Never enough H. D.! Thursday, February 13, 6:30-7:45, BAPL South Side

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Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Never enough H. D.!

HD discussion

And Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre’s original play The Secret about H. D., which premiered during Festival UnBound in October, returns April 2-5. Get your tickets early! Don’t miss!
Touchstone Theatre

ABE Awards for Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound productions

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Huzzas, high-fives, hugs, handshakes, and honkings are in order for dramatic elements of Touchstone Theatre’s 10-day festival this fall that occasioned a near record 77 posts here on Gadfly.

Well done!

“The Secret” — the play about Bethlehem-born poet H. D. — returns to Touchstone April 2-5.

Paul Willistein, “14th annual ABEs Salute Lehigh Valley Stage: From plays to musicals, theater unbound in 2019.” Bethlehem Press, January 3, 2020.

Producer: Touchstone Theatre. “Festival UnBound,” the multimedia project two years in the making, produced some 20 events and ran 10 days in October 2019. The festival took a measure of Bethlehem’s southside 20 years after Touchstone’s landmark “Steelbouund” production when SteelStacks was a twinkle in the Christmas City star. It was a big year for Touchstone Theatre, which also produced a terrific 20th production of “Christmas City Follies.”

Play: “The Secret,” Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. The world premiere about H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Bethlehem native and poet, during “Festival UnBound” was part of “Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle,” a year-long series of events organized by the Lehigh University English Department, Bethlehem Area Public Library, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre. Doug Roysdon, Artistic Director, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, was chief writer of the multimedia performance that mixes narrative, song, music, poetry, puppets and actors. Script collaborators were Jennie Gilrain, William Reichard-Flynn, Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, Matilda Snyder, Kalyani Singh and Seth Moglen.

Original Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. “Prometheus/Redux” was the astounding opening work of “Festival UnBound.” “Prometheus/Redux,” commissioned for “Festival UnBound,” is written by Gerald Stropnicky, a founding member of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, and directed by Christopher Shorr, Touchstone ensemble member and director of theater at Moravian College. Music is by Harry Mann. Images and footage from the Steelworkers Archives are incorporated into the work as is an image of the implosion of Martin Tower, former Bethlehem Steel Corp. headquarters.

Ensemble, Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. Touchstone Theatre cofounder and ensemble member Bill George returned as Prometheus. It’s 20 years after he left The Steel and now, instead of being chained to the ladle, he is bound to a hospital bed, suffering liver failure. The cast included former steelworkers, a county judge and members of previous generations of the Touchstone ensemble.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

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“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Giving thanks: for those who license us to dream

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We have gathered today in the spirit of community to rise up and embrace the  possibilities of our future.

And what amazing possibilities they are.

They shine like a piece of polished Bethlehem steel.

They shine like our lights at Christmas time.

They shine like the Star of Bethlehem itself.

You see, for generations, Bethlehem defined itself through its pride of industry through Bethlehem Steel,

But for the last twenty years we have found so many new ways to define ourselves.

We can be anything we want to be.

We are free to dream.

We are unBound!

In this “Festival UnBound,” we will come together for a week of celebration and exploration.

Celebration of this wonderful community,

And exploration of just what kind of a future we want for ourselves.

Throughout the week we will share our dreams of the future,

and then like. like a message in a balloon,

we will send our dreams out into the world,

because those dreams, our dreams, make a difference!

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Giving thanks: for good Bethlehem people

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There was soooo much in Festival UnBound! Here we are two months later, and Gadfly has still not exhausted the file of good things he wanted to share with you. What better time than the day on which we “officially” pause to give thanks to our blessings to bring you some more clips of the wonderful people who participated in the Festival.

Here is the fourth installment showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.

The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Yalitza Corcino-Davis is one of the first women in her family to graduate from college, an uphill battle, for she remembers the family response to her distress at receiving a low first-year college grade to be that it doesn’t matter for she would get married and not use her education. Which broke her heart, especially knowing that her aunt, mother, and grandmother all had “dreams” that they had to give up. Her dean, however, would not sign her drop-out letter, and now, based on her own experience, she works to empower students to succeed in the college environment.

