This April, Touchstone Theatre premiers an original work entitled Ulysses Dreams: an exploration of origin and destiny on the South Bethlehem Greenway. Based on the classical text of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the play runs April 13-21 and features original music and poetic text by Jp Jordan and Christopher Shorr, as well as choreography created by Bill George, Gus Ripa, and the Touchstone creative family.
Ulysses Dreams finds the title character aged and reflecting on his legendary life. From playing by the sea in childhood, to going off to the Trojan War, to his journey home again, his dreams and visions revolve around women who altered the course of his life, including his mother, his wife, nymphs, sirens, and other gods and mortals. As he remembers, these dreams come to life before his eyes.
In addition to the core cast of Touchstone Ensemble Members and Apprentices, the company is rounded out with a number of former Touchstone collaborators and community performers, including Jack Armstrong, who starred in Touchstone's A Resting Place; Teague Fernandez, a Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Arts student; Susan Chase, a former Touchstone Ensemble Member; and Felix Mayes, a recent Muhlenberg College graduate.
"I'm particularly excited about the cast of ten, working out of doors and the effectiveness of strong visual elements in a mildly abstract style supporting a vibrant and powerful musical narrative," says Touchstone Ensemble Member and co-founder George, who plays the part of elder Ulysses; he also serves as movement director for the piece.
George adds, "Touchstone hasn't worked like this in, I don't know, over fifteen years at least. It's great to see us dusting off these techniques and taking them to another level, integrating the talents of the Ensemble into a more powerful and poetic dramatic form." Historically, Touchstone's origins are rooted in traditions of street theatre and outdoor performance. Over the years, its repertoire has grown and expanded to include community-based works, adaptations of classic texts, and fully original devised plays.
The expanded company also includes a live band of six led by Mucial Director Kevin O'Boyle (Follies), bringing the play into the world of a song cycle. The song cycle, a genre which originated in classical German music, entails a group of songs designed to be played together in sequence, and has more recently included musical entities like Pink Floyd's rock epic The Wall and the Broadway musical Songs for a New World.
Jordan, Touchstone's Artistic Director, oversees direction of the project, from co-writing the original text and music, to co-designing the production elements, to overseeing music rehearsals. "It's really amazing to see something come to life born from the imagination," Jordan says. "Hearing the band bring the music to life at band rehearsals, seeing Bill and the other actors creating and moving through the sequences... it's truly magical."
Ulysses Dreams plays April 13-21, Saturdays and Sundays at 12p and 4p, on the South Bethlehem Greenway's Amphitheatre behind Touchstone Theatre. Tickets are $25, $15 for students and seniors. Sunday at 12p, Touchstone offers Pay-What-You-Will, where patrons purchasing tickets at the door may name their own price. To purchase tickets or for more information on the project, contact Touchstone Theatre at 610-867-1689 or visit www.touchstone.org.
Celebrating over thirty years, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents both original and classic 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.