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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!

Last week (June 22 – 26) we kicked off our series of week-long summer day camps. Forty-five campers, five counselors, and a handful of education interns set up shop at The Painted Bride Arts Center (since the Arden’s roof is being replaced). And what a week it was! Our campers got the chance to learn about many areas of theatre from a slew of theatre professionals.

Here’s an example of what a day looked like for a kid in the Yellow Group (comprised of mostly third graders):

10:00 to 10:15 – Warm Ups
10:15 to 11:00 – Puppet Design and Construction
11:00 to 11:45 – Acting Class
11:45 to 12:30 – Lunch and Lunchtime Funtime*
12:30 to 1:15 – Play rehearsal
1:15 to 1:45 – Playwrighting
1:45 to 2:00 – Snack
2:00 to 2:30 – Storytelling
2:30 to 3:00 – Dance Practice
3:00 to 3:30 – Improv
3:30 to 4:00 – Music Rehearsal

*Lunchtime Funtime is always a big hit. After lunch, campers get a chance to challenge (and almost always beat!) their counselors at Improv games.

At the beginning of each week, as the campers (who were in first through fifth grade) arrived, it seemed impossible that in one short week they would produce an original piece, learn a dance number, learn a song, build their confidence, and form new friendships. And yet, they did! Our Friday camp show finale featured several castles in space, a remixed Little Red Riding Hood, a wacky version of Family Feud, the hand jive, and music from Peter Pan.

Camper Sophia summed it up, “This camp is so awesome. I don’t think I had a favorite part. They were all my favorite parts.”

Our campers learned an awful lot, but mostly they had fun. Most of the credit for this goes to our talented staff of teaching artists. They taught an awful lot, but mostly they have fun too.

If last week was any kind of indicator, we’re in for a great summer.

We’re geared up for several more weeks with elementary aged kids. We’re also really excited about our three-week musical theatre camp for older kids. Last season’s Cabaret was the highlight of July!

-Sally Wojcik
Education and Group Services Manager

A View from the Trenches: Class 16 reflects on their year as apprentices.

The six members of APA Class 16 are in their final days of the apprenticeship. For the last four weeks, Bobby, Katherine, Hillary, Maura, Richard and Gary have been knee deep in producing, designing, building, and acting in Slightly Irregular – an evening of four ten-minute plays with comic interludes.

Performances take place Saturday June 13 at 8pm and Sunday June 14 at 7pm on the Arcadia Stage. Tickets are free but reservations are strongly encouraged. To reserve your tickets please call the Arden Box Office 215.922.1222.

Bobby

When ever people ask me what I’ve learned this year, I’ve found myself at a loss for words. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, but that I’ve experienced so much that it’s hard to articulate exactly what. I settle for telling them that I don’t think I’ll realize what I’ve learned until the apprenticeship is over, when everything sinks in. I was surprised to find through working on this showcase that it has already sunk in, it has just become such an inextricable part of the way I operate and think about my life in theatre that I didn’t realize the change had occurred. I have the confidence to know that I can create and produce theatre, in my newfound Philadelphia community and elsewhere, because of who this program has shaped me to be. I love the creative process of making this show, and it is exhilarating to use my administrative skills to make it a reality, but the most satisfying thing about it is seeing the person I have become as a result.

Katherine

While I consciously know that my days at the Arden can be counted on one hand, it’s not a thought I really can process at the moment! Our last few days have been filled with preparations for the showcase – and in my case, it feels really, really nice to be back in the costume shop after a year of trying out everything else. And although a large part of me is so happy to be back designing costumes again, I have to say that the additional challenges of the showcase duties (in my case, learning how to use graphic design softwares such as Photoshop and Quark to produce the postcard and additional printed materials) have been incredibly useful and wonderful. How lucky to end my tenure at the Arden by both returning to a long-loved passion as well as being challenged to try new things!

Hillary

All season long I have been dreaming up the perfect apprentice survival kit. It started out as tiny jokes during Facilities Maintenance or an Opening Night party. “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a door stopper that could shoot out of our sneakers?” I exclaimed on several occasions. As the season went on, more and more ideas popped up for imaginative ways to go “above and beyond” during the apprenticeship. Maura came up with the “Hydration Station” – a contraption that would fit on our heads and allow us to have both coffee and water at all times. All six members of Class 16 have come up with perfect solutions for solving Arden problems with the little help of an extra arm, leg, zip cord, utility belt, etc. During our last couple of weeks working on the showcase we have collaborated on every aspect of building our own production, Slightly Irregular, from start to finish. In addition we have created the ultimate APA survival tool which we have coined The Apprendage. (Katherine created a mock-up of our genius invention for the Slightly Irregular program.) I truly believe that The Apprendage is a culmination of our great success of working as a team and that even though we are all truly different, we somehow meld together to create something great…yet slightly irregular.

