Muhlenberg College Directors’ Festival Features Will Eno Short Plays, World Premiere One-Act

Allentown, PA — An evening of visionary experimental theater will be on display as Muhlenberg College’s mainstage theatre and dance season opens Sept. 28, with “Attention: New Visions Directors’ Festival.” The directors whose work will be featured in the festival say they aim to shine a light on human behavior in a complicated, broken, beautiful society. The festival is the first of two on the Muhlenberg mainstage this fall and will showcase the work of two talented directors from the College’s Department of Theatre & Dance.

Running through Oct. 2, the evening includes short, relatable plays that use heightened, imaginative situations to offer witty and moving answers to questions about knowing each other. The world premiere of “The Imaginary Audience” by Mattie Brickman is directed by Emma Steiger ’17, and “Oh, the Humanity & Other Good Intentions,” three short plays by Will Eno, is directed by Sarah Bedwell ’17.

“The Imaginary Audience” tells the story of three adolescent ballet dancers learning the difference between performing onstage, performing in society, and performing identity, Steiger says.

“The title of the play is taken from a psychological concept I think we all understand too well,” Steiger says. “Clinically, the Imaginary Audience comes from the way that adolescents perform in society due to a feeling of constant surveillance. But the concept has broader implications for all of us.”

The play invites us to eavesdrop on the three young dancers, desperate to meet the dance world’s harsh standards and to fit in. While flexing their internet muscle, the girls take things a step too far—and discover a shocking secret. 

Steiger worked with playwright Mattie Brickman in Los Angeles over the summer, and she and the cast will continue collaborating with her by email and phone. Brickman plans to attend a performance.

“I want the play to both resemble and mock reality,” Steiger says. “I want it to come as a shock.”

“Oh, the Humanity & Other Good Intentions” is a collection of three short plays in which the characters set out to present themselves in the best light, given some difficult circumstances—”or ultimately, desperately, any light at all,” says Sarah Bedwell, who directs the collection.

“I’m really interested in exploring how people deal with tragic events,” she says. “We often overlook the way we react to others in the face of those events.”

In “Enter the Spokeswoman, Gently,” an inexperienced airline spokeswoman gives a press conference to the families of victims immediately after a plane has gone down. In “The Bully Composition,” a photographer and his assistant seem to be asking the audience to recreate a famous photo from the Spanish American War. In the title piece, a husband and wife figure out that they can’t get where they want to go because they are in a play and their car is made of chairs.

“I want my audience to look at these absurd events and realize they are not so absurd,” Bedwell says. “In exploring that, we’re exploring what it means to be human.”

“Attention: New Visions Directors’ Festival” plays Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. For mature audiences. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Regular admission tickets are $15. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8.

Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre in Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 West 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.

ARTS COUNCIL ANNOUNCES ANNUAL MEMBER RALLY AND GRANT AWARD CELEBRATION

ALLENTOWN, PA – Dragon sightings are on the rise in the Lehigh Valley and that is exciting news for our arts community! On the big screen, movie-goers are enjoying the performance of Allentown child actor Oakes Fegley in the title role of Pete’s Dragon. Another fire-breathing beast greets visitors at the entrance of the new manufacturing facilities of Smooth-On, Inc. in East Texas. Dragons are powerful, mythological creatures that epitomize courage, vigor, and unbridled imagination—vital attributes for risk-takers like artists.

In homage to the dragons in our midst, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council invites you to ignite your imagination at ARTS COUNT 2016, the annual arts rally and grant award ceremony. The magic happens on October 19, 2016, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Smooth-On, 1725 Willow Lane, East Texas, PA 18046.

“We are very grateful to Smooth-On for hosting this event,” says Randall Forte, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. “This international arts business is a giant in the realm of special effects.“ Smooth-On’s technologies and materials have been used to make movie figures and props for Star Wars, The Hobbit Trilogy, Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, and many other films and TV shows. (As a special treat, the Smooth-On staff will be on hand to give you scars, bruises, and bloody gashes.)

ARTS COUNT also serves as the occasion for the Lehigh Valley Arts Council to distribute grant awards to the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA) Project Stream recipients in Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties. Project Stream is open to individual artists and community groups who apply for support of an arts-related project with strong public impact. More than $34,000 in state funds will be awarded to 22 applicants for activities held from September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017.

“ARTS COUNT celebrates the public/private partnerships that fuel the arts in our region,” says Executive Director Randall Forte, “and features local business and foundation leaders giving testimony on the value and impact of the arts.” Locally elected officials are invited to present checks to the grant recipients from their districts. In keeping with the spirit of fellowship, Arts Council members are encouraged to bring a guest and rally for the arts.

The October reception is free to Arts Council members and grant recipients; the cost to guests and nonmembers is $10. Refreshments will be served. R.S.V.P. to 610-437-5915 to attend.

For more information about the PPA grant application, contact PA Partners in the Arts Coordinator Zach Kleemeyer at ppa@LVArtsCouncil.org.

List of 2016-17 PPA Grant Awardees:
Allentown Public Theatre
Anthony Smith
Arts Academy Charter School
Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission
Buchanan Elementary School
Concord Chamber Singers
DanceLink
Emmaus Recreation & Entertainment Commission
Fairfield Duo
Friends of the Allentown Parks
Jennie Gilrain
Jim Thorpe Film Festival
Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange
Marilyn Hazelton
Moravian College
Pennsylvania Jazz Collective
Puertorrican Cultural Preservation
Sarah Steele
Summit Hill Heritage Center
Ukrainian American Heritage Foundation
WDIY 88.1 FM
West Park Civic Association

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About the Lehigh Valley Arts Council

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council is the region’s central voice for the arts, promoting arts awareness and advocating its value while strengthening access to the arts for all citizens in our community. The Arts Council’s mission is to promote the arts; to encourage and support artists and their development; to assist arts organizations; and to facilitate communication and cooperation among artists, arts organizations, and the community. Services include arts research and advocacy, professional development seminars, publications, and cooperative regional marketing initiatives.

Muhlenberg College’s Acclaimed Theatre & Dance Department Announces 2016-2017 Season

ALLENTOWN, PA — Muhlenberg College’s nationally-ranked Theatre & Dance Department announces its 2016-2017 mainstage season. Highlights include classics by Gilbert & Sullivan and Anton Chekhov, a dance-theatre performance based on Harlem drag ball culture, a rarely produced Gertrude Stein play, and works by acclaimed guest choreographers.

The season features six fully mounted theatrical productions and three mainstage dance concerts, running from September 2016 through April 2017.

The season begins with “Attention: New Visions Directors’ Festival,” Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, featuring two short plays directed by senior Muhlenberg directing students: “The Imaginary Audience,” by Maddie Brickman, presented in its world premiere, directed by Emma Steiger; and “Oh, the Humanity, and Other Short Plays,” by Will Eno, directed by Sarah Bedwell.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic swashbuckling comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance” is presented Oct. 28 through Nov. 6, directed by Charles Richter, with choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ed Bara.

“Moving Stories,” Nov. 10-12, features original choreography by the department’s upper-class dance majors, in a variety of genres and styles. The concert showcases dance as storytelling, narration in human form, addressing themes as broad ranging as the students’ own diverse backgrounds.

“Falling: New Visions Directors’ Festival” continues this season’s series of short plays, with classic short works directed by talented senior directing students. The evening’s plays include “Salome,” by Oscar Wilde, directed by Simon Evans, and “Icarus’s Mother,” by Sam Shepard, directed by Karina Fox. The festival runs Nov. 30 through Dec. 4.

“Master Choreographers,” Feb. 9-11, will feature major restagings and original works in ballet, contemporary dance, tap, and jazz, showcasing work by nationally and internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty. Guest choreographers include Orion Duckstein, Cristina Perera, and Trinette Singleton.

Gertrude Stein’s “Listen to Me,” directed by James Peck, is a rarely produced avant garde play — a cerebral frolic in the face of planetary crisis, in which characters philosophize, laugh, and struggle heroically to hold onto hope as their prospects dim. The show runs Feb. 22-26.

“Wig Out!,” up-and-coming playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s tell-it-like-it-is look at the Harlem drag ball scene, is presented March 30 through April 2. The production is directed by Troy Dwyer and features choregraphy by Samuel Antonio Reyes.

