Best of Culture: February 2014
Keep warm while taking in a ballet, lecture, exhibit or play.
By Mike May
Pittsburgh Glass Center & Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery
Jan. 24-March 29
The show title, “PGC@MGG,” reflects the ongoing symbiosis between two local venues that focus on glass. Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery is showcasing work by artists who either teach or work at Pittsburgh Glass Center, a relationship dating to the center’s 2001 opening. “This exhibition highlights the importance of cooperation and collaboration in raising awareness in the local community about the studio glass movement,” notes the Morgan gallery in a statement.
[5833 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside; 412/441-5200, morganglassgallery.com]
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Feb. 7-April 20
Artist Robert Qualters has worked with many modes of expression, but he’s likely best known for his paintings of our region. Coinciding with Qualters’ 80th birthday next month, local independent curator Vicky A. Clark has put together a retrospective, “Robert Qualters: A Life,” which covers four decades of his paintings, drawings and prints. Clark also is the author of a new book, “Robert Qualters: Autobiographical Mythologies.” As part of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts exhibit, Joe and Elizabeth Seamans plan to premiere a new movie March 20: “Bob Qualters: The Artist in Action.”
[Exhibit: 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside, 412/361-0873; film: Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland; pca.pittsburgharts.org]
Pittsburgh Filmmakers Galleries
through Feb. 21
Hilary Robinson sends a valentine to the Steel City via her show “Pittsburgh je t’aime,” which celebrates the metropolis and its environs in approximately 140 small printed photographs. This exhibit is a labor of iLove, captured by her iPhone camera. “I started taking photos, looking at the overlooked, recording the everyday,” says Robinson in her exhibit reflection statement. “I loved the limitations of the technology. It provided something to work against while focusing on the image and its structure.” In 2005, this artist, writer and academician came to Pittsburgh from the United Kingdom to serve as Carnegie Mellon University’s dean of the College of Fine Arts and professor of art theory and criticism. She returned to the U.K. in 2012, but Pittsburgh still holds a special place in her heart.
[Pittsburgh Filmmakers Galleries, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland; 412/681-5449, pittsburgharts.org]
By Elvira DiPaolo-Hoff
Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory Theatre Co.
Feb. 21-March 2
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” depicts our country’s seventh president as an “emo” rock star and brazenly poses the question of whether he was one of our nation’s greatest presidents or “an American Hitler.” Set in a rock club, the musical chronicles Jackson’s life from his violent childhood to his controversial legacy. Songs such as “Ten Little Indians” will haunt you — as will the Florida couple that doesn’t like Jackson forcibly ejecting Native Americans from their homelands but loves residing in a state where it doesn’t snow. You may find yourself laughing guiltily, but you’ll definitely be engaged.
[Rockwell Theatre, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com]
Pittsburgh Musical Theater
Apparently Shrek’s face is one not even a mother could love. On his seventh birthday, she serenades him with lines like, “You’re ugly, son!” as she shoos him to fend for himself in “Shrek The Musical,” based on the hit movie. The green ogre eventually settles in an isolated swamp, where he plans to live happily ever after — alone. Then a motley crew of fairytale characters invades after a short-statured ruler ousts them from their homes. As Shrek sets out to reclaim his marsh, he rescues a feisty princess whose tough luck rivals his own.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666; pittsburghmusicals.com]
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.
Feb. 21-March 15
In Russ Babines’ nostalgic new play “The Great One,” a successful sports commentator returns to her Pittsburgh birthplace after a childhood friend dies. Back home, she reminisces about the period in her life between the Pirates’ 1971 World Series win and New Year’s Eve 1972 — the night beloved Pirate rightfielder Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash. While in no way a biography, “The Great One” draws on Clemente’s career as a backdrop for a storyline chock-full of endearing references to Pittsburgh landmarks and cultural icons.
[937 Liberty Ave., third floor, downtown; 412/687-4686, pghplaywrights.com]
Feb. 13-March 2
Ranked No. 2 in Time magazine’s Top 10 Plays and Musicals of 2009, “A Steady Rain” by Keith Huff closes out barebones productions’ 10th-anniversary season. Denny and Joey are lifelong pals and fellow cops working a beat in Chicago’s seedy South Side. Denny’s got the self-proclaimed “good life — beautiful house, beautiful wife, beautiful kids, a dog” and a bunch of TVs. Hoping to have “a reformative effect” on heavy drinker Joey and a down-on-her-luck hooker, Denny tries his hand at matchmaking. With a cannibalistic killer on the loose, though, Denny’s stint as Cupid proves a deadly distraction.
[New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Square East, North Side; 888/718-4253, barebonesproductions.com]
“It’s difficult not to look at this play without thinking of recent wars fought by the [United States] abroad,” says Dennis Schebetta, director of “Agamemnon.” In this modern, actor-friendly translation by Ted Hughes, Agamemnon returns home as a successful hero from the Trojan War, only to find his wife, Clytemnestra, unimpressed, to say the least. Written some 2,500 years ago by Aeschylus, the father of Greek tragedy, the epic’s eternal themes rekindle our sympathies for returning soldiers and leave us pondering once more whether the spoils of war are worth the human toll.
[Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue, Oakland; 412/624-PLAY, play.pitt.edu]
Pittsburgh Public Theater
In general, the odds of performing Shakespeare onstage may be slim, “… but you can do it at least once if you live in Pittsburgh,” says Rob Zellers, education director at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Zellers is the proud founder of the Public’s annual Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. The highly anticipated event has burgeoned from 75 competitors — mostly older students — during its inaugural year to more than 1,200 aspiring thespians in grades 4-12. Only 25 pupils from regional schools will advance to the Feb. 17 Showcase of Finalists. This gratifying evening of Shakespeare comes free; don’t miss it.
[O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org]
By Karen Dacko
The all-male ensemble led by French hip-hop choreographer Mourad Merzouki performs a movement mélange of samba, hip-hop and capoeira in the water-themed “Agwa” and fast-paced “Correria.” Street dancers from Brazilian shantytowns inspired both collaborative works.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org/dance; image by Michel Cavalca]
Gia T. Presents Frameworks
Movement artist Gia Cacalano, known for her international improvisational company, has established a second troupe. For its debut, the five-member group presents structured choreography and directed improvisation, set to a prerecorded electronic soundscape.
[Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., downtown; firstname.lastname@example.org; woodstreetgalleries.org]
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Cupid’s arrow strikes with fatal consequences in “Swan Lake,” classical ballet’s greatest tale of love and betrayal. P.I. Tchaikovsky’s evocative score underpins the four-act opus, which demands virtuosity from the leads and pristine technique from the ensemble.
[Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., downtown; 412/456-6666; pbt.org]
Feb. 23, 26-27, March 1
A cast of five dancers works with a seven-piece ensemble to reinvent composer Igor Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” via contemporary dance, dialogue and live music. The program includes the debut of a new dance work, to which Chatham Baroque will premiere a composition from Attack Music Director Dave Eggar.
[George R. White Studio, Pittsburgh Opera, 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District; 888/718/4253; attacktheatre.com]
By Kristofer Collins
Feb. 1, 8
Music may be the food of love, but poetry is most certainly the dance party of desire. So put on your red go-go boots and head to ModernFormations Gallery this month, where you can get your literary dance card stamped twice. Hyacinth Girl Press hosts an Evening of Disconcertion Feb. 1, with a full bill of poets from New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh; speakers include J. Hope Stein, Lisa Marie Basile and Shawn Maddey. On Feb. 8, Lilliput Review takes over for A Confluence of Poets with guest writers from the hinterlands of Buffalo, Cleveland, Erie and New York City. The rust-belt event showcases Chuck Joy, Ally Malinenko, Sara Ries, Dianna Borsenik and John Burroughs, plus a few other wordslingers.
[4919 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412/362-0274, modernformations.com]
Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series
How many respected authors can brag about winning a Grammy? Only one name comes to mind: Walter Mosley, who was recognized for his “… And It’s Deep, Too” liner notes. The author of the Easy Rawlins detective novels, currently containing 12 installments, has penned more than 30 other books running the gamut from science fiction to erotica. Mosley is a rare kind of writer — one who can pen genre fiction but also is respected at all levels of American literary culture.
[Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, 650 Schenley Drive, Oakland; 412/624-6508, pghwriterseries.wordpress.com]