March: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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


P​hoto courtesy pittsburgh playhouse
 

March 16-25/ To fully appreciate the Broadway musical, you must experience “42nd Street.” The charming tale that features such songs as “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway” hit the big screen in 1933 but did not premiere on stage until 1980 (it’s infinitely better live). Follow ingenue Peggy Sawyer from Allentown as she goes into her dance to catch her big break on the Great White Way in this performance by the Conservatory Theatre Co. (Rockwell Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000, pittsburghplayhouse.com)

March 2-25/ A “nontraditional documentary” should prove to be the perfect fit for Quantum Theatre’s experimental nature as the company premieres Pittsburgh playwright Gab Cody’s autobiographical work “Inside Passage.” The autobiographical portion is based on her search for her Tlingit Indian foster sister, while traditional documentary footage and narrative video playing on projection screens complement the physical theater. “It’s really genre-busting,” Cody says. “It’s really an attempt to marry elements of film and theater into a satisfying, live experience.” (Provident Charter School Chapel Annex, 1400 Troy Hill Road, Troy Hill; 412/362-1713, quantumtheatre.com)

March 17/ Each year, LGBTQA+ youth organization Dreams of Hope puts on an original production through its theatriQ Youth Ensemble, and it’s always an entertaining and satisfying show. This year’s “Hearts on Hold” presents a story about two former childhood rivals who must dig up the history of their town in order to save it. The ensemble’s productions are developed in residence at Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios. (5530 Penn Ave., Friendship; 412/363-3000, kelly-strayhorn.org)
 

March 3-25/ A world premiere at City Theatre promises “laughter and life” celebrating “an ever-shifting and eclectic America.” “Citizens Market” by Cori Thomas focuses on a group of immigrants working in a New York City supermarket as they form an unlikely family. (City Theatre Mainstage, 1300 Bingham St., South Side; 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org)

March 8-April 8/ Gateway High School and Point Park University alumna Robin Abramson returns to Pittsburgh to star in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “Heisenberg.” Abramson plays middle-aged Georgie, who begins a relationship with a retired Irishman, Alex. The modern romantic comedy is based on physicist Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that, in the realm of quantum mechanics, the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known. In the case of Georgie and Alex, how many potential outcomes can a relationship come to in the course of a play? (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org)
 

March 17-18/ Composer David Lang’s “little match girl passion” retells the heartbreaking Hans Christian Andersen tale in music inspired by the passions created by Bach. This month, local performing arts company Resonance Works (resonanceworks.org) will present the Pulitzer-winning piece in an unusual location — amid the tombs and headstones of Homewood Cemetery.

Maria Sensi Sellner, Resonance Works’ artistic and general director, praises the “delicate intimacy” of the piece; she previously worked with Lang on a more recent composition and received his blessing to bring “little match girl passion” to Pittsburgh for the first time. She was introduced to Jennie Benford, director of programming at Homewood Cemetery, in 2017; Benford wanted to highlight a little-visited section of the cemetery containing unmarked graves. “She said to me, ‘Wouldn’t the little match girl be buried in a place like this?’,” Sellner says. “That just gave me chills. I knew this was exactly the collaboration that we needed, to give this piece its most apropos performance here.”

The performances will begin with a short musical prelude, followed by a self-guided walking tour of portions of the cemetery. The main performance, including “little match girl passion” and complementary works, will take place in the Homewood Cemetery Chapel.

–Sean Collier

 


Photo courtesy of Rob Kolhouse
 

MARCH 14-AUG. 18 (CONTEMPORARY CRAFT)/ THROUGH MAY 27 (FRICK ART MUSEUM)/ The dynamics of ceramics power exhibitions at two locations complementing the 52nd annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, taking place March 14-17 in Pittsburgh. Even cowgirls get the blues, but do cyborgs get cold? Sculptor Rob Kolhouse answers that question — “Probably” — in his stunning black-clay cyborgian bust at Visual Voices: Truth Narratives. Dismiss ceramics as merely decorative? Not at this show at Contemporary Craft. Thirty-seven national and international artists address personal and global concerns in narrative pieces ranging from the realistic to abstract. Issues such as race, class and gender bias are raised with unexpected freshness through the medium, and the results can be powerful. Curator is Winnie Owens-Hart, who observes, “Our individual life experiences determine how we are shaped and, in turn, how we shape the clay.” A different kind of clay-consciousness infuses Revive, Remix, Respond at The Frick, where the accent is less on global and more on local. Twenty artists were challenged to submit work that is “inspired by, responds to or relates to” the collection. Although referencing the past, this show curated by Dawn Brean, associate curator of decorative arts, demonstrates how the ancient art of ceramics remains vigorous and relevant. That’s encapsulated in a flight of fancy by Bouke de Vries: A hybrid peacock crafted from a 20th-century Chinese porcelain bird and 18th-century Chinese-porcelain fragments creating the fan “feathers” for its legendary avian glory. (Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District; 412/261-7003, contemporarycraft.org; The Frick Pittsburgh, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org)
 


