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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!

In November, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary at a special concert. Many artists shared stories of what makes the Arden important to them. We thought you’d like to see  what actor Jeff Coon had to say!

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By Edward Sobel, >pharm Associate Artistic Director

A critic once described Samuel Beckett’s two-act masterpiece Waiting for Godot as “Nothing happens. Twice.”

Understandable, but not correct. A careful reading, and a good production, reveal a lot to actually be happening. And while repetition is important to both the play’s form and its meaning, Act One is not a simple mirror of Act Two.

This is not Endgame.

A similar challenge faces us with Endgame. If one enters the play expecting conventional events and the kind of story one is used to in a play (A ghost appears and urges me to exact revenge on my father’s murder. I hire actors to make a play to catch the conscience of his murderer. I kill everyone in sight, and get killed myself.), then one may be in for a confusing 80 minutes.

Obvious dramatic events don’t seem to have a place in Beckett’s world. Godot never arrives. (Sorry, should that have had a spoiler alert?) and in Endgame, the huge event (the apocalypse) has already happened. Beckett seems interested in what we do in the non-overtly dramatic moments instead. Are we waiting? Are we ending? But we are doing something. What is the drama of our quotidian existence? What is its meaning?

It seems the task of our ensemble, as I prepare to begin rehearsals this week, will be to make sure we know what seemingly small thing is happening, and communicate it with clarity, humor and visceral energy. There is no question the central characters, Hamm and Clov, have a different relationship at the beginning of the play than at the end. They also have individual views of the world that change during the course of the play. I’ve spent the last weeks tracking through the script to uncover the moments those changes happen, and what causes them.

It is also clear that part of the genius of the play is treating language as a kind of music. (Beckett himself, when directing the play, did not always talk to actors in terms of a character’s motivations — sometimes he would resort to musical terminology – “that line needs to be more staccato”.) We don’t listen to music expecting a linear story – music operates on us emotionally, and is ordered through themes, counterpoint, and repeated motifs (there’s that repetition, again.) We will need to honor that music, and play it for all we are worth.

So, what is the story? Something is taking its course. And part of the fun, both in the doing and the watching of the play is figuring out what.

Scott Greer and James Ijames, from the cast of Endgame, at a recent photo shoot.

 

By Benjamin Lloyd, cure King Leopold in Cinderella

I took these photos during rehearsal of Cinderella. Some are in the rehearsal room; some are from tech rehearsal on stage. I hope it gives you a flavor of our process coming together!

Ben also keeps a blog, which includes posts about the plays he’s in. Visit him at showmanshaman.wordpress.com

By Jon West, Master Carpenter / Assistant Technical Director

This may help those who want to learn how a play goes from script to stage at the Arden:

How a play gets made:

  1. Play is chosen by Artistic Department
  2. Director is decided upon by Artistic Deptartment
  3. Production budget is agreed upon by Production Deptartment and Business Deptartment
  4. Scenic, Lighting, illness Costume, Sound, and or Video Designers are chosen
  5. Design concepts are discussed by Director and Designers
  6. Preliminary designs are worked up in collaboration with Director
  7. Design Meetings are held with Production Deptartment and Director
  8. Designs are turned over to Production Deptartment
  9. Technical Director reviews drawings
  10. Assistant Technical Director and T.D. build scenic elements in scene shop
  11. Built scenic elements are loaded into the space and assembled on stage
  12. Set construction continues on stage
  13. Set is painted by Scenic Charge
  14. Set is completed and readied for rehearsal
  15. Properties Master dresses the set with required props and furnishings

 

Thinking about building the set for a play is a very different process than that of a designer.  As the Assistant Technical Director/Master Carpenter here, my job is not a design position; it is a production position in the most denotative of ways.  I do not dream of what could be, I produce the actual scenic product which has already been designed; it is my job to take the designer’s plan and make it a reality on stage.  This is my skill, to take an idea and make it possible.

 The tangible set elements start out as raw materials: lumber, steel, fabric, etc. These materials are manipulated to create the set in the Scene Shop.  Here is a photo of the Arden Scene Shop full of scenery ready to be installed and painted.

When building a set we require: time, space, and materials. The prep time for a show is the time spent building scenery in the shop before loading it into the theatre. As far as space goes, you can see the shop we use can get very full at times, like in the picture.  The materials we use vary greatly, but are primarily steel and lumber, as they are materials that are common in scenery construction.  Here are most (not all) of the materials that were used to create the set for Cinderella:

  • 2×4 Pine
  • 1×6 Pine
  • 2×3 Pine
  • 1×4 Pine
  • ¾” Birch Plywood
  • 3/16” Lauan
  • 2×6 Pine
  • Raw Natural Muslin Fabric
  • 18 ga. Steel Box Tube
  • Many different types of fasteners, adhesives, and hardware

All of these materials that are to be turned into scenery need to be measured, cut, and assembled into their appropriate pieces.  It is very hard to build a puzzle if you do not know how it goes together.  This is where the Designer’s technical drawings come into to play.  These drawings show the set in scale (ex. ½” = 1’-0”) that we use to measure and make sure that what is built matches what was designed.

This photo (below) shows various pieces of the set getting prepared for assembly and install.  The front of the stage deck (foreground) was made full-scale with strings (to draw the radii) and straightedges on plywood as per the designer’s drawing.

This photo (below) was taken shortly after the floor was finished, just days before actors started rehearsing on stage.

Using the steps that were laid out as to how a play is made, the construction of the set only takes 4 of the 15 steps.  It is an odd feeling to distill weeks of work into 4 concise steps.  What those steps require of the production department is varied, however, the goal is the same: make the set so the play can happen.

Cinderella by the numbers:

  • 450+ working hours (ATD, TD combined)
  • 300 cubic feet of compressed air (required to use pneumatic tools)
  • 10,000 fasteners
  • ½ gallon glue
  • 1,000 cuts of wood (approximately)

 


 

In honor of our anniversary season, we held a one-night-only 25th Anniversary Concert on Monday, November 5th at 7 pm. Celebrating 25 years of Arden musical theatre, this event featured a number of fabulous Arden artists and was a fond look-back on favorite Arden musicals including Baby Case, Sunday in the Park with George, and A Year with Frog and Toad.

Big thanks to all of the talented artists who donated their time to make this event great: Griffin Back, Billy Bustamante, Jeff Coon, Ben Dibble, Eric Ebbenga, Liz Filios, Krissy Fraelich, Anne Robinson Frey, Gary Giles, Robert Hager, Joilet Harris, Mary Martello, Tom McCarthy, Michael Ogborn, Steve Pacek, Linda Pierson, and Ann Pinto. The concert raised over $15,000 in support of our anniversary season – thank you!

Here are some photos from the performance and post-show champagne toast!

All photos by Mark Garvin.

By Angela DuRoss, Development Director

We opened our 15th year of Arden Children’s Theatre with our production of Cinderella on Saturday, > December 1st to a packed house!  Nearly 400 kids and adults filled the Arden lobby for a fun pre-show party with hot dogs, pasta and popcorn from 12th Street CateringThe Garden State Discovery Museum provided face painting, while the Queen Village Art Center helped kids with a ‘build a theatre’ craft.  Kids participated in making masks, dressing up in a photo booth, and playing a giant walking piano.  After the performance, everyone enjoyed pumpkin and vanilla ice cream from The Franklin Fountain while meeting and greeting with the cast.

Here are some photos from the evening, including all the pictures from our photobooth!

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