Touchstone Theatre, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem, presents its ninth Young Playwrights’ Festival on Saturday at the Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall at Lehigh University. A showcase of original plays by local elementary and middle school students will be presented.

Throughout the season, Touchstone’s teaching artists have been working with students in the Bethlehem Area and Allentown school districts in afterschool arts-in-education programming. The flagship program, “Young Playwrights’ Lab,” is an eight-week residency developed by Touchstone and the Bethlehem Area School District to improve attitudes toward literacy and achievement in academic standards by linking literacy and creative self-expression. Students engage in theater improvisation and writing exercises, leading to each student composing his or her original one-act play. One play from each participating school is selected for the festival and performed by Touchstone actors, local performers and students from their own schools.

A gala dessert reception and auction will follow at the Lehigh Art Galleries.

For further info: touchstone.org

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In honor of Children’s Book Week, best-selling author John Grogan of “Marley & Me” will host a special story time on Saturday at 11 a.m., at Let’s Play Books! children’s bookstore, 379 Main St., Emmaus. The event is free; space is limited.

Following Grogan will be “A Critter & A Story” at 2 p.m., with the Wildlands Conservancy. The program is designed for ages 4 and up.

A Book Launch on Tuesday at 6 p.m. will feature Paul Acampora’s new middle-grade book, “I Kill the Mockingbird.”

For more info: letsplaybooks.com

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Fifty-five advanced student musicians from high schools in Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Schuylkill counties will play “side-by-side” with musicians from the Allentown Band on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. The ninth annual Side-by-Side Concert will have conducting duties shared by Allentown Band’s Dr. Ronald Demkee and guest conductor and Souderton native, Dr. Donald Hunsberger, Conductor Emeritus of the famed Eastman (School of Music) Wind Ensemble.

Participating schools and directors are: Bangor Area High School, Eric Hahn; Bethlehem Catholic High School, Cristin Eick; East Stroudsburg High School – North, Paul Bakner; East Stroudsburg High School – South, Katye Clogg; Easton Area High School, Carole Lutte; Freedom High School, Michael Moran; Liberty High School, Kevin Long; Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, Andrew Bauer; Marion Catholic High School, Michael Brimmer; Parkland High School, Jason Lerew; Pottsville Area High School, Craig Shoener; Southern Lehigh High School, Douglas Bolasky; Williams Valley High School, Keith Gromis, and Wilson Area High School, Jonathan Freidhoff.

For further info: allentownband.com

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Accomplished Philadelphia expressionist Helen Mirkil reveals her passion for life through intimate landscapes in the exhibit, “Passionate Gesture,” through May 28 at Santa Bannon Fine Art Gallery at the ArtsQuest Banana Factory, 25 W. Third St., Bethlehem.

Mirkil has taught at Ursinus College and is a gifted poet. Her paintings, drawings and sculptures can be found at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the James A. Michener Art Museum, and the Berman Museum of Art.

For further info: SantaFineArt.com

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