A Festival Of Innovative One-Act Plays, Muhlenberg’s ‘New Visions’ Spotlights Inspired Work Of Talented Student Directors

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – Emerging theatrical talents will be on display in Muhlenberg College’s “New Visions” Directors’ Festival, featuring plays directed by four senior directing students in the College’s Department of Theatre & Dance. “New Visions” plays Sept. 27-30 on Muhlenberg’s Studio Theatre stage.

The festival will be presented in two evenings. Evening A features Federico Garcia Lorca’s “The Love of Don Perlimplin for Belisa in the Garden,” directed by Allison Lloyd, and Romulus Linney’s “Hrosvitha,” directed by Julia Schneiderman. Evening B features “Out Loud: Three Short Plays,” directed by Michael Witkes, and Caryl Churchill’s “This is a Chair,” directed by Hayley Cooke.

“The Love of Don Perlimplin for Belisa in the Garden” tells the story of Don Perlimplin, a hopeless bachelor, who is convinced to marry the beautiful but promiscuous Belisa. Four potent scenes illustrate the tale of a man overcome by the spirits of passion and the desire to win the love of the woman to whom he is married.

The title character in “Hrosvitha” was a canoness at Gandersheim Abbey in 10th century Saxony, and is regarded as the first Christian playwright. By imagining the visit of a hostile monk and the conflict that unfolds, Romulus Linney examines the tensions that exist within and around Hrosvitha — a forward-thinking woman with an understanding of the world that didn’t always harmonize with her religious beliefs and deep faith.

“The play contends that we are the authors of our own stories,” Schneiderman says, “and that women, most of all, must struggle to rewrite the world around them.”

“Out Loud” comprises three short plays: “Black Eye” by Carolyn Gage, “Game On” by Gary Garrison and “Baby Steps” by Geoffrey Nauffts. The show explores the importance of overcoming the stigmatization of homosexuality and fighting for one’s sexual identity. One actor plays the lead in all three plays, following a journey from hiding his sexuality, to coming out with hesitation, to finally embracing his sexuality and standing up for himself as a proud gay man.

“This is a Chair” explores the relationship between language and meaning. Eight vignettes, juxtaposed with large title signs, look at the complexities of human relationships and the struggle to connect.

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 in the top twelve in the nation for seven years in a row, 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 Visions” are Sept. 27-30. Evening A will be performed Saturday, Sept. 27, at 2 and 8 p.m and Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. Evening B will be performed Sunday, Sept. 28, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for one evening and $20 for a combination ticket including both nights. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatreanddance or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

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

Logo of Muhlenberg College

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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New Visions Emerging Artists’ Festival At Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College

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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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.

‘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

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’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.

Dance Performance April 18-21 Displays Talent Of 14 Young Choreographers, 60 Dancers

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 “Dance Emerge,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, April 18-21 in the College’s Dance Studio Theatre. Jeffrey Peterson and Teresa VanDenend Sorge are co-artistic directors for the concert.

“The choreographers have developed mature works that ultimately explore elements of the human experience, including themes of loss, community, and celebration,” VanDenend Sorge says. “An eclectic array of innovative choreography, the concert will run the gamut from contemplation to exaltation.”

‘Dance Emerge’ will showcase 14 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.

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 18-21 in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, April 18-19, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 21, at 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 ttp://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance

Mental Landscapes, March 20-24 At Muhlenberg‏ College

‘New Visions’ Directors’ Festival to showcase promising young directors

March 20-24 festival includes ‘Iphigenia and Other Daughters,’ evening of one-act plays

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa – Emerging directorial talents will be on display in Muhlenberg College‘s “New Visions” Directors’ 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 two productions, performed in repertory: Ellen McLaughlin’s “Iphigenia and Other Daughters,” directed by Danielle Barlow, and “Mental Landscapes,” an evening of three one-act plays directed by Jimmy Morgan, Abby Wylan, and Riva Rubenoff.

The festival runs Wednesday through Sunday, March 20-24. “Iphigenia and Other Daughters” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m., Thursday and Saturday at 10 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. “Mental Landscapes” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 10 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.

