Collegiate Preview 2017

Collegiate LogoIt’s THAT time of year again ladies and gentleman! Time to settle back into your daily routine of books and classes for some of you, which means, rehearsals are starting soon! If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll remember our first annual Collegiate Preview from 2016 but if you’re just joining us, welcome to the second annual Collegiate Preview 2017! We’ve got the inside scoop on our old friends at Pittsburgh’s four major universities, plus a check-in with our new friends at Carlow University!

Duquesne University’s student-run Red Masquer’s open their 105th season with Orphie and the Book of Heroes, followed by The Busy Body and some One Acts for Charity this fall, then starting the Spring semester with Macbeth and Equus just to finish it off with a weekend of new plays with Premieres XLI! Find out more in George’s article here. 

The 2017-2018 Subscription series at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama includes The Matchmaker,  Love’s Labor’s Won, The Drowsy Chaperone, and A Bright Room Called Day. Don’t forget to check out their Director’s and New Works series throughout the school year. For more information on what CMU Drama will be bringing to the table, check out Robyne’s article here. 

We’ve got 8 shows for you from the Pittsburgh Playhouse, home to Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company and their professional company The REP. Season offerings include The Scottsboro Boys, Kiss Me, Kate, Uncle Vanya, 42nd Street, You On the Moors Now,  The House of Bernarda Alba,  Gift of the Maji, and A Devil InsideClick here for Brian’s article about their upcoming season.

The University of Pittsburgh Stages brings us a clever mixture of musicals and straight plays in their 2017-2018 season. With classics like Little Shop of Horrors and Parade, to Our Town and Marie Antoinette hitting the stage this year, you’ll be sure to see the season closer Recoil, an original play written and directed by Cynthia Croot. Don’t forget to come back for their Student Lab shows too! Check out Mark’s article here for more details on what Pitt Stages has for us.

Last, but certainly not least, our new friends at Carlow University are presenting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead this October. Be sure to check out Carlow alum Ringa’s piece about their theatre department here. 

Follow along with our Collegiate adventures on our Facebook, Twitterand Instagram with the hashtag #PITRUniversity! Sign up for our email list while you’re at it!

CMU Drama Pulls Out All the Stops this 2017-2018 Season

With the announcement of the 2017-2018 season, the CMU drama department is brimming with excitement about special guest artists in the line-up. The season will boast a Tony-Nominated Guest Director, as well as a Guest Director from the highly acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Professor Peter Cooke AM Ph.D., head of the School of Drama at CMU said of the impending season, “I think what we’ve come to again is a season that is very exciting and very socially aware. It’s got strong political underpinnings, joy, drama and great music.” When asked what she looks most forward to on a personal level, Erin Scott, Communications Coordinator said, “For me, every new season is exciting because I love to see how inventive and brave our students are in their work. The fearlessness with which they approach their visions is inspiring to me.”

Ranked as one of the world’s top theatrical training Conservatory’s, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama is expected to produce the finest theatrical and learning experiences for both students and patrons alike. By exposing students to professional artists who currently work in the field, CMU continues to provide immersive experiences that not only build skill set but create connections and inspire future endeavors. “The school’s conservatory program within the university is one that prepares students intellectually, artistically and practically to be leaders in their chosen professions, whether on stage, in film, television, or within the expanding realm of new media.” – CMU School of Drama. Faculty member Jed Allen Harris said of the season, “It’s a wonderfully diverse season that should both entertain and challenge the school and its audience. This season, as always is designed to provide a valuable and enriching experience for our students. I feel that the student directed productions for the upcoming season will especially provide a wide variety of performative challenges for the actors and designers.”

The School of Drama presents three different series in the season: the Subscription series, the Director series, and the New Work series. The productions in the Subscription Series are all directed, choreographed, and musically directed by professionals. The sets, lights, and costumes are all designed and created by the School of Drama.