“Dance Emerge,” April 19-22, showcases the ideas and talents of our brightest young choreographers. The intimate Dance Studio Theatre is the backdrop for innovative, explorative dance pieces. Jeffrey Peterson serves as artistic director.

The season concludes with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s classic “The Cherry Orchard,” a bittersweet comedy about love and loss, playing April 26-29. Matthew Moore directs, with a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate.

The mainstage performance series is produced by Muhlenberg College’s acclaimed Theatre & Dance Department, currently ranked the No. 1 production program in the country by The Princeton Review. The Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

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

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences as well as selected pre-professional programs, including accounting, 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.

Pottstown Puts Best Foot Forward With Another Spectacular ‘Carousel of Flavor’ Food Festival

wp_20160918_13_13_20_proThousands flocked to High Street in downtown Pottstown today for the 13th Annual Carousel of Flavor. This event is the primary fundraiser for the Carousel at Pottstown and one of the largest events hosted in the borough.  It turned out to be a beautiful day after some rain overnight and early this morning seemed menacing.

The trolley was carrying people from the festival site to the carousel building on regular intervals.  When I went, the trolley was full.  I noticed many folks taking advantage of the free ride.

sight_2016_09_18_193433_675-1The carousel is hopefully going to be up and running by the end of October.  This has been a decade long project that has finally reached completion.  We congratulate the Carousel committee and everyone involved for making this project a reality!

Here is a link to the entire album of photos from today https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154164324778192.1073741827.135214378191&type=1&l=7c017ae9ca 

Training Workshop For Audio Description, Presented By The Lehigh Valley Arts Council‏

On November 4 and 5, 2016, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, in cooperation with Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance, will present a two-day workshop, “Audio Description for the Theatre,” from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. As an introduction to the training, attendees will also experience an audio-described performance of The Pirates of Penzance on Thursday evening, November 3rd at 8:00 p.m. in the Baker Center.

Audio Description assists patrons who are blind/low-vision to access the visual elements of stage productions through narration provided by trained describers. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description.

The Arts Council has contracted Mimi Smith, former Executive Director of VSA Pennsylvania, and her husband Steve Smith to provide the training. Both of them have been describers for more than two decades and were cofounders of Amaryllis Theatre Co., a professional Philadelphia theatre that regularly hired theatre artists with disabilities. They will introduce the class to the foundational skills—Observation, Analysis, and Communication—necessary to audio describe stage productions.

$35 for members; $50 for nonmembers. For additional information on location and registration, visit LVArtsCouncil.org.

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About the Lehigh Valley Arts Council

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council is the region’s central voice for the arts, promoting arts awareness and advocating its value while strengthening access to the arts for all citizens in our community. The Arts Council’s mission is to promote the arts; to encourage and support artists and their development; to assist arts organizations; and to facilitate communication and cooperation among artists, arts organizations, and the community. Services include arts research and advocacy, professional development seminars, publications, and cooperative regional marketing initiatives.

CLASSICAL GUITARIST OPENS SEASON IN POTTSTOWN‏

Russell Ferrara performing classical guitar Lake Lanier, GA

Russell Ferrara performing classical guitar Lake Lanier, GA

Pottstown, PA –  Classical Guitarist Russell Ferrara begins the 2016 fall season with 3 formal and informal performances in Pottstown. He will perform for the Steel River Playhouse Gala on Saturday September 10 at 7:00 PM, for Pottstown FARM on High Street on September 15 with sets interspersed throughout the 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM event. On September 24 he will present informal performances as well as pop up classes on guitar and ukulele at the Pottstown Latin Festival. Information and
tickets to the Steel River Playhouse Gala are available at steelriver-playhouse.org. Pottstown FARM and the Pottstown Latin Festival are free and open to the public.

With Kim Robson: Lake Lanier, GA

With Kim Robson: Lake Lanier, GA

These performances mark the end of a highly productive summer for Ferrara, who has been performing and teaching in and around Pottstown since the opening of Steel River playhouse in 2008. He began the summer with a 10 day trip to Georgia to perform, teach and direct guitar ensembles with his flute playing partner Kim Robson. Upon returning from Georgia he taught ukulele classes and workshops at Pottstown Middle School and Steel River Playhouse, made his first appearance at Pottstown FARM and went immediately into rehearsals for the Wings of Hope benefit concert at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville. From there he and Robson began sessions for their completed but as yet unreleased album. He took time away from the studio only to do a run in the pit band of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” at the SALT theater in Yellow Springs.

