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Curtain Rises: “Twelfth Night” to open at DeSales University; “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” in Lehigh Valley debut at Cedar Crest College

Two area colleges are kicking off their first productions of 2024.

Act 1 DeSales University Performing Arts will present William Shakespeare’s classic “Twelfth Night,” Feb. 21 through March 3.

The Department of Performing Arts at Cedar Crest College will present the area premiere of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” Feb. 22 to 25.

Act 1 is staging what has been called Shakespeare’s “most perfect comedy” on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts in Center Valley.

“Twelfth Night” tells the story of Viola, who is shipwrecked. She is rescued and taken to the town of Illyria, where she disguises herself as a man to serve at the court of Duke Orsino.

The Duke has Viola bring messages to the maiden Olivia, whom he loves. Olivia, who is grieving the death of her brother, promises she will not love anyone for seven years, but begins to fall for the disguised Viola.

Meanwhile, one of Shakespeare’s memorable comedic characters, Sir Toby Belch, plots to embarrass Olivia’s head servant, the pompous Malvolio.

Filled with sly humor, deceptions, mistaken identities, all commentated on by a very wise fool, “Twelfth Night,” is an enjoyable romp.

“I am thrilled to bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life for the Act 1 audience,” says director Jessica Bedford, DeSales assistant professor of theater. “Featuring some of Shakespeare’s most hilarious clowns and memorable characters, the plot is a journey through love and laughter and laughter in love,” Bedford says.

James Raymond, visiting assistant professor, is scenic designer for the production. Raymond has envisioned the town and the estates of Illyria through the lens of the 1950s.

Costume designer Deborah Burrill designed the mid-century modern costumes,

Eric T. Haugen, assistant professor and head of design, serves as lighting designer, while Jonathan Cannon is the sound designer. Cannon and Abby Jeanne, who also performs in the production, adapted the music for the production.

The 7:30 p.m. March 2 performance has 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 services on this date. Call the box office at 610-282-3654, ext. 1, for information.

“Twelfth Night,” 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, March 1, 2; 2 p.m. Feb. 25, March 3; 9:45 a.m. Feb. 26, Act 1 DeSales University Performing Arts, Main Stage Theatre, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley. Tickets: 610-282-3192, https://www.desales.edu

Cedar Crest College’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” will be staged in Samuels Theater on the college’s Allentown campus.

Written by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, the musical explores the relationships between the tenants at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Starke, Florida, particularly between “stripper on the run” Pippi (Lydia Walker), Dr. Phil-loving agoraphobic Jeannie (Olivia Byrne) and Jeannie’s tollbooth-collector husband Norbert (Max Wetherhold).

At the trailer park, high school sweethearts Norbert and Jeannie Garstecki have settled into a loveless marriage, complicated by Jeannie’s unwillingness to leave the trailer since the abduction of her son two decades prior.

Norbert has purchased tickets for the couple to watch the “Ice Capades” as a present for their upcoming anniversary, in hopes of coaxing Jeannie out of the trailer. When Pippi, a stripper trying to escape her abusive boyfriend, arrives at the trailer park looking to live in peace, the drama in Armadillo Acres escalates.

The show was first performed in the inaugural New York Music Theater Festival in 2004 and Off-Broadway in 2005.

The cast includes Rosemarie Kramer, Ashly Rodriguez-Ascencio, Noel Cruz, Michael Sheridan and Rosie Culver.

Bill Mutimer, head of the Northampton Community College Theater Department, directs. Choreography is by Joanellyn Schubert and Chad Miller is musical director.

The musical is recommended for mature audiences because of suggestive and coarse language.

“The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” 7 p.m. Feb. 22, 23, 24; 2 p.m. Feb. 25, Cedar Crest College, Samuels Theater, 100 College Drive, Allentown. Tickets: 610-740-3780, https://www.cedarcrest.edu

“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 BY JACK LERCH Samir Brown (Sir Toby Belch), Isabella Lucano (Mary), Christian Tuffy (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), “Twelfth Night,” DeSales University.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From left: Max Wetherhold (Norbert Garstecki), Rosemarie Kramer (Betty), Noel Cruz (Donna), Ashly Rodriguez-Ascencio (Lin), “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” Cedar Crest College.