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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!

By Steve Pacek, the Mouse in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

We’ve got just under two weeks left of our run of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, so you still have time to come back and see the show again! Or if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you get your ticket so you don’t miss it!

I have to say that if you suffer from lower back pain, like I do on occasion, you really should look into doing the mouse workout. I never would have thought that running and jumping around so much on stage would help my back. I was actually afraid it would hurt it more, but it hasn’t! Exercise enthusiasts talk about the benefits of strengthening your core and I am now a firm believer. I have to start devising my workout plan for after the show is over…

People have been asking if we are going to do any of the other stories in the series. I know Davy and I would both LOVE that, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

And since this is my last post during the run of the show, I want to thank everyone who has been to the theatre and shared your laughter and applause and feedback with us! It’s been such a great run! And I look forward to seeing you at the Arden next season because I just found out yesterday that I’ve been cast as Spiller in The Borrowers! Till then…

Have a great summer!

by Mark Kennedy, Arden Professional Apprentices

Every day, except for Mondays, I hum the song “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George in the Arcadia green room while I sew in a fake hair piece to the Mouse’s hat. Later onstage he will cut it all up and after the show I will take out the hair piece, spot clean the hat, and let it dry so I can sew in a new piece the next day. It is one of the many little tasks I complete daily (and in many cases, twice a day) to keep If You Give A Mouse A Cookie running.

I have many tasks like this that involve constant upkeep; I am definitely never really finishing anything. I put every prop in its proper place only to be brought out and thrown around each day and I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes cleaning up each mess. I have to be painstakingly careful cleaning up each and every time because I have to be sure to clean up all the rice flour that the Mouse pours onstage at a particularly delightful moment in Act I. The rice flour gets into the cracks on the floor, into the tiny ledges in you are my sunshinethe cabinets, even into corners backstage. I have to be sure to get rid of it all because if any rice is left out it will attract real pests like ants and moths. If it’s left out with water under the stage lights it will actually bake into unleavened bread. We definitely do not want our own version of If You Give A Bug A Biscuit.

As I write this we’ve done 45 shows and you can imagine after five weeks of constant cleaning I might be feeling a little weary of the tedium. But it’s funny, I’ve been less weary than I thought I’d be.

I find a lot of little things that keep me happy. The Mouse draws a picture of a large sun and a house as he sings “You Are My Sunshine” each show, and I’ve hung up each picture backstage as a visual representation of the number of times we’ve told this story. 45 so far. Only 53 to go!life is good

On the inside of the Mouse’s hat is a little inscription that reads “Do what you like. Like what you do.” I like to think our costumer Richard St. Clair chose the hats not only because our Mouse is ever the optimist, but that the hat’s message would provide me a daily reminder of just how lucky I am to be here, working, doing what I like. So I choose to think that way, and marvel at my luck to be doing it.

On the front of the hat is another inscription: “Life is good.”

By Courtney Spiker Martin, Arden’s Business Manager and Teaching Artist for Arden for All

Walking the halls of Washington Elementary in Camden, NJ may just be the closest I ever get to stardom.

“Miss Courtney! Miss Courtney! You’re baaacckkkkk!” is all I can hear as 30-some 3rd graders run in for one massive Monday morning hug. What a way to start a week.

It’s been a few months since I was first introduced to Ms. Candelori’s 3rd graders but it’s clear that they haven’t forgotten me or the Arden’s production of Peter Pan which they attended in January. As soon as the chaos subsides, the questions and murmurs begin.”I know that book! Can I tell you what happens?” “Mouse, Cookie!! If we are good we get to see If You Give A Mouse A Cookie!” Their enthusiasm is contagious, and I do my best to feed off of it as I introduce the focus of today’s lesson which I am admittedly slightly nervous about; sentence structure and cause vs. effect.  As a theatre artist, teaching academia can be intimidating. I quickly realize that with my bright red If You Give A Mouse A Cookie t-shirt on, these kids might be willing to watch me teach anything. They know the end reward is huge and are willing to work for this field trip.

After a rousing warm up round of the Name Game (say your name and give me a movement that tells me something about you) we are off! (Full disclosure: I am lucky that this group is incredibly animated and one round of the name game wears them out just enough for an hour long lesson.) This is a class full of smart kids who love proving that they are smart. They quickly catch on to my cause/effect identifying game and have no problem coming up with a ton of creative examples which add to the simple scenarios I’ve provided. “I bet he overslept and missed the bus because his brother snores so loud!” During group work the class divides up into pairs and works on combining simple sentences into complex sentences to form cause/effect stories. Most groups even move on to detailed drawings which illustrate their work.

