Art Without Borders

Living up to its eccentric name, the Warhol Museum is gearing up for its 13th season of the hard-to-define Off the Wall performance series.




 

Since opening in 1994, The Andy Warhol Museum has established itself as a home for misfit art. Not just the work of its namesake and his contemporaries. And certainly not just visual art, either.

Forms of creative expression without natural settings tend to float toward the North Side landmark. Long before indie rock was big business, the likes of Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear jumped at the opportunity to play inside The Warhol’s walls. Before the Oaks and Hollywood theaters were screening repertory curiosities, the museum was playing silver-screen anomalies in its intimate cinema.

And since 2000, the Off the Wall series has been showcasing works so unusual that they often defy categorization. Theater? Music? Performance art? Monologue? Improvisation? Off the Wall is all of the above — and probably some additional terms that haven’t been coined yet.

“It’s a mixed bag,” says Ben Harrison, series creator and curator of performing arts. As Off the Wall has evolved, he’s been asked to define it many times — and that’s no easier today as a 13th season begins. “It’s not a dance series. It’s not a playwright’s festival,” he points out. “It’s hard to find a lot of continuity to it — and that’s the point.”

What can be said is this: Soon after The Warhol opened, there was a push to “become more than a museum.” The motivation, especially with a figure as distinct as Warhol, was to “combat and counter this idea of a single-artist museum in Pittsburgh — where it’s a stagnant mausoleum and nothing changes,” Harrison says. That movement gave rise to the indispensable and ever-evolving Good Fridays series. And it was also the spark for Off the Wall.

The series has returning performers, like the avant-garde playwright Young Jean Lee or the controversial monologist Mike Daisey. Bigger names from the world of music, like They Might Be Giants and Henry Rollins, have appeared in the lineup, performing works that wouldn’t fit at Mr. Small’s or Stage AE. But from year to year, the only constant is variety, and that presents challenges.

“Logistically, it was just very difficult. What you were doing is creating a small theater space within a gallery,” Harrison explains. The varied concerns of staging a show, protecting the artwork, accommodating artists and serving the audience proved taxing.

So to help the series grow, The Warhol began working with other local institutions and venues (including collaborating with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to renovate the New Hazlett Theater). In recent seasons, roughly half of the series has taken place outside the museum walls; for 2013, however, the series ventures to the Byham, the New Hazlett and (in a new partnership) the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

The series opens this month with Chelsea Mädchen, a buzzed-over work by artist Tammy Faye Starlite. Much like the series itself, Starlite defies categorization; Rolling Stone was trying to be concise when it dubbed her a “New York alternative-country-and-cabaret singer.”

In Chelsea Mädchen, the artist performs as the late Warhol “superstar” Nico, the one-time singer for the Velvet Underground and troubled chanteuse. One of the most Warholian of all the various personalities orbiting Andy’s Factory, Nico was defiant, brooding and affected. Starlite’s work not only includes renditions of Nico gems like “Femme Fatale” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” — as well as Nico’s famous interpretations of Rodgers and Hart, The Doors and more — but also a staged conversation with a reporter, culled from an interview the singer gave shortly before her 1988 death.

“[Starlite] has done the show for a few years now, and it’s received such great reviews,” says Harrison. “She’s really talented — but also just really genuine.”

Later this year, Young Jean Lee’s company will return for a fourth Off the Wall effort. A partnership with the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania will bring the Seinendan Theater Co. and Osaka University’s Robot Theater Project, which is just what it sounds like: theater performed by a mixed cast of humans and high-tech androids. Actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard will perform a one-woman show. Every night of the series, though, is meant to challenge, engage and affect.

“They’re pushing buttons — and they’re pushing boundaries,” Harrison says. “It’s at the same time smart, thoughtful and unsettling.”

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Richard Kohl devoted most of his adult life to caring for homeless large-breed dogs.
10 Things You Might Not Know About The Old Allegheny County Jail

10 Things You Might Not Know About The Old Allegheny County Jail

The former Allegheny County Jail on Second Avenue, Downtown, remains one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic pieces of architecture.
Michael Keaton to Receive Big Hollywood Honor

Michael Keaton to Receive Big Hollywood Honor

The recognition comes less than month before the release of Keaton's newest film, which is generating some early Oscar buzz.
Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

The course directs runners over taxiways usually reserved for incoming and departing planes.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

After his first taste of big-league ball, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow is ready for his close-up.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Richard Kohl devoted most of his adult life to caring for homeless large-breed dogs.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

The local pubs that fly the Sharp Edge banner remain a favorite for top-notch beer and tantalizing grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

The Pirates did just enough in the days before the All-Star break to embrace the second half of the season with anticipation if not expectation.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

This Pittsburgh bride brought all the details together for a flawless “Alice in Wonderland”-themed wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

The new, larger location in Squirrel Hill features an expanded selection of handcrafted merchandise.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments