Tuesday, March 7, 2017

CAKE Comedy's Kickstarter to perform in Pittsburgh ends Friday

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 3:40 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Alex Rosenfeld
CAKE Comedy, the touring collective of Carrie Gravenson, Abbi Crutchfield, Kaytlin Bailey and Erin Judge (it's based off their names), are taking a unique approach to booking their 2017 tour. Instead of using Kickstarter to mitigate tour costs, they're essentially using it as a box office. If they sell over $1,000 in tickets for a given city, they'll play the gig. If they don't, they won't, and nobody gets charged.

It's possible you haven't heard of CAKE, but it's a safe bet you've seen each of them somewhere. Back in 2012, they performed as the Pink Collar Comedy Tour and have stayed active performing and writing in the time since. Pittsburgh City Paper spoke with Kaytlin Bailey (the CAKE's "K") via email to discuss their strategy.

CAKE’s Kickstarter approach to booking this tour is a cool way to reduce financial risk and open a direct line to your fans. I like it. I’m curious, have you ever regretted giving to a Kickstarter? What was it and why?

I've given to a lot of Kickstarters, I love being a part of cool ideas! I've never regretted giving to a Kickstarter project but I wish I didn't have to use my crowdfunding budget to help with so many of my friends medical & personal emergencies! I blame the system, it's terrible that people have to solicit donations for chemo. Maybe Kickstarter could replace the NEA but it shouldn't replace healthcare!

Can you explain how this idea came together (to book the tour this way)?

I got drunk at a party hosted by Kickstarter & whined about how frustrating it is to put a tour together that is mostly AWESOME, but a few cities just don't work out. So we're running around barely breaking even because it costs money to produce these shows! I wanted a way to guarantee that every city hit a minimum break even amount, which for the 4 of us is $1,000. And Taylor Moore from Kickstarter said, "I think we can do that!" So we're giving it a shot.

How did you choose which cities you would (potentially) perform in?

We looked at a map. We knew we wanted to go through places we loved, like DC, Asheville & Raleigh, but we wanted to hit new cities too like Pittsburgh & Indianapolis!

If you were to add a new member, which first name initial do you think would work best? Would you want it to be CAKED? CAKER? CAKES? CAAKE? CAKEY? Or like a whole new word altogether?

I don't think we can afford a new member! Besides, where would be put them? Carrie & I use the middle seat to thumb wrestle.

What’s the right amount to drink before going on stage? Stone sober? A little tipsy? No limit?

All the CAKE girls are different but I like about one and a half drinks. I like to bring half a whisky on stage.

How do the four of you like to spend your off time on tour? I’m sorry this is a boring question.

We're all comics with a lot going on. Abbi is shooting the second season of Tru TV's You Can Do Better. Erin & I are both writers. Carrie headlines all over...so we're pretty busy. For fun Abbi does nail art, Carrie has a book club she's obsessed with, Erin does yoga & I rope strangers into awkward conversations at bars.

Anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?

Come to the show! We're a delight & so funny!

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Three more performances of 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' at Pittsburgh's August Wilson Theater

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 9:45 AM

Martin McDonagh's 1996 play is both exceptionally funny and exceptionally bleak. This weekend offers a rare chance to see it performed by Ireland's Druid Theatre Company, which premiered Beauty Queen way back when and is now taking it on a 20th-anniversary U.S. tour.

Marty Rea and Aisling O'Sullivan in "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN CUMMISKEY
  • Photo courtesy of Stephen Cummiskey
  • Marty Rea and Aisling O'Sullivan in "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"
The play centers on the fraught (to say the least) relationship between 40-year-old Maureen (Aisling O'Sullivan) and Mag (Marie Mullen), the aging mother she cares for in their isolated small town in the west of Ireland. Wily Mag's insecurities and manipulations run up against Maureen's desire for happiness, love and escape.

McDonagh's hilarious, raucous, sharp-witted plays, also known for their sudden violence, have been frequently produced in Pittsburgh, including The Lonesome West, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman. Beauty Queen has been staged here, too — but not by Druid, and certainly not under the direction of Garry Hynes, who helmed both the premiere production and the Tony-winning staging.

The play builds the comedy on such pain and loneliness, especially Maureen's; whatever of the character's arrested development isn't communicated in the script is brought home by O'Sullivan's heartbreakingly adolescent body language. Mullen (who played Maureen in the original production) portrays selfish Mag with cruel guile and a knowingly insincere old-lady smile.

Opening night last night drew a packed house at the August Wilson Center, but tickets remain for tonight's show and tomorrow's matinee and evening show.

Tickets are $21-46 and are available here.

The show is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents series.

The August Wilson Center is located at 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon at on Saturday at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 2:27 PM

The dominance of Wikipedia can no longer be denied. A local expression of a national initiative to address some of the online encyclopedia's biases takes place this week.

Once upon a time (not that long ago, actually), students were warned against even reading Wikipedia. The issue is that Wikipedia was open-source and editable, by anyone, anonymously. Information can be purposefully edited to be misleading, or missing something, or biased in some way.

One well-documented bias is gender. The flood of young men in the computer sciences means that the large body of information on Wikipedia skews toward the interests of that demographic.

Wikipedia is huge, with more than five million articles in English. It’s also free. Warning people against using it really isn't an option anymore. So in an attempt to offset the bias, many museums, universities and science organizations all over the globe have organized edit-a-thons, events bringing together experts and interested people to edit and improve specific entries.

2016 Art+Feminism Edit-A-Thon at Carnegie Mellon University - CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • 2016 Art+Feminism Edit-A-Thon at Carnegie Mellon University

Art+Feminism is a national organization that began organizing Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon’s in 2014 to address the bias created by the lack of women editors. (Fewer than 10% of contributors to Wikipedia identify as female, according to the organization.)

The Carnegie Museum of Art hosts one such edit-a-thon this Saturday (just in time for Women’s History Month). No prior Wikipedia editing knowledge is necessary. The museum will offer tutorials for beginner Wikipedians at 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., as well as reference materials and expert support. Bring your own laptop if you can, as the museum’s supply is limited.

The Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon
event takes place Sat., March 4, from 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m. in the Hall of Sculpture. The event is a safe and inclusive space for everyone, regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, or race.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Scenes from Friday's 'RISE UP for Trans Equality!' protest and rally in Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Sat, Feb 25, 2017 at 9:21 AM

  • CP photos by John Hamilton

Pittsburghers protested Donald Trump's recent action against the protection of trans rights at a "RISE UP for Trans Equality!" protest and rally last night in Downtown Pittsburgh. City Paper photo intern John Hamilton was there to document the scene outside the Pittsburgh City-County Building.


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Friday, February 24, 2017

Pittsburghers call on PWSA to improve water quality and service

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 5:22 PM

Pastor Vincent Kolb at PWSA board meeting - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Pastor Vincent Kolb at PWSA board meeting
At the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board meeting earlier today, there wasn't an empty seat in the house. While many were there to simply witness the board proceedings in light of recent high-profile incidents, including reports of high lead levels, nearly a dozen called on the board to improve the city's water quality.

Among them were members of the Our Water Campaign, a newly formed coalition made up of local organizations Pittsburgh United, Clean Water Action, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Sierra Club, Nine Mile Run Watershed, New Voices Pittsburgh, Thomas Merton Center and One Pennsylvania.

"There is no one in this room who wants you to succeed and thrive more than we do," said Tom Hoffman of the Sierra Club. "As leaders of [PWSA], you speak for us and are accountable to us."

One of the major topics of concern expressed by several speakers was the flush-and-boil advisory issued by PWSA earlier this month due to possible water contamination. The advisory impacted 100,000 Pittsburgh residents.

"During the advisory, I was forced to spend extra funds to ensure that I had clean water for my family," said activist Glen Grayson. "Though I was able to buy water, I thought about the seniors and other people on fixed income who really weren't able to buy water."

