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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!

Karina Arroyave as the poem-writing "Haikumom" in the Arden's production of "Water by the Spoonful."

In Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Water by the Spoonful,  Odessa (Haikumom) Ortiz uses haiku to help manage the chaos in her mind and focus on the present moment.

We want to hear from you! What are you thinking now? What was your response to Water by the Spoonful? Take what is on your mind at this moment and create a haiku of your own!

 

Contest Guidelines

  • Following the guidelines for haiku (three lines following the pattern: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables), describe what is on your mind at this moment
  • Post the haiku on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #ardenwaterphilly or email them to waterphilly@ardentheatre.org. Post by March 1st for a chance to win:
    • First Prize: $200 cash prize & two tickets to opening night of Three Sisters
    • Second Prize: $100 cash prize and two tickets to Three Sisters*
    • Ten finalists: Two tickets to a performance of Three Sisters.

 

*excludes opening night

 

The Arden staff took some time out of their preparation for Water by the Spoonful to create some of their own haiku:

 

Working together

To make live theater happen

I know I am home.

-Emily (Apprentice)

 

Pulling and shopping

Creating looks for actors

Nine characters clothed

-Alison (Costumes)

 

Tech is coming soon. 

Build set, hang lights, make costumes. 

Don’t forget the props

-Jessi (Production)

 

Water in a spoon

Addiction and a divorce

Death and forgiveness

-Chris (Props)

 

Come see great stories

Told by great storytellers.

The Arden Theatre.

-Will (Apprentice)

 

 

Water by the Spoonful runs now through March 16th.

 

We opened our latest production, Water by the Spoonful on January 22nd.  Sylvan Society members enjoyed a cocktail reception at the Hamilton Family Arts Center, including a delicious cheese spread courtesy of Wedge and Fig.  Guests braved the snowy weather to join us for the 7:00 PM performance, followed by a party in the Arden lobby with beer from Hatboro Beverages and tasty bites from JPM Catering.  Special guests in attendance included Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez and other members of the playwright’s family.  Special thanks to our opening night sponsor, Harmelin Media.

 

Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes grew up in Philadelphia and used her hometown and her family and friends as inspiration for her award-winning trilogy, of which Water by the Spoonful is the second. The first play in the trilogy, Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue played in Philadelphia a few seasons ago. The final installment, The Happiest Song Plays Last, inspired by North Philadelphia legend, Joaquin Rivera, will premiere off-Broadway in February. Hudes is also the book-writer of the Tony-award winning musical In the Heights.

Sally Ollove, the Arden’s Literary Manager, was able to ask Hudes about the inspiration for her work and her Philly roots.

Quiara Alegría Hudes

Sally Ollove: Water by the Spoonful is the second in a trilogy that follows a Philadelphia family. How did you come to the idea of a trilogy? Was that always the plan, or were you just not done with the story of Elliot and his family?

Quiara Hudes: I am very inspired by August Wilson’s Century Cycle. The scope and breadth of American life he covers is unparalleled. I believe in seeing or reading all ten plays one learns so much about the fabric of our country–our spirit, our fears, our soul, our music, our fury. I would love to investigate a community that deeply and fully. In some ways, this trilogy is me embracing the challenge he left us all. I was also feeling confined, when I dreamed up the trilogy, by what felt like a shrinking of the American stage. Solo plays, two-person plays, ninety minute plays becoming the norm. I was soaking up plays that take a wide canvas, like Angels inAmerica. EvenJerusalem, by Jez Butterworth, was three hours of roisterous British mythology, and I watched it and thought, “Wow, the balls.”

SO: You conducted a number of interviews in preparing to write this piece. Were there any moments from those interviews that stand out to you as a touchstone for Water?