While walking around the classroom to assist I find so many small reasons to celebrate these kids and what they can accomplish. Two for today:

1. The student who crossed his arms during my first two Peter Pan lessons and told me that “No one should have to write on a Monday” (really, he might have a point..)wrote two pages of complex sentences and illustrated both of them.

2. The student who’s voice I only heard once during my winter sessions volunteered to stand in front of the class and read a page of  sentences on her own.

When I mention that this lesson is helping to prepare them to become authors of their own children’s books their jaws drop and their feet begin to stomp. One student wanted to know if he could write a play instead (!). It is incredible to see how much of an incentive a theatre trip can be and refreshing to know how an arts -related approach to standard curriculum can breathe new life into a classroom.

I invite anyone who doesn’t see the importance of keeping the arts alive in schools to join me in Ms. Candelori’s 3rd grade class. (And anyone who questions my celebrity status, I invite you to do the same.)

By AnnieAnnie at If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If you give a mouse a cookie, you’ll end up with mouse ears and a face that hurts from smiling so much!

At least, >pilule that’s the lesson I got when I went to see If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Even though I’m a teenager, I still found If You Give A Mouse A Cookie to be a hilarious play and a great experience. Having loved the book as long as I could read (and, honestly, way before that) I was excited to see it on stage but worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I needn’t have wasted any thoughts on that issue.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater was the amount of young kids bouncing around the seats. I thought to myself, “They’ll never sit down for this!” Amazingly, when the lights went back on, I saw smiling faces on both the kids and the parent’s faces, and not a single one frustrated. THAT is the mark of a truly magnificent play!

Something that was a bit disconcerting at first was the stage. It’s bent so that it looks just like a kitchen must look to a little Boy and a Mouse; huge and daunting. From the very first line, I could tell that the whole play was built like the stage – to make kids feel more understood and to make adults remember what it was like when the counter was taller then they were. Many theaters would have a hard time capturing that, but the Arden did perfectly.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was a huge crowd-pleaser and a real heart-warmer, and it definitely went above and beyond my expectations. Bravo!

Last week, > we hosted an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-themed First Friday event in the Arden lobby. Guests got to enjoy milk and cookies, create their own If You Give a Mouse a ____ story, >recipe and enjoy some beer thanks to Hatboro Beverages.

Guests also got to try out costumes and props from our production of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, feeling what it’s like to be a tiny mouse in a big world. Here are some of our favorite pictures from the evening!

If  you see yourself in one of the photos, leave a comment here on the blog and you’ll win two tickets to Sunday in the Park with George!

And here’s a sampling of some of the new stories created at First Friday:

If you give a mouse a Rugelach, he’s gonna ask for a can opener…
If you give a mouse a Tomato, he’s gonna ask for a garlic press…
If you give a mouse a Tofu Burger, he’s gonna ask for a straw…
If you give a mouse a Muffin, he’s gonna ask for a zester…
If you give a mouse a Bread Crumb, he’s gonna ask for a rolling pin…

Be sure to come visit us at our next First Friday on June 4 and see what else you can create!

By Hilary Rea, Arden Teaching Artist

Cause and effect. If I teach these kids about sentence structure they will have fun. But will they really have fun?

That is what was going through my mind as I approached McCall Elementary School for my very first If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Arden For All lesson with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes.  I knew that the hour and fifteen minute lesson was going to be chock full of information about how to make simple, compound, and complex sentences and I was nervous for groans and eye rolls from the kids I was meeting for the first time. Aren’t you supposed to be the fun teacher? We wrote and acted out scripts for Peter Pan! Why do we have to do this?

Surprisingly I did not get any of the comments and complaints that I imagined above. Knowing the effect of Lesson One in the lessons to come also motivated me to teach what at first seemed more like an English lesson than a theater related one. They are learning to write complex sentences consequently they will end up writing their own children’s books by the last class.

Ms. Johnson’s 3rd grade class greeted me with excitement and was anxious to talk about the play they were going to see in just a few short weeks. By the middle of our warm-up, I knew these kids were going to be fantastic. We warmed up with a name game and each student came up with clever nicknames and a movement to go with them. Back at their desks they volunteered to identify the cause and the effect of every example sentence and then came up with terrific sentences of their own.

