A summer with no song, no dance and no celebration

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The Center for the Arts. Photo used with permission of Muhlenberg Office of Communications.

Even as the world continues to adapt and change with the COVID-19 pandemic and more vaccines become available, the need to remain safe and cautious has left another Summer Music Theatre (SMT) season in the cold at Muhlenberg College. The lively and fun ‘Berg event saw various shows produced by the Muhlenberg theatre and dance department, with new talent and alumni artists highlighted. In years past, “Bring it On,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Anything Goes and more have graced the stage and delighted audiences. The 40th season for the Summer Series would have taken place in 2020, with an exciting lineup, including “Legally Blonde,” “The Comedy of Wizards” (World Premiere) and “The Legend of New York” (World Premiere). 

When the shows were announced, Charles Richter, founding artistic director, declared, “I’m thrilled to celebrate our 40th summer season. Our mission is the same as it was when we started back in 1981: bring the great works of the musical theatre repertoire to the residents of the Lehigh Valley in high-quality productions. We couldn’t do it without the support of our community.” 

The SMT shows are more than just spectacles for viewers, as they are also important experiences for the performers, allowing them to grow and bond with other artists. The performances are a great opportunity for alumni to return to ‘Berg and showcase their talents once more. Frankie Grande ‘05 returned to the Muhlenberg stage for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Tryingin 2018, one of the many alumni to be welcomed back home. 

The summer term is still being utilized by Muhlenberg to offer various courses to students, as well as for the faculty and staff to prepare for the fall semester.

Scott Snyder, the theatre & dance department’s marketing and development manager, mentioned, “In terms of operations, I hate to say that losing programming and opportunities was in any way fortunate, but last summer it was in many ways fortunate that the administrative staff was able to concentrate on preparations for the current school year. There were so many logistics that needed to be nailed down for the fall, from cleaning protocols to Zoom arrangements, to unprecedented course scheduling, and Jess Bien, the general manager, more than had her hands full.” 

Additionally, this year comes with even newer changes for the theatre and dance department at ‘Berg with a new position, the director of the co-curricular/production program, which provides new and exciting opportunities for students to have their voices heard. The position will be filled by Rebecca Lustig for this upcoming academic year and allow for students to share their opinions and make sure the College provides more diverse show selections which reflect them. The theatre & dance department will also welcome a new audience and company services manager and three new tenure-track positions for theatre scholars, with one specializing in scenic design. At the heart of the management system, there will remain a chair of dance and chair of theatre, a proposition of which the department and the College were in agreement. 

The Muhlenberg theatre and dance department has also offered various opportunities outside of the classroom, such as working at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a space for artists to practice their craft in an outdoor setting. Or, one might decide to strengthen their theatrical skills in a more traditional space with the Hangar Theatre Company. Muhlenberg Theatre and Dance is still looking out for their students and offering them various opportunities. While Summer Music Theatre will be missed for a multitude of reasons and the beautiful artistic process between various people will have to wait for the fall, exciting and new developments are still taking place within the theatre and dance department. 

Students will have their voices heard thanks to the addition of the director of the co-curricular/production program position and the in-person experiences will be open to students for the fall 2021 semester. Theatre and dance students will just have more to look forward to this upcoming academic year, and for the return of SMT. Liliane Gering ‘21 reflected on her personal experiences with SMT and how she was able to be a part of a beautiful and professional experience with various artists. 

Gering said, “I hope that theater and dance students are able to find those same feelings within the department and their peers throughout the year, even without the shows! I also hope that students who have had the opportunity to participate in SMT can use their experience in whatever else they choose to do, and students who never had the chance can find that experience for themselves through other productions!”

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