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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Posted By on Sat, Jun 29, 2013 at 9:31 AM

This critically lauded play has three more performances at Pittsburgh Public Theater through tomorrow’s closing matinee.

It’s a family melodrama with several layers of explicitly political backdrop. The parents are old-guard Hollywood Republicans, their two adult kids liberals. As the play’s set in 2004, the still-recent invasion of Iraq is a recurring point of disagreement. (That then-current event also supplies a bunch of metaphors which for the characters might be unwitting, but were surely planted by playwright Jon Robin Baitz: Characters talk of someone as a “decider,” speak of interpersonal “collateral damage,” etc.).

And then there’s the play’s central bone of contention, father Lyman and mother Polly’s treatment of eldest son, Henry, who we learn committed suicide some 30 years earlier after being involved in a radical group’s deadly bomb plot. Daughter Brooke is writing a book about it all.

Baitz writes smart dialogue, and as Ted Hoover notes in his review for CP, Michael Schweikardt’s set — an upper-crust Palm Springs living room, frozen in amber circa 1966 — is to die for. And in Act II, Baitz’ regard for the characters’ essential humanity, and their ultimate willingness to face the truth, redeems most of what looked like their self-involvement in Act I.

Other Desert Cities is on stage at 2 p.m. today, 8 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $23-55.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Local boxer Paul Spadafora has been getting punched around Internet boxing sites in recent days for allegedly passing on a nationally-televised fight in August against one of the sport’s toughest young fighters, 23-year-old Thomas Dulorme.

"What a joke," wrote a commenter on the boxing blog Bad Left Hook. "This guy is always talking about fighting names and getting back to big fights in his interviews, but when he finally gets a chance on HBO he turns it down?"

There were previous reports that a deal was reached for Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 KOs) to fight Dulorme (18-1, 13 KOs) Aug. 17 in Atlantic City; the bout was said to be slated for HBO's off-shoot subscription network, HBO Latino. Then, earlier this week Dulorme's promoter, Gary Shaw told writer Rick Reeno of that Spadafora took a pass on the fight.

But a member of the 37-year-old former world champ's inner circle tells City Paper, that an agreement was never reached and The Pittsburgh Kid is getting a lot of unwarranted bad press. Mark Yankello, a member of Spadafora’s promotional team, lead by boxing legend Roy Jones Jr., says the deal as it was originally proposed by a member of Shaw's company was for the fight to occur as one of the three featured bouts on HBO's Boxing After Dark, not the smaller network.

No money was discussed at the time, Yankello says, but "I told them we were clearly interested" especially given the opportunity to be seen on HBO's premiere boxing program, and the prospective purse for such a fight. Yankello said he expected a tough fight: Dulorme, of Puerto Rico, was on ESPN’s top 25 prospect list in 2011 and has been featured on bouts on both HBO and Showtime.

But when Jones talked to the network and Gary Shaw Productions, he was told that the fight would now be shown only on HBO Latino, which has limited U.S. availability.

"When Paul upsets the apple cart vs. a guy like Dulorme in his continuance of one of the great comebacks in recent U.S. history, shouldn’t it be seen by all fans in this country?" Yankello asks.

Then, once a contract offer was forwarded to the team, Yankello says the financial offer wasn’t appealing or close to the level of Boxing After Dark telecasts; "At the end of the day," Yankello says, Spadafora would have earned "in all due respect less money than he can make putting on a sparring exhibition. And I'm not exaggerating.

"I have no idea why it was put out there like Paul pulled out," Yankello says. "Paul's a real fighter and will fight anyone put in front of him, but this is a business first and foremost."

Spadafora has had three fights in the past year since signing on with Roy Jones Jr.’s fight promotion. Spadafora was the IBF World Lightweight title until relinquishing the belt in 2003 to move up a weight class. His previous out-of-the-ring troubles are well documented and include stints in rehab as well as prison. But for the past year, the McKees Rocks native has been on the straight and narrow, fighting regularly at Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia. He has been ranked as high as sixth by major boxing organizations.

As for what’s next for Spadafora, Yankello says "different scenarios are being entertained." Spadafora will be 38 in September, and it's hard to say how much longer he'll be able to continue to fight professionally. But for now, Yankello says, "He hasn’t shown his age to be a factor yet so we are optimistic."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 5:08 PM

Well that didn't take long.

Just more than 24 hours since the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and delivered a ruling that allows same-sex marriage in California, two Democratic state representatives from Pennsylvania say they will introduce a marriage equality bill here. (Sen. Daylin Leach has proposed marriage equality bills several times as well.) An identical bill already exists in the Senate.

