Leading Social Justice Advocate Lateefah Simon To Speak At Montgomery County Community College March 28

Blue Bell/Pottstown, PA —Lateefah Simon, a nationally recognized advocate for civil rights and racial justice, will discuss how solutions to big problems often begin with one person who is willing to act when she visits Montgomery County Community College on Tuesday, March 28, at 12:30 p.m. for the annual Richard K. Bennett Distinguished Lectureship for Peace and Social Justice. 

The lecture will be held in the Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, with a simulcast to MCCC’s South Hall Community Room, West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown. The community is invited to attend this free presentation, but tickets are required. To reserve seats, visit www.mc3.edu/BennettLecture or call 215-641-6518. 

Simon has more than 20 years of executive experience advancing opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities. She gives hope to thousands of families who are struggling to overcome the challenges of poverty and discrimination.  

She currently serves as president of the Akonadi Foundation, a charitable group that funds community projects in the San Francisco Bay area. She has received several honors for her work including being the youngest woman ever to be named a MacArthur “Genius” Grant Fellow. She also was included on the first ever Power List in O Magazine, received the Remarkable Woman Award from Lifetime TV, and was honored by JFK Presidential Library with a Fenn Award. 

This presentation is part of the ongoing Richard K. Bennett Distinguished Lectureship for Peace and Social Justice series which was established at the College in 1981. The lectureship reflects the ideals of Richard Bennett, a Quaker who devoted his life work to accomplishing peace and justice through non-violent efforts.   

West End Student Theatre Brings ‘Reckless’ To The Stage At Montgomery County Community College West Campus In April

Pottstown, PA —The Montgomery County Community College West End Student Theatre brings Craig Lucas’s comedy/drama Reckless to the stage April 20-22 at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown. 

On December 24, Rachel is informed by her guilt-ridden husband that he has hired a hitman to kill her – Merry Christmas! She scrambles out into the night alone, and finds a wild, wonderful web of people and events which allow her to become the hero of her own (almost sane) story. The production contains adult themes and language. 

Produced by special arrangement with Dramatists’ Play Services, Reckless is directed by Tim Gallagher and assistant director Zach Clark, with stage direction by Jeff Chernesky. It is produced and designed by students in the Theatre Production Workshop and the West End Student Theatre. 

The cast and crew includes Maliah Buxton of Collegeville, Mika Cave of Bechtelsville, Sebastian Coates of Douglassville, William Cox of Red Hill, Tess Devlin of Collegeville, Duncan DeVore of Perkiomenville, Joseph Donley of Pottstown, Phoebe Kancianic of Pottstown, Derek Peterson of Reading, Shaun Reed of Lancaster, Erik Reyes of Pottstown, Toby Troyer, Hailee Tyson of Sanatoga, and Kayla Velasquez of Royersford. 

Performances will be held April 20 – 22 at 7 p.m., and a special daytime performance on April 21 at 12:30 p.m. in the South Hall Community Room at 101 College Drive in Pottstown, Pa. General admission is $10, and $5 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, please visit www.mc3.edu/theater or call 215-641-6518. 

Proceeds from the production will benefit the Theatre Arts Merit Scholarship fund at the College. 

About Montgomery County Community College 

For more than 50 years, Montgomery County Community College has grown with the community to meet the evolving educational needs of Montgomery County. The College’s comprehensive curriculum includes more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as customized workforce training and certifications. Students enjoy the flexibility of learning at the College’s thriving campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, at the Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale, and online through a robust Virtual Campus.   

As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, the institution is positioned at the vanguard of national efforts to increase completion, improve learning outcomes, and remove barriers to access for students. The College is also recognized regionally and nationally for its sustainability leadership, work with military veterans, community service and service learning opportunities, and use of classroom technology. For more information, visit http://www.mc3.edu.  

‘Wig Out!’ At Muhlenberg

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg College takes a stroll down the runway and into drag ball culture, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Wig Out!,” March 30 – April 2. Rarely produced since its 2008 premiere, “Wig Out!” offers an outlandish and high-style glimpse into the tight-knit world of Harlem drag balls. Muhlenberg theater professor Troy Dwyer directs.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything quite like this on our stage,” Dwyer says. “It’s going to be an extremity of design — and a leap-of-faith undertaking for the department. It’s also an opportunity to accommodate our population of truly gifted students of color, who aren’t just actors, but a variety of theater-making artists.”

“Wig Out!” focuses on the intense personal connections of  “houses,” the family units at the heart of drag culture — families that typically include a mother, a father, and a group of “children,” while also upending traditional nuclear family roles in favor of something richer and more complex. At the core of “Wig Out!” is the fictional House of Light, with mother Rey-Rey (Cameron Silliman) and father Lucian (Alan Mendez).

“’Wig Out!’ is a quick Alice in Wonderland trip into this topsy-turvy world that’s nothing like ours but very much like ours,” McCraney says. “One of my professors who saw the original run said, ‘I have no idea what’s going on, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.’”

Drag balls trace their roots to Harlem in the 1860s, flourishing during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s. Today’s drag ball culture took shape in the 1960s, as black drag queens began hosting predominantly black drag events. In 1990, the drag scene achieved mainstream recognition with the release of the documentary film “Paris Is Burning,” along with pop star Madonna’s drag-inspired hit “Vogue.” The balls themselves are extravagant competitions, in which contestants “walk” and are judged on a specific set of criteria, including the “realness” of their drag, their movement and dance abilities, and their fashion choices.

“What I think is so vital about ‘Wig Out!’ is that it not only makes visible sides of queer culture that aren’t typically part of mainstream culture,” Dwyer says. “It shines a more inclusive light than, say ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ which is about the extent of many people’s familiarity with drag culture.”

