Returning to Pittsburgh: ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ Comes Full Circle

Prime Stage Theatre is set to bring the famed Pittsburgh epistolary novel to life in an exclusive premiere.




Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” | photos by John Bramley | © Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.
 

In 1999, Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky released a novel that delved into the lives of a local teenager and his friends. In 2012, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller played those teenagers on the big screen, bringing the beloved coming-of-age tale to a new generation. Now, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” comes full circle back to Pittsburgh with an exclusive premiere on stage.

Jeffrey Cordell and Caitlin Skaff, who both grew up in the South Hills, will present the script by Penn State University graduate Hailey Rohn at Prime Stage Theatre. Skaff, Prime Stage’s assistant operations director, had been pulling for the theater’s co-founder Wayne Brinda to take on the story, convinced it would aid in Prime Stage’s goal to adapt literature for the theater with a focus on middle- and high school-aged students.

“I felt really strongly that Prime Stage was the place to [premiere] it because of our mission — and luckily Wayne listened to me,” Skaff says.

They collaborated with Rohn, who had worked as an extra on the film and created a script as a school project at Penn State, and secured the rights to the story. Prime Stage is the first and only theater to have production rights to the “Perks” story.

​Chbosky told the story of 15-year-old Charlie through a series of letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous “friend.” Charlie describes dealing with the death of his beloved aunt Helen and the suicide of his best friend while trying to fit in during his first year of high school. He finds a group of ragtag seniors who take him in, including Patrick — an openly gay teen who’s in love with the school’s star quarterback — and his stepsister Sam, for whom Charlie develops a crush.

Cordell reflected that, while he had a lot of positive experiences growing up in the city, he also remembers feeling like an outsider, as though part of his identity was invisible. He says he can relate to the “group of misfit toys” persona of the young protagonists and compares it to his own group of friends growing up.

“I see young people going through this,” Brinda says. “I see them saying, ‘We don’t know who to talk to or where we can go. We need some guidance here.’ This is important to do.

“I’ve had several people say to me, ‘This book saved my life.’ The production blends the power of literature and live theater.”

One of the book’s iconic scenes depicts Charlie, Patrick and Sam driving a truck through the Fort Pitt Tunnel; a song on the radio, unfamiliar to the group (it’s Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” in the book) electrifies Sam. She slips back into the bed of the truck and stands, arms outstretched, as they race through the tunnel until the sky and the city of Pittsburgh open up before them. 

During this scene, Charlie utters one of book’s most famous lines: “I feel infinite.”

Despite presenting challenges for the theater, it’s a cornerstone scene that captures the angst and longing commonly wrapped up in a teenaged soul. There was no leaving it out.
 


Watson, Lerman and Ezra Miller
 

“The tunnel scene is happening; it happens twice in the play,” Cordell says. “Many people in my life know how passionate I can get about driving through the Fort Pitt tunnels and having the city reveal itself in all its beauty on the other side. I take every guest that comes to visit me through that experience. That part of ‘my Pittsburgh’ and other stories I shared from my childhood all prompted my friend and colleague Andy Felt to strongly recommend the film to me. The film took me to the book. The book took me to amazing places and conversations with all sorts of friends and family. And now I am here and directing this project.”

​Skaff says that also was a scene she held close, noting that she still has her original copy of the book — highlighted and underlined with song titles and quotes that she felt were important as a teenager.

“I feel like when you’re in high school, there are a lot of struggles people go through to feel like they’re at the right place at the right time and doing the right thing. To have that moment of feeling like you can do anything,” Skaff says, “I feel like it’s magic.”  

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/267-4245, newhazletttheater.org; May 5-14. After the performance on Friday, May 12, audience members will have the chance to videochat with book author Stephen Chbosky. The show on May 13 will be a sensory-friendly performance.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Meet Rescued Animals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Meet Rescued Animals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The new Live Animal Encounters program introduces museum visitors to rescued wildlife.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Feast Series Returns to Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland This September

Feast Series Returns to Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland This September

The third iteration of the series will feature chef J.J. Johnson, formerly of The Cecil and Minton's Supper Club in Harlem.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

Tres Rios Has Potential, But Hasn't Distinguished Itself Just Yet

The tacos-and-tequila bar and restaurant on the South Side doesn't do anything wrong, exactly, but has room to grow.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

Who Belongs on a Pittsburgh Steelers Mount Rushmore?

As the team prepares the inaugural class of its Hall of Honor, Mike Prisuta selects the four members of the Steelers family most deserving of inclusion.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

Make a Trendy Transition into Fall Style

No. 14 Boutique in Lawrenceville put together this chic outfit for the tricky period when summer cools into autumn.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

A Hitman and His Bodyguard Get Into Trouble (No Need to Overcomplicate Things)

Reviews of "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "Wind River," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Delicious Design: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner & Runners-Up

Delicious Design: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner & Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Produced in Pittsburgh: MONMade Takes Local Crafters National

Produced in Pittsburgh: MONMade Takes Local Crafters National

Close to a half dozen local businesses, among them Savannah Hayes and Stak Ceramics, will make their debut next week at the mega interior design and home goods-focused show in New York City.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module