Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Poe's writings take center stage for Allentown Public Theatre

Allentown's Joshua Neth feels the works of Edgar Allan Poe tie in so well with the haunting season. That's why the actor has thrown himself into a new multi-media, one-man show that will take audiences into the mind of the Master of the Macabre with "POE: A Madman Knows Nothing," beginning Friday and running through Oct. 20, at the Charles A. Brown Ice House on Sand Island, 56 River St., Bethlehem.

The show is being presented by the Allentown Public Theatre, of which Neth is artistic director. Among his Lehigh Valley credits which include "Beauty and the Beast" (he was the Beast) at Civic Theatre of Allentown, Neth most recently portrayed Pontius Pilate in Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre's "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Neth collaborated with director Andrea Cartagena to adapt Allentown Public Theatre's production from selected writings of Poe. He said the month of October was chosen to mount the show "because this is when Poe is often celebrated." The author died on Oct. 7, 1849 at age 40, under circumstances still unexplained.

Allentown Public Theatre's play celebrates Poe, whose fascination with death and extreme states of the human mind, coupled with his descriptive skills, resulted in stories that exquisitely craft horror and fear, and poems full of melancholy and melody. Some of his most iconic stories and poems, including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Raven," will be featured in Neth's performance, in addition to some of his most passionate and revealing personal letters.

For variety, two of Poe's lesser known stories with comic and satirical overtones, including "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" (of "Arabian Nights" fame) about the fantastical adventures of Sinbad the sailor, will be featured.

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It's a true family affair with "Fisk Family Fugues," being presented by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. The gala concert and fundraiser features guitar virtuoso Eliot Fisk, joined by wife and celebrated Mexican guitarist Zaira Meneses and 12-year-old daughter and pianist Raquel. The actual gala dinner and auction will begin at 5 p.m.

Eliot Fisk will offer a free public workshop on "Guitar Aerobics & the Poetry of Technique" on Friday at 7:30 p.m., at Foy Hall at Moravian College. All that's required is bringing your own guitar.

Sunday's concert was especially conceived for the Bach Choir gala and will feature works by Bach, Chopin and Mendelssohn, as well as Spanish and Latin Repertoire. Young Rachel Fisk played Carnegie Hall this past May. Her father, a favorite of Bach Festival audiences, is said to feature at least one of his own arrangements of a Bach Suite that he has not yet performed in Bethlehem.

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The Allentown Symphony Orchestra kicks off the season with its classical series this weekend featuring "Opening Revelry" with pianist Awadagin Pratt. Concerts will be held Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. The Pittsburgh native will perform selections by Liebermann, Grieg and Sibelius. Pratt is the winner of both the Naumburg International Piano Competition and an Avery Fisher Career Grant Award.

Following Sunday's concert, there will be a reception for family and friends to honor the memory of Virginia E. "Jinny" Wartman, a co-founder of the Allentown Symphony Association. The event will be held in the Hall's Rodale Room from 5 to 7 p.m. Wartman, a resident of Allentown and of Surf City, N.J., passed away on June 15, at the age of 102. She served as the Allentown Symphony Association's Executive Director for 40 years, from 1951 to 1991. She also was co-founder of the Allentown Symphony Women's Committee. Her grandfather, Charles Lewis Hutter, founded the Allentown College for Women, which became Cedar Crest College in 1912.

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Satori's annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days Concert will be held Sunday at 2 p.m., at Temple Beth El, 1305 Springhouse Rd., Allentown. Music of Ibert, Mozart, Copland, Molino and Telemann will be performed by Nora Suggs, flute; Rebecca Brown, violin; Adriana Linares, viola; Deborah Davis, cello, and Candice Mowbray, guitar.

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Duncan Sheik's Tony Award-winning musical, "Spring Awakening," makes its Lehigh Valley premiere in an all-new production at Civic Theatre of Allentown, opening Friday at 7 p.m., and running through Oct. 27. The original cast recording also garnered a Grammy Award.

The musical is based on the 1891 Frank Wedekind play of the same title, with a score by Sheik and book and lyrics by Steven Sater. Civic's Artistic Director William Sanders will direct, with musical direction by Justin Brehm.

The story is set against the backdrop of a repressive and provincial late 19th century Germany, as it tells the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and budding sexuality as seen through the eyes of three teenagers.

According to Civic, the musical contains mature themes, sexual situations and strong language and is not suitable for all audiences; parental discretion is advised.

Civic's cast includes Nina Attinello as Wendla and Michael Barthel as Melchior, along with Alexander Michaels, Bryan Dougherty, Morgan Reilly, Johnny Schaffer, Aria Sivick, Tommy Walters, Kayla Weinerman, William West, Gabrielle Whitney, JoAnn Basist and Robert Torres. Also, Emma Anthony, Melissa Egan, Meredith Lipson, Andrew Schaffer, Robert Stinner and Davis Weaver.

For the first time, Civic is offering special reduced price tickets to opening weekend and Super Thursdays during the show's run.


Across the street from Civic in the galleries of Theatre514 and Blink Optical Boutique are the works of Allentown artist and designer John Gaydos in the exhibit, "Feast for the Eyes," through Nov. 10. In his statement, Gaydos said he has always enjoyed "the challenge of painting light and shadow and their effect on a given form. Light, continuously changing, makes the exploration of the image constantly exciting." Gaydos has used watercolor and acrylic in creating his images and most recently collage. One of his most recent and recognizable works, "Yocco's Hot Dogs," was the poster art for the Lehigh Valley Arts Council's first Art for Everyone benefit auction of affordable art.

An artist's reception will be held in both galleries on Third Friday, Oct. 18, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," will be presented by the Country Gate Players, opening Saturday at 8 p.m., and running through Oct. 20, at the Country Gate Playhouse, 114 Greenwich St., Belvidere, N.J. Director is Gina Scurato.

The story is set in the 1980s, against a backdrop of greed, sexual politics, and the discovery of an awful new disease: AIDS. Both a love story and a political drama, it details the lives of Americans struggling to survive emotional and social upheaval in the waning days of 1980s New York. Playwright Tony Kushner chose to focus on the AIDS crisis.

According to Country Gate, the play contains adult themes and language and is recommended for mature audiences; parental discretion is advised.

The cast includes Vicky Reed and Michael Stanzilis as Harper and Joe Pitt, with Bill Scurato as Roy Cohn. Also in the cast are Stephen Krock, Hugh Halsey IV, Kari Reyes, Bill Nutt, Jessica Steele and Brandon Hanks.

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