Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Last week for The REP’s "Prussia: 1866"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 3:12 PM

One of the more distinctive things about local playwright Gab Cody’s romantic farce is that its dramatis personae include the young Friedrich Nietzsche. If that scares you off, it shouldn’t: While it’s a hook of sorts, Nietzsche’s presence occasions a proudly non-biographical portrait of the philosopher while also being, narratively, a rather minor element.

Gab Cody (left), Drew Palajsa (in backgroun) and Philip Winters in "Prussia: 1866" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SWENSEN
  • Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
  • Gab Cody (left), Drew Palajsa (in backgroun) and Philip Winters in "Prussia: 1866"
That is, aside from a few sly references to Nietzsche’s future work (and some clever pre-show piped-in music), this “Fritz” is simply a type of the young male farcical lead: lovestruck, bookish, thoroughly self-involved. He just happens to also be a spoof of the guy who’ll eventually write On the Genealogy of Morals.

Cody’s wickedly smart writing brings Fritz to life along with such other types as the coquette; the pompous and vainglorious man of affairs; and the strident ideologue. (Here's my recent profile of Cody.)

True, Prussia explores — and lampoons — the literary life, early feminism, the upper class, and religious bigotry in 19th-century Europe. But don’t fear those themes any more than you should a character based on Nietzsche before his brow beetled: This is first and foremost a screwball comedy of quips, wordplay, sex jokes and pratfalls and other physical comedy.

And in fact, nobody excels at the latter more than Drew Palajsa, the talented young actor (and recent Point Park grad) who plays Fritz. He’s a rubber-limbed wonder, especially in the play’s second act.

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s formal review of the show for CP.

Prussia: 1866 has five more performances at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, tomorrow night through the Sun., Feb. 22, matinee. Tickets are $7-27 and are available here.

The Playhouse is located at 222 Craft Ave., in Oakland.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Final Week for Quantum’s "Brahman/i"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 11:20 AM

Last year, Quantum Theatre turned a synagogue into a 1930s Italian villa. This month, the troupe has remade a former church (now a community center) into a comedy club for this singular show about a character with an unconventional gender identity.

Sanjiv Jhaveri in "Brahman/i" - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER MULL
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Mull
  • Sanjiv Jhaveri in "Brahman/i"
Playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil’s one- (technically, two-) actor work is billed as “a one-hijra stand-up comedy show.” It’s very smart, quite funny and, ultimately, rewardingly strange. However, it feels less like what you’d see in most actual comedy clubs — a series of bits strung together, with lots of feeding off the audience — than a cleverly scripted, evening-length comic monologue a la Eddie Izzard.

That’s the opposite of a complaint: I’m always up for unabashedly intellectual, humorously essayistic riffs on art, culture and history. The character Brahman/i weaves in an extended metaphor about the Indian subcontinent’s romantic relationship with China; an hilarious, illustrated take on saucy Hindu temple relief sculptures; and a quite Izzardian sequence on Galileo’s little tiff with the Church. (“Heliocentrism!”)

The amazing Sanjiv Jhaveri, a New York-based actor, brings it all to life, including the show’s rather moving concluding twist.

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review of the show for CP.

Brahman/i has five more performances, daily tomorrow night through Sunday. Tickets are $38-46.

The “Temple of Comedy” is located at 113 N. Pacific Ave., in Garfield.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jesmyn Ward speaks Monday at Carnegie Music Hall

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 3:44 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Tony Cook
When she writes, “he wanted more for himself, but he didn’t know how to get it,” in her 2013 memoir Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward is thinking about a black man she knew who died too young.

However, she might as well have been speaking about current events, and the explosive racial politics of the past year.

In a Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures literary evening at Carnegie Music Hall, Ward shares stories from her memoir, which follows her emotional state through the loss of five young black men, one of whom was her brother, and her relationship with her father.

Men We Reaped makes observations about race and masculinity in the American South, and touches upon police relations, drug use and infidelity. A portrait of the rural South, the memoir ask readers to examine the loss of young black men and how this tragedy can be avoided in the future.

Ward, a professor of English at Tulane University, won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction for her second novel, Salvage the Bones.

Ward speaks on Mon., Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Carnegie Music Hall is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

The event is presented in partnership with the United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh.

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Saturday Event at Vanessa German's New Art House

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 12:51 PM

In conjunction with her solo exhibit at Concept Gallery, German holds An Ordinary Sacred Happening this Saturday afternoon.

