Best of Culture in Pittsburgh in September
Check out some of the finest plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.
photo by Deen van meer
by Lauren Davidson
The Lion King
Broadway sensation Disney’s “The Lion King” returns to the Benedum Center this fall on the heels of this summer’s film remake. Originally directed by Julie Taymor, the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh show will feature all the pageantry and award-winning songs as well as a special sensory-friendly performance on Sept. 14.
DOWNTOWN: 237 Seventh St.
Sept. 12-Oct. 13
A Few Good Men
Pittsburgh Public Theater brings Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men” to the O’Reilly Theater stage. On select performances, Rocky Bleier and Larry Richert will play Judge Julius Alexander Randolph in the story of two military lawyers who defend two Marines accused of murder.
Public Artistic Director Marya Sea Kaminski, who will kick off her second season as the show’s director, notes the cast will include several military veterans, including Bleier. “This play opens an incredible opportunity, not only to bring Sorkin’s terrific wit and genius dialogue to life on our stage, but to gather gifted professionals and citizen artists together to tell this story with grit, authenticity, and passion,” she said in a press release. “We expect this to be an event that marks a great moment for us at Pittsburgh Public Theater — of robust imagination and great collaboration.”
DOWNTOWN: 621 Penn Ave.
Sept. 14-Oct. 6
Cambodian Rock Band
A father/daughter story set to the music of Dengue Fever proves to be “a great piece of theater,” according to City Theatre Artistic Director Marc Masterson. “It’s both funny and sad and entertaining. It’s a very unusual mix of elements in this play.” As the actors play in Cambodian psychedelic surf guitar band Dengue Fever, a Cambodian-American woman travels to Cambodia and discovers the truth about her father, who escaped dictator Pol Pot during his reign.
SOUTH SIDE: 1300 Bingham St.
Broadway at the Overlook
Sept. 27-Oct. 19
Evil Dead: The Musical
Pittsburgh Musical Theater brings back two crowd-pleasers this month on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum: feel-good “Broadway at the Overlook” and late-night, mature-audiences-only “Evil Dead: The Musical.” Celebrate cooler weather with a picnic and outtakes from the upcoming “Rediscover Theater Classics” season at the beginning of the month at the West End-Elliott Overlook and finish off with a show that includes songs such as “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” as Halloween nears at the Gargaro Theater in the West End.
WEST END: 412/539-0900, pittsburghmusicals.com
Installation view of Shigeru Ban, “Ile Seguin” and “Camper Travelling Pavilion,” “Influencers: The Pritzker Architecture Prize,” 2019, Carnegie Museum of Art. | photo by Bryan Conley
by Mike May
THROUGH SEPT. 22
An Atlas of Commoning: Spaces of Collective Production
“An Atlas of Commoning,” which premiered last year in Berlin, is on an international decade-long tour, with Pittsburgh as its first stop — specifically, the Miller Institute for Contemporary Art at Carnegie Mellon University. This is a cerebral, complex and thought-provoking show examining the concept of “we” and how we shape and share urban space and handle our differences. Environmental, social, political and economic ideas are woven through the discussion, and new ways of organizing ourselves are put forth.
Examples from the past include utopian New Harmony, Ind., and the tony Ansonia Hotel. See how squatters creatively repurposed an unoccupied skyscraper in Caracas and how Berlin’s Prinzessinnengärten thrives as a metro oasis. Several initiatives, such as Wilkinsburg’s Community Forge, provide a local touch.
OAKLAND: 5000 Forbes Ave.
THROUGH OCT. 20
Some liken the Pritzker Architecture Prize to the Nobel Prize. On a more pop level, think Academy Awards (with fewer overblown speeches). Instead of a statuette, each year’s honoree receives a bronze medallion, inspired by designs of superstar architect Louis Sullivan, on which three words are inscribed: Firmness. Commodity. Delight.
As a salute to the 40th anniversary of the Pritzker, which acknowledges and rewards a distinguished career and a total body of work, Heinz Architectural Center curator Raymund Ryan presents “Influencers.” The exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art showcases 26 Pritzker honorees from the center’s collection and features drawings, models, photos and even furniture (including some funky-cool examples by Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi).
The first honoree was Philip Johnson, best known in Pittsburgh as the PPG Place architect, but represented in the show by a charming little model for a never-realized fine-arts complex at Seton Hill University. Gordon Bunshaft, whose legacy includes the H.J. Heinz Co. offices and research facility, is another local connection; he’s immortalized here in a stunning mid-century-modern, black-and-white photo by Ezra Stoller.
Not until 2004 did a woman receive a Pritzker. That was Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect, whose model for a Jetson-esque cultural center in Azerbaijan is on display.
A final moment of “delight” for me: those sexy stainless-steel “Clouds Root” trays designed by Chinese honoree Wang Shu.
OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.
THROUGH SEPT. 22
The Vietnam War: 1945-1975
“I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service.”
That quote by Vietnam vet John Kerry, who not only served but also later protested the war, succinctly sums up a troubled, complicated period in American history.
The Heinz History Center, in partnership with the New-York Historical Society, takes us back to when those times were a changin’ via “The Vietnam War: 1945-1975.” Personal stories from those who were there, photos, artifacts, film and more provide a dynamic, multidimensional history of U.S. involvement in Indochina. Themes explored include duty, citizenship and patriotism.
