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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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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‘Dance Emerge’ Dance Concert Showcases Eclectic Work By Emerging Student Choreographers In A Nationally Acclaimed Program

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PAMuhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Dance Emerge,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, April 10-13 in the College’s Dance Studio Theatre. Corrie Franz Cowart is the artistic director for the concert.

“Choreographers in this year’s ‘Dance Emerge’ are mining emotional and physical landscapes that celebrate the thrills of life and mourn our human foibles,” Franz Cowart says. “Humor and real-life circumstances are blended with physical skill and choreographic imagination, transforming observations of our world into kinetic and visual journeys for the audience.”

“Dance Emerge” will showcase 12 choreographers and 60 dancers from the department’s dance program, which is among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features costume and lighting designs by the department’s acclaimed professional staff.

The 12 original dances include contemporary jazz, hip-hop, tap, dance theater, and modern works that investigate such topics as the sensation of getting lost in a book, women’s struggles with power, circus lights, and ritualized behavior. Choreographers drew inspiration from such diverse sources as dance history, travel, personal relationships, and college experiences.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the county, according to the Princeton Review rankings.  Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. It has been named annually among The Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States, and the American College Dance Festival Association has consistently recognized dances premiered on the Muhlenberg stage for excellence in choreography and performance.

“Dance Emerge” runs April 10-13 in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are April 10-13: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 12, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 13, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.  For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $13.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/dance.

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Muhlenberg College Dancers To Perform At National Festival

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ALLENTOWN, PA — “Key,” a dance work performed by Muhlenberg College dance students and choreographed by longtime Muhlenberg guest choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, has been selected for inclusion at the National College Dance Festival, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C.

The work was selected by the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA), which presents the National Festival. The five-member cast will perform in the festival June 5-7.

“Key” is one of just 31 dance works to be selected for the festival, from among 506 submissions nationwide. It was one of only three selected from the 45 works performed at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, March 17-20.

ACDFA holds 12 annual regional conferences around the country, and holds the National College Dance Festival every other year. Muhlenberg’s dance program has been included in five of the seven national festivals in the past 14 years.

“The conference gives us national exposure, and enhances the reputation of the program,” says Karen Dearborn, professor and chair of the dance program for Muhlenberg’s Theatre and Dance Department. “Especially because we’re a small liberal arts school, people tend to be absolutely shocked at how accomplished our dancers are. We’re competing against BFA and master’s degree programs and conservatories.”

A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Boye-Christensen is best known as the former artistic director of the renowned Ryrie-Woodbury Dance Company, a position she held from 2008 until April 2013, when she stepped away from the role in order to form NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary contemporary dance company. Boye-Christensen has been commissioned to create new dance works by prestigious dance companies around the world.

“‘Key’ was inspired by the life and music of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, an artist who epitomizes strength, originality and vulnerability,” Boye-Christensen says. “To strive for such excellence and profound artistry in one’s work, as he did, is deeply inspiring.”

“Key” features dancers  Allison Berger ’14, Katharine Dougherty ’14, Gwynne Jones ’15, Krysta Parker ’16 and Annabel Williams ’14. It was initially performed as part of Muhlenberg’s “Master Choreographers” concert in February 2014.

“It was an absolute joy for me to re-create ‘Key’ on the dancers at Muhlenberg,” Boye-Christensen says. “They came to the work with a tremendous amount of physicality, attention to detail and, perhaps most importantly, musicality. Congratulations to them, Karen and the rest of the dance faculty.”

The five dancers in the piece hail from five different states: Nevada, Tennessee, Vermont, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. All five are dance majors, and three are double-majors, in biology, anthropology, and English.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of about 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The College offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program first in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

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New Visions Emerging Artists’ Festival At Muhlenberg College

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – Emerging theatrical talents will be on display in Muhlenberg College‘s “New Visions” Emerging Artists’ Festival, featuring plays directed by four senior directing students in the college’s Department of Theatre & Dance.

Presented by the college every other year, the “New Visions” festival features rarely produced, avant-garde works for theater, and offers a rare opportunity for audiences to see the work of the next generation of up-and-coming theater artists. This year’s festival includes three productions, performed in repertory. Benjamin Wald directs Tom Stoppard’s rarely produced “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.” Alex McKhann directs “Still Life with Iris,” Steven Dietz’s fantastical adventure for young audiences. Matt Dicken will perform the world premiere of his one-man play “butyou’reaman, or The Seven Men I Came Out to in India,” directed by Arthur Strimling.

The festival runs Wednesday through Sunday, March 19-23. “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and “butyou’reaman” will be performed together for a single ticket price, March 19, 20 and 22 at 8 p.m. and March 23 at 2 p.m. “Still Life with Iris” will be performed March 21 at 8 p.m. and March 22 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” Soviet dissident Alexander Ivanov has been imprisoned in a mental hospital until he admits that the statements he has made against the government were caused by a mental disorder. He shares a cell with a schizophrenic triangle player who believes he is in command of a symphony orchestra. Stoppard’s politically charged black comedy serves as a powerful fable about truth and dissent and as an absurd fantasia, set to the music inside your head.

An out-since-age-13 American man, playwright and actor Matt Dicken navigates the cultural dangers of staging his recent travels in India as stories for an audience in the USA. Evoking intimate landscapes rich with political and sensual variety, Dicken asks what it means to find love in a yet-to-be-legalized body.

“Still Life with Iris” centers on a little girl’s search for the simplest of things: home. Iris lives with her mom in the land of Nocturno—a magical place in which the workers make, by night, all of the things we see in the world by day. In Nocturno, memories reside not in people’s minds but in their coats. In their desire to have the best of everything, the rulers of Nocturno take Iris away from her home to be their daughter. To ease the pain of this separation, they remove her memory coat, leaving her with no recollection of her home or family. All that remains of her past is a single button. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater 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 theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Tickets for either performance (“Still Life with Iris” or the combined “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and “butyou’reaman”) are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty and staff and for patrons 17 and under. Combination tickets, including both performances, are $20 for adults, $12 for students, faculty and staff, and can be used for any two performances.

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

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All-Female Cast Brings Feminist Sensibility To Molière’s Comedy ‘The Learned Ladies’

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA — In directing Molière’s “The Learned Ladies,” opening Feb. 20 at Muhlenberg College, James Peck had two choices.

