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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!

As you may know the Arden has premiered 31 performances with number 32 starting this week: Wanamaker’s Pursuit. But what happens to some of the works after they premiere at the here? As we keep with our mission, great stories by great storytellers, we are very proud that some of our shows get picked up by other theatres.

Here are two recent productions:

Photo by Sam Hough

Wittenberg by David Davalos

  • Premiered at the Arden in January 2008
  • Currently playing at The Pearl Theatre Co in NYC
  • The New York Times says “The nimble ensemle is nearly as comfortable with the theological heavy lifiting as it is with the lowbrow yucks with Mr. Greer taking top honors on both fronts… Hilarity, the name is ‘Wittenberg’.”  Read more at the New York Times.
  • Check out the review from Backstage.
  • Fun fact: Arden favorite Scott Greer reprises his role of Faustus

 

Photo by Ken Jacques

Ghost-Writer by Michael Hollinger

 

Congratulations to both of these new productions!

Stay tuned for more exciting premieres and learning more about their lives after the Arden!

By Marykate Purcell

Ghost-Writer is a play that is full of drama and comedy. The leading lady, discount Megan Bellwoar (Myra Babbage), prescription is a very good actress who has a deep connection with her character. She was very good at staying in character at all times. The leading man, Douglas Rees (Franklin Woolsey), had a lot of power in his voice when he spoke. He did an amazing job! I really like how he portrayed his character. And last, Patricia Hodges (Vivian Woolsey), had such a funny character! She did an amazing job. Patricia’s character had something about her that made her so unique and funny, even in the sad parts of the play. I really liked her performance. All three actors did a great job. The set was very nice. It was simple and interesting. The actors used the space very well.

Ghost-Writer is the story of a writer, his typist, and his wife. The writer is very quiet and doesn’t take the time to see his wife. One night the writer and his typist are finishing a book when, in the middle of his sentence, he falls to the ground dead. The rest of the story is through his typists’ eyes. Ghost-Writer was very well written. This three person play runs until November 7, 2010.

Although I think it is a good play, it did feel long to me. There wasn’t a whole lot going on. However, what was going on was interesting and emotional. There were some sad parts, some happy, and some funny. I would recommend seeing the Ghost-Writer and I would enjoy seeing it again myself. Check out Arden Theater Company in Philadelphia and on line at www.ardentheatre.org for more information.

Thank you to the Arden Theater for the allowing me the opportunity to review Ghost-Writer.

Starting this year, look we’re having members of Arden Drama School’s Teen Company review our main stage productions. These teenagers have already shown an interest in theatre and the Arden as long-time participants in our drama classes. However, we aren’t censoring what they write and we encourage their honest critiques in their own words! Here’s the first review; be on the lookout for more in 2011.

By Charlie Crawford

Michael Hollinger’s Ghost-Writer is like a well-written book. In the show, each individual involved provides one of many critical chapters that come together to tell a fantastic story. Some of those involved have a bigger part to do, but if one piece were missing, it would fall apart. Fortunately, everyone involved in Ghost-Writer does his or her job well and they make the show enjoyable.

Myra Babbage, played by Megan Bellwoar, is a typist who is recommended to Franklin Woolsey, played by Douglas Rees. They become an exemplary writing duo as they get to know each other. As they work together more and more, she begins to predict what he will dictate. Their relationship grows closer than most marriages. Bellwoar and Rees portray the relationship seamlessly. The two are very comfortable on stage and their interaction is real. The two are frequently interrupted in their work by Mrs. Woolsey, played by Patricia Hodges, who constantly wants to socialize, check up, or receive typing lessons. Each actor is deserving of praise, but Bellwoar is the core of the show. She never leaves the stage, is always engaged with another character, and never receives a break.

The work done behind the scenes is also deserving of credit. David Gordon makes a stage that creates a different perspective for each audience member that is enjoyably perplexing. Costumer Charlotte Cloe Fox Wind creates several wonderfully extravagant costumes for Mrs. Woolsey. The lighting, done by Jerold R. Forsyth and the sound design, done by Jorge Cousineau are appropriately synchronized and make for very dramatic moments. This is all done under the direction of James Christy who has done an excellent job of directing on stage and off stage.

The show eventually takes a surreal turn where neither the audience nor Bellwoar can understand what is real and what is not. The audience gets lost along with Bellwoar and has a difficult time coming back to reality. This is all enhanced by the lighting, a fascinating stage, and sound work that makes the show truly feel like it’s in the early 1900’s. Throughout the show, Bellwoar references a non-existent person in the audience. The audience is fairly sure that he does not exist, but many glance backwards just to check. This is what makes Ghost-Writer so noteworthy, an excellent script, precise technical work, and skilled actors. Ghost-Writer is an affecting, thought-provoking opening for the Arden seasons. Besides young children, all audiences will be entertained by Ghost-Writer, especially finicky English teachers.

