Program Notes: Arts Blog |

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Final weekend for "Mr. Burns — a post-electric play"

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 11:20 AM

Four performances remain for this singular show, a post-apocalyptic take on The Simpsons that’s about the power – and mutability – of story.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ABBEY: In The Red at the August Wilson Center

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 9:48 AM

Stage productions with great pedigrees don’t always turn out great. But ABBEY: In The Red did. This world-premiere dance work with live music gorgeously evoked the life and music of its inspiration, jazz singer Abbey Lincoln.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KITOKO CHARGOIS
  • Photo courtesy of Kitoko Chargois
The production was a blending of some top-notch, all-local talent. Choreographer Staycee Pearl guided seven dancers from her STAYCEE PEARL dance project (plus guest performers from Pittsburgh’s Legacy Arts Project) through several numbers, all new interpretations of classic Lincoln tracks as arranged by composer and reeds player Ben Opie, and played by a six-piece ensemble including vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield. The musical direction was by Soy Sos (a.k.a. Herman Pearl), who contributed electronics and light percussion.

As seen this past Saturday night, at the August Wilson Center, the show began with a silent tableau centering on Wingfield in a striking gown by costume designer Tereneh Mosley and fabulous headdress by artist Atticus Adams. (Mosley and Adams also contributed the textiles and sculptural elements that dressed the set.) Wingfield and the band launched into a foreboding version of Lincoln’s blues “Driva Man,” shortly joined onstage by the dancers.

That was followed by group works set to the joyous “Freedom Day” and the contemplative “Straight Ahead” and other solo and group works set to tunes including “Garvey’s Ghost” and “African Lady.” The work was mostly drawn from Lincoln’s 1960s output, known for its lyrics referencing the civil-rights struggle, and for what Pearl has called its avant-garde sound. (You can download the soundtrack here.) The choreography included jazz and traditional African dance, and a good bit of ballet. Featured dancers included LaTrea Rembert and Chandra Tanel.

Here’s Steve Sucato’s preview article on the show for City Paper.

Saturday’s performance concluded a three-show premiere run. But you can catch excerpts of ABBEY as soon as June 7, when SPdp performs on the main stage at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, in a set including its terrific work FLOWERZ (from earlier this year); a similar program follows on June 8, at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Both performances are part of a showcase by Tracks.

The program later goes on the road, with performances scheduled in Cambridge, Mass., and Newport, R.I.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

'Collaborators' at Pittsburgh's Quantum Theatre

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 12:51 PM

By turns hilarious and sinister, and sometimes both at once, Collaborators is an exceptionally engaging evening of theater. Playwright John Hodge’s satiric drama imagines an almost-plausible 1930s collusion between famed writer Mikhail Bulgakov and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

As history and biography, the play takes us only so far. But it’s a fascinating — and highly entertaining — rumination on the relationship between politics and art and a terrifying exploration of the price of moral compromise.

In the play, a secret policeman proves oddly chipper; Bulgakov’s relationship with Stalin feels weirdly dreamlike (and might, it occurred to me, actually be a dream). The show’s aspects of madcap, absurdist humor rub shoulders with its moments of mortal danger — a mix surely informed by director Jed Allen Harris’ long experience doing political theater, as well as his work in the former Eastern Bloc nation of Bulgaria.

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Joyce Carol Oates speaks in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Post by Jody DiPerna

Joyce Carol Oates arrived in Pittsburgh on a red-eye flight on Tuesday morning and said that walking around Mount Lebanon felt kind of surreal, as the morning after an overnight flight often does. But the cross-country travel didn’t slow the acclaimed author down last night, as she kept a full auditorium at Mount Lebanon's Mellon Middle School in thrall discussing her latest novel, A Book of American Martyrs.

Joyce Carol Oates
  • Joyce Carol Oates
The novel, set in Michigan and Ohio, is told in the voices of myriad characters. Primarily it is the story of two families: those of Dr. Augustus Voorhees, an abortion doctor who is murdered in the novel's first sentence, and Luther Dunphy, the Christian-fundamentalist assassin. Both men end up martyrs to their respective causes.

The first excerpt Oates read was from the perspective of Voorhees. Interestingly, it was a passage she edited out, explaining that it felt like a stand-alone piece, or a short story. Oates has taught creative writing since the early 1960s and she clearly brings her professorial self to bear when editing her own work.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

CorningWorks' "What's Missing?" at the New Hazlett Theater

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 11:09 AM

"This performance is flawed," goes one of the voice-over lines repeated throughout this latest dance-theater offering from CorningWorks' Glue Factory Project.

