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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 Rogelio Martinez, Playwright of Wanamaker’s Pursuit

People are always curious to learn how much I know ahead of time when I decide to write a play. To be honest, I know very little. For me a play is a mystery that doesn’t really get solved until an audience watches it.

Wanamaker’s Pursuit was chock-full of mysteries. Initially, the Wanamaker name attracted me. I learned it was the name of a store that had left a very strong imprint on the citizens of Philadelphia. Oddly enough, the name left an equally strong imprint on me. As a runner, I remember watching the Wanamaker Mile at the Garden in New York. In other words, I had a very personal connection to the family, but not the connection one would expect.

NOISE. NOISE. NOISE

The Gertrude Steins, the Paul Poirets and the Picassos of the play loved to hear themselves talk. They had something to say about everything and everyone (at one time the play was 145 pages long; it’s now 114). However with all these voices fighting to be heard, the young man who was at heart of the play was unusually reticent.

For anyone considering taking up playwriting, it’s a problem when your lead character refuses to take center stage. Nathan Wanamaker was an American abroad. Loosely inspired by Rodman Wanamaker (the real heir to the Wanamaker store who spent a great deal of time in Paris in the 1890s and beyond), the Nathan of my play is ostensibly in Paris to discover new fashions for the family. But, of course, there’s always another reason, isn’t there?

I spent the summer reading and rereading Henry James’s masterpiece, The Ambassadors. Not smart. In order to solve a problem for the stage, I turned to a brilliant novelist but failed playwright. However, James helped me understand the world of Paris at the turn of the century. He helped me explore the idea of the American abroad. Still, the mystery remained.

MYSTERY SOLVED AT THE LOUVRE

Halfway through the first act, Gertrude Stein and Nathan Wanamaker are standing in front of an empty frame that had till only a week earlier held the Mona Lisa. With one mystery before them (who stole the famous painting?), Nathan reveals to Gertrude that he is a man in mourning, a young widower who feels dead inside. The revelation happens in an instant. After fifteen months with this man, I realize that he’s really come to Paris because he is dying inside, and he must learn to live again before it’s too late.

ENTER AUDIENCE

I started by writing that a play is a mystery that doesn’t get solved till the audience walks in. The final mystery for me was whether an audience would accept — no, not accept, but welcome the point of view of one man who didn’t grow up going to Wanamaker’s and coming home with the iconic green bag, whose family did not work for the store, and whose memories of Christmas do not involve the famous organ. It was a fear I had till about two weeks into the run when I started to notice the audience response.

Playwright Rogelio Martinez (right) with John Wanamaker V, after the final performance of Wanamaker's Pursuit

It was a fear that was finally put to rest after the final performance when I had the opportunity to meet a member of the Wanamaker family. I shook John Wanamaker’s hand and in that moment he began to share with me personal memories about his family. He answered questions I could not find answers to. Mostly, he finished solving the mystery.

I felt I’d done right for the memory of the institution while maintaining my own integrity.

 

By Ryan Klink, Arden’s Director of Marketing and PR

The running joke in my family is that we all only know how to make one thing, and that’s it. And you can rely on us each making our signature dish for every occasion: holidays, birthdays, funerals, barbecues…doesn’t matter. It’s oh, “Ryan made deviled eggs again,” or “Cynthia [my sister] is making lasagna.” For my oldest sister Sharren, it’s Lemon Squares. I chose to share this recipe because they’re well, they’re just delicious! So enjoy…

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
    (juice of 2 lemons)*
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

(Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off.)

Combine flour, butter and ½ cup powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly and press into ungreased 13×9-inch pan. Bake 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix egg, sugar, salt and lemon juice. For in ¼ cup flour and baking powder. Pour onto hot curst; bake 25 minutes longer. Cool; cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*I use bottled lemon juice.

Mainstage favorite Scott Greer is currently tackling Arden Children’s Theatre in The Flea and the Professor. While playing a giant singing insect might seem like a stretch from roles like Sam Byck, Dr. Faustus, and Mr. Peachum, Scott tells us about the similarities of these roles and the excitement of performing for our children’s theatre audience.

Watch the video and then come see Scott in The Flea and the Professor, on stage thru June 12!

Inspired by the great buddy comedies before them, The Flea and The Professor spend an afternoon in Old City. Watch the video to see their adventure!

You can see these two unlikely best friends on stage at the Arden through June 12!

In The Flea and the Professor, The Cannibal King, Queen and Princess love their ancient family recipe for slow cooked fancy human. We asked our Arden staff members to share some of their favorite family recipes with us so we could share them with you!

If you want to share a beloved recipe from your family, > email it to arden@ardentheatre.org along with any story that goes along with it or photos of your family enjoying the results. We’d also love to hear from you if you end up trying any of the recipes we’ve shared here!

TAWNY SCRAWNY LION’S CARROT  STEW
By Courtney Martin, Arden’s Business Manager

When I was little one of my favorite stories was The Tawny Scrawny Lion. I loved the family of ten fat rabbits who convinced the Lion to love carrot stew so he wouldn’t eat them! I still remember standing on a kitchen chair helping my Mom cook and acting out the story.

  •  2 lbs. lean  beef stew meat
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 carrots cut in chunks or a handful of baby ones
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks or wedges
  • 1 can beef consommé

 
Place all the ingredients in a covered pot and place in oven.  Set the oven at 300 degrees and leave for five hours.  When it’s finished….stew the easy way!    It’s wonderful with a green salad and crusty bread on a cold day….

Over 150 kids and their families filled the Arden’s lobby on Saturday, >site May 7th for the opening night celebration of The Flea and the Professor. Kids earned stamps on a BINGO card as the made their way around the party, participating in many circus-themed activities including a juggling game, face-painting, a knock-over-the-cans challenge, and an Arden Drama School class, “Create Your Own Circus.” The Garden State Discovery Museum brought their popular giant-bubble and children had the opportunity to create their own hot air balloon at the craft table. The opening night performance began at 7pm, followed by reception hosted by The Franklin Fountain, featuring cotton candy flavored ice cream.

Here are some photos from the evening!

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