QH: I interviewed Alan Leshner, who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Under Clinton, he challenged the cultural assumption of “addictive personalities” and began to gain traction for this notion that addiction is a disease, not a moral or personality failing. I interviewed my own cousin who struggled mightily with addiction and triumphed in recovery. I interviewed a counselor atHartford’sInstituteofLivingwho had been called into the professional rehab arena after her own recovery from addiction. What I remember the most is bringing my cousin toHartfordto see the word premiere. It struck a lot of chords–it was painful and yet cathartic for her to watch. We had breakfast the next day before I drove her back to Philly. She admitted at breakfast that after twenty years sober she still sometimes could not get out of bed for an overwhelming desire to use. “Just one joint, just one beer.” She said she had spent an entire week on her floor recently, trembling and sobbing for wanting to use. But she didn’t. Talk about commitment to sobriety.

SO: How does your background in music influence your work?

QH: I took lessons at Settlement Music School in South Philly. I learned how to live a solo life, and find fulfillment in a solo practice. I learned how to spend eight hours of unstructured time to get better at something, to improve something. I learned how to listen and be patient in the process. I think music lessons are sometimes to teach future musicians how to play music. But I think they also teach anyone an everyone how to become a leader of their own life.

Sally Ollove: What—if anything—would you say growing up in Philadelphia contributed to the person you are today?

QH: Some favorite Philly snapshots.

1. Adimu, a local musician in West Philly who sculpted original musical instruments out of trash. Then he would give virtuosic concerts for the local children and also teach us to play the instruments.

2. My aunt Alice serving up caffe granita at Fante’s in the Italian Market, where she manned the coffee counter for many years. (She’s now behind the scenes, but in her days at the counter she actually won Best in Philly from the City Paper for “Coffee Advice.”)

3. My Abuela’s arroz con gandules on American Street after school. But on special, unpredictable days when she cooked bistec with onions… oh dear lord. I swear, her cooking and my writing shared some common unspoken compulsion. Kind of like love on a plate.

4. One time I was riding the 34 trolley to school and our trolley rear-ended another 34 trolley right in front of us. All of the people in my trolley flew out of their seats–even though it wasn’t a hard collision, we were only going about five miles an hour but trolleys are big strong heavy pieces of metal. Anyway, as we hit the ground, someone shouted: “I’m calling Allen Rothenberg!” Everyone applauded. No one was injured though.

5. Visiting the home of Earl Wilkie on Windsor Ave in West Philly. He was a sculptor and his twin Victorian house was three stories of sinuous abstract wood sculptures. Sawdust and drafting pages were everywhere. It was like being inside of someone’s imagination.

6. The Heart.

7. Piano lessons at Settlemen tMusic School in South Philly.

8. The irises in May in West Philly.

9. The 1995 Septa strike. I had to carpool with a friend on Warrington Aveto get to Central High School. Ray Beauchamp was also in that carpool. 18 years later, he’s still the man of my dreams.

10. The shocking poverty of some blocks in North Philly. The decay. And experiencing the neighborly spirit there too.

11. After Quaker meetings on Sunday morning, I would frequently walk down the Parkway and enjoy free admission to the Art Museum. I knew every square inch of their contemporary collection including the bizarrely magnetic Duchamp installation. Then I’d climb the stairs and spend time gazing at “Prometheus Bound.”

I have hundreds more. The city is so rich with possibility, and so rife with problems. And my heart is full of its wild contradictions, history, and landscape.

SO: As a local girl, when people tell you they’re going to Philly, what’s the one thing you tell them they can’t miss?

QH: One thing? Yeah right. But here’s my short list.

Steamed pork dumplings, clams in black bean sauce, and chinese broccoli in oyster sauce at David’s Mai Lai Wah in Chinatown. That ginger dipping sauce is more breathtaking than Helen of Troy.

Turkey maple bacon at Hollywood Meat Market on the Italian Market, where my uncle Larry worked for many years. Damned good bacon, for the salty-sweet double-punch.

Homemade ketchup at the Morning Glory Diner in South Philly. An outstanding condiment, to be smeared liberally upon home fries. Also try: their coffee, grits, and biscuits.

There are many good Puerto Rican restaurants, but I like Morning Star on North 5th for the classics: rice and beans, great pernil. If I have a tub of Tums on me I’ll get some deep fried treats from Porky’s Point, but that’s not for the faint of heart. Literally.

