February 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh
Check out some of the finest plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.
by Lauren Davidson
The Old Man and the Sea
Pittsburgh Playhouse is tackling a world premiere of the famed Hemingway short story “The Old Man and the Sea” with the help of the only man Hemingway trusted with the rights, A. E. Hotchner, and his son, Tim Hotchner. “So far it’s been a really fascinating process,” says Playhouse Artistic Director Ronald Allan-Lindblom, who will direct the show at the Highmark Theatre at the new Pittsburgh Playhouse. “We’ve gone through about five variations of drafts of the play.” Broadway veteran Anthony Crivello will play the character of Santiago, the aging fisherman at the center of the Pulitzer Prize-winning story. The production will include multimedia aspects and original music composed and performed by Simon Cummings of Cello Fury. “This is kind of the perfect fit for the new playhouse as far as an artistic laboratory,” Allan-Lindblom says. “This is what the playhouse was designed to do, work with professionals to create new works, export them out. The process here is as important as the product.”
DOWNTOWN: 350 Forbes Ave.
“An Octoroon,” which tells a story of race and America, has been described as “not for everyone.” An octoroon is someone who is one-eighth black by descent, and this modern play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, based on a 1800s work by Dion Boucicault, follows octoroon Zoe and a plantation owner’s nephew who loves her. It breaks the fourth wall, it could offend, it will make you think. It’s not a show for everyone, but the winner of the 2014 OBIE Award for Best New American Play is more than worth seeing in Kinetic Theatre’s production at the New Hazlett Theater.
NORTH SIDE: 6 Allegheny Square East
Feb. 8-March 3
The Gun Show (Can We Talk about This?)
“The Gun Show” by E.M. Lewis has an important subtitle: “Can We Talk about This?” The hour long show is Lewis’ story of growing up around guns in rural Oregon but having various experiences with the culture surrounding them throughout her life. “We hope people will understand that it’s a break from the polarizing, paralyzing feelings about the issue, and instead it’s just a little time to open your mind to [a] variety of perspectives,” says Quantum Theatre founder and artistic director Karla Boos. The show concludes with a 15-minute conversation for audience members to share their thoughts. “After they’ve gone on this journey together … they’re hopefully in a state where they’re able to share a little bit,” Boos says. “That’s her experience across the country — put people in a space where they’re willing to bring their personal experience, their feelings, into a room where other people might feel differently.” Boos says the performances will be held at three spots across the city, the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Community College of Allegheny County on the North Side and The Tull Family Theater in Sewickley. “Really the environment in which we go and convene people are the important points, not us transforming them,” she says.
shikeith “Revisions, or standing where the deep waters of everything backed up” (Detail), 2018 | PHOTO by JOEY KENNEDY
by Mike May
Through March 24
Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities.
Familiar boundaries sometimes need to be expanded — pushed outward to move us beyond our comfort zones, where fresh possibilities might be imagined. “Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities” at the August Wilson Cultural Center provides an opportunity to explore and be challenged by examination and critical thinking related to contemporary issues.
The show offers a rich, diverse visual experience featuring 12 artists — local, national and international, creating in a wide variety of disciplines (painting, sculpture, performance, photography and more) — brought together by Pittsburgh artist and curator Kilolo Luckett.
“Surveying the current state of the world, these talented and rigorous artists offer insightful perspectives and expansive critiques about labor, power, spirituality and living outside the binary,” says Luckett.
Look for local artist and filmmaker Shikeith and ceramic artist Kevin Snipes. Other U.S. participants are Lizania Cruz, Vaughn Spann, Tsedaye Makonnen, Tajh Rust, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Stephen Towns, Njena Surae Jarvis, Nakeya Brown and Tunde Wey, a New Orleans-based Nigerian immigrant chef and writer.
Among the major highlights of the show is the American premiere of “Flying Girls,” a sculptural installation recently presented at the Venice Biennale by Nigerian-based artist, architect and storyteller Peju Alatise. It tells the story of a young Yoruba girl who inhabits both the real world and a fantastical dream world where — thanks to one of those infinite possibilities — she can fly.
“Through ‘Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities,’ our goal is to not only give esteemed artists a platform but open channels for dialogue within our community,” says Janis Burley Wilson, August Wilson Cultural Center president and CEO.
