April: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

April 7-16/ Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company will present Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Or the Most Popular American Play You’ve Never Seen), based on the anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The story follows Tom as the life of slavery and repeated lost love, both romantic and not, tests his Christian faith. Directed by Tome Cousin and Jason Jacobs, this story of forgiveness and perseverance is an American classic. (The Rauh Theatre, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)

April 21-May 6/ Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis gives no hint about how many characters are actually present. The dialogue is more akin to a mix of poetry and prose than what you would find in a traditional script. The pure, emotional expression exhibited on stage is simply that: Emotion in its rawest form, with a premise that essentially is a mind at war with itself. Director Robyne Parrish will attempt to make sense of it all for off the WALL productions by using three main “characters” by way of Pittsburgh actresses Erika Cuenca, Tammy Tsai and Siovhan Christensen. She’ll also be working with choreographer and New Hazlett Theater CSA (Community Supported Art) artist Moriah Ella Mason and featuring original music by off the WALL composer Reni Monteverde, providing critical backdrop for the emotional setting. Parrish notes that the project was a perfect fit for the theater’s mission of nurturing female artists. (Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie; 724/873-3576, insideoffthewall.com)

April 8-May 7/ Fans of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” might recognize the man behind City Theatre’s newest play as Victor Strand, but Colman Domingo has proven he can do a whole lot more than fight zombies with his new comedy gracing the stage in Pittsburgh in Wild With Happy. Directed by Reginald L. Douglas, the show turns the death of struggling actor Gil’s (Corey Jones) mother into an event, even a celebration, with the help of relatives, friends and a funeral director. (City Theatre Hamburg Studio, 1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org)

Exterior elevations, I.W. Abel Place, Pittsburgh, PA,” 1991, Colored pencil and pen on tracing paper|sketch courtesy Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives

THROUGH MAY 22/ Drive along Main Street in Sharpsburg and prepare to be bedazzled by the town’s new library. Roll over, Andrew Carnegie. Designed by Pittsburgh’s Arthur Lubetz/Front Studio Architects, which is the focus of an exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Art Heinz Architectural Center, the building comes together with a playful integration of several massive “building blocks,” enlivening a ho-hum stretch of highway — most notably through the panache of its palette.

The colors include lemon yellow, lapis-lazuli blue and (my personal favorite): ketchup red (after all, Sharpsburg is where the H.J. Heinz Co. began). “Action, Ideas, Architecture: Arthur Lubetz/Front Studio” explores the building’s creator and his legacy through models, drawings and photos. The retrospective examines Lubetz’s 50-year-old practice, which merged in 2011 with Front Studio, a New York-based firm founded by some of his former Carnegie Mellon University students. Although not the goliaths that have defined the skyline of the city, the architectural contributions of Lubetz and the studio can be memorable in other ways. As does the library, they can pop out, visually beckon us — even become neighborhood landmarks.

Examples: Lubetz’s quirky headquarters (built in 1982) on North Craig Street in Oakland or The Glass Lofts (built in 2010) on Penn Avenue in Friendship, a funky dance of shapes, materials and retina-riveting planes of vivid green. “The buildings and designs are always bright, colorful and sculptural,” says show curator Charles L. Rosenblum. “They always provide stimulation and engagement for casual passersby, even as they are, on closer contemplation, rich and sophisticated for serious thinkers in architecture.” (Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)

“Insect- and wind-borne pollen of Dicotyledoneae and Monocotyledoneae,” watercolor on paper by Anne Ophelia Todd Dowden (1907–2007)|image courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

THROUGH JUNE 30/ Appreciate architecture of a different kind at Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. “Exquisite Patterns in Nature” explores “the fascinating configurations in the architecture of all organisms,” demonstrated by patterns and symmetries, growth rings, whirls and more. Selections from the permanent collection make the case for the theme of the show, which features interpretations by artists as well as drawings, prints and watercolors used to illustrate scientific journals and popular books. (Carnegie Mellon University, 4909 Frew St., Oakland; 412/268-2434, huntbotanical.org)

