Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Announces Its 15th Summer Of Middle School Arts Camp

Logo of Muhlenberg College

Logo of Muhlenberg College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown, Pa  — This summer, Muhlenberg College‘s Camp Imagine program celebrates its 15th year of educating and enriching the lives of the Lehigh Valley’s middle school students.  Founded in 1999 the program provides young people in grades 6-8 with a month-long performing arts experience, which is free for students of the Allentown School District.

High school students can enroll in the Performing Arts Workshop.  Both programs provide invaluable experiences and opportunities to nurture passion for the performing arts and build real-life interpersonal and expressive skills.  The programs meet for three hours each week day, July 1-26.

“We all build confidence in each other,” said a former participant the Performing Arts Workshop.

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

“I think that the arts provide not only a tool for performance, but a tool for life,” says Renee Lorenzetti, related arts coordinator for the Allentown School District.  “It’s how we live and it’s who we are; and it’s what we need in our society.”

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

The Workshop takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the study, creation, and performance of theatre. Students will work in a professional studio setting, learning not only acting, dance, and voice, but also advanced audition technique, ensemble collaboration, and character development.  Sessions are modeled after college classes, providing students with the opportunity to experience college-level performing arts instruction.  The workshop experience will conclude with an original ensemble performance.

Camp Imagine meets 9:30 to 12:30 a.m.  A lunch is provided for free to all participants, and free bus transportation is provided from all four Allentown School District middle schools.  For students not enrolled in the Allentown School District, tuition is $395; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available. The Camp Imagine showcase is Saturday, July 27, at 10 a.m.

The Performing Arts Workshop meets 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Tuition for all students is $465; however, partial and full need-based scholarships are available.

Both programs meet July 1-26, except for July 4.  Students must register to participate.  Applications are available online, and by request at or 484-664-3693.

The programs are made possible by underwriting support from Enterprise Car Rentals, Crayola, The Foundation for Allentown City Schools, and others.


‘The Tempest’ at Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance‏

Prospero and Miranda from a painting by Willia...

Image via Wikipedia

Dance theater adaptation of ‘The Tempest
delves deeper into Shakespeare’s classic

With its parallel universes, Afro-contemporary choreography, non-traditional casting, and a keen ear for issues of power and privilege, Charles O. Anderson and Troy Dwyer’s ‘Tempest’ is anything but traditional Shakespearean fare

Allentown, Pa. (March 12, 2011)—Your high school English teacher might not approve.

If you’re planning to attend Charles O. Anderson and Troy Dwyer’s dance theater adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” opening March 31 at Muhlenberg College, they would like you to know they have no interest in doing “traditional Shakespeare.”

“Come prepared to know that everything’s up for grabs,” says Anderson, a dance professor in the College’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“Shakespeare finished ‘The Tempest’ in 1611, so it’s exactly 400 years old,” says Dwyer, a theater professor in the department. “We don’t believe it has exactly aged well, despite what many say. Our production aims to recoup ‘The Tempest’ for 2011. That means no doublets—but it also means getting honest about the play’s blemishes.”

Those familiar with Shakespeare’s fantasia of magic, power and revenge will certainly recognize that narrative in Anderson and Dwyer’s production, which runs March 31 to April 3 on the Empie Theatre stage, in Muhlenberg’s Baker Center for the Arts. “The Tempest” is the story of Prospero, a sorcerer set adrift by his rapacious brother, Antonio, and washed up on the shore of a remote island with just three souls for company: his beguiling child Miranda; Ariel, a mischievous sprite; and the bitter so-called “monster,” Caliban. When Antonio strays near the island, Prospero conjures a storm to wreck his ship and exact revenge—but the vessel crashes ashore bearing much more than Prospero could have anticipated.

This production, however, works to transform Shakespeare’s classic into a richer, more complicated experience, for audiences and actors alike—one that weaves the words of the Bard with movement and dance and alternate realities to create  distinctly non-traditional points of view.

Anderson and Dwyer have collaborated before, most notably on the 2009 Muhlenberg world premiere production “Caw,” a dance theater fantasia spanning from the Yoruba religion of Nigeria to Uncle Remus tales of the Deep South to the drag balls of urban gay culture in the late 20th century.

Their work, both individually and in collaboration, takes a particular interest in issues of power and privilege: the ways in which history and literature can make it difficult for those not of the privileged classes—that is, the wealthy, white, straight, male, Western classes—to be heard.

This interest in part fueled their exploration of “The Tempest,” with its problematic gender roles, class violence, and slavery—many of which, they say, tend to be glossed over in traditional productions.

“Directors and actors have to bend the narrative in a way to find the whole person of Caliban and Ariel,” Dwyer says. “We’re complicating the Caliban story—ripping open characters and situations and letting the story of ‘The Tempest’ represent other stories and other power dynamics.”

The production features a star turn by Muhlenberg acting faculty member Holly Cate in the role of Prospero—another sign of its distinctly doublet-free nature. Along the same lines, Prospero’s servant Ariel will be portrayed by a group of five actors, each embodying a different facet of the ethereal character. Many of the characters, in fact, are inhabited by actors who do not look the part in any traditional sense.

