|MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: What I Did This Summer
This summer I have been out front in the Lehigh Valley more than usual, surveying audiences at various arts events. The study, Arts & Economic Prosperity V, is part of a national study to determine the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry.
Sounds dry, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s been fun to mingle with arts patrons and bump into old friends at the theatre or a concert. It is too early to tell, but attendance at these events seems very strong.
The data collection continues through 2016, and the results of the analysis will be released in Spring 2017 at a public forum, Whose Business is the Arts? For the past twenty years, the Lehigh Valley region has enjoyed double-digit increases that are far above the national average. The previous study in 2012 determined that arts and culture was a $208 million industry. It will be fascinating to see what the numbers tell us this time. Maybe I am turning into a data-geek!
Allentown, PA — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” — the precursor to his blockbuster Broadway hit “Hamilton” — runs July 13-31 as the second production of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season. The show tells a story that many of its cast hold close to their hearts: the story of families and cultures that have been transplanted from far away.
Many of the show’s 20 actors and dancers can tell you a story about their families coming to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico, or Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. For some, that story is not so long in the past. Wilma Rivera, for example, is a professional actress, a Muhlenberg College alumna, and a first-generation American. She says “In the Heights” is the story of her family.
“When I saw ‘In the Heights’ on Broadway, there was this moment when the music of the first number started, and it captured so beautifully the experience of what it’s like to be a Latino,” says Rivera, who plays Camila. “It’s that struggle to maintain an identity and also to assimilate — especially in New York City.”
“In the Heights” was a hit when it opened in 2008, running more than a thousand performances and bringing its composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to the attention of theatergoers. Miranda’s innovative score melded the rhymes and rhythms of hip-hop with the Latin-style music of salsa and merengue, and, together with Quiara Alegría Hudes’ book, captured the sights, sounds and stories of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.
The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Miranda also won the Tony for Best Score. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and musical director Alex Lacamoire also won Tony Awards for their Latin- and hip-hop-inflected choreography and orchestrations. The three would reunite with director Thomas Kail to create “Hamilton.”
“Miranda is deeply versed in ’90s hip-hop,” says James Peck, who directs the production for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. “He picks up beats and rhythm structures and song structures from hip-hop, and he incorporates salsa, merengue, and other Latin styles — but he’s also a musical theatre fanboy from the age of five. The results are really a musical tour-de-force.”
MSMT’s production features choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ed Bara. John Raley designed the set, Lex Gurst designed costumes, John McKernon designed lights, and Patrick Moren designed sound.
Peck credits choreographer Reyes as a driving force behind bringing the show to the MSMT stage.
“Sammy is a hip-hop dancer, a theater artist, and a Puerto Rican. He has a deep understanding of the cultural dynamics at work in this piece,” Peck says. “I wouldn’t have had the temerity to the play without him. It was Sammy saying, ‘I’ve got to do “In the Heights”‘ that made it come together.”
“In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.
Miranda himself was born in Washington Heights, and grew up in Linwood, one neighborhood over. His parents had moved to New York from Puerto Rico, and every summer, he visited his grandparents back on the island.
Wilma Rivera’s classmate at Muhlenberg, Gabe Martínez, also remembers feeling like he was watching his own family’s history on stage when he first saw “In the Heights.” Martínez saw the show for the first time a year to the day after his grandmother passed away.
“The actress who played Abuela Claudia was the spitting image of my abuela,” says Martínez, who stars as Usnavi, the role that Miranda played on Broadway. “As soon as she walked out on stage, my father and I started weeping. We were at the matinee; I bought the cast recording on the way home and had it memorized by the time I went to bed.”
Martínez’s grandparents moved from Puerto Rico to New York in the 1940s, shortly after his grandfather returned from service in World War II.
“They wrote to each other every day, planning their move to New York, the American dream,” Martínez says. “When the war was over, he hadn’t been home a week when they bought a plane ticket and headed to the Bronx.”
