Gertrude Stein’s challenging ‘Listen To Me’ finds Vivid Adaption On Muhlenberg College Stage, Feb. 22-26

Allentown, PA — “Listen to Me” is a bittersweet adventure by Gertrude Stein — a love story and a cerebral frolic, in the face of planetary crisis. Directed by James Peck, Stein’s evocative, rarely produced play will be presented at Muhlenberg College, Feb. 22-26.

Written in 1936, Stein’s play is a piece of experimental staged poetry, in which characters laugh, love, philosophize, and struggle heroically to hold onto hope as their prospects dim.

“It has these themes of environmental catastrophe and looming disaster,” says Peck, a theater professor at Muhlenberg. “It asks some questions about the ways in which romance, love, and art matter in the context of a dire planetary situation.”

Peck has directed Stein before, and has also published articles about her theatrical work. He calls her “one of the most original and important theater thinkers of the 20th century,” and says that he wanted to share the experience of working on her plays with students.

In a few words, according to Peck, “Listen to Me” is arguably, partly, possibly a love story at the end of the world — but he resists the effort to impose a synopsis. The play is unusual in several ways: it has only a couple of clearly defined characters; most of the text isn’t so much dialog as it is poetry; and its scenes unfold with only the suggestion of a linear course of events. But Peck says that audience members who have the idea that the play is difficult or inaccessible will be quite surprised.

“I want people to understand that it’s not just ‘weird,’” Peck says. “It’s very deeply felt, it really starts from feeling — that Stein is deeply concerned about how people treat each other and about fairness in human relationships. I want them to know how moving her plays are and how accessible they are once you start to put them on their feet and figure out ways to put the language into actors’ bodies and create stage pictures around the words.”

To that end, the cast of 15 have been collaborating and experimenting their way through the text, finding the moments and phrases that resonate, and exploring ways in which to communicate that resonance to an audience.

“It’s a cooperative process,” says Xavier Pacheco, who plays Sweet William, one of the show’s two named characters. “The only way to rehearse this play is to work consistently through it all together and see where we end up. It’s a brilliant cast. It feels good to be working with people in a way that we’re all in it together.”

Scenic designer Tim Averill has found a design solution that echoes both the circumstance of the play and the process of its creation. It’s a dock, extending off stage from the top of a sphere — the earth, perhaps — on which words and images will be projected. It suggests the last visible piece of a sinking ship, on which the actors perch apprehensively.

“It’s a desperate place where people are trying to live,” Averill says. “It’s about too many people and too much stuff and too much light.”

The production also features an original score by Doug Ovens, who also collaborated with Peck on last season’s “Ulysses in Nighttown.” Ovens says the score will feature a “virtual chamber ensemble” of prerecorded woodwinds, percussion, and piano, as well as a “celestial soprano” derived for samples from recordings of his vocal pieces.

“My music revisits Modernist styles while striving to amplify ideas of love as well as confusion, conflict, and, hopefully, survival,” Ovens says.

Peck says he hopes all these elements will come together in a theatrical experience that feels, on the one hand, cautionary and anxious, and on the other, hopeful and celebratory — because, in these days, that’s how he feels as an artist and global citizen.

“Can we feel love and existential dread at the same time?” he asks. “I think that’s what Stein wants to know. It’s what I want to know. How do those things fit together? I think we can; I think we have to. And that’s what we’ve set out to do.”

“Listen to Me” plays Feb. 22-26. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular admission tickets are $15. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8. The production is recommended for mature audiences. 

Tickets and information are available online at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

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Muhlenberg College ‘Master Choreographers’ Dance Concert, Feb. 9-11, Displays Talents Of Acclaimed Choreographers, More Than 70 Dancers

Allentown, PA — The Muhlenberg College dance program will showcase two iconic re-stagings and one original piece from three world-renowned choreographers, as well as four world-premiere works by accomplished returning contributors, in its annual “Master Choreographers” concert, Feb. 9-11.

This year’s “Master Choreographers” features restagings of “Radical Severance,” choreographed by Cristina Perera, and “When We Fly,” choreographed by Orion Duckstein. The concert also features an original balletic piece, “Without Words,” by Trinette Singleton, as well as new works by four Muhlenberg dance faculty: Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; Randall Anthony Smith, répétiteur and assistant to choreographer Donald McKayle; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazz dance.

“This concert presents a spectacular evening of dance,” says Karen Dearborn, founding director of Muhlenberg’s dance program, and the concert’s artistic director. “We are thrilled to showcase new work from Trinette Singleton and guest works by Cristina and Orion, as well as our fabulous faculty choreographers.”

Perera’s piece is funded by a Mellon Choreographers on Campus grant. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation brings established and emerging choreographers to the classrooms, studios, and stages of area colleges. The collaborative program explores the use of dance as an art form and how its creative powers can be infused across a liberal arts curriculum.

Perera has performed as a soloist and principal dancer around the world, with some of the most notable figures in the performing arts. A veteran of the Alvin Ailey Dance School, she has choreographed ballets, concert dance pieces, dance theatre, musicals, film and music videos in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. In 2008 Perera became artistic director of Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria.” Perera received the 2010 Aesthetics Interaction prize from the Brazilian National Arts Foundation FUNARTE for one of her production “Constructions.”

“You’re going to see the kind of movement and dancing that you do not often see,” says the Lansing State Journal, “What Cristina does is very unique. She has a strong choreographic style.”

Duckstein’s “When We Fly” was originally choreographed in 2006 for Adelphia University, where he is currently a member of the dance faculty. Duckstein danced for the Paul Taylor Company for 11 years, and before that with Taylor 2, the outreach and performance arm of the company. During his tenure he danced pivotal roles in nearly every major Taylor work and served as Taylor’s choreographic assistant for several major works. Duckstein has set his own works in New York and throughout the country.

Trinette Singleton was a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet for nearly 20 years. She was thrust into national prominence in 1967, appearing in Robert Joffrey’s multi-media ballet “Astarte.” She was also the first dancer to appear on the cover of the national news magazine “Time.” Currently, Trinette is co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Theatre in Allentown, and she serves on the dance faculty at Muhlenberg and at DeSales University, Center Valley.

The annual “Master Choreographers” concert features premiere dance performances in a diverse selection of styles and genres, ranging from classical ballet to contemporary jazz, pointe, modern dance, and tap accompanied by live jazz music.

Performances of “Master Choreographers” will take place Thursday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 11, 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.

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 has 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

Heidi Cruz-Austin began her dance training at the age of four at the Dolly Haltzman Dance Academy in Allentown. She went on to study at the School of American Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Cruz-Austin received an apprenticeship with the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1994 and joined the company as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 1995. She danced numerous featured roles in her tenure there including leads for various choreographers such as George Balanchine, Val Caniparoli, Ben Stevenson, Alvin Ailey, Margo Sappington, Christopher d’Amboise and Matthew Neenan. In addition to dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet, Ms. Cruz-Austin danced with the Philadelphia-based company Ballet X and has performed as a guest artist throughout the United States and Europe. Cruz-Austin currently teaches for the Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts, Muhlenberg College, The University of the Arts, and Temple University. Heidi received a 2008 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for her choreography and is currently the co-artistic director and resident choreographer of DanceSpora dance company.

Orion Duckstein danced with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for 11 years, and before that with Taylor 2, the outreach and performance arm of the company. During his tenure he danced pivotal roles in nearly every major Taylor work, such as “Company B,” “Esplanade,” “Cloven Kingdom,” and Taylor’s own role in “Aureole.” Near the end of his performing career with the Taylor Company, Mr. Taylor chose Duckstein as his choreographic assistant for several dances. Before dancing for Taylor, Duckstein danced for noted choreographers Sung Soo Ahn, Peter Pucci, Robert Wood, and Margie Gillis. He still performs professionally, most recently joining Take Dance NY with choreographer Takehiro Ueyama for their 2015 New York season and summer tour. Duckstein has set his own choreography on New York-based companies Mazzini Dance Collective and Patricia Kenny Dance Collection and shown his work in many venues in New York and beyond, including the Downtown Dance Festival and the Jacob’s Pillow International Dance Festival. Duckstein has been artist-in-residence at colleges in Texas, California, and New England.

Shelley Oliver is a Canadian-born tap dancer, choreographer and educator. She has appeared internationally with some of the legends of the tap world, including Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Buster Brown, Jimmy Slide, and Chuck Green. She is a founding member of Manhattan Tap and served as a co-artistic director and choreographer with the company touring concert halls and festivals in Europe, China, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States.  Oliver was the artistic director of the Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers for 15 years, touring with the David Leonhardt Jazz Group throughout the northeast. Her television appearances include “Tap Dance in America” with Gregory Hines and “Star Search.” A dedicated teacher and educator, Oliver has conducted lecture demonstrations for Lincoln Center, New York City Public Schools and various universities throughout the United States. On faculty at Muhlenberg College, she directs the Muhlenberg Jazz Tap Ensemble, providing community outreach in the Allentown area. Oliver has produced a series of Tap Music for Tap Dancers CDs that have become a standard pedagogical tool in the tap dance world. More recently as a soloist she toured as guest artist with the River City Brass Band in Pittsburgh and with Le Sextet Clic-Clac-Cloc in Geneva, Switzerland. She is the recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Dance Educator Award from the Lehigh Valley Dance Consortium.

Cristina Perera had her dance education in classical ballet at the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro Brazil and Salle Pleyel in Paris, France. Her modern and contemporary education started in London at the London Contemporary Dance Theatre School and continued in New York at Alvin Ailey Dance School with a full merit scholarship. Perera has performed as a soloist and principal dancer around the world with various companies, as she has worked with some of the most notable figures in the performing arts, including Frederick Ashton, Flemming Flindt, Ulysses Dove, Judith Jamison, Mark Morris, Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson, John Adams, Philip Glass, George Tabori, Marcia Haydee and many others. She has choreographed ballets, concert dance pieces, dance theatre, musicals, film and music videos in many European countries, in Asia, North America and South America. Perera was one of eight choreographers chosen by Ballet Builders in New York to present original works, debuting her piece “Under Time.” In 2008 she became the artistic director of Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria.” In 2010, Perera received the Asthetics Interaction prize from the Brazilian National Foundation for the Arts, FUNARTE, for one of her productions in Brazil. As a teacher she has taught in the School of Performing Arts Vienna, Austria; dance Festivals such as ImPuls Tanz (Vienna) and Tanz Bozen/Bolzano Danza (Italy); Dance Theatre Bralen (Bratislava, Slovakia); SUNY Purchase; and many other schools in Europe and the United States alike. Perera has given workshops and master classes at the National Theatre in Weimar, Germany; Maxim’s Dance Company (Brno, Czech Republic); the National Theatre of the Czech Republic; and Duncan Dance Conservatory in Prague, Czech Republic, among many others. Currently she is working on her own projects, teaching and choreographing in Europe, the United States and Brazil.

Jeffrey Peterson is an assistant professor of dance at Muhlenberg, teaching studio coursework in jazz, modern, partnering, composition, and Laban Movement Analysis. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a certification in Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals from Integrated Movement Studies. Early performing highlights include works by Chris Aiken, Zvi Gotheiner, Bill T. Jones, José Limón, Doug Varone, and Johannes Wieland. Peterson began his professional dance career in national tours with JazzDance by Danny Buraczeski. Since then, he has performed in the work of Clare Byrne, Edisa Weeks, and Stephan Koplowitz, and with the Minnesota Opera, among others. His choreographic work, called “poetic precision” by the Minneapolis StarTribune and “moving and heart-racingly joyous” by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has been commissioned by Dance New Amsterdam, Movement Research at Judson Church, and Rhythmically Speaking. His choreography has been seen in venues in Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and around the Lehigh Valley. At Muhlenberg, he has choreographed for the last four “Master Choreographers,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Chicago.” Peterson’s ongoing creative and scholarly work includes choreographic projects as well as research on the application of Laban and Bartenieff Studies to dance and life.

Trinette Singleton was a principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet for nearly 20 years. She was thrust into national prominence in 1967, appearing in the multi-media ballet “Astarte,” created on her by her mentor, Robert Joffrey. Singleton was the first American dancer to appear on the cover of the national news magazine Time. Following her performing years, she was administrative assistant to Robert Joffrey and ballet mistress for the company from 1979 to 1984.  In 1984, Singleton joined the faculty of The Joffrey Ballet School, New York City, teaching until 2004. In 2008, Trinette appeared as a guest artist in the Joffrey Ballet Company’s Tudor Centennial, in Chicago. Since 2000, she has been on the faculty of The Joffrey Texas Workshop, in San Antonio. She is prominently featured in the documentary, “The Joffrey Ballet: Mavericks of American Dance. Singleton serves as a director on the Arpino Foundation; she is also a member of Cecchetti USA and an honorary member of Cecchetti International Classical Ballet.  In 2014, she served as a judge during the Cecchetti International Classical Ballet Competition. Currently, Singleton is co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Theatre in Allentown. She is also on the faculty at Muhlenberg College and DeSales University, Center Valley. She holds her Licentiate, Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, London, England, and her Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, DeSales University.

Randall Anthony Smith is a current dancer with Armitage Gone! Dance (New York City), Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre (New York City), and the Megan Flynn Dance Company (Philadelphia). He  serves as a répétiteur and assistant to choreographer Donald McKayle, having performed for McKayle’s Etude Ensemble for four years. Smith earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in dance from the University of California, Irvine. He maintains a practice of performing, restaging, and interpreting McKayle’s repertory, creating his own dance works, and teaching dance nationally. In 2012, Smith performed with acclaimed ballerina and choreographer Jodie Gates in “Mein Zimmer.” Other recent performances include works by Bulareyaung Pagarlava, Shen Wei, and zoe|juniper, as well as “WOW” (2014), an experimental opera created by Joe Diebes, Christian Hawkey, and Adam Levin. Smith’s recent credits include a restaging of McKayle’s “The Fight” (from the musical “Golden Boy,” starring Sammy Davis, Jr.) for the American Dance Machine of the 21st Century (2015). Last summer Smith performed in Philip Glass’s opera “Witches of Venice,” commissioned by Opera Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York. On May 12, 2016, Smith received a Distinguished Alumni Award at the 46th Annual Lauds and Laurels Awards Ceremony at the University of California, Irvine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Passion Play’ At Muhlenberg College, March 31 – April 3‏

Allentown, PA – For more than a millennium, the Bible has been the source of some of the richest veins of theatrical history — a tradition that playwright Sarah Ruhl explores in depth in her 2008 drama “Passion Play.” The play opens March 31 at Muhlenberg College.

“It’s a play about the power of theatricality,” says Muhlenberg theater professor Beth Schachter, who directs the production. “It’s an opportunity to enjoy the ways in which the theatre process can be both funny and an expression of faith — of all sorts — within larger themes of love and forgiveness.”

“Passion Play” plays March 31 through April 3 in the college’s Baker Theatre. Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/theatre and at 484-664-3333.

Hailed by New Yorker magazine theater critic John Lahr as “extraordinary,” “bold,” and “inventive,” “Passion Play” takes us behind the scenes of three communities attempting to stage the death and resurrection of Christ. From Queen Elizabeth’s England to Hitler’s Germany to Reagan’s America, Ruhl’s exploration of devotion takes a humorous yet unsettling journey filled with lust, whimsy, and a lot of fish.

Ruhl dramatizes a community of players rehearsing their annual staging of the Easter Passion in three different eras: 1575 northern England, just before Queen Elizabeth outlaws the ritual; 1934 Oberammergau, Bavaria, as Hitler is rising to power; and Spearfish, South Dakota, from the late 1960s through Reagan’s presidency. In each era, the players grapple in different ways with the transformative nature of art — and politics are never far in the background.

The production itself is a work of fiction, and not a passion play — but the audience does see segments of the passion story performed in each of the three historical eras, and Schachter says the play approaches the story of the passion with “a certain reverence, as a story that holds a sublime significance for many of the characters.”