He could either let Molière’s 17th century sensibilities take the reins, and produce a play about the absurdity of its female characters’ efforts to educate themselves. Or he could dig a bit deeper, and find the ways in which Molière’s comedy reveals a nobility and bravery in those efforts.

“I can see two versions of this play being produced,” Peck says. “It could certainly be done as a misogynist satire, and some directors really want to steer clear of the play because of that. But I think it more fundamentally — and the version we’re trying to do, certainly — is a play about the ridiculous lengths that men have sometimes gone to in order to keep women from educating themselves.”

In other words, it’s the sexism that’s absurd, rather than the ladies themselves — at least most of the time. In support of this perspective, Peck has cast women in all of the roles, male and female — including his faculty colleague Francine Roussel in the role of Belize.

“I think having an all-female company of women who are themselves ‘learned ladies’ underscores the point,” Peck says. “And to be fair to Molière, often his female characters are the savviest people on the stage. As soon as you start thinking that the women are ridiculous, they do or say something that’s really kind and beautiful and insightful.

“The play is also blindingly funny,” he says. “I mean, these intellectual ideas are important to me, but the humor is as well.”

“The Learned Ladies” runs Feb. 20-23 in the college’s Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre. Broadway lighting designer Rick Fisher, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for his work on “Billy Elliot: The Musical,” is designing the lights for the show as part of a semester-long residency.

For Peck, the project also represented an opportunity to work with Roussel, who returns to the Muhlenberg mainstage for the first time since “Cabaret” in 2005. A native of France, Roussel was among the founders of the Actors Studio in Paris. She has written and performed her own shows, and continues her acting career in France and America. Her numerous film and television credits include “Sex and the City,” “Saturday Night Live,” and Sydney Pollack’s feature film “The Interpreter.” Roussel directs frequently for the Muhlenberg mainstage and teaches acting at Muhlenberg.

“Working with Francine has been an incredible pleasure,” Peck says. “She’s a truly skilled actress. She has really penetrating insight into what’s happening in the scene, as well as tremendous comic timing.”

In his 1672 satire of culture pretentiousness, Molière asks whether a woman can be both a devoted wife and a devoted scholar. Henriette and Clitandre wish to marry. Henriette’s father and uncle are in favor of the match, but the women of her family are obsessed with the allure of salon culture, and wish for her to marry Trissotin, a pompous but mediocre poet. Henriette must decide whether she should live life as a highly educated but unhappy woman, or whether she can continue her education without sacrificing love.

The production features a 1978 translation by acclaimed poet Richard Wilbur, in which “words dance delectably,” according to The New York Times.

The set for the play, designed by Muhlenberg design professor Curtis Dretsch, is a giant armillary sphere — a model of celestial objects consisting of a series of concentric rings that spin around one another. The design concept reflects the characters’ desire literally to map the heavens, and more broadly, to come to a greater understanding of the universe around them.

“The sphere provides unusual playing spaces for the action of the show,” Peck says. “It also serves as the perfect image for the women’s learned enterprises.”

“The Learned Ladies” will be performed Feb. 20-23: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country, according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenebrg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. It has been named annually among the Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States.

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Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Open Audition Dates

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions for performers ages 16 and up on Feb. 23 and 24. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: the classic Broadway musical “A Chorus Line,” performing June 11-29, and “Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot,’” performing July 9-27.

The following audition details can also be found online, at www.muhlenberg.edu/smt.

Vocal auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 23, from 3 to 6:30 and 7:30 to 11 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 24, from 7 to 11 p.m. Sunday vocal auditions will be held in the Baker Center for the Arts Band Room. Monday vocal auditions will be held in the Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Vocal audition appointments are three minutes.

Dance auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 23, from 5 to 9 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 24, from 6 to 9 p.m., in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts. Dance auditions will take about half an hour.

All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. All auditioners must sign up for both vocal and dance auditions. Auditioners should send an email to SMTcompany@muhlenberg.edu before Friday, Feb. 21, indicating available dates and times within the scheduled audition, and providing a mobile phone number where the auditioner can be reached with questions.

Those without access to email should call the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance office at 484-664-3087, during regular office hours before Thursday, Feb. 20. Voice messages should contain all of the above information.

All auditioners will be assigned a time for both a dance audition and a vocal audition. Auditioners must both dance and sing, even if they concentrate in just one area. All performers in both shows will sing and dance.

Auditioners who live too far away from the Allentown area or who are unable to attend auditions may submit a preliminary DVD audition. The DVD should consist of a comedic monologue not more than two minutes in length, one song (see guidelines below), and a 90-second dance solo. DVDs must arrive before the audition date listed to be eligible for consideration.

Auditioners who receive a callback must attend in person to be considered for a role. Callbacks will be held March 9-11, and will include acting auditions, reading from the script.

Auditioners for both shows should prepare a memorized vocal selection of no more than 32 bars of a musical theater song written between 1950 and 1980.

An accompanist will be provided for the vocal audition. Auditioners must bring sheet music in the key in which they would like to sing, with the selection indicated and any cuts clearly noted. Please no accompaniment tapes or a cappella auditions.

For dance auditions, auditioners will be taught a short dance sequence, which they will then perform. No preparation is required. Auditioners who own tap shoes should bring them.

Auditioners should bring two copies of their resumes and headshots.

Non-performing opportunities are available for technicians and costumers. Carpenters, electricians, props technicians, light board and sound board operators, and stage crew are needed for productions. Costumers, first hand, stitchers, and wardrobe running crew are needed in the costume shop.

High school stage management internships are available for those who will be at least 16 years old by the time they begin working for MSMT. Interns work alongside college students and professionals from the College, and guest artists from New York, learning valuable skills that they can take back to their high school programs. Interns receive a $400 stipend for the summer.

The application deadline for technicians, costumers, and administrative personnel is March 1. Applications can be found online at muhlenberg.edu/smt. Completed applications can be sent to boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.

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Muhlenberg College Celebrates Twenty Years Of Dance With ‘Master Choreographers’ Dance Concert, February 6-8

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Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA — The Muhlenberg College dance program celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special edition of its annual “Master Choreographers” dance concert, Feb. 6-8.

The concert will feature a restaging of “D-Man in the Waters (Part 1),” by legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones, as well as seven world-premiere dance pieces, choreographed by acclaimed guest artists and faculty members.

One of the premiere choreographers of his generation, Bill T. Jones was the recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (alongside Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey). He has won Tony Awards for his choreography in the Broadway shows “Spring Awakening” (2007) and “Fela!” (2010). The Dance Heritage Coalition has called Jones “an irreplaceable dance treasure.” The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, founded in 1982, has performed worldwide.

Premiered in 1989, “D-Man in the Waters” won a New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie Award”) and has since become one of the company’s signature pieces. Set to Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20, the work is one of the finest examples of the post-modern aesthetic and was featured in PBS’s landmark film “Dancing in the Light: Six Dances by African-American Choreographers.”

“‘D-Man’ is the kind of piece that sets audiences cheering,” Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the New York Times in 1989, and acclaimed dance director Charles L. Reinhart called the piece “one of the greatest works ever choreographed… It’s extraordinarily moving emotionally and extraordinarily exciting and interesting choreographically with an incredible message of despair and hope which is what life’s all about.”

“D-Man in the Waters” is supported by the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Artist-in-Residence program, and presented with the cooperation of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

The annual “Master Choreographers” concert features a diverse selection of styles and genres, ranging from classical ballet to contemporary jazz, modern dance, and tap accompanied by live jazz music.

“This concert presents a spectacular evening of dance,” says Karen Dearborn, founding director of Muhlenberg’s dance program, and the concert’s artistic director. “We are thrilled to showcase Bill T. Jones’ masterpiece, along with new works by internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty.”

Dearborn has created a new work for the performance, which will also feature works by: Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, former artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company; Corrie Franz Cowart, co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance; Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Dorrell Martin, founder of LEON Dance Arts NY; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazzdance.

In conjunction with the “Master Choreographers” concert, dance critic, acclaimed author and journalist Elizabeth Zimmer will present a lecture on Friday, Feb. 7, at 5 p.m., in the Baker Center for the Arts Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Other 20th Anniversary activities include a Dance Reunion Weekend, March 21-22, and an Alumni Concert, featuring dance pieces by alumni from throughout the program’s 20 years, March 22.

Performances of “Master Choreographers” will take place Thursday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of about 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The College offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program first in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Choreographer Bios

BILL T. JONES (Artistic Director/Co-Founder/Choreographer: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company; Executive Artistic Director: New York Live Arts) is the recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors; a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography of the critically acclaimed FELA!; a 2007 Tony Award, 2007 Obie Award, and 2006 Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation CALLAWAY Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening; the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship; the 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography forThe Seven; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 2010, Mr. Jones was recognized as Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and in 2000, The Dance Heritage Coalition named Mr. Jones “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.”  

Mr. Jones choreographed and performed worldwide with his late partner, Arnie Zane, before forming the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. He has created more than 140 works for his company. In 2011, Mr. Jones was named Executive Artistic Director of New York Lives Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting and educating.

Germaul Barnes (Restager) is a Bessie Award winner for his dancing in the work of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He is currently Director and Founder of Germaul Barnes/Viewsic Expressions Dance, a New York based dance company that presents multi-media dance performances and educational residencies around the world. Mr. Barnes is also Co-Director of Burnt Sugar/Danz with Gabri Christa and Greg Tate. He has received many grants and awards for his extensive foreign experience as dancer, teacher, choreographer and anthropologist. He has created dances for The Ailey School, Southern Dance Work, Birmingham Southern College, Skidmore College, Jasmyn Fyffe Dance-Toronto, Ghana National Dance Theater, ChoreoQuest Project, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, among others. For a complete list of his achievements, visit: www.ViewsicEx.org.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen is the former artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, located in Salt Lake City. A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Boye-Christensen received her formal training at London Contemporary Dance School and at the Laban Centre in London and completed her Master of Fine Arts degree at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She has been commissioned to create new works for numerous dance companies and universities around the world. Boye-Christensen is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and grants from the Theatre and Arts Councils in Denmark, Germany, Mexico and Singapore, as well as a recipient of the Choo-San Goh Award for Choreographic Excellence. In 2002 she joined Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to assist in the artistic direction of the company. She became the artistic director in 2008 and has created and re-staged 26 pieces on the company. In April 2013, she stepped away from that position in order to form NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary contemporary dance company, and to pursue more international commissions.

Heidi Cruz-Austin is an alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet, and she has danced featured roles in works by choreographers ranging from Alvin Ailey to George Balanchine. In addition to dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet, Cruz-Austin has performed with the Philadelphia-based company Ballet X and as a guest artist throughout the United States and Europe. As a choreographer, Cruz-Austin was a winner for the 2003 Ballet Builders showcase in New York City. She has been commissioned to create works for Franklin and Marshall College, Bryn Mawr College, Repertory Dance Theater, and Ballet D’errico, and she was a recipient of the 2004-2005 New Edge Residency at The Community Education Center of Philadelphia.

Corrie Franz Cowart has performed with the Mary Miller Dance Company, LABCO Dance, Minh Tran and Company, the Dance Theatre of Oregon, and the Pittsburgh Opera. She is also the co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance and has performed both nationally and internationally with Impact Productions’ “Dayuma,” and “The Masterpiece.” Cowart continues to perform and choreograph for her own company Co-Art Dance, a contemporary dance company she co-founded in 1997 with her husband Tim Cowart. Corrie is an assistant professor at Muhlenberg College, where she teaches modern, dance composition, and dance on camera.

Karen Dearborn has choreographed more than 70 works in concert, theater, and musical theater, including national tours of the Tony Award-winning National Theatre of the Deaf and several Equity theatres. She has provided choreography for the Muhlenberg theater productions of “On the Town,” “The Pajama Game,” “Oklahoma!” “Urinetown,” and “West Side Story,” and Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions of “Hairspray,”  “The Sound of Music,” “The Who’s Tommy,” and “Oliver!” to name just a few. Dearborn is the founding director of Muhlenberg’s dance program. Her scholarly research has been published in the Journal of Dance Education, and she contributed an essay to the book “Performing Magic on the Western Stage.” She serves on the executive board of the American College Dance Festival Association.

