Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Local students join 'Twelfth Night' comedy for Allentown Shakespeare in the Park

It will look like the ‘60s but in reality, it will feel more like the early 1600s when melodic disorder overtakes Allentown's Joseph S. Daddona Lake and Terrace this weekend. That's when the sixth season of Allentown Shakespeare in the Park will present five free performances of "Twelfth Night" beginning Friday through Sunday, rain or shine.

Area residents are encouraged to pack lawn chairs and blankets and experience the classic, which runs Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Food vendors will be on site, or patrons may wish to bring their own picnic dinners. An hour of live music by local musicians precedes the performances. Friday and Saturday evenings will feature harpist Andrea G.Wittchen; Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Sunday evening features the Ashley and Scott Acoustic Duo.

"Twelfth Night" will be set in the early ‘60s, according to Sarah Steele, founder/producer of Allentown Shakespeare in the Park. "It was a time that was so much about music, love and poetry," she said. "It captured the ideals. It just seems the perfect setting for a play that has complex characters. There is lots of food, drinking and carousing. The characters are humorous with their lines, yet are deeply romantic and dramatic. It's perfect for outdoors."

The classic tells the story of Viola, an aristocratic-born woman who disguises herself as male servant Cesario to the handsome Duke Orsino, Duke of Illyria, when a terrible shipwreck leaves her stranded on the shore of a new land. Sent by Orsino to woo the beautiful and wealthy countess Olivia on his behalf, Viola quickly becomes entangled in a love triangle of wild infatuation and mistaken identities.

Local high school students who are participants in the actor apprentice program of Allentown Shakespeare in the Park will be performing alongside the professional troupe of actors and actresses from New York City in "Twelfth Night." Students are Abigail Gillespie and Aidan Newell of Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, and Emily Brown and Christopher Mychajluk of William Allen High School. The students rehearsed locally on the weekends.

The New York troupe includes Matt Bittner, Michael Donovan, A.B. Folkes, Mia Fraboni, Trent Fucci, Kristen Harlow, Drew Lewis, Alex Mandell, Ruffin Prentiss, Rachel Towne, Katie Wieland and Brandon A. Wright. The creative team includes Edward Morris for sets, Lauren MacLaughlin for costumes, and Brian Belcinski for fight choreography. The production includes original music by Bittner.

Steele, who worked with an Off-Broadway theater company in New York, said she fell in love with Allentown's scenic Joseph S. Daddona Lake and Terrace located at St. Elmo and Union streets when she married actor/author/director Jadrien Steele, who has family ties in the city's West End section. Jadrien was a child actor on the TV soap, "Ryan's Hope," as Little John Ryan, and starred on Broadway in "Nine" with Raul Julia. He appeared in the Emmy-winning film adaptation of "The Secret Garden," and "The Mosquito Coast," starring Harrison Ford.

Steele said it was her "passion project" to bring theater to a park that "looked like it was specially built for Shakespeare and had a real spirit." Successful in raising monies and support, the project was launched in 2006, with Jadrien directing its first two productions, "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Director for this summer's "Twelfth Night" is Moritz von Stuelpnagel, artistic director of Studio 42, an Off-Broadway theater company. He also directed past productions of "As You Like It," "Much Ado About Nothing," and "Macbeth" for Allentown Shakespeare in the Park. He has been in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Acting Company, Huntington Theatre, and Playwrights Horizon.

For further info (weather updates): Shakespeare in the Park



The 142nd annual Kutztown Fair gets underway Monday and runs through Saturday at the Kutztown Fairgrounds in Berks County. Get ready for stage shows, aerial thrill shows, carnival rides, grandstand shows, livestock exhibits, and farm and craft exhibits. Gates open daily at 4 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m.

Main stage entertainment includes the Kelchner Brothers Blues Band, Remington Ryde, The Rehrig Brothers, Laredo, Chuck Schaeffer and Full Moon Howlin,' and the Cramer Brothers Band. Racing includes Nationals and stock car, plus demolition derby.

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Giuseppi Verdi's "Aida," concert version with English subtitles, will be presented by the Berks Opera Workshop on Friday, 7:30 p.m., at the Miller Center for the Arts, 4 N. 2nd St., Reading. Prior to the performance, David Richie will present a lecture on the opera at 6:45 p.m.

Performers, under the baton of Conductor Francine Black, are Metropolitan Opera soprano Jennifer Check as Aida, Jeffrey Hartman, 2011 winner of the Wagner Society of New York award, as Radames, Jeremy Galyon as Ramfis, Lauren Curnow as Amneris, Zachary Luchette as Amonasro, Orin Strunk as Messenger, and Toni Marie Palmertree as High Priestess.

Curnow is on the voice faculty of Muhlenberg College, Allentown, where she majored in theater arts and English. She holds master's degrees in music and opera performance from The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music, respectively. She has performed nationally with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, The Santa Fe Opera, and The Wolf Trap Opera Company, and also in Europe and Japan.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Curnow and local tenor Eric Fennell will present "An Evening of Opera" with the Allentown Band at Waldheim Park in Allentown, with Conductor Ronald Demkee. Fennell, a native of Allentown, was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Counsel Auditions. He has performed with the New York City Opera and throughout Europe. He currently resides and performs in Germany.

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An exhibit of paintings and drawing studies by Juliette Aristides, titled "Observations," will open Saturday and run through Sept. 14, at the Reading Public Museum. In honor of the museum's 100th anniversary, Aristides will present one of her newest works and a limited-edition print to the museum. An opening reception and meet and greet will be held Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aristides also will present a lecture and demonstration titled, "Observations: The Importance of Seeing and Creating Art in Our Times," on Sunday at 11:30 p.m., in the museum auditorium.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Aristides was raised in Berks County. Inspired by local artist Myron Barnstone, she studied at the Barnstone Studios and the Pennsylvania National Academy of Fine Arts. She is the founder and instructor of Classical Atelier at the Gage Academy of Fine Art in Seattle. She focuses on the study of nature, still life, and figurative painting and drawing.

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The New Jersey Youth Theatre celebrates the 10th anniversary of its award-winning production of "West Side Story" with a new group of young-adult actors under the direction of Cynthia Meryl. The production is underway and runs through Sunday at the Sitnik Theater of the David and Carol Lackland Center at Centenary College, 715 Grand Ave., Hackettstown, N.J. In 2003, NJYT's production of "West Side Story" won the Music Theatre International's Award of Excellence.

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