National Penn Bancshares Holds Grand Opening At New Allentown Headquarters

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time in nearly 35 years, a bank has established its headquarters in the city of Allentown.

More than 500 people today attended the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of National Penn Bancshares’ new headquarters in the 11-story Two City Center in the city’s downtown neighborhood.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski said it was more than simply a new business moving into the city but rather a showing of confidence in the ongoing revitalization of Allentown.

“We really appreciate the confidence you’ve put in us, and for bringing Allentown back to a central point for being a place of commerce and activity for the entire region,” Pawlowski told representatives of the bank.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/04/national_penn_bancshares_holds.html

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Deana Martin Tribute To Dean Martin And Frank Sinatra – Friday, April 25, 2014 @ 8:00PM

ImageProxyDeana Martin is an influential American singer, actor, performer and the very proud daughter of iconic entertainer, Dean Martin. Deana, a self-described chip off the old block, comes to the State Theatre in Easton on April 25 for a tribute show to her iconic father and Frank Sinatra.

Deana’s 2006 debut “Memories Are Made of This” stayed in the Top 10 for 40 consecutive weeks and “Destination Moon,” her latest album, is receiving phenomenal reviews. Deana’s also a best-selling author and since 2005 has been hosting a show on Sirius/XM satellite radio’s “Siriusly Sinatra” channel.

Accompanied by a quintet in concert, Deana Martin pays homage to her iconic Dad and “Uncle” Frank Sinatra with unforgettable standards like Volare, The Lady Is A Tramp, That’s Amore, Strangers in the Night, and even sing a duet with her father on screen.

April 25th’s show marks the 40th anniversary of “The Dean Martin Variety Show,” broadcast on NBC for 264 episodes from 1965 to its closing April 5, 1974. Deana Martin “appeared frequently on the show with her father, singing and clowning around with the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald.”

“Deana Martin performs with the swagger and playful humor that defined her famous Rat Pack dad.”

(Steven Siegel, The Morning Call).

For more information on Deana Martin, visit: the State Theatre’s website http://statetheatre.org/events/deana-martin/

or call: 1-800-999-7828

The State Theatre
453 Northampton Street
Easton, PA 18042

Click HERE to buy
last minute discount
RUSH Tickets
for only
 $14.00!

Regular Price $35!!!

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Muhlenberg College’s Camp Imagine Performing Arts Camp For Middle Schoolers Nurtures A Passion For The Arts

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA — This summer, Muhlenberg College’s Camp Imagine program celebrates its 16th year of educating and enriching the lives of the Lehigh Valley’s middle school students. Founded in 1999 the program provides young people in grades 6-8 with a month-long performing arts experience, which is free for students of the Allentown School District.

The program runs June 30 through July 25, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Camp Imagine provides invaluable opportunities to nurture a passion for the performing arts,” says the program’s education manager, Lindsay Quinn. “It also builds real-life interpersonal and expressive skills, which help students in all areas of their lives.”

Participants in 2013 said that the program helped them “to take risks and ask questions,” “to be confident and be loud,” and “to not be afraid to show my art.”

Camp Imagine will culminate in a free showcase performance for family and friends at the conclusion of the four weeks, on Saturday, July 26. Participants will be guided through creative arts experiences in the performing arts by talented teams of Muhlenberg College students and alumni. These teaching artists are experienced, professionally trained and supervised.

Camp Imagine students will explore their talents in acting, music, and dance in a safe and open environment, rotating through classes in drama, movement, and vocal expression. They will also get to work with Muhlenberg alumni and students to create a dynamic ensemble environment with their peers.

Camp Imagine meets 9:30 to 12:30 a.m, Monday through Friday, June 30 through July 25. There is no session on Friday, July 4. A lunch is provided for free to all participants, and free bus transportation is provided from all four Allentown School District middle schools. The camp is free for all students who attended Allentown School District middle schools in the 2013-2014 school year. For non-ASD students, tuition is $395; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available.

Students must register to participate. Applications are available online at www.muhlenberg.edu/camp, and by request at camp@muhlenberg.edu or 484-664-3693. Students should enroll by June 1 to ensure availability.

