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Curtain Rises: No bounds for ‘Festival UnBound’

Touchstone Theatre of Bethlehem presents its fourth year of “Festival UnBound,” a five-day celebration of visual arts, music, dance, original theater and community dialogue, Sept. 28 - Oct. 2.

The festival includes work by Touchstone, local artists and organizers and guest artists, including folksinger-songwriter John Gorka.

“Festival UnBound” was created in 2019 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Touchstone’s “Steelbound,” an original Touchstone Ensemble play mounted during “Steel: The Art of an Industry,” Sept. 9 - 19, 1999. The festival was conceived by Touchstone in cooperation with Bethlehem Steel, Lehigh University and local arts and civic organizations. Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt in 2003 after ceasing steel-making at the south side plant (where SteelStacks is located) in 1983.

“As we approach our fourth year of ‘Festival UnBound,’ it’s exhilarating to see the way the community embraces a festival rooted in the art of place. ‘Festival UnBound’ is a true community festival that is art of the people, by the people and for the people of the Lehigh Valley,” says festival coordinator Mary Wright.

A highlight is the Lehigh Valley premiere of the “Maafa Commemoration Project,” Oct. 1 and 2.

Written by Nehprii Amenii and directed by Kymbali Craig, “Maafa” is produced in partnership with Rev. Dr. Gregory Edwards, Resurrected Life Community Church and Festival UnBound’s Homecoming Committee. Maafa is a Kiswahili word which refers to the experiences of African people during the middle passage journey from Africa to the Americas where they were enslaved.

The event is part of a national movement, started in 1995 by St. Paul Community Baptist Church of New York to bring issues of racism and slavery to light through stories.

Attendance is free for most “Festival UnBound” events. Donations accepted.

Tickets: www.touchstone.org/festival-unbound

Act 1 “Silent Sky”:

Act 1 DeSales University Theatre opens its 53rd season with Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” Sept. 28 - Oct. 9, Main Stage, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.

“Silent Sky” tells the story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, one of the first female astronomers who was instrumental in understanding the structure and size of the universe. Leavitt discovered a way to accurately measure distances on an inter-galactic scale. The play explores the work-life balance of Leavitt, her family obligations and illness.

“I have long been a fan of Lauren Gunderson’s writing. She infuses her strongly crafted characters with complex and delicious dialogue. ‘Silent Sky’ is a particularly exciting project as it introduces us to a real-life female pioneer in the STEM world,” says director Jessica Bedford.

Two casts of students will perform in alternate performances.

Stage design is by Will Neuert. Amy Best is costume designer. Eric T. Haugen is lighting designer. David M. Greenberg is sound designer. Mary Elizabeth Scallen is dialect coach.

“Silent Sky,” 8 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays; 9:45 a.m. Oct. 4. Lifestreaming, Oct. 8. Tickets: tickets.desales.edu; 610-282-3192

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO John Gorka, artist-in-residence, “Festival UnBound,” Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Alana Hurley (Henrietta Leavitt), Patrick Byrnes (Peter Shaw), “Silent Sky,” Act 1, DeSales University