Modern Retelling Of ‘Romeo And Juliet’ Sheds Light On Race Relations, Police Violence At Muhlenberg College

Allentown, PA – During one month in the summer of 2014, in separate incidents in cities across the United States, four unarmed black men were killed while being arrested by police officers. None of the officers who used lethal force in these cases were held legally accountable.

Police violence against black men is not a new issue, but the frequency of recent incidents and intense media coverage has pushed it to the fore in the national discourse. This spring, a group of young theater artists, led by faculty member and director Troy Dwyer, enters the dialogue with an audacious production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The show runs April 22-26 at Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance.

“It’s definitely a piece of protest art, and one I imagine Shakespeare purists won’t like,” Dwyer says. “I’m cool with that.”

Dwyer’s production will remain essentially faithful to the events and language of Shakespeare’s classic, but will feature two important twists: the action of the play will be set in a modern Midwest, and Juliet’s family, the Capulets, will be a black family.

“This will be the first time an African-American family will be represented on the Muhlenberg stage since I have worked at the college,” says Dwyer, who joined the Muhlenberg faculty in 2003. “Muhlenberg Admissions has been courting a more diverse student body for years, and it is exciting that we can finally represent that on the stage.”

Dwyer’s adaptation envisions love blooming one sweltering summer night on a city street in the American Midwest. Two young lovers make an unlikely and courageous connection, a spark that defies distinctions of race, class and culture. But when a black teenager dies, the city’s long-simmering tensions escalate into full-scale violence, leaving the lovers on opposite sides in a brutal and deadly conflict.

“Shakespeare’s plays truly stand the test of time,” Dwyer says. “The story is not only easy for college actors to relate to, but takes on new meaning when placed in a society that is very similar to Staten Island, Ferguson, Madison… or Allentown.”

Between July 17 and Aug. 9, four African-American men were killed in the United States. In Staten Island, Eric Garner was seen selling untaxed cigarettes and was smothered in a choke-hold, a method that is prohibited by Staten Island Police. In Beavercreek, Ohio, a black man was shot by police in a Walmart, and in Los Angeles, an unarmed black man was shot by police the next week. In Ferguson, Missouri, in what was the most intensely covered news story of the summer, Michael Brown was shot at twelve times by a local police officer while unarmed.

“My communities were having pointed conversations about the criminalization of black bodies,” Dwyer said. “I wanted to explore the socioeconomic structures that coordinate with racial and ethnic privilege.” None of the police officers in these incidents was held legally accountable for their actions. These and other recent incidents have escalated racial tensions and widened the rift between the police and the public that they serve, according to Dwyer.

“There has always been something unsettling about how, in the show, Romeo doesn’t face any consequences for murdering Tybalt,” Dwyer says. “No one in authority seems concerned, and this facet of the play is given more meaning if Tybalt is a man of color.” Dwyer’s other recent Shakespeare productions at Muhlenberg, “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest,” both addressed social issues and included actors of non-traditional sexes playing pivotal characters. “The Winter’s Tale” raised questions about contemporary marriage, while “The Tempest” explored issues of gender and sexual politics.

This production of “Romeo and Juliet” also features music written by a student composer. Jakeim Hart, ’16, worked with Dwyer to being new life to Shakespeare’s work through song. Hart previously composed an original musical, “Sinternet!,” for the Muhlenberg stage two years ago.

“I am hoping to bring new joy, laughter, and pain to a well-known story through the music that I write,” says Hart, who is also playing the role of Paris in the production. “Everyone is the production sings throughout the show, and I also play the guitar.”

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

“Romeo and Juliet” runs April 22-26 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Seating is very limited. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m. (Sunday’s performance was originally scheduled for 2 p.m.; it is at 8 p.m.) Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance.

Montgomery County Community College West End Student Theatre And Theatre Arts Program to Present Peter Shaffer’s ‘Black Comedy’

Pottstown, PA — Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) West End Student Theatre and Theatre Arts program are proud to present “Black Comedy,” a farce by Sir Peter Shaffer.  Show dates are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 23, 24 and 25 at 7 p.m., with a special afternoon performance on Friday, April 24, at 12:30 p.m. All performances will be held in the College’s South Hall Community Room, West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown.

Tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call 215-641-6518 or visit www.mc3.edu/livelyarts. Free parking is available.

“Black Comedy” is a wild, comic farce by renowned British playwright Sir Peter Shaffer, author of “Amadeus.” In it, a desperate sculptor hopes to impress his fiancée’s father and a millionaire patron by “borrowing” a few antiques from his absent neighbor. But after a fuse blows in his apartment and plunges them all into darkness, a hilarious race against time ensues to set things right before the lights come back on and the neighbor returns.

“This production of ‘Black Comedy’ is akin to Mel Brooks and Dick Van Dyke having a baby – it’s a racy, raunchy, and raucous good time,” says Director Samantha Clarke. This production contains adult themes and language.

Directed by Clarke and stage managed by Anna Taylor, the cast includes Joe Donely, Carly Watson, Allison Wentzel, Zach Clark, Jeff Chernesky, Myasia Bynum, Nicholas Bartelmo, and Joseph Borders. The production is designed, produced and presented by the students of the West End Student Theatre, which includes Morgan Carrasquillo, Desiree Humes, Zachary Clark, Joe Donley, Andrew Miller, Alex Hollowell, Christian Flint, Tess Devlin, Tom Keller, Merissa Crabtree, Anthony Confino, Rianna Isbell and Mariah Blank, under the guidance of Theatre Instructor Tim Gallagher.

Photographs:  Cast members rehearse for the upcoming performances of Peter Shaffer’s “Black Comedy” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 23, 24 and 25, at 7 p.m. and on Friday, April 24, at 12:30 p.m. in Montgomery County Community College’s South Hall Community Room, West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown. Photos by Diane VanDyke.

Accessing The Cultural Community: A Celebration Of Vision

The 2015 spring membership reception, Art is a Verb—Let’s all do it, embraces the excitement and promise of greater cultural accessibility in the Lehigh Valley. On Tuesday, June 9, 2015, from 5:30 – 7:30 PM, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council introduces the community-wide plans for the upcoming Arts & Access celebration, which commemorates the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act through the lens of the arts.We are pleased to announce that JohnKristel, MBA, MPT, President & CEO of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital is our host for our annual membership event. Join us for a reception at Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center and learn more about the number of participating cultural organizations andindividuals who have signed on toparticipate in Arts & Access. This annual get-together is a popular occasion for members to renew their connection to the arts and to each other.Three prominent cultural leaders and their respective organizations will be celebrated for their vision in expanding cultural accessibility: Jessica Bien, General Manager at Muhlenberg College Theater & Dance Department; Nora Suggs, Executive Director of Satori; and Ricardo Viera, Director/Curator of Lehigh University Galleries and Museums.

“We chose to recognize these members in the arts community for their leadership in reaching out and accommodating people with various disabilities,” says Randall Forte, executive director. “Their commitment to greater inclusion is about being pro-active, not re-active—there is much we can learn from them!”

Festivities will include the creation of a “Word Cloud“,” as arts professionals, patrons, and guests will collaborate in visualizing the future of the arts in our community. Members and their guests will also enjoy a tour of the Health & Technology Center.

Generously underwritten by PPL, light food will be provided. Members attend for free; nonmembers pay $10. Reservations are encouraged so please call the Arts Council at 610-437-5915 or register online at http://www.LVArtsCouncil.org. Parking is available in the garage located at 850 South 5th St., Allentown. Access to the Health & Technology Center is via the third floor of the parking garage.

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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.

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Lehigh Valley Arts Council

840 Hamilton Street, Suite 201
Allentown, PA 18101
610-437-5915 / operations@LVArtsCouncil.org
www.LVArtsCouncil.org / www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org

‘Dance Emerge’ At Muhlenberg College

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 16-18 in the College’s Baker Theatre. Jeffrey Peterson is the artistic director for the concert.

