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Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"

By Shen Shellenberger, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 09/13/2018

Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"Fun seems to be the operative word for “Incorruptible,” the production that opens the fall season at  the Ritz Theatre Company on Thursday, September 13.

“We wanted a comedy,” said Bruce Curless, the theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, “and we also wanted to present a work by local playwright Michael Hollinger.”

“Incorruptible” fit the bill.

“You start to read the script,” Curless said, “and it doesn’t take long to realize how much fun this show will be.

“To me, the full title, ‘Incorruptible: A Dark Comedy about the Dark Ages,’ gives an accurate description of the numerous plotlines,” Curless points out.

Set at a monastery in Priseaux, France, in 1250 A.D., the story centers around a time of severe strife at the abbey. More than a dozen years have passed since their patron saint (based on St. Foy, a 13-year-old martyred in the 14th century) has worked a single miracle, leaving the church without a reliable reason for ardent pilgrims to visit.

Hollinger, a Lancaster, Pa., native and Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University, said the story, though embellished with artistic license, is based on historical fact.

While touring a cathedral years ago with his wife, who was raised Catholic, the couple came across a sign for a saint’s bones housed in the church.

“I was incredulous,” said Hollinger, “so my wife explained holy relics to me.” This led him on an extensive search for information about relics, the theft of relics, and eventually incorruptibles, deceased holy people who don’t decompose.

“The play was written in the ‘90s, when the televangelist scandals were coming to light,” he said, “which helped fuel further inquiry into the history of the Church and the challenges of running a spiritual ‘business’ without being corrupted.”

Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"

With a story set so long ago and so far away, I asked Hollinger if it was possible to put himself into the play.

“Absolutely,” he said. “While writing the play, I worked as literary manager for a nonprofit theatre in Philadelphia that was committed to premiering plays by emerging playwrights.

“It’s a noble idea,” he said, “but tempered by the ever-present pressure to sell tickets and convince funders that the work is either wildly entertaining or socially beneficial, or both.”

Hollinger’s fictional abbey is also a nonprofit with noble ideas and great economic pressures, Hollinger noted. “This parallel kept the play personal for me.”

Director Al Fuchs had no previous experience with Hollinger or this play, so he did some research on both.

“The more I learned, the more excited I became,” Fuchs said. “Well, excited, and a little intimidated.”

Think about it. Hollinger has serious theatre cred. He teaches theatre at a prominent area university. And he is local. Like, he lives here. He works here. He could drop by the theatre any time.

“We had a couple of phone conversations and it was an amazing resource and opportunity for us,” said Fuchs. “I never had that experience with a playwright before.”

Then Hollinger did come to the theatre to meet with the cast.

“He spent over an hour with the ensemble and he fit right in,” Fuchs said. “It was like he had answers before we asked the questions. He confirmed what we thought we already knew.”

Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"

Knowing they were doing the justice to the work went a long way to build up the confidence of the cast. “Hollinger put his stamp and his validation on what we were doing.”

It is apparent why the cast would appreciate having this up-close-and-personal exchange, but I wondered why it was significant for Hollinger to make that connection.

“Since ‘Incorruptible’ was published over 15 years ago, it has traveled widely without me,” said Hollinger, adding that it receives many productions each year that he doesn’t know about until he gets a statement from his publisher. “So, the play doesn’t really need me anymore.”

“However, I love the collaborative nature of theatre, and I’m energized by these interactions,” he said. “Discussing the real-life historical background can help ground the collaborators and point them to parts of the play that support the nuances and complexities of the characters’ interior lives.”

This relationship is clearly reciprocal. Fuchs feels that hearing about the play first-hand from Hollinger was a tremendous help to the

cast. And Hollinger appreciated having a chance to share his insights and ideas with them.

“Ritz director Al Fuchs and his talented cast have been extremely open to hearing my two cents, for which I’m very grateful,” Hollinger said.

And Fuchs turns the compliments back to Hollinger. “The show is so smart and clever,” he said, “and it’s about so many things – fate, survival and finding what you believe in and how that can take you to the next level.”

Ritz Opens Season With "Incorruptible"

As Curless, Fuchs and the show’s cast and crew busily prepare for Friday’s opening, that sense of fun still reigns.

“The show is inspiring, with a nice, deep message,” Fuchs added. “But it’s still a romp!”

Curless concurred, “It’s hysterically funny.”

In his time with the Ritz, Fuchs told me, he has become known for doing what he refers to as “door comedies.” “I’ve become somewhat of a master of slamming a door for comedic effect.”

“I love dramas and classical works,” he said, “but I still get the door comedies.”

“Incorruptible” is not all that different.

“It’s still a door comedy,” Fuchs laughed, “only this time I have arches.”

“Incorruptible” opens Thursday, September 13 and continues through Sunday, September 30.



Upcoming events at the Ritz Theatre include:

Main Stage:

Into the Woods, October 25 – November 18

Other events:

Ritz Theatre Film SeriesSeptember 25, October 13, October 29, November 12, December 10

Spy House, October 5 -7

Beatlemania Again, October 12

For the kids:

Rapunzel, November 15 – 17

RudolphDecember 17 – 23






About the author: Shen’s been a Jersey girl for most of her life, other than living for a three-year stretch in Portland, Oregon, and six magical months in Tokyo. Shen loves the arts in all of its various forms – from the beauty of a perfectly-placed base hit to the raw energy of rock 'n' roll – and has successfully passed on this appreciation to her three grown children. Shen’s most recent jobs include WXPN (1993-2001) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2003-present). Shen also has been a working freelancer for 25 years, and operated her own frame shop in Mt. Holly in the late-70s.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




 


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Event calendar
Friday, Feb 22, 2019


MUSIC

CHARLIE MARS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 6:00pm

ALAN PARSONS LIVE PROJECT @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

David Bromberg Quintet @ First Congregational Church of Montclair, Montclair - 8:00pm

SWITCHFOOT THE NATIVE TONGUE TOUR @ The Wellmont Theater, Montclair - 7:00pm

Todd Dennison at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

DISCO OF LOVE - TRIBUTE TO DONNA SUMMER & BARRY WHITE @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

LESS THAN JAKE @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 6:00pm

"Panama Dead" New Riders of the Purple Sage tribute band @ Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck - 8:30pm

Jersey Jazz Collective (JJC) @ Classic Quiche Cafe, Teaneck - 7:00pm

An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 8:00pm

James Day & The Fish Fry @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Mamma Mia! @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 8:00pm

An Enemy Of The People @ Centenary Stage Company - Sitnik Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Intimate Apparel @ Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood - 8:00pm

The Meeting @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 8:00pm

My Very Own British Invasion @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 8:00pm

Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical @ George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Fun Home @ Wallace Theater at Lewis Arts Complex, Princeton - 8:00pm

Legally Blonde – The Musical @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Psychodrama @ Oakes Center, Summit - 8:00pm

Cornerstone Playhouse Presents Almost, Maine @ Cornerstone Playhouse, Sussex - 7:30pm

A Midsummer Night's Dream @ Kean University Wilkins Theatre, Union - 8:00pm

Roan at The Gates @ Luna Stage, West Orange - 8:00pm


FILM

New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 Screening @ Voorhees Hall #105, New Brunswick - 7:00pm


POETRY

C.K. Williams Reading Series: Tina Chang @ Labyrinth Books, Princeton - 6:00pm

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