Bethlehem Press

Sunday, January 21, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOAnna Russell, Artistic Director, Allentown Public Theater; William Alexander, Jr. (Tempest Landry), “The Fall Of Heaven”; Pamela McLean Wallace, co-founder, Crowded Kitchen Players. “The Fall Of Heaven” is the first in the ”Voices Of Conscience: Toward Racial Understanding” series of which Russell and McLean Wallace are co-founders. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOAnna Russell, Artistic Director, Allentown Public Theater; William Alexander, Jr. (Tempest Landry), “The Fall Of Heaven”; Pamela McLean Wallace, co-founder, Crowded Kitchen Players. “The Fall Of Heaven” is the first in the ”Voices Of Conscience: Toward Racial Understanding” series of which Russell and McLean Wallace are co-founders.

‘Voices Of Conscience’ highlights racial understanding on area stages

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 by PAUL WILLISTEINpwillistein[AT]tnonline.com in Focus

Several Lehigh Valley theater groups have banded together for “Voices Of Conscience: Toward Racial Understanding.”

The collaboration includes Allentown Public Theatre, Selkie Productions, the Basement Poets and Mock Turtle Marionettes.

“We came up with the idea because I was so fascinated with Mosley,” says Barlieb, who with Pamela McLean Wallace co-founded Crowded Kitchen Players, presenting Walter Mosley’s “The Fall Of Heaven,” continuing 8 p.m. Nov. 13, 14; 3 p.m. Nov. 15, Fellowship Hall, Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem. “The Fall Of Heaven” is about being black in America.

Barlieb ran into Allentown Public Theatre board member Rochelle Freedman and a discussion ensued about a lack of area theater productions with black themes. Freedman spoke to the APT board and she, Anna Russell, Artistic Director, Allentown Public Theater, and Wallace, Barlieb and Freedman met and came up with the idea of a series that could enlist other theater companies.

A Sept. 13 meeting included Doug Roysdon of Mock Turtle Marionettes, George Miller and Kate Scuffle of Selkie Theater, and Susan Weaver, Board President, Allentown Public Theatre.

“Anna Russell has been the one carrying the torch on this and helping to light a fire under other regional theaters and artists. She came up with the name ‘Voices Of Conscience,’” Barlieb says.

“I think it’s just such an exciting thing that so many people in the area are excited about it. We didn’t really have to push too hard. It seems like there was a lot of interest already in the topic,” says Russell, who has been artistic director of Allentown Public Theatre since June. She was a Touchstone Theatre 2014-15 season apprentice and a teaching assistant for Valley Actors Lab, a Touchstone Theatre-Allentown Public Theatre collaboration founded by Bill George, co-founder, Touchstone Theatre, and Joshua Neth, founder and artistic director of Allentown Public Theatre for seven years.

“I really hope it helps to raise awareness and sensitivity around some of these issues,” Russell says. “And I hope it helps people have conversations that they otherwise wouldn’t have about difficult issues.”

Russell notes that the “Voices Of Conscience” web site was launched Nov. 4: lehighvoc.com

“The goal is to try to have something on the calendar throughout the year on this subject,” says Barlieb. “There’s no rigid organization. The theater companies are coming up with their own selection of material.” Theater groups may join the initiative at any time.

“The value of this is that when people see a ‘Voices Of Conscience’ production, they might say, ‘I really liked this,’ Barlieb says, “and might attend others in the series,” adding, “One of the things that is really significant about this is, as humble as the series may be, it might be the first time theater companies in the area are working together on a common theme.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for this to have an end date,” says Barlieb of the “Voices Of Conscience” series, adding, “We’re not going to solve the problems of racial discrimination, so I don’t think we’re ever going to run out of timely material.”

In addition to “The Fall Of Heaven,” the “Voices Of Conscience” series included “Exhibit A,” an original play by Christopher Shorr and Sam Weinberg about issues of identity, presented Nov. 5 - 8 by the Moravian College Theatre Department.

Upcoming in the “Voices Of Conscience” series:

“Identify Showcase,” Basement Poetry group, 4 p.m. Nov. 14, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem

“Violet,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 18, 19, 20; 2 p.m. Nov. 15, Lehigh University Theatre Department, Diamond Theatre, Zoellner Arts Center

Performance, discussion, December; February, June 2016, Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting House, Hanover Township

“Identify,” Jan. 8, 2016, Basement Poetry, “Ice House Tonight” series, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem

“This Light Of Ours: Activist Photographers Of The Civil Rights Movement,” Jan. 17 - May 15, 2016, Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley

“Topdog, Underdog,” Allentown Public Theatre, “Theatre Cafe” reading series, Susan Lori Parks play, Feb. 16, 2016, Hava Java Cafe, Allentown

“Spirituals, Stories And Songs,” February 2016, Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre with Grace Hochella, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem

“Gem Of The Ocean,” 7:30 p.m. April 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16; 2 p.m. April 10, Lehigh University Theatre Department, Diamond Theatre, Zoellner Arts Center

“The Island,” April 23, 24, 30; May 1, 7, 8, 2016, Allentown Public Theatre production of Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona’s play about South African Apartheid through the lens of two political prisoners rehearsing the Greek tragedy “Antigone,” with location to be announced.

Kim and Reggie Harris, 2016, Godfrey Daniels, Bethlehem

Confederate Flag Discussion, Spring 2016, Bethlehem Area Public Library

To have your theater production considered for inclusion in the “Voices Of Conscience” series and for information, contact: Anna Russell, anna@allentownpublictheatre.com, 717-715-9655

“Voices Of Conscience” web site: lehighvoc.com