Features

Pittsburgh CLO Ignites a SPARK to Pierce the Dark

By: Brian Pope
27332031_10155250785061696_3305618049594248234_nWhat comes first: the music or the lyric? This question has been asked by people of all levels of engagement with the craft of musical theatre. One thing that has been true about musical theatre from the beginning is that its definition is fluid. The winding and widening timeline of musical theatre—from late 19th century operettas to early 20th vaudeville to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to Stephen Sondheim to Lin-Manuel Miranda and every writer, director, star, and innovation in between—has made that question virtually impossible to answer. That’s where Pittsburgh CLO comes in with their inaugural SPARK festival. SPARK is the centerpiece of Pittsburgh CLO’s Next Generation Capital Campaign. With its goal of igniting the future of new small cast musicals, SPARK seeks to continue CLO’s long legacy of excellence in the production of musical theatre. This is a legacy that includes over seven decades of bringing blockbuster Broadway razzle dazzle to the Steel City and nearly two decades of bringing sky high entertainment value to dinner theatre in their intimate cabaret venue. SPARK is also a window into the sometimes mystifying, sometimes dramatic, always rewarding creative process of writing a musical. It’s neither the music nor the lyric that comes first when one is writing a musical. It’s inspiration. It’s the spark of an idea, a character, a situation that jumps off the page onto center stage and sings its heart out. This is where a diverse group of 40 writers comes in. Literally. The composers, lyricists, and book writers took residence with Pittsburgh CLO for up to three weeks to begin fine tuning their musicals for presentation in the festival. Each piece was in a different stage of development, but all were equally at the mercy of the artists in the SPARK rehearsal rooms—writers, directors, music directors, stage managers, dramaturgs, and a total of 85 performers. Once a musical is written, rewritten, rehearsed, and rewritten more, the only way for the creative team to know if the show is on the right track to connecting with audiences is to get the show up on its feet. Three of the common methods for presenting a musical work in progress were on display at SPARK. Music stands, binders, and frantic page turning take the place of completely full-fledged props and design elements in the worlds of sit-down readings, semi-staged readings, and fully-staged workshop productions. In these settings, the audience shows their support for a show by engaging in talk back sessions after the curtain call rather than giving a standing ovation. This is where the various musical theatre fanatics, industry professionals, friends/family of the festival participants, and I come in! For me, there were eight shows over the course of two 7-9 hour days. There were brisk walks (in speed and temperature) up and down Liberty Avenue between the three homes of SPARK, CLO itself, Bricolage, and Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. And, most memorable of all, there was the huge grin on my face as I fed off the tremendous creative energy radiating from everything and everyone I encountered on my journey through SPARK. The pieces I saw had astounding range in content, form, and presentation. Three musical comedies like Adam Overett’s The Double-Threat Trio; Kellen Blair, Sarah Ziegler Blair, and David Christensen’s Just Between the All of Us; and An Untitled New Play by Justin Timberlake by Matt Schatz might seem to have a lot in common on paper based on their genre, but their approaches for getting laughs are varied. The Double-Threat Trio, featuring a performance by Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, features three characters (each with a talent-based fatal flaw) and a woman of many hats (and personalities) determined to hit it big with a production of the musical adaptation of Oedipus called Oed! Metatheatricality melds with personal drama in An Untitled New Play by Justin Timberlake. In the show, one of the theatre’s most unsung heroes, the literary manager, is hopelessly torn between the abstract concept of artistic credibility and the chance to rub elbows with Mr. Jessica Biel. Just Between the All of Us swipes left on traditional theatricality as it employs a choose-your-own-adventure storytelling model and audience participation to relate the dating and mating tribulations of the indecisive Dr. Madeline. The inclusion of other shows in the festival allude to a much more inclusive future for CLO’s musical landscape. These Girls Have Demons is notable for being the only production in SPARK with an all-female creative team including its book writer/lyricist Meghan Brown and composer Sarah Taylor Ellis. It tells the story of what happens when all hell literally breaks loose on four tween girls who meddle with the dark arts to ease their adolescent woes. Writer and performer Jillian Walker processes her plight as a black woman in America live in living color in SKiNFoLK: An American Show. It’s a lyrical montage of movements in which music sprouts organically from the lost and found stories of a conflicted history. In addition to the nine headlining productions of SPARK, CLO proved its staunch dedication to writers/creators by also presenting an eclectic handful of unique musical theatre experiences including late night performances from local improv troupes and other musical works-in-progress courtesy of CLO writers-in-residence. The fourth wall between performer and spectator is broken down by the earth-shattering courage and vulnerability it takes for creators to share a still-gestating piece of work. It’s an electrifying experience to witness both groups discovering, reacting to, and internalizing the music and lyrics almost at the same rate. This first-ever SPARK festival will be a tough act to follow, but I have no doubt that Pittsburgh CLO will be able to make lightning strike twice. For more information about Pittsburgh CLO and the 2018 SPARK festival, click here.  

Pittsburgh Opera’s Season To Close with “The Elixir of Love”

By: George B. Parous
HeaderFor the final offering of its current season, Pittsburgh Opera will present Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore) beginning next Saturday evening, April 21. With a libretto by Felice Romani, the music for the comic, melodious opera was composed in just six weeks, and for more than a decade after its premiere in Milan, in 1832, it was the most frequently performed work in Italy. Even today, it’s heard often enough to fall into the top twenty most frequently staged operas in the world. Its famous aria "Una furtiva lagrima" (“A furtive tear”), is a romanza that appears regularly on the concert programs of many tenors, and has been preserved for posterity by a large number of them since the birth of recorded sound, and at least a dozen studio recordings of the entire opera, many boasting legendary singers, have proved popular sellers since the 1950’s. The simple but engaging plot concerns Nemorino, and his love for “the beautiful and wealthy Adina, who appears to be completely out of his league. His prospects are further diminished when the handsome and dashing Sergeant Belcore arrives. But when Doctor Dulcamara rolls into town and sells Nemorino a bottle of his dubious Elixir of Love, things get very interesting. Why is Nemorino suddenly popular with every girl in the village? Will he win Adina's love before it's too late?” [caption id="attachment_6813" align="aligncenter" width="788"]Nemorino (Dimitri Pittas) looks on in dismay as Belcore (Zachary Nelson) proposes to Adina (Ekaterina Siurina) Nemorino (Dimitri Pittas) looks on in dismay as Belcore (Zachary Nelson) proposes to Adina (Ekaterina Siurina)[/caption] Ekaterina Siurina will sing Adina, Dimitri Pittas, Nemorino, Zachary Nelson, Belcore, Shannon Jennings, Giannetta, Paolo Pecchioli, Dr. Dulcamara, and young Simon Nigam will play Dr. Dulcamara's assistant. In addition to the wonderful music for the lead singers, the opera has many fine opportunities for the excellent chorus, under Mark Trawka, and the orchestra will be conducted by Christian Capocaccia, whose last excellent turn at the podium with the company will assure him of a hearty welcome. The production to be presented, owned by Opera North, moves the action to the 1950’s, and will be directed by Daniel Slater. It will be the 8th time he’s directed this production, and Pittsburgh Opera asked him if his approach has evolved since the first. “Yes, it has,” was his reply. “In fact, two years ago Opera North wanted to do it again. They had actually asked me to do it again few years before that, and I didn’t want to. Then they asked me again, and I said ‘Well, I’ll do it again if you don’t mind that we change it.’ Now, we can’t change the set - the set is what it is. The costumes are what they are, within reason. But I wanted to approach it as though Robert Innes Hopkins and I had worked on the set, worked on the costumes, and were looking at them with my choreographer for the first time, thinking ‘what would we do with these things?’ So, we just threw everything we’d done out, and just asked ourselves ‘What is the heart of this story?’ The heart of the story is obviously about Nemorino and Adina. So, we decided to do a staging of the Prelude that focuses attention on that. [caption id="attachment_6812" align="aligncenter" width="512"]Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli, back right) offers Nemorino (Dimitri Pittas, back left) his Elixir of Love while Nemorino watches Belcore (Zachary Nelson) woo Adina (Ekaterina Siurina) Dr. Dulcamara (Paolo Pecchioli, back right) offers Nemorino (Dimitri Pittas, back left) his Elixir of Love while Nemorino watches Belcore (Zachary Nelson) woo Adina (Ekaterina Siurina)[/caption] “We decided to make the chorus’ body language, movement language, be a little more stylized than it had been before. We basically reinvented the show. This ‘new’ production was at Opera North two years ago, then it went to Houston and now it’s come here. So this is, if you like, the third incarnation of the new version of Elixir - though it’s been done eight times, in my mind this is the third time. “I think this is one of the most accessible operas in the repertoire. I think it’s got enormous charm. It’s very funny, but it’s also touching. You can really genuinely be moved by the journey that Nemorino goes on, and that Adina goes on, too. So I hope they’ll come out feeling that they really related to those two central characters, and see Nemorino