Phyllis Alexander describes coming from a culture so hated that white people sold their houses simply because she and a small group of black students walked by on their way to the predominantly white school. That hate framed her life. She became a civil rights activist at age 14, making a decision to change her environment. The need to resist has been central to her life, and she can point to “allies” that made a difference. A big moment was realizing that she had to resist what she had internalized. So her message: resist that which you have within you that makes you fear the Other.

 

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More UnBound voices

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Gadfly is still culling the treasures in his Festival UnBound files. So much there.

One of the things he was especially pleased with and impressed by during the Festival was the participation of our elected officials and City administrators. He said so during public comment at a Council meeting.

Councilman Reynolds chaired a panel. Councilwoman Van Wirt appeared on one that we just recently highlighted here with a video of her segment.

Darlene Heller was part of the Sustainability Forum that, unfortunately, he couldn’t attend.

Here Gadfly would like to call attention to the participation by Alicia Miller Karner, our Director of Community and Economic Development and Councilwoman Olga Negron.

These very short clips are especially welcome. If we get to hear City administrators speak, it’s usually about “business.” Ugh. Here we get to hear Alicia “as a person.” And CW Negron, well, she’s not one to speak overmuch at Council. She’s not one of those elected officials that Gadfly calls “wind demons.” So it’s good to hear her warm voice more as well.

The participation of all of these people indicates not only their personal commitment to the future of Bethlehem — the ambitious purpose of the Festival — but how that participation was valued by the festival organizers.

A tip o’ the hat!

Be sure to give a listen.

———–

Alicia Miller Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development

  • “As a community we are continuing to rely on technology, on social media, on different ways of interacting . . . you have to put effort into coming out and interacting.”
  • “The best is still yet to come.”
  • “In my job, I spend a lot of time with those questions of how do we not leave them behind.”
  • “[Responding to the question by another panelist: What am I going to do with my anger?] Honoring the anger stuck with me more.”
  • “[Responding to a comment about lack of diversity in City Hall] Very male. Many times I am the only female in the room.”

Olga Negron, Bethlehem Councilwoman

  • We hear that she once made a living sewing for the theater and the return to that in the Prometheus play “grounded” her again.
  • “It’s up to us. It shouldn’t be up to the Mayor, it shouldn’t be up to the Administration, or even to us in City Council — it’s our community, and to me [the play is] a call to be involved, to be engaged.”
  • “I’m always looking forward to listen to my emails, my phone calls, conversations . . . we cannot just sit down and watch, we have to be participants.”
  • “We need to be more humble, learn to embrace, and, you know, encourage us to invite others that might not look like us or speak like us so that we can move forward in the community some of us might be wishing, dreaming of.”

Bravo!

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More wonderful Bethlehem women

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The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Gadfly is not done with showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a Festival Unbound performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. You will remember from our two previous installments here that moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.

Emily Santana, a woman from a modest household who dreamed of impossible things and, when accepted to college, was told by someone very, very close to her, “O, wow, I didn’t realize you would amount to something” — causing her to think about who decides your value, and about challenging expectations people have, not just of her, but any category of person, especially of our children.

Margaret Kavanagh –who has “a little job,” is “just a custodian” and doesn’t “know why I am here” — tells kids to be kind, help each other out, and if you can’t do random acts of kindness, “just don’t be a jerk.” Margaret  beats herself up sometimes but has an awesome therapist. Advice: be a positive influence on people around you.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

More stories of Bethlehem women in leadership roles: stereotypes and epiphanies

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The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?” 

Here are two more participants on the panel that followed a Festival Unbound performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Gadfly should have said last time that short biographies of these women can be found here.

Nancy Matos Gonzalez ran into the generational wall that college is for the boys but was fortunate to meet a woman who acted as her advocate and mentor. When running for office, she realized that she had to work harder after a man told her that Puerto Rican women are only interested in sex and their men are all on drugs.

