Program Notes: Arts Blog |

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Yinz can see Pittsburgh-born comedian Billy Gardell live at the Benedum Center on Nov. 17

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Billy Gardell
  • Billy Gardell

Even when Pittsburgh-born comedian Billy Gardell was playing a Chicago cop on the hit series Mike and Molly, you could tell he was born closer to Liberty Avenue than Halstead Street.

Drusky Entertainment announced this morning that the actor/comedian/rabid Pittsburgh sports fan will play the Benedum Center at 7:30 p.m. on Sat. Nov. 17. This Thursday, April 19, at 10 a.m., a local presale will begin with the remaining tickets going on sale Friday. To take advantage of the pre-sale, use the code, "YINZER" at checkout at trustarts.org. Most tickets range from $39-59 and there are a limited number of Grand Circle seats available for $89.


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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.png
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 folklab.series@gmail.com 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.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Correction: Farewell episode of Prosody to air at 4 p.m. Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 10:45 AM

This week's print edition of City Paper contained an incorrect time for the airing of the farewell episode of radio show Prosody.

The half-hour show will air on WESA 90.5 FM at 4 p.m. this Saturday.

Guests of host Jan Beatty will include poet Ed Ochester, original host John Schulman, and Pittsburgh's best-known ex-cop/boxing trainer/poet, Jimmy Cvetic.

WESA has canceled the on-air version of the long-running show for poets and writers, though the program will continue in the form of podcasts and short segments as part of WESA's programming.

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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Friday, December 1, 2017

Final performances of OId Man and the Old Moon at City Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 1:30 PM

If you want to see this show by the Carnegie Mellon alums of PigPen Theatre, you'd better hurry: As of this writing, only one of the four remaining performances has tickets left.

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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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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Immersive-theater show "DODO" wraps this week at the Carnegie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 11:48 AM

DODO, the latest immersive-theater production from Bricolage Productions, is up for four more evenings this week, but is completely sold out.

Performer Hazel Carr Leroy talks to two "DODO" participants - PHOTO COURTESY OF HANDERSON GOMES
  • Photo courtesy of Handerson Gomes
  • Performer Hazel Carr Leroy talks to two "DODO" participants
I experienced it myself last week, and that level of popularity is easy to understand. The show, which takes groups of six on two-hour night-time journeys through the Carnegie museums of art and natural history, is a series of theatrical enchantments taking advantage of the setting, and of the expertise in art and science housed therein.

The show traverses parts of the massive complex you’ve surely never seen, as well as familiar halls and galleries made new and strange. While there are themes (ecological, existential), there’s really no story outside of your journey, though performers stationed along the way create a sense of narrative, delivering their scripted lines as well as improvised interaction with patrons. It’s beautifully conceived and smartly choreographed, with a doozy of a climax and a denouement that’s both literally and figuratively brilliant.

I won’t divulge more detail, in case you’ll be experiencing the show in its final week. (The groups of six visitors each depart in 15-minute intervals, with up to a dozen separate departures nightly. But if you don’t have a ticket already, good luck: While there is a stand-by option, on the night I visited, a Pitt student who was attempting to fly stand-by told me she had already showed up on several nights to no avail. This is one show, it seems, that people really don’t want to miss.)

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for CP.

DODO must wrap on Nov. 19. But for those who attended and want to talk more (and, theoretically, even for those who didn’t get to attend but who are intrigued), Bricolage is hosting a free talkback Nov. 30. The event will include DODO’s cast and crew as well as Carnegie Museum staffers.

The Nov. 30 talkback runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m., in the Carnegie Lecture Hall, at 4400 Forbes Ave., in Oakland. A cash bar at the Carnegie Café, and further discussion, follows.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Karl Marx biographers speak here Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 1:47 PM

Karl Marx, his reputation long a victim of what’s been done in his name, has been viewed with new eyes by many since the global financial collapse.

The authors of two acclaimed bios published since then visit Carnegie Mellon University as part of the Marx@200 event series, meant to explore the continuing relevance of the author of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto.

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