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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist John Hinderliter

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 8:30 AM

John Hinderliter with his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HINDERLITER
  • Photo courtesy of John Hinderliter
  • John Hinderliter with his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration
John Hinderliter, this week’s cover illustrator, is a freelance artist from Bethel Park. He first arrived in Pittsburgh back in 1975 when he came here for art school and never left. He calls the local art scene “eclectic, diverse and incredibly welcoming.” We caught up with him  over email after he completed this week’s cover illustration.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always drawn and painted, but in high school I was planning on being an engineer since I loved physics. Then I learned you could make a living doing illustration (I went to high school in a very small rural town and didn’t know anyone making a living as an artist), so engineering went away and I got serious about my art.

Your cover artwork this week is a digital illustration, but your portfolio includes a wide variety of styles, from cartoons and woodcut drawings to watercolor and fine-art paintings. Do you have a favorite medium?
Nope. I use whatever medium fits the project and, more importantly, what the deadline allows for. No sense in trying to do an oil painting if the deadline is two days away.

You’ve been a freelance illustrator for over 30 years. What was your first big break?

There was no one big break, just endlessly making phone calls, showing a portfolio and sending samples. When you’re a freelance illustrator, the majority of your time is spent getting the work, not doing the work.

What's the most challenging part about working for yourself?

As I told my accountant years ago, I never wanted to be a businessman. I have no interest in being a businessman. I have no talent to be a businessman. And yet, I’ve spent my entire adult life being a businessman.

This week’s cover illustration depicts men from U.S. dollar bills attending a night out at the theater. Do you have a favorite local theater? Favorite play?
I wish. My wife and I should really get out more and attend local productions. If she reads this, I will definitely be seeing more theater productions.

You’ve done some illustration work for us in the past, but your most recent appearance in City Paper was as a model in an advertisement! Do you moonlight as a supermodel after your illustration work is done for the day?
Ha, I’ve been doing acting and modeling jobs for about 15 years now. Thanks to the folks at Docherty Casting, I make a couple commercials a year. It’s fun, and you get to meet and work with some incredibly talented people. Plus, it’s just plain fun to pretend and get paid for it.

Do you have any big projects coming up?
I wouldn’t say big, but ongoing and interesting. I’ve been illustrating historic chapter books for Penguin Random House for the past four years and I have a couple more of them to finish up; a memorial portrait that will be printed on decals for a Jeep event; and I just brought home some new canvases, so I’m looking forward to getting a new painting on the easel. I love it when I have projects going on in all the stations in the studio — computer, drawing table and easel. Any email could wind up swamping me with work.

Where can our readers see more of your artwork?
The best place is my horribly-out-of-date website and my blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper Summer Guide cover illustrator Emily Traynor

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Emily Traynor with her Summer Guide cover illustration - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER MORSILLO
  • Photo courtesy of Peter Morsillo
  • Pittsburgh artist Emily Traynor with her Summer Guide cover illustration

This week marks local artist Emily Traynor’s first time collaborating with Pittsburgh City Paper. I spotted her work on the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrator’s website a few weeks ago while searching for an artist to hire for this year’s Summer Guide. I was immediately drawn to her whimsical pieces, especially one of her colorful self-promotional paintings of a summer sky, the inspiration for this week’s City Paper illustrations.

You can see Emily’s completed artwork on both this week’s cover, and the cover of our Summer Guide pullout, inserted inside this week’s issue. You can also see pieces of her cover illustrations scattered throughout the entire Summer Guide section — they really liven up the entire piece and her upbeat color palette was so fun to work with. Can we hurry up already and get some of that great summer weather, so we can have as much fun as the girl flying the kite on the cover?

We caught up with Emily over email after she was finished with this week’s illustrations and got her thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene and what she’s most looking forward to this summer.

What neighborhood do you live in? 

