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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!

The Wrong Guy is NOT the title of Wendy's new play

Since we last checked in with Wendy, she played around with alternate titles for the play, only to find they were already pop songs or straight-to-video movies: Mister Wrong, Mister Right Now, The Wrong Guy.

She outlined the play to find the event in each scene, “Only to discover that one scene was merely a phone conversation,” she says. “So I folded some of that info into the other more necessary scenes.”

Wendy also sat in on auditions for a few days. It’s a particular challenge casting a play that’s not totally complete, but there were scenes Wendy was confident in sharing that helped the actors understand the characters they were going for.

The cast of 6 actors has been confirmed and participated in a table reading of the script on Monday, May 21. This was first time anyone (Wendy included) has heard the play read aloud! We’ll share photos from the read-thru with you soon!

Where Wendy Ate:
Reserve in Old City. Wendy and Read had martinis and oysters while watching this week’s installment of Mad Men. They also had their favorite meal of the week at Cafe Lift, on N. 13th Street near Read’s studio.

Where Wendy volunteered:
Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (just around the corner from the Arden at 2nd and Arch)

Wendy elsewhere online:
Read Wendy’s piece on Salon about her year-long sabbatical from teaching at Kenyon College.
Read the Live Arts Blog interview with Wendy and Ed about The Writers’ Room

On Monday, clinic May 7, medicine our Inside The Writers’ Room passholders gathered in the Arden’s 3rd floor rehearsal hall to meet for the first time with resident playwright Wendy MacLeod, producer Becky Wright, and the Arden’s Associate Artistic Director Ed Sobel who leads the program. The nearly 50 passholders represent a cross-section of Arden audiences, from long-time supporters and board members, to subscribers and occasional single ticket buyers, to local playwrights and college students.  This initial gathering was an opportunity to learn about The Writers’ Room, get to know the team involved, and learn about the passholders role in this unique play development process.

Ed Sobel started the evening with a story about a young writer who, having failed to secure a production of his  new play, sent it  to  the famed Harold Pinter, asking “What does this play need?” Upon reading the script, Pinter responded with “What this play needs is a production.” With Pinter’s support, the  play ended up getting just that at the National Theatre of Great Britain, The young writer was David Mamet, and the play was Glengarry Glen Ross.  Just like with Mamet’s play, The Writers’ Room seeks to give a playwright a production, rather than the constant workshops and readings that have become the norm in the new play development cycle.  The Writers’ Room takes this idea even further, compressing the time between writing the play and seeing it on a stage down to just four months, keeping the work close to the writer’s initial creative impulse for the work.

Becky Wright took the passholders through a variety of materials to prep them for the experience, including a production calendar, a play development vocabulary sheet, and a set of suggestions for approaching new work. Instead of responding to a play and asking “What do I want this to be,” Becky encouraged the passholders to think “What is this trying to be.” This and other discussion topics will guide the conversations Becky will have with our group of passholders before and after each of their experiences with the play – from the table read in just a few weeks, to rehearsals in June, and the final production in July. While witnessing the process itself, the passholders are asked to be observers.  The Writers’ Room has not altered the process itself, but instead opens the door to what already exists.

Wendy MacLeod then shared her story of how she became a playwright, and what led her to be the first resident writer for the Arden’s new program. When Ed called asking her to write a new play for production, she replied:  “But I already have two other plays no one is doing. Why not one of those?”  But Wendy responded to the notion of a theater committing to a playwright, rather than a finished play and happily said yes.   When asked what she thought of the added component of having 50 strangers in the room, Wendy said that as a professor, she is comfortable talking about the process in front of people.  Adding to Becky’s overview of rehearsal etiquette she advised the passholders that she was writing a comedy and it would be polite of them  to laugh!

We then took additional questions from the passholders, which turned into a discussion that ran past our allotted time and could have gone on much longer! These questions ranged from: What scares you most about this process? What are you most confident in about your writing? What can you tell us about the play so far? But how will you audition actors if the play isn’t yet finished?