Dorrell Martin is founder of the jazz and contemporary dance program, LEON Dance Arts NY, which is associated with LEON Contemporary Dance Company/NY, of which Martin is the artistic director. He was also the creator and director of the jazz and contemporary program at The Joffrey Ballet School. He is former artistic director/co-founder of Houston Metropolitan Dance Company in Houston, Texas. Martin was a soloist for the national and international touring company of “A Few Good Men Dancin’,” and has danced in such shows as “Aida,” “West Side Story,” “The Lion King,” and “Swing.” He has also performed with many professional companies, including Arch Dance, Locke Contemporary Dance, Houston Grand Opera, Metropolitan Opera, and Richard Rivera’s PHYSUAL. Martin has also performed with such recording artists as Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Debra Cox.

Shelley Oliver is a Canadian-born tap dancer, choreographer, and educator. She has appeared internationally with some of the legends of the tap world. She is the artistic director of The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers currently touring with the David Leonhardt Jazz Group throughout the northeast. Oliver is a founding member of Manhattan Tap and served as a co-artistic director and choreographer with the company. She has toured in concert halls in Europe, China, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States. She has performed with Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slide, Buster Brown, Jimmy Slide, and Chuck Green. Oliver’s television appearances include “Tap Dance in America” with Gregory Hines and “Star Search.” On faculty at Muhlenberg College, she directs the Muhlenberg Jazz Tap Ensemble, providing community outreach in the Allentown area. Ms. Oliver has produced a series of “Tap Music For Tap Dancers” CDs that have become a standard pedagogical tool in the tap dance world. She is the recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Dance Educator award for the Lehigh Valley Dance Consortium.

Jeffrey Peterson serves as an assistant professor of dance at Muhlenberg College, where he teaches modern, jazz, and partnering techniques. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Peterson began his professional dance career in national tours with JAZZDANCE by Danny Buraczeski in 2000. Since then, he has performed in the work of Clare Byrne, Edisa Weeks, and Mathew Janczewski, as well as Stephan Koplowitz’s “Grand Step Project,” and the Minnesota Opera’s production of “The Pearl Fishers” with choreography by John Malashock. His choreographic work for Jeffrey Peterson Dance has appeared at Joe’s Pub, Joyce SOHO, and Dixon Place in New York City, The Minnesota Fringe Festival, Intermedia Arts, and Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and in “The Cloth Peddler” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Peterson’s choreography has appeared in the concert repertory of numerous university dance programs. His ongoing creative work includes choreographic projects, colorguard and visual consultation for the Govenaires Drum and Bugle Corps, and sound design.

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Muhlenberg Honors Mildred Greene In Costume Retrospective

 

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance will remember Mildred Greene, long-time costumer and costume designer, with a special exhibition of her work Feb. 5-27. The exhibition, titled “It Fits, You’ll Wear It & Love It,” will honor Greene’s impact on the department and its productions.


Greene built and designed costumes for the Theatre & Dance Department and Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre from 1979 until her retirement in 2003. During her 24-year career at Muhlenberg, she designed and produced thousands of costumes for the stage.


The exhibition will feature costumes as well as photographs of Greene’s design repertoire spanning her Muhlenberg career. A free reception for the exhibition will be held Friday, Feb. 7 from 4 to 6 p.m.


Greene’s skill, expertise, and no-nonsense charm endeared her to her colleagues and hundreds of students, according to Curtis Dretsch, professor of design and technical theater.


“Mildred could do more, with less, more quickly than anyone else I’ve ever known,” Dretsch says.


Greene was destined to create costumes for the stage, as her father was an upholsterer and her mother sewed clothing and dance costumes for the family. She worked in New York City during World War II as a pattern maker for McCall’s Pattern Company while also work in alterations shops honing her construction skills.


Reviewers consistently praised Greene’s work throughout her career. “Mildred Greene’s costumes deserve to be kept on display as examples of theater art even after audiences can no longer enjoy the sterling play they frame,” wrote Morning Call theater critic John Flautz in his 1988 review of “The School for Scandal.” “They are nothing short of stunning!”


Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review has ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program as in the top twelve in the nation for the past seven years, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.


“It Fits, You’ll Wear It & Love It” runs Feb. 5-27. The exhibition will take place in the Galleria Lobby, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

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Muhlenberg Stages A Brisk ‘Winter’s Tale,’ Nov. 20-24

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – Toward the end of his career, Shakespeare broke away from the conventional rules of play writing and wrote a series of plays that featured wild dramatic verse and then-contemporary humor. The epitome of this defiantly innovative approach was “The Winter’s Tale,” written around 1610, and coming to the Muhlenberg College mainstage Nov. 20-24.

“The play has a real spirit of experimentation and rebelliousness,” says Troy Dwyer, who directs the production. “When they go see Shakespeare, many audience members brace themselves to do a lot of work. And often enough, modern productions make them.”

Dwyer’s aim, he says, is to allow the audience to relax and enjoy the playfulness of Shakespeare’s writing.

“I want the audience to let us do the work,” Dwyer says. “I want them to experience a strong sense of joy and understanding that they don’t have to labor for. That joy can come from comedy or it can come from the thrill of genuinely absorbing drama.”

“The Winter’s Tale” is the story of two intertwined kingdoms gripped by an icy prophecy. A demon bear hunts its victims along the tree-lined shore of Bohemia. Hundreds of miles across the ocean in Sicilia, something just as nightmarish stalks a young queen – her husband’s jealous madness. As both monsters pounce, Shakespeare’s unpredictable fantasy is set into motion.

Part suspenseful tragedy, part rollicking comedy, part grisly fairy tale, the play defies convention while showcasing what Dwyer calls “some of the most breathtaking language ever heard on the English stage.”

The show runs Nov. 20-24 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance at Muhlenberg College. In the interest of expediting the action, Dwyer has cut the play to a brisk two hours.

“Modern audiences are very different from 1610 audiences,” Dwyer says. “They understand stories differently, and I think if you’re going to do Shakespeare in 2013, you have to adapt to that different sensibility. That doesn’t mean dumbing the play down or stripping out historical context. It just means being thoughtful about pacing and emphasis, and working to develop relatable characters.”

Dwyer has also added choreography by Allison Berger and an original score by Sean Skahill for an enhanced multisensory experience.

“I want the audience to be pulled away from the dependence on language and narrative by providing other textures of experience,” Dwyer says. For example, the play’s infamous demon bear is depicted not by a large fuzzy costume but by the actors, through movement and music.

