A Resting Place debuts in Bethlehem
Bill Bauman, ’74, music department business manager and theatre company production coordinator, outfits Cathleen O’Malley, Touchstone’s director of education, playing Almenia, Dan Rice’s sidekick, in A Resting Place.
Photo by H. Scott Heist '12
Moravian College Theatre Company and Touchstone Theatre help celebrate Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with A Resting Place, an original, community-based play.
In A Resting Place, when Dan Rice’s traveling show magically appears in 21st century Bethlehem, the performers don’t realize that today is going to be a day unlike any other. Spurred on by the persistent questions of a teenager in the audience, the circus folk go “off-script,” improvising a new show to tell the story of Bethlehem during the Civil War. Along the way, we meet a collection of colorful characters raised from the dead, who—along with the carnies in the show—force ringmaster Dan Rice to confront secrets from his past that he would prefer remain buried. The process reveals the messiness of the Civil War and proves that digging up the past sometimes forces us to confront issues that are alive today.
The play and corresponding panel discussions and a lecture will be held in nine different Bethlehem venues over the course of three days (April 13 to 15).
A Resting Place is written by Alison Carey of Oregon Shakespeare Festival and playwright of Touchstone’s Steelbound and is produced in partnership with Moravian College.
The show draws on two years’ research about those who lived and died in Bethlehem during the Civil War years. More than 100 actors and support crew will present the play five times in different outdoor locations, over the three days.
“Each presentation is paired with a different event,” says Christopher Shorr, Moravian’s director of theatre. “People can attend as many of the performances as they want and can come to any discussions. Everything is free—a gift to the community.
"Moravian's partnership with Touchstone Theatre has evolved over the last few years, and this project establishes a new model for collaboration. It gives our students the opportunity to work with a large, diverse group including high school students and working professionals, who all come together, using theatre to improve the community,” Shorr says. “It's work that supports our mission as an institution, teaching our students about service, leadership, and community engagement.”
Several Moravian students, faculty and staff have featured roles in the weekend’s events. Two juniors, Jasmin Thomas ’13 and Gianna Miranda ’13 play a slave and southern belle, respectively. Chris Jones, associate professor of biological sciences, also has a feature role, as Brigadier General William Doster. Other Moravian students fill the roles of circus members. Additional actors and musicians come from the Lehigh Valley Performing Arts High School, Touchstone Theatre and the community.
The script is developed around Dan Rice, a traveling performer who was known for his wit and humor in the mid-1800s. He entertained people in both the North and South, changing his punch lines accordingly, and performed in Bethlehem during the Civil War with his traveling circus. The play features amazing gymnastic talent, fire feats, magicians, sleight of hand, story, song, dance, exotic animals, and a living history.
A Resting Place premieres at 6 p.m., Friday, April 13, on Moravian College’s North Campus outside the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex. A panel discussion, “How the Civil War Affects Us Today” moderated by Daniel Jasper, associate professor of sociology, and including panelist Sharon Brown, director of institutional diversity and multicultural affairs, runs from 7:45 to 9 p.m. at Moravian College’s Haupert Union Building (HUB).
Saturday, April 14 will bring another performance of A Resting Place at 1 p.m. on the South Bethlehem Greenway behind Touchstone Theatre. A second panel discussion, “Building Community Through Theatre” will be held from 2:45 to 4 p.m. in Touchstone Theatre. A Resting Place will play again on Lehigh University’s Packer Chapel lawn at 6:00 p.m.
The play will be performed again at 1:00 p.m. Sunday at Bethlehem City Hall Plaza. A panel discussion titled “Bethlehem’s Civil War History” will follow the show from 2:45 to 4 p.m. at Moravian Museum of Bethlehem’s Gemeinhaus. The final showing of A Resting Place will take place at 6 p.m. in the Colonial Industrial Quarter. Acclaimed musician and historian David Kincaid will present a lecture on The Civil War/Cemetery Project with a discussion on Civil War Era Music from 7:45 to 9 p.m. in the Central Moravian Church Old Chapel.
It is suggested that attendees bring lawn chairs or blankets, as all performances are held outdoors, rain or shine. For more about Touchstone Theatre, visit www.touchstone.org.