“Iphigenia and Other Daughters,” McLaughlin’s poetic modern adaptation of the legend of Agamemnon and the aftermath of the Trojan War, offers a provocative feminist perspective on a story of lust, fury, sacrifice and rebellion. The “good girl” of the bloodiest family in Greek legend, Iphigenia is sent in a time of suffering and war as a sacrifice to appease the gods. She is saved at the eleventh hour, but by then her family has spiraled into vengeful obsession and self-destruction.

“Mental Landscapes” includes three plays that explore the topography of the world in our heads, the anxiety of forging a path through it, and the uncertainty that lies beyond. Morgan directs “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick,” by Kobo Abe. Wylan directs “Intermission,” by Will Eno. Rubenoff directs “Rough for Theatre II,” by Samuel Beckett.

Both evenings are intended for mature audiences.

MuhlenbergCollege 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 “Iphigenia and Other Daughters” or “Mental Landscapes” 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, MuhlenbergCollege, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre

New Play ‘The Bourgeois Pig’ Reaches The Stage At Muhlenberg

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa – “The Bourgeois Pig,” a new play by award-winning playwright Brighde Mullins, will be presented in its first full-scale production, Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 at Muhlenberg College.  Beth Schachter directs the production.

Named for a notorious paparazzi hangout spot in Los Angeles, “The Bourgeois Pig” explores the power of image—on the page and in the public eye—through the character of a late-1970s war photographer-turned-paparazzi.  The play will be presented in Muhlenberg’s 100-seat Studio Theatre.

“The play was inspired by my move to Hollywood from Cambridge, Mass.,” Mullins says. “I moved from a place where people walk around reading books—they are actually often reading while walking—to a place where there was no evidence of that kind of immersion in words, in language.  It was all about the surface, the image.  And in my new neighborhood there were lots of guys hanging around.  I thought they were dealers, but it turned out that they were paparazzi.

“I started talking with them, and I started to have sympathy for these people who are an underclass in Los Angeles.  They are considered bottom-feeders.”

Set in 1978 Los Angeles, “The Bourgeois Pig” tells the story of the Riley family, trying hard to hang onto their hopes and each other in the face of serious dysfunction.  Jack, the father, is a brilliant but damaged former war photographer who never really came back from Vietnam, now making his living as a paparazzi.  His ex-wife Francie hasn’t quite given up on an acting career that began (and pretty much ended) with an appearance on “Laugh-In” eight years before.  Older daughter Riley is in her first year at UCLA, awakening to intellectual exploration and her attraction to women.  Her sister Colette struggles with the pressure of her mother’s expectation that she grow up thin and beautiful, and find the success that Francie never had.

The play has been presented several times in workshops and staged readings over the past four years — at Minneapolis PlayLabs, at Bard College, and at the Blank Theatre, in Los Angeles — but this is the first full-scale production.  Mullins says the play has evolved considerably over that time.  The cast was still receiving text revisions up to just a couple weeks before the play’s opening.

“I think I first told Beth of my idea for the play and we’ve been talking ever since — this was four years ago,” Mullins says. “Theater is so collaborative, and a large part of making plays is finding simpatico souls.”

A 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Award-winning playwright, Mullins holds Master of Fine Arts degrees from the Yale School of Drama, in playwriting, and the Iowa Writers Workshop, in poetry.  Her plays include “Rare Bird,” “Monkey in the Middle” (produced at Muhlenberg in 2007), “Those Who Can, Do,” “Fire Eater,” “Topographical Eden,” and “Pathological Venus.” Her plays have been seen in London, at the Tristan Bates Theatre; and in New York, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.  Other awards include an NEA Fellowship a 2010 United States Artists Award in Literature, and a Gold Medal from “The Pinter Review.”

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 Bourgeois Pig” are Nov. 28 through Dec. 2: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 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.  The performance is intended for mature audiences.

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/main/academics/theatre-dance/

‘Moving Stories’ Dance Concert Showcases Innovative Work By Student Choreographers In A Nationally Acclaimed 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. 15-17 in the College’s Baker Theatre.  Artistic director Karen Dearborn says the 10 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.

“‘Moving Stories’ is designed to inspire and challenge audiences,” Dearborn says.  “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 50 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 ten original dances include contemporary ballet, jazz styles and modern works that investigate perpetual motion, the fight or flight response, trust in relationships, and a neuroscience take on active/passive brain and body activity.  The dances range in tone from the comedic to the serious.

