July: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Photo by patti brahim

This year, Pittsburgh Festival Opera (formerly known as Opera Theater SummerFest) celebrates its 40th season. Some highlights from its six-week schedule, featuring 13 main-stage performances, include: 

  • July 7, 9, 15, 20, 22/ Everyone’s favorite murdering madman will make an appearance during the run of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Based on the Hugh Wheeler tale with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show follows Todd’s arrival in London after years of exile. He’s determined to get back at the villainous judge who sent him away but falls into blood lust and meat pies with his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett. 
  • July 14, 16, 22/ Metropolitan Opera director Dan Rigazzi and many members of last year’s sold-out “Julius Caesar” (pictured) will return for more betrayal (but less stabbing) in Xerxes. (Chatham Baroque also is back to accompany the performances.) In a love quintet, King Xerxes loves Romilda. Romilda loves Arsamenes, who loves her back. Romilda’s sister, Atalanta, also loves Arsamenes and tries to trick everyone so that she ends up with him. Meanwhile, Xerxes is betrothed to Amastre, who throws in her own wrench.
  • July 21, 23/ As part of a four-day Discover Strauss Series, wherein the PFO will delve into the life and works of composer Richard Strauss, Intermezzo makes its Pennsylvania premiere. The somewhat autobiographical rom-com follows Ryan Milstead and Meghan DeWald playing Robert and Christine Storch (or Richard and Pauline Strauss) through a theatrical lover’s spat. (Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Ave. at Ellsworth Avenue, Shadyside; 412/326-9687, pittsburghfestivalopera.org)

July 13-30/ Audiences will be able to escape into a world of alternative facts in Kinetic Theatre’s adaptation of The Liar. The story, originally written in the 1600s, has been updated for current events via David Ives and written entirely in rhymed, iambic pentameter. Main character Dorante (Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Ethan Saks) simply cannot help himself from lying. Soon, he tries to court a young lady, Clarice (fellow CMU grad Erika Strasburg) but gets her confused with her friend, Lucrece. Disaster (which remains appropriate for the whole family) ensues. (The Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 888/718-4253, kinetictheatre.org)

Tuesday, February 9, 1864
​By Mathew B. Brady, Washington | Photo courtesy photo antiquities museum of photographic history

 THROUGH APRIL 2018/ July is a patriotic month. Not only is it time for Independence Day, but it’s also when we commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg. So what more appropriate time to see “Lincoln in Pittsburgh” at Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History, which claims to be the largest exhibit of Lincoln-related items ever displayed in Pittsburgh.

It features not only a variety of images of Abraham Lincoln but also memorabilia related to the life and times of our 16th president. As reflected in the show title, Abe had a Pittsburgh connection. Not far from this museum is the spot where, en route to his inauguration, Lincoln got off a train at the Federal Street station in Allegheny City and headed across the bridge to Pittsburgh.

On that February morning, he addressed a crowd at the Monongahela House hotel, calling Allegheny County “the banner county of the Union.” Gazing into the saintly Lincoln’s face across time is an almost supernatural experience. See the first known image of a then-beardless young man in an 1846 daguerreotype by N.H. Shephard, and compare how Mathew Brady, W.J. Thompson and others captured Lincoln via that revolutionary new process called photography. Other highlights include period prints of Lincoln, portraits of his generals and the last check Lincoln wrote before attending the theater on the night he died. (Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History, 531 E. Ohio St., North Side; 412/231-7881, photoantiquities.org)

THROUGH AUG. 27/ A student daydreams about lacrosse during a lecture about global warming. That’s one of many scenarios you’ll find in a painting by Michael Williams, who often mixes amusing storytelling rendered in realism on his large canvases where the imagery might morph into abstract forms. The 30-something Los Angeles-based artist also is known for his multimedia techniques, which include various printing and coloring processes that can be combined with traditional oil paint. In this 78th Forum installment, he receives his first U.S. solo show, which includes new paintings and drawings. (Forum Gallery, Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)

THROUGH AUG. 6/ “The power comes from the shadows,” says Dennis Sheehan of his paintings, which he strives to have emanate light rather than be “just a surface that records the reflections of light.” Follow the light to “Atmospheres an American Tonalist,” which is comprised of nearly 50 oil-on-canvas paintings by this artist from New England whose work is included in the White House collection. Sheehan’s beautiful, sometimes moody work, reflecting a taste for a dark palette, has been likened to that of the Barbizon school and American Tonalists. The influence of 19th-century painter George Inness is not only felt but also acknowledged by the artist, who seeks to evoke atmosphere rather than merely mirror the picturesque. (Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Ligonier Valley, 1 Boucher Lane, Ligonier, Westmoreland County; 724/238-6015, sama-art.org)

JULY 7-AUG. 27/ At 707 Penn Gallery, Angela Biederman’s show “Body in the Landscape of the Mind” depicts “personal and natural landscapes and the internal and external self” through ceramic, clay and mixed-media sculptures. At 709 Penn Gallery, walk into an immersive bedroom scene at “This Isn’t About You.” In her installation, which includes talking furniture and a ringing phone, Natasha Neira turns us into voyeurs who can look through someone else’s things “during a period of heartbreak and uncertainty.” (707 and 709 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

photo by kel-z photography

July 1/ Award-winning Middle Eastern dancer Michelle Sorensen headlines An Evening of Bellydance, a gala performance showcasing her expertise in a genre known for torso undulations and shimmying hip action. Pittsburgh-based Golden Gun Fusion Bellydance, 3rd Street Bellydance and Maria Hamer, formerly of Zafira Dance Company, join the Utah-based artist and other guests on the same evening. (Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie; 412/592-1414, sorensenpgh.brownpapertickets.com

July 22/ StarMakers Dance intensive (July 10-22) concludes with a showcase designed to provide stage experience for students ages 8 to 12. Led by dance educator Greer Reed, the challenging study program offers classes in movement, acting and voice to help individuals continue their artistic development and provide culturally enriching experiences. (Trust Arts Education Center, 807 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/471-6079, trustarts.org) 

July 28-30/ The Blanket, a new troupe co-directed by Matt Pardo and Caitlin Scranton, affords local dancers the opportunity to collaborate with international choreographers on a project-by-project basis. The co-directors selected dancers via audition to perform in their first major undertaking, “Lucinda Childs: The Early Works,” which features four rhythmic, architectural works by Childs, an award-winning postmodern dance choreographer. Offerings include the circular “Radial Courses” (1976), a pedestrian work for four dancers and “Katema” (1978), structured along diagonal pathways. (Monongahela Wharf Amphitheater, Point State Park, Downtown; theblanket.org)

photo by Katie Ging


July 20-23/ Meeting of Important People meets Texture Contemporary Ballet via this premiere by company director Alan Obuzor. The three-piece local rock band will play live for all performances of “Resounding Sound,” an evening also featuring the premiere of Texture Associate Director Kelsey Bartman’s ballet set to the music of Bob Dylan. (6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/552-3114, textureballet.org

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