German is a performer and mixed-media artist who makes works out of repurposed everyday materials from paper bags and bottles to beads, buttons and fabric. Her show at Concept is called Vanessa German: The Ordinary Sacred. Her works have been exhibited in spaces around Pittsburgh and around the country.

The Homewood resident is also the creator of the "Stop Shooting We Love You" yard-sign anti-violence campaign.

Saturday's event is at her New Art House, which she established so neighborhood kids would have a place to make art.

Visitors are asked to "bring a bottle with a sacred or healing word, phrase, name or poem inside, or an old pair of shoes, to make an interactive ordinary sacred space."

The New Art House is located at 7701 Hamilton Ave., in Homewood. The event is free.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Billy Porter to star in "Kinky Boots" here

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 1:58 PM

The Pittsburgh native will play the role that made him nationally famous when Pittsburgh CLO presents the hit musical in August, the CLO announced today.

Porter, who grew up in Homewood, won a Tony for playing Lola in Kinky Boots, which itself won the 2013 Tony for best musical (and four other Tonys, too). See photos of him looking fab here.

Porter in fact started his professional career at the Pittsburgh CLO. He also played roles locally for companies including City Theatre before moving on to Broadway.

Kinky Boots is currently on its national tour, with Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola; Porter is joining the touring version for one week only, during its Pittsburgh stop, before returning to Broadway.

“Billy Porter started his career at Pittsburgh CLO and to have him return to us in a role he originated and won a Tony for is a most fulfilling, full-circle moment,” said CLO exective producer Van Kaplan in a statement.

Kinky Boots is based on the true story of a struggling British shoe factory that finds a second life making footwear for drag queens. The main characters are drag queen Lola and factory heir Charlie Price.

The shoe features a score by Cyndi Lauper, a book by Harvey Fierstein, and a direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

The touring production of Kinky Boots will run Aug. 4-9 at the Benedum Center. Tickets are on sale exclusively to subscribers of Pittsburgh CLO’s 2015 Summer Season.

For more information, see

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The Gallery 4 marks fifth anniversary with opening on Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 11:38 AM

The fifth birthday is a big one. While often celebrated with enough cake to induce a day-long sugar high, Gallery 4 is commemorating its own anniversary by opening the exhibition Quintessence

  • Art by Mark Ryden
Gallery 4 is delving into the personal collection of its director, Joseph Veltri, to share some of the treasures it's acquired over the years. For the new show, Gallery 4 has curated a retrospective of original works, prints and sculptures from internationally recognized artists.

In the  mixed-media show, artwork will be featured from artists such as Mark Ryden, Scott Hove, Joe Sorren, Jeremy Fish, Glenn Barr, Audrey Kawasaki, Camille Rose Garcia, James Jean, Sam Flores, John Puglisi and more.

Quintessence opens Sat., Jan. 10, with a reception open to the public from  7-11 p.m., with complimentary refreshments and cocktails. The show continues through Sat., Jan. 31. Admission is free.

The Gallery 4, which focuses on featuring work from a variety of national artists and local talent, is located at 206 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1-8 p.m.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Revamped Warhol, Plus Free Admission Offer

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 9:41 AM

In today’s print edition, you’ll find Nadine Wasserman's reviews of two temporary exhibits closing Sunday at The Andy Warhol Museum: the fascinating 13 Most Wanted Men and the splendid Chuck Connelly: My America. But if you haven’t been to the Warhol lately, there are plenty of other reasons to visit, most thanks to the museum’s big rehang, completed in May.

The reorganization is largely notable for its new emphasis on Warhol himself, not just his iconic artworks. Visitors had been telling the 20-year-old museum that they wanted more Andy, says museum director Eric Shiner; the Warhol responded with a virtual three-dimensional seminar on the Pittsburgh native who changed the course of visual art.

And here’s the January bonus: Starting this week, the museum’s Good Fridays series offers free museum admission from 5-10 p.m. every Friday, with a cash bar and music by DJ Huck Finn.

The museum’s new offerings start, perhaps most accessibly, with a new half-hour documentary on Warhol that screens continuously in the museum’s first-floor theater. Jamie Schutz’s good-looking film is a fine primer on Warhol’s life and work, and features entertaining and insightful interviews with the likes of Shiner; Factory denizens Billy Name and Jane Holzer; writer Bob Colacello; and Warhol’s late brother, Paul Warhola.

The other new Warhol exhibits start on the museum’s seventh floor and work down. They include a rich array of Warhol artifacts and important but little-seen artworks, beginning with his birth certificate and a selection of his student artwork from his days at Schenley High School and Carnegie Tech.