The programs are made possible by underwriting support from Embassy Bank, Enterprise Car Rentals, Highmark Blue Cross, Lehigh Valley Educators Credit Union, The Foundation for Allentown City Schools, and individual donors.

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Lehigh Valley Arts Council Presents Pennsylvania Council On The Arts Grant Opportunities

ImageProxy (2)Allentown, PA – Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA) is a partnership connecting local artists and nonprofit organizations to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA). PPA re-grants state funds to support a wide variety of local and community arts activities through its regional partners; Lehigh Valley Arts Council is entering its 10th year as the PPA Partner who administers these funds in Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon County.

The PPA 2014-2015 Project Stream will provide funds of up to $2,500 to eligible individuals, community groups, and non-profit organizations to conduct arts projects. These projects must take place between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015, and each project (a single event or a series of activities) must have a significant public component. PPA Project Stream applications are reviewed by an invited panel of Lehigh Valley artists and arts advocates according to criteria provided by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council has accepted project grant requests from as many as 60 applicants in one cycle; and in the most recent fiscal year, we awarded grants to 24 projects. Activities successfully receiving PPA project funding have reached a wide range of constituents, from young children to senior citizens, and this year’s projects are engaging audiences in activities that include visual arts exhibitions; photography; musical performances from opera to jazz; documentary film; storytelling and dance. Visit http://www.lvartscouncil.org/programs for more details on the award recipients and their projects.

Project Stream Applicants, both new and returning, are encouraged to attend one of the May planning workshops which are sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council at no charge to the public. Three LVAC Workshops will be held in the region this year:

  • May 6th: Lehigh Valley Arts Council office in Allentown, 4:00 to 5:30 pm
  • May 8th: Sigal Museum in Easton, 4:00 to 5:30 pm
  • May 15th: Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, noon to 2 pm.

Conversations will include a review of the grant application, plans for constructing your narratives and budgets, and expectations for best practices for preparing work samples and supplemental materials. There will be an additional drop-in session for applicants to review their progress on June 3rd, from 11:30 am – 4:30 pm in our office at 9th & Hamilton Streets in Allentown. Attendees are encouraged to bring ideas, plans, and questions.

Email Marilyn J. Roberts, PPA Coordinator, ppa@lvartscouncil.org or call 610-437-5915 to share your interest in applying for a Project Stream Grant and attending one of these beneficial workshops. Include your organization and/or artist name, preferred email address, and a brief description of the project you are considering as well as your choice of workshop.

Link to the PCA’s eGRANT website after May 1st (http://ppa.egrant.net) to register on the application site and to access news about current PPA grant applications. June 20th, 2014 is the deadline to submit Project Stream Applications to the PCA electronically and to postmark the required forms and supplemental materials to the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

For more information:
Call: 610-437-5915.
Email: PPA@LVArtsCouncil.org 
Web: http://www.lvartscouncil.org/programs/PPA%20Workshops.html
Attendance: Free, Reservations requested
Location(s):

May 6, 2014 – 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Lehigh Valley Arts Council
840 Hamilton Street, Suite 200 Conference Room
Allentown, Pa. 18101

May 8, 2014 – 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Sigal Museum
342 Northampton Street
Easton, Pa. 18042

May 15, 2014 – Noon to 2 PM
Mauch Chunk Opera House
14 W. Broadway
Jim Thorpe, PA 18229

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Easter Brunch at the Musikfest Cafe: 4/20

Start a tradition and join us for Easter brunch at the Musikfest Cafe presented by Yuengling!

Showcasing a delicious buffet of breakfast and lunch options, our brunch also features a special guest – The Easter Bunny will be greeting guests at the beginning of each seating! Oh yeah, there’s also musical entertainment by Tony Gairo!

Two Seatings: 10am and 12:30pm | View the menu

Call 610-332-3378 for reservations!

Stay for the PEEPS® Hunt in the afternoon!

Bring the kids to search for Just Born PEEPS® Chicks and enjoy a visit from the Easter Bunny! It’s free!

Ages 3 and under: 1:00pm
Ages 4-7: 1:30pm
Ages 8 and older: 2:00pm

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#ARTS: Mobile Technology For Dummies

Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Professional Development Series offers a technology seminar for arts professionals, “#Arts: Mobile Technology for Dummies,” on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Butz Corporate Center, Ninth and Hamilton streets, Allentown.

