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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!

Ever wonder what happens in auditions? How about ones for a new play, site when the script is still in process, and the playwright is in the room? And the audition room is actually a dressing room full of mirrors because our building is such a busy place?

Well wonder no further! In this video, you’ll see auditions from three of the actors cast in Women in JepLaura Giknis, Joe Guzman, and Karen Peakes. Once you see Women in Jep on stage, perhaps you’ll notice the changes to the script and the performances that have happened in this development and rehearsal process through The Writers’ Room!

Hi. My name’s Karen Peakes and I’m playing the role of Mary Forney in this production of “Women in Jep”. I’m one of those women in jep.

The very first time I read this play I laughed out loud several times. This doesn’t happen on a regular basis for me. Usually, I read a play thinking in terms of what I can do with the material, >help how I’ll do this or that in the audition, or how fast can I get through this so I can get back to folding my laundry and making dinner. But with this play, I immediately got sucked into its hilariously wacky world and was completely enchanted by the comedic music of the language. I was hooked. I just wanted to say those words – not because I wanted the job (although, of course, that’s a perk), but because I just knew it would be fun. And…well…I got the job…and it IS!!
So, I’ve been asked to describe a bit about how this experience differs from the average acting experience. So here goes:

Karen and her castmates highlight their scripts

Typically, once cast, I would receive a script weeks – if not months – in advance of the start of the job. I’m a procrastinator, so that means I usually read it once or twice and then panic a few nights before rehearsals start and madly highlight my lines so as to seem “prepared” the first day. With this process, we got the script only a short time before we began rehearsals and were told there would be changes throughout so “don’t worry too much about memorizing ahead of time”. Brilliant! Off to a good start!

Then there was the first read-through.

Typically, the first day of rehearsal involves a table read of the play. This means that the actors and the director get to sit around a table and read the play aloud together for the very first time. This is the moment that my husband (also an actor) and I refer to as “the first day of school”. It’s the day you want to make a really good first impression and make the director happy he or she cast you and your fellow actors excited to be working with you – without trying too hard or “acting” too much. You don’t want to perform during the first read-though, you just want to show that you’ll be able to when asked.

THIS production, however, had a read-through of an entirely different nature. We agreed to have our first read-through in front of an audience of about 40 or so people. Cue the nervous stomach. We received updated scripts AT THE DOOR as we arrived that evening and had only moments to madly try and highlight our lines before taking our seats. Cue the quivering hands. Having an audience watch a read-through makes it almost impossible not to at least try to perform. As actors, we want to entertain. As humans, we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. Cue the dry mouth. It was hard. I’m not really sure what happened. We got through it and everyone seemed pleased. [Watch the video of the read-thru here.]
So that was the first day.

On to the rehearsal process!

Typically, a playwright of the given play is nowhere to be seen during the rehearsal process. Most plays are already fully realized and previously produced when rehearsals begin. This process is vastly different. Our mission, when we chose to accept it, was to be a part of the creation of this play. Wendy had a full length play already written when we began, so our job has been to help her, and Ed – our charming director – determine what works in her play, what doesn’t, what works but may not be necessary, and so on. As she put it – and I hope I get this right – “No one can track a character’s journey as well as the actor playing that character.” In other words, as actors, we quickly become keenly aware if a moment seems to come out of nowhere for our character, or something seems out of whack in the general timeline of events in our character’s life.

 
Now, actually telling a playwright something doesn’t feel right about her play seems a daunting task. Or seemed. Wendy is – and I think I safely speak for everyone here – a really cool lady. Not only is she hilarious, Wendy is totally open and collaborative and has made us all feel safe to say the things we’ve needed to say. It’s been really amazing to have rehearsals end with a long discussion about a problematic moment, only to have it begin the next day with a re-write that completely solves the problem – sometimes with the addition of only one or two lines. And then there are those moments in rehearsal where someone will accidentally add a word, or flat out ask to say something a different way. What a privilege to have the playwright there in those moments! It’s oddly empowering as an actor to have the opportunity to help shape your character’s journey. Whether our suggestions are incorporated into the play or not, the fact that we can make them at all is – well – it’s just really neat.

Check back for more from Karen, when she talks about laughing uncontrollably during rehearsal.

On June 9, members of the Sylvan Society gathered for an exclusive backstage tour, >pharm led by members of the Arden’s Production staff.  They began with a tour of the Robin Hood set – learning what the green mulch is made from, >click and how the arrows miraculously appear onstage during the show.  They made their way down to the Haas for a tour of the Tulipomania set, including a rare opportunity to learn how to make it rain onstage.  The evening commenced in a fun barbeque at the Arden’s Scene Shop located off Cuthbert Street.  Sitting amongst power saws and old set pieces, they enjoyed hot dogs, burgers and even a surprise birthday cake!

