In the case of real-life organ donation, the lights don’t come up. There is no audience to applaud actors and designers. And for the transplant patients waiting for vital organs, life goes on. Patients and their families must wait and endure, with total tolerance of the system in place; the capital “L” List.
For the duration of the run of Under The Skin, the Arden Theatre teamed up with neighboring Old City organization, Gift of Life to raise awareness about organ donation. Gift of Life organizes real-life organ donation, here in Philly. And at Gift of Life’s Family House (a hop-skip away from their main building on 3rd street) families come together to live away from home long term, while receiving treatment or waiting for a vital organ. To facilitate this closely-knit living situation, Gift of Life uniquely operates a program called Home Cook Heroes.
Home Cook Heroes happens every night at Gift of Life. Groups from all over Philadelphia gather at the family house to cook dinner for the residents. Volunteers cook for an average of about 50 people per night, and the meal is provided free of charge, served with a lot of love and good intention. This is what happened on the day the Arden became Home Cook Heroes.
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The day arrived swiftly. Fellow apprentice Gil Vega and I set out to buy the ingredients for the meal, (supplemented by a generous donation of produce by Iovine Brothers in Reading Terminal Market). Equipped with backpacks and two large rolling suitcases, kindly provided to us by Arden props master Chris Haig, we trudged through the slush and slick ice to the Super Fresh on 5th and Pine. We were tasked with carrying back 50 people’s-worth of ingredients, and we chatted happily in the sunshine, convinced we were up to the challenge.
And it turns out that we were, although the bumps in the snow and ice turned out to be the least of our concerns that morning. It soon became extremely evident that shopping for 50 mouths is heavy. We whipped out a smart phone and frantically did measurement conversions all up and down the fluorescent-lit aisles, determined to get the most out of buying the least. However the real trouble hit us when shopping for sweet potato mash, as according to the recipe, one serving required one sweet potato. How were the two of us going to manage 50 potatoes all the way back to the Arden, that is, if we could fit it in our luggage at all?
With time already cutting into Gil’s allotted lunch hour, we settled on 35 potatoes and hoped that the rest of the meal would disguise a shortage of sweet potato mash. Moving at a much slower pace, but satisfied that we had been the ultimate shoppers, we struggled our way back to the theatre to sort the food and make final preparations.
The next 5 hours flew by, and with all that needed to be done just coming together, as often happens in world of theatre, it was time to walk over to the family house.
Donning the provided aprons, we swept through the 2-stove, 3-island kitchen at the house feeling like contestants on a cooking show. But as the feverish preparation commenced, punctuated by my announcements of remaining time as self-appointed timekeeper, roadblocks popped up. We didn’t have the physical manpower to peel even the compromised number of potatoes. Also, the centerpiece of the meal, the chili, seemed all at once to be too little and too bland. Thankfully, Under The Skin actress Alice M. Gatling, formerly a caterer herself, knew just what to do save the dish. With just about 3 minutes to dinner service, we were dishing food into serving bowls and smell of southwestern comfort had people gathering in the attached dining room.
Dinner turned out well. The sweet potato mash came out late, but if that was all we had to regret after hours of fitting the day’s jigsaw pieces together, I was a happy planner. What’s more, Home Cook Heroes was such a fun experience; cast members, staff and Teen Arden alike were challenged as a team to perform what seemed a near-impossible task.
As dinner started, one resident approached us to share his story. His family had been in Philly for several months but hailed from Virginia. Another family had come to see Under the Skin, and expressed how personally touching they found the play. As they shared their family’s experiences with us, we were reminded in the sober reality of needing an organ donation. It’s safe to say we ended the night, a really grateful bunch of volunteer cooks. And I went home convinced of one thing: Home Cook Heroes is a misleading title, as those that make the food are barely heroes in comparison to those who eat the food.