Dr. Paige Van Wirt’s story is a story of epiphanies, one saying “O, my god, that’s my path” out of a soul-crushing job as a bond analyst after watching a movie in which a woman wants to be a doctor, and the another saying “I can do that” after leaving a City Council meeting angry and outraged.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Bethlehem women talk of efforts to follow “their music”

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The Secret

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise.” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?’ 

Gadfly loves the voices, the stories of our residents, and there was no better place to hear them than at the panels that followed Festival Unbound performances, such as after “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life.

Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.”

Here are the first two.

Abriana Ferrari, who’s been laughed at, told she is not smart enough, too innocent, too young to follow her music, that is, becoming an environmental lawyer with a desire to “help heal the scars that we are implanting on our planet.”

Mary C. Foltz talks of finding a group that enabled her to let go of shame and doubt when in college she was struggling with her sexual identity and how now she is most interested in institutional and structural change that will benefit women in our community having to do with reproductive justice: IVF,  adoption, childcare for low-paid workers, care for children in general.

to be continued . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Diversity at City Hall: “Who’s sitting in the decision table?”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

“In the first two decades, the Moravians built a racially integrated city.”
(Seth Moglen)

When you hear “a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Minister walk into a bar,” prepare for a joke.

When you hear a Latino man, an African American woman, and a White woman are discussing diversity, prepare for an indictment.

Such happened in the middle of the panel discussion following the “Hidden Seed” performance during Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound.

“Who’s sitting in the decision table?” asked LM, “if you don’t have the diversity in the decision table, it’s no diversity at all.” “Take, for example, the City Hall here in Bethlehem, ok,” followed AAW, “tell us about the diversity in City Hall [pause], there’s hardly any diversity in City Hall. . . . It’s all white most of the time. . . . So when you’re talking about how can we change our city, well, I think our City Hall needs to be reflective of the people, the composition should include the people of the community. . . . It is very, very, very Anglo.” “And very male,” adds WW, “many times I’m in the room, I’m the only female in the room in City Hall. . . . I get very tired having to explain that I think differently . . . I entertain ideas differently, and it’s almost that I got to justify. . . . It is absolutely an unconscious bias. . . . In the business community, in government, it’s a challenge.”

Short exchange, long in ramification.

Elections are on Gadfly’s mind today as you can see from the previous two posts.

Some random thoughts to chew on as we think about the role future elections play in furthering the goal of a more diverse city:

  • Should diversity start at the top?
  • What would a photo of the Mayor’s staff meeting show?
  • Are we getting close to a woman mayor?
  • We have three female councilpersons — a record number?
  • Can we imagine more, even a totally female Council?
  • We have Latino representation on Council — sufficient?
  • Has there ever been an African American on Council?
  • Has there ever been an African American running for Council?
  • Does a range, a balance of race and gender and heritage in our elected officials matter?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Fireflies in the summer.

What a beautiful image.

Poetic, really.

What a horrible thought.

Apocalyptic, really.

Spoken by an African American Political Science professor almost at the end of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s play “Hidden Seed.”

In a very real sense the 10-day festival can be thought of as an orgy of good feeling. You couldn’t be on Payrow Plaza that last perfectly weathered night without experiencing the orgasmic release of (channeling Walt Whitman) long pent-up aching rivers of love for and empathy with our Bethlehem brothers and sisters. All our brothers and sisters. “Of every hue and caste am I,” Whitman chanted in his democratic ecstasy.

When our antic ringmaster proclaimed “We love you, Bethlehem!” we were one.

When we lit our candles on the parapet and peered into the City’s navel, we signed on to a kind of suicide mission.

By god, we are going to make this town a better place  — or else!

But 17 days past that almost cult-like charisma, a firm, sober voice from the “Hidden Seed” back row naggingly nips at Gadfly’s optimism like a speck in the eye or a pebble in a shoe.

  • “I don’t know where we are.”
  • “I thought we were further along on this path.”
  • “I’m a political science professor.”
  • “The last election and everything that’s happened since then has totally messed with how far along I thought we were.”
  • “The path I thought we were moving along in the right direction as far as inclusion as far as accepting others.
  • “And now I find that maybe a third to maybe forty percent of the people in this country have a very different idea than I do.”
  • “What I got from this play was that there are these bursts , it seems, of activity, and maybe things don’t work out, and then maybe somewhere else there’s another burst, and maybe that’s the way it is.
  • “And maybe you can’t really think of it as linear progression from bad to better.”
  • “Maybe it’s just like, I don’t know, like fireflies in the summer, just be a light here and a light there.”
  • “Maybe that’s the way it is.”

An African American who’s “lost.”

Progress — random, illusory.

Maybe the long arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice.

Maybe on that parapet we were just one more firefly burst briefly adorning the darkness.

Say it ain’t so.

Gadfly has to believe in progress, has to believe in the steady ascent of human kind from the brutal forms fighting over a water-hole in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Has to believe that democracy is ever in the making.

The title of Lehigh professor Stephanie Powell Watts’ novel Nobody’s Going to Save Us was invoked many times during the festival.

Maybe what we will most need to save ourselves from is . . . our own doubt.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Not “Yes, but” but “Yes, and”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

There’s a dramatic moment right in the middle of the panel discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed” performance at which moderator Jennie Gilrain turns passionately to the actress who plays Margaret, the Moravian woman, and exclaims:

The message for us in Jennie’s mock-violent impulse is strong.

Can anyone doubt that our national culture is fractured along racial lines?

Is there anyone who doesn’t want our hometown to welcome diversity, to be  characterized by more equality and community — the focal topics of the panel discussion?

We had that kind of town . . . in the beginning . . . for a brief time.

“In the first two decades,” says play author-historian Seth Moglen, “the Moravians built a racially integrated city that abolished poverty, shared wealth equally, emancipated women to be leaders, and provided free education, health care, child care, and elder care to all.”

“A racially integrated city.”

That’s our forgotten utopia.

That’s our present dream.

Listen to Margaret:

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The Bethlehem utopia attracted the young Margaret. It was a place where she loved her Native sisters. However, when Margaret is confronted by her Native and African sisters with the failure of that utopia, she bobs and weaves, she stammers, she excuses, she evades, she backpedals, she blames, she rationalizes, she avoids, she repels.

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We had a City on a Hill, but . . . but . . . but.

In short, see Margaret, the white woman, full of “yes, buts.”

Over and over again.

And Jennie wants to wring her neck

because she sees herself in Margaret.

Exactly.

Doesn’t that plant an arrow to the future equitable community that we in Bethlehem want?

The road to that ideal city is paved with our recognition and consequent action.

“Yes, and now what?” should be our motto.

Enough of bobbing and weaving.

The Festival was about identifying and pursuing the “what(s).”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Festival UnBound’s “Hidden Seed”: “it took me hours to download”

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Hidden Seed: Bethlehem’s Forgotten Utopia

Our Moravian history was a lot more complicated than the tourist guides let on.

Do you know about the Moravian massacre of Native Americans at Gnadenhutten?

Do you know that there were slaves in Bethlehem?

That’s the terrible knowledge that a ticket to Touchstone’s Festival UnBound play bought for us.

Three 18th century female Bethlehem ghosts — a formerly enslaved West African woman, a Native American woman, and one of the original Moravian immigrants from Europe — agree to tell everything, the whole story not just the happy parts, without lying.

This raising of History’s skirt, which Gadfly witnessed in Sisters House and characterized as a spiritual experience like going to Mass in the Catacombs, was the toughest of the Festival’s three dramatic events for him to bear.

Olga Negron found just the right words. “It took me hours to download,” she said, “It was heavy. My partner and I were driving home like quiet. We even went for a walk.”

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” the poet says.

Walk it off, my racially comfortable Bethlehemites, if you can.

Given the disturbing nature of the core dramatic tension in the play, it was not surprising that the post-performance panel discussion was, for Gadfly, the most challenging.

Moderator Jennie Gilrain prepped panelists (Olga Negron, Javier Torres, Alicia Miller Karner, Winston Alozi, Berto, Stephanie Powell Watts, and the three actors) to pick and choose among three questions:

What kind(?) of equality and community do we want in the City of Bethlehem today?

What’s holding us back? What’s preventing us from cultivating more equality and community?

What can we learn from the experience of the City’s 18th century Founders explored in the play?

Following past practice, Gadfly offers you here the entire discussion, suggesting that you listen your way through first. And then we’ll come back and focus on and think about specific sections.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre joint program

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This Moravian professor, whose name Gadfly doesn’t know, alerted us during discussion after Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” of a partnership between Moravian and Touchstone Theatre.

MFA in Performance Creation

“The partnership between Moravian College and Touchstone Theatre creates a bridge between the College and the professional theatre, and between the College and our local community.”

Brand-new program that Gadfly knew nothing about: the first cohort of students began last August.

Touchstone, we know, specializes in “socially engaged performance creation and community-based work,” and this program with Moravian will enhance its people resources while spreading its mission.

Gadfly has always said that Touchstone Theatre is one of Bethlehem’s treasures. Now it will help train treasure-makers for other communities.

“I’m a college professor and a professional theatre artist. As a member of both the Touchstone Theatre company and the Moravian College faculty, I’ve been able to build a bridge between the two institutions that gives our students terrific opportunities. When college students take what they learn in the classroom and see it applied out in the world, it sinks in. We want to give them a head start, so that when they graduate they are to hit the ground running.”

–Christopher Shorr, Director of Theatre  

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“If history informs anything . . . we have a strong foundation to be able to address the issues that are facing us today”

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I hear we are speaking about history this morning.

  • “The heritage of the Southside especially was that it was a wildly divergent population.”
  • “So what you need to understand about Bethlehem is that it is founded by and large by an immigrant population.”
  • From it’s very start it’s an immigrant population community, and it served and it fostered immigrant populations and divergent racial populations for its entire history.”
  • “That is our heritage; that is our legacy.”
  • “And this is a legacy that can continue to be developed in some strategic fashion.”
  • “It’s hard for us to understand — there’s so many social, political, etc. problems that are facing us, but I will just say if history informs anything that we have a strong foundation to be able to address the issues that are facing us today.”
  • “We can figure out a way to build on our strengths, which includes our history and our heritage.”

From the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event by a woman whom, unfortunately, Gadfly doesn’t know.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“I feel that there’s a huge void about the history of the Steel”

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Speaking of history to celebrate as per the previous post about the good visitor from Allentown.

More fertile thoughts from the panel after Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

We have the National Museum of Industrial History, but Geoff Gehman sees a resource much more specific filling a void in historical knowledge about Bethlehem Steel and providing a valuable educational tool.

  • “One of the things I’d like to see is a dedicated museum.”
  • “Having a dedicated museum that talks about the Steel as a community that was integrated workwise and segregated socially.”
  • “. . . integrate that into the curriculum of the schools.”
  • “Not a bad way to start getting kids early and then hopefully influencing the parents and other generations too.”
  • “I feel that there’s a huge void about the history of the Steel.”
  • “It’s rich as hell.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Bethlehem has history to celebrate . . . We always come to Bethlehem”

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One of Gadfly’s major heroes is Thoreau, you know, the guy who went to live in the woods (though the meaning of that “sojourn,” as he called it, is most often misunderstood).

Thoreau loved mornings.

“The Morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour . . . All intelligences awake with the morning.”

Gadfly loves Monday morning especially — new week, new beginning, rebirth.

Gadfly has three first-semester college grandchildren right now.

He writes them cheerleading emails every Monday morning, urging them to awake with the morning of the week and to do well.

Here’s a cheerleading Monday morning message for you.

From an Allentown visitor to Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound “Prometheus / Redux” play.

