‘Master Choreographers,’ Feb. 11-13 At Muhlenberg College‏

Allentown, PA — This season’s “Master Choreographers” concert at Muhlenberg College will feature restagings of three major works by world-renowned choreographers and four world-premiere works by faculty and guest artists. Presented Feb. 11-13 in the college’s Empie Theatre, the annual concert by the college’s nationally recognized Dance Program will feature more than 70 dancers.

The concert will feature restagings of “Ligeti Essays,” choreographed by Karole Armitage; “Songs of the Disinherited,” choreographed by Donald McKayle; and “To Have and To Hold,” choreographed by Shapiro & Smith Dance.

The concert will also feature world-premiere works by Karen Dearborn, Jeffrey Peterson, Heidi Cruz-Austin, and Shelley Oliver.

Karole Armitage is the artistic director of the New York-based Armitage Gone! Dance Company. Known as the “punk ballerina,” her performance credits include the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, and leading roles in Merce Cunningham’s landmark works. Armitage has choreographed two Broadway productions (“Passing Strange” and “Hair,” which garnered her a Tony Award nomination), videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson, several Merchant-Ivory films, and Cirque du Soleil’s 2012 tent show “Amaluna.”

“Ligeti Essays” is “breathtaking, providing a pristine setting for Ms. Armitage’s partially frozen world,” according to the New York Times. “As the lighting gently shifts from light to dark, the stage takes on the look of a remote, icy pond in the middle of a dream.” The piece is presented with funding from the Dexter F. & Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. The Baker Foundation has sponsored Muhlenberg’s Baker Artist in Residence program every year since 1992.

Donald McKayle has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition “One of America’s Dance Treasures: the First 100.” He has choreographed more than 90 works for dance companies in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe and South America, and has received five Tony Award nominations for his work in musical theater.

“Songs of the Disinherited,” originally choreographed in 1972 for the Inner City Repertory Dance Company of Los Angeles, is one of McKayle’s heritage masterworks. Dance critic Madeleine Swift calls the piece “a finely wrought suite of the enduring human heart that reaches out to others and up to God in its despair and joy… The movement is so specific and true to its theme that it breaks your heart and mends it again.”

Shapiro and Smith Dance began as a collaboration between Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith after meeting in the companies of Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais. The company has a reputation for performing tales of beauty and biting wit that run the gamut from searingly provocative to absurdly hilarious. Dancing with breathtaking physicality and emotional depth, they have earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment.

Described as a “genuine treasure,” “To Have and To Hold,” has become one of the company’s signature works since its premiere in 1989. “The piece is zestily acrobatic and eerily haunting, by turn,” according to the Seattle Times. “It’s a meditation on revelry, peril and loss. Choreographers Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith created it when the ravages of the AIDS epidemic were at their most intense, and that may explain some of its power.”

This year’s edition of “Master Choreographers” also will feature four world premiere pieces by Muhlenberg faculty and guest artists.

Karen Dearborn, the concert’s artistic director and the director and founder of Muhlenberg’s dance program, has created a new, all-male piece that incorporates aerial acrobatics. The concert will also feature a new ballet by Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; a tap piece by Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; and a modern piece by Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazzdance.

“Master Choreographers” will be performed Thursday, Feb. 11, and Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 13, 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 http:///www.muhlenberg.edu/dance

