‘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.

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 

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.

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.

Muhlenberg Production Of ‘Agamemnon’ Offers Innovative Take On Greek Tragedy

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA— The hardest part of directing a play that’s a couple thousand years old isn’t getting your audience to understand the play, says director Matthew Moore. The hard part is making sure they connect with it — and that means finding a way to cut its mythic characters down to human size.

Moore’s production of Aeschylus’ tragedy “Agamemnon” opens Nov. 19 at the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department, where he is a faculty member. He says that his first job as director has been to help a modern audience relate to an ancient tragedy, with its ancient characters and their ancient motivations.

“Ted Hughes has given us a beautiful, poetic, modern translation, so the language isn’t a great challenge for the audience,” Moore says. “The challenge comes from creating these larger-than-life characters on the stage, in a way that makes them and their crazy decisions seem not only real but compelling.”

“Agamemnon” runs Nov. 19-23 on the college’s Studio Theatre stage. Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre and 484-664-3333.

Moore says his approach to creating an accessible “Agamemnon” has been highly collaborative — and highly improvisational, to an unusual degree for a theater production. The cast spent the entire first month of rehearsals doing improv and movement work, with guidance from movement consultant Susan Creitz, another Muhlenberg faculty member. Their objective was to find the physical reality of their characters before they started learning their lines.

“The first thing Matt ever said at rehearsal was, ‘This text is a spell, and we are going to learn how to cast it,'” says Kate McMoran, who plays Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s vengeful spouse. “I don’t think I could have even started to the scenes if I hadn’t had the improv movement experience first.”

“Agamemnon” tells a tale of revenge and murder set in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Ten years before, the Greek King Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to gain the necessary winds to sail to Troy. Now he returns victorious — but his fleet and kingdom have been decimated by the war, and the memory of his sacrifice looms large, particularly for his wife, Clytemnestra.

Feigning thankfulness for his safe return, Clytemnestra lures her husband into the bath, where she murders him to avenge her daughter. But justice proves elusive in this primal tale of revenge.

“I am interested in the practice of theater as a continued collaboration,” Moore says. “It doesn’t mean you come and collaborate with me on my vision. It means let’s actually do the work of figuring out what this is together.”

Part of the collaborative process for “Agamemnon” includes the contributions of senior Sean Skahill, who has composed a dark, edgy original score for the production. Skahill also composed music for last fall’s “The Winter’s Tale,” but in a very different style. For “Agamemnon,” he uses a looping station, an electronic device that loops and layers different sounds and instruments to create an improvisational soundscape.

“Matt keeps saying that the play is about the past repeating itself,” Skahill says. “So the looping device really works nicely on a literary level. We keep hearing the past, layered over itself to create more and more complexity.”

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 “Agamemnon” are Nov. 19-23: 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 students and for LVAIC faculty and staff. The performance is intended for mature audiences.

‘Moving Stories’ Dance Concert Showcases Innovative Work By Student Choreographers In Muhlenberg’s Nationally Acclaimed Program

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PAMuhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Moving Stories,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, Nov. 6-8 in the College’s Baker Theatre.

Artistic director Karen Dearborn says the 10 choreographers selected for the program have created sophisticated and innovative dances, informed by their liberal arts education, and intended to probe and illuminate the human experience.

“‘Moving Stories’ is designed to inspire and challenge audiences,” Dearborn says. “These visually lush dances offer a view of our present and future through contemporary eyes. It is always exciting to be enveloped in these kinetic and symbolic works of art — to be moved by the movement.”

In addition this year, Muhlenberg will present “Dance On: Moving Stories Part II,” a free 40-minute concert, Nov. 8 and 9, also in the Baker Theatre.

“Moving Stories” will showcase over 50 dancers from the department’s dance program, which is among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features costume and lighting designs by the department’s acclaimed professional staff.

The ten original dances include contemporary jazz, tap, and modern works that investigate female competition, the images in dreams, personal tragedy, architecture, consciousness and fear. Everything from wildlife, interpersonal relationships, a cappella, nightmares, and the interworking of the human mind struck inspiration for the choreographers.

