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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Andrew Paul, late of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. founder Mark Clayton Southers announce an ambitious roster of local premieres for the new company, The Phoenix. The curtain rises in Program Notes.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Last night, in the thick of the already-busy fall season, familiar names Andrew Paul and Mark Clayton Southers announced a four-show first season of all local premieres for their start-up professional troupe The Phoenix.

Paul is the co-founder of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre company, abruptly fired as artistic director earlier this year. Southers, founder and artistic director of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co., was likewise laid off from his full-time job as director of theater initiatives at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the result of budget constraints.

Andrew Paul (center) during his production of Julius Caesar at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • Andrew Paul (center) during his production of "Julius Caesar" at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical

Speaking last night at the season-announcement event, Paul promised that the troupe will add something new to the local stage scene. “It’s unlike anything else being done here,” he said at Pittsburgh Playwrights’ Downtown venue. He noted that the mythical phoenix was not only capable of rising from its own ashes, but also thrived across borders, in many cultures, as the new troupe hopes to do, perhaps particularly crossing racial borders.

Mark Southers in Pittsburgh Playwrights 2013 production of Radio Golf
  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Playwrights
  • Mark Southers in Pittsburgh Playwrights' 2013 production of "Radio Golf"

“Through The Phoenix, we propose to explore our shared vision of a new kind of Pittsburgh theater — one that is not a “white” or “black” theatre but rather diverse and welcoming to all,” says a statement on the new company’s web site.

At any rate, the Phoenix is wasting no time getting started with a season of Pittsburgh-premiere shows.

The first production, British playwright Joe Penhall’s Olivier Award-winner Blue/Orange, opens Nov. 1 at Playwrights. Paul will direct this drama about a young Afro-Caribbean man being treated at a London psychiatric hospital. The production has a top-notch cast led by longtime PICT favorites David Whalen and Sam Tsoutsouvas plus Dayton, Ohio-based newcomer Rico Parker.

Blue/Orange is sponsored by local arts philanthropist Richard E. Rauh, long a backer of PICT.

The season will continue next May with Blood and Gifts, American playwright J.T. Rogers’ critically acclaimed, darkly comic 2011 spy thriller set in Afghanistan in 1981, during the Soviet invasion. Paul will direct.

Next year’s slate will also include Tony-winner Passing Strange, “an autobiographical comedy-drama rock musical about a young African American’s artistic journey of self-discovery in the European cities of Amsterdam and Berlin.” The play is written by Stew, of the band Stew and the Negro Problem. Southers, who earlier this year directed a production of the play at Short North Stage Co., in Columbus, will direct. This one will be staged at the New Hazlett Theater.

The season will wrap a year from now with Southers’ new adaptation of Strindberg’s drama Miss Julie, which Southers says will add race to Strindberg’s study of class and gender politics.

The Phoenix’s first season is in some ways a blend of Paul’s work at PICT and Southers’ resume at Playwrights and elsewhere.

At PICT, Paul produced plays mostly from the Anglo-European tradition, from Shakespeare to Stoppard and Pinter. (Paul, whose 2011 move to Las Vegas was one reason for the falling-out with the PICT board that led to his firing, will continue to live there.)

Playwrights (which Southers will continue to run) specializes in work by local playwrights. In its first 10 seasons, it staged critically acclaimed productions of all 10 of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. (Wilson was a mentor to Southers.)

Though in recent years Southers has spent most of his time producing and directing, it was in fact through his work as a playwright that he met Paul. Southers was working on one of his “culture-clash” series of plays, this one set in Ireland, when, as Paul tells it, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette theater critic Chris Rawson suggested he meet Paul, who had traveled extensively in that country.

Paul and Southers became traveling buddies throughout Europe and had long planned to work together. But it was only the near-simultaneous loss of their respective full-time jobs that made The Phoenix happen.