Season-Background-images-4The Subscriber Series will open Oct. 5-14 with Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, directed by faculty member Anthony McKay. The play’s most famous adaptation is the renowned musical Hello Dolly.  Turn back the clock to 1880s Manhattan. In a bustling world of cobblestone streets and horse-drawn buggies, Yonkers natives mingle with stylish New Yorkers in search of love and adventure, each one getting more than they bargained for. The Matchmaker is a charming, poignant farce about risk and reward —and, of course, a meddling matchmaker. Director Anthony McKay described the piece thematically in this way: “…the play is a warm humorous exploration of money. What’s it’s real value and what place should it have in our lives? Given our current president, his preoccupation with money and his measuring everything by it, the play seems exceptionally timely.” He added, “…it’s also a rollicking farce of mistaken identities, disguises and narrow escapes accompanied by the clip clop of horses pulling handsome cabs through 1880’s Manhattan. It’s a romantic piece that takes place on that special day, that hopefully happens to us all, when we go a little bit mad, fall in love and, like it or not, have the adventure of our lives.”  When asked why he chose the play to direct, “Peter Cooke,, wanted to do a farce. First, to expose the students to as many comedic styles as possible, but also because he’s always looking for balance in the season and the next show Love Labor’s Won while light hearted has some dramatic threads to it. I had a couple of farces to choose from but when The Matchmaker was offered, I seized on it. I love Wilder’s tolerant view of humanity as well as his humor. Vandergelder’s mirroring Trump’s values gave the play extra relevance. The action takes place in the1880’s but it is a universal story: it happened then, it’s happening now, it will happen in the future. I love the play’s innocence, its love of humanity and, in among all its frolics, its poignancy–watching fools, from two centuries ago who turn out to be very much like us, trying to figure the whole thing out.”

Love’s Labor’s Won, a sequel to Shakespeare’s Loves’ Labors Lost will follow Season-Background-images-3Nov. 16-Dec. 2. The piece has been written and will be directed by Scott Kaiser, the director of company development at the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “I imagined the outbreak of a European war that separates the lovers, not for just a year, but for four years of hardship,” Kaiser said about his piece. “I imagined that each of these lovers suffers a terrible loss, that the crucible of war changes them all, irrevocably. Then, as the fighting subsides, I imagined the couples coming together again, in Paris, for a much-delayed reunion. Will their relationships survive?” The play ends abruptly with the death of the King of France, crushing the romantic endeavors of four young couples. Will their love survive? And, if so, how? Love’s Labor’s Won answers these unresolved questions. After four turbulent years, the lovers meet again in Paris at the signing of an armistice that will end the bloody European War that separated them. The couples soon discover that war has drastically changed their love. But can their love alter the course of the war?

Season-Background-images-5The Drowsy Chaperone, Feb. 22-March 3, will be choreographed and directed by Tony Award-nominated guest director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, with music direction by Thomas Douglas. “When Peter Cooke invited me to CMU to direct and choreograph the show, I jete-ed at the opportunity,” said Milgrom Dodge. “What fun to find the next generation of talent who can keep this genre alive. I look forward to working with the talented students to create our unique production.” Imagine being in the audience awaiting a new Cole Porter show, or one by the Gershwins… Entertainments that transport the hum-drum details of daily life to plotted tales of love in crisis—tales involving gangsters, show people, millionaires, servants and tap dancing. Well, that’s exactly what happens in The Drowsy Chaperone.

The 2017-2018 season will close with Tony Kushner’s timely play, A BrightSeason-Background-images-2 Room Called Day, April 12-28, directed by faculty member Jed Allen Harris who said, “I love plays that concern themselves with questions of politics and art in a theatrical manner.” In this play, you will find yourself in Berlin, 1932 during the twilight months of the Weimar Republic. While fascist forces move to seize control of the government, a group of communists, artists and intellectuals gather to trade stories and drown their fears. Tony Kushner’s poetic and incendiary play follows these women and men as they strive to preserve a world that is tearing apart. In A Bright Room Called Day, the demons of the past are the prophets of the future.

The Director Series, named for Hollywood producer John Wells, a 1979 graduate of CMU’s Drama School, provides students within The John Wells Directing Program with the opportunity to direct and mount plays. This year they will direct the following productions:

  • How to Put on a Sock, adapted from Franz Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, adapted and directed by Fellow Rachel Karp. November 1-3.
  • Medea/Shulie, written and directed by Fellow Sara Lyons. November 29-December 2.
  • Alkestis by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson, directed by Fellow Philip Gates. February 21-23.
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Jennifer Wise, directed by Fellow Stephen Eckert. April 25-28.
  • Smitten devised and directed by Jack Dentinger. February 21-23.
  • I’m Sure I’ll Figure It Out written and directed by Burke Louis. March 21-23.
  • Stumpy Legs Too Short by Katja Brunner, directed by Bronwyn Donohue. April 25-27.
  • Teaching Yourself How to Die Fast, an original film written and directed by Grace McCarthy. Screening Date TBA.

The CMU Drama Department describes the New Works Series as “…the cauldron in which new ideas, concepts and performance practices are presented to our audiences by the next generation of dramatic writers.” The series will take place Nov. 15-18, April 25-29 and is, as yet, TBD. Writers to be showcased are: Gillian Beth Durkee, Ryan Hudak, Lauren Wimmer, Jordan Barsky, HyoJeong Choi and Anderson Cook.

Perhaps a lesser known or unsung highlight of the Drama Department, well worth noting, is the Dramaturgy Program, which will host talkbacks with the audience, casts and crews throughout the season on Tuesday evenings, directly following performances. These informative discussions will cover play background, research and story line development. The dramaturgs also are available to discuss the plays with classes, student groups and public organizations. Interested parties can contact Wendy Arons, dramaturgy option coordinator, at warons@andrew.cmu.edu to schedule a session with a dramaturg.

The CMU season is bursting with delicious possibility.  One wonders just how the school will pull off such a monumental procession of intense and inspiring work. It is this dedication to artistic excellence that keeps CMU at the top of the game.

For package options or to place a subscription order, call the box office at 412-268-2407 between noon and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Special discounts are available to all Carnegie Mellon alumni. All Subscriber Series performances are at 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays   in CMU’s Purnell Center for the Arts. For more information about the School of Drama, visit www.drama.cmu.edu.

**Play descriptions were taken mainly from the CMU school of Drama website.

Carlow University Presents Alumni Show This Fall

528219_10151395835667183_921612747_nFall is approaching, and students are already moving back into the dorms. That means fall semester auditions are about to start at local universities. And although Carlow University in Oakland doesn’t have a theatre degree program, they have an impressive drama group putting on several must-see shows every year. Maybe I’m a bit biased because Carlow is my alma mater and I have spent many hours upon that stage, but Carlow’s shows are consistently underrated. Because there is no dedicated theatre major, all the work that goes into each show is on a volunteer basis. The students that come together to spent hours rehearsing, building sets, and performing are all doing it because they love the art. They give up their free time to make these shows happen, and it really shows in the craft they present.

The cast of the 2008 alumni production of Much Ado About Nothing
The cast of the 2008 alumni production of Much Ado About Nothing

Carlow’s theatre director and professor Steve Fatla has overseen the theatre group at Carlow for many years now, and his enthusiasm for the art is what keeps the group alive and thriving. I can personally say that working with this group is always a fun and rewarding experience, even if we all have the urge to drink many alcoholic things after the shows. Carlow’s theatre group has a kind of closeness that I don’t often see in other theatrical organizations I’ve worked for in Pittsburgh. It’s not a job, it’s a passion.

One great example of how this group bonds is the annual alumni show. Once a year, all alum are invited to come back and audition for a show or to work on the crew in some aspect. This fall will be Carlow’s tenth annual alumni show. The first was Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 2008. It was an all-female cast, which was intentional! Carlow is a mostly female campus, but this theatre group has its share of men wandering through. Since then, every year has seen a different alumni show, mixing roughly half veteran Carlow thespians with current students, both on stage and back stage. Everyone helps build the sets, and everyone helps tear down the sets before a cast party on the final night.

The cast of the alumni production of The Tempest in 2013
The cast of the alumni production of The Tempest in 2013

This year’s alumni show will be Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, the hilarious and dark take on what happens to Shakespeare’s characters when they’re not on stage during Hamlet. Steve Fatla will be directing, and as always there will be a mix of alum and student actors and crew. Auditions will happen shortly, and the show will run Oct 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, & 21 at 8pm in the Antonian Theatre on Carlow’s campus. For those of you who never seem to know where that is, get on Fifth Avenue in Oakland going away from Pitt towards town. You can’t miss it! The theatre is in the first building on the hill, but there will be signs. Tickets are $15 for this show, with discounts for students and seniors. If you want to make a reservation for this show, or if you have any questions about the show or the group, you can call the box office at 412-578-8749 or email Steve directly at sfatla@carlow.edu.

After the alumni show, the Carlow University Theatre Group will also be presenting their annual show of one acts. These shows are free to attend, but the material and casts have yet to be determined. You can find out more information on this show by seeing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in October. And keep your eyes open for future Carlow performances. You might just be surprised with what you see!

For more information about Carlow University’s Theatre Minor program, click here. 

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 http://www.duqredmasquers.com/purchase-tickets

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

Finding New Solutions in Old Problems: Pitt Stages’ Upcoming Season

10547577_925614320797878_2778221222100940625_nFor an extraordinary variety of reasons better cataloged elsewhere, it is a confusing time to be a young person in America. Thanks to a blame game-y media environment, one needs only type in the phrase “Millenials Are Killing” into Google’s search bar to admire our various war crimes against chain restaurants and department stores (or whatever). This generational hostility has created a kind of disinterest in what Millennials actually feel about the world around them to older generations – which is what makes college theater a more important space than it has been in a long time.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Theater program features an unusual amount of agency for its student body. Besides playing host to a series of shows that are entirely student run, the program also allows its students to have a say in what mainstage shows, which are typically directed by theater professors, will end up making the cut. This season features an eclectic mix of classics with a twist and unconventional works by contemporary writers, and will likely be an opportunity to hear young voices in a raw creative setting.

OurTown-Poster.inddFirst up at the University of Pittsburgh Theater’s fall season is Our Town. Originally written by Thornton Wilder, Our Town is primarily about the complexities of small town life in early 1900’s America. However, Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama isn’t your average slice of life Americana. Rather, it is a dark, complex reflection on life and death. The play is a working definition of minimalism in theater, featuring performances that, on the whole, are voice-less, and an omniscient narrator who directly addresses his audience.

Despite its familiar old-school trappings, director Ricardo Vila-Roger stressed to me that Pitt’s production would be immediate, and prescient.

“[Our Town]…is possibly even more important today, in that everyone is kind of rushing to get to the next thing,” Vila-Roger said. “Our main character [doesn’t realize] all she’s missed because she’s not paying attention to what’s in front of her. It’s the same today with cell phones.”

The production will also, unlike Wilder’s original production, feature a diverse cast.  “We’re telling the story of a lot of people, not just one kind of person. If I’m going to create a town on stage, I’m going to create the town I’d want to live in.”

Our Town will run from October 5th to the 15th at the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre.

Parade-PosterNext up is Parade, a musical based on a true story that was originally written by Alfred Uhry with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, this time directed by Rob Frankenberry. Of all the shows in Pitt’s upcoming season, Parade is easily the story that most encapsulates contemporary social discourse. Our main character is Leo Frank, a Jewish American accused of murder whose wildly unethical trial was a keystone moment in the founding of the Anti-Defamation League, as well as an inciting action in the reformation of the KKK.

The musical, set in 1913, follows several characters of some historical import, including an opportunistic journalist who capitalized on the event, a jury fueled by the distrust of outsiders, and the hapless man at the trial’s center.

Vila-Roger described the musical as “important, and very difficult,” It is also a potential moment for reflection for its audience and cast. “The music is beautiful, and I think the message – good Lord – is so important right now.”

Parade will be performed from November 9th through the 19th at the Charity Randall Theatre.

Besides Pitt’s mainstage shows, the theater also produces Student Lab shows, which are almost entirely directed and produced by students. The first student lab show is [title of show], an extraordinarily meta musical that is about its own creation and execution. Originally written by Jeff Bowen, [title of show] is quite literally a work in progress, beginning with the cast – all playing themselves in the show’s initial production – discussing what the opening of their new show should sound like as they’re performing their initial brainstorm. Pitt’s production will be directed by Alex Ditmar and will run from October 18th through the 22nd at the Henry Heymann theater.

Next comes Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck!, directed by Chloe Torrence and originally written by Jay Torrence. The play is a fictionalized retelling of a real tragedy that befell the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1918 when a train collided with the circus’ caravan, resulting in many of the performers’ dwellings being set ablaze. More than 80 lives were lost, and over a hundred more were injured. Roustabout, however, focuses on the colorful lives of those affected, and seeks to extract something more from the senseless accident. It will run from November 15th through the 19th at the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre.

Those looking for more originality and thematic complexity in their night at the theater will find that there’s plenty more to discover in Pitt’s Student Lab Show’s upcoming productions. There’s The Lifeboat is Sinking, a Shel Silverstein one act comedy about a woman who forces her husband to imagine their bed is a sinking ship and the boat’s dead weight his mother. The show will premiere alongside a production of An Oblation, a short one act written by the ever-inventive Taylor Mac, which is a comedy about two women who catalogue the deaths of friends and acquaintances at their own version of the last supper. Ann Amundson will direct both. Then, there is Victory on Mrs. Dandywine’s Island, written by Lanford Wilson and directed by Zev Woskoff, which is an Oscar Wilde-style spoof of high society. All three of these shows will be performed simultaneously on January 31st to February 4th at the Henry Heymann Theatre.

Pitt’s final Student Lab show will show will be Suddenly Last Summer, an underappreciated Tennesse Williams drama about a woman whose mental instability hides a dark family secret. It will be directed by Nic Bernstein and will run from April 11th through the 15th at the Henry Heymann Theater.

Meanwhile, the remaining Mainstage Productions will be a mix of the classic and contemporary, continuing with a production of Howard Ashman’s well-revered musical adaptation of the B-Movie cult classic, Little Shop of Horrors. The show will be performed on February 8th through the 18th at the Charity Randall Theatre and be directed by Reginald Douglas. This will be followed by a production of Upton Sinclair’s Marie Antoinette, directed by LeMil Eiland and running from February 15th to the 25th. The mainstage’s final production will be an original play written and directed by Cynthia Croot named Recoil. It will run from April 5th to the 15th.

At its best, university theater is a space in which people can essentially attend a show to see what’s next in American drama, and the University of Pittsburgh’s upcoming season has the potential to be particularly potent.

For tickets and more information about the University of Pittsburgh’s upcoming season, click here.

Point Park Gets to Work on Another Eight Shows at the Pittsburgh Playhouse

11391480_10153367774739464_1509896223937134191_nSummer may be ending, but things are about to heat up at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.

The home of Point Park University theatre— The REP Professional Theatre Company and the Conservatory Theatre Company—is about to welcome eight exciting new productions into its hallowed halls for its 2017-2018 season. Artistic Director Ron Lindblom confirms that the amount of enjoyment the audience receives from the high-quality productions is equal to the educational benefits that the student cast and crew members receive.

“The Conservatory is geared towards training young artists and these classics really give the students the opportunity to get the training they need,” he said. It’s a win/win situation for anyone who steps foot in one of Point Park’s theatre spaces with the only variable being the shows in question that are chosen.

WebPosterBOYSKicking things off for Point Park’s season is a critically-acclaimed musical, authored by one of musical theatre’s most prolific and iconic writing teams. Making its Pittsburgh premiere, The Scottsboro Boys with music and lyrics by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb tells the dramatic true story of nine African-American teenagers falsely accused of sexually assaulting two white women on a train riding through Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. The media circus and infamous series of trials that followed were plagued by extreme prejudice against the defendants and unfair judicial practices. If you’re expecting the fun conventions of musical theatre to make the dark subject matter more palatable, you’re out of luck here.

As they did with shows like Cabaret, Chicago, and Curtains, Kander and Ebb have brilliantly framed this tragic narrative in a distinct and unique theatrical style. Rather than using vaudeville or golden age musical comedy as its structure, The Scottsboro Boys is built as a minstrel show. In the early 19th century, these performances featured mostly white actors in blackface mocking African-Americans. In Kander and Ebb’s musical, originally directed on Broadway by Susan Stroman, the tropes of the minstrel show are employed to underline the countless injustices that ruined the lives of the titular characters. Lindblom laments that he finds “great relevance” for a story about black men being discriminated against in the legal system in the headlines of the modern world. Fortunately, this production is being helmed by Tomè Cousin whose frequent collaboration with Stroman makes him “perfect” director for this piece. The Scottsboro Boys plays at the Rauh Theatre from September 8-24.

Thankfully for patrons looking for musicals that provide some level of escapism, there are productions of Kiss Me, Kate and 42nd Street in the pipeline following The Scottsboro Boys.

WebPosterKATEBoth are “backstage musicals” that tell stories of two troubled theatre productions. Original Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kiss Me, Kate—featuring a classic score by Cole Porter and a book by Sam and Bella Spewack—introduces us to divorced couple Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi who are co-starring in a musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Although it’s clear that love still lingers between them, they simply cannot stand each other. They’re surrounded by a host of wacky characters, including a pair of gangsters with a bone to pick with Fred, who prove against all comedic odds that the show must go on. Kiss Me, Kate runs at the Rockwell Theatre from October 20-29.

WebPoster42Wide-eyed ingenue Peggy Sawyer is the heroine of the tap-tastic musical 42nd Street. The only thing bigger than her dreams of stardom are the show’s numerous dance breaks supplied by Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s score. Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book is the tale as old as time in show business of what happens when an inexperienced understudy takes over for a seasoned star. What happens is musical theatre magic that has been enchanting audiences since legendary director Gower Champion’s original 1980 Broadway production. 42nd Street also plays the Rockwell Theatre from March 16-25.

As usual, Point Park offers as much variety in genre, setting, and subject matter in their play selections for the season as they do in their musical selections. Whether contemporary or classic, the scripts illuminate points of views of a diverse group of characters.

WebPosterMOORSIn the case of Jaclyn Backhaus’ You on the Moors Now, playing at the Studio Theater from November 10-December 3, those characters are rather well known. Jane Eyre, Lizzy Bennet. Cathy Earnshaw, and Jo March are no longer just well-established fixtures of high school English class syllabi. Backhaus imagines the four 19th century literary leading ladies running away together and comparing notes on what their experiences in life have taught them. The women exist in a sort of timeless state where modern references and profanity are fair game for their epic girl talk session.

WebPosterALBAThe five women in Frederico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba would most likely also benefit from a vacation from their dissatisfying lives. They are all sisters who spend their time dreaming of getting out of their mother’s house and truly experiencing life. Their routine is broken by the appearance of town hunk Pepe el Romano and his flirtation with the family’s eldest sister. Desire under the Bernarda Alba’s roof proves to be a dangerous thing that sets the stage for a frank look at the ways in which members of the opposite sex relate. The House of Bernarda Alba plays at the Rauh Theater from February 23-March 11.

WebPosterDEVILRussian literature served as the inspiration for Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire’s black comedy A Devil Inside. This gory romp sees Gene receiving far more than just cake on his 21st birthday. His mother finally reveals the truth behind his father’s death—he was murdered!—and insists that it is Gene’s duty to avenge him. He’s simultaneously disturbed by the request and distracted by his infatuation with Caitlin, who lusts after her Russian literature professor who lusts after the blood of his nemesis. For the non-squeamish, A Devil Inside runs at the Studio Theater from February 2-18.

The final two shows are either adaptations or translations of well-known works and living, breathing proof that theatre is an ageless, universal language.

WebPosterMAGIThe Gift of the Magi, adapted by Jon Jory, opens at the Rauh Theatre just in time for the holiday season. From December 8-17, you can learn the valuable lesson at the center of the story of Della and Jim Young. They are a young couple struggling to make end’s meet, but who are still determined to make Christmas special for one another by purchasing the perfect gifts. As with most stories set around that time of year, the true meaning of the season is explored to touching effect.

WebPosterVANYALast but not least is Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya playing from April 6-15 at the Rauh Theater. It’s an example of one of Chekhov’s estate dramas that features as much unrequited love as you can fit on a single stage. The enchanting Yelena is the object of two men’s affections. Unfortunately, they are crippled by profound existential crises exacerbated by the facts that she’s married and the estate, on which Vanya, one of the men, lives, is about to be sold. It’s all in a day’s work for a Chekhov character.

Along with The Scottsboro Boys, Kiss Me, Kate, and A Devil Inside, one performance of Uncle Vanya will be followed by a lecture in a completely new series called Freud on Forbes. Representatives from the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Center will take audience members into the writers’ brains armed only with the text of the script. These talks are sure to take your post-show conversations with friends to the next level. And that’s fitting because Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse 2017-2018 season of shows seeks to do the same thing for theatre.

For tickets and more information on the Pittsburgh Playhouse’s upcoming season, click here. 

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 http://www.pittsburghnewworks.org/about-pnwf/

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

 

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

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

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.

WILD ONES

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.

ENHANCEMENTSEnhancements

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 https://www.showclix.com/events/14074 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.

Show Tune Saturday Night

FullSizeRenderThe last Saturday night of the month, the Pittsburgh CLO presents Show Tune Saturday Night at the Cabaret in Theatre Square. It was conceived by the Mark Fleischer, the Producing Director at the CLO, as a combination meet and greet for people in the area interested in musical theatre and as an open mic performance space for actors and singers to show off their talent. Fleischer also serves as MC.

Performances are a unique blend of amateurs, semi-professionals ad equity actors who are accompanied “Downtown” Katie Brown, an unflappable keyboardist who truly can play anything. Admission is free and there is cover or minimum. Libations are available at the bar.

If you want to come show your stuff bring your sheet music and your voice. I was pleasantly surprised, you might be as well! Every night is a different show to enjoy.Mark Fleischer

Mark Fleischer, MC , at the Cabaret in Theatre Square

 Show Tune Saturday Night at the CLO Cabaret in Theatre Square, admission is free. The fun begins a bit after 10p.m. and wraps around midnight. The next Show Tune Saturday is July 30, for more information, click here. 

Hot Metal Musicals 2017

Email-Blast-Image-c.PG-Web1-copyThe development of a new musical is a complex art. From the development of the original idea, into a workable script (book), music and lyrics, it is a consuming labor of passion, creativity, and love.

Those who attended Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh’s 2017 Hot Metal Musicals had the opportunity to preview songs from over a dozen works in development as well as four songs yet to find a book.

Twenty-one songs on subjects that run the gamut from school days to a world of robotic presidents, from the woman behind the tongue-twister “she sells seashells by the seashore” to a “farceody” (think farce crossed with parody) were presented on Monday evening at a well-attended pitch and performance at the CLO’s Cabaret in Theatre Square.

The ensemble was smartly Directed by Steve Cuden, with musical navigation by the very versatile Douglas Levine, singers Leon Zionts, Dan Mayhak, Jason Shavers, Hope Anthony, Natalie Hatcher, Paul Hambidge, Alex Manalo, and Maria Mauti presented the original songs and show synopses in a simple setting of bar chairs and music stands layered over the Cabaret’s current production’s set.

MTAP PICThere are literally hundreds of new musicals conceived every year, a dozen or so might make it into actual production after years of development work, workshops, rewrites and revisions. Fewer than a handful make it to Broadway or Off-Broadway every year. Even Broadway exposure is no guarantee of a hit as many a vanquished producer can attest.

The exciting part of Hot Metal Musicals is a chance to see, hear and meet the breadth and depth of talent that exists in the Pittsburgh region at all levels of musical theatre. There is also the added plus to be able to to see and potentially participate in the realization of a new work of musical theatre.

MTAP, the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh, created a very informative program for the event with bios highlighting the experience of the thirty artists who wrote and composed the works as well as the aforementioned eight performers and the creative staff. Many have national and regional awards to their credit.

You may not have heard of MTAP before. It is an organization that strives to bring together local and regional artists that work in musical theater.  MTAP serves as an incubator where new works come together and are nurtured.

Some of the pitches and songs which I found of interest included: Tell ‘Em a Story from Pictures that Move by David Michael King. The story focuses on the early days of filmmaking and the director Edwin Porter (The Great Train Robbery).

A Little About Me from Class, by Bridgett Perdue and Alicia Johnson, is a soulful tune about the challenges faced by a young teacher setting out to change the world.

Traveling Salesman from Until Tomorrow tells the true story of Arie van Mansum, a young man involved in the resistance movement in WWII in Holland after the German occupation.  Book and Lyrics by Michelle Do, Music and lyrics by Ethan Crystal. Michelle is a Senior at North Hills High School with an impressive list of writing credits and awards.

Dance in the Light from the Golden Door with book by Michelle Van Doeren, lyrics by Andrew Swenson and Michelle Van Doeren, music by Scott Andersen. It is about five young immigrants from different countries arriving an Ellis Island in 1903 in search of a better life. The song was a performed as a beautiful duet.

The 2017 edition of Hot Metals Musicals was a great showcase of talent and a chance to preview what might just be the next great musical.

To receive regular emails from MTAP about meetings, special events, and opportunities, send an email to mtapgh@gmail.com or visit http://mtap.weebly.com

 Photo courtesy of Mara E. Nadolski. 

The Triumphant Return of Hot Metal Musicals

17309516_1245988655455569_2654319705563916058_nIn their ongoing commitment to diverse, vibrantly talented and symphonically-centered productions, Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP) is putting forth its second-ever, groundbreaking Hot Metal Musicals. Coordinated and initiated by MTAP’s creative mastermind, Stephanie Riso, Hot Metal Musicals was designed to appeal to the plethora of multi-talented artists within the greater Pittsburgh community, often most ardently calling upon those individuals with minimal experience or previous limited opportunity to perform and create musicals or staging theatrical acts. Hot Metal Musicals, like MTAP, seeks to be a bastion of inclusivity within the musical/dramatic sphere in Pittsburgh, encouraging innovation, wonderful ludicrousness, provoking ideas and unique talents to join together to generate a fascinating decoupage of musical performances.

This year’s Hot Metal Musical features a bevy of blissfully irreverent and compelling original and reimagined songs from a number of different creative talents. Fantastically, this year’s Hot Metal Musicals is helmed by Steve Cuden, working as Production Director. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, Steve Cuden gained recognition and fame for co-creating the Broadway sensation Jekyll and Hyde (with Frank Wildhorn), and brings his distinct, storied perspective to the Hot Metal Musicals lineup.

19884286_1355807177807049_8221852933777404775_nAdditionally, Cuden is joined by fellow MTAP member Douglas Levine, who serves as Musical Director. The two are leading up a compelling gamut of eclectic, eccentric and intriguing works. The musicals and amalgamated songs traverse a spectrum of topics and themes, challenging the conventions of musical theatre and standards of musical expectations. One such example is Stephen Flaherty and Lyn Ahrens’ collaborative effort piece, “I Was Here,” a powerful song from their well-received, Italian renaissance-based, commedia dell’arte-centered musical The Glorious Ones.  Connected to Pittsburgh, the musical enjoyed its off-Broadway, world debut in Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre in 2007. Another song, posing an equally existential stance, is “Can It Be,” from  Jeanne Drennan’s recent musical Juiced! An active member of the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, Drennan, a widely published playwright and librettist, has put forth several other plays and musicals, such as 12 Dogs, a post-apocalyptic play focusing on the efforts of a resilient teacher. Juiced! is an enjoyably irreverent musical highlighting the bizarre experiences of high school,  and her input in the Hot Metal Musicals adds to the complexities and multifaceted nature of the series.

MTAP and Hot Metal Musicals showcase are positioned as the pioneering vanguards of welcoming, multi-voice theatre and musical work with the realm of Pittsburgh drama. Given the wild selection of songs, spanning from WWII musicals and off-the-wall thigh-slapping comedies, MTAP and Hot Metal Musicals seem to be tremendously living up to their promise to provide audiences with the most varied selection of talents, perspectives and voices. Moreover, the newest installment of Hot Metal Musicals holds true to the MTAP mission of giving a stage and a performance space for works in progress, as well as works from individuals at massively different stages in their careers. MTAP will premier Hot Metal Musicals on July 17th, for free to the public, at Cabaret Theatre at Theatre Square. The evening portends exhilarating, multidimensional and raw works.

To reserve your tickets, click here.