Ferrara begins this month presenting the class “Ukulele Fun” at Steel River Playhouse. Designed to provide an introduction to playing string instruments, “Ukulele Fun” uses music familiar to everyone to build solid playing skills. The format of the class is ensemble based with everyone playing together in a fast-paced fun environment. Ferrara brings his years of experience performing and directing guitar ensembles to the design and format of the class. Further information can be found at steelriver-playhouse.org.

Upcoming Music Classes And Performances‏ Flute Haven/Spirit Grass

Flute Haven Native Flute School Returns to Valley Forge

Do you love the soothing sounds of the Native Flute? Come to a workshop or concert this September!

Flute Haven is a retreat for musicians of all levels of experience. While our focus is the Native American flute, we seek to broaden all aspects of our musicianship and offer people the opportunity to go deep into many directions: flute playing, performance skills, percussion, voice, recording, facilitation, flute making, and jamming with other instruments. http://flutehaven.comCome to one of our concerts! SpiritGrass, comprised of staff members for Flutehaven, will appear at Steel City Coffeehouse Sept. Wed. 9/14, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Spirit Grass: Live at Steel City Coffee House on Wednesday September 14th
$12 in advance, $15 at the door
Tickets
Free concert Friday Sept 16, 2:00 – 3:00 pm Rose Hall: Camphill Village,
1601 Pughtown Rd. Kimberton, PA.
Flutehaven Improv Orchestra,
40 orchestrated Native flutes
http://Spiritarts.us
Flute Haven Native Flute School September 11th ~ September 18th
Choose from 3 different programs: Leadership program 11-18, Week long program 13-18, Weekend program Sept. 16-18
Registration
Join us at the Bistro on Bridge Club 212, Bridge St. Phoenixville
Sat. Sept 17, 6:00 – 9:00 pm  for the Flutehaven Open mic. Enjoy the soothing sounds of the Native flute.  $26.  Dinner or just stop in for a drink.

 

ArtFusion Fundraiser Supports Free Field Trip Program‏

ArtFusion-color600 1Pottstown, PA – ArtFusion 19464, Pottstown’s non-profit community art center, will be holding its summer fundraiser on Saturday, August 13 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm at the ArtFusion facility. This annual event gets a new twist this year, as the food offering has been expanded to three types of delicious barbeque.

Proceeds from this fundraiser are very important to ArtFusion’s upcoming fall programming. Funds raised help to provide free field trips to local schools in conjunction with ArtFusion’s fall educational exhibit. This year’s show is titled Reclaim and will feature artwork created from recycled, upcycled and salvaged materials. The artists have been challenged to reclaim the definition of art, to show that creativity and imagination can expand the view of art as just paint and canvas.

Each field trip is tailored to the age of the students and is a fun, interactive learning experience.  Students who visit during Reclaim will learn important facts about the environment, recycling and the newest inventions in the fight to tame our trash. They will also have an opportunity to create a piece of recycled art themselves. In keeping with the theme, field trip facilitators will talk with the students about how we can reclaim control over our how we interact with our world and how we affect the health and well-being of our planet.

Tickets for the fundraiser are only $25. If the event has not sold out, tickets will be available at the door. Tickets can be bought online at artfusion19464.org, in person at ArtFusion, or over the phone by calling 610-326-2506. Guests can choose a barbeque entrée, or a vegetarian option.

LowResVBCLogoVictory Brewing Company has once again generously donated their amazing beer for this event. The Butcher and The BBQ will be expertly crafting the entrees, and Montesano Bros. will again be creating their amazing side salads. The MOSAIC Community Gardens in Pottstown will be donating a fresh salad for everyone to enjoy. There will be soda and water in addition to Victory beer and homemade desserts to finish off the meal.

Along with enjoying great food and great beer, guests will have the chance to win fun door prizes.  Each guest will receive one door prize chance free with their paid ticket. Additional tickets will be on sale throughout the night. Those who are unable to make the fundraiser can still try their luck by purchasing raffle tickets at the ArtFusion website.

