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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!

Associate Producer Jonathan Silver interviewed director and former Arden Professional Apprentice Raelle Myrick-Hodges on her apprenticeship year, how the program helped launch her career, and bring her back to Philadelphia.

Jonathan Silver: Welcome back, Raelle! We’re thrilled to have you return to Philly leading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. What have you been up to since directing 2016’s Two Trains Running?

Raelle Myrick-Hodges: I have been a really lucky human. Since then, I have directed Sweet which was the world premiere by Harrison David Rivers at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. We were nominated for a bunch of theater awards which was awesome for the team. I also started teaching at Brown University in the Brown/Trinity Program and Directing Studio which has been a life-affirming space to be in as an artist.

JS: When was the first time you read The Bluest Eye? How did it affect you?

RMH: I was probably 14 or 15. It was the first (and probably last) time I had read it. I’m not a reader who goes back to reread novels because of what we do for a living with constantly reading plays. At 14, the most intense part of the book was always the Maureen Peal part. I have brown eyes. I have medium brown skin. I come from a family where, on my mother’s side, my mother has hazel eyes, my aunt has green eyes, my cousins have blue eyes and gray eyes – I’m the brown-eyed one. I spent a lot of my childhood having people tell me I wasn’t as pretty because I didn’t have “white people eyes” like everybody else. Now this is funny because in my family, I was looked at as the most special because they told me, “You’re tall, you have dark brown eyes, you’re so chocolaty” – I was just really special to my family. I feel like Maureen Peal’s character has always been misunderstood and that’s why that part of the book has always been the part that stuck with me the most.

JS: The 2017/18 season marks the 25th year of the Arden’s Professional Apprentice program! As a former apprentice (Class 5 – the year the F. Otto Haas Theatre opened), how do you feel your time shaped your work ethic as a theater artist?

RMH: That’s so funny because it continues to shape my work ethic as a theater artist today. I’m still sharing skills that I learned at the Arden over 20 years ago with, supposedly, “professional” theater artists on a daily basis. The biggest lesson I ever learned was that if there’s a problem, come up with a solution and don’t waste time whining and complaining. I practice and share this when I’m directing, when I have to remember my grant-writing skills, and when I’m teaching. No joke, I literally use these skills every day.

JS: You once described your experience as an apprentice as “one of the hardest years of my life.” Along with the challenges, what are some of the other takeaways you continue to carry from the program?

RMH: The program was hard because you have to be honest with who you are. I was really lucky to have a complicated year because I learned what type of artist I wanted to be. I knew what type of human I was because I accomplished going through a really rigorous program. It was one of the first times in my life I felt I was being treated equally and that’s actually harder than people think when it’s happening. It can be overwhelming.

Raelle and her fellow APA’s of class 5 in the Arden lobby.

JS: Have you gone back up to the catwalk above the F. Otto Haas Theatre to see if what you wrote on one of the beams is still there?

RMH: No but I totally want to because if it is still there, it should say: “McKenna & Raelle – True Love Always.” I’ve got to do that on the first day of rehearsal of The Bluest Eye if I can sneak in there.

JS: For artists and administrators considering applying to the Arden Professional Apprentice program, what would you say to them to convince them this is one of the most rigorous theater training programs in the country?

RMH: I would say, “Find me any other program that will pay you a salary, has you working 50 hours a week in 10 months, will train you to write a press release, write a grant, hold auditions, stage manage a production, TO RUN A DAMN THEATER, then leave with the necessary networking skills to work for any theater company in Philadelphia or this country?! – feel free to tell me about it. Would love to hear about it.”



Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

Adapted by Lydia R. Diamond
Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges 

On the F. Otto Haas Stage
MARCH 1 – APRIL 1, 2018 
Approximate Runtime: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl growing up in the 1940’s, wants nothing more than to be loved. Confronting turmoil at home, she prays for Shirley Temple’s blue eyes, believing their beauty is the only thing standing between her and the happiness of the white girls at school. This powerful adaptation explores the destructive power of racism and the strength of a community attempting to embrace an era of change.



Alex Keiper

Philadelphia actors Alex Keiper and Rachel Camp are leading ladies in two Michael Hollinger plays currently playing in Philadelphia. Alex plays Christine in TouchTones, a world premiere musical, at the Arden Theatre Company and Rachel plays Maggie in Red Herring a comedy thriller at Act II Playhouse. Alex and Rachel chat about Hollinger’s style of storytelling, why these two comedies are relevant today, and making these characters their own.

Rachel Camp

Is this your first Michael Hollinger play?

Alex: It’s my second! I worked on Incorruptible, (or “. . .that play with the Monks”), right here at the Arden in the Spring of 2014, with Michael Doherty!

Rachel: Yes!  I actually got to do a workshop of TouchTones back in May, and that was the first time that I’d gotten to play with one of Michael’s scripts, but Red Herring is the first of his piece’s that I’ve worked on in full-blown production.

How do you describe Michael’s style of storytelling?

Alex: Michael is a classically trained musician, so he writes plays the way composers write music. He hears it in his head and understands how language can flow, like notes in a song. Because of that musicality, the comedy just flows, so long as we are following his phrasing and punctuation. Structure will set you free!

TouchTones, Photo: Mark Garvin

Rachel: Michael is incredibly, incredibly clever in his use of language.  He loves to unfold plot points and character development like unwrapping one of those enormous gift boxes that reveals a new, more intricate package with every new layer that you unveil.  He has a gift for surprising the audience, turning the plot on a dime.  His characters are so likable, and his jokes are so witty that his stories manage to be face paced and full at the same time.

Photos courtesy of Act II Playhouse

What shows have you played together in and where?

Alex: Rachel and I have worked together in MANY capacities! Our first show together was Spelling Bee at Theatre Horizon back in 2010. At the Arden, we worked on Parade and Sideways Stories from the Wayside School. I’m so grateful for our friendship and deeply appreciate/trust her opinion. I ALWAYS want her there as part of the process.