Rivera has a similar connection to the material. Her father immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the early 1970s. Her mother was born in East Harlem, but moved to Puerto Rico as a small child. Both came from poverty, she says. Her mother was the only one in her family to go to college. When Rivera went off to Muhlenberg to study acting, she was the first in her family to attend college on the mainland — and, like Nina in “In the Heights,” she almost gave it up after her freshman year. Department chair Charles Richter talked her into staying.
“‘We need you here,’ he told me.”
Rivera and Martínez were the only two Latino students in the theater program at the time. Neither of them ever had the chance before now to play a Latino character on the Muhlenberg stage — and the opportunity is what drew them back. Both of them have worked steadily as actors since graduating — Rivera in 2009, and Martínez in 2010 — but they have had to be flexible in order to do it.
“I’ve spent my entire professional career praying to see a casting call saying ‘ethnically ambiguous — slash — Latino,'” Martínez says. “We were the only two Latino kids in our class, and now there are lots of kids, and this is their first professional gig, and we’re just so happy for them to start out this way, that these kids are having this opportunity.”
Rivera echoes his enthusiasm.
“This department has really embraced students of color and encouraged their talents, and really raised them up,” she says. “I’m very proud of this college and to be an alumna of this college, and I just hope it continues to grow.”
Martínez and Rivera’s deep connection to “In the Heights” is a common thread through the entire cast, Peck says.
“When people have a chance to be part of a show that speaks to their own experience, they make a significant personal investment in that show,” he says. “It’s rare that these stories get told, and when people have the chance to be a part of these stories, they grab onto that chance.”
In fact, Rivera’s connection to the show runs so deep that she got a tattoo of one of its lyrics, “Paciencia y fe,” a song sung by Abuela Claudia. The lyric reminds her of her own abuela, who died in January.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose that matriarch of a Latin family,” Rivera says. “She’s the stone and we’re all the ripples of what she leaves behind. It holds weight, I think, in this world, that we remember who we are and where we’re from. Gabe and I are very lucky that we have that image of our parents and remember the struggle.”
The actor who plays Abuela Claudia in the production — jazz vocalist, scholar and activist Roberta Meek — agrees. Meek had only one grandparent growing up, and ike Abuela Claudia — and like Rivera and Martínez’s abuelas — she was the keeper of the family’s stories.
“My grandmother was literally the historian of the family,” Meek says. “Her father was born into slavery, and he had been searching for his mother ever since. My grandmother was the griot,” the person who maintains the oral history tradition in many West African cultures. “You came to her for school.”
“In the Heights” is Meek’s first musical theater performance, although she has been performing as a jazz vocalist in the Lehigh Valley for more than 20 years. She also contributed stories and songs to the Touchstone Theatre project “Another River Flows: a Celebration of the Lehigh Valley Black Experience.”
One of the things that “In the Heights” gets right, Rivera says, is the sabor — the flavor of Latin culture and of the Washington Heights community.
“This show is packed full of sabor,” she says.
Some of that flavor is visual; much of it comes from the rhythm and choreographic energy that choreographer Samuel Reyes has brought to the project.
“The blend of salsa, hip-hop and contemporary movement is very exciting for me as a choreographer — and we have found such a dynamic, crazy talented cast,” Reyes says. “This show is going to punch a hole in the wall, both visually and emotionally. I’m just so damn proud to be part of it.”
“In the Heights” plays July 13-31 at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. Performances take place in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices for the first four performances are $33 regular admission; seniors, $29; students and children, $18. Prices for the rest of the run are $39 regular admission; seniors, $36; students and children, $20.
Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/smt or 484-664-3333.
Allentown, PA —For the past two seasons, the theatre company Doppelskope has created world-premiere musicals for young audiences at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. In 2014, they presented “Gruff!” a troll’s eye view of the story of the three billy goats Gruff, and last season it was “Grimm!” a tale of the storytelling Brothers Grimm and their quest to chase down their escaped stories with the help of a rambunctious little girl.
