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From the Archives – Make We Merry

April 9, 2020

The transition from a peripatetic touring theatre group to a company with a home, a 72-seat theatre at 321 East 4th Street, Bethlehem, meant more changes. It meant having to generate a season of work; whereas before we could create perhaps an hour of material a year, now we had to find ideas and content to fill a season of four or five offerings for our audiences – ten times as much.

Early on, one of People’s Theatre Company’s first paying gigs was as entertainment at a Bamberger’s department store (in the Lehigh Valley Mall) Christmas celebration. We offered Renaissance events, as this was Barbara Pearson’s initiative – dancing, singing, miming. From that original idea, Bridget George and Barbara Pearson developed a full length theatrical performance called Christmas Revels that we staged at Asa Packer Chapel for several years — until we were asked to stop calling it Christmas Revels, as there was a national program, started in Boston, called Christmas Revels. Bridget and Barbara changed the title of the production to Make We Merry, and we performed it several Christmas seasons in a row at Touchstone.

This production, written by Bridget George and compiled from many classical, religious, and historical sources, took place December 15, 1991. The theatre was decked out (vaulted ceiling and all) as a small English church, with Dan Sigley as the priest. We, the audience, are at a Christmas service, and the Lord of Misrule (Eric Beatty, Touchstone ensemble member) and his revelers break in – as was the custom hundreds of years ago – to disrupt the authority of the church in the name of partying down. Larry Lipkis was our Musical Director (on crumhorn), Barbara Pearson, Director/Choreographer, Susan Chase, principle dancer, actress. (I apologize for not digging for all the names, but we will!)

Here another interest of Touchstone’s work can be seen – the tension or interplay between the forces of the sacred and the secular.  It was for this reason I took off a year or so later to explore these issues.

— Bill George

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