Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Pam Ptak's costumes fit for a king – or Three Kings – in Bethlehem pageantry

Designer Pamela Ptak has been busy in her Riegelsville, Bucks Co., studio this Christmas season, choosing the right fabric and embellishment for her latest project. She has spent hours on the Internet researching the history of a cherished religious and cultural tradition. With each stitch she makes in her selection of rare and colorful silks and brocades, she maintains sensitivity not only as an artist but as a creator in the pageantry that's about to unfold in the local Latino community. It's the first Three Kings Celebration to be held at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

Known as El Dia de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, in many of the Latin countries, Sunday's pageantry from 3 to 7 p.m. will include a children's best dressed king contest, a crown decorating activity, free book giveaways by Cops n Kids, a performance by En Sequencia, and foods of Puerto Rico and Latin America by Paula's Kitchen of Bethlehem. The free and public event will portray the arrival of the Three Kings bearing gifts, all of which have been donated by B. Braun employees for children ages 12 and under.

The Three Kings – Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar – will be dressed in the finest of royal costumes created and on loan by Ptak. A former instructor of pattern making, draping and fashion illustration at The Baum School of Art in Allentown, Ptak now heads the Arts and Fashion Institute, based in Riegelsville, which she formed with her husband, comic artist/illustrator Scott Hanna. The Bucks County couturier also appeared on Season 7 of TV's "Project Runway" with her ready-to-wear apparel.

Ptak said she was approached by a friend at ArtsQuest who, being familiar with Ptak's extensive costume collection, asked if she had something appropriate for the Three Kings Day event. Ptak said her costumes leaned more toward those of the Medieval Period, and that to design something from scratch might run too costly. She said she was excited about the project, however, and decided to create costumes from her huge fabric stash and loan them to the event on an annual basis.

With her knowledge of garment history, Ptak said she pored through textbooks on costumes tracing back to the early centuries, paying attention to particular styles and hand-woven fabrics worn in specific climates. She also found influences of multiple cultures represented in the clothing. Crèches and nativity sets provided her with hints of proportions and details.

"I wanted the costumes to have beautiful colors and fabrics to raise people's spirits," Ptak explained. "After all, these were kings who were following the Star. They were dressed in their absolute finest and gifted with treasures to be presented."

Ptak's fabrics chosen for the Three Kings made lightweight, stretchy, ribbed pants and wool tunics, a cloak of royal purple silk organza, and faux fur. As Ptak described, "There is some luxury, yet there is comfort. … I want them (actors) to feel regal and manly."

Other community organizations involved in The Three Kings event include the Hispanic American League of Artists, Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, HOLA! Radio 1600 AM and Panorama Latin News.

According to Myrna Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico and director of corporate benefits and compensation at B. Braun, her company employees have been providing holiday gifts annually to local families and children from various Lehigh Valley organizations. This year, to help make the Three Kings celebration a success, she said they donated new toys for children up to age 12 to be distributed during the event.

"The Christmas holiday festivities for most Hispanics continue with the celebration of the Three Kings Day, when children await the arrival of The Three Kings bringing gifts and toys," Rivera explained. "It's a time when families come together with food and music, but the main focus is the presents for the children. The Three Kings Celebration at SteelStacks is an opportunity to pass on this time-honored and deeply meaningful tradition to our children so that it will never be forgotten."

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With the theme, "Made in PA. It Makes a Difference," the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show kicks off Saturday through Jan. 12, at the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg. The show is recognized as the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits. It's a tribute to agriculture in our state of Pennsylvania. Remember, all products seen will have been made and grown right here in our own backyard.

Opening ceremonies and a parade of agriculture will begin Saturday at 10:45 a.m. New events this year include cow pattie bingo, and new judged honey products, additional baking competitions and a Hobby Lobby with some rather quirky contests.

And don't forget this year's butter sculpture by Pennsylvania's own, Jim Victor. It's been kept under wraps with an unveiling set for tonight at 6, at the Pa. Preferred Farm Show reception.

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A tour of "West Side Story," called by many as the greatest love story of all time, comes to the State Theatre in Easton on Tuesday and Wednesday, with 7:30 p.m. performances. The Bernstein and Sondheim score, with Tony Award-winning librettist Arthur Laurents, forever leaves us with American musical theater classics such as "Something's Coming," "Tonight," "America," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere."

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