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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!

By Ed Sobel, Associate Artistic Director

At the end of my last posting on season planning, I noted that despite the fact that we had announced our season, sometimes that is not the end of the process. Such is the case this year.

You’ll see that we have in fact had a change in our plans, and will be producing A Moon for the Misbegotten by Eugene O’Neill, rather than Orlando by Sarah Ruhl.

This kind of change is not uncommon in the field, although we try to keep it as rare as possible. Changes occur for a variety of reasons: a central artist withdraws from the project (usually because of a better paying job offer), an expected source of funding fails to materialize, performance rights agreed to in principal but not yet formally signed are withdrawn by the licensor because of a more lucrative or higher profile offer for production (or exploitation in other media like film or tv) that demands exclusivity, the early part of the planning process for a production reveals a greater demand for resources than was originally anticipated (“I know I agreed to do The Tempest with 8 actors, but I really can’t do it with less than 12!”), a new play has not had sufficient time to undergo anticipated revisions or the development it needed.

Sometimes it is combination of several of these, any one of which might be overcome individually, but when taken together make it clear this is simply not the right time to follow the original plan out of stubbornness. Our primary obligation is to make the best possible art we can, and we remind ourselves, as Emerson put it, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Sometimes all this happens rather late, leaving a theater scrambling to fill the gap. (I received a call from a staff member at another theater just this morning, looking for suggestions to replace a play that had just fallen out of their season.) Fortunately, in our case, O’Neill’s marvelous and deeply moving play has been on our short list for several years running. And to further our good fortune, the director and set of actors whom we most wanted for the project were all available at the same time. So while it is a shame to not have Sarah’s voice on our season this coming year, the opportunity to instead offer one of the most glorious and challenging roles for an actress in the canon of American dramatic literature is tremendously exciting.

And now we begin, over the next few months, planning for 2011-12.

By Angela DuRoss, Development Director

On Monday, May 24, >seek corporate sponsors and members of the Host Committee for the Arden’s biennial fundraising gala, the Granfalloon, gathered for an exclusive Preview Party.  The party was held at the posh new residence at 1706 Rittenhouse Square Street.  Guests enjoyed the fabulous view and had the opportunity to tour a model condominium.  Liz Filios, a member of the cast of Sunday in the Park with George, performed for the guests.  Several Arden friends spoke at the event and expressed their thanks to Granfalloon Honoree N. Peter Hamilton, whose ongoing support has helped the Arden become the theatre it is today.

Enjoy these photos from the event and then visit our Granfalloon 2010 page to learn more about the upcoming party!

By Matt Ocks, Manager of Institutional Giving

We had great response to the post about “bed-time” stories to adapt a few weeks ago.  Having conducted some research into the titles suggested, I can now report the following:

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs:  Though this classic picture book about edible precipitation has recently been adapted into both a CGI film and a video game for PlayStation, it does not appear to have been adapted for the stage just yet.  Hmm.  Has the potential to be really fun for the person whose job it is to drop things from the catwalks.

Caps for Sale: According to a Google search, this play was adapted for something called Toddler Theatre at a place called Wild Horse Children’s Theatre in Carson City, Nevada.  I cannot find any info on the rights to performing this adaptation, and as this is theatre for toddlers, it might not have been a full production anyway.  I think this is a great idea, and I have a lot of actor friends who born to play monkeys.

The Boxcar Children:  Done!  Arden Children’s Theatre performed an adaptation of this book in our 2002/03 season.  It received 2 Barrymore nominations.

Go, Dog.  Go!:  This book was also already done for Arden Children’s Theatre in 2008, and it was nominated for 3 Barrymores.

Amelia Bedelia:  Various writers seem to have attempted musical versions of this series over the years but nothing recent.  Books are still being written (the most recent title came out in 2009), so the literal-minded maid is probably still known to kids.  If someone with a flair for comedy took a stab at this, it might provide a real showcase role for a talented comedienne.

