(Philadelphia, PA) Arden Theatre Company continues its 27th season of great stories with Under the Skin, a world premiere by local playwright Michael Hollinger. Terrence J. Nolen directs. Under the Skin runs from January 15, 2015 – March 15, 2015, on the Arden’s Arcadia Stage at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. The development of Under the Skin was funded in part by the Independence Foundation New Theatre Works Initiative.

Lou, a man dying of kidney failure, asks his estranged daughter Raina to give him one of hers, and she must decide if she can put her anger aside long enough to save his life. When Raina meets Jarrell, a young man with whom there is an instant connection, sparks fly and secrets are revealed as they grapple with the issues of forgiveness, inheritance and family. Under the Skin explores the question: what does it mean to give a part of yourself to someone else?

The Arden’s ongoing collaboration with local playwright Michael Hollinger has yielded eight world premiere productions:  Under the Skin; Opus; Ghost-Writer; Tooth and Claw; Red Herring; Tiny Island; Incorruptible and An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf.

This is the first time Hollinger and director Terrence J. Nolen have worked together since Opus premiered at the Arden in 2006. Opus went on to be produced off-Broadway by Primary Stages in 2007 and was lauded by The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Post, and Time Out New York. Opus received 47 subsequent productions and was one of the most produced plays in the country in 2011-12.

The Arden’s Producing Artistic Director Terrence J. Nolen says, “Our ongoing collaboration with Michael is one of the Arden's greatest achievements. How amazing for us and for our audiences to have participated in Michael's work in such a profound way. I am thrilled to be back in the rehearsal room with Michael.”

Playwright Michael Hollinger adds, “My relationship with the Arden is a rare and enviable one among playwrights, who often must go through a long “courtship process” with theatres they hope will premiere their work.  Because Terry and I know each other’s work so well, we’re able to skip over the “dating stage,” and focus entirely on the play and production at hand.”

A Play about a Kidney?

In an interview with Terry Nolen, excerpted from an Arden playbill, Hollinger says, “Under the Skin began as a folder called ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ and it had nothing in it but the title. I had been putting my daughter to bed one night and the title ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ came to me and I thought, ‘I have no idea what this play is about but I like the title and I’m going to start a file.’ And sometime after that I encountered an Ethicist essay (Randy Cohen’s New York Times Magazine column) about a father who needed a kidney, and his two children – a son and a daughter – both wanted to be the one to donate the kidney to him, and they were writing to Randy Cohen to figure out how this should be ethically solved. And Cohen suggested maybe a game of ‘rock, paper, scissors.’ I gradually came upon more information over time about kidney transplantation and the way it gets incredibly complex within families. And so I started to begin to understand the play as a family issues play.”

Hollinger continues, “For me, this play is less about kidneys than the dynamics between parents and children, especially the walls family members sometimes throw up between themselves.” 

Hollinger Biography

Michael Hollinger is the author of two dozen plays, including comedies, dramas, musicals, translation/adaptation, and plays for children.  These works, many of which premiered at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company, have enjoyed numerous productions around the country (including Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Old Globe, Seattle Rep, Portland Center Stage, Northlight, Laguna Playhouse, PlayMakers Rep, TheatreWorks, People’s Light and Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and many others), in New York City (Primary Stages and Ensemble Studio Theatre), and abroad (London, Paris, Tokyo, Athens, Poland, and Slovenia).  His latest play HOPE AND GRAVITY premiered at Pittsburgh’s City Theatre in 2014.

Following its off-Broadway run, Michael’s play OPUS became one of the most-produced plays in America, garnering Barrymore and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding New Play, a Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Drama Critics Circle, and nominations for Lucille Lortel and John Gassner Awards.  His other Barrymore Award-winning and -nominated plays include GHOST-WRITER, RED HERRING, INCORRUPTIBLE, and AN EMPTY PLATE IN THE CAFÉ DU GRAND BOEUF.  Michael’s new translation/co-adaptation (with Aaron Posner) of Rostand’s CYRANO DE BERGERAC premiered at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC, receiving seven Helen Hayes Award nominations, including Outstanding New Play.  His musical A WONDERFUL NOISE (co-authored with Vance Lehmkuhl) received the Frederick Loewe Award for Musical Theatre, the “In the Spirit of America” Award from the Barbara Barondess MacLean Foundation, and a developmental production at Creede Repertory Theatre in 2009. 

Other awards include a Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays, a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award, an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, a commission from the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Science and Technology Project, and fellowships from the Independence Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  Michael’s plays have received developmental workshops at PlayPenn, Pacific Playwrights Festival (South Coast Rep), US West TheatreFest (Denver Center Theatre), PlayLabs (The Playwrights’ Center), the Guthrie Theater, and Illusion Theater.

Michael was resident dramaturg at the Wilma Theater and Philadelphia Festival Theatre for New Plays in the 1990s, where he assisted in the production of twenty world premieres (including new works by Tina Howe, Craig Wright, Chaim Potok, Joyce Carol Oates and Bruce Graham) and the development of dozens more through commissions, readings and workshops.  As a free-lance dramaturg, he has worked for Arden Theatre Company, 1812 Productions, InterAct Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company/Roundhouse Theatre, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights/Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Music in viola performance from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Arts in Theatre from Villanova University, where he is Associate Professor of Theatre.  He is a proud alumnus of New Dramatists, and shares a life with his wife, actress/teacher/ director Megan Bellwoar, and their children Benjamin and Willa.

Schedule and Events

Previews of Under the Skin begin on Thursday, January 15, 2015 and continue through Tuesday, January 20, 2015. The show opens on Wednesday, January 21 at 7pm and runs through Sunday, March 15, 2015. A full calendar of events can be found here. Opening Night Sponsors are Harmelin Media, Hatboro Beverages and JPM Catering.

Single ticket prices are $36-$50, with discounts available for groups of 15 or more, seniors, students, military, and educators. Mainstage Subscriptions are still on sale and range in price from $84-$135. Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, order online at www.ardentheatre.org, or visit the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of Arden Theatre Company; Pictured Julianna Zinkel who plays Raina in Under the Skin