Act 1 opens 50th an­niver­sary with ‘Glass Menagerie’

The Morning Call - - THEATER - By Kathy Lauer-Wil­liams

DeSales Univer­sity’s Act 1 pro­duc­tions opens its 50th an­niver­sary sea­son with a heart­break­ing play that was a mile­stone in Amer­i­can drama. Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ clas­sic me­mory play “The Glass Menagerie” will be on the Main Stage of the Labuda Cen­ter for the Performing Arts Sept. 25 through Oct. 6.

Di­rected by Act 1 Artis­tic Direc­tor Den­nis Razze, “The Glass Menagerie” is a semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count of Wil­liams’ time spent in 1930s St. Louis; it brims with poetic lan­guage and in­deli­ble char­ac­ters.

An ag­ing South­ern belle, ma­tri­arch Amanda Wing­field is a sin­gle mother whose hus­band aban­doned the fam­ily 16 years be­fore. Her son Tom works in a shoe ware­house, set­ting aside his own am­bi­tion to travel and be­come a writer, in or­der to sup­port his mother and his sis­ter. His sis­ter Laura — based on Wil­liams’ own sis­ter — is painfully shy and frag­ile. Laura had po­lio as a young woman and now has with­drawn into her world of glass an­i­mals. Amanda tries to hold her fam­ily to­gether and her only hope is to find a suitor for Laura so that she can marry and have some­one to take care of her.

How­ever a visit from a po­ten­tial suitor un­set­tles the shel­tered fam­ily. While Amanda tries to pro­tect her adult chil­dren from the harsh­ness of oth­ers, she doesn’t re­al­ize that her own ec­cen­tric­i­ties are the big­gest threat to their psy­cho­log­i­cal sur­vival.

This of­ten funny “me­mory play,” about the en­dur­ing but lim­it­ing na­ture of love gave rise to the pow­er­ful new dra­matic voice of Wil­liams, who be­came a ti­tan of the Amer­i­can theater.

The play premiered in Chicago in 1944 and cat­a­pulted Wil­liams from ob­scu­rity to fame. The fol­low­ing year, it trans­ferred to Broad­way, where it won the New York Drama Crit­ics’ Cir­cle Award.

“The Glass Menagerie” was Wil­liams’ first of a string of suc­cesses, which in­cluded “A Streetcar Named De­sire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” He went on to be­come one of Amer­ica’s most highly re­garded play­wrights.

There will be talk backs with the direc­tor and ac­tors af­ter the per­for­mances Sept. 29 and 30.

The Oct. 5 per­for­mance will fea­ture open cap­tion­ing for pa­trons who are deaf or hard of hear­ing, and au­dio de­scrip­tions for pa­trons who are blind or vis­ually im­paired. Tick­ets are half-price for pa­trons us­ing th­ese spe­cial ser­vices on this date. Please call all Box Of­fice Man­ager Nicole Moyer, at 610-282-3654, ext. 1 for more in­for­ma­tion.

“The Glass Menagerie,” 8 p.m. Sept. 25-28; Oct. 2-5; 2 p.m. Sept. 29 and Oct. 6; 9:45 a.m. Sept. 30, Main Stage, Labuda Cen­ter for the Performing Arts, 2755 Sta­tion Ave., Cen­ter Val­ley. Tick­ets: $10 to $27.

610-282-3192, www.desales.edu/act1.

Val­ley premier of ‘Dis­en­chanted’

Even fairy tale princesses have a dark side. In “Dis­en­chanted! The Mu­si­cal,” orig­i­nal sto­ry­book hero­ines tell the sub­ver­sive “true sto­ries” be­hind the tales as old as time, and they def­i­nitely aren’t for kids.

Star of the Day presents the Le­high Val­ley pre­miere of “Dis­en­chanted! The Mu­si­cal” Sept. 19-28 at The Ma­cungie In­sti­tute of Performing Arts and Con­fer­ence Cen­ter.

In this hi­lar­i­ous vaude­ville-style show, the fa­mil­iar princesses are not happy with the way that they’re been por­trayed in movies and pop cul­ture as help­less and empty-headed, wait­ing around for their princes to come. In or­der to set the record straight, th­ese em­pow­ered princesses toss off their tiaras, re­plac­ing sug­ary duets and an­i­mated teapots by belt­ing out songs that ex­pose the juicy de­tails of each royal’s life post-hap­pily ever af­ter.

Writ­ten by Den­nis T. Gia­cino, the show opened Off-Broad­way in 2014, and was nom­i­nated for Out­stand­ing Off-Broad­way Mu­si­cal by Outer Crit­ics Cir­cle Awards; Best New Off-Broad­way Mu­si­cal by Off-Broad­way Al­liance Awards, and it re­ceived two Lu­cille Lor­tel Awards nom­i­na­tions.

The pro­duc­tion also was named to Play­bill’s 2014 Best of the Year.

Will Wind­sor Er­win di­rects an all-fe­male cast that fea­tures Madeleine Hug­gins as Snow White; Jessie Dau as Cinderella; Kirsten Almeida as Sleep­ing Beauty; Juanita-Re­nay Shock­ley as The Princess Who Kissed A Frog; Julisa Trinidad as Belle, The Lit­tle Mer­maid, and Ra­pun­zel, and Christina Con­cilio as Mu­lan, Poc­a­hon­tas and Princess Badroul­badour.

