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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 Sarah Ollove, Assistant Director/Dramaturg/Amateur Cultural Anthropologist.

The goal of poker is win all the money in the room by playing as many >hands, or rounds, as it takes to either go bust (broke) or win it all. The game in The Seafarer is a variation on the standard poker game 5 Card Draw. The rules of 5 Card Draw are as follows:

Players organize themselves in a circle. Before the game begins, everyone wishing to play must ante up, which one accomplishes by putting a small designated amount, such as two euros, into the pot, a term for in the middle of the circle. Once one has put money into the pot, the only way to get it back is to win the hand.

One person is designated as the dealer. After the cards have been properly and exhaustively shuffled, the dealer deals 5 cards clockwise around the table. Each player may look at his own cards (his hand), but not those of the other players. Starting with the person left of the dealer and proceeding clockwise, each player can either fold, check, or bet. Folding means quitting, checking means passing to the next person. If everyone checks, then play is moved to the next stage. If someone bets, then those wishing to stay in the game must match the amount of money he puts into the pot or they can raise (bet higher than the initial bet). Once all bets have been seen, or met, play continues to the next stage.

Now each player has the chance to trade in unsatisfactory cards. Typically, a player will trade in no more than three cards – if he needs to trade in more, he probably should have folded in the first hand. Again, play starts left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Once all players have their new cards, a second round of betting takes place where players again choose to fold, check, or bet. Sometimes if a player reaches this stage and realizes that he cannot win, he will choose to bluff rather than fold. Players bluff by pretending he has a higher hand than he does, and betting accordingly. The goal here is to raise the stakes (or bets) so high that all the other players will fold. Otherwise, he will lose in the end.

After this round, players show their hands. The order of victory goes as follows, twos being the lowest numbers and aces the highest.

Type of Received Hand (Odds That You Get This Hand)

One Pair or Higher (1 in 2)
Pair of Jacks or Higher (1 in 5)
Pair Aces or Higher (1 in 9)
Two Pair or Higher (1 in 13)
Three of a Kind or Higher (1 in 35)
Straight or Higher (1 in 275)
Full House or Higher (1 in 600)
Four of a Kind or Higher (1 in 4,000)
Straight Flush (1 in 65,000)

The Seafarer Variation

The gentlemen in The Seafarer play a game very similar to 5 card draw, with a few variations. The most notable is the order of betting. Rather than the traditional clockwise rotation, the order is determined entirely by the dealer. When determining betting order, the dealer should aim for that which yields the highest dramatic or comedic effect. As much tension as possible should be maintained at all times. The other most important variation on traditional five card draw is that once someone is out of money, they can bet with anything they like such as a boat or the truth. So next time you have your friends over for poker night, consider making it more interesting by trying out the Seafarer Variation – you’ll soon find old secrets aired and friendships tested. If you play your cards right, you may even end the night with a year’s supply of beer, courtesy of all the losers.

By Sarah Ollove: Assistant Director/Dramaturg for The Seafarer, and Amateur Cultural Anthropologist.

Please note that while many North Dubliners can kiss their mothers with their mouths, the gentlemen of The Seafarer should not. The following contains an R rated word.

The Eskimos have 40 words for snow. The men in The Seafarer have around the same amount for drinking. If one is “jarred” or “bollixed, ” one is inebriated. To reach this state they might have imbibed “poteen,” an Irish cousin of moonshine or “meths,” methylated spirits. Neither of these can be bought at the “off-license,” which allows the customer to buy alcohol and take it off premises from “your man” (“this guy” in American slang). In order to pay for such goods, one can visit the “hole-in-the wall,” also called an ATM. Upon consuming the liquids, one will probably find the need to locate a “jacks” (restroom) because they will be “bursting for a slash” (possessed of an intense need to urinate).

If one frequently finds oneself jarred, then one is “on the lash.” This can occasionally result in some unfortunate behavior. One can be termed a “Head-the-Ball,” a “berk,” an “eejit,” or a “dozy fucking eejit,” all of which are different ways of calling one a scoundrel. One might be told to “go on out of that,” or, in other words, to cease. One faces the potential of being “reefed out of it,” which means suffering a severe dressing down.

After a wild night of being on the lash, a North Dubliner might embrace sobriety. If so, they have the option of having a Kaliber, a non-alcoholic beer, following the example set by Irish recovering alcoholic Matt Talbot in the 19th century.

So before you attend a performance of The Seafarer, make sure you’ve visited the jacks and maybe the hole-in-the-wall, and please, don’t come jarred or you’ll be reefed out of it, you berk.

Glenn Perlman, Technical Director at the Arden, discusses the challenging set of The Seafarer.

The setting for The Seafarer is a lower-level living room in Ireland, with actors entering from the second floor above. Veteran scenic designer David Gordon has cracked this design challenge by very cleverly integrating a suggested ceiling that comes out over the thrust playing space, indicated by a broken away section of floor boards and ceiling panels above and below large wooden beams. These beams run the entire length of the stage at about 14 feet above the floor, approximately half the height of the cavernous Haas stage.

Lighting designer John Hoey then called for the creation of a gridwork of steel pipes – affectionately named the “Mega-Grid” – to be installed a few feet above these beams, so as to be able to shoot lights between the beams without casting large, unnatural shadows on the stage.

So the Arden’s production staff engineered, created, and installed this new grid two feet above the set, about seven feet below the existing catwalks, in order to light this uniquely designed set. This visual compression of the height of the Haas should create the feeling of the dank, underground environment where the play takes place.

The Seafarer is on stage at the Arden May 14 – June 14.

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