October: 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 Eric Antoniou for Boston Lyric Opera


 Oct. 8-16/ La Traviata opens the Pittsburgh Opera’s stellar 78th season with a Pittsburgh connection: Bellevue resident Danielle Pastin will portray the lead role of Violetta. Arguably the most popular opera in the world, “La Traviata” follows courtesan Violetta, her lover Alfredo Germont and the challenges they face to be together in 19th century France. If you’re an opera neophyte, this is the show to start with. If you’ve seen it before, it’s worth seeing again. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pittsburghopera.org

Oct. 14-29/ Writers often use their words to work through personal experiences. For playwright Lydia Stryk, her 2010 play An Accident allowed her to work through the aftermath of her own experience as the victim of a hit-and-run. In the play’s introduction, she states: “I discovered that accident survivors live in the world in a different way. The life-and-death scenario of the accident, itself, is of course dramatic in ways the process of recovery is not. But there is something in the latter that is compelling on its own terms – and never-ending.” She explores all of this through the character of Libby, who wakes up in a hospital bed after a car hits her in the grocery-store parking lot. The driver, Anton, comes to visit her, and the two progress through stages of forgiveness and grief as they come to terms with what happened — and one another — in this show put on by off the WALL productions. (Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie; 724/873-3576, insideoffthewall.com)

Oct. 7-30/ Quantum Theatre takes to the shore of the Allegheny for The River, playwright Jez Butterworth’s 2012 thriller. Performed in Aspinwall Riverfront Park, the show is set in the quintessential cabin in the woods, where a man arranges a weekend getaway with his girlfriend. Arguments over fly fishing, poetry and moonlit nights turn into disappearances, reappearances and intrigue as what was meant to be an innocent trip turns into much more. (Aspinwall Riverfront Park, 285 River Ave., Aspinwall; 412/362-1713, quantumtheatre.com)

photo by Martha Rial


Through Nov. 13/ Among the poorest places on Earth is Uganda, which also has undergone a civil war inflicting even more suffering, including the dislocation of more than 1 million people. Some 2 million children are orphans. In a new exhibit, In Uganda: A School to Call Home, witness through the lens of Pulitzer Prize-winning, Pittsburgh-based photojournalist Martha Rial how two amazing people there have changed the lives of children through the power of education. Africa also is where Rial documented the lives of Burundian and Rwandan survivors of the 1994 genocide, which earned her that Pulitzer. Among Rial’s recent efforts: her contribution to the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, an exhibition demonstrating the effects of shale-gas drilling in Pennsylvania. (937 Liberty Gallery, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

Edward Eberle, “Under the Influence of the Moon, 2013”

Through March 11/ Ceramic artist Edward Eberle’s Eureka! moment came during his discovery of his signature terra sigillata (clay-bearing little images) process. “As soon as that black hit the white, I knew what I had been hunting for,” he recalls. That search had been a long time coming for his technique: embellishing a surface and incorporating contrasts of textures, patterns and forms. Those forms often include interlocked animal and human images, some evoking motifs from antiquity. See that and more — including more conceptual and deconstructed pieces, mixed-media works and even paper cylinders — at this Pittsburgh artist’s Retrospective: Three Decades of Clay at the Society for Contemporary Craft. Time-travel from the mid-1980s to the present day and explore his evolution and exploration via more than 40 examples. He’s drawn inspiration from Japanese and New Mexican ceramics and even Ukrainian Easter eggs. Picasso, Miró and Duchamp have informed his vision. Not one to rest on his laurels (or ceramics), Eberle says he appreciates the past, including the honor of this retrospective, but he enjoys the present (and it seems he will continue his creative journey). In conjunction with the retrospective, don’t miss SCC’s satellite-gallery show, “Present at Creation” (Oct. 14-Feb. 18), showcasing four of Eberle’s students: Erica Nickol, brothers Jeff and Jonathan Schwarz, and Ian Thomas. (2100 Smallman St., Strip District; BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery, 500 Grant St., Downtown; 412/261-7003, contemporarycraft.org)

Through Nov. 6/ A husband and wife from Westmoreland County showcase their talents together — but with different styles, different perspectives, different media — in Places and People: Nora and Stuart Thompson, featuring about 100 pieces. Nora is an artist who’s also a graphic designer and illustrator who has done work for children’s books. Stuart, a retired college professor, is represented by oil-on-canvas paintings of mostly out-of-doors subjects and works in clay.
(Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Ligonier Valley, 1 Boucher Lane, Ligonier, Westmoreland County; 724/238-6015, sama-art.org)

Through Feb. 6/ Every picture tells a story. True. But that aphorism doesn’t always capture the whole picture. Sometimes multiple photos are needed to tell a story or capture a subject in all its dimensions. Strength in Numbers: Photography in Groups, a photography show that draws from all four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, makes that point with nearly 100 prints dating from the late 1800s to now. Organized around three themes — People, Place and Perspective — the show includes work by Andy Warhol, Eugène Atget, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Mike Kelly, Sharon Lockhart and more.
(Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)

photo by cassie kay rusnak


Oct. 8/ Second Saturdays at The Space Upstairs welcomes East Liberty native Moe Seager, a Paris-based jazz poet and blues singer. The improvisational evening, presented by director and choreographer Pearlann Porter, features new and experimental pieces by the resident artists, spontaneous creative collaborations, live music, poetry and postjazz method dance. (214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze; 412/225-9269, thespaceupstairs.org

photo by Martha Rial


Oct. 7-9/ “Architecture with and without Le Corbusier,” an exhibition of architectural models and renderings by French architect and teacher José Oubrerie, inspires the latest incarnation of Some Assembly Required. The performance is Attack Theatre’s interactive improvisational event in which audience commentary on selected artworks influences the culminating live dance and music premiere. (Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland; attacktheatre.com/sar)

Oct. 21-22/ New York-based Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company offers Analogy/Dora: Tramontane (2015), a 25-episode production of contemporary dance, narrative and song inspired by the memories of nurse and social worker Dora Amelan, who worked with the Jewish underground in Vichy, France during the Second World War. Choreographed by Jones, Janet Wong and the troupe’s nine dancers, the opus is accompanied by French songs, Franz Schubert lieder and electronic music. (August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666, trustarts.org)

photo by saul shiffman


Sept. 30–Oct. 1/ Bubble wrap and egg cartons meet modern dance at the Re:NEW Festival (through Oct. 9), an eco-friendly event focusing on creative repurposing, sustainability and transformation. Choreographer Joan Wagman premieres Keepers, a trio danced amid a maze of common discards. (623 Smithfield St., Downtown; 412/391-2060, renewfestival.com)

photo by duane rieder


 Oct. 28-30/ Internationally known designer Peter Farmer revitalizes Giselle (1841) with new costumes and scenic designs for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of the two-act romantic ballet. Originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the tale of love and betrayal unfolds in the Rhine Valley mist where ghostly, jilted maidens seek revenge on unfaithful lovers. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra provides live accompaniment. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666, pbt.org)


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