American Monarch Theatre Company Opens Its Heart For THE IMMIGRANT
Immigration is a hot topic now. On the news, in your social media feed, and maybe even at your dinner parties. But at the theatre? American Monarch Theatre Company is hoping to make this, and other culturally provocative issues, more prevalent on the region's stages. With its musical offering of The Immigrant, the company is looking to utilize theatre as a stepping stone for conversation, and hopefully action.
The Immigrant is a musical based on a true story. It centers around Haskell Harelik, a Jewish man who arrives in Texas and is taken in by Milton and Ima Perry, two Christians living in the conservative town of Hamilton. Harelik eventually brings his wife, Leah, and the musical covers the lives of the two couples over the course of almost 40 years as they deal with prejudice, trauma, and eventually, healing.
A company that believes in theatre outside of the traditional space and expected presentation, American Monarch Theatre Company (AMTC) was delighted to be invited by the Sigal Museum as part of their exhibition, Destination: Northampton. As the exhibition focuses on immigration in the area, AMTC is integrating their production by performing the entire musical in the upstairs Chrin gallery. With such an intimate setting, audience members will be truly engaged- close enough to touch the performers at almost any moment. The company is excited to make the production not only accessible in real time, but financially, as well. Being performed one weekend only on November 16th and 17th, tickets are only $5.
"It is remarkable how we think we are so far removed from that time and those issues, but when you watch the show, you see, sadly, how little has actually changed in many ways. We are all still so human with preconceived ideas and fears. And nothing can change unless we at least begin the conversation," said Colette Boudreaux, Artistic Director of AMTC.
A professional company, AMTC held auditions seeing people from all over the region including Philadelphia and New York- hiring some from out of town in addition to some faces the Lehigh Valley may recognize as its own.
Playing the role of Leah Harelik is Joelle Tshudy, a graduate of Phillipsburg High School who went on to attain a degree in music theatre from Western Connecticut University. She says she has been truly fulfilled from this project. "This piece has taught me lessons that I didn't even realize I needed to learn. It shares an important message about community, acceptance, hard-work, and respect. It has made me think deeply about things that I've never had to deal with before. It has caused me to take a step back and really analyze the hardships and emotional trauma that occur when people have to leave so much behind. I'm so fortunate to be able to tell this story," says Tshudy.
Though originally from the Philadelphia region, Sean Cullen Carroll, who plays the role of Milton Perry, now resides in NYC, and feels equally as passionate about the production. Carroll noted, "I think we all could use a little more empathy and compassion in our lives, and this show allows us to see many different sides of a story and many different viewpoints around a set of very human circumstances. It tells a story that I think we can all connect to so we learn a little more about what it might be like to be in someone else's shoes. That's powerful!" Perry's wife is played by Kylee Verhoff, who some may have seen at the Wine Auction Gala last month in Easton, though she is from the Philadelphia area.
And what does 'the immigrant' himself have to say? Though he is now living as a working actor in New York City, Justin Chesney attended Bangor Area High School and graduated from Hofstra University with a BFA in Theatre Performance. Playing Haskell Harelik has been a meaningful experience, to say the least. When asked about his thoughts on the production, Chesney was eager to respond: "When I auditioned for the show, I was purely excited at the aspect of performing so near to my hometown. I didn't know the show too well (honestly not at all before looking it up), and I'd say most people don't. It's not your everyday musical. There are no kick lines and certainly no tap numbers. Once I delved into this show, I realized how important it was to tell the story. I know the community I grew up in pretty well; Eastern Pennsylvania loves its musicals for sure. All too often though, we attend shows as a sort of escape to forget about the world, to blur it out with a show stopping '11 o' clock number'. However, I think this show is not only entertaining to watch, but it gives you something to think about when you leave. It presents both sides of a debate and doesn't shame anyone for agreeing with either side. I'm hoping people leave with a little something to ponder on their drive home. And maybe next time they look up at the stars, they think about all the other people, no different from them, that are looking at those exact same beacons in the sky."
Performances are November 16th at 730pm and November 17th at 2pm
342 Northampton St. Easton, 18042
Tickets are $5 general admission and can be purchased at the door
By phone: 1800-838-3006