“The music and choreography makes it a more holistic and engaging experience for audiences,” Skahill says. “Music can express what you can’t get out through just talking.”

Dwyer says the play closely examines the institution of marriage with its inherent issues of power and parity. He expands that exploration to modern-day issues of marriage equality by gender-swapping certain characters.

“The play is partly about marriage and who has a right to it,” Dwyer says. “It’s about the ways that marriage is both a privilege and a peril — about the mythic demands that get mapped onto the institution of marriage. The play’s young lovers believe that marriage is something worth fighting for, which is a refrain we hear all the time in current discourse. I think the play helps us to disentangle some of the more oppressive threads woven into marriage vows.”

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country, according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenebrg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. It has been named annually among the Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States.

“The Winter’s Tale” runs Nov. 20-24 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 orwww.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance.

Fourth Annual ‘8×8’ Art Show And Sale To Raise Funds For Allentown Arts Academy

img8x8-2smAllentown, Pa. — Eight-inch-square canvases in a wide variety of styles and media will be on display Nov. 13 at “8 x 8,” the fourth annual art show and sale sponsored by the Allentown Arts Academy Alliance. Funds raised at the event will support the Allentown Academy of the Arts, at William Allen High School.

The show will include more than 50 works of art in a wide array of styles and media, created by the Arts Academy’s students, teachers and alumni, as well as artists from the community. Most of the artworks are paintings; however, some artists have mounted handcrafted jewelry or pottery on an 8-by-8-inch base. Artists this year include Nancy Bossert, Lee Butz, Fran Ackley, Claudia McGill, Jon Roylance, John Gaydos, Dana Van Horn, and many more.

The event will also include performances by Allen High School’s Chorale and Double String Quartet.

The event will be held at Muhlenberg College, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, on the south side of Chew Street between 24th and 26th streets, Allentown. The address is 2400 Chew Street. The show takes place from 4 to 6:30 p.m., and purchases may be taken at 6 p.m.

The Academy of the Arts, William Allen’s magnet school program, offers studio instruction to Allentown School District students in theatre, dance, visual art, and music.

‘Moving Stories’ Dance Concert Showcases Innovative Work By Dtudent Choreographers, Dancers In Nationally Acclaimed Dance Program

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa.Muhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Moving Stories,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, Nov. 14-16 in the College’s Baker Theatre.

Dance Program chair Karen Dearborn says the nine student choreographers selected for the program have created sophisticated and innovative dances, informed by their liberal arts education, and intended to probe and illuminate the human experience. This season, the show also will feature a premiere piece by Muhlenberg faculty member Teresa VanDenend Sorge.

“‘Moving Stories’ is designed to inspire and challenge audiences,” says Dearborn, who serves as artistic director for the performance. “These visually lush dances offer a view of our present and future through contemporary eyes. It is always exciting to be enveloped in these kinetic and symbolic works of art — to be moved by the movement.”

The concert will showcase 56 dancers from the department’s dance program, among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features costume and lighting designs by the department’s acclaimed professional staff.

The ten original dances include contemporary jazz, jazz styles and modern works that investigate female body image, women’s power in the Roman Empire, self-discovery and empowerment, exploitation of female sexuality, and time and memory. Choreographers drew inspiration from everything from poetry and paintings to the relationship between a magician and his assistant.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the county, according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. It has been named annually among The Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States, and the American College Dance Festival Association has consistently recognized dances premiered on the Muhlenberg stage for excellence in choreography and performance.

“Moving Stories” runs Nov. 14-16 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, MuhlenbergCollege, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 14-15, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 16, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.  For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $13.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/dance

The Audience Decides The Outcome Of ‘The Mystery Of Edwin Drood,’ Opening Oct. 25 At Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rupert Holmes’ Tony Award-winning musical calls on the audience to determine the ending to Dickens’ unfinished murder mystery

Allentown, PA – An ensemble of 37 actors will enlist the audience’s help to finish the story of Charles Dickens’ final novel, when the musical “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” opens at Muhlenberg College, Oct. 25.

Composer Rupert Holmes’ Tony Award-winning musical presents Dickens’ murder mystery as a play within a play. The world of Victorian music hall and melodrama is the backdrop for the exploits of the Theatre Royale, whose actors attempt to complete the unfinished story.

The musical plays Oct. 25 through Nov. 3 in Muhlenberg’s Empire Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts.

“‘Drood’ appeals to me because of the show’s wild spirit,” says Muhlenberg theater professor Charles Richter, who directs the production. “Hopefully our production will capture that whimsical essence.”

The play’s most whimsical and most challenging element is its ending: there isn’t one. When the actors of the Theatre Royale reach the point in the story when Dickens laid down his pen for good, they turn to the audience to determine how the story will end. Who turns out to be the murderer? It’s up to the audience.

In fact, patrons have four decisions to make about the outcome of the play. They must select a murderer, a detective in disguise, and a pair of lovers. There are hundreds of possible permutations — and the cast must be ready for any of them.

“The main hook of the show is that the audience determines what will happen,” Richter says. “As far as I know, that makes ‘Drood’ unique among musicals.”

All those extra endings make for extra work for the cast, who will prepare an entire hour of material for potential endings, much of which may never be performed. Senior Stefanie Goldberg, who plays Drood, says she expects some fierce but good-natured competition among the cast to turn the voting in their favor. After all, the “winners” get to perform an extra song at the end of the show.

“I think it’s a different process for everyone, because there are so many different layers with which to work,” Goldberg says. “It’s a challenge for any actor. It’s just as exciting for us as it is for the audience.”

Dickens began writing “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in 1870 but died the same year. The novel was to be published in 12 installments, but he completed only six, leaving his readers on the edge of their seats. Subsequent authors and playwrights, including Dickens’ son, tried to complete the story, without success.

Fast-forward 100 years or so; pop composer Rupert Holmes rediscovered the mysterious unfinished novel. Having spent his childhood in London, Holmes was familiar with the style of British Musical Hall performances. He used his own childhood experiences at the theater and his growing interest for the novel to build the musical version of “Drood.”

Best known for his 1970s hit “Escape (The Pina Colada Song),” Holmes says he undertook the project because he was looking for a challenge.

