March 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 david bachman photography
BY LAUREN DAVIDSON
Fresh off of her run in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “The Tempest,” Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tamara Tunie (of “Law & Order: SVU” fame, as well as numerous other television and film roles) stars as Sharon in City Theatre’s “The Roommate.” A recent divorcée, Sharon puts a call out for a roommate in her Iowa home; Robyn, a gay, vegan New Yorker, answers. This 2015 story of self-transformation by Jen Silverman, which has been described as “The Odd Couple” meets “Breaking Bad,” promises plenty of drama as well as laugh-out-loud moments.
SOUTH SIDE: 1300 Bingham St.
March 7-April 7
A Doll’s House Part 2
It’s 1894, and Nora Helmer is back. The precursor to modern feminism escaped the constraints placed on women in her time and left her husband and children at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” but what would happen if she returned? That’s the premise of Lucas Hnath’s Tony-nominated comedy, “A Doll’s House Part 2,” where Helmer returns for a divorce. “It’s a very fascinating study, and it honors Ibsen’s play in a beautiful way, but I think it breaks from it in a really courageous and funny way as well,” says Pittsburgh Public Theater Artistic Director Marya Sea Kaminski. Previous longtime producing artistic director Ted Pappas returns to direct the show at the O’Reilly Theater.
DOWNTOWN: 621 Penn Ave.
Sunday in the Park with George
Follow artist Georges Seurat as he creates his most famous piece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” in this Pulitzer Prize-winning Stephen Sondheim musical. The fictionalized tale follows George as he navigates his relationship with his mistress, Dot, in 1800s Paris. Then, in 1984, George’s great-grandson, also named George, comes to terms with his own artistic angst and his family’s legacy in this Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory production at PNC Theatre at the new Pittsburgh Playhouse.
DOWNTOWN: 350 Forbes Ave.
March 30-April 7
Even if you don’t know opera, you’ll recognize the epic La bohème from its familiar Puccini score as well as the story that’s been remade in multiple forms, including the 1996 musical “Rent.” In this Italian opera with English subtitles, four impoverished artists in 1830s Paris struggle to get by, leaning on their passions and their friendship until tragedy strikes in this Pittsburgh Opera production.
DOWNTOWN: Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St.
“Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets”, 1912, by Eugene Atget (French, 1857–1927). Albumen print | photo from Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. Exhibition organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions
BY MIKE MAY
Through May 5
Street Photography to Surrealism
“Street Photography to Surrealism: The Golden Age of Photography in France, 1900-1945” at The Frick Pittsburgh offers a time-travelogue with an album of beautiful, dreamy scenes — and some that provide a contrast. Black-and-white and sepia-tone prints in particular evoke a vanished world redolent of Proustian remembrances. More than a hundred examples from 16 photographers, including Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ilse Bing, provide diverse takes on the times and techniques. Look for Parisian landmarks, ordinary streetscapes turned extraordinary through keen observation, quiet oases, can-can dancers and glimpses of the demi-monde. Although a golden age of photography, this wasn’t a golden age for everyone, as evidenced by the depictions of cesspool workers. A 1932 view of men reading Yiddish theater posters bespeaks the coming catastrophe of World War II. Experimental photos by Man Ray beckon us from the real into the surreal.
POINT BREEZE: 7227 Reynolds St.
Through March 23
“Gothic Fictions” at Silver Eye Center for Photography takes a visual walk on the dark side, channeling forebears in the literary genre such as Edgar Allan Poe and playing to our modern fascination with horror, crime and the macabre. Photographers Dylan Hausthor, Rory Mulligan and Tereza Zelenkov model essential Gothic elements: “Foreboding and ancient settings, villains who are at once human and mythological, and a sense of overwhelming, creeping, unstoppable fear,” according to Silver Eye. Hausthor leads us to a lush forest that evokes a sense of foreboding in its spooky depths; Zelenkov’s photo, “The Essential Solitude,” captures a figure, isolated in a decaying space, who might be a recluse or prisoner; and Mulligan finds inspiration in the Hudson River Valley, associated with Washington Irving tales and the Son of Sam murders. Related to the show: “Prairie Gothic,” comprising two films by Melika Bass, screens at 7 p.m. on March 21.
BLOOMFIELD: 4808 Penn Ave.