A Wrinkle in Time:  This one’s a favorite of mine – and apparently a lot of other theatre folk too. An adaptation by John Glore was just recently produced at South Coast Rep.  (Glore’s other adaptations include The Stinky Cheese Man that we did in 2006).  Check out this link for more info on this production.

And that’s all I’ve got for now.  I’ll report back next week on some of the other titles suggested.  A few of them were new to me, so I am eager to learn more about them.  If anything, I’ve got some titles to add to my own personal reading list.

On a related note, members of our staff spent the weekend in DC at the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Festival, where The Flea and the Professor, an Arden commission for Children’s Theatre, was workshopped alongside other new plays for kids.  This show is based on a story by the late, great Hans Christian Andersen, and it makes me think of another question for you all, even as I am still working on answering the first:

If you could adapt any FAIRY TALE, FOLK TALE, or FABLE into a kids’ play, which would it be?

Putting it TogetherThank you for your interest in the Arden’s production of Sunday in the Park with George!

There are two ways you can enter our contest to win tickets to the production*. Here are the details:

On Twitter:
1. Follow us at Twitter.com/ardentheatreco
2. Tweet the message “Putting it Together @Ardentheatreco”
3. Check your direct messages to see if you’ve won tickets to the show!

On Facebook:
1. Like our page at Facebook.com/ardentheatreco
2. Post as your status “Putting it Together @Arden Theatre Company”
(NOTE: You must select Arden Theatre Company from the drop down menu that appears when you start typing the name of our page. This will ensure that your post shows up on the Arden page and your contest entry is valid.)
3. Check your Facebook messages to see if you’ve won tickets to the show!

Then, once you’ve seen the show, join us for:
The Art of Making Art: A Celebration of Creation

An invitation to anyone inspired by the challenge and possibility of a white page, canvas or screen.

On September 3, during First Friday, the Arden will present a special exhibition of work created by our audience and community, inspired by Sunday in the Park with George. As Sondheim was inspired by Georges Seurat’s masterpiece Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, if Sondheim’s musical about “the art of making art” compels you to create, we invite you to share your work. Whether you’re moved to create a painting or a poem, a sculpture or a song, the artistic process is to be celebrated and we hope that you will join us as an inspired artist or enthusiastic spectator.

If you’d like to submit a work of art, please email Gigi Lamm.

*Fine Print: We will select one Facebook and one Twitter winner each week from May 27 -July 1. Winners will be notified no later than Thursday of each week and will have 24 hours to claim their tickets.

By Courtney Spiker Martin, Arden’s Business Manager and Teaching Artist for Arden for All

Walking the halls of Washington Elementary in Camden, NJ may just be the closest I ever get to stardom.

“Miss Courtney! Miss Courtney! You’re baaacckkkkk!” is all I can hear as 30-some 3rd graders run in for one massive Monday morning hug. What a way to start a week.

It’s been a few months since I was first introduced to Ms. Candelori’s 3rd graders but it’s clear that they haven’t forgotten me or the Arden’s production of Peter Pan which they attended in January. As soon as the chaos subsides, the questions and murmurs begin.”I know that book! Can I tell you what happens?” “Mouse, Cookie!! If we are good we get to see If You Give A Mouse A Cookie!” Their enthusiasm is contagious, and I do my best to feed off of it as I introduce the focus of today’s lesson which I am admittedly slightly nervous about; sentence structure and cause vs. effect.  As a theatre artist, teaching academia can be intimidating. I quickly realize that with my bright red If You Give A Mouse A Cookie t-shirt on, these kids might be willing to watch me teach anything. They know the end reward is huge and are willing to work for this field trip.

After a rousing warm up round of the Name Game (say your name and give me a movement that tells me something about you) we are off! (Full disclosure: I am lucky that this group is incredibly animated and one round of the name game wears them out just enough for an hour long lesson.) This is a class full of smart kids who love proving that they are smart. They quickly catch on to my cause/effect identifying game and have no problem coming up with a ton of creative examples which add to the simple scenarios I’ve provided. “I bet he overslept and missed the bus because his brother snores so loud!” During group work the class divides up into pairs and works on combining simple sentences into complex sentences to form cause/effect stories. Most groups even move on to detailed drawings which illustrate their work.