If you’d like to learn more about Gift of Life or the Home Cook Heroes program please visit: http://www.giftoflifefamilyhouse.org/volunteer/homecookheroes/
Eliana Fabiyi is an Arden Professional Apprentice who hails from Baltimore, Maryland. Her interests include bluegrass music, community nutrition, Shakespeare and improv comedy.
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 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.
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.
On December 7th, help we held an opening night celebration for our Arden Children’s Theatre production of Sideways Stories from Wayside School! Families gathered in the Arden lobby and the Hamilton Family Arts Center prior to the show for food, >physician games and activities. Thank you to Weavers Way for leading a craft with apples and Plate 3 Photography for hosting a fun photo booth! Check out Photobooth pictures on the Arden’s Facebook Page.
We partnered with Cradles to Crayons to host a collection of winter coats and school supplies. We will be collecting items throughout the run of the show, >nurse so bring your donations when you come to the theatre! Following the performance, kids were treated to caramel apples and vanilla ice cream, courtesy of The Franklin Fountain.
Special thanks to our opening night sponsors: Harmelin Media, 12th Street Catering, Franklin Fountain, and Hatboro Beverages. Thank you also to our Production Sponsor PECO and our Arden Children’s Theatre Sponsor Comcast | NBC 10 | Sprout.
We opened our production of Parade on Wednesday, October 2 to a packed house. Members of the Sylvan Society gathered at the Hamilton Family Arts Center to enjoy a pre-show reception, sponsored by Positano Coast. Following the performance, the entire cast, staff and audience celebrated at a reception sponsored by Hatboro Beverages, JPM Catering and Events, and Moore Brothers Wine Company.
Last night, >find members of our Sylvan Society and the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Teen Council joined Arden staff and the cast of Parade for a special sing-through at the new Hamilton Family Arts Center. Guests dined with the artists before sitting-in on a special sneak peak sing-through of Parade in the Studio Theatre. Parade is the first full Arden Mainstage production to be rehearsed at the Hamilton in the Nancy J. Hirsig Rehearsal Hall.
Parade runs on the Haas Stage from September 26th to November 3rd. Secure your seats today by calling the Box Office at 215-922-1122 or by clicking here.
On Friday, June 7th, over 250 guests gathered for a sneak peek of the new Hamilton Family Arts Center for the 25th Anniversary Granfalloon. The evening honored the Arden’s eight past board presidents: Kate Allison, Sheila Kutner, Lynn Haskin, Hether Smith, Tom Butler, Lee van de Velde, David Fryman and Ellen Foster. The event grossed over $175,000 in support of the Arden’s programming.
On June 1st, the Arden celebrated the 20th year of the Arden Professional Apprentice program with a reunion of the nearly 100 graduates of the program. Apprentices from all over the country returned home to the Arden to toast this prestigious program, share memories of their time in the Arden’s history, and invest in the future of education at the Arden.
The day included the matinee of A Little Night Music followed by acknowledgements from Amy, Terry, and Brian Abernathy (APA Class 8 and current Arden Board President), an Arden and Old City-themed Scavenger Hunt, and ended with a cocktail party in the new Hamilton Family Arts Center.
On May 8th, capsule >help Terry Nolen had the rare opportunity to interview Tony and Pulitzer prize winning lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington. Prior to the interview, >medical select Arden supporters were invited to an exclusive ‘meet and greet’ reception with Mr. Sondheim. The interview precedes the Arden’s production of A Little Night Music, which marks the 12th Sondheim musical to be produced on our stages.
In anticipation of the upcoming 25th anniversary Granfalloon, >illness Co-Chairs June and Steve Wolfson hosted a fabulous Preview Party in their home on April 24th. The evening included delicious wine and dinner and a special performance from Alex Keiper who will appear in our upcoming production of A Little Night Music. Guests included Granfalloon sponsors, Host Committee and this year’s honorees – past presidents of the Arden’s Board of Directors.
Join us on Friday, June 7th to celebrate the Arden’s 25th anniversary!