Arden Theatre Company
Arden BlogArden Drama SchoolArden on FacebookArden on TwitterArden on YouTube
Press Room
2007/08 Press Releases
Arden Theatre Company presents An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf
By Michael Hollinger • Directed by Whit MacLaughlin • On the Arcadia Stage • October 11 - December 9, 2007
Media Photos

September 24, 2007

Philadelphia, PA - Arden Theatre Company presents Michael Hollinger's An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf, a tragic comedy in seven courses, as the second mainstage production of the Arden's 20th Anniversary Season, proudly sponsored by PNC Bank.

The Arden's 2007/08 season showcases stories of celebrity, appetites, salvation, heritage and community. We invite the public to share their stories as we celebrate 20 years in the Philadelphia region as a premiere venue for both experiencing and sharing meaningful narratives. Visit us online at to share your story.

It's 1961 and Victor is a wealthy American expatriate living in Paris. The ultimate gourmand, he owns the singular Café du Grand Boeuf – the world's finest and most varied restaurant reserved solely for his private use. Victor's fastidiously French staff lives for him and enthusiastically caters to his every culinary whim. One evening, arriving back in Paris after a trip to Madrid, Victor announces his decision to starve himself to death. This all-new production of Michael Hollinger's first full-length play at the Arden is a delicious, dark comedy celebrating the joys of cooking, sex, bullfighting and the collected works of Ernest Hemingway.

"Empty Plate ranks, with Opus, as one of my favorite Michael Hollinger plays," said Arden's producing artistic director Terry Nolen. "This is in part due to the fact that it was with this play that I fell in love with Michael's writing. Here was a playwright whose language and characters leapt off the page at me. Empty Plate also does everything Michael's plays do so well; it's wonderfully alive, deliciously bittersweet and has a great appreciation for the absurdities and contradictions inherent in being human. 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 return to this extraordinary play that started this rich and rewarding collaboration and honored to include Michael's work in our 20th Anniversary Season."

"I feel like the proud grandfather of Empty Plate now," said Michael. "The first time around at the Arden (at its premiere during the 1994/95 season) it was a very different story. Creating a world premiere is like giving birth to a play. You're nervous about all the various components. Everything is in the process of formation, retooling, emerging. Now, it's done. The play's been done all over the country dozens of times. I'm proud of it; I'm comfortable with it."

This production marks the first Hollinger play at the Arden under the direction of anyone other than Terry Nolen. "Whit MacLaughlin is a great choice for director," said Hollinger. "I'm looking forward to his interpretation."

Hollinger wrote the play in six months during 1993. His inspiration was twofold, both from the perspective of developing his craft and from a personal event. He was taking a course in playwriting at the Walnut Street Theatre and was immersed in a course about play structure. "It was making me crazy and I felt rebellious but look what happened – a big, fat language play in one act that's totally reliant on structure!" The personal part of the story came from a colleague of Hollinger's. "One Friday night on the way out the door from work, a coworker stopped by and said she may not see me Monday morning because she was going to kill herself over the weekend. That was pretty much a jaw-dropper. I'm happy to report that thankfully she is still alive and well."

The Arden's ongoing collaboration with Michael Hollinger has yielded six world premieres: Opus, Tooth and Claw, Red Herring, Tiny Island, Incorruptible, and Empty Plate. Michael has written seven touring plays for young audiences, including Eureka! and Hot Air. He wrote the 3D Laser Show Extreme Choices for New Jersey's Liberty Science Center. For PBS, he has written three short films and co-authored the feature-length Philadelphia Diary.

Awards and honors include the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays, a Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play, the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award, a commission from The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project, and fellowships from the Independence Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Michael is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University.

Most recently, Michael's play Opus was produced at Primary Stages in New York City from July 24 through September 1, 2007. It went on to become Primary Stages highest single ticket grossing play ever and was lauded by The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Post, and Time Out New York as an "absorbing, smart, thoroughly entertaining" piece of drama.

The final dress rehearsal of An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf is Wednesday, October 10 at 8pm and is open to the public as a Pay-What-You-Can performance, with all proceeds donated to Manna, a Philadelphia-based charity that provides over 40,000 home-delivered meals each month to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, cancer or other life-threatening illness.

An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf previews run Thursday, October 11 through Tuesday, October 16. Opening night is 7pm Wednesday, October 17. An Empty Plate at the Café du Grand Boeuf then plays through Sunday, December 9, 2007.

Only 60% of Arden's annual operating budget is covered by ticket revenue. The remaining 40% must be secured through individual, corporate and foundation giving. The Arden has been presented with an exciting challenge grant. If the Arden can raise $150,000 in new or increased gifts by December 31, 2007, the 1976 Foundation Fund will award the Arden $100,000. Visit the Arden online and help us hit our target!

The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122. Captioned and audio-described performances for people who are hearing impaired are scheduled for Saturday, November 17 at 8pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2pm.

Tickets are $27-$45 depending on the performance chosen, with group discounts available for 10 or more people. Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, visit or stop by our box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. Subscriptions are also still available.

An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf
By Michael Hollinger
Directed by Whit MacLaughlin

Arden Theatre Company
40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia

October 11 - December 9, 2007
Pay What You Can final dress rehearsal October 10
Preview performances: October 11 - October 16
Opening night: 7pm Wednesday, October 17

$27-$45 for adults depending on the performance chosen
Group discounts available for 10+
Call the Box Office at 215.922.1122 or visit

Reviewing members of the press are invited to attend the opening night performance on Wednesday, October 17 at 7pm. Please schedule tickets through Beth Yeagle, at 215.922.8900 x22 or

Whit MacLaughlin - Director
Donald Eastman - Set Design
Rosemarie E. McKelvey - Costume Design
Jerold R. Forsyth - Lighting Design
Jorge Cousineau - Sound Design
Patricia G. Sabato and Elana Wolff - Production Stage Managers

Antoine - James William Ijames (from Philadelphia, PA)
Miss Berger - Mikaela Kafka (from Hoboken, NJ)
Mimi - Mary McCool (from Philadelphia, PA)
Claude - Ian Merrill Peakes (from Merchantville, NJ)
Victor - Douglas Rees (from New York, NY)
Gaston - Richard Ruiz (from Astoria, NY)

# # #
©2009 Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. For tickets, call 215.922.1122.
Site Search  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Use