Fish Hoagies. I know, it’s weird. But to me it’s a perfect combination of cheese steak and hoagie: warm, you get that Amoroso’s bread, you get the oil and vinegar. I used to get them at a place called Purple Fox on 49th and Baltimore, but that’s decades ago. If anyone knows of a good fish hoagie elsewhere, please fill me in!

By Sally Ollove, Literary Manager

If you liked Sideways Stories from Wayside School, you are in luck! There are two sequels you can read: Wayside School is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. Read more stories about your favorite characters and meet new characters, like the kids in Miss Zarves’ class!

Louis Sachar who wrote Sideways Stories also wrote some other books you might enjoy like: Holes and There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom.

We also asked the cast and crew of Sideways Stories at the Arden to tell us some of their favorite books from when they were younger. Parents, we’ve noted when these books might be for older kids or teens, using guidelines from Scholastic.

Rachel CampRachel Camp (Mrs. Jewls): Matilda by Roald Dahl and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Donna Recole (Assistant Stage Manager): Anything by Judy Blume, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Freckle Juice, and Otherwise Known As Sheila The Great.

Alex KeiperAlex Keiper (BeBe): The Giver by Lois Lowry (ages 9-13), The Velveteen Rabbit (picture book), and the American Girl Book Series

Alec Ferrell (Stage Manager): Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (ages 10-13) and The Secret of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien (ages 10-12)

Emilie KrauseEmilie Krause (Leslie): A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (ages 10-13)

Liz Nugent (Assistant Stage Manager): Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (ages 9-12), with a warning from Liz that it is sad

Taysha CanalesTaysha Canales (Rondi): Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks, and the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary

 

Steve PacekSteve Pacek (Mrs Gorf, Mr. Gorf, Mr. Kidswatter, Miss Valoosh, Miss Zarves, Mr. Pickle): Corduroy by Don Freeman (picture book) and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (picture book)


Dave JohnsonDave Johnson (Louis): Lord of the Flies by William Golding (ages 13-18)


Anthony Martinez-Briggs

Anthony Martinez-Briggs (Dameon): Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (picture book), the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (ages 11-14), and the Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda (ages 9-16).


Sally Ollove (who wrote this post):
Pearl’s Pirates by Frank Asch and Half Magic by Edward Eager

By Steve Pacek
(Mrs. Gorf, >treat Sammy, Mr. Pickle, Miss Valoosh, Mr. Gorf, Mr. Kidswatter, and Miss Zarves in Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Of all of the characters I play in Sideways Stories from the Wayside School (7 total!), Miss Zarves is the one that people are always the most surprised when I tell them “that was me” after the show.  It doesn’t look anything like me.  It doesn’t sound anything like me.  And it’s a very mean character (I PROMISE I’m actually really nice).  But our genius video and sound designer, Jorge Cousineau spent hours creating an animated character that could exist in this “sideways” world!

During the first week of rehearsal, Jorge brought in his video camera and put sticky tape dots all over my face.  He said he was going to capture the movement of my face and the sound of my voice saying Miss Zarves’s lines so he could create an animated character for her.  And this animated character would take up an entire wall!  AWESOME!!!  So we tried a couple times to get the perfect “take.”  But because Miss Zarves does quite a bit of yelling, which makes your face move around a lot, some of the sticky dots kept falling off.  So we did it over and over again until I got all of the lines right and all of the dots stayed!  When he showed me the finished product, I didn’t even think it was me!

Steve gets ready to film

Steve gets ready to film

 

Jorge films Steve as Miss Zarves

Jorge films Steve as Miss Zarves

The most challenging part was actually not moving my head too much.  Jorge needed me to move my face a lot but not my head because the camera was on a close-up.  If I moved too much I would go out of the frame.  It was also hard acting without the other cast members as we were recording.  I had to imagine the other characters were there saying their lines, but it was just me.

Steve acts as Miss Zarves

Steve acts as Miss Zarves

Jorge tracks Steve's movements

Jorge tracks Steve's movements

I have a friend in Los Angeles who acts in a lot of motion capture feature films (like Polar Express and Avatar).  I’ve seen lots of pictures of him with the sticky dots on his face while filming.  It was so cool to feel like I was making a movie while we were making a play!  Maybe one day I’ll get to play some more animated characters.

Miss Zarves comes to life!

Miss Zarves comes to life!

During the run of Parade, the Arden met two wonderful women with personal connections to the story. We were able to sit down with them and hear a little bit about their backgrounds, medical their experiences, and their takes on the Arden’s production.

 

 

Because of the graphic nature of the postcard depicting the hanging of Leo Frank, described by Roberta, we didn’t include the image in the video. If you would like to see the unique image on Roberta’s postcard, please click here. The postcard is property of Roberta Weiss.

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.

Here are photos from the evening!

In Stick Fly, Lydia R. Diamond writes about one weekend for the LeVay family on Martha’s Vineyard. What do you have in common with this family? Or this weekend getaway?

Share your story with us!

Tell us about one or more of the following:

  • A vacation home –  One cherished and often visited, here or perhaps one new to you
  • A significant other’s first time meeting the family – Maybe the first time you brought a spouse home, >sick or visited your boyfriend’s family, or a sibling or child brought home a girlfriend
  • A Game Night – A family tradition or a particularly memorable victory or defeat

Then:
 

  • Email your contribution to creativeresponse@ardentheatre.org (Videos should be sent as links to content hosted online. No attachment should exceed 5MB).
  • Submit your response by Tuesday, December 17. 
  • Members of the Arden staff will then select 10 finalists to be featured on the Arden blog. Then, audiences can vote for their favorite response by leaving a comment on the entry here on this sight or on the Arden’s Facebook page.
  • On Friday, December 20 we will name the winner of the contest!
  • 1 Grand Prize – $200 and an invitation for two to opening night of Water by the Spoonful
  • 2 Runners Up – $100 each and two tickets to Water by the Spoonful
  • All 10 Finalists will receive 2 tickets to Water by the Spoonful


Get creating!

 The Arden reserves the right to post, share, and publicize all entries with proper credit to the creator.

By Sally Ollove, >sales Literary Manager

There was no vacation from segregation in America in the early part of the 20th century. When African Americans sought to get away, >medical they retreated to specific summer communities that welcomed them. The town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard is one of these communities. Though African Americans remain a minority on Martha’s Vineyard—the 2010 census estimates 4% live on the Island—the numbers are rising as more retirees flock to the island and new vacationers arrive every year. Many Vineyard families trace their connections to the island back for generations—people who loved summers on the island as children return as adults with their children and grandchildren in tow.Oak Bluffs_African American Community on Martha's Vineyard

After the Civil War, newly freed African Americans seeking employment found their way to the fisheries on the island. They stayed and created a community of year-round residents and summer home owners. In the 1930s and 40s, Martha’s Vineyard took off as a summer retreat across all demographics, aided by word-of-mouth about the picturesque island from WWII servicemen stationed there. As segregation ended in the 1960s and 70s, African Americans began moving from predominantly black neighborhoods to predominantly white ones, as dramatized in previous Arden productions Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park. Close-knit vacation spots, such as Oak Bluffs, became a substitute, a place in which a critical mass of professional, elite African Americans could be found.

View of Oak Bluffs Through Sea View Arch, date unknown
Over the years, black professionals continued to flock to the island, citing a sense of community and legacy, in addition to the natural beauty. As one summer resident sums up in the Vineyard Gazette: “It’s nice to see people like myself, it’s the norm. It’s nice. You come there, and you’re not the only one. That’s not the reality of our day-to-day living [off-Island].” Prominent figures include singer Ethel Waters, novelist Dorothy West, and Senator Edward W. Brooke III, who gave swimming lessons at Inkwell beach. More recently, Spike Lee, Henry Lewis Gates, and President Obama have all vacationed there.

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.

Here are photos of our pre-show and post-show receptions!

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