Another area of concern are high lead levels that have been reported in Pittsburgh homes. Several speakers called on PWSA to supply every single home with water filters

"I can not longer continue to pay my rate, along with paying for extra water and a water filter," Grayson said. "That's an example of something that should be done now. We shouldn't have to send a letter to get one. Just like we don't have to ask for a bill, we shouldn't have to ask for filters."

PWSA is currently being investigated by several governmental bodies, and last week Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released his own report on the authority. Issues at the authority have prompted some to consider privatization, a step adamantly opposed by many of today's speakers.

"We oppose privatization," said Kim Dinh, a member of the Our Water Campaign. "We need to expand public control, not expand private control. Privatization will also increase prices, thus affecting low-income communities. Clean water is a human right, not something that is marketable."

But today's speakers weren't placing all of the blame on PWSA. According to a December press release, PWSA has over $750 million in debt, and in 2016, the authority spent $54 million paying the principal and interest on this debt. Pastor Vincent Kolb, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, said half of PWSA payments from customers go toward paying off the authority's debt instead of improving the water system.

"This is not just a PWSA management problem. This is a Wall Street problem, and Wall Street got a free pass," Kolb said. "Like other cities and authorities around this country, we in the Our Water Campaign are going to demand that banks that sold us a bill of goods do what is right — restructure and forgive the oppressive debt that is keeping us from having the authority we deserve."

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Sierra Club steps up the search for 'missing' Sen. Pat Toomey with downtown protest

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 1:00 PM

  • Photo by Renee Rosensteel
What do you do when you can't get your United States Senator to answer your calls, your questions or hold a town-hall meeting? If you're the Sierra Club you project the largest missing person flier ever on a downtown building.

Our Renee Rosensteel was on the scene last night and filed this video report:

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pittsburgh police release security camera video but not officer body-camera footage in arrest of Steelers coach Joey Porter

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 3:00 PM

This week, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police released two security-camera videos showing parts of an incident that led to the arrest of Steelers position coach Joey Porter last month. The footage shows two different angles of Porter attempting to enter an establishment in the South Side where he was allegedly denied entry by a bouncer.
Joey Porter - CP FILE PHOTO
  • CP File Photo
  • Joey Porter
The police have not released footage taken by a body camera worn by officer Paul Abel who confronted Porter while he was working an off-duty assignment in the South Side. And police spokesperson Sonya Toler says they will not be releasing the footage because the bureau's "policy, which is currently still in draft form, prohibits the release of body worn camera footage."  But some Pittsburghers hoped the footage would shed light on the incident.

"Body camera footage has a lot of different purposes," says University of Pittsburgh professor David Harris. "One is to help the public understand what happened, but it is also meant to serve as evidence in an ongoing investigation. Because it can be evidence in an investigation, there might be reasons a police agency may want to keep that footage out of the public eye. The difficulty of course is for several years now, law enforcement organizations have adopted body cameras with the idea these would be public accountability tools and that's what has members of the public upset when the footage isn't released."

While Harris said he couldn't speak specifically about the body camera footage in the Porter incident, he said he hopes law enforcement organizations educate the public about the purpose of body cameras.

"I do think it's really important for the police to thoroughly educate the public on what to expect regarding body camera footage because right now it seems like there's a mismatch," Harris says. "And that mismatch can lead to misunderstanding."

In a statement announcing the release of the security footage Acting Chief Scott Schubert reiterated his support for Abel.

“In order to clear the air regarding conflicting reports in the media surrounding the circumstances that led to the arrest of Mr. Porter, I reviewed video available from several vantage points, including the arresting officer’s body-worn camera. I have concluded that the officer’s account of the incident is accurate and our officer conducted himself in the professional manner that is to be expected. Once the altercation began, the officer turned on his body-worn camera as soon as he was safely able. I support the actions of Officer Paul Able in this arrest,” Schubert said.

But a lot of coverage of the event, including City Paper's, didn't comment on whether or not the arrest was proper. Most coverage discussed why it was proper for the media to bring up Porter's history of legal run-ins, but not Officer Abel's. Abel's past includes criminal charges for alleged improper conduct while on the job.

