Arden Memories – Sarah remembers Pacific Overtures

October 8, 2012

By Sarah Sexton, Manager of Institutional Giving

25 years of the Arden. We can tell the age of children’s theatre by how tall the Nolen kids have grown. Our New Home in Old City has been around long enough to need a sprucing itself. A former Arden Professional Apprentice is now the President of our Board.

Like counting rings in a tree, there are many ways we mark the progress of 25 years. We’ve moved from a scrappy mom and pop start up, unhealthy to become a thriving cultural institution, with a seat at the table in Philadelphia. As we begin to celebrate this anniversary season, I’ve had so many conversations with people about their fond Arden memories—they usually begin with “I remember when you were at St. Stephen’s!” or, “You know, I remember the first time you did Frog & Toad…my kids loved it, and still sing ‘Snail with the Mail.’” It’s moving and humbling to hear how memories formed at our theatre are fondly cherished by the people we serve.

To encourage the sharing of these stories, I’d like to humbly proffer my own first Arden experience. In 2003, my high school sweetheart took me to a performance of Pacific Overtures. A typically daring Sondheim musical, it featured an entirely male cast (including Philly favorites Scott Greer and Steve Pacek) and was directed by Terry Nolen. The moment from that show I will always remember was when a Japanese official’s wife, anticipating certain failure for her husband’s diplomatic mission, commits honor suicide. He rushes back in to tell her the impossible—he has succeeded, and they needn’t endure the shame. As he kneels beside her prone figure to wake her, she slumps to the side and a single red ribbon rolls out across the floor, beautifully and simply representing her spilled blood. Witnessing that heart-wrenching loss elicited a collective gasp from the audience, and at that moment any shreds of farcical moments from a man playing a woman fell away. Who would have ever thought a musical about the Westernization of Japan could be so poignant.

Ten years later, I am delighted and honored to find myself behind-the-scenes at the theatre that enchanted me so much as a younger person. As we look to the future, let’s celebrate the past together—what was your first experience with the Arden?

You can share your memories of 25 Seasons of the Arden by emailing We’ll post your responses here on the blog, on our Facebook page, and in our stagebill.  

2 Responses

  1. Eileen Heisman says:

    I loved that production and remember that moment well. I hope Terry includes a Pacific Overture song in the event they are planning. It is my favorite Sondheim show.

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