NEPA Scene Staff

Scranton Fringe Festival brings Ritz Theater building back to life on Oct. 3

Scranton Fringe Festival brings Ritz Theater building back to life on Oct. 3
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There are quite a few historic buildings in downtown Scranton that unfortunately remain empty or underutilized, with one of the most famous being The Ritz Theater. While its first floor is home to small businesses like Terra Preta and A Roberts Coin & Jewelry, its second floor has been collecting dust for years. That will change when the Scranton Fringe Festival takes over the space starting Sept. 1 for its first annual event, using it as both a headquarters now and a venue open to the public on Saturday, Oct. 3.

The announcement was made last week via the festival’s website, which also offered a brief history of the amazing multi-purpose building:

The newest partner in our great Fringe endeavor has an amazing history that leads to its multi-purpose use today. First let’s flash back about a century for a quick history lesson on the Ritz. In the early 1900s, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were two hot-spots for traveling vaudeville shows. In 1907, Sylvester Poli founded the Poli Theater in downtown Scranton. The theater seated 2000 people, and was a popular vaudeville show house. Many stars played the theater such as Houdini, Burns and Allen, Mae West, Will Rogers, Buffalo Bill Cody and W.C. Fields. In the next two decades, the theater switched hands a few times, becoming the Comerford Theater, later becoming the Ritz Theater in the early 2000s.

In 2008, the theater was re-furbished as a dinner theater, offering quirky options such as a piano bar and live performances. The building was even explored by a paranormal search team, Ghost Finders! In January 2009 one of its first floor spaces served as the original home of The Vintage Theater (co-founded by one of our Fringe founders, Conor O’Brien). Such an amazing building still holds the essence of its early years as a fast-paced, bustling vaudeville house. It also contains a a coin and jewelry store, law offices, and a specialty boutique. Although there haven’t been live performances there for a while, we aim to change that in October 2015!

So why else are WE so excited about the Ritz? This location will be a triple-threat asset for the Scranton Fringe: Not only is Terra Preta restaurant a button-partner sponsor that will offer discounts to Fringe button-holders until the end of the year, but they are also a newly solidified venue for some of our performances! And last but certainly not least, don’t forget the Ritz will be the home of our official Fringe Headquarters! Can we get a round of applause for the Ritz Theater? We are so excited to explore this amazing location, and can’t wait for YOU to check it out! So, stop by our HQ starting September 1st, and be sure to get some delicious food at Terra Preta while you’re there!

The Ritz will be just one of many venues across the city hosting art, theater, music, dance, poetry, comedy, and other cultural events during the Scranton Fringe Festival, which runs Oct. 1-4. The schedule for programming at The Ritz (222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton) is as follows:

“Sometimes Naked, Always Alone…”
Written by Lawrence S. Pugliese
Presented by FreeSpeak and Some Productions/E.W. Conundrum
(Rated PG-13)

This production will be a multi-medium, multimedia experience designed to inspire a sense of community and a sense of self. This production will craft a series of several conversations, including individuals with different human experiences, about various aspects of life: love, hate, faith, politics, money, sex, the soul, and so on. The conversations will not be scripted, but each will have several topics set as its focus. Audience participation will be encouraged with a roving microphone introduced at the end of the piece. E.W. Conundrum and FreeSpeak and Some Productions has produced stage, television, and radio pieces for upwards of 20 years.

Saturday, Oct. 3 at 12 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
60 minutes

Afternoon Music at The Ritz
Skip Monday, Mollie Edsell, and more
(Rated PG)

Enjoy an afternoon of intimate music with fantastic regionally-based artists! Special guests include Mollie Edsell, who has been writing songs and performing across NEPA in her signature acoustic/soulful style since she was 11 years old, and the dynamic duo of Skip Monday. Skip Monday, comprised of Kaylin Karr on guitar/vocals and Nathan Montella on drums, has taken the region by storm and fast become local favorites! Other special guests will also round out this showcase of sweet original music!

Saturday, Oct. 3 at 2 p.m.
60 minutes

Breaking Ground Poets Youth Showcase
BGP Founder/Director: Katie Watkins Wisnosky
(Rated PG-13)

Founded in 2011, the Breaking Ground Poets is a volunteer-run organization rooted in the belief of storytelling, self-expression, and educational programming. We seek to partner with youth (ages 14-19) to further extend their intellectual and artistic development. We are committed to providing youth opportunities to engage in free writing workshops, open mics, poetry slams, festivals, and touring poet performances. The organization also competes in the international poetry festival Brave New Voices each summer. This evening’s showcase is a celebration of youth voice through hip-hop and spoken word!

Saturday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.
60 minutes
Poetry/Spoken Word

Note that all shows and venue lineups are subject to change. Visit for more info.

To learn more about Scranton Fringe co-founder, actor, and playwright Conor O’Brien and the festival, listen to Episode 15 of the NEPA Scene Podcast.