On Tuesday, before the footage was release, Porter plead guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to pay a $300 fine. He was originally also charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and defiant trespass.

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh hosts “A Celebration of Seeds” on Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 1:54 PM

The last time I tried to grow a plant, I failed. I thought I had everything I needed — soil, water, sunlight, but the few sprouts I managed withered pretty quickly. I found out later that I had essentially drowned the little things. Whoops.

  • Courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
But you can start things off right by attending A Celebration of Seeds: 5th Annual Seed and Plant Swap, this Saturday at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. If you’re a newcomer to gardening, start with the Seed Starting Workshop, at 11:30 a.m. This is where you’ll learn not to drown your plants. You’ll also get to talk to gardening experts who can help you fine-tune your ideas about an indoor or backyard garden.

At 12:30 p.m., learn how and why to save your own seeds for your next crop at the Seed Saving Workshop. At 1:30 p.m., they’ll have Seed Stories, where you can swap garden tales and best practices with other green-thumbed types. Bringing extra commercial or saved seeds (open-pollinated, non-GMO, non-hybrid seed) for swapping is encouraged.

All day long there’ll be plenty of hands-on activities for the kids to get in the gardening spirit, too. And the library will have a collection of free and fresh seeds to start you off with. In a couple of months you’ll be growing your own veggies or herbs and shaving money off your trips to Giant Eagle.

Held in collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory, the free event takes place Sat., Feb. 25, from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. at CLP-Main, 4400 Forbes Ave., in Oakland.

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Dance for a good cause tomorrow night at Pittsburgh's In Bed By Ten

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 12:59 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak
In Bed by Ten, the popular dance party for people who don't stay out late, returns tomorrow Fri., Feb. 24, with an event benefiting the Western Pennsylvania Fund for Choice.

The WPFC is the abortion fund at the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, an independent clinic that opened in 1975 and that annually serves more than 4,000 people from the tri-state area. The WPFC helps ensure that people can get health care regardless of their ability to pay.

In Bed by Ten runs 6-9 p.m. at Lawrenceville's Spirit.

The suggested cover of $5 benefits the Western Pennsylvania Fund for Choice.

Spirit is located at 242 51st St.

For more information, see here or here.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A conversation with this week's Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Joe Mruk

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Joe Mruk with his City Paper cover illustration
  • Pittsburgh artist Joe Mruk with his City Paper cover illustration

If you're tempted to hang up this week's City Paper cover on your bedroom wall, you're not alone. That's because our "Most Listable City" illustration was created by Joe Mruk, one of Pittsburgh's most recognizable poster artists. 

Joe's posters for bands and music festivals are intricate and surreal, often taking the viewer into a fantasy world. Flip through his online portfolio or his Instagram, and you'll find everything from multi-armed ladies to mythical creatures in space. A poster for Pittsburgh garage rock band Wreck Loose shows rabid cannibal rodents; another for New York’s King Buffalo shows beautiful conjoined twins sharing a spider's body. Creepy? As hell. And totally awesome.

Joe, a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania and a current resident of lower Lawrenceville, is a full-time illustrator who also does fine art and woodwork in addition to his poster art. We caught up with him over email after he was finished with this week's cover illustration.

What's your favorite thing about Pittsburgh's art scene?
In Pittsburgh, I found it fairly simple to get a start by having shows along the Garfield corridor of Penn Avenue during their "Unblurred" events every first Friday of the month. There is so much opportunity to be had there for fledgling artists, and landing a show by contacting gallery owners is the best experience for someone who has been working on their portfolio. I haven't participated in a show for awhile now, having mostly replaced my time painting with commissioned illustration work, but, earlier on, those shows served as plateaus to mark creative growth. I strongly urge anyone with a wish to facilitate their first show to participate in the Unblurred events!

