Arden Theatre Company presents the inaugural production for The Writers' Room, an innovative playwright residency program, with Women in Jep by Wendy MacLeod. This new comedy, written during a four-month residency in Philadelphia receives a developmental production on the Arden's Arcadia Stage from tonight, July 5 through July 15, 2012. The Writers' Room is funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative and the Independence Foundation through its New Theatre Works Initiative.
The Writers' Room, led by Arden Associate Artistic Director Edward Sobel, is designed to allow the writer to stay in closer contact with her original creative impulse and have a more holistic relationship with the larger institution than most new play development processes currently allow. The culmination of this residency is the developmental production of Women in Jep, a comedy in which two friends wonder if their divorced friend's new boyfriend may be a serial killer. Edward Sobel, who directs the production, says "The developmental production is more than a workshop or reading, but not yet a full Arden production. Actors are 'off-book' and there are design elements, but the emphasis is on the actors and the development of the play text. Wendy has come up with the perfect project to inaugurate this new program. It's a delightful comedy, now ready to be further explored through some exposure to an audience. We look forward to learning more, and being able to adjust the play and production as audiences respond to it over this two week test-drive."
The cast for the developmental production of Women in Jep features Grace Gonglewski (August: Osage County, A Moon for the Misbegotten) as Liz, the divorcee who has fallen in love with her dentist Jackson, played by Joe Guzman (Private Lives, Much Ado About Nothing). In a farcical twist of casting, Guzman also plays Kirk, the detective investigating the recent murder of Jackson's dental hygienist. Karen Peakes (A Prayer for Owen Meany) and Genevieve Perrier (Wanamaker's Pursuit) play Liz's skeptical friends Mary and Jo, and Laura Giknis (Arden premiere) plays Liz's college-aged daughter Amanda, with Aubie Merrylees (Charlotte's Web) rounding out the cast as Trenner, Amanda's on-again/off-again snowboarding boyfriend.
The design team will create the multiple Salt Lake City locations of the play on the Arcadia Stage, including set designer Maura Roche, lighting designer J. Dominic Chacon (both former Arden Professional Apprentices), costume designer Alison Roberts (August: Osage County), and sound designer Daniel Perelstein (Robin Hood).
Playwright Wendy MacLeod's play The House of Yes became an award-winning Miramax film starring Parker Posey. Her other works for the stage include Sin and Schoolgirl Figure, both of which premiered at The Goodman, Juvenilia and The Water Children, both of which premiered at Playwrights Horizons, and Things Being What They Are, which premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre and had an extended run at Steppenwolf in Chicago. Her new play Find and Sign premiered in January at the Pioneer Theater where it was called "both entertaining and thought-provoking" by the Salt Lake Tribune. Her prose has appeared in Salon, POETRY magazine, McSweeney's, The Rumpus, The Awl and on All Things Considered. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she is the James E. Michael Playwright-in-Residence at Kenyon College.
With The Writers' Room, Arden audiences have had an unusual opportunity to participate in the new play development process. Forty-five audience members purchased "Inside the Writers' Room" passes in May, entitling them to access throughout the writing, rehearsal, and performance process of Women in Jep. Pass holders engage in conversation around the work, becoming personally invested in the play and creating an artistic experience unlike any other in the Philadelphia region.