Selecting the 2010/11 Season

January 7, 2010

By Ed Sobel, Associate Artistic Director

If you are reading this, chances are you have at least a passing interest in the Arden and our programming. Maybe you are even loyal audiences or supporters. In any case, I’m willing to bet you have at times wondered, “How does the Arden decide what plays to do in its season?”

Most theaters won’t honestly respond to that question, for many reasons. Sometimes they won’t answer because choosing a season can be an ugly, cumbersome process, like sausage making and getting health care bills through Congress. Theater companies don’t want to seem venal or self-interested or capricious or insensitive to artists under consideration, so they don’t risk full exposure. Or sometimes they can’t answer, because they don’t know the answer themselves. They lose their mission, somewhere along the way, and don’t want to be reminded of it.

And I’m not going to answer the question for Arden. Yet.

First, I have to tell you it is a long, difficult and often challenging process. One learns to live with joy (as in, “Ah, this is a play so perfect for us and our audiences, and it’s fantastic, and we are going to do it!”) and much more often disappointment (as in, “Ahhhh, we can’t get the rights to produce this play because a Broadway producer has exclusively optioned them from now until summer 2014.”). We consider many, many, many plays before finally selecting the five you will see in the subscription season and the two for our children’s theater program.

I like risk. And I am now going to do a risky thing. (Don’t tell anyone.) I’d like to ask for your participation. And in return, I promise to be honest and transparent about our season planning process.

Send a comment to this post, with the one play you suggest we consider for the 2010-11 season, and in two or three sentences make the compelling case for why we ought to produce it. Remember, our mission is to tell great stories by great storytellers.

In subsequent posts, I will respond to some of your suggestions, and describe the process those plays go through in our season planning process.

To start off, and to up the ante, I will give you the full disclosure that we are close to “finalizing” (why I’ve put that in quotation marks will become clearer as we go through the coming weeks together) three of the plays for the 2010-11 subscription season, meaning there are likely only two slots left.

The only other thing I ask is that you read my 4th paragraph again. Understand the overwhelming odds are none of the plays suggested here will end up in the season. But then, one might. So if you are willing to risk a little disappointment, give us your best shot. At the very least, I promise we are all going to learn some things.

28 Responses

  1. Jeremy Gable says:

    I'm not sure what the options are for Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem", but if you can get it, you really should. It's a stunning three-act piece that starts off deceptively comedic, and evolves into a tense, anarchic drama. A single, detailed multi-layered set, a number of awesome roles for an amazing ensemble cast, and some great challenges for everyone involved.

    And of course, I have a couple scripts of my own, if you're interested in introducing a new voice to Philly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love Niel Labute's Reasons to be Pretty. It was just on Broadway. It seems like something the Arden may be interested in doing.

  3. Jeff Bogle says:

    For the children's program: Dear Edwina. A musical comedy from the team that brought Junie B. Jones to the stage. Amazing, touching, funny and great music.

  4. Scott Witebsky says:

    The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris. Saw it at Playwrights Horizons a few years ago. Out of the hundreds of shows I've seen in NY, including Broadway productions, it is still my favorite. I don't think a lot of edgy satire is written for the stage, but here is one that is edgy, raw and yet still hysterical.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s), Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt

  6. Anonymous says:

    With the Arden's interest in storytelling– I think it would be interesting to examine some of the stories that have been told again and again on stage. For instance, plays about or inspired by the Phaedra/Hippolytus story. Racine's Phaedra gives a neoclassical view of the story that's relatively close to the original greek play. Tennessee William's Desire Under the Elms is rethought version of the story that is just as forbidden, excruciating, and lovely. And for something even more updated, Sarah Caine's Phaedra's Love is both a version of the story better suited to today's society and a rather jarring commentary on that society's lifestyle.

  7. TlalocNYC says:

    Hi Ed,

    We haven't met but our artistic degrees of separation are fairly close. I'm a professional director who focuses on the development of new work here in NYC – but I also performed in the Arden's world premiere of Tooth & Claw by Michael Hollinger in 2004. So by way of a long introduction, nice to meet you (virtually).

    There's some exciting new voices coming out of NYC – and while I understand the enthusiasm of established writers such as LaBute, Shanley, etc. – wouldn't it be great if those opportunities are afforded to underrepresented writers who are women and writers of color? I love that you're producing BLUE DOOR this season, and I point to it as an example of what the Arden can do best using the talent and resources that Philadelphia already has.

