Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: New Valley Actor's Lab raises level of theater art

A new initiative is brewing locally that's being led by two recognizable names in the field of acting, Bill George and Joshua Neth. It's the Valley Actor's Lab, a year-long program of commitment to the art of performance.

The actor training program is a collaborative partnership involving Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem and Allentown Public Theatre. George is a co-founder and ensemble member of Touchstone; Neth is artistic director of Allentown Public Theatre.

According to George, the mission of the program is to provide systematic training to those who are serious and who wish to hone their skills and build a community of collaborative partners. Directors and teachers are encouraged to participate. He added that the program also is for beginners who are curious about performing and wish a thorough introduction.

"The Valley Actor's Lab strives to promote cooperation, to celebrate and support each artist's work and success, and to encourage the creation of theater art of the highest quality, inventiveness, and value to our community," he said.

George explained that beginning sessions will cover concepts and techniques, interplay and score, and "the reality of doing." Then it's on to scene work, characterization, abstraction and stylization (mask and puppetry), and the performance level.

Classes will be held at the Allentown Public Theatre located at 905 Harrison St., Allentown, beginning Sept. 3 to June 27, 2015, Wednesdays from 6:30-9:30 p.m., with three eight-week sessions and one 10-week session. Cost is $650, or $185 per session.

George is currently a co-writer for Touchstone's "Journey from the East" project with Touchstone ensemble affiliate Christopher Shorr of Moravian College which will premiere April 2015. The large-scale, outdoor production will involve the community much like Touchstone's past productions of "Steelbound," "Don Quixote of Bethlehem" and "A Resting Place," as it continues in its stories of Chinese immigrants settling in Bethlehem with traditional Chinese folklore. The project is the second-year, follow-up to Touchstone's "Journey: Dream of the Red Pavilion," which premiered this past April. George also is an ensemble member in Touchstone's annual "Christmas Follies."

Neth, an Equity actor, made his debut in Lehigh Valley community theater in 2008 as the Beast in Civic Theatre of Allentown's "Beauty and the Beast." He currently is appearing as Sir Bedevere in "Spamalot" at Muhlenberg College's Summer Music Theatre in Allentown. Last season, he was Pontius Pilate in Muhlenberg's "Jesus Christ Superstar" and portrayed Edgar Allan Poe in Allentown Public Theatre's "POE: A Madman Knows Nothing." Neth is active in improv comedy with The Associated Mess, and also is involved with Touchstone's "Christmas Follies."

For further info: bill@touchstone.org or 610-867-1689.

ARTS ROUNDUP

Take me out to the ball game! It's the first Berks Vintage Baseball Festival presented by Lehigh Valley Bat Works, beginning 9 a.m. Saturday at Berks County Youth Recreation Field, 1098 County Welfare Rd., in Bern Township. The event celebrates the accomplishments of George Bradley, a native of Reading who threw the first no-hitter in MLB history on July 15, 1876 when his St. Louis Brown Stockings defeated the Hartford Dark Blues 2-0.

Featured will be teams playing era baseball from the 1860s to the 1880s while visitors experience how the rules of the game evolved during the last 40 years of the 19th century. Special guest will be former MLB pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee, who will be part of the local nine's roster.

On hand will be Eric Miklich, 19th century baseball historian from Beth Page, New York, with 19th century baseball demonstrations, and Tom Melville, 19th century American Cricket historian with interactive Cricket demonstrations. Guests are encouraged to wear period era clothing.

The Ringgold Band will perform from 1 to 4 p.m.

For further info: bigvisionfoundation.org

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The 31st Schuylkill County Fair kicks off Monday through Aug. 2, at the county fairgrounds, Route 895, Summit Station. The theme, "Treasure the Memories of Our Roots," highlights the agricultural heritage. There will be rides, master gardeners, demonstrations on Bear Creek Island, celebrity livestock showman competition, and celebrity tractor pull.

Entertainment includes a Schuylkill talent showcase, in addition to music by Shake, Rattle & Soul, Twitty Fever Band, Jesse Wade Gang, John Cafferty and Michael Antunes (of Beaver Brown Band) with Hybrid, and Exile.

For further info: schuylkillfair.com

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Also happening in Berks will be the Reading Air Fest at the North Ramp at Reading Regional Airport, 119C Air Museum Drive, Bern Township, with a return of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, wing-walker, auto and aircraft display, kids' zone, and live music by The Marshall Tucker Band and others. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For further info: www.readingairfest.com

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On Sunday, it's "Step Back in Time" at the Berks County Heritage Center, 1102 Red Bridge Road, Bern Township, with a vintage baseball game, music, tours, hands-on activities, and a small Civil War encampment.

For further info: countyofberks.com

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Lots of theater productions will be opening this weekend on both sides of the Delaware River. The Cat in the Hat pops up as narrator with lovable Horton the Elephant for Phillipsburg (New Jersey) Area Summer Youth Theatre's "Seussical The Musical," beginning tonight at 7:30 and running through Sunday at Philipsburg High School.

The cast includes Nick Cenci as The Cat in the Hat, Julia Cenci as JoJo, Matt Thomas as Horton the Elephant, Rachael Horun as Gertrude McFuzz, Aimee' Meissner as Mayzie LaBird, Rachel DelVecchio as Sour Kangaroo, and Christian Menza as The Grinch.

Directors are Matt and Melissa Bigelli, music director is Adam Josephson, and choreographer is Devon Caraballo.

For further info: pasyt.org

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Also in New Jersey at Country Gate Playhouse, 114 Greenwich St., Belvidere, is "Shrek The Musical," beginning Saturday through Aug. 3. Based on the Academy Award-winning Dream Works film and book by William Steig, Shrek shows up at a faraway kingdom turned upside down where things start to get ugly in his rescue of its feisty Princess Fiona. Musical score is by Jeanine Tesori, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Manuel Alvarado of Nazareth is Shrek, Kelcie Kosberg of Washington, New Jersey, is Princess Fiona, Jessica Piazza of Easton is the donkey, Dan Mazelis of Washington is the villain, and Paige Hann of Harmony, New Jersey, is the cookie.

Director is Gina Scurato of Harmony, with musical direction by Tierney Jory of Bangor, and choreography by Katie Haugaard of Washington.

For further info: countrygate.org

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The Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of "Annie Get Your Gun" is being presented by Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illicks Mill Road, Bethlehem, beginning Friday through Aug. 10, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and original book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, as revised by Peter Stone.

The story is loosely based on the life of Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and her stormy romance with fellow shooting ace Frank Butler, also featuring legendary western icons Buffalo Bill Cody and Sitting Bull, among others.

The cast includes Rebecca Pieper-Bohum as Annie Oakley, Jason Zimmer as Frank Butler, Bill Mutimer as Buffalo Bill (Col. William F. Cody), and John Bracali as Chief Sitting Bull.

Director is Mark Breiner, musical direction by Joseph Fink, and choreographer is Melissa Keiser.

For further info: paplayhouse.org

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Fleetwood Community Theatre presents Broadway's timeless musical, "Peter Pan," tonight through Saturday at Fleetwood Area Senior High School, 803 N. Richmond St., Fleetwood, based on the play by Sir James M. Barrie.

Bence Veres plays Peter Pan, Cassidy Vees is Wendy Darling, Alex Vogelgesang is John Darling, Julian Polanco is Michael Darling, Todd Carpien is Mr. Darling, Darice Hoffmann is Mrs. Darling, Lorna Graham is Tiger Lily, and Ben Ruth is Hook.

For further info: fctspeterpan.bpt.me

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