“Choreographers in this year’s ‘Dance Emerge’ are honoring their own unique voices as they create personal dances which celebrate the joys of life and unearth the depths of their souls,” Peterson says. “The journey for the audience will undoubtedly juxtapose the human experience with quirky character-driven studies and more intimate work — all blending physical skill with choreographic imagination.”

“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, dance theater, and modern works that investigate such topics as platonic love, the grieving process, and the individual vs. the whole. 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 16-18 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are April 16-18: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 12, 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.

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

Fly Magazine Keep South Central Pennsylvania Up To Date On Entertainment, Dining and Nightlife

http://flymagazine.net/ is a great site to visit if you live in or visit Lancaster, York or Harrisburg.  Keeps you up to date on what’s going on, events, dining, music and arts and culture.  Happy Friday!

Muhlenberg College To Present Kurt Weill’s Groundbreaking American Opera ‘Street Scene’

Allentown, PAKurt Weill’s American opera “Street Scene” was a revelation when it opened in 1947: a piece of musical theater that — to great acclaim — bridged the gap between classical opera and the vitality of American jazz and blues. Featuring a Tony Award-winning score and vivid, vivacious lyrics by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, “Street Scene” was hailed by the New York Times as “a musical play of magnificence and glory.”

Muhlenberg College will present Weill’s groundbreaking work in an ambitious full-scale production, March 26-29, featuring a 35-piece professional orchestra, a cast of more than 50 performers, and guest artists Ed Bara and Lauren Curnow in the lead roles. The show is a co-production of Muhlenberg’s Department of Theatre & Dance and Music Department.

“An opera of this scale has never been scene in the Lehigh Valley,” says Charles Richter, professor of theater at Muhlenberg and the production’s director. “I think audiences will be carried away by the magnificent music of Kurt Weill, as performed by these great singers and musicians.”

“Street Scene” premiered on Broadway in 1947, with a book by Elmer Rice, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1929 play of the same name. Passions stir and gossip swirls in the brutal summer heat of a tenement in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in the late 1920s. It’s a world filled with hope, violence, and love, in which the characters struggle — some to rise up, some to get out, some to find joy, some simply to survive.

“The play deals in issues of social justice and oppression, and the idea of how we interact with others to control our lives,” Richter says. “These issues never loses its relevancy.”

The production receives funding from The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, New York, and from the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. Additional funding comes from The Amaranth Foundation and The Bessie S. Graham Music Trust.

The Charles A. and Leona K. Gruber Lectureship in the Arts has underwritten the participation of guest artists Bara and Curnow. In addition to their mainstage performance, they are presenting a concert recital titled “‘Street Scene’ and the Broadway Stage,” March 14 at 2 p.m., and a series of vocal master classes for advanced performance students, Feb. 21 and March 13.

“The guest artists have been a great inspiration to students,” says Michael Schnack, the production’s musical director and a member of Muhlenberg’s music faculty. “The students are smart about it. They consciously observe how the professionals go about their work.”

Schnack has been working with the students since early January to help them master the sophisticated musical score. He will also conduct the 35-member orchestra.

“Working on this score is not only difficult; it requires a vocal maturity that is challenging for singers of any age,” Schnack says. “They have to sing like opera singers, act like actors, and speak like actors, all with no microphones, over an orchestral underscore. And they’re rising phenomenally to the challenge. Working on this production has inspired students to consider classical singing as a viable option for them as a career.”

Curnow and Bara are both veterans of the Muhlenberg stage. Curnow, a 1996 Muhlenberg graduate, was last seen as Marion in Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s “The Music Man.” She has performed professionally around the world for more than a decade, with such companies as Wolftrap Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She holds masters degrees from The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music.

Bara recently played King Arthur in MSMT’s “Spamalot,” as well as Caiaphas in 2013’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and the title role in 2010’s “The Mikado.” He has been heard in 14 countries and some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, New York. In all, Bara has performed in more than 100 feature roles of opera, oratorio and theater. He is also a featured soloist on over a dozen orchestral recordings for Sony-Vox Classics, Time-Warner, and Lyrichord Records.

“With my voice type, I get to play villains a lot,” Bara says. “This character is a strong villain with opportunities for good, strong, big singing, which I really appreciate. I don’t often get the opportunity to sing this fully.”

