July 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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

photo by Magnus Hastings

July 11-13
The Vaudevillians

Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales will bring hits from Lady Gaga, DJ Kool, Gloria Gaynor and Janis Joplin to the O’Reilly Theater stage in this adults-only production. Monsoon, who won “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2013, and Scales, her pianist, are “The Vaudevillians.” The pair conceived their show around Kitty Witless and Dan Von Dandy, two vaudeville performers who were frozen in an avalanche in the 1920s. When they awake in present-day, they put on a “vintage cabaret with a twist of drag.”
DOWNTOWN: 621 Penn Ave.
412/316-1600, ppt.org

July 11-28

“Scapino,” written by Jeffrey Binder — who will play the title role in this Kinetic Theatre production — is a war of two families based on a Moliere comedy. In this adaptation, two mob bosses are trying to reconcile their differences by marrying off their children, but the children aren’t following orders. “In this day and age, if you marry without your father’s permission, they’ll unfriend you on Facebook,” Binder says. “But in Moliere’s time, if your father disowned you, you were destitute, you were doomed in a way. We wanted to find something that was really immediate, [so] an audience, as opposed to watching a museum piece … would understand the stakes.”

Binder, who says “Scapino” was the highest-grossing show at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Fla., where it premiered last year, notes he crafted it to be adaptable to different locales. “I’m not going to make any guarantees, but you might find a couple of Pittsburgh references in there,” he says. “No matter how you frame it, it’s daughters and fathers and sons and love and family.”
OAKLAND: Henry Heymann Theatre, 4301 Forbes Ave.
412/225-9145, kinetictheatre.org

July 12-28
Pittsburgh Festival Opera

When Fred Rogers created his television show, he composed his own music — even his own operas. For the first time, two of those operas will come to life on stage as part of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s 2019 season. “Growing up with Mister Rogers, as so many people have, I never knew he wrote 13 operas. We are doing two of them in one night, a double-bill,” says Executive Director Christopher M. Powell, noting the Opera’s music director Rob Frankenberry has transcribed and orchestrated the operas with a blessing from Fred Rogers Productions.

Also on tap for the summer are Strauss’ “The Love of Danae,” as a special concert performance sung in German with English super-titles, Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and the second installment of the opera’s Ring Cycle, Wagner’s “The Valkyrie” (this installment includes the famous “Ride of the Valkyries”). The festival also includes workshop performances for new operas, children’s productions and a one-night-only “Degenerate Art Concert” featuring works from musicians who were subjected to sanctions or forbidden to produce art during World War II. “What’s wonderful about the festival model is the ability to do so many other smaller-scale works but put just as much emphasis on them,” Powell says. 

Most performances take place at:
SHADYSIDE: Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Ave.
412/326-9687, pittsburghfestivalopera.org

Slowdanger | Photo by Audrey Gatewood

July 5-6
Yolk & Grove

The Blanket, a project-driven contemporary dance company directed by Matt Pardo and Caitlin Scranton, revs-up for its third season with “Yolk & Grove,” by award-winning New York-based choreographer Beth Gill. Based on a work drafted for a 2015 University of the Arts workshop, the reframed Pittsburgh premiere of “Yolk & Grove” expands around the environs of the Carrie Furnaces as it launches seven dancers into a system of looping choreography and rotating roles. 
SWISSVALE: Carrie Furnaces Boulevard

July 12
Darkest Dark

Improvisational movement artist Gia T. Cacalano, director of Gia T. Presents, along with interdisciplinary artist/mover Oreen Cohen and sound engineer Jonathan Hodges, combine for an improvisational performance as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl, a quarterly smorgasbord of artistic offerings. “Darkest Dark,” an exhibit of Cohen’s large-scale charcoal works on display at 707 Penn Gallery (through July 14), serves as the environment as Cacalano responds extemporaneously to live electronica and punk rock music — and to Cohen’s athletic, impromptu sketching. 
DOWNTOWN: 707 Penn Gallery
412/456-6666, trustarts.org

July 22-27
Performers at Play
Visitors browsing the Carnegie Museum of Art’s galleries may chance upon “subtle viewings” — kinetic sculptures and performance installations choreographed by slowdanger (multidisciplinary performance artists Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight) who are known for their post-modern dance aesthetic and unique sound explorations. The three-hour performances offer glimpses into the duo’s creative process as they develop a fully realized opus in response to “Access+Ability,” an exhibit of objects and designs for life-enhancing products. These “subtle viewings” are part of Performers at Play, the CMOA’s new performance-extension residency launched in June as part of an ongoing effort to connect visitors with short-term exhibits and the permanent collection.
OAKLAND: 4400 Forbes Ave.
412/622-3131, cmoa.org

July 18-21
Flying & Falling

Texture Contemporary Ballet, which premiered in July 2011 at the New Hazlett Theater, continues its mission to facilitate the creation of new choreography by its artistic staff and guest dance makers. Directed by Alan Obuzor, formerly of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and associate Kelsey Bartman, formerly of Nashville Ballet, the core company of 10 classically trained dancers offers “Flying & Falling,” an evening of short works at the North Side venue, including a premiere co-choreographed by Obuzor and Bartman to the music of The Piano Guys.
NORTH SIDE: 6 Allegheny Square East
888/718-4253, textureballet.org

Edwin Cooper (English, 1785–1833), Waiting at the Meet (1832, oil on canvas) | images courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Paul Mellon Collection

A Sporting Vision

Many ties still strengthen our Bond Across the Pond with Great Britain, including a (sometimes) common language and, most recently, a son — born to Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan Markle.

There’s also this: an important collection of British art with a Pittsburgh connection, on display at The Frick Pittsburgh. Among the interests of philanthropist and collector Paul Mellon — son of an American father, Andrew Mellon, and a British mother, Nora McMullen — were artistic depictions of traditional country life, rituals and pastimes on that sceptered isle.

Philip Reinagle (English, 1749–1833), Portrait of an Extraordinary Musical Dog (1805, oil on canvas)

“A Sporting Vision: The Paul Mellon Collection of British Sporting Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts” kicks off, appropriately, with works by George Stubbs, who was obsessed with the horse and its anatomy. A painting by Stubbs was the first work of art purchased by Mellon, a noted equestrian.

Thematic organization of the 80 paintings spanning 1700-1900 clusters around “In Pursuit,” depictions of hunting (notably fox hunting), shooting and fishing; “In Motion,” horse racing; and “Animal, Man, Country,” rural life, families and livestock. “The World Upside Down” offers levity with falls, mishaps and animal magnetism (see Philip Reinagle’s “Portrait of an Extraordinary Musical Dog”).

A Dapple Grey Hunter with Two Foxhounds beside a Lake (detail), (1759-60, oil on canvas)

Complex issues that lie within the show’s timeline — scientific inquiry, class structure, industrialization, modernization — provide more facets for reflection. In addition, like The Frick’s 2018 show “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art From the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” we’re given greater insight into the collecting eye and vision of Paul Mellon.
POINT BREEZE: 7227 Reynolds St.
412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org

The Loving Kindness of Fred Rogers: Photos by Jim Judkis

Here’s a kindly complement to the 50th-anniversary celebration of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” See 60 photos taken in the 1970s and ’80s by local photographer Jim Judkis while on assignments for various magazines (including Pittsburgh Magazine). Go behind the scenes at the “Neighborhood” and witness candid views of the warmth and caring, especially in interaction with kids, that were Fred Rogers’ hallmarks.

The momentum of the anniversary, the American Jewish Museum notes, “reinforces how critical it is for us to continue Rogers’ legacy of creating meaningful, sincere interactions between people and standing together to forge a just community.”

SQUIRREL HILL: American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave.
412/521-8010, jccpgh.org

“Kim Gordon: Lo-Fi Glamour”

Kim Gordon is a creative force with many talents — musician, songwriter, visual artist, curator and more — who acknowledges Andy Warhol as one of her influences, especially the lo-fi aesthetic of his studio and his involvement with the Velvet Underground.

In this hi-fi retrospective, curated by Milton Fine Curator of Art Jessica Beck and Curator of Performing Arts and Special Projects Ben Harrison, we follow the career of a founding member (born 1953) of experimental post-punk band Sonic Youth, who now has become a sonic senior.

Gordon arrived at the band sideways — she had no formal musical training — building from an early interest in art, aesthetics and performance. She had attended Otis College of Art and Design and forged ties with Mike Kelley, Dan Graham and artists from the Pictures Generation art movement.

In this millennium, Gordon went back to her visual-arts roots, creating a series of canvases, “Noise Name” paintings, inspired by her musical roots and gritty ’80s bands. A sculpture of silver glitter references Warhol’s Silver Factory; also on view are figure drawings and erotic sculptures complementing Warhol’s film “Kiss.” In homage to that celluloid smooch, listen to “Sound for Andy Warhol’s ‘Kiss,’” a specially commissioned score.

NORTH SHORE: The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St.
412/237-8300, warhol.org

“— — — — — — Curated by: Brett Yasko”

Here’s a show with an unusual twist on basic exhibition mechanics.

The expectation: You’re a photographer, and you’re asked to participate in a group show by the curator. You shoot photos and submit them.
The twist: You don’t get to know what’s representing you on the walls until you go into the gallery and see for yourself when the show opens. 

The back-story: Curator Brett Yasko, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University School of Design, picked 87 Pittsburgh photographers and told them to shoot a roll of 35mm film and return it — undeveloped — to him.

The secret: What Yasko asked each to photograph to shoot is between him or her.
The result: 1,921 never-seen-before prints.
See for yourself.

DOWNTOWN: SPACE, 812 Liberty Ave.
412/325-7723, trustarts.org

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