“Moving Stories” features the choreography of Samantha Chu, Allison Conley, Shayna Golub, Tyler Holoboski, Courtney Hunsberger, Emily Lombardo, Zoe Papaeracleous, Krysta Parker, Kelley Romanuski, and Kylie Sickler.

“Dance On” features pieces by Sarah Braviak, Natalie Coy, Noah Dach, Paige Klibanoff, Liz Spilsbury, and Elizabeth Thompson.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the county, according to the Princeton Review rankings.  Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. It has been named annually among The Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States, and the American College Dance Festival Association has consistently recognized dances premiered on the Muhlenberg stage for excellence in choreography and performance.

“Moving Stories” runs Nov. 6-8: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.  

“Dance On” runs Nov. 8-9: Saturday at 5 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is free, and tickets are not required.

Both concerts will be performed in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Muhlenberg Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of Sondheim’s ‘Anyone Can Whistle’

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA – Stephen Sondheim’s rarely produced musical comedy “Anyone Can Whistle” will get a Fiftieth Anniversary production at the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department, Oct. 24 – Nov. 2. An absurdist satire about insanity, conformity, miracles, and local government, the 1964 musical is also a great love story, according to director Beth Schachter, and has become a cult classic among musical theater fans.

“The music is quite lovely,” says Schachter, a member of the theater faculty at Muhlenberg, and the chair of the Theatre & Dance Department. “The humor is also very enjoyable. The show is witty in a way that many musicals are not.

“Anyone Can Whistle” plays on the stage of the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts. Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre and 484-664-3333.

The show tells the story of a bankrupt town with a corrupt mayoress, in which the only business still thriving is Dr. Detmold’s Sanitarium for the Socially Pressured — known locally as The Cookie Jar. The town needs a miracle — which is precisely what it gets when a local girl licks a rock and water gushes out. Bingo! A modern-day Lourdes, with the tourist trade to boot. (The miracle was staged by the mayor’s cronies, of course.)

Things get even more complicated when the Cookie Jar patients get mixed up with the pilgrims, and no one can tell who’s crazy and who isn’t — not that it was entirely clear to begin with.

The show satirizes issues and attitudes that are still very much germane 50 years later, Schachter says: issues of gender norms and gender equality, questions of individuality and conformity, social protest and civil disobedience.

“The show argues for standing up for change and not waiting for the people in charge to change things for you,” she says. “That’s something that appeals to me, as the people of Hong Kong flood the streets with their umbrellas in support of democracy.”

Schachter says the show offers a particularly sophisticated and compelling depiction of women, with two powerful female characters in Fay, a nurse who works at the Cookie Jar, and Cora, the town’s mayor.

“The show is interested in women, in their desires, ambitions, and wishes,” she says, “which is part of the reason I like it so much.”

Senior Samantha Simon, from Hawthorne, N.J., plays the central role of Cora — a villain of the piece, but a complicated character nevertheless. Simon appeared last fall as Rosa Bud in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

“Samantha is having a terrific time playing this hilarious villainess,” Schachter says. “She is a powerful presence on stage. She really takes over.”

Sondheim wrote “Anyone Can Whistle” very early in his career as a composer. He had contributed lyrics to the hits “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” but had only written the score for one Broadway show, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” The show closed after nine performances, but went on to become a cult favorite among musical theater fans, particularly Sondheim-philes. The show offers a preview of the complex melodies and innovative structures that characterize the composer’s later shows.

“‘Whistle’ marks the beginning of Sondheim’s distinctive voice and style,” Schachter says. “He develops that style much further in his mature work, but it’s fascinating to see this early expression of his talents as a composer.”

Tim Averill designs the scenery, which has “a zany, cartoony, fairy-tale feel to it,” Schachter says. “We were inspired by the set of ‘Laugh-In,’ with its bright colors and crazy angles.” The choreography, by Lynn Wiener, is similarly outlandish, highlighted by a comic ballet in which the ballerinas play deputies in an epic chase scene — on pointe.