All the answers to these questions and those we haven’t thought of just yet will be addressed for the passholders and we hope here on the Blog. Stay with us for this very new journey into The Writers’ Room!

by Catherine Logan, >look Marketing Assistant

I have always told people if I didn’t work in the theatre, my dream job would be a food critic. Philadelphia is known for being such a “foodie town”, and I am so proud to be part of a culture that is known for super pretzels, whiz wit cheesesteaks, and now recently – milkshakes!

I have lived in Center City for three years, and every summer I look forward to burgers and milkshakes at Square Burger in Franklin Square. Not only can you get a Tastykake Milkshake (oh yes it’s real), you can enjoy a “Shake of the Month” which is a different yummy concotion every month. It has always been my dream to design a “Shake of the Month” at Square Burger, little did I know that my dreams would come true!

Through a partnership with Historic Philadelphia and Arden Theatre Company, I was able to create the “Sherwood Forest Very Berry Shake” in honor of our Children’s Theatre Production Robin Hood. This yummy shake is made with Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberries and Blueberries. Better run out and get it now as it is only here for the month of May!

Here are some photos of the Robin Hood Cast and Crew grabbing a burger and shake!

Since we last checked in with Wendy, she took a short trip to Charleston South Carolina, attended the opening of Robin Hood here at the Arden, and sent about 100 pages of the script of her new play to Ed Sobel. Ed heads The Writers’ Room program and will direct Wendy’s play this summer.

Will Wendy's characters encounter wolves?

In these early pages, Wendy sends some characters camping. If one decides to head back alone,would there be danger of wolves? She found this site about gray wolves in the wild of Utah.

In search of a title for the play, Wendy is researching a classification of film called “Women in Jeopardy,” which focus on a woman put into peril by a crime, and her struggle to overcome or outwit her perpetrator. (Here’s a list of movies that fall into this category.)
Wendy is debating between calling the play “Women in Jeop” or “Women in Jep.” “I’d be inclined to go with the latter title,” Wendy says, “So that nobody thinks the word is pronounced GEE-OP.”

So to add to the dentist and the migrant birds we learned about last week, the play now has some women in peril, potentially from wolves. Next week, Wendy will meet the Inside the Writers’ Room passholders and hold auditions for the play. We’ll have more to report then!

Wendy has also been taking classes at Dhyana Yoga Old City branch, down the street from the Arden. “Before my first class with the famously tough Noelle, I heard a man describing his first class with her. Apparently he lasted 20 minutes and then had to go out to the sidewalk to throw up. This made me tremble. But afterwards I felt this huge sense of accomplishment just for making it through the class.” For a more mellow, but still challenging, yoga experience, she highly recommends Gina’s Anusara-inspired classes and Jason’s Beginning Yoga class. “But dress in lightweight clothing. They seem to believe in the healing powers of humidity over there.”

What Wendy Saw: Robin Hood
“The best part about Robin Hood was watching children’s theater with GOOD ACTING (as opposed to the emphatic, insincere, condescending children’s theater acting I’d seen elsewhere). The second best part was watching the children as they watched the play—it did my heart good to know I was looking at future theatre-goers. The third best part was the question and answer period afterwards when a little girl wanted to know where the swings went.”

By Megan Staples, Development Assistant

The Arden happily celebrated the opening night of Robin Hood on Saturday, April 28th by turning the lobby into our own Sherwood Forest! We welcomed community partners Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and its Plant One Million booth, Ricochets Gymnastics Club lead our child guests through a tumbling obstacle course, and Historic Philadelphia came as well to help spread the word about Franklin Square and Square Burger’s Sherwood Forest Very Berry Shake (on sale through the month of May!). Arden staff helped the kids transform into merrymen with crafts and face painting! Then, our competitive guests moved on to the bow and arrow competition in the upstairs lobby. Kid-friendly food and beverages were provided by 12th Street Catering and Hatboro Beverages. After the show, families enjoyed green apple sorbet over vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce, courtesy of The Franklin Fountain.

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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