“If you follow the conventional interpretation, this play has one role for an actor of color, and it’s as a savage,” Dwyer says. “It has one role for a woman. We are interested in creating opportunities for all artists to participate in and respond as artists to Shakespeare.”

Another significant departure is the parallel universe that directors and cast have created around the traditional story. In this meta-narrative, which frames the Prospero tale, Cate plays an elderly white woman wrestling with the bewildering urbanization of her surroundings, and the dire toll it takes on her own tattered imagination.

In this alternate reality, each of the company’s actors plays a different character, with a different set of relationships to each other and to the world of the play. Their story, told entirely through movement, often overlaps the tale of “The Tempest,” working sometimes in harmony or in counterpoint with the main narrative, and sometimes in conflict, creating dissonance and complication.

Anderson’s background as a dancer and choreographer is in Afro-contemporary movement forms, a synthesis of traditional West African movement and rhythms with modern dance techniques and the urban beats of today. He brings this fusion to the dance elements of this “Tempest,” which features contemporary music and what Dwyer calls “streetwise grittiness” alongside the poetry of Shakespeare.

While the production leaves off the doublets, the couplets are largely intact. Most of Shakespeare’s dense, poetic, often problematic language remains—and the element of dance allows the actors to clarify, comment on, and sometimes contradict the text they’re speaking.

“Dance theater allows tension and ambiguity to exist in a work,” Anderson says. “You can present remarkably clear but contradictory meanings through the movement and words of a piece.”

A dance theater approach also can bring a deeper, visceral understanding of the language of the play, according to Dwyer and Anderson, particularly language as dense as Shakespeare’s.

“Movement has the power to be this battery that can fuel an audience’s understanding,” Dwyer says. “No one can fully, cognitively grasp all of the language of Shakespeare’s characters. The meaning is associative, more than it is rational; you get it in your chest, more than in your brain—at least, you do when you’re in the hands of talented actors.

“And if you get someone who can really move, you take the Duracell out and put a nuclear reactor in there.”

Both Dwyer and Anderson would regard their relationship to Shakespeare as respectful without being reverential.

“Privileging the traditional narrative was never on the table,” Dwyer says, “because it just doesn’t make sense with what we do. Charles and I are both queer artists, Charles is an artist of color. We have a certain relationship with authority that doesn’t really allow for an adaptation that is both honest and ‘traditional.'”

“The Tempest” performances are Thursday through Saturday, March 31 through April 2, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 3, at 2 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.

“The Tempest” performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or

Muhlenberg College Professor Wins Major National Award

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – (January 6, 2011) — Charles O. Anderson, associate professor of dance and director of the African-American Studies program at Muhlenberg College, has been named one of 12 “Emerging Scholars” for 2011.  The scholars are chosen by and profiled in Diverse magazine.

In its Jan. 6 edition, Diverse profiles 12 “under 40” scholars from around the country who are making their mark in the academy through teaching, research and service. These outstanding scholars serve as an inspiration to both students and colleagues.

Anderson, a native of Richmond, Va., holds a B.A. in performance and choreography from Cornell University, and an M.F.A. with honors from Temple University. Over the past 10 years, his choreography has been presented through such venues as Mulberry Street Theatre, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Danceboom! at the Wilma Theatre, WAX Performance Space and Here Arts Center among others.

He has performed in the companies of such noted choreographers as Ronald K. Brown, Sean Curran, Mark Dendy, Talley Beatty and Miguel Guttierez among others. Charles’ choreography has been funded by Dance Advance, The Community Education Center’s New Edge Residency, the Susan Hess Choreographer’s Project and The Puffin Foundation.

Anderson continues to enjoy a successful career as choreographer, performer and artistic director of his Philadelphia based dance company, dance theatre X. He was recently awarded a Dance Advance Grant (an organization sponsored by Pew Charitible Trusts) to collaborate with South African choreographer Vincent Mantsoe.
Diverse, then Black Issues In Higher Education, first published its “Emerging Scholars” edition in 2002. It has remained one of the magazine’s most popular editions since its inception. Diverse  editors selects honorees from a pool of candidates recommended by various scholars, department chairs, university public information officers, and others.
Each scholar is selected based on research, educational background, publishing record, teaching record, competitiveness of field of study, and uniqueness of field of study.

The “Emerging Scholars” for 2011 are:

Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, associate professor of higher education, The Ohio State University
Dr. Rochelle Parks-Yancy, associate business professor, Texas Southern
Charles O. Anderson, associate professor of dance and director of the African-American studies program at Muhlenberg College.
Dr. Chekesha Liddell, associate professor of materials science and engineering, Cornell University.
Dr. Wayne Alix Ian Frederick, associate professor, Howard University Medical School, specializes in surgical oncology.
Dr. Gina Núñez-Mchiri, an assistant professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UT El Paso
Dr. Federico Ardila, assistant professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University,
Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University;
Dr. Carlos D. Bustamante, a population geneticist at Stanford University
Dr. Ashlesh Murthy, research assistant professor of biology, University of Texas-San Antonio
Yiyun Li, an associate professor of English, at the University of California at Davis
Sarah Deer, Assistant Professor, William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota.

‘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