Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“Tomorrow’s Parties” launches "Strange Times" series at Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theater

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 11:44 AM

What is the future?

Claire Marshall and Richard Lowdon in "Tomorrow's Parties"
  • Claire Marshall and Richard Lowdon in "Tomorrow's Parties"
After seeing this stage work, performed last night by England’s acclaimed Forced Entertainment, I have the sense that the future is an empty box we can’t help opening, again and again.

The show consists of just two performers, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall, standing in one spot and for 80 minutes delivering visions of what life on Earth will be like some years from now.

The prognostications often contradict each other: Their predictions of Earth’s population, for instance, range from zero humans to so many people that life resembles a perpetual subway ride. And over the course of the evening, everything is addressed from what and how we’ll eat, and whether we’ll need to work, to alien invasions and attempts to colonize space (and the ocean floor). Complete surveillance or utter lawlessness? Suicide pills or climate-controlled paradise?

It’s a brilliantly simple concept (OK, deceptively simple, too), cogently executed with near deadpan sincerity, and often very funny. It was also a great way to kick off the Carnegie Museums’ series Strange Times: Earth in the Age of the Human. The four-month, 10-event program features performances, talks and presentations that ask, as the Carnegie puts it, “Will we survive ourselves?”

I’m still mulling over Tomorrow’s Parties (with its title's wry Velvet Underground reference), but part of what I found fascinating was the way it played with how any scenario of the future someone wants to spin always seems at least vaguely plausible, if only because it invariably feels like an extrapolation of some half-remembered news item about gene-splicing, pandemic disease, mass extinction or space travel.

“The future,” in other words, is this repository for all our hopes and fears, and Lowdon and Marshall (working from a concept co-devised by them with Forced Entertainment's other four troupe members) bring out the myriad of ways it teases, taunts and scares us.

The stage is a pair of stacked wooden pallets, dressed with a simple and sad string of fairground lights. There’s no music or other effects, and Lowdon and Marshall are costumed like your suburban in-laws stopping by after church. Over the course of the evening, subtle flashes of interplay emerge between the two actors, suggesting how one’s personality influences how one sees the future.

But what’s perhaps most plangent about Tomorrow’s Parties is that there’s never any sense that the future is something we can make, or even change: It’s just something, for good or ill, that will happen, and we’ll have to live in, or with.

Forced Entertainment plays the Hazlett again tonight, but with a different show. Real Magic, the troupe’s newest, looks to be a rather more antic work, a largely comedic piece about “optimism, individual agency and the desire for change.”

Real Magic starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12-15 and are available here.

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

Strange Times continues on Feb. 16 with Big Farms Make Big Flu, an evening with visiting author Rob Wallace and Carnegie Mellon University art professor Richard Pell (founder of the Pittsburgh-based Center for PostNatural History), who’ll discuss the drawbacks of globalized food systems.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Volunteer Fair on Thursday night at Pittsburgh’s Spirit

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM

If you’re eager to improve your community but aren’t sure how to begin, a good place to start is Help or High Water.

The evening-length volunteer fair at the popular Lawrenceville gathering place will feature representatives from dozens of local nonprofit groups working on everything from feeding people to reproductive justice, and from environmental issues to immigrant rights.

Groups include: 412 Food Rescue; the American Civil Liberties Union; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh; Gay for Good: Pittsburgh; Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council; Islamic Center of Pittsburgh; New Voices Pittsburgh; PennFuture; Pittsburgh Action Against Rape; Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania; and many more.

The groups are looking for volunteers, financial contributions and more. The evening also includes raffles for prizes from a long roster of local shops, restaurants and cafes; a DJ; drink specials; and more. For updates, see Facebook.

Help or High Water is organized by Alicia Carberry. She's a legislative assistant for Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman whose own volunteer activities involve groups including Allegheny CleanWays.

Help or High Water runs 5-11 p.m Thu., Jan. 12. Admission is free.

Spirit is located at 242 51st St.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Following arrest, media lists Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Joey Porter's past legal trouble but ignore those of the arresting officer

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 6:19 PM

  • City Paper File Photo
  • Joey Porter
By now you've most likely learned that Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter was arrested Sunday evening following the Steelers' playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins. According to ESPN, the former Steelers player was arrested outside of a bar in the South Side after an altercation with a bouncer and off-duty police officer Paul Abel.