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. 15-17 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, MuhlenbergCollege, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 15-16, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 17, 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 http://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance/

Muhlenberg Theatre And Dance Launches 2012-13 Season

Mainstage season will feature seven theater productions, three dance concerts, including a world premiere play

Allentown, Pa. (Sept. 11, 2012)—The Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre & Dance will open its 2012-13 Mainstage season later this month, with the first of seven theater productions and three dance concerts. Last September, the department was named the No. 1 theater production program in the country for 2012, by The Princeton Review.

The season is as follows. Ticket information for all production follows the listings.

“44 Plays for 44 Presidents”

Sept. 29 – Oct. 3

by The Neo-Futurists

production artistic director: Troy Dwyer

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

This raucous theatrical mosaic of the U.S. presidency tours the audience through a fractured funhouse of 44 short, non-realist plays, each inspired by a different president. The plays range in length from seconds to several minutes, in tone from poetic to slapstick, and in style from song-and-dance to cowboy western.

Performances are Sept. 29 through Oct. 3: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 and 8 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 1, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m.

“On the Town”

Oct. 26 – Nov. 4

music by Leonard Bernstein

book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

based on an idea by Jerome Robbins

directed by Charles Richter; musical director, Ed Bara; choreographer, Karen Dearborn

in the Empie Theatre, BakerCenter for the Arts

“On the Town” is a love letter to the Big Apple by four iconic talents of the American musical theater. Three sailors look for love and excitement on a one-day pass in New York City, in this 1940s blockbuster, featuring superb dancing, a gorgeous musical score, and zingy book and lyrics.

Performances are Oct. 26 through Nov. 4: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m.. Tickets are $22. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Friday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m.

“Moving Stories”

Nov. 15-17

Student-choreographed dance

Artistic director Karen Dearborn

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Original dance pieces by upperclass students in the nationally acclaimed Muhlenberg College Dance Program span a variety of genres and styles.

Performances are Nov. 15-17: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2 and 8 p.m.

“The Bourgeois Pig”

Nov. 28 – Dec. 2

A World Premiere Play

by Brighde Mullins

directed by Beth Schachter

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

It’s 1978 Los Angeles, and the Riley family is trying hard to hang on—to their hopes and to each other—in the face of serious dysfunction. Jack, the father, is a brilliant but damaged former war photographer-turned-reluctant paparazzi. His ex-wife can’t face the reality of a failed acting career. Their daughters cope with the fallout of their parents’ struggles. This funny and powerful new play by Guggenheim Fellow Brighde Mullins explores the power of the image—on the page and in the public eye.

Performances are Nov. 28 through Dec. 2: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 2, 2 p.m.

“Master Choreographers”

Feb. 7-9, 2013

artistic director Karen Dearborn

in the Empie Theatre, BakerCenter for the Arts

A spectacular evening of ballet, contemporary dance, tap and jazz, “Master Choreographers” showcases exciting new dance works by nationally and internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty. This year’s concert features a restaging of part of “Viva Vivaldi,” the Joffrey Ballet’s signature work, staged by Trinette Singleton, co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Company and longtime Joffrey dancer.

Performances are Feb. 7-9: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 8, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2 and 8 p.m

“Bartholomew Fair”

Feb. 21-24, 2013

by Ben Jonson

directed by Kevin Crawford

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Ben Jonson’s 1614 play is a noisy, exuberant slice of Jacobean life, pitting the excesses of Puritanism against the cruder vices of the Fair’s underclass. The production features a new musical score by Caroline Boersma, based on traditional folk melodies, and a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate.

Performances are Feb. 21-24: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2 p.m.

“New Visions Directors Festival”

March 20-24, 2013

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

“Iphigenia and Other Daughters”

by Ellen McLaughlin

directed by Danielle Barlow

“Mental Landscapes: An Evening of One-Act Plays”

featuring: “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick,” by Kobo Abe, directed by Jimmy Morgan; “Intermission,” by Will Eno, directed by Abby Wylan; and “Rough for Theatre II,” by Samuel Beckett, directed by Riva Rubenoff

“Iphigenia and Other Daughters,” McLaughlin’s poetic modern adaptation of the legend of Agamemnon and the aftermath of the Trojan War, offers a bold, provocative feminist perspective on a story of lust, fury, sacrifice and rebellion.

In “Mental Landscapes,” three of Muhlenberg’s most accomplished student directors present an evening of life, death and absurdity.