Rachel: Alex and I have done a few pieces together, but not as many as I’d like!  We met when we did The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Theatre Horizon in 2010.  That was my first professional production out of college, and I was so grateful to work with such a stellar cast.  Our other shows together were Sideways Stories from Wayside School and Parade at the Arden, and Side Show in 11th Hour’s Next Step Concert Series.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of concerts, cabarets, and fundraisers we’ve sung for, which is probably why it feels like we’ve worked together many more times than we have!

Parade, Arden Theatre Company

Both plays are love stories. What is each story’s message about love? Relationships?

TouchTones, Photo: Mark Garvin

Alex: TouchTones is a story aboutlearning to accept who you are and how to embrace the things that make us human. It asks questions about fidelity, honesty and the chastity movement of the 1990’s. The couple in the story sees their world getting bigger as they learn the difference between sex and intimacy. If you are raised to believe that sex is shameful, then it’s hard to let go of those judgments for yourself and others.

Photos courtesy of Act II Playhouse

Rachel: “Marriage is a mystery” is one of the repeated themes in Red Herring.  I think Red Herring looks at marriage and relationships through as many different lenses of conflict as it can get its hands on, ruminating on how complex one’s own life is and how many obstacles can march their way into a connection with someone.  That said, the play firmly stands on the side of love.  For as chaotic, irrational, and imperfect as it can be, love is a necessary element of growth, joy, and human existence.

Will you get a chance to see each other’s performance?

Alex: Unfortunately, Red Herring closes before TouchTones. I’m so sad not to see her in this, a piece I know carries so much history with our community, plus she just makes me laugh! I envy the audiences at Act II Playhouse!

Rachel: Absolutely!  Red Herring closes on the 19th before TouchTones ends – so I’ll have plenty of time to catch all the 90’s goodness.

What is something interesting you’ve discovered while workshopping this new musical?

Alex: It’s been a joy in so many ways. I’ve learned that Michael Hollinger and Robert Maggio are honest and open and willing to do whatever it takes to make their play better. Working on Incorruptible was a blast, but that play was already finished, it’s been exciting to be such a big part of the process with the writers, who are still making great changes. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with Manu (Director of TouchTones) and discover all the creative genius and buoyancy that she brings to a piece. Having worked on it for two years, I thought I understood who this character was and what she wanted, but Manu brought in a new energy that lifted me up and taught me more than I thought was possible about the play, the character, and theater on the whole. It has truly been a gift.

TouchTones, Photo: Mark Garvin

What is your favorite part in Red Herring?

Rachel: My favorite part of the show is a gorgeously crafted scene in Act II where I get to sit at a bar with David Ingram, who plays Andrei, a Russian spy.  David is a masterclass in easy, full presence onstage.  Our show is so fast-paced, and this Bar scene offers us a moment to sit and look and listen and breathe.  The dialogue is so sharp, so funny, and so poignant.  Every day after that scene, David and I meet backstage and connect with how good it feels to say those words.

Photo courtesy of Act II Playhouse

Why do you think this story is relevant today?

Alex: I think we talk about shame a lot in today’s socially conscious world; how often do we feel shamed by others? How often do we shame ourselves? That conversation was just beginning in 1999, and now we have a real vocabulary for how to deal with those issues. But before we were all that aware and connected, we had to find the language for ourselves.

TouchTones, Photo: Mark Garvin

What about Red Herring resonates with you?

Rachel: My character Maggie begins the play with the belief that there are parts of her life story that are shameful and need to be hidden.  In pondering this question, I realized that one of the things I like most about playing her is that she ultimately chooses the path of vulnerability and honesty.  She chooses to trust love instead of fearing shame.  I think that her honesty, her faith in her partner, and her commitment to living authentically despite hardship are all elements that resonate with me, either in practice or hope for my own life.


Photos courtesy of Act II Playhouse

See Alex Keiper in TouchTones


Story by Michael Hollinger & Robert Maggio
Book & lyrics by Michael Hollinger
Music by Robert Maggio
Directed by Emmanuelle Delpech

On the Arcadia Stage
Now thru – December 3, 2017

A new musical comedy about love, sex, and the fantasy at the other end of the line…
It’s 1999, the cusp of a new millennium, and technology promises intimacy as well as anonymity. Christine and her fiancé Justin wander into this titillating world of role-play, secret delights, and shifting identities; but who will they be when they come out again? (And will they recognize themselves?)

Contains adult language and themes, including sexual situations.

Buy tickets:

See Rachel Camp in Red Herring

by Michael Hollinger
directed by David Bradley

October 24 -November 19, 2017

Three love stories … plus a murder mystery and nuclear espionage plot. A hilarious noir comedy about marriage and other explosive devices.

Contains Gunshots, Herbal Cigarettes, and Adult Content

Info and tickets:

Get to know TouchTones authors Michael Hollinger and Robert Maggio in this short interview!

MICHAEL HOLLINGER (TouchTones Story, Book and Lyrics)

Hometown:  York, PA

Family?:  Married (since 1990) to actor/teacher/director Megan Bellwoar, with children Benjamin (21) and Willa (12).  Dad (in Virginia), brother (in Portland, OR), sister (in King of Prussia); Mom (died in 2006).  Grew up doing community theatre with Mom and Dad at York Little Theatre.

First musical you ever saw?:  Probably OKLAHOMA at Central High School.  Loved the lyric “One’s like snow – the other’s more like milk,” and Curley sitting on a hot stove.  Classic.

Favorite author?: Changes every couple of years…

I’m currently reading:  WAR AND PEACE (no, really!), LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT by Elana Passarello, THE CREATIVE HABIT by Twyla Tharp (my current bathroom book), and BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande (the audiobook in my car).

When I’m not writing, I’m…:  Teaching playwrights, solo performers, and songwriters.

If you could be any character in fiction, whom would you be?: Godot.  (If I actually wanted to appear, I’d be an actor.)