Curnow and Bara play Anna and Frank Maurrant, a married couple whose marriage is on its last legs. Anna is having an affair — despite the looming threat of violence from her abusive husband. Their teenage daughter, Rose, longs to escape the tenement and her father’s temper and live an ordinary life.

“The show catches Frank at the end of a long declining slope,” Bara says. “The audience never gets a chance to see a good side. He has lost faith in his family and society. He’s really angry and tired, so he starts to drink and becomes extraordinarily violent toward everyone he cares about. He will be the villain of the play — but ‘Street Scene’ features no straightforward ‘good people.’ All of the characters are flawed.”

Curnow adds: “This production is exciting to work on because of its current cultural relevance. Despite its classical roots, it has modern elements of story and music, and audiences will be able to really connect with the emotional life of the story and the struggles that the characters are going through.”

Curtis Dretsch designed the scenery for the production — the exterior of an early 20th-century New York tenement house. Lara de Bruijn designed the costumes. Gertjan Houban designed the lighting. Karen Dearborn choreographed.

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. OnStage.com recently named Muhlenberg’s program the sixth-best Bachelor of Arts in Theatre program in the country.

Performances of “Street Scene” are March 26-29: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults and $8 for children and students, as well as for LVAIC faculty and staff. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, in Muhlenberg College’s Baker Center for the Arts, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

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

Muhlenberg College To Present Free Concert Recital March 14 Featuring ‘Street Scene’ Stars

Allentown, PA — The co-stars of Muhlenberg College’s upcoming production “Street Scene” will perform a free concert recital, “‘Street Scene’ and the Broadway Stage,” on Saturday, March 14, at 2 p.m., in the college’s Baker Center for the Arts.

Guest artist vocalists Ed Bara and Lauren Curnow will perform songs that trace the development of the modern musical from its early days in popular opera. Narrated by “Street Scene” director Charles Richter, the performance will include music from throughout the history of the musical stage, including a selection from “Street Scene.”

Kurt Weill’s 1946 American opera “Street Scene” played an integral role in the historical development of modern musical theater, according to Richter, bridging the gap between classical opera and the vitality of American jazz and blues. The show will be performed on the Muhlenberg mainstage March 26-29.

Bara and Curnow will also conduct a vocal master class on Friday, March. 13, working with five experienced vocal students on techniques of the music theater stage. Observers are welcome. The free event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Baker Center’s Recital Hall.

Both the concert recital and the master class are presented as part of the Charles A. and Leona K. Gruber Lectureship in the Arts at Muhlenberg.

The production of “Street Scene” and associated events are sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, New York City, and the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. Additional funding comes from the Bessie S. Graham Music Fund and the Amaranth Foundation. The show is a joint production of the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Music Department.

“‘Street Scene’ and the Broadway Stage” will be performed Saturday, March 14, at 2 p.m. Vocal Master Class, conducted by Ed Bara and Lauren Curnow, will be held Friday, March 13, at 7 p.m. Both events will be held in the Baker Center for the Arts Recital Hall. Admission to both events is free and no ticket is required.

“Street Scene” will be performed March 26-29. Further information is available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre 

The State Theatre Presents Tango Buenos Aires

Friday ◊ March 6, 2015 ◊ 8:00 p.m.
The State Theatre
453 Northampton Street
Easton, PA 18042

Direct from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tango Buenos Aires has become one of Argentina’s great cultural exports, known throughout the Americas, Europe and the Far East as the most authentic and uncompromising representative of the Tango. Song of Eva Perón is a Tango dance and music presentation inspired by the most important feminine character in Argentinian history, Eva Perón. Tracing her epic life – from her ascent to fame in the 1930s to her death in 1952 – this is a sparkling and poignant spectacle that is not to be missed. All Audiences.

Watch the Youtube video introduction!

Seats are in the Orchestra or Loge levels
(patrons will be seated upon arrival)

Rush Tickets available online only through the Lehigh Valley Arts Council

Act 1 DeSales University Performing Arts Presents: Dancing At Lughnasa

Saturday ◊ February 28, 2015 ◊ 8:00 p.m.
Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts
2755 Station Avenue
Center Valley, PA 18034

By Brian Friel • Directed by Dennis Razze

“The poetry of this play…like the most fragrant music, strikes deep chords that words cannot begin to touch.” –The New York Times

This extraordinary Irish drama, set in the Autumn of 1936 near Ballybeg, Ireland, is a memory play about the five brave Mundy sisters and their older brother Jack, who has just returned home after 25 years as a missionary priest in Africa. As the sisters prepare to celebrate the festival of the God Lugh they erupt into a wild dance celebrating their way of life before it changes forever. Ages 13+

View a preview of the show on YouTube

Click Here to Buy
Last Minute Discount
RUSH Tickets
for ONLY
$9.99!

Price of Regular Ticket at the door $24.00
Rush Tickets available online only.

Act 1DeSales University Performing Arts Presents: Dancing At Lughnasa

Friday ◊ February 20, 2015 ◊ 8:00 p.m.
Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts
2755 Station Avenue
Center Valley, PA 18034

By Brian Friel • Directed by Dennis Razze

“The poetry of this play…like the most fragrant music, strikes deep chords that words cannot begin to touch.” –The New York Times

This extraordinary Irish drama, set in the Autumn of 1936 near Ballybeg, Ireland, is a memory play about the five brave Mundy sisters and their older brother Jack, who has just returned home after 25 years as a missionary priest in Africa. As the sisters prepare to celebrate the festival of the God Lugh they erupt into a wild dance celebrating their way of life before it changes forever. Ages 13+

Click Here to Buy
Last Minute Discount
RUSH Tickets
for ONLY
$9.99!
Price of Regular Ticket at the door $24.00
Rush Tickets available online only

Philly’s On A Roll

Kat Clark, 25, has chosen to make a home in West Philadelphia after graduating in 2012 from Swarthmore College.

“It’s just a great place to live,” she said as she sipped coffee at La Colombe in the shadow of City Hall. Though the Chicago-area native considered relocating to New York City after school, the lure of Philadelphia’s cultural offerings, combined with the city’s comparative affordability, proved too tempting.

“There are a lot of artistic people around and this great academic scene,” she said, ticking off a laundry list of attributes that drew her to move here. “It’s not too large, but you can still do everything else you would do in a big city.

“In Philly, there’s still a lot going on, but you have space to grow,” echoed her friend, 24-year-old Tayarisha Poe.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Philly_is_on_a_national_roll.html

Jeffrey Sweet In A One Man Show February 14 At Steel River Playhouse

Picture 577On February 14, 2015, Jeffrey Sweet, the author of “Court Martial at Fort Devens”, will be appearing at Steel River Playhouse in his one-man show, “You Only Shoot The Ones You Love”, a 75-minute yarn about how the Cossacks almost killed his grandmother and what that has to do with a generation of Jews bringing teeth and cojones (look it up) to American comedy. In response to Joe McCarthy, Nixon and HUAC, wits like Nichols and May, Alan Arkin, Shelley Berman, and Jules Feiffer (and Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks) invent modern American satire. For more information, click here.

Plan To Relocate Pittsburgh Playhouse Downtown Approved; Millcraft Proposes Condos For Saks Site

The stage is set for the relocation of the Pittsburgh Playhouse to Downtown. City planning commission members unanimously approved plans for construction of new playhouse complex on Forbes Avenue Downtown today, clearing the way for its move from Oakland.

Approval came over the objections of preservationists who urged the commission to no avail to save three Forbes Avenue facades that will be relocated and integrated into the new complex under the plans advanced by Point Park University.

With today’s decision, Point Park intends to start construction in March with the demolition of three Forbes Avenue buildings and hopes to have the new complex ready for audiences in July 2017.