Maura

On Monday night the six apprentices had a meeting at the end of another long day. We were all at the end of a shift that had lasted anywhere between 12 and 16 hours (even for those who had the day off). Our muscles ached, our brains were frazzled, and our stomachs were empty. As we inhaled pizza from Soho and sipped on the case of beer that was given to us earlier in the year (listed on our budget under assets: “a case of beer”), we began to chip away at the long list of things that still need to be figured out and finished before opening this Saturday. As I looked around the table, I could hardly believe that we are here in the week that every apprentice is warned about: the deadly final week before the showcase. This week is infamous for sleepless nights, stress, tears, fights, and even trips to the hospital. This is the week that we have been preparing for all year: the last lap of our marathon, the consummate workweek, the final countdown. Yet, sitting in the meeting, I realized that if we put aside all of the painting, sewing, building, marketing, and fundraising that we’ve been so consumed with in order to prove what we’ve learned this year, we are still left with something unique and special: each other. It is corny, I know, but as we teased and laughed and loopily attempted to have a serious meeting, I realized that coming out of this year I am now blessed with five people who I would never have met otherwise, who now know me better than most people, and who I will truly consider to be great friends. Maybe we’ll fight this week, maybe we’ll cry…but in the end I know we’ll be there for each other. And in that realization, I suddenly knew that this isn’t all about the show…it is also about us.

Richard

Wow! It’s the last week of our apprenticeship! A funny thing about this week is how I seem to be taking note of our final apprenticeship duties as we complete them. For example, I was scheduled for Facilities Maintenance this week, something I’ve done many times before, and it was kind of relieving and satisfying to realize that this is the last time I would have to replace toilet paper in the bathrooms or change the liners of coffee soaked garbage bins while spilling it all over my shoes. It also made me want to do an extra good job while doing it. I’ve found myself taking an unusual amount of pride in these little things. I’m realizing that they all add up to make the whole of what the Arden is: one large group project. Everybody in this building contributes something every day. It all amasses into a largely successful theatre company. It’s cool to be a part of that. A slightly smaller (but still big!) group project is the APA Class 16 Showcase, Slightly Irregular, which will be happening this weekend. I’m taking an especially large amount of pride in that. I think the pride I’m feeling has swelled from knowing that it’s bundled with something else. Knowing that everything I’ve done here has contributed both to me as an individual and to the company. Everything I do here helps us both to grow. Thank you to everyone at Arden Theatre Company for a wonderful experience!

Gary

For the showcase, I am acting as technical director and lighting designer. Over the course of the year I have spent much time working with the production department on various projects, however what makes the showcase special is how I will able to work on a project from start to finish. The demanding nature of the apprentice schedule does not allow working in the same place too long. We work in several different departments daily. One may see step 1 and step 3, but never have the opportunity to see step 2. Fortunately, the production staff has been a great help over the last month. This whole process I have found very empowering. Now that I have spent the last year learning how the Arden operates, it is a wonderful feeling to implement everything I have learned.

By Courtney Riggar, Arden Theatre Company Production Manager.

I recently had the extreme pleasure of working with the Melmark Players on their debut performance of My Fair Lady at the Arden. It was, by far, one of the best experiences I have had in my theatrical career. Melmark is a non-profit organization committed to serving the residential, educational, therapeutic, and recreational needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. The Arden has a fierce commitment to making the arts accessible to everyone.

A little history and background about the Players: they are a part of the Meadows program at Melmark, which is a work centered program for adults. Members of the Meadows program are offered music classes, sports opportunities and they run their own business – the Meadows Shop – where they sell their handmade goods. About 15 years ago a group of the members went to their gym coach with a proposal. They decided they were too old for gym class and instead they would like to perform in musicals. Kris Benach their coach had absolutely NO theatrical training whatsoever (and she possesses a horrible case of stage fright), but jumped in wholeheartedly and started making theatre with this group – The Players. The Players perform twice a year in the gym at Melmark; their performance of My Fair Lady marked the first time they had EVER performed for anyone other than friends and family on their own campus.

This amazing group of individuals worked 5 days a week with a team of directors (Kris Benach, Chris Tabakin, Ellen Battersby and Liza Jones) for nearly 6 months to put together this one hour musical montage performance. They came to see James and the Giant Peach at the Arden so they would understand what kind of space they would be performing in. They went back and set up cones and chairs in their gym as a makeshift audience so they could practice playing to an audience on three sides. They took classes from Maureen (Education Director at the Arden) and Sally (Education and Group Services Manager at the Arden) to enhance their acting skills and then they started each rehearsal with the warm-ups they learned. They even came to the Arden for a technical rehearsal with our staff.

