‘The Cherry Orchard’ At Muhlenberg

ALLENTOWN, PA — Anton Chekhov’s prescient drama “The Cherry Orchard” will soon take the stage at Muhlenberg College, illuminating the class struggles that permeated early 20th century Russia — which, in turn, illuminate the class struggles of today.

“‘The Cherry Orchard’ captures the full complexity of progress and what it means to live through changing times,” says director and Muhlenberg theater faculty member Matthew Moore. “It is at the same time ordinary and supremely poetic.”

The Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department will present “The Cherry Orchard,” in a new version by American playwright Stephen Karam, in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, April 26-29.

“I think the play is ultimately about the human condition and our resilience in the face of life’s disappointments,” says Holly Cate, another theater faculty member, who plays the role of Lyubov Ranevskaya.

As Russia hurtles toward revolution at the start of the 20th century, a widowed aristocrat returns home after years abroad to her family’s estate, which is on the verge of financial ruin. Faced with the prospect of losing their beautiful cherry orchard and the world it seemed to represent, she and her brother cast about for a path forward — but they are too deeply immersed in memories and lost dreams of their youth to take control of their shifting fortunes.

A bittersweet story of love, loss, and social change, Chekhov’s last play offers a rich tapestry of characters, interwoven with poignant nostalgia and wry commentary on a society on the brink of upheaval.

“Chekhov plainly foresaw the coming revolution,” Moore says. “His characters encounter the coming change with different attitudes — some with naive optimism, some with an entrepreneurial spirit, some in mourning.”

Moore believes the anxieties at the heart of this play are contemporary.

“This feels like today’s America in many respects,” Moore says. “It’s hard to know if things are getting better or if everything’s going to hell in a handbasket. Progress and catastrophe seem intertwined.”

One of Russia’s best-known playwrights, Chekhov wrote “The Cherry Orchard in 1903. It premiered in Moscow the following year, after his death, helmed by renowned director and theatrical innovator Konstantin Stanislavski.

Chekhov pioneered theatrical naturalism — having his actors perform the everyday instead of the fantastic; the Russian public was used to romanticism, in which a more fantastical style of performance was much more common. Chekhov wanted audiences to experience honesty and realism when they came to the theater.

“The idea that nothing happens in Chekhov’s plays is totally false. Everything happens,” says Cate. “It’s life onstage. Affairs begin and end, familial relationships are torn and then repaired, people die, they are mourned, and communities rebuild.”

While Chekhov incorporated elements of his own life into all of his work, “The Cherry Orchard” is his most autobiographical play. When he was a teenager, his family’s beloved cherry orchard was cut down — his mother was tricked by contractors into selling the family territory.

“Every day in rehearsal you discover something true about the play that you didn’t know,” Moore says. “There’s no imagining circumstances here, only excavating truths.”

The production uses a celebrated new version by award-winning playwright Stephen Karam, written in an American vernacular and style, which debuted last year on Broadway. This is the first collegiate production of Karam’s adaptation.

“It’s so much funnier and more alive in the body than it is on the page,” Cate says. “I hope people understand how amazing it is that we are able to work with this new version.”

Karam won a Tony Award for Best Play for “The Humans” in 2016 and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for “The Humans” and “Sons of the Prophet.”

“‘The Cherry Orchard’ deserves a fresh presentation,” says Cate. “We are very lucky to be able to give it new life.”

“The Cherry Orchard” runs April 26-29. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Regular admission tickets are $15. Tickets for youth and LVAIC students and staff are $8.

Tickets and information are available online at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Baker Theatre in Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance.

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‘Dance Emerge’ at Muhlenberg

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Departmentpresents “Dance Emerge,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, April 19-22.

“Dance Emerge” will be performed in the college’s intimate Studio Theatre, a black box performance space with seating on three sides of the performance. Randall Anthony Smith is the artistic director for the concert.

 “This concert is configured where the audience is encapsulating the performance space,” Smith says. “From three distinct view points, each audience member is able to get a closer look at how the performers are moving and evolving. This year’s concert surely will have you thinking about who you are and how you relate to the world.”

“Dance Emerge” will showcase 7 choreographers and 37 dancers from the department’s dance program, which is among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features design work by the department’s acclaimed professional staff: costume designer Lex Gurst and lighting designer Paul E. Theisen Jr.

The seven original dances include contemporary, jazz, and modern works that investigate such topics as death, family relationships, and the convergence of past, present, and future.

“Dance Emerge” runs April 19-22 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

 Performances are April 19-22: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 22, 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 muhlenberg.edu/dance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Moving Stories’ At Muhlenberg College, Nov. 10-12

‘Moving Stories’ dance concert showcases innovative work by student choreographers in a nationally acclaimed program

 

Dance performance Nov. 10-12 displays talent of nine young choreographers and faculty member Teresa VanDenend Sorge, with more than 60 dancers

 

Allentown, PA — Muhlenberg College dancers tell their stories through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Moving Stories,” a showcase for dance works created by emerging choreographers, Nov. 10-12 in the College’s Baker Theatre.