Schachter says that, for her, the play’s most interesting question has to do with the role of the individual in determining the course of history — “the responsibility of everyday people.” In 1930s Germany, for example, we see the choices of individuals shaping Hitler’s rise to power, as his fascist ideology creeps up through the population.

“People look for a leader who reassures them and tells them everything is going to be all right,” she says. “And those choices have palpable consequences — consequences that I think are worth examining in the present moment in our own history.”

The production features scenic design by Stephan Moravski, costume design by Liene Dobraja, and lighting design by Gertjan Houben. Muhlenberg senior Alan Mendez serves as musical director and musical dramaturg, and he has found appropriate popular music from each era to accompany the action. Senior Patrick Moren designs sound.

Performances of “Passion Play” are March 31 through April 3: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. The production is intended for mature audiences. Performances are in the Baker Theatre in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance at Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 and http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre

Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance 2015-2016 Season‏

ALLENTOWN, PA — Muhlenberg College’s nationally-ranked Theatre & Dance Department announces its 2015-2016 mainstage season. Highlights include works ranging from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” to 18th commedia dell’arte; a biannual festival of student-written plays; and production of the musical theatre classic “Chicago.”

The season features six fully mounted theatrical productions and three mainstage dance concerts, running from September 2015 to April 2016.

“This exciting season features the new and the newly imagined,” says Beth Schachter, chair of the department. “We are presenting world premieres and fresh versions of classics, spanning international topics and American issues through comedic and serious projects.”

The season begins with “New Voices,” Sept. 30 through Oct. 4, a new-play festival featuring the work of current Muhlenberg students. The festival features four world premiere short plays, with Schachter serving as artistic director.

The old razzle dazzle of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s electrifying Jazz Age musical “Chicago” comes to the Muhlenberg stage for the first time ever, Oct. 30 through Nov. 8. Directed by theatre program director Charles Richter, “Chicago” is a scintillating tale of greed, murder, showbiz — and all that jazz.

“Moving Stories,” Nov. 12-14, features original choreography by the department’s upperclass dance majors, in a variety of genres and styles. The concert showcases dance as storytelling, narration in human form, addressing themes as broad ranging as the students’ own diverse backgrounds. Karen Dearborn serves as artistic director.

Carlo Goldoni’s classic 1746 comedy “Servant of Two Masters” finishes the fall schedule, Dec. 3-6, directed by Muhlenberg faculty member Francine Roussel. Presented in the classic tradition of the Italian Renaissance, the play features stock characters of the commedia dell’arte style, wearing traditional-style masks and costumes.

“Master Choreographers,” Feb. 6-8, with artistic direction by Karen Dearborn, features eight works by faculty and guest artists, including a piece by renowned choreographer Karol Armitage, sponsored by the Dexter F. & Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. Also included will be works by Shelley Oliver, Heidi Cruz-Austin, Jeffrey Peterson, and program chair Karen Dearborn.

The “New Visions” Directors’ Festival, Feb. 24-28 will feature three short plays directed by senior Muhlenberg directing students: “Terrible Beautiful Bodies,” by Muhlenberg alumni Ben Nassau and Moriah Benjoseph; “Hello Out There,” by William Saroyan; and “The Exception and the Rule,” by Bertolt Brecht.

“Dance Emerge,” April 21-24, showcases the ideas and talents of our brightest young choreographers. The intimate Dance Studio Theatre is the backdrop for innovative, explorative dance pieces. Jeffrey Peterson serves as artistic director.


The Muhlenberg Circus Workshop now in its third year, will present an evening of contemporary circus in the college’s Studio Theatre, April 21-24. The Workshop’s performances combine the talents of aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, dancers, actors and other skilled artists in an evening of interactive and energetic performances.

A portion of James Joyce’s classic novel “Ulysses” is adapted for the stage in “Ulysses in Nighttown,” April 28 – May 1. Directed by theatre professor James Peck, the play tackles the rich language of Joyce’s esoteric 1922 novel — in particular, Episode 15, the “Circe” episode, taking place in Nighttown, Dublin’s red-light district.