While walking around the classroom to assist I find so many small reasons to celebrate these kids and what they can accomplish. Two for today:

1. The student who crossed his arms during my first two Peter Pan lessons and told me that “No one should have to write on a Monday” (really, he might have a point..)wrote two pages of complex sentences and illustrated both of them.

2. The student who’s voice I only heard once during my winter sessions volunteered to stand in front of the class and read a page of  sentences on her own.

When I mention that this lesson is helping to prepare them to become authors of their own children’s books their jaws drop and their feet begin to stomp. One student wanted to know if he could write a play instead (!). It is incredible to see how much of an incentive a theatre trip can be and refreshing to know how an arts -related approach to standard curriculum can breathe new life into a classroom.

I invite anyone who doesn’t see the importance of keeping the arts alive in schools to join me in Ms. Candelori’s 3rd grade class. (And anyone who questions my celebrity status, I invite you to do the same.)

By AnnieAnnie at If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If you give a mouse a cookie, you’ll end up with mouse ears and a face that hurts from smiling so much!

At least, >pilule that’s the lesson I got when I went to see If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Even though I’m a teenager, I still found If You Give A Mouse A Cookie to be a hilarious play and a great experience. Having loved the book as long as I could read (and, honestly, way before that) I was excited to see it on stage but worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I needn’t have wasted any thoughts on that issue.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater was the amount of young kids bouncing around the seats. I thought to myself, “They’ll never sit down for this!” Amazingly, when the lights went back on, I saw smiling faces on both the kids and the parent’s faces, and not a single one frustrated. THAT is the mark of a truly magnificent play!

Something that was a bit disconcerting at first was the stage. It’s bent so that it looks just like a kitchen must look to a little Boy and a Mouse; huge and daunting. From the very first line, I could tell that the whole play was built like the stage – to make kids feel more understood and to make adults remember what it was like when the counter was taller then they were. Many theaters would have a hard time capturing that, but the Arden did perfectly.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was a huge crowd-pleaser and a real heart-warmer, and it definitely went above and beyond my expectations. Bravo!

Last week, > we hosted an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-themed First Friday event in the Arden lobby. Guests got to enjoy milk and cookies, create their own If You Give a Mouse a ____ story, >recipe and enjoy some beer thanks to Hatboro Beverages.

Guests also got to try out costumes and props from our production of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, feeling what it’s like to be a tiny mouse in a big world. Here are some of our favorite pictures from the evening!

If  you see yourself in one of the photos, leave a comment here on the blog and you’ll win two tickets to Sunday in the Park with George!

And here’s a sampling of some of the new stories created at First Friday:

If you give a mouse a Rugelach, he’s gonna ask for a can opener…
If you give a mouse a Tomato, he’s gonna ask for a garlic press…
If you give a mouse a Tofu Burger, he’s gonna ask for a straw…
If you give a mouse a Muffin, he’s gonna ask for a zester…
If you give a mouse a Bread Crumb, he’s gonna ask for a rolling pin…

Be sure to come visit us at our next First Friday on June 4 and see what else you can create!

By Maureen Torsney-Weir, castmember of Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George – first day of rehearsal.  It is a lot
like the first day of school.   Same excitement, same jitters   Where
do I sit?   Will I do well?   Did I forget something?

The first day of rehearsal at the Arden sometimes includes an evening read through/sing through of the show for board members,
design team, and other interested parties.   The first show I did at
the Arden was The Baker’s Wife, and when I heard about this I was
terrified!   We only had a few hours to learn music and now we were
going to sing in front of strangers!   I hardly knew the music, had
just met my fellow cast members and didn’t know what was expected.
I was sure I was going to be fired.   Well, I usually think I’m going
to be fired the first day, so that’s not that unusual…

I always  arrive early – especially the first day.   I like to get my
tea, warm up a little (or not), and start living in the rehearsal
space.     We spent the first few hours of the day learning our parts
of the music.   Our Dot and George, Krissy Fraelich and Jeff Coon had
started rehearsal the previous week on their parts, so we were able to concentrate on the group numbers in those precious few hours.