I live in Greenfield, which is a hidden gem of a neighborhood. The location within the city is amazing — a mile or two from just about everything. My boyfriend and I just bought a house here in November; before that, we lived in Lawrenceville for a few years.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

After I grew out of my obligatory childhood phase of wanting to be a lion when I grew up, I distinctly remember being torn between being a veterinarian or an artist. I remember compromising that I would first become a veterinarian, and then go back to school for art because that seemed like the “stable” thing to do. And I did start on that route, attending the University of Pittsburgh, beginning as a biology major. But I eventually realized that my love of animals didn’t quite translate into a love of rigorous scientific studies, so I switched over to Pitt’s studio arts major which propelled me forward in my artistic exploration.

What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh’s art scene?

What I love most about Pittsburgh is what I think makes it such a dynamic art scene. Pittsburgh has a lot of personality and a ton of character. Each neighborhood has a completely different feel than the next, and you can get the best of both worlds when it comes to city living versus small town, depending on what part of the city you’re in. My favorite neighborhood has always been the Strip District — talk about personality and character! I could walk up and down Penn and Smallman all day long and always manage to find a cafe or shop I haven’t been in before, with so many cultures all around and live street music on every corner. That balance between big-city energy and small-town feel is a perfect incubator for creativity.

Your cover illustrations are a lovely mixture of ink and watercolors. Is that always your preferred medium?
I’ve always tended toward drawing over painting, and love how even just a simple black-and-white line drawing can come across. But, as you can see, I love color — and over the past few years, I’ve developed a certain watercolor palette that is a common thread between my work. I find watercolor charming, as it can be bright but soft, and less of it can be so much more striking as opposed to covering the entire page. White space and watercolor work well together, and I often like playing with negative space on the paper.

Emily Traynor's Summer Guide cover illustrations
  • Emily Traynor's Summer Guide cover illustrations

Has anyone ever gotten a tattoo of your artwork? I’ve noticed that watercolor tattoos are really trendy right now. 
Actually, yes — I posted an illustration on social media and, a few months later, came across a friend’s picture of it tattooed on their body. It’s a wonky drawing of a cassette tape unraveling, and the tape is a line of continuous tangled rainbow. It was a bit of a surreal moment suddenly seeing your artwork permanently inked into someone’s skin — and incredible to think they loved it so much to literally make it a part of themselves.

Your art is so whimsical and happy. Do you listen to upbeat music while you work?
It depends on the part of the process on which I’m focusing at the time. During moments when I’m concentrating most, such as brainstorming, sketching and drawing, I find that I need to keep distractions to a minimum, and often times need silence — or at least music with no lyrics that I’ll be tempted to sing along with! In other phases, though, I’ll switch between music, podcasts and, lately, I’ll sometimes throw Buffy the Vampire Slayer on in the background.

What’s something that someone would be surprised to find out about you after looking at your artwork?
Some may find it surprising that as much as I love creating artwork, my biggest love is singing. My boyfriend is a wonderfully talented musician, and lately we’ve been working on writing our own music. We plan to eventually start performing out in venues — aiming for sooner rather than later!

What’s your dream assignment?
I don’t know that I have a dream assignment. I love being able to create art and be creative as my day job — so, in that way, all assignments are dream assignments. Though, of course, some are more enjoyable than others — like this one for the Summer Guide!

Speaking of which, our Summer Guide lists tons of concerts, art shows and festivals happening around town over the next few months. What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I always look forward to the summer here — Pittsburgh comes alive! I try to hit up as many outdoor events as I possibly can, though I think that Pittsburgh’s outdoor movie screenings are my favorite. Picnicking with friends on a hill at night while watching a movie on a giant outdoor screen is too cool. Also, Dave and Andy’s [ice cream].

Have any big projects coming up?
I’ve been working on developing a line of greeting cards, which I can happily report did quite well in a recent artist market. I still only have a few designs, so my goal is to expand upon my designs and success so far, and keep the ball rolling. It’s exciting to create my own product and nurture a new sort of process.

Where can our readers purchase some of your artwork?

