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Friday, May 27, 2016

Pittsburgh's Open Streets festival celebrating its third year of taking over the streets

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 12:56 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Matthew DeSantis
Open Streets is back! Now in its third year of operation, the half-day street festival will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sun., May 29. 

The festival, which closes down a specified route to car traffic, allows people to walk, ride bikes, skateboard, hula-hoop and do whatever their heart desires on asphalt normally choked with automobiles. Six program hubs will be set up along the route where participants can play pick-up basketball, participate in a human stag hunt, workout with friends in free classes, and even take in some yoga. There are many kid-friendly events too.

The route starts in Market Square, Downtown, then goes along Penn Avenue and Butler Street, all the way to Allegheny Cemetery.

The festival is put on to encourage people to think differently about city spaces, maintain a healthy lifestyle, patronize local businesses and consider the benefits that can come to the environment when people walk and bike to get around.

Pittsburgh bike-share system, Healthy Ride, will also be celebrating its one-year anniversary as part of Open Streets and is hosting a program hub outside of its offices on 33rd Street and Penn Avenue. Director David White will announce new Pittsburgh bike share plans at 10:30 a.m.

Also, look forward to a new route for Open Streets come July. Scott Bricker of cycling-advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh tells City Paper that on the festival’s third and final day, July 31, Open Streets will be debuting a new route that starts Downtown, travels through the North Side and finishes in the West End. Details on the exact route are still being finalized.

And if you want to get involved, Bike Pittsburgh has a laundry list of volunteer positions that still need to be filled. Visit bikepgh.org for details.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sketch comedy festival returns to Arcade tonight

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 1:17 PM

After the success of last year’s sold-out festival, Arcade Comedy Theater brings Sketchville back Downtown for a three-night, eight show Memorial Day-weekend marathon.

Frankly Scarlett at Arcade Comedy Theater - PHOTO COURTESY OF ARCADE COMEDY THEATER
  • Photo courtesy of Arcade Comedy Theater
  • Frankly Scarlett at Arcade Comedy Theater
The shows begin tonight at 8 and 10 p.m., continue tomorrow at 8 and 10 p.m., and conclude with shows at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Featuring nine troupes, Sketchville showcases original material from local troupes including Secondhand Sketch, The Harvey Wallbangers, female-led group Frankly Scarlett and two writers' groups assembled specifically for the festival: The Cut Scenes and Looking for Parking.

Tickets are $10, with two exceptions. Sketchville: After Dark, a surreal show at midnight Friday, costs only $5. And the 6 p.m. Saturday show, Sketchville: Beta Stage, is also $5 and will skew experimental.

To find out more, call 412-339-0608 or look here.

Arcade Comedy Theater is at 811 Liberty Ave.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Final Week for “Cock” at Pittsburgh’s Kinetic Theatre

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 11:25 AM

British playwright Mike Bartlett’s intriguing little 2009 work is good theater that has something to add to our ongoing discussion about sexual identity.

Thomas Constantine Moore and Erika Strasburg in "Cock" - PHOTO COURTESY OF KINETIC THEATRE CO.
  • Photo courtesy of Kinetic Theatre Co.
  • Thomas Constantine Moore and Erika Strasburg in "Cock"
It’s an edgy dark comedy about a young man named John who, after a breakup with his longtime male partner, falls in love with a woman, then tries to go back to his ex. The play’s climax, at once hilarious and wrenching, is a dinner where the three try to hash things out, joined by an unexpected guest.

Cock, directed by Kinetic founder and artistic director Andrew Paul, is cleverly minimalist. It’s set in a sawdust-filled ring (like a cockfight pit), with no props and barely any lighting changes. While the actors gesture normally when conversing, most other actions (sex, eating) are only indicated verbally, not performed. And the fast-paced 90-minute show is intermissionless, with what would normally be scene changes instead rendered as live “jump cuts” indicated by a ringing bell.

While those choices add texture, the play comes down to John’s equivocation – which turns out to be more complicated than it looks, and bound up with the binary way we think of sexual identity (gay vs. straight). Bartlett probes this issue intelligently, though without necessarily drawing any conclusions for the audience.

The cast excels; Thomas Constantine Moore, who plays John, is a Carnegie Mellon alum, as are Ethan Hova, who plays M, his male partner, and Erika Strasburg, who plays W. The ensemble is completed by stage veteran and local favorite Sam Tsoutsouvas.