 

Artistic Director Megan Flynn says the program represents a diverse and sophisticated approach to dance-making.

 

“Drawing from their liberal arts education, the choreographers have created innovative dances that deeply examine and illuminate the human experience,” Flynn says.
The concert will showcase the work of nine student choreographers as well as guest choreographer and faculty member Teresa VanDenend Sorge. It will feature more than 60 dancers from the department’s dance program, which is among the most highly regarded programs of its kind. The concert features costume and lighting designs by the department’s acclaimed professional staff.

 

The ten original dances include contemporary jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop infused works that investigate, among other things, memory and nostalgia, the cycle of life, the concept of waiting, and the experience of distrust. Choreographers have drawn inspiration from such sources as their dreams, their interpersonal relationships, and experiences abroad.

 

Choreographer Marissa Finkelstein ’18 worked with her cast throughout the rehearsal process, pulling from the dancers’ own memories to create a personal narrative behind the movement.

 

“Through discussions of our experiences, my cast and I have been working to build a collective memory,” Finkelstein says. “The dancers will fade in and out of this collective memory throughout the piece.”

 

“Moving Stories” runs Nov. 10-12 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

 
Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 10-11, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.  For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $13. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/dance.

‘In The Heights’ Brings Latin Rhythms, Stories To Muhlenberg Summer Stage

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.

‘Gypsy’ Kicks Off Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre Season, June 15 – July 3‏

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.

Muhlenberg Circus Workshop Presents ‘VOD,’ Opening April 21‏

Allentown, PA — Now in its third year, the student-directed Muhlenberg Circus Workshop will take the stage again this spring with another original contemporary circus performance. Running April 21-24, “VOD” takes up the story of Pandora’s Box, in the setting of a post-World War II traveling circus.

Written and directed by two of the Circus Workshop cofounders, seniors Noah S. Dach and Henry Evans, “VOD” will showcase the talents of 14 aerialists, acrobats, dancers, jugglers, actors, tappers, and acrobats. New in this year’s production is a performance featuring Chinese pole dancing. Another senior, Tyler Holoboski, choreographs the production.

This year’s production will be presented in Muhlenberg’s 120-seat Studio Theatre, a blackbox style space with flexible seating. Dach says the audience will enter to an empty space, and then witness its dramatic transformation into a 1940s circus tent.

“‘VOD’ is the story of humanity’s modern Pandora’s Box,” he says. “It’s set in the period when mankind developed and atomic bomb — the moment when we acquired the ability to extinguish ourselves and our world.”

The production follows the success of last season’s sold out circus production “Atlas,” a contemporary circus adaptation of the Alice in Wonderland story. The group operates under the artistic supervision of Muhlenberg’s Dance Program chair, Karen Dearborn.

“Karen has gone above and beyond for her students and has given everyone that has been a part of the Circus Workshop an unforgettable and truly life altering opportunity,” Dach says. “Without her inspiring vision, care, and dedication, this program would not be where it is today.”

Dach, Evans, and other graduating members of the Workshop have plans to go pro after graduating this spring. They spent spring break this year scouting locations and laying the groundwork for the Atlas Circus Company. The company seeks to create a new kind of narrative circus performance, catalyze circus education around the country, and build a home for circus artists in America. They further describe their plans at http://www.atlascircus.com

“VOD” runs April 21-24 in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 3 and 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundy at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for patrons 17 and under, and $8 for students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges. Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or http://www.muhlenberg.edu/dance.  

Dance Emerge At Muhlenberg College, Opening April 13‏

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.  

Muhlenberg Theatre And Dance Launches 2012-13 Season

Mainstage season will feature seven theater productions, three dance concerts, including a world premiere play

Allentown, Pa. (Sept. 11, 2012)—The Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre & Dance will open its 2012-13 Mainstage season later this month, with the first of seven theater productions and three dance concerts. Last September, the department was named the No. 1 theater production program in the country for 2012, by The Princeton Review.

The season is as follows. Ticket information for all production follows the listings.

“44 Plays for 44 Presidents”

Sept. 29 – Oct. 3

by The Neo-Futurists

production artistic director: Troy Dwyer

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

This raucous theatrical mosaic of the U.S. presidency tours the audience through a fractured funhouse of 44 short, non-realist plays, each inspired by a different president. The plays range in length from seconds to several minutes, in tone from poetic to slapstick, and in style from song-and-dance to cowboy western.

Performances are Sept. 29 through Oct. 3: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 30, 2 and 8 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 1, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m.

