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Friday, February 2, 2018

Call for performance artists who publicly identify as queer

Posted By on Fri, Feb 2, 2018 at 3:42 PM

New performance-art series folkLAB: In Our Voice seeks artists who publicly identify as queer for its April/May production.

folkLAB aims to create a new American folklore through the voices of the oppressed. The troupe debuted in December with a show by women artists.

folkLAB organizes small ensembles who identify with a specific public identity and work intensively for 3.5 weeks to create a brand-new performance piece inspired by any folklore they choose. (The December show, Femme, drew on sources including the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, for instance.)

Ensemble members are paid 65 percent of net ticket sales and a small stipend. The forthcoming show's working title is "Prodigalis."

Applicants must be available for all rehearsals (mostly on weekday evenings), tech rehearsals and performance dates. Applications must include a letter of intent stating the applicant's interest in the project, and two artist "or tangentially artistic" professional references. Recommended but not required are performance experience, devising experience, and interdisciplinary art experience.

Email with entries, statements of interest or questions.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Iconic poetry work to be celebrated on Saturday at White Whale Bookstore

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 12:26 PM

Muriel Rukeyser was a political activist and important American poet, and one of her most notable works was The Book of the Dead. The 1938 poetry sequence was written in response to the Hawk's Nest Tunnel disaster in West Virginia, in which hundreds of miners died of silicosis.

Continue reading »

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Final weekend for "The Humans" at the Public

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Stephen Karam's comedic family drama is built around a Thanksgiving dinner that feels ripped from this past November.

J. Tucker Smith and Valeri Mudek in "The Humans" - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL HENNINGER
  • Photo courtesy of Michael Henninger
  • J. Tucker Smith and Valeri Mudek in "The Humans"
The parents and grandmother, from Scranton, are visiting the youngest daughter and her boyfriend in their Manhattan apartment, joined by the older daughter, who lives in Philly. There's Catholicism, regret, ribbing, "I love you, but I'm just saying," dementia, overlapping dialogue, and lots of bathroom breaks.

The acting is terrific in this local premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater, and director Pamela Berlin orchestrates the action on the bi-level set beautifully, leaving room for tender human moments that are all the more moving for their brevity. It's quite funny, also.

As Ted Hoover notes in his review for CP, the play's ending is rather mystifying. But it is, if nothing else, open-ended, and provides lots of fodder for discussion.

The Humans has four more performances, tonight through Sunday.

Tickets are $15.75-65 and are available here.

The O'Reilly Theater is located at 621 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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"In Defense of Gravity" at Attack Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 9:32 AM

Attack Theatre’s latest show was inspired by the writings of Jimmy Cvetic. But this wasn’t exactly the Cvetic those familiar with his work might think of.

Attack Theatre's "In Defense of Gravity" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ALTDORFER
  • Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
  • Attack Theatre's "In Defense of Gravity"
Cvetic is one of a kind: a Vietnam veteran, retired undercover narcotics cop, boxing coach and poet, and his poetry reflects his resume. It’s full of cops, crooks, drug dealers and prostitutes and nutjobs. From the plainspoken Bukowski school, it’s highly narrative, gritty (to say the least), sometimes graphic and often profane, if always also humane and leavened by a good deal of humor.

In Defense of Gravity, whose premiere run had four showings this past weekend at the George R. White Studio, in the Strip District, lacked many of those qualities. Instead, it took a handful of lines from Cvetic’s poetry and used them to construct its own story about loss and hope.

Attack co-founder and co-artistic director Peter Kope embodied the central figure, while the company’s six other dancers served, either collectively or individually, as foils for or representations of his state of mind. Throughout, the performers moved mostly to the sounds of a stellar live band playing mostly original compositions; the group included percussionist Jeff Berman; keyboardist Ben Brosche; Ben Opie on clarinet and saxophone; and vocalist Anqwenique.

The work's opening passage depicted the protagonist’s loneliness and and sorrow — a function, we’re shown, of the loss of a young child. A second, playful section found the ensemble engaging in Attack’s familiar, and occasionally gravity-defying, athletic derring-do. The concluding sequence of the hour-long work depicted healing and resolve.