The team has placed Porter on leave during the investigation.

According to ESPN's article and other local publications like the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Pittsburgh Post Gazette, this isn't Porter's first run in with the law. Porter was arrested under suspicion of drunken driving, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in California in 2010. And according to the Trib, "In September 2006, Porter was cited when two of his dogs got loose from his Pine home and killed a miniature horse at a neighbor's farm."

But the articles fail to add that this isn't Pittsburgh Police Officer Abel's first high-profile altercation either. In 2008, Abel was arrested on charges that he pistol-whipped and accidentally shot a man he mistook for someone that he had an altercation with in a bar. He was also allegedly intoxicated and had been driving drunk. While Abel was initially suspended without pay, Judge Jeffrey Manning cleared him of criminal wrongdoing although he said, according to the Post-Gazette that Abel's actions were "inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised." Even though he was trying to detain the wrong man, Abel said he was trying to make an arrest, not retaliate. Manning said, "It is not the obligation of this court to police the police department." As we're sure you can deduce, Abel went back to work on the police force. The city, however, paid the victim, Kaleb Miller, a $44,500 settlement.

Abel was also the subject of at least three other complaints made to the Pittsburgh Citizens Police review board. One involved Abel's wife alleging that her husband forced her to accuse the grandparents of her children of sexual abuse during a custody dispute. Another involved Abel fighting with his brother-in-law in the hallway of the Allegheny County Courthouse and still another alleged that Abel slammed a man's head into a wall when he asked the officer not to shoot his grandfather with a Taser. No criminal charges have ever been filed in any of the cases.

According to a report filed by Abel in the Saturday incident, the officer attempted to restrain Porter after the Steelers coach lifted Flats on Carson doorman Jon Nesgow off the ground. Abel says Porter than grabbed him by the wrists, after which Abel called for backup and Porter was arrested.

According to the report Abel was wearing a body camera but he didn't turn it on until after he was grabbed by Porter.

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ICE deems Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant a priority; supporters scrambling to save him from deportation

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 5:37 PM

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally in Beechview - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally in Beechview
At 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made their intentions known on how they intend to handle the case of Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, a Pittsburgh resident and undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

“Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez has two misdemeanor convictions, one from 2012 and 2017, and federal authorities removed him to Mexico four times since 2011, with the latest removal taking place in 2012,” wrote ICE officials in an email to City Paper. “As a result, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has designated Mr. Esquivel-Hernandez’s case as a priority for immigration enforcement.”

Esquivel-Hernandez has lived in Pittsburgh for more than four years, with his wife, three children (including a U.S. citizen son). He supports his family by working in the residential construction industry. He is active at two Pittsburgh churches and has become a volunteer and advocate in the region’s Latino community. Other than two minor traffic citations (driving without a valid license, which he can’t legally obtain in Pennsylvania), Esquivel-Hernandez has no local criminal record. His only two aforementioned misdemeanors are illegal entry and intentionally falsifying identification; he did both these crimes to escape his gang-riddled Mexico City slum and reunite with his young family, who had moved to the U.S. before him.

Mount Lebanon Police, who cited Esquivel-Hernandez for driving without a valid license, contacted ICE shortly after citing him. He was picked up by ICE the day after participating in a immigrant-rights rally on May 2. He has been in custody ever since, mostly at a for-profit, private prison in Youngstown, Ohio.

Guillermo Perez, of Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, who has spent months advocating on behalf of Esquivel-Hernandez, says ICE should not make any decisions regarding Esquivel-Hernandez before it learns more about him. LCLAA filed a stay on behalf of Esquivel-Hernandez on Jan. 9, in hopes that ICE officers have more time to review his case before deporting him.

"It’s puzzling to us why ICE would issue this statement on the same day that they know [LCLAA is] filing an application for a stay for [Esquivel-Hernandez's] order of deportation," wrote Perez in an email to CP. "It suggests that they’re not interested in hearing from the many local faith, labor, and community leaders who have submitted compelling letters of support for Martín, or from the more than 1,000 Pittsburghers who have signed the online petition urging that he be returned to his family and community."

