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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!
Robi and Marielle

Robi Hagar (left) and Melanie Horton (right) sing “Wick” from The Secret Garden

Eli Russell of Teen Arden gives audiences a peek behind the scenes of the Cabaret of Duets, an evening of cabaret which paired professional performers with members of Teen Arden.  Teen Arden is an extracurricular program for 9th – 12th graders, comprised of kids who are passionate about developing an arts community among peers from diverse social and economic backgrounds. We give teens full access to Arden Theatre Company resources as well as open channels of communication between them and the professional artists who have helped build Philadelphia’s theatre community.

On my first day at Arden Summer Camp, everyone gathered in a circle and we introduced ourselves, sharing our name, age, and favorite place in the world. When my turn came, I bent the rules and shared a fantasy destination combining the comfort of my bed, the beauty of a Jamaican beach, and the atmosphere of the Arden. When I hosted the Cabaret of Duets on December 15, I realized that this daydream wasn’t so fantastical after all, as I could find all three qualities–– comfort, beauty, and atmosphere–– in abundance at the Arden.

The audience for the Cabaret of Duets. Can you spot Artistic Director Terry Nolen?

The audience for the Cabaret of Duets. Can you spot Artistic Director Terry Nolen?

The Cabaret of Duets, which took place at the Hamilton Family Arts Center on December 15, featured a dozen duets between Teen Arden members and professional artists like Jeff Coon, Rachel Camp, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins. Behind the scenes, teens were involved in all stages of planning, writing, and producing the event. It was an audacious undertaking, but our adult directors Jonathan Silver and Amanda Morton ensured that the process of producing the Cabaret of Duets was a comfortable and fun experience. Everyone was convivial as we brainstormed themes, divvied up tasks, and managed the hundred other minutiae that goes into an event like the Cabaret of Duets. One thing that makes Teen Arden special is that the adults involved expect a lot of us, which feels great as a teenager looking to be seen as more than a walking lump of angst and puberty. I doubt that many theatres would entrust teenagers with as much responsibility as we were given in the planning stages for this event. I felt the impact of this trust especially as I wrote the script with my co-host Sydney Chin. Obviously, not all of my jokes made it to the final script, but Sydney and I were grateful that Jonathan took all of our ideas seriously and treated us as equals in the writing process

My fantasy destination included the somewhat generic beauty of a Jamaican beach. I now know that there is a much more meaningful kind of beauty at the Arden (although I certainly wouldn’t mind a Caribbean vacation). First of all, the performances at the Cabaret of Duets were stunning. One thing that made them so beautiful is how different they all were. Who would think that a hard-hitting rock anthem from Rent (performed by the ever-awesome Iyke McCoy and Michael Philip O’Brien) would pair so well with a heartwrenching mother-daughter duet from Next to Normal (performed by actual mother-daughter duo Krissy Fraelich and Zoe Hunchak)? Knowing that the final product was the culmination of many people’s hard work made the event all the more beautiful and inspiring. At the Arden, a lot of emphasis is placed on the process. Everyone was engaged in the process at different stages, bringing their own skills to the table with the common goal of producing a great event.

Co-emcees Eli Russell and Sydney Chin

Co-emcees Eli Russell and Sydney Chin

The theme of the evening was “Autumnal Campfire,” and we found plenty of parallels between the Arden and a campfire. As I sermonized while emceeing, “the Arden Theatre Company is dedicated to bringing to life great stories by great storytellers, and what do we do at campfires? We tell stories! Some are scary, some are hilarious, some have music, some are classics, some are original, the list goes on.” Most of all, both are warm and inviting environments. I know that I can always come to the Arden for support or advice and I’ll be warmly welcomed by my friends and instructors. I could especially feel this warmth at the Cabaret of Duets (and not just because Sydney and I were sitting in front of the lighting booth). The professional artists were friendly and supportive and the audience blew us away with their responses to our emcee schtick and the beautiful duets. Lastly, the Cabaret of Duets demonstrated the Arden’s low-key atmosphere. Whenever I attend classes at the Arden Drama School, I am impressed both by the expertise of the instructors and their modesty. There is plenty of incredible and brag-worthy artistry going on at the Arden, but the theatre maintains a refreshing lack of snootiness or competitiveness. This comfortable, beautiful, and warm atmosphere is what keeps bringing me back to the Arden.