There’s also a generous selection of his crucial commercial work from the 1940s and ’50s (department-store newspaper ads, LP covers) and, poignantly, photos of him during those early days, on campus and in Manhattan. Perhaps most fascinating are a whole gallery of his early experiments with pop art, copying newspaper ads and limning consumer products before he hit on the iteration of the Campbell’s Soup can that made his name, in 1962.

You needn’t even be a Warhol fan to find this stuff fascinating.

Arguably, as much of Warhol can be found in what he collected as in what he silkscreened. And there’s a lot more of this stuff, too, including a wall-sized cabinet full of glassware Warhol collected and the chance to see the contents of one of his famous time capsules laid out for easy viewing.

A big draw for film and video devotees is a new media room. Prior to May, the only way to see most of Warhol’s vast catalog of experimental films and TV programs was as they rotated through the museum’s first-floor screening room. Now a huge chunk of that work has been digitized and can be called up and viewed as desired on one of a bank of widescreen monitors, with headphones. You can sample anything from an episode of Andy Warhol’s TV featuring a puckish early-’80s chat with John Waters and Divine to the whole of the split-screen epic Chelsea Girls.

Another groovy new feature is an attempt to recreate the spririt of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s mid-1960s multimedia sensory-overload extravaganza starring the Velvet Underground. A whole gallery is set aside to pay tribute to the Velvets and overwhelm you with art-rock noise and wall-to-wall projections.

Last but not least, you’ll note that the gift shop has been moved to a former first-floor gallery space, tripling its size. And even the museum’s streetfacing windows on Sandusky have gotten a makeover: The first in an artist series called Exposures features a clever installation by local artist Daniel Pillis. His recreation the Warhola family’s Oakland living room, circa-1940s, is up through March 1.

The museum is located at 117 Sandusky St., on the North Side. 

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Final Week for Smart Blonde at City Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Five performances remain of this entertaining and poignant world premiere about mid-century stage and film star Judy Holliday.

Andrea Burns in Smart Blonde.
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover
  • Andrea Burns in "Smart Blonde."
It would surely increase your appreciation of the play to be familiar with Holliday — or at least her iconic portrayal of Billie Dawn in the 1948 film Born Yesterday. But playwright Willy Holtzman provides all the background you need to engage with the story of an intelligent woman typecast as a dumb blonde, who’s also victimized by the Hollywood blacklist after a McCarthy-era Congressional grilling about her alleged Communist sympathies.

The play’s set in 1964, near the end of Holliday’s cancer-shortened life, in a New York City recording studio where she’s come to sing some jazz numbers (including a couple she co-wrote with her husband, jazz great Gerry Mulligan). Holliday tells her life story in a series of flashbacks, and it’s catnip for anyone with an ear for show-biz gossip from old Hollywood, or for the American songbook (“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” Cole Porter, etc.).

Appropriately, it’s an enjoyably theatrical show. Holliday is winningly played by Broadway veteran Andréa Burns, and all the other roles, from members of Holliday (nee Tuvim’s) extended Jewish family to Hollywood moguls, self-righteous Congressmen and more, are played by the very capable Jonathan Brody and Adam Heller.

As Ted Hoover notes in his review for CP, Holtzman packs the play with so much incident that he’s unable to dig terribly deep into any of it. The blacklisting episode, in which the fiercely intelligent Holliday resorts to playing dumb blonde to save herself, is worthy of a play of its own

But this production (commissioned by City Theatre) has plenty of pleasures. Not least, in the intimate confines of City’s Hamburg Theatre, it’s especially easy to appreciate Tony Ferrieri’s great set, detailed down to the dirty ashtrays, vintage sound booth and parquet floor.

City Theatre is located at 1300 Bingham St., on the South Side.

Smart Blonde runs through Sunday. Tickets are $15-56 and are available here.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Translations at the New Hazlett CSA

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Whatever else Translations might be, it was a chance this past Friday to see a remarkable and varied array of talent on a single stage in one night, loosely arrayed around a theme.

Gia T. Cacalano in Translations
  • Gia T. Cacalano in "Translations"
The show, part of the New Hazlett Theater’s Community Supported Art subcription series, was in six acts (and two ongoing works), each adapted from an earlier public performance piece by Jennifer Myers.

