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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 Donna Ellis and Brian Morrison from Hands UP Productions

In order to bring the magical story Peter Pan alive for a Deaf audience, Hands UP Productions and the Arden collaborated on a shadow interpreted performance that brought three sign language interpreters onstage and made them part of the action. As opposed to the more ‘traditional’ method of having the interpreters standing off to the side with the action taking place behind them, shadow interpreting brings the interpreters on to the stage while they ‘shadow’ their characters. The result is an exciting performance that allows the Deaf audience the opportunity to experience the play on a level equal to the audience members that can hear.

In order to make this happen, the interpreters; Donna Ellis, Katie MacKavanagh, and Brian Morrison participated in rehearsals with the cast and crew. This was truly a collaborative experience and the excitement for creating the performance was shared by all. The cast learned some of their lines in American Sign Language and worked with the interpreters to find ways to interact with their ‘shadows’. You could feel the creative energy in the room during both rehearsals and the performance.

Having worked with the Arden last year in the first shadowed performance, A Year With Frog and Toad, the Arden is quickly moving toward the forefront in accessible theatre for Deaf audience members. Hands UP has encountered nothing but wonderful experiences with everyone from the Arden staff and the cast and crews of every show we have interpreted there. We look forward to continuing this incredible relationship in bringing unique and creative theatre experiences for Deaf and hearing audiences alike.

At right, Jacqueline Real (Wendy) and Chris Bresky (Peter) with Cade and Cal who attended the shadow-interpreted performance.

On Sunday, January 17th, the Arden celebrated PECO Day! As a thank you to their employees, PECO invited their staff and families to a pre-show party at the Arden, complete with hot dogs, chicken nuggets, a sundae bar and crafts for the kids. They enjoyed the 4pm performance of Peter Pan. PECO, longtime supporters of Arden Children’s Theatre, served as the production sponsor for Peter Pan.

Here are some photos from the afternoon!

Young Friends of the Arden is a new program that welcomes professionals in their 20s and 30s to the theatre, along with an opportunity to mix and mingle with each other before the show. For Peter Pan, remedy we invited our Young Friends to bring their younger friends to the show. On Sunday, January 10 we hosted a pre-show party which included snacks from Cosi and craft projects like eyepatches and pirate hats, coloring, and facepainting.

Here are some photos of our Younger Friends in action!

We’ll be hosting Young Friends events for Romeo and Juliet and Sunday in the Park with George. Visit the Young Friends page of our website for dates, details and ticket information.

By Amy Murphy, Managing Director

This is Sabrina, at her first visit to the Arden. She loves Peter Pan. (Can’t you tell from her attire!?!) She is very special to me.

I am still very close with three of my high school girlfriends, Alicia, Katie and Laura. All three of them remember me doing the high school plays and musicals and have been coming to the Arden since its early beginnings. Alicia has been coming to Arden Children’s Theatre for ten years. Since she had no children of her own, Alicia created a family tradition by bringing her 9 nieces and nephews every year during the holiday season.

Three years ago Alicia and her husband Angelo began adoption proceedings. They traveled to Guatemala to meet Sabrina when she was barely a year old, returning several times to develop a deep relationship with the little girl. They were besotted with her. In the middle of the process, adoptions in Guatemala were halted. After several months worrying that they might never see this dear little girl again, Sabrina came home to Pennsylvania in April of 2008.

Watching The BFG with my son three years ago, and seeing him discover theatre and its magic was one of the most amazing moments of my life. (I have to admit, I watched him not the show!) And now, Alicia shares Arden Children’s Theatre with her daughter.

Nothing could make me happier.

By Matthew Decker, Associate Producer

Following each performance of Peter Pan, our Children’s Theatre audience has a special opportunity to learn more about the play they’ve just seen. The cast members come back on stage and take questions from the audience. These questions (or comments) range from observant to witty to insightful to observant – and the average age of our audience is about seven.

When the Arden began producing children’s theatre twelve years ago, we knew hosting these question and answer sessions would further the experience of the young audiences. Borrowing this question and answer format from a similar program at Seattle Children’s Theatre, the children’s theatre actors answer each question truthfully, and give away ALL the secrets. If they ask a question about they way that a set piece moves, our crew will come out and show them how to move it. If they ask a question about a magic trick performed during the show, an actor will explain how it’s done.

What’s incredible to witness during these question and answer sessions is how children as audience members, more so than adults, see and hear EVERYTHING. Nothing slips by them – their imaginations are so active that they are willing to accept that, for instance, in Peter Pan, a puppet made of kitchen utensils and a mop, is actually a Lost Boy. And they want to know how this puppet made of kitchen utensils was constructed. And they’ll also be the first to tell you if they didn’t believe something that an actor did onstage OR if they thought a moment lacked in originality. Nothing will keep a play fresh and honest more than performing for an audience of children.

