Best of Culture: March
Get into dance, theater, exhibits and lectures this month, as our arts editors offer their picks for the things worth seeing.
Silence Is Golden
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Unspoken, a triple bill of masterworks, offers George Balanchine’s non-narrative Serenade and Antony Tudor’s melodramatic Jardin aux lilas (Lilac Garden), plus the PBT premiere of Mark Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.
(August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave.,downtown; March 8-17; 412/456-6666, pbt.org)
— Karen Dacko; Photo by Lois Greenfield
By Robert Isenberg
The story of African-American song is long and textured, but no show-biz biography is quite like that of Roland Hayes. Born in the late-19th century, Hayes became a concert tenor who eventually sold out Carnegie Hall. He toured Europe and won fans across the continent … even though he couldn’t sit down in a Georgia shoe store without getting arrested. In Breath & Imagination, a new script by Daniel Beaty, Hayes’ extraordinary journey comes alive. This unique world premiere is co-produced by City Theatre and Hartford Stage.
(1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-CITY, citytheatrecompany.org)
Off the Wall Productions
There’s nothing funny about breast cancer. The topic is serious, and people should give survivors the reverence they deserve. Yet somehow, Andrea Lepcio managed to find light in the darkest of places. Looking for the Pony is a powerful examination of love, choices and the perils of health care, as experienced by two sisters, Eloisa and Lauren. Off the Wall takes on this Off-Broadway dramedy that wowed New York critics back in 2009.
(25 W. Main St., Carnegie; 888/71-TICKETS, insideoffthewall.com)
Pittsburgh Public Theater
March 7-April 7
For many young Americans, Thurgood Marshall is just a name in history books. Well, here’s a crash course in Marshall’s astonishing life: He started off as a waiter in Baltimore; became a successful lawyer and Chief Counsel for the NAACP; was the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; and was instrumental in ending racial segregation in public schools. Now, you want to know what that experience was like? Thurgood is a towering one-man show, presented by the Public. The production, directed by Ted Pappas, stars Montae Russell, a Pittsburgh native and Broadway veteran.
(621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org)
March 21-April 7
Wild and desolate, Antarctica is a peculiar setting for a play, but Antarktikos is no ordinary stage drama. Here, you’ll find a far-flung writer, an ill-fated explorer, a soul-searching daughter and a paramedic who just can’t fall asleep. In Andrea Stolowitz’s surreal story, almost anything can happen — including the manipulation of time and space. Catch this world premiere at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, thanks to the seasoned performers of Point Park’s Playhouse REP.
(222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)
By Karen Dacko
Black Grace, the New Zealand-based contemporary dance troupe led by award-winning Samoan choreographer Neil Ieremia, presents mixed-repertory programming as part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council series — including excerpts from Minoi, the company’s signature work, and Vaka, a visual art-inspired producation that depicts a raft as a source of hope.
(Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
Creative dance artist Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968), known for Eastern-influenced choreography, loosely guides Lionel Popkin’s Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (2013), a personal exploration of Popkin’s diverse ethnic heritage. An original accordion and violin score accompanies the production.
(Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/363-3000, kelly-strayhorn.org)
Gia T. Presents
Gia Cacalano and her ensemble draw inspiration from visual artist Miguel Chevelier’s “Power Pixels 2013” for the premiere of The Frequency of Structure and Flow, an hour-long multimedia art improvisation featuring live music and dance collaboration.
(Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., downtown; reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Mike May
“Aaronel deRoy Gruber: Art(ist) in Motion”
March 9-June 2
March is a month of many dimensions, and that makes it an appropriate time to honor the legacy of the late Aaronel deRoy Gruber (1918-2011). During an exceptionally long and prolific career, this award-winning local artist continued to re-invent herself and expand her creative horizons into her 90s. Her six-decade journey included milestones in painting, sculpture, video and photography.
The new exhibit at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art explores Gruber’s sculptural legacy in particular, although it includes examples of her other endeavors as well. With some encouragement from fellow artist David Smith in the early 1960s, Gruber moved from 2-D painting on canvas into the new frontiers of the 3-D world. Her sculpture was expressed in welded steel and formed aluminum, but her most remarkable achievement could be considered her work in Plexiglas. A round-corned square (pictured) became her signature motif in sculpture.
That creative, seemingly contradictory image might help sum up her legacy. Says Westmoreland chief curator Barbara Jones: “[Aaronel] is remembered for her tenacity as an artist and as a vital member of the art community who never failed to surprise us with her ongoing search for new ways to express herself.”
(221 N. Main St., Greensburg; 724/837-1500, wmuseumaa.org)
“A Kind of Alchemy: Medieval Persian Ceramics”
Feb. 23-June 16
Ceramics made in the Middle East (present-day Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan) are the focus of this exhibit, organized by the Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Fla., at The Frick Art Museum. These beautiful objects — pitchers, bowls and more — reflect the tastes and styles of the time for which they were created. Although ancient, some of these diverse pieces can surprise us with an aesthetic sense that can appear almost modern. Tie-ins to related works in interior decoration and decorative arts in the collections at Clayton and The Frick Art Museum provide a local touch.
(7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org)
By Kristofer Collins
Legendary underground author Eileen Myles visits the Pitt campus for the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. A poet, fiction writer and journalist, Myles has published 19 books, including Chelsea Girls and Cool for You. Inferno: A Poet’s Novel won a Lambda Book Award for Best Lesbian Fiction in 2011. In her rich and varied life, Myles also oversaw the famed St. Mark’s Poetry Project in New York in the mid-1980s and even ran for president in 1992 as a write-in candidate.
(Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Oakland; pghwriterseries.wordpress.com)
Trio of Readings Presented by Local Series
As we usher out winter, now is the perfect time to see what’s happening in the local writing scene. This month, there are plenty of great readings offered by long-running literary series:
» Start off with a March 2 visit to Most Wanted Gallery for an evening of acrobatic words in the latest installment of Word Circus, presented by the Chatham MFA program; the event features poetry, fiction and nonfiction from Laura Drumm and others. (5015 Penn Ave., Garfield; most-wantedfineart.com)
» On St. Patrick’s Day, the Carnegie Library Sunday Poetry & Reading Series hosts James Arthur, author of Charms Against Lightning and current Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. (4400 Forbes Ave., First Floor Quiet Reading Room, Oakland; carnegielibrary.org)
» Round out the month with the March 21 event by TNY Presents … , the reading series arm of The New Yinzer. Wordslingers Sean Hill, Mike Knapps and Karen Diettrich will grace the stage at ModernFormations Art Gallery. (4919 Penn Ave., Garfield; tnypresents.blogspot.com)