 

THROUGH JUNE 10/ Pittsburgh’s been called a shot-and-a-beer town. Well, there’s some justification for that — historically. Did you know the term “speakeasy” might have been first whispered in McKeesport? If that wets your whistle, there’s more to learn at “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” at Heinz History Center. See the first comprehensive exhibition focusing on what’s been called a hiccup in the U.S. Constitution. This traveling exhibition, created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, tells the tale of Prohibition from the dawn of the temperance movement up to, and including, the creation and repeal of the 18th Amendment. Return to the Roaring ’20s, a time of flappers, temperance workers, suffragists, bootleggers and larger-than-life figures such as Al Capone and Carry Nation. Along with displays and videos, more than 100 artifacts help to recall the cultural zeitgeist, including a hatchet used by Nation and a 1922 Studebaker. You can even learn to dance the Charleston. A special feature of the show explores Pittsburgh’s long history with the regulation of alcohol, going back to the Whiskey Rebellion in the late 18th century. (Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Strip District; 412/454-6000, heinzhistorycenter.org)

THROUGH APRIL 8/ Hey, Odysseus. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh and hear “Sirens” calling, here’s the scoop: They’re coming from Wood Street Galleries. Follow the sounds to this collaborative installation by Ryoichi Kurokawa and Novi_sad. “Sirens,” which references that girl group from classical times, comprises five audiovisual pieces exploring “the aesthetics of data.” It’s complicated, as they say, and it’s almost Greek to me as well. Sort of like reading the owner’s manual to the space shuttle. Basically, the highly technical legerdemain here is tied to the capriciousness of global financial markets. That translates into fluctuations of what we see and hear as we’re immersed in the sight- and soundscapes. Ryoichi Kurokawa is a Berlin-based artist; Novi_sad (a.k.a.Thanasis Kaproulias) hails from, appropriately, Greece. (Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown; 412/456-2962, trustarts.org)
 


Photo by frank walsh
 

March 14-18/ Audiences observe and eavesdrop as they traverse through In House – Intimate Interiors, The Glue Factory Project’s latest site-specific dance-theater production. Choreographed by Beth Corning, director of Corningworks, the hour-long house tour examines concepts of private and public persona as it weaves through four art installations. Co-directed by award-winning director Dominique Serrand, the production features guest artists John Gresh, John Giffin, Kristin Garbarino and Patricia Petronello. (limited admission, The Monterey House at Mattress Factory, 414 Monterey St., North Side; corningworks.org)

March 23-25/ Texture Contemporary Ballet offers Rushing Horizons, a mixed repertory program featuring premieres by three in-house artists. Kelsey Bartman choreographs to music by Volcano Choir, while Alan Obuzor offers an en pointe work to music by Wim Mertens. A ballet by resident dancer Brynn Vogel completes the program. (6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 412/552-3114, showclix.com/events/9165)
 


photo by Mark Simpson
 

March 7/ Award-winning dancers Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez of France’s Compagnie Wang Ramirez express their gravity-defying artistry through hip hop, contemporary dance and aerial acrobatics. In the 70-minute Borderline, the six-person cast juxtaposes weightlessness and resistance in a test of social boundaries and personal freedoms. An original score by Jean-Philippe Barrios and voiceover narrative provide accompaniment. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

March 2-10/ Shana Simmons of Shana Simmons Dance and independent choreographers Brady Sanders and Jamie Erin Murphy address depression, dementia and identity crisis, respectively, in The Missing Peace, a trio of contemporary dance works aimed at raising awareness and providing encouragement to those affected by these issues. Simmons’ “STOP” was prompted by a friend’s suicide, while Sanders’ “WHAT REMAINS” is drawn from his experiences with Alzheimer’s disease. Murphy’s “Me vs…,” which was inspired by her struggle to re-identify herself as an individual artist, completes the program. (Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown; shanasimmonsdance.com/the-missing-peace-2018.html)
 

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