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 21-May 22/ A famous, troubled author aims to make amends with the powerful friends he’s estranged in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Tru, adapted by Jay Presson Allen from the words and works of Truman Capote (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “In Cold Blood”). As Christmas approaches in 1975, Capote desperately works the phones from his lonely New York City condo in search of a salve for a major literary faux pas. He has just published the first chapter of his latest (and ultimately unfinished) novel, “Answered Prayers,” in an issue of Esquire. But when the installment thinly disguises the secrets of his jet-setting friends (and former confidantes), what should have been Capote’s self-proclaimed masterpiece mutates into his self-inflicted denouement. Eddie Korbich (from the original Broadway cast of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) stars in this juicy one-man show. (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org

April 7-17/ Casanova meets Broadway musical when the University of Pittsburgh Stages presents Nine by Arthur Kopit (book) and Maury Yeston (music and lyrics). A Tony winner in 1982 for Best Musical and 2003 for Best Musical Revival, the sumptuous chronicle is based on the autobiographical film “8½” by world-famous moviemaker Federico Fellini (“La Dolce Vita”). Guido Contini struggles with middle age, box-office failure and writer’s block as he attempts to make a new film. Drifting through formative fantasy, memory and reality sequences, he seeks inspiration among his menagerie of female influences including a suspicious wife, a desperate mistress, a Catholic mother and a helpful prostitute. University of Pittsburgh Senior Vice Chancellor Kathy Humphrey makes a guest appearance as Guido’s mom. (Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/624-7529, play.pitt.edu)

April 9-May 15/ An aging American tennis great faces a Russian up-and-comer 10 years his junior in an exhilarating US Open semifinal in The Last Match — a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat new dramedy by Anna Ziegler. As the resilient competitors spar through five crowd-rousing sets, Ziegler takes us inside their heads, where their racing thoughts by turns ignite and dampen their playing ability. To create even more distraction, the opponents step out for interspersed scenes with their wives, who are undergoing battles of their own. This taut, suspenseful four-hander ultimately explores the tenuous highs and grueling lows of lives and marriages mired in professional tennis. (City Theatre Hamburg Studio, 1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org)

“Chryseis Returned to Her Father Chryses” by Benjamin West /  photos courtesy the Westmoreland museum of american art


Through June 19/ Instagram and 19th-century American art wouldn’t seem to have a lot in common, but Barbara Jones, chief curator at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, makes one connection. While talking about the museum’s new exhibition, Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-Century American Art, she explains: “Works of art such as these disseminated information to viewers about history, literature and daily life long before the invention of radio and television.”

“The Last of the Race” by T.H. Matteson


And so, she applies the comparison to the way photos and videos are presented and shared on the social-media app Instagram. Assembled from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of narrative art, “Telling Tales” centers on the late-18th- through late-19th-century timeframe. It’s an era often overlooked in American art history, and one overshadowed by later developments, such as landscape painting (although several of the paintings here do encompass some lovely landscapes).

(left to right) “Bargaining for a Horse” by William Sidney Mount, “Sunday Morning” by Asher B. Durand


The show fleshes out several thematic components, notably the relationship between American and European traditions, the emerging celebration of American life and culture, expressions of spirituality and Native American and African-American depictions in art. With 54 works and 38 artists, “Tales” boasts big names in the cultural canon such as Benjamin West, Asher B. Durand and William Sidney Mount, and it re-introduces us to others such as Daniel Huntington, Henry Peters Gray and T. H. Matteson, whose reputations have waned. Look for complementary pieces from this period in The Westmoreland’s collection. Step back in time, relax and enjoy a return to a world before Instagram. And turn off that cell phone! (The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg; 724/837-1500, thewestmoreland.org)

Through April 22/ Acrylic/plexiglas construction informs the work of Toronto-based Kal Mansur, BoxHeart Gallery’s 2016 Artist of the Year. New Valkyries showcases his minimalist, architectonic-like sculptures, which the gallery calls “compelling juxtapositions of blurred, lyrical color studies with aerodynamic forms and precise lines.” Also on view: “Intersection – Dissection – Connection,” which consists of sculpture and drawings by Pittsburgh artist Michael Walsh. (4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/687-8858, boxheartgallery.com)

photo by duane rieder


April 15-17/ Lord Byron’s Le Corsaire (1814), a tale of peril, true love and chivalry, inspired numerous 19th-century choreographers, including Marius Petipa, to produce story ballets of the same title. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Terrence Orr stages his three-act version, which follows the rescue of the slave Medora by Conrad, a pirate, and their turbulent adventures, culminating with a spectacular shipwreck. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra performs the score by Adolphe Adam. 
(Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pbt.org)

photo courtesy jacob’s pillow dance


April 2/ Choreographer and hoofer Michelle Dorrance is known for respecting, adapting and reinventing American tap-dance traditions. Her award-winning New York-based troupe Dorrance Dance hits the boards as part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council Series with Dorrance Dance in Concert, an evening of excerpts from larger works including “The Blues Project,” “SOUNDspace” and “ETM.” The latter is a collaboration with Nicholas Van Young, featuring a stage set that responds sonically to the footwork. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

photo by lydia daniller


April 8-9/ Survivors of the 1980s and 1990s AIDS epidemic are the focus of The Missing Generation, a dance-theater work by award-winning San Francisco-based modern dance choreographer Sean Dorsey. Constructed from oral histories and archival research, the 65-minute production features a multigenerational quartet, multilayered sound score and carefully crafted imagery. (Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/363-3000, kelly-strayhorn.org)

April 14-16/ The students of Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company perform Pittsburgh premieres and new contemporary dance works at the Byham Theater. Award-winning New York-based guest choreographers include Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz of the all-male troupe Madboots Dance and combat jazz exponent Sonya Tayeh, a frequent dance maker on the hit Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance.” (101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)


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