East Penn Press

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Exploring their ‘Voices’ at Touchstone Theatre

Friday, June 1, 2018 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

Finding balance in creativity is one of the themes of “Fresh Voices,” an annual show that caps Touchstone Theatre’s apprentice program.

The theater’s 2017-2018 apprentice Chloe Anne Madison explores challenges in the creative process and the balance between chaos and structure in her original works-in-progress, 8 p.m. June 1 and 2, Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem.

Every year, Touchstone selects emerging and transitioning artists to study with the company and learn about life with a professional ensemble theater. Apprentices are involved in every aspect of the company, including acting, stage management, playwriting, teaching, prop-making and more. During the past 19 years, more than 70 apprentices have graduated from the program with more than a decade of “Fresh Voices” productions.

“’Fresh Voices’ is one of our season favorites,” says Emma Ackerman, Touchstone Ensemble Member and apprentice coordinator. “As a long-term collaborative body, the Touchstone company is always grateful for the new ideas and new energy that our apprentices bring in. We look forward to seeing what they bring to the stage for a night of their own original theater.”

Madison’s first work is an abstract exploration of the parts of the creative process that involve letting go, breaking away from the inner critic, evolving, and constantly trying again.

“It’s been a really interesting process,” Madison says. “I never did a solo show and I wanted to give myself a challenge.”

Madison, who has trained as a poet and playwright, says that dialogue comes easy for her so she decided to force herself to create a piece focused on movement rather than dialogue.

She says her concept was facing the “stumbling blocks we put in our own way.”

“There’s a lot of collateral damage in the art-making process, and with a lot of struggles that end up being self-inflicted, it’s not a pretty or simple process,” she says. “How do you get past those?”

She says her solo piece features some physical manifestations of those stumbling blocks including tying herself up, and, ultimately, strikes a “balanced place between movement and dialogue.”

For the second work, Madison teams up with Lehigh Valley comedienne Samantha Beedle to collaboratively create a work that explores the balance between order and chaos in an artist’s life.

“Being a creative person is really chaotic and messy but you also have to have structure,” Madison says. “When inspiration fails, discipline comes through. You need to balance the two to find that creative moment.”

Beedle is an affiliate with Touchstone Theatre and “absolutely hilarious” Madison says.

“We have great chemistry,” she says. “We vibe really well.”

The collaborative piece, which has almost no dialogue, has the two characters getting in each other’s way until they realize it is best to work together.

“It’s a little puckish and mischievous,” Madison says. “There is almost a sibling dynamic.”

She says working as a Touchstone apprentice has been very rewarding.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself as an artist,” she says. “It’s also been a wonderful opportunity to ride along with Touchstone’s projects.”

During the year, Madison performed with the Touchstone ensemble in “Christmas City Follies XVIII” and “Dictators 4 Dummies,” but the highlight for her has been being involved in Young Playwrights’ Lab, a program in which the ensemble works with students to write original plays. The program culminated with the Young Playwrights’ Festival, when some of the students’ plays are produced and performed.

“I learned so much as a teaching artist,” Madison says. “Art and education are some of the most important things can give to the younger generation. It is so phenomenal that Touchstone does this and makes a point that it is important. I really admire them for that.”

Tickets: Touchstone Theatre box office, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; touchstone.org; 610-867-1689. Group rates available. Touchstone offers a pay-what-you-will ticket at the door, as available, allowing walk-up patrons to name their ticket price.