I have my greeting cards and giclée art prints available on Etsy: I also encourage people to contact me if they would like to commission my work — my contact information can be found on my website,

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Free play reading on Pittsburgh’s South Side tomorrow and Sunday

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Some of the folks who brought you last year’s memorable Saints Tour, in Braddock, have assembled local talent for two free staged readings of Don’t Stop: A Play (with dance breaks).

“Welcome to the world of hurt and heaven that is human adolescence,” goes the tagline.

Its creators call it “a dance-driven, sharp-edged play about how we go slamming around changing each other, with or without permission.”

The play is by Molly Rice, who also wrote the immersive Saints Tour, staged by Bricolage Productions and Rice and Rusty Thelin's Real/Time Interventions last summer on the streets of Braddock.

The show is directed by Thelin, with a cast including Julianne Avolio, Don DiGiulio, Tressa Glover and Sean Sears. Anthony Alterio choreographs dancers Mary Houle, Megan Forster and Lawrence Karl. It’s produced by Real/Time Interventions.

The play includes sex, violence and strong language, so it’s adults-only.

The readings are at 8 p.m. tomorrow and at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Millennium Dance Complex is located at 2504 E. Carson St., on the South Side. The reading is upstairs, in Studio C.

To attend, RSVP to

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pittsburgh Filmmakers fires longtime director of exhibitions

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 3:23 PM

Gary Kaboly, who for decades has programmed Filmmakers’ movie theaters and its Three Rivers Film Festival, was one of three full-time employees fired this past Friday.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers' headquarters, in North Oakland - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
  • Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
  • Pittsburgh Filmmakers' headquarters, in North Oakland
Pittsburgh Filmmaker/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts interim executive director Pete Mendes confirmed the layoffs to City Paper this afternoon. Mendes said the layoffs were part of an ongoing restructuring at the financially troubled organization, and were not cost-cutting measures.

Also let go were Chris Smalley, who headed Filmmakers' equipment-lending office, and equipment-office employee Dan Whitmore.

The lay-offs were about “putting the right people in place to move the organization forward,” Mendes said. He added that other staffers were moved from part-time to full-time status.

Kaboly was perhaps Filmmakers’ longest-serving remaining staffer. He was hired in the mid-1980s, when Filmmakers, then known mostly as an educational organization, opened its first off-campus screening room. The Fulton Mini, located Downtown in a side room at the Byham Theater, showed foreign-language, art and indie films.

The Mini later closed, but by the late 1990s, Kaboly was programming three theaters: the Regent Square Theater, in Edgewood; Downtown’s Harris Theater; and the Melwood Screening Room, at its then-new headquarters in North Oakland.

Continue reading »

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City of Asylum/Pittsburgh Restaurant, Bookstore, Event Space Set for September

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 2:31 PM

This nonprofit has come a long way since 2004, when it was launched to shelter a single writer under threat of persecution. (The first was dissident Chinese poet Huang Xiang.) Yesterday, the group that’s since become one of Pittsburgh’s top literary organizations announced that its big plans for a new headquarters are just months from completion.

The planned Alphabet City building (to left of "Garden" building) - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
  • Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
  • The planned Alphabet City building (to left of "Garden" building)
Alphabet City, located in the North Side’s former Masonic Building (right next to the landmark former Garden Theater), will include a name wine-and-cheese café, a bookstore, and event space accommodating up to 225.

While yesterday’s press event drew dignitaries including Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the space is still quite raw. Green tarps billowed from the building’s façade onto West North Avenue, and the 100 or so press and visitors were required to don hard hats to tread the plywood floor of the 9,000-square-foot space, currently stripped to plaster and I-beams.

City of Asylum has long been busy sheltering writers and hosting literary events with an international flavor, including its signature annual Jazz Poetry event; in 12 years, it’s offered events featuring more than 300 writers and musicians from 60 countries, co-founder Henry Reese said yesterday. Last year alone, it drew more than 5,000 visitors to about 50 programs, all of them free.

This past November, the group became the U.S. headquarters for the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which called City of Asylum/Pittsburgh “the model for the world.”

