Touchstone Awarded Prestigious Grant for Journey from the East Project
Touchstone Theatre receives a $20,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation towards the completion of its two-year community-based project Journey from the East. The project concludes with a free, large-scale, outdoor theatrical production featuring American and Chinese epic mythology, performing April 18, 19, 25, and 26, 2015.
Inspired by the recently built Chinese Harmony Pavilion, another Henry Luce Foundation-supported project with Lehigh University, and the growing influx of Chinese professionals, students, and visitors in Bethlehem, Touchstone Theatre artists began gathering stories in 2013 from Bethlehem natives and tourists, restaurant owners and city officials, Asians and all other ethnicities, to discover the Lehigh Valley’s perspective on the story of Bethlehem’s Chinese community dating back to the end of the 19th century. The first year of the project focused on these personal stories as well as historical research by Dr. Wang Dongning, an adjunct associate at Lehigh University. This culminated in Journey: Dream of the Red Pavilion, an award-winning, original play written and directed by Touchstone Associate Mary Wright produced in April 2014.
Now, rooted in a long history of community-inspired work, Touchstone moves forward with Journey from the East, the second and final production, written by Touchstone co-founder and Lehigh alumnus Bill George and Touchstone Associate and Moravian College Director of Theatre Christopher Shorr. The play, directed by Touchstone Artistic Director Jp Jordan, explores themes of national identities and attitudes through the lens of iconic cultural narratives: for America, the mythic Old West and the cowboy, and for China, the epic novel Journey to the West and the Monkey King. The production, co-produced by Moravian College, will involve the Touchstone Theatre Ensemble along with students and faculty from Lehigh and Moravian as well as volunteer community participants. Each performance weekend will hold special auxiliary events, including a guest lecture by Victor H. Mair, an internationally known Chinese scholar from the University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by Lehigh University’s Religion Studies Department. A Chinese-style Spring Festival and a close-proximity pyrotechnic display by Celebration Fireworks will follow the final performance on April 26th.
Collaborating with Touchstone on Journey from the East are Lehigh University and Moravian College, as well as Deng Dafei and He Hai, directors of the Beijing-Hangzhou visual arts collective called the Utopia Group. The Utopia Group has had numerous exhibitions and performances throughout China, Japan, Turkey, France, and Scotland. Utopia has stated: “We have an interest in the history and status of Chinese immigrants in America. If Chinese immigrants are at the margin of American society, for their national personality and the fact that they seldom speak their minds in public, we are trying to make them heard in this drama.”
“Touchstone is honored that the Henry Luce Foundation found Journey from the East worthy of support,” adds Lisa Jordan, Touchstone Managing Director. “Their belief in and generosity towards the project made this international collaboration a reality.”
Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., established the Henry Luce Foundation in 1936 to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. The foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious, and art communities. Touchstone’s Journey from the East project was supported through the Asia Program.
The Journey from the East project is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts – Art Works, which supports the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence and the strengthening of communities through the arts. The project is supported locally by Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission, Celebration Fireworks, Keystone Savings Foundation, and Lehigh University’s Department of Community and Regional Affairs. Touchstone’s programming is supported by Shubert Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. The 2014-15 Season sponsors are First Generation, an integrated marketing communications company, and RCN. WDIY provides media sponsorship.
The Journey from the East performances begin outdoors at the Chinese Harmony Pavilion on Bethlehem’s South Side Greenway on April 18, 19, 25, and 26, 2015 at 3:00pm. All performances and auxiliary events are free of charge; donations accepted. Any audience members in need of assistance due to mobility are encouraged to reserve handicapped seating. Reservations and further information available by phone at 610-867-1689 or online at www.touchstone.org and www.journeyfromtheeastblog.wordpress.com
Founded in 1981, 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. Visit us on the web at www.touchstone.org
Contact: Lisa Jordan