June: 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 Billy Bustamante

June 14-25/ Ariel swims into Pittsburgh with the CLO’s production of The Little Mermaid at the Benedum Center. The full production displays dazzling costumes with colors that mimic coral reefs, intermingled with the same songs audiences grew up hearing — Alan Menken’s “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World,” to name a few. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, Ariel the mermaid falls in love with everything on land, namely a prince. She makes a deal with the sea witch, and things go from bad to worse to happily ever after. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghclo.org

Through June 4/ Ironbound, a tale set in the title’s namesake neighborhood in Philadelphia, follows Darja, a Polish immigrant who struggles to make ends meet, let alone meet the American dream. In her early 40s, she’s been married twice, and she knows her current boyfriend is cheating. Her son has disappeared to drug addiction, and the only safe spot is the bus stop that keeps her going from one job to the next in an endless cycle of hopelessness. (City Theatre Mainstage, 1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org)

June 1-18/ He’s just like you, except worse. 12 Peers Theater will present Thom Pain (based on nothing), bringing the hour-long sardonic yet sincere monologue to the Studio Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh. 12 Peers’ Vince Ventura directs and Matt Henderson stars as the deadpan Pain, who works to take audiences through the pains of growing up — sometimes in the blink of an eye. The audience becomes the main character’s confidant, lending an ear to a borderline schizophrenic rant that is just charming enough to be witty and is, most certainly, about nothing. (Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland; 412/626-6784, 12peerstheater.org)

      Photo BY taylor dabney

Through Aug. 19/ The creative alchemy of art lies in taking the common and turning it into the uncommon and special. Or, an artist might reverse-engineer a grand theme, even a controversial one, scale it down and make it intimate and personal. Richmond-based artist Sonya Clark tackles both possibilities and more at her show “Oaths and Epithets” at Society for Contemporary Craft. That alchemy begins with a simple black spool wound with gold thread that creates an elegant little sculpture. An ordinary chair becomes “Cornrow Chair” with the addition of wavy, hair-inspired tendrils. What really sets Clark apart, however — and how she elevates the significance of craft as a messenger for conveying and communicating profound, thought-provoking engagement — lies with several other visionary pieces here. “Unraveled” invites viewers to dismantle a Confederate flag thread by thread. In contrast, Clark — a vexillologist (someone who studies flags) — has reconstructed an obscure Confederate artifact for “Monumental Cloth (Sutured).” It replicates a towel that a group of war-weary Southern soldiers used to surrender. Our troubled history related to slavery and racism also is explored in a series of pieces: “Abacus,” “Untitled (Cotton Drawings)” and “3/5.” Perhaps we might detect some hope woven through this art. Clark’s vision may be, to reference Santayana, to ensure that by remembering the past we may not be condemned to repeat it. (Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District; 412/261-7003, contemporarycraft.org)

THROUGH JULY 30/ Local history is explored — and recreated — at “Rochelle Blumenfeld: Hill District Paintings.” In a departure from her legacy as an abstract painter, Blumenfeld moves to representational style to tell the story of — and create a valentine to — her immigrant Reznik and Fairman families, their businesses in the Lower Hill and the community that vanished with the coming of so-called urban renewal in the 1950s and ’60s. (American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-8010, jccpgh.org)

THROUGH JULY 23/ Solo and collaborative exhibits fill Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, with 13 artists presenting works individually or in teams of two. It’s the culmination of an open call to artists. Among the memorable shows is “He’s American,” an exploration in painting and sculpture by Devan Shimoyama and Danny Ferrell about the lives of black and white gay males and societal fears of “the other.” The ultimate question posed here is: “Who deserves the American Dream?” Other shows and artists: “Horizon Lost” (Nikki Brugnoli), “Reveries (Isabel Farnsworth and Shannon Hines), “Grid, Pall-Mall & Stepping-Stones” (Jiyon Hong), “"MO Studios," (Magic Organs: DS Kinsel and Julie Mallis), “Oblivion” (Misty Morrison), “The Place and the Un-Place: Memories of Memories” (Nicole Renee Ryan), “Interdependent” (Jonathan Schwarz and Angela Biederman), “Cave” (Lauren Wilcox). (Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Point Breeze; 412/361-0873, center.pfpca.org)

MAY 30-JUNE 30/ Journey into “the fluidity of reality through the complexity of place, and the experience of identity, emotion, time and memory” with Michigan artist Carolyn Reed Barritt at “Black and Blue.” The artist favors acrylic ink, applying it with nib pens for details and with paintbrushes for bigger elements. Her sculptures feature wood, wire, glass and even Styrofoam. Also on view is “Before We Were Born,” showcasing the amazing representational view of the natural world by Latrobe native Theodore Bolha. He takes parchment and surgically incises it with a razor into meticulous silhouettes of plant and animal life. (BoxHeart Expressions, 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/687-8858, boxheartgallery.com)

photo courtesy the artist

June 2-11/ The façade of Fifth Avenue Place transforms into a stage on June 2 and 3 when Blue Lapis Light (pictured), a site-specific aerial dance company from Texas, premieres the 30-minute “Stardust” as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. On June 7, Pittsburgh’s Jessica Marino and Boston-based Kathleen Nasti present a mainstage performance of their curated touring showcase “Tracks//Where will dance take you,” a networking initiative designed to generate opportunities for dance artists from their respective locales, including Staycee Pearl Dance Project and Kat Nasti Dance. TRAF Dance Battle, a competition encompassing breaking and other dance styles, is slated for June 11 on the Stanwix Stage. (Downtown; traf.trustarts.org

May 30-June 11/ The Tony Award-winning musical, “An American in Paris” (2015), based on the 1950 film, dramatizes the post-World War II tale of a former American soldier and his romance with a French ballerina — who happens to be his close pal’s intended. The two-act production features choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and George Gershwin tunes including “I Got Rhythm,” “Shall We Dance?” and the composer’s symphonic tone poem, “An American in Paris.” (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

Various/ Choreographer Pearlann Porter, an exponent of post-jazz dance, takes to Downtown streets with two pop-up “Thought Pocket” presentations (June 2 and 9). The series, launched last year with poet/musician John Lambert, aims to capture the rhythm of the business day via movement, music and chalk art. Porter also hosts a Second Saturday “happening” in her Point Breeze loft, where musical guests Sound/Unsound join the multimedia improvisations on tap this month. (Various locations, 412/225-9269, thoughtpockets.com; 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze, thespaceupstairs.org)

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