Before it opened on March 20, Third and Indiana, a world premiere based on the novel by former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Steve Lopez, had already extended its run one week due to overwhelming ticket demand. The show runs at the Arden theatre in Philadelphia through May 4.
Adapted by Arden artistic director Aaron Posner, Third and Indiana was scripted with assistance from high school senior and young playwright Bernard Gray. It's a highly local production--a Philadelphia story set in Philadelphia neighborhoods, written by one of Philadelphia's most prominent writers, featuring an all Philadelphian cast.
Third and Indiana focuses on 16-year-old Gabriel Santoro, a young artist who lives in a North Philadelphia neighborhood dubbed, "The Badlands" by the media and politicians of the city. Struggling against the odds for a shot at happiness, he is also a member of the drug gang. Ashamed of his streetwise involvements, he runs away with his new found love to avoid confronting his mother, who begins to search frantically through the Phili streets for her son.
Indiana marks a return to Arden's history of staging literary adaptations. It is the 15th adaptation in Arden's nine year history, and the first novel since the 1994 box office hit Ellen Foster. Posner discovered Third and Indiana while listening to a National Public Radio interview/call-in show with author Lopez. Posner says, "Everyone who called in seemed to have such strong feelings about the book, both positive and negative. ...It seemed worth pursuing as a stage adaptation."
Arden's production makes extensive use of multi-media equipment to elicit the urban pace and beat of the 'hoods. Sound effects and video monitors are used on stage, and the Arden collaborated with local TV news stations to create news reports and 8mm black and white footage of scenes that take place on location throughout the city. Through all the stage activity, the message of the book remains intact. Posner says, "The underlying meanings and issues of the book have been my constant guide. The play is different from the novel, but instantly recognizable."
In fact, Posner was adamant about keeping the language close to the book, even despite the moral pull to keep expletives off the stages. Posner says, "Authenticity seems to me essential to tell this story honestly, and we have tried to bring authenticity onto our stage in as many ways as possible." He employed high school student Gray, who submitted a play to Posner last season after seeing Arden's Henry V, to ensure that the dialogue was true to life. "I knew I needed someone to help bring authenticity to the voices of the young, urban kids of the story. . . Bernard's input has been invaluable in making these voices come alive."
The cast includes four high-school students, three of which are seniors at the Creative and Performing Arts High School, CAPA.
Steve Lopez now writes for Time, Inc., as a columnist and writer-at-large. He spent 12 years as a columnist for Philadelphia Inquirer, and a collection of his columns, Land of the Giants was published in 1996. Lopez has received the H.L. Mencken Award, the Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest in Writing, and a National Headlines Award for Column writing. His new book, The Sunday Macaroni Club, will be published in June by Harcourt Brace and Company.
For tickets or more information about the Arden Theatre Company, please call (215) 922-8900, or refer to the regional listing on Playbill On-Line.
--By Blair Glaser