Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Teachers pay homage to mothers with world-premiere ‘Mommalogues'

A stroll on the beach last summer stirred up a lifetime of memories for Lower Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co.'s Sharon Lee Glassman about her mother, Elizabeth, who passed away when Glassman was 21 and fresh out of college. Elizabeth, or "Libby" as she was known, would never know her granddaughter, Lee, now 36 and completing law school.

"I began writing in my head and couldn't stop," said Glassman, a retired English/theater teacher for 25 years at Emmaus High School and currently an adjunct professor at Muhlenberg College. "Everybody has a mom, and I wanted to write about mine."

That's just what she did, with a little help from close friend Gretchen Klinedinst Furst. Both women expounded on mothers both personally and universally for several months and produced 20 original short, emotionally charged monologues that honor mothers and the special bond they share with their daughters. Their world-premiere play, "The Mommalogues," runs this Mother's Day Weekend beginning Friday, May 11, with three benefit performances for Civic Theatre of Allentown at Theatre514 on North 19th Street.

Furst was a student teacher from Kutztown University assigned to Glassman's English/theater classroom at Emmaus High School some years back. She left her teaching position at Southern Lehigh to raise her young daughters, now 7 and 3. She and Glassman have since maintained a strong relationship outside the classroom.

"She (Furst) seemed the perfect person to tackle the writing project," Glassman said. "She always talked about her own daughters whenever we would get together. I told her what I had in mind, and we met several times. We find we're both very similar emotionally."

Together Furst and Glassman pay honor and tribute to real life women and celebrate motherhood in all its forms. The episodes are bound by a strong thread that links mothers and daughters and pays homage to that unique dynamic – emphasizing how the bond between mothers and daughters is infinite and powerful.

"When we started, we created people strictly from our imagination," Furst said. "Now there are only two or three characters in the 20 pieces that are imagined. The women in the play are people that we knew, or stories that we have heard over the years. They are based on actual situations."

It all makes for an interesting and diverse evening of theater, complete with laughter and tears, as "Mommalogues" looks at mothers and daughters, grandmothers, teachers, classmates, and more. There is a character who was the neighborhood bully. There is a piece about a student who dies. "Any teacher who has lost a student can imagine the mom's experience," said Furst.

But not all scenes are as serious. There is a "sense of whimsy" looking at the rebellious teenage years from a mom's perspective, she added.

"Mothers and daughters represent some of the strongest bonds in our nation," Glassman said. "I mean no respect to the men in our lives – we love them – but there is something that happens with women and between women that is so primal."

"Mothers and daughters have elasticity," Furst explained. "There is a fight – a push and a pull—both toward and away. It is a very deep and personal relationship. But in the end, I think mothers and daughters always – or we hope, at least, most of the time – come back together. That give-and-take gives both women a stronger bond. It's an amazing journey."

"There's gonna be a ‘Mommalogues II," chimed Glassman. "We just had too much!"
The cast of eight that gives life to ‘Mommalogues' includes Furst, Roseanne Schatkowski, Jill Kuebler, Melisa Klausner, Meredith Lipson, Sue Sneeringer, Carole Silvoy and Patricia Welle. Glassman and Furst are directing, with assistance from Civic's Artistic Director William Sanders.

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Arts Roundup

America's First Ladies will be the subject of a Mother's Day Tea describing their crucial role in American history on Saturday, May 12 at noon at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown. Our First Ladies have directly and indirectly influenced presidential decisions and have, during certain periods in history, stepped into the presidential seat when the president has been unable to perform his duties. This year's Mother's Day program will include First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Lady Bird Johnson, and Patricia Nixon, among others.

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Earlier in the year, I reported on the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards held at the Allentown Art Museum. Now for an update -- nine students from Berks, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties have received 12 National Art Awards and will be recognized at a special ceremony on June 1, at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Work will be exhibited at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. According to the Lehigh Valley's Dennis Danko, affiliate director, having 12 National Medals bestowed in one year is a record for the East Central Pennsylvania Regional Scholastic Art Awards.

Arturo Cabrera, grade 12, from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts (LVPA), Bethlehem, received two National Gold Medals and two National Silver Medals. (Cabrera receiving four multiple National Awards is unprecedented in the history of the East Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art Awards, according to Danko. Only three students across the nation received three medals for this year). Also from LVPA: Eric Kazinski, grade 12, one National Gold Medal, and Tabitha Arnold, grade 11, one National Gold Medal.

Also, Wyatt Dorschutz, grade 12, one National Gold Medal; Catherine Cowan, grade 12, one National Silver Medal, and Brandon Tauber, grade 12, one National Silver Medal, all from Parkland High School; Lauren Wolfe, grade 8, one National Gold Medal, from Southern Lehigh Middle School; Victoria Beck, grade 12, one National Silver Medal, from Emmaus High School, and Edgardo Torres, grade 11, one American Visions Medal, from William Allen High School.

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