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    John Swarts, University printing professional with Royal Printing, wrote and performed a play at La Festa in downtown Scranton. Shown, Swarts as Geppetto, left, Dylan Ofner, center, as Pinocchio, and Julian Biederman, right, played the Turquoise Fairy/Lampwick.

    University printing professional performs in Pinocchio

    John Swarts, University printing professional with Royal Printing, wrote and performed a play at La Festa in downtown Scranton. Shown, Swarts as Geppetto, left, Dylan Ofner, center, as Pinocchio, and Julian Biederman, right, played the Turquoise Fairy/Lampwick.
    September 7, 2022

    John Swarts, ’02, G’08, a new member of the Royal Printing team, recently participated in the Ritz Theater's 115th anniversary celebration by writing a modern-day adaptation of "Pinocchio". The 15-minute play was performed each day of La Festa Italiana, an annual celebration of food, culture and music hosted Sept. 4 -7 in downtown Scranton.

    Swarts managed to stay one step ahead of Disney. His performance of toymaker Geppetto in Scranton, inspired by the book by Italian author Carlo Collodi, took place a few days prior to Tom Hanks’ appearance in the same role in Disney’s live action remake of the 1940 animated classic “Pinocchio”. On Sept. 8, Disney+ began worldwide streaming of the film directed by Robert Zemeckis.

    Q: When did your interest/involvement with the arts begin?
    A: “I enjoyed drawing and making art as a small child; it was my favorite subject. I painted a lot through my young adult years and branched out into printmaking and digital art as an adult. Teaching elementary art for the last seven years really widened my view of all of the arts, and when my children joined the Ritz Theater's Creative and Performing Arts Academy, I joined right along with them.”

    Q: What did you enjoy most about writing and performing at the Ritz Theater's 115th celebration?
    A: “I enjoyed the challenge of trying to take the familiar narrative of Pinocchio and change it to fit in with Northeast PA and LaFesta. Having Geppetto call out for a Porketta sandwich, and keeping the running gag about dangerous potholes flowing made it a lot of fun for an audience of many ages.”

    Q: Why did you select "Pinocchio" when writing your modern-day adaptation?
    A: “The LaFesta committee requested an Italian-themed play for their weekend from the Ritz. When executive producer Michael Melcher was kicking around ideas, I suggested Pinocchio, which was originally a book by Italian author Carlo Collodi. Then, he suggested that I should write it. I pecked at it over the summer and made it fit into the time and space constraints of LaFesta. Judging by the kids' reactions, it turned out pretty cute.”

    Q: What surprised you most about this live performance?
    A: “What surprised me most about this performance was how close we, the actors, could get to our audience. Unlike on the big Ritz stage where there's a separation between the actors and the audience, we were within an arm's reach of the children sitting up front. I moved through the crowd while searching for Pinocchio and the Turquoise Fairy, entered the stage area straight through the crowd. It was more intimate, more friendly, and less stressful than the big stage.”

    Q: Have you been involved in other local theatre productions?
    A: “Yes, I've been lucky enough to have done several main stage shows with the ultra-talented Ritz Players in the past few years. Most recently, I was Charlie Cowell in 'The Music Man' and Mr. Bundles in 'Annie'.”

    Q: Do you have any upcoming shows scheduled or works in progress?
    A: “This winter, The Ritz will be performing the hilarious 'Shrek- The Musical'. In the spring of 2023, we are going to sell out the whole month of May performing 'Mamma Mia'. Get your tickets early for that one!”


    *******
    Name: John Swarts '02, G'08
    Areas of study when you attended the University of Scranton:
    B.S. Elementary Education
    M.S. Reading Education
    Town of residence: Dickson City, PA 

     

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