For the first eight months of his detention, Esquivel-Hernandez was under the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia ICE field office and was only transferred to the Detroit field office in late December 2016.

After a seven-month campaign, during which advocates for Esquivel-Hernandez held rallies; received support from politicians like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Swissvale); and participated in prayer circles with faith-leaders, Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer Sally Frick was able to negotiate a plea deal that would lessen his initial felony charge to a misdemeanor and give him the best chance at avoiding deportation.

“This case was resolved in a way to avoid deportation consequences for [Esquivel-Hernandez],” says Perez. “The U.S. attorney [Soo Song] and district judge [Donetta Ambrose] are with us, that he should not be deported.”

During Esquivel-Hernandez’s sentencing hearing in December, Ambrose said “[Esquivel-Hernandez shows] nothing that threatens society in any way. I believe [his] motives were pure in coming here.”

In response to the news Esquivel-Hernandez could be deported Jan. 10, a group of Pittsburghers are pulling out all the stops to get ICE Detroit field officer Rebecca Adducci to drop the detainer against Esquivel-Hernandez and allow him to return to his family in Pittsburgh. Dozens of phone calls have flooded the voicemail of Adducci.

“We are racing against the clock,” says Perez. “We are trying to show the best that we can that [Esquivel-Hernandez] should not be deported. I don’t know what else we can do.”

Perez says LCLAA has submitted a request for prosecutorial discretion to Adducci that details how Esquivel-Hernandez doesn’t fit into the current ICE guidelines for priorities for enforcement. (He has not been convicted of a felony, has been present in U.S. since before 2014, and was not discovered near the border.)

Esquivel-Hernandez's advocates fear his fate may be sealed due to Seneca County Jail's bad reputation in terms of how they treat ICE detainees; according to stats from Syracuse University, the facility deports immigrants at a higher rate than the national average.

However, Perez says that people should not give up the fight. He says people can still call Adducci at 313-568-6036 or sign a petition and ask her to drop the detainer. “Now is the time, to sign the petition, and call Rebecca Adducci and demand that we need Martín Esquivel-Hernandez back," Perez says. "Now is the time.”

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Slideshow: Pittsburgh Steelers crush Miami Dolphins in first round of NFL Playoffs

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Antonio Brown moves up field against the Miami Dolphins on Sun. Jan. 8, 2017 - CP PHOTO BY VINCENT PUGLIESE
  • CP photo by Vincent Pugliese
  • Antonio Brown moves up field against the Miami Dolphins on Sun. Jan. 8, 2017
It's pretty obvious by the 30-12 score that the Miami Dolphins didn't show up to work when they faced the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. One person who did show up ready to put in a full day was City Paper photographer Vincent Pugliese who turned in this awesome slideshow. The Steelers travel to Kansas City for a game at 1 p.m. Sun. Jan. 15.

Steelers vs Dolphins
Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins Steelers vs Dolphins

Steelers vs Dolphins

CP photo by Vincent Pugliese

Click to View 20 slides

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Studies show bike lanes can reduce congestion, contrary to Pittsburgh residents' criticism

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 3:44 PM

Bike riders on Penn Avenue protected bike lane - PHOTO COURTESY OF BIKE PITTSBURGH
  • Photo courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh
  • Bike riders on Penn Avenue protected bike lane
Pushing back against new bike lanes is becoming a Pittsburgh tradition. When Mayor Bill Peduto started to install the lanes a couple years ago along Penn Avenue, in Oakland and elsewhere, there was outcry from business owners, residents in the neighborhoods and drivers worrying about parking. Granted there was also support from hundreds of bikers and advocates, but that support tended to be downplayed by media outlets.

Now, two years after having set up protected bike lanes Downtown on Penn Avenue (which sometimes receives more than 1,000 trips per day) and the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the city is still facing strong push-back on an extension to that system along Fort Pitt Boulevard. In response, Pittsburgh City Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith (District 2) is proposing the creation of a bike-lane committee to field complaints and suggestions for new bike lanes.

However, as advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh points out, there already is a Complete Streets Advisory Committee being set up that can field road-design complaints, such as for bike lanes.