“It’s a total hoot,” Schachter says. “But it’s a hoot with something to say, and what it has to say is still interesting and relevant 50 years later. It has been a revelation for me.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for seven years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Performances of “Anyone Can Whistle” are Oct. 24 – Nov. 2. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with an additional 2 p.m. show on Saturday, Oct. 25. Regular admission tickets are $22. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8. Group and season subscription rates are available.

Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

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

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review has ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for seven years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

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

Behind The Scenes Of Spamalot – July 12, 2014! Arts Alive 2014‏

Go Behind the Scenes of Spamalot

Saturday ◊ July 12, 2014 ◊ 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m

Dorothy H. Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavillion

Muhlenberg College

2400 W. Chew Street

Allentown, PA 18104

Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!Meet Curtis Dretsch, set designer for Monty Python’s Spamalot, on Saturday, July 12, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Join us for the second installment of the Arts Alive! 2014 series, “Behind the Scenes,” as the Lehigh Valley Arts Council once again arranges for arts patrons to take a cultural tour of the arts process.

Spamalot parodies the legend of King Arthur and his band of lunatic knights as they sing and dance their way through a ridiculous divine quest. The show, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was seen on Broadway by more than two million people, is providing Dretsch the opportunity to tackle its wacky story and outrageous landscape for the 34th Season of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

Dretsch, Director of Design and Technical Theatre for Muhlenberg College, has designed the stage sets, costumes, and lighting for more than 100 theatre and dance productions in his career. He is known for creating lavish colors, spectacular designs, and architectural magic that amazes audiences, and he continues to build precise models of each project. In addition to more than three decades designing for Muhlenberg, he has worked in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Baltimore, Dallas, Edinburg and London.

Guests will enjoy a tour backstage and get a glimpse into his design process—from concept to scale model to the completed stage set.

Limited attendance. Tickets: $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY! 

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The Lehigh Valley Arts Council Presents: Behind The Scenes

ImageProxy (10)Allentown, PA – The second installment of the Arts Alive! 2014 series,“Behind the Scenes” features Curtis Dretsch, stage designer for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot.

Dretsch is the Director of Design and Technical Theatre for Muhlenberg College, and has designed sets, costumes, and lighting for more than 100 theatre and dance productions on local and national stages. He is known for creating lavish colors, spectacular designs, and architectural magic that amazes audiences, and he continues to build precise models of each project. Guests will get a glimpse into his design process—from concept to scale model to the completed stage set.

Written by Monty Python’s comic genius Eric Idle and composer John Du Prez, the 2005 Broadway production of Monty Python’s Spamalot was “lovingly ripped off” from the classic 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The stage musical parodies the legend of King Arthur and his band of lunatic knights as they sing and dance their way through a ridiculous divine quest. The show, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was seen on Broadway by more than two million people, is providing Dretsch the opportunity to tackle its wacky story and outrageous landscape for the 34th Season of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“Behind the Scenes” is intended to spark everyone’s creative process by spending time with performers and designers who are willing to share personal insights and experiences.

“Behind the Scenes” will take place July 12, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, located on the Muhlenberg College campus at 2400 W. Chew Street, Allentown, Pa.

The Lehigh Valley Arts Council member fee for each session is $10; nonmembers pay $15. Attendance is limited to 25 persons, and reservations are required. Email James Ravelle at operations@lvartscouncil.org, call 610-437-5915 or visit www.LVArtsCouncil.org.

Call: 610-437-5915.
Email: operations@LVArtsCouncil.org 
Web: www.lvartscouncil.org/ArtsAlive.html
Tickets: www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=1804136&cobrand=lvartsboxoffice 

Date: Saturday, July 12, 2014 – 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Location: 
Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance
Muhlenberg College Campus
2400 W. Chew Street, Allentown, Pa.

Arts Alive 2014 – Behind The Scenes

Arts Alive 2014 – Behind the Scenes

The second installment of the Arts Alive! 2014series,“Behind the Scenes” features Curtis Dretsch, stage designer for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Dretsch is the Director of Design and Technical Theatre for Muhlenberg College, and has designed sets, costumes, and lighting for more than 100 theatre and dance productions on local and national stages. Guests will get a glimpse into his design process—from concept to scale model to the completed stage set.