DOWNTOWN: 980 Liberty Ave.
Through March 17
Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby
Complexities of race, sexual identity and masculinity are the focus of “Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby” at The Andy Warhol Museum, which debuts the first solo museum exhibition for Philadelphia-born CMU professor Shimoyama, who presents work in painting, sculpture and photography.
Examples include objects of mourning for African-American youths as reminders of racial targeting; barbershop paintings imagine in whimsical fashion the introduction of femininity into a “hyper-masculine social space.”
This show, curated by The Warhol’s Milton Fine Curator of Art Jessica Beck, provides a tie-in to Warhol’s “Ladies and Gentlemen” series of portraits of drag queens, one of his most overlooked painting commissions.
NORTH SHORE: 117 Sandusky St.
Through March 10
Circular Abstractions: Bull’s Eye Quilts
There’s nothing like a quilt to make you feel comfy and snuggly on a cold winter’s night — but not these. What you’ll see at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art deserves nothing less than to be hung on a wall and viewed as art.
“Circular Abstractions: Bull’s Eye Quilts” showcases the riveting geometry, celebration of color and accomplished craft and artistry that have produced the 32 masterworks on view here. Rather than quaint objects locked in the past, the quilts demonstrate the vibrancy and creativity that continue to push the boundaries and future of quilting. “Circular Abstractions” was organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art in partnership with guest curator and quilt-maker Nancy Crow.
GREENSBURG: 221 N. Main St.
Through March 8
A Hidden Wholeness: The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton
The life and legacy of Thomas Merton (1915-1968) may be fading in today’s world, but the memory of this Trappist monk, theologian, author, poet and social activist receives a revival, of sorts, via a talent not usually associated with Merton: his skill and vision with a camera.
“A Hidden Wholeness: The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton” at The Saint Vincent Gallery inside the college's Robert S. Carey Student Center provides a compelling visual journey that he undertook during the last decade of his life. These black-and-white images are simple but profound, as the title suggests: small meditations on the ordinary that seem to transcend the mundane.
LATROBE: 300 Fraser Purchase Road
photo by DUANE RIEDER
by karen Dacko
The Great Gatsby
Story ballets and Valentine’s Day are a partnership made in box office heaven. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre explores the glamour and decadence of the Roaring Twenties with an extended run of “The Great Gatsby” — its fourth retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic. PBT premiered “Gatsby” in 1987 as part of the Benedum Center’s inaugural season and presented new interpretations in 1996 and 2008. Canadian choreographer Jorden Morris spins his new, two-act ballet drama of lost love on Long Island with classical technique, period social dances and an original score by Carl Davis. The PBT Orchestra provides accompaniment.
DOWNTOWN: Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St.
Halfway to Dawn
Pittsburgher Billy Strayhorn, the influential musical arranger, composer and Civil Rights activist, inspires “Halfway to Dawn” (2018), a two-act, dance-theater production created by David Roussève. The award-winning choreographer’s nine-member, Los Angeles-based troupe, David Roussève/REALITY, performs the non-linear opus that explores the emotional context behind the legendary musician, an openly gay African-American man who worked as Duke Ellington’s artistic collaborator. A classy jazz-club set design provides the framework for solos and groupings crafted from postmodern, jazz and social dance vocabularies. Video projections and text displays provide biographical references and capture the violence of the Civil Rights era, while a sonic overlay juxtaposes recordings of Strayhorn’s songs with contemporary sounds.
EAST LIBERTY: Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave.
Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company
New York City-based Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Company, currently directed by Michael Novak, continues the legacy of its founder, Pittsburgh native Paul Taylor, who died in August. Although the repertory now acquires non-Taylor works, an all-Taylor evening is on tap here. The popular “Company B” (1991), with its upbeat Andrews Sisters score, captures 1940’s youthful exuberance overshadowed by World War II, while “Aureole” (1962), his first major work, showcases his ballet and modern dance movement vocabulary. Taylor’s masterful dance-drama “Promethean Fire” (2002), a dark, emotional reflection on mass tragedy, and “3 Epitaphs” (1956), his oldest surviving work, complete the program.
Downtown: Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St.