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Arden Theatre Company in association with historic Christ Church presents Our Town in Old City
By Thornton Wilder, Directed by Terrence J. Nolen, Honorary Producer: Edward G. Rendell, Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, On the Haas stage and at historic Christ Church, May 22 - June 22, 2008
Media Photos

April 25, 2008

Philadelphia, PA - Arden Theatre Company, in association with historic Christ Church, presents Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town from May 22 through June 22. Arden's 20th Anniversary Season, sponsored by PNC Bank, culminates with this unprecedented event. Wilder's masterpiece will be an interactive experience where audiences will walk next door through the churchyard to Christ Church to celebrate the wedding scene of Act II. To further involve the Philadelphia community, a different choir will sing at every performance and three special guests will each deliver a line from the audience at every show, with slated participants to include politicians, local television and radio personalities, teachers, veterans, and other civic leaders. This unparalleled production of Our Town is sponsored by Comcast. Independence Foundation is proud to sponsor Edward G. Rendell, Governor, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Honorary Producer.

Director Terrence J. Nolen believes that setting Act II at Christ Church will invigorate the theatrical experience and enliven the themes of the play for the audience. "We have long wanted to partner with Christ Church, and Our Town provides the perfect opportunity to do so," says Nolen. As audiences walk over to Christ Church, the bells will toll from the church's famous steeple, which for 56 years was the tallest structure in our country. "When audiences enter the church doors, they will be struck by the expansive elegance of the interior, which includes the baptismal font in which William Penn was baptized. The church itself will be bathed in candlelight from tapers lit in the church's chandelier, which has been in use since its installation in 1744." Pulitzer-Prize winning author and historian David McCullough has said, "No other church has played a more significant role in our nation's birth."

"Terry first told me about his dream for the production of Our Town in Old City more than ten years ago when I was Mayor of Philadelphia," said Governor Edward G. Rendell, who serves as Honorary Producer. "When the Arden and Christ Church solidified their innovative partnership, that dream became a reality. The Arden has been sharing great stories with audiences for twenty years and this production of Our Town will celebrate the strong community that has embraced the Arden and allowed it to flourish these past two decades." Governor Rendell is scheduled to attend opening night of Our Town on May 28.

Between our guest choirs and special guests, thirty six community choirs and one hundred and eight special guests will be a part of Our Town in Old City! Guest choirs hail from all over the tri-state area and include Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, Svitanya Eastern European Women's Vocal Ensemble, Haddonfield Memorial High School Choir, Souderton Mennonite Choir, Rose Valley Chorus & Orchestra, and Keystone State Boy's Choir.

Special guests include Marty Moss-Coane of Radio Times on WHYY; Michael Hollinger, celebrated Philadelphia playwright and professor at Villanova; Bill Adair, Director of Education at Rosenbach Museum and Library; Michael Norris, Executive Director of ArtReach; June Wolfson, June and Steve Wolfson Family Foundation; Adena Potok, widow of Philadelphia author Chaim Potok; Richard Keaveney, CEO of Manna and many, many others!

"Throughout the last century," says the Reverend Timothy Safford, "Christ Church devoted itself to the renaissance of Old City and the historic district, especially for arts and culture. When the Arden moved to Old City thirteen years ago, the energy doubled and Old City blossomed. We are honored that the Arden will bring Our Town into Christ Church. A new production of a great American play in one of America's most historic and sacred places. That is our town, Philadelphia."

Nolen describes Our Town as "a remarkable snapshot of lives lived and what it means to be a community." "More than any other play," says Nolen, "it celebrates the small moments that make up living and our connection to each other. Our Town is one of the American theatre's sacred texts. How wonderful to partner with Christ Church to bring Grover's Corners to life here in Philadelphia."

Thornton Wilder is an American icon and an internationally famous playwright and novelist whose works are read, performed and appreciated by audiences worldwide. Wilder is the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and a number of other literary awards.

The final dress rehearsal of Our Town on Wednesday, May 21 at 8pm is open to the public as a Pay-What-You-Can performance, with all proceeds collected donated to Philadelphia Cares, a Philadelphia non profit organization that supports the creation of vibrant communities by motivating people to volunteer their time, talents, and resources. All seats are general admission, first come, first served.

The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden's Box Office at 215.922.1122.

Christ Church is an Episcopal church located next door to Arden Theatre Company in Old City, Philadelphia. It was founded in 1695 by members of the Church of England, who built a small wooden church on the site by the next year. When the congregation outgrew this structure some twenty years later, they decided to erect a new church, the most sumptuous in the colonies. Constructed between 1727 and 1744, Christ Church is considered one of the nation's most beautiful surviving 18th-century structures, a monument to colonial craftsmanship and a handsome example of Georgian architecture.

Christ Church's congregation included 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Revolutionary War leaders who attended Christ Church include George Washington, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross.