The $12.2 million Masonic Building reboot will allow the group to do even more: Some 150 programs are already planned in the first year of operation, according to press materials, starting with Sept. 9 and 10 readings by Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel Prize-winning investigative journalist who fled Belarus in 2000.

The space will permanently host a 24-seat incarnation of Caselulla @ Alphabet City — the wine-and-cheese café is expanding outside of New York City for the first time — and City of Asylum Books @ Alphabet City, a bookstore specializing on books in translation (though it will also carry new and used books in English and operate a free-book program). Yesterday, Reese introduced the shop’s inaugural manager: Lesley Rains, who’s just completing the sale of her East End Book Exchange. (Rains tells CP that the new space will actually be bigger than EEBX, which lives in a Bloomfield storefront.)
The bookshop’s shelves will be movable to allow for full use of the space.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at barebones productions

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 2:29 PM

Three performances remain of the troupe’s well-produced staging of this 1963 play by Dale Wasserman.

A scene from barebones' "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUIS STEIN
  • Photo courtesy of Louis Stein
  • A scene from barebones' "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
For many of us, the stage work will be heavily shadowed by the 1975 Milos Forman film, among that decade’s cultural touchstones. But part of the play’s value is that it’s much closer to the spirit of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, the source material for both play and movie.

While the story’s premise and main and supporting characters are the same, the film and stage versions are framed differently. The film is a Jack Nicholson vehicle that spotlights inmate Randall P. McMurphy’s power struggle with psych-ward dictator Nurse Ratched; the play, like Kesey’s book, is actually narrated by a character who in the film doesn’t even speak: Chief Bromden.

The Big Chief’s scene-opening monologues — like his dialogue later in the play — frame the story less as a matter of personal rebellion, with McMurphy as rebel hero, and more as an allegory about the Keseyian notion of the Combine, the invisible bureaucratized power structure that controls all, turning its servants (like Ratched, and two of the psych-ward orderlies) into merciless automatons and its victims (the patients and inmates) into neutered prey.

As befits its time and Kesey’s legend, it’s all very proto-counterculture (and, at times, pretty Freudian). But this is also a way of looking at the play that helps explain its unfortunate gender politics: In a mid-century milieu where men held even more of the political and social power than they do now, Kesey invests all the repressive authority of the Combine in a female character, even while blaming offstage female characters (Billy Bibbit’s mother; Bromden’s mother) for other ills. Yet as framed by Bromden's monologues, you might see each of the characters as an expression of the Combine's warping influence.

At any rate, here’s Stuart Sheppard’s rave review of the barebones production for CP.

The remaining performances are at 8 p.m. nightly, tonight through Saturday, at the New Hazlett Theater.

Tickets are $29.99 and are available here.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East, on the North Side.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Final week for Quantum’s “Master Builder” on Pittsburgh’s North Side

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 11:29 AM

By design, Quantum Theatre has staged plays in dozens of interesting and unlikely places over its 26 years. (In fact the troupe has created a contest and nifty interactive map to honor that legacy.)

John Shepard and Hayley Nielsen in "The Master Builder" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ALTDORFER
  • Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
  • John Shepard and Hayley Nielsen in "The Master Builder"
But fans of the urban landscape will be especially thrilled by the venue Quantum has arranged for this Ibsen classic: The view from the ninth floor of Building Two of Nova Place (formerly Allegheny Center) alone is worth half the price of admission.

The former office space in the recently sold complex has been stripped bare, meaning a short walk around the perimeter gets you a 360-degree low-flying-bird’s-eye view of Pittsburgh that’s centered a few blocks behind PNC Park. Arrive early for a daylight perspective. My favorite vantage lets you gaze across Deutschtown and up the Allegheny valley all the way to UPMC Children’s Hospital on the Lawrenceville hillside, and beyond.

The play, meanwhile, is staged before the windows that look out on the Downtown skyline, and the wraparound windows take full advantage of the dusk that descends throughout the first of three acts (for performances starting at 8 p.m., which most of them do).

Dusk descending is also an apt metaphor vis-à-vis Ibsen’s script, which grapples with mortality, the notion of legacy and the fear of obsolescence that grips Halvard Solness, an aging architect with a wandering eye.