The lost child was represented by a pink baby blanket and a series of toys extracted from a wooden chest; a scene when the performers array these items at center stage traveled to the edge of sentimentality and perhaps past it. (A certain sentimentality, it should be said, is not unknown in Cvetic’s writing, no matter how earthy it typically is.) But the overall shape of the work and the skill of the performers ultimately carried the evening.

The concept and vibrant choreography are credited to Kope and fellow co-founder and artistic director Michele de la Reza (who also performed), while the remaining five performers were credited with “movement invention.” Kaitlin Dann, Dane Toney, Ashley Williams and Sarah Zielinski contributed solid solos, while company newcomer Simon Phillips made a noteworthy debut, moving with power and grace and radiating charisma.

In Defense of Gravity (the title, in acronym, references Cvetic’s cop nickname, “Dog”) distills a few aspects of Cvetic’s work. There’s his mordant humor — “It’s not the fall that hurts, it’s the sudden stop, followed by the bounce,” goes one line quoted in the show’s recorded voiceovers (spoken by Cvetic himself and actor Patrick Jordan). But mostly there’s hope, and the determination to go on in the face of heartbreak. As the concluding lines say, “As for the broken pieces you have gathered, keep them, they belong to you.”

At Saturday night’s show, Cvetic himself briefly addressed the audience post-performance. He was clad in his usual backward ballcap, novelty T-shirt and Converse. He probably wasn’t most people’s picture of a poet, but as In Defense of Gravity demonstrated, success doesn’t have to be about meeting audience expectations.

Here’s Steve Sucato’s preview of the show for CP.

And there’s more on Cvetic and his writings here, here and here. You can also find dozens of his poems elsewhere on City Paper’s web site.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Final performances of Quantum's “The Hard Problem” this weekend

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 11:41 AM

The Pittsburgh-premiere production of the iconic playwright’s most recent work is a splendid staging. It couldn't have been easy to handle Stoppard’s combination of personal journey, social critique and intellectual inquiry into the nature of mind, but Quantum makes it look that way.

Andrew William Smith and Alex Spieth in "The Hard Problem" - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN ALTDORFER
  • Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
  • Andrew William Smith and Alex Spieth in "The Hard Problem"
The play concerns a grad student’s new job at a neurological research institute where the big philosophical divides include the one between those who think of the human mind as an opportunistic machine designed by evolution to maximize the propagation of its own genes, and those who think more agency is involved – free will, perhaps, or even, in young Hilary’s case, spirit.

There’s much more to the story, but fans of The Real Thing and Arcadia know that Stoppard writes dialogue like no one else. And while it seemed pretty clear to me what his answer to “the hard problem” is, he gives all sides a chance to make their case with a wit that’s hard to match.

Meanwhile, director Rachel M. Stevens, her design team and cast create a visual spectacle to remember, turning a big, under-renovation room at the Energy Innovation Center into a kind of walk-through memory chamber, and the stage in particular into a multi-level, multimedia feast for the eyes.

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for City Paper.

The remaining performances of The Hard Problem are tonight, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. (Friday’s show is sold out.)

Tickets are $42-48 and are available here. The Saturday and Sunday shows included a gourmet boxed-dinner option for an $18 surcharge.

The Energy Innovation Center is located at 1435 Bedford Ave., in the Hill District.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Final Weekend for Kinetic Theatre's "Dance of Death"

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 2:45 PM

August Strindberg is considered one of the progenitors of contemporary theater, and you can get a strong taste of his work in the Pittsburgh premiere of a new translation of this play.

Sam Tsoutsouvas and Helena Ruoti in "Dance of Death" - PHOTO COURTESY OF KINETIC THEATRE CO.
  • Photo courtesy of Kinetic Theatre Co.
  • Sam Tsoutsouvas and Helena Ruoti in "Dance of Death"
Kinetic's Andrew Paul explained in this CP preview piece why he thinks Dance of Death is important if seldom produced. But in the adapted translation by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, the dark comedy feels like it could have been written yesterday (or at least by Edward Albee) rather than in 1905.

The show's three actors, Helena Ruoti, Sam Tsoutsouvas and Mark D. Staley, make the words sing — and cut — at the specially outfitted New Hazlett, where most of the usual seating is shrouded and the audience sits in chairs on the stage itself.

The show has three more performances tonight through Sunday. 

Tickets are $20-38 and are available here.

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

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Final Week for Quantum’s "All the Names"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 2:45 PM

Most estimable works of literary art are arguably “about” everything — or, at the very least, they’re about life and death.

From left: Cameron Knight (background), James Fitzgerald and Mark Conway Thompson in Quantum's "All the Names" - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER MULL
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Mull
  • From left: Cameron Knight (background), James Fitzgerald and Mark Conway Thompson in Quantum's "All the Names"
So it is with Jose Saramago’s All the Names, as well as Quantum Theatre’s terrific adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning 1997 novel.

The story — about a clerk who quietly (and fearfully) defies the gigantic bureaucracy that employs him to go on a sort of latter-day knightly search for a mysterious (and anonymous) woman – is fairly slight. But Saramago’s vision, as faithfully translated to the stage by Quantum, is large enough to encompass questions about identity (how it’s formed, what it is), epistemology (what it means to “know” something) and more.

More than simply inhabiting an old building, the show is truly site-specific, with the decommissioned Carnegie Library of Allegheny standing in for the government hall where “all the names” are kept. And this original production, a collaborative creation of Quantum’s Karla Boos, Barbara Luderowski of the Mattress Factory and other artists, makes imaginative and expansive use of several rooms in this old North Side landmark (so be prepared for a little walking).

Here’s Tyler Plosia’s review for CP.

There are four more performances beginning with tonight’s. 

Tickets are $38 and available here. Expect thematically appropriate snackies and a little drink at the intermezzo.

The former Carnegie Library of Allegheny is located on Allegheny Square on the North Side (part of the same complex as the New Hazlett Theater). 

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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 9, 2014

Final Week for L’Hotel at the Public

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 2:16 PM

This entertaining world-premiere production asks, what if some famous residents of a famous Paris cemetery spent the afterlife as fellow lodgers at a grand hotel? And what if some of them were egos like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Victor Hugo and Sarah Bernhardt?

Deanne Lorette (as Sarah Bernhardt) and Daniel Hartley (Jim Morrison) in LHotel
For good measure, playwright Ed Dixon throws in Isadora Duncan, composer Gioachino Rossini, one very flustered French waiter and a Ouija board.

As Dixon acknowledges, this isn’t the place to go to learn about the “real” Bernhardt, or anybody else he’s writing about. In fact, as CP’s Michelle Pilecki contends in her review, the play might well disserve some of its historical personages — Rossini hardly having been the buffoon Dixon portrays for laughs, for instance.

That grain of salt taken, the play’s a lively if curious mix of physical humor, sex farce and drawing-room comedy, capped by a perhaps-unexpected dose of existential enlightenment. And the cast is terrific.

L’Hotel has eight more performances through Sunday, starting with tonight’s.

Tickets are $15.75-56.

The Public’s O’Reilly Theater is located at 621 Penn Ave., Downtown.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mine Factory Show Opens Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Artists who work intimately with perhaps the most basic of media are the focus of I Just Want the Paper. The group show, curated by Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, Kareema Thomas and Sean Beauford, opens with a reception at this Point Breeze gallery.

The exihibit features work by seven artists, including Darrell S. Kinsel, Stephani Martinez, Suzanne Desbiens, Susan Goethel-Campbell, Gianna Paniagua, Kenturah Davis and Terrence Boyd. Pictured is work by Davis. Kinsel is Pittsburgh-based.

Art by Kenturah Davis
  • Art by Kenturah Davis
The Pittsburgh-based Onyewuenyi, a native of Nigeria, is a former gallery assistant at Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery.

According to a curatorial statement, the show was inspired by Gerhard Richter, who said: “Drawing or painting on paper is more impulsive than painting on canvas. … I found that the directness of the works on paper led to randomness and virtuosity. I didn’t want any of that.”

The opening reception for I Just Want the Paper runs 6-10 p.m. Sat., Dec. 6. Admission is free. The exhibit continues through Dec. 21.

The Mine Factory is located at 201 N. Braddock Ave.

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