Arden Theatre Company
Arden BlogArden Drama SchoolArden on FacebookArden on TwitterArden on YouTube
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!

Yesterday, the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia announced the nominations for Barrymores, our area’s awards for excellence in theatre. We were thrilled to receive 16 nominations, covering the full range of the Arden’s work!

Here is the full list of our nominations:
• Outstanding Overall Production of a Play – The History Boys
• Outstanding Overall Production of a Play – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
• Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical – Sunday in the Park with George
• Outstanding Direction of a Play – James J. Christy Rabbit Hole
• Outstanding Direction of a Play – Walter DallasBlue Door
• Outstanding Music Direction – Eric Ebbenga Sunday in the Park with George
• Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play – Steve Pacek as Mouse – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
• Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play – Grace Gonglewski as Becca – Rabbit Hole
• Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play – Kes Khemnu as Simon, Rex, Jesse – Blue Door
• Outstanding Set Design – David P. GordonIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie
• Outstanding Lighting Design – Thom WeaverBlue Door
• Outstanding Costume Design – Rosemarie E. McKelveySunday in the Park with George
• Outstanding Sound Design – Jorge CousineauThe History Boys
• Outstanding Original Music – Christopher ColucciRabbit Hole
• Outstanding Original Music – Robert KaplowitzBlue Door
• Outstanding Ensemble in a Play – The History Boys

Congratulations to all the artists that made our 2009-10 Season such a success!

Who do you think will take home a Barrymore Award on October 4?

The Arden was proud to host our city’s first ever Bike to Theatre Night on Friday, >ambulance July 2.  On this sunny summer night, we had a nice turnout of cyclists from all parts of Philadelphia. They received discounted tickets to Sunday in the Park with George, complimentary valet bike parking from Neighborhood Bike Works, and a free bike bell from Pabst Blue Ribbon!

Here are some photos of our fabulous bikers!

We hope to schedule Bike to Theatre Nights for future productions, so stay tuned for more information!

On Friday, July 2 we had beautiful weather for a First Friday in Old City!

We invited anyone to come into the Arden’s lobby to “Create Your Own Sunday, ” inspired by Georges Seurats’ Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Using paint, chalk and pencils, over 200 visitors drew depictions of their own Sunday afternoons.

Guests also enjoyed complimentary desserts from Sugar Philly, a scrumptious dessert truck who parked on Filbert Street to sell their treats, and beer from Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Here are some pictures from the evening!

We hope you’ll visit us for a future First Friday!

On Tuesday,   June 29, recipe we hosted a special Arts Administrators Night at a performance of Sunday in the Park with George. Inspired by the subject matter of the play (and in particular, the characters in Act 2), we thought this was the perfect play to get together with our fellow colleagues that are “Putting it Together” in all facets of the Arts in the Philadelphia area. We were thrilled to have over 50 Arts Administrators join us for a casual dinner and then to watch the play.

Here are some pictures from the pre-show reception.

Be on the lookout for future Arts Administrator nights in the 2010/11 Season!

Arden Theatre Company presents Philly’s First Bike to Theatre Night!

On July 2, ride your bike to the Arden, enjoy valet bike parking, and see Sunday in the Park with George at a discount!

For bicyclers only, we’re offering a Tandem Discount! Tickets are 2 for 1! And if your bicycle is just for one, tickets are ½ priced!

Please call 215.922.1122 to reserve tickets! Valet parking stub must be shown at the Arden box office to redeem tickets on the night of the performance. Performance begins at 8pm.

And remember, July 2 is First Friday in Old City so there will be fun festivities at the Arden and throughout the neighborhood.

Arden Theatre Company is located in Old City at 40 North 2nd Street

About the play: Inspired by Georges Seurat’s impressionist masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Sunday in the Park with George celebrates the power of artistic creation and the journey through a changing landscape. It’s also about:  bumbling adulterers, demanding bosses, competitive colleagues, nagging mothers, and catty shop girls all enjoying a pleasant Sunday in the park. And that’s just the first act! As for the second, there are 9 video projectors creating stunning visual effects.