    So that being said, I recommend Sheila Callaghan's wonderfully comic & theatrical FEVER DREAM (a new take on Calderon's Life is a Dream). Bekah Brunstetter's OOORAH (examining the fragility of a marriage when a soldier returns home from Iraq). Caridad Svich's graceful and poetic adaptation of Isabel Allende's HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS (which she has English and Spanish versions of). On the children's side, Esperanza Rising (adapted by the late-Lynne Alvarez from the novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan) would a great choice in terms of its story and outreach opportunities; and The Book of Ruth by Deborah Lynn Frockt is a wonderful play that examines a book of recipes passed down to a granddaughter by a womam interned in a concentration camp.

    There are more I can recommend if you wish to reach me via my website:

    Best wishes, T

  8. Greg says:

    There are so many shows that I would love to see done on the Arden stage, and I think it's really great that you guys have decided to ask for input and be transparent (as much as you can be) about the process. A couple ideas:

    The new version of the musical PARADE by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry that originated at the Donmar Warehouse. The Arden has a history of doing musicals that are evocative and challenging. PARADE has some of the best music in contemporary musical theatre and tells a compelling story about prejudice, groupthink and love. The new, scaled down production has been a huge success in London and Los Angeles. As far as I know it hasn't premiered on the east coast, so I think it'd be great if the Arden could secure the rights.

    As far as plays, I'd love to see what you guys could do with a classic comedy, my favorite being A FLEA IN HER EAR by Georges Feydeau. I think it's an underdone farce, but can be brilliant when done well, and is something different than I've seen you present. I also think it'd be great if you did something like Neil Simon's BRIGHTON BEACH trilogy, either in rep or maybe one each throughout your next three seasons. I think they're his most touching and relevant works, and show the heart of a playwright that many theatre artists tend to underappreciate.

    As for contemporary pieces, I think you probably know better than me the things that are out there and underproduced, so I'll leave it to you.

  9. The Falkenstein Family says:

    We saw this a few summers ago @ DeSales, featuring Greg Woods and Christopher Patrick Mullen along with two other talented performers. The four cast members played over 60 parts. The show could be done on your smaller stage.
    Thanks for the opportunity to make a suggestion.

  10. Gerard Vàzquez - Jordi Barra (Playwrights) says:

    Maybe this prizewinner play, THE PORTRAIT PAINTER, could be interesting to you.

    Based on real events, the play constructs a credible fiction in which the play between reality and appearance, the status of art and of the role of the artist in terms of life and power take on a leading role.
    The story of The portrait painter is that of a historical mystery still not completely solved. King Henry VIII of England, captivated by the portrait he had commissioned to his court painter, Hans Holbein, established an engagement with Anne of Cleves, who would be his fourth wife. The reality, however, did not live up to expectations and the king finally rejected his wife. Why?

    The characters are: Hans Holbein. Painter in the court of Henry VIII;
    Thomas Owen, Hans Holbein’s assistant and pupil; Catherine Howard, future Fifth wife of Henry VIII; Anne of Cleves. Fourth wife of Henry VIII and a Unknown man.
    Action takes place in 1555, in Hever Castle, Kent, England, and in 1539–40, in Whitehall Palace, London, England.

    We can give us the English version of the play, translated by Elisabet Ràfols and Susand Bond, if you want read it. Our e-mail address is:
    Also you can check out the facebook group (The portrait painter) about the play:
    Thank you for your attention.
    Gerard Vàzquez – Jordi Barra (Authors)

  11. jalexanderproductions says:


    (A moving story about the Holocaust)

    – KIMBERLY AKIMBO (I directed this show several years ago and it was extremely well-received by our patrons – it would also be a brilliant follow up to RABBIT HOLE)

    – Not sure if it's available yet, but, GOD OF CARNAGE is a wonderful, yet absolutely crazy show.

    – NOISES OFF (personally haven't seen it done in our area for a long time and it's a awesome comedy)


    – It would be fun to see a theatre do a classic musical such as HELLO DOLLY, FUNNY GIRL, or ANYTHING GOES. Not too many groups focus on the classics as much anymore.

    – I love BIG RIVER. It's a great show with memorable music.

    Whatever you all decide, I think your show selections have been terrific. Break-a-leg for deciding your 2010-2011 season.

  12. Susan says:

    There are hundreds of great plays by women that are never produced, virtuallye rasing the canon and legacy of women playwrights from Hrotvitha to Lorraine Hanberry. To name a few: THE TRAGEDY OF MARAIM by Elizabeth Cary, THE ROVER AND FEIGNED COURTESANS by Aphra Behn (sh'es done more often); THE BELLE'S STRATEAGEM by Ahnnah Cowley; DE MONTFORT by Joanna Baillie, THE WONDER and THE BUSYBODy and BOLD STROKE FOR A WIFE by Susanna Centlivre; MACHINALE by Treadwell; THE INHERITORS and THE VERGE by Susan Glaspell; A MAN'S WORLD by rachel Crothers; SO HELP ME GOD (recently done at The Mint) by MAURINE DALLAS WATKINS; LES BLANCS by Hansberry; RACHEL by Angelina Grimke; TROUBLE IN MIND by Alice Childress (done a while back at the YAle Rep). These representa ll kindsa of plays — comedies, tragedies, melodramas; domestic and political; featuring women and men protagonists. It's all great writing and eminently produce-able.
    Susan Jonas

  13. Philly Drama Queen says:

    Fetch Clay, Make Man, please (although judging by Isherwood's review it sounds like it still needs a little retooling). And more Kes Khemnu onstage in anything. Please.