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Choreographer Bios

Karole Armitage is the artistic director of the New York-based Armitage Gone! Dance Company, founded in 2004. She was rigorously trained in classical ballet and began her professional career as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland (1973-1975), a company devoted exclusively to the repertory of George Balanchine. In 1976, she was invited to join Merce Cunningham’s company, where she remained for five years (1975-1981), performing leading roles in Cunningham’s landmark works. Throughout the 1980s, she led her own New York-based dance company, The Armitage Ballet. She set new works on companies including the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, the Ballet de Monte Carlo, Lyon Opera Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, The Washington Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Kansas City Ballet, The Greek National Company, The Bern Ballet and Rambert Dance Company. Armitage served as Director of the 45-memeber MaggioDanza, the Ballet of Florence, Italy (1996-2000), the Biennale of Contemporary Dance in Venice (2004), and as resident choreographer for the Ballet de Lorrine in France (2000-2004). After her company’s successful season at the Joyce in 2004, Armitage’s focus shifted to creating her New York-based company, Armitage Gone! Dance. Armitage has choreographed two Broadway productions (“Passing Strange” and “Hair,” which garnered her a Tony nomination), videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson, several Merchant-Ivory films and Cirque du Soleil’s 2012 tent show, “Amaluna.” In 2009, she was awarded France’s most prestigious award, Commandeur dans l’orde des Arts et des Lettres. She is the 2012 recipient of the prestigious artist-in-residence grant at the Chinati Foundation, founded by artist Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas. She has directed operas from the baroque and contemporary repertoire for prestigious houses of Europe, including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens, Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam. She choreographed “The Cunning Little Vixen” in 2011 and “A Dancer’s Dream” in 2013 for the New York Philharmonic and provided choreography for “Marie Antoinette,” by playwright David Adjmi, at the American Repertory Theater Harvard and Yale Repertory Theater.

Donald McKayle has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition “One of America’s Dance Treasures: the First 100.” He has choreographed over 90 works for dance companies in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe, and South America. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Lula Washington Dance Theatre serve as repositories for his works. He is artistic mentor for the Limón Dance Company. Five Tony nominations have honored his choreography for Broadway musical theater. In dance he has received the Capezio Award, Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award, American Dance Guild Award, Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival, Heritage Award from the California Dance Educators Association, two Choreographer’s Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Dance/USA Honors, Irvine Fellowship in Dance, and the 2004 Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. In April 2005, Donald McKayle was honored at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and presented with a medal as a Master of African American Choreography. For his work in education, he has earned the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, UCI’s Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award for Research, and he is a recipient of the UCI Medal, its highest honor.  He has received honorary Doctorate Degrees from: Cornish College of the Arts, the Juilliard School, and from CalArts. His autobiography, “Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life,” was honored with the Society of Dance History Scholar’s De La Torre Bueno Prize. A television documentary on his life and work, “Heartbeats of a Dance Maker,” was aired on PBS on stations throughout the United States.

Shapiro & Smith Dance began in 1985 as a collaboration between Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith. After meeting in the companies of Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais, they went on to create their first choreography during a Fulbright Lectureship in Helsinki, Finland. Since then Shapiro and Smith’s blend of contemporary dance and dramatic theater has elicited enthusiastic receptions across the U.S., Europe, Asia and Canada. The Company has been presented by major festivals and venues including the Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Dance Theater Workshop, St. Mark’s DanSpace Project, PS 122, Festival di Milano, Teatro de Danza in Mexico City, Recklinghausen RuhrFestSpiele, and the Korean International Festival. Danial Shapiro died of complications from prostate cancer in 2006 and now Joanie Smith continues as sole Artistic Director.

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.

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.

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.

‘Servant of Two Masters’ at Muhlenberg‏ College

Allentown, PA – In 18th century Venice, Commedia dell’Arte was king. The classic theatrical style, which features masks, stock characters, and comic improvisation, was beloved by the nobility and working class alike, and trips to see the side-splitting misadventures of the masked characters were a vital part of the Venetian social scene.

Now, for the first time, a Commedia dell’Arte play will appear on the Muhlenberg College mainstage: Carlo Goldoni’s comic masterpiece “Servant of Two Masters,” directed by Muhlenberg theater professor Francine Roussel.

Presented by Muhlenberg’s Department of Theatre & Dance, “Servant of Two Masters” runs Dec. 3–6 in the College’s Baker Theatre. Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre and at 484-664-3333.

A longtime teacher and practitioner of Commedia dell’Arte, Roussel says that modern audiences are consistently surprised by how relevant — and how funny — they find “Servant of Two Masters” to be.

 “‘Servant’ is a comedy of all times,” Roussel says. “It doesn’t age, and humans are humans. We can all recognize ourselves in the 18th century stock characters.”

The play follows the misadventures of the scheming servant Arlecchino, who comes up with a plan to sate his legendary appetites: he will serve two masters at the same time, and thus receive twice the money and twice the meals. But serving more than one master could land him in deep trouble, so Arlecchino must hide his double life. Comedy unfolds against a Venetian backdrop of romance and deception.

