Boeing, Boeing

21427438_10154733323486976_7798150765565575284_oA funning thing happened when I got home from the airport!

Set in a Paris flat, this Mad Man era play was written by French playwright Marc Carmoletti. The lying lothario Bernard (Justin Mohr) has managed to acquire three fiancés with associated benefits. How do you ask? They are all flight attendants and by carefully studying their flight schedules, Bernard has gotten engaged to all three without them knowing about each other. Yet.

His not so willing accomplice in this misrepresentation is his housekeeper, Berthe (Shelly Spataro). She dutifully changes out the pictures and cooks their regionally appropriate meals in step with Bernard’s master schedule, complaining all the while.

All this seems to be working out perfectly until Bernard’s old college friend Robert shows up unannounced for a visit at a most inappropriate time.  All three of the stewardesses have short layovers in Paris the same day. Not to worry, Bernard and Berthe have the liaisons planned out like clockwork. If you are wondering where the title Boeing Boeing comes into play, the dawn of the jet age and speedier travel looks like it could throw a monkey wrench into this well-orchestrated scheme.

First to arrive is Gloria (Sarah McKee) a Savanah girl in search of a husband. She’s no sooner out the door than the spirited Italian Gabriella (Ashley Harmon) arrives for lunch and a quickie, before her flight out. Scheduled for dinner is the German fräu·lein Gretchen. The well-laid plans start to fall apart as Robert becomes increasingly unable to keep the women and their schedules straight in his mind and he starts to slip up in front of each of them. Despite Robert’s best efforts to run interference, once their flights start to get delayed, arrive early or are flights canceled, the prospect of the three women meeting each other becomes inevitable.

As the catastrophe looms, director Ron Ferrara ramps up the physical comedy in this charmingly funny farce. By playing up both the historical stereotypes of the characters and the innocent physical comedy, Boeing-Boeing won the Best Revival of a Play Tony in 2008. Ferrara continues that approach in his direction. Ten years after the Broadway revival, the sweet and sexually adventurous southern girl, sexy Italian babe, German dominatrix and complaining servant could be considered offensive stereotypes. Ferrara and the cast navigate that concern with the right mix of silliness that doesn’t quite get to the level of slapstick.

At the end, everyone comes out very happy, by means you wouldn’t have imagined. The journey to resolution is what makes this farce so satisfying.

The are several standout performances.  Shelly Spataro as Berthe brings great gestures and facial expressions to the extremely competent, frustrated and underappreciated housekeeper. Her interplay with Bernard is priceless.  Chris Patrick’s Robert is the perfect combination of hapless innocence, fascination, and envy. His kissing scene with Gloria is perfection, not to mention his lust for Gretchen.

Chris Patrick as Robert carries the bulk of the dialogue. There are a few tongue twisters there that caught him on opening night but recovery was good.  His character is believable in part because he comes across as actually caring for each of his fiancés. Sarah McKee, Ashley Harmon and the over the top Pamela Farneth, as the three stewardesses, all capture the essence of their characters.

Richard Caugherty set design serves the production well. Clark Stewarts lighting is perfect in its functional simplicity. Matt Mlynarski’s costumes capture the stylized airline uniforms of the day. All the design elements support the production without distracting from it.

For a nostalgic and fun look back at the pre-feminist 60’s, this production of Boeing-Boeing is a great trip. Fasten your seatbelts, turbulence is expected!

Boeing-Boeing by Orchard Performing Arts Company is at the Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont with evening performances at 7:30 pm on September 15, 16, 21,22, 23 and a matinee performance September 17th at 2 pm

For tickets e-mail or call 724-468-5050

PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 3

This third post covers the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (PNWF) Programs C & D! Six new one-act plays will be produced during this portion of the festival, all performed at the Carnegie Stage in Carnegie. If you missed the first post on PNWF check it out hereand the second one here

“One of my favorite parts about the festival is that since they are all new plays, the stories are all a surprise.”

Andy Coleman, PNWF Communications Director

Detailed ticket information follows at the end of this post. For more information about the festival visit

Program C is presented on September 14th, 22nd and 23rd at 8pm, the 16th at 4pm and the 17th at 2pm.

destinyDestiny is a Careless Waiter

by Julie Zaffarano

Broomall, PA

Produced by R-ACT Theatre Productions


Sean invites Emily to dinner to propose marriage. He brings his grandmother’s engagement ring to the restaurant and instructs the server to place the ring in Emily’s dessert. Justin invites Bria to the same restaurant at the same time, planning to break up with her. When the engagement ring intended for Emily ends up in Bria’s dessert, the chaos begins.

Julie Zaffarano is an emerging playwright in the Philadelphia area. Her play, The Play Makers, was named the Winner in the 2016 What If? Productions Annual Playwrights Festival. Julie holds two Masters Degrees: MA in Classical Studies and an MS in Organization Science from Villanova University.

Romeo and Juliet:  Epiloguer and j

by William Sikorski

Birchwood Village, MN

Produced by Actors Civic Theater


The subsequent criminal investigation of the multiple homicide at Juliet’s tomb. Detectives Davis and Stanley interrogate Friar Lawrence at the Verona 41st Precinct Police Station.