The show is rec­om­mended for ages 14 and older for lan­guage.

Pur­chase tick­ets in ad­vance and get a com­pli­men­tary glass of wine for those age 21 and older.

“Dis­en­chanted! The Mu­si­cal,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19-21 and 26-28; 2 p.m. Sept. 22, The Ma­cungie In­sti­tute Performing Arts and Con­fer­ence Cen­ter, 510 E. Main St., Ma­cungie. Tick­ets: $20. 484-809-9228, www.Starofthe­Day.org.

Re­visit ‘Steel­bound’ at NMIH

See the play that in­spired Touch­stone Theatre’s up­com­ing “Fes­ti­val Un­Bound” when The Na­tional Mu­seum of In­dus­trial His­tory in Beth­le­hem hosts a free screen­ing of the film of Touch­stone and Cor­ner­stone Theatre’s orig­i­nal play “Steel­bound” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25.

Re­visit the iconic pro­duc­tion that premiered in 1999 as part of “The Steel Fes­ti­val: The Art of an In­dus­try,” a multi-arts fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing Beth­le­hem’s her­itage of steel­mak­ing.

The cen­ter­piece of “Fes­ti­val Un­Bound” Touch­stone’s 10-day fes­ti­val of orig­i­nal theater, dance, mu­sic, art, and con­ver­sa­tion to cel­e­brate Beth­le­hem’s fu­ture Oct. 4-13, is “Prometheus/Re­dux”, an orig­i­nal play by Ger­ard Strop­nicky com­mis­sioned for the fes­ti­val.. Mark­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of Beth­le­hem

Steel’s clos­ing, and the sem­i­nal work “Steel­bound,” “Prometheus/Re­dux” asks what has be­come of the proud steel-worker Prometheus, and the com­mu­nity, 20 years later no that they are no longer “bound” to the steel in­dus­try. Touch­stone co-founder and en­sem­ble mem­ber Bill Ge­orge, who por­trayed Prome­thius in “Steel­bound,” re­turns in

“Prome­thius/Re­dux.”

The 90-minute film will be fol­lowed by a talk back with artists, cast mem­bers and com­mu­nity lead­ers who were in­volved with the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion in 1999.

“Steel­bound” 6 p.m. Sept. 25, Na­tional Mu­seum of In­dus­trial His­tory, 602 E. 2nd St., Beth­le­hem. Free ad­mis­sion. fes­ti­val­un­bound.com.

Im­pro­vised Shake­speare

The in­ven­tive im­prov en­sem­ble, The Im­pro­vised Shake­speare Com­pany, will daz­zle Wil­liams Cen­ter of the Arts Sept. 25, with ver­bal dex­ter­ity, spon­ta­neous so­lil­o­quies, and joc­u­lar jests.

Smart, so­phis­ti­cated and pro­foundly funny, The Im­pro­vised Shake­speare Com­pany crafts an orig­i­nal El­iz­a­bethan mas­ter­piece on the spot, based on a sin­gle au­di­ence sug­ges­tion (the ti­tle of a show that has never been writ­ten).

The ag­ile thes­pi­ans con­jure char­ac­ters from thin air to de­liver an en­tirely unique plot and in­ven­tive di­a­logue for the first time. Re­plete with

ridicu­lously rhymed cou­plets and ri­otous repar­tee, each show is per­formed once and only once, by five mad­cap Chicago ac­tors pos­sess­ing a mas­tery of an­ti­quated lan­guage.

The Im­pro­vised Shake­speare Com­pany has been performing its crit­i­cally ac­claimed show to sold-out au­di­ences in Chicago since 2005 and the na­tional tour­ing com­pany en­ter­tains au­di­ences across the coun­try. They have been fea­tured Off Broad­way, at the Pic­colo Spo­leto Fringe Fes­ti­val, Bon­na­roo, the Bum­ber­shoot Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val,

Out­side Lands, San Fran­cisco Sketch­fest, UCB’s Del Close Marathon, and the pres­ti­gious Just For Laughs fes­ti­val in Mon­treal and Chicago. The com­pany has been named Chicago’s best im­prov group by both the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Ex­am­iner, and has re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards in Los An­ge­les, New York and Chicago.

“The Im­pro­vised Shake­speare Com­pany,” 8 p.m. Sept. 25, Wil­liams Cen­ter for the Arts, 317 Hamil­ton St. at High St., Easton. Tick­ets: $27; $6 stu­dents. 610-330-5009, williams­cen­ter.lafayette.edu.

Kathy Lauer-Wil­liams is a con­tribut­ing writer.

Laura (Court­ney Bul­ger, left) shares her beloved glass uni­corn with a gen­tle­man caller, Jim (Cole­man Shu-Tung Gil­bert) in Act 1 of DeSales Univer­sity’s 50th sea­son opener, Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

JACK LERCH/CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO ALEXIS LEON/CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

From top to bot­tom: Madeleine Hug­gins, Juanita-Re­nay Shock­ley, Christina Con­cilio, Kirsten Almeida, Jessie Dau, and Julisa Trinidad star in Star of the Day’s “Dis­en­chanted! The Mu­si­cal.”

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