The Commedia dell’Arte tradition dates back to the 1500s and is a direct precursor of today’s slapstick and sketch comedy. In fact, the word “slapstick” derives from a prop that Commedia actors use to hit each other as loudly (and painlessly) as possible. The modern Harlequin figure, with his familiar patchwork costume, also traces his roots to Commedia; the English name “Harlequin” and Italian “Arlecchino” both derive from the French “Arlequin,” and the character had already been around for more than 150 years by the time he appeared in “Servant of Two Masters,” in 1746.

“The character of Arlecchino is so unique, so endearing, and so energetic,” Roussel says. “Everybody wants to follow him wherever he wants to go.”

The role of Arlecchino will be played by Muhlenberg senior Henry Evans, an actor, dancer, and acrobat who co-founded Muhlenberg’s Circus Workshop in the spring of 2014. Evans will put his acrobat and juggling skills to good use in the production. He says that working on “Servant” has been similar in many ways to his circus performances.

“It’s like a juggling routine,” he says. “It’s this balance of keeping the tradition of Commedia, but at the same time putting our own spin on it, making it contemporary.”

For an undergraduate theater program, Muhlenberg has an unusual degree of connection to the Commedia dell’Arte tradition. Roussel frequently teaches a Commedia class, and a three-month, Commedia-centered program in Arezzo, Italy, is one of the most popular study abroad destinations for Muhlenberg theatre students.

Roussel holds Master of Arts degrees in both modern European and classical French literature from the University of Paris, La Sorbonne. She also earned the Certificat of L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris, where she studied mime and mask. Roussel was part of the “Groupe des 50,” which established the Actors Studio in Paris. She has worked extensively in theatre and film in both Europe and the United States over the past several decades.

The production also features scenic and lighting design by Curtis Dretsch, costume design by Liene Dobraja, and fight choreography by Michael G. Chin.

Performances of “Servant of Two Masters” are Dec. 3 – 6: Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 3-5, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Performances are in the Baker Theatre in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance at Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

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

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

‘Moving Stories’ At Muhlenberg College‏

Allentown, PA  — Muhlenberg 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. 12-14 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.

The concert will showcase over 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 ten original dances include contemporary jazz, pointe, and modern works that investigate gender norms, addiction, body image, our sense of time, and trust as a struggle rather than a surrender. Everything from books and superheroes to interpersonal relationships and experiences abroad struck inspiration for the choreographers.

The Mainstage performance series is produced by Muhlenberg College’s acclaimed Theatre & Dance Department, The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top 20 in the nation, including a No. 6 ranking in its current college guide. The Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

“Moving Stories” runs Nov. 12-14 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 12-13, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 14, 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. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $13.

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

To arrange an interview or photo opportunity with Karen Dearborn or any of the student choreographers, please contact Scott Snyder, at 484-664-3693 or scottsnyder@muhlenberg.edu.

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

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

Inclusive Arts – Accessible Events For November-December 2015‏

Exhibitions
ACCESSIBLE ART – PHASE II TACTILE DESCRIPTION
Now through June 1, 2017
Lehigh Main Gallery
Open during gallery hours
Presented by Lehigh University Art Galleries & Museum

Teaching Collection of multiple artists’ work in Audio Description and Tactile Description (3-D image to touch) for the visually impaired. Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat, 11am – 5pm; Sun, 1-5pm; Closed Mon-Tues.
Handicap Access • Blind & Low-Vision


ARTIST IN RECOVERY – MONTHLY ART EXHIBITIONS
November 19, 2015 & December 17, 2015
Recovery Partnership
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Featuring artists who express their journey with mental health. Held every third Thursay. Free.
Handicap Access • Mental Health


“LIFE ACCESSIBLE” – PHOTOGRAPHY BEYOND THE LIMITS OF SIGHT
December 19, 2015 through February 22, 2016
Banana Factory
Open during gallery hours
Presented by ArtsQuest
Photographer Stephen Cunic’s 3-D images, created using various layers and texture, allow visually impaired patrons to experience his scenes using their sense of touch. Free and open to all. Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-9:30pm, Sat & Sun, 8:30am-5pm.
Handicap Access • Blind & Low-Vision

