Features

Bricolage Production Company’s 12th Annual BUS!

By: Jason Clearfield
general5-474x224Bricolage's BUS is an amazing compilation of talent.  They do a great job of mixing together spontaneity and creative ability.  It's a challenge.  Playwrights are asked to put themselves on a 90-minute bus ride and to submit to the experience in such a way that they are inspired to write a play.  That's it.  Just a little fun, a bit of the unexpected and weird, and a surge of forced inspiration. It's impressive how this experiment works.  And it does.  It works very, very well.  You have 36 performers (24 actors, 6 playwrights, 6 directors) and they all bring something diverse, impressive and original.  They make tangible, real, accessible theatre in the span of 24 hours.  I was FLOORED by how great the actors were in these shows.  They not only memorized their entire part within the span of a workday, but they delivered on so many emotional and driven levels. What the process of BUS relies upon is that things will happen when provocation occurs.  Creative Talent + Inspiration = Creation.  The actors' parts are created for them, for something exhibited from their personality.  And thus plays are created truly spontaneously, with a driving force of talent and a whirl of inevitable luck. Bricolage, I believe, is attempting to create a flare within theatre that is alchemical.  It's like theatre, but it's an admixture of something more unexpected: spontaneous participation.  It seems like the kind of thing that improv works off of, but I believe it's a little more experimental.  For one thing, it invokes the audience.  You have only to look at how the handling of BUS 12 began.  A technical difficulty involving the keyboard's connection to the house speakers inhibited the host's opening performance.  So, Programming and Artistic Directors Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon (respectively) were secluded to their spots offstage.  An awkward moment started with an awkward silence.  But their mics still worked.  They asked for patience.  Then Tami's voice saying, “You'd think after 12 years...” The audience laughed.  Then a random heckler chimes in: “Get a Casio!” Another voice over the mic, “Oh great.  Just what we need: hecklers.” A guy in the balcony yells, “Well, at least it's better than Senator Toomey's Town Hall!” Another laugh. Jeffery Carpenter asks back, “Does anybody know how to juggle?”  And Dixon seconds, “Does anybody know how to hum?” The whole audience begins humming. The audience is roaring from a malfunction that should have been devastating.  But the feeling of the evening, this rich celebration of Pittsburgh's talents is exactly what BUS, and therefore Bricolage, is all about.  The creation of the spectacle at hand is key in fomenting a new vision of what could be the theatrical moment.  The mistake is probably the most authentic form of seeing something real happen on stage.  It's up to the maturity and skill of the actors to handle the mistake responsibly.  The entire spirit of Bricolage's “making artful use of what is at hand” happens in these moments.  It's like Arthur Miller once said, “The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life.” LBS_1540 BUS shows a cavalcade of different kinds of emotions.  The heartfelt broaching of loneliness and memory in Gayle Pazerski's “This Call May Be Recorded.”  Or the almost philosophical nostalgia of four people talking to themselves of how they remember buses being friendly before smartphones in Mark Clayton Southers' “People Don't Talk on the Bus”  Or perhaps the madness of four cartoonish version of DSM-IV style mental disorders banding together to save themselves from a bus that crashed because of a suicidal bus driver in Sloan MacRae's “Normal”. The gamut of talent is shown by experimenting with how people think on a bus.  Pazerski's content contains nothing about buses, but it allows for an emotional depth which surely comes out of the script and perhaps a lonely bus drive just outside of town.  In her play, we see a very visceral relationship being unveiled by the act of Brett Goodnack's Tom calling Quinn Patrick Shannon's Mark at his job at a stressful call center.  Shannon's ability to show the facial breaking of a frustrated man on the brink of both redemption and insanity was palpable.  I was also a fan of Elena Alexandratos and Julianne Avolio's comic chops on the side. LBS_1693 Pair that with Kim El's “Get Off (The Bus)” a Twilight Zone-like tale about a professional white woman who boards a bus and is suddenly confronted with mystical black deities who force her to confront her privilege by subjecting her to live a day as an African-American woman.  Shakara Wright's Faith and TaeAjah Cannon's Joy were appropriately creepy and stunning in their roles, veritable goddesses, and demons in the same body.  Director Teisha Duncan did a great job at taking us onto the bus and taking us out of this ethereal plane with minimal special effects. It's a variety of performance, very festive, unpredictable and a great sampling of what kind of active subject matter is happening amongst playwrights in this town.  What makes Bricolage such a fountain of strange possibility is that they covet the experiment.  They try things, and they create an environment where trying things is protocol.  It's minimal, but it's audacious. You wind up with stand-out performances like Wali Jamal's Clown in Dave Harris' “Mythical Creatures”.  Always a pleasure to watch his bottled volatility shake itself up, pure baking soda and vinegar; this man spews rawness up in a rage.  Or Gab Cody's “Misoneism”, a tricky play about AI that's really all a prop for stand-out performances.  Missy Moreno's Betty pops onto the stage with firecracker power and delivers a potpourri of Robin Williams and Animal from the Muppets. LBS_1586 Bricolage does something.  They don't do the rote, mechanical straightforward delivery.  They make you work, they make their players work and it's an appreciated work.  There's power in trying.  I think that's the aspect of theatre that's washed with such an abundance of entertainment in the digital age.  To make artful use of what is at hand, you must be willing to go out into the world and grab whatever's near.  Pittsburgh is a slew of odysseys, and thank god a company is ravenous for what it has to offer.  This was a hell of a cabaret. For more about Bricolage Production Company and what they have for us coming up, click here.  Photos courtesy of Louis Stein.