The bill will be introduced by Philadelphia-area Democrats state Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly-gay elected state representative, and Rep. Steve McCarter.

"LGBT Pennsylvanians are seeing their neighbors in New York, Maryland and Delaware, among other states, now qualify for the approximately 1,000 federal rights and benefits that come with civil marriage and they are increasingly asking why they don't have those same rights, as well as the state rights and benefits," Sims said in a press release. Marriage equality has steadily grown, now standing at majority support in recent Pennsylvania polls. I believe that more and more legislators from both parties will decide to be on the right side of history."

The bill, according to Sims and McCarter, would provide protections for religious organizations and entities that do not wish to sanction, perform or in any way recognize same-sex civil marriages.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 4:39 PM

The great Pittsburgh-born playwright's final work is onstage at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. through Saturday. A couple last thoughts in Program Notes.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 4:11 PM

The Inn opens tonight, while Butler Street fixture Fe shuts its doors tomorrow. More in Program Notes.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 2:04 PM

The towering Pittsburgh-born playwright’s 2005 work is notable for more than being his final play.

As Michelle Pilecki pointed out in her review for CP, the current solid production at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. highlights Wilson’s lone portrait of the black middle class.

From left: Wali Jamal, Mark Clayton Southers and Art Terry in Pittsburgh Playwrights Radio Golf.
  • From left: Wali Jamal, Mark Clayton Southers and Art Terry in Pittsburgh Playwrights' Radio Golf.

After seeing last night’s show, I’d add a couple points. By portraying the contemporary black middle class (circa 1997) in the person of protagonist Harmon Wilks and his business partner, Roosevelt Hicks, Wilson creates a dynamic in which the black characters onstage are economically unequal — as opposed to everyone onstage being unequal to white society, which in all the plays is mostly offstage.

No small emphasis is placed on how Wilks, by virtue of his relatively affluent family, grew up privileged within the Hill District. But it’s their love of golf that is the chief symbol of how both Wilks and Hicks have “arrived” in the wider, post-Civil Rights world, and how they’re separated from everyone else in their community. (That leads to one of Wilson’s better jokes in the play, about the fate of Wilks’ stolen golf clubs.)

Other intellectual and theatrical treats are in store for those who know Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Turns out that Wilks is descended from Caesar Wilkes, the lawman and heavy in that 2003 play. Caesar is Wilson’s living embodiment of a black man serving the white system to the point of oppressing his own community, all the while insisting that he’s merely enforcing “the law.”

Gem’s almost anarchic stance toward the arbitrariness of the law — how it can be instantly remade to favor the powerful and afflict the oppressed — gets an interesting sequel and counterpoint in Radio Golf. Harmon Wilks, too, is always opining how people must follow the law, an obedience that of course has always served him well, as a son of privilege. He also frequently speaks — unironically, like no character in any other Wilson play — about America as the land of opportunity.

But when it turns out the law is working against him, Wilks is inclined first to follow it (even though it will set him back) and then to defy it. Both choices are fraught with ambivalence, but they’re good final notes for Wilson (who died just months after Radio Golf’s premiere) to have gone out on.

Radio Golf has three more performances tonight through Saturday. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

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Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Tonight, the neighborhood’s burgeoning nightlife and culture district adds an art venue, and the next night bids farewell to Butler Street stalwart Fe Gallery.

The new place, The Inn, is the latest incarnation of an art venue/project that began life a few years back in Shadyside as The College Inn Project. It’s now taken over the second floor of the former tire plant at 5601 Butler St.

The space (pictured below), focuses on local artists and is run by artists/curators Stephen Tuomala and Sarah Humphrey. (The latter an occasional CP contributor.)

The Inn
  • Painting by Stephanie Armbruster, at left, and sculptures by Leah Patgorski, at The Inn

Artists in the inaugural show, Disambiguate , include such Pittsburgh luminaries as Stephanie Armbruster, Ron Copeland, Ryan Woodring and Seth Clark. The opening reception, from 7-10 p.m., includes a curators talk; the show runs until July 23.

Then, on Friday, after a decade on the block, Fe holds one last event before closing its doors. Jill Larson launched the storefront gallery in August 2001, back when art galleries and boutiques were rather more rare on Butler than now.

Two years ago, with Fe ensconced as one of the city’s better small galleries, Larson left to pursue her own curatorial and art practices. But while the gallery was not expensive to run, board president Sara Dixon says it became harder and harder to secure grant money and other donations. “A lot of good organizations and not enough money to go around,” Dixon said on Tuesday.

The board had been discussing closing the space since January, she said. Things only got harder when Jared Boyer, Larson’s longtime assistant who then ran the gallery, was hospitalized with an illness in May.