You freelance under the identity Red Buffalo Illustration. Is there a story behind that name?
I wanted a name with a specific image but a broad iconic flexibility. For awhile now, leading back to before starting my freelance career in Pittsburgh, I was painting a lot of animals with intense colors, and that theme will likely never leave my work. And it's far more interesting, for me, to take the liberties of illustration into psychedelic territory by coloring things in unlikely combinations — green bulls, blue horses, red buffalo. I'm teaching a week-long summer arts camp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and it has made perfect sense to be drawn into a world where the buffalo (tatanka in Lakota) serves as a central spiritual symbol of strength and providence.

You've done a ton of poster designs for local musicians over the years. How did you first get involved with the city's music scene?
One of my best friends, Craig Freeman (from the band Lost Realms), pushed me into creating show posters, and then I got more work mostly through word-of-mouth and spreading it out over social media. Honestly, my work ended up being a much better fit for music-based illustration than the fine-art world I was immersed in during college. I gravitate toward simple narrative tendencies, and I love the transportive quality of music, so I hope I've been able to provide good visual interpretations of the narrative qualities of all different types of music!

Has a band ever requested more copies because fans stole all your posters before the show?
Luckily, I'm seldom the guy who provides the copies. I barely ever screen print anymore, and it's much cheaper for the bands to have their posters printed digitally to spread them farther out into the city. I love screen-printed posters, and I know an important and classic poster element is lost by not utilizing that process, but the compromise is that I can provide more colors digitally, and decrease that cost of printing. It makes the pieces more like paintings. Sometimes other print companies are contacted by bands to screen print my work, and sometimes they sell out! I did a poster for Lotus recently that sold out quickly, so the band requested a color variant for a second edition! I'm always psyched when that happens.

Have a band you're dying to work with?
Too many to count. My heart skipped a beat when I was provided the opportunity to do a Godspeed You! Black Emperor poster. Future dream posters would involve working with Califone, Stereolab, Janelle Monae, the Olivia Tremor Control, the Black Angels ... there are hundreds of bands I'd love to wrap some art around!

You also illustrated a poster for a fundraising event last year for John Fetterman. Was that your first foray into politics?
Yes, that was my first piece of propaganda. Fetterman's poster felt righteous because he has been doing so much for the city and Braddock in particular. Through demonstrating a fresh perspective on the potential for urban renewal, he's a symbol of the working class taking initiative to improve our cities not through gentrification but through the power of working alongside existing communities.

Will you answer the call if Trump calls you to illustrate his 2020 campaign poster?
If he did, all I would send him a drawing of a big psychedelic hand, middle finger extending to the heavens, made up of all the immigrants that truly make this country great. With a note that says "Go to hell."

You've taught drawing and illustration classes for kids. What's the craziest thing one of your students has asked you to teach them to draw?
An intergalactic space wolf bursting out of a black hole, most likely.

In addition to illustrating, you also do woodworking, and your online portfolio includes some pretty amazing multimedia art pieces utilizing animal traps. Do you have a favorite medium to work with?
I gravitate toward wood pieces because it's a fairly manageable way to make interesting borders and unique constructions. I'm not a fan of painting on canvas; wood has always made more sense to me. I use a scroll saw to bring illustrative elements into wood panels, and that helps enhance the artwork, not just from the front, but [on] all sides as well. The perfectionism of woodworking has allowed me to corral my obsessive-compulsive tendencies into creative expression!

This week's City Paper cover illustration was for a story on all those lists Pittsburgh keeps ending up on: "Most Livable City," "Best Family Travel Destination," etc. What would you vote Pittsburgh the best at?
Food, food, food. Every week I eat at an amazing restaurant or three. Independent breweries are a close second!

Any art shows or special projects coming up we should be looking out for?
The next volume of my Young Rabbit book series, which is a collection of tales from people around the 'Burgh and beyond, based on a single theme, will be coming out soon! The first volume was "Fight Stories," and the second will be "Ghost Stories." There will be nine in total. I'm also working on a special secret project that will surface by the time I've completed my hundredth poster (which will be a psychedelic poster for a HughShows event!), so keep an eye on www.redbuffalo.org for news on that soon!

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