WHYY Interview with Michael Hollinger

Wed, 04/18/2018
Playwright wears masks of comedy, tragedy simultaneously in Philly
by Peter Crimmins
Two Michael Hollinger plays — a comedy and a drama — will be produced this month by two different companies rehearsing on different floors of the same building in South Philadelphia.
In a second-floor classroom of the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic school, 1812 Productions has been rehearsing “Hope and Gravity.” The comedy involves many disjointed scenes held together by a network of interrelated characters and one tragic elevator accident.
With an armful of one-act plays he’s written over the years, Hollinger said he wanted to string them together into a single cohesive story.
“I wanted a dim sum experience that felt like a seven-course meal, where you felt the power of narrative,” he said of “Hope and Gravity,” which premiered in 2014. “There are elements of randomness that is thematically important to the play. It’s jumping forward in time, jumping backward in time. Part of the pleasure — part of our job as audience members — is to assemble the parts of the play.”
After giving notes to director Jennifer Childs on a particularly farcical scene about managing a marital infidelity, Hollinger left.
“I feel like a bigamist,” he said. “I’m saying, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow because I have to go upstairs to my other wife.’ ”
Upstairs, Theatre Exile is preparing the premiere of “Sing the Body Electric,” a drama about complicated relationships that develop after a tragic strike of lightning.
“All my plays are personal, but it takes a while to discover why,” said Hollinger. “I start with ideas that are abstract or alien to me. Over time, it’s, ‘Oh, this is why I wrote it — not because of that thing over there, but this thing very close to home.’”