I got to work and hang with them each time they came to the Arden and I got to know some really amazing individuals. There is Beth who, in her late 60s, is the oldest member of the group, she doesn’t move very well anymore, but no one wants to perform without her, so she plays a bartender and tends bar from her chair onstage. There is Meg, who played Eliza, who absolutely adores music (her mother was an opera singer) and sings every song with a huge voice and an even larger heart (she also happens to have a wicked sense of humor and can always make me laugh). There is Dan, who loves to dance and grins from ear to ear during his tap solos and waltz scene. There is Bill whose improvisational skills would rival many professionals out there; he brings something new and clever to the stage every time he performs. There is Lisa who’s an old reliable for the directors, she absorbs every note and remembers every bit of blocking without fail, and she’s a quick thinker and problem solver in a jam. There is Ronnie, who likes to help so much that he is the honorary stage manager for every show, in addition to being in each one. There is Doug who is a crowd-pleaser, he often strays into the audience during a show to work the crowd and give a high five (he also does a mean Neil Diamond impersonation). I could go on and on about the fantastic, unique qualities of each Player.

It has been absolutely breath taking and heart warming to work with these individuals to make their production of My Fair Lady a smashing success. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day to day routine of life. And at the end of each season (when we’re all burnt toast-ready for the small respite that summertime brings) it is sometimes hard to remember why we do this. It requires long, weird hours, sacrificed holidays and family time, and loads of stress. It is easy to forget the power that live theatre has to touch the hearts and minds of all those who come into contact with it. Watching the Players onstage having the time of their lives, seeing their friends and families in the audience glowing with pride at watching what the Players have achieved, and seeing those who thought they were coming to see just some ordinary, boring play and walking away speechless, in awe of the remarkable performance they had just seen immediately renewed my spirit. The Arden’s mission is to tell great stories and I am beyond proud to have helped Melmark tell their wonderful story here on our stage.

The Players will take the summer off now, many told me they are saving their pennies in the hopes of going to Disney World, and some will be headed off to camp. They are already talking about what their winter production will be (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown). They want to incorporate video like they saw here in James and the Giant Peach. They are jockeying for positions and lead roles. And they are hoping that they will, again, get to grace the stage here at the Arden sometime in the near future. If all else fails, they tell me, they’ll just make a movie. Look out Hollywood!

By Sarah Ollove, Assistant Director/Dramaturg/Amateur Cultural Anthropologist.

The goal of poker is win all the money in the room by playing as many >hands, or rounds, as it takes to either go bust (broke) or win it all. The game in The Seafarer is a variation on the standard poker game 5 Card Draw. The rules of 5 Card Draw are as follows:

Players organize themselves in a circle. Before the game begins, everyone wishing to play must ante up, which one accomplishes by putting a small designated amount, such as two euros, into the pot, a term for in the middle of the circle. Once one has put money into the pot, the only way to get it back is to win the hand.

One person is designated as the dealer. After the cards have been properly and exhaustively shuffled, the dealer deals 5 cards clockwise around the table. Each player may look at his own cards (his hand), but not those of the other players. Starting with the person left of the dealer and proceeding clockwise, each player can either fold, check, or bet. Folding means quitting, checking means passing to the next person. If everyone checks, then play is moved to the next stage. If someone bets, then those wishing to stay in the game must match the amount of money he puts into the pot or they can raise (bet higher than the initial bet). Once all bets have been seen, or met, play continues to the next stage.

Now each player has the chance to trade in unsatisfactory cards. Typically, a player will trade in no more than three cards – if he needs to trade in more, he probably should have folded in the first hand. Again, play starts left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Once all players have their new cards, a second round of betting takes place where players again choose to fold, check, or bet. Sometimes if a player reaches this stage and realizes that he cannot win, he will choose to bluff rather than fold. Players bluff by pretending he has a higher hand than he does, and betting accordingly. The goal here is to raise the stakes (or bets) so high that all the other players will fold. Otherwise, he will lose in the end.

After this round, players show their hands. The order of victory goes as follows, twos being the lowest numbers and aces the highest.

Type of Received Hand (Odds That You Get This Hand)

One Pair or Higher (1 in 2)
Pair of Jacks or Higher (1 in 5)
Pair Aces or Higher (1 in 9)
Two Pair or Higher (1 in 13)
Three of a Kind or Higher (1 in 35)
Straight or Higher (1 in 275)
Full House or Higher (1 in 600)
Four of a Kind or Higher (1 in 4,000)
Straight Flush (1 in 65,000)

The Seafarer Variation

The gentlemen in The Seafarer play a game very similar to 5 card draw, with a few variations. The most notable is the order of betting. Rather than the traditional clockwise rotation, the order is determined entirely by the dealer. When determining betting order, the dealer should aim for that which yields the highest dramatic or comedic effect. As much tension as possible should be maintained at all times. The other most important variation on traditional five card draw is that once someone is out of money, they can bet with anything they like such as a boat or the truth. So next time you have your friends over for poker night, consider making it more interesting by trying out the Seafarer Variation – you’ll soon find old secrets aired and friendships tested. If you play your cards right, you may even end the night with a year’s supply of beer, courtesy of all the losers.

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