This Saturday at Downtown's new Arcade Comedy Theater, the group brings its pop-culture inspired comedy show to Pittsburgh with the ironically titled Zack Braff Laff Carafe. (Mr. Braff will not be present.)
The show features video presentations and live sketch comedy from Chicago comedians Natalie Jose and Megan Gailey and the Puterbaugh Sisterz. The group will bring its blog’s quirky appropriation of not-too-distant pop-culture reference points to illuminate the idea behind their title. Everything may be terrible, but it doesn't mean it can’t be funny.
Saturday’s event, hosted by libertarian mayoral nominee Travis Irvine, starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 or $5 for student rush tickets.
Arcade Comedy Theater is located at 811 Liberty Ave.
You might have seen them amazing the host on Letterman — Mark Hayward using a yo-yo to light a match stuck betweeen Jonathan Burns’ teeth. Or maybe you’ve heard of Stunt Lab, their well-reviewed comedy show that’s played New York City.
Mark & Jonathan's Fireside Chat is a vaudeville/talk-show hybrid Hayward describes as “Ed Sullivan meets Johnny Carson.” Basically, they’ll host guest performers, then interview them about their work.
Friday’s two performances of Fireside Chat feature Cleveland-based magician Michael Kent and local musical-comedy troupe Bait & Switch. Also on the bill are comedy commercials from the resident Arcade Comedy Theater.
Hayward and Burns are longtime solo performers who recently teamed up. (Basically, as you can see in the photo, Burns is the goofy one, Hayward the serious one.)
Hayward is a top yo-yo artist and juggler who in addition to The Late Show with David Letterman has been on America’s Got Talent. Burns is a contortionist who’s had gigs around the world.
Their best-known collaboration might be Stunt Lab, which The New York Times called “extremely funny.” The show involves the pair using an array of everyday items — garbage bags, whipped cream, marshmallows, rat traps — to create comedic stunts.
Fireside Chat premieres with two performances Friday, at 8 and 10 p.m. Tickets are just $5-10.
Arcade Comedy Theater is at 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
After 44 years at the University of Pittsburgh, the man who founded the school’s theater department is retiring.
The lecture, titled “The Last Class,” delves into a favorite Favorini topic: memory and the work of “memographers,” a word he coined to describe anyone who explores that terrain.
Favorini is a former New Yorker who joined Pitt’s faculty in 1969, after earning a doctorate in the history of theater at Yale. He was later named head of the school’s Division of Theatre Arts, which in 1982 became the Department of Theatre Arts, with Favorini as founding chair.
He chaired the department from 1982-92, and again from 1999-2006, and has served since as director of graduate studies in theater arts. But Favorini is perhaps best known to the theater-going public as a playwright and as longtime director of the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, which he founded in 1980. The festival ran for 13 seasons.
Favorini’s own plays often explored Pittsburgh history. His Steel/City (1976) looked at the corporate giants who founded the steel industry as well as at its workers. In the Garden of Live Flowers (2001), written with Lynne Connor, was about Rachel Carson. And 2012’s docudrama The Gammage Project explored the death of black motorist Jonny Gammage while in the custody of five white police officers. Favorini’s plays have been performed both locally and in other cities.
At Pitt, his accomplishments also include creation of the Teaching-Artist-in-Residence program for visiting faculty members. He also oversaw construction of Pitt’s Henry Heymann Theatre, located in the basement of the Stephen Foster Memorial, and a key venue for Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre (whose presence as the professional theater-in-residence there Favorini helped secure). And Shakespeare-in-the-Schools has provided in-school performances to more than 100,000 area students for more than two decades, according to a Pitt press release.
Favorini is also an editor and author. His works include the 2008 book Memory in Play: From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard.
Favorini’s retirement is official with the end of the spring semester. He says that during retirement he’ll focus on writing plays.
“I think I’m finished with the research part of my professional life and I’m going to direct more attention to the creative side,” he said in a phone interview with CP today.
Favorini delivers his lecture “The Last Class” at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which shelters writers persecuted in their home countries, has done a pretty good job over the years representing itself and its guests. Since its founding, in 2004, its several guests from around the world have participated in numerous public readings and other events, and at least one went on to teach at Pitt.
Still, especially if you don’t know about COAP, the representative sampling of guest writers in this new stage work is worth a look before it closes Sunday.
The energetic student cast, directed by playwright and Pitt faculty member Cynthia Croot, are not for the most part close physical matches for the four writers, and, probably wisely, they don’t attempt impersonations.
The show, consisting largely of staged vignettes from each writers’ work, is vividly staged. Here's Michelle Pilecki's review in this week's CP.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the play could have paid a bit more attention to the organization that it’s named after. Audiences unfamiliar with the group (which is Pittsburgh’s independent incarnation of an international network of COAs) could easily leave with a good sense of the writers’ writings but only a fuzzy notion of the organization that, after they’d suffered years of threats, torture or imprisonment, let them work in peace.