Hit the ground running! Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptop, tablet, and smartphone to this hands-on seminar. Presenters will demonstrate how mobile technology acts as a driver for events, products, art sales and website traffic. Arts entrepreneurs and arts administrators will learn how to:

  • Enhance your marketing efforts through social media websites
  • Set up and use an Instagram account
  • Ensure your website is mobile device friendly
  • Adopt e-commerce solutions such as Etsy, Big Cartel and Amazon Marketplace and Mobile Technology point-of-sale devices such as Square, Intuit and Paypal to boost your sales.

Featured presenters, Matt McKernan, President of Mosaic Interactive, an award–winning, interactive and traditional marketing agency, and Steven Leibensperger, graphic and exhibit designer for Crayola, fine artist, and musician will provide both the developer and artist perspective.

The member fee is $25; nonmembers pay $45. Light refreshments will be provided. 

Buy Tickets Today! www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org
For more information:  www.LVArtsCouncil.org/ArtsMobile.html

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Easton Urban Garden, Which Grew 1,400 Pounds Of Produce Last Year, Hopes For Funding Boost

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A once-withering urban garden on Easton’s South Side grew hundreds of pounds of free produce for city residents last year.

The city hopes to build on its success by pursuing a $75,000 federal grant and then matching it with city funds to expand and improve the garden at the Easton Area Neighborhood Center.

The West Ward Neighborhood Partnershiptook over the troubled garden in 2012 and last year, volunteers helped harvest more than 1,400 pounds of vegetables that were donated to Easton residents.

Initial plans call for expanding the farmable land, installing new garden-themed playground equipment, improving the watering system and erecting a fence.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2014/04/easton_urban_gardens_success_c.html

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Allentown Hockey Arena Sees Milestone As Concrete Slab Is Poured

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Allentown hockey arena construction saw another milestone today as more than 30 trucks worth of concrete were poured for what will be a 17,000-square-foot ice floor.

A total of 315 cubic yards of concrete were poured today, and the next major step will be making the ice itself, which will occur in the summer.

“This took a great team effort,” said Jim Brooks, co-owner of the Phantoms hockey team that will start its 2014 season at the PPL Center in September.

“There’s not too many 10,000-seat venues in the world, let alone the United States, and even less that have ice-making capabilities,” Brooks said. “It’s very difficult to pull off.”

Read more:http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/04/allentown_hockey_arena_sees_mi.html

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Muhlenberg College To Present Premiere Circus Workshop

Allentown, PA – The circus is coming to town! A group of Muhlenberg College dancers, actors, gymnasts and aerial acrobats — 30 students in all — have pooled their talents to produce Muhlenberg’s first Circus Workshop. Their work will culminate in two performances on April 25.

Noah Dach ’16, a dance and business double-major, launched the project. Henry Evans ’16 serves as an assistant director and performs. Paige Klibanoff ’15 and MJ Hodge ’16 helped to develop the script and will be performing as well.

“I’ve always wanted to form a dance company,” Dach said. “I had experience in aerial before I came to Muhlenberg, and thought it would be interesting to combine that with the skills that students have been working on here. I approached Karen Dearborn, the head of Muhlenberg’s dance program, with the idea, and she helped me get it on its feet.”

The project builds on the aerial acrobatics classes that the Muhlenberg dance program began offering in spring of 2012, under the instruction of experienced aerialist and Muhlenberg alumna Madeleine Hoak.

Aerialists who had taken Hoak’s class auditioned for the Circus Workshop in January. Other auditioners performed dance combinations or gymnastics skills or recited song lyrics as dramatic monologues. From those who auditioned, Dach assembled an ensemble of diverse performers and began weekly rehearsals.

“What is most fulfilling about directing this project is how my ensemble members are always surprising me with new things,” Dach said. “I could never imagine this project being where it is now after setting this idea in motion last semester.”

The 30-minute performance tells the story, through motion, music and circus art, of a young woman looking back on her life. The other performers represent different aspects of her life, including Joy, Love, and Temptation.