Behind the Scenes” will be held on July 12, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College (2400 W. Chew Street, Allentown, Pa.). Tickets are $10 for Members / $15 for nonmembers; space is limited.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS FOR “BEHIND THE SCENES” !

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COMING UP! Two-Day Audio-Description Training For The Performing Arts On July 18 & 19, 2014!

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. Trainees will also attend an audio-described performance of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Click HERE for more information on this training.

July 18, 2014 | 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
July 19, 2014 | 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Lehigh Valley Arts Council
840 Hamilton Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room (Suite 200)
Allentown

July 18, 2014 | 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM:
Monty Python’s Spamalot (Audio Described Performance)
Baker Theatre/Trexler Pravilon, Muhlenberg College
2400 Chew St. Allentown

FEE: $25 RESERVE YOUR SEAT!

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Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Embarks On 34th Theatrical Season

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA—The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre festival at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 2014 summer season — the 34th in the festival’s history. The season will feature the groundbreaking 1970s musical “A Chorus Line,” Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” and “Gruff!” a new musical for young audiences.

“A Chorus Line” opens the summer season, June 11-29. The Tony Award-winning best play of 1975, and one of the longest-running plays in Broadway history, “A Chorus Line” delves into the lives of 17 dancers auditioning for eight spots in the chorus of a Broadway musical. SMT artistic director Charles Richter directs the production.

“Spamalot” — the zany Monty Python musical comedy adapted from the classic movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — runs July 9-27. Directed by James Peck, the show parodies the legend of King Arthur and his band of haphazard knights as they sing and dance their way through a ridiculous divine quest.

“Gruff! A New Family Musical… with Goats!” runs June 18 through July 26. In this interactive and puppet-filled musical, a young goat leaves the junkyard for the first time and stumbles into the fantastical land of the trolls. The show is a new creation of the neo-vaudeville theater group Doppelskope, and is recommended for ages 4 and up.

Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/SMT and 484-664-3693.

“A Chorus Line” takes the audience behind the scenes of an unnamed Broadway musical, and into the minds and lives of 17 Broadway hopefuls in the midst of a soul-baring audition. As the ranks thin, the auditioners face the realities of life, love, and a career in show business. “A Chorus Line” features such memorable numbers as “What I Did for Love,” “One,” “I Can Do That,” “At the Ballet,” “The Music and the Mirror,” and “I Hope I Get It.”

The Broadway production of “A Chorus Line” garnered numerous awards when it premiered in 1975, including the Tony Awards for best musical, best book, and best score. Charles Richter directs the production. Michael Schnack is musical director, and Muhlenberg dance program chair Karen Dearborn choreographs.

The Muhlenberg premiere of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” features “some of the funniest antics introduced on a Broadway stage,” according to USA Today. The show is “lovingly ripped off” from the classic 1975 film by beloved British comedy troupe “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” King Arthur and his knights embark on an ill-fated quest for the Holy Grail, dodging giant wooden rabbits, obnoxious Frenchmen, and a death-defying limbless knight along the way. James Peck directs. Justin Brehm serves as musical director. Sammy Reyes choreographs the production.

In the world-premiere family musical “Gruff!” a young goat learns the wonder of the natural world, and a new adventure begins, in which trolls and goats learn to live and play together. This innovative take on the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff is the work of Doppelskope, a neo-vaudeville theatre ensemble that creates original works featuring puppetry, magic, and clowning. Gruff is directed by Ora Fruchter, with music written by Ora Fruchter and Toby Singer. It is appropriate for ages four and up.

A sensory-friendly performance of “Gruff!” will be presented Saturday, June 28, at 1 p.m. The performance will feature lighting and sound design conducive to children with autism and other sensory processing difficulties; a cast meet-and-greet and orientation before the performance; an open house and available sensory stories in advance of the performance; and facilities available for children who need time away from the performance. Tickets are provided at a discounted rate of $5. For reservations and information about the sensory-friendly performance, please contact general manager Jess Bien at 484-664-3087.