About our Event Sponsor: Valet bike parking is provided by event sponsor Neighborhood Bike Works. Neighborhood Bike Works is a nonprofit educational organization in Philadelphia that seeks to increase opportunities for urban youth through bicycling, and promotes cycling as an environmentally-friendly means of transportation. In 1996, the organization began as Youth Cycle & Recycle, a program of The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. They organized as a separate non-profit in July 1999. Today, they hold classes at three permanent shops, satellite locations in Chester and Norristown, PA, and in several public schools and community centers.

Neighborhood Bike Works

By Sarah Ollove, Dramaturg for Sunday in the Park with George

Here are five illuminating facts about Sunday in the Park with George and the painting that inspired it.

1)      George Seurat hated the term ‘pointillism.’ He felt it was reductionist and missed the point of what he was trying to accomplish. He referred to his technique of using tiny dots of color to create a picture in the eye as chromoluminarism. Chromo meaning color, > lumen meaning light. Color and light. Lapine and Sondheim adopted the term for George’s Act II artwork.

2)      Since its acquisition by the Chicago Art Institute, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte has only been loaned out once: in 1958 to the MOMA. While there, a fire broke out. Hundreds of masterpieces were in peril, not only from the fire, but from smoke which is just as perilous to paintings as flames.  Fortunately, Sunday made it out of the building without damage, but, unsurprisingly, has not left Chicago since. So if you’re interest in the painting has been piqued, you’ll have to plan a trip to Chicago.

3)      For someone so obsessed with technique, Seurat left in a number of ‘mistakes’ in Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte. Several characters are completely out of proportion: people whose legs would be ¾ of their bodies if they stood up, or who have torsos that somewhat resemble an alien’s. One tree casts two shadows. And there is an unusual brown triangle sticking into the painting on the right side. The best guess is that it is a tree trunk root, but doesn’t look like any of the other trees in the painting and casts no shadow. No one has positively identified the square shape that Marie claims is a waffle stove, though the conventional guess is that it is a baby carriage.

4)      When writing the book for Sunday, James Lapine tried to simulate the speech patterns of late 19th century France by avoiding contractions and Latin root words.

5)      Initially, Sondheim was interested in structuring the musical as ‘theme and variation.’ The first act would focus on the creation of the painting (as it does now).  The second act would be a series of scenes written almost like a revue that would comment on the painting or art in general. Eventually, Lapine convinced Sondheim to winnow the themes and variations down to two: one an imaginative look at what it is like for the figures to be trapped in the painting and the other a satiric look at the contemporary art world. However, the idea of theme and variation was not let go so easily—countless themes, characters, music, and even words are repeated and re-invented throughout the musical.

By Mark Cristofaro, Drummer-Percussionist-Noisemaker, orchestra member for Sunday in the Park with George

Preparing for a new show is always challenging.  I get the score, look over the music, see what instruments I will need to bring, etc.   Any Sondheim show though always makes this process harder.  For the percussionist, it usually involves a lot of instruments, which you just don’t have sitting around in your living room.  When I received the score for Sunday In The Park with George, I expected the worst.  The usual Sondheim stuff which includes a multitude of tuned percussion, like timpani, vibraphone, orchestra bells and even tuned concert toms, tuned wood blocks called Temple blocks, and tuned cymbals called Crotales.  Then just for fun, he usually throws the percussionist a curve ball by writing in an unconventional sound.  When I played Sweeney Todd here, it was the “metal bucket”.  Pacific Overtures had the “bell plate”.  Even Caroline, or Change had me trying to make music by playing on a cardboard box…

So I had heard from some other players in the business that Sunday would require more of the same insanity: pots and pans.  OK, no problem.  I can handle this.  Just another day at the office.  From what the score reads, looks like 4 different pots…or pans…or both.  However, when I started to listen to the original soundtrack, the pots…or pans…sounded like they were specific pitches. (long pause………)

What do I have to do now?  Go into my kitchen, take out our cookware, and listen for pitches?  This was never going to happen(mostly because if I EVER took cookware out of my kitchen to use as a drum or something, the front door locks would be changed by my wife Suzanne when I returned home that night). So with a little help from another percussionist colleague, we brainstormed and came up with a great idea to find the specific pitches needed for this show:  Thrift shops.  So, we start going into second hand stores…with a pitch pipe and a mallet… You can only imagine the looks we would get.