Theatre
EXHIBIT A – AD PERFORMANCE
November 6, 2015
Arena Theatre, Moravian College
8:00pm
Presented by Moravian College Theatre
A provocative, original play that shines the spotlight on issues of identity: gender, race, disability and religion. Moderated discussion to follow. Tickets: $15 General Admission; $10 Seniors.
Handicap Access • Audio Description


CHICAGO – AD & OC PERFORMANCE
November 8, 2015
Baker Center for the Performing Arts
2:00pm
Presented by Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance

Roxie Hart murders her unfaithful lover and finds herself competing with fellow jailed murderess Velma Kelly for the best lawyer — and best vaudeville bookings — in 1920s Chicago. Tickets: $22/$8.
Handicap Access • Audio Description • Open Captioning


MERRY CHRISTMAS, GEORGE BAILEY! – AD & OC PERFORMANCE
December 5, 2015
Main Stage Labuda Center
2:00pm
Presented by Act 1 DeSales University
Stage production recreating the Radio Luzx broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life, telling the timeless tale of George Bailey, the hardworking everyman who once had big dreams, as he comes face to face with his guardian angel Clarence. A clever and theatrical spin on a Christmas classic—the perfect family-friendly holiday treat. Ages 6+
Handicap Access • Audio Description • Open Captioning

Visit our web portal
ARTSandACCESS.org
for many more accessible events!

Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Stages A Razzle-Dazzle ‘Chicago’

Allentown, PA — The razzle-dazzle vaudeville-style musical “Chicago,” about two fame-obsessed murderesses in 1920s Chicago, will be presented for the first time on the Muhlenberg College stage, Oct. 30 – Nov. 8. Directed by Muhlenberg theater professor Charles Richter, the show shines a spotlight on America’s obsession with celebrity, as well as showcasing the depth of talent in Muhlenberg’s theater and dance department.

“I think the show says something prescient about the nature of American life and the nature of celebrity,” Richter says, “and it says it with a great deal of wit and some venom.”

The show’s score, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, features the Broadway standards “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” “Mr. Cellophane,” and “Razzle Dazzle.” The original production in 1975 was directed and choreographed by renowned Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, who co-wrote the book with Ebb.

“Chicago” will be presented in Muhlenberg’s Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 30 through Nov. 8. Muhlenberg dance professor Jeffrey Peterson choreographs the production, and music faculty member Michael Schnack serves as musical director.

In the city of Chicago in the Roaring Twenties, chorus girl Roxie Hart murders her unfaithful lover and convinces her hapless husband to take the rap — until he finds out he’s been duped and turns on Roxie. While behind bars, Roxie connects with fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, who’s got a plan to get her acquitted and make her a star. But Roxie soon finds herself vying for the spotlight with another “merry murderess,” Velma Kelly, a vaudeville performer in jail for killing her husband and sister, whom she found in bed together. Ultimately, the two join forces in pursuit of their own version of American Dream: fame, fortune, and acquittal.

“This is a show that demands a stage full of triple-threats,” adept at dancing, singing, and acting, Richter says. “I’m very excited about this cast. It’s one of the best I’ve directed in 38 years at Muhlenberg.”

“Chicago” was revived on Broadway in 1996 — a production that won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and that is still playing today, holding records as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.

“It’s a very different show from the current revival,” Richter says. “The show is fully staged and has elaborate scenery, courtesy of designer Tim Averill. It’s also very much involved with the period of the 1920s in Chicago.”

Performances of “Chicago” are Oct. 30 – Nov. 8. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with an additional 2 p.m. show on Saturday, Oct. 31. 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.

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

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

Inclusive Arts – Calendar of Accessible Events for September‏ (Lehigh Valley)

You can read an article titled “Disabilities Don’t Define Who People Are” https://lvartscouncil.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/disabilities-dont-define-who-people-are/

DANCE FOR PD WORKSHOP
September 15, 2015
Williams Center for the Arts
6:30pm – 7:45pm
Presented by Lafayette College

This community class led by Mark Morris dancers is designed for people with PD, caregivers, dance teachers, and other community members. Expect demo and movement class, with a Q&A at the end. Participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating, and creative. Free, reservations required 610-330-5203 or prentick@lafayette.edu.
Handicap Access • Cognitive Health

WOVEN WELCOME: MAKING COMMUNITY
Now through October 11, 2015
Allentown Art Museum
Open museum hours
A community-based art project that utilizes weaving as a way to connect community members through the creative process. Entrance and participation are free.
Handicap Access • Cognitive Health

