July: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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

photo by Christopher Clark

July 26-31/ Get ready for elaborate musical numbers, breathtaking sets and a tale as old as time as Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” comes to the Pittsburgh stage through the Pittsburgh CLO. The soulful musical based on Verdi’s classic opera about star-crossed lovers won four Tony Awards and a Grammy after premiering on Broadway in 2000. The title character, an enslaved princess in ancient Egypt, must choose between duty and tempting fate after falling in love with Radames, a soldier betrothed to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Warning: This epic love story is likely to bring on the tears.
(Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghclo.org)

Through July 24/ Be sure to experience as much as you can of this year’s Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s SummerFest, which features a varied lineup over three weeks at a new venue: Winchester Thurston School. The company will premiere a new production of Handel’s “Julius Caesar” as well as Broadway classic “Kiss Me, Kate,” children’s opera “Little Red Riding Hood,” Richard Strauss’ comedic work “The Silent Woman,” and two revivals, “Carmen the Gypsy” and “Night Caps.” Part of Opera Theater’s mission statement is “opera for everyone,” and all shows are sung in English. Highlights of SummerFest include recitals by Metropolitan Opera artists with Pittsburgh ties after select shows, pre-show talks and two extra performances of “Carmen” at Snuggery Farm in Bell Acres.
(Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Ave., Shadyside; 412/326-9687, otsummerfest.org)

July 7-23/ Expect things to get hot and heavy at Little Lake’s production of “Anna in the Tropics.” In this 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner by Nilo Cruz, Juan Julian arrives in Tampa, Fla. to be the new “lector” in the cigar factory whose sole job is to read to the workers during their shifts. He brings with him “Anna Karenina” and quickly enthralls the ladies with Tolstoy’s story of forbidden passion. As he reads, the themes of jealousy and revenge in “Anna Karenina” come to life in the small town to disastrous effect.
(Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg; 724/745-6300, littlelake.org)

linda arnold, "evening overture," Oil on canvas

Through Aug. 7/ Beaches, sunsets, gardens and forests are among the sights you might see on vacation this summer. You can see them all — and more — with a trip to the Laurel Highlands. “Linda Arnold: Visions of the Natural World” offers 44 landscapes from an artist — originally from Mt. Lebanon but now living in New York — who calls herself a “plein-air painter in the Impressionistic tradition.” Her colorful style often can morph into a dreamy abstraction on canvases that range from petit to very large. (Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Ligonier Valley, 1 Boucher Lane, Ligonier, Westmoreland County; 724/238-6015, sama-art.org)

Ongoing/ Not all of the light fantastic will be tripped at The Point this Fourth of July. Fireworks come and fireworks go, but a new, permanent — and piercing — celebration of light premieres with a different point of view on the North Side: Lights, cameras, “Acupuncture”! Atop the Mattress Factory — you might say its crowning glory — is this luminous sculptural installation created by Hans Peter Kuhn, a Berlin artist whose work first was featured at the museum in 1987. “‘Acupuncture’ is a celebration of the Mattress Factory, the North Side and the 200th anniversary of the City of Pittsburgh,” says museum co-director Michael Olijnyk of its completion, the culmination of a 10-year effort. “We are thrilled to add this signature artwork to the skyline of the city.” As its title suggests, “Acupuncture” comprises long needle-like LED tubes, several of which give the illusion of piercing the roof and emerging on the south-facing side of the building. Like the Gulf Tower ziggurat, the Grant Building’s beacon or even the Heinz History Center’s ketchup sign, “Acupuncture” (first switched on at the Mattress Factory’s annual Urban Garden Party on June 17) seems destined to become a visual landmark that will define how future generations “see” and remember the nighttime face of the city. And that’s a good point.
(Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side; 412/231-3169, mattress.org)


July 7-16/ FireWALL Dance Theater premieres choreographer Elisa-Marie Alaio’s provocative Eff.Ul.Gents, a contemporary dance production in three scenes that follows the struggles of six female dancers. Beauty, sex and power come into play as their lives intersect and they achieve the confidence won through self-acceptance. The work features jazz musician Reni Monteverde’s original score. New resident dancers Alexis Bomer of Millennium Dance Company and Texture Contemporary Ballet Company’s Vicki Lynn Mcwilliams join the cast.
(Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie; 724/873-3576, firewalldance.com)

July 21-24/ Texture Contemporary Ballet presents Interfusion, an evening of works by company directors Alan Obuzor and Kelsey Bartman, plus local guest choreographer Gabriel Ash, a hip-hop and contemporary dance artist. The rock cellists of Cello Fury accompany two ballets, including “Symphony of Shadows” (2014), an Obuzor-Bartman choreographic collaboration for a dozen dancers.
(6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/320-4610, textureballet.org)

July 23/ Dance students ages 8 to 12 enrolled in the Reed Dance summer program, directed by artist educator Greer Reed, are afforded a performing opportunity at the end of their training. It’s designed to showcase the self-expression, artistic development and movement skills fostered during the weeklong intensive course.
(Trust Arts Education Center, 807 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/471-6079, trustarts.org)

July 29/ The Frick Art & Historical Center serves as the backdrop for a site-specific evening of contemporary ballet as part of the museum’s Summer Fridays series. Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Company, directed by Maria Caruso, offers selected solos and an ensemble work inside and outside the facility. In additional to pièce d’occasion sculptural performances, the troupe also premieres two duets inspired by “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe,” an installation on exhibit through Sept. 4 that explores the history and symbolism of footwear.
(7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org)


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