April 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh
Check out some of the finest plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.
photo by C. STANLEY
BY Amanda Myers
April 18-May 19
From playwright Paula Vogel, “Indecent” tells the true story of how the 1923 play “God of Vengeance” by Jewish playwright Sholem Asch resulted in the cast being arrested because two women were involved in a lesbian relationship. Carnegie Mellon alum Risa Brainin makes her directorial debut in Pittsburgh with this interpretation and says she’s excited to be a part of a play that’s not easily pegged by one word. “It’s touching, emotional, moving. I love a piece of theater that has all elements in it so it’s not definable,” Brainin says. “Indecent” makes it way to Pittsburgh after a 2017 Broadway run. “It’s an important story to tell [and] it feels more immediate in the U.S. in general with what’s happening politically,” Brainin says.
DOWNTOWN: O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave.
April 6-May 12
“The Burdens” is a tale about siblings who communicate the only way millennials know how — via text — to hatch an elaborate familial scheme involving their difficult grandfather. The play is based on playwright Matt Schatz’s experience of leaving for college and communicating with his family on a digital basis. “The geographical distance had somehow made us emotionally closer,” Schatz says. When “Burdens” makes its world premiere at the City Theatre, think of texting as subtext. “[‘The Burdens’] examines economic struggles, family obligation, ethical and moral questions, heritage, sex, death, birth and art,” Schatz says. “It’s a comedy, and it’s also a thriller.”
SOUTH SIDE: 1300 Bingham St.
April 27-May 5
The classic comedic opera gets a fresh ’50s backdrop for the first production of its kind held in Pittsburgh. This will be director Chuck Hudson’s ninth run of “Don Pasquale,” an opera with a flair for wit and a touch of drama. The story is centered around celebrated bachelor Don Pasquale, who tries to set up his nephew, Ernesto, with a suitable bride after he falls for the widow Norina. The couple hatches their own plan, staging a fake wedding, to counter Don Pasquale’s schemes in this production at the Benedum Center.
DOWNTOWN: 237 Seventh St.
photo courtesy IMagine exhibitions and powers imagery
BY MIKE MAY
Through Sept. 2
Da Vinci The Exhibition
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible,” the late Frank Zappa once said.
That thought from an inventor of the Mothers of Invention could be retrofitted for those Fathers of Invention — specifically the late Leonardo da Vinci — of the Renaissance, who ushered in a burst of intellectual and creative light, causing a seismic deviation in the history of mankind and separating us from the Dark Ages.
“Da Vinci The Exhibition” at the PPG Science Pavilion at the Carnegie Science Center (admission is extra) enlightens us about Leonardo’s legacy, inviting us to “explore the mind of a genius.” And he was that: artist, inventor, scientist, researcher, even a writer of fables. His interests included astronomy, military tactics, hydraulics, urban planning and light.
The show, produced by Imagine Exhibitions, includes more than 60 life-size reproductions of his inventions, including a hang glider, armored tank and revolving crane, constituting the totality of this true Renaissance man’s genius. As a hands-on experience, we’re invited to become little Da Vincis and design, create and launch devices such as catapults.
Of course, Da Vinci is most remembered for “Mona Lisa,” and we’re invited to try drawing her (and that enigmatic smile). We’re also invited to participate in other aspects of his artistic genius via activities such as mirror writing and view more than 20 fine-art-related exhibits — testaments to Da Vinci’s awesome progress.
NORTH SHORE: One Allegheny Ave.
Through May 12
We Are All Related
A response to divisiveness, globally and locally, powers “We Are All Related,” a multimedia show at 937 Gallery by Pittsburgh photographer Andrea London. Through black-and-white portraits and stories of individuals and families told in words and audiovisual recordings, we learn of struggles and triumphs, loss and love, from immigrants, refugees, people facing discrimination and marginalization, and members of the LGBTQ community. London says she sees the project as “a passionate visualization of heart-strong humanity.”
DOWNTOWN: 937 Liberty Ave.