The Arden also provides a dinner that first night and as an extra
treat, the staff members baked tasty desserts.    I needed some time
to myself to prepare so I went off to get some tea and look over my
notes, and then it’s 7pm and we’re off.    Katya played the first
chords and I felt those tears in the back of my eyes.   Sitting next
to Jeff, I could feel his intensity as George,  and in the scenes
between George and Dot it felt intrusive to be so near.   By the end
of the first act, those thrilling three “Sundays”, I looked up to see Eric’s beaming face, and knew we were off to a great start.  We even
sang through numbers we hadn’t had time to get to in rehearsal.
They weren’t perfect, but it is the first day after all.

As I write this, it’s day 5 of rehearsal and it feels like we’ve
known each other forever.   It’s a great cast of talented people, and
as a bonus – each and every one a generous and giving soul.   Eric
Ebbenga is a wonderful music director and a gifted teacher.   I love
working with Terry Nolen.   This is our fifth show together and it’s
been a great gift.   I trust him implicitly, and love the way he is
“putting it together”.   The show is about  the art of making art,
and that is what working with Terry is like.   Bit by bit, he puts it
together.   I can’t wait for tomorrow to see what’s going to emerge.

Last week, as rehearsals began for Sunday in the Park with George, >sick members of the Arden’s Sylvan Society gathered for the first sing-thru of the play. We asked for people to share a favorite Sondheim memory – a show, a song or a story. View this video to see what people had to say!

We hope to see you at Sunday in the Park with George, starting May 27!

By Meredith Sonnen, Arden Professional Apprentice

The first play I ever remember seeing was The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. I proceeded to name our next dog Katisha after a character. I lived in small rural towns in Tennessee and Georgia growing up and there was a a severe lack of theatre in the area. What I did see was whatever the local colleges were putting on. That was nearly always a musical. Musicals were my first theatrical love. We rented and watched the double VHS of The Sound of Music from the local library so many times that we wore it out. I knew every word to that musical by heart. Next was My Fair Lady. Later, I listened to my mom’s old records. Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof and others could be heard blaring from our house at any hour, normally with my little voice piping along into a hairbrush or cooking spoon.

Musicals got me interested in theatre. I don’t do them anymore for the most part. I have become a straight play actor and director somehow, but I still love them. My tastes have grown. I have a huge crush on all things Jason Robert Brown (The Last 5 Years, Parade, Songs for A New World). I could listen to Ragtime on repeat all day and never grow tired of it. The harmonies in A New Brain blow my mind every time I listen to Heart and Music.

I don’t just listen though. I sing. I sing when I clean, when I cook, when I walk to work. I am not Barbara Streisand but I am not bad either. I have dreams of getting back into musical theatre. Sadly, there are dream roles like Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Sarah in Ragtime that I can never be cast in for a variety of reasons. For example, I can’t tap dance. Which is pretty crucial. That doesn’t stop me from singing or dreaming though.

While talking to actors throughout my life we’ve all had a dream role that we aren’t qualified for.  Well, the Apprentices this year decided to do something about it.

This Monday , May 10th, at Triumph Brewery from 6-9 we are hosting a Backwards Cabaret. The “Songs you’ll  never sing, the parts you’ll never play” is the theme.

So if you want to see Scott Greer, Maureen Torsney-Weir, Brian Cowden, Liz Filios and many other area actors sing the songs they never thought they could, come join us!

There is a $5 cover and all proceeds go to support our showcase (June 20th and 21st at the Arden).  So come on down to Triumph at 117 Chestnut Street and get a great show for just $5!

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