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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Critics Challenge Artists’ Group’s Leaders

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 2:30 PM

With the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh’s annual members meeting looming, some current and former members are clashing with the venerable group’s leadership. The conflict, though sparked by recent changes to the group’s by-laws, is rooted in longstanding tensions involving critics of AAP executive director Juliana Morris and the group’s board of directors.

A group calling itself Friends of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh plans to use the Nov. 24 meeting to try to overturn a recent membership vote amending the AAP’s by-laws. But AAP officials say that effort is based on misinterpretations of the rules governing Pittsburgh’s largest and oldest artist-member organization.

The conflict was expressed this week in a pair of emails sent to AAP’s mailing list of about 600 members, two weeks after more than 200 of them voted by mail on the proposed by-law changes.

On Tuesday, Friends of AAP’s Susan Sparks sent an open letter decrying “hostile acts against our members” by the AAP leadership. And while the by-law changes were passed by a vote of 190-19, Sparks urged members to attend this Sunday’s meeting, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and to vote to “declare all proposed By-law changes null, void and invalid.” On Wednesday, AAP’s board of directors sent members an email condemning the arguments in Sparks’ letter as “false.”

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Last Week for Blue/Orange at The Phoenix

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM

The Pittsburgh-premiere staging of this acclaimed play has three more showings at The Phoenix. More in Program Notes.

Andrew McCutchen among American Music Awards presenters

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM

It's been a banner year for Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen: The center fielder helped steer the team to the playoffs for the first time this century, ranked near the top of the National League in batting average and stolen bases, and was voted NL MVP. But it doesn't stop there

The American Music Awards, taking place Sunday night, unveiled its cast of presenters today, and it includes musicians (2Chainz, Michael Bolton), actors (Alicia Silverstone, Zoe Saldana), TV personalities (the folks from Shark Tank) and ... Cutch!

Barring any surprise guests — and some are promised — McCutchen is the only athlete on the docket. (Unless you count former soccer player Juan Pablo Galavis, who is only gonna be there because he's The Bachelor.)

The show airs at 8 p.m. Sunday night, Nov. 24, on ABC.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Last Week for Blue/Orange at The Phoenix

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 3:04 PM

This start-up theater company is out of the gate strong with the Pittsburgh-premiere production of Joe Penhall’s darkly humorous, rather heady play set in a British mental hospital.

It’s got a potent cast: local favorites David Whalen and Sam Tsoutsouvas, plus relative newcomer Rico Parker. Whalen and Tsoutsouvas play two white doctors sparring over the case of a young black patient named Chris, played by Parker.

The director is Andrew Paul (late of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre), who co-founded the troupe with Mark Clayton Southers.

While the play tackles race, class and mental illness, to me it was mostly about the power of language. Or, as one character puts it, “If people get the meaning of the word wrong, how can they get the person right?”

Take this intriguing thread. Act One is largely about Dr. Bruce trying to convince Chris to stay in the hospital, when he wants to go, as Dr. Smith agrees he should. Act Two finds Smith trying to persuade Chris to leave, after he’s changed his mind and wants to stay.

That’s when things get really interesting. Smith argues to the paranoid Chris that Bruce has put thoughts in Chris’ head, and — an especially devilish argument — that Chris’ conscious mind (which is telling him to stay in hospital) simply must catch up to his unconscious desire to leave.

Then, in a written report, Smith puts his own words in Chris’ mind. But he’s also uniwttingly fed the patient’s paranoia. After which, Chris proves as unintentionally skillful at twisting Smith’s words as Smith was at twisting his.

Follow the sinuous lines of argument for four more performances, tonight through Saturday, staged at the Pittsburgh Playwrights space at 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Tickets are $15-38.

And here’s Ted Hoover’s review of the show for CP.

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House passes transit bill despite prevailing wage changes

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 1:33 PM

A chaotic 24 hours that included three separate votes to pass a transportation bill in the state House finally ended last night with a 104-95 vote to approve a gas-tax increase that will help fund mass transit, bridge and highway projects.

The bill passed along with a hotly contested change to the state's prevailing wage law, which I explained in a story in this week's City Paper (on newsstands now!)

In fact, on Monday night, two unsuccessful votes in the House made it look like the bill might be doomed as long as the House Republican prevailing wage proposal was attached.

But the prevailing wage change, which would cut workers' wages on small construction projects, meant plenty of local Democrats voted against the bill including Frank Dermody, Dan Miller, Anthony DeLuca, Dom Costa and Paul Costa. Plenty of Republicans voted against it too, including Daryl Metcalfe and Mike Turzai. The Trib has an info-graphic roundup of how Western Pennsylvania legislators voted.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty is now urging the state Senate to back an amendment that would strip the prevailing wage piece of the House bill, a sign that the prevailing wage debate may not quietly fade.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teacher sues Pittsburgh police officer after controversial arrest in Homewood

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Dennis Henderson (middle) answers questions at an afternoon press conference flanked by his attorneys
  • Photo by Alex Zimmerman
  • Dennis Henderson (middle) answers questions at an afternoon press conference flanked by his attorneys

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today against a Pittsburgh police officer who arrested a teacher outside a Homewood Community Empowerment Association meeting this summer, an incident that incensed many community members.

The lawsuit claims Dennis Henderson, a teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, and photojorunalist Rossano Stewart "were arrested and hundcuffed merely for criticizing the way that Officer [Jonathan] Gromek, who is white, drove down a residential street."

"I worked hard to stay out of the system," Henderson said at a press conference this afternoon. "If it wasn't racial, I have no idea what it was. I hope this lawsuit opens candid dialogue about racial profiling in the region."

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Rivers Casino employees march for right to unionize

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Protesting outside the Rivers Casino
  • Protesting outside the Rivers Casino

As snow began to fall earlier today, nearly 100 Rivers Casino employees marched from the Carnegie Science Center to their place of employment on the North Shore. The employees have been trying to start a union at the casino since April but claim they are being met with anti-union intimidation from management.

“I think what we’ve been doing the past seven months is showing them we have the power and we’re going to make the changes,” said Meredith Maloney, a two-year casino employee.

The march was part of a nationwide campaign calling for unionization at the Rivers Casino and two other casinos in Chicago and Philadelphia, all owned by Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm. In Pittsburgh there have been nearly 30 complaints filed against the casino with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We’re hitting them on all three fronts and we’re going to keep hitting them until we get a fair process,” said Matt Arling, a casino bartender.

As the employees approached the casino, a group of valet workers wearing anti-union hoodies looked on.

“Don’t be intimidated,” said Dorthy Hall, who has worked at the casino for two-and-a-half-years.

After showing their IDs in the lobby, the employees made their way upstairs to the executive offices in hopes of talking to Craig Clark, the casino’s general manager. But they were only able to leave a message with his receptionist.

“We know when we come here. They hide because they’re afraid of our power,” said Matt Fred Lapka, who works as a waiter. “Today the victory was the fact we all showed up.”

The march was organized by the Steel City Casino Workers Council, which is comprised of workers from UNITE HERE Local 57, Teamsters Local 211, Operating Engineers Local 95, and the United Steelworkers. UNITE HERE is an international union representing employees in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries.

We've reached out to River's Casino and will update with a response.

UPDATE

Rivers Casino issued the following statement:

“We take great pride in our team and respect the rights of our Team Members to choose. So far, the overwhelming majority of our Team Members have consistently chosen to remain independent,” said Mike Gross, Rivers Casino spokesperson.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band to play Rex Theater

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kevin Devine has had a busy year. Now nearing the end of his U.S. tour, Devine will be stopping in Pittsburgh to play at the Rex Theater on Nov. 20.

After launching a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Devine released a dual album — titled Bulldozer and Bubblegum — on his own label Devinyl. The campaign raised $114,000 ($64,000 more than his original campaign goal) to support the two albums and the current tour.

Devine's album Bubblegum was produced by Brand New's Jesse Lacey and shows a grittier side of Devine, whose music ranges from indie folk to pop-punk. Check out the video for the album's title track below.

Wednesday's show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 at the door. For more information on the show, call 412-381-6811 or visit www.rextheater.com.

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JFK Play Reading Tonight

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM

Bricolage Productions’ play-reading series In the Raw launches what’s sure to be a solemn week marking the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Tonight’s the free staged reading of Noah’s Ark, a new work by local playwright Ginny Cunningham. The play tells the story of a fictional White House military insider tortured by the thought that he might have been unwittingly complicit in the assassination.

Noah’s Ark spans the Kennedy presidency, including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the build-up to U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The play is inspired by James Douglass’ 2009 book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, which posits that Kennedy was killed by forces within the American national-security state because he was turning away from a Cold Warrior stance and toward world peace. Fans of the book include Oliver Stone.

Tonight’s reading features a strong local cast including Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon (both of Bricolage), John Gresh, William Cameron, Jack Erdie, Wali Jamal and Matt Henderson.

The reading is directed by Nancy Bach. A talkback with playwright Cunningham will follow the performance.

Pittsburgh is one of eight cities where the play will be read this month to mark the 1962 assassination. Notably, the Nov. 21 reading, in Dallas, features actor and activist Martin Sheen.

Tonight’s reading is at 7 p.m. at the Bricolage space, at 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. For more information, see here.

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MP3 Monday: Shaky Shrines

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

It's MP3 Monday!! We may have missed last week, but we've got a good one for you today.

Shaky Shrines
  • Shaky Shrines

Local psychedelic rock band Shaky Shrines just released their debut LP Mausoleum at the beginning of November and today's MP3 is is a song from that release called "Can't Quit." When the band is not out playing their dark psych music, songwriter Braden Faisant spends his days working in a cemetery — a job that clearly influences the music. Stream the track below, and head over to the group's Bandcamp page to hear the rest of the album.

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