Performances are March 20-24. “Iphigenia” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m., Thursday and Saturday at 10 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.. “Mental Landscapes” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 10 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for either production, or $20 for both. Youth and campus tickets are $8 for either production, or $12 for both. Campus tickets include students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Wednesday, March 20: “Iphigenia” at 7 p.m., “Mental Landscapes” at 10 p.m.

Thursday, March 21: “Mental Landscapes” at 7 p.m., “Iphigenia” at 10 p.m.

Friday, March 22: “Iphigenia” at 7 p.m., “Mental Landscapes” at 10 p.m.

Saturday, March 23: “Mental Landscapes” at 2 and 7 p.m., “Iphigenia” at 10 p.m.

Sunday, March 24: “Iphigenia” at 2 p.m.

“Dance Emerge”

April 18-21, 2013

Student-choreographed dance

Artistic directors Jeffrey Peterson and Teresa VanDenend Sorge

in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Original dance pieces by upperclass students in the nationally acclaimed Muhlenberg College Dance Program span a variety of genres and styles.

Performances are April 18-21: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, April 18, 8 p.m.

Friday, April 19, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 20, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, 8 p.m.

“The Marriage of Figaro”

April 25-28, 2013

by Beaumarchais

directed by Francine Roussel

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Writing a few years before the French Revolution, Beaumarchais pours his rage at the aristocracy into a comedy of class and sexual inequality that manages equal parts hilarity and outrage. First produced in 1784, this play about plots, assignations, and the “droit du seigneur” served as the inspiration for Mozart’s famous 1786 opera.

Performances are April 25-28: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, April 25, 8 p.m.

Friday, April 26, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 28, 2 p.m.

Ticket Information

All venues are at the Muhlenberg College performing arts campus, 2400 Chew Street, Allentown, 18104. Tickets are available at the box office, on the first floor of the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, or at 484-664-3333, Monday through Friday noon to 6 p.m. and two hours before each performance. Tickets and information are available online at www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance.

’44 Plays For 44 Presidents’ Opens Discussion Of Who Will Be No. 45

Muhlenberg College‘s production, running Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, celebrates democracy in conjunction with the first Plays for Presidents Festival

Allentown, Pa (Sept. 7, 2012) – As the 2012 presidential election approaches, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department prepares to celebrate with a production of the Neo-Futurists‘ “44 Plays for 44 Presidents,” opening Sept. 29. Director Troy Dwyer leads the way as one of the founding fathers in the inauguration of the first Plays for Presidents Festival.

“People should expect to have fun, to laugh, and to be inspired to think about the world outside of the theatre,” Dwyer says.

Dwyer serves as artistic director for the production, as well as co-directing the plays with Lily Dwoskin, Jerald Kaplan and Judith Mandel, and choreographers Allison Berger and Nina Pongratz.  The play runs Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 in the college’s 100-seat Studio Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

The play highlights the lives of all 44 presidents in short, often comedic, quasi-biographical scenes.  The plays vary in style from a sepia-washed cowboy movie homage to a modern game show.

“You think you are going to see a play that will essentially be a history lesson–you’re not,” Dwoskin says.  “All of the facts in the show are historically accurate, but it is NOT a historical play.  It’s really uniquely vaudeville.  It’s crazy, a lot of things are going on.”

Muhlenberg’s production is presented as part of the Plays for Presidents Festival 2012, in which 44 theater groups from all over the country will produce “44 Plays for 44 Presidents.”  The festival is closely tied with the Rock the Vote campaign to inspire people to both register and vote.  The festival culminates in shows all around the nation in the months leading up to the presidential election, as well as an online video production of the show, including one scene from each of the 44 productions. Muhlenberg College’s scene for the collaborative film will be James Buchanan, the 15th and only Pennsylvania-born president.

“The presidential election will be less than 80 days away during show week,” Kaplan says.  “With the election quickly approaching, ’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ really puts into perspective what we are voting this person to do.  It promotes the actual weight of being a president and reminds the audience that they have this incredible right to choose our next leader.”

Like Rock the Vote, the Plays for Presidents Festival is an entirely non-partisan movement, intended to inspire all eligible voters to hit the polls, regardless of party affiliation.

“This show puts political options in different terms, making us think more about the historical moment of now,” Dwyer says.  “It helps us imagine what the 45th play might be.”