Beth Corning and Donald Byrd in "What's Missing?" - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALSH PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo courtesy of Walsh Photography
  • Beth Corning and Donald Byrd in "What's Missing?"
As seen last night, the show, a collaboration between company founder and artistic director Beth Corning and Seattle-based dance legend Donald Byrd, is largely a reflective study of perception, expressed in a series of duets and solos.

The opening sequence establishes a relationship between the two characters, male and female, exploring a lived-in interdependence: Sometimes they move together, sometimes one must right the other, who's fallen over.

The solos deepen the characters. A notable one finds Corning working with the show's lone prop, a short wooden bench. Confused, tentative and fearful, she seems to be hoping the bench will serve as an anchor of some kind, but in the end finds it, too, provides no surety.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Final performances of 'Virginia Woolf' at Pittsburgh's Cup-A-Jo Productions

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 10:04 AM

The folks who insisted to me that this staging of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a must-see — including two members of the local theater community who told me they saw it twice each — weren't kidding around.

From left: Hilary Caldwell, Joanna Lowe and Tom Kolos in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN KERR
  • Photo courtesy of Ken Kerr
  • From left: Hilary Caldwell, Joanna Lowe and Tom Kolos in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
By staging the show in the living room of a Point Breeze house, the small but ambitious Cup-A-Jo troupe puts you right in the action: At moments, the front row of the limited-seating audience had their knees a foot from the actors. Of course, the production must justify that kind of intimacy, and this one does. It's a tough, unsparing but ultimately empathetic — and highly entertaining — take on this monumental play, with director Everett Lowe drawing the best from his cast.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Essay film 'Robopaths' to screen tomorrow at Glitter Box

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 2:21 PM

Everybody's talking about the roboticized future of autonomous cars and jobless humans. But what if another big danger were people becoming more like robots?

robopathsdvdsleeve.jpg
That's the question posed in a feature-length film by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. The film, in turn, was inspired by the writings of sociologist Lewis Yablonsky, who wrote: "In a robopathic-producing social machine, conformity is a virtue. New or different behavior is viewed as strange and bizarre. 'Freaks' are feared. Originality is suspect."

tENT, a veteran experimental filmmaker, calls Robopaths a "pastiche film" that incorporates footage from everything from Stanley Milgram's infamous "obedience research" to clips from the 1953 cult classic The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, based on a story by Dr. Seuss.

Other reference points are Nazism and suicide bombers. For a rundown of some of the clips used, see here.

The film's first public screening is at 8 p.m. tomorrow at The Glitter Box Theater, the new space inside Oakland's Bloomcraft. Admission is $6.

The Glitter Box is located at 460 Melwood Ave.


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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tickets still left for tonight's 'Chad Deity' performance at Pittsburgh's barebones productions

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 12:53 PM

It's closing week for barebones' lively production of this unique, pro-wrestling-themed play at the Ace Hotel. But if you don't already have tickets, you'll need to go tonight, as Friday and Saturday's shows are sold out.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity - PHOTO COURTESY OF LOUIS STEIN
  • Photo courtesy of Louis Stein
  • The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
The Obie-winning play, by Kristoffer Diaz, depicts a drama that plays out behind the scenes (and sometimes in the ring) of a fictional WWE-style wrestling league. The often-satirical story revolves around efforts to turn an Indian-American wrestler into a bearded and turbaned villain named "The Fundamentalist."

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Program with renowned environmental artist Saturday at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Santa Fe, N.M.-based artist Andrea Polli, known locally for "Energy Flow" — the large-scale light installation on the Rachel Carson Bridge — gives a talk about how artists can help people visualize the environmental impact of their behavior.

Andrea Polli (center) and her "Energy Flow" on the Rachel Carson Bridge - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF ART
  • Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art
  • Andrea Polli (center) and her "Energy Flow" on the Rachel Carson Bridge
The free, two-hour program in the museum’s Hall of Architecture is called Hack the Grid, and subtitled “A Conversation about Light, Energy, and Environmental Sensing, A Responsive Vision for Public Art.”

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Final performances of “Between Riverside and Crazy” at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 2:15 PM

Just five more performances remain of this fine production of last year’s Pulitzer winner for drama.

From left to right: Dawn McGee, Drew Stone and Eugene Lee in "Between Riverside and Crazy" - PHOTO COURTESY OF PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER
  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • From left to right: Dawn McGee, Drew Stone and Eugene Lee in "Between Riverside and Crazy"
The playwright, Stephen Adley Guirgis, is arguably the hottest in the country right now. Earlier plays of his to cause a stir on local stages in recent seasons include The Motherfucker With the Hat and Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (both at barebones theater); Our Lady of 121st Street (at Point Park’s Conservatory Theatre Co.); and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (at Throughline Theater Co.).

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