To Everything There is a Season…

To everything,
turn, turn, turn,
there is a season,
turn, turn, turn…

And this is the season for us to bid a very fond adieu to one of the originators of the entire Young Playwrights’ Lab: Kristen Zavar.

SONY DSCWay back, at the first turning of the YPL program, a couple of teaching artists descended on Donegan Elementary School with copies of the Wishbone Series version of Don Quixote in tow. They joined up with some teachers at the school, including Kristen Zavar and Sue Lucrezi, in having the students develop
and create their own versions of the story. Those students
then became part of Touchstone’s theatricade, Don Quixote of Bethlehem, performing in the streets of South Bethlehem in 2005.SONY DSC

The very next year, the teachers asked Touchstone, “What’s next?”

What was next was the development of the Young
Playwrights’ Lab program, and Kristen has been part and parcel of the program ever since.

Turn, turn, turn.

SONY DSCKristen is becoming a Jersey Girl now, moving on in life to other adventures of the heart. She’ll be teaching ESL in West Orange School District, New Jersey. Those lucky, lucky kids!

We are going to miss her expertise, the glint in her eye and the love in her heart for the kids we worked with: at Donegan, at Nitschmann, at East Hills, at Broughal. Over and over again, she proved to the students that she meant it when she said, “I know you can do it!” and “I believe in you.” Over and over again, she proved to her fellow teaching partners that she meant it when she said, “I love working with these kids” and “I love this program!”

Kristen teaches from the heart. And she puts her money where her mouth is: when students challenged her to audition for the Young Playwrights’ Festival, she did. And went on to play such memorable characters as a Tooth Fairy with an attitude and a Bride Chipmunk.

PICT4184As one of her fellow teachers in the program said it best, she has “that rare combination of dignity, calm, hilarity and irreverence (my favorite).”

We will miss you, Kristen Zavar! We will miss your energy in the classroom and your whimsy. We will miss your delightful presence and the way you threw yourself whole-heartedly into everything you did with us in Young Playwright’s Lab.

We wish you all the best! Our consolation is that we know there are students in New Jersey who will now have the great joy of getting to know you.

 You have imagined. You have created. You have inspired.

 Turn, turn, turn.


~Mary Wright, YPL Coordinator

School days, school days…

The first day of school for the new year is about to start…and we are getting ready for it!

The Young Playwrights’ Lab program begins its 10th year working with and in the schools in Bethlehem and Allentown (and beyond). As the YPL Coordinator, I’ve been busy contacting the schools in preparation for the new academic year as well as looking back through old files to compile information as we celebrate the decade mark for this amazing arts-in-education program. What have I found?  

Over 10 years we’ve been at 20 different schools, and served over 668 students!  


That’s a lot of teaching. That’s a lot of plays. That’s a lot of creativity.

In 2002 the YPL program was the glimmer in the eyes of Sue Lucrezi of BASD teaching at Donegan Elementary and Mark McKenna, former Artistic Director of Touchstone.  The very next year it began in earnest at Freemansburg Elementary, with Jennie Gilrain, former Touchstone ensemble member,  helping lead the charge.  It has been at Freemansburg each and every year since then–expanding upward and outward to other elementary and middle schools throughout the region.

Already this summer we have taught two programs–at Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School and Harrison Morton Middle School in Allentown.  Now we are readying ourselves for the Fall start of programs at schools like Calypso Elementary and Broughal Middle School in Bethlehem and Central Elementary in Allentown.

johnelldlcsFor the Spring, we’re already looking ahead to programs at Nitschmann Middle School, Farmersville Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Fountain Hill Elementary in Bethlehem and back to Central Elementary again.  And there are more waiting to confirm!

So…it is going to be a busy and wonder-filled year of teaching here at Touchstone Theatre.  All we have to do is get our new pencils and lunch boxes.

See you at the back-to-school sales!

Mary Wright, YPL Coordinator

Spotlight on the Gala

D4009396bAfter we’ve taken our final bows for the Young Playwrights’ Festival performance, the celebration of the arts continues – here’s a look at the lineup for this year’s GALA reception!

Join us after the show in the Lehigh University Art Galleries; attendees mingle with the Touchstone crowd, enjoy sumptuous drinks and desserts, view the current gallery exhibit, enjoy live music by the ever-charming Pseudo Gipsy Trio, and further support Touchstone and its ArtsTouch education programs through live and silent auction.

SONY DSCThis year, internationally renowned local artist Hong Tatt Foo‘s beautiful painting made especially for Touchstone’s Journey: Dream of the Red Pavilion will be the feature of the live auction. The package includes a visit to Hong’s Banana Factory Studio and his home studio/gallery, with a private painting demonstration. Round out your experience by enjoying an authentic Chinese dinner for six at Asia Restaurant, selected and prepared by award-winning chef Alex Zhong. Value: $1200.

Can’t attend the Gala but still interested in bidding? Email

And don’t miss out on the Silent Auction tables, with something for everyone…

  • For the Technophile – an iPad mini and a Fujifilm X20 camera
  • For the Patron of the Arts – tickets and passes to Southside arts events at Zoellner Arts Center, ArtsQuest, and the South Side Film Festival, plus great artwork from local artists
  • For the Fine Diner – gift certificates to tasty fine dining at Hotel Bethlehem, Bolete, The Bayou, and more
  • For the Overworked – a massage session, a basket of yoga accoutrements… and wine!D4009368

Don’t miss the perfect finale to a wonderful evening! Call Touchstone at 610-867-1689 or visit for tickets.

Rehearsal Report – “Cold Schmold”

Four days until the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival and Gala! We can’t wait; can you?

Today’s featured play is “Cold Schmold” by young playwright Ari Braun, a student at Farmersville Elementary.

Ari’s play employs a classic plot element for theatre: the “play within a play”. Her script focuses on an earnest young actress, a demanding director, and how they come into conflict. Kayla Prestel, YPL teaching artist and former Touchstone apprentice, directs “Cold Schmold” – she’s taken the motif of time (referenced frequently in the playwright’s excellent stage directions) and has blown it up to a giant clock, manipulated by an ensemble of three.

Stay tuned for more updates on the road to the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival!

Don’t miss this inspiring evening of entertainment for the whole family! Call Touchstone at 610-867-1689 or visit for tickets.

Rehearsal Report – “The Battle”

Five days until the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival and Gala! We’re in full-on production week mode here at Touchstone, and it’s so exciting to be sharing this excellent work with all of you.

Today’s featured play is “The Battle” by young playwright Janeya Thompson, a student at Fountain Hill Elementary.

Touchstone Artistic Director Jp Jordan takes the reins for this tale of spookiness, sibling rivalry, and aliens. Jp is having great fun interpreting the script a la Ed Wood with a side of Scooby Doo, including cheesy theremin music, quirky character physicalities, and flying props on sticks.

Stay tuned for more updates on the road to the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival!

Don’t miss this inspiring evening of entertainment for the whole family! Call Touchstone at 610-867-1689 or visit for tickets.

Rehearsal Report – “Funny Mommy, You’re Not Going to School With Me”

Six days to the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival and Gala! Not much rehearsing today, deferring to Mother’s Day festivities – and what better way to celebrate than with a new featured young playwright?

Today we feature “Funny Mommy, You’re Not Going to School With Me” by young playwright Naveah Hardison, a student at Central Elementary (fall semester).

Ensemble Associate Christopher Shorr (in between heading up Moravian’s theatre company, Moravian’s Jesus Christ Superstar, The Bach Choir’s Young Meister Bach, and set construction for Journey: Dream of the Red Pavilion) directs the Touchstone apprentices in this fun little piece. Cathy Restivo features as a Mom who just wants to be cool, and Mallory deForest is her counterpart as a  sassy daughter who wants none of this. Jordan Orth provides support characters… that you’ll just have to wait to meet until the Festival.

Stay tuned for more updates on the road to the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival!

Don’t miss this inspiring evening of entertainment for the whole family! Call Touchstone at 610-867-1689 or visit for tickets.

Rehearsal Report – Luna the Star

Just a week to go until the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival and Gala! Come take another peek into the rehearsal process with us.

Today’s featured play is “Luna the Star” by young playwright Rhiannon Wilt, a student at Calypso Elementary, a charming and fanciful fairy tale.

“Luna the Star” is more prime YPF material, with characters like a tiger, a monkey, a steampunk girl, and a fallen star. Director Bill George brings this play to life; he’s particularly pleased with his cast this year, featuring Charter Arts senior Carly Bayer (her fourth year in YPF and her fourth year in a Bill George production) as Luna and newcomer Giselle Juarez (a precocious youngster in YPF for her first time) as the cheeky monkey.

Stay tuned for more updates on the road to the Ninth Annual Young Playwrights’ Festival!

Don’t miss this inspiring evening of entertainment for the whole family! Call Touchstone at 610-867-1689 or visit for tickets.