Touchstone Theatre Puts the “Story” in History with The Civil War/Cemetery Project

A Cast of 100 Community Members Connects Today’s Spirit to Those from the Past
(a press release from Touchstone Theatre)

Beneath Bethlehem’s soil lie the stories of citizens who lived through the Civil War. Touchstone Theatre has unearthed these stories to share and honor them with today’s community as part of Historic Bethlehem Partnership’s yearlong commemoration of the war’s 150th anniversary. Over the course of three days (April 13th, 14th &15th, 2012) and at nine different Bethlehem venues, Touchstone will connect the citizens of today to the spirits of those past through a new community-based play, panel discussions, and a guest lecturer. The feature play, A Resting Place, is written by Alison Carey of Oregon Shakespeare Festival and produced in partnership with Moravian College.

“Touchstone has been working on this project for three years,” said Lisa Jordan, Managing Director and an Ensemble Member. “It’s rewarding for us to see all the research and hard work come together in this celebration of Bethlehem’s deep roots in American history.”

Touchstone Theatre is offering The Civil War/Cemetery Project free to general public, and donations are welcome. The events and activities aim to gather the community in an interactive and entertaining exploration of their local history. Assisted by the art of story, enchantment of theatre, and gripping true-life accounts, the performers, panelists, and guest lecturer will lead audiences through the history of the souls that walked through Bethlehem during the Civil War.

The Civil War/Cemetery Project includes events to be held at indoor and outdoor venues including Central Moravian Church, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Bethlehem’s City Hall Plaza, and Historic Bethlehem Partnership locations. The performances of A Resting Place will be held outdoors on both North and South sides of Bethlehem.

Outdoor venues were chosen as the script developed around Dan Rice, an entertainer who actually visited Bethlehem during the Civil War with his traveling circus. 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 like no 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 alive today.

On Friday, April 13 the play A Resting Place will premier at 6 p.m. on Moravian College’s North Campus outside the Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex. Following the performance will be the Panel Discussion “How the Civil War Affects Us Today” from 7:45-9 p.m. at Moravian College’s Haupert Union Building.

Saturday, April 14 will bring another performance of A Resting Place at 1p.m. on the South Bethlehem Greenway behind Touchstone Theatre. Following the performance will be the Panel Discussion “Building Community Through Theatre” from 2:45-4 p.m. in Touchstone Theatre. A Resting Place will play again on Lehigh University’s Packer Chapel lawn at 6pm that evening.

On Sunday, April 15 there will be another performance of A Resting Place at 1 p.m. at Bethlehem City Hall Plaza. The Panel Discussion “Bethlehem’s Civil War History” will follow the show from 2:45-4 p.m. at Moravian Museum of Bethlehem’s Gemeinhaus. The final showing of A Resting Place will take place at 6 p.m. at the Colonial Industrial Quarter. Guest lecturer David Kincaid will wrap up The Civil War/Cemetery Project with a discussion on Civil War Era Music at 7:45-9 p.m. in the Central Moravian Church Old Chapel.

“The Civil War/Cemetery Project aims to restore life and pride in those who built our community long ago and those who inhabit it today by connecting us to history through stories that lie silently below our feet,” said Jp Jordan, Artistic Director and Ensemble Member. “Touchstone Theatre not only strives to entertain and educate with this production but also to inspire and excite our community with artistic experiences.”

The community can get involved by listening to podcasts that will be featured on The Civil War/Cemetery Project blog and by purchasing a project souvenir book that follows the projects creative arc.

This program has been supported in part by The National Endowment for The Arts; The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ We the People initiative on American history, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, and ArtsLehigh.

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About Touchstone

Celebrating over thirty years, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents cutting edge original productions, with a dedication to the renewal of theatre as a vital art form. Touchstone works to foster collaboration on a local and national level through educational and youth empowerment programs, using theatre as a community-building tool. Visit us on the web at www.touchstone.org

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