ArtFusionGuests could win a $50 Wegman’s gift card, a Bread of the Month gift certificate from Panera Bread, Steel River tickets, tickets for the Reading Fightin Phils, original artwork and special ArtFusion Experiences, where the winner will work with one of ArtFusion’s talented instructors for a one-of-a-kind creative experience. Topics include stained glass, pottery, fused glass and more.

ArtFusion 19464 is a 501(c)3 non-profit community art center located at 254 E. High St. in downtown Pottstown. The school offers day, evening and weekend classes to all ages. The goal of these classes is to help students develop their creative skills through self-expression and independence. ArtFusion’s gallery hosts rotating shows featuring local artists. The gallery also sells handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gift items.  The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. The gallery is closed Sunday and Monday.

Lehigh Valley Arts Advocate – August 2016‏

MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: What I Did This Summer

This summer I have been out front in the Lehigh Valley more than usual, surveying audiences at various arts events. The study, Arts & Economic Prosperity V, is part of a national study to determine the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry.

Sounds dry, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s been fun to mingle with arts patrons and bump into old friends at the theatre or a concert. It is too early to tell, but attendance at these events seems very strong.

The data collection continues through 2016, and the results of the analysis will be released in Spring 2017 at a public forum, Whose Business is the Arts? For the past twenty years, the Lehigh Valley region has enjoyed double-digit increases that are far above the national average. The previous study in 2012 determined that arts and culture was a $208 million industry. It will be fascinating to see what the numbers tell us this time. Maybe I am turning into a data-geek!
Randall Forte, Executive Director

SAVE THE DATE! Arts Count 2016

Arts Count celebrates the essential public and private partnerships that fuel the arts, engages business and foundation leaders as well as elected officials to be advocates for arts and culture, and acknowledges the year’s grant recipients.

Free to members of the Arts Council and grant recipients, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council event honors the Project Stream and Program Stream recipients awarded state arts grants through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts.


SAVE THE DATE!

ARTS COUNT 2016

October 19, 2016
Smooth On
5600 Lower Macungie Road
Macungie, PA 18062

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES

PENNSYLVANIA SINFONIA ORCHESTRA presents:

Valley Vivaldi
August 21, 2016 at 7:30pm

Wesley Church, Bethlehem

Trio Solisti
September 16, 2016 at 7:30pm
Foy Hall, Bethlehem

Lehigh Valley Arts Council
840 Hamilton Street, Suite 201 ◊ Allentown, PA 18101
610.437.5915 ◊ info@LVArtsCouncil.org
www.LVArtsCouncil.org
LVArtsBoxOffice.org

Living History Sundays At Pottsgrove Manor August 7, 14, 21, And 28, 2016 From 1:00pm To 4:00pm

stictching

Needlework

Pottstown, PA – On August 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, 2016 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Pottsgrove Manor’s living history volunteers, dressed in colonial period clothing, will be living life the 18th century way.

Come spend a casual summer Sunday afternoon at historic Pottsgrove Manor and enjoy the 18th century surroundings as volunteers demonstrate colonial trades and pastimes. Activities may include needlework, tape weaving, hornsmithing, cooking, and more. Visitors can watch, learn, and even join in! Activities will vary from week to week, so call ahead or check the site’s webpage at http://www.montcopa.org/PottsgroveManor to find out what will be offered each day.

A donation of $2.00 per person is suggested for this program. Guests can also tour the manor house, see the museum’s current exhibit, “Potts & Family: Colonial Consumers,” and shop in the museum store during their visit.

The “Colonial Consumers” exhibit can also be viewed during a guided tour of Pottsgrove Manor during regular museum hours now through November 6th. Regular museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Tours are given on the hour. The last tour of the day begins at 3:00pm. The site is closed Mondays and major holidays. Groups of ten or more should preregister by calling 610-326-4014.

Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route

100, just off Route 422, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Pottsgrove Manor is operated by Montgomery

County under the direction of the Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites Division of the Assets and Infrastructure Department. For more information, please call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at http://www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor. Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at

http://www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.