Performances of City of Asylum continue nightly through Sunday at the Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, in Oakland. Tickets are $12-25.
You can hardly discuss The Beatles without noting their collective sense of humor, but as far as I know, until now no one’s written a book about it. And if someone did, it couldn’t have been as lushly and cleverly illustrated as The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny).
The oversized hardback, by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, with illustrations by Stacy Innerst, is new from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Innerst is best known around here as a veteran illustrator for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (though on the book’s jacket, he notes that had his boyhood wish come true, he’d now be Ringo).
Here's his double-page spread depicting the four trying to name the band:
In a world where pop stars were still rarely heard offstage, The Beatles’ carefree cheek paved the way for more radical dealings with the press — like Dylan’s, a couple years later — not to mention their own increasingly outspoken politics. (Though none of that, of course, figures in a kids’ book.)
While Fab comes complete with a bibliography, rest assured, parents, that this is a cleaned-up telling focusing on the lads’ light-hearted side — the public giddiness of Beatlemania being the touchstone.
Throughout, Innerst’s richly illustrations capture the band with just a loving touch of caricature and spot-on gestures. (Though it might have been fun to see what he could do with Sgt. Pepper’s silliness and maybe even a bit of psychedelia.)
If you remade A Hard Days’ Night as a children’s book — and in color — it would look a lot like The Beatles Were Fab.
The event, meant to introduce local writers to the community, will be held May 4 at — of course — Bruster’s Ice Cream of Ingomar, 9600 Perry Highway. What goes better with literature than ice cream?
As of last week’s announcement, Sauret said nine other other authors would be tabling at the Saturday-evening event, but more are welcome. While any published local author with a physical book to sell is eligible, Sauret says he is wrapping up the roster this week. There is no tabling fee.
Refreshments will be available (and not just ice cream). A percentage of Bruster’s sales during the event will benefit the Northland Public Library.
Interested authors should contact Marta Greca at email@example.com.
Sauret is the author of 2012 short-story collection Amidst Traffic.
On April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., residents of Pittsburgh's Hill District peacefully marched through the city, mourning the civil-rights leader's death.
Pittsburgh's nonviolent response came as public reaction to King's assassination was marked by intense riots in dozens of major cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles.
Informed of the potential for the march to become violent, freelance photographer, Charles R. “Chuck” Martin — who then worked as a photographer for United Way — walked across the Sixth Street Bridge, from the North Side, to shoot photos of the rally.
“The only thing anyone was talking about that day was the assassination. It felt like such a significant moment in history and it needed to be documented,” says Martin, now 85.
Armed with a pocket full of film and two cameras around his neck, Martin took more than 120 photos, documenting the peaceful demonstration.
Now, 45 years later, Martin has donated his entire collection negatives and black-and-white photos to the University of Pittsburgh. And tomorrow, Pitt hosts "MLK Jr. Pittsburgh March: Through the Lens of Charles Martin," displaying Martin’s photographs from that day.
The event, held in the Dick Thornburgh Room of the Hillman Library, will feature talks from Michael Dabrishus, Pitt’s assistant University librarian; Laurence Glasco, a Pitt professor of history; and Martin himself.
Pitt Library Communications Manager Crystal McCormick-Ware says few people would otherwise see these photos.
"When we received the collection, we were just ecstatic,” McCormick-Ware said.
Martin says he donated his images to the university’s library because so much of his work was in Allegheny County, and it seemed natural to want to preserve his photos at Pitt.
Twelve of Martin’s photos from the April 7, 1968, march will be on display inside the library, on the ground floor, through summer. Friday’s event runs 10-11 a.m.
Martin says it is important to recognize the events of 1968 in honoring Pittsburgh’s civil-right history.
“One of the last photos in the set is a pair of clenched hands — one black, one white — and the sign for Centre Avenue in the background. How it ought to be.”
Written by Jeff Ihaza
Pittsburgh author Matthew Newton is familiar with the reality of economic decline. Raised at the end of the steel age, Newton has a perspective on the world informed by the unpredictability of local economies.
In 2009, against a backdrop of nationwide economic uncertainty, Newton learned he’d lost his job as an editor of a nonprofit automotive magazine. The news came just as the author and his wife were contemplating a larger family, while vacationing in the Laurel Highlands.
“I think the title is a representation of all of the things surrounded by a good job: the idea of providing for a family that we’re sort of brought up with,” says Newton, who Founded the online journal Annals of Americus and whose work has been published by The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes and others.
Much like a play, the 17-page book is divided into three parts, walking readers through the experience as through the stages of grief.
In Part 1, titled “Permanent Vacation,” Newton charts the emotions of an increasingly familiar American experience with a precision that comes only from having lived it.