An accessible performance will be presented during the SMT season, featuring audio description for patrons with visual impairments and open captioning for patrons with hearing difficulties. Details are still pending; however, the performance will take place on a Sunday at 2 p.m. Call 484-664-3087 for information.

“A Chorus Line” runs June 11-29; “Spamalot” runs July 9-27. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for both “A Chorus Line” and “Spamalot” are as follows. For the first four performances: regular admission tickets are $33; seniors are $29; students and children are $18. For the remaining 11 performances, beginning Sunday of opening weekend; regular admission tickets are $39; seniors are $36; students and children are $20.

“Gruff!” runs June 18 through July 26. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only. All tickets to “Gruff!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333. Information on group discounts, subscriptions, and family matinee discounts is available on the website.

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Muhlenberg College’s Camp Imagine Performing Arts Camp For Middle Schoolers Nurtures A Passion For The Arts

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PA — This summer, Muhlenberg College’s Camp Imagine program celebrates its 16th year of educating and enriching the lives of the Lehigh Valley’s middle school students. Founded in 1999 the program provides young people in grades 6-8 with a month-long performing arts experience, which is free for students of the Allentown School District.

The program runs June 30 through July 25, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Camp Imagine provides invaluable opportunities to nurture a passion for the performing arts,” says the program’s education manager, Lindsay Quinn. “It also builds real-life interpersonal and expressive skills, which help students in all areas of their lives.”

Participants in 2013 said that the program helped them “to take risks and ask questions,” “to be confident and be loud,” and “to not be afraid to show my art.”

Camp Imagine will culminate in a free showcase performance for family and friends at the conclusion of the four weeks, on Saturday, July 26. Participants will be guided through creative arts experiences in the performing arts by talented teams of Muhlenberg College students and alumni. These teaching artists are experienced, professionally trained and supervised.

Camp Imagine students will explore their talents in acting, music, and dance in a safe and open environment, rotating through classes in drama, movement, and vocal expression. They will also get to work with Muhlenberg alumni and students to create a dynamic ensemble environment with their peers.

Camp Imagine meets 9:30 to 12:30 a.m, Monday through Friday, June 30 through July 25. There is no session on Friday, July 4. A lunch is provided for free to all participants, and free bus transportation is provided from all four Allentown School District middle schools. The camp is free for all students who attended Allentown School District middle schools in the 2013-2014 school year. For non-ASD students, tuition is $395; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available.

Students must register to participate. Applications are available online at www.muhlenberg.edu/camp, and by request at camp@muhlenberg.edu or 484-664-3693. Students should enroll by June 1 to ensure availability.

The programs are made possible by underwriting support from Embassy Bank, Enterprise Car Rentals, Highmark Blue Cross, Lehigh Valley Educators Credit Union, The Foundation for Allentown City Schools, and individual donors.

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Muhlenberg College To Present Premiere Circus Workshop

Allentown, PA – The circus is coming to town! A group of Muhlenberg College dancers, actors, gymnasts and aerial acrobats — 30 students in all — have pooled their talents to produce Muhlenberg’s first Circus Workshop. Their work will culminate in two performances on April 25.

Noah Dach ’16, a dance and business double-major, launched the project. Henry Evans ’16 serves as an assistant director and performs. Paige Klibanoff ’15 and MJ Hodge ’16 helped to develop the script and will be performing as well.

“I’ve always wanted to form a dance company,” Dach said. “I had experience in aerial before I came to Muhlenberg, and thought it would be interesting to combine that with the skills that students have been working on here. I approached Karen Dearborn, the head of Muhlenberg’s dance program, with the idea, and she helped me get it on its feet.”

The project builds on the aerial acrobatics classes that the Muhlenberg dance program began offering in spring of 2012, under the instruction of experienced aerialist and Muhlenberg alumna Madeleine Hoak.