The four directors will each be working on 11 of the scenes, working with an ensemble of 20 actors.  By incorporating multimedia, dance and music, “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” showcases a diverse group of performers.

“We’re not trying to have the actors embody each president,” Mandel says.  “The audience will and should know that they are actors; at times they even speak as themselves.  By integrating dance and song alongside the acting, the show manages to really highlight so many kinds of talent in a short amount of time.”

The show is interactive in a “super flavorful and playful way,” says Dwyer. “’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ incites people to talk about politics by showcasing politics in a fun light.  There’s a narrative momentum to the piece that makes the audience anxious to see how the modern presidents are depicted.”

Dwyer says that — with four directors, two choreographers, five designers, four stage managers, and 20 actors — the theatre production is itself a model of the democratic process in action.

“I have been working with the other directors to ensure that this project is a democracy and not a dictatorship,” Dwyer says.  “I want to help them notice both the pitfalls and potential of their ideas.  It’s difficult to do a project of this scale, but democracy is always a challenge, because you’re catering to more than one person’s vision.  We will hopefully become a chorus of voices which will strike a harmonious final chord.”

“We are the people and we are shaping the play,” Mandel says.  “Much like ‘we the people’ are shaping the future of America with our right to vote.”

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 “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” are Sept. 29 through Oct. 3: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday at 8 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 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 www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

Sam Shepherd’s “Curse Of The Starving Class” At Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa. (Nov. 17, 2011) — Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Sam Shepard delves into the darkest corners of the American family in his 1978 play “Curse of the Starving Class,” opening Nov. 30 at Muhlenberg College.

Part of Shepard’s series of “family tragedy” plays, “Curse” continues the playwright’s exploration of the death of the American family—embodied by the Tate family, whose personal and financial struggles have pushed them to desperation. The New York Times called the play “Shepard’s most comic and most excoriating study of the indomesticity of the American household.”

“Curse of the Starving Class” plays Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 in Muhlenberg’s 100-seat Studio Theatre.

The production marks Muhlenberg faculty member Larry Singer’s return to the stage after 20 years. Singer teaches acting as a visiting assistant professor in the Theatre and Dance Department. He made his Broadway debut in 1980 and worked as an actor for the next decade, but since 1988 has worked primarily as a teacher and director.

A poll of Back Stage magazine readers named Singer the best scene study teacher and acting coach in New York City, in the magazine’s 2011 Back Stage Choice Awards. Singer says that “Curse of the Starving Class” has provided a challenging return to the stage.

“Shepard writes completely with his heart, trying to bear and expunge his own demons,” Singer says. “You just sense that as an artist, he’s not holding back, and he’s unequivocal in his determination to do that, and that inspires me as an actor to follow suit.”

Director Francine Roussel, also a faculty member in the Theatre and Dance Department, says the play has particular resonance now, in the wake of recent financial scandals and what she calls America’s growing distrust of the elite.

“The greed of American culture is a dominant theme in the play—how that greed overwhelms the characters’ sense of family,” Roussel says. “The play is talking about the dysfunctional family, but it also has the bigger context that is the crisis of capitalism, and the risk of the excesses that are beyond the individual crisis of this family.”

“Curse of the Starving Class” tells the story of the Tate family, barely subsisting on a scrap of a California avocado farm. The son, Wesley, stands on the precarious edge of manhood, his prospects dim, while his sister Emma immerses herself in 4-H projects and horseback fantasies. Their father Weston, played by Singer, has driven the family deep into debt, but he’s got a scheme to sell the place and start fresh. He has no idea that his wife Ella is cooking up a scheme of her own.

Roussel says the Tates are doomed from the start—by Weston’s alcoholism, by greed, and by their inability to come together as a family.

“The parents are behaving more like children, and the children are being forced to grow up very fast and to try to be responsible,” she says. “But of course they haven’t been given the tools to do that, to grow up. The family members cling to each other and claw at each other at the same time; they feel like they need each other to survive, but like they’re trapped.

“There’s a beautiful image at the end of the play,” Roussel says, “of an eagle who is flying in midair with a cat hanging by its claws from the eagle’s chest. They are destroying each other. And even though they’re trying to survive, both of them will eventually fall to their death.”

