Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cirque du Soleil Wackiness at Strip Primanti’s

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Three performers from the touring Cirque Du Soleil show Varekai invaded Primanti’s Brothers in the Strip District this morning to publicize the show’s upcoming performance in Pittsburgh.




There was Kamikaze, who sported a reflective blue outfit with fins on his head and back; the Guide, dressed in all black and sporting a helmet with a lightbulb ; and Skywatcher, a shirtless blonde wearing brown pants and green leaves sprouting from his waist.

Faces covered in elaborate makeup, they stepped behind the lunch counter to help the restaurant’s long-time manager, Toni Haggerty, make a pastrami sandwich. The three spoke only using short grunts (though Skywatcher did let out a “Madonna!” as he held up two Styrofoam cups to his nipples.)

On Thursday, you can see them in their element at the Petersen Events Center, where Varekai debuts at 7:30 p.m.

The show (a big-top version of which played Pittsburgh in 2007) follows a young man who falls from the sky and lands in the forest ofVarekai, a place where whimsical creatures roam. Attendees can expect to see jugglers, aerial acrobats, contortionists, and of course, clowns.

The show continues through Sunday, with a Friday performance at 7:30 p.m., Saturday performances at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday performances at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets are $32-100. Buy them here.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

GIF Contest Taking Submissions Until Friday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Since its creation in 1987, the GIF has become a relic of online culture. And now there's a locally based contest to find the best one.


The acronym stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” and refers to a graphics file containing compressed video. It’s a versatile and popular art form: Message-board users stake their identity by using animated GIFs as their avatars; others use them to spread the gospel of Grumpy Cat; and some have even argued over the term’s correct pronunciation — with a “j” sound, like the peanut butter, or with a hard “g” sound, as in “gift”? (The GIF’s creator, Steve Wilhite, has officially said it’s pronounced the first way.)

To celebrate this medium, the artist collective VIA is holding T.GIF, a bracket-style contest for original GIFs.

More than 80 artists have been asked to submit their GIFs to the contest, but until Friday, you can submit your own GIF to the official website, too.

Acceptable files may range in size from 500 pixels by 500 pixels to 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels; submissions should be no larger than 2 MB, and they must have been created between March 2013 and March 2014.

According to the press release, the final 64 participants will be chosen by “a guest panel of [extreme] gif enthusiasts.”

Via will announce the final contenders on its website and social media on Sun., March 16. To decide the winner, the public will then vote on their favorites from March 20 to April 7.

The winner gets a $100 "Gif" certification to GIFPOP, a tool to make custom cards from animated GIFS, using lenticular printing.

Submit your best GIF here.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Carole Lombard Biographer Hosts Film Screening Tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 3:30 PM

A locally based expert on the Hollywood legend, and her untimely death, hosts a screening of one her best-loved films at the North Side’s Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church.


Robert Matzen, author of Fireball: Carole Lombard & The Mystery of Flight 3, will introduce the 1936 comedy My Man Godfrey. The film starred the great comic actress alongside William Powell.

Lombard died in a plane crash in the Mojave Desert in 1942. Matzen, formerly a filmmaker for NASA, has spoken as an expert on the actress’ life in BBC documentaries and elsewhere. He has explored not only her on-screen roles but her life as a women’s-rights advocate, wife of Clark Gable and the highest-paid woman in Hollywood.

Matzen says Fireball contains many previously unknown photos and newly uncovered evidence about Lombard and especially about the crash.

Tomorrow’s screening, part of a festival honoring Powell, a native of Allegheny City, is at 6:30 p.m. The church is located at 416 W. North Ave.

For more information on Fireball, see

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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Carnegie's Evening of Drawing With Nicole Eisenman

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 1:30 PM

In a gallery on the first floor of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Sarah Moreno, a retired elementary school teacher from Bethel Park, sketched a man with tattoos spiraling out of the bottom edges of his black boxer briefs. Her pencil box lying between her knees, Moreno drew with her left hand, her light strokes contrasting with those of a woman sitting a few feet to her left, where thick dark lines punched out from the page.

Sarah Moreno draws at the museum

Moreno, who taught first- and second-graders for more than 40 years, said that drawing was something she’s always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. “I want to get out all these ideas before I die,” she laughed.

She was just one in a crowd of about 300 who attended last night's Drawing Experience with Nicole Eisenman, the internationally known artist who won the 2013 Carnegie International's Carnegie Prize.