ACCESSIBLE ART: PHASE II TACTILE DESCRIPTION
Now through June 1, 2017
Zollener Arts Center
Open gallery hours
Presented by Lehigh University Art Galleries & Museum
Teaching Collection of multiple artists’ work in Audio Description and Tactile Description (3-D image to touch) for the visually impaired. Gallery hours: Wed-Sat 11am-5pm; Sun 1-5pm; Closed Mon-Tues.
Handicap Access • Blind & Low-Vision • Audio Description

ARTIST IN RECOVERY – MONTHLY ART EXHIBITIONS
September 15, 2015
Recovery Partnership
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Featuring artists who express their journey with mental health. Held every third Thursay. Free.
Handicap Access • Mental Health

SPECIAL NEEDS ART CLASSES
Every Saturday in September
The Art Establishment Studios
1:30pm – 3:30pm
Open to school-aged people, these classes will be taught by Carol Parker, artist and Liberty High School Special Ed teacher. Classes are $20, which inludes all materials. Book early, they fill fast! 610-807-9201.
Handicap Access • Cognitive Health • Sensory Friendly

LECTURE & PRESENTATION – BEN YORGEY FOUNDATION
September 12, 2015
America On Wheels
11:30am
Presenter from the Ben Yorgey Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for graduating high school students with intellectual disabilities across Lehigh Valley and beyond.
Handicap Access • Cognitive Health • Sensory Friendly

RAKER LECTURE SERIES – CPL. DANIEL LASKO, AMPUTEE & ATHLETE
September 29, 2015
Muhlenberg College
7:30pm
Presented by Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network

Presentation by Daniel Lasko, retired Marine corporal, accomplished athlete, and member of Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team.
Handicap Access • American Sign Language Interpreted

“PATIENT VOICES” FILM SHOWING & TRAINING
September 27, 2015
Civic Theatre of Allentown
10:00am – 11:30am
The sccreening of “Patient Voices,” an informational video teaching disability etiquette, will help professionals, staff, and volunteers better serve people with disabilities.
Handicap Access • Cognitive Health • Sensory Friendly

Lehigh Valley Arts

A Festival Of World Premiere One-Act Plays, Muhlenberg’s ‘New Voices’ Spotlights Talent Of Emerging Playwrights

Allentown, PA – From the creative minds of three emerging playwrights comes Muhlenberg College’s “New Voices,” an evening of world premiere theater featuring three short plays. “New Voices” runs Sept. 30 – Oct. 4 on the Studio Theatre stage.

“It has been very exciting to share the process that all the artists have been hard at work generating for months to prepare for rehearsals,” says Beth Schachter, the chair of Muhlenberg’s Department of Theatre and Dance and the evening’s artistic director. “Audience members will be getting more than their money’s worth by joining us for the three short plays.”

In the provocative and timely “Death of a Sun,” by Claire Waggoner ’16, a mother and daughter watch the sun die out in the distant future. As they share the brief time they have left together, they examine what’s truly important and speculate about what might come next. Ariel Holman ’16 directs.

“My Short Shitty Life” by Nikk Tetreault ’18, explores humanity through a series of absurd comedic vignettes. The play follows a large group of friends through loves lost and friendships regained. Sydney Watt ’18 directs.

“Three Bedroom” by Lauren Waters ’15, follows a tumultuous night in the lives of four young women in their early twenties as they ride the roller coaster of New York City life and try to navigate their way to adulthood. Danielle Lichter ’16 directs.

The New Voices Playwrights’ Festival is presented every other year as a part of the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Mainstage season. The festival provides up-and-coming young playwrights the opportunity to showcase their work in a collaborative and intimate environment. It also offers a rare opportunity for audiences to see the work of the next generation of emerging theater artists.

“I think it is fantastic the department gives students the opportunity to showcase their work in the New Voices Festival,” Tetreault says. “The education and experience I’ve had so far with this project makes me want to continue to collaborate and develop new works at Muhlenberg and beyond.”

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 as the top twelve in the nation for the past seven years, 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 Voices” are Sept. 30 – Oct. 4: Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 3, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Performances are in the Studio Theatre in Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance at Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s 35th Season Features World Premiere Children’s Musical “Grimm!”

