Rachel Bonds’ new play “At the Old Place” follows a literature professor who returns to her family home after her mother’s death to find two young people camping out on the lawn, a discovery which instigates a bout of self-discovery. “I find myself drawn to people or characters who are stuck in some way,” Bonds says, “who are grappling with something they’re unable to solve. I’m exploring the ways we find to become unstuck, the small ways we can begin to move forward or begin to change.”
As the second playwright chosen for the Arden Theatre Company’s new Writers’ Room residency program, Bonds didn’t have the luxury of getting stuck while writing the piece. “I had really solid deadlines I had to meet because people were depending on me,” she recalls. “That was a whole new sense of urgency that I’d never had before.”
The Writers’ Room is a four-month residency program designed to give new writers an opportunity to create their work in close collaboration with the company with a production that is more fully developed than a workshop or reading, but not quite a full season production. The program was inaugurated last year with Wendy MacLeod’s “Women in Jep.” This year, the Brooklyn-based Bonds, a winner of the Sam French Short Play Festival and member of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Youngblood collective, worked closely with Arden associate artistic director Edward Sobel, though she wasn’t able to remain in Philly throughout the process.
“I have a day job and a fiancée and things that require me to be in New York,” she says. “But I came down to Philly and hung out for the first three weeks. I was by myself and had a fairly limited social life, so I could use it as a retreat.”
“At the Old Place” was inspired in part by elements from Bonds’ own life. “The empty house in Richmond came from my family situation,” she explains. “My grandmother passed away in 2010 and my aunt and sister and I have been dealing with what to do with her house. The main character is also a literature professor and my dad was a classicist, so I grew up in academia and that world always appeals to me.”
“At the Old Place”
Through July 28
Arden Theater Company
40 N. 2nd St.