“I’d been a relatively successful pop songwriter, I’d done a couple albums with Barbra Streisand,” he says. “And I was looking at that time in my life to try to write something that wasn’t three-and-a-half minutes with a fade ending — something more expansive. I was reading the novel, and I said, ‘You know, there’s a musical in this.’”

“Drood” premiered in 1986 at the New York Shakespeare Festival, where it ran for two years. It was revived on Broadway in 2012 at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Winner of five Tony awards in 1986 and nominated for five for the recent revival, the show features zany show-stopping musical numbers, and over-the-top comedy.

The production features musical direction by Ed Bara and choreography by Jeffrey Peterson. Conductor Vince Di Mura leads an 18-piece orchestra that will round out the show’s Music Hall sensibility.

The show features a 19th century British Music Hall-inspired set by Tim Averill with elaborate scenic painting designed by Emily Baldasarra. Nicole Wee designs costumes. Susan Hamburger serves as lighting designer.

All productions are performed at Muhlenberg College, one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” runs Oct. 25 through Nov. 3 in the Empire Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Opening-weekend performances, Oct. 25-27, are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Second-week performances, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $8 for students and children. Special rates are available for groups, subscribers, and LVAIC students and employees.

Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre or 484-664-3333.

Muhlenberg Guest Artist Doppelskope Offers Existential Therapy Session — With Puppets

doppelskopeAllentown, PA — The performance duo Doppelskope — Ora Fruchter and Muhlenberg alum Christopher Scheer ’07 — brings its trademark show “An Existential Sing-Along” to the Muhlenberg College campus, Oct. 8 and 9.

The Scheer describes Doppelskope as “an interactive and absurd neo-vaudeville theater group that makes wild, freewheeling new shows with puppetry, magic and clown in order to splatter your reality in an hour or less.”

The duo employs whimsical performance techniques to explore obsession, anxiety and uncertainty. Scheer says that the interactive show features nightly raffles, giveaways, and choose-your-own-adventures, and that “after you leave ‘An Existential Sing-Along’ your perspective and/or marital status will never be the same again.”

“These two slightly off-the-wall and uninhibited artists take the personalized human experience and condition to an entirely new level,” writes Alan Vetter in the Taos (N.M.) News. “Singularly, Scheer and Fruchter’s energy are downright enchanting, but together, they put forth what appears to be mind-numbing brilliance.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review has ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program as in the top twelve in the nation for the past seven years, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Performances of “An Existential Sing-Along” are Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 9 at 7 and 9 p.m. All tickets are $8. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

‘New Voices’ World Premiere Festival At Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – From the minds of four emerging playwrights comes Muhlenberg College‘s “New Voices,” an evening of world premiere theater that includes three short plays and one original musical.

“This season, four excellent plays promise an evening of entertainment and deep psychological engagement,” says Matthew Moore, Muhlenberg faculty member and the artistic director for the production.

“New Voices” plays Oct. 2-6 on Muhlenberg’s Studio Theatre stage.

In “Sinternet! The Musical,” a college professor sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the destruction of the internet. Josh Shapiro ’13 wrote the book and lyrics, with music by Jakeim Hart ’16 and Richie Kormos ’16. Moore directs the play, with choreography by Meredith Testa ’14.

In “Restroom Rehearsal,” Jeremy Russial ’13 explores the idea of what it means to be honest—in the women’s restroom. Jeremy Borut ’14 directs. Pricking,” by Eliana Sagarin ’14, tells the story of three young people trying to cope with feelings they can’t understand in the wake of their friend’s death. Jenna Spiwack ’14 directs. And in “Superhuman,” by Zachary Shery ’14, four people endowed with extraordinary powers struggle to find their place in the world. Alyssa Trombitas ’14 directs.

“The pieces speak greatly to the voices of a maturing generation,” Spiwack says. “But I think everyone will be able to find a moment that holds true to their experience at any age, and that’s what I think makes the experience so powerful.”

The New Voices Playwright’s Festival is presented every other year as a part of the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Mainstage season. The festival provides emerging young playwrights the opportunity to showcase their work in a collaborative and intimate environment. It also offers a rare opportunity for audiences to see the work of the next generation of up-and-coming theater artists.

“I am proud to facilitate the performance of these important student works,” Moore says. “The ‘New Voices’ festival represents this department’s dedication to providing students with professional experience. For the playwrights, this is a unique opportunity to develop a work and see it though from conception to staging.”

MuhlenbergCollege is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review has ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program as in the top twelve in the nation for the past seven years, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Performances of “New Voices” are Oct. 2-6: Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 2-4, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 5, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

Muhlenberg College’s Acclaimed Theatre & Dance Department Anounces 2013-2014 Season

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ALLENTOWN, PA — Muhlenberg Muhlenberg College‘s nationally-ranked Theatre & Dance Department announces its 2013-2014 mainstage season. Highlights include works ranging from Shakespeare to Caryl Churchill, a biannual festival of student-written plays, and a murder mystery musical comedy.

The season features six fully mounted theatrical productions and three mainstage dance concerts, running from October 2013 to April 2014.

“This exciting season features the new and the newly imagined,” says Beth Schachter, newly-appointed chair of the department. “We are presenting world premieres and fresh versions of classics, spanning international topics and American issues through comedic and serious projects.”

The season begins with “New Voices,” Oct. 2-6, a new-play festival featuring the work of students and alumni. The festival features four world premiere plays, with Muhlenberg faculty member Matthew Moore as artistic director.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” Oct. 25 through Nov. 3, directed by Charles Richter, is the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ final, unfinished novel, filled with mistaken identity, humor, and audience participation. And since the story is unfinished, the audience gets to vote at each performance on how the play will end.

“Moving Stories,” Nov. 14-16, features original choreography by the department’s upperclass dance majors, in a variety of genres and styles. The concert showcases dance as storytelling, narration in human form, addressing themes as broad ranging as the students’ own diverse backgrounds. Karen Dearborn serves as artistic director.

Shakespeare’s rarely produced “The Winter’s Tale,” Nov. 20-24, shows the Bard at his most brilliantly experimental. Director Troy Dwyer’s lean, quick-paced re-envisioning will feature original music and dance by Muhlenberg student artists.