Here’s Ted Hoover’s review for CP.

Cock has five more performances at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, tomorrow night through Sunday, including matinees on both weekend days.

Tickets are $20-36 and are available here.

Playwrights Theatre is located on the third floor of 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bike Pittsburgh and Healthy Ride offering incentives to promote Bike to Work Day

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 10:49 AM

On last year’s national Bike to Work Day, bike-advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh performed an informal count of morning rush-hour traffic on Penn Avenue Downtown and found that 26 percent of all trips were on bicycles. (In fact, stats show bike-commuting is continuing to increase in Pittsburgh.)

This year, Bike to Work Day is Fri., May 20. Bike Pittsburgh and the city’s bike-share Healthy Ride are hoping those bike-ridership numbers increase and are offering riders a few extra incentives.  Bike Pittsburgh will be providing free coffee, breakfast treats and copies of its new 2016 bike map at five pop-up cafes throughout the city. Cafes will be run from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Healthy Ride bike-share station on Penn Avenue - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Healthy Ride bike-share station on Penn Avenue
Pop-up cafe locations are:
  • Downtown - Market Square
  • South Side - Hot Metal Street and Water Street
  • North Side - Roberto Clemente Statue (next to PNC Park at start of Roberto Clemente Bridge)
  • Oakland - Schenley Plaza
  • Bloomfield - Friendship Park (near the corner of Friendship Avenue and South Millvale Street)
“Bike to Work Day is the perfect day to try bike commuting to work,” says Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker in a press release. “You’ll feel supported and welcome, and it’s a great time to meet many of the thousands of people who ride to work every day.”

And in conjunction with Bike Pittsburgh's free pop-up cafes, Healthy Ride, the city’s bike-share, will be offering free rides all day at each of its 50 stations.

“We want to see more riders on Bike to Work Day than ever before,” says Healthy Ride director David White in a press release. “Bike share offers those without a bike the ability to use active transit as a means of commuting.”

All Healthy Ride riders must register at healthyridepgh.com, or by calling 412-535-5189, before renting from bike-share stations. Registration is free, but requires an active credit card. Riders not already accustomed to using Healthy Ride bikes can watch the video tutorials on its website.

“Biking is both fun and terrific exercise. It builds strength and stamina, and improves cardiovascular fitness, mental health and sleep quality,” says Evan Frazier, senior vice president of Highmark Health, one of the prime sponsors of Healthy Ride. “It’s also environmentally friendly, so you’re not only improving your own health on your way to work, you’re improving the health of our great city.”

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Free play reading on Pittsburgh’s South Side tomorrow and Sunday

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Some of the folks who brought you last year’s memorable Saints Tour, in Braddock, have assembled local talent for two free staged readings of Don’t Stop: A Play (with dance breaks).

“Welcome to the world of hurt and heaven that is human adolescence,” goes the tagline.

Its creators call it “a dance-driven, sharp-edged play about how we go slamming around changing each other, with or without permission.”

The play is by Molly Rice, who also wrote the immersive Saints Tour, staged by Bricolage Productions and Rice and Rusty Thelin's Real/Time Interventions last summer on the streets of Braddock.

The show is directed by Thelin, with a cast including Julianne Avolio, Don DiGiulio, Tressa Glover and Sean Sears. Anthony Alterio choreographs dancers Mary Houle, Megan Forster and Lawrence Karl. It’s produced by Real/Time Interventions.

The play includes sex, violence and strong language, so it’s adults-only.

The readings are at 8 p.m. tomorrow and at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Millennium Dance Complex is located at 2504 E. Carson St., on the South Side. The reading is upstairs, in Studio C.

To attend, RSVP to realtimeinterventions@gmail.com.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at barebones productions

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 2:29 PM

Three performances remain of the troupe’s well-produced staging of this 1963 play by Dale Wasserman.

A scene from barebones' "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUIS STEIN
  • Photo courtesy of Louis Stein
  • A scene from barebones' "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
For many of us, the stage work will be heavily shadowed by the 1975 Milos Forman film, among that decade’s cultural touchstones. But part of the play’s value is that it’s much closer to the spirit of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, the source material for both play and movie.

While the story’s premise and main and supporting characters are the same, the film and stage versions are framed differently. The film is a Jack Nicholson vehicle that spotlights inmate Randall P. McMurphy’s power struggle with psych-ward dictator Nurse Ratched; the play, like Kesey’s book, is actually narrated by a character who in the film doesn’t even speak: Chief Bromden.

