet that could be broken and put back together again night after night? And not just any tennis racquet, mind you. A period specific tennis racquet. Something Intangible is set in the early 1940s, during the golden age of Hollywood animation, you see. The racquets they had then look very little like the ones we use today.

Wooden racquets chip and give actors splinters. Could we stain a modern-day metallic one? Or should we try building our own, specially rigged, “trick” racquet? It’s four weeks into the run, and I’m still trying to answer these questions. To date, we’ve gone through 10 separate racquets.

Are we closer to a solution?

All I can say is…thank goodness Conor McPherson never got it in his head to have those lovable louts in The Seafarer start tearing up their playing cards.

Thanks a lot, Bruce Graham!

Think you know more than our beloved Props Master? Feel free to post your own solutions to the “Tennis Racquet Problem” right here in the comments section of the Arden Blog.

Tickets to this world premiere are now just $10 for all performances through June 7!

By Sarah Ollove: Assistant Director/Dramaturg for The Seafarer, and Amateur Cultural Anthropologist.

Please note that while many North Dubliners can kiss their mothers with their mouths, the gentlemen of The Seafarer should not. The following contains an R rated word.

The Eskimos have 40 words for snow. The men in The Seafarer have around the same amount for drinking. If one is “jarred” or “bollixed, ” one is inebriated. To reach this state they might have imbibed “poteen,” an Irish cousin of moonshine or “meths,” methylated spirits. Neither of these can be bought at the “off-license,” which allows the customer to buy alcohol and take it off premises from “your man” (“this guy” in American slang). In order to pay for such goods, one can visit the “hole-in-the wall,” also called an ATM. Upon consuming the liquids, one will probably find the need to locate a “jacks” (restroom) because they will be “bursting for a slash” (possessed of an intense need to urinate).

If one frequently finds oneself jarred, then one is “on the lash.” This can occasionally result in some unfortunate behavior. One can be termed a “Head-the-Ball,” a “berk,” an “eejit,” or a “dozy fucking eejit,” all of which are different ways of calling one a scoundrel. One might be told to “go on out of that,” or, in other words, to cease. One faces the potential of being “reefed out of it,” which means suffering a severe dressing down.

After a wild night of being on the lash, a North Dubliner might embrace sobriety. If so, they have the option of having a Kaliber, a non-alcoholic beer, following the example set by Irish recovering alcoholic Matt Talbot in the 19th century.

So before you attend a performance of The Seafarer, make sure you’ve visited the jacks and maybe the hole-in-the-wall, and please, don’t come jarred or you’ll be reefed out of it, you berk.

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