WHAT:
Our Town
By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Terrence J. Nolen
Sponsored by Comcast
Independence Foundation is proud to sponsor Edward G. Rendell, Governor, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Honorary Producer

SUMMARY:
Our Town in Old City, is a celebration of Wilder's story of the simple beauty and fragile elegance of daily life. As the capstone of the Arden's 20th Anniversary Season, this production is an unprecedented, interactive experience that will pulse with the rhythm of the Philadelphia community and feature local choral groups and special community guests at each performance.

WHERE:
ACT I & III: Arden Theatre Company, F. Otto Haas Stage, 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia
ACT II: Christ Church, 20 N. American Street, Old City Philadelphia

WHEN:
May 22 - June 22, 2008
Preview performances: May 22 - May 27
Opening night: 7pm Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Reviewing members of the press are invited to attend opening night and may reserve tickets by contacting Janine Zappone at jzappone@ardentheatre.org

TICKETS:
$27-$45 for adults depending on the performance chosen
Group discounts available for 10+
Student Rush tickets at the door only five minutes before curtain for $5 cash, pending availability (must present valid student ID)
Call the Box Office at 215.922.1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org

CAST:
Oberon Adjepong (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Joe Stoddard
Fred Andersen (resident of Gloucester City, NJ) as Simon Stimson
Bev Appleton (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Professor Willard
Carla Belver (resident of Media, PA) as Mrs. Soames
Rebecca Blumhagen (resident of Brooklyn, NY) as Emily Webb
David Corenswet (resident of Merion Station, PA) as Si Crowell/Joe Crowell/Ensemble
Chioma Dunkley (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Rebecca Gibbs
Sherri L. Edelen (resident of Laurel, MD) as Mrs. Gibbs
Nathan Edmondson (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Sam Craig
Eric Hissom (resident of Sarasota, FL) as Stage Manager
Damien J. Wallace (Philadelphia, PA) as Constable
Jordan Johnson (resident of Glenside, PA) as Wally Webb
Kevyn Morrow (resident of New York, NY) as Dr. Gibbs
Peterson Townsend (resident of Jersey City, NJ) as George Gibbs
JoAnna Rhinehart (resident of New York, NY) as Mrs. Webb
Brian Anthony Wilson (resident of Cherry Hill, NJ) as Howie Newsome
Greg Wood (resident of Philadelphia, PA) as Mr. Webb

TOWNSPEOPLE:
Krista Apple (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Robert Bauer (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Katrina Yvette Cooper (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Juanita Frederick (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Dylan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA)
Andy Joos (resident of Haverford, PA)
Brian Kurtas (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Harry Philibosian (East Norriton, PA)
Erin DeBlois Read (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Chaz Rose (Philadelphia, PA)
Wendy Staton (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Tara Van Ness (resident of Philadelphia, PA)

ARTISTIC STAFF:
Terrence J. Nolen Director
Matt Decker Associate Producer
Jim Kronzer Set Designer
Justin Townsend Lighting Designer
Richard St. Clair Costume Designer
Troy Herion Sound Designer
Thomas Shotkin Production Stage Manager
Ed Robins Assistant Director

OTHER NEWS:

Our Town Historic Trolley Tour
We've teamed up with Richard Frey, an Arden patron and local history expert, to present a unique opportunity to learn about the history of theatre in our town, Philadelphia. This narrated trolley tour has been created specifically for the Arden and has never been done before. The tour will begin and end at the Arden on five successive Saturdays during the run of Our Town. Riding on the old fashioned, 39-seat open air trolley, the tour will visit theatre sites all over the city and tell the rich theatrical history of the venues and actors that have called Philadelphia home. Learn about Edwin Forrest, Fanny Kemble, the Barrymores, Paul Robeson, Kevin Bacon, Will Smith and Hal Prince in this 75-minute tour.

Saturday Tour Dates - $25 per person
May 24 • May 31 • June 7 • June 14 • June 21
11:00am - Tour begins at the Arden
12:15pm - Tour drops off at the Arden

Comcast Storyteller of the Year Contest
In conjunction with Arden Theatre Company's production of Our Town, Comcast is sponsoring a story writing competition. High school students in the Philadelphia and Camden school districts are invited to submit a story (written in essay, newspaper article, or poem format) about their community. The theme of the student's story should be "my town" and feature a person, place or event in the student's community and how that person, place or event helps to define the student's city or neighborhood.

Twenty finalists will have the opportunity to read their stories on camera at Comcast CN8 studios. Three winners will be chosen based on writing style, writing quality and personal voice. Winners will receive a $750 college scholarship. Teachers of the winning students will receive $250 for their classroom. Winners will receive tickets for their families to see the Arden's production of Our Town and have their stories published on the Arden's website. The winning students will present their stories to a live audience at Arden Theatre Company at Comcast Night on June 18, 2008.

Entries must be emailed or postmarked by May 15, 2008. Email entries to: mytown@ardentheatre.org or mail them to Arden Theatre Company, ATTN: MY TOWN, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. A complete list of prizes, rules and regulations for the Comcast Storyteller contest can be found at www.ardentheatre.org

Students in grades nine through twelve who are currently enrolled in a public, private, parochial, or home school in the Philadelphia or Camden School Districts are eligible to enter.

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