ROBERT MAGGIO (TouchTones Story, Composer)

Hometown: North Branch, NJ

Family?: Married (since 1990) to artist and educator, Tony LaSalle; We have a 16-year-old daughter; I’m the youngest of four. I have two sisters (one in California, one in Pennsylvania), and one brother (Massachusetts).

First musical you ever saw? Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Broadway Production)

Favorite composer?: Nope. That’s like asking me which one friend I’d like to invite to a party!

I’m currently listening to: Everything all the time, but most recently I’ve been enjoying Lady Gaga’s “Joanne,” Perfume Genius’s “No Shape,” Broadway soundtracks, and classical music written by my fellow composer-friends.

When I’m not composing, I’m…teaching composers, performers and future music educators at West Chester University. And when I’m not doing that, I’m enjoying time with my family.

If you were instrument, which would you be?: A tennis racket. Seriously, I love playing tennis. OK, a piano – all those notes!


Story by Michael Hollinger & Robert Maggio
Book & lyrics by Michael Hollinger
Music by Robert Maggio
Directed by Emmanuelle Delpech

On the Arcadia Stage

A new musical comedy about love, sex, and the fantasy at the other end of the line…
It’s 1999, the cusp of a new millennium, and technology promises intimacy as well as anonymity. Christine and her fiancé Justin wander into this titillating world of role-play, secret delights, and shifting identities; but who will they be when they come out again? (And will they recognize themselves?)
Contains adult language and themes, including sexual situations.

Production Sponsor:

Fox Chase Bank Charitable Fund

Honorary Producers:

Opening Night Sponsor: Harmelin Media

Photo: Wide Eyed Studios

Jessica Bedford

TouchTones dramaturg, Jessica Bedford, illuminates the process of dramaturgy and the role of the dramaturg in new play/musical development.

For those who don’t know, what is a dramaturg?

One of my favorite grad school professors said that, “Dramaturgy is the historical and critical conscience of a play.” It approaches a piece of theatre like an anthropological study: What was going on historically and socially when the play was written? How did that history affect the writing of the play and shape the themes and thoughts within it? And how/why are those themes and thoughts still relevant for an audience today? The answers to these questions effect how a play is designed, staged, and produced so it’s my job, as dramaturg, to provide that context and that research for the writers, actors, designers, and director.

On a new play like TouchTones a dramaturg also keeps an eye on the developing structure of the piece. It can be hard for the writers to be both creators and editors at the same time. Too much of the latter can really stunt the former and we want our writers feeling as creative as possible. So I take some of the editorial burdens off their plate and pay attention to structure. For example, if a new scene introduces a new theme or storyline or conflict, I keep an eye out for where it’s resolved and make sure the play isn’t left with loose threads.

Alex Keiper, Michael Doherty, and Jessica Bedford chat before rehearsal.

How does the dramaturgical work for a musical differ from work needed on a play?

Honestly, not very much at all. Music can change tone so I do help the writers keep an eye on whether or not a song hits the right note in a scene (pun absolutely intended). One also has to ensure that the plot moves forward on the songs instead of in the scenes. The terrible musicals I’ve seen almost always make the mistake of putting the big action or event in dialogue and sing songs with more expositional or commentary moments.

Where do you let your process begin?

Always with a good long date with the script. If it’s a new play, I then chat with the writer(s). If it’s an established play, I then chat with the director. The first question, though, is always the same: What do you want your audience to walk away thinking or feeling?

Dramaturgs ask the playwright a lot of questions about the play. What are some questions you like to ask?

Well, hey, see above.

When it comes to editing and a writer is hesitating over cutting or keeping a moment, I like to ask, “What does this buy us?” or “How does this move the story forward?” When they can’t answer that, it usually becomes clear that the moment or line has to go. Having an objective viewer can really help a writer detach.

When it comes to things that feel dropped or anemic, I like to ask, “Where does [xxx] live in the play?” You have to remember that when dissecting a play, you’re talking about someone’s creative work that they’ve poured years into. A good dramaturg’s questions should feel like invitations more than criticisms (even when their intent is critical).

Describe the “world” of TouchTones for us.

It’s a warm, open place, actually. All walks of life are embraced with humor and care.

How do you know when you’ve researched a topic enough?

Jessica makes notes in her script.

Ah! The answer is “just enough.” You have to remember that you’re collaborating with people who have A LOT on their plates. Actors have lines, songs, and choreography to learn. The writers are generating new pages and slashing others. The director has the entire production in her head. When someone asks for some research, give them just enough to answer their question but not so much that it overwhelms them. When passing along requested research, I try to keep it down to what a person can reasonably digest in one evening, after a long day of rehearsal. I leave it to them to ask for more if they want it.

Is there anything you’ve discovered in your research that you found surprising?

I can’t answer that question and keep this PG.

Have you considered not knowing the answer to a question? How do you leave it unanswered?

Absolutely! In fact, it’s critical to say “I don’t know” when you don’t know. If it’s a question that can be researched, I get to it until I find an answer (i.e. what did the cover of The Joy of Sex look like in 1999?). If it’s the writer or director asking me something that I don’t know the answer to, it’s even more critical to be honest. Lots of times they’re turning to me to be that objective observer so if they’re hoping I’ve picked up on a detail and I haven’t, they really need to know that because chances are the audience won’t pick up on it either. Also, theatre is a collaborative art. There can’t be trusting collaboration where there’s no honesty.

What is the relationship between dramaturg and playwright? Composer? Cast?

Dramaturg and Playwright

This relationship has got to be close. After all, if the writer can’t be in the room, I’m something of his representative. If the playwright is the parent and the play is the child, the dramaturg is that best friend that can be counted on to babysit twice a week and has all the kid’s allergies memorized.

Dramaturg and Composer

A more watered-down version of the above.

Dramaturg and Cast

Do you remember that librarian in undergrad who would point you in the right direction when you were researching a paper and was always really happy to see you and even remembered what your last paper was about and would ask after your grade? That’s me. I’m here to give them what they need and root them on.

Alex Keiper and Michael Dopherty read through a scene.

How does your role change once rehearsals begin? In tech? Before opening?

Once a play or musical goes into the rehearsal hall, the dramaturg shifts into “hurry up and wait” mode, in terms of her research responsibilities. But the “objective observer” duty kicks into high gear. To that end, I’m only in the rehearsal hall three days a week so that I can see things anew and so that I’m not biased from, say, overhearing a conversation about how so-and-so really wants this prop to work or this song to be cut, etc. As it gets closer to tech and opening, I also have to edit my notes/thoughts. At that point in the process, there’s only so much the director and actors are going to be able to fully incorporate so I only speak up about the big things.

What do you most want audiences to take away from this story?

Whatever Michael and Manu want them to take away. That’s not me being cute, that’s my role in this process.

Director, playwright, and composer listen to the a reading of TouchTones.

Who is your favorite character in TouchTones and why? And/or favorite song?

The best friend who babysits twice a week isn’t allowed to have favorite characters. I adore all of these actors and their portrayals equally.

As for a favorite song, Delilah makes me stomp my feet, forget just tapping them. And I find myself humming Ready all week long. The melody is so lovely.

What are you working on next!?

Well, I’m playing Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at the McCarter Theatre. How’s that for a change of pace?

About the Dramaturg

JESSICA BEDFORD is a Philadelphia based theatre artist. Previously, at the Arden, she served as production Dramaturg on Equivocation and served as assistant to playwright Michael Hollinger on Under the Skin. She was formerly the Associate Artistic Director at Montgomery Theater where she oversaw the Education and Dramaturgy programs for five years. Jessica teaches at DeSales University, Temple University, Villanova University and the Walnut Street Theatre School. She is a member of the Dramatists’ Guild and Actors’ Equity Association.


Photo: Wide Eyed Studios



Story by Michael Hollinger & Robert Maggio
Book & lyrics by Michael Hollinger
Music by Robert Maggio
Directed by Emmanuelle Delpech

On the Arcadia Stage

A new musical comedy about love, sex, and the fantasy at the other end of the line…
It’s 1999, the cusp of a new millennium, and technology promises intimacy as well as anonymity. Christine and her fiancé Justin wander into this titillating world of role-play, secret delights, and shifting identities; but who will they be when they come out again? (And will they recognize themselves?)
Contains adult language and themes, including sexual situations.

Production Sponsor:

Fox Chase Bank Charitable Fund

 Honorary Producers:


Actress, Lauren Williams discusses her experience with dance and fight choreography on the stage. See her on the stage in Cabaret now thru Oct. 22.

You have a lot of experience with stage combat, including 9 weapon certifications with the Society of American Fight Directors, what drew you towards that part of theatre?

I have always been a mover since I was young, being pretty heavily involved in dance and martial arts up through college. I saw one of my friends doing a Peter Pan scene with two single swords and I thought that I really wanted to do that. So I’ve been doing it for about 9 years now.

Was it dangerous learning how to use prop weapons during your training?

We are basically taught to treat prop weapons as real weapons, so no pointing sharp points to the face, for instance. It’s primarily in learning to handle the prop safely while learning to be stylistic at the same time.

Do you feel like your experience with stage combat helped you when you pursued dance?

Photo by: Mark Garvin

It’s actually the opposite. I’ve danced since I was a little girl and started martial arts after that. Where I had more love for the former, I wasn’t introduced to the idea of stage combat until I got to college. So, having been in those kinds of environments (choreographed, often partnered/ group routines), it’s like doing another dance for me. Except with a live(-ish) weapon.

You said the Philadelphia burlesque community practically prepared you for this role, what was your experience with it?

I started doing full-length theatrical burlesque shows with Walking Fish Theater before I started pursuing burlesque on my own. It’s a combination of having control of the audience and discovering what body positivity means to me. Once you’ve performed in pasties and a thong in front of people on multiple occasions, you kind of grow into it.

Do you prefer theatre productions with more dancing or more stage fighting?

I don’t really have a preference of one over the other. Whatever tells the best story is what I would gravitate towards more, and it’s never a singular answer. I hope to create something that incorporates both someday.

Do you prefer choreographing or being in the performance itself?

It’s a mixed bag. I like choreography because it gives me the opportunity to tell my own story, and I like performing for the same reason. If I could include myself in everything I do, I would.

What about Cabaret made you want to audition for this role?

It was a new opportunity that I honestly never thought I would get. A friend of mine forwarded me the audition information and I took a chance. I had also seen this play twice at Temple University and I really enjoyed both times. It’s nice that it’s a completely different version, as it should be.

Photo by: Mark Garvin

What are you most excited for audiences to see when this show opens?

The feeling of being in the Kit Kat Klub. It feels so great to bring the audience into this world of “magic,” if you will, while at the same time getting a true dose of reality. The story is powerful and highly relevant to today.

What was your favorite role that you’ve played so far?

This is honestly my first of this caliber, and it is definitely one that requires the most endurance. It is exciting to be able to bring Rosie to life, and I can only hope for more roles that raise the bar later in life.

About Lauren:

Lauren Williams (Rosie) Arden debut! Film/TV: Stuntwoman for Tamburlaine the Great; stuntwoman for Philadelphia, The Great Experiment. Training: Temple University, B.A. in Theater, Trained in Stage Combat in five different organizations around the world (SaFD, SaFDi, BASSC, NSFS, FDC).


Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and
Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Originally Co-directed and Choreographed by Rob Marshall and Directed by Sam Mendes
Directed by Matthew Decker

On the F. Otto Haas Stage
Now thru OCTOBER 22, 2017


Photo by: Mark Garvin

Phoebe Gavula makes her professional debut in Cabaret at the Arden. An experienced and skilled dancer, Phoebe talks about making the leap into Musical Theatre.

You’ve been in several ballet productions, is Cabaret your first production of the Broadway-style and burlesque dancing?

Yes, and it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done before. And I love it! Even from a purely choreographic standpoint, this show has been an incredible experience for a number of reasons. It’s not enough to learn and execute the choreography, you have to be completely comfortable in your body and confident in the movement in order for it be effective. While there are obvious differences between this style of movement and classical ballet, which is what I’m trained in, I think the biggest one is that this choreography is more about the feeling and the freedom of the movement as opposed to uniformity and exact execution of precise movements. Burlesque dancing is about owning your body and the space around it, and it’s really liberating and just fun.

You were in Hairspray, another iconic musical with a different style of dance! How has your dance experience in Hairspray helped your work in Cabaret?

Initially, it seems like Cabaret and Hairspray could not be more unalike. The difference in the vocabulary of movement of each show is so profound that it’s almost comical, but I’ve realized the shows actually have a bit more in common than I anticipated. Most obviously, both shows deal with prejudice and its effects within a community. My characters in both shows also perform mostly within the world of the play; Brenda in Hairspray is a dancer on a TV special, and Helga in Cabaret is a dancer at the Kit Kat Club. Both of my characters knew they were performing for an audience that existed inside the show. More importantly though, both shows explore the cathartic freedom of movement. They do so in very different ways, but Hairspray for the Nicest Kids is a lot about breaking out of expectations to find the pure joy of dancing, and Cabaret for the Kit Kats is about expression through raw, unapologetic movement.

This is your first professional show. Tell us about the excitement of your professional debut.

I could not be more excited to be performing in this show. This would have been a thrilling experience regardless of the show simply because everything in this process has been exciting and new and I’ve been going through it with the new knowledge that I am now a professional actor, but the fact that on top of all that the show is Cabaret has made it all the more exhilarating. And conversely, being in this show in any capacity is always something special, so being in it as a new professional (and at the Arden, no less) has been magical.

What do you love the most about Cabaret?

Kit Kat Girls in rehearsal

I love what this show accomplishes and tackles. It is profound and entertaining and terrible and fantastic, and I knew that a production of it at The Arden was something I wanted to at least try to be a part of. I think this work is incredibly effective, almost sneakily. Most of the first act is a bawdy, energetic, fantastic time and you fall in love with everyone, and then suddenly it’s not just a cabaret performance anymore, it’s a raw and heart wrenching story that is unfortunately extremely relevant.

Which part of the show are you most excited for audiences to see in the 


I know I’m inside it so I’m a little biased, but it is truly difficult to pick just one part of the show that I’m most excited about. Getting to work with all of this talent from both the cast and the production and management teams has been such a wonderful experience for me and I’m absolutely thrilled for audiences to see what we have done with this work. Everyone has contributed to and is invested in every aspect of this production and I think this piece that we’ve created is just really good. Taking my bias a little further, I am absolutely in love with Jenn Rose’s choreography, and I’m excited for other people to experience it. I think she’s made a delightful mix of her own style and nods to the expected movement of the show, and we now have something exciting for both the audience and the ensemble.

What was the most challenging while preparing for this show?

L-R: Phoebe Gavula, Cara Treacy

In all honesty, I can’t really think of anything that was particularly challenging in this process. We spent a lot of time discussing the world the show is set in and what we wanted to accomplish and what life is like in the Kit Kat Club and in Germany at the time, but that wasn’t really a challenge as much as it was a constantly developing discussion. That’s not to say that this has been an easy process; we’ve definitely been working incredibly hard for the past month. I guess that, for me, preview week was rough because it was my first time experiencing anything like it. Rehearsing changes and tech and new choreography all day and then performing those changes (and trying to remember them all) was pretty tough, but I think that’s to be expected. Otherwise, there are just silly little things that aren’t easy, like maneuvering and breathing in a gorilla suit. But, to be completely honest, the hardest thing about this show for me was working with all of these incredibly talented people every day and maintaining some semblance of composure. I feel so lucky to be a part of this production, and it really has been exciting every day.

Do you prefer more modern dance shows like Cabaret and Hairspray or classical performances like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake

It’s so hard to compare the two different genres of work because they’re so incredibly different. I will always have a strong affinity for ballet, and works like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and Giselle and Don Q will forever be extremely important to me. I’m really enjoying this new delight I’ve found in musical theater choreography. They’re just completely different animals and I truly cannot say which I prefer. This is probably a little cheesy, but I honestly just love dancing. I like finding the nuances of different classes of movement and the different ways the styles live in my body and the way they make sense with the music and the story they are telling.

About Phoebe:

Phoebe Gavula (Helga) Arden debut! Regional: Love and Information, Brenda in Hairspray (Temple University); Cygnet in Swan Lake, Columbine and Marzipan in The Nutcracker, Fairy and Lost Boy in Peter Pan, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Pennsylvania Ballet). Training: B.A. Musical Theatre, Temple University. Huge thanks to the Metropolitan crew, Tim Gallagher, Mom, Dad, Joe, Lily, Temple loves, and the Lizards. 


Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and
Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Originally Co-directed and Choreographed by Rob Marshall and Directed by Sam Mendes
Directed by Matthew Decker

On the F. Otto Haas Stage
Now thru OCTOBER 22, 2017


Photo: Mark Garvin

Actress Cara Treacy shares her experience as a dancer and actor and her captivation with Cabaret that inspired her to pursue Musical Theatre. See her on stage in Cabaret, now thru Oct. 22!

You’ve danced in classical ballet productions like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker and also modern dance forms in productions like West Side Story and now Cabaret. Do you have a favorite style of dance?

 I would not be where I am today without my background in ballet, but my favorite style of dance is jazz. I love being able to use my technique to create a beautiful line and then incorporating stylistic elements to make it fun and interesting to an audience. Dancing “Cool” in West Side Story as a jet girl was my favorite dance number that I have ever performed. The music combined with Jerome Robbins choreography is so exhilarating and I loved every moment.

At what point did you decide to pursue a life in musical theatre?

Kit Kat girls rehearse a dance number

Ironically, the musical Cabaret is the reason that I am a musical theatre performer! I moved to New York City at 19 and my first night in New York, I saw the recent Cabaret revival with Alan Cumming and Emma Stone. My mom and I bought tickets that morning and were at the center table in the first row. I have never been so captivated by a performance in my entire life and I knew at that moment, that I wanted to leave my career in ballet and go into musical theatre. Cabaret has always been my dream show and three years later, I get the amazing opportunity of performing in it!

You traveled to a lot of cities, performing in different productions. Do you have a favorite city?

No matter where I travel to, New York is still my favorite city. There is something about the energy there that inspires me like no other. I have dreamt of living there ever since I was a little girl and I am so lucky that I get to live there as an adult.

What is your Kit Kat Girl’s character like?

Texas is in her early 20s and started working at the club when she was 18. She has always been captivated by American Western films and has big dreams of moving to America and being in the movies. She is working at the club to earn a living, and save up money to move to the States. However, she really enjoys the comradery at the club and has fun performing all the fun numbers every night. She is a fun and flirty girl!

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

My favorite part of the rehearsal process is always getting to rehearse with the band for the first time. Hearing the live music and getting to perform to it every night is so special. I come from a musical family, with a few professional musicians, so I have always loved live music.

Photo: Mark Garvin

How do you prepare your body for dancing before a performance? After?

I always do a ballet barre followed by an 8 minute ab workout about an hour before the show. The 8 minute abs workout is a video on YouTube and my friend Avery introduced it to me when I was doing West Side Story. Then I usually stretch out and plank a few minutes before I go on.

What is your dream role?

Wow this is a hard one! I would say Meg Giry in Phantom of the Opera. I would love to be able to combine my love for ballet and theatre in one role. Phantom is such a beautiful show and it would be so cool to be a part of it.

What are you most excited for audiences to see on Cabaret’s opening night?

I think that the atmosphere of the club is going to be really amazing. From the moment that the audience walks in, they are going to feel like they have been transported to the Kit Kat club. It is a special show in the way that the set design really creates this club atmosphere and people feel like they are involved in the show, especially if they are in the table seats. I am also excited for all the big dance numbers, especially Mein Herr. Jenn Rose’s choreography is really fun to do and I can’t wait for audiences to experience it.

About Cara: 

Cara Treacy (Texas) Arden debut! Off-Broadway: Crashlight: The Musical (Cherry Lane Theatre) Regional: Beauty and the Beast (upcoming), Pauline in West Side Story (Media Theatre Company). Cara danced professionally with two ballet companies; Ballet San Antonio and Connecticut Ballet. Training: Dance Training: The Rock School for Dance Education.



Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and
Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Originally Co-directed and Choreographed by Rob Marshall and Directed by Sam Mendes
Directed by Matthew Decker

On the F. Otto Haas Stage
Now thru OCTOBER 22, 2017


Photo by Ashley Labonde

2016/17 Stage Management Intern, Jackie Leibowitz, shared her year-long experience interning at the Arden. We loved having Jackie work with and learn from us and wish her all the best during her masters program at Temple University next year. 

How did you hear about the internship?

I’ve been seeing shows at the Arden since I first moved to Philadelphia back in 2012 (shout out to Next to Normal!). When it got close to graduation, the first internship I looked up was the Arden Professional Apprentice (APA) program. Since that program is highly competitive, I kept looking for other programs when I wasn’t accepted. I applied to 52 programs around the country over a period of about 6 months.

Selfie with Samantha

A few months passed since my initial search and I saw the posting for the internship when I was searching the “Jobs” page on Theatre Philadelphia…then I immediately sent in my cover letter that night! I interviewed about a month later. I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks and by this point I had already decided I was going to stay in Philadelphia to try and find work. I was rehearsing for a Fringe show in August when I got the email telling me I actually got the internship. It would be an understatement to say that I was dancing around with my fellow Stage Manager throughout the entirety of our 10 minute break after reading the news! Then I started in September and have been here for the last 10 months.

Do you remember what your first day was like? Last day?

My first day was pre-production rehearsal hall cleanup for The Legend of Georgia

A perfect rehearsal setup

McBride. I didn’t even know where to go! I went up to the production offices where I met one of our stage managers, Alec Ferrell, for the first time, and he took me on a tour around the Arden. It was totally different seeing it all from the other side! He then took me over to our rehearsal hall in the HamFam (the Hamilton Family Arts Center) where I started cleaning up from the previous rehearsal setup from Stupid F***ing Bird. As I ripped up old spike tape from the floor (which I actually enjoy doing! It’s very satisfying!), one of our other SMs, Katie Ringwood, came over to talk to Alec and introduce herself. After cleaning up, Alec and I went for a cup of coffee to talk about what I’d be doing this year. I’m the first full-season SM intern the Arden has ever had, so we decided we would all figure it out together.

I kind of consider two different days as my “last day.” My last day with the cast was a rehearsal during Gypsy previews. I did what I always do: I sat in the house on book, I took some pictures for the Arden Instagram, I helped out backstage when we needed extra hands, and I hung out with Andy when he wasn’t busy being a show-dog star! At the end of notes, I told the cast it was my last day and received an overwhelming “awwww!” as I went around and hugged all these beautiful humans.

My actual last day was at the end of our understudy run. Typically, I’m in the house on book during these runs just in case, but this time I had the opportunity to shadow Katie’s backstage Assistant Stage Manager track! I followed along on their run sheet paperwork and saw first-hand what she does during the show. After dinner break, I went upstairs and saw an evening performance of The Light Princess with my roommate to celebrate. It was a great way to come full circle!

What is a typical day for the Stage Management intern?

There’s two type of “typical days”: rehearsal days and tech days. When it’s a rehearsal day, I come in at my scheduled call, make coffee for everyone, and sweep the rehearsal hall to get everything started. I’ll help whoever is the APA on the show set up the room and get everything ready whether that be sharpening pencils or setting up furniture. During rehearsal it’s a mix of being on book, running around the room to make things run as smoothly as possible, making copies, and running errands between our two buildings to keep our ship running so our SM never has to leave the room.