and Adina’s story reflect things that they have gone through in their lives. I hope also, that in the midst of this rather gross Pennsylvania weather we’re all enduring, it offers the audience a little brief two-and-a-half-hour summer holiday on the Amalfi Coast.” Personally, I would have used several unprintable words to describe the weather in Pittsburgh lately. “It’s hard to believe our 2017-18 season is almost over,” Christopher Hahn, General Director of Pittsburgh Opera shared with us recently. “We’re proud of the exceedingly high quality of our productions, and the variety we’ve given our patrons. It’s been a stellar blend of the classics, such as Tosca and The Marriage of Figaro, and the contemporary, such as The Long Walk and Moby-Dick, with an edgy world premiere thrown in as well. We enjoy ending our season with a light-hearted comedy, and we know our audiences will fall in love with The Elixir of Love.” For tickets, photos of the production and much more, visit Pittsburgh Opera. David Bachman Photography

Five Fringe Shows, So Many Flights of Stairs

By: Alex Walsh
Day 3 of Fringe was my marathon day, in which I attempted a feat only dreamed of before. Five shows in one day! I did it, with the help of food trucks, coffee, $3 cocktails, and a brief nap in my car. tentaclespghfringeshowgraphicwebHaving learned from the previous day’s mad rush, I arrived early for my first show. The helpful volunteers got me all checked in, and when the time came, led me downstairs for TENTACLES, from Voyage Theater Company. TENTACLES takes the form of a thesis presentation by Tessa (played by Tessa Flannery, who also wrote the show) studying the ravishment fantasies of an “anonymous subject” and attempting to reconcile them with her feminism. The lecture is interrupted consistently. At first by the speaker/subject’s own fantasies, cutaway scenes lit in red that Tessa then sheepishly recovers from, and then by a spectator. We eventually learn that Chris (portrayed by Chris Fayne), was invited by Tessa to watch her presentation. But the Shakespearian actor-turned-porn star, who she had secret fantasies about during their college years, takes it upon himself to set the record straight on aspects of her thesis that he disagrees with. A good chunk of the crowd I was in didn’t realize at first that Chris was part of the show, so I got to enjoy people grumbling at him for heckling until his interjections escalated enough that he was clearly a cast member. Despite being framed as a literal lecture, Flannery’s writing does a great job of raising the issues of the #metoo movement in a way that feels natural to the story and the characters. Chris’ interruptions are played for laughs until they aren’t, underscoring that Tessa has the final say in where the line is drawn. With great writing and acting throughout, this was a definite highlight of the weekend. 3-x-3-72dpi_origAfter a quick bounce upstairs and a few minutes of writing, I headed back to the St. Mary’s basement for No Oddjob, David Lawson’s one-man show about video games, and their impact on his life. I’ve spent a fair amount of time at sci-fi/comic/anime conventions that feature nerd stand-up, and too often the routines boil down to “here’s a reference, laugh if you get it!” so I was a little cautious about this show. But Lawson’s performance is more than that. As an examination of what kind of influence games can have on those who play them, the show follows Lawson through his youth and into adulthood. At each stage, he discusses the games he played, how he saw them, and how others reacted to them, whether that means parents, employers, or the government. The games are always central to the narrative, but the story is his. Lawson’s primary focus is the perennial argument over violence in video games, resurrected once again by President Trump, and he argues that while games can inspire people, they don’t create monsters. It’s a point he makes well, but I think the show’s scope could be expanded. Every time he referred to “the next big controversy” I was expecting him to address the gamergate blow-up from a few years ago that focused not on violence but sexism in the gaming community. With his history and perspective, I think it would be interesting to hear Lawson’s take on that issue as well. showupwebsiteartpittsNext on the agenda was Show Up, Peter Michael Marino’s improvised solo comedy. I thought this show was impressive as hell. In the course of an initial dialogue with the audience that Marino points out is mostly scripted on his