SOME POTTSTOWN 2016 SUMMER HAPPENINGS

The attached PDF file is a wealth of information about summer events for the whole family that are going on in Pottstown this summer.

http://tcnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/POTTSTOWN-SUMMER-HAPPENINGS-2016x.pdf

‘In The Heights’ Brings Latin Rhythms, Stories To Muhlenberg Summer Stage

Allentown, PA — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” — the precursor to his blockbuster Broadway hit “Hamilton” — runs July 13-31 as the second production of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season.  The show tells a story that many of its cast hold close to their hearts: the story of families and cultures that have been transplanted from far away.

Many of the show’s 20 actors and dancers can tell you a story about their families coming to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico, or Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. For some, that story is not so long in the past. Wilma Rivera, for example, is a professional actress, a Muhlenberg College alumna, and a first-generation American. She says “In the Heights” is the story of her family.

“When I saw ‘In the Heights’ on Broadway, there was this moment when the music of the first number started, and it captured so beautifully the experience of what it’s like to be a Latino,” says Rivera, who plays Camila. “It’s that struggle to maintain an identity and also to assimilate — especially in New York City.”

“In the Heights” was a hit when it opened in 2008, running more than a thousand performances and bringing its composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to the attention of theatergoers. Miranda’s innovative score melded the rhymes and rhythms of hip-hop with the Latin-style music of salsa and merengue, and, together with Quiara Alegría Hudes’ book, captured the sights, sounds and stories of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Miranda also won the Tony for Best Score. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and musical director Alex Lacamoire also won Tony Awards for their Latin- and hip-hop-inflected choreography and orchestrations. The three would reunite with director Thomas Kail to create “Hamilton.”

“Miranda is deeply versed in ’90s hip-hop,” says James Peck, who directs the production for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. “He picks up beats and rhythm structures and song structures from hip-hop, and he incorporates salsa, merengue, and other Latin styles — but he’s also a musical theatre fanboy from the age of five. The results are really a musical tour-de-force.”

MSMT’s production features choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ed Bara. John Raley designed the set, Lex Gurst designed costumes, John McKernon designed lights, and Patrick Moren designed sound.

Peck credits choreographer Reyes as a driving force behind bringing the show to the MSMT stage.

“Sammy is a hip-hop dancer, a theater artist, and a Puerto Rican. He has a deep understanding of the cultural dynamics at work in this piece,” Peck says. “I wouldn’t have had the temerity to the play without him. It was Sammy saying, ‘I’ve got to do “In the Heights”‘ that made it come together.”

 “In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

Miranda himself was born in Washington Heights, and grew up in Linwood, one neighborhood over. His parents had moved to New York from Puerto Rico, and every summer, he visited his grandparents back on the island.

Wilma Rivera’s classmate at Muhlenberg, Gabe Martínez, also remembers feeling like he was watching his own family’s history on stage when he first saw “In the Heights.” Martínez saw the show for the first time a year to the day after his grandmother passed away.

“The actress who played Abuela Claudia was the spitting image of my abuela,” says Martínez, who stars as Usnavi, the role that Miranda played on Broadway. “As soon as she walked out on stage, my father and I started weeping. We were at the matinee; I bought the cast recording on the way home and had it memorized by the time I went to bed.”

Martínez’s grandparents moved from Puerto Rico to New York in the 1940s, shortly after his grandfather returned from service in World War II.

“They wrote to each other every day, planning their move to New York, the American dream,” Martínez says. “When the war was over, he hadn’t been home a week when they bought a plane ticket and headed to the Bronx.”

Rivera has a similar connection to the material. Her father immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the early 1970s. Her mother was born in East Harlem, but moved to Puerto Rico as a small child. Both came from poverty, she says. Her mother was the only one in her family to go to college. When Rivera went off to Muhlenberg to study acting, she was the first in her family to attend college on the mainland — and, like Nina in “In the Heights,” she almost gave it up after her freshman year. Department chair Charles Richter talked her into staying.

“‘We need you here,’ he told me.”

Rivera and Martínez were the only two Latino students in the theater program at the time. Neither of them ever had the chance before now to play a Latino character on the Muhlenberg stage — and the opportunity is what drew them back. Both of them have worked steadily as actors since graduating — Rivera in 2009, and Martínez in 2010 — but they have had to be flexible in order to do it.

“I’ve spent my entire professional career praying to see a casting call saying ‘ethnically ambiguous — slash — Latino,'” Martínez says. “We were the only two Latino kids in our class, and now there are lots of kids, and this is their first professional gig, and we’re just so happy for them to start out this way, that these kids are having this opportunity.”

Rivera echoes his enthusiasm.

“This department has really embraced students of color and encouraged their talents, and really raised them up,” she says. “I’m very proud of this college and to be an alumna of this college, and I just hope it continues to grow.”

Martínez and Rivera’s deep connection to “In the Heights” is a common thread through the entire cast, Peck says.

“When people have a chance to be part of a show that speaks to their own experience, they make a significant personal investment in that show,” he says. “It’s rare that these stories get told, and when people have the chance to be a part of these stories, they grab onto that chance.”

In fact, Rivera’s connection to the show runs so deep that she got a tattoo of one of its lyrics, “Paciencia y fe,” a song sung by Abuela Claudia. The lyric reminds her of her own abuela, who died in January.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose that matriarch of a Latin family,” Rivera says. “She’s the stone and we’re all the ripples of what she leaves behind. It holds weight, I think, in this world, that we remember who we are and where we’re from. Gabe and I are very lucky that we have that image of our parents and remember the struggle.”

The actor who plays Abuela Claudia in the production — jazz vocalist, scholar and activist Roberta Meek — agrees. Meek had only one grandparent growing up, and ike Abuela Claudia — and like Rivera and Martínez’s abuelas — she was the keeper of the family’s stories.

“My grandmother was literally the historian of the family,” Meek says. “Her father was born into slavery, and he had been searching for his mother ever since. My grandmother was the griot,” the person who maintains the oral history tradition in many West African cultures. “You came to her for school.”

“In the Heights” is Meek’s first musical theater performance, although she has been performing as a jazz vocalist in the Lehigh Valley for more than 20 years. She also contributed stories and songs to the Touchstone Theatre project “Another River Flows: a Celebration of the Lehigh Valley Black Experience.”

One of the things that “In the Heights” gets right, Rivera says, is the sabor — the flavor of Latin culture and of the Washington Heights community.

“This show is packed full of sabor,” she says.

Some of that flavor is visual; much of it comes from the rhythm and choreographic energy that choreographer Samuel Reyes has brought to the project.

“The blend of salsa, hip-hop and contemporary movement is very exciting for me as a choreographer — and we have found such a dynamic, crazy talented cast,” Reyes says. “This show is going to punch a hole in the wall, both visually and emotionally. I’m just so damn proud to be part of it.”

“In the Heights” plays July 13-31 at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Performances take place in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for the first four performances are $33 regular admission; seniors, $29; students and children, $18. Prices for the rest of the run are $39 regular admission; seniors, $36; students and children, $20.

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

Lehigh Valley Arts Council Releases 2016-2017 ARTix‏

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council announces to the community the release of the new ARTix Passport to the Arts, a buy-one, get-one-free ticket to eighteen arts and cultural venues through June 30, 2017. Dance, musical, theatrical, and historical offerings are just some of the travel destinations offered by the passport.

“This year marks the 18th anniversary of this successful arts marketing promotion,” says Randall Forte, Arts Council Executive Director. “The Lehigh Valley Arts Council is proud to provide regional leadership that advances the arts in this growing community.”

Over the years, the Arts Council has increased the circulation of ARTix and opened the door wider for all people to enjoy the arts. Real estate and corporate relocation offices give passports to new residents relocating to the Valley. Local health networks encourage volunteers to enjoy the arts as part of a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the social service sector offers ARTix to their clients with disabilities, allowing them affordable access to disability-friendly events. There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy—from symphonic to folk music, fine arts to vintage cars, Shakespeare to Broadway musicals—fun and entertainment for the entire family.

The most direct way to receive your very own ARTix Passport to the Arts is simply join the Arts Council. An Individual Membership is reasonably priced at $40 annually. With passport in hand, start planning your itinerary today and build your circle of arts friends. Members also receive discounts to workshops and conferences, subscriptions to the bimonthly Inside the Arts, / Arts Calendar and Lehigh Valley Style, and free admission to the annual spring and fall membership receptions.

ARTix Passport is made possible through the support of Christmas City Printing, The County of Lehigh, and The Harry C. Trexler Trust.

Lehigh Valley Arts