  14. erheisman says:

    Journey's End and Follies

  15. Antonio says:

    I would love to see Arden perform Philip Ridley's "The Pitchfork Disney", which I saw many years ago at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC. After many years, this haunting play still sticks in my mind as one of the most captivating plays I've ever seen.

  16. intlulu says:

    I would love to see August Wilson's Radio Golf at the Arden.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Glass Menagerie!!!

  18. Heather and Ed and Chloe says:

    For a play suggestion, I would like to see "The House of Yes." It's very quirky and odd and I can't recall seeing it anywhere in Philadelphia recently.

    And although it's probably not doable, I'd like to suggest my favorite musical, "Rent."

  19. Anonymous says:

    There are a few plays that are so provocative they beg to be seen repeatedly, in different interpretations, to appreciate their many facets. My list includes the following:
    – Arcadia (Stoppard) – Wilma did a magnificent version some years back but Phila deserves a reprise
    – Valparaiso (Don Delillo) – a haunting play that resonates in today's media culture. I'm not sure if it's been performed in Phila. The ART (Cambridge) version some years back that has stayed with me.
    – Merchant of Venice – such a troubling, wonderful play and always interesting to see how a director and company will come to terms with it

    Separately, if you choose to do Racine's Phedre (as suggested by another comment), don't use the new translation recently performed in SF by the Stratford Shakespeare company. Just saw it -great cast but the play and text were hollow and disappointing.

  20. Louis says:

    It is a play that audiences will talk about
    The Arden repertoire players would have a great time, and so would the audiences
    He has always succeeded

  21. Pamela says:

    August Wilson's Joe Turners Come and Gone. You have succesfully produced several August Wilson plays. Why not continue the tradition? I just got finished reading it again and it is absolutely mind-blowing how great the writing is.

  22. Michael says:

    Musical: Jekyll and Hyde

    Many people never got the chance to experience this show on Broadway and, despite it’s gigantic fan base, it was not a huge success. I know many people would love to see it professionally revived in a high-quality theater. It would be a dream come true to see it!

  23. […] please accept my thanks to all who have posted comments and suggestions thus far. As promised, I am going to respond to some of these, with an eye toward illustrating some […]

  24. bakariman1 says:

    Easier said than done, but…

    Shakespeare’s “Othello”, with Kes Khemnu in the title role.

    We saw him in “Gee’s Bend” and “The Blue Door”. He is an awesomely talented actor!!

  25. Barbara says:

    Please, please, please no Shakespeare or Sondheim. Many good suggestions precede this plea. Try one of them. We’re afraid to take the leap of faith for fear we’ll be snookered again into another S or S.

  26. Steve says:

    I’m probably late, I see that 4 of the 5 have just been announced … congratulations! Sounds like a great season shaping up and we have made our Leap Of Faith already. On the off chance that the final slot is still in flux, my respectful suggestions would be:

    Strindberg’s THE GHOST SONATA
    Shepard’s BURIED CHILD

    BURIED CHILD, especially, seems relevant to today’s climate of declining morals and economic downturns.

    Somewhat tangentially, I also love THE GHOST SONATA as it relates to today from a long-past era. The inevitability of life’s disappointments is always relevant (and isn’t that a pleasant thought!)

    HEARTBREAK HOUSE because it is just plain fun and Shaw at his finest, and it seems rarely produced (despite the ’06 Broadway revival).

  27. Mike Reitter says:

    Hi Ed! For years, I always thought you’d be able to pull off a stellar production of PARADE. With our local talent (Ben Dibble, Mary Martello), this beautiful score can only be enhanced by the Arden’s creative team to set the stage. If I can suggest one show to you, it’s PARADE. Thanks!

  28. Lee O'Neill says:

    I once saw a theater company in Worcester MA do a production of the Marx Brothers Animal Crackers that was, without question, the 2nd funniest thing I have ever seen on stage (nothing is in the class of a well done Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). The opportunity for sight gags is tremendous, the dialog is amazing, and it returns the script to the stage, reminding us of the Marx Brothers’ role on vaudeville and Broadway.

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