Through April 28
Group A’s year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary, which kicked off earlier this year at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Media, continues at 707 Penn Gallery with “Portals,” featuring work by members and guests that’s both non-objective and representational. That latter category is somewhat ironic considering Group A’s founding in 1944 (the original name was The Abstract Group) was to provide an organization for local artists interested in exploring the new trend of abstraction. (The current name dates from 1969.)
About “Portals,” curator Kate Lydon states and clarifies: “Using color, shape, size, scale, and, in some cases, the process itself, the featured artists share a language — both deeply personal and universal — grounded in the abstract.”
More milestones in the celebration are on the calendar for this year at Spinning Plate Gallery, Brew House Gallery and Artists Image Resource.
DOWNTOWN: 707 Penn Ave.
Through April 28
“Distilled” comprises 82 works — in both two- and three-dimensional formats — by 42 artists who are teaching artists, staff and members of Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Media. Look for — and it won’t be difficult — two murals by Seth LeDonne and Danny Devine that transform gallery spaces into “pop-up street-art showcases.”
POINT BREEZE: Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media, 6300 Fifth Ave.
Through May 12
We’re living in a material world, and if you’re a material girl — or boy — you might want to spend time at Pittsburgh Glass Center. “Material World” focuses on materialism, consumerism, luxury and obsession.
Six artists — Joseph Cavalieri, Hyesook Choi, Cédric Ginart, Karina Guevin, Slate Grove and Morgan Peterson — explore those themes and how they relate to societal conventions and pop culture. Examples include Cavalieri’s 2019 update on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” with stained-glass panels capturing Alice, with blue hair, lost in the consumerland of New York City, and Peterson’s contemporary take on luxury icon Fabergé.
FRIENDSHIP: 5472 Penn Ave.
photo by Joshua SweenY
BY KAREN DACKO
STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl present sym., a movement-centered, non-narrative performance art installation that explores themes of symbiosis. Inspired by “Fledgling,” a vampire novel by African-American science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, Pearl’s 53-minute production examines symbiotic relationships, where each being relies on the other for survival. New York/Pittsburgh-based visual artist Barbara Weissberger creates an environment for five dancers at Kelly Strayhorn Theater via projected images and fabric art. A live, responsive experimental score performed live by DJ/sound designer Soy Sos and musicians Sadie Powers and Bonnie Jones enhances the surreal landscape.
EAST LIBERTY: 5941 Penn Ave.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Since 1974, this 16-member, all-male ballet troupe, currently directed by Tory Dobrin, has won international accolades with its riotous send-ups of ballet and modern dance classics. The troupe has refined its technical proficiency over the years but still elicits laughs via partnering mishaps, late entrances and errant corps dancers. Programming at the Byham Theater features choreographer Peter Anastos’ “Raymonda’s Wedding” with moves Marius Petipa never could have imagined. Two Michel Fokine classics — “The Dying Swan” and the 30-minute “ChopEniana (Les Sylphides)” — complete the program.
DOWNTOWN: 101 Sixth St.
Derek Hough: Live! The Tour
The multi-talented Derek Hough, an Emmy-winning choreographer best known for his nine-year coaching stint and multiple trophy wins on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” embarks on a three-month national tour with a solo showcase embracing ballroom, Latin, hip hop and tap dance. The new production is co-created, directed and supervised by the Emmy-winning Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo (Nappytabs) of “So You Think You Can Dance” fame.
DOWNTOWN: Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St.
The Rube Goldberg Variations
Influenced by the convoluted contraptions of inventor/cartoonist Rube Goldberg and the well-known musical composition of J.S. Bach, Attack Theatre’s newest contemporary dance work explores the connections and disconnections in contemporary life via an imaginative chain of vignettes. Choreographed by co-directors Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza for their five-member troupe, the production at the New Hazlett Theater is ais accompanied by pianist Nathan Carterette and original recorded music by Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer
NORTH SIDE: 6 Allegheny Square East