Allentown, PA —This summer, Doppelskope Theatre Company bring its energetic puppetry, lively music, and interactive theatrical spirit — along with a little bit of magic — to the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Doppelskope’s world premiere children’s musical “Grimm!” will open June 17 at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“This piece of theater is very playful and present, drawing upon the whole company of everyone involved,” says director Ora Fruchter, who co-wrote the musical with her Doppelskope partner, Christopher Sheer. “It’s really about imagination and getting the audience to imagine along with us.”

The hour-long performance plays June 17 through July 25, Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. It is recommended for ages four and up. Audience members can stay after the show to meet the cast, and then for a free 45-minute activity workshop, featuring storytelling, movement, and crafts with the workshop team and members of the cast.

“Grimm!” offers classic fairy tales as they’ve never been told before. Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm use their Story Machine to capture daydreams and make them into fairytales, but everything goes awry when the machine breaks, releasing colorful, fuzzy stories into the world. It’s up to the audience to help the brothers rescue the stories and keep them from unraveling.

Meanwhile, Charlotte, a young girl with a wild imagination, is on her own quest to save her father from the Blue Glowing Madness. She travels through the storybook landscapes of the Grimm Brothers’ classic fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin.

The play emphasizes the importance of active, creative play, as well as the fun of storytelling of all sorts — encouraging families to engage in creating, recording, retelling and performing their own stories.

“Grimm!” features a script by Christopher Scheer and Ora Fruchter — the members of the Doppelskope theatre company — with music by Toby Singer and lyrics by Fruchter. The trio also collaborated to create last year’s successful world-premiere children’s musical “Gruff!” for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Both shows rely heavily on audience participation, inviting the children in attendance to join in creating the story.

“What we really want is to engage the audience in the storytelling process — to tell the story not just to the audience but with them,” Scheer says. “We can go so much further if we all agree to imagine together. Let’s all collaborate together and collectively create the illusion that we’re in outer space or we’re in a fairy tale realm.”

This year for the first time, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre presents free activity workshops after every performance. The workshops are designed to encourage children to explore their own family stories in a series of energetic hands-on activities that will get kids up on their feet, thinking, playing and expressing themselves. Members of the cast will join MSMT’s Workshop Team of experienced theater and movement teachers in leading storytelling, movement, and crafts. The Grimm Workshops are sponsored by Embassy Bank, Enterprise Car Rental and Highmark Blue Shield.

Participation in the Grimm Workshops is limited to allow for small group sizes, and advance registration is recommended. Parents can register their children online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/grimm, or call the workshop team at 484-664-3695. Groups may inquire with the workshop team about bringing the workshop on-site.

“Grimm!” will be presented in two sensory-friendly performances for children with autism spectrum disorders and other sensory processing challenges. At these performances, sound levels are reduced, and startling sounds are avoided; lights remain on at a low level during performance, and strobes and other flashy lights are omitted; patrons are free to talk or leave their seats during the show; and attendance is limited. Social stories will be available in advance from the MSMT website, and the theater staff and cast will receive special training in meeting the needs of patrons with autism and sensory issues. Sensory-friendly performances will be offered Tuesday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 18 at 1 p.m. Tickets and information about these performances are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/grimm or at 484-664-3087.

“Grimm!” runs June 17 through July 25. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only. All tickets to “Grimm!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances. Tickets and information for all of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Embarks On 35th Theatrical Season

Allentown, PA —The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre festival at Muhlenberg College announces the lineup for its 2015 summer season — the 35th in the festival’s history. The season will feature the raunchy but heartwarming musical “Avenue Q,” the classic matchmaker musical “Hello, Dolly!,” and “Grimm!” a new musical for young audiences, based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm.

Opening the summer season, “Avenue Q,” June 10-28, winner of the Tony Award “triple crown” (Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book), is a hilariously adult take on classic children’s characters.

The 10-time Tony Award winner “Hello, Dolly!” runs July 8-26. Jerry Herman’s classic musical takes a whirlwind tour of New York at the turn of the 20th century, following the adventures of America’s most beloved matchmaker, Dolly Levi.