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Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Brasserie 33, one of the city's handful of French restaurants, closed its doors on Ellsworth Avenue last week. But fans of its classic approach to French cuisine need not despair: Head Chef Jeremy Hickey has already found a new home, at the South Side's Bridge Ten Brasserie.

Hickey had been working at the Shadyside restaurant since it was opened in September 2010 by Omar Mediouni, who'd previously operated nearby La Casa and Downtown's Casablanca. Mediouni could not be reached for comment, but Hickey says the Brasserie closed for financial reasons. "I was so sad," he says. "For a long time, we were able to fill that place up on weekends. And then the empire just crumbled."

La Casa, a tapas place just down the street from Brasserie 33, closed late last year.

But Hickey has landed on his feet. Brasserie 33 closed last Wednesday, he says -- and by Thursday, he had a job with David DeSimone, whose Bridge Ten has operated since last September alongside the Holiday Inn Express at the foot of the 10th Street Bridge.

Hickey's influence has yet to be felt in his new kitchen: He says he's just been familiarizing himself with the staff and menu, and probably won't seek to introduce changes until next week. In any case, he says, he doesn't plan a dramatic overhaul of Bridge Ten's already well-regarded French menu: "There's not going to be any major changes, it's just going to be adding a few things" -- most of which will underline the kitchen's commitment to classic French cooking.

"They have coq au vin and roasted half-chicken but not beef bourguignon," Hickey says, by way of example. "And they need a morel sauce for the filet mignon -- in French cuisine, it's all in how you make your sauce."

Hickey's adherence to French tradition has been a constant in a restaurant niche that has seen considerable turmoil, including the loss of longtime standout Le Pommier -– the victim of a 2011 fire -- and the former Le Perroquet, another Shadyside French eatery where Hickey worked alongside a chef he calls one of his mentors, Andre Lamar. "When I think of French food, I think of all the stuff my old French chef used to scream at me about," Hickey says. (Le Perroquet's legacy also lives on at East Liberty's Bistro 66, which after opening in 2009 is now the city's elder statesman of French dining.) But Hickey says he's got a good feel for his new home, operated as it is by DeSimone, a well-known name on the city's fine-dining scene.

"Bridge 10 will be a very nice place," says Hickey, "and I plan to be there for a very long time."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 3:59 PM

Bike down Forbes Avenue in Oakland and you’ll often be tempted to swerve around a 61C that has stopped to pick up passengers, or tangle with a confused freshman who is navigating crosswalks for the first time away from home.

But what if bikes had their own dedicated space, totally separated from traffic? What if traveling on two wheels didn't mean navigating the city's incongruous bike lanes?

That’s what BikePGH, the city's cycling advocacy group, hopes will happen in six key bikeway corridors all over the city by 2020.

That stretch in Oakland would look like this:

Oakland bikeway
  • Courtesy of BikePGH
  • Oakland bikeway

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Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Saru Jayaraman brings her national book tour for labor expose Behind the Kitchen Door to North Oakland tonight.

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Jayaraman, co-director of the group Restaurant Opportunities Center, will speak about the book and launch ROC Pittsburgh’s campaign targeting Capital Grille for alleged unfair labor practices, including rollbacks of holiday time. Capital Grille is part of Darden Restaurants Inc., which also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among other chains.

Jayaraman, who directs the Food Labor Research Center at University of California — Berkeley, has made her case on national TV, with the likes of Bill Maher and Bill Moyers.

She works to bring attention to the restaurant industry’s widespread low wages, lack of benefits, lack of paid sick days and racial and sexual discrimination. The “tipped minimum wage,” for instance, hasn’t risen since 1991, and many employed in the industry live in poverty.

Jayaraman also calls on restaurant-goers who’ve raised their awareness about sustainable foods to be more concerned with how restaurant workers sustain their livelihoods.