I learned a lot about cookware construction during this quest.  The thinner the pot/pan, the lower the pitch.  If I found as cast iron pan, it usually had a very high pitch.  These were the easier ones to find: the higher pitches.  I determined the pitches I need were(form low to high), C#, F#, A natural, and C natural.  These were the distinct pitches I hear on the recording that doubled the bass line for the song “The Day Off”.  So we found the highest pitch, C natural rather quickly.  A small skillet (iron) pan.  Also the A natural initially, but I decided to replace that one because it was a thinner metal, and sounded too “clangy”(is that a word?).  So then I found a real nice replacement A natural…another skillet(iron pan).  Real defined “A”.  AAAHHHH….. Sounded like a bell of some sort.  I was getting hopeful, but then hit a dry spell.  Couldn’t find the 2 lowest pitches.  After a few attempts at various places, I did come across this sauce pan, thin metal though, that produced a fairly convincing low F#.  Chances of finding that last pitch, the lowest C# was looking almost impossible.  I came up short so many times.  Then I just got lucky and found this beautiful larger iron skillet pan(looks like something form the 70’s w/ a red paint bottom) that produced a very convincing low C#.  OK…had them all.

Now that I had the “instruments” (aka..the skillet pans), now I had to figure out how to set these things up so I could some how make music with them.  There are no stands, mounts, or gizmos you can find to hold pots and pans in place so that a drummer can play them with sticks or mallets.  My idea was to find some kind of suspended contraption to hang the pans from…but where was I gonna find something like that?  Lucky for me, technical director Glenn at the Arden had some ideas, and he designed and fabricated an aluminum structure that we fastened the pans to.  It is a great piece of hardware, and I don’t believe I could have played the show smoothly without Glenn’s help and input.  It even looks cool…makes me look like I know what I’m doing too.

I’ve done 14 musicals at the Arden, and the production people and artists know I go to all extremes to make the music and percussion 100% accurate.  Sometimes it’s not easy to do.  But when you “get it right” and never compromise the integrity of the music, it feels so good…

By Maureen Torsney-Weir, cast member of Sunday in the Park with George

Well here we are in the middle of our run of Sunday in the Park with George212 We’ve been through an exhausting (though completely worth it) tech and previews, > seen an exhilarating opening night and now are doing eight shows a week of this fabulous show.

I play the Old Lady and the critic Blair Daniels in Sunday.  It’s fun to hear the audience murmuring when I come out to the “Blair Bling” in Act 2: “Is that the same woman who was the old lady?”. Thanks to Terry Nolen and our wonderful costume designer, Rosemarie McKelvey – I do look different! Its a funny thing, but as a painfully shy person in my private life, I am completely comfortable on stage.

Through the lives of the characters I get to play, I am most fully myself onstage.  Terry Nolen, who I’ve been lucky to have done 5 plays directed by him, says he wants to see our souls onstage.  Come see to see the souls of a most extraordinary company of people!

For First Friday on June 4, >physician we staged a living version of Georges Seurat’s painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte right on Filbert Street! A group of volunteers, under the direction of Arden Professional Apprentice Brittany Howard, wore modern clothes and struck the poses from the iconic Seurat painting that inspired Stephen Sondheim to write Sunday in the Park with George, currently on stage at the Arden.

Here are some pictures of the process, the result and all the people that stopped to watch the painting!

After the living painting was complete, we had our final Young Friends event of the season! Young professionals and tableau participants gathered for a pre-show party sponsored by Triumph Brewing Company. Then, everyone watched Sunday in the Park with George on the Arden’s stage!

Here are some pictures from our Young Friends party!

On Wednesday, June 2, the Arden opened our final production of the season, Sunday in the Park with George.

Sylvan Society members gathered at Synderman Works Galleries at Third and Cherry Streets for a pre-show party with hors d’oeuvres by Catering By Design.  Following the performance, guests had the opportunity to mingle with members of the cast and design team.

Among the crowd was actress Monica Horan.  Monica, along with Krissy Fraelich (who plays Dot in Sunday), Terry Nolen and Amy Murphy all participated in Upper Darby Summer Stage as kids.

Enjoy the photos!

©2009 Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. For tickets, call 215.922.1122.
Site Search  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Use