William H. Sikorski lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, where he works as a laboratory manager for 3M. In his (limited) spare time he writes (very) short plays. He has had several 10-minute, 1-minute and even a 1-second play produced.

branniganThe Wrong Brannigan

by Lezlie Revelle

Olathe, KS

Produced by McKeesport Little Theater


Mistaken identity and bad timing wreak havoc on a family full of secrets!

Lezlie Revelle is a playwright, author and singer-songwriter from the Midwest. Lezlie’s plays have been produced and won awards across the United States, including New York, Kansas City, and San Diego.

Program D’s performances are September 15th, 1th and 21st at 8pm, the 23rd at 4pm and the 25th at 2pm

When You Are a Little Bit Olderolder

by Matthew Weaver

Spokane, WA

Produced by Thoreau, NM – A Production Company


Cooper and Ava have a hot date at the movies, but Cooper’s younger brother Owen tags along. Everything’s going as well as can be expected until Owen runs out of popcorn …

Matthew Weaver is a Spokane, Wash., playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed in Washington State, Canada, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.


by Fred Perry

Roswell, GA

Produced by The South Hills Players


Bernie Heller has always been a bit of a schmo. And his life hit bottom today. Miserable, divorced, and a brilliant but failed artist, Bernie finally decided to end it all by getting smashed, then hanging himself – with a child’s skip rope. But when he jumped off the ladder, the thin rope snapped, the fall resulting in two broken ankles. Now three sheets to the wind and totally helpless, he calls the only person who can get him back on his feet: his renowned brother, Doctor Sid Heller.

Fred Perry is a produced playwright and screenwriter authoring six feature films for Omega Entertainment. Fred’s plays have been performed in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Georgia, where his two-act comedy, The Ascension of Twyla Potts premiered last October at the Rome Little Theatre.

Story Roadstory

by Mark Cornell

Chapel Hill, NC

Produced by Stage Right Pittsburgh


Directed by Joe Eberle, winner of the 2016 Donna Award for Outstanding Director

Cleveland is a struggling singer-songwriter and, after losing their house, has taken his 15-year-old daughter Ellie on the road. One night, tired of the hard life they are leading, Ellie decides to run away.

Mark Cornell has had more than 70 of his plays produced in theatres around the world, from England to Australia to Singapore and all across the U.S.. He has an MFA in playwriting from UCLA.

The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is a great opportunity for you to checkout new plays as well as the work of our region’s many talented actors, directors and companies.

For tickets:

Visit or 1-888-71-TICKETS (1-888-718-4253) to reserve your seats by phone.

Main Stage Festival passes are $40. Pick your own dates with the Flex Pass or select one of the pre-built packages for a specific day and time. Either way you can experience every new play in the Festival and save a few bucks over single ticket prices.

Show times are Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm

Single Tickets Prices $15 Regular Admission ($17 at the Door) $12 Students and Under 25 ($14 at the Door)

Carnegie Stage is located at 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA  15106.  There is plenty of free parking and a great variety of restaurants and shops within easy walking distance of the theater

A final note: The final dress rehearsals of Pittsburgh New Works mainstage shows are open to the public and feature American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live audio description for our guests.  Learn more and reserve your seat for an accessible final dress rehearsal at

Six a Breast: The Absurd Life of Women

sabLuckily for us, Beth Corning’s moved to Pittsburgh in 2003 to serving as Artistic Director of Dance Alloy. In 2010, she launched (to critical acclaim) CORNINGWORKS as a vehicle for “seasoned” performers and artists over 40. Her Glue Factory Project was an outgrowth of that mission.

Her latest work, Six A Breast, is a brilliantly executed exploration of what she finds as “ridiculous” about being a woman. The performance is a series of very short scenes that chart expectations that shape a women’s experiences on her journey through life. Those expectations are driven by our societal & cultural norms and some are self-imposed. Upon reflection, many are ridiculous, some absurd. Corning says: “Six A Breast encapsulates the lunacy of all our lives, no matter the gender, but women . . . they got the “mother lode” backward and in heels.”

Corning uses a style familiar to those of us of a certain age, that of the quick “Laugh In” vignette, we grew up watching. Early MTV, Sesame Street and today’s” viral” videos share that short attention span style. In Six A Breast it is not so much choppy quick cuts but a flow or a progression through the chronologic milestones of a woman’s life. The scenes are illusions, not in your face representations, of sex, childbirth, manners, behaviors and the conundrums that women face.

The stories are told mostly in dance by three female characters, performed by Beth Corning, Sally Rousse, and Laurie Van Wieren. Each is unique in appearance, mood, and behavior, but all will remind you of someone in your life.

The last scene, with the three ladies all seated together on a bench, deliver Samuel Beckett’s one-hundred- twenty-seven word most perfect play, Come and Go, in near darkness.sab2
Corning and Costume Designer Lindsey Peck Scherloum clad the women in white, in the style of “the uniform of the day” appropriate to each vignette. This with the exception of the last scene, which is “in living color”.

The production design is a stark black stage with minimal props helping to create the illusion. Iain Court’s pure white lighting design bathes and sculpts the women with nuanced yet dramatic subtlety.

Corning and Recording Engineer Greg Reierson have created a developed a perfectly matched score so tightly integrated that it’s hard to imagine which idea came first; the story, the choreography or the music.

Let us not forget this is a Dance Theatre piece, and choreography is front and center in the journey. There are snippets and longer form styles and genres of dance, each again perfectly applied to that phase of life’s journey.