“The goal has always been 10 years for us,” says Dixon. “We’ve made it 10 years and it’s a good number to close on.”

The final art exhibit at Fe was Alabaster Blast, a fiber-art show curated, coincidentally, by none other than Larson. The space subsequently hosted a small theatrical production. Larson didn’t know at the time that hers was the final show at the venue she had launched and then spent eight years of her life running.

“I put a lot of everything into that space, and I really hoped I’d be able to take my grandchildren there,” she said in a phone interview yesterday. Both of her sons largely grew up in that space, including the younger boy, now 11, for whom the gallery’s storage closet was his nursery.

“What was always unique about Fe was it was a gallery for local artists, but it welcomed artists from out of town,” putting the Pittsburgh work in a larger context, said Larson.

Most of the shows were group shows. Asked to recall some favorites, Larson cites Fear: Real or Imagined, for which she hung 100 nooses in the gallery and had a collaborator install a suspended floor that swayed when visitors walked on it. She also recalled Boys Will Be Boys: “It pushed a lot of stereotypes.”

Then there was the big Pittsburgh 250 show, for the city’s anniversary, which drew an incredible 1,000 visitor on its first night. When he saw the line of visitors snaking around the corner, her older son said, “Mom, you’ve made it!”

Dixon said it’s possible the Fe brand will remain, perhaps via pop-up events.

The physical Fe, at 4102 Butler St., closes Friday night with a free reception from 7-11 p.m. titled (Fe)nale, featuring music by DJ Zannaz.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 1:08 PM

There were lots of great moments taking place on Liberty Avenue this morning as hundreds of folks gathered to watch the Supreme Court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

As we noted earlier, several local electeds spoke out in support of the rulings and the LGBT community. One of the lighter moments of the day came when openly gay city councilor Bruce Kraus, in introducing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said "I asked Rich to marry to me. He turned me down so I asked [City Councilor Bill] Peduto."

But Fitzgerald didn't take the idea off the table entirely.

"I don’t know, Bruce. My wife says 30 years might be enough so we might be on the market, who knows?" Fitzgerald joked, to raucous applause. "Wouldn’t that be city-county consolidation? How about that?"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM


The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples legally married should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

You can find the ruling in the United States v. Windsor here.

The Court essentially did not rule on Proposition 8, which, as the Post-Gazette notes, clears the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. More explanation on Prop 8 here from the Washington Post.

Parts of Liberty Avenue were shut down for a screening of the rulings for an event, called Riot or Rejoice, sponsored by a host of LGBT and allied organizations. As the rulings became public, the crowd erupted, waving rainbow flags, hugging. The sound man for the event wept. Couples stood, head to head, taking it all in. And local electeds took the stage to rally the crowd, in support of the decision, and the work left do in Pennsylvania to pass a state-wide nondiscrimination law.

"The Supreme Court of the United States told you something you already knew," said Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto. "No one can take away your rights."

There will be lots of analysis on what this all means in the next hours, days and months and we'll provide as much as we can as it becomes available. Here's some early analysis from moderate think-tank Third Way.

"This is the biggest moment in LGBT history since Stonewall," says Jim Shepphard, president of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats.

For couples like Brent Kelly and Doug Palencia, of the North Hills, it was an opportunity for recognition — even if it was something their home state of Pennsylvania has yet to pursue. The pair have been together for 12 years, and won't get married out of state. Instead, they want to wait until Pennsylvania approves it.

"I feel like a second class citizen. I want to be like everyone else," says Kelly. "We're like every other family out there."

In a press release issued after the ruling, EqualityPA executive director Ted Martin noted there is much left to do in Pennsylvania.

"In the coming hours and days, we'll be working with legal experts to analyze today's rulings and determine what impact, if any, they could have here in Pennsylvania," he wrote. "But at this point, even with the death of DOMA and Prop8, same-sex couples in the commonwealth are not able to marry.

Despite these favorable rulings, we still have work to do to win marriage here in the Keystone State."

We'll have more soon. But I want to leave you with this image, because to me, it sums up the weight that these decisions held for people.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Thursday, Washington D.C.’s minimalist, punkish, folkish duo the Evens makes their first stop in Pittsburgh since 2006. Comprised of Ian MacKaye of Fugazi on guitar and Amy Farina of the Warmers on drums, they’ll play the Union Project, a venue you may have visited for a yoga class or a wedding, but, perhaps, never to see a band.

CP spoke with MacKaye about seeking out unusual venues, keeping the cops bored, and living in the moment. Check out the Q&A here.

  • Photo by The Evens

Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. 801 N Negley Ave., Highland Park. $6. Visit the facebook event page for details.

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