THROUGH APRIL 9/ It’s a first for the Cultural District: One artist, Josh Mitchel, is featured in two galleries, each with a separate show of his work. Although distinctly different, “A Collision of the Second Self” (707 Penn Gallery) and “Hidden in Plain Sight” (709 Penn Gallery) share similarities: figurative paintings that the Pittsburgh artist says explores “the dichotomy of the interior and exterior persona or facade.”
The paintings are partly autobiographical, but with his focus on the figure they also contain more general themes. As Mitchel explains, “Through my work I explore various intrinsic psychological conflicts stemming from my interest in Freud’s theoretical construct of Ego and Id. I am attracted to the contract between rational thoughts and irrational, impulse-driven behavior.” (707 Penn Gallery, 707 Penn Ave., Downtown; 709 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

THROUGH MAY 13/ She’s back! If you missed “Kathleen Cochran Zimbicki: 45 Years of Color, 1970-2015” when it ran two years ago at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art/Loretto, you can see it reprised at SAMA’s Altoona site. Embarking on her creative journey as a student of renowned artist Henry Koerner, this Pittsburgh artist has evolved from plein-air impressionism, to expressionism and toward the borders of abstraction. Some 30 pieces (mostly watercolors) reflect the legacy of this award-winning artist (and former gallery owner) known for her bold, lyrical, exuberant — and often quite colorful — work. You’ll see portraits of people, even goddesses; studies of animal life, from nature and from her imagination (like monsters); landscapes and more. (Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona; 1210 11th Ave., Altoona, Blair County; 814/946-4464, sama-art.org)

Joseph Stella, Gas Tank, Pittsburgh (American Landscape), 1918 Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 1/8 in. (101.6 x 76.5 cm), Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, 1975.16.42, Photo: Jim Frank, Courtesy American Federation of Arts

THROUGH MAY 21/ Could collecting art be good for your health and even extend your stay on the planet? Medical science might begin that study with Roy Neuberger, who lived until the ripe young age of 107. Factor into that the philosophy of this visionary collector, who, while making a mint in the world of finance, reflected with a dash of irony: “I have not collected art as an investor would; I collect art because I love it.” And the proof of that ardor was not selling anything he had bought, although he did donate pieces to various museums and founded the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, State University of New York. But the true lasting legacy of Neuberger (1903-2010) was his foresight and willingness to take a risk in — to paraphrase a quote from Andrew Carnegie — purchasing in his own time the old masters of tomorrow, who today come under the umbrella of Modern Art. These included such luminaries as Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, Helen Frankenthaler and David Smith and many more. And let’s not forget Joseph Stella, whose “Gas Tank, Pittsburgh (American Landscape)” offers a local touch to the show “When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection” at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art. The show is organized and circulated by the American Federation of Arts, New York, and the Neuberger Museum of Art. (The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg; 724/837-1500, thewestmoreland.org)


photo by Duane Rieder


April 21-23/ Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2016-17 season concludes with the local premiere of British choreographer Derek Deane’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” (1998), originally choreographed for the English National Ballet. Deane’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragic tale of Verona’s feuding families and star-crossed teenaged lovers is known for realistic sword fights, a palpable sense of danger and a stunning crypt scene. The PBT Orchestra performs the accompanying Sergei Prokofiev score. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pbt.org

April 22/ BJM Danse, the 14-member Montréal-based troupe directed by Louis Robitaille, performs Andonis Foniadakis’ fast-paced “Kosmos” (2014), a 35-minute work driven by the hubbub of urban life. Also on tap are Itzik Galili’s “Mono Lisa” (2015), an acrobatic duet with ballet underpinnings, and Barak Marshall’s “Harry” (2012), which integrates balloons and other props into a dance inspired by life’s conflicts and compromises. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)
April 6/ CSA Performance Series (Community Supported Art) welcomes choreographer Lindsay Fisher, a founding member of New York City’s VIA Dance Collaborative and a dance faculty member at Slippery Rock University. The Butler native performs with dancers Matt Pardo and Montana Michniak in the premiere of “Over Exposed,” an evening of five works on themes of love, loss, identity and memory. (New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/320-4610, newhazletttheater.org/csa)

April 13-15, 21-23/ Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company presents two programs this month. The late Antony Tudor’s ballet “Continuo” (1971) and a suite from the late José Limón’s modern dance masterpiece “Missa Brevis” (1958) highlight main-stage programming while the on-campus show features choreography by part-time faculty members. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., and George Rowland White Performance Center, 201 Wood St., Downtown; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)

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