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November: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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



Nov. 9-Dec. 10/ The Pittsburgh Public Theater is often at its best with contemporary family dramedies, and the 2016 Tony Award-winning play “The Humans” should be no different. Pamela Berlin, who beautifully directed “The Diary of Anne Frank” last season and “Clybourne Park” in 2013, directs this festive tale. You’ll join Brigid and Richard for Thanksgiving as they welcome Brigid’s family to their new apartment in Chinatown to enjoy, or rather endure, a rousing holiday dinner. (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org)

Through Nov. 19/ The title of Tom Stoppard’s 2015 play “The Hard Problem” refers to the problem of “consciousness” — a topic that should play out well in the hands of the experimental Quantum Theatre. Hilary works at the fictional Krohl Institute for Brain Science, a fitting spot for the debate between chance and divine intervention, conscious morality and altruism. With that as the backdrop, Hilary struggles to deal with the decision she made years before to give her daughter up for adoption; everything comes together — and falls apart. (Fifth Floor, Energy Innovation Center, 1435 Bedford Ave., Crawford-Roberts; 412/362-1713, quantumtheatre.com)

Nov. 4, 7, 10 & 12/ Pittsburgh Opera follows Puccini’s “Tosca” with another classic: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” The comedic Italian opera, with English subtitles, follows the courtship of servant Figaro to Susanna, who had attracted the attention of the wealthy Count. The young couple humorously thwarts the Count’s scheme through a case of mistaken identity and reunites him with his wife — so that the world is right once again as the curtain falls. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghopera.org)

Nov. 10-19; Nov. 30-Dec. 3/ Whatever their souls are made of, it’s tough stuff. The great romantic heroines band together and (gasp!) turn down their leading men in “You on the Moors Now,” performed by Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory Theatre Co. The comedy features Cathy Earnshaw from “Wuthering Heights,” Elizabeth Bennet of “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Eyre and “Little Women’s” Jo March as they make their own way in the modern world and their confused suitors fight back. (Studio Theatre at Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)
 


photo courtesy of th artist
 

Nov. 17-Feb. 11/ Right up to the very last moment, Jo-Anne Bates savors the mystery of the creative process. “I am always excited and pleasantly surprised at the results when the final print is pulled from the press,” says the local mixed-media printmaker and educator — and the 2017 Artist of the Year, as honored by Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. But the process doesn’t always culminate there. Bates may augment the prints with multiple layers of ink, folded paper or glue. Maybe more. How about shredded junk mail? The AOY Award, established in 1949, celebrates the achievements of a local artist who has made significant and lasting contributions in the region. For this PCA exhibition, Bates presents prints that include a re-emergence of textual statements to her work reflecting her experiences as a woman, mother, grandmother and educator. Bates also introduces topical issues related to racial injustice reflected in pieces such as “Black Lives Matter 2” and “Black vs. Blue Don’t Shoot.” Her installation (spoiler: it involves athletic sneakers) relying on an interactive outreach to the public marks this show’s finale. A second exhibit showcases 2017 Emerging Artist of the Year honoree Haylee Ebersole. Through her sculpture and use of quirky materials — cement, laundry detergent, even Kool-Aid — Ebersole examines humanity’s relationship to the Earth, the nexus where organic and manmade meet, and “new possibilities for everyday matter.” (Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Point Breeze; 412/361-0873, center.pfpca.org)

Through Dec. 31/ Hats off (Pilgrim or otherwise) to the donors who enrich our museums with their gifts. November’s an appropriate month to applaud the contributions and vision of one such individual through “A Timeless Perfection: American Figurative Sculpture in the Classical Spirit — Gifts of Dr. Michael L. Nieland.” The objects span the late 19th century into the first half of the 20th, showcasing a time when academically trained sculptors in the United States were creating works from the public and monumental to the small and domestic. Not only do these works attest to the prodigious talent of their creators, but they can be breathtaking to behold, even though the caprices of fashion have moved on. In addition to figurative works, see utilitarian emanations such as book ends, inkwells, candleholders and vases. (The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg; 724/837-1500, thewestmoreland.org)

Through Jan. 28/ This show is set millennia in the future, on an atoll far, far away. But it manifests itself right here in Pittsburgh at “Emissary Sunsets The Self,” a one-artist installation by Ian Cheng (born 1984). Just go toward the light: a massive 17-foot LED screen in Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum Gallery, where a sci-fi tale unfolds in this digital simulation. It takes its inspiration from Cheng’s interest in artificial intelligence, cognitive science and video games. It’s also complicated: “In each episode,” as Cheng describes it, “the Emissary — caught between unraveling old realities and emerging weird ones — attempts to achieve a series of deterministic narrative goals, an analogy to the narrative nature of consciousness. But crucially these goals can be set off course, procrastinated, disrupted by the underlying simulation and its non-narrative agents who vex the Emissary with other kinds of minds.” May the force be with you. (Forum Gallery, Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)
 
Through Feb. 4/ Contemporary painting is put in the spotlight at “The Long Run,” guest-curated by Brandon Boan at SPACE. Seven artists respond to “the surface of things” in a show that includes “cultural sampling, mathematical amalgamations and hybridized abstraction.” Participating artists include Paul Mullins, Jenson Leonard, Devan Shimoyama, Jason Lacroix (all of Pittsburgh), Emilie Stark-Menneg (Brunswick, Maine), Surya Gied (Berlin) and Thad Kellstadt (Francis, Wisc.). (SPACE, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/325-7723, trustarts.org)
 


Photo courtesy of Kyle Abraham
 

Nov. 10-11/ Pittsburgh’s Kyle Abraham, now an award-winning New York-based choreographer, powerfully addresses social injustices via hip hop-influenced works choreographed for his nine-member troupe — Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. “Absent Matter” (2015) looks at race through the lens of those who feel unacknowledged while “The Gettin’” (2014) is cast against images of apartheid and current headlines. “The Quiet Dance” (2011), a study of isolation, completes the program. (August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
 


4X4 PHOTO COURTESY OF 4 X 4 EPHEMERAL ARCHITECTURES

 

Nov. 4/ For Gandini Juggling, a contemporary circus ensemble based in the United Kingdom, juggling is a dance style. Directed by Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala, the ensemble creates multidisciplinary performance pieces such as “4X4 Ephemeral Architectures” (2015), a 70-minute production for four jugglers and four ballet dancers that explores the athletics, architecture and mathematics of both movement forms. (August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

Nov. 18/ La Roche College offers two performances of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” (1742), a three-part English oratorio choreographed by Performing Arts Department Chair Maria Caruso. The cast includes members of Caruso’s Bodiography Contemporary Ballet company along with La Roche students. The Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra and the Maestri Singers, directed by Thomas Octave, provide live accompaniment. Programming includes Caruso’s “Lux Aeterna.” (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
 

Nov. 18/ “SOLE Defined” is a Maryland-based percussive dance production directed by award-winning performers Ryan Johnson, a former member of STOMP, and author/educator Quynn Johnson. On the boards since 2011, the prize-winning 75-minute multimedia “Percussical,” performed by a nine-member cast, unfolds as a conversation of movement and music combining stepping, tap and sand dancing with vocal and body percussion. (Hillman Center for the Performing Arts, 423 Fox Chapel Road, Fox Chapel; 412/968-3040, thehillman.org)
 

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