end, he collects topics from the audience in several categories (Childhood, Addiction, Love Life, Job, etc…) and assigns the roles of Stage Manager and Sound Technician to two attendees. And that’s when the show kicks off in earnest. Using the props set out by the Stage Manager and a musical cure from the sound person to set each scene, Marino improvises a personal narrative that incorporates all of the topics suggested by the audience. This is a task that could easily go off the rails, but Marino managed to put together a consistently funny and mostly coherent one-man show relating the life of Pedro, a shoemaker’s son who went on to co-found Moe’s Southwest Grill with a surprising amount of murder along the way. (That was my fault, actually. My weird family story involved murder.) According to the website showuptheshow.com, he will be performing a kids’ version of Show Up in New York City in May, which I assume will probably be dropping the “Addiction” category. So tell any of your family members back east who have reproduced in the last decade or so to check it out! leahy-fringe_origFor my last stop downstairs, I saw Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, God! Based on the classic Judy Blume novel (which I should admit I haven’t read), Rude Cutlet Theater Company’s show features the long-awaited responses from God to Margaret’s repeated entreaties. God is mostly unsympathetic, which isn’t surprising, because maaaaaaaaaaaaan is Margaret an odd duck. The only-slightly-exaggerated excerpts from the novel that comprise Margaret’s dialogue mostly center on how much she wants a bra, to have her period, and to be ogled by an attractive teacher. God responds by pointing out how strange and problematic all of this is, and that we really shouldn’t have kids read this book anymore. Writer/performers Dana Leahy and Emily Askin have a good concept for the show, but the jokes are pretty hit-or-miss. The best parts of Are You There Margaret?, as part of a larger comedy show, would be a great act. But as a full one-hour performance, it seems a little padded. fc18194d203954691561a5799116379es-8_origIan Insect’s It Sounded Like A Good Idea In My Dreams is exactly the kind of madness I come to Fringe to see. An absurdist comedy revue, everything about this performance adds to the overall effect, even though none of them seem very closely related. Even before the show starts, you’re greeted by a surly usher who informs you that smoking is not permitted in the show while holding a cigarette. A sign at the front declares that laughter is only permitted when the red light is on. The performance is broken into two acts containing monologues, sketches, and songs, split up by an intermission that’s actually a sketch of its own, and parody ad videos from sponsors like Green Soda and RateMyInfant.guv. A lot of the show is built around language – the opening disclaimer is a maybe-too-long discussion of whether the show is not for everyone, not for anyone, for someone, for somebody, or not for nobody, and Act II opens with a slide show on punctuation. Ian Insect wants you to think about what’s being said, and how. And he also wants you to feel a little uncomfortable while you’re doing that. Little things throughout add up to a sense that things aren’t going exactly as planned – the usher’s constant haranguing of the audience, the panicked writers’ meeting at intermission, the consistent technical errors when the ads play, a not quite long enough microphone cable. It all creates an atmosphere that contributes to the dreamlike, disassociated structure of the play. This was also the perfect show to end on, in the final moments, as Ian Insect lay awkwardly (and unless I’m mistaken, creepily unblinking) on the ground amid the scattered salad and props that had been left untouched since Act I and Ann Usher yelled at us to leave (“We can’t go home until you’re gone! GO!”), the Fringe volunteers packing up the table and curtains in the background felt like part of the show. I hope I didn’t miss a Marvel-style after-credits scene, but I took the hint and walked off to the afterparty. Good Fringe. For more information about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival click here

Three Bearded Dudes and That One Girl: Fringe Day 3

By: Tiffany Raymond
