Best of Culture: February
During the month for lovebirds, why not partake in some cultural fun? Our arts editors provide a rundown of the finest local plays, exhibits, lectures and dance performances.
By Mike May
“20/20: Celebrating Two Decades of the Heinz Architectural Center,”
Feb. 9-May 19
Among the things to cherish about Pittsburgh is the lofty Hall of Architecture at Carnegie Museum. In 1993, another valentine to our built environment was added to expand and deepen our appreciation: the Heinz Architectural Center, dedicated to collecting, researching, publishing and exhibiting materials related to architecture and design. Opening this month is a 20th-anniversary show — the 70th in the center’s two-decade history of exhibits that have ranged in subject from Andrea Palladio to Zaha Hadid and from women landscape architects of Pittsburgh to barns of Western Pennsylvania. Curator Tracy Myers sees the 70th as “a very different kind of exhibition,” as it will introduce new works throughout the spring to dynamically engage visitors. The exhibition will not be a reflection on the past — although a look-back will be a component — but rather a dialogue about the future. “It’s the beginning of an ongoing process of exploration and understanding,” she says. In fact, Myers will be a part of the show herself, working on-site (at times) to interact with visitors.
(4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)
“Miguel Chevalier: Power Pixels,”
Experience a world premiere for the new year when Miguel Chevalier unveils his latest work, “Pixel Waves,” as one of two self-generative installations at Wood Street Galleries. This Mexican-born artist, now based in Paris, is a pioneer in virtual and digital art.
(601 Wood St., downtown; 412/471-5605, woodstreetgalleries.org)
“The Eye of the Collector: Images of the New World From the Sigmund Balka Collection,”
Jan. 21-March 28
Works on paper by artists like Robert Motherwell, Marc Chagall and Larry Rivers are featured in this selection from the collection of Sigmund Balka, who has been collecting art for 50 years.
(American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Darlington Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-8010, jccpgh.org)
By Robert Isenberg
Jan. 31-Feb. 24
People trust bankers to protect their money, but what happens when a banker decides to dip into his stash? The story of Henrik Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman couldn’t be more topical, given recent shenanigans on Wall Street. But Borkman isn’t just involved in financial scheming in this cautionary message about the dangers of unbridled lust for money and power; he also has an ill-advised relationship with his wife’s sister. Will Borkman manage to balance the books? Or will his wallet, and his soul, go bankrupt? Quantum presents this Ibsen classic in East Liberty’s Hart Building.
(6022 Broad St., East Liberty; 412/362-1713, quantumtheatre.com)
Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama
Feb. 21-March 2
Before sex ed there was Spring Awakening. In Frank Wedekind’s original play, a bunch of German school children yearn to consummate their affections — until they must live with the terrible consequences. More than a century later, this updated version is a full-blown rock opera, with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Steven Sater. The musical retains the original setting of central Europe in the late-19th century, and Spring Awakening has found a second life as a Broadway mega-hit. CMU presents this powerful coming-of-age story of love and bad decisions.
(Philip Chosky Theater, CMU campus, Oakland; 412/268-2407, drama.cmu.edu)
Point Park Conservatory Theatre Co.
Feb. 21-March 3
The musical Chess is a strange animal: It began as a concept album by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (of ABBA fame), with lyrics by Tim Rice. Chess doesn’t receive a lot of productions because of its hyper-complex score and incredibly challenging songs, plus the old-fashioned perestroika story. But take my word for it: It’s a mind-blowing show, telling the story of rival chess players (Soviet and American) and the passions, obsessions and ideologies that wage war around their checkered board. Point Park bravely takes on this mastodon of a musical. Keep an ear out for “Anthem” and 1980s chart-topper “One Night in Bangkok.”
(222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)
Pitt Repertory Theatre
Feb. 4-March 3
Take everything you know about high-school — think of the jocks, cheerleaders, nerds and slackers. OK, now imagine the polar opposite. In Zanna, Don’t!, not only is the pecking order rearranged — but so are sexual identities. In a world where only homosexuality is permitted, what happens when a daring drama student tries to produce a straight play? To answer this hypothetical riddle, see Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris’ quirky musical, produced by Pitt Rep. Billed as a “musical fairy tale,” Zanna satirically reimagines what it means to be oppressor and oppressed.
(Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland; 412/624-PLAY, play.pitt.edu)
By Karen Dacko
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Created for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Jorden Morris’ two-act Moulin Rouge — The Ballet (2009) recounts the tragic romance between Matthew, an aspiring artist, and Nathalie, a Parisian cabaret dancer. The pastiche score includes music by Ravel and Offenbach.
(Benedum Center, Seventh Street and Penn Avenue, downtown; 412/456-6666, pbt.org)
In Pavement, Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham comments on black America via a full-length dance production inspired by the essays of W.E.B. Du Bois, the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood and personal recollections of local neighborhoods.
(Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Co.
Choreographer Maria Caruso’s Whispers of Light: From the Voices of Children focuses on the experiences and healing processes of bereaved children who found solace at Highmark’s Caring Place. Nancy Galbraith’s original score accompanies the two-act ballet.
(Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, bodiographycbc.com)
Feb. 1-2, 6-10
Attack premieres Soap Opera, a two-act influenced by end-of-life rituals and the storytelling style of One Thousand and One Nights. The cast narrates tales accompanied by live and pre-recorded vocals.
(2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District; 888/718-4253; attacktheatre.showclix.com)
By Kristofer Collins
Essayist Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is working on a trilogy of books. The first volume, Harlem Is Nowhere, is described as a “psycho-geography of Harlem”; it was published in 2011 by Little, Brown & Co. and was named a New York Times Notable Book as well as earning a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination. A writer with a poetic ear and sharp eye for the perfect detail, Rhodes-Pitts’ meditation on the at-once mythical and very real New York neighborhood has been compared favorably to such luminaries as James Agee and Zora Neale Hurston.
(Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Schenley Drive, Oakland; pghwriterseries.wordpress.com)
The Hour After Happy Hour Workshop
Feb. 7 & 21
“Although I find Pittsburgh’s literary scene nothing short of excellent, I often noticed an age gap, where few writers my age [those in their early 20s] attended or read their pieces,” says Michael Good, founder and facilitator of the most recent addition to our local literary universe. “I am hoping that The Hour After Happy Hour offers a vehicle for recent graduates and other writing enthusiasts of all ages who look for opportunities to give and receive constructive literary criticism, and to participate in the local literary scene.” Headquartered in the expanded Big Idea! Bookstore in Bloomfield, the workshop convenes every other Thursday.
(4812 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; thehourafterhappyhour.wordpress.com)