The workshop was part of Carnegie Mellon's three-day DRAW2014symposium. Artists were clustered throughout the museum, drawing the live models stationed in different galleries. Eisenman had just shared her thoughts on the medium during her opening remarks: Drawing, she said, is “one of the first moments of recognizing agency in the world.” It “means more than to be represented by a line drawn across the page … It means to be allured.”

Moreno was excited to attend; the museum stopped offering art classes right around the time she got into art. “I always wanted to be an artist,” she whispered in the museum’s hall of sculpture as she sketched a female model with pierced nipples. “But I had to bide my time [with a more practical career].”

That’s part of what brought Moreno here tonight. The other part is the allure that Eisenman spoke about. A member of the Carnegie Museum, Moreno estimated she’d seen the 2013 Carnegie International show five or six times. And it showed: She pointed out an Eisenman painting she loves — “I’m With Stupid,” in which a clown-nosed boy wears a shirt printed with the same statement and an arrow pointing downward, his genitalia completely bare — as we wandered along the hall of sculpture balcony. This is where the Carnegie Prize winner also has a sculpture of a seated figure slouched over and texting — right next to a Roman copy of a Greek statue.

(“She’s so creative,” Moreno said later in the lobby, speaking about Eisenman. “There’s a sense of humor with her work that I enjoy, and yet there’s a serious side too.”)

Now that she’s retired, Moreno is turning her garage into a studio. Though she first claimed to not be an artist when asked for an interview, at the end of the night she made a different statement. “I think everyone’s an artist. But a lot of people get inhibited because they look at other people’s work and they think, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ People say they can’t draw but I think everybody can draw. It’s just [a matter of] making effort and being free.”

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Musicians and stage performers sought for meeting tonight

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:36 PM

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosts an informational meeting tonight with representatives of artists from the Czech Republic for a community-based artists residency and free performances this summer.

The Archa Theater and its All-Star Refjudzi band will be in residence at City of Asylum. It’s seeking local musicians, actors, dancers, other performers and volunteers to participate in creating and performing in “a musical/theatrical event based on stories from within Pittsburgh’s refugee communities.”

Archa is a leading Czech Republic theater company. The band, led by American musician Michael Romanyshyn, combines music of different styles and various cultural sources. See more on the group’s Vimeo channel.

Archa and the band will be in residency in June, with free performances planned on June 28 and 29. Here’s more about the project.

Tonight’s meeting is at 330 Sampsonia Way, on the North Side, at 6 p.m. Email Julie Tvaruzek at if you can attend.

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Toonseum To Hold “Cause-Play Party”

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 8:46 AM

The museum of cartoon art hosts a unique fundraiser this Saturday — and perhaps one only this venue could get away with.

Guests are encouraged to show up as their favorite character, whether superhero, movie or TV personage, anime entity, stormtrooper or furry. It’s ideal for anyone looking for somewhere to play dress up between the last comic-con and next Halloween.

The party’s at Downtown’s Tilden Lounge. Prizes and trophies will be awarded to costumed attendees in multiple categories.

There’ll also be a live DJ, silent auction (for items including character costumes, original art, tickets to activities around town and more), light hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and “specially crafted Super Shots.”

Attendees must be 21 and over (and sorry — you’ll have to unmask at the door for the ID check).

The costume party starts 8:30 p.m. at the Tilden Lounge. Tickets are $20 and available here or at the door. A $50 VIP ticket gets you in for mingling at 7:30 p.m.

Tilden Lounge, a private club, is located at 941 Liberty Ave., two doors down from Toonseum.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Registration Deadline for Big Drawing Symposium

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Tomorrow is the deadline to register for workshops and special events in DRAW2014, the four-day drawing symposium hosted by Carnegie Mellon in partnership with the University of the Arts London.

  • Art by Nicole Eisenman

The Feb. 27-March 1 symposium takes place at locations on CMU’s campus, the Carnegie Museum of Art and Artists Image Resource. It includes artist projects, lectures, presentations, demonstrations, panel discussions, performances and hands-on workshops about the processes, materials and ideas that influence drawing today.

Many of the events, including keynote lectures by artists including Amy Sillman, Stephen Farthing and Shahzia Sikander, are free and don’t require registration. But the workshops and some special events have limited capacity.

Events requiring registration include Feb. 27’s “Drawing Experience with Nicole Eisenman,” a one-night group workshop with live models and led by this Carnegie International artist.

To register, and for more informtion, see here.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Toonseum Marks Animation Milestone on Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 2:55 PM

What do The Flintstones, South Park and Adventure Time all have in common?

Yes, they’re all animated. But more importantly, they’re all descendants of Gertie the Dinosaur, one of the earliest cartoon characters. This Saturday, Toonseum will be throwing a birthday party for Gertie in honor of her 100th birthday.


Gertie was a trailblazer in several ways. “It’s the first time in animation that there is a really developed personality for a character,” says Toonseum director Joe Wos. “It is beyond a simple short exercise in animation. There’s a full cartoon with a live stage performance. It’s the first screen dinosaur … It’s the earliest female character in animation.”

Created by master of whimsy and cartooning legend Winsor McKay, Gertie debuted in 1914 as part of a vaudeville act. (That's the original poster at left.) In front of a live audience, McKay would issue "commands" to the on-screen Gertie, who responded in her animated environment by dancing, eating part of her surroundings and draining an entire lake when urged to drink.

Visitors have the chance to see her in action themselves when Toonseum screens Gertie the Dinosaur at 1:15 p.m on Saturday. They’ll also get to see a rare artifact — one of McKay’s original Gertie sketches.

“There’s only a handful of pieces that still exist,” says Wos. “Out of 10,000 drawings, only about 200 exist in the world. Only three are on public display, and Toonseum has one of them.

"[I think people will] be astounded in seeing Gertie [and seeing] how much those basic principles and concepts in animation and character development remain. It’s really a testament to Gertie’s legacy."

In addition to the Gertie-related activities, the museum offers a “How to Toon Quick Class” at 2 p.m. and a “Flip Book Construction Quick Class” at 2:45 p.m. Kids can also see many of the works following Gertie’s footsteps with screenings of other cartoons, shown as part of the museum’s Century of Animation exhibit.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Free programs accompany Heather Henson puppet show

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Henson, the youngest daughter of famed Muppet creator Jim Henson, is in town to premiere her new show Jan. 18 and 19. (More on that in next week’s CP.)

But in the meantime, her troupe, IBEX Puppetry, is offering free talks and a workshop, all open to the public, early next week.

The new show is titled Flight: A Crane’s Story, and the first two programs specifically concern the endangered whooping crane. All the programs are on Pitt’s campus, where the show will be staged at the Charity Randall Theatre.

On Mon., Jan. 13, Joan Garland, of the International Crane Foundation, a conservation group, gives a 3 p.m. talk titled “The Return of the Whooping Cranes,” in Posvar Hall 1501.

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Garland is joined by Heather Henson herself for “Cranes: Biology & Artistry.” The presentation “explores connections between endangered whooping cranes, humans, the life sciences and the arts.” This one’s in 104 David Lawrence Hall.

And at 3 p.m. Wednesay, in the Charity Randall Theatre, Henson and Ibex present a panel discussion about the evolution of that new show, Flight, subtitled “the evolution of inspiration.”

For more on Ibex, see here.

For more on Flight, see here.

And for more on the free public programs, email

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Small-press publisher debuts with zine release

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Local writer Matthew Newton has started a new small press, and is launching it with his own lovely new zine, titled “In Case of Emergency.” The event is tomorrow night, at Braddock’s UnSmoke Systems Artspace.


The zine, with illustrations by William Arthur, is another of Newton’s takes on young-adult life during the Great Recession. Like Death of a Good Job, his e-book from earlier this year, “Emergency” spins off of Newton’s abrupt firing from his position as a magazine editor. The new story also draws heavily on his experiences, in 1994, as a high school dropout washing dishes in a Holiday Inn karaoke bar.

Newton’s new small-press venture is called No Empire, and “Emergency” is its first publication.

Newton has written for publications including The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes, Guernica and Spin. (He’s also written for CP from time to time.)

Tomorrow’s event, co-presented with Small Press Pittsburgh, includes a Small Press pop-up bookshop with works by local authors; vintage-goods shop Do Not Destroy; and readings by Newton, Karen Dietrich and Karen Lillis (who runs Small Press Pittsburgh).

It’s also a chance to see the art exhibit View From A Hill, Devon Johnson’s "psychological portrait of the landscape of Pittsburgh."

Doors at UnSmoke open tomorrow at 6 p.m, with readings at 7 p.m. The gallery is located at 1137 Braddock Ave., in Braddock. The event is free.

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