On a tech day, I do mostly the same thing, but in the theater. I set up everything I can when I get there, sweep, put down some safety tape if I need to, and pick a spot in the house where I can be on book. Since I only work on each show through opening, I can’t do any backstage tracks in tech since I won’t be there for performances. So any time someone needs a hand while we’re in a hold…I’m there! I also love these days when I’m doing an Instagram takeover because I can get the best pictures when we’re in-action during rehearsal.

Being SM intern is a lot like being a production assistant, so I know the ropes and how to do the job…but it’s different on every show and always keeps you on your toes!

What was the funniest show to work on this year and why?

I think I’d have to say The Legend of Georgia McBride. That cast was full of goofballs who always had my stomach hurting from laughing so hard at the physical comedy bits they did in the show. From the first read through during our meet-and-greet, I knew I was in for a great time! One of my favorite memories will be the day that we did the scene where Casey gets into drag for the first time. Matteo and Dito were still getting their footing since it was our first week, but when you add in rehearsal undergarments, dresses, and heels, everyone was in tears from laughing so much! The final scene looked like organized chaos, but choreographing it was one of the biggest delights I had the opportunity to watch.

And speaking of choreography, I’m still not over that mega-mix dance party from the end of the show that Melanie Cotton created! I’ll never be able to hear “Lady Marmalade” and “Crazy in Love” without picturing Miss Tracy Mills lip-syncing to it!

Nancy Boykin, Jackie, and Phoebe the dog

What was the most challenging show you worked on this year? 

The most challenging is split between two shows for me: John and Gypsy. For John, I was the furthest from my comfort zone since I’m definitely not used to working on as many straight plays. We had a LOT of props to keep track of (go Chris Haig!) and I found myself a little overwhelmed by how much was involved in the show itself. I had a pretty good idea of what my job was at this point, but since I didn’t have any music to hide behind, I had to really dig into the play to keep myself active. I also spent a ton of time taking care of our American Girl doll Samantha! Fun fact: I have about 15 American Girl dolls at home, so I knew how to care for her and keep her looking nice throughout rehearsals and the run…but doing that on top of everything else was the challenge! Luckily, on this show I had the pleasure of watching one of my mentors every day: the incomparable Nancy Boykin! Nancy was not only my adviser during my time at Temple, but she was my very first professor on my first day of college. Getting to come full-circle and work with her on this show made my days so much brighter!

Gypsy was obviously the other challenging show. Musicals are my strong suit, but this show is a monster to put on for anyone! We had a bit of a staggered rehearsal schedule, so I came in even more during this show than I typically did for the rest of the season. The sheer volume of the show, cast, understudies, furniture, and everything else made this show a huge challenge, but it also made it the most satisfying when we got all of it right! It was the biggest show we’d done all season and it felt so great when I got to sit down and watch it for the first time during our final dress rehearsal.

What are three things you learned this year that you find invaluable?

  1. Theatre is a big game of “hurry up and wait!” especially when you’re waiting on tasks to do for other people.
  2. Having keys is a luxury. There are a LOT of doors at the Arden and they all use different keys…and when you’re an intern, you don’t have any of them.
  3. The first step is getting in the room. When you’re lucky enough to be in the room with all of these incredible people, you know you’re doing something right. Once you’re there: sit back, keep your ears and your heart open, and learn from the best.

Frog and Toad SM team

What is an accomplishment from your year at the Arden that makes you especially proud?

          Honestly, I’m proud that I found a home at the Arden. I’ve gotten to know so many incredible people that I’ve idolized over my four years in school…and in one year I actually got to know them as people! I’ve learned how to balance work with play in this crazy little theatre world that I love so much, and that isn’t easy. When you make the jump from seeing shows from the audience perspective to actually working behind the scenes to make them a reality, you have to step back and take a moment to realize how special it all is. I also have to constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be a part of this community that I love so much. I’m so grateful to everyone for allowing me to be a part of their art when I’m still in the process of learning.

What advice do you have for next season’s Stage Management Intern?

Patience is key! This job is packed with long hours sometimes where you wonder, “why did I take this internship in the first place?” The answer is to be in that room and to be a part of something greater than yourself. You get such a diverse group of shows, people, and methods thrown together in one season, but you need to figure out what works best for you and apply it to your own artistry. You’ll find your niche here…just give it time and be open to all the wonderful possibilities that the Arden can give you.

What Arden show are you looking forward to seeing next season?

All of the musicals! I’m such a musical theatre dork at heart and there’s something I love about seeing new productions of classic shows I love and new musicals all together. Next season has more musicals than usual and that makes my little dorky heart jump with joy to see what the Arden does with them! The last show in the season specifically…I can’t wait to see what we do with it!

What are your plans for next year?        

In the fall I’ll be returning to my alma mater, Temple University, to pursue my M.A. in Musical Theatre Studies. While I love stage management, I also have dreams of becoming a musical theatre historian one day and this is my first step in that direction. I deferred my enrollment for a year in order to save some money, and now I’m ready for one last year of school!

I won’t be far from the Arden though…next season you can still find me in the box office or working concessions!

Last day on stage

The multi-talented Emily Gardner Xu Hall is currently delighting audiences in THE LIGHT PRINCESS as the Queen. Get to know Emily better and her experience working on this world premiere musical in our interview.

Emily Gardner Xu Hall

You are more than a triple threat. You are an actress, writer, composer, singer, instrumentalist, director… How do you juggle all of that?

That’s very nice of you. I don’t really know how to answer that. These things are just what I do, what I have done, and what I aspire to do better. I take a lot of lessons.

Some things I’ve done longer than others. I started music at 4, my first poem was published across the UK when I was 9 years old, my first composition was commissioned when I was 15. And then I started acting in college and continued to study acting at NYU Tisch’s Graduate Acting Program, after having met some amazing professional actors when I was singing in Coram Boy at the Royal National Theatre. One craft informs another, and you just keep working to be a better craftsman and maintain your joy.

I think in a parallel universe I’m a Shakespearean academic who only wears tweed, loafers and tweed accessories. Who occasionally finds a cobweb in their hair. Or maybe a construction worker.

