Audacious drag queens, a surreal reimagining of The Tempest, the devastatingly pointed Harriet Beecher Stowe slave narrative, and the indomitable grimy charm of a deaf and blind pinball wizard are only a few of the exhilarating highlights set to tantalize audiences in the fantastic upcoming Fall 2016/Spring 2017 season of Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse. Putting forth a powerhouse dramaturgical trifecta, The Rep will launch the season with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s astoundingly multidimensional Wig Out!” Centering on the explosive personalities, incandescent interwoven galaxies of culture and presentations of selfhood, and outlandishly unique language and dialects of performance of queer and drag communities, Wig Out! is a lavishly dramatic and sonorous telling of Eric, a gay man dubious of the world of drag and the gender/relational dynamics that ensconce it, as he falls for Wilson—or Ms. Nina as he is known in the World of Light, the drag world that functions as an ethereal, alternate universe in the play’s mythology—and is inculcated into the complex, rapturously rich tapestries of the drag world and the intersections of gender expression, sexual desire, and politics of body and place. Directed by the acclaimed Tome Cousin (who has most recently helmed Guilin in 2016), the play—scintillatingly and deliciously risqué (so, cautioned to be for more mature audiences) will preview September 8th and have its complete run September 9th through 25th at Point Park’s Rauh Theatre.
On the divine heels of Wig Out!, a more subdued but equally provocative portrayal of fraught interpersonal dynamics and dialogues, director Robert Turano will present the Halley Feiffer sardonic off-Broadway piece, I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard. With an attention-grabbing title that sends queasy shivers down a former Christian schoolgirl’s spine, Feiffer’s Outer Critics Circle Award nominated play is a rivetingly intimate examination of an abrasive-father/daughter relationship, set in the intense agonizingly eternal moments awaiting the reviews for the daughter’s (Ella) stage debut. The onslaught of sly fatherly eviscerations of a daughter’s burgeoning career will be staged September 30th through October 16 in the Studio Theatre (and, as with any scathing family piece, is recommended for mature audiences). Concluding the Fall/Winter season is the profoundly inventive one-woman show, Woody’s Order! written by Ann Talman, which is centered around the axiomatic quandary of being one’s brother’s keeper. Woody’s Order!—which alludes to the magical command of the lead’s brother, Woody, who pines for a sister and wills his mother to have another child—is one woman’s delineation of her magical birth and the imperative care for her brother and the essence of one’s duties in life. The play, directed by Point Park’s John Shepard, will feature at the beginning of 2017 at the Studio Theater, previewing February 2nd and running February 3rd-19th.
Certainly a veritable equal match in compelling dramaturgy this impending season, the Conservatory Theatre Company will present a robust lineup of six plays spanning from boisterous musical legends to a raucous revenge on a Christmas standard. Quite literally kicking off the season clad in denim and snarling bite is the Pete Townshend’s The Who’s Tommy. Based on The Who’s ecstatically rocking 1969 double album rock opera Tommy, the musical, which debuted in 1992, is the bildungsroman of an emotionally turbulent boy—the titular Tommy—who is born amidst the rubble of the end of the Second World War who loses his sight and hearing at a young age after witnessing a violent murder at the hands of his father. The play, which follows Tommy’s ascension to a pinball wizard and tormented almost cult figure, will be directed by Zeva Barzell and run at the Rockwell Theatre from October 21st-October 30th. Taking on the sometimes daunting task of yet again reinventing Shakespearean themes, Edward Bond’s bizarrely tumultuous The Sea will follow the quintessential rock opera. Directed by Point Park’s David Cabot, the play—steeped in the somber melodrama of Edwardian England—toys with Shakespeare’s The Tempest as it delves into the themes of loss, grief, and, naturally, alien hysteria as the protagonist Willy grapples with the ineffable mourning and guilt of failing to save his friend from drowning, as his home village internalizes that mourning and their own hysteria in acute extraterrestrial occupation paranoia. The quasi-farcical drama will run from November 11th to December 4th at the Studio Theatre. Closing out 2016 will be the irreverent kiss-off to Christmas spectacles and homage to childhood angst in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! Directed by Philip Winters, which chronicles six devious children’s plot to spoil the Yuletide pageantry in their pursuit of free snacks. The outlandish comedy will run December 9th-18th at Rauh theatre.
Embarking on 2017, Point Park will put forth Charles L. Mee’s—noted for his mosaic-esque dramaturgical style and a background in reconstructing historical texts—Aeschylus-reminiscent experiment Big Love (no relation to polygamy or Bill Paxton). The play’s action is catalyzed by the mass-fleeing of fifty brides who are attempting to escape betrothal to their own cousins, and fixates on the meta-dialogues on issues of gender disparities and the nature of love and commitment between three couples. Big Love will be helmed by Reginald Douglas—whose directing credits include Paradox of the Urban Cliché and Lines in the Dust- and will run in the Rauh Theatre from February 24th to March 12th of 2017. Keeping 2017 going theatrically strong, Miachel Rupert will direct the Conservatory in staging another musical flush with pop-splendor in Sweet Charity. Featuring lyrics by the iconic librettist Dorothy Fields and based on the book by the tried-and-true New Yorker Neil Simon, Sweet Charity reflects on the at times amusing, at times crushing volatility of love and finding one’s true self (if that’s even a feasible reality, after all). Exposing the minor-catastrophes of love in the dizzying swarm of New York, the musical will run March 17th to March 26th at the Rockwell Theatre. Finishing the season with a poignant historical narrative, Tome Cousin will debut his talents yet again in staging Uncle Tom’s Cabin Or the Most Popular American Play You’ve Never Seen: an adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s pivotal slave narrative by George Aiken, depicting the environment, injustices and aching ramifications of Tom, besieged by the hostile world of American slavery. Uncle Tom will close out the spring season.
In addition to the phenomenal repertoire lined up for the Fall 2016/Spring 2017 seasons, Point Park’s tremendously talented Conservatory Dance Company will present four collections beginning in October. The Student Choreography Project will debut three days (October 14th-16th) of original student choreography at the GRW Performance Studio, allowing for an eclectic mix of individual-minded choreographic and stylistic output. November promises the evocative collection put forth in the Contemporary Choreographers performance, staged at the GRW Performance Studio from November 16th-20th, an endeavor in transcendent movement with new pieces by David Norsworth, Helen Simoneau, James Gregg and Stephanie Martinez. Ballet Off-Center will take the stage at Rockwell Theatre from December 2nd to December 11th, highlighting the contemporary, experimental talents of up and coming ballet choreographers and featuring new works by Darrell Moultrie and Jason McDole (among others). The faculty choreographers will join forces with the Conservatory’s dancers to produce CDC at the GRW Performance Studio, spotlighting the bevy of rhythmic and dance styles across genres from February 23rd to 26th. Finally, the Conservatory’s impressive season will concluded with the CDC at the Byham Theatre, showing April 13th to 15th, and will be a showcase of the multifariousness of dance and performance, and feature the swan song of cherished Point Park dance faculty member Doug Bentz.
Point Park’s ambitious and excitingly diverse Fall 2016/Spring 2017 lineup seeks to provoke, to titillate and to challenge conventions of performance with these daring, fascinating pieces. Be sure too to make time for the youthful talents at Playhouse Junior in such plays as Pinkalicious (May 3rd-21st at Rockwell Theatre) and The Adventures of Nate the Great (May 4th-21st, Rauh theatre).
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