By Helen Schultz, Literary Intern

The Suzanne Roberts Theater has been playing host to some younger actors this summer as PTC’s Summer Camp comes to a close this week, but the administrative offices of Philadelphia Theatre Company are already rocketing towards fall 2013. Here in the literary office, it’s no different. – We’re hard at work doing all the literary prep that we need to get the ball rolling for next season. As the literary intern, I’ve been creating study guides on new terms and concepts in each play to be used by the creative team and cast in rehearsal. Meanwhile, the scheduling for our PEP (Patron Enrichment Programming) events has begun as well. PEP is a myriad of experiences during each run when we open our doors to the public to look beyond what’s onstage and learn more about the background, message, and creation of each piece.

First up is 4000 MILES, written by the much lauded playwright Amy Herzog. Since this play centers on a college dropout who bikes 4000 miles to reach his sassy grandmother in New York City, I had to hit the books on bike culture to get a better sense of the community in which our main character thrives. Our Literary Manager, Carrie, will be hosting a talk on the psychological effects of cross country biking and her book club will focus on the cross-generational facets of the play: we’ll be reading Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene.

Trivia question: how long is the glossary for this season’s musical, NERDS? Answer: twenty-five pages. How else could you fit in all the info that a cast and crew would need on Apple’s and Microsoft’s histories, the 1980s, and Star Trek? Nerds might just be our most dramaturgy-heavy play this season, but it’s also, far and away, one of the funniest. Meanwhile, Carrie’s been working on educating the general public on what super nerds are really all about – my favorite PEP event for this play (arguably this season) is her panel “Talk Nerdy to Me: The Social Dialectic of the Technological Age.” For those who want to know more about the history of computer engineering, we have our NERDS book club group selection, The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.

Right now we’re plowing through TRIBES, which means Carrie and I will be tackling a lot of new lingo. To gear up for the British play about the domestic turmoil of a deaf son in a hearing family, we’re studying British slang and taking a crash course in American Sign Language (or, in this case, BSL). Add in the fact that the play’s central characters have a particular fondness for classical music and you get probably the most in-depth play of this season. Carrie will be hosting a book club discussing Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks as well as a panel focusing on the modern politics of sign language.

One of the highlights of this summer was watching VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE win the Tony Award for Best Play and then walking into the PTC office for the first time the next day to find out that I’d be working on it this summer. The location for the play didn’t need much researching for us –this VANYA is set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a close, familiar locale for Philadelphians. VANYA is chock-full of references to the plays of the late, great Anton Chekov. Luckily, playwright Christopher Durang makes it fun to dig right in. He’ll be the subject of Carrie’s panel “Durang Durang: Bringing the Absurd Home to Roost.”

A BOY AND HIS SOUL was one of the more unique play-reading experiences I’ve had: Carrie sent me a playlist to listen to with the script. “Make sure to listen to the playlist when you read this – trust me!” read the sticky-note that she attached to the script. It’s a play with music, but the play and the music are as inseparable as any score would be from any book. Our next big project will be tracing Colman’s Domingo’s journey by researching the music that drives his narrative as well as the climate surrounding his experiences as a young, gay African American man in 1980s Philadelphia. Our book club will be exploring a similar theme: James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man with be up for discussion. And if you need a crash course in soul with some Philadelphia history thrown in, our panel is the right place to go: we’ll be hosting “The Sound of Philadelphia: Finding Soul in the Music of Gamble & Huff.”

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