What inspired you to write a musical adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. (The music is beautiful, by the way.)

The play sets me on fire, and I think I want the world to burn in that same fire. The Cherry Orchard is a really complex, political,emotional play that doesn’t get as much time in the sun as The Seagull. It resonates with so many parts of my life and my politics: it’s about love and death in the family, but also about social change and a class system that is crushing everyone. It’s about ethnicities mixing up, something I know lots about from my life. It’s about survival and financial crisis, and home. It’s about the effects of the widespread social constraint of women.

But my as-yet-untitled Cherry Orchard musical isn’t musty old skirts looking glum at a picnic. It’s a pop musical full of love and comedy.

What excites you most about The Light Princess?

I mean… I have never been asked to act, sing, play piano, guitar, viola and accordion all in one show. So that is crazily fun! Alex Bechtel has written some fun and gorgeous music which is a joy to play and sing. But once it starts, it’s a crazy ride to get on. It’s like Song, Piano, Scene, Viola, Scene, Accordion, Song… You certainly don’t want to grab the wrong instrument at the wrong time!

The audiences are just going crazy at every performance of The Light Princess! There’s so much to enjoy for kids and for adults. Every audience responds differently, and I think that’s testament to the writing: Tony Lawton has written a strong story that offers milestones and hidden Easter eggs to enjoy along the way. You can hear how invested the audience gets as the play goes along! I almost want to tape an audience’s responses secretly… is that allowed?

How does it feel to be performing in a world premiere?

It’s been a pleasure to workshop the play with its creators, and then to perform the show with both the composer and librettist. I was privileged enough to sneak glimpses into the writing process, and then grow the show into the full production: it’s really satisfying to be able to ask the creators about how best to serve their piece. But part of how fun this process has been is definitely the warm environment created by director Steve Pacek, and the amazing culture of high-quality children’s theatre that artistic director Terry Nolen has cultivated at the Arden.

Emily rehearses music from The Light Princess with Alex Bechtel and Rob Tucker

What instrument do you play in the show?

I sing, and play piano, viola, guitar and accordion. Oh yeah, and a slide whistle.

What are you most excited to share with audiences?

The design of the show is so unique; it really allows the story to bloom. Cotton candy costumes by Jill Keys, fun and unexpected lighting by Oona Curley and this storybook set by Nick Benacerraf — to walk onstage is really to walk into the world. It’s quite easy to step out of the mundane and into the pop-up book world of this fairy tale.

I enjoy sharing with the audience… the gift of my mellifluous voice! No. That was a joke that another cast member made yesterday. I enjoy sharing my weirdo chipmunk monster, who gets enchanted by the witch and joins the party.

One thing I’m not responsible for, but which I’m always excited to share with audiences is: the THUNDER! Audiences are always asking about how the thunder is made, and the answer is really that it’s an instantaneous collaboration between sound designer Rick Sims, the set, the lights and the amazing Stage Manager Kate Nelson. But that answer doesn’t really explain how magical it feels!

Learn more about Emily when you visit her website at

Rob Tucker, Emily Gardner Xu Hall, and Brett Ashley Robinson in The Light Princess


A world premiere!
Adapted from the story by George MacDonald
Book and Lyrics by Tony Lawton
Music by Alex Bechtel
Directed by Steve Pacek



Production photos by Mark Garvin

Actress Emily Kleimo

Philadelphia actress Emily Kleimo, who makes her Arden debut in Gypsy, introduces us to her many talents on stage and off!

You’re a voice actor, too. Tell us a little about that job. How are voice acting and acting on the stage different/the same?

EK: Yes, I am! I have done a few commercials, a series of PBS Kids promotions and narrate audiobooks. With voice acting, it is all about nuance. When your audience can’t read your facial expressions or body language, you have to bring those elements through with your voice. That being said, when recording it helps to move your face and body as you might on stage to keep your actions and reactions natural. Believe it or not, this authenticity comes through in the voice when recording. I also really enjoy creating different characters voices for various projects, particularly audiobooks. Similarly, I love manipulating my voice on stage when it is appropriate whether that be a dialect, affect etc…

What excited you about being involved in this production?

EK: I have really enjoyed the work that I have seen on stage at the Arden and have wanted to be a part of it for a long time. Gypsy was actually a show that I did not know very well but knew that it was a classic and was interested in working on something that was new to me.

Gypsy_13 – Emily Kleimo as Agnes and Paige Smallwood as Marjorie May in Arden Theatre Company’s production of Gypsy. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Tell us a little about your character.

EK: Agnes is a bit of a poor soul who wants to be an actress and wants very much to do well. She is curious but naive. She becomes easily attached and can be sensitive at times.

Best advice you’ve ever received as an actor?

EK: This is a hard question! A piece of advice that has really made a great impact over the last few years was to slow down and “stay in my lane.”  By that I mean slowing down in life (when I can) in order to focus my energy in specific areas in terms of what I really want to be doing as an actor.

When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?

Emily’s artwork.

EK: I write cards, answer emails, check Instagram or hang out with cast mates. Sometimes I draw.

If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?

EK: Hmmmm, something totally different just to switch things up… maybe Avenue Q or Urinetown.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?

EK: Take a deep breath, center myself and soak up that burst of excited energy.

Emily (C) in the dressing room with Paige Smallwood (L) and Rachel Camp (R).

EMILY KLEIMO (Agnes, Renée) Arden debut! Regional: Sylvia Carol in The Carols (1812 Productions); Alexi Darling/Ensemble in RENT (11th Hour Theatre Co.); U/S Eileen-Dance Captain in I Love A Piano (Walnut Street Theatre). Film/Television: Weis-To-Go Commercial, Smirnoff Ice, PBS Kids Promo. Training: Drexel University. Love and thanks to Ms. Holly, JKK and Jon. and for her voice over work,


A Musical Fable
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee
On the F. Otto Haas Stage
Playing now thru June 25, 2017


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