Pittsburgh Playhouse Hosts 'Umbrella' World Premiere

When it rains, it pours: 'The Umbrella Man' receives its world premiere at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and will hit the big screen, too.



Ron Allan-Lindblom, the Playhouse's artistic director, has a hand in the creation of both the play and film versions of 'The Umbrella Man'.

Like many fathers, Lyle wants to teach his son to ride a bike. But when his son is struck dead by a young, inexperienced driver, Lyle faces a parent's worst nightmare-the loss of an only child.

Traumatized and helpless, Lyle funnels his energy into a strange pastime: conspiracy theory-specifically, the John F. Kennedy assassination. More specifically, the mysterious man spotted just before Kennedy was shot-the infamous "umbrella man."

In The Umbrella Man, Lyle journeys into one of America's darkest moments, cavorting with theorists and even attending a conspiracy convention. What begins as a therapeutic non-sequitur morphs into an unhealthy obsession. Will Lyle ever come to terms with his personal tragedy? Or will his study of the Zapruder film, a home movie taken by a spectator during the assassination, start to destroy his sense of self?

The Umbrella Man is a play receiving its world premiere this month at the Pittsburgh Playhouse-thanks to Point Park University's professional company, The REP.

But the story won't end there: Umbrella began its life as a screenplay, inspired by one of fiction writer Edward Delaney's short stories. When brothers Michael and Joe Grasso penned the script in their native Los Angeles, they pictured it as a movie.

So, the Playhouse will make a movie as well. What's more: Most of the production team will consist of Point Park undergraduates.

"When I read the script, I saw an opportunity to not only to do the play, but for our cinema department to make a real feature film," says Ron Allan-Lindblom, the Playhouse's artistic director. "What I like about it is that the story takes place in Pittsburgh. It's a Pittsburgh couple."

Lindblom received the script from Robert Miller, a friend and longtime collaborator who lives in California. Aside from his distinction of being legendary playwright Arthur Miller's son, Robert has directed several stage productions in Pittsburgh, and he and Lindblom have proved themselves to be a powerhouse duo.

As is the case with many Hollywood stories, Miller met the Grasso brothers through mutual colleagues, and he was moved by what he read.

"They showed me the script and said they'd been trying to get it made for a while," recalls Miller. "I met with them, and over the course of a dinner, we found out we had a lot in common."

But the Grassos weren't certain how best to deliver their story: as a cable movie, as a TV miniseries or as a movie of the week. "As soon as they mentioned seeing it as a play, I said I think I know a few people who could help adapt this to the stage."

Lindblom was affected by the script, too, and he found it "eminently adaptable." And as the idea gained momentum, Lindblom saw an opportunity to create a feature-film using the cinema department that is already a part of Point Park's Conservatory of Performing Arts.

The Grassos visited Pittsburgh, toured Point Park and discussed the project with Lindblom and Miller. They decided that Miller would be a producer, having already produced film versions of Arthur Miller's Focus and The Crucible (the latter memorably starring Daniel Day-Lewis). By March, the decision had been reached, and the quartet has worked tirelessly through the summer to secure funding and to cast the play. 

At press time, the minimum film budget is expected to be anywhere between $800,000 and $1.3 million, and shooting is set to begin in November.

Filming in Pittsburgh is expected to last three weeks, which will be followed by seven to eight days of shooting in Dallas, Texas, in the very plaza where the assassination took place.

"Every time I start a big project, especially movies, I always get worried that I've jumped too fast, too far," Miller says. "I'm investing in it both emotionally and financially. It's not something one does on a whim."

Acknowledging good fortune, he goes on to say, "But every time we reach for a door, it seems to open. Every time I have my doubts, the door opens wider. It's almost like a tidal pull, with more and more support. You'd have to be a schmuck to get in the way of it."

Lindblom and Miller say that the play and film won't be that different from one another-the brunt of the story and dialogue will likely remain the same.

Lindblom and Miller were drawn to The Umbrella Man because of its humanistic themes: trauma, healing and the aftermath of lives cut short. Although neither expects the film to become a blockbuster, the project has enthralled them since day one.

Meanwhile, the pair is looking forward to working with a mostly local, mostly student team.

"There's a lot of things I like about Pittsburgh," Miller says of his past experiences here. "I like the talent and the people. Beyond that, though, there's an enormous amount of support and enthusiasm for the arts and artists. It's not as commerce-driven. I'm impressed by the number of theaters and dance companies that are supported by the community. People come out to see that stuff."

(Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. Sept. 9-26: Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $24-$27. Info, tickets: 412/621-4445, pittsburghplayhouse.com)

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

It will be the singer's first Pittsburgh show in 17 years.
Pittsburgh Comic Shop Owners Prepare For Free Comic Book Day

Pittsburgh Comic Shop Owners Prepare For Free Comic Book Day

For comic book fans, it's the equivalent of black Friday, only much more fun.
Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

The stunning photo of a star trail around Mt. Rainier took two hours to shoot.
Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald say the PUC went too far when it fined the ride-sharing company $11.3 million.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

It will be the singer's first Pittsburgh show in 17 years.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Time to Get Your Garden Growing

Time to Get Your Garden Growing

The May Market at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland is the largest seedling sale of the season.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

The Abbey on Butler — part coffeehouse, part restaurant, part bar — could prove to be a major Lawrenceville destination.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

The Bucs’ wild-card failures the last two seasons have cast a shadow of doubt if not impending doom over a season that otherwise ought to be ripe with promise.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Local fashion line Kelly Lane has the perfect dress to kick off your summer style.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Captain America: Civil War is the Best Marvel Flick Yet

Captain America: Civil War is the Best Marvel Flick Yet

The superhero throwdown caps a hot streak for the comic studio. Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

You don’t always need blue skies and sunshine to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. One couple shares their advice on making the most of a rainy wedding day and what to do when the forecast is less than ideal.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation hosts a one-of-a-kind house tour on May 7.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A Week of Education for Adults & Children Alike

A Week of Education for Adults & Children Alike

Remake Learning Days, a program offering new and future-forward educational experiences, is set for various spots throughout the area.

Comments