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 theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

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

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 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.

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.

‘Moving Stories’ Dance Concert Showcases Innovative Work By Dtudent Choreographers, Dancers In Nationally Acclaimed Dance Program

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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. 14-16 in the College’s Baker Theatre.

Dance Program chair Karen Dearborn says the nine student 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. This season, the show also will feature a premiere piece by Muhlenberg faculty member Teresa VanDenend Sorge.

“‘Moving Stories’ is designed to inspire and challenge audiences,” says Dearborn, who serves as artistic director for the performance. “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.”

The concert will showcase 56 dancers from the department’s dance program, 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, jazz styles and modern works that investigate female body image, women’s power in the Roman Empire, self-discovery and empowerment, exploitation of female sexuality, and time and memory. Choreographers drew inspiration from everything from poetry and paintings to the relationship between a magician and his assistant.

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. 14-16 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, MuhlenbergCollege, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 14-15, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 16, 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 www.muhlenberg.edu/dance

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Production Of Rock Opera ‘Superstar’ Explores Human Side Of Crucifixion Story

Allentown, PA– James Peck vividly remembers the best rock concert he ever attended: U2 at the Meadowlands in 2011.

“It was one of the most quote-unquote ‘ritualistic’ theater experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “It had that seize-your-body, wash-over-you aspect of rock-and-roll—that feeling that you’re part of something larger than you. That aspect of ritual.”

That’s the feeling that Peck wants to create as the director of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” opening July 10 at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

“‘Superstar’ is a big epic rock musical about one of the greatest stories ever told,” Peck says. “In the way that a really great rock concert makes you feel like you’re part of something big and cosmic, I think a great production of this show should work the crowd into a sort of oceanic sense of being in touch with something in the universe.”

This summer marks not only the Muhlenberg premiere of “Superstar,” but also the return of former Muhlenberg dance professor Charles O. Anderson. Anderson returns from Austin, Texas, where he teaches dance at University of Texas Austin. Ken Butler serves as the musical director.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28, Wednesday through Sunday on the Empie Stage, MuhlenbergCollege.

“Superstar” dramatizes the last seven days in the life of Jesus, from his entry into Jerusalem through his crucifixion. Set to a rock score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the show looks at those seven days through the eyes Judas, the disciple who betrays Jesus and “one of history’s great so-called villains,” Peck says.

“It is unusual for a show to take the vantage point of Judas,” Peck says. “But it’s what makes ‘Superstar’ unique.”

The show features the hit songs “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar.”

What interests Peck most, he says, is the way the play explores the humanity of the characters—real people at the epicenter of one of history’s great moments.

“You get a sense of Jesus as a human,” he says, “of how exhausting it must be to be at the heart of a world movement.”

“Superstar” features a cast of 27, including Muhlenberg alumni Dan Cary ’08 as Jesus, Jessie MacBeth ’13 as Mary Magdalene, and Equity guest artist Kennedy Kanagawa ’08 as Judas. The show also features guest artists from the LehighValley including Ed Bara as Caiaphas, Bill Mutimer as Herod, and Joshua Neth as Pontius Pilate.

“What I love about ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is that it takes these iconic figures that we are used to thinking of abstractly, and it humanizes them,” Kanagawa says. “They have emotions and desires and allegiances and secrets. The idea of returning to my alma mater and making these discoveries along with this brilliantly talented creative team is thrilling.”

The show features a spare, earthy design by Tim Averill, who brings his interest in sustainable theater design to the production. Annie Simon’s costume designs draw from 1970s and contemporary grunge fashion. Lighting design by John McKernon brings a rock-show sensibility to the performance. The five-piece band led by Vince Di Mura will feature a lean rock-band sound—less lush Broadway score and more rock-and-roll.

The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre has been bringing excellent theatre to the LehighValley for 33 years. All productions are performed at MuhlenbergCollege, 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 theater and dance.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs July 10-28 in the Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown, Pa.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Regular admission tickets for the first four shows are $32; seniors (65 +) are $28; students and children are $20. For the remainder of the run, regular admission tickets are $38; seniors (65+) are $35; students and children are $20. Family matinees on Sundays are just $10 for children. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $25 per person and $16 for students and children.