Our Stage Manager, Stephanie Cook, has been recording a favorite question at each performance. I thought I’d share some of the questions with you.

“How do you get to do a play?”

“What world does the set represent?”

“When you guys are holding puppets, are you invisible?”

“What would be Peter do if nobody believed in fairies?” [Referring to the moment where Tink drinks the poison and the audience has to revive her by stating that they do believe in fairies.]

“Is Captain Hook really a mean guy?”

“Why did Wendy go to Neverland with Peter?”

“What was the hardest part to practice?”

“How long does it take Peter to get into character for each performance?”

“Why doesn’t Peter have a green hat?”

“Is the hook real or fake?”

“How did the shadows look like they were flying?”

“Why were there only 6 actors for all the different characters in the show?”

“Where was John in this play?”

“How do you not laugh at the funny parts?”

“Does Hook have a mother?”

For many of these children, seeing Peter Pan is the first time they have experienced live theatre. I feel like I am watching future theatre audiences being born right in front of my eyes. Watching their reactions to what they’ve seen, and then enhancing that experience by interacting and asking questions of the actors, is building our audiences of the future.

The Arden’s Production Manager, Courtney Riggar, filmed this video backstage during a tech rehearsal of Peter Pan. Follow her along and meet members of the Arden’s production team, learn new theatrical terms, and get the actor’s view from the Peter Pan set. And, of course, there’s a few appearances from Arden dogs!

You can go backstage yourself at an upcoming Arden Family Salon. Click here to learn how to bring the whole family!

Behind the Scenes with Peter Pan Puppet Designer Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
Interview by APA Kristyn Hegner

What is the most challenging part of designing puppets for Peter Pan?
The puppets in this production of
Peter Pan are all made from found objects – kitchen gadgets, >ailment gardening tools, beauty supplies, cleaning products, and assorted bits of junk. It’s always a puzzle building puppets this way, looking at a hairbrush and wondering if it can be a hand or a shin or a mohawk or maybe all three. The objects that we used were each made for one purpose and one purpose alone – a watering can was originally meant to water houseplants, not to be someone’s head! As a result there’s a lot of testing out the puppets to see how they move and if they get injured. We have to constantly take them back and forth between the rehearsal stage and the workshop, taking them apart and rebuilding them to meet the actors’ needs until we come up with the puppets that you finally see on stage.

What puppet did you have the most fun creating?
All of them were really fun because each one is different. Slightly and Nibs came first and were built to be lanky and loose and full of bits and pieces of junk.
The Twins and Tootles came next and are stouter, sturdier puppets with fewer elements in their makeup. Somewhere in there came Tink, envisioned as a light-up bug made from plastic bottles and bubble wrap. There are also shadow puppets which are some of the most ancient and universal sorts of puppets that appear in puppet plays all over the world. There’s never a dull moment in puppet making!

How long does it take to create a puppet?
A puppet can be made over the course of one minute, one day,
one week or one year depending on the complexity of its design. My favorite puppets are just flat characters cut out of cardboard, or taking utensils from the kitchen drawer and using them to put on plays. It’s fun to make things like Tinkerbell or the Lost Boys that you see in this production of Peter Pan, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated to achieve the same effect of using everyday object to tell stories.

What made you decide to become a puppet designer?
My love for making these sorts of puppets comes from my passion for recycling. The recycling symbol – the three arrows that point to each other in a triangle – means “Reduce” and “Re-use” as well as “Recycle.” By making puppets out of used bits of junk we’re not just re-using these items, but also reducing the amount of new things that need to manufactured – we don’t have to go to the store and buy things when our recycling bins and basements are full of old things that are just waiting to be given new life! Yesterday an old teapot, a washboard and a garden hose each served a
certain purpose and today they are puppets. It makes me wonder: What will these things become tomorrow?

Get a sneak peak into the Arden’s Peter Pan with this video trailer. You’ll see fairies, pirates and lost boys, but you’ll have to come to the theatre to see even more magic and excitement on stage!

Learn more about our production by visiting the Get Familiar section of the Peter Pan page on our website.

Kids attending Arden Children’s Theatre know how to get into the spirit of the show!

Every child that attends Peter Pan will have an opportunity to ask questions after the performance, meet the actors in the lobby, and take home a show poster. However, some kids come to the theatre prepared.
Here’s a picture of Kyler in his pirate paraphernalia with Frank X who plays Captain Hook in our production.

If you’d like to share a picture of your child at Peter Pan, please email us or post the photo on Facebook.

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