This season, MSMT and Doppelskope will complete the “Grilogy” with another new show, “Growl!” — playing June 29 through July 30. “Growl!” brings Doppelskope’s energetic, innovative puppetry, lively music, and interactive theatrical spirit to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Co-authors Ora Fruchter and Christopher Scheer describe “Growl!” as a “zany reinvention” of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which a group of woodland creatures has come together to solve a series of break-ins by a certain mysterious blonde figure. They are led by an imaginative young bear who likes to be known as Danger Bear, and who has no time for breakfast while the world needs a hero to make freedom sing in the hearts of all animal-kind.
“Our inspiration always comes from a lot of different sources,” Scheer says. “For ‘Growl!’ we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what made us laugh as children, and what still makes our inner-children laugh now. So as we got ready to write the show, we spent some time researching the cartoons we grew up watching — Chip and Dale, Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny, and lots of other classic cartoons. We like to create comedy that works on at least two levels, so that we can engage adults just as much as we engage kids.”
The eight-member cast of “Growl!” plays an ensemble of woodland animals, who in turn present the story of Goldilocks and the Bear family through puppetry. The cast members also play all the music themselves, on instruments ranging from washboard and stand-up bass to banjo and accordion — all while selling the audience a variety of woodland merchandise such as Hats, Buckets, Porridge, and Four-Month Energy Drink (the alternative to hibernating).
“We want our audiences to laugh in a deep, satisfying way,” Fruchter says. “And we want them to walk away amazed by the possibilities of live theater, puppetry and imagination.”
“Growl!” features a script by Fruchter and Scheer, with music composed by Tony Singer, who also serves as musical director. Fruchter, Scheer and Singer also made up the core creative team for both “Gruff!” and “Grimm!” The team’s show has evolved from recorded musical accompaniment, the first year, to live piano accompaniment last year, to this year’s approach of letting the actors accompany themselves.
“Toby has created this super-catchy, playful score for us,” Scheer says. “And because of our actor-musicians, we’re able to have fantastic live music throughout the show.”
Scheer says that the group’s puppetry has also evolved, both in the design and in performance. The show uses both tabletop puppets, created by Fruchter, and detailed shadow puppetry, projected on giant screens to create “surprisingly cinematic moments” throughout the show.
“We’re really exploring and innovating what’s possible with puppetry on stage,” he says. “We’re learning quite a lot as we experiment, with some really exciting results. Ora’s puppets are beautiful and hilarious. They’re like cartoon characters come to life, and they create this fantastic connection with the audience.”
Young audiences members can participate in a free 45-minute Imagination Workshop, following every performance of “Growl!” Participants will join members of the cast to explore the themes of the show through movement, storytelling, and creative play. Participants can register in advance through the box office or on the MSMT website.
Cast members are available after the show to meet the audience and sign autographs.
A Sensory-Friendly Performance of “Growl!” will be presented on Saturday, July 23 at 1 p.m. The performance will be followed by an interactive Imagination 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.
American Sign Language interpreters will interpret the 10 a.m. performance on Saturday, July 23. The interpreters will be available prior to the show and following the show at the meet-the-cast session and Imagination Workshop. All patrons are welcome to attend.
“Growl!” runs June 29 through July 30 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. All tickets to “Growl!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.
Tickets and information are available at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.
Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s 2016 season will feature some familiar faces for fans of last summer’s “Hello, Dolly!” Mia Scarpa and Jarrod Yuskauskas return this summer for “Gypsy,” the beloved musical the New York Times calls “the greatest of all American musicals.” The show runs June 15 through July 3.
“Gypsy” kicks off a summer season that will also feature the 2008 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “In the Heights,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of the current Broadway smash “Hamilton,” playing July 13-31. The season also features the world premiere family musical “Growl!” an irreverent adaptation of the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, created by the theatre company Doppelskope. “Growl!” plays June 29 through July 30.
Arguably one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, “Gypsy” adapts burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee’s sensational autobiography into a sultry, campy tour-de-force about show business, ambition, and motherhood. The score, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, features such classics as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together Wherever We Go.”
Mia Scarpa returns to the MSMT stage to play Mama Rose, the most notorious of all stage moms, after an acclaimed run in the title role of last summer’s “Hello, Dolly!” She plays opposite Jarrod Yuskauskas in the role of Herbie. Last summer, The Press Newspapers noted that “the repartee between Scarpa and Yuskauskas is priceless.”
In the starring role of Louise — based on Gypsy Rose Lee herself — recent Muhlenberg graduate Lillian Pritchard takes the stage following a turn as Roxie Hart in this season’s sold-out run of “Chicago” on the Muhlenberg stage.
The production also features MSMT mainstay Neil Hever, returning to the role of Pop that he first played in the 1993 MSMT production of the show.
Also featured in the cast are six young actors from the Lehigh Valley Community: Jenna Seasholtz as Baby June; Anna Edwards as Baby Louise: and ensemble members Elijah Albert-Stein, Aaron Finkle, Robert Pierno, and Robert Stinner.
“Gypsy” also reunites the production team from “Hello, Dolly!” — director Charles Richter, choreographer Karen Dearborn, and musical director Michael Schnack. Richter, the founding artistic director of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, is in his 36th season with the festival.
Audio Description and Open Captioning will be available at the Sunday, June 19 performance of “Gypsy.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance. Open Captioning displays lyrics and dialogue via electronic text display visible to the side of the stage, for the benefit of patrons with hearing loss. Audio Description uses the natural pauses in the play to provide a narrative that translates the visual image into an audible form for patrons who are blind or low-vision. Patrons use headsets to hear the audio description.
“Gypsy” runs June 15 – July 3; “In the Heights” runs July 13-31. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Both productions are in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.
Ticket prices for both “Gypsy” and “In the Heights” 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. Subscriptions to both shows are available.
“Growl!” runs June 29 through July 30 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m, and Saturday at 10 a.m. only. All tickets to “Growl!” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.
Tickets and information are available at www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT or 484-664-3333.
Thursday, May 19th
Steel River Playhouse
245 E High St.
Hors D’Oeuvres Provided
Cash Bar Available
Steel River Playhouse Offering Discount Tickets to Show After Happy Hour: $26.00 for adult, $21.00 for Seniors over 65, and $14.00 for students
Please call 610.850.0181 ext. 0 to RSVP.
Allentown, PA — “Ulysses,” James Joyce’s 1922 epic widely regarded as one of the most important works of modernist literature, takes the stage at Muhlenberg College, in an adaptation that director James Peck describes as “weird, sexy, and a little dangerous.” “Ulysses in Nighttown” plays April 27-30 to conclude the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department’s mainstage season.
Peck says the production employs vivid imagery, unconventional storytelling techniques, and Joyce’s own spectacularly vivid language to capture “a journey into the unconscious.” The play excerpts one lengthy episode of the novel (known to Joyce aficionados as the Circe episode), taking place mostly in the red-light district of Dublin, Ireland.
“The play gives shape to the desires of the three characters at the heart of ‘Ulysses,’” says Peck, a professor of theater at Muhlenberg. “It is surreal, stream-of-consciousness — we go inside the minds of the characters, experience their hallucinations and their faltering sanity. The play is coherent, but it’s coherent in the way that dreams are coherent.”
Aching for fellowship, middle-aged ad salesman Leopold Bloom pursues the alienated young novelist Stephen Dedalus on a late-night bender through Dublin’s red light district. There they find themselves confronting their feverish fears and passions, haunted by their transgressions and fetishes. Full of portent and hallucination, Joyce’s sprawling text takes a dark turn in this episode, which playwright Marjorie Barkentin has adapted as a stand-alone narrative, with context derived from the rest of the novel.