Singer says that, besides the playwright’s brutal honesty and excoriating, dark sense of humor, what most distinguishes Shepard’s writing is its sense of rhythm.

“The rhythms are challenging at first,” he says, “but after a while you feel like you’re galloping along with a horse. It’s a great feeling. Sometimes you fall off, and it hurts, but otherwise galloping is a great rhythm.”

The play presents some unique production challenges—chief among them, that it calls for a live lamb to join the cast.

“We have to make sure it’s not too big, make sure it’s used to being handled by humans and not just wild in the fields,” Roussel says. “That remains our number one concern.”

Muhlenberg College‘s Theatre & Dance Department is the top-rated college performance program in the country, according to the Princeton Review‘s 2012 survey report. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa, offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“Curse of the Starving Class” will be performed Nov. 30 – Dec. 4: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 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 Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.    ***For mature audiences***

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

Sondheim’s “Merrily” At Muhlenberg‏

Merrily We Roll Along‘ takes audiences backwards through a life in the arts

Wistful and innovative, Sondheim musical opens Oct. 28 at Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance

Allentown, Pa. (Oct. 17, 2011) — When “Merrily We Roll Along,” the wistful 1981 musical by Stephen Sondheim, opens Oct. 28 at Muhlenberg College, it will take audiences on a journey through time, as many musicals do. The difference is that “Merrily’s” audiences will be journeying backwards, following a group of artists from the end of their long friendship, at the beginning off the show, to their first moments together, at the show’s end.

Rueful and nostalgic, the show explores the lure of show business and the price of success, says director James Peck, chair of the college’s Theatre & Dance Department. Also, he says, the importance of having a network of friends to remaining grounded and connected to what matters.

“It’s a cautionary tale about how not to screw up your life in the arts,” Peck says. “It’s inspiring and heartbreaking, and it contains some of Sondheim’s most irresistible songs.”

The second production in the department’s 2011-12 mainstage season, “Merrily We Roll Along” plays Oct. 28 through Nov. 6 in the college’s Baker Center for the Arts. Because of the college’s Family Weekend programs, tickets will be scarce for Oct. 28-30.

“Merrily” features music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by George Furth, Sondheim’s collaborator on the earlier hit musical “Company.” The show’s musical score received rave reviews, and features the Broadway standards “Good Thing Going,” “Not a Day Goes By” and “Our Time.”

The show tells the story of composer and film producer Franklin Shepard and his two closest friends, playwright Charley Kringas, Shepard’s lifelong collaborator, and novelist Mary Flynn. The trio begin their careers full of idealism and ambition–and they find success, but not necessarily fulfillment. The play moves backwards through their personal and professional milestones–starting with a disastrous opening-night party for Shepard’s uninspired new movie, and journeying back to a rooftop at dawn, at the start of a friendship and a career.

“The play is about being a middle-aged person, and the struggles of staying true to your vision,” Peck says. “It’s also about being a very young person, just starting out in the world, with a certain vision of yourself and of the kind of artist you’ll turn out to be.

“I’m in one stage of that journey, and I remember the other,” he says. “And my cast are still very much at the beginning of that journey, looking forward to their careers. And that’s the heartbreak, in a way. Some young artists will of course go on to have splendid careers, and some will be disappointed, but certainly none will have exactly the careers they envision for themselves. That vision can be hard to let go of, and looking back, can be hard to come to terms with.”

Choreographer Jeremy Arnold, a senior dance major at Muhlenberg, says that the play resonates especially strongly for him as a young artist.

“It’s very much about the choices we make in our lives,” Arnold says. “And it’s very applicable to where we are as students. I can identify with the characters as an artist about to start my career.”

Senior Andrew Clark concurs. In his portrayal of Charley Kringas, he says he has found himself thinking about his own decisions, and wondering what effects they might have down the road.

“Every decision we make resonates out like ripples in a pond,” Clark says. “We are shown how things resonate with and affect others without our being aware of it. This show is very sad, but there is an inherent sense of hope in our production because, like our characters at the end, we’re all so young.”

“Merrily’s” backwards-running structure is also reflected in its musical score, according to musical director Ken Butler. Shepard composes a musical theme early in his life that becomes the basis for several later compositions, and Butler says that sharp-eared patrons will hear that theme develop backwards as the play progresses.

“The glory of the reversal is when the audiences has those ‘a-ha’ moments,” Butler says. “It’s a process of excavation, and it’s always a jolt.”

The Sunday, Nov. 6 performance at 2 p.m. will feature Open Captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing and Audio Description for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. Tickets are available at a reduced rate to patrons who require these services. To purchase tickets for OC or AD services at the Nov. 6 performance, contact Jess Bien at boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu or 484-664-3087.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department is the top-rated college performance program in the country, according to the Princeton Review‘s 2012 survey report. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa, offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“Merrily We Roll Along” runs Oct. 28 to Nov. 6. Opening-weekend performances are: Friday, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m.  The second week of performances are Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 2-5, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20; patrons 17 and under, $8; students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges, $7. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $15. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew Street, Allentown.

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

Muhlenberg’s ‘New Voices’ Festival Showcases World Premiere Plays

Evening of one-act plays includes full productions

of new works by five emerging playwrights

Allentown, Pa. (Sept. 23, 2011)—Muhlenberg College will present the world premiere of five new short plays by emerging playwrights, during the Theatre & Dance Department’s “New Voices” festival, Oct. 1-5. The department produces a “New Voices” festival every other year as part of its mainstage season.

“‘New Voices’ is an opportunity for audiences to see some provocative new plays for the first time anywhere, by very talented young writers,” says Charles Richter, Muhlenberg’s director of theater and the artistic director of the festival. “It has great ‘I was there when’ potential for the audience—that 20 years down the road, they’ll be able to say they saw a prominent playwright’s very first produced play.”

The evening of one-acts is about two hours long, including intermission. It will be presented for six performances in Muhlenberg’s intimate 100-seat Studio Theatre. The evening includes plays ranging in subject matter from a dramatic crisis at the family dinner table to a bizarre business meeting.

Zach Trebino’s “…continuance…” explores the mother-son dynamic in an innovative, often-surreal piece, in which the characters act out a pivotal event from earlier in the mother’s life.

“A lot of my work is word-based; it’s an artistic experiment,” says Trebino, a 2011 graduate whose last project at Muhlenberg was directing last season’s mainstage production “Polaroid Stories. “I wrote the actual story that is being told by the mother first, and then about a year later added on the extra role-playing layer.”

Trebino directed a well-received production of Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck” for the Philly Fringe Festival 2011, presented by his theater collective, Homunculus, Inc. One reviewer called the production “painfully good. … It worked exquisitely.”

Directing “…continuance…” is another returning alum, Vanessa Lancellotti, a 2010 graduate. In December, Lancellotti founded Punch Theatre, a physical theater company influenced by the commedia dell’arte performance style. With Punch, she has directed two original productions in the spring and summer of 2011: “The Skin You Leave Behind,” in New York, and “Architecture,” performed in New York and at the CrisisArt Festival in Tuscany, Italy.

“This is a great opportunity to come back to Muhlenberg and work with the next generation of students,” Lancellotti says. “I’m used to having to do everything myself with Punch, and it’s a luxury to be working with a great team.”

Lancellotti also directs Davis Alieniello’s “Make Your Acquaintance,” which Alieniello describes as “a glimpse of a very peculiar lunch meeting; ridiculousness ensues.”

To me, this play says a lot about the amount of energy we put into self-construction,” he says. “I think it prevents us from forming actual connections. We spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves in a bubble, hyper-self-conscious about who we are and how we come off.”

Shannon Leigh Wittenberger’s “Transcranium,” directed by Danielle Barlow ’13, examines relationships—but from inside the befuddled head of its protagonist. Either her boyfriend is real, and her psychiatrist is imaginary, or it’s the other way around. Or maybe neither one is real.

“There was this TV commercial, with a therapist talking to a patient about a giant imaginary pizza oven,” Wittenberg ’11 says. “The shrink says, ‘You know the pizza oven’s not real,’ and I started thinking, what if he responds, ‘The pizza oven says you’re not real.’ That was the starting point. The pizza oven turned into a boyfriend, of course.”

Eliana Sagarin’s “Fast,” directed by Amanda Lenti ’12, offers a retrospective of a friendship between two teenage boys, who turn out to be very different from one another.

“The play is a journey to unearth the ties that bind us to the people we care about,” Sagarin ’14 says. “I think Muhlenberg celebrates risks. In this festival, the diversity is so apparent and each play takes a risk in a different way.”

