Touchstone Theatre presents Fresh Voices: Land of the Lockdown, Home of the Active Shooter

en flag
es flag

Featured Image: Performer and creator Amber Charest, as a school teacher, reads to the class in preparation for an active shooter drill. Photo taken by Mathew Prideaux.


An original performance exploring the experiences of students in America today 

BETHLEHEM, PA – Touchstone Theatre, the region’s only ensemble-based theatre, presents Fresh Voices: Land of the Lockdown, Home of the Active Shooter– a new, two-person show created and performed by Touchstone Theatre/Moravian University MFA students Amber Charest and Jenny Pacanowski. In this immersive performance, audience members will experience what it is like to be a student in America today. The original performance premieres on June 1 and 2, 2024 in Touchstone Theatre’s 75-seat black box theatre, located on Bethlehem’s Southside.

Fresh Voices has been a staple of Touchstone’s apprentice program for over 20 years, which gives Moravian University/Touchstone’s students an annual opportunity to explore and create solo and ensemble-based performances. This season marks the fifth year of Touchstone’s partnership with Moravian University, converting the longstanding apprenticeship into an MFA-granting curriculum.

Inspiration for this visceral performance came from a class on Viewpoints, which focuses on performance creation through physicality as opposed to language. Creators, Amber Charest and Jenny Pacanowski, experimented with the architecture of the space and were both fascinated by the interplay of light and shadow. This started a conversation about finding light in the darkness and risk assessment, and led to the question, “what does it mean to be situationally aware?”

“A key moment in the development of this piece,” shares Jenny, “was when Amber and I realized how similar our backgrounds are even though Amber is an educator and I am a combat veteran.”

This exploration of identities raised questions around the importance of safety and how, when people lack a sense of emotional safety, it directly impacts the physical safety of that individual and others. Our culture’s stigma toward mental health has a profound ripple effect on society’s ability to empathize and connect with one another as a community. With active shooter safety protocols being the new normal, this interactive piece invites the audience to place themselves in the role of a student, as a way to better understand today’s students’ cultural experiences.

“As an educator,” says Amber, “Active-shooter drills are a dreaded part of the job. How do you answer all of the ‘What if?’ questions that come your way? I’ve seen an increase in social-emotional needs, especially after COVID-19, and I wonder how we can better support our students. Yes, over the years there have been many different safety drills that students have practiced to address the needs of the times, but it’s disturbing and disheartening to think about how desensitized students, teachers, and society have become to accept that these active shooter drills are the solution to a greater problem.”

Land of the Lockdown, Home of the Active Shooter is a performance that provides insight into the lived experiences of the future generations. It is a provocative piece that will leave you with a better understanding of what students and teachers experience in the classroom. This unique performance will provide a new perspective that will allow you to better relate to and understand American school culture.

Touchstone’s season is sponsored by Astound Broadband, with media sponsorship provided by WDIY, and print sponsorship provided by Working Dog Press. The theatre is also generously supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Fresh Voices: Land of the Lockdown, Home of the Active Shooter runs June 1, 2024 at 7:30pm and June 2, 2024 at 2:00pm. Tickets are pay-what-you-will, with a suggested donation of $10. This piece has a PG advisory rating and is not recommended for children younger than 10. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, please visit



Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre produces and presents original productions and works to foster collaboration on a local and national level through educational and youth empowerment programs, and by using theatre as a community-building tool. Learn more about us at


Part arts incubator, part apprenticeship, MFA candidates create original solo and ensemble performances in both production and laboratory settings while teaching theatre in the community and receiving hands-on experience in real world arts administration. Learn more at


Information provided to TVL by:
Kylie Adams-Weiss