August 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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

PPT: Second City Greatest Hits | photo by Tim Schmidt

Aug. 1-18
12 Peers Theater presents 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist “Everybody.” The show, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is based on a 15th-century morality play. Each night, the cast, including the title character, is chosen by lottery, giving 120 possible variations of the show and contributing to the thematic element that death is random, and we all take something different with us in the end. 

“It’s interesting because while it’s always going to be a little bit different, I think the beautiful thing is how this story is applicable to everybody,” says 12 Peers Artistic Director Vince Ventura. “The fact that a company of our size and scale gets to bring [this play] to audiences in Pittsburgh is an honor and a privilege.”

OAKLAND: Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre, 4200 Forbes Ave.

Aug. 6-11
Hello, Dolly!
Wave your little hand and whisper, “So long, dearie,” as you head to the Tony Award-winning revival of “Hello, Dolly!” presented by Pittsburgh CLO at the Benedum Center. Broadway veteran Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi, a matchmaker who takes care of everyone — while knowing how to get what she wants for herself. The lavish presentation will feature hit songs including “Before the Parade Passes By,” “It Only Takes a Moment” and the showstopping title song.

DOWNTOWN: 237 Seventh St.

Aug. 23-24
PPT: Second City Greatest Hits, Volume 59
For 60 years, Second City has been churning out great comics, so you might want to stop into “Second City Greatest Hits, Volume 59,” at Pittsburgh Public Theater for what could be the next generation of all-stars. They’ll follow in the footsteps of Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Keegan-Michael Key as they perform cutting-edge satire through sketch comedy, music and improvisation.

DOWNTOWN: 621 Penn Ave.

Aug. 24-Sept. 2
Gem of the Ocean
See the first play in August Wilson’s century cycle in its actual setting, the Hill District, where Wilson lived and wrote of the African-American experience in the 20th century. In 1904, Citizen Barlow has fled Alabama after causing a man’s death and sought solace in Aunt Ester’s home. When beloved Underground Railroad conductor Solly dies, Citizen must reconcile his place in the world in this Pittsburgh Playwrights’ production.

HILL DISTRICT:  1839 Wylie Ave.


Monet and the Modern City
Claude Monet’s dreamy “Water Lilies” continues to mesmerize us at Carnegie Museum of Art, but “Monet and the Modern City” asks us to consider another facet of the great Impressionist’s oeuvre (and one especially appropriate to our city): industry.

“This presentation contextualizes Monet with other artists who responded to the atmosphere and promise of industry,” says Akemi May, assistant curator of fine arts, who organized the show.

Works by Monet, along with contemporaries, are bookended with depictions of industry by artists who came before and after him. Pittsburgh gets its due, represented in examples by Fritz Thaulow and Jean-Emile Laboureur; Pittsburgh artists such as Aaron Gorson, Johanna Hailman and Joseph Pennell join the creative cast. Look too for scientific analysis of the canvases and identification of pigments used by Monet, which add another dimension.

OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.

Van Gogh in Bloom
Vincent van Gogh once observed, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” Taking the much-beloved Post-Impressionist at his word, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens channels that love in a burst of creative flower-power with 3-D re-imaginings of his paintings — notably a self-portrait assembled from hundreds of flowers.

Various rooms and their verdant occupants serve as backdrops for the vignettes of “Van Gogh in Bloom,” designed by Jordyn Melino, associate director of exhibits, and the Phipps horticultural team.

“Houses at Auvers” is reconstructed with vining mandevilla and blue and red summer blooms set in a landscape of oak and cypress. “The Night Café” reprises through planted pool tables and a tapestry of yellow flowers and overhead plantings. Don’t forget: Phipps is open on Friday nights for your nocturnal enjoyment, maybe the perfect time to view “Starry Night Over the Rhône” with its twinkling lights and reflections on the pond in the Victoria Room.

OAKLAND: 1 Schenley Drive

Fine Print by Pullproof Studios
Its origins can be traced back 1,000 years ago to China. In recent times, screenprinting (a.k.a. silkscreen printing and other handles) has been employed by artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein.

See what contemporary local artists can turn out at this exhibition showcasing work by members of Pullproof Studio, a Garfield-based workspace and artist collective.