“We believe that [Pittsburgh] should first concentrate on getting the Complete Streets Advisory Committee off the ground and running — a committee that was written into the Complete Streets bill that unanimously passed council in November,” wrote Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker in an email to City Paper. “If a bicycle-only advisory committee is still needed, so be it, but they should figure out how it will coordinate with the Complete Streets Committee so that the two are not redundant.”

In addition to the Complete Streets committee, Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning conducts numerous public meetings every year led by bike/pedestrian coordinator Kristine Saunders, where complaints and suggestions about new bike-lane projects can be filed. CP has sat in on many of these meetings, which are always held in the neighborhood directly affected, and they usually include many representatives from both the pro-bike-lane and anti-bike-lane creed.

Nonetheless, the Pittsburgh Trib Live reported Jan. 3 that Kail-Smith was motivated to set up a bike-lane committee due to “numerous complaints about existing lanes Downtown from residents who say they take up space for street parking and cause traffic congestion.”

But the assertion that bike lanes cause more congestion actually runs contrary to studies in multiple big cities across the country. In New York City, a protected bike lane on Columbus Avenue actually improved congestion, decreasing travel time for cars from 4.5 minutes to 3 minutes along a 20-block stretch. In Minneapolis, the U.S.’s top bike-commuting city, news-data website studied 10 segments in the Minnesota city in 2014 and determined that the addition of a bike lane at the cost of a car lane had no affect on traffic times for cars.

In fact, a 2013 University of Virginia study shows that bike riders only reduce congestion when they have bike lanes to ride in. The Fort Pitt Boulevard proposed extension to Downtown's protected bike lane would add about half-a-mile of lanes and connect directly to the Great Allegheny Passage trail, which runs to Washington, D.C.

The proposed bike-lane advisory committee will be discussed at 10 a.m. Wed., Jan 11, in the city council chambers, located on the fifth floor of the City-County Building at 414 Grant St., Downtown.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Downtown Pittsburgh’s Strawberry Way named favorite 'Street Transformation'

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 11:14 AM

Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right) - PHOTO COURTESY OF ENVISION DOWNTOWN
  • Photo courtesy of Envision Downtown
  • Strawberry Way before (left) and after (right)
The alley known as Strawberry Way that slices through the northern section of Downtown, from Liberty to Grant streets, has always been a shortcut for some Pittsburgh pedestrians, but not always a desirable one. Trash was usually strewn across its asphalt and the blank, high walls of skyscrapers hurried walkers through as fast as their feet could carry them.

Then this summer, thanks to the work of public-private partnership Envision Downtown and others, the alley was transformed. Colorful designs were painted on the blacktop by local artist Deanna Mance, roadblocks were put up to stop cars from driving through, and picnic tables and planter boxes were placed on the street to encourage people to enjoy their new Downtown oasis.

Last week, the national transit and urban planning news site Streetsblog USA awarded Strawberry Way its Best Street Transformation, People’s Choice. The Pittsburgh alley beat out five other projects in cities including San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.

“Strawberry Way is the latest example of partnerships at work to promote a people-first Downtown Pittsburgh,” wrote Sean Luther of Envision Downtown in an email to City Paper. “In this case, Envision Downtown relied heavily on a coalition of the PDP, the City’s Department of Public Works, the Office of Public Art, the Colcom Foundation and PPG Paints to drive this transformative project forward.”

The Strawberry Way transformation won the honor by receiving the most votes on the Streetsblog USA website.

In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing than before, Luther says the the project has resulted in a 43 percent increase in pedestrian traffic through the alley, according to a study completed by Envision Downtown. Also, there has been an outstanding 462 percent increase in people spending time in Strawberry Way.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is proud of Strawberry Way’s transformation too. “Strawberry Way is a great example of our community-driven vision for making Pittsburgh a sustainable and efficient 21st Century city for all,” wrote Peduto in an email to CP.

Check out the CP video below to see the transformation in progress.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 3:39 PM

The play itself, as staged in a nationally touring production, requires no additional feting. Based on Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time follows 15-year-old Christopher, a special-needs child who discovers the body of his neighbor’s dog and commences an investigation.

