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Arts Around Town: Civic stages Lehigh Valley premiere, ‘Other Desert Cities’

By Susan Kalan, WFMZ.com Arts Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 27 2014 09:00:00 AM CST

Allentown’s Dr. Barry Glassman hits the local stage once again, this time as the notably conservative, politically connected Palm Springs, Calif., husband Lyman Wyeth in the Lehigh Valley premiere of the highly acclaimed drama, “Other Desert Cities,” by Jon Robin Baitz, Pulitzer Prize nominee and creator of TV’s hit drama, “Brothers & Sisters.” The play opens Friday at 7 p.m., at the Civic Theatre of Allentown, and runs through March 15.

The veteran actor of local community theater, who resides in Lower Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co., plays opposite Becky Engborg, who portrays his wife Polly. Will Morris is son Trip, a laid-back Hollywood producer, Gretchen Furst is daughter Brooke, a liberal writer with a history of depression, and Marianne Green (making her Civic debut) is Silda Grauman, Polly’s sister and liberal former screenwriter who’s recently been released from rehab. As the family gathers at their mansion on Christmas Eve 2004, Brooke unveils the manuscript of her soon-to-be-published book which is a memoir – one that threatens to expose a long-buried family secret.

Off stage, Glassman is a general dentist with a practice concentration in chronic pain management, joint dysfunctions and sleep disorders. Despite a heavy professional schedule of lecturing both nationally and internationally, his love for theater often has provided him a respite in the undertaking of such roles as Ebenezer Scrooge in Civic’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” adapted from the Charles Dickens tale by his wife, Sharon Lee Glassman, and Civic Artistic Director William Sanders (director of “Other Desert Cities”). Glassman has played the role (seven times) in more productions at Civic than any other actor in the theater’s presentation of the holiday classic, which this year marks its 25th anniversary produced at the venue.

Of his most memorable roles at Civic, he cited his portrayal of Morrie Schwartz in “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Oscar in “The Odd Couple” and “McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He did stress, and with emotion, that his most challenging role was Roy Cohn in “Angels in America.”

Sanders described that in “Other Desert Cities,” “the daughter’s book is a metaphor for perspective, for the stories we remember and the stories we tell and how our perspective informs years of pain or joy, anger or release.” He said he’s seen the play twice -- at New York City’s Lincoln Center Theater and later on Broadway.

“The family is a cross section, a microcosm of American politics and perspective,” he explained. “That conflict creates some really intriguing tension, as well as some laugh-out-loud one-liners.”

Sanders is known for presenting plays that have not been produced elsewhere, with the hope of maintaining interest and creating buzz with Civic audiences. Such productions include “Spring Awakening,” “August: Osage County,” “Grey Gardens,” “Cider House Rules” (parts 1 and 2), “tick, tick, BOOM!” and “Art.”

“I like to think that adult and student audiences will embrace any opportunity to catch a Tony winner or Pulitzer finalist when it’s produced locally,” he added. “The play (“Other Desert Cities”) has very complicated reactions and is a roller-coaster ride, part kitchen-sink drama, part laugh-out- loud comedy, part potboiler, and ultimately emotionally satisfying.”

Upcoming at Civic: “Annie Jr.” by Civic Theatre School, April 10-12; “Urinetown: The Musical,” May 2-18.

For further info: civictheatre.com

 

ARTS ROUNDUP

It’s an up-close and personal look at young Johann Sebastian Bach, and it’s all brought to life in a one-act, comic opera inspired by the teen’s youthful misadventures. The Bach Choir of Bethlehem presents this world premiere of “Young Meister Bach” on Saturday at 3 p.m., at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

The Bach Choir commissioned the work centering on the early professional life of J.S.Bach in 1705, two years after he lands his first job at age 18 and the following three years. It begins with the famous story of Bach’s brawl in the town square with the young bassoonist, Gyersbach, which led to multiple court appearances, each recounting a different version of the fight. The audience is left to decide which account is right.

Composer is Chuck Holdeman, principal bassoonist of the Bach Festival Orchestra; librettist is Bill Bly, a second tenor with the Bach Choir.

According to Bly, the opera’s central character is not the Bach we are used to imagining, but rather “a restless, cocky, even arrogant young man who hasn’t yet brought his brilliant inventiveness and tremendous energy under control.”