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

Dance Performance April 18-21 Displays Talent Of 14 Young Choreographers, 60 Dancers

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 18-21 in the College’s Dance Studio Theatre. Jeffrey Peterson and Teresa VanDenend Sorge are co-artistic directors for the concert.

“The choreographers have developed mature works that ultimately explore elements of the human experience, including themes of loss, community, and celebration,” VanDenend Sorge says. “An eclectic array of innovative choreography, the concert will run the gamut from contemplation to exaltation.”

‘Dance Emerge’ will showcase 14 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.

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 18-21 in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, April 18-19, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 21, at 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 ttp://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/academics/theatre-dance

‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Explores Power And Love, But Also Looks For Fun

Allentown, Pa. (March 12, 2012) — In staging Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening March 28 at Muhlenberg College, director Beth Schachter says she is looking for the play’s “critique of power” and its commentary on marriage — but she’s also looking to create a good time.

“This is a play which has a tremendous amount of fun in it,” says Schachter of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy, which was first produced in the 1590s. “The lovers’ plot, and the fairies’ manipulation of the lovers and their affairs, all add up to highly comical miscommunications and misunderstandings. And chase scenes. It’s fun stuff!”

The Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department will present the play, the fifth of its 2011-12 main stage season, March 28 through April 1, in its 100-seat Studio Theatre. Schachter is an associate professor of theater in the department.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” begins with four hopelessly entangled young lovers, adds a royal wedding and some traveling thespians, and then sends everyone off to an enchanted forest, where they get caught in the crossfire between the King and Queen of the Faeries. It’s a story of love, magic, mistaken identity, and Nature gone mad — as well as some of the most enduring poetry the English language has to offer.

Schachter says that much of the spirit of the production comes from the fairies — both their magical qualities and their ethereal dance-like movement.

“The fairies are something that we, in the contemporary world, can be drawn to,” she says. “There’s something still pleasurable, I think, about their ‘hand-made magic,’ and we’re trying to tap back into that pre-modern sense of magic.”

Choreographer Robert J. Wagner, a Muhlenberg alumnus and professional teacher and performer, has worked with the cast to create a vocabulary of movement based on contact improvisation — an approach designed to give the choreography a sense of spontaneity and flight. Schachter has also incorporated contemporary music, to give the audience a more direct association with the characters’ emotions — for example, their discovery of love, and their sense of confusion.

“The songs tap into a sensory experience of the play, which I think that Shakespeare would be after,” Schachter says. “There are hilarious rhymes and even bad rhymes in the fairies’ spells, and Shakespeare obviously enjoyed the clunkiness of off-rhymes. He took pleasure in sound and music.”

On the more serious side, Schachter says she is interested in the play’s critique of power and exploration of freedom. She suggests that power and freedom don’t always correlate as closely as might be expected.

“We go from the highest reaches of power to the lowest reaches, both in romantic relationships and marriage, and in creative pursuits,” she says. “The play explores who has the most freedom, and it turns out that the Mechanicals — the wandering, largely unemployed troupe of part-time performers — have perhaps the most freedom to genuinely create. There is a sense that their imagination does vault them over certain physical limits and power limitations.”

Helping to create the production’s sense of magic will be scenery by set designer Kina Park. Her ambition, she says, is to transport the audience from the present time and place into a timeless realm.

“The set features vibrant colors, oversized flowers and trees, and a hill covered with funky textures to help emphasize the fun and whimsical mood,” Park says. “As in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the scale of the object is a key to the magical world. Giant flowers will make the audience feel all of a sudden small, and will help them to be a part of the world of the play.”

Muhlenberg College’s Theatre & Dance Department is the top-rated college performance program in the country, according to the Princeton Review’s 2012 survey report. Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college of more than 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa., offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs March 28 to April 1. Performances are Wednesday through Friday, March 28-30, at 8 p.m; Saturday, March 31, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 1, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under, $7 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Tickets and information: 484-664-3333 or Muhlenberg.edu/theatre