The $53 million project will feature a 550-seat main theater, a 200-seat adaptive theater with doors that will open to a plaza for outdoor performances, a 100-seat black box theater and supporting facilities.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2015/02/10/Millcraft-proposes-to-build-condos-garage-at-former-Saks-site-Downtown-Pittsburgh/stories/201502100184

Beth Henley’s Wildly Warm-Hearted Southern Comedy ‘The Miss Firecracker Contest’ Premieres At Muhlenberg

Allentown, PA — Beth Henley’s Southern comedy “The Miss Firecracker Contest” opens Feb. 18 at Muhlenberg College, with a cast of six college seniors. Director Francine Roussel says that the cast is ideally suited to convey the play’s themes of accepting ourselves for who we are in order to move ahead in our lives.

“Henley’s themes are really strong, but there is a lightness to her writing,” Roussel says. “The show is a comedy, almost to the point of farce, but at the same time, there are extremely moving moments where the characters are at a precipice, looking at their lives.”

“The Miss Firecracker Contest” runs Feb. 18-22 on the college’s Studio Theatre stage. Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/theatre and 484-664-3333.

Roussel says she selected the show because college students can relate to it — both those playing the characters and those watching in the audience.

“They are at a point in their lives where they are going to invent their life after college,” she says. “I think the play is at the core of what’s on their minds. What are their dreams? What are their concerns for the future?”

“The Miss Firecracker Contest” tells the story of 25-year-old Carnelle Scott, known around her tiny Mississippi town as “Miss Hot Tamale” for a past that she would like to forget. She’s got flaming red hair, a sparkler between her teeth, tap shoes on her feet, and The Star Spangled Banner on the tape deck, not to mention a burning desire to win the crown in this year’s Miss Firecracker Contest — the annual beauty pageant in her town. Carnelle hopes a Firecracker victory will help her shake her tarnished reputation and leave town in a blaze of glory.

“All these characters are dealing with crucial rites of passage,” Roussel says. “You can laugh out loud, but at the same time realize how desperate the characters really are.”

“The Miss Firecracker Contest” is Henley’s followup to her Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy “Crimes of the Heart.” First produced in 1980, the play also explores themes of femininity and beauty.

Russell Norris plays Delmount, Carnelle’s older cousin who has just been released from an asylum. Norris says he and his character are quite different in many respects, but they are both people at a crossroads, learning all they can before they move forward.

“This process is the perfect culminating experience,” Norris says. “We’re all going out into the professional world so soon, and we’re all in it together. It’s really bringing us together as a cast, and we all have a similar goal to learn as much as we can in this last opportunity, and soak in the experience.”

Norris’s castmate Julia Garber, who plays Carnelle, agrees. But she also points out that, for all the play’s complex and dynamic characters, it is also very funny.

“I think the audience is going to laugh really hard,” Garber says. “It’s not just a crazy, Southern comedy, but a play that has a lot more depth. I can take a lesson from Carnelle to always stay hopeful and believe in myself.”

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 15 in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Performances of “The Miss Firecracker Contest” are Feb. 18-22: 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 faculty and staff. The performance is intended for mature audiences. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 and muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Open Audition Dates

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions for performers ages 16 and up on Feb. 22 and 23. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: the raucous, pupped-filled musical comedy “Avenue Q,” performing June 10-28, and the classic musical “Hello, Dolly!,” performing July 8-26.

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

Vocal auditions will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, from 1 to 5 and 6 to 11 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 23, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Vocal auditions will be held in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts. Appointments are three minutes.

Dance auditions for “Hello, Dolly!” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Dance auditions will take about half an hour.

All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. Auditioners should send an email to SMTcompany@muhlenberg.edu before Friday, Feb. 20, indicating available dates and times within the scheduled audition, and providing a mobile phone number where the auditioner can be reached with questions.

Those without access to email should call the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance office at 484-664-3087, during regular office hours before Thursday, Feb. 19. Voice messages should contain all of the above information.

All “Hello, Dolly!” auditioners will be assigned a time for both a dance audition and a vocal audition. Auditioners must both dance and sing, even if they concentrate in just one area. All performers in “Hello, Dolly!” will sing and dance. “Avenue Q” does not require a preliminary dance audition, although callback auditions may include some movement.

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

Auditioners who receive a callback must attend in person to be considered for a role. Callbacks will be held March 14-15, and will include acting auditions, reading from the script.

Auditioners for both shows should prepare a memorized vocal selection of 32 bars. An accompanist will be provided for the vocal audition. Auditioners must bring sheet music in the key in which they would like to sing, with the selection indicated and any cuts clearly noted. Please no accompaniment tapes or a cappella auditions.

Auditioners for “Hello, Dolly!” should prepare a song from a musical produced prior to 1980. Auditioners for “Avenue Q” should select a song that shows character, from 1980 through the present.

For dance auditions, auditioners will be taught a short dance sequence, which they will then perform. No preparation is required.

Auditioners should bring two copies of their resumes and headshots.

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

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

The application deadline for technicians, costumers, and administrative personnel is March 9. Applications can be found online at muhlenberg.edu/smt. Completed applications can be sent to boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.

Upcoming Performances In The Lehigh Valley

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES

REPERTORY DANCE THEATRE presents:

March 7, 2015 | 4:00 pm @ Scottish Rite Cathedral
Cinderella


BACH & HANDEL CHORALE presents:

April 11, 2015 | 3:00 pm @ Zion U.C.C. of Lehighton
The Bach and Handel Easter Concert


CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF BETHLEHEM presents:

February 13, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Foy Hall
Auryn Quartet

March 13, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Foy Hall
Vienna Piano Trio


PENNSYLVANIA SINFONIA ORCHESTRA presents:

March 22, 2015 | 4:00 pm @ Christ Lutheran Church, Allentown
An Afternoon with Mozart


MORAVIAN COLLEGE MUSIC INSTITUTE presents:

February 14, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Peter Hall
Chamber Music from Old Japan – SATORI East

February 16, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Foy Hall
Dame Evelyn Glennie, percussion

February 20, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Peter Hall
Faculty Recital, featuring: “Dueling Sopranos”

February 22, 2015 | 7:00 pm @ Foy Hall
Moravian College Community Orchestra, featuring: Jeffrey Biegel

February 27, 2015 | 7:30 pm @ Foy Hall
Moravian College Wind Ensemble, “Harmony & Conflict”

March 22, 2015 | 7:00 pm @ Foy Hall
Moravian College Jazz Combo II & Jazz Fusion

March 22, 2015 | 4:00 pm @ Peter Hall
Moravian College Early Music Ensembles

March 29, 2015 | 7:00 pm @ Peter Hall
Celtic Ensemble & Guitar Ensemble

March 29, 2015 | 4:00 pm @ Peter Hall
Delta Omicron Presents: “Hey Old Friends” Alumni Concert


Muhlenberg College ‘Master Choreographers’ Dance Concert Displays Talents Of Acclaimed Choreographers, More Than 60 Dancers

Allentown, PA — The Muhlenberg College dance program will showcase world premiere works by eight accomplished choreographers in its annual “Master Choreographers” concert, Feb. 5-7. The concert features a diverse selection of styles and genres, ranging from classical ballet to contemporary jazz, modern dance, and tap accompanied by live jazz music.

This season’s concert will feature “Prayers,” choreographed by guest artist Jessica Lang, the recipient of a prestigious 2014 Bessie Award, as well as seven world-premiere pieces choreographed by acclaimed guest artists and faculty members.

Karen Dearborn, founder and chair of Muhlenberg’s dance program, will receive the Distinguished Service Award from the LVAIC Dance Consortium following the performance on Thursday, Feb. 5. Dearborn is the concert’s artistic director and one of the featured choreographers.

“This concert presents a spectacular evening of dance,” Dearborn says. “We are thrilled to showcase choreography by Jessica Lang, along with new works by internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty.”

In addition to Lang and Dearborn, the concert will feature works by: Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen; Corrie Franz Cowart, co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance; Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Dorrell Martin, founder of LEON Dance Arts NY; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazzdance.

The Dance Consortium is a collaborative effort of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), created to pool resources to bring world-class performers and choreographers to the Lehigh Valley. Now in its 40th year, the Dance Consortium includes Cedar Crest College, DeSales University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, and Muhlenberg. The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to a member of the Lehigh Valley dance community for outstanding contributions to the advancement of local dance.