Eli Russell is a junior at Abington Friends School, where he leads both the Cappies team and a National History Day club. He has been involved with Teen Arden for three years and is currently co-chair of the Teen Council’s Artistic Committee.  Eli performs in Arden Summer Camp’s Musical Theatre Studio productions, and will be one of three head writers developing an original play to be presented in this year’s FringeArts Festival.

Arden Drama School hosted the first week of Summer Camp for our Kids’ Crew in June. We had 44 campers ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade who had classes each day in acting, improvisation, playwriting, set and costume design, dance and music. The week culminated with a show on Friday afternoon for parents!

Here’s a video with highlights from the camp show and photos from throughout the week.

There are three more weeks of summer camp for both Kids’ Crew and Teen Company, and spaces are filling fast! Check back for more photos, blogs and videos from these upcoming sessions!

By Maureen Mullin Fowler: Director of Education

This past Saturday, the Arden opened its doors up to children and parents for our annual Arden Drama School Open House Day. Fifty-one students and five outstanding Arden Drama School Teaching Artists had a fantastic time teaching and participating in “mini” lessons. Children were split up according to their age (Kindergarteners = Red Group, 1st and 2nd graders = Orange Group, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders = Yellow Group, middle and high school = Green Group) and rotated throughout our theatres and classroom spaces taking classes in Acting, Musical Theatre, Improvisation, Storytelling, and Shakespeare.

It was a day filled with energy and creativity! From learning musical theatre choreography with Liz Filios to playing Boom Chicka Boom with Michael McElroy, children used their imaginations and worked together. Only twenty minutes in length, each session on Open House Day was a chance to sample the different types of classes we have to offer while meeting our dynamic teachers.

After the last session, families came together for a reception, while our Teaching Artists mingled about the crowd answering questions that parents had. Children got a chance to introduce their parents to the teachers who taught the classes they enjoyed the most. The Education Staff was on hand as well as our great Box Officers who handled the long line of parents ordering classes at the end of the day.

It is a new season and this Saturday was just the first of many at the Arden to be filled with children exploring, wondering, learning and having fun! We have a whole year filled with classes for kids in grades K-12. Want to learn more from the teachers you met this weekend? Check out our new website which includes audition tips and favorite games and exercises from some of your favorite Arden Teaching Artists.

Last week (June 22 – 26) we kicked off our series of week-long summer day camps. Forty-five campers, five counselors, and a handful of education interns set up shop at The Painted Bride Arts Center (since the Arden’s roof is being replaced). And what a week it was! Our campers got the chance to learn about many areas of theatre from a slew of theatre professionals.

Here’s an example of what a day looked like for a kid in the Yellow Group (comprised of mostly third graders):

10:00 to 10:15 – Warm Ups
10:15 to 11:00 – Puppet Design and Construction
11:00 to 11:45 – Acting Class
11:45 to 12:30 – Lunch and Lunchtime Funtime*
12:30 to 1:15 – Play rehearsal
1:15 to 1:45 – Playwrighting
1:45 to 2:00 – Snack
2:00 to 2:30 – Storytelling
2:30 to 3:00 – Dance Practice
3:00 to 3:30 – Improv
3:30 to 4:00 – Music Rehearsal

*Lunchtime Funtime is always a big hit. After lunch, campers get a chance to challenge (and almost always beat!) their counselors at Improv games.

At the beginning of each week, as the campers (who were in first through fifth grade) arrived, it seemed impossible that in one short week they would produce an original piece, learn a dance number, learn a song, build their confidence, and form new friendships. And yet, they did! Our Friday camp show finale featured several castles in space, a remixed Little Red Riding Hood, a wacky version of Family Feud, the hand jive, and music from Peter Pan.

Camper Sophia summed it up, “This camp is so awesome. I don’t think I had a favorite part. They were all my favorite parts.”

Our campers learned an awful lot, but mostly they had fun. Most of the credit for this goes to our talented staff of teaching artists. They taught an awful lot, but mostly they have fun too.

If last week was any kind of indicator, we’re in for a great summer.

We’re geared up for several more weeks with elementary aged kids. We’re also really excited about our three-week musical theatre camp for older kids. Last season’s Cabaret was the highlight of July!

-Sally Wojcik
Education and Group Services Manager

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