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What Does a Fantastic Mad Scientist Eat for Lunch?

The cast of Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” dropped by the flagship location this week to preview the odd world they’re bringing to the Pete.

Photo by Benoit Camirand. Illustration by Pittsburgh Magazine.


In the world of Cirque du Soleil, when Icarus fell from the sky, he dropped into a forest volcano and found himself in the land of Varekai.” In the gypsy Romany language, Varekai means “wherever;” this past Wednesday, wherever meant the original Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

A trio of characters — including The Skywatcher (above) and The Guide — stopped by the landmark sandwich shop around lunchtime. They greeted the smattering of customers at the counter and then helped themselves to a spot behind it; the Skywatcher helped himself to someone’s beer and fries.


Though that character is billed as “a mad scientist and ingenious inventor” and would probably at home in the wondrous world of sandwich making, his nest-like costume — which requires a bare chest and fronds sprouting from his waist — had veteran Primanti Bros. employee Toni Haggerty worried.

“Toni?” a woman on the other side of the counter asked. “Are you going to teach [cast members from] ‘Varekai’ how to make these famous sandwiches that Pittsburgh is known for?”

Toni eyed her three visitors and pointed at The Skywatcher. “Not him. He don’t have no clothes on. He can touch the beer.” It was a command to which the Skywatcher happily assented.

Photo by Benoit Camirand


The Guide (above), with a light bulb bright on his head, was the one who got to follow Toni to the grill to assemble the steak, cheese, fries and coleslaw sandwich that some might say is Pittsburgh’s own version of flying too close to the sun (at least calorically).

This weekend the Petersen Events Center becomes the “wherever” of Varekai, as nearly 60 performers take to the stage — and sky — in Cirque’s musical acrobatic style.

— Amy Whipple

To help you get in the mood, PM Editorial Intern Kaitlin Zurawsky shot behind-the-scenes photos (see below gallery) during yesterday’s run-through.

Watch This


#Fly: McCutchen’s bobblehead looking sharp with its MVP award


We know you’re counting down the hours until Opening Day, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for this — three months, to be exact. Get your tickets now; you know those bobbleheads are gonna be in high demand.


#Props: Now there’s proof our city is home to the best National League player and ballpark

Photo by Dave DiCello


PNC Park is the best baseball park in America.

Pittsburghers have been saying it for years, but now everyone else seems to be catching on.

In TripAdvisor’s recent ranking of the nation’s 10 best ballparks, it put PNC Park at the top, citing its “stunning views of the Steel City skyline, the Allegheny River and the Roberto Clemente Bridge,” as well as the vast spread of local fare (now including BRGR, with its new gourmet burger and shake shack in Section 115 behind home plate).

We should be grateful for the recognition — and we are. It’s just that we can’t help but think “took you long enough.”

—John Lavanga


#Startups: Kiva Zip Pittsburgh launches, brings with it micro-loans


Soon it’ll be even easier to help out your neighbor’s cool pie-making scheme.

Pittsburgh’s growing entrepreneurial community was given a blast of good news yesterday when the micro-loan group Kiva announced that the Steel City would be the next locale for the organization’s successful microloans program.

Kiva, a group that has become synonymous with crowd-sourcing loans for people around the globe, is keeping things local with the new initiative. It has enlisted support from Pittsburgh groups including the Henry L. Hillman Foundation Opportunity Fund.

Here’s how it works: Folks in need fill out applications; once they're approved, they begin to work on a campaign, outlining how much cash they require and how it’ll be used. Each campaign must be endorsed by a trustee. Backers can support by donating a minimum of $5. Once the campaign ends, the lender can work with the business on repayment and track progress. It’s that simple.

—John Lavanga


#Fun: Pinburgh 2014 brings the world's best pinballers to the 'Burgh

Fun fact: In Carnegie, there’s a 30,000-square-foot piece of pinball nirvana. The world headquarters of the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association houses 450-plus machines and hosts the annual Pinburgh event, the world’s largest competitive tournament.

Four hundred players will compete for a total of $60,000 in prize money throughout the three-day event, and spectators are welcome; games are broadcast on screens both in-house and online, with live commentary and frenzied silver-ball fanatics out in droves.

If you want to see this secret haven of arcade glory, though, you’ll have to visit during Pinburgh or another function; the headquarters isn’t regularly open to the public.


What’s happening this weekend?


  • Blow glass, enjoy fine fare and partake in other fun activities at Ward Home’s Picture. This event, to be held at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. — Saturday, 6-9 p.m.


  • More than 300 volunteers plan to participate in J-Serve, an annual service event for teenagers in the Jewish community. — Sunday


  • Indulge in four courses and eight wines at Pino’s special dinner; fifteen percent of each $75 ticket will go to the Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Breast Cancer Foundation. — Sunday, 2-4 p.m.

Gallery: "Varekai"

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