Artist Spotlight: Billy Hepfinger

By: Ringa Sunn
unnamedThe room is filled with paintings. Classics; works you would recognize but might not recall the name of on sight. Walking into the large open space where people are milling about and speaking in hushed tones, the paintings are what catch your attention first. But it's not a gallery or museum. At least, not until the stage manager calls lights up. North Hills native Billy Hepfinger is talking with his fellow actors before they start the day's rehearsal. The wall that's covered in paintings is a mere reference tool for the actors, but it's an impressive one. A few short moments later, Hepfinger is stepping into the scene as a security guard of a museum, hence the reference photos.  And while he's not THE guard mentioned in the title of the City Theatre's upcoming production of The Guard, his scenes are primarily with the main character providing the comic relief. "He's kind of a big-hearted doofus," Hepfinger says of his character.  Which is always a fun role to play, he points out. This production of Jessica Dickey's play is only the second run of it anywhere, although it's completely new to Pittsburgh. Asked whether it adds any pressure to bring life to a character so new, he claims the opposite. Unlike with a Shakespeare play or well-known musical where people expect each character to act a certain way, doing a new show allows you to invent the character yourself and put your own art into it. It must also help that Dickey is an actress herself, and because of her work in this year's Humana Festival in Louisville she isn't on set much to watch the actors bringing her script to life. This is Hepfinger's first time doing a full production at the City Theatre, although he's done readings there before and is certainly no stranger to the Pittsburgh theater scene. In his six years in professional theater, most of that has been in Pittsburgh. While he lives in New York now, his roots in the craft are unquestionably here. His first professional gig was at the CLO's Gallery of Heroes where he played George Washington in a traveling educational show for school students. As with many traveling troupes, Hepfinger helped the rest of the cast and crew to load and strike their small set twice a day as they traveled show to show. He also recalls seeing names mentioned in their show on Pittsburgh street signs, noting the wealth of history this town offers. He has lately noticed a change in the Pittsburgh theater community compared to when he was getting started. "The Pittsburgh theater scene has expanded," he explains. "More people from New York are coming here and settling down." He notes that this is due to Pittsburgh now being a town where you can live and make a career in theater, and that wouldn't be possible without the supportive theater-going crowd that we have here. [caption id="attachment_4393" align="alignleft" width="656"]Melinda Helfrich as Madeline, Andrew May as Henry, Stephen James Anthony as Dodger, Billy Hepfinger as Jonny Melinda Helfrich as Madeline, Andrew May as Henry, Stephen James Anthony as Dodger, Billy Hepfinger as Jonny[/caption]   While Hepfinger is thrilled to do shows in Pittsburgh, he finds it very fulfilling to live in New York. "You have to make a lot of sacrifices to live there," he notes. One of those being that he doesn't get to see many of the shows that run near him on and off Broadway. "If I'm in New York, it means I'm not working," he jokes. And despite putting in for the Hamilton ticket lottery every day for nearly a year, he's had no luck so far. Not to say that he doesn't ever work in New York. The bulk of his work in theater has been in musicals, and New York is notorious for those. "If you can sing, you end up getting cast in musicals," he says, and he's done several shows off Broadway. Although he doesn't seem to really have a preference between musicals and plays, he is aware that some thespians who work strictly on plays don't understand the work that goes into a musical. "I will stand in their defense," he says with a laugh. "Acting in musicals is very technical." Along with the world of theater, Hepfinger does voiceover work when he can. He joins the growing number of actors with sound equipment set up in his house, noting that it's an easy aspect of the business to find yourself involved with. Being able to act remotely is handy, especially when he finds himself constantly traveling between New York and Pittsburgh. Similarly, it was through a skype audition that he got his part on the locally filmed television show Outsiders. And while skype is certainly useful in being able to audition for a Pittsburgh project from New York, it's a bit odd to be acting to a computer. "It's really difficult to convey emotion complexly across a screen," he admits, "but at least the end result is going to be on a screen anyways." Outsiders is currently airing its second season, and Hepfinger has appeared in fifteen out of twenty episodes so far. He calls his character "recurring" rather than a main character, but he's firmly a part of the project. It's a different world acting for the camera, especially on a television project where you can get a rewrite or have a scene cut moments before shooting. He hasn't felt thrown off by any of that so far, however, though he mentions that if his character was a bigger role it might be harder to make those adjustments. "The craft is the same no matter whether it's on stage or in front of a camera," he observes, maintaining that despite the great diversity that exists between the different versions of acting, it's all the same in the end. When questioned about which he prefers, theater or film acting, Hepfinger scrunches up his face a bit, indicating the toughness of this choice. With many artists, being asked to choose a preferred medium can be the equivalent of choosing a favorite child. "I've been doing more film lately, over the past couple of years, so it's been really refreshing to come back and do theater. So right now I'm in a theater mindset," he answers, noncommittally. "In a perfect world I'd put a balance between the two. This work is really fulfilling." It surely helps that when Hepfinger is in town working on a play, he gets to spend time with his family, who still live in Pittsburgh, and old friends he's still in contact with from his early theater days. It's easy to get attached to the cast and crew of a show; the time you spend with them is incredibly condensed and close. Theater friends from years ago will even be in his upcoming wedding, another happy reminder of his roots in Pittsburgh drama. [caption id="attachment_4394" align="alignleft" width="656"]Andrew May as Henry & Billy Hepfinger as Jonny Andrew May as Henry & Billy Hepfinger as Jonny[/caption] When speaking of the cast of The Guard, Hepfinger is enthusiastic and says they all get along very well. "Tracy is a wonderful director," he adds, speaking of City Theatre's long-time artistic director Tracy Brigden. She's instrumental in inserting the humor into the show, which has a lot of serious moments. "It delves into some pretty heavy themes, but throughout there's a lightness to it, and there's a lot of humor. And I think by the end of the play you really grow to like all these people a lot." He wishes he could get to watch the final product himself, inserting, "It's gonna be fun to watch, and it's very human. It has a lot of interesting things to say." No matter how many film projects or off-Broadway musicals Hepfinger ends up working with, he'll always have his roots in the Pittsburgh drama scene. And he doesn't hide his pride at all the work he's done. As for The Guard, Hepfinger's experience and enthusiasm can only be a boost to the small cast, but he remains humble. "All the performances are wonderful," he confirms, smiling warmly. "I feel very lucky to be a part of it." See Billy and the rest of the cast in The Guard starting previews at City Theatre Saturday March 11, and officially opening Friday March 17. For tickets and more information, click here.  Production photos courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover

Cup-A-Jo Productions’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Inviting Audiences Into Their Home

By: Stephen Arch
16864036_10154948753785797_8467742892383435851_nWhat happens when relatives or friends invite you over to their house for a casual social and the two hosts break out into violent invectives, anger, outrage, and total hostility, and you are forced to sit and watch this display of self-destruction? It gets uncomfortable, to say the least. Now, add 20 to 25 people watching this display only feet away, and what do you get? A houseful of guests probably looking for the quickest exit. The upcoming Cup-A-Jo production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? does just that. Director Everett Lowe is producing the 1962 Edward Albee play in an actual living room of a house (to be named when your purchase your tickets) in Point Breeze.  According to Lowe, since all of the action of the original play occurs in a living room, why not hold the play in a real living room? According to Joanna Lowe (who plays Martha in this production), there was no other choice. The Lowe siblings have been chomping at the bit to perform Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for years and when Cup-A-Jo decided to produce this 60’s emotional nightmare, Joanna Lowe felt that the only place this play belongs is in a real living room, with real guests forced to watch the self-destructive couple. [caption id="attachment_4376" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Woolf rehearsal Martha (Joanna Lowe) and George (Brett Sullivan Santry)[/caption] According to her, “it’s where it belongs.” Her brother Everett agrees. Their point is that when “the original play opened and the curtain went up, there was the living room. No scene changes. All of the action takes place in the living room. Then why not hold the play in someone’s actual living room?” Everett Lowe wants the audience to feel the authenticity of this piece and of the emotions that Martha (Joanna Lowe) and George (Brett Sullivan Santry) and house guests Nick (Tom Kolos) and Honey (Hilary Caldwell) feel. Both Lowes fell this new type of drama, with its realism of the venue,  makes the play terrifying, in your face, and extremely painful. The realism brought about when the audience is just feet away from the action is designed to turn the entire house into what Lowe refers to as a “boiling crucible” – an effect that, according to Lowe, “places very much extreme devastation not only in front of Nick and Honey, but squarely in the lap of the audience.”Woolf rehearsal3 And, according to Joanna Lowe, the truths of the play still have the bite they had in 1962, except the “bite is very real, very painful” to watch.  The cast of four have been rehearsing in Point Breeze mansion for the past few weeks, and they feel that the raw emotions the audience will feel, being that close to the vindictiveness portrayed in the play, is well worth the cost of admission. And, and as Everett Lowe is want to say about his version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Who really gets hurt (the actors or the audience) is yet to be decided. For more information, check out Cup-a-Jo's Facebook page here or to reserve tickets, email cupajo.woolf@gmail.com.

Spring Preview 2017

By: Mara E. Nadolski
Spring 4A letter from the Editor, According to Punxsutawney Phil, Spring is still another two weeks away, yet we couldn't help but look ahead to the next three months and we are excited! Spring is a time for musicals, season finales and pulling out your light jacket in exchange for your winter coat. Our writing team is continuing to grow and flourish so stay tuned for even more coverage of Pittsburgh's theater scene coming up. We'll be diving head first into the Fourth Annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival at the end of March, finding out why Peter and the Starcatcher is such a popular show, not just in Pittsburgh but the rest of the country, and check in with some old friends like Little Lake Theater and the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP). We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #SpringwithPITR. Happy Spring! Mara E. Nadolski
  Let’s start off with the Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this Spring! scaled_256 (1)#5 - 4.48 Psychosis - off the WALL Productions: While maintaining their commitment to supporting the underrepresented female artist comes off the WALL Productions' season finale: 4.48 Psychosis, author Sarah Kane's final work before her untimely suicide. With a script that reads more like a poem, off the WALL will give us a peek inside Kane's particular case of clinical depression. We'll have a lot to think about in this Pittsburgh Premiere opening at Carnegie Stage April 21st. For tickets and more information, click here.  #4 - Oedipus Rex - PICT Classic Theatre: PICT oedipus-cutbounces into 2017 swinging with the Sophocles classic Oedipus Rex. A royal murder, a few prophecies, and a little incest are all one needs to realize you just can't escape fate. Opening their third show at their new home in the Union Project, PICT promises many favorite Pittsburgh actors in this new take on a play that is well over two thousand years old starting March 23rd. For tickets and more information, click here.  15042008_908457625955605_6895723887467380350_o#3 - Patience - Pittsburgh Savoyards: Last seen from the Savoyards in 2009, Patience was one of Gilbert and Sullivan's longest running shows when it opened in 1881. The story of a milkmaid stuck in an unwanted love triangle stars some Pittsburgh Savoyards' favorites, like Mia Bonnewell and Board President Michael Greenstein. This classic satire opens March 3rd at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall. For tickets and more information click here.  Katrina-14512-492-300x200#2 - Hercules Didn't Wade in the Water - Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company: Rounding out their 2017 season of world premieres, Pittsburgh Playwrights presents us with a drama, with comedy, set amongst the wreckage of one of the worst disasters in modern America: Hurricane Katrina. Playwrights' regular Wali Jamal slides into the director's role to guide us through the story of two sets of people just trying to survive. Hercules Didn't Wade in the Water opens at Pittsburgh Playwrights May 6th. For tickets and more information, click here.  plaid-1#1 - Forever Plaid - The Lamp Theatre Players: After many ups and downs getting here, The Lamp Theatre in Irwin, PA finally held its grand opening a little over six months ago. Since then they've held many events, from Split Stage Productions' performances to classic rock cover bands. Now the Lamp has its own performing company, The Lamp Theatre Players, set to produce their inaugural show, Forever Plaid. The 1989 musical revue will open March 3rd, 80 years after the Lamp Theatre first opened its doors. For tickets and more information, click here. While we’ve got you, check out our Top 5 Musicals you don’t want to miss here! Stage 62 is starting up their 55th season this year and we've got the inside scoop here. Check out what 12 Peers Theater has up their sleeve this year in Mark's preview here.  There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the Pittsburgh Festival Opera lately, (formerly known as the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's SummerFest). We have an inside look at next installment of their Music That Matters A Gathering of Sons here.  Get the scoop on all the hot parties and fundraisers with our roundup of Pittsburgh's gala season. Check it out here.  And once again, our busiest weekend of the year is rapidly approaching: the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. Here are some highlights of what to expect this year. Steel City Shakespeare will be announcing their 2017 season any minute now, brush up on your SCSC knowledge with our Jeffrey Chips Artist Spotlight.  Winter got to be a busy season, here's some of what we covered in the last few months: Rust by the Duquesne Red Masquers As One at the Pittsburgh Opera The Complete History of America (abridged) at the Theatre Factory The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by the University of Pitt Stages The Royale at City Theatre Woody's Order! at the Pittsburgh Playhouse Twelfth Night at the Pittsburgh Public Theater The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by barebones productions Cabaret by Split Stage Productions Into the Woods at Comtra Midnight Radio Holiday Spectacular at Bricolage Mr. Marmalade at CMU The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Quantum Theatre Unbolted by Attack Theatre      

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring

By: George Hoover
Pittsburgh theatregoers have a great mix of musicals to choose from this spring. Our preview features five shows that offer a mix of style, period and contemporary relevance. Two of them are new to Pittsburgh, Daddy Long Legs from the Public Theatre and Violet from Front Porch Theatricals.  The classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes will be offered by the McKeesport Little Theatre and the contemporary hit Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre. Rounding out the mix and out of today’s headlines is the Duquesne Red Masquers’ production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.Layout 1 Pittsburgh Public Theatres second musical of the season is Daddy Long Legs, the story of Miss Jerusha Abbott, who is the oldest resident of a New England orphanage. When she turns eighteen, a mysterious benefactor, Jervis Pendleton, decides to pay for her college education. There is one condition, she must write him a monthly letter and not expect any reply. During the course of her education, Jerusha begins to imagine the woman she could become which leads to critical thinking about religion, the social issues of the day, and politics. The story is set between 1908 and 1912 and Daddy Long Legs is a story of emotional growth told in song by both characters – as she’s composing and he’s reading her letters. Pittsburgh’s own Allan Snyder plays Jervis. Audiences will remember him from PMT’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and the CLO’s 39 Steps. Danielle Bowen plays Jerusha. The New York Times described Daddy Long Legs as “a great treat,” and Variety called it “a wholesome tuner in tune with the times.” Daddy Long Legs has been touching hearts for more than 100 years. Ted Pappas’ new production at the Public is “guaranteed to continue the tradition.” Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s Daddy Long Legs Playing March 9th through April 9th at the O’Reilly Theatre Tickets 412-316-1600 or online at https://ppt.org/calendardream girls American music has undergone many changes from the big band sound of the forties to rhythm and blues, to the new American sound of Motown. In 1962 even though Elvis was king and we listened to the Beatles, American’s were dancing to the new beat of The Supremes and other girl groups. Dream Girls tells the story of the The Dreamettes, a hopeful Black girl group from Chicago who enter the famous Amateur Night talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The musical explores the relationships between the girls, their boyfriends and managers as the chase their respective dreams. It is also about the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry that made this cultural phenomenon possible. The subject matter of this play deals with a musical contribution to America of such importance that only now — decades later —  we are beginning to understand. “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only” are just two of the great songs from Dream Girls that have become part of the canon of modern musical theatre. Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre with performances at the Byham Theater March 9th to 19th. For tickets call 412-456-666 or at https://trustarts.org/production/49516BB andrew j Pittsburgh’s oldest amateur theatre company, The Duquesne University Red Masquers certainly had excellent foresight in picking Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as their Spring Musical. After all, our President considers himself a modern day Andrew Jackson. The shows opening song, “Populism Yea Yea”, reflects the desire of Jackson to bring political power back to the public and away from the elite. The subject of immigration today is a topic of much discussion. In Jackson’s era it was native Indian lands. At first, the citizenry meets Jackson’s exhilarating cowboy-like governing tactics with great enthusiasm. But, as the problems grow tougher, the public begins to resent him. Jackson decides he must take ultimate responsibility for the nation's choices and autocratically declares that he alone will be the one to make the difficult policy decision. At the Broadway opening in 2010, The New York Times noted "there is no show in town that more astutely reflects the state of this nation than Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Duquesne University Red Masquers playing  March 15-19. Tickets at http://www.duqredmasquers.com/purchase-ticketsanythign goes Are you are looking for a lighthearted break from reality with quirky characters, great songs and fabulous dance routines?  The McKeesport Musical Theatres production of the classic Cole Porter musical comedy Anything Goes is just your ticket. The S.S. American is sailing between New York and England with a comically colorful assemblage of passengers: Reno Sweeney, a popular nightclub singer and former evangelist, her pal Billy Crocker, a lovelorn Wall Street broker who has come aboard to try to win the favor of his beloved Hope Harcourt (who is engaged to another passenger, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh), and a second-rate conman named Moonface Martin, aka “Public Enemy #13.” Song, dance, and farcical antics ensue as Reno and Moonface try to help Billy win the love of his life. Anything Goes features s some of musical theater's most memorable standards, including "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "You're the Top," and of course, the title song. According to Linda Baker, President of MLT “This is one of the classic musicals that unfortunately not enough millennials have had the opportunity to experience.” So disconnect and go see it. Anything Goes at McKeesport Little Theatre May 5th to 21st. Tickets available at http://mckeesportlittletheater.com Acclaimed Director Robyne Parish has returned to PPrintittsburgh to live after spending five seasons as the Artistic Director of the Gilbert Theater in North Carolina. Her second directorial assignment since returning is the Tony nominated Violet presented by Front Porch Theatricals. Violet is a scarred woman who is traveling across the 1964 Deep South toward a miracle. She is looking for the healing touch of an evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in being healed, Violet is able to repair those injuries that lie deeper than her skin. On the way she meets a young, African-American Soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical "imperfections". I asked Robyne about her approach to the production. “One of the most interesting themes in this play, besides the complicated relationship Violet has with her Father, are the parallels between Flick and Violet. A black man in the south judged by the color of his skin and a white woman being judged by her scar. As an audience we will experience Violets growth, discovery of love, beauty, enlightenment and ultimately redemption.” “Patrons will discover themselves in the characters in Violet. It’s the story of family, of first love, of desperation and of hope. They will identify with these folks and recognize them in an intimate way some shows may not allow. This is an intense and uplifting play about real people with real hopes, dreams and desires and real loss, failure and disappointment. This is a play about life.” Violet from Front Porch Theatricals is in performance May 19th to 28th at the New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts located in Pittsburgh's historic North Side Tickets https://www.showclix.com/events/12886 The spring of 2017 promises something for every theatregoer to enjoy.    

The New In The Mythical: 12 Peers Theater’s Latest Season To Seek Unity In Discord

By: Mark Skalski
Artistic director Vince Ventura and Literary Manager Matt Henderson of 12 Peers Theater do not want you to feel as if you’re on familiar ground once you leave their upcoming shows. While we were speaking about the theater's newest productions, Ventura asked if I was familiar with any of the plays being put on; I was not. “Good,” he laughed, “we don’t want to do anything you’ve seen in Pittsburgh.” However familiar (or not) the works onstage are, the circumstances and themes at the heart of 12 Peers’ upcoming season are deeply culturally relevant. Their independently produced podcast, Modern Myths, produced a full audio play in July titled "The Curse of Atreus," a Jim Knable-penned play that remixes the titular Greek myth with a conflict between a white police officer, a black mechanic and her son, whom the police officer suspects is a car thief, feels as if its pulled from the headlines. “When I select plays for the podcast series, I’m always looking at two things: I want the play to have some sort of mythical aspect to it, and to also have contemporary relevance. When I read [The Curse of Atreus] I knew it had to be in the series,” said Henderson. The podcast, which will continue to produce new material in 2017, also focuses on the works of women and people of color, a distribution of voices that is somewhat uncommon in the world of audio drama. Fans of the show can look forward to “Ink Trap,” an original work by Pittsburgh-based playwright Clare Drobot sometime this year, and the release of “The Far Travelers” by Sharon Dilworth sometime in 2018. Like the theater itself, the podcast is an eclectic mix of new voices and ideas interlaced with the familiar in the service of cultural commentary. But eclectic doesn’t do well to describe the 12 Peers lineup, or at least, not exactly. All four upcoming shows skirt a series of parallels: absurdism to combat grim societal issues, shows never before premiered in Pittsburgh that are familiar somehow, shows that find the personal in impersonality. 12 Peers’ unconventional season begins with Mythburgh, the most ambitious project of the bunch. A series of original, contemporary stories that pay homage to the mythos of the city, Mythburgh will play like a live sitcom; the stories will be influenced by audience participation, and will be replete with recurring characters and subplots. Even more than that, many of the characters will be played by local actors, whose characters will have their own, real social media accounts, continuing the story between shows. “I wanted to find a project that could really use artists from Pittsburgh in a specific way. I want use the actors’ personas in the actual show…[and] focus on the actual identities of the people involved,” said Henderson. In terms of plot, the show will feature a deep focus on Pittsburgh’s individuality as a city and culture. “These stories are epic and extremely Pittsburgh. [They are] stories about local myths, inspiring local stories, stories about communities coming together.” The show will feature a name your own price structure, and debuts at Brillo Box in the east end. 12 Peers’ second show, Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), written by Will Eno and directed by Ventura, premiers June 1st at The University of Pittsburgh Studio Theatre. Contrasting Mythburg’s sense of togetherness, Thom Paine is a manic one man show that reflect on moments of struggle big and small, and how those struggles inform who we are as individuals. “I think Tom Paine is about how we mythologize those moments in our lives…that moment when you stop being a child when you realize that the iron is hot. Those are defining moments, they happen to us over and over,” Ventura elaborated. Partially a response to a sense of mass confusion and anxiety following the 2016 Presidential Election, for the plays sense of “…fear, and of being overwhelmed.” Henderson, who will be performing, plays the eponymous Thom Pain as he dives deep into his personal psyche, filled with sudden interjections of memory, to come to terms with the shift from childhood to adulthood. Conversely to Thom Paine’s inner turmoil, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, is about how we mythologize the events around us. Written by Anne Washburn and directed by Ventura, Mr. Burns is a dramatically weird retelling of the Cape Feare episodes of the long-running series The Simpsons (you know – the one where sideshow Bob plays Robert DeNiro). Mr. Burns is the most complicated show 12 Peers has ever produced. Featuring an eight person cast, Mr. Burns utilizes music, elaborate costume design, mask work, action sequences and nuclear fallout. While the show will indeed feature real-life Simpsons-people, but Ventura and Henderson assured me that the story and characters we see in the first act may not entirely resemble what we see in the third. Theatergoers and Simpsons fans that are creative-bent can look forward to attending Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play on August 3rd to the 20th at the University of Pittsburgh Studio Theatre. If Thom Paine and Mr. Burns are indirect responses to a divisive cultural landscape, 12 Peers’ season-closer, "White Rabbit, Red Rabbit," a one man show written by Nassim Soleimanpour, is the theaters’ most direct political response. “There’s something to be said, without over-politicizing the play…the questions it raises about manipulation, acquiescence and cultural hegemony rule by consent…these are huge themes within White Rabbit Red Rabbit.” To discuss the play’s plot at length would be to miss the point – even the actors aren’t clued in on the script before they walk onstage. Henderson, who has performed the play in the past, explains: “It’s the only show I’ve ever done where I felt like I was in the audience when I
was in the show. I kept wanting to turn the page and see what happens next, but it was weird because I was doing it. It’s trippy for the performer. Part of the fun for the audience is seeing them experience this all for the first time and having no clue.” This atypical approach to storytelling not only imbues the show with a sense of discovery, but disarms the performer in such a way that they reveal something deeper about themselves in the process. Ventura told me about a time when an actor who had recently survived a car crash had brought a sense of renewed celebration of life to the script. “Every actor inevitably brings something personal to the script because you’re performing immediately.” White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be a benefit show for 12 Peers, and will be performed on March 27. Tickets will be 25$. The play is a fitting season closer, as it encompasses the two themes that are the spirit of 12 Peers’ 2017 season. “Community, and stories,” Ventura said. “What stories are we telling our community, and what are they telling us?” This theater-as-community mentality carries through to the show’s ticket prices. Mainstage shows performed on Sunday nights, as well as a  special Monday night performance of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, are name-your-own-price. For more information about 12 Peers, click here. 
Stage 62 Goes to Camelot, Neverland, and More!
By: Meredith Rigsby
Fourth Annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival!
By: Eva Phillips
Pittsburgh Festival Opera Raises Community Voices in Upcoming Production
By: Jacob Spears
Theater Galas and Fundraisers in Pittsburgh this Spring
By: Claire Juozitis
Artist Spotlight – Brian Vu on “As One”
By: George B. Parous
Artist Spotlight: Jeffrey Chips
By: Nichole Faina
Artist Spotlight: Leah de Gruyl as “Richard the Lionheart”
By: George B. Parous
Winter Preview 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
5 Holiday Shows You Don’t Want to Miss
By: Claire Juozitis
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Winter
By: George Hoover
Jumping Jack Theater Provides Interactive Opportunity for Special Needs Audiences
By: Meredith Rigsby
Artist Spotlight: Sean Sears
By: Nichole Faina
Loosening the Screws of Performance with Unbolted
By: Eva Phillips
Building an Organism, Part 2: The Space Upstairs
By: Jason Clearfield
Building An Organism, Part 1: slowdanger
By: Jason Clearfield
Pittsburgh’s Must-See Halloween Shows
By: Jack Lake
A Peek into the Pittsburgh Actor’s Space
By: Eva Phillips
Season 42 at City Theatre Brings Even More New Plays!
By: Isaac Crow
New Hazlett’s Community Supported Art Series Begins Third Season
By: Victor C. Leroi
Pittsburgh Savoyards Serve up Three Favorites in 79th Season
By: Yvonne Hudson
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall
By: George Hoover
Community, Celebration, and Risk Taking: McKeesport Little Theater’s Fall Season
By: Mark Skalski
Pittsburgh Opera’s 78th Season Opens October 8 with Verdi’s “La Traviata”
By: George B. Parous
Twenty Years of Prime Stage
By: Nichole Faina
Fall Preview 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Dancing into Fall 2016
By: Chloe Kinnahan
A New Day for PICT Classic Theatre at the Union Project
By: Yvonne Hudson
Fun with Shakespeare in the Parks!
By: Mara E. Nadolski
PNWF Returns for 26th Annual Showcase
By: Megan Grabowski
Pittsburgh Playhouse Brings Dramaturgical Powerhouse Season
By: Eva Phillips
CMU Drama to Engage and Challenge in 2016-2017 Season
By: Drew Praskovich
Collegiate Preview 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Student-Run Red Masquers to Push Boundaries in Upcoming Season
By: Mark Skalski
Pitt Stages Creates New and Familiar Realities in Resilient Spaces
By: Yvonne Hudson
Can We Interest You in a Musical About Lust, Love, War, Race and Class?
By: George Hoover
Ubu the King Hits Pittsburgh, One Night Only!
By: Jack Lake
Memories of OTP’s “SummerFest” 2016
By: George B. Parous
Artist Spotlight: Connor McCanlus
By: Jack Lake
Dimitrie Lazich and “The Silent Woman”
By: George B. Parous
Local Company to Hold Shakespeare Event in Support of Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub
By: Jason Clearfield
Momentum 2016: New Plays at Different Stages
By: Drew Praskovich
off the WALL’s Season of Pittsburgh Premieres
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Summer Preview 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Much to Be Expected from Throughline This Season
By: Roxy Lillard
Another Round of 10 Minute Plays!
By: Yvonne Hudson
A Quarter Century of Quantum
By: Yvonne Hudson
Artist Spotlight: Tracy Brigden
By: Nichole Faina
Little Lake Theatre: Flourishing in 2016
By: Victor C. Leroi
The 12th Annual Theatre Festival in Black and White
By: Jason Clearfield
“SummerFest” Is In the Air!
By: George B. Parous
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Summer
By: Drake Ma
PICT Conjures Poe’s Terror for Final Bows at Pitt before next Season at Union Project
By: Yvonne Hudson
One Stop Shopping: The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival Coverage 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Fringe Day 3: A Day at St. Mary’s
By: Nichole Faina
Fringe Day 2: A Day Full of Female Playwrights
By: Nichole Faina
A Word or Two from Pittsburgh Opera’s General Director, Christopher Hahn, on “The Rake’s Progress.”
By: George B. Parous
Fringe Day 1: Storytelling and Eulogies
By: Nichole Faina
Fringe Day 3: Four Voices One Story, It’s Who You Know, and Always B Sharp
By: Drake Ma
Fringe Day 3: Funerals, Poetry, Dance and an Open Mic
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Fairytales, Fights, and Failure: Fringe Day 3
By: Jack Lake
Losing Our Heads Over Shakespeare, Part 2: Pittsburgh Shakespeareans Admit Lifelong Attraction
By: Yvonne Hudson
Friday Fringe Binge: Day 1 of the Festival
By: Jack Lake
Fringe Day 2: Beautiful Cadavers, LA Acting Coaches, and Cinderella Stories
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Fringe Day 3: Critters!
By: Megan Grabowski
Fringe Day 2: Ukrainian Dance to One Man Shows to #BlackLivesMatter
By: Megan Grabowski
Fringe Day 2: The Last Lifeboat and A Dream of Midsummer
By: Drake Ma
Fringe Day 1: Passing Through and 5 Hams Fairy Tales
By: Megan Grabowski
Local Theatre Group to Represent Pittsburgh in Edinburgh Fringe Festival
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Losing Our Heads Over Shakespeare, Part 1: Mrs. Shakespeare’s Four-Century Journey
By: Yvonne Hudson
Pittsburgh Fringe Festival Returns to the Northside
By: Nichole Faina
Book of Will: Celebrate the First Folio
By: Yvonne Hudson
“And Suddenly You Know…”
By: Nichole Faina
B.U.S. 11 Provides Laughs, Thoughtfulness and an Anthology!
By: Jack Lake
Strindberg Inspired Play to Premiere at Pittsburgh Playwrights
By: Yvonne Hudson
What’s to Come for SWAN Day 2016
By: Nichole Faina
What to Expect in Season 5 from 12 Peers Theater
By: Jack Lake
Joniece Abbott-Pratt on Strong Female Roles, Pittsburgh Debut
By: Natalie Spanner
Artist Spotlight: Karla Boos
By: Natalie Spanner
Artist Spotlight: Joanna Lowe
By: Natalie Spanner
Pittsburgh Public’s New Season Has It All!
By: Drake Ma
Artist Spotlight: Kim Brown
By: Natalie Spanner
Artist Spotlight: Sabrina Hykes-Davis
By: Natalie Spanner
Tales with Tunes
By: Isaac Crow
Artist Spotlight: Leon Zionts
By: Natalie Spanner
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Blast from the Past
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Artist Spotlight: Clare Drobot
By: Natalie Spanner
Pittsburgh New Works Festival Celebrates 25 years
By: Jack Lake
Artist Spotlight: Matt Henderson
By: Natalie Spanner
Artist Spotlight: Connor Bahr
By: Natalie Spanner
Artist Spotlight: Virginia Wall Gruenert
By: Natalie Spanner
Coming Soon: Artist Spotlight
By: Natalie Spanner
Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s “SummerFest” Opens July 10
By: George B. Parous
Fringe Sunday AKA The Lost Reviews
By: Corey Hawk
Fringe Day 3: My Day at City of Asylum and the Mystery of the Tall Old Man Solved
By: Jack Lake
Fringe Day 2: Murder, Raw Woman and Bears, Oh My!
By: Jack Lake
Last but Not Least: Fringe Day 3
By: John Nau
Religion, Murder and 9/11: Fringe Day 2
By: Corey Hawk
Fringe Festival Rocks the Northside Friday Night
By: Corey Hawk
Fringe Day Two Coming to You!
By: John Nau
Eerie Hotels and Spooky Taverns: Fringe Recap Day 2
By: Chloe Detrick
Horror Movies and Puppets!
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Fringe Day 1: Don’t Get Robbed, Don’t Be Late!
By: Jack Lake
Fringe Festival Brings Laughs and Music
By: John Nau
Here We Go Again!
By: Mara E. Nadolski
A Week of Will
By: Tyler Plosia
UnCommon Shakespeare
By: Jack Lake
Theater (and Dance and Music and Film and Painting) at SWAN Day 2015
By: Tyler Plosia
SWAN Day Pittsburgh 2015: One Show, Sixty Women and Tons of Talent
By: Sarah Beth Martin
Quantum Theatre’s Q Ball Dazzles Once Again!
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Hot Metal Musicals Delivered on Talent and Variety
By: Isaac Crow
New Musicals to be Showcased at the Cabaret
By: Isaac Crow
The Fringe is No Joke
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Seven Shows in Shadyside: Adventures in Fringe
By: James Ormond
From the Internet to the Stage
By: Isaac Crow
And the Winner Is…
By: Mara E. Nadolski
In case you didn’t know…
By: Justin Sines
Until Next Year…
By: Justin Sines
TPS Report – April 28, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
TPS Report – April 21, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
TPS Report – April 14, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
TPS Report – April 7, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
TPS Report – March 31, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
TPS Report – March 24, 2014
By: Mara E. Nadolski
SWAN DAY Pittsburgh 2014
By: Justin Sines
Quantum Gets Qed Up For Q Ball
By: James Ormond
Fringe Festival Kicks Off at 5801
By: Isaac Crow
Coming for 2014… TPS Reports!
By: James Ormond