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 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.

‘The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot’ Brings Courtroom Drama To The Next Level

The trial of Judas takes place Dec. 1-5
on the Muhlenberg Mainstage

Allentown, Pa. (Nov. 9, 2010) — When audiences arrive to see “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” they will be thrust into a “transformative world,” in which a courtroom in Purgatory has been conjured from an abandoned junior high school gymnasium.

“The show is a flashy romp through history – which happens to take place in Purgatory,” says Jenny Lerner ’11, who plays lawyer Fabiana Aziza Cunningham.

Director Beth Schachter describes the show as a “fascinating version of a courtroom drama.” Schachter is an associate professor of theater at Muhlenberg College and teaches classes in acting, directing, and the history and theory of theater. She is also the director of the College’s Women’s Studies Program. The play runs Dec. 1-5 in the College’s 100-seat Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, takes place in the precinct of Hope, in downtown Purgatory. A trial has begun to determine the culpability of one of Western culture’s most notorious villains: the betrayer of Jesus himself, Judas Iscariot. A parade of famous and infamous figures takes the stand: Mother Theresa, Sigmund Freud, Satan, Pontius Pilate (who pleads the Fifth). They debate with the two lawyers, arguing their points with a ferocious combination of biblical metaphor and urban trash-talk.

“Guirgis has taken historical figures that presumably none of us have met before and made them interesting and funny – and actually very modern,” says Lerner. “Every character in the play is someone who doesn’t love themselves and feels that they are inadequate in some way. They are in Purgatory, but still grappling with issues from the past that are unresolved, and that is why they can’t move on.”

Guirgis’ scathing examination of faith, free will, and forgiveness explodes with unforgettable characters – cultural icons that appear not as figures in a storybook but as people trying to cope with the big questions, when no big answers are forthcoming.

 “The play is full of laughs and really interesting characters,” says Lerner. “But it also has deep heart and deep emotion and asks the question of how our actions affect us.”

Schacter says the combination of humor and challenging subject matter drew her into the play. She also likes that, while the play focuses on Judeo-Christian history and events, the themes are much broader.

“The play is less about particular sets of religious beliefs, practices, and history, and more about cultivating hope, faith, and the spirit of forgiveness,” Schachter says. “People who see this show have the opportunity to consider how necessary but painful forgiveness can be.”

Physical comedy plays a key role in this production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” Schachter says — although often in surprising ways. For example, there is a Keystone Kops–style scene with Roman soldiers and Judas that shifts suddenly and shockingly from slapstick to violence.

“The show seems to be very self aware of theatre conventions,” Lerner says. “And it plays with these conventions and bends the rules in many ways.”

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. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program sixth in the nation, and The Princeton Review and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” performances are Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 1-3, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or

Muhlenberg Opens Theater And Dance Season With ‘Polaroid Stories,’ Oct. 6-10

Provocative black-box production interweaves
mythology with real stories of homeless youth

Allentown, Pa. (Sept. 15, 2010) – The Muhlenberg College Department opens its 2010-11 mainstage season with Naomi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories,” a visceral blend of classical mythology and real-life stories told by street kids. The production will be directed by Zach Trebino, a senior theater major at the college. The play runs Oct. 6-10 in the college’s 100-seat Studio Theatre.

“Every season we choose at least one student to direct on the mainstage,” said Jim Peck, chair for of the department. “It’s an important and longstanding value of the program — that directing students who have shown exceptional promise get the opportunity to lead a project with the full support of the department. Zach’s outstanding record as a director, playwright, and actor made him a great choice for this opportunity.”

“Polaroid Stories” will mark Trebino’s second mainstage directing opportunity. Last fall, he helmed a one-act play, “Ouroboros, which he also wrote, as part of the “New Voices” one-act festival.

“It is wonderful that Muhlenberg affords students the ability to develop what they learn in the classroom,” Trebino said. “This is an opportunity that most undergraduates do not receive.”

Inspired in part by Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” “Polaroid Stories” takes place on an abandoned pier on the outermost edge of a city, a way-stop for dreamers, dealers and desperadoes. The play is their story — heartbreaking and celebratory, all at once. Trebino was attracted to “Polaroid Stories” because of the play’s language.

“The play mixes poetic lyricism with gritty, real, human speech,” he said.

“Polaroid Stories,” journeys into a dangerous world where myth-making fulfills a fierce need for transcendence, where storytelling has the power to transform a reality in which characters’ lives are continually threatened and devalued. Not all the stories they tell are true; some are lies, wild yarns, clever deceits, baroque fabrications. But whether or not a homeless youth invents an incredible history for himself isn’t the point, explains one character: “All these stories and lies add up to something like the truth.”

“The play shows that there is a godliness within everyone, even the most disenfranchised people,” Trebino said. “Everyone has a story worth remembering.”

Muhlenberg’s production of “Polaroid Stories” will be more minimalist than other productions of the play. It will take place in a smaller space than usual and will have fewer set pieces.

“I see the production as occurring in a black box magical fantasy theater,” Trebino said, “where things wonderful and fantastical can occur, and there is magic around every corner.”

Trebino said he takes his vision for the play in part from Jerzy Grotowski’s idea of “poor theatre,” in which the actor is the main arbitrator of the theatrical experience. He is also interested in theater that stems from Greek and Roman mythology. He was particularly interested in “Polaroid Stories,” he said, because the focus is on the female characters.

“‘Polaroid Stories’ turns mythology on its head because it makes female characters the focus,” he said.

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,221 students in Allentown, Pa. The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. Princeton ranks Muhlenberg’s theater program sixth in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

“Polaroid Stories” plays Oct. 6-10 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. The production is recommended for mature audiences.

Performances are Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 6-8, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 9, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 general admission, $8 for youth 17 and under. Group rates and season subscriptions are available.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or