Newton often recalls the feeling of worthlessness associated with being fired over the phone. From there, he rebuilds. Part II, “Burn it Down,” brings readers into the awkwardness of collecting personal goods from a former workplace, with Newton’s inner monologue describing his racing thoughts in those moments.
The digital book is being distributed through the popular blog Thought Catalog, which Newton once edited for. It is also available in the Amazon Kindle bookstore.
In a literary landscape nearly as uncertain as the 2009 job market, Newton finds the emerging digital market a perfect ground for innovative work. He draws a parallel between the growing popularity of eBooks and the independent music scene, the content in both cases being in the hands of its creators.
“No one really knows what to expect out of all this yet,” Newton says.
By publishing his relatively short work digitally, Newton seeks in essence to creatie a market for works that might be too long for a typical magazine feature but too short for a traditional print book.
“I really had a concentrated burst of information. The first few drafts were longer and definitely had more expletives, but the finished product just sort of fit in this format,” Newton says.
As for the “death” of Newton’s job, the writer is currently working as an editor for a nonprofit that publishes academic journals. He continues to contribute work to Thought Catalog and is working on a nonfiction collection that depicts life in the suburbs called No Place for Disgrace.
Much like Death of a Good Job, Newton’s current project is influenced by personal experience. He lives in the suburb of Churchill with his wife and two sons.
Pretty gutsy of playwright Young Jean Lee to title this 2012 show as she did. On the one hand, you risk scaring away people afraid of the word “feminism,” or at least those who fear a harangue of some kind. On the other — given the kind of show it actually is — you risk ticking off people who expect a harangue of some kind.
Because whatever else it is, the world-touring Untitled Feminist Show — here courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum’s Off the Wall series — isn’t what you’d expect. While it shares elements with some of Lee’s earlier work, it’s consistently fresh and unpredictable, starting with the fact that the six female performers are stark naked the whole one-hour show.
And so the show’s form and function were largely one: The women’s simple acts on stage were the point, but that point was made with plenty of craft. Lee drew her cast (four of whose original six members performed here) from the worlds of dance, cabaret and burlesque. Each had her own considerable stage presence. Most also moved really well — especially important because the show has no dialogue (needless to say, another first for Lee).
The six women gave us a series of vignettes including: a childlike group frolic blended with a Grimm’s fairy tale; Malinda Ray Allen’s winsome pop-concert parody (with lyrics consisting entirely of “la-la”’s); and Amelia Zirin-Brown (a.k.a. Lady Rizo) pantomiming sex acts which gradually escalate to cheerful absurdity. (Think braided male progenitive organs.)
Other highlights included a bravura slow-motion fight sequence with two combatants and four onlookers taking sides — and the fight’s loser (Desiree Burch) encoring with an erotic dance. A few other set pieces, like a sort of dance to spring with pink parasols, felt like simple tributes to the joy of movement.
The show’s revue format, with a fair amount of direct-to-audience address by individual performers, was familiar from Lee’s The Shipment, a potent exploration of racism her company performed here last year.
Off the Wall has invited Lee most every year for the past several seasons. When she and her collaborators are firing on all cylinders, it’s easy to see why.
This stage bio of African-American singer Roland Hayes isn’t a play in the standard sense. It’s more a succession of imagined scenes from his groundbreaking life, from childhood in rural Alabama poverty to stardom on world concert stages in the early 20th century.
Of course there’s plenty of music too, with the powerful voices of Jubilant Sykes (as Hayes) and Kecia Lewis (as his mother) booming out everything from vintage spirituals to German art song. Many scenes in fact feel built around the songs they lead up to.
This isn’t a heady evening at the theater. Playwright Daniel Beaty has arranged the scenes chronologically, with some flash-forwards to tie things together. And it’s all built around a few simple conflicts: Hayes’ desire to sing; his mother’s resistance to that career choice; and society’s resistance to a classically trained black vocalist. (Hayes was born in 1887; and we thought Marian Anderson, born 10 years later, in Philadelphia, had it tough — because, of course, she did.)
But the whites who kept Hayes down are represented in this show by a single character — a brutal Southern cop. The other seven roles played by actor and piano accompanist Tom Frey are all sympathetic. If more genteel influential persons ever barred the singer’s way — and they must have — we never get a concrete sense of it. Worse, despite some lyrical writing, Beatty never offers much insight into Hayes. He’s simply someone driven to sing and who hates segregation, both qualities you could have guessed going in.
Still, as Michelle Pilecki points out in her review of the show for CP, the skilled and tireless three-member cast are quite enjoyable. And Hayes’ amazing story — he died in 1942 — is too little known. If nothing else, Sykes’ performance makes sure you won’t forget it.
There are four more performances of Breath & Imagination: 8 p.m. tonight, 5:30 and 9 p.m. tomorrow, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.