37th season ‘Leaps’ to Touchstone Theatre stage
For Touchstone artistic director Jp Jordan, the inclusion of “Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes” into the roster of plays being performed for the 2017-18 season at Touchstone Theater was a no-brainer.
“I’m interested in anything right now that speaks to the goodness of human nature,” Jordan explains. “‘Jakopa’s Processional’ [Touchstone’s summer 2017 outdoors production] spoke to joy and the community.
“This [‘Leaps of Faith’] speaks to faith in the same way and works to elevate it to a place that allows for us to see ourselves and each other as similar. I hope that any piece of art that I put on the stage reflects on what the meaningful things in life are,” says Jordan.
The Almanac Dance Circus Theatre performs “Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes,” 8 p.m. Sept. 28-30 and 2 p.m. Oct. 1 to open the 37th season at Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem.
The season continues Nov. 30-Dec. 22 with Touchstone’s beloved classic variety show for the holidays, “Christmas City Follies,” in its 18th iteration. Touchstone presents renowned Happenstance Theatre, based out of Washington D.C., with an upbeat, absurdist romp, ”BrouHaHa,” Feb. 1-4, 2018. Touchstone Ensemble Member Christopher Shorr unveils a new musical told through biting satire and witty music, “Dictators for Dummies.” April 5-15.
“This season, we’ll be introducing our audiences to two amazing companies that have never performed in our community before. It’s exciting to be able to bring new artists into the Lehigh Valley,” says Jordan. “That coupled with everything else going on, including a new original production penned by Ensemble Member Christopher Shorr, will make this an action-packed year.”
In addition to its mainstage season, Touchstone will feature a number of special events: “Jakopa’s Punch Bowl,” a Mardi Gras-themed musical revel of a fundraiser, Feb. 9; “The Young Playwrights’ Festival & Gala,” an annual celebration of elementary, middle, and high school playwrights in the Lehigh Valley, May 12, and “Fresh Voices,” a showcase performance and peek into the creative process with Touchstone’s apprentice corps. June 1 and 2.
Jordan was introduced to “Leaps of Faith” through a video of the work’s debut in 2014.
“I’ve seen a video of the entire performance, which they filmed as a part of the original production. In many ways, it was that video that drew me to the project. It was clear from watching it that these people are super talented,” Jordan says.
Touchstone Theatre and the Almanac Dance Circus Theatre have worked together in the past on a few other projects, which helped to solidify the season-opening performance.
“I was turned on to these performers, who are out of Philadelphia, and we have been familiar with their work. We were looking at their work because of the circus festival [‘Cirque It’] at Touchstone this summer. So, I knew I wanted to have more circus-related work.”
As the name of the company and images of the performance suggest, “Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes” involves a fair amount of acrobatics and physical feats, working to accentuate the themes and narrative of the work.
“A big part of this play will feature that kind of thing. Touchstone was founded by Bill George, who has always had a history of physical theater. This piece works to highlight the acts of strength and acrobatics that can only be found in the theater,” Jordan says.
Many productions may feature odd and occasionally silly props, and “Leaps of Faith” is no exception. The progression of the story heavily focuses on a “trusty sofa” as a means of transportation and to enable some of the acrobatics.
“The sofa is a wonderful kind of thing to watch them use. It’s utilized in the play to support the idea and theme of comfort, but also as a tool for physical theater, which makes it interesting both on a metaphorically and physically level,” says Jordan.
While “Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes” features original music, the play is not a musical. Instead, the songs are used for atmospheric purposes, helping to set the stage and background the story.
As the title suggests, “Leaps of Faith” looks to touch on the ideas of what faith is and how mistakes are important in our lives.
“The only way to get further in life is to have faith. And in the same way, mistakes are important as long as you learn from them,” Jordan says.
“This is not a negative play by any means. Touchstone wouldn’t be interested in doing a play that sees mistakes as a bad thing. It speaks to the spirit of love and giving in humankind and how we can experience that.”
Ultimately, Touchstone hopes to bring a feeling of hope and thoughtfulness to the Lehigh Valley through presenting “Leaps of Faith,” reminding theater-goers of a few powerful life lessons that can help those who look and listen for them.
“I want people to see the importance of working together and that life is what you make it,” says Jordan. “Oh, and regarding mistakes, I hope people can learn how to forgive ourselves through this.”
Tickets: Touchstone Theatre box office, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; touchstone.org; 610-867-1689