“I’ve always wanted to create something modern that could tell everyday stories through art,” Dach said. “With this project, we have focused on creating something very true and human that cannot be captured in a grand, enormous circus setting. I think that we have found an intimate balance between the abstract and the reality.”

Response on campus has been enthusiastic. Of the 70 seats available for each performance, all sold out in less than two weeks. Dach said he would hopes the project will grow from here.

“Going forward, I would love to see this project expanded and incorporated into more of Muhlenberg’s productions, or even to use the members of this workshop to start forming a performance company after graduation,” Dach said. “This has been a great beginning, and it would be wonderful to see the project move into a larger theater so that more audience members could see it and support it around campus.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top ten in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

For more information about the Department of Theatre and Dance, visit http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

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Poll: Those In NEPA Among Most Miserable In U.S.

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Lancaster, PA ranked 21st on the list :)  The happiest of any Pennsylvania Metropolitan Area.  Hey now!

People in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area are among the most miserable in the nation, according to a report that ranks the area 177th out of 189 it surveyed to gauge residents’ sense of well-being.

Their continuing economic downslide, bad memories, misperceptions and even a lack of sunlight may play a part in Northeast Pennsylvanians’ gloomy outlook, some local experts say in commenting on the State of American Well-Being, the report released last week by Gallup and Healthways.

The highest-ranked area was Provo-Orem, Utah, and the lowest-ranked was the Huntington, W.Va.-Ashland, Ky. area. More than 178,000 people across the country were interviewed last year, including a sample size of 1,092 from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

The survey asked people to rate their life evaluation – a combination of current situation evaluation and the anticipated situation in five years – emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access to health care and other necessities.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/poll-those-in-nepa-among-most-miserable-in-u-s-1.1663838

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Lehigh University South Side Initiative Looking To Get Campus Bus Into City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lehigh University runs buses to the Lehigh Valley Mall and The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

But not into South Side Bethlehem.

Some at Lehigh are looking to change that. It’s an idea that came out of an open community meeting held last month by Lehigh’s South Side Initiative.

“So many here at Lehigh depend on the bus or the bus system that wraps through the upper and lower campus,” said John Pettegrew, the initiative’s director. “It would just be a practical addition to include a route that goes into Third Street and possibly SteelStacks or any other destinations.”

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/04/lehigh_university_south_side_i.html

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Lehigh Valley Arts Council Presents #ARTS: Mobile Technology For Dummies

Allentown, PA – Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Professional Development Series offers a technology seminar for arts professionals, “#Arts: Mobile Technology for Dummies,” on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Butz Corporate Center, Ninth and Hamilton streets, Allentown.

This interactive session focuses on the adaptation and implementation of mobile technology to help tell the story of your brand, expand your marketing efforts, and grow your business.

Featured presenters, Matt McKernan, President of Mosaic Interactive, an award–winning, interactive and traditional marketing agency, and Steven Leibensperger, graphic and exhibit designer for Crayola, fine artist, and musician will provide both the developer and artist perspective. Arts entrepreneurs and arts administrators will learn how mobile technology can enhance their social media marketing, increase website traffic, and serve as a sales platform.

Hit the ground running: attendees are encouraged to bring their laptop, tablet, and smartphone to this hands-on seminar.

The member fee is $25; nonmembers pay $45. Tickets are available at www.LVArtsCouncil.org /www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org. Light refreshments will be provided.

For more information:
Call: 610-437-5915.
Email: operations@LVArtsCouncil.org 
Web: http://www.lvartscouncil.org/ArtsMobile.html

Location: Butz Corporate Center, 840 Hamilton Street (Suite 200 Conference Room), Allentown Pa. 18101
Date / Time: Wednesday, April 30, 2014, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Fee: The member fee is $25; nonmembers pay $45.
Attendance: Reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online
Tickets:
http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=1803990&cobrand=lvartsboxoffice
http://www.lvartscouncil.org/ArtsMobile.html

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NJ’s Largest Paper, Star-Ledger, Cuts 40 News Jobs

The Star-Ledger

The Star-Ledger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey’s largest newspaper is cutting about 170 jobs, including 25 percent of its newsroom positions, as it moves to consolidate operations and cut costs.