Holdeman describes the style in which the work is written as “Neo-Bach,” using some of the same conventions as Bach, himself, while also employing more contemporary syncopation and harmony.

“Young Meister Bach” features a five-part chorus, orchestra and four soloists: Jeffrey Chapman, baritone, as Bach; Leslie Johnson, soprano, as Bach’s intended, Maria Barbara; Brian Ming Chu, bass-baritone, as Geyersbach, Buxtehude, the Superintendent, and the Count, and Stephen Ng, tenor, as the Narrator. Musical direction is by Greg Funfgeld. Stage direction is by Christopher Shorr, director of theater at Moravian College.

For further info: bach.org

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“Landscapes and Portraits” by James Patrick Reid opens Friday at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. The exhibit of oils is comprised of mythological and historical scenes, landscapes and portraits that, according to Reid, have subtle and “mysterious yet powerful” color.

Reid, based in New York City, studied at the Catholic University of America and Indiana University. He also is a La Napoule Art Foundation Scholar and attended the New York Studio School. He has taught and lectured on painting and sculpture and has had many of his writings published. He has served on the Fine Arts faculty at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Art Students League, and the New York Academy of Art.

An opening reception will be held March 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit runs through April 13.

For further info: goggleworks.org

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The Arts Community of Easton (ACE) and The Gallery at St. John’s (St. John’s Lutheran Church), 330 Ferry St., Easton, is holding its 15th annual Plaid Show themed “To Plaid or Not to Plaid,” beginning Sunday through April 27. Artists have incorporated plaid in some way in their submitted work, no matter how subtle.

An opening reception with celebrity judges will be held Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

Other upcoming events: A concert by Terry Kitchen with Mara Levine and Loretta Hagen on March 30, from 1 to 3 p.m.; An artist’s talk and awards on April 6, at 12:30 p.m., and the 16th annual ACE Arts Tour, April 26-27.

For further info: eastonart.org

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The Baum School of Art in Allentown is featuring five female artists from the Lehigh Valley in the current exhibit, “Women’s Work: Five Painters,” through March 14. The artists are Sandra Corpora, Donna Haney, Donna Needs, Jill Peckelun and Bebe Traylor, who have been painting together en plein air for more than 20 years in the valley and surrounding region.

Also on exhibit is “The Artwork of Isidro Con Wong,” who hails from Costa Rica. His work has been influenced by nature, with much of his art in landscapes, moons and bulls. He also incorporates his ethnic background with his nationality.

For further info: baumschool.org

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“Go-Go Fashions from the 1960s,” on view beginning Wednesday through June 8, at the Allentown Art Museum, is drawn almost entirely from the Ellie Laubner donation in 2009 to the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibit explores the more outrageous and eye-popping side of 1960s fashion by taking a look at Op-Art, Psychedelic, and Go-Go clothing.

A second exhibit, “British Pop Prints,” through June 22, reflects work by a band of British artists in post-war London in 1952, which formed the Independent Group. They incorporated images created by American pop culture and advertising through collage and mechanical means of reproduction. Artists represented include Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull, Nicholas Monro, Patrick Caulfield, Peter Phillips, David Hockney and Peter Blake.

For further info: allentownartmuseum.org

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Bring it on! Spring, that is! The 2014 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show opens Saturday through March 9, with the theme, “ARTiculture.” Turner’s landscapes, Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Monet’s water lilies, Hiroshige’s cherry blossoms, Warhol’s floral prints…floral and garden designers have taken their inspiration from art found in the nation’s leading museums for horticultural exhibits that transform the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a 10-acre living canvas. This fusion of art and horticulture spans world cultures and art history.

For further info: theflowershow.com

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The Harleysville-based Celtic band, Burning Bridget Cleary, will be performing in Berks County on Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Landhaven, 1194 Huff’s Church Rd., Barto. The band has been nominated for another international music award, this time for its song, “Oh My Little Darling/Fire on the Mountain” from its newest album, “Pressed for Time.”

The recognition is by the Celtic Radio Music Awards sponsored by Boston-based Highlander Radio to acknowledge and promote exceptional Celtic music. In 2009, Burning Bridget Cleary was the recipient of the Celtic Radio album of the year for its second CD, “Everything is Alright.”

For further info: burningbridgetcleary.com

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