Aerialists who had taken Hoak’s class auditioned for the Circus Workshop in January. Other auditioners performed dance combinations or gymnastics skills or recited song lyrics as dramatic monologues. From those who auditioned, Dach assembled an ensemble of diverse performers and began weekly rehearsals.

“What is most fulfilling about directing this project is how my ensemble members are always surprising me with new things,” Dach said. “I could never imagine this project being where it is now after setting this idea in motion last semester.”

The 30-minute performance tells the story, through motion, music and circus art, of a young woman looking back on her life. The other performers represent different aspects of her life, including Joy, Love, and Temptation.

“I’ve always wanted to create something modern that could tell everyday stories through art,” Dach said. “With this project, we have focused on creating something very true and human that cannot be captured in a grand, enormous circus setting. I think that we have found an intimate balance between the abstract and the reality.”

Response on campus has been enthusiastic. Of the 70 seats available for each performance, all sold out in less than two weeks. Dach said he would hopes the project will grow from here.

“Going forward, I would love to see this project expanded and incorporated into more of Muhlenberg’s productions, or even to use the members of this workshop to start forming a performance company after graduation,” Dach said. “This has been a great beginning, and it would be wonderful to see the project move into a larger theater so that more audience members could see it and support it around campus.”

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

For more information about the Department of Theatre and Dance, visit http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.

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Muhlenberg’s Production Of “Mad Forest” Offers Innovative Take On Romanian History

Allentown, PA– As history unfolds in the Ukraine, Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance presents the story of similar events from a quarter century ago. “Mad Forest,” by award-winning playwright Caryl Churchill, set during the 1989 Romanian Revolution, plays on the Muhlenberg mainstage April 24-26.

Directed by Beth Schachter, “Mad Forest” captures the events of the 1989 Romanian Revolution through the eyes of many who experienced it. On the eve of the revolution, and under the pressures of a paranoid society with secret police, two families, one poor and one wealthy, struggle to survive the chaos and deprivations of Nicolae Ceaucescu’s megalomaniacal Communist regime. A play of romance and politics, bookended by weddings, “Mad Forest” blends together documentary theatre and magical realism to explore the psychological landscapes of people trying to find freedom.

“‘Mad Forest’ tells the story of what happens when people who were once oppressed have the freedom to speak truthfully,” says Schachter, who serves as chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Muhlenberg. “It comments on the fragile nature of families and relationships in a very human way.”

Schachter became familiar with “Mad Forest” when she served as dramaturg for the American premiere of the play in New York City in 1991. She has wanted to revisit the play ever since then.

“Working on that production gave me insight into what is going on underneath the words, and more importantly, underneath the silences,” says Schachter. “This play clarifies what so often goes unsaid between people in difficult situations.”

Shortly after the 1989 revolution, Churchill travelled to Bucharest with director Mark Wing-Davey and a team of students to interview eye-witnesses and experience post-revolution Romania first hand. While there, they lived with Romanian families and collaborated with Romanian drama students. What emerged was “Mad Forest,” which premiered in London in 1990 and opened in New York the following year.

The Romanian Revolution refers to a series of protests and riots that took place in December of 1989 and led to the overthrow of Ceaucescu. Schachter hopes to bring these stories of revolution to a new generation.

“These stories have become particularly relevant in the last few months,” Schachter says. “History is unfolding in the Ukraine, with remarkable parallels to 1989 Romania. It’s not every day that you see world leaders toppled in a matter of weeks.”

British playwright Caryl Churchill has been writing since 1958. She has received Obie Awards for her plays “Top Girls,” “Cloud Nine” and “Serious Money,” as well as the Obie Sustained Achievement Award. Churchill is known for artfully commenting on such controversial themes as gender roles, power struggles, and political conflicts throughout the world.

“Churchill’s writing is fascinating because it is blunt and direct,” Schachter says. “She is able to capture how these characters struggle to find their voices after a shift in power through the revolution.”

“Mad Forest” also features a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate, who teaches acting at Muhlenberg. She plays a variety of roles in the show, including an angel, a grandmother, a dog, and a translator, among others. This will be Cate’s sixth mainstage performance at the college in the past seven years.

“I love working on shows here because it is so much fun to play alongside students that I have had in class,” Cate says. “I have always wanted to work on a Churchill play, so this is a great learning opportunity for me as well as for the students involved in the production.”

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.

Performances of “Mad Forest” are April 24-26: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty, and staff and for patrons 17 and under. The performance is intended for mature audiences.

Performances are in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 orwww.muhlenberg.edu/theatre

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

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, PAMuhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Dance Emerge,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, April 10-13 in the College’s Dance Studio Theatre. Corrie Franz Cowart is the artistic director for the concert.

“Choreographers in this year’s ‘Dance Emerge’ are mining emotional and physical landscapes that celebrate the thrills of life and mourn our human foibles,” Franz Cowart says. “Humor and real-life circumstances are blended with physical skill and choreographic imagination, transforming observations of our world into kinetic and visual journeys for the audience.”

“Dance Emerge” will showcase 12 choreographers and 60 dancers from the department’s dance program, which is among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features costume and lighting designs by the department’s acclaimed professional staff.

The 12 original dances include contemporary jazz, hip-hop, tap, dance theater, and modern works that investigate such topics as the sensation of getting lost in a book, women’s struggles with power, circus lights, and ritualized behavior. Choreographers drew inspiration from such diverse sources as dance history, travel, personal relationships, and college experiences.

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department offers one of the top-rated college performance programs in the county, according to the Princeton Review rankings.  Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. It has been named annually among The Fiske Guide to Colleges’ top 20 small college programs in the United States, and the American College Dance Festival Association has consistently recognized dances premiered on the Muhlenberg stage for excellence in choreography and performance.

“Dance Emerge” runs April 10-13 in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are April 10-13: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 12, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 13, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.  For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $13.

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

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Muhlenberg College Dancers To Perform At National Festival

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ALLENTOWN, PA — “Key,” a dance work performed by Muhlenberg College dance students and choreographed by longtime Muhlenberg guest choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, has been selected for inclusion at the National College Dance Festival, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C.

The work was selected by the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA), which presents the National Festival. The five-member cast will perform in the festival June 5-7.

“Key” is one of just 31 dance works to be selected for the festival, from among 506 submissions nationwide. It was one of only three selected from the 45 works performed at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, March 17-20.

ACDFA holds 12 annual regional conferences around the country, and holds the National College Dance Festival every other year. Muhlenberg’s dance program has been included in five of the seven national festivals in the past 14 years.

“The conference gives us national exposure, and enhances the reputation of the program,” says Karen Dearborn, professor and chair of the dance program for Muhlenberg’s Theatre and Dance Department. “Especially because we’re a small liberal arts school, people tend to be absolutely shocked at how accomplished our dancers are. We’re competing against BFA and master’s degree programs and conservatories.”

A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Boye-Christensen is best known as the former artistic director of the renowned Ryrie-Woodbury Dance Company, a position she held from 2008 until April 2013, when she stepped away from the role in order to form NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary contemporary dance company. Boye-Christensen has been commissioned to create new dance works by prestigious dance companies around the world.

“‘Key’ was inspired by the life and music of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, an artist who epitomizes strength, originality and vulnerability,” Boye-Christensen says. “To strive for such excellence and profound artistry in one’s work, as he did, is deeply inspiring.”

“Key” features dancers  Allison Berger ’14, Katharine Dougherty ’14, Gwynne Jones ’15, Krysta Parker ’16 and Annabel Williams ’14. It was initially performed as part of Muhlenberg’s “Master Choreographers” concert in February 2014.

“It was an absolute joy for me to re-create ‘Key’ on the dancers at Muhlenberg,” Boye-Christensen says. “They came to the work with a tremendous amount of physicality, attention to detail and, perhaps most importantly, musicality. Congratulations to them, Karen and the rest of the dance faculty.”

The five dancers in the piece hail from five different states: Nevada, Tennessee, Vermont, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. All five are dance majors, and three are double-majors, in biology, anthropology, and English.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of about 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The College offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater 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. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

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