  • “As much as you need to know where you’re going, and that’s so important, I think to keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished.”
  • “You guys have it together.”
  • “You give us art, you give us community.”
  • “We in Allentown wonder why they can’t do it better.”
  • “Bethlehem has history to celebrate; Allentown was a banking community.”
  • “You can’t celebrate banking.”
  • “We’re from Allentown . . . We always come to Bethlehem.”

Gadfly loves the voices of “real” people. That’s why he tries to amplify them so much in these pages.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

Youth exodus, slum landlords, the township, low-interest loans

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Gadfly’s video ran out, but Jennie Gilrain’s comments at the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event that we just posted spurred a thoughtful five minutes of related comment from four audience members that he was able to capture on audio.

“We need to keep our young people here”

Interesting question. How many of us have children over 20?  And how many of those children are still living in Bethlehem?

“We have a whole bunch of landlords who live in New Jersey
who are slum lords”

We have people living in poverty situations in apartments that cost a fortune, so they can’t save enough to buy a house, forcing them to live in multi-family situations. Part of that is the result of being a college town. We’ve made it unaffordable for people to live here and live a decent life.

“But people in my age bracket, they’ve already committed to the notion of a starter home and a next home, and the next home isn’t in Bethlehem”

It was never a question when I got married that we would live in Bethlehem. My parents never had to leave their house. But there is a push to keep up with the Joneses and move further away in the younger age-bracket.

“[Low-interest, down payment loans] that’s the sort of thing
that could be arranged”

See the example of Chicago partnering with Loyola University. Some people are trying to do this, like TD Bank on the Southside. We must find ways for people to buy homes and not rent from the landlords from New Jersey.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Why don’t people want to come live on the Southside?”

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Unfortunately, Gadfly doesn’t have it on video, but there is a moment while Festival UnBound’s Jennie Gilrain (director of “The Secret”) is doing moderator duty after the “Hidden Seed” play in which she bounds, bounces, twirls, flies from one side of the stage to the other.

Her body dances.

Her mind does too.

Her opening anecdote here will fix your attention on something rather profound.

What do you think about her question?

It’s about more than just our Southside.

  • “Where do you live?”
  • “I’m used to being asked where are you from.”
  • “Deeply ingrained in our American psyche is this idea that where you live defines your status.”
  • “People keep trying to move farther and farther away from each other.”
  • “What is it about moving away from the center of town?
  • “Why do we keep wanting more space, bigger, bigger yards?”
  • “Why do we have to keep building houses in the fields, as John Gorka says.” ***
  • “Why don’t people want to come live on the Southside?”
  • “Why don’t people want to come back and be crowded and close together?”
  • “That’s a real question and not a judgment.”

*** Jennie refers to Gorka’s “Houses in the Fields,” performed here recently and here in original video. Gorka attended Moravian and started his folk singing career at Godfrey Daniels. “Houses” is said to be about his family home on Freemansburg Avenue.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“We have to have public transportation available”

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When was the last time you took a bus?

Maybe the better question is, have you ever taken a bus?

Not only are we not quite a walking community, but we are not a viable public transportation community either as well.

Silagh White laments.

  • “How many people drove their car here tonight?”
  • “One of the things that is part of the divide is accessible public transportation.”
  • “I would love to take public transportation; it does not work for my life.”
  • ‘If you have not been listening to what the kids are saying about our future, and we don’t start changing our own personal behaviors, we are just as much a part of the problem.”
  • “But it’s impossible to change our behaviors if we don’t have the opportunity to do that as a society .”
  • “We have to do more; we have to have public transportation available, so that the food deserts don’t mean as much any more — people can actually get to places.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community”

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He confessed it. Total admission. Put it right out there. No hiding.

“I love to walk.”

That was Wally Trimble at the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

“Hear, Hear,” a flock of Gadfly followers assented, “We’ll drink to that!”

Much on our minds on this blog.

But a ways to go, says Wally.