The somewhat-complicated and laborious process — with the potential for mass production as an objective — makes for the unifying force here. How those mechanics play out creatively — screenprinting can be used for everything from fine art, to posters to clothing and more — ensures a rich, diverse show. Artists on view are Charlie Barber, Matthew Constant, Max Gonzales, Christina Lee, Aaron Regal, Anna Shepperson, Harriet Smith.

DOWNTOWN: 707 Gallery, 707 Penn Ave.

Forum Series: Ruth Root
Innovative, quirky, even visually boisterous, with paintings whose boundaries sometimes think outside the box with eccentric shapes, Ruth Root’s art is an engaging experience. She may opt for acrylic or spray paint, pattern or found imagery, fabric or Plexiglas, abstraction or digital printing. Inspiration may come from online search engines, the news media or art history — she even incorporated images from the collection at Carnegie Museum of Art, where the Chicago native (born 1967) is featured in her first solo show at a major art museum.

“The exhibition celebrates Root's startling command of color, pattern and shape as well as her thought-provoking inquiry into what a painting can be,” says Eric Crosby, CMOA's senior curator or modern and contemporary art and acting director, who organized the show with curatorial assistant for modern and contemporary art and photography Hannah Turpin. “Painting and everyday life collide in Root’s visually complex works. Diving into them is a captivating process of discovery.”

Don’t miss a special innovative element here: “Looking and Drawing With Ruth Root.” The artist and museum staff have collaborated to create a scavenger hunt emanating from her research visits to the museum. Grab a free copy of the guide and follow Root’s prompts to journey, via her eyes, through CMOA’s permanent collection.

OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.

See the future (or in some cases, the already-here-present) of accessibility design — making the world better for those with physical, cognitive and sensory challenges — at this innovative exhibition organized by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and presented at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Advances in research and technology, not to mention demand, continue to improve and enhance the quality of life for those, for example, with Parkinson’s disease, whose tremors can be stabilized via sensors. All-terrain wheelchairs and eye-tracking devices to assist with communicating and editing are among other examples.
Although some of the objects here remain prototypes, they signal hope and more-accessible tomorrows. Rachel Delphia, curator of decorative arts and design, organized the CMOA presentation of the show.

OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.

Ballet Under the Stars | photo by kelly perkovich


Aug. 30-31
empathy machine
Intimacy and empathy come under the microscope in slowdanger’s “empathy machine” (2019), a full-length work that forays into a futuristic environment where individuals have disconnected from their inherent emotional mechanisms. The movers — Ru Emmons, Roberta Guido, Simon Phillips, Taylor Knight and Anna Thompson — perform at the Alloy Studios beneath a responsive LED lighting ring and are accompanied by an original score, as they seek a path to overcome oppressive technologies and reconnect, relearn and re-sensitize their bodies. The opus, developed through a series of residencies begun in 2018, was created in collaboration with the cast and computational artists Char Stiles and Cornelius Henke III, aka ProjectileObjects.

FRIENDSHIP: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s Dance Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave.

Aug. 18
Ballet Under the Stars
In 1969, an assemblage of local dancers and ballet students guided by the artistic vision of Nicolas Petrov officially became Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Since then, the troupe has appeared on national and international stages and has amassed an eclectic repertoire of classical, neoclassical and commissioned works. The current company of 32 professional artists launches its 50th anniversary season with Ballet Under the Stars, a free, outdoor (bring-your-own-lawn-chair) showcase of selections chosen by artistic director Terrence S. Orr, who recently announced his 23-year tenure will end in June 2020.

ALLISON PARK: Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheater, 4070 Middle Road

Aug. 17
A Summer Evening with The Pillow Project
The casual atmosphere of The Space Upstairs provides the setting for an evening of dance, poetry and music created by Pillow Project resident artists, a collective of multidisciplinary improvisational artists experimenting from a post-jazz aesthetic. Joining co-directors Pearlann Porter and John Lambert for this event are mixed-percussionist PJ Roduta, improvisational artist/contemporary ballet dancer Kim Baraka and choreographer/dancer Kaylin Horgan. 

POINT BREEZE: 214 N. Lexington St.

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