You will laugh, cry, gasp and applaud these women as the present the absurd life of women. At the end of the opening nights performance, following the bows, the audience didn’t want to leave, sitting quietly and reflecting on what they had just seen.

Mothers, take your daughters to see Six A Breast. Women, if your partner is one of those unfortunate creatures, a man, take him with you. Regardless of who you go with, and do go with someone, this show will spark interesting conversations on the way home.

Remaining performances are September 7th to 10th at the New Hazlett Theatre on Pittsburgh’s North Side as follows:

Thursday at 8 pm includes the 7:15 pm pre-performance Bare Arms series How to Say “No”: with Joy with Christiane Dolores

Friday at 8 pm with the 7:15 pm pre-performance Bare Arms series No, You Take Out the Garbage; the art of negotiation & delegation with Jen Saffron and post-performance informal cast talk-­‐back

Saturday at 8 pm includes the 7:15 pm pre-performance Bare Arms series On Beauty, the Good, Bad, Ugly guest Artist TBA

Sunday 2 pm with “pay-what-you-can admission” available only at the door, regular reserved tickets are available online.

For tickets visit

Thanks to Corningworks for complimentary press tickets.

Schoolhouse Rock Live

21125789_1511286128917714_3482032584399113952_oFirst, there was Schoolhouse Rock, a series of short educational music videos that covered subjects ranging from history, grammar, and math, etc. The series was the brainchild of a Madison Avenue adman when he noticed his kids could remember the lyrics to rock songs but not the rules of grammar. It premiered on the ABC Television Network in 1970 and it survives today on You Tube and other streaming services.

Schoolhouse Rock Live begins with what sounds like a modern school bell, but it is actually the alarm of Tom Mizer, a young teacher about to start his first day in the classroom.

As he awakes Tom (Michael Petrucci) begins to practice his teaching technique. In an attempt to relax and calm down he turns on the TV. What would be on but Schoolhouse Rock! He gets drawn into the show and yet begins to think he’s lost his mind becoming a teacher.

Tom has several imaginary friends helping him this first morning that lead into and setup the now classic Schoolhouse Rock songs; “A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing”, “Three is a Magic Number”, “Just a Bill”, “Do the Circulation”, “Conjunction Junction” and “Interplanet Janet”.

As the show moves through the songs, Tom realizes he is ready to teach, but before he heads to school he requests of his “friends” his personal favorite, “Interjections”.

You might have seen the original Schoolhouse Rock videos, or perhaps even eSchoolhouse Rock Live, or School House Rocks Live, Jr. but in all probability, you have never seen this rejiggered version as envisioned Directors by Larissa and Michael Petrucci. Their production has become more of a characterless musical revue, lacking in drama. In a sense, it comes off more as a frantic middle school dance recital.

Here at the Comtra Theatre, Tom is not seen on stage until the end of the show, he is just an off-stage voice. Any opportunity for interaction with his alter ego’s imaginary friends has been lost.  This staging affords us no ability to see Tom’s worry and angst as his first-day teaching draws near.

The imaginary friends have been reduced from five to three and renamed Lacey (Larissa Petrucci), Myah (Myah Davis) and Nikki (Nicole Uram).  There are nineteen other preteens and children who make up the rest of the cast.  This quickly fills Comtra’s fifteen by fifteen foot in-the-round stage with little room for them to act or react.

Even though we can’t see Tom, there are two TVs hung in the corners that show the original Schoolhouse videos as the kids sing along. You find yourself watching them more than the performers. Unfortunately, the live action singing doesn’t sync cohesively with the videos, they usually end before the singing does. The wireless microphones were not cooperating at this performance.

The musicians led by Conductor and Keyboardist Amy Kamp with Samuel Costanza are spot on perfect. There are so many other things that aren’t, you almost don’t notice how really good the musicians are.

This production of School House Rock was a great opportunity for children gain experience performing on stage and their parents to enjoy watching them. Yes, there is nothing cuter than seeing your kids perform at their first show. For the rest of the audience, not so much.

The Schoolhouse Rock Live is reimagined at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday Evenings from now through September 16th at the Comtra Theatre in Cranberry, PA. For tickets visit

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall: 2017 Edition

The dog days of summer are behind us and it’s time to look forward to a fall full of refreshing musicals. Our 2017 Top Five Fall Musical Theatre Preview shows feature two Tony Award winning “big” musicals Kiss Me Kate and Annie, The Good Bye Girl, Side Show and Clue round out our preview. These shows won’t bust your budget with ticket prices that hover around $20. Here they are in order of opening dates.

goodbyeNeil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl at the Theatre Factory kicks off our 2017 Fall Musicals Preview.

Egotistical actor Elliot Garfield sublets a friend’s Manhattan apartment only to discover it is still occupied by his friend’s ex-girlfriend Paula, a former dancer, and her precocious pre-teen daughter Lucy. Initially suspicious and antagonistic, Elliot and Paula arrive at an uneasy truce. Paula, fed up with being hurt by boyfriend-actors, rashly vows never to become involved again while Elliot sets down the rules for the living arrangements.

While they attempt to cohabit as peacefully as possible, despite their differences of opinion and temperament. Elliot and Paula find themselves attracted to each other. When Elliot finds a job out-of-town, Paula realizes that this is the true love she has been seeking, and they reach a happy ending

The Good Bye Girl September 14th to 24th at the Theatre Factory in Trafford PA.  For tickets please call the Box office 412 374 9200 (leave a message on voice mail) or email: 

sideSide Show asks the question that haunts us all: “Who will love me as I am?”

This Tony nominated Best Musical tells the true story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became famous stage performers. Their extraordinary bond brings them fame but denies them, love. The story is told almost entirely in song, and follows their transition from England to America, the vaudeville circuit, and then to Hollywood on the eve of their appearance in the 1932 movie Freaks.

Rob Jessup one of Split Stages co-founders tells me this will be “the first production of the 2014 revival in this area.” The revival delves deeper into the backstory of the Hilton twins including their relationship with Harry Houdini and the concept of proposed separation surgery.  It will be interesting to see Split Stages interpretation of the characters which inhabit the side show community that support the ladies.

Side Show is Directed by Jim Scriven with Music Direction by Joy Hessand and Choreography by Laura Wurzell. Rori Mull and Victoria Buchtan play Daisy and Violet.

Split Stage’s production of Side Show is at the intimate Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont with performances October 6th to 14th. For tickets visit. 

ClueClue at the Little Lake Theatre gives the audience a change to help solve this “who-done-it.”

The musical is based on the popular board game. It brings the familiar suspects of the game to life. The audience chooses the potential outcome from cards which represent the murderers, weapons, and rooms – there are 216 possible solutions! Comic antics, witty lyrics, and a seductive score carry the investigation from room to room.

This show has made the rounds of university and community theatres in our area this past year. However, Little Lake Theatre has a reputation for producing quirky off beat shows that work well in their cozy “theatre in the round” environment and the intermission desserts are top notch also. If you haven’t seen Clue yet, this is the place to see it.

Clue at the Little Lake Theatre, October 12th to 14th, 19th to 21st and  26th to 28th

for Tickets

WebPosterKATEThe Tony Award winning best musical Kiss Me, Kate at the Pittsburgh Playhouse features music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Point Park University with its nationally recognized musical theatre and dance programs do a great job with big musicals and over the top dance numbers, so expect a lively and fun filled production of this 1949 classic.

The story involves the production of a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show’s director, producer, and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul of some gangsters.

Point Park University’s Head of Musical Theatre, Zeva Barzell directs and choreographs this show bringing favorite numbers like Too Darn Hot to life on the Rockwell stage with the talented students of the Conservatory. (Point Park is #8 in the number of graduates on Broadway this season, CMU is #4.)

Kiss Me, Kate runs October 20th to 29th with a preview on October 19. For Tickets visit

annie300x300Stage 62 presents Annie our second Tony Award winning Best Musical choice for the fall.

With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan Annie charms everyone’s hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage that is run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. In adventure after adventure, Annie foils Hannigan’s evil machinations… and even befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt! She finds a new home and family in billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary, Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.

This depression era show was first produced on Broadway in 1977 and is Directed by Rob James, Choreography by Devyn Brown with Musical Direction by Cynthia Dougherty. The Stage 62 troupe always seems to be having contagious fun performing, Annie should be no exception.

Annie presented by Stage 62 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie. Performances Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 9th to 11th and 16th to 18th at 8 pm, Sunday matinees on November 12th and 19th at 2 pm. Tickets at:

Our top five is just a small slice of a dozen or more musicals playing this fall in our area, So check back with PITR throughout the season. There is a show for almost every taste from two with high stepping dance number to ones with almost no dancing at all and four of our five are “all about love.”

PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 2

This second post covers the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (PNWF) Programs A & B! Six new one-act plays will be produced during this portion of the festival, all performed at the Carnegie Stage in Carnegie. If you missed the first post on PNWF check it out here.

“One of my favorite parts about the festival is that since they are all new plays, the stories are all a surprise.”

Andy Coleman, PNWF Communications Director

Detailed ticket information follows at the end of this post. For more information about the festival visit

Program A performances are on August 31st September 8th and 9th at 8pm and September 2nd at 4pm and September 3rd at 2pm.

rooseveltRoosevelt’s Ghosts

by Aaron Scully

Warresnburg, MO

Produced by CCAC South Campus


On February 14th, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt suffered the loss of his mother and his wife within hours of each other. Legend has it that Roosevelt spent time in his study alone and when he came out he hardly ever spoke of his mother or wife again. This play explores one idea of what may have happened during that time in his study.

Aaron Scully is a playwright, director, actor, teacher and scholar. Most recently he was awarded an Outstanding Achievement in Dramatic Writing from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

The Pivotpivot

by Seth Freeman

Pacific Palisades, CA

Produced by The Summer Company


In this very short play’s genre-bending structure, an apparently well-qualified job applicant simultaneously faces and doesn’t face unexpected obstacles.

Seth Freeman’s plays have been presented at over a hundred fifty theaters and festivals around the world. He has received multiple Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, Golden Globes and numerous other honors for screenwriting, fiction writing, and journalism.

timeDoing Time

by Mary Poindexter McLaughlin

East Aurora, NY

Produced by The Theatre Factory


Confined in an undefined time and place, a young man attempts to write his “Book of Life” amidst the interruptions of an old man. Together, they argue about the significance of memory and the consequences of an undocumented life, ultimately helping each other learn the greatest lesson of all: the freedom of letting go.

Mary Poindexter McLaughlin holds a BA in English from Stanford University, where she was the recipient of Stanford’s Golden Grant Award for playwriting. Her plays have been finalists in the Samuel French One-Act Festival.

Program B runs September 1st, 2nd and 7th at 8pm and the 9th at 4pm and 10th at 2pm.

Exit Strategyexit

by Tom Moran

Fairbanks, AK

Produced by The Heritage Players


Sean has a brilliant strategy to avoid getting dumped: hit ’em with paperwork.

Tom Moran has been produced 33 times in 19 different cities in 13 states Tom holds a bachelor’s in English from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

finalAll Sales Final

by John Yarbrough

New York, NY

Produced by Cup-A-Jo Productions


When a dying man puts his life insurance policy up for sale to the highest bidder, all involved prepare to meet their maker.

John Yarbrough is a playwright in New York City. His plays have been performed throughout the country, and his play Petra was a selection for the Best American Short Plays 2014-2015.


by Evan W. Saunders

Nanticoke, PA

Produced by The Red Masquers


Two friends wait for a train, trapped in a memory on repeat. Only the truth will set them free, but in this strange world of changing conversations and bagel-carrying sparrows, what if one doesn’t want to leave?

Evan W. Saunders’ plays have been performed as a part of the 2016 Pittsburgh New Works Festival and the Duquesne University Red Masquers’ Premieres Festival. His first full-length play, All in the Numbers, is currently in development.

Stay tuned for more information on Programs C and D in Part 3 coming soon!

For tickets:

Visit or 1-888-71-TICKETS (1-888-718-4253) to reserve your seats by phone.

Main Stage Festival passes are $40. Pick your own dates with the Flex Pass or select one of the pre-built packages for a specific day and time. Either way you can experience every new play in the Festival and save a few bucks over single ticket prices.

Show times are Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm

Single Tickets Prices $15 Regular Admission ($17 at the Door) $12 Students and Under 25 ($14 at the Door)

Carnegie Stage is located at 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA  15106.  There is plenty of free parking and a great variety of restaurants and shops within easy walking distance of the theater.

A final note: The final dress rehearsals of Pittsburgh New Works mainstage shows are open to the public and feature American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and live audio description for our guests.  Learn more and reserve your seat for an accessible final dress rehearsal at


Duquesne Red Masquers’ Ambitious 105th Season

105Pittsburgh’s oldest amateur theatre company, The Duquesne Red Masquers has quite the ambitious upcoming 105th season. Orphie and the Book of Heroes, The Busy Body, Macbeth and Equus would be a challenge for any professionally staffed company let alone a university company. Nathaniel Yost, Red Masquers’ President says “This upcoming season is going to be fantastic!”

The Red Masquers’ roots go back to the late 1800s. The company provides an opportunity for students to learn about and participate in theater regardless of their major, background or experience.

I asked Yost how they picked their choices for such a challenging season. “The Red Masquers, as part of a university theater program, has several missions to fill. The group presents plays from a wide spectrum of historical eras, styles, and types of drama. We try to choose plays that will be incorporated into class offerings in the semester that the works are being presented. We are also committed to developing and promoting new works of art, and we usually produce one world premiere a season. This year’s season was selected to showcase our talented seniors and alumni, as well as, co-ordinate with The National Conference of 18th Century Women Writers that will be hosted by Duquesne University.”

dasfefeOpening this season is Orphie and the Book of Heroes! a new musical by Duquesne alumnus Christopher Dimond.  Orphie was commissioned for and premiered at the Kennedy Center. This will be only the fourth production of the new musical. Jill Jeffrey who is Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s Gemini Children’s Theatre directs. The musical follows the story of a young girl in Ancient Greece, who is obsessed with the stories that her guardian Homer has told her. She longs, though, to hear a story about a hero like her, a Great Girl Hero. When Homer is taken from her, Orphie sets out on a quest to rescue him from the Underworld, and discovers that the hero she’s been looking for might be closer than she thought. This one-act musical is filled with humor, unexpected character twists, and fun mash-ups of Greek Culture and our modern world. Orphie and the Book of Heroes is an entertaining musical for all ages.

Next is The Busy Body directed by John E. Lane, Jr., Director of Duquesne University’s Theatre Arts program.  Susanna Centlivre’s play is a fast-paced comedy with a good measure of wit. It is a laugh-out-loud, one-of-a-kind, social satire about people who can’t mind their own business. The Busy Body comes from one of the great female playwrights of the 18th century and is simply one of the most successful comedies of intrigue from its time.

The Busy Body, will be offered for The National Conference of 18th Century Women Writers.

The Red Masquers will produce One Acts for Charity. This is a group of one act plays directed and performed by the students of the university. The money donated during these shows benefits a local charity that will be revealed at a later date.

The second semester starts off with Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is directed by Duquesne senior Dora Farona! The “Scottish play” is a classical masterpiece of the macabre. Macbeth transforms as he resists and gives way to his ambitious urges, which lead him to be tempted into committing heinous acts. It is a dark and bloody show, filled with rage, grief, and an unquenchable thirst for power.