Through April 7
One of the world’s largest public-art digital visualizations premiered at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina last year. “Interconnected” is a massive, dynamic tour-de-force — visible inside and outside the terminal — comprising components such as data sculptures and data paintings. It’s the creation of Turkish-born Refik Anadol, a lecturer and visiting researcher in UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts.
Now Pittsburgh has the opportunity to view an installation by this rising star in the art of tomorrow in real time at Wood Street Galleries. Like much of Anadol’s work, “Infinity Room,” with its cerebral, conceptual essence, defies attempts at pithy description with the limitations of words. It must be seen for comprehension and for its mysteries and conundrums to reveal themselves.
Here, Anadol enlists light, sound, mirrors, moving projections and more to transform space and experience into “a perception of presence in a non-physical world.” Says Anadol: “I see ‘Infinity Room’ as an escape to a new dimension.”
DOWNTOWN: Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St.
THROUGH MARCH 15
Theaters of the Imagination: The Early Works of Colleen Browning
Among the region’s off-the-radar cultural treasures is the collection of Colleen Browning paintings at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. Although Browning was born in England and, after arriving in America in 1949, lived, worked and taught in New York City for most of her life, a considerable amount of the art and memorabilia of this leader of the Magic Realism movement was bequeathed to SAMA by Browning’s husband, the late Geoffrey Wagner.
“Theaters of the Imagination: The Early Works of Colleen Browning” at the Johnstown site is an opportunity to peruse some of her legacy and learn about her nascent career through 40 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. The show, says SAMA, “explores the early and pervasive love of fantasy that led to Browning’s emergence as a Magic Realist.”
On view are paintings, watercolors and drawings, some reaching back to her childhood and others from later in her youth when she was a student at the Slade School of Art in London. Look for visionary designs for murals and stage sets, more portents illustrating how this talented young woman would blossom into an innovator and force in the world of art.
JOHNSTOWN: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road
Photo by Gennadi Novash | Courtesy of Peak Performances Montclair State University
BY KAREN DACKO
Camille A. Brown, an award-winning New York City-based choreographer known for thought-provoking works, offers “ink” (2017), the hour-long conclusion to her dance-theater trilogy focusing on themes of African American culture and identity. Performed at the August Wilson Cultural Center by her company of seven (including Brown), the six-section collaborative production draws from an amalgamation of dance techniques, including African, social, hip-hop, jazz and modern, as it showcases the artists as black superheroes. The illustrative vignettes focus on the black superpowers of heritage, body image, mutual respect, brotherhood, spirituality and ancestry. Live musical accompaniment combines blues, hip-hop, jazz and swing while embracing the rhythms and sounds of traditional African and handmade instruments.
DOWNTOWN: 980 Liberty Ave.
photo by Duane-Rieder
PBT with Dance Theatre of Harlem
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre welcomes Dance Theatre of Harlem to the August Wilson Cultural Center for a joint concert featuring an evening of repertory works. Dancers from both troupes share the stage in “Orange” (2001), a buoyant, non-narrative work for three couples. Choreographed by Stanton Welch — an Australian known for formally structured ensemble ballets underscored with eye-catching patterning, evocative gestures and intricate technique — “Orange” unfolds to the music of Antonio Vivaldi, touching on themes of humor, romance and mystery. PBT performs George Balanchine’s 20-minute “Rubies” (1967), a neoclassical ballet defined by staccato movements, flexed feet and jutting hips that flies alongside Igor Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.” Dance Theatre of Harlem, who also visited last year, will contribute an additional, yet-to-be-announced work.
DOWNTOWN: 980 Liberty Ave.
photo by frank walsh
With a Shadow of…
Corningworks, directed by award-winning choreographer Beth Corning, opens its 10th anniversary season of evocative dance-theater with the premiere of “With a Shadow of…” a non-narrative, movement-based work that probes into those barely perceptible seconds at the sensory threshold of consciousness before sleep and awakening. This Glue Factory Project production (an initiative of Corningworks) presented at the New Hazlett Theater features a cast of mature artists, including: New York-based Janis Brenner, director of Janis Brenner and Dancers; award-winning choreographer David Dorfman of David Dorfman Dance; Ohio-based Catherine Meredith of Dancing Wheels Company; and Corning.
NORTH SIDE: 6 Allegheny Square East