The play is knotty, as Ibsen tends to be; after the show, I had a fruitful discussion with a fellow attendee about whether the whole story had taken place in Solness’ head, the other characters merely manifestations of his own psyche. But Master Builder will definitely get you thinking; indeed, a week after seeing it, I feel like I’m still processing.

For another take, here’s Stuart Sheppard’s review for CP.

The Master Builder has four more performances through Sunday.

Tickets are $38 and are available here.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Art All Night returns to Lawrenceville

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Pittsburgh’s 19th annual Art All Night was held this weekend, at the Arsenal Terminal in Lawrenceville; the all-night affair, which ran from 4 p.m. Sat., April 23, through 2 p.m. Sun., April 24, is a no-jury art show.

The event was filled with displays of local artwork and live performances, including collaborative paintings, musicians, breakdancing and standup comedians. For those so inspired, there was postcard-making and drawing with chalk. A steady crowd swarmed the beer stand, though the atmosphere remained low-key and friendly. A few attendees even brought their furry friends along. The activity continued through the night, as CP''s Aaron Warnick documents here. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Play Art Bingo at Lawrenceville’s Art All Night and win a City Paper prize pack

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 3:29 PM


The highlight of the spring art season is the 19th annual Art All Night. At this Lawrenceville event, held from 4 p.m. Sat., April 23, through 2 p.m. Sun., April 24, anybody can display their artwork, and plenty do. Frankly, it can be overwhelming for visitors.

To help you focus, City Paper designed four bingo cards just for Art All Night. In the squares are art forms and subjects to look for: string art and things made with branches; photos of the Pittsburgh skyline and sunsets; portraits of dogs and babies; plus the ever-popular zombies, Steelers and wizards.

Download and print one or all four. To win, complete any row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally). Tweet a photo of your winning card in front of winning art (the one that completed your B-I-N-G-O) to @PGHCityPaper using the hashtag #CPArtBingo, and be eligible for a City Paper prize pack, which will include CP T-shirts and two tickets to three upcoming Stage AE shows — Say Anything on May 11; The Avett Brothers on May 12 and Ellie Goulding on May 13.

True lovers of art in all forms will want to play blackout (finding all the squares). And why not? You’ve got all night.

Art All Night. Arsenal Terminal at 39th and Foster streets, Lawrenceville. Free.

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Final Performances of "The Flick" at Pittsburgh’s The REP

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 11:18 AM

I know, I know, it’s all about Prince this morning, as it should be. But I hope you recover in time to check out this exceptional production of Annie Baker’s 2015 Pulitzer-winning play.

Sarah Silk and Saladin White II in "The Flick" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEFF SWENSEN
  • Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
  • Sarah Silk and Saladin White II in "The Flick"
The Flick is a real anomaly that sounds daunting and maybe even shouldn’t work: Who these days writes a low-key three-hour comedy, played on one dingy set, where all three main characters are underpaid dorks and two of them are depressives? And which, as Michelle Pilecki points out in her review for CP, is for long passages so shy on dialogue that it's practically a dance show?

But Baker (whose Circle Mirror Transformation was staged by Pittsburgh Public Theater a few years back) is a virtuoso of the space between words: While Baker has a peerless ear for the inarticulate way people really talk, what isn’t said in this play, set in a rundown small-town movie theater, and for how long it’s not said, is at least as communicative as what is (both between the characters themselves and for the audience).

So Baker loves her silences. But because she therefore gives the cast both nothing and everything to work with, The Flick – I’d call it a discontiguous love triangle, though it’s also more – only works if the director and cast get it. And at The REP they surely do: Robert A. Miller guides an amazing ensemble cast led by Sarah Silk, John Steffenauer and Saladin White II.

Three hours is long, yes. But just bring a snack, and come ready to really watch, and really listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Four performances remain of The Flick, tonight through Sunday, at Point Park University's black-box Studio theater, 222 Craft Ave., in Oakland.

Tickets are $10-29 and are available here.

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