Kate Brenner’s “You Understand,” directed by Richter, depicts a modern family that rapidly unravels one night over the course of dinner—and the aftermath of the unraveling.

“I wanted the audience to ask questions about what should happen when things don’t go as planned,” Brenner ’13 says. “What lengths do people go to, to preserve their status quo?”

In addition to the five fully produced plays, the festival will feature staged readings of four other short plays, in a free performance Oct. 2 and 5 in the Baker Center for the Arts Recital Hall. The readings are directed by Bill Mutimer and feature the work of Dan Brennan ’11, Leah Holleran ’12, Josh Shapiro ’13, and Aly Trombitas ’14.

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 ranks Muhlenberg’s production 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.

“New Voices” performances are Saturday through Wednesday, Oct. 1-5, at 8 p.m., as well as Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

The “New Voices” Staged Readings performance is Sunday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m., and Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8 p.m., in the Recital Hall, Baker Center for the Arts. Admission is free, and tickets are not required.

“New Voices” is for mature audiences. Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

“La Dispute” Depicts A Philosophical Battle Of The Sexes

First page of The Dispute (1744) by Pierre de ...

Image via Wikipedia

Marivaux’s 18th century French comedy, onstage
at Muhlenberg College Feb. 24-27, explores questions
of infidelity through a shocking sociological experiment

Allentown, Pa. (Feb. 3, 2011)—What would happen if you raised three boys and three girls in complete isolation from each other and the outside world—and then introduced them to one another? Would they fall in love? Promise to be loyal? How long would it take before the betrayals began? And who would be the first to stray, the women or the men?

Just such an experiment is at the heart of Pierre de Marivaux‘s mischievous 1744 comedy “La Dispute,” on stage Feb. 24-27 at Muhlenberg College. The play is shot through with romance, playful language and situational comedy, says director Francine Roussel, an associate professor in Muhlenberg’s theater and dance department. But it also gives the audience some food for thought.

“You leave the play with these nagging questions,” she says. “It is not as light as it seems.”

Though more 250 years old, the play continues to resonate with modern audiences and modern actors, Roussel says.

“At college, we are dealing with young people who fortunately fall in love and fall out of love,” she says. “That subject is relevant to any time. Is it in human nature, or is it a product of a civilization, era or culture?”

“La Dispute” begins with an argument: a prince and his courtiers have been debating whether men or women are more likely to unfaithful in love. To settle the dispute, the prince has concocted an experiment whereby six children spend their entire childhood and adolescence alone, with a pair of servant caretakers as their only human companions. At the age of 18, the children are introduced to each other, and couples form quickly. The lovers start out swearing their devotion, but they soon face their first temptations. The prince—and the audience—then watch as the results unfold.

“The temptation seems impossible to resist,” Roussel says. “The truth of human behavior is visible in these young people. They are constantly discovering the world around them and the world within themselves. These are the conditions of a serious experiment.”

As with all scientific endeavors, more questions than answers come out of this subversive experiment.

“It is a play that is philosophical in nature, just like anything in that century,” Roussel says. “Marivaux himself had that bent. His theater questions the philosophy of life. In the 18th century, literature and philosophy fell in love with science.

“I’m amazed at the refinement and sophistication of his language,” she says, “his knowledge of the human heart and of the infinite subtleties of human behavior, and his power to make that society aware of its class system and its need to change.”

Roussel says that the play displays a social agenda that was surprisingly progressive for its time. She is particularly interested in Marivaux’s depiction of the two black servants who have raised the children.

“The young people say horrible things about their guardians, totally racial, not politically correct things. I’m sure people will react to that,” Roussel says. “But Marivaux was way ahead of his time. He used provocative language to raise important social questions. He wrote a play about the emancipation of women and the emancipation of slaves. He had a real social consciousness.”

Roussel says she was interested in visualizing the cruelty of the experiment itself — an approach she discussed with scenic designer Curtis Dretsch. Dretsch designed a set he says is meant to invoke “a combination zoo enclosure and operating theatre,” in which the characters enter a central space from their separate cages of isolation.

 “I have really questioned where the children come from, the damage done to them, and where they will go,” Roussel says. “I wanted the set to address these issues.”

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. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program sixth in the nation, and The Princeton Review 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.

“La Dispute” performances are Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 24-26, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

“La Dispute” performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.