The Pittsburgh Monologue Project Wants to Tell You a Juicy Secret

The city’s up-to-the-minute anthropologists return for their eight year at the ModernFormations Gallery in Bloomfield.


Photo by Dave DiCello, HDR Exposed Photography

Are you the type to hold in-depth, unprovoked conversations with strangers? Don’t feel the need to answer out loud. I’ll trust your uncomfortable silence to mean that the answer is yes.

If you’ve spilled your life’s story to a particularly attentive passerby in the past eight years or so, you might want to head to ModernFormations Gallery this Saturday night. There’s a chance that your tale is part of the evening’s entertainment.

Robert Isenberg — who, among his very many hats, is a regular contributor to PM — first conceived of the Pittsburgh Monologue Project (PMP) in 2004. He found himself fairly regularly beset by folks wanting to talk — on the bus, on the street, in a bar, wherever he found himself, there they were. So, he says, “I thought I should really start writing this stuff down. I’m a magnet for weirdos.”

After turning these encounters into theatrical monologues, he began trying to find a home for a collection of unsolicited, unexpected theater. It was first performed in 2004 at La Prima Espresso, as presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; after that initial outing, Isenberg added writer Brad Keller as his co-creator. “He’s a very good writer,” Isenberg says. “And I knew he’d be really good with the sports stuff and the business stuff. I took the Greyhound set, and he took the rest,” he jokes.

What results is something of a feat of informational archaeology. The stories, rants and words of these anonymous contributors would otherwise pass into the ether (at least until they were foisted on another unexpecting individual.) In the hands of Isenberg and Keller, they’re put on life support and reconstructed as art. Isenberg is careful to clarify that this is by no means a work of journalism (conversations are dramatized, modified and obfuscated as appropriate),  but instead a glimpse at what Pittsburghers want to talk about when they’re ready to talk to just about anyone.

“After a while, you just know that you have a full narrative arc,” he explains, “a really interesting personality, and usually some kind of confession. And most of the time, they have no idea that what they’re saying is interesting.”

The PMP has been performed at Quiet Storm, the erstwhile Funny Bone, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre and elsewhere (including a regular spot in the theater department of Duquesne University). For the past few months, though, it has been in the hands of Vince Ventura and the still-new 12 Peers Theater.

I reviewed the debut performance from 12 Peers, The Weird, in this space earlier this year; their takes on the PMP amount to the second activity from the troupe. The Weird showed why they’re well-suited for a project like this: It was an unusual, off-the-wall, episodic piece of campy fun. It takes that sort of daring, that willingness to put together a more complex evening’s entertainment, to take on something like the PMP.

This Saturday’s performance is the sixth and final Monologue Project collection presented by 12 Peers. They’ve selected (sort of curated, actually) from a large base collection of pieces Isenberg and Keller have crafted over the past eight years; with over 260 individual monologues to choose from, this was no small task. All the evenings have been themed; this final iteration is called “Back in the Day.”

No surprise there. If you listen to people from Pittsburgh talk for any length of time, you’ll hear a good bit about the old days, after all.

It’s an odd, vital and fascinating project, and one that deserves your attendance (especially in an intimate, perfectly appropriate venue like ModernFormations.) With eight years of effort behind the project, there is certainly something more to it than a collection of conversations; in a very real way, Isenberg and Keller have become Pittsburgh’s to-the-minute anthropologists, letting us know who we are and how we live.

And if you do, in fact, find your own story on stage Saturday night, stand up and take your own bow. They couldn’t have done it without you.

(ModernFormations Gallery, 4919 Penn Ave, Bloomfield. Sat, 8 p.m. $10; student tickets available at the door, $5. Info and tickets: 12peerstheater.org)

Speaking of the good old days ....

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Two local businessmen have found a worthwhile weekend job –– flying dogs in need of rescue.
Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

The Steelers coach says he has just the right role in mind for the Pirates outfielder.
Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

Feed the Meter from your Phone? There May Soon be an App for That

But the plan from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority may have some strings attached.
Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

Just Released: Trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's New Movie Shot in Pittsburgh

The boxing drama "Southpaw" is set to arrive in theaters in late July.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

Each trail has been lovingly constructed and maintained, using old infrastructure to reconnect disparate communities.
A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa will draw on a fierce work ethic, community goodwill and faith in his own vision for Superior Motors, the progressive American spot he plans to open this year.
Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Adoration for PNC Park is near-universal. But would the park be the cherished baseball palace it is today if a few early proposals instead had become reality?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Pittsburgh's Dog Rescuers

Two local businessmen have found a worthwhile weekend job –– flying dogs in need of rescue.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

Stand proud, Pittsburgh: Our brand of quirky is a good thing — positive, uplifting, fun, colorful, imaginative.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino assembled locally and nationally recognized chefs for Wednesday's James Beard Foundation dinner.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

You don’t have to be a handyman to be handy with those spring projects, if you have the right equipment.

Comments


Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

The Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport's new bar & restaurant wants to be more than just a hotel joint.

Comments


10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

Get the lowdown on one of the best food events of the season.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Spring Fling

Spring Fling

Add some warmth to your table with these nature-inspired plates and bowls from artist Lisa Neimeth.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

On Sunday, find out why the Daily Dot in 2012 declared Takei the most influential person on Facebook.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

When the bride and groom hail from different backgrounds, a planning balancing act ensues. Here are two weddings that incorporate Hindu culture with style.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Tailor knobs and pulls to each room in your home.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

With backing from UPMC, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh on Monday announced a three-way collaboration to use the digital data to revolutionize health care.

Comments


Thinking outside the box (score)
Death to the NFL Salary Cap

Death to the NFL Salary Cap

It doesn’t provide parity or competitive balance. The salary cap just steals millions from players who, rightfully, want to retire before hits to the head could ruin their life.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments