The Life of Zelda Fitzgerald Examined in “The Last Flapper” in Copake Falls

The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle.– Zelda Fitzgerald, Eulogy on the Flapper in Metropolitan Magazine, 1922

Actress Diedre Bollinger and playwright/director Carl Ritchie have been collaborating on theatre in Columbia County for the past ten years, ever since Ritchie cast Bollinger in Tom Ziegler’s Grace and Glorie at the Copake Grange when he was running the Copake Theatre Company. Once he launched the Taconic Stage Company and began presenting his own original musical reviews, Bollinger became an hilarious mainstay of the company – performing riotous numbers in I Know I Came In Here for Something and The Real Desperate Housewives of Columbia County.

“Everyone raves about how funny Diedre has been in my revues. This role will allow people to see her in an emotionally charged dramatic role,” said Ritchie, who has cast Bollinger as Zelda Fitzgerald in William Luce’s one-woman show The Last Flapper, which will be presented August 19, 20, 25, 26 & 27 at St. John in the Wilderness Church in Copake Falls.

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (1900-1948) was a talented and troubled writer, painter, and dancer who married F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1920, a few months shy of her 20th birthday. Scott Fitzgerald was already a celebrity following the successful publication of his first book, This Side of Paradise, the previous year. Scott and Zelda’s life was a very public one, marked as much by wild partying as by his success, and Zelda’s artistic efforts were both overshadowed by Scott’s and thwarted by both of their alcoholism.


“I am not an expert on Zelda Fitzgerald,” Bollinger began, “But I know she was very, very creative. She said that she and Scott didn’t ruin each other, they each ruined themselves. They each had their own demons. In this play she comes off to me as very passionate, fiercely intelligent and independent person and I want and hope to do her justice. She was a fascinating person who deserves to be recognized in her own right.”

“The play is beautifully written and much of it is taken from Zelda’s own writing,” Ritchie noted. “Zelda published novels and stories, was a gifted painter, and, even though she took up dance in her late 20’s, received an offer to join the San Carlo Opera Ballet Company in Naples, Italy, which she declined.”

Luce’s play is set on the last day of Zelda’s life, March 10, 1948, when she was a patient in the Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where she had been institutionalized on and off since 1936. She was locked into her room, contemplating the unpleasant possibility of electroshock therapy, but she was not terminally ill and had no inkling death was imminent. She and eight other women died that night as a result of a fire in the hospital kitchen.

“Her death was tragic, and what she went through in her life was very dramatic,” Bollinger explained. “But this is not a dirge. There is a lot of lightness and humor throughout the play.”

“Diedre is so accessible as an actress and always spot on emotionally,” Ritchie said. “I can ask for any tiny movement or vocal inflection and she remembers everything and executes it perfectly. Her performance is just so touching.”

The admiration is mutual. “Carl has created a very safe place for me to work and to try things,” Bollinger explained. “I’ve had some directors with whom this would have been a terrifying process. With Carl I have had the freedom to discover who Zelda is.”

“Diedre is just a whirlwind of creative energy,” Ritchie said. “I sometimes have to rein in the tornado and redirect the gusts, but this collaboration works well for both of us.”

“This has been a delightful process so far,” Bollinger said. She and Ritchie were speaking during a break in rehearsals. “I shamelessly want to be in everything Carl writes and directs. This is a great switch from our musical comedy work.”

Ritchie has presented several one- or two-person plays at St. John over the nine years.

St. John is a beautiful little gothic revival church designed in the 1850’s by Richard Upjohn who was famous for designing Trinity Church in New York City, “Ritchie explained. “It is right on the edge of Taconic State Park, across the street from the Depot Deli, at the base of the walking trail. The place is just beautiful inside and out.”


Thanks to the sponsorship of Herrington’s and Brad Peck Insurance there will be a free 2 pm “sneak peek” matinee on Saturday, August 19 during the 10th annual Copake Falls Day celebration.  Tickets for all other performances are $20.

“But it is always Pay-What-You-Can for seniors and students,” Ritchie emphasized. “I want the shows to be accessible. I encourage people to make reservations through our Website, but there will always be a seat for you even if you decide to come at the last minute.”

Taconic Stage Company presents

The Last Flapper

by William Luce

starring Diedre Bollinger


at St. John in the Wilderness Church, 261 Route 344, Copake Falls, NY

August 25 and 26 at 7 pm

August 19, 20 and 27 at 2 pm

Tickets $20 (senior citizens and students pay what you can), available at ,  or call 800-838-3006.

Copake Falls Day show on August 19 at 2 is FREE thanks to our sponsors: Herringtons, Inc and Brad Peck Insurance!


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