The final night of the 5th Annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival found me in yet another basement for three more shows, this time at the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church. Unlike the prior night’s venue at St. Mary’s Lyceum, this location was an actual church. There was something immediately soothing about the diffusion of late afternoon light through the stained glass windows. There was also a wickedly glorious irony in having that light bathe over me with the pulmonating voice of Fringe Festival performer Bob Weick as Karl Marx filtering into the entryway. While the fates whisked me to the less charming basement multi-use room, the sound bleed from above was not nearly as bad and distracting as the Lyceum. andrew-frank_origThe first show of the evening was Andrew Frank’s stand-up show, Macrocosm. While I don’t spend much time at comedy clubs, intellectualism is not necessarily my first association with stand-up. However, Andrew Frank wastes no time in establishing this is a thinking person’s show. He launches into bits on light speed (keeping it comedic by doing the math on the size of his proclaimedly large penis relative to light years), nonillion (a number with 30 zeros) and the Fibonacci sequence. You realize you came in expecting to play some version of Chutes and Ladders, and all of sudden, the chess board has come out. To establish his legitimacy, Frank opens the show by telling us he’s done 11 years of stand-up. His transitions consist of giving his hipster haircut a faint tug and outwardly flipping his microphone cord, an onstage move that’s reminiscent of the recent water bottle flipping phenomena. Overall, Frank comes off as more gently amusing than genuinely comedic. There were few roars from the audience. Frank exudes an air of pretention, even when talking dismissively about his education at an unaccredited Christian school in Missouri. He struggles with straddling that line between making people laugh and making them feel dumb. After all, not everyone knows the Fibonacci sequence (a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers). Ultimately, the math of Frank’s comedy adds up to making one feel a little lesser. 28514724_10157160314724838_3180087440204844665_oThe second stand-up show of the night was Krish Mohan’s Empathy on Sale. Like Frank, Mohan also takes an intellectual approach, albeit more political in slant. However, Mohan is clearly more at ease than Frank. Mohan engages the audience with self-referential sideline commentary about their responses (or lack thereof), which dissolves boundaries and encourages easy laughter. Mohan offers satirical commentary on the immigrant experience having come to the U.S. from India when he was 8. He reminds us of our biases as he addresses common questions like “Where is your accent?” Mohan helps us stand ever so slightly outside of our American box in considering the screwy nature of rampant capitalism. This is memorably evidenced by his family excitedly whisking his 68-year old grandmother off to a mall when she visits the U.S. from India for the first time. While Mohan and his family have only been in the U.S. for 20 years, he dismally notes his father is a rabid follower of FOX News and regularly rails against the Hispanic immigrant influx. Ironically, it seems we quickly morph into fierce protectionists of our adopted home, ready to erect walls now that we’re here. It reminded me of living in California and people complaining about newcomers overcrowding the state when they themselves had only been there for a few years. Yet, this behavior is as old as America itself. Mohan quotes a journal entry from Christopher Columbus noting the native population will be easy to subjugate because they are welcoming and not technologically advanced. Ah, Amurika! vanlife-201801-3x3-webjpgSqueezed between these two stand-up routines in the Unitarian church basement was the runaway sensation of the night, New Vintage Ensemble’s #vanlife. In this piece, Casey and Kimmie are two gay millennials in search of both escape and the meaning of their lives. They look to accomplish this by stripping down beyond the small house movement to its more extreme cousin – van culture. Participation in this movement will theoretically allow them to travel as freely as dandelion fluff on a breeze. The show opens with hilariously fresh and cutting banter. It stays in sync, never missing a beat. The two friends nitpick at each other like an old married couple as they prep to record a YouTube video with the proper balance of humor (a chipper rattling of the van’s name: Jean-Claude Damme Van – or is it Van Damme? Damn!), hand gestures, charm and of course, product placement as they attempt to monetize their journeys. The quest to capture that perfect