Best of Culture: October
Our arts editors pulled together a list of the best October plays, readings, exhibits and performances.
Some Enchanted Evening
What do crooner Frank Sinatra and minimalist composer Philip Glass have in common? Both inspired award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp, known for her inventive vocabulary. Witness Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs blend ballroom dance with ballet while the non-narrative In the Upper Room demands speed and dexterity from dancers during Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “An Evening of Twyla Tharp.”
[Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., downtown; Oct. 25-27; 412/456-6666, pbt.org]
— Karen Dacko; photo by Rich Sofranko
by Robert Isenberg
Pittsburgh Public Theater
Sept. 26-Oct. 27
During the Great Depression, the thought of a three-act play about a quaint New England town must have sounded insane. There are no set pieces or props. What’s more, the “stage manager” narrates the whole story. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has been produced innumerable times, and today it’s hailed as a pillar of American theater. This immortal love letter from Wilder (pictured) to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners — and to the fleeting beauty of life itself — won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. The Public kicks off its Masterpiece season with the ultimate American classic. And who better to play the Stage Manager than the mythic Tom Atkins? (For more on Atkins, see our feature on page 46.)
[621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org]
Little Lake Theatre
Oct. 17-Nov. 2
At first, two sets of parents — Alain, Michel, Véronique and Annette — are civil and polite. Their respective children have had a fight, and one of the kids lost two teeth. No problem — the two couples can work it out. Then the situation deteriorates, and by the end of God of Carnage, the foursome has abandoned diplomacy altogether. As Yasmina Reza’s comedy proves, some adults are bratty children in bigger bodies — and playground rules apply everywhere, even in upscale condos. Little Lake presents this laugh-out-loud comedy by France’s most satirical living playwright.
[500 Lakeside Drive, North Strabane Township; 724/745-6300, littlelake.org]
Oct. 12-Nov. 3
Siblings often have weird relationships. A brother and sister might live together as unemployed, inactive adults in their childhood home in Bucks County, Pa. Another sister might vanish for years to live the life of a Hollywood celebrity — supporting her siblings financially — before returning home with a far-too-young boyfriend to stir things up. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike may be Christopher Durang’s loopiest comedy to date, playing on themes of family, real estate and the self-delusional characters of late Russian authors such as Anton Chekhov.
[1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org]
Pittsburgh Musical Theater
One of the most haunting effects of the Vietnam War wasn’t death; it was seeing the children who lived. Known as bui-doi, the children fathered by American GIs were routinely shunned for their mixed ancestry, and their mothers were mocked and ostracized. When Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil learned of this lost generation, they were inspired to compose Miss Saigon, a musical about a soldier, a Vietnamese woman and their doomed love affair. Partly based on Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Miss Saigon is a towering picture of the war and its aftermath.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghmusicals.com]
by Karen Dacko
Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Zimmermann & de Perrot
As part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, the Switzerland-based ensemble of circus performers and dancers presents Hans was Heiri, an 80-minute theatrical work exploring human relationships via acrobatics, physical humor and an ingenious set design.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org; zimmermanndeperrot.com]
Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble
The Carnegie-based folk-dance troupe led by Natalie Kapeluck hosts a revamped version of last year’s premiere of Generations — the story of a girl, her grandmother and their family’s immigration experiences — with the Gerdan Music Ensemble of Washington, D.C.; Slava Modern Dance; and the Ukrainian Cultural Trust Choir.
[Andrew Carnegie Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie; 412/527-5359; kyivdance.net]
The Carrie Blast Furnaces, once crucial to Pittsburgh’s iron-making industry, transform into centers of freejazz dance, live music, video projections and multimedia installations for “The Jazz Furnace,” an initiative of The Pillow Project and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Ongoing performances augment daytime tours, and the evening showcase includes music and art happenings.
[115 W. Braddock Ave., Rankin; 412/225-9169, pillowproject.org; riversofsteel.com]
by Mike May
“Detroit: Artists in Residence”
Through May 25
Although Detroit’s financial woes have been in the news, the Motor City’s visual-arts scene appears to be in bull-market mode — with its creative energies available for export. Importing these goods is the Mattress Factory, where “Detroit: Artists in Residence” showcases the work of eight individuals (four artists and two artist collaborations), providing Pittsburghers with a glimpse of how they respond to the “swift socio-economic changes in their city.”
In 2011, Mattress Factory staffers traveled to Detroit to check out the art scene and select artists. This exhibit features the work of Jessica Frelinghuysen, Scott Hocking, Russ Orlando and Frank Pahl, as well as the teams of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller and Design 99 (Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope).
What you’ll see are new works by artists who make use of a variety of media. These pieces range from visual modes of expression, such as the sculptural installations by Hocking constructed in abandoned Detroit buildings, to aural artistry — including creations by Kuperus and Miller, members of electronic pop band ADULT, who merge sound with film and video.
Two more new exhibits join the Mattress Factory’s 35th-anniversary celebration:
Over 20 years, Antoni has played a major role in the installation- and performance-art scene. Her work often relates to issues of femininity and the female body. (Through March 30)
“Chiharu Shiota: Trace of Memory”
Black yarn is the primary ingredient in a site-specific installation by Japanese artist Shiota. All eight rooms at the Mattress Factory’s annex at 516 Sampsonia Way have been reserved to create an environment Shiota envisions as a way to “evoke a sense of nostalgia, simultaneously attracting viewers while confronting them with painful memories and difficult emotions.” (Ongoing)
[500 & 516 Sampsonia Way, North Side; 412/231-3169, mattress.org; image courtesy of artist Scott Hocking]
“Kurt Hentschläger: Hive”
Sept. 27-Dec. 31
Journey to a “Twilight Zone” environment where swirling masses of amorphous figures confront you in Kurt Hentschläger’s “Hive” installation at Wood Street Galleries. This Chicago-based Austrian artist engineers multimedia performances and installations that channel the “metaphor of the sublime and human condition.”
More examples of Hentschläger’s work are on view nearby at SPACE (812 Liberty Ave.) and at the 943 Liberty Ave. gallery.
[601 Wood St., downtown; 412/471-5605, woodstreetgalleries.org]
“Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self”
Oct. 6-Jan. 12
Self-described as Andy Warhol’s “conceptual son,” Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura creates work that aligns itself with many iconic Warholian pursuits, including pop culture. In these pieces, Morimura sometimes imposes himself into the imagery. He also mixes and merges elements, and he produces what he labels “beautiful commotion.”
The Warhol developed this show in collaboration with Morimura.
[The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Shore; 412/237-8300, warhol.org]
Sept. 28-Jan. 18
Eight nationally known glass artists — including Pittsburgh-based Ron Desmett and Heather Joy Puskarich — kick off the fall season at Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery. Why the “common discourse” title for a non-themed show? “The common bond here is the intelligent and distinctive use of the medium – both decoratively and narratively – which will define this exhibition,” explains gallery owner and director Amy Morgan.
[5833 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside; 412/441-5200, morganglassgallery.com]
14th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration
Sept. 27-Dec. 19
Forty-one works of art by 41 artists representing 10 countries, including the United States, make up this major show at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. The Hunt established this event, held every three years, to showcase the talents of contemporary artists specializing in botanical art and illustration.
[Hunt Library, Carnegie Mellon campus, Oakland; 412/268-2434, huntbot.andrew.cmu.edu]