Macbeth will be the senior thesis project for several of the Theater Arts majors, Director Dora Farona, actor Nathaniel Yost (Macbeth), and Sound Designer, Anna Cunningham.

Following Macbeth, is Equus written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Justin Sines who also Serves as Technical Director of the Genesius Theatre at Duquesne and who also directs for Pittsburgh’s Summer Company. This stage show, which won winner 1975 Tony Award for Best Play, tells the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious fascination with horses.

Equus rounds out the season as a thought-provoking, modern play that challenges young scholars about both social structures and the nature of passion.

Finally, the Red Masquers close off their season with Premieres XLI! Premieres offers a time for any current student or faculty member to see their work on stage. After the plays are chosen by the directors, productions will begin with a collaborative process between the actors, directors, and writers. This will be directed and performed by students of the university.

The Red Masquers have a jam-packed season, everyone is invited to come enjoy some interesting theatre.

Tickets can be purchased at

All productions are at the Genesius Theatre on the Duquesne University campus.

Go Back for Murder

gbfmThe Summer Company presents Agatha Christie’s Go Back for Murder, an unusual take on the traditional murder mystery. What could be more exciting than family secrets, intrigue, suspense, romance and seduction?

The story begins as a young English woman from Canada, Carla Crale (Rebekah Hukill), returns to England, to try and discover the truth behind her father’s death. Her mother died in prison following her conviction for poisoning her husband, Carla’s father.  When Carla turned of age, she was given a letter her mother wrote to her, proclaiming her innocence, which sent Carla on her quest to find the truth.

Carla enlists the help of a young solicitor, Justin Fogg (Grant Jones), who was at her mother’s trial, in order to help her locate some of the people who were present when her father died. This, over the objections of her boorish fiancée Jeff Rodgers (Nathaniel Yost).

In the first act, which is set in 1962, Carla meets with those present on the day of her father’s death at Alderbury House on the south coast of England. Each is asked to ‘go back’ to the day of her father’s death in order to recount their version of the events.

In the second act, the action slips seamlessly from 1948, the year in which the murder actually occurred and 1962. Justin and Carla successfully manage a semi-reconstruction at the murder scene with all the witnesses. Together they uncover the various inconsistencies in testimonies and the drama arrives at the disturbing truth.

The story is interesting in its own right as we follow the plots twists and turns on the way to discovering the real truth about Carla’s father’s murder. What really makes the Summer Company’s production of Go Back for Murder is the casting. The eleven characters are portrayed by a great group local Pittsburgh area actors young and old.  The older seasoned actors make the difference, but none of the ensemble should be discounted in terms of their abilities.

It is Susan McGregor-Laine as Mrs. Williams, the former governess for Angela, Mrs. Crale’s half-sister, that really steals the show. It’s not just her lines that draw frequent laughter but her years of experience that create a fully realized portrayal of her character. The nuances, gestures, and movements are perfectly timed with her delivery.

Phillip and Meredith Blake, two gentlemen who have known Carla since she was a youngster are perfectly played by Jay Keenan and Mark Yochum. They capture the bond of two elderly brothers who seem share everything but know nothing about each other. It was quite the pleasure to watch these two “dance” around all the shenanigans that were happening at Alderbury back in 1948.

There is an interesting production twist which was executed quite well. Grant Jones plays both the younger attorney Justin Fogg and Carla’s Crale’s father Amayas. Rebekah Hukill plays both Carla and her mother Caroline. During the first act, it’s the contemporary Justin and Carla. In the second act, they bounce back and forth from ’48 to ’62 fairly seamlessly thanks to some costume magic.  I was less impressed with their performance in Act One than Two, both seeming to be more at ease in their 1948 characters.

Nora Lee plays the physically scarred Angela Warren, the younger half sibling of Caroline. She transitions from the worldly older Angela to the bratty schoolgirl with the shift of a pony tail and a change of gait.

The cast is rounded out by Ron Silver Waruszewski as the Lurch-like butler, Juliette Mariani as Amyas’ mistress Lady Melksham and Nathaniel Yost as Carla’s briefly seen fiancée Jeff Rogers.

Jill Jeffery has secured some very elegant costumes including some fabulous fur collared coats perfect for the plays time of year and cold drafty offices and houses.

Director John Lane Jr’s., one of the founders of the Summer Company, has an extensive resume directing ensemble dramas and uses all the tricks he’s learned to create an engaging and enjoyable evening of theatre. He also does double duty as set designer finding clever ways to fit all the locales and actors on the cozy Genesius stage. Though one criticism would be Dale Hess’ lighting design which seemed to often leave actors faces just outside of their light.

The Summer Company’s production of Go Back for Murder is an entertaining evening of theatre with a company of wonderful actors in a comfortable setting that should not be missed.

Go Back for Murder with performances August 19th – 27th at the Genesius Theater on the campus of Duquesne University, adjacent to the Mary Pappert School of Music

Tickets at the door or online at

Thanks to the Summer Company for the complementary tickets.

Billy Elliot

f67fb6ad296f2fb7ed2598f303489535Keystone Performing Arts Academy presents Billy Elliot the Musical based on the 2000 film by the same name. The music is by Elton John, and the book and lyrics are by Lee Hall, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The musical opened in 2005 in London followed by a Broadway run that won ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The story is set against the turbulent background of the 1984-85 miners’ strike in the northern mining village of Easington, England.  You can easily see how this story could occur in any small mining or manufacturing town in the States. Billy (Blaise Meanor) is a motherless pre-teen boy beginning to grow up and searching for his calling.

As is so often the custom in small rural communities, the son is expected to follow in his father Jackie’s (J. Alex Noble) footsteps and become a miner like his brother Tony (Chris Morris), and his father’s father before him.

In hopes for a different future for Billy, the family scrapes together 50 pence per week for him to go to the boxing class at the union hall. It becomes obvious during the lessons from miner and obnoxious boxing instructor George (Cody Sweet) that boxing is not going to be Billy’s calling.

After the boxing class, Billy is assigned to pass the hall keys on to the leader of a dance class, the exuberant and frustrated Mrs. Wilkinson (Chelsea Bartel). Billy lingers a bit and finds himself connecting with the music and its ability to cause him to “dance”.

With some persuasion from Mrs. Wilkerson, Billy decides to secretly join the class (secretly since his family would never understand) as “boxing is for lads, not ballet”. At home, his grandmother (Cynthia Dougherty) reveals her abusive relationship with her dead husband.  She too loved to dance, which was her mental escape from the abuse.

Billy confides his dance class attendance to his friend Michael (Sam O’Neill), who is happy to listen while he dresses up in his sister’s clothing , a pastime he can explain away very simply: “Me Dad does it all the time.” Free expression, is after all, Michael’s theme.

His dancing secret isn’t kept for long, and anger erupts when Billy’s father discovers that his son has been frittering away his hard won 50 pence on ballet instead of boxing. Mrs. Wilkinson believes in Billy’s innate talent and makes a secret offer of free lessons to prepare Billy  for an audition for the Royal Ballet School.

The strike, meanwhile, is getting more and more heated. There are pitched battles between the police and the miners that split friends and spur Tony Elliot to take the law into his own hands as he raids his father’s toolbox for a weapon to use against the police.

Billy’s father unexpectedly stumbles upon him dancing.  Mr. Elliot, moved by Billy’s dance heads off to see Mrs. Wilkinson and find out more about the audition for the ballet school. He is determined to create a better life for Billy outside of the mine even if means becoming a scab to earn money in order to pay for the audition and tuition.

Tony and the strikers agree to pool together what little money they have to help Billy go to London to audition. Additional money offered from the mining company itself is unwelcome but it provides the resources to send Billy and his father to the audition in London.

The principal characters in this production with the exception of Blaise Meanor’s Billy and Sam O’Neill’s Michael are not very likable. Under Chris Saunders direction, pretty much everyone else comes across as angry, almost yelling their lines. Anger is an appropriate reaction for a community struggling with the lack of food and money resulting from a long labor strike. However, anger alone does not create empathy between audience and characters. There also needs to be conveyed a sense of hopelessness and frustration amongst the villagers. There also needs to be a shared connection with the audience; “gosh this could happen to me”.

Meanor is a 14-year-old student at Seneca Valley Intermediate High School with a nice developing voice. He is not a fabulous dancer, but neither is Billy. “Both” have inherent talent that needs to be nurtured and developed.

O’Neill’s as Billy’s cross-dressing fun loving best friend offers a charming and refreshing break from the others characters’ anger. The line “Me Dad does it all the time” drew a nice tension breaking laugh from the audience. O’Neill was campy but subtle and a breath of fresh air despite his character’s struggle to fit in with the community.

Cynthia Dougherty’s revealing performance of Grandma’s Song was unfortunately marred by microphone disappearance on this night.

Credit goes to the entire cast for their efforts in trying to master the Geordie northern English dialect.

Musical Director Carolyn Violi did a nice job handling the score when the sound system cooperated. There were no visible musicians or credited players.

To be compelling this production requires that all characters and the audience feel Billy’s newly discovered passion for dance.  That passion serves to inspire his family and community and changes Billy’s life forever.

For me, this production lacks the “heart, humor and passion” that has generated a legion of fans for Billy Elliot the Musical.

Billy Elliott the Musical presented by Keystone State Music Theatre August 17th and 18th at 8:00 pm at the Rotary Amphitheater in Cranberry Township Community Park (111 Ernie Mashuda Dr., Cranberry Township, PA 16066) 

Unfortunately, Billy Elliot has already closed.

Thanks to Keystone Performing Arts Academy for the complementary tickets.

PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 1

PNWF LOGOIf you are a regular reader of Pittsburgh in the Round I’m sure you have realized that the Pittsburgh area has quite the active theatre scene. From productions at the Cultural District theatres, to small professional theatres, university theatres and community theatres there is a lot going on here. It also means there are lots of opportunities for directors, choreographers, actors, designers and crew to practice their craft.

There is no better place to see many of our non-Equity actors than the Pittsburgh New Works Festival (PNWF) which runs August 20th to September 24th. There will be eighteen new one-act plays produced during the six weeks of the festival all performed at the Carnegie Stage.

“For our 27th season we have playwrights from around the world.”

Dek Ingraham, Festival Director

For playwrights, workshops and staged readings are an important step in the process of the development of a new play. Until a playwright can put their work in front of an audience the script is merely words on paper. To test the plays emotional connection an audience is required. At the PNWF audience members have an opportunity to provide valuable feedback to the playwright, actors and directors. The festival environment gives all participants a unique chance to see several plays in one sitting. One can compare the works of emerging and establish playwrights and observe trends in topics. Lastly any theatre town worth its salt needs to contribute to the development of new works.

“One of my favorite parts about the festival is that since they are all new plays, the stories are all a surprise.”

Andy Coleman, PNWF Communications Director

The six-week-long Festival opens on Sunday August 20th with two consecutive Sunday’s of different plays branded as LabWorks followed by four programs of one-acts rotating over the course of four weeks.

Detailed information regarding tickets is provided at the end of this piece. For further information visit

The following play descriptions and playwright bios are courtesy of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

This first post covers the LabWorks portion of the festival. To help the playwrights continue to develop their work, the Festival invites the audience to give feedback and ask questions at the end of the performances. Tickets for LabWorks are “Pay What You Want” and include drinks and light refreshments as well as the talkback after the performance.

“The LabWorks format is designed to allow our production companies the most flexibility to present their piece in a truly lab setting. Some will choose to have actors on-book with full staging, others may choose to operate under a “readers theater” style with someone reading stage directions.” 

Andy Coleman

The plays on Sunday, August 20th at 7pm are from three different playwrights, each produced by a different Pittsburgh area theatre company.



Wilderness Survival

by Hamilton Kreeger

Baltimore, MD

Produced by The Bobcat Players

An incident on a wilderness survival camp out brings secrets to light and forces difficult choices on those trying to uncover the truth.

Hamilton Kreeger is a lawyer and playwright living in Baltimore, Maryland. His play Sleeping Aide was a previous main stage production at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.FORERUNNERS


by David Healey

Toronto, Ontario

Produced by Little Lake Theatre

Forerunners is a comedy that focuses on storytelling and incorporates some of the folk tales from my home province of Nova Scotia. It takes place in Nova Scotia in the late 1960’s and it is non-traditional in the sense that it foregoes the usual advancement of the story through plot and instead the play is propelled forward by the use of relationship, character development and storytelling. The play revolves around Donald and Jamie who compete to be the best story teller.

David Healey studied as an actor and improviser before turning to writing. His one-man shows have played at numerous fringe festivals.


Golden Land

by John Adams

Richmond Heights, MO

Produced by Prime Stage Theatre


Freddy and Emma meet on a front stoop of a tenement in a New York City’s lower east side, circa 1904. Freddy is a barber and innkeeper with a wife and a daughter. Emma is a reflective, seminal thinker and writer, a former sweatshop seamstress. Freddy intrudes on Emma’s moment of writing and forcing her to listen to stories about his life and success, as he prepares to return to Germany with his wife and newborn daughter…

John Adams was awarded the Ontario College Graduate Certificate in creative writing from the Humber School for Writers. During the past summer, his full-length play In The Shadow of a Dream was staged during the New York City Midtown International Theatre Festival.

On Sunday August 27th, LabWorks presents the second series of three plays, authors and companies.


Where the Wild Ones Play

by Job Ethan Christenson

New York, NY

Produced by Stage Right


A man delves into his past and discovers more than he can allow himself to remember. David recounts his childhood friend, Rachel, a mother figure, friend and delves into a past that brings them together.

Job Ethan Christenson has written The Theist, Mfundo, Out of the Human Town, Where the Wild Ones Play, The Living Trees, In Bed, and Therapy. Job was recently published by Indie Theatre Now.


by Sean Lenhart

Pittsburgh, PA

Produced by Split Stage Productions


A husband and wife argue over the new addition to their family, the husband’s robotic arm. While he sees it as a medical necessity, she views it as symbolic of his trust in long-term relationships. Everything comes to a head when the husband brings in the doctor who installed the arm, exacerbating the whole situation, and leading to a unique solution.

Sean Lenhart is a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts with a degree in Musical Theatre, Sean has been seen on stages across Pittsburgh, Sean acted in the 2016 Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

Chinese PuzzlePUZZLE

by Kate Kasten

Iowa City, IA

Produced by Retro Red Productions


A woman sits in a friend’s kitchen. The woman is upset and tells her friend the story of what’s happened. She’s afraid she’s been banned from the Mennonite second-hand clothing store where she buys much of her wardrobe, especially her beloved “June Cleaver” dresses. After inadvertently breaking store rules on several occasions and incurring the disapproval of the retirees who volunteer there, she commits a further crime by disemboweling a down coat while trying to make it fit.

Kate Kasten is the co-author, with Sandra de Helen, of a musical satire of the Nancy Drew mystery genre, The Clue in the Old Birdbath. She is also the author of three novels (The De-Conversion of Kit Lamb, Ten Small Beds, and Better Days) and Wildwood: Fairy Tales and Fables Re-imagined a book of fairy tales for adults.

The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is a great opportunity for you to checkout new plays as well as the work of our region’s many talented actors, directors and companies.

Check out our next PNWF post for Program A, B, C, and D details.

For tickets:

Visit or 1-888-71-TICKETS (1-888-718-4253) to reserve your seats by phone.

Tickets for LabWorks are “Pay What You Want” and include drinks and light refreshments as well as a talkback after the performance.

Carnegie Stage is located at 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA  15106.  There is plenty of free parking and a great variety of restaurants and shops within easy walking distance of the theater.