seamless, inspiring, breezy moment is peeled back to reveal a fiction. The show cracks open the wide delta in life between upbeat social media portrayals and the palpable realities of life as it is. For instance, Casey notes #vanlife pictures on social media are in meadows and on beaches, not in the Walmart parking lots where they actually congregate. Of course, this delta isn’t limited to Casey and Kimmie. The very existence of the phrase “Facebook life” points to the fact that social media portrayals are not reflective of everyday reality. It’s a shiny final image with the right filter that elides the mess and muck along the way. Miserable and grumpy, Casey and Kimmie sideline into a debate on the relative merits of truckstop showers, before roping it back in and plastering on fake smiles for the YouTube camera. They’re combative, picking at each other with ease and an underpinning of affection worn by the trials of travel. Kimmie wears an orange V-neck sweater and patterned LuLaRoe leggings. She decries that her life has just become “about managing people’s expectations of me.” She says it like it makes her unique. In fact, it illustrates her lack of self-awareness on the general human condition. These apparently oppressive expectations stifle her ability to figure out who she really is, so Kimmie does a past-life reading. In learning who she’s been, perhaps she’ll figure out who she is. Like any past-life reading worth its salt, her past turns out to have been far more intriguing than her present. This disconnect seems to provide the inspirational spark for her vanlife venture, and she successfully campaigns to have Casey join her. Throughout the show, the two actors stand only a few feet apart, but they never look at each other. In fact, they’re mostly on a slight diagonal away from each other as if each is standing in the middle of an angry face emoji eyebrow painted on the floor. Casey and Kimmie literalize social media’s tendency to look downward or outward, but not inward and never making eye contact. Our laughter is underpinned with a recognition of ourselves. Check out the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival site for more information on their shows.

Fringe Festival in Three Shows

By: Ringa Sunn
This is only my second year seeing Fringe Fest shows, but I feel like I’m already a pro at it. For instance, this year I didn’t get lost trying to find St. Mary’s Lyceum, and once I walked inside I didn’t think twice about the small bar filled with smoke and people who would rather watch football than a play and showed it by speaking to the people sitting right next to them loud enough that you could keep up with their entire conversation while watching the performance in the back. This is only slightly a negative; it makes the festival feel familiar and local, and it nice to be able to grab a beer before a show if you’re into that sorta thing. leahy-fringe_origThe first show I saw was Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, God! downstairs at St. Mary’s, so I didn’t get to hear the spillover from the bar, just a little thumping from the show upstairs. The Rude Cutlet Theater Company presented a show featuring two actors standing before the audience and reading from their scripts, so I’d call it a dramatic reading more than a one act play. Margaret, the character from Judy Blume’s famous novel, read her diary out loud. We got to hear about her crush on the teacher, her obsession with breasts, and the first time she got her period. Her diary was filled with actual excerpts from the book and additions to make the material more modern and call out the completely inappropriate material that makes you wonder how this was ever an acceptable book for teenagers. God, the character from the Bible and seemingly some dimension where you can work your way into achieving deity status in this particular rendition of the character, answered Margaret with sassy comebacks and complete horror at the more yikes-worthy parts. Although Margaret could not hear God’s answers. There were lots of good parts in this show. A lot of the material was funny, and certainly relatable to the ladies in the audience. The concept of looking at material from decades ago and pointing out how problematic it is really makes for great entertainment. However, many of the jokes felt forced or were delivered oddly. Sometimes I was cringing at the diary entries, sometimes at the missed attempt at humor. It seems like this play could be amazing if it was just cleaned up a bit. But they should