 

By Sheryl Bar, Inside The Writers’ Room passholder
In response to our prompt: What are two things you’ve so far as a passholder that you did not already know?

Sheryl's learning about the science behind making decisions in the rehearsal room

I have learned more than two things as a passholder to Inside the Writers’ Room and expect there are more surprises ahead.  I had never really thought about the amount of “science” that is instrumental in making decisions about not only things like lighting and sound but also staging and timing.

[Director Ed Sobel’s] description of the studies on audience response indicate that both the arrangements of the seats and the actor’s position on stage when a laugh line is delivered affect the length and intensity of laughter.  I also learned that all involved must have the patience of saints as they have to go over and over and then over again the same territory to make it look right, >shop read right and ultimately remain fresh for each performance.

Previously from Inside The Writers’ Room: Jacquelynne works on her own play, visits The Shaw Festival, and searched for decayed wood.

Our all around Intern Fen is back with Part II of this exciting Backstage Access of Robin Hood!

 

We have 45 Inside The Writers’ Room passholders, a mix of ticket buyers, subscribers, >discount donors, teachers, students, and friends who have signed on to observe Wendy MacLeod’s new play take shape. A few of the passholders have agreed to share thoughts with us throughout the process. Here’s our first installment.

By Jacquelynne Tarves, Inside The Writers’ Room passholder
In response to our prompt: Why did you sign up for a pass? 

I have been working on a play since my mom passed away.   I’ve been hoping for something that would help the process, having already tapped out my friends and the library.  The Writers’ Room exceeds my expectations.   Plus, I have been an Arden subscriber for 4 years; before that we just attended hit or miss—but now we do not miss.

Jacquelynne is hanging out with Shaw this week

It is going to kill me to miss next week’s rehearsals, but we are off to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Shaw Festival.  Five plays lined up and now with the new insight gained from The Writers’ Room I am  looking forward to them more than ever.    Unless dates change again, I will see everyone on the 23rd.

Today I will be traipsing around our woodland property in Cape May County looking for the decayed wood prop Maura [Roche, Set Designer] is looking for in the camping scene.

For The Writers’ Room, our table read of Wendy MacLeod’s new play was attended by our Inside the Writers’ Room passholders. [Read the blog from producer Becky Wright here]

Here’s a short video of the evening, which included the very first reading of the play; a discussion among the actors, playwright, and director; and a Q & A with Becky and the passholders.

We start rehearsals today, so stay tuned for more developments!

By Angela DuRoss, Development Director

On Wednesday, May 30th, we opened our final show of the season, Tulipomania: The Musical.  Arden board member Lynn Haskin and her husband Don hosted a Sylvan Society cocktail party before the show at their home in the Moravian.  Guests then headed over to the theatre for the 7pm curtain.  President and CEO of Fox Chase Bank, Tom Petro, joined Terry Nolen and Amy Murphy for a few remarks prior to the show.  Tulipomania: The Musical is the fifth show for which Fox Chase Bank has served as the Production Sponsor.  The show opened to a full and enthusiastic house.  Afterwards, guests enjoyed the company of the cast and Arden friends for a post-show reception with tasty bites from 12th Street Catering and libations courtesy of Hatboro Beverage.

Here are some photos from the evening!

 

Our all around intern Fen went Behind the Scenes of Robin Hood in Episode Three of The Fen Show. Check it out!

By Rebecca Wright, producer for The Writers’ Room

37 Inside the Writers’ Room pass-holders joined the cast and Wendy for the first Table Read of Women in Jep. Because of the logistics of making sure the reading could be heard in a room full of people, >prescription we opted to do it at music stands instead of around an actual table.  It was a roaring success!  Lots of laughs, interesting ideas, and much good will all around.  Everyone agreed that the cast is compelling and hilarious, and that the writing is funny and thought-provoking.

The reading was followed by a brief conversation between Ed and Wendy and the actors, after which they retired to the Arden’s offices to continue discussing the script, while I stayed behind with the passholders to talk with them about what we’d all just seen.  Our conversation included questions about double-casting, scene changes, and certain of the play’s unsolved mysteries.  Several pass-holders also stayed after the group conversation to ask more about some of the nuts-and-bolts theatre terms that came up in Wendy’s discussion with Ed.  One of the terms that needed defining was “beat”—which is the smallest unit of action in a play; a beat shifts when a character’s emotion or intention shifts.

Here are some photos of the evening:

Update: you can view a short video from the evening here!

Rehearsals start next week and we’ll have more updates then!

 

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