A can’t-miss 20-foot UH-1H “Huey” helicopter used by the Army makes for the show’s commanding centerpiece; other notable visuals include a Viet Cong rocket launcher, anti-war posters, artwork created by vets and the sounds of popular music of the time.
A re-created living room of 1960’s vintage showcases why the conflict in Vietnam often has been referred to as the first “television war.” As philosopher Marshall McLuhan observed, “Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America, not on the battlefields of Vietnam.”
STRIP DISTRICT: 1212 Smallman St.
THROUGH OCT. 5
“Third Street: Paintings and Monoprints by Jennifer Baker”
What’s it called when a neighborhood is leveled and replaced by pricey townhouses? Some say gentrification; others, progress. Artist Jennifer Baker asks us to consider alternative ways of looking at — literally — these changes and perspectives.
Through her paintings and monographs in “Third Street,” Baker has documented the seismic changes in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia — where she still works today — from the 1980s and ’90s, a time fomenting major upheavals not only in the landscape but also for the people there, followed by redevelopment during the ensuing 15 years.
Baker, who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the University of the Arts and the Art Students League of New York City, views her observations as “a visual diary of drawn-out, convulsive change,” and her take on “a neighborhood going to nowhere and back.” Points of reflection focus on the nature of worth, the human value of the built environment and the function of memory in the enrichment of daily life.
LORETTO: St. Francis University campus
THROUGH OCT. 4
Salvador Di Quinzio: Saltimbanques et Comédien
Hiromi Katayama: Currents of Color
• “Salvador Di Quinzio: Saltimbanques et Comédien,” with its French words referencing acrobats and thespians, describes the colorful, animated, whimsical paintings of this artist, whose work can embrace humor and sarcasm.
The self-taught Di Quinzio grew up in Venezuela, where he created toys and entertained family and friends; as a grown-up, he became an engineer and embarked on a corporate career and painted as an outlet for his creativity. Now Philadelphia-based Di Quinzio engages in an artistic mode labeled “Magical (Sur)realism” by BoxHeart Expressions, where his art is on view.
States BoxHeart: “Di Quinzio infuses his interest in human figures and the use of symbolic structures to create a painted pictorial bridge that is imbued in his subconscious world and the physical environment that surrounds him.”
• “Hiromi Katayama: Currents of Color” showcases the dedication of artist Hiromi Katayama, a native of Japan now living in Houston, Washington County, to traditional Japanese painting styles. She has a special fondness for cherry trees and their blossoms and a time-honored technique, Nihonga. That reverence for tradition also involves creating her own paints through a complex process of mixing together natural mineral pigments with an animal-based collagen glue. Wooden panels or paper are the canvases on which her art takes form, and she also creates Japanese-style screens.
BLOOMFIELD: 4523 Liberty Ave.
photo by SAMI SAUNDERS STUDIO
by Karen Dacko
Founded in 2010, Homestead-based Exhalations Dance Theatre is an 18-member ensemble of community dancers under the direction of Katherine Mann and Lea Fosbenner, who also serve as resident choreographers. The troupe, which performs semiannually, presents “Time: Unbound,” at the Charity Randall Theatre. The showcase offers seven premieres, each exploring perceptions of time. Guest choreographer Kelsey Bartman, associate artistic director of Texture Contemporary Ballet, contributes to the program.
OAKLAND: 4301 Forbes Ave.
Un Poyo Rojo
Set inside a men’s locker room, the 70-minute Argentinian import “Un Poyo Rojo (A Red Stone Bench)” unfolds at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center as a primal, body-language duet between two actor/dancers who face-off in a competition of athletic prowess and overt sexuality. The humorous physical-theater work, choreographed in 2008 by Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso, draws on elements of theater, dance, mime, acrobatics, wrestling and martial arts. Body percussion and live broadcasts from a portable radio provide accompaniment. Note: This show contains sexual content that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
DOWNTOWN: 980 Liberty Ave.
The Carnegie Museum of Art offers the culmination of “Performers at Play,” a performance-extension residency of workshops and sensory explorations wrapped around the “Access+Ability” exhibit, plus guest artists. On tap are residency works developed by game-creator City of Play and multidisciplinary duo slowdanger (Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight). Award-winning New York City-based dancer/choreographer Jasmine Hearn; Nile Harris, an interdisciplinary artist from Brooklyn; and Baltimore’s Abdu Ali, an avant-garde electronic music artist/poet; complete the evening, which commences with a gallery-wide opening ceremony.
OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.
The Pittsburgh Dance Council, now in its 50th season, presents MOMIX, a troupe with an international reputation for physical artistry amalgamated from dance, acrobatics, mime and imaginative prop manipulation. Led by Moses Pendleton, the Connecticut-based ensemble offers “Viva MOMIX” at the Byham Theater. The two-act showcase of new material and vignettes features excerpts from several full-length productions, including the nature-inspired “Botanica,” the desert-themed “Open Cactus,” and “Lunar Sea,” which explores the effects of blacklight.
DOWNTOWN: 101 Sixth St.