The Big Chief’s scene-opening monologues — like his dialogue later in the play — frame the story less as a matter of personal rebellion, with McMurphy as rebel hero, and more as an allegory about the Keseyian notion of the Combine, the invisible bureaucratized power structure that controls all, turning its servants (like Ratched, and two of the psych-ward orderlies) into merciless automatons and its victims (the patients and inmates) into neutered prey.

As befits its time and Kesey’s legend, it’s all very proto-counterculture (and, at times, pretty Freudian). But this is also a way of looking at the play that helps explain its unfortunate gender politics: In a mid-century milieu where men held even more of the political and social power than they do now, Kesey invests all the repressive authority of the Combine in a female character, even while blaming offstage female characters (Billy Bibbit’s mother; Bromden’s mother) for other ills. Yet as framed by Bromden's monologues, you might see each of the characters as an expression of the Combine's warping influence.

At any rate, here’s Stuart Sheppard’s rave review of the barebones production for CP.

The remaining performances are at 8 p.m. nightly, tonight through Saturday, at the New Hazlett Theater.

Tickets are $29.99 and are available here.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East, on the North Side.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pittsburgh planning department seeks volunteers for seasonal bike and pedestrian count

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 2:04 PM

If you think counting sheep will put you to sleep, then Pittsburgh officials are hoping that counting cyclists and pedestrians will invigorate you.

The Department of City Planning is holding two-hour volunteer counting sessions at 36 intersections across the city for their second annual CountPGH event. For three separate sessions taking place next week, volunteers will be stationed at designated intersections to count the number of cyclists riding by and the number of pedestrians walking by. 
Roberto Clemente themed bike lane on the Roberto Clemente Bridge - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Roberto Clemente themed bike lane on the Roberto Clemente Bridge
A post on Pittsburgh’s Bike and Pedestrian Facebook page highlights the need for these counting days: “This is incredibly important. These numbers help us plan new bike/ped investments and also help us show that our efforts to construct better biking and walking facilities are making a difference throughout the city.”

Last year, more than 70 volunteers participated in the count, and this year the city is anticipating more. Anyone new to CountPGH must attend a pre-count training session on May 9 at 6 p.m. at a to-be-announced location Downtown. Those interested can sign up at pghbikeandped.ivolunteer.com/countpgh2016. A similar count will also take place this fall.

Counting sessions are the following:
Tue., May 10, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.
Tue., May 10, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Sat., May 14, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

And even more counting has recently started. The bike counters on the Downtown Penn Avenue protected bike lane were reinstalled two weeks ago and have already recorded thousands of rides (more than 530 trips per day so far). The counters are maintained by public-private partnership organization Envision Downtown, and the data blog for the counters can be accessed here.

These numbers run contrary to some loud voices critical to bike growth in the city. At a recent meeting in the North Side where the city announced the installation of new bike lanes on a small section of Federal and East streets, some residents spoke in oppositions saying they didn’t believe enough people rode bikes to warrant a bike lane.

Many of the same residents also believed the city was funneling too much money into bike-infrastructure projects. However, the city’s Bike and Pedestrian coordinator Kristin Saunders informed residents at the meeting that while bike commuters make up 2 percent of the Pittsburgh’s population (and some surveys have that number higher), the city only dedicates 1.2 percent of the its capital budget to bike-infrastructure projects.

Laura Thomas, a North Side resident, spoke at the meeting and summed up Pittsburgh's growing bike culture: “The city is changing, and younger people don't want to drive cars. A new population is coming to Pittsburgh, and we have to figure into that new population.”

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Final week for Quantum’s “Master Builder” on Pittsburgh’s North Side

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 11:29 AM

By design, Quantum Theatre has staged plays in dozens of interesting and unlikely places over its 26 years. (In fact the troupe has created a contest and nifty interactive map to honor that legacy.)

John Shepard and Hayley Nielsen in "The Master Builder" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ALTDORFER
  • Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
  • John Shepard and Hayley Nielsen in "The Master Builder"
But fans of the urban landscape will be especially thrilled by the venue Quantum has arranged for this Ibsen classic: The view from the ninth floor of Building Two of Nova Place (formerly Allegheny Center) alone is worth half the price of admission.

The former office space in the recently sold complex has been stripped bare, meaning a short walk around the perimeter gets you a 360-degree low-flying-bird’s-eye view of Pittsburgh that’s centered a few blocks behind PNC Park. Arrive early for a daylight perspective. My favorite vantage lets you gaze across Deutschtown and up the Allegheny valley all the way to UPMC Children’s Hospital on the Lawrenceville hillside, and beyond.

The play, meanwhile, is staged before the windows that look out on the Downtown skyline, and the wraparound windows take full advantage of the dusk that descends throughout the first of three acts (for performances starting at 8 p.m., which most of them do).

Dusk descending is also an apt metaphor vis-à-vis Ibsen’s script, which grapples with mortality, the notion of legacy and the fear of obsolescence that grips Halvard Solness, an aging architect with a wandering eye.

The play is knotty, as Ibsen tends to be; after the show, I had a fruitful discussion with a fellow attendee about whether the whole story had taken place in Solness’ head, the other characters merely manifestations of his own psyche. But Master Builder will definitely get you thinking; indeed, a week after seeing it, I feel like I’m still processing.

For another take, here’s Stuart Sheppard’s review for CP.

The Master Builder has four more performances through Sunday.

Tickets are $38 and are available here.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Final Performances of "The Flick" at Pittsburgh’s The REP

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 11:18 AM

I know, I know, it’s all about Prince this morning, as it should be. But I hope you recover in time to check out this exceptional production of Annie Baker’s 2015 Pulitzer-winning play.

Sarah Silk and Saladin White II in "The Flick" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SWENSEN
  • Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
  • Sarah Silk and Saladin White II in "The Flick"
The Flick is a real anomaly that sounds daunting and maybe even shouldn’t work: Who these days writes a low-key three-hour comedy, played on one dingy set, where all three main characters are underpaid dorks and two of them are depressives? And which, as Michelle Pilecki points out in her review for CP, is for long passages so shy on dialogue that it's practically a dance show?

But Baker (whose Circle Mirror Transformation was staged by Pittsburgh Public Theater a few years back) is a virtuoso of the space between words: While Baker has a peerless ear for the inarticulate way people really talk, what isn’t said in this play, set in a rundown small-town movie theater, and for how long it’s not said, is at least as communicative as what is (both between the characters themselves and for the audience).

So Baker loves her silences. But because she therefore gives the cast both nothing and everything to work with, The Flick – I’d call it a discontiguous love triangle, though it’s also more – only works if the director and cast get it. And at The REP they surely do: Robert A. Miller guides an amazing ensemble cast led by Sarah Silk, John Steffenauer and Saladin White II.

Three hours is long, yes. But just bring a snack, and come ready to really watch, and really listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Four performances remain of The Flick, tonight through Sunday, at Point Park University's black-box Studio theater, 222 Craft Ave., in Oakland.

Tickets are $10-29 and are available here.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

'Last Dragon' star Taimak answers seven important questions before April 22 visit

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:57 AM

  • Battle of the Masters in The Last Dragon: Leroy Green (Taimak) and Sho-Nuff (Julius Carry)
"Who is the master?!"
Also, how do I get "The Glow"? And just how big can Vanity's hair get?

Important questions asked — and answered — in the 1985's martial-arts comedy The Last Dragon. The film, long a cult favorite, offers fights, cheesy special effects, groaner puns and even a romance. The film's full title is Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, so you know the Motown Master packed it with musical performances, too.

Most folks probably came to The Last Dragon via VHS tapes or cable, so here's your chance to see Michael Schultz's masterpiece on the big screen. The film screens 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fri., April 22, at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont. The film's action star, Taimak, will attend both screenings, sign copies of his new book, Taimak:The Last Dragon, and do a Q&A. More info and tickets here

Prepare your important questions for Taimak now. We got in a few in early, and Taimak graciously answered them via email.

Your fighting preference: fist or foot?

How long does it take to eat a small popcorn using only chopsticks?
Depends how cooperative the kernel is :)

How many headbands were deployed in the making of The Last Dragon?
I don't know, I only wore a hat.

If you could time travel back to New York City 1985, what would you buy?
A VIP ticket to Studio 54

Whatever happened to all those giant boomboxes?
They shrunk.

Besides The Last Dragon, is there a greater martial-arts movie than Enter the Dragon?
I don't know about better, but I love many, like Seven Samurai, Five Deadly Venoms, Shogun's Assassin, Chinatown Kid, Shaolin Soccer, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, 18 Bronze Men ... etc.

Who is the master?
I Am.

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