Arden Theatre Company to Stage Philadelphia Premiere of Annie Baker's JOHN

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Arden Theatre Company continues its 29th season with the Philadelphia premiere of Annie Baker's JOHN from January 12 through February 26, 2017. Arden Associate Artistic Director, Matthew Decker, directs. JOHN runs on the Arden's Arcadia Stage at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia.

JOHN is a beautiful and moving new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker about spirituality and relationships. It opened Off-Broadway in the Summer of 2015 and was nominated for the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play. Time Magazine ranked it on its list of Top Ten Plays and Musicals for 2015.

In JOHN, a young couple from Brooklyn, Elias Schrieber-Hoffman and Jenny Chung, come to stay at a bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, looking to visit the historical sites of the famous battlefields. Mertis, the B&B's proprietor, welcomes them to her overwhelmingly cozy home filled with tchotchkes, dolls, stuffed animals and a player piano. Mertis cares for her guests, her sickly (unseen) husband, and her dear, blind friend Genevieve with consummate grace, and though she has experienced her own share of suffering, her perspective on life is quite congenial. We learn that her B&B is the site of a former Civil War hospital, and seems to be full of strange and possibly supernatural occurrences. Mertis also provides a real contrast to the young couple, who we learn may be taking this trip to repair a rift in their relationship.

American Playwright Annie Baker came on the scene in 2008 with her play Body Awareness and immediately established herself as an important new voice in the American theatre. At 35, she is one of the most original playwrights of her generation, receiving the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play The Flick and hailed by The New York Times as "one of the freshest and most talented dramatists to emerge in the past decade." In the Philadelphia region, Annie Baker's work has been produced with critical acclaim by Theatre Horizon (Circle Mirror...),Theatre Exile (The Aliens), and the Wilma (Body Awareness).

Director Matthew Decker direcTed Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation at Theatre Horizon in 2014 and is looking forward to being at the helm of another Baker play. Says Decker, "As a playwright, Annie Baker is interested in the psychology and complexity of human behavior. The worlds she creates are very specific and highly realistic, and her deep passion for those details creates a very rich theatrical tapestry. JOHN is an expertly measured exploration of spirituality, intimacy, solitude and connection, set near the bloody battleground of Gettysburg. It is a fascinating play from a brilliant writer that I look forward to interpreting with this excellent team of actors and designers."

Cast members include Carla Belver as Genevieve, Nancy Boykin as Mertis, Kevin Meehan as Elias and Jing Xu as Jenny.

A special Audio Described Pay What You Can performance takes place on Wednesday, January 11th at 8pm and benefits the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, PA. In the play, the character of Genevieve is blind. Director Decker says, "Genevieve, one of Mertis's dear friends, suddenly went blind at the age of 57. She is a fascinating character who speaks of her struggles with great openness, perspective and steely endurance."

Single ticket prices are $36-$52, with discounts available for groups of 15 or more, seniors, students, military, and educators. Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, visit www.ardentheatre.org or visit the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia.

SPECIAL EVENTS and PERFORMANCES:

Opening Night is Wednesday, January 18 at 7pm. The Opening Night sponsor is Harmelin Media; reception sponsors include Lagunitas Brewing Company and Wines 'Til Sold Out. Special thanks to JPM Catering.

Post-show discussions will be held following performances on Thursday, January 26 at 8pm, Wednesday, February 1st at 6:30pm, Sunday, February 5 at 2pm, Wednesday, February 8 at 6:30pm, and Sunday, February 19 at 2pm.

The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Open Captioned and Audio Described performances will take place on Wednesday, January 11 at 8pm (just Audio Described,) Friday, February 17 at 8pm and Saturday, February 18 at 2pm. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden's Box Office at 215.922.1122.

Founded in 1988, Arden Theatre Company is dedicated to bringing to life great stories by great storytellers-on the stage, in the classroom, and in the community. Five productions are staged each season as part of the Mainstage series and two productions through Arden Children's Theatre, the city's first resident professional children's theatre program. New work is produced through the Independence Foundation New Play Showcase. The Arden's Education Department includes: Arden for All (AFA), a theatre access and education program for underserved young people; Arden Drama School, the after-school, Saturday, and summer camp classes for students in grades pre K-12; Teen Arden, an immersive after-school access program for Philadelphia-area based teenagers; and the Arden Professional Apprentice Program, a nationally renowned comprehensive theatre management training program. The Hamilton Family Arts Center is the new facility dedicated to education programs and new play development.

The Arden has received numerous honors including 65 awards and 334 nominations from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. The Arden is a winner of four "Theatre Company of the Year" designations (Philadelphia Inquirer), six Philadelphia Magazine "Best of Philly" awards and three "Best of Philly Kids" awards, the City Paper's Reader's Choice Award and the prestigious "Great Friend to Kids Award" from the Please Touch Museum for Arden Children's Theatre work. For accessibility efforts, the Arden was named a "Keystone of Accessibility" by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Arden Theatre Company is a professional, nonprofit 501(c)(3) theatre company and a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Old City Arts Association. The Arden also participates in The Barrymore Awards, a program of Theatre Philadelphia.



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