Muhlenberg College Directors’ Festival to feature three short plays in evening of activist visionary theater
An evening of visionary experimental theater will be on display in Muhlenberg College’s “New Visions” Directors’ Festival, Feb. 24-28. The festival features plays directed by three gifted senior directing students in the College’s Department of Theatre & Dance.
Each of the three one-act plays offers a fresh perspective on contemporary social issues: “Terrible Beautiful Bodies,” written by Muhlenberg alumni Ben Nassau ’15 and Moriah Benjoseph ’15 and directed by Amanda Nell ’16; “Hello Out There,” written by William Saroyan and directed by Philip Kaufman ’16; and “The Exception and the Rule,” written by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Lauren Goldberger ’16.
“Terrible Beautiful Bodies” asks important questions about the bodies we inhabit, Nell says, and examines the shape and stigma that is often attached to the human form. The play consists of vignettes and monologues taken from real interviews about how people view their bodies.
“I am looking to create a very collaborative environment within my cast, where each actor feels supported and can have their voices heard,” Nell says. “I’ve gotten the sense that people don’t have the best relationship with their bodies, and it is important that we bring this to light in a public setting.”
“Hello Out There” tells the story of a professional gambler who is falsely accused of rape and held in a backwater Texas jail cell. While in custody, he meets the love of his life — but his accuser’s husband is armed, furious, and on his way.
“My plan is to direct a political commentary on the current environment of our country, specifically addressing black lives,” Kaufman says. “I have been working with professors and the Black Student Association on campus in order to make a contribution through this play to the community’s ongoing dialogue.”
German playwright Bertolt Brecht explores issues of class warfare and privilege in “The Exception and the Rule” through the grimly ironic story of a merchant and his porter, who find misfortune on a journey across the desert. The play was originally part of the Lehrstücke cycle, a series of plays used to educate the German middle class about oppression and classism in the 1930s.
“I’m hoping to look at interactions between social classes that happen around us all the time, but go unnoticed,” Goldberger says. “We become numb to these interactions, and I want to bring out how they are relevant in everyday life.”
“Each piece in this year’s festival addresses contemporary issues that are relevant in the community,” says Charles Richter, who serves as director of Muhlenberg’s theatre program and the festival’s artistic director. “The plays are each very different in form, and each has so much to offer in terms of performance experience for the cast and community content for the audiences.”
Performances of “New Visions” are Feb. 24-28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for LVAIC students. Each “New Visions” performance includes all three short plays. Tickets can be purchased online at muhlenberg.edu/theatreanddance or by phone at 484-664-3333. Performances are in the Studio Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. For mature audiences.
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, Pa., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.