“On the Town”

Oct. 26 – Nov. 4

music by Leonard Bernstein

book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

based on an idea by Jerome Robbins

directed by Charles Richter; musical director, Ed Bara; choreographer, Karen Dearborn

in the Empie Theatre, BakerCenter for the Arts

“On the Town” is a love letter to the Big Apple by four iconic talents of the American musical theater. Three sailors look for love and excitement on a one-day pass in New York City, in this 1940s blockbuster, featuring superb dancing, a gorgeous musical score, and zingy book and lyrics.

Performances are Oct. 26 through Nov. 4: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m.. Tickets are $22. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Friday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m.

“Moving Stories”

Nov. 15-17

Student-choreographed dance

Artistic director Karen Dearborn

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Original dance pieces by upperclass students in the nationally acclaimed Muhlenberg College Dance Program span a variety of genres and styles.

Performances are Nov. 15-17: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 17, 2 and 8 p.m.

“The Bourgeois Pig”

Nov. 28 – Dec. 2

A World Premiere Play

by Brighde Mullins

directed by Beth Schachter

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

It’s 1978 Los Angeles, and the Riley family is trying hard to hang on—to their hopes and to each other—in the face of serious dysfunction. Jack, the father, is a brilliant but damaged former war photographer-turned-reluctant paparazzi. His ex-wife can’t face the reality of a failed acting career. Their daughters cope with the fallout of their parents’ struggles. This funny and powerful new play by Guggenheim Fellow Brighde Mullins explores the power of the image—on the page and in the public eye.

Performances are Nov. 28 through Dec. 2: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 1, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 2, 2 p.m.

“Master Choreographers”

Feb. 7-9, 2013

artistic director Karen Dearborn

in the Empie Theatre, BakerCenter for the Arts

A spectacular evening of ballet, contemporary dance, tap and jazz, “Master Choreographers” showcases exciting new dance works by nationally and internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty. This year’s concert features a restaging of part of “Viva Vivaldi,” the Joffrey Ballet’s signature work, staged by Trinette Singleton, co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Company and longtime Joffrey dancer.

Performances are Feb. 7-9: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 8, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2 and 8 p.m

“Bartholomew Fair”

Feb. 21-24, 2013

by Ben Jonson

directed by Kevin Crawford

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Ben Jonson’s 1614 play is a noisy, exuberant slice of Jacobean life, pitting the excesses of Puritanism against the cruder vices of the Fair’s underclass. The production features a new musical score by Caroline Boersma, based on traditional folk melodies, and a faculty spotlight performance by Holly Cate.

Performances are Feb. 21-24: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2 p.m.

“New Visions Directors Festival”

March 20-24, 2013

in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

“Iphigenia and Other Daughters”

by Ellen McLaughlin

directed by Danielle Barlow

“Mental Landscapes: An Evening of One-Act Plays”

featuring: “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick,” by Kobo Abe, directed by Jimmy Morgan; “Intermission,” by Will Eno, directed by Abby Wylan; and “Rough for Theatre II,” by Samuel Beckett, directed by Riva Rubenoff

“Iphigenia and Other Daughters,” McLaughlin’s poetic modern adaptation of the legend of Agamemnon and the aftermath of the Trojan War, offers a bold, provocative feminist perspective on a story of lust, fury, sacrifice and rebellion.

In “Mental Landscapes,” three of Muhlenberg’s most accomplished student directors present an evening of life, death and absurdity.

Performances are March 20-24. “Iphigenia” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m., Thursday and Saturday at 10 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.. “Mental Landscapes” will be performed Wednesday and Friday at 10 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for either production, or $20 for both. Youth and campus tickets are $8 for either production, or $12 for both. Campus tickets include students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Wednesday, March 20: “Iphigenia” at 7 p.m., “Mental Landscapes” at 10 p.m.

Thursday, March 21: “Mental Landscapes” at 7 p.m., “Iphigenia” at 10 p.m.

Friday, March 22: “Iphigenia” at 7 p.m., “Mental Landscapes” at 10 p.m.

Saturday, March 23: “Mental Landscapes” at 2 and 7 p.m., “Iphigenia” at 10 p.m.

Sunday, March 24: “Iphigenia” at 2 p.m.

“Dance Emerge”

April 18-21, 2013

Student-choreographed dance

Artistic directors Jeffrey Peterson and Teresa VanDenend Sorge

in the Dance Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Original dance pieces by upperclass students in the nationally acclaimed Muhlenberg College Dance Program span a variety of genres and styles.

Performances are April 18-21: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, April 18, 8 p.m.

Friday, April 19, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 20, 2 and 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, 8 p.m.

