Published on January 21, 2022 at 8:38 p.m.
Last year, at the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Touchstone Theater launched the first production of its “Letters from Far” series.
The innovative series was the ultimate in social distancing and unveiled its futuristic plot through tantalizing clues contained in packages sent out by the US Mail over several weeks.
This year, Touchstone presents a new entry in the mail-based series that stretches back in time to the 1900s.
The South Bethlehem-based theater group will soon send out episodes of the train mystery, “Shadows in Steam,” which will be delivered to audience members’ mailboxes from February 15 to March 21.
Emma Ackerman, a member of the Touchstone Theater Ensemble and director of the “Letters from Far” project, explains that the concept was born as members of the troupe brainstormed ways to create artistic content that could be safely broadcast in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the ways the theater company has responded to creating a socially distanced theater has been to provide outdoor performances. But that was inconvenient in the cold winter months.
“We knew it was a challenge because it would be a while before the weather was right to play outside again,” Ackerman said. “We wanted to create content that people could safely enjoy at home, while experiencing theater in an inventive way.”
In the first iteration of “Letters from Far” created by members of Ackerman and Touchstone Ensemble, the story follows Rosensweig’s fictional expedition sent to 2032 to explore a mysterious rift found in the American Midwest that is a portal to another world.
When the expedition party doesn’t return, only the packages they sent home remain, including letters, drawings, and artifacts from “the other side.” The recipients of the “Letters” were invited to read the final account of the feast, in their own words, and to reconstruct the last days of their journey.
“What started as a sci-fi mystery story turned into a play about isolation, loneliness, and the need to communicate and connect,” says Ackerman.
“So even though this was a story about visiting an alien world, whatever was beneath the plot surface was very much rooted in the things that we were going through as a community at most. strong from the pandemic.”
Ackerman is back to write and direct “Shadows in Steam,” set in 1906 when a steam locomotive pulls into the station with three dead passengers, foul-smelling smoke billowing from the engine, and no explanation for a wave of nightmares. among the crew.
Eyewitness accounts of what happened on the train vary, with reports of mysterious meetings, strange noises, and seemingly supernatural phenomena.
The public, i.e. those who receive the letters, will participate as a friend of the police officer in charge of the investigation and will receive a letter of introduction, written statements from the survivors and physical evidence of the investigation .
The production includes six small packages, arriving in mailboxes each week in February and March, allowing ticket holders to follow the story at their own pace as they dig into a pseudo-historical mystery.
As with Touchstone’s previous production, ticket holders receive packages filled with handwritten stories, original drawings, and even small artifacts related to the investigation.
“With this project, we wanted to focus on the ways we try to communicate the impossible to each other,” says Ackerman.
“At a time when so many of us operate in different informational spheres and seemingly different realities, this theme seems all the more interesting to explore,” says Ackerman.
The deadline to register for “Shadows in Steam: A Letters from Far Story” is February 1. Tickets are available by household and can be mailed to any address in the United States. Tickets are limited.
Tickets: www.touchstone.org; 610-867-1689
“Curtain Rises” is a chronicle about theater, stage shows, the actors who make them up, and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus Editor, [email protected]
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY TOUCHSTONE THEATER Emma Ackerman, member of the Touchstone Theater Ensemble and director of the “Letters from Far” project, which continues with “Shadows in Steam”, from February 15 to March 21, mailed to your address.