At the end of the class we brainstormed different ways that the Arden could turn a book that takes one minute and 30 seconds to read into a play that is one hour and 30 minutes in length. “Maybe it will take a long time to clean up the mess that the mouse makes?” one student suggested. “There might be more characters,” said another. “Lots of action!” was another thought. The fact that these kids were thinking like directors and actors, made me eager to return for next week’s lesson where they will have more a chance to be on their feet and creating pictures and silent scenes with their bodies. And just wait until they create their own children’s book!

By Steve Pacek, >physician Mouse in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Well the show is under way and we are having a blast!

Photo by Mark Garvin

Photo by Mark Garvin

We are in the second week of the run and we’ve just found out we’ve been extended…AGAIN! Now, the show will be running until June 27th! Plenty of time for everyone to come and find out what happens if you give a mouse a cookie…

The audiences have been great! I think even though everyone asks why I make such a big mess on-stage, they all have a lot of fun watching me do it. All the kids seem to feel for Davy, who plays the Boy, also. I think they understand a little bit of how their parents must feel when the mess gets a little out of control at their own houses.

I’m very excited for the ASL shadow interpreted shows! That’s where interpreters will act out the whole show with us on-stage in sign language. Those shows will be on two very important days…May 22nd (my mom’s birthday) and June 10th (MY birthday)!!! It should be a lot of fun…there will be two mice making twice the mess!!!

More to come…

By Bill, Elizabeth and Christina
Mouse Cookie Opening 031
My family and I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to go to opening night of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at the Arden!  There were crafts for the kids and a kid-approved dinner buffet and tasty ice cream treat from The Franklin Fountain following the show.

Of course, the best part really was when the lights went down.   Both the Boy and the Mouse became endearing to us within the first five minutes of the show.  The Boy’s first move toward being an independent “big kid” and a Mouse that just won’t stop chattering became the catalyst for all the laughs that follow.

The actors’ energy was contagious and had kids sitting at the edge of their seats waiting for the next prank.   The Mouse’s and Boy’s timing were absolutely perfect – a finely tuned slapstick routine reminiscent of the Three Stooges. The company’s use of stage technology in the first half held everyone’s attention – even the Mouse seemed amazed.  And just when you thought that the actors couldn’t possibly keep up the pace, they come back from intermission refreshed and ready for even more hilarity.

The Arden ‘s smaller upstairs theater was a great venue for this performance; it brought the actors closer and they became more real.  The set design used a perspective that made it seem very kid oriented.   As adults, it’s so easy to forget that kids live in a world where everything is so much bigger than they are.  Mouse reminded us that even a milk glass can be a challenge for little hands – and faces.

The staff was incredibly friendly, eliciting giggles and smiles from my very shy child.  When the Arden does children’s productions, they certainly do them well.  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ranks right up there with some of our other Arden favorites like A Year with Frog and Toad and Go, Dog. Go!

For If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, we’ve asked families to write reviews. We’ll be posting them here on the blog throughout the run.

Our first review comes from James Landman and Carole Ozeroff. Check out what they had to say and then take a look at the pictures from our Opening Night party!

We loved Give a Mouse A Cookie. It was one of the best plays we have ever seen.
The second half was our favorite part because it was funnier.
We also liked the technology of the mirror.
I have read the book but the play was better.
I loved the arts and crafts before the show and enjoyed the ice cream party afterwards too.
We think kids of all ages would really enjoy this play too!

By Maureen Mullin Fowler, Education Director

For many in the theatre industry, Monday is the day of rest.  No one would think that 8AM on a Monday would be a high traffic time at the Arden.  But last Monday it was, and it will be for the next two months.  Three caravans of cars being driven by Arden Professional Apprentices, actors and teaching artists all headed out for their first day of teaching the Arden’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie residencies. Third, fourth and fifth graders in Philadelphia, Camden and Ridley Park were eagerly anticipating the return of the Arden teaching artists with whom they had so much fun during the Peter Pan residencies.

Excitement was thick in the air.  Not only was it the first day back from spring break, (translation = kids still think they are on spring break) they also had a double dose of energy upon learning their favorite theatre teachers were in the building.  They were ready to play their favorite improv games, learn about the next Arden production, and get to act out scenes of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

This residency concentrates on some common Language Arts themes.  Cause and Effect.  Simple vs. Complex sentences.  Writing narratives and dialogue. And at the end of each residency not only will each student have traveled to see If You Give a Mouse a Cookie here at the Arden; they will also have written their very own children’s book to share with their young brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors.

It’s exciting to know over 2,000 students throughout the region will be taking their first steps at become authors over the next few week.  Check back here for more updates on our budding children’s book authors!

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