Staging Courage for Kids
Muhlenberg theater project for young audiences explores the life of courageous aviatrix Harriet Quimby in a world premiere production, March 24-25, led by Baker Artist-in-Residence Joshua Rashon Streeter
Allentown, Pa. (March 15, 2023) World-premiere theater for young audiences will be landing at Muhlenberg College, March 24 and 25: “Freedom to Fly: The Story of Harriet Quimby” is the product of a semester-long devising process led by this year’s Baker Artist-in-Residence, Joshua Rashon Streeter.
The hour-long production tells the story of the adventurous aviatrix Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to earn her pilot’s license and the first woman to fly across the English Channel, in the 1910s. The swift, vibrant historical drama explores Quimby’s life and legacy, focusing on her journey from journalist to aviator.
“The play is about being brave and courageous,” Streeter says. “The idea of flying at that time was risky business. The Wright Brothers’ flight was just a few years earlier. Harriet was larger-than-life — but also kind of a hidden figure in history. We all know Amelia Earhart, but Harriet Quimby was at least as influential and important.”
All tickets are $5. Performances are Friday, March 24, at 12:45 p.m., and Saturday, March 25, at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. A post-show discussion with the creator and members of the company will follow each performance, and patrons can come early on Saturday morning to explore themes of the show at engagement stations in the lobby, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The production, and Streeter’s semester-long residency, are supported by the Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation. The show will also be performed for free for Allentown School District students at a special weekday matinee performance.
Born in 1875, Quimby was an American pioneering aviator, journalist, and film screenwriter. She earned her pilot certificate in 1911, from the Aero Club of America. Her historic flight across the English Channel, on April 16, 1912, was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic, just the day before.
Streeter recommends the show for elementary-age children and their families — and also for older audiences with an interest in the process of developing new theater works.
“The sweet spot is probably second through fifth-graders,” he says, “but it’s quite lively and inspirational — and I would love to see families and older and younger kids come along and join the conversation.”
Streeter says the post-show sessions will be “highly active” — an opportunity to engage with the creators about the themes of the show.
“That kind of engagement is really critical,” he says. “It’s important that young people are made to feel special when they come to see this kind of show. They should feel like this is made for them.”
Streeter is a theater educator and a pioneering creator of theater for young audiences (TYA). An assistant professor of theater education at Emerson College, he focuses on bringing performance into the classroom to impact every-day learning. His scholarship looks at the pedagogies used in rehearsals and classrooms and considers the relationship between process and product in a creative experience.
As a theatre-maker, Streeter makes work that is aesthetically and narratively driven — playing with light, objects, movement, and music. He was a 2021 finalist in the Reimagine: New Plays in TYA initiative. He is both a playwright and director, and has created works for audiences ranging from pre-schoolers through high schoolers.
At Muhlenberg, Streeter has been working throughout the semester with a group of theater students — actors, designers and dramaturgs — who have taken an active role in developing “Freedom to Fly.” They spent a week in January devising and rehearsing the play, and have been rehearsing since, both in-person and online.
“We have a saying that the best idea in the room wins,” Streeter says. “We’re all playing together, and we’re all theater-makers in the room together. One thing I’ve really appreciated about Muhlenberg students is their ability to bring ideas to the table, and their willingness to take risks and be vulnerable.”
Streeter’s residency has also included several workshops with children, college students, and teachers in Allentown. He and the company visited second and third grade classes at Muhlenberg and Hayes elementary schools and worked with groups of elementary students on the Muhlenberg College campus. Streeter also worked with teachers in training through Muhlenberg’s education department, and offered an in-service training for Allentown teachers, helping them to integrate theater and the arts into everyday classroom activities.
The residency is part of the Baker Artist-in-Residence series, which has brought prominent performing artists to campus every year since 1992. The series has been integral to raising the department’s national profile.
Tickets for “Freedom to Fly” are available online at muhlenberg.edu/seeashow, or from the box office at 484-664.3333. A content guide for teachers and parents is available at the website. All tickets for public performances are $5. Public performances are Friday, March 24, at 12:45 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturday, March 25, at 11 a.m.
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theatre program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theatre and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theatre and dance.
About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Information Provided By:
Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre & Dance