Best of Culture: September
The month’s best performances, plays, readings and exhibits.
Things Fall Apart
At the BoxHeart Gallery, Sonja Sweterlitsch’s painting series “Julia” aims to bring out the character of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal dancer Julia Erickson through large-scale oil paintings from behind the scenes of shows such as Swan Lake (through Sept. 14).
Also, explore the deterioration of architectural structures through “Fragmentation” (Sept. 17-Oct. 12), Seth Clark’s artistic process of collaging and integrating drawing.
[4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/687-8858, boxheart.org]
by Mike May
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Sept. 7-Nov. 3
For almost 30 years, a 41-foot-long, three-panel tapestry called “Strip Mines” has enlivened Pittsburgh International Airport. The name of its creator, Akiko Kotani, might have escaped your notice in the hustle and bustle of departures and arrivals.
Now, Kotani receives greater name recognition in Pittsburgh as Artist of the Year, and her work can be leisurely savored in an exhibit at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, which bestowed the honors.
The AOY award, a tradition since 1949, recognizes “a significant artist with a body of work that has had an impact on the region.” Kotani, a native of Hawaii, arrived here in 1979 and for many years was on the faculty at Slippery Rock University.
Her work has been seen in local, national and international exhibits. Kotani, who studied for two years with a Mayan Indian weaver in Guatemala, creates her art in fiber. She also paints and draws, and sometimes creates work combining the three methods. Her pieces are elegantly simple and seemingly abstract — said to capture “the essence of form and the illusion of space.” They can allude to the natural world with titles such as “Blue Rain,” “Red Wind” or “Pollen in Winter.” For the PCA exhibit, Kotani shows two large-scale installations, as well as 2-D and 3-D pieces in glass, silk and plastic.
Look for something in your mailbox one of these days from PCA Emerging Artist of the Year Lenka Clayton. This Pittsburgh-based conceptual artist is working with Michael Crowe to send a handwritten letter to every household on the planet, one town at a time. “Her artwork considers, exaggerates and reorganizes the accepted rules of everyday life, extending the familiar into the realms of the poetic and absurd,” says the PCA.
For her EAY show, Clayton will present several new works produced during her current project, “An Artist Residency in Motherhood.” Among these is “One Brown Shoe,” which features 200 brown shoes created by 100 married couples. Each participating spouse made a shoe in secret; Clayton then paired the results by couple, resulting in a display of mismatched pairs.
[Fifth and Shady avenues, Shadyside; 412/361-0873, pittsburgharts.org]
by Robert Isenberg
PNC Broadway Across America
When Mufasa explained the “circle of life” to Simba in 1994, Disney created a classic moment in American cinema. The Lion King is among the most beloved animated films of all time. Who would have guessed that the Broadway version would become such a hit, garnering as much as if not more attention than the flick? Originally created by Julie Taymor — with music by Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer — Disney’s The Lion King is a feast of visual imagery, from the brilliant body puppets to the breathtaking set pieces. This professional touring production, brought to Pittsburgh by PNC Broadway Across America, will undoubtedly sell out.
[Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., downtown; 412/456-4800, trustarts.org]
Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre
Grave-digging was never glamorous, but Mick Dowd has a particularly grim trade: He moves the interred corpses closer together, making room for fresher dead. As we soon discover, Mick is burying more than bodies, and the villagers start to wonder whether he might have had something to do with his wife’s death. On paper, A Skull in Connemara might seem macabre, but leave it to Michael McDonagh, Ireland’s most iconoclastic playwright, to turn this premise into a jaw-dropping comedy. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre has staged some superlative McDonagh productions, and the company is bound to do this Pittsburgh premiere justice.
[Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland; 412/561-6000, picttheatre.org]
Through Oct. 13
Primal man was dirty and unshaven, and he slept in a subterranean lair. He loved sports (such as hunting mastodons), he ate with his hands and he chased women with clubs. Who says modern man has evolved? Defending the Caveman is Rob Becker’s one-man show about the tiffs between the sexes, presented by a guy who hasn’t changed since the Pleistocene. Punchy, raunchy and full of harmless jabs, Caveman is like a cross between stand-up comedy and The Flintstones.
[Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghclo.org]
The Theatre Factory
Sept. 20-Oct. 6
“Life is a cabaret!” That was the tagline for Cabaret, the grim 1966 musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s book. Is it really so? Cliff Bradshaw is a struggling writer stuck in Weimar-era Berlin, and he endures a rough relationship with English cabaret star Sally Bowles. The Kit Kat Klub is already a pretty vulgar place, but things get messy when the Nazis begin taking over.
[Cavitt Avenue and Third Street, Trafford; 412/374-9200, thetheatrefactory.com]
by Karen Dacko
Gia T. Presents
Improvisation specialist Gia Cacalano and her international cast assemble for the second part of The Frequency of Structure and Flow (2013); it expands on material developed in the earlier work, which debuted in March. The 60-minute production features live electronic accompaniment, film and an original light installation.
[Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., downtown; tickets at door; reservations: email@example.com; woodstreetgalleries.org; photo by Renee Rosensteel]
Texture Contemporary Ballet Co.
The seven-member troupe, directed by Alan Obuzor, presents Nearly Wild. The program offers premieres by Oscar Carrillo, James Barrett and associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman, whose poem “The Rose” inspired the score by Pittsburgh-based composer Blake Ragghianti. An expanded version of Broken Flow (2011), co-choreographed by Obuzor and Bartman, completes the program.
[New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/552-3114, textureballet.org]
Compagnie Marie Chouinard
Choreographer Marie Chouinard and her 11-member Montreal-based ensemble offer the U.S. debut of Gymnopédies (2013), as part of the Festival of Firsts. The 45-minute modern ballet uses Érik Satie’s piano score to explore duet structure. Henri Michaux: Movements (2011) translates poet/artist Michaux’s book into a one-act ballet accompanied by projections, while the dancers, dressed in black, perform on a white floor.
[Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org]
by Kristofer Collins
Jazz and poetry are the chocolate and peanut butter of the arts scene, with a sweet history dating back to Kenneth Rexroth’s album with the Cellar Jazz Quintet and Jack Kerouac’s famous session with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. The good people over at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh host jazz luminaries Oliver Lake and Dee Alexander with her trio, as well as award-winning Native American poet Joy Harjo, for the free Jazz-Poetry Concert.
[Garden-to-Garden Artway, Sampsonia Way between Sherman and Monterey streets, North Side; cityofasylumpittsburgh.org]
Check out the latest installment of TNY Presents, the literary equivalent of a late-night dance party. This time, Carrie Greenlaw, John Korn and Daniel Shapiro will be word-slinging at ModernFormations Gallery.
[4919 Penn Ave., Garfield; newyinzer.com]
Small Press Pittsburgh Pop-Up Bookstand
Sept. 6 & 27
Small Press Pittsburgh is sponsoring a bookstand at the monthly Unblurred gallery crawls. It offers a fine selection of Pittsburgh authors and independent publishers, as well as small-press selections from around the country.
[Sept. 6: Penn Avenue, Garfield; Sept. 27: Liberty Avenue, downtown; smallpresspittsburgh.wikispaces.com]
Dust off your cape and prepare for superhero fun: Pittsburgh Comicon organizers have enlisted a who’s who of artists, writers and industry insiders for an inside scoop on the comic-book biz. Legends Jeremy Bulloch, George Perez and Jim Steranko will be present for meet and greets.
[Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Blvd., Monroeville; pittsburghcomicon.com]