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From Jp – Dear Tamaqua…

July 21, 2015

Two years ago, after learning about community-based theatrical work by way of a TED Talk, the Tamaqua Community Arts Center enlisted Touchstone Theatre to help them create a piece of art specific to their community. Since Touchstone began to make community-based work one of its hallmarks in 1999 with the debut of Steelbound, a site-specific epic produced on the recently closed Bethlehem Steel grounds with a cast and crew of nearly one hundred local steel workers, all of our large-scale community work has centered around our home city of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley area.

This new opportunity in Tamaqua would now allow Touchstone to expand on its practice and evolve battle-tested approaches to community-based work for use in communities other than Bethlehem. Our latest community-based project, Dear Tamaqua… was born.

Just as we do with all our other community-based endeavors, we reached out to the community for the generation of raw material. This project saw that solicitation through the open-ended prompt of ‘Dear Tamaqua…’  The website created for the project instructs:

‘Show your hometown pride by penning a letter to Tamaqua.  Your hopes for the future, your fondest memories, “constructive criticism”… a love letter, snail mail, email, a song, a selfie, your art about Tamaqua… T-town is listening and so are we. What’s special, what’s unique… What’s ours!  Help us build the community we all want!’

The view from Potlach Theatre's "Invisible Cities" production

The view from Potlach Theatre’s “Invisible Cities”, inspiration for the “Dear Tamaqua…” performance

From a community of roughly seven thousand residents, we received over five hundred submissions.  After combing through the five hundred submissions and being inspired by the community-based work of Teatro Potlach’s Invisible Cities, a series of site specific works that challenge perception of urban environments, we’ve developed a ‘performance walk’ that leads participants through a mile of borough streets where they will encounter both spectacle and performance meant to transform their normal relationship to the borough as well as encounter content pulled directly from the gathered raw material. (Not only did the fine folks at Potlach inspire us in this project, they will also be Touchstone’s ’15-’16 season opener with their show Fellini’s Dream!)

A map of the "Dear Tamaqua..." performance walk

A map of the “Dear Tamaqua…” performance walk

Now, after two years in the making, Dear Tamaqua… will debut! For one night only! This project has required a huge amount of resources from Touchstone but also the entire borough of Tamaqua and some remarkable people up there who have given their blood, sweat and tears to make their community come to life with this project. Thanks to all our Anthracite Region friends for letting us help them with their project! If any of you Lehigh Valley folks are up for the drive, come see the production on August 4th. You can read more about it at www.deartamaqua.com

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