  • “I love to walk.”
  • “I wish it were a more walkable community.”
  • “We have a great trail system . . .”
  • “Our crosswalks seem designed as kill zones.”
  • “There are a lot of really dangerous places . . . “
  • “The best way to see [our] neighborhoods is to walk.”
  • “It makes us feel better just to talk with a stranger.”
  • “If everybody was out walking around and talking with each other . . .”
  • “What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town”

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After that discussion of “place” in Bethlehem, Sharon Brown guided the denizens of Godfrey Daniels after the Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” performance to the topic of “race” with this startling statement:

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town.”

  • “It’s important to have a presence.”
  • “If you don’t have a presence, you can’t make a change, and nobody is going to invite you to the table to have a conversation.”
  • I’m continuing to think about as we look into the future how do we engage and make our world a truly more inclusive community.”
  • “How do I and others and other allies help to get folks to develop a critical consciousness, so that when you are doing a program you are making sure that you are including The Other and whoever that Other is at the table in the performance.”
  • “We have to do better.”
  • “After being here all these years, it is still a majority community governed by majority people, and all the Arts are still majority dominated and don’t engage other voices to be at the table.”
  • “It’s as though there’s this invisibility that occurs.”
  • “Where are the people who look like me?”
  • “Since we have this conversation, remember that there is a level of invisibility that exists throughout the entire Lehigh Valley but especially in Bethlehem no matter what side you are on.”

The audience went quiet for a bit, as if in thought.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Do you think this is a city of two cities?”

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A quiet voice fairly timidly took the mic:

“I have a question . . . do you think this is a city of two cities?

And thus began in earnest the discussion after “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers.”

The room got right to the question of identity that we sometimes seem unable to settle.

Are we the tale of two cities?

Are we the wail of two cities?

Northside and Southside–

And the conversation jumped quickly to an even greater multiplicity of cities within our city!

  • “There are three sides of town: Northside, Southside, and Lehigh.”
  • “There’s the Eastside . . . another neighborhood that everybody forgets.”
  • “In any town, there are many towns . . . for any town, any community to go forward, it has to recognize it’s a good thing and a bad thing that there are more than one town in that town . . . It can be diversity and opportunity if we recognize and try to bring those communities together and take strength from that rather than trouble.”

Ahhh, this is a rich subject that you must have some feelings about.

Lehigh as a third side of town?

Badaboom!

Share?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Nobody’s going to save us . . . we’re going to have to fight for our community”: the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” panel

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So Gadfly set up for you the panel conversations about the future of Bethlehem after Festival UnBound’s “Prometheus / Redux” and “The Secret.”

Here we’ll introduce the panel and significant audience participation of the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event and in a following post the panel after “Hidden Seed,” which Gadfly almost forgot about since he didn’t get any video.

Gadfly is first setting these panels up for you and then will come back for closer looks.

PT&T at the intimate Godfrey Daniels on 4th St. was an hour or so of original music by Godfrey Danielslocal folk singers and composers that was followed by a like amount of time for a panel with audience participation.

Panel members were Bill George (Touchstone wizard), Bob Watts (poet, Lehigh U English Department), Paul Walsh (Charter Arts Artistic Director), Geoff Gehman (arts journalist), and Anne Hills (folk singer).

In setting up the first two panels, we’ve heard shorthand descriptions of the guiding purpose of the entire Festival as generating “a sense of ‘we’ that we have never accomplished before” and envisioning “how we move forward as people committed to building a better Bethlehem.”

Here Bill George frames once again the first principles and principal motivation for the massive 10-day Festival.

  • “The purpose is to use our art as a way of bringing us together to express our feelings and thoughts about who we are as individuals and as a community and somehow where we’re going and to help it generate conversation among ourselves as to what kind of community we really want.”
  • “Like Stephanie’s [Stephanie Watts] novel, nobody’s coming to save us.”
  • “This music . . . calls us to understand that we have a job if we want this town, that we want our community, we’re going to have to fight for it, and the fight isn’t really with other people, it’s with ourselves not just to sit back and let it go.”

Much more on this event in later posts.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten