Best of Culture: November
Plan to see this month's best plays, exhibits, dance performances and lectures, all hand-picked by our arts editors.
Crossing the Line
Attack Theatre, a seven-member contemporary-dance company, premieres The Chalk Line, an interactive dance-theater “whydunnit?” inspired by TV crime dramas. The troupe’s previous foray into audience collaboration, What? (2011), serves as a springboard for the new production, which establishes deeper relationships among the characters, offers additional storylines and features enhanced visual elements.
[Spring Way Studios, 2515 Liberty Ave., Strip District; Nov. 1-16, select dates; attacktheatre.showclix.com, attacktheatre.com] — Karen Dacko; photo by Brian Cohen
By Robert Isenberg
PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER
Nov. 7-Dec. 8
In the history of theater characters, no brothers have loved and hated each other more thoroughly than Austin and Lee. After years of estrangement, they decide to make amends. But when a high-powered agent arrives to discuss Austin’s screenplay, Lee stands in the way of his brother’s success, causing their fraternal kindness to revert into chaos. True West is Sam Shepard’s magnum opus, a devastating drama about brotherhood, Hollywood and the spirit of the West.
[O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org]
Suppose you took a generic John Updike story and made it darker, creepier and more British. You mix in the usual ingredients — suburban malcontents, cheating spouses and boring jobs — but the seasoning is especially bitter. The resulting show would probably be Parlour Song, the grim three-character dramedy by Jez Butterworth. The subject of midlife crisis is always sticky, but things get weird when household objects literally disappear from characters’ lives.
[201 West Waterfront Drive, The Waterfront, Homestead; 412/362-1713, quantumtheatre.com]
PNC BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA
Oct. 29-Nov. 3
Just about everyone loves Queen. If you’ve listened to a classic-rock station for more than 30 minutes, you’ve probably bobbed your head to one of the group’s power ballads. We Will Rock You is a jukebox-musical homage to the British rock band, featuring such hits as “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are the Champions.” With its glam-rock costumes and unbeatable vocals, Rock You is sure to do just that. The story takes place in a dystopian future, where music is forbidden and people have become mindless automatons. Catch this London sensation to find out if the spirit of rock can save humanity.
[Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., downtown; 412/456-4800, trustarts.org]
Nov. 9-Dec. 15
It’s a classic situation: A father loves sports, and his daughter loves playing music. Never the twain shall meet. Except in this script, where things are reversed — the daughter coaches basketball, and her father plays the violin. Works by early-20th-century composer Charles Ives bring some reconciliation to the duo. In the Pittsburgh premiere of Charles Ives Take Me Home, Jessica Dickey, whose one-woman show The Amish Project was a triumph, shows off her playwriting chops.
[1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org]
By Mike May
"Civil War Drawings From the Becker Collection"
Nov. 9-Jan. 12
Although “instant gratification” wasn’t a term during the Civil War, members of the news media did their best to keep Americans informed about developments during the long, bloody struggle. One of the important periodicals of the time was Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, which covered the latest events and printed illustrations to complement the content. Photography had been invented in the 1860s, but its potential at that time for on-the-spot journalism was virtually nonexistent. In an innovative effort, Leslie’s and similar publications, such as Harper’s Weekly, hired pictorial journalists (known as special artists) to accompany the troops and send back their impressions via sketches and drawings. These included battle scenes along with less-violent impressions of the epoch.
To supplement the ongoing Civil War sesquicentennial observance, The Frick Art & Historical Center is presenting “Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection,” an exhibit that comprises more than 100 drawings created by 18 artists who worked for Illustrated Newspaper. For whom is the Becker collection named? That would be Joseph Becker (1841-1910), who started out as an artist at Illustrated Newspaper and advanced to art director. In that capacity, he had the vision to save artists’ original work after it had been transformed into the wood engravings needed for reproduction.
Although Becker began preserving these fragile artifacts, his family continued in his absence; the combined tally of well-kept relics exceeds 700. With assistance from instructors on-site, one of Becker’s great-great-granddaughters recently prepared the collection for an exhibition at Boston College. The Frick show contains a selection of those pieces.
[Frick Art Museum, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org]
“Finnish and Jewish: Photographs by Dina Kantor”
Through Dec. 27
Brooklyn-based photographer Dina Kantor, who is of both Finnish and Jewish heritage, examines her roots in a Scandinavian country with just two synagogues and some 1,500 Jewish people remaining in a dwindling population. Her series reflects on how this group maintains its identity and religious traditions in today’s Finland.
[American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Darlington Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-8010, jccpgh.org]
By Karen Dacko
Murphy/Smith Dance Collective
Choreographers Jamie Erin Murphy and Renee Danielle Smith, who draw inspiration from the human experience, explore the correlation between sound and instinct in “See What I Hear?” The performance is a collaborative contemporary-dance work addressing how noise, distortions and silence affect our environment, lives and communications. Composer Gordon Nunn provides an original score.
[Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/363-3000, kelly-strayhorn.org, murphysmithdance.org; photo by Rob Children]
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Co.’s annual “Multiplicity” showcase explores new avenues as its performing and teaching artists choreograph works for the ensemble and eight select La Roche College dance students. Company director Maria Caruso is head of the college’s dance program and chair of the Performing Arts Department; she will perform her most recent solo to Ave Maria, accompanied by vocalist Thomas Octave. She also is choreographing a premiere work for the troupe.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, bodiographycbc.com]
WIP Choreography Project
Texture Contemporary Ballet Co. hosts the sixth installment of this annual works-in-progress showcase, which affords opportunities for a half-dozen choreographers of diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise to refine their dance-making skills in an intimate setting.
[Pittsburgh Dance Center, 4765 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; textureballet.org]
By Kristofer Collins
Coffee House Reading Series
Sherrie Flick is my favorite practitioner of flash fiction (or very, very short stories). She’s also a fine novelist and keen observer of human behavior and the quirky, sometimes baffling things we do in our relationships. Her books I Call This Flirting and Reconsidering Happiness are well worth finding and reading. As part of Duquesne University’s Coffee House Reading Series, Flick will appear with poet Samantha Leon.
[Barnes & Noble Café, 600 Forbes Ave., Duquesne University; firstname.lastname@example.org]
M.F.A. Fiction Reading
Fiction writer Aubrey Hirsch is having a banner year. Local press Braddock Avenue Books published her debut collection of short stories, Why We Never Talk About Sugar, to rave reviews, and she often packs the house at her literary events. Catch Hirsch’s evocative and off-kilter brand of storytelling in the cozy environment of the Mellon Dining and Living Room.
[Chatham University, Woodland Road, Shadyside; email@example.com]
Versify Reading Series
If you haven’t yet checked out the Versify reading series curated by poet Bob Walicki or dropped by the East End Book Exchange, why not kill two birds with one stone? Bob Pajich, a regular contributor to Card Player magazine and the author of the recent poetry collection The Trolleyman, will appear at the November installment of Versify — as will Jason Baldinger, author of The Lady Pittsburgh.
[4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; eastendbookexchange.com]