“Master Choreographers,” Feb. 6-8, with artistic direction by Karen Dearborn, features seven works by faculty and guest artists, including a restaging of “D-Man in the Waters” by acclaimed choreographer Bill T. Jones. The “D-Man” performance will be the culmination of a residency by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, sponsored by the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation.

“The Learned Ladies,” Feb 20-23, directed by James Peck, is one of the most popular comedies of 17th century playwright Molière. A satire of academic pretention, the play will feature a faculty spotlight performance by Francine Roussel in the role of Belise.

The “New Visions” Directors’ Festival, March 19-23, will feature the work of three student theater artists. The festival includes: Tom Stoppard’s “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” directed by Ben Wald ’14; “butyou’reaman” a one-person show by Matt Dicken about his experience as a gay man visiting India; and “Still Life with Iris,” directed by Alex McKhann, Muhlenberg’s first mainstage student-directed children’s show.

“Dance Emerge,” April 10-13, showcases the ideas and talents of our brightest young choreographers. The intimate Dance Studio Theatre is the backdrop for innovative, explorative dance pieces. Artistic direction is by Corrie Franz Cowart.

Caryl Churchill’s “Mad Forest,” April 24-26, directed by Beth Schachter, is a play of romance and politics, bookended by weddings. Set during and after the 1989 Romanian Revolution, the play uses the tale of two families to evoke the internal psychological landscapes of people suffering under oppression. The production features a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate.

The mainstage performance series is produced by Muhlenberg College’s acclaimed Theatre & Dance Department, Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater 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 theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Discounts are available for packages of four or more productions. Tickets and information: 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Production Of Rock Opera ‘Superstar’ Explores Human Side Of Crucifixion Story

Allentown, PA– James Peck vividly remembers the best rock concert he ever attended: U2 at the Meadowlands in 2011.

“It was one of the most quote-unquote ‘ritualistic’ theater experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “It had that seize-your-body, wash-over-you aspect of rock-and-roll—that feeling that you’re part of something larger than you. That aspect of ritual.”

That’s the feeling that Peck wants to create as the director of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” opening July 10 at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“‘Superstar’ is a big epic rock musical about one of the greatest stories ever told,” Peck says. “In the way that a really great rock concert makes you feel like you’re part of something big and cosmic, I think a great production of this show should work the crowd into a sort of oceanic sense of being in touch with something in the universe.”

This summer marks not only the Muhlenberg premiere of “Superstar,” but also the return of former Muhlenberg dance professor Charles O. Anderson. Anderson returns from Austin, Texas, where he teaches dance at University of Texas Austin. Ken Butler serves as the musical director.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28, Wednesday through Sunday on the Empie Stage, MuhlenbergCollege.

“Superstar” dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion. Set to a rock score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the show looks at those seven days through the eyes Judas, the disciple who betrays Jesus and “one of history’s great so-called villains,” Peck says.

“It is unusual for a show to take the vantage point of Judas,” Peck says. “But it’s what makes ‘Superstar’ unique.”

The show features the hit songs “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar.”

What interests Peck most, he says, is the way the play explores the humanity of the characters—real people at the epicenter of one of history’s great moments.

“You get a sense of Jesus as a human,” he says, “of how exhausting it must be to be at the heart of a world movement.”

“Superstar” features a cast of 27, including Muhlenberg alumni Dan Cary ’08 as Jesus, Jessie MacBeth ’13 as Mary Magdalene, and Equity guest artist Kennedy Kanagawa ’08 as Judas. The show also features guest artists from the LehighValley including Ed Bara as Caiaphas, Bill Mutimer as Herod, and Joshua Neth as Pontius Pilate.

“What I love about ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is that it takes these iconic figures that we are used to thinking of abstractly, and it humanizes them,” Kanagawa says. “They have emotions and desires and allegiances and secrets. The idea of returning to my alma mater and making these discoveries along with this brilliantly talented creative team is thrilling.”

The show features a spare, earthy design by Tim Averill, who brings his interest in sustainable theater design to the production. Annie Simon’s costume designs draw from 1970s and contemporary grunge fashion. Lighting design by John McKernon brings a rock-show sensibility to the performance. The five-piece band led by Vince Di Mura will feature a lean rock-band sound—less lush Broadway score and more rock-and-roll.

The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre has been bringing excellent theatre to the LehighValley for 33 years. All productions are performed at MuhlenbergCollege, one of the top-rated college performance programs in the country according to the Princeton Review rankings. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28 in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown, Pa.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular admission tickets for the first four shows are $32; seniors (65 +) are $28; students and children are $20. For the remainder of the run, regular admission tickets are $38; seniors (65+) are $35; students and children are $20. Family matinees on Sundays are just $10 for children. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $25 per person and $16 for students and children.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/smt

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Embarks On 33rd Theatrical Season

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa. —The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre festival at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 2013 summer season — the 33rd in the festival’s history. The season will feature “Crazy for You,” the musical based on the music of George and Ira Gershwin; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”; and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss musical for young audiences.

Opening the summer season is “Crazy for You,” June 12-30, winner of the 1992 Tony Award for best musical. Based on the music of George and Ira Gerswhin, “Crazy for You” features some of the best-loved Gershwin tunes, as well as virtuoso tap dance numbers, choreographed by Karen Dearborn.

The groundbreaking rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, runs July 10-28. Directed by James Peck, the show dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus. Former Muhlenberg dance professor Charles O. Anderson choreographs the production.

“Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss Musical, runs June 19 through July 27, presented in a special hour-and-15-minute Young Audiences edition. This show brings a slew of popular Dr. Seuss characters to the stage, with music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. “Seussical” is recommended for ages 4 and up.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT and at 484-664-3693.

“Crazy for You” is the story of Bobby Child, a well-to-do 1930s playboy, whose dream in life is to dance—and despite the serious efforts of his mother and soon-to-be-ex-fiancée, Bobby achieves his dream. Full of showgirls, tap dancing, and mistaken identity, this musical comedy features the classic Gershwin tunes  “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

The Broadway production of “Crazy for You” garnered numerous awards when it premiered in 1992, including the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Costume Design. Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre founding artistic director Charles Richter directs the production. Ed Bara is musical director, and Karen Dearborn is choreographer.

The Muhlenberg premiere of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion. With a lively score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, this hit musical gained prestige in its 1972, 2000, and 2012 Broadway productions. MSMT veterans James Peck and Ken Butler serve as director and musical director, respectively.

Former Muhlenberg faculty member Charles O. Anderson returns to choreograph “Superstar.” Anderson was named one of “25 to Watch” in 2008 by Dance Magazine, and his work has been presented at high-profile regional venues around the country.

“Seussical,” the Dr. Seuss Musical, the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have lovingly brought to life an assortment of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters, including the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, the lazy bird Mayzie, and Jojo, a little boy with a big imagination.

This hour-and-15-minute Young Audiences edition of “Seussical” is directed by Benjy Shaw, with musical direction by David Dabbon and choreography by Nina Pongratz. It is appropriate for ages four and up.

“Crazy for You” runs June 12-30; “Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for both “Crazy for You” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are as follows. For the first four performances: $32 regular admission; seniors are $28; students and children are $18. For the remaining 11 performances: $38 regular admission; seniors are $35; students and children are $20.

“Seussical” runs June 19 through July 27. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only.  All tickets to “Seussical” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Sundays are Family Matinee Day; mainstage tickets for children ages 5-18 are just $10 when purchased with a full-price or senior ticket. (Limit two discounted tickets per full-price ticket.)

Subscriptions to “Crazy for You” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are available for $50 for the first four shows, or $60 for the remaining 11 shows. Group discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Audio Description for patrons who are visually impaired will be available at the Sunday, June 23, performance of “Crazy for You.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Its 15th Summer Of Middle School Arts Camp

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa  — This summer, Muhlenberg College‘s Camp Imagine program celebrates its 15th 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.

High school students can enroll in the Performing Arts Workshop.  Both programs provide invaluable experiences and opportunities to nurture passion for the performing arts and build real-life interpersonal and expressive skills.  The programs meet for three hours each week day, July 1-26.

“We all build confidence in each other,” said a former participant the Performing Arts Workshop.

Each program will culminate in a free showcase performance for family and friends at the conclusion of the four weeks.  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.

“I think that the arts provide not only a tool for performance, but a tool for life,” says Renee Lorenzetti, related arts coordinator for the Allentown School District.  “It’s how we live and it’s who we are; and it’s what we need in our society.”

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.

The Workshop takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the study, creation, and performance of theatre. Students will work in a professional studio setting, learning not only acting, dance, and voice, but also advanced audition technique, ensemble collaboration, and character development.  Sessions are modeled after college classes, providing students with the opportunity to experience college-level performing arts instruction.  The workshop experience will conclude with an original ensemble performance.

Camp Imagine meets 9:30 to 12:30 a.m.  A lunch is provided for free to all participants, and free bus transportation is provided from all four Allentown School District middle schools.  For students not enrolled in the Allentown School District, tuition is $395; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available. The Camp Imagine showcase is Saturday, July 27, at 10 a.m.

The Performing Arts Workshop meets 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Tuition for all students is $465; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available.

Both programs meet July 1-26, except for July 4.  Students must register to participate.  Applications are available online atwww.muhlenberg.edu/camp, and by request at camp@muhlenberg.edu or 484-664-3693.

The programs are made possible by underwriting support from Enterprise Car Rentals, Crayola, The Foundation for Allentown City Schools, and others.

 

Muhlenberg’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ Brings Beaumarchais’s 18th Century Comedy To A Modern Audience

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa – “The Marriage of Figaro” is known worldwide to opera aficionados and Bugs Bunny fans from the opera composed by W.A. Mozart. Less well-known to modern audiences is the 1784 comedy by French playwright Beaumarchais, upon which Mozart based his opera.

The Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department will present the Beaumarchais play as the finale to its 2012-13 Mainstage Series, April 25-28. Directed by Francine Roussel, the production will feature an original score by composer and musician Mike Krisukas, known to Lehigh Valley audiences as the guitarist and lead songwriter for the band Zen For Primates.

“‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is so well built, the characters so real, and the spirit of the play so uplifting that it deserves exposure to an American audience,” Roussel says. “Opera buffs may know the Mozart classic, but less often the play on which it is based. On Beaumarchais’ behalf, we hope to rectify that inequity.”

Writing a few years before the French Revolution, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais pours his rage at the aristocracy into “The Marriage of Figaro,” which manages equal parts hilarity and outrage. First produced in 1784, the play was a sequel to “The Barber of Seville,” picking up three years after the wedding of the Count and Countess that concludes that play. Now Figaro, the Count’s valet, plans to marry, but the Count has tired of his lovely Countess and lusts for Figaro’s bride-to-be, Suzanne. He determines to revive the ancient “droit du seigneur” — the lord of the manor’s right to bed any new bride on her wedding night.

Figaro, Suzanne and the Countess concoct a counter-plot, but the Count’s page, Cherubin, makes hash of it through his passionate crush on the Countess. The multiple layers of misunderstanding yield what Roussel calls “one of the most perfect farce scenes of all time,” in one of the most scathing critiques of aristocratic privilege ever written.

“Le droit du seigneur — while anathema to modern sensibilities — was the ‘natural order’ for the aristocracy in much of 18th century Europe,” Roussel says. “Beaumarchais had the temerity to write a comedy about this shocking practice, subtly undermining class privilege, exposing gender inequalities, and revolutionizing the condition of women. Danton claimed that ‘Figaro killed off the nobility.’ Perhaps — but with laughter, not the guillotine.”

Krisukas says his starting point for the show’s original score was his and Roussel’s mutual interest in Spanish flamenco styles.

“Part of the excitement in entering a new artistic project is the opportunity to be quickly thrust into a new world,” Krisukas says. “It’s like going on a journey and immersing yourself in some new land with its own culture, language, history and artistic perspective.”

The production also features original choreography by Nina Pongratz, scenic and lighting design by Curtis Dretsch, and costume design by Liz Covey.

“All Will End with Joyful Songs: A Panel Discussion” will be held Thursday, April 25, at 12:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Baker Center for the Arts. This discussion will provide unique perspectives on the content and context of “The Marriage of Figaro.” Theatre professor James Peck and French professor Kathy Wixon will moderate the discussion. The panel will include Roussel, Krisukas, Pongratz, and students of Wixon’s French Theatre of the Resistance course.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater 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 theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Performances of “The Marriage of Figaro” are April 25-28: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty and staff and for patrons 17 and under.

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 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.