The Star-Ledger reported Thursday on NJ.com that the cuts will mean the loss of 40 of the 156 newsroom staffers at the paper.

Other journalists at the newspaper are being offered jobs at NJ Advance Media, a new company being created by parent company Advance Publications to provide content, advertising and marketing services to all of its papers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20140403_ap_bcb3f7ff38f04519b9d0130680554985.html#yfmrwV6huUd6q3Sx.99

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Upcoming Lehigh Valley Arts Box Office Performances

lehigh-valley-arts-council-box-office.jpgBach & Handel Chorale:

April 26th: 30th Anniversary Concert Gala

Chamber Music Society of Bethlehem

April 11th: Daedalus Quartet

April 25th: Gryphon Trio

May 16th: Walden Chamber Players

Moravian College Music Institute

April 4th: Moravian College Wind Ensemble

April 6th: Moravian College Community Orchestra

April 12th: Jazz @ Moravian

Moravian College Theatre Company

April 25th & 26th: Jesus Christ Superstar

PA Sinfonia Orchestra

April 12: Chamber Orchestra – All Nature Sings

Click here for more information and tickets: http://lvartsboxoffice.org/

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Pennsylvania Partners In The Arts Project Stream Grant Workshops

LVAC-4LinesCalling all artists, community groups and arts organizations!

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council invites you to apply for up to $2,500 from the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Project Stream to fund arts projects or activities benefiting the communities of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties. Anyone interested in applying is encouraged to join us for one of our free PPA grant workshops.

May 6th, 4 PM to 5:30 PM: Lehigh Valley Arts Council (Allentown)

May 8th, 4 PM to 5:30 PM: Sigal Museum (Easton)

Mark your Calendar! The PPA deadline for Project Stream Applications is June 20th, 2014!

Click here for more information: http://lvartscouncil.org/programs/workshops.html

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#ARTS: Mobile Technology For Dummies

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lehigh County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council will host,#Arts: Mobile Technology for Dummies on Wednesday April 30th, 2014 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m at the Butz Corporate Center, 840 Hamilton St., Allentown PA 18101

This interactive session focuses on the adaptation and implementation of mobile technology to help tell the story of your brand, expand your marketing efforts, and grow your sales and business. To hit the ground running, bring your laptop, tablet, and smartphone to this hands-on seminar. Refreshments will be provided.

The member fee is $25; nonmembers pay $45. Tickets are available at www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org 

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ArtsQuest Plans Yearlong Effort Of Events To Support Bethlehem South Side

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ArtsQuest is organizing a yearlong effort to bring multiple art events to Bethlehem’s South Side business district.

The effort, called Artists Among Us, would include an Urban Arts Festival on the South Bethlehem Greenway, artists-in-residence working with city youth and a cast-iron block installation on the greenway highlighting the neighborhood’s many ethnic groups.

ArtsQuest is hoping to get a $300,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a nationwide arts foundation, to help fund the $500,000 initiative, ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks said today. ArtsQuest is one of 97 finalists for $20 million in available funding, Parks said.

ArtsPlace America officials encouraged ArtsQuest to publicize its grant application and will visit the city next week, so local officials are hopeful that they’ll receive money from the organization, said Patrick Brogan, ArtsQuest’s senior vice president of programming. ArtsQuest would still put on the Artists Among Us effort without the grant but it would include far fewer events, he said.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/03/artsquest_planning_yearlong_ef.html#incart_river

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Developers Hope To Attract Grocery Store To Former Bethlehem Steel Site

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Developers are seeking to attract a grocery store to the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. site on Bethlehem’s South Side.

Former Mayor John Callahan, now director of development for one of the site landowners, said Thursday that they’re looking to get a grocery store into the former Steel General Office building, or in a new building planned across East Third Street from the former Steel headquarters.

“I certainly have heard about the idea of putting a grocery store in part of the SGO project and I also believe that potential use would be a good fit for across the street,” said Callahan, who now works for attorney Michael Perrucci, part owner of Steel site co-owner BethWorks Now. “I think there’s only a need for one and it’s just a matter of trying to figure out where best to put it.”

At an unrelated news conference Thursday, ArtsQuest officials displayed a map that showed a future grocery store planned along with apartments and parking at the 13-story Steel General Office building. ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks said he got approval from Sands BethWorks officials to include the plans on the map.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/03/developers_seeking_to_attract.html

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More People Moving To Lehigh Valley, More Leaving Northwest New Jersey, Census Data Show

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the latest U.S. Census Bureau data are any indication, the Delaware River is the great divider between growth and decline in this region’s population.

More people are moving out of Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey while more are moving into Northampton and Lehigh counties in Pennsylvania.

The Census Bureau this morning released county-by-county population estimates for last year. The data show both New Jersey counties lost population; both Pennsylvania counties gained population. This pattern has continued for three straight years, the data show.

Births outpaced deaths in all four counties; the population changes are instead tied to people migrating to or emigrating out of the counties, according to the census.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2014/03/more_people_moving_to_lehigh_v.html

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Muhlenberg’s Production Of “Mad Forest” Offers Innovative Take On Romanian History

Allentown, PA– As history unfolds in the Ukraine, Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance presents the story of similar events from a quarter century ago. “Mad Forest,” by award-winning playwright Caryl Churchill, set during the 1989 Romanian Revolution, plays on the Muhlenberg mainstage April 24-26.

Directed by Beth Schachter, “Mad Forest” captures the events of the 1989 Romanian Revolution through the eyes of many who experienced it. On the eve of the revolution, and under the pressures of a paranoid society with secret police, two families, one poor and one wealthy, struggle to survive the chaos and deprivations of Nicolae Ceaucescu’s megalomaniacal Communist regime. A play of romance and politics, bookended by weddings, “Mad Forest” blends together documentary theatre and magical realism to explore the psychological landscapes of people trying to find freedom.

“‘Mad Forest’ tells the story of what happens when people who were once oppressed have the freedom to speak truthfully,” says Schachter, who serves as chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Muhlenberg. “It comments on the fragile nature of families and relationships in a very human way.”

Schachter became familiar with “Mad Forest” when she served as dramaturg for the American premiere of the play in New York City in 1991. She has wanted to revisit the play ever since then.

“Working on that production gave me insight into what is going on underneath the words, and more importantly, underneath the silences,” says Schachter. “This play clarifies what so often goes unsaid between people in difficult situations.”

Shortly after the 1989 revolution, Churchill travelled to Bucharest with director Mark Wing-Davey and a team of students to interview eye-witnesses and experience post-revolution Romania first hand. While there, they lived with Romanian families and collaborated with Romanian drama students. What emerged was “Mad Forest,” which premiered in London in 1990 and opened in New York the following year.

The Romanian Revolution refers to a series of protests and riots that took place in December of 1989 and led to the overthrow of Ceaucescu. Schachter hopes to bring these stories of revolution to a new generation.

“These stories have become particularly relevant in the last few months,” Schachter says. “History is unfolding in the Ukraine, with remarkable parallels to 1989 Romania. It’s not every day that you see world leaders toppled in a matter of weeks.”

British playwright Caryl Churchill has been writing since 1958. She has received Obie Awards for her plays “Top Girls,” “Cloud Nine” and “Serious Money,” as well as the Obie Sustained Achievement Award. Churchill is known for artfully commenting on such controversial themes as gender roles, power struggles, and political conflicts throughout the world.

“Churchill’s writing is fascinating because it is blunt and direct,” Schachter says. “She is able to capture how these characters struggle to find their voices after a shift in power through the revolution.”

“Mad Forest” also features a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate, who teaches acting at Muhlenberg. She plays a variety of roles in the show, including an angel, a grandmother, a dog, and a translator, among others. This will be Cate’s sixth mainstage performance at the college in the past seven years.

“I love working on shows here because it is so much fun to play alongside students that I have had in class,” Cate says. “I have always wanted to work on a Churchill play, so this is a great learning opportunity for me as well as for the students involved in the production.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top ten in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Performances of “Mad Forest” are April 24-26: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty, and staff and for patrons 17 and under. The performance is intended for mature audiences.

Performances are in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 orwww.muhlenberg.edu/theatre

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