So, for instance, dancers Jasmine Hearn and Jil Stifel did a beautiful dry-land version of Myers’ “The Baiji’s Last Swim,” a performance work she did on the Allegheny River last year (with gorgeous erhu music played live by Mimi Jong). And the always stunning vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield did an a capella reprise of Myers singing “This Land is Your Land” at Allegheny County Council to protest plans to frack in public parks. (Wingfield’s performance was supplemented by young Kylan Bower Bjornson reading a statement to council on the same subject.)

Another highlight was “The Woman As,” which combined a spoken-word account of unflattering slang describing women throughout history, by Oreen Cohen, with a knockout dance by Gia T. Cacalano: contorting, convulsing, folding, Cacalano seemed to express animal suffering turned human, and vice versa.

Myers ran a smoke machine that blew perfect rings. The evening was closed out by Ji Young Nam, playing a beautiful piece on viola.

The evening was unified by between-act tarot-style readings by The Unreliable Narrator (Scott Andrew), who largely quoted text from testimony and speeches by indigenous people about our pillaging of the natural world. “The destruction of nature is the destruction of our energy, and of our existence here on earth,” went one.

Perhaps inevitably, given the work’s origin, the sum of the parts might have been more than the whole, although the excellent lighting design, by Mark Bailey, and sound design, by Ricardo Iamuuri Robinson’s Sonarcheology Studios, did nothing but help.

The New Hazlett’s CSA performance series recruits shareholders to fund supported residencies by local performers, with the payoff a ticket to the show. Halfway through the current season, with three performances to go, the theater is offering half-shares for $50 each.

Look into it here.

The second-half performers are: Jil Stifel and Ben Sota (Feb. 12); Anya Martin and the Hiawatha Project (April 2); and Teena Marie Custer and Roberta Guido (June 11).

Single tickets to individual events are also available for non-subscribers, for $20 each.

A bonus for second-half subscribers will be tickets to the world premiere of Alexis Gideon’s “video opera” The Crumbling, February 20-21.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

YouTube celeb Tyler Oakley brings his PJs to Town

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Online sensation and queer advocate Tyler Oakley has quite the range of laughs, his best sounding somewhere between hysteria and a case of light hiccups.

It’s pretty amazing, and his almost six million subscribers would probably tell you so, too.

  • Rae Marshall

Starting in 2007, the 25-year-old from Jackson, Mich., and queenie of the web has made a career out of talking about his life. He’s interviewed FLOTUS and produced a slew of celebrity-speckled, sometimes edging-toward-inappropriate vlogs. Openly gay, he raised more $500,000 last year for The Trevor Project, an organization working to prevent suicide among LGBT youth.

This fall, Oakley has taken his living room on the road for a sold-out variety show called “Tyler’s Slumber Party.” Back for more (and promising to upgrade 20 tickets to VIP passes), he hits Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead on Saturday, ready to put locals on “blast,” opening his hour-and-a-half show by reading embarrassing headlines from our past.

He chatted with CP recently by phone.

Why slumber parties?

I’ve been doing the live stream in my living room in my pajamas, so I was like, "Why not take that on the road?" And, plus, who doesn't love a onesie? It was so fun because I was like, "Is anyone going to come in a onesie?" and then the first set of shows, everybody was in their pajamas, I mean, even the parents.

What do you think of the perception of you as everyone’s queen, everyone’s gay BFF?

It’s really bizarre! Obviously that was never the goal or anything, but to have people say that, I mean, you don't get used to it. It’s definitely flattering and endearing, and when my viewers say that or things like that, it comes from the best intentions from possible. So I’m like, "I’ll take it. Thank you. I love you back."

How do you balance that audience of occasionally very young girls while still being your mature self and reflecting your personality?

I just always assume that, you know what, if it’s something people shouldn't be watching in their house, if that’s not something that a parent allows or something, then the parents will definitely be in charge of making sure the kids don't.

What’s down the road for you? Are you going to go from slumber party to Pampered Chef party?

Oh my god. If I did, my mom would love it. I don’t know! Who knows!

So, then, where do you see yourself at age 70?

Seventy. Oh my god. Hopefully, I’ll have grandkids and maybe they will continue the blogging legacy. I don’t know where I’ll be. Maybe when I’m 70 I’ll have had a talk show and I’ll have had multiple [best]-selling books, and I’ll still be doing my podcasts and still be talking into a camera if cameras are still around for that.
Maybe we’ll be sending vlogs via brain waves or something. I don't know where I will be in the future, but I'll still be doing something.

Show info:

Tyler Oakley performs at Carnegie Music Hall on Sat., Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m.

The venue is located at 510 E. 10th Ave., in Munhall. Tickets are $39.75.

Go here for tickets and more information.

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