The Arden kicked off our 23rd season with the world premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Ghost-Writer, which opened on September 15th.  The opening night celebration began at 5:30pm with a Sylvan Society cocktail party at Serrano, one of Old City’s first restaurants, located at 2nd and Market Sts.  200 guests attended the opening night performance and were greeted during the curtain speech by Tom Petro, President and CEO of Fox Chase Bank (Production Sponsor for Ghost-Writer) and Fred Anton (Honorary Producer of Ghost-Writer.)  Everyone celebrated after the show with sumptuous bites by Starr Events Catering and libations by Hatboro Beverages.  Special thanks to Harmelin Media, the Arden’s Opening Night sponsor!

Our summer intern Natalia had the chance to ask playwright Michael Hollinger some questions about Ghost-Writer. Here’s part the second part of the two-part interview. Click here for part one.

Is the ending meant to be ambivalent? Would you care to share some light on what Myra is so furiously typing? Are we to believe the novel has been finished? (Confession: these are really things I happen to be very curious about!)

The play is designed to make the audience question Myra’s relationship to Woolsey and the work they produce together, and this perspective changes throughout the play.  I’d rather not comment specifically on the ending, so as not to reveal too much.

What do you want the relationship between Myra and Woolsey, both pre- and posthumously, to indicate, if anything? What are your thoughts on what passes between them?

Clearly, Myra and Woolsey have shared not only space and time but also a deeply intimate relationship.  Like an artist’s model, Myra has been present for and integral to the process of creation, and, as we see in the play, she comes to impact the outcome of Woolsey’s work in a many ways, both large and small.

Why do you think the Arden is a good fit for this play?

The Arden’s mission focuses on the telling of stories — something I strive to do well in all my plays, and particularly in this one, which reflects storytelling on a variety of levels.  In my experience, the Arden’s audience is intelligent, cultivated, and adventurous, and I trust they’ll enter this play with openness and curiosity.

Ghost-Writer is on stage at the Arden through November 7.

Our summer intern Natalia had the chance to ask playwright Michael Hollinger some questions about Ghost-Writer. Here’s part one of a two-part interview.

What made you to decide to start writing plays? Had you always wanted to do so, >nurse or did the inclination come after your prowess as a musician?

I identified myself as a writer from a rather young age, writing poetry primarily at first.  (“Fewer words,” as Mrs. Woolsey says in the play.)  But I was attracted to the play form early on, as my family was heavily involved in a community theatre in my home town — acting, building sets, etc.  I “ran lines” with my mother as she learned roles (something my own son is doing with my wife Megan downstairs as I write this), which acquainted me with the conventions of dramatic writing so that it was a very familiar form by the time I started writing short plays as a teenager.


How does being a musician inform your writing?

I think my sense of plays as an interplay of voices is enhanced by my experiences playing chamber music; I believe plays should be aurally satisfying even if you don’t understand the language.  Musicians also study form more rigorously than theatre artists do: What’s a concerto?  What’s a symphony?  What’s a tone poem?  What’s a sonata?  What’s a cantata?  What’s a song cycle?  There are models for all of these forms across the centuries, and, in my experience, musicians — composers in particular — tend to be more aware of the constraints and possibilities inherent in each.  Consequently, I’m very interested in the form of each play, its structure, sequence of “movements,” how the various characters, like instruments in an ensemble, are brought in or out to produce a certain effect.  Studying viola seriously also helped me acquire greater detachment in the revision process.  When you practice a difficult passage over and over, you can’t waste time beating yourself up about a clumsy shift or flat note.  You just have to observe carefully and do it again and again, striving to get closer each time.  This taught me a certain discipline with regard to revision — a combination of rigor and patience.

What was the inspiration for Ghost-Writer?

A few years ago I ran across an anecdote about Henry James and his secretary, who typed as he dictated his novels and stories over the course of years.   According to the anecdote, when James died the secretary claimed to continue receiving dictation from her late employer.  My mother had died shortly before I encountered this story, and, through conversations with my father, I began thinking about “the presence of absence” — that is, the power that a departed loved one holds over us, and how we negotiate the space left by that person.  As the play continued to develop, I also found myself looking at the nature of creative process itself, that mysterious combination of craft and what most people would call inspiration.

Members of the Sylvan Society gathered on Tuesday, August 10th, treat just a week into rehearsals for Ghost-Writer, the new Michael Hollinger play which will kick off our 23rd season.  They shared a family-style dinner courtesy of Delicatessen in the Arden lobby and Independence Foundation Studio, complete with homemade desserts from the Arden staff.  The culmination of the evening was the opportunity to hear the cast read through the script of this brand new play.  Sylvan members will be invited to see the full production on opening night, scheduled for September 15th.

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