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Curtain Rises: Fifth Touchstone “Festival UnBound” in Bethlehem

Touchstone Theatre’s “Festival UnBound” returns for the fifth year to Bethlehem with a hyper-local, arts-based community celebration featuring more than 15 events, Sept. 27 - Oct. 1, at various locations.

There will be theater, music, walking tours, workshops, dance and three guest artist residencies.

Singer-songwriter Jesse Ruben; community arts activist Ashley Sparks, and Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble entertain in a collaboration with Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center.

“Festival UnBound” was founded in October 2019 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Touchstone Theatre’s “Steelbound,” Sept. 9 - 19, 1999, centerpiece of “Steel Festival: The Art of an Industry,” Touchstone’s multi-arts festival that celebrated Bethlehem’s heritage of steelmaking.

Bethlehem Steel Corp. stopped producing steel in November 1995, filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and was dissolved in 2003.

The former Southside Bethlehem plant is the site of ArtsQuest’s SteelStacks; WLVT Channel 39 studios and Wind Creek Bethlehem casino and hotel.

“Festival UnBound” begins with an opening ceremony, 7 p.m. Sept. 27, Payrow Plaza, 10 E. Church St., Bethlehem, with Bethlehem Mayor William Reynolds, festival performers, “other-worldly beings” and an “unidentified object” parked outside Bethlehem City Hall. Prior to the ceremony, is a “Hidden Bethlehem” musical pop-up, 6 p.m. Sept. 27, Bethlehem City Center Sculpture Garden.

“Festival UnBound” events include:

- 10 a.m., noon, 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Architect and educator Wes Hiatt leads “Change-Spotting,” a 45-minute walking tour starting at Parham Park, to track changes in the spaces and places of Southside Bethlehem.

- 7 p.m. Sept 28, “Changing the Race Dance,” performance examines how race is discussed, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, 321 E. Third St., Bethlehem

- 4 - 7 p.m. Sept. 29, Alexander Khimishin’s “United Nations: The World in Faces,” exhibit of portraits of indigenous peoples, Venture X, 306 S, New St., Bethlehem

- 7 p.m. Sept, 29, “Festival UnBound Block Party,” Barrio Stage, Touchstone Theatre, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem. Music by We’re From Antarctica. Also: food, drinks, unveiling of mural by Monica Salazar, autographs by Lehigh Valley Athletics Council wrestlers

- 1:30 p.m. Sept. 30, “Neighborly Love,” devotional gathering, Charles A. Brown Ice House, 56 River St., Bethlehem, with Broughal Middle School Singers, Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts dancers and musicians, poets, and readers from faith communities

- 7 p.m. Sept. 30, Jesse Ruben, concert, Godfrey Daniels Coffee House, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem

- 7 p.m. Sept. 30; 1:30 p.m. Oct. 1, “The Most Beautiful Home ... Maybe!,” Bethlehem-centric participatory performance by directing duo Mark-n-Sparks (Mark Valdez and Ashley Sparks)

- Sept. 26 - Oct. 1, Strike Anywhere interviews Bethlehem residents as basis to create performance, April 22 - 28, 2024, Zoellner Arts Center. Also, the group will hold Soundpainting master classes with area performers and students.

- Sept. 30, Workshops explore stories from the Lenni Lenape, paper-crafting, poetry slam, women’s dances, songwriting and storytelling

- 3 p.m. Oct. 1, “Festival UnBound” Closing Ceremony, Centennial Park. Strike Anywhere performs Soundpainted improvised composition

“Festival UnBound,” various times, stages, Sept. 27 - Oct. 1. Most events are free. Some require registration. Tickets: 484-767-2456; http://www.touchstone.org/

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 Karla Mosley (Zébra), “The Most Beautiful Home ... Maybe!,” “Festival UnBound”
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Jesse Ruben, artist-in-residence, “Festival UnBound”