June: 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 CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN
by Lauren Davidson
June 22-July 1/ You won’t see Rose and Jack, but there’s plenty of young love, dancing and, of course, drama aboard the RMS Titanic in this PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh production. The Tony Award winner for Best Musical in 1997, “Titanic” follows a host of passengers and crew members as they board the ship in pursuit of their dreams before everything comes abruptly to a halt. It’s no secret that there’s no happy ending, but there’s a lot to enjoy along the way. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
Various/ Two comedies perfect for summer evenings will hit the stage at Little Lake Theatre this month: “Arcadia” (May 31-June 16) and “Hay Fever” (June 21-July 7). “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard is half mystery, half love story. The show bounces back and forth between the 1800s and present day, with the two time periods overlapping as events progress. “Hay Fever” by Noël Coward follows a famous actress, her husband and their children who each invite an unexpected houseguest for the weekend. But the family’s antics prove to be too much even for their friends. (Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, North Strabane Township; 724/745-6300, littlelake.org)
June 22-30/ Throughline Theater presents “Ubu Roi” by 19th-century French playwright Alfred Jarry. “Roi” is the French word for king, and Ubu is nothing more than a rudimentary sound, which is the point of the ridiculous (but symbolic) nature of the play. When the comedy debuted in 1896, the audience rioted, and director Shannon Knapp said this adaptation will offend as well. “The idea is that this is the real true story of the real, currently happening crisis of Ubuism,” says Knapp, production manager at Throughline, of this adaptation by Connor Shioshita Pickett and Jordan Matthew Walsh. “King Ubu is, at heart, a greedy, cruel child who happens to run a country. … What I want to do is show the audience that the creeping nature of Ubuism can take over anywhere.” (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 937 Liberty Ave., third floor (elevator-accessible) Downtown; 412/687-4686, throughlinetheatre.org)
"Faces of Coney" by Janette Beckman
by Mike May
JUNE 1-10/ Mary Cassatt, meet Dee Briggs.
Female artists have a long and rich tradition in Pittsburgh. Some, like Cassatt, were born here, then moved away. Others moved here, lived here and created here. One more option: At this year’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, several women artists — including Briggs — have been invited to the ’Burgh because their talents have earned recognition elsewhere; now we get the opportunity to see and judge for ourselves.
“Some overall themes that festival attendees will experience this year celebrate and explore artistic works by female artists,” says Sarah Aziz, Director of Festival Management. And they’ve come a long way since Cassatt’s pretty Impressionism. Rough, tough Cor-Ten weathering steel fabricated in Braddock powers Briggs’ sculpture “Six Plates for Annabelle and Maggie,” located outside the Gateway T Station on Stanwix Street.
Other highlights include:
• “Single Mom Defined:” This interactive exhibition by Heather Hopson, 2018 Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grantee, features photography and video focusing on African-American mothers in the Pittsburgh region with a vision to let their voices be heard and to reverse negative stereotypes and cultural bias.
• “Faces of Pittsburgh:” With a goal “to empower and engage students from underserved communities,” British-born and New York-based photographer Janette Beckman instructs and mentors the photographers and photojournalists of tomorrow. Look for the work they create on walls and digital billboards around town, as Beckman has done in other cities (pictured).
Now in its 59th year, TRAF, a production of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, brings back the Juried Visual Art Exhibition and the Artist Market. In addition to the visual arts, other major components of the event include music, performance and family activities.
THROUGH JUNE 17/ You might want to up the SPF number on your sunscreen before you bask in “The Abysses of the Scorching Sun.” The installation by Nicky Assmann explores, among other ideas, “concepts of the earth and the sun as a perpetuum mobile.” Assmann is among four artists of the Dutch art collective Macular participating in the second iteration of Macular Cycles. The pieces harmonize via “their investigation of frequencies through time and space and their cyclical nature.”
(Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown; 412/471-5605, woodstreetgalleries.org)
THROUGH JUNE 29/ Don’t let the title get in your way. Underlying the rather clinical-sounding “Dr. Charles Dorat and His Unrealized Central American Medicinal Flora” is a cool story, and the show resurrects a man about whom not much is known today — not even when he died.
Dr. Dorat was a 19th-century European physician, naturalist and artist who aspired to produce a series documenting all of the flora in Central America. For unknown reasons, that dream went unrealized, but he did leave us with 150 botanical watercolors.
This show features 42 of those watercolors, some with Dorat’s handwritten notes, as well as archival materials that attempt to cobble together a biography of his life and a salute to his legacy. (Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, 4909 Frew St., Oakland; 412/268-2434, huntbotanical.org)
THROUGH JULY 22/ Voices that have not been heard, faces that have not been seen. Deana Lawson’s mission is to help make up for that omission in the history of art. Her “Forum 80” single-artist show at Carnegie Museum of Art, organized by Dan Leers, CMOA curator of photography, features photographs and appropriated-image installations that address and explore the complex issues of race and identity, including how African-Americans are portrayed in the media and visual culture.
Brooklyn-based Lawson focuses not only on people but also the interior spaces they inhabit in her works, which may reflect her own neighborhood or journeys to places far beyond, such as Soweto, South Africa. The photos are large, inviting us to examine not only the portraits of the people, but also the details attendant to them. The site-specific installations don’t conform to their frames but leap out dynamically onto the gallery walls. (Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)
by Karen Dacko
June 8/ The Sessions Upstairs is a new, improvisational jazz movement and music performance series directed by choreographer Pearlann Porter and poet John Lambert. Each 90-minute event affords audiences glimpses into the creative process with invited guest artists as they workshop new compositions through movement, rhythmic experimentation and verbal discussions. (The Space Upstairs, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze; 412/225-9269, thespaceupstairs.org/sessions)
June 15/ The Tamburitzans celebrate their 81st season with “Passages — The Journey of Our Ancestors,” a two-hour production focusing on dance, music and song brought to the United States via immigration from eastern and central Europe, as well as Mexico and Cuba. Programming includes the Sirtaki, a Greek line dance, a Croatian Caper Dance and an Eastern European Roma dance. (South Park Amphitheater, 1950-1998 McCorkle Road, South Park Township; alleghenycounty.us)
June 1-10/ The annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival unrolls 10 days of free visual arts installations and performing arts programming in the Golden Triangle. Interdisciplinary dance troupe Attack Theatre, directed by Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope, highlights this year’s dance roster with a mainstage performance of “Leap into Action” on June 1 and 5, and Joanna Abel’s 3rd Street Belly Dance undulates to live music by Ancien at the Trust Arts Education Center on June 9. On June 2, the center is also the site of a Teen Showcase featuring dance, music and spoken word performances by artists ages 14 to 18. The popular Breaking Battle, showcasing creative break-dance styles, takes to the Stanwix Stage at Gateway Center on June 10 for a six-hour competitive marathon, beginning at 2 p.m. On June 2 and 9, Brandon-Ahmauri McClendon performs “The Warrior Pledge” on the Stanwix Stage. (Downtown; traf.trustarts.org)