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

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.

New Beginning: Allentown’s Warrington Avenue Poised For A Makeover

The crowd inside — and eventually outside — 816 E. Warrington Ave. one recent evening gathered to showcase a newly renovated Allentown property. The former Ken’s Variety had been vacant for more than 20 years.

As the evening deepened, “Open in Allentown,” a “pop-up” event with a garage-style glass door rolled up, became a stew of neighborhood leaders, investors, consultants, residents of Allentown and nearby neighborhoods mingling over cocktails and catered nibbles.

The event and mix of people signified what Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukenik called “Warrington Avenue in its reinvention phase.”

One mile from Downtown (Pittsburgh) and cradled by the hot markets of Mount Washington and the South Side Slopes, Allentown is riddled with residential blight, and 35 percent of its commercial properties are vacant. But the newly repaved Warrington Avenue is on the cusp of a transition from being seedy to being seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

UFO Sighting In Allentown – Reported To Mutual UFO Network

Today’s odd news…

Several people saw three unidentified flying objects (UFO’s) above the Sam’s Club in Allentown last night around 5:15pm.  Pictures were taken and eye-witness accounts were given.  The three objects were visible for about 40 seconds and were traveling in a straight line. 

To read the full story, click here:,0,7448115.story?track=rss

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

Evening of one-act plays includes full productions

of new works by five emerging playwrights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lehigh Valley Air Quality Not Good

US Air Quality Index Map-1/23/2009

Image via Wikipedia

Like Lancaster, the Lehigh Valley does not have good air quality.  The Lehigh Valley was rated 13th on the list of smoggiest mid-sized metropolitan areas in the nation.  Lancaster was ranked 10th. 

Pennsylvania ranks as the sixth smoggiest state in the U.S.  Air pollution is linked to respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies.

Poverty Rate Climbing In Pennsylvania

Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 20...

Image via Wikipedia

According to statistics released from the U.S. Census Bureau, families in Pennsylvania are worse off than they were 10 years ago.

Cumberland County saw its poverty rate for families increase from 6.2 percent in 1999 to 7.8 percent.

Dauphin County saw its poverty rate for families increase from 12 percent to 20 percent!

Lebanon County saw its poverty rate for families increase from 8.9 percent to 15.2 percent.

York County saw its poverty rate for families increase from 7.1 percent to 11.4 percent

Crawford County saw its poverty rate for families increase from 16.2 percent to 20.7 percent.

Erie County saw its poverty rate rise to 17.4 percent while the City of Erie’s poverty rate increased six percent to 30.2 percent and is the second-highest poverty rate in Pennsylvania.

The City of Reading has a poverty rate of 41.3 percent and comes in at numero uno!  Poverty rates for other major Pennsylvania cities are Allentown 27 percent, Philadelphia 26.7 percent, Pittsburgh 22.3 percent, 21.1 in Scranton and 20.9 in Bethlehem.

The poverty rate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 13.4 percent or more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians.  More than half a million people living in poverty are children under the age of 18!

These rates are higher for minority families.  For example, 45 percent of blacks and Hispanic families in Erie live under the poverty level.  The poverty rate is 25 percent for white residents.

The U.S.poverty rate hit a 17 year high of 15.1 percent.  46.2 million people in the United States were living below the poverty level in 2010.  The federal poverty level for a family of four is a yearly income of less than $22,314.

Muhlenberg’s 30th summer season continues with ‘Spelling Bee’ musical

Allentown, Pa. (June 29, 2010) — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will celebrate cerebration with the second mainstage production of its 30th season: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The musical comedy runs July 14 through Aug. 1, in the Dorothy Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

Telling the story of six adolescent outsiders who compete for the title of Putnam County Spelling Bee champion, “Spelling Bee” won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and was nominated for Best Musical and Best Score. The New York Times called it “effortlessly endearing.”

The show includes guest spellers from the audience each night, including a “celebrity guest speller” for each performance. Notables will include Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski, National Public Radio host Neal Conan, and Morning Call columnist Bill White. [A complete list appears below.]

“The show is highly unpredictable,” says Bill Mutimer, the show’s director and choreographer. “On any given night, the direction it goes depends on the guest spellers and the choices that the cast makes. It has a kind of madcap, improvisational energy.

“But at the same time,” Mutimer continues, “the show lets you sympathize with these six vulnerable kids, going through a really tough time in their lives. I mean, who would choose to go back to their middle school days? So it’s awkward and endearing and hilarious, all at once.”

“Spelling Bee” tells the story of six unfortunate pre-teens who try, as spelling bee contestants, to wrench a moment’s dignity from the awkward misery of their pubescent lives. William Barfée — it rhymes with “parfait” — played by Gabriel Martinez, has one working nostril and a magic foot that helps him with his spelling. Leaf Coneybear (Andrew Clark), is the child of hippie parents and doing his best to cope with their low expectations for him. Marcy Park (Jessica Anne Cox) speaks six languages but can’t meet a boy in any of them.

Olive Ostrovsky (Emily Spadaford) is the mousy but courageous young ingenue, whose mom is at an ashram in India, and whose dad is working late as usual. Chip Tolentino (Joe Spiotta) is last year’s champion, struggling with his hormones and his powers of concentration. The pigtailed Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Anna Gothard) is up on current events and burdened by her two dads’ expectations.

“It has been a beautiful process getting in touch with my inner 10-year-old child,” Gothard says. “‘Spelling Bee’ reminds me of the wonderful innocence that children possess — which I forgot I once possessed as well.”

The adults in the room include Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Patrick M. Brady); comfort counselor Mitch Mahoney (Matthew S. Walczer), who consoles those who get the ding; and moderator Rona Lisa Perretti (Traci Ceschin), reliving her own bee glory.

The show features a score by William Finn, Tony Award winner for “Falsettos,” and a book by Rachel Sheinkin. Ken Butler is the musical director for the production, Matthew Allar designs the set, Lex Gurst designs costumes, John McKernon designs lights, and Paul E. Theisen Jr. designs sound. Julia Korzeniewski is the production stage manager.

The celebrity guest spellers for the production are:

– Amy Burkett, host of “Tempo InDepth” and senior vice president of production on PBS39, July 14

 – Randy Helm, Muhlenberg College president, July 15

– Mark Stutz, director of visual and performing arts for the Parkland School District, July 16

– Neal Conan, radio journalist and host of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” July 17

– Rebecca Walz, development and public relations director for WDIY-FM, Lehigh Valley community public radio, July 18

– Randall Forte, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, July 21

– A.J. Irvin, actor, award-winning New York cabaret performer, and Muhlenberg alumnus, July 22

– Brooks Joyner, Priscilla Payne Hurd president and CEO of the Allentown Art Museum, July 23

– Michael Fegley, director of marketing, Fegley’s Brew Works, July 24

– Joan Barber, actor, singer, and voice teacher — played Katisha in the original 1981 Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre production of “The Mikado” — July 25

– Sharon Lee Glassman, president of Civic Theatre of Allentown and former Emmaus High School teacher and director, July 28

– Myra Yellin Outwater, Allentown Morning Call theater columnist, July 29

– Ed Pawlowski, mayor of Allentown, July 30

– Ellen Baker Ghelardi, executive director of the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation, July 31

– Bill White, Allentown Morning Call columnist, Aug. 1.

The show is the second mainstage production of Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s 30th season. The season also features Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” which played June 16 through July 3, and the children’s musical “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” which continues through July 31.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” plays July 14 through Aug. 1, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. While not explicit, the show does deal in part with the turbulent inner life of the pubescent boy, and so is recommended for ages 10 and up.

Ticket prices for July 14-17 are: regular admission, $32; seniors, $28; full-time students, $18; children, $13. Prices for July 18 through Aug. 1 are: regular admission $38; seniors, $34; full-time students, $20; children, $15.

The Trexler Pavilion is located at 2400 Chew Street, Allentown. 

Tickets are available from the box office, in person or at 484-664-3333,  484-664-3333 or online at