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‘Coleridge Interrupted,’ a ‘whimsical comedy’ premieres online

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State Centre Stage is not standing idly by even as COVID-19 virus bans patrons from sitting in one of Penn State’s three theatres for a live presentation.

In conjunction with its nationally respected School of Theatre, the second of Penn State Centre Stage Virtual productions, “Coleridge Interrupted” is offered free to the public at 8 p.m. Friday, June 19.

Created to support Penn State students who have been impacted and are in need of assistance during the forced shutdown, this virtual production is billed as a “whimsical comedy.”

Dan Carter, former artistic director of Penn State Centre Stage from 1995 to 2017, has penned “Coleridge Interrupted,” which he bills as a “new one-act comedy about all the things that conspire against us realizing our full potential.”

This new play is directed by Alexander Gelman, director of School of Theatre and Dance at Northern Illinois University.

Included in its “star-packed cast” of regional and Broadway Equity performers is Penn State’s retired professor and acclaimed actress Jane Ridley. I saw Ridley in several Penn State shows, including her stirring role as a terminal patient in “Wit.”

This production is presented in a series of short scenes, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge is repeatedly interrupted by the mysterious Person from Porlock, as he tries unsuccessfully to complete his poem “Kubla Khan.”

Reportedly based upon an actual event, the entirety of the poem came to Coleridge in an opium-induced flash of inspiration, only to be lost when he was interrupted in the middle of capturing it on paper.

Reportedly, who the interloper was has been the subject of rampant speculation over the years, but remains unconfirmed even today.

Penn State Center Stage marketing notes that “… in a kind of topsy turvy ‘Groundhog Day,’ Coleridge is interrupted in many ways,” “… often by those with the best of intentions, occasionally by self-inflicted means, but always with the same result: The loss of the poem to himself and posterity.”

Penn State Centre Stage’s current artistic director Rick Lombardo chose the play because of his relationship with Carter and the chance to have several PSCS alumni involved in the production.

“We are … preparing for the possibility that we may be using this platform to create art longer than we would like,” says Lombardo. “As artists, we need to keep pushing forward in our work.”

To view the live performance of “Coleridge Interrupted” by Penn State’s Professional Theatre Training Program, visit sites.psu.edu/pscsvirtual.

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