Adam Langdon (center) in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOAN MARCUS
  • Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus
  • Adam Langdon (center) in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
Unmasking the killer, however, is only half of the story. There are no traditional props or storytelling techniques on display. The action, which unfolds in front of a massively creative, interactive set that resembles graph paper, is propelled by the incredible work of the ensemble cast, led by the performances of Maria Elena Ramirez as Christopher’s patient teacher; Gene Gillette as Christopher’s devoted father; and Adam Langdon as Christopher. (Enough cannot be said about the Langdon’s extraordinary physical performance. At one point he literally walks along the walls.)

The show sold out its original runs at the UK National Theatre and at The Gielgud in London’s fabled West End. When it finally exploded onto Broadway, it earned its creative team multiple Tony awards, including best play for Simon Stephens; a best director for Marianne Elliott; and best lighting and scenic design for Paule Constable, Bunny Christie, and Finn Ross. The U.S. tour, produced by the National Theatre, has been brought to Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as part of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series.

So, yes, the show is very good, and fulfills its own hype. More importantly, though, is why you should rush out and buy tickets before it leaves town on Jan. 8.

The last time I was in New York, I bought two of the cheapest tickets I could afford to a Broadway show, real nosebleeders, and I paid around $200. By contrast, in Pittsburgh you can still find two balcony-level seats for this Saturday night's performance for less than $100. You’re likely to pay out nearly as much at the multiplex for two Imax tickets plus popcorn and soda. Skip the post-movie bellyache; not only will you be witness to one of the most unique stage productions to come along in years, the romantic experience of the night promises to be enhanced exponentially by the pomp of Heinz Hall.

Seven performances remain through Sun., Jan. 8.

Tickets are $26-77, available here.

Heinz Hall is located at 600 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pittsburgh Steelers wrap up the regular season with win against Cleveland

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 12:10 PM

  • CP Photo by Luke Thor Travis
Pittsburgh sports fans rang in 2017 at Heinz Field as the Steelers won their first game of the new year 27-24 in overtime against the Cleveland Browns.

Check out our photo slideshow from the Jan. 1 game below and look for more coverage on the Steelers playoff game next week against the Miami Dolphins!

Pittsburgh Steelers
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Pittsburgh Steelers

CP Photos by Luke Thor Travis

Click to View 40 slides

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Pittsburgh City Paper's most popular online stories of 2016

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:50 PM

Let's skip the whole "Fuck 2016" intro that seems to be ubiquitous in year-end lists this week and just jump into our most popular articles of the year. Sound good? Here they are.


For a year filled to the brim with surprises, it seems fitting that we kicked off the year with predictions from local psychics. When news editor Rebecca Addison first pitched the idea last December, she did not anticipate it becoming our most popular story of the year. But as the old maxim goes, "that's why you play the game."

"Three Pittsburgh psychics make predictions for 2016" by Rebecca Addison

Oh man, the timing on this. Frances Rupp's February edition of This Just In tackled some of former WTAE anchor Wendy Bell's questionable behavior just one month before she was fired for this Facebook post.

"This Just In: A look at local news online and on the tube" by Frances Sansig Rupp

One story that we'll continue to follow throughout 2017 is how Mayor Peduto will attempt to subvert and counter potential policies of the Trump administration. This was a good first step.

"Pittsburgh City Council introduces city ban on conversion therapy" by Ryan Deto


  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
Our news intern Tyler Dague did a great job capturing the weird kicks and thrills of an escape room outing.

"We go inside the escape-room phenomenon" by Tyler Dague


Even in a year of surprises, the fact that our most read movie review was a Swedish drama about a suicidal curmudgeon ranks pretty high. Where were the psychics on this one?

"A Man Called Ove" by Al Hoff


Margaret Welsh's story about coming out in the Christian-music industry brought to light a lot of significant issues that don't get too much attention and clearly many readers connected with it.

"After a long hiatus, and high-profile coming-out, Christian-music veteran Jennifer Knapp moves forward" by Margaret Welsh


  • CP photo by Drew Cranisky
This one's not much of a shocker. People really like Old Fashioneds.

"The Old Fashioned never goes out of style" by Drew Cranisky


Chalk this one up to a flattering tweet from Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.

"An American Idiot for the Black Lives Matter era" by Tyler Dague 


Pittsburgh likes its football and it especially likes being good at it.

"Wysocki: In terms of churning out talent, Aliquippa may be the greatest town in America" by Mike Wysocki

Thanks for reading. On to 2017.

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