“Wig Out!” was first produced at the Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre in New York City, and the same year at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It has been fully produced only once since, in any venue.

Playwright McCraney’s film “Moonlight” received 2017 Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was written by McCraney and director Barry Jenkins, based on McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play. McCraney was also recently appointed chair of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama, beginning in July. His plays have been produced by Steppenwolf Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, among others.

McCraney got together with the Muhlenberg production’s cast and creative team in February, via Skype. He shared some insights, answered questions, and engaged with the actors’ responses to the play.

Dwyer has surrounded himself with an accomplished creative team — which he says has somewhat allayed his concerns as a white director about taking artistic leadership of this project, in which most of the characters are people of color.

“What feels risky to me is making sure my white male privilege doesn’t upstage the heart of the story,” Dwyer says. “I was committed to having the story told, thinking it was probably okay for me to be a creative leader, but not by myself. I’m so fortunate to have some really brilliant, passionate artists of color around me, who are significant creative leaders on the piece.”

The production team includes managing dramaturg Dr. Sharrell Luckett, a Muhlenberg theater professor; accomplished costume designer Andy Jean; and Broadway wig and hair designer Bobbie Zlotnik. Samuel Antonio Reyes, who choreographed last summer’s acclaimed Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre production of “In the Heights,” and a veteran of the ballroom scene himself, has created the show’s extensive choreography.

The show also features makeup design by Joe Dulude II, who designed make-up for the Tony Award-winning Broadway productions of “Wicked” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Dulude is the Baker Artist-in-Residence for the 2016-17 academic year, thanks to a grant from the Dexter F. & Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. He says his own involvement in the drag scene heavily influences his approach to the work.

“My drag is often about playing with the masculine and feminine,” Dulude says. “Since my own experiences in drag and working with other drag queens is so diverse, that’s what I’m bringing to the show: not just one style of drag but a combination of styles.”

Muhlenberg Junior Evan Brooks, who plays Ms. Nina/Wilson, one of the children of the House of Light, says the production is a vital performance opportunity for theater students at Muhlenberg.

“At this moment in our nation’s history, being able to participate in this production is nothing less than a gift,” Brooks says. “I think it’s essential to provide theatrical and educational experiences for under-represented artists, who aren’t acknowledged in the same way as majority-identifying students — and that’s what the production is doing.”

Dwyer says the show’s second act will feature a drag ball performance for which audience members will be invited onstage to serve as the crowd for the ball. The production also will feature a lobby display about the history of drag, coordinated by Luckett, and a uniquely interactive intermission.

“We want the audience to leave with an appreciation for drag culture, in all its spectacular diversity,” Dwyer says. “The mainstream gets an exceptionally narrow version of queer culture, when they get any version at all — and often it comes at the expense of other, more marginalized versions. We want to broaden their horizons a bit.”

“Wig Out!” plays March 30 – April 2. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular admission tickets are $15. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8. The production is recommended for mature audiences.

Tickets and information are available online at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight 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.

Mark Your Calendar For Another Spectacular Pottstown ArtsWalk – A Free Event – Saturday, May 6, 2017!

Pottstown, PA —“We have always recognized and embraced what the arts and collaboration can do for a community”, said Erika Hornburg-Cooper, ArtFusion19464. Join us for a day of discovery on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 12 pm to 9 pm. Arts and culture organizations, local businesses and restaurants are teaming up to bring you an amazing day of fun, food and entertainment.

“The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority (PDIDA) is excited to be a part in this venture. It has been very exciting to see our downtown community pull together with our arts and cultural organizations to create this amazing event,” states Sheila Dugan, PDIDA.

Viewing the art in a kind of “pub crawl” format adds to the fun and energetic quality of this event. Family-friendly activities are being planned. Nearly 20 downtown business will be open to showcase original artwork displays and live musical entertainment.

“It all starts with the arts!” said Lauren Pierson-Swanson, Steel River Playhouse. “To know Pottstown is to love it. The people behind the businesses and attractions on and around High Street are smart, driven and dedicated to this beautiful historic town. Art has always been a catalyst in the rejuvenation of American communities and is the focus of Pottstown ArtsWalk.”

While this event is free, we ask that you pre-register for your free ticket. Each is valid for one person to join the Pottstown ArtsWalk on Saturday, May 6, 2017, and you can order as many as you need. Visit http://www.artfusion19464.org/artwalk.

Get a taste for all the activities, food and arts presentations. Here is a list of venues joining us Saturday, May 6th to showcase Pottstown and all that our community has to offer:

@107, 107 E. High St. and Advantage Insurance
ArtFusion 19464, 254 E. High St.
Ballroom on High, 310 E. High St.
Beverly’s Pastry Shop, 322 E. High St.
Connections on High, 238 E. High St.
Grumpy’s Handcarved Sandwiches, 137 E. High St.
High Street Music, 135 E. High St.
iCreate Cafe, 130 King St.
Juan Carlos Fine Mexican Cuisine, 235 E. High St.
Lily’s Grill, 115 E. High St.
MCCC North Hall Gallery, 16 E. High St.
Memory Madness Photo Studio, 16 N. York St.
MOSIAC Community Land Trust, 10 S. Hanover St.
Potts & Penn Family Diner, 80 E. High St.
Smith Family Plaza, 100 E. High St.
Steel River Playhouse, 245 E. High St.
The Carousel at Pottstown, 30 W. King St.
The Hill School Center for the Performing Arts, 780 Beech St.
Weitzenkorn’s, 145 E. High St.

To get the latest update on locations and activities, visit http://www.artfusion19464.org/artwalk and don’t forget to pre-register for Pottstown ArtsWalk!

Pottstown ArtsWalk is brought to you in partnership through
ArtFusion19464, Steel River Playhouse, @107, Proudly Pottstown and Advantage Insurance Group.