Press Release

Tue, 03/20/2018

March 2018

Theatre Exile’s world premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Sing the Body Electric tells a pressure-filled story, that like a storm approaching from a distance, finally explodes overhead

April 19 – May 13, 2018

PHILADELPHIA –Theatre Exile closes its 2018/2019 season with the World Premiere of Michael Hollinger’s Sing the Body Electric. Jess is tanking in Physics, so her mom hires Lloyd to help her pass. But she’d rather study his son, the survivor of a lightning strike that killed his girlfriend a year ago, and tattooed his body with elegant scars. When Lloyd and Mom hit it off, these two broken families are bound ever closer, inexorably -- with explosive results. An intricate, atmospheric tale of love, sex, and the unseen forces that draw us together and drive us apart.

Sing the Body Electric begins Thursday, April 19, 2018 and opens Wednesday, April 25, 2018.  All performances are being held at the Latvian Society, 531 N. 7th Street.

Critics and members of the press are invited to attend Press Night on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 8pm.  For ticket arrangements, contact Sara Madden at sara@theatreexile.orgor 215-218-4022.

Sing the Body Electric has an interesting flash point.  When asked about the idea and development of the story Michael Hollinger explains, “I began this play right after premiering Under the Skin, in the spring of 2015.  Since that play is structured like a comedy, with major plot points and big reversals, it required a lot of “architectural” thinking as I wrote, and I really wanted the next play to evolve differently, through attending primarily to character, image and atmosphere.  An early image that occurred to me was a young man in a bathroom looking up at a ceiling light as he turned the switch on and off, only to be discovered, to his embarrassment, by a parent — like being caught in the act of doing something vaguely illicit.  I had no idea what this image might be good for until, a few weeks later, I stumbled upon an article about a national support organization for survivors of lightning strikes.  I began to imagine a character who had been struck by lightning, and longed for the extremity of that experience to recur.  Could this be my light switch-flicking young man?  (It was only after researching many lightning-strike stories and their aftermaths that I started to realize how physically and psychologically traumatic such experiences can be for many survivors.)”  

Sing the Body Electricreceived a reading as part of Theatre Exile’s 2015/2016 Studio X-hibition series and Exile is thrilled to premiere the full production, but the story and feeling of the play has changed a bit since that time.  Hollinger had two other readings of the script allowing him to do major revisions after each event, adding a character who was originally only a voiceover and “turning up the temperature” in each draft, finding ways to build pressure and create small explosions on the way to the play’s climax.

Hollinger feels that both Theatre Exile and Producing Artistic Director, Deborah Block are a great fit for his script. “There’s something a little raw and “unvarnished” about this play – qualities I associate with my favorite Exile productions. My hope is that it feels like we’ve sort of stumbled upon these characters, living their lives, and are entirely unaware of the playwright’s involvement.  Seeing Deborah’s wonderful/terrifying production of Smoke two seasons ago made me realize she’s the perfect person to direct Sing the Body Electric. Smoke was incredibly intimate, and in a single act (like my play) gradually brought two characters from an apparently casual encounter to a highly charged place that was violent, erotic and surprisingly vulnerable, too.  It was clear that the actors had developed a great mutual trust, and this doesn’t happen by accident.”

Production History
Sing the Body Electric received public readings at Theatre Exile in Philadelphia, PA in April 2016; Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab in Boca Raton, FL in May 2016; and City Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA in June 2016.

About the Playwright
Michael Hollinger’s previously produced plays include Under the Skin, Ghost-Writer, Opus, Tooth and Claw, Red Herring, Incorruptible, Tiny Island, and An Empty Plate in the Café Du Grand Boeuf, all of which premiered at Philadelphia’s Arden Theatre Company and which have together enjoyed numerous productions around the country, in New York City and abroad.  Work premiered elsewhere includes: Hope and Gravity at Pittsburgh’s City Theatre; a new translation of Cyrano (co-adapted with Aaron Posner) at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C.; and the musical A Wonderful Noise (co-authored with Vance Lehmkuhl) at Colorado’s Creede Repertory Theatre.  The most recent premiere was the new musical TouchTones (co-authored with composer Robert Maggio) at the Arden in October, 2017.  Awards include a Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, a Mid-Atlantic Emmy, an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, four Barrymore Awards (including the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist), nominations for Lucille Lortel and John Gassner awards, and fellowships from the Independence Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.  Michael is a Professor of Theatre at Villanova University, where he also serves as Artistic Director of Villanova Theatre, and a proud alumnus of New Dramatists.  He shares a life with actor/educator Megan Bellwoar, and their children Benjamin and Willa. 

About the DirectorDeborah Block has been a consistent figure in the Philadelphia arts community for over 30 years as a dramaturg, producer, curator, choreographer, educator and a director. She has received much recognition for her professional and educational work including receiving the Independence Fellowship in the Arts and the Albert Benzwie Award for playwriting. She is one of the founders of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, now FringeArts, and was the program director for ten years. She received her MFA at Temple University. Deborah has been with Theatre Exile for 10 years and has directed Guards at the Taj, Smoke, Red Speedo, Cock, The English Bride, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Iron, Hunter Gatherers, dark play or stories for boys, Roosters and collaborated on Hearts & Soles.

Cast and Design Team
The cast features Mary Lee Bednarek (Killer Joe) as Claire, Kimberly S. Fairbanks (Valpariso) as Doris, Anthony Lawton making his Theatre Exile debut as Lloyd, Kishia Nixon making her Theatre Exile debut as Jess, and Trevor William Fayle (Lost Girls, The Whale) as Blake.

The artistic team includes Set Designer Colin McIIvaine (Ideation, Lost Girls, Guards at the Taj,The Invisible Hand, Smoke, Red Speedo, Cock, The English Bride, The Edge of our Bodies), Costume Designer Robin Shane, Lighting Designer Masha Tsimring (The Invisible Hand), Sound Designer Elizabeth Atkinson (Ideation, Lost Girls), and Props Master Alicia Crosby (Really, Ideation).

Season Sponsors: Bruce and Giuliana Zallie and Zallie ShopRites Supermarkets
Honorary Producer: Louis Bluver
Opening Night Sponsor: The German Society of Pennsylvania


Special Events and Opportunities

Post-Show Discussions
Sunday, April 29 after the 3pm performance

Thursday, May 3 after the 7pm performance

Ticket prices range from $10-$50. Ticket are available at Theatre Exile’s Box Office by calling 215-218-4022; visiting; coming to the Theatre Exile Administrative Office, located at 2329 South 3rd Street on the third floor; or arriving to the Box Office for Sing the Body Electric an hour before each performance, located at the Latvian Society, 531 N. 7th Street.

Theatre Exile is a nonprofit theater company dedicated to enhancing the cultural experiences of Philadelphians through the staging of works that engage the imagination. We produce challenging plays that explore the complexities of the human condition and contain a sense of Philadelphia grit and passion. We strive to reach new theater audiences throughout the community by presenting both new works as well as established plays that are often reinterpreted in original ways.

We believe in freedom of expression formulated through innovation, exploration and provocation. At the same time, we provide a safe and creative environment in which local artists can grow, experiment and find their own voice.