The award will be presented to Dearborn by Deborah Sacarakis, artistic director of the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University and recipient of the 2014 award. The presentation ceremony will immediately follow the 8 p.m. performance, at about 10 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Performances of “Master Choreographers” will take place Feb. 5-7: Thursday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 7, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Information and tickets are available at

484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.

Muhlenberg College’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.

Choreographer Bios

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

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

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

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

Jessica Lang has created more than 80 works on companies worldwide since 1999, including Birmingham Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Japan at the New National Theatre Tokyo, Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Richmond Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ailey II, ABT II, Hubbard Street 2, and New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, among many others. American Ballet Theatre has presented her work at the Metropolitan Opera House, and she has received commissions from the Dallas Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum for its Works and Process series. For opera, Lang received acclaim for her directorial debut and choreography of Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” at the 2013 Glimmerglass Opera Festival. Lang is the recipient of 2014 Bessie Award. Her ballet “Lyric Pieces,” commissioned and performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, earned a nomination for a coveted 2013 Manchester Theatre Award in the United Kingdom. Lang has received numerous grants for her work on ballet companies from organizations including the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Choo San Goh Foundation. Her receipt of a 2010 Joyce Theater Artist Residency, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, helped launch her own company, Jessica Lang Dance in 2011. Lang, a graduate of The Juilliard School under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, is a former member of Twyla Tharp’s company, THARP!

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

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

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

Top 15 Reasons To Visit Philadelphia In 2015

With 2015 comes plenty of reasons for visitors to plan a trip to Philadelphia. In fact, only-in-Philly projects, exhibitions, anniversaries and celebrations will give first-time visitors incentives to make that return trip and return visitors reasons to come back yet again.

So what’s on the calendar? The Tall Ships Challenge Philadelphia Camden 2015, showing off a dozen historic ships on the Delaware River Waterfront; Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting, featuring more than 80 works by a who’s who of painters at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and a special exhibition at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland.

Of course, all eyes will be on Philadelphia when thousands of Catholic families from around the globe — and Pope Francis — gather for the eighth World Meeting of Families.

Here are some of the major happenings taking place throughout Philadelphia in 2015:

Read more: http://www.visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-15-reasons-to-visit-philadelphia-in-2015/?utm_campaign=WinterSummer2015&utm_source=Philly.com

Audio-Description Training For The Performing Arts

February 20 & 21, 2015
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Lehigh Valley Arts Council
Butz Corporate Center
2nd Floor Conference Room
840 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101

As the Lehigh Valley Arts Council prepares for the 25th anniversary and yearlong celebration of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are offering a two-day audio-description training workshop to the performing arts community. By becoming more disability-friendly, a cultural venue can also increase its capacity to attract a larger audience. Theatre practitioners from all walks of life—actors, students, volunteers—are invited to enroll in the upcoming audio-description training session and acquire new performance skills. The training also prepares performing arts groups to participate in the Arts & Access Celebration and to receive recognition and promotion in the Lehigh Valley for creating a more inclusive region.

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

The Arts Council has contracted Mimi Smith, Executive Director of VSA Pennsylvania, and Steve Smith to provide the training over the course of two days, February 20 & 21, 2015. The Smiths have been describers for more than two decades, and are the founders of Amaryllis Theatre Co., a professional Philadelphia theatre that regularly includes artists with disabilities. They will introduce the class to the foundational skills—Observe, Analyze and Communicate— necessary to audio describe a play.

Typically, this workshop would cost $590. Thanks to the underwriting support of an anonymous donor, the Arts Council is able to offer it at a very reasonable price: $50 per person.

The workshop also includes admission to an audio-described performance of Dancing at Lughnasa at the Labuda Performing Arts Center on Thursday, February 19, 2015, at 8:00 p.m.

Reservations required, for more information and to reserve your spot:

Call: 610-437-5915
Email: operations@LVArtsCouncil.org
Web:http://www.lvartscouncil.org/Access/default.html#events
Tickets:http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=7941980&cobrand=lvartsboxoffice