“The Marriage of Figaro”

April 25-28, 2013

by Beaumarchais

directed by Francine Roussel

in the Dorothy Hess Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance

Writing a few years before the French Revolution, Beaumarchais pours his rage at the aristocracy into a comedy of class and sexual inequality that manages equal parts hilarity and outrage. First produced in 1784, this play about plots, assignations, and the “droit du seigneur” served as the inspiration for Mozart’s famous 1786 opera.

Performances are April 25-28: Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Youth and campus tickets are $8, including students, faculty and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Thursday, April 25, 8 p.m.

Friday, April 26, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 28, 2 p.m.

Ticket Information

All venues are at the Muhlenberg College performing arts campus, 2400 Chew Street, Allentown, 18104. Tickets are available at the box office, on the first floor of the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, or at 484-664-3333, Monday through Friday noon to 6 p.m. and two hours before each performance. Tickets and information are available online at www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance.

’44 Plays For 44 Presidents’ Opens Discussion Of Who Will Be No. 45

Muhlenberg College‘s production, running Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, celebrates democracy in conjunction with the first Plays for Presidents Festival

Allentown, Pa (Sept. 7, 2012) – As the 2012 presidential election approaches, Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department prepares to celebrate with a production of the Neo-Futurists‘ “44 Plays for 44 Presidents,” opening Sept. 29. Director Troy Dwyer leads the way as one of the founding fathers in the inauguration of the first Plays for Presidents Festival.

“People should expect to have fun, to laugh, and to be inspired to think about the world outside of the theatre,” Dwyer says.

Dwyer serves as artistic director for the production, as well as co-directing the plays with Lily Dwoskin, Jerald Kaplan and Judith Mandel, and choreographers Allison Berger and Nina Pongratz.  The play runs Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 in the college’s 100-seat Studio Theatre, in the Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance.

The play highlights the lives of all 44 presidents in short, often comedic, quasi-biographical scenes.  The plays vary in style from a sepia-washed cowboy movie homage to a modern game show.

“You think you are going to see a play that will essentially be a history lesson–you’re not,” Dwoskin says.  “All of the facts in the show are historically accurate, but it is NOT a historical play.  It’s really uniquely vaudeville.  It’s crazy, a lot of things are going on.”

Muhlenberg’s production is presented as part of the Plays for Presidents Festival 2012, in which 44 theater groups from all over the country will produce “44 Plays for 44 Presidents.”  The festival is closely tied with the Rock the Vote campaign to inspire people to both register and vote.  The festival culminates in shows all around the nation in the months leading up to the presidential election, as well as an online video production of the show, including one scene from each of the 44 productions. Muhlenberg College’s scene for the collaborative film will be James Buchanan, the 15th and only Pennsylvania-born president.

“The presidential election will be less than 80 days away during show week,” Kaplan says.  “With the election quickly approaching, ’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ really puts into perspective what we are voting this person to do.  It promotes the actual weight of being a president and reminds the audience that they have this incredible right to choose our next leader.”

Like Rock the Vote, the Plays for Presidents Festival is an entirely non-partisan movement, intended to inspire all eligible voters to hit the polls, regardless of party affiliation.

“This show puts political options in different terms, making us think more about the historical moment of now,” Dwyer says.  “It helps us imagine what the 45th play might be.”

The four directors will each be working on 11 of the scenes, working with an ensemble of 20 actors.  By incorporating multimedia, dance and music, “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” showcases a diverse group of performers.

“We’re not trying to have the actors embody each president,” Mandel says.  “The audience will and should know that they are actors; at times they even speak as themselves.  By integrating dance and song alongside the acting, the show manages to really highlight so many kinds of talent in a short amount of time.”

The show is interactive in a “super flavorful and playful way,” says Dwyer. “’44 Plays for 44 Presidents’ incites people to talk about politics by showcasing politics in a fun light.  There’s a narrative momentum to the piece that makes the audience anxious to see how the modern presidents are depicted.”

Dwyer says that — with four directors, two choreographers, five designers, four stage managers, and 20 actors — the theatre production is itself a model of the democratic process in action.

“I have been working with the other directors to ensure that this project is a democracy and not a dictatorship,” Dwyer says.  “I want to help them notice both the pitfalls and potential of their ideas.  It’s difficult to do a project of this scale, but democracy is always a challenge, because you’re catering to more than one person’s vision.  We will hopefully become a chorus of voices which will strike a harmonious final chord.”

“We are the people and we are shaping the play,” Mandel says.  “Much like ‘we the people’ are shaping the future of America with our right to vote.”

Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa.  The college offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance.  The Princeton Review consistently ranks Muhlenberg’s production program in the top ten in the nation, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States.

Performances of “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” are Sept. 29 through Oct. 3: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Monday through Wednesday at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students, faculty and staff and for patrons 17 and under.  Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.  Performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre.