Bethlehem: Theater group gets cold shoulder
The Gilbert family, who perform as "Sing for America," complained at the Feb. 5 Bethlehem City Council meeting that they are being prevented from performing at the Ice House by another organization.
The five Gilbert siblings, Taryn, Tasia, Teara, Jorne and Jewel started performing in 2004 to help raise money for military families in the Lehigh Valley. They said they had performed at the Ice House in the past, putting on performances of "Cinderella," "White Christmas" and "The Wiz," but when they tried to book the venue this year for a summer show, they were told that the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre (PYT) and the Ice House had entered a tentative ongoing contract and that Sing for America would not be able to use the facility for its performance.
Taryn Gilbert said that during "The Wiz's" run, Sing for America shared the space with the PYT, which was using the facility to hold acting camps for children. She said the PYT would use the Ice House in the morning and Sing for America would rehearse in the evenings.
"We did it together without a hitch," Taryn Gilbert said.
Taryn said Sing for America wanted to do another Christmas production this past year, but when the group went to book the venue, they were told PYT had rented it for a three-month time period.
"We accepted that they had gotten there first and we moved on," Taryn Gilbert said.
Jorne Gilbert said the group then tried to get a jump on booking its summer performance, only to find the PYT had "almost the entire summer booked." When they tried to schedule dates for 2014 they were told the PYT and Ice House had entered a tentative ongoing contract.
Jorne added that Sing for America reached out to PYT to share the space again as they had done last summer, but said PYT was "completely unwilling to share the space."
Last summer's performance of "The Wiz" consisted of 48 members and a "large pool" of students from Liberty, Freedom and Bethlehem Catholic high schools as well Easton, Dieruff and Allen.
"Our theater gives kids an outlet and teaches them the importance of service to others," Teara Gilbert said. "It's a way for experienced actors and kids who have never been on stage before alike to just further their talents."
Tasia Gilbert said the group needs only three weeks to set up, rehearse and perform.
"The Ice House is a public facility and should not be able to be booked by one organization or person for an extended period of time," Tasia Gilbert said.
Council President Eric Evans said council would look into the situation.
City Council also offered a citation to Wayne Bonney, who is retiring from the Bethlehem Fire Department after 25 years.
Bonney said it had been 25 years great years of service and it was an honor to serve the city of Bethlehem. He added that the greatest accomplishment was that no members of the fire department lost their lives during his time in the department.
"The guys we have in our department do an excellent job," Bonney said. "A lot of people don't even know we have a paid fire department in town because we usually keep our fires small and nobody realizes how effective we really are."
The next city council meeting is Feb. 19 in Town Hall.