At a fundamental level, Peck says, “Ulysses in Nighttown” is the story of a friendship between two men dealing with loss — Stephen with the loss of his mother, and Bloom with the death of his child and the disintegration of his marriage to Molly, who he knows has taken to pursuing affairs with other men. But the play, like the novel, hardly lends itself to simple synopsis.
The production will feature an original musical score by percussionist Douglas Ovens, a professor and former department chair of music at Muhlenberg, who has previously provided music for “Orlando,” “The Other Shore,” “The Possibilities,” and other plays at Muhlenberg. Ovens will play the score himself in performance.
Peck says he was moved to direct the play by its storytelling challenges and by Joyce’s linguistic virtuosity — but also for more personal reasons.
“I hadn’t done anything strange for a while, and I wanted to do something strange,” he says. “I also think this is some of the most evocative English language that has ever been written. I wanted to delve into that language in the way that creating a production for the stage forces you to do.”
He continues: “I think when I was in my 20s, when I first read ‘Ulysses,’ I identified with the character of Stephen. Now in my 50s, I feel like I identify more with Bloom. When you’re younger, you feel like the world of possibilities is wide open. Then as you get older you find that as many doors are closed to you as are open. I think the play delves very deeply into that maturation, that sense of gain and simultaneous loss that comes with maturity.”
“Ulysses in Nighttown” plays April 27-30. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 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 can be purchased online at http://www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Empire Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.
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 13-16 in the College’s Studio 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 8 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 eight original dances include contemporary jazz, dance theater, and modern works that investigate such topics as aging, censorship, 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 13-16 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.
Performances are April 13-16: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 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 http://www.muhlenberg.edu/dance.
Pottstown, PA—Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) West End Student Theatre and Theatre Arts program are proud to present “A Lie of the Mind,” a darkly comic family drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Sam Shepard. Show dates are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 21-23, at 7 p.m., with a 12:30 p.m. performance Friday, April 22. All performances will be held in the College’s South Hall Community Room, 101 College Drive, Pottstown.
Tickets cost $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.mc3.edy/livelyarts or call 215-641-6518. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Laurel House, offering services for victims of domestic abuse and their families.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind” follows two families in the Montana plains, connected by one marriage and a brutal incident which leaves the wife, Beth, in her family’s care. Filled with enormous vitality, and humor, it explores the destinies of Jake and Beth, torn apart by jealousies and distrust, welded together by the needs of the human heart and the destructiveness which it can engender.
“This is the reason why I feel art is so powerful,” says director Samantha Clarke. “One in four women will experience abuse in their life. With numbers like that, it’s hard not to accept that abuse knows no race, gender, socioeconomic status, or creed. However, abuse, harassment, and discrimination often go without a voice; this play gives us a voice in which to speak for those who cannot, will not, or know not how.” This production contains adult language and themes.
In conjunction with the production, the students of West End Student Theatre will be creating a ‘Post Secret’ wall to offer a voice for members of the community who are facing domestic abuse, bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Anonymous drop boxes will be available on campus, and students and community members may leave a note to be posted on the ‘Post Secret’ wall at the South Hall Community Room during performances.
“The drop boxes will also have resources and literature available,” says West End Student Theatre advisor Tim Gallagher. “We want the opportunity to speak to empower the members of our community who are dealing with these issues.”
Samantha Clarke and stage managed by Morgan Carasquillo, the cast includes Kayla Velasquez, Eric Reyes, Hailee Tyson, Tess Devlin, Hunter Thorsen, Tyler Sanderson, and Joe Donley. The production is designed, produced and presented by the students of the West End Student Theatre, under the guidance of Tim Gallagher and Christopher Kleckner.
|$9.99 RUSH TICKETS AVAILABLE!|
|Lehigh Valley Arts Council
www.LVArtsCouncil.org ◊ www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org
|RUSH TICKETS AVAILABLE!
Last Minute Discount…Only $9.99!
|Lehigh Valley Arts Council
www.LVArtsCouncil.org ◊ www.LVArtsBoxOffice.org Rush Ticketing is a service of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. For more information, visit:
Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre will hold open auditions on Feb. 28 and 29. Performers will be cast for the season’s mainstage productions: “Gypsy,” performing June 15 – July 3, and a second show performing July 13-31.
The following audition details can also be found online, at muhlenberg.edu/smt. A performance rights agreement prevents SMT from announcing the title of the second production at this time, but full details are available on the website.
For the second production of the season, actors of color are particularly encouraged to audition.
Children may audition for “Gypsy” on Sunday, Feb. 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. They should be ages 8 to 12, both boys and girls, under 5 feet 2 inches in height. They should prepare a vocal audition as described below, and will be taught a dance combination.
Preliminary dance and vocal auditions will be held for both productions on Sunday, Feb. 28, from 3 to 11 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 29, from 5 to 11 p.m. All auditions will take place at Muhlenberg College, at the Baker Center for the Arts and the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.
All auditioners must register in advance and schedule an audition. Auditioners should send an email to SMTcompany@muhlenberg.edu by Friday, Feb. 26, 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. 25. Voice messages should contain all of the above information.
For “Gypsy,” performers ages 16 and up are encouraged to audition. There are several roles for older actors. As indicated above, a separate audition will be held Sunday afternoon for children. All auditioners should prepare a 32-bar up-tempo song selection from a Broadway musical written before 1975. Please no rock or pop selections. Some roles do not require singing, but everyone interested in being in the production should prepare a vocal audition. Bring properly marked sheet music. An accompanist will be provided.
All females auditioning for the production will be required to do a short dance audition. All males auditioning for the production under the age of 30 will also be required to do a dance audition. No preparation is required. Males over the age of 30 need not do a dance audition.
For the second production the director will be casting actors ages 15 and up. Actors of color are especially encouraged to audition. Please prepare a 32-bar cut of a song from a contemporary musical. Bring properly marked sheet music; an accompanist will be provided. All actors will also be required to do a dance audition.
Auditioners may audition for both productions. People who are auditioning for both shows should prepare two different songs.
All actors participating in Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre productions are paid a stipend. Out-of-town actors are provided with free housing. We will consider casting Equity members on guest artist contracts.
Auditioners who live too far away from the Allentown area or who are unable to attend auditions may submit a preliminary video audition. The video should consist of a comedic monologue not more than two minutes in length, one song (see guidelines above), and a 90-second dance solo. Please send a ling to a video hosted on the internet; e.g., YouTube or Vimeo. Do not send attached files via email. You may also submit a DVD following the same guidelines, which should be received prior to the audition dates.
Auditioners who receive a callback must attend in person to be considered for a role. Callbacks will include acting auditions, reading from the script.
Auditioners should bring two copies of their resumes and headshots.
“Gypsy” will be directed by Charles Richter, with choreography by Karen Dearborn and musical direction by Michael Schnack. Rehearsals are May 24 through June 14, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. Young actors will not be called during school hours and will generally be released by 9 p.m. Performances are June 14 through July 3, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The second production will be directed by James Peck, with choreography by Samuel Antonio Reyes and musical direction by Ed Bara. Rehearsals are June 21 through July 12, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m and 7 to 11 p.m. Performances are July 13-31, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. A performance rights agreement prevents SMT from announcing the title of the second production at this time, but full details are available on the website.
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 email@example.com.
Pottstown, PA — Montgomery County Community College’s West End Student Theatre (WEST) group, in collaboration with the students’ recently formed chapter of the National Organization for Women, will present Eve Ensler’s award-winning “The Vagina Monologues,” on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the South Hall Community Room, West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown. The students will be performing this as part of a national initiative known as V-Day to help raise awareness of violence against women and girls.
The show is open to the community, but anyone under 18 years must be accompanied by an adult due to the explicit content of the production. Tickets cost $2 at the door. Proceeds will benefit The Laurel House, a comprehensive domestic violence agency serving individuals, families and communities throughout Montgomery County.
Participants include Joanna Bak, Maliah Buxton, Tess Devlin, Rebecca McGovney-Ingram, Jamie Menio, Shelby Poston, Lavinia Soliman and Cat Urbanski, with Director Morgan Carrasquillo, Stage Manager Maliah Buxton and WEST Advisor Tim Gallagher.
MCCC’s V-Day joins thousands of other community groups which perform “The Vagina Monologues” each February. “The Vagina Monologues” consists of a series of monologues performed by women covering a variety female experiences. Ensler considers the show a conversation about women’s sexuality that should be centered in the global discussion on stopping violence against women and girls.
This type of community activism is what inspired several female students to form a local chapter of the National Organization for Women, a grassroots organization dedicated to the advocating for women’s rights. At MCCC, the chapter is led by President Lavinia Soliman and advisor Rebecca McGovney-Ingram. The MCCC Campus NOW chapter meets every Friday between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on both Central and West campuses to discuss modern feminism and campus outreach events.
According to its website, V-Day is “a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.” Through V-Day campaigns, activist groups present productions, such as “The Vagina Monologues” to raise awareness about violence and funding to support anti-violence community organizations. For more information, visit http://www.vday.org
|Allentown, PA — The Arts in the Lehigh Valley mean business—and jobs. That is the message being delivered today by Lehigh Valley Arts Council who announced it has joined the Arts & Economic Prosperity® 5, a national study measuring the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences. The research study is being conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s nonprofit organization advancing the arts and arts education. It is the fifth study over the past 20 years to measure the impact of arts spending on local jobs, income paid to local residents, and revenue generated to local and state governments.
As one of nearly 300 study partners across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Lehigh Valley Arts Council will collect detailed financial data about our local nonprofit arts and culture organizations such as our theater and dance companies, museums, festivals, and arts education organizations. “Many people don’t think of nonprofit arts organizations as businesses,” said Mike Stershic, President of Discover Lehigh Valley, “but this study will make clear that the arts are a formidable industry in our community—employing people locally, purchasing goods and services from local merchants, and helping to drive tourism.”
Lehigh Valley Arts Council will also collect surveys from attendees at arts events using a short, anonymous questionnaire that asks how much money they spent on items such as meals, parking and transportation, and retail shopping specifically as a result of attending the event. Previous studies have shown that the average attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission. Those studies have also shown that, on average, 32 percent of arts attendees travel from outside the county in which the arts event took place, and that those cultural tourists typically spend nearly $40 per person—generating important revenue for local businesses and demonstrating how the arts drive revenue for other businesses in the community.
Surveys will be collected throughout calendar year 2016. The results of the study will be released in June of 2017.
“Arts are key to the economic development in the Lehigh Valley and have never been more important,” says Randall Forte Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. “Hundreds of creative industries, nonprofit cultural organizations, and thousands of individual artists of all disciplines—dance, musical, theatrical, visual, literary and media arts—are invested in our community.”
The 2010 economic impact study of the Lehigh Valley’s nonprofit arts industry revealed a $208 million industry—providing 7,114 full-time jobs and generating $21 million in state and local taxes annually. “Our Arts & Economic Prosperity series demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.” Complete details about the fiscal year 2010 study are available atwww.AmericansForTheArts.org/EconomicImpact.
Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study is supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. In addition, Americans for the Arts’ local and statewide study partners are contributing both time and a cost-sharing fee support to the study. For a full list of the nearly 300 Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study partners, visit www.AmericansForTheArts.org/AEP5Partners.
Allentown, PA – An evening of visionary experimental theater will be on display in Muhlenberg College’s “New Visions” Directors’ Festival, Feb. 24-28. The festival features plays directed by three gifted senior directing students in the College’s Department of Theatre & Dance.
Each of the three one-act plays offers a fresh perspective on contemporary social issues: “Terrible Beautiful Bodies,” written by Muhlenberg alumni Ben Nassau ’15 and Moriah Benjoseph ’15 and directed by Amanda Nell ’16; “Hello Out There,” written by William Saroyan and directed by Philip Kaufman ’16; and “The Exception and the Rule,” written by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Lauren Goldberger ’16.
“Terrible Beautiful Bodies” asks important questions about the bodies we inhabit, Nell says, and examines the shape and stigma that is often attached to the human form. The play consists of vignettes and monologues taken from real interviews about how people view their bodies.
“I am looking to create a very collaborative environment within my cast, where each actor feels supported and can have their voices heard,” Nell says. “I’ve gotten the sense that people don’t have the best relationship with their bodies, and it is important that we bring this to light in a public setting.”
“Hello Out There” tells the story of a professional gambler who is falsely accused of rape and held in a backwater Texas jail cell. While in custody, he meets the love of his life — but his accuser’s husband is armed, furious, and on his way.
“My plan is to direct a political commentary on the current environment of our country, specifically addressing black lives,” Kaufman says. “I have been working with professors and the Black Student Association on campus in order to make a contribution through this play to the community’s ongoing dialogue.”
German playwright Bertolt Brecht explores issues of class warfare and privilege in “The Exception and the Rule” through the grimly ironic story of a merchant and his porter, who find misfortune on a journey across the desert. The play was originally part of the Lehrstücke cycle, a series of plays used to educate the German middle class about oppression and classism in the 1930s.
“I’m hoping to look at interactions between social classes that happen around us all the time, but go unnoticed,” Goldberger says. “We become numb to these interactions, and I want to bring out how they are relevant in everyday life.”
“Each piece in this year’s festival addresses contemporary issues that are relevant in the community,” says Charles Richter, who serves as director of Muhlenberg’s theatre program and the festival’s artistic director. “The plays are each very different in form, and each has so much to offer in terms of performance experience for the cast and community content for the audiences.”
Performances of “New Visions” are Feb. 24-28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students. Each “New Visions” performance includes all three short plays. Tickets can be purchased online at muhlenberg.edu/theatreanddance or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.
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.
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.
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.
|On Saturday, March 12, 2016, the Lehigh Valley Arts Council will present Young at Art, an expo of arts camps and schools, to assist parents with selecting the appropriate summer class for their child. This inaugural event will be held at Penn State Lehigh Valley, from 9:00am to 2:30pm, and feature thirty exhibitors who offer lessons in the performing, literary, media and visual arts. Free admission to the expo is provided to the public.
Families with children (ages four to eighteen years old) will enjoy meeting the various exhibitors and learning about the artistic opportunities for their aspiring creatives. The day’s festivities will showcase an arts demonstration, performance or activity every 25-minutes so children will have a chance “to try on what kind of artist” they want to be this summer.
“The idea for a children’s arts expo came from a parent of two small children who was having difficulty identifying a summer program for both her kids,” says Executive Director Randall Forte. “Bringing people together to engage with the arts is what the Arts Council does.”
A limited number of spaces are available for arts and cultural organizations to exhibit and promote their programs, and registration will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. There will also be opportunities for exhibitors to select a 25-minute time slot to showcase a demonstration or activity. For more details on registration, organizations may visit http://www.LVArtsCouncil.org/Young-At-Art.
The fee for exhibiting is $250 for members and $350 for nonmembers. Arts Council members can also take advantage of a $50 discount for early registration by December 15, 2015. The final date for registration will be January 20, 2016. Any questions may be directed to the Lehigh Valley Arts Council at 610-437-5259.