definitely keep the hamburger bit. That was pure comedy gold. voa-poster-3x3Next, I moved on to a church in another part of the North Side for Voice of Authority. Much less smoke and beer (by that I mean none). When I arrived, I found Dean Temple, the writer and performer of this one man show, playing his guitar to the small audience. I thought he’d started early, but it turned out he was just performing his own house music. He used this to launch his show from the final song, which was a unique way of beginning the show. Temple certainly liked to keep the audience on its toes. The show itself was Temple telling a story, supposedly a true story of things that really happened to him, about how he went from the performing arts to making more money than he knew what to do with to being sued by the Department of Justice for $19 million and back to the arts again. This is all set up with the audience playing the part of therapist so he can talk his story and feelings out, often referencing the internal voice of authority that makes him make questionable choices. The story was interesting, and Temple’s performance was well rehearsed. He changed mannerisms and vocals for the different characters that he was using, which helped to keep the story from being too confusing. It was still confusing, as it jumped around a lot and Temple’s high energy kept him bouncing around the stage. The lights were weird too, and the fact that they changed with certain moods and not others made it seem very avant-garde where I didn’t feel it needed to. If nothing else, the show was entertaining, and it was a story likely to be unique to everyone who hears it. pittsburghfringewebsite_1_origBack to St. Mary’s for Falkland: The War the World Forgot, and upstairs this time so the multimedia and actors of Tasty Monster Productions had to work hard to keep the audience’s attention on them. They succeeded, and I was completely drawn into this story that was based on true events of a war that I’d never heard of. Which was the point in the telling of the story. The company used film to show what was happening in the world during this war in the Falkland Islands in Britain, along with recordings of interviews and newscasts, and photos of the actual war and aftermath. There were two actors- one who played a sheep farmer and one who split time playing a young soldier stationed on the farmer’s land and also the farmer’s wife in other scenes. It was a compelling story, showing how the war affected not only those who were fighting in it but also the civilians whose land was compromised during this time. Heather and Luke, the company founders and the players in the show, did an excellent job of story telling and portraying the different characters. It was easy to feel their anxiety and fear, and it was easy to find yourself rooting for these characters that you’d barely met. And the sheep, which we got to see in some of the photos. This show made me want to learn more about this war, and the trouble it caused for the natives of the island. And that should be considered a win for this company. It was a really nice way for me to close out my festival experience. For more information about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival click here.

Fringe Day 3: St. Mary’s Lyceum: Part 2

By: Megan Grabowski
pgh-fringe-website-photoLocal Pittsburgh buskers, Sean Miller and Kristin Ward are The Daring Douglasses. If you have been to any Pittsburgh events over the past couple decades, you most likely have seen them, a large crowd standing in a circle, watching with eyes wide and mouths gaping open in awe.   Fire eating, sword swallowing and lying on a bed of nails are incredible feats and sometimes hard to watch, but watch we must and this is evident by the crowd of people, sitting anxiously, awaiting the show to begin. The first part of the title, Straw, Mud and Old Boards refers to the seating available at carnivals, festivals, and fairs; the venues The Daring Douglasses perform most often.  Over the course of the show, Miller and Ward colorfully recount their most memorable experiences up and down the United States from the Eastern Seaboard to the Mississippi and everywhere in between. I think the audience expected to see the team perform some of their most daring acts; bursting, otherwise known as blowing huge, big balls of fire or swallowing fire or swords.  Unfortunately, due to insurance issues, these death defying displays of fearlessness were prohibited.  This did not prevent the dynamic duo from sharing plenty of