Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Moth at the Byham

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 10:30 AM

At last night’s big annual The Moth Mainstage show, writer Dan Kennedy quipped that hosting the series had actually expanded his emotional range; as a suburban Southern California youth, he said, he’d grown up stuck entirely between “That’s awesome, dude” and “Dude, that kind of sucks.”

Kate Tellers
  • Kate Tellers
Making us feel something is a goal of any good art. But the directness of The Moth’s approach is particularly disarming, and effective. As listeners of the radio show or podcast — or attendees at Pittsburgh’s monthly Moth StorySLAMs — know, the idea is simply people telling true stories on stage, without notes. At its best, it feels nearly as informal as listening to a friend over drinks (even if most of those friends, as was the case last night, are professional performers).

Last night’s sold-out show (the sixth annual Moth spectacular here, co-presented by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures) traversed as much emotional geography as any. The theme was “Don’t Look Back.”

Cole Kazdin, an Allderdice grad who’s now an Emmy-winning TV-news producer in Los Angeles, recalled that period in her life when a bizarre cheerleading accident left her with a massive concussion and both short- and long-term amnesia. (Technically, it was a “cheerleading” accident: She was playing a cheerleader in a film spoof and was thrown in the air, but not caught.) Kazdin skillfully tread the line between the terror of forgetting everything about yourself and the humor inherent therein — all mitigated, it should be said, by the fact that we knew she’d fully recovered. Best detail: The pile of sticky notes she left by her bed, each with a fact about herself she’d written down (“You are a vegetarian”) in hopes of reconstructing her memory: “It still wasn’t me. It was just information filling an empty space.”

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Local indie comedy screens tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 11:17 AM

The latest chance to see the new comedy Progression comes complete with an update about the indie film’s own progress.

A scene from Progression
  • A scene from "Progression"
Gab Cody and Sam Turich’s feature film set at Lawrenceville’s long-running progressive dinnner gets its second local screening tomorrow night at the Bayardstown Social Club. But the film has also been accepted at California’s 15th annual Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 19-21.

In an email, Cody writes that that’s an even bigger honor than it sounds: The festival “will show 115 films, 85 percent shorts and 15 percent feature films,” she says.

It’s the microbudget film’s first festival screening, though it had previously also screened at New York City’s venerable Anthology Film Archives.

The Bayardstown screening is at sundown tomorrow. The screening is preceded by live music from Molly Alphabet and Chet Vincent and Big Bend (who appear in the film) and Josh Verbanets. The event continues the filmmakers’ grassroots distro strategy.

Tickes are $5 for nonmembers. The event is BYOB and BYO lawnchair, though a cash bar and food trucks will be on hand. Bayardstown is located at 3008 Penn Ave., in the Strip District.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Inaugural Downtown Rooftop Shindig

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 9:37 AM

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s first party on the roof of a parking garage drew more than 400 last night for a set by Grand Piano and a screening of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Though in truth, the evening-length event atop the Theater Square parking garage might have attracted many of those folks just for the food and beverage tents, the free tricycle rides … and the 360-degree view, which included aspects on PNC Park, Mount Washington, various other Downtown rooftops and an especially nice sunset.

Attendance was boosted by the PDP’s team-up with Bike Pittsburgh, which always includes a bike-in movie in its annual August Bike Fest. (Extra portable bike racks were placed down in Katz Plaza, and cyclists were spotted with lawn chairs strapped to their bike racks.)

Pittsburgh Filmmakers supplied the screening tech, and Tim Burton’s candy-colored cult-favorite comedy looked and sounded well on the big portable screen. ("I'm trying to use the phone!") The garage roof’s slope made for amphitheater seating.

The Downtown Rooftop Shindig returns Sept. 10 with a screening of another cult fave, The Big Lebowski, preceded by a set from Jimbo and the Soupbones.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Free admission to Phipps on Monday

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Get in to see the Butterfly Forest and other attractions at no charge. Dan Willis has details in Program Notes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Outdoor Marketplace in Strip Starts Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 3:00 PM

The Neighborhood Flea, a pop-up marketplace promising everything from vintage clothing and repurposed furniture to local food, is a new outlet for "bright, hidden and newly launched regional microbusinesses."

That's according to a press release from organizer Carrie Nardini, who made her name locally with the crafty I Made It! Market.

Neighborhood Flea sets up from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at 2300 Penn Ave. (across from Marty's Market).

Other items for sale will include handmade jewelry and cosmetics, reclaimed wooden wares, and "strong brews" (Zeke’s coffee, presumably, but Wigle Whiskey will be there, too).

Neighborhood Flea also seeks vendors for future events

Additional Flea days are set for Aug. 24 and Sept. 28.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Emergency Rally for Gaza Tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Local activists rally tomorrow evening in support of Gazans and to protest U.S. backing of Israeli military attacks on Gaza.

The Palestine Emergency Rally will highlight the effects of Israeli military strikes in Gaza, including more than 200 Palestinians killed.

Last week, the United Nation’s Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People condemned “the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and call[ed] for its immediate and unconditional cessation.”

In a Facebook notice of tomorrow's rally, a statement credited to local activist Hadeel Salameh read, “we as educated Americans cannot stand by and accept that our tax dollars are funding the ongoing terror on Gaza and the West Bank.”

The rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Hillman Library, on Forbes Avenue. Fundraising for Gaza is scheduled for 7 p.m. Rally organizers suggest donating to charitable organizations including Medical Aid to Palestine, CAIRE, The Life Relief Foundation, and UNICEF.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Final Night for Lost and Found at City of Asylum

Posted By on Sun, Jun 29, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Tonight's the second and final chance to see this lively, fun and moving show about four political refugees who wound up in Pittsburgh.

And if you like brass-band music, you'll love the concert afterward.

And the whole thing's free.

Lost and Found: Finding Refuge in Pittsburgh consists of four short performance works by the Czech Republic's Archa Theatre, each telling the story of a different refugee — in most cases, with said refugee being part of the show. The concert's by the Allstar Refugee Band, a multinational effort that for this weekend's concerts includes some Pittsburgh musicians among its 14 members.

The North Side shebang is made possible by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.

I saw last night's show, and it's well worth the 3.5 hours: a little theater, a little geopolitical consciousness-raising, and some foot-stomping tunes to cap it off.

You'll congregate at COAP's Sampsonia Way tent by 5:45 p.m., get assigned to a group, and then sent, in sequence, to four nearby ad hoc performance spaces. (One of them is Randyland, which every Pittsburgher should see anyway.)

The refugees whose stories are told with the help of actors from Archa and the Pittsburgh community include: dissident Iraqi engineer Mazen Al Qatia; Congolese teachers Lina and Manuel Kateng; Bhutanese refugee Dahdi Ram Chhetri; and Nepalese refugee Menuka Bhattarai.

If you're not up on the plight of the world's millions of political and economic refugees — and maybe even if you are — these stories are astounding. Three of these refugees, for instance, spent more than a decade in a refugee camp before they managed to emigrate to the U.S. Al Qatia's hair's-breadth escape from Saddam's Iraq alone is a thriller.

The stories are told straightforwardly, with stagecraft adding depth. My only quibble is that you never learn exactly why any of the refugees ended up in Pittsburgh, of all place.

The concert is an all-out party, complete with raucous beats and an accordion solo. The Allstar Refugee Band is an ensemble effort, but if there's a star it's probably Jing Lu, a native of China now living in Prague. She's a hell of a vocalist and a skilled ham. (Earlier in the evening, she also helps tell Menuka's story.)

As of last night, there were still open spots for tonight's show. You can also show up early — say, 5:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. performance — and get on a waiting list, because no-shows and cancellations are likely.

The theater pieces start at 6 p.m., the concert at 8:30 p.m. (In between, there's a short street parade for musicians and the audience.) And bring an umbrella: Last night we got rained on a little between the halves. But no one seemed to mind.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Solar Festival Debuts Tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 9:21 AM

A new solar festival — complete with live music and food trucks, along with info on solar energy — takes place tomorrow in Millvale Riverfront Park.

The Allegheny SolarFest is presented by the Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania, the Sierra Club and the Borough of Millvale.

The festival runs 12-7 p.m. The park (hint, hint) is easily accessible via the riverfront bike trail, which runs direct from the North Side.

Vendors will be on hand, and workshops held, with info about solar energy and energy efficiency for homes and businesses. The workshops cover topics including: solar-powered aquaponics; efficient solar home design; community solar projects; and advocating for renewable energy laws in Pennsylvania.

The eclectic live music includes Ben Shannon, Timbeleza, Nox Boys and Turpentiners, with the Pandemic DJs working between sets. The stage, naturally, will be solar-powered — as will the whole fest, in fact, according to a press release.

The food trucks include Pittsburgh Taco, Randita’s, Pittsburgh Pierogi, South Side BBQ Company and Kona Ice.

There’ll also be a Venture Outdoors climbing wall, bicycle-powered water cannons and a display of electric vehicles, including a Tesla. You can even try an electric-assist bicycle.

Oh, and, in case you’re wondering, why Millvale?

“Our community library is powered with solar and we have plans to expand the use of solar throughout the borough with our new Allegheny Solar Cooperative project,” said Brian Wolovich, Millvale Borough Councilman and Millvale Community Library President, in a press release. “Our community-focused development plans are transforming a legacy community built around old energy into a desirable, livable community of the future. Clean energy is paramount to that vision.”

The Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania is a coalition of the region’s leading solar installation and development companies, support businesses, solar owners, and advocates devoted to proliferating solar in the region through awareness, education and legislative support.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Food, Music, Crafters at Market Square for World Refugee Day

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Tomorrow is the United Nations-designated day to honor those who flee their homes because of violence, conflict or persecution. According to the UN, there are some 43.7 such folks around the world.

The scene at Market Square, as befits a focus on the refugees' resilience, will be on the festive side.

Pittsburgh’s event, sponsored by groups including the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. It includes live music, food and craft vendors from the local refugee community. Performers include Bhutanese dance troupes, and singers from Turkey and Nepal.

Special guests include the Allstar Refugee Band, a group based in the Czech Republic that is in the midst of preparing for a world-premiere theatrical production next week at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (which itself knows something about sheltering writers persecuted in their home countries).

The band, which plays a lively and eclectic blend of sounds and styles, performs at 1 p.m. at Market Square.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mellon Square Grand Reopening Tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 2:32 PM

The last time this Downtown landmark and lunch spot looked so good, we doubt they had rock bands and singer-songwriters playing there. But tomorrow’s grand-reopening also marks the kickoff of the park’s summer concert series.

Everyone (probably even pigeons, to some extent) is welcome to join the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to mark the end of five years’ worth of renovations, restoring the 1.37-acre urban park on Smithfield Street to something like it looked in its heyday. The park originally opened in 1955, but in recent decades had fallen into disrepair.

The park, unique for one its size, sits atop a parking garage. Its fountain has been restored and seating and green spaces enhanced.

The reopening starts at noon with live music by Mia Z. Remarks follow by speakers including Parks Conservancy CEO Meg Cheever, Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. More live music follows, and there’ll be food trucks on William Penn Place.

There’s also a $100-a-head cocktail reception tonight, if that's more your style.

The $10 million makeover, a project of the Parks Conservancy, was funded by donors including The Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Colcom Foundation and The Eden Hall Foundation. The restoration team included Heritage Landscapes and Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners, with Pfaffmann Associates, Hilbish McGee Lighting Design, Atlantic Engineering and Mortar + ink.

The concert series continues at noon (weather permitting) every Thursday through Aug. 21.

Next up: Angel Blue & The Prophets (June 5), Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution (June 12) and Charm & Chain (June 19). The complete schedule is here.

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