The world premiere family musical “Grimm!” June 17 – July 25, is a playful, puppet-filled interpretation of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, created by the neo-vaudeville theater group Doppelskope. “Grimm!” is recommended for ages 4 and up. New this year, MSMT will offer free 45-minute workshops for children, following every performance of “Grimm!” Participants can register in advance through the box office.

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

“Avenue Q” is a puppet-filled musical that follows a group of 20-somethings as they struggle to find their purpose in big-city life. Filled with gut-busting humor and an ingeniously catchy score, “Avenue Q” is a one-of-a-kind theatre experience. MSMT veterans Bill Mutimer and Ed Bara serve as director and musical director. Mutimer last directed “Schoolhouse Rock” for MSMT, and Bara recently starred in the Muhlenberg Mainstage production of Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene” and as King Arthur in last summer’s MSMT production of “Spamalot.” “Avenue Q” features full-frontal puppet nudity, songs about porn, and other risqué puppet hijinx, and is intended for mature audiences.

A ten-time Tony Award winner, “Hello, Dolly!” tells the story of self-professed “meddler” Dolly Levi, on a quest to make a match of her own, to Horace Vandergelder, the richest man in Yonkers. Audiences will leave the theatre humming the show’s irresistible score — and charmed by the ebullient personality of one of musical theater’s most fabulous characters. MSMT founding artistic director Charles Richter will direct the production. Michael Schnack serves as musical director, and Karen Dearborn choreographs.

Doppelskope’s new family musical “Grimm!” offers classic fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin told as they’ve never been told before, and invites young audiences to join the Grimm Brothers in their quest to rescue their precious stories and make things right. In a world where the line between story and reality is as thin as a golden thread, the Grimms are on a mission to protect all stories from unraveling. Doppelskope’s interactive theatrical adventure combines puppetry, music and magic, and invites the audience to discover their own magical stories. Following each performance, audiences will have the opportunity to meet and interact with the performers and puppets.

A free 45-minute workshop follows each performance of “Grimm!” Participants will explore their own family stories in a series of energetic hands-on activities designed to get kids up on their feet, thinking, playing and expressing themselves. Participation is limited, and advance registration through the box office is recommended.

Sensory-friendly performances of “Grimm!” will be presented on Tuesday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 18 at 1 p.m. The July 18 performance will be followed by an interactive workshop. Sensory-friendly performances are designed for children with autism and other sensory challenges. At these performances, sound levels are reduced, and startling sounds are avoided; lights remain on at a low level during performance, and strobes and other flashy lights are omitted; patrons are free to talk or leave their seats during the show; and attendance is limited. Social stories will be available in advance from the MSMT website, and the theater staff and cast will receive special training in meeting the needs of patrons with autism and sensory issues.

Audio Description and Open Captioning will be available at the Sunday, July 26 performance of “Hello, Dolly!” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance.

“Avenue Q” runs June 10-28; “Hello, Dolly!” runs July 8-26. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices for both “Avenue Q” and “Hello, Dolly!” are as follows. For the first four performances: $33 regular admission; seniors, $29; students and children, $18. For the remaining 11 performances: $39 regular admission; seniors, $36; students and children, $20.

“Grimm!” runs June 17 through July 25. 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.

Subscriptions to “Avenue Q” and “Hello, Dolly!” are available for $52 for the first four shows, or $62 for the remaining 11 shows. Subscriptions for students and children are $32 for any shows throughout the runs. Group discounts are available for groups of 15 or more. Sundays are Family Matinee Day; mainstage tickets for children ages 5-18 are just $10 when purchased with a full-price or senior ticket. (Limit two discounted tickets per full-price ticket.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessing The Cultural Community: A Celebration Of Vision

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

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

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

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

***
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.

***

Lehigh Valley Arts Council

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

‘Dance Emerge’ At Muhlenberg College

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Dance Emerge,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, April 16-18 in the College’s Baker Theatre. Jeffrey Peterson is the artistic director for the concert.

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

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

The 12 original dances include contemporary jazz, dance theater, and modern works that investigate such topics as platonic love, the grieving process, and the individual vs. the whole. Choreographers drew inspiration from such diverse sources as dance history, travel, personal relationships, and college experiences.

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

“Dance Emerge” runs April 16-18 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are April 16-18: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 12, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

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

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.