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Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 10:30 AM

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This week we've got a sweet little bluegrass number for you from The Stillhouse Pickers. The group is releasing its first full-length CD this week and will be celebrating with a release party on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Nied's Hotel (5438 Butler St.). Stream the track, "Honeysuckle Wine," below and don't miss the free party on Saturday.

1379871415-honeysuckle_wine.mp3

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 1:48 PM

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With heavy emphasis on swirling violins and vocal looping, Kishi Bashi creates the kind of avant-pop associated with popular groups like of Montreal and Animal Collective. A project of singer and multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi, Kishi Bashi's music is built up piece by piece, combining violins and vocals with beatboxing. The result is a joyous and surprisingly complex sound that leaves the listener wanting more. Ishibashi's playfulness comes through on every song, whether he's singing in English or Japanese, performing a tightly rehearsed melody or completely improvising.

Ishibashi has toured with well-known acts like singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and of Montreal, with whom he collaborated on their most recent album, 2012's Paralytic Stalks. According to Ishibashi, working with of Montreal's Kevin Barnes pushed him creatively and allowed him to experiment with his violin in ways he hadn't before. Shortly after the release of Paralytic Stalks, Ishibashi released his own debut EP, 151a, as Kishi Bashi.

He is currently in the middle of a two-month long tour of the East Coast and will be stopping in Pittsburgh this weekend. Ishibashi last performed here in February, at a concert at Carnegie Mellon's The Underground. This Sunday the violinist returns, performing at the Altar Bar with Richmond-based indie rock group My Darling Fury.

Doors for Sunday's all ages show open at 7 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit www.thealtarbar.com.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 3:46 PM

A new mural has gone up in the Strip District, this one celebrating the jazz artists of Pittsburgh's past. The mural, on Art's Tavern, features Stanley Turrentine, Ray Brown, George Benson, Roy Eldridge, Erroll Garner, Art Blakey, and Lena Horne.

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The mural was completed by youths working through the nonprofit group Moving the Lives of Kids in collaboration with community group Neighbors in the Strip. “Pittsburgh jazz artists have helped to shape the course of jazz history and we are delighted to honor that tradition with this new mural,” said Becky Rodgers, executive director of NITS, in a statement.

The mural is highlighted by bright and exuberant colors covering the entire side of Art's, and adds more culture and color to a stretch of Penn Avenue that already features several murals.

Edward Rawson, chief operating officer of MLK, said that the owner of Art's Tavern also owns CJ's Jazz Club, and that this mural adds to the jazz club feel he has always dreamed of. "Pittsburgh has a great history with jazz music and we wanted something to both celebrate and memorialize what jazz has done for Pittsburgh, and what Pittsburgh has done for jazz."

Artists on the projected included local youths who were paid to participate as part of a summer-jobs program through the city-run Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program.

About 25 people gathered yesterday to see the mural. Art's is located at 2852 Penn Ave.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Starting Oct. 1, the Post-Gazette will be charging for online content. Just don't call it a paywall.

"'Paywall' implies there's a hard lockdown" with material inaccessible to those who won't pay, says Joseph Pepe, the paper's president. "That's not what we're doing. A lot of our content will be out there for everyone to consume. We're calling this 'metered content'."

If that sounds a bit cautious, it's because the P-G -- like papers all across the country -- is trying to walk a tricky line in the Brave New Old World of making readers pay for online content as well as print, without driving readers away entirely. (Compare this to the previous Brave New World model, in which journalists gave away everything for free ... and then imbibed massive quantities of soma to improve their mood as ad revenue dwindled.) And the Post-Gazette has extra reason to be careful.

Here's how the new policy will work:

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM

In a break from the political infighting between Tony Ceoffe and Deb Gross, a Tuesday-night forum organized by Ceoffe at the Union Project gave the three other candidates vying for Patrick Dowd's seat in District 7 a chance to make their case.

Everything from the small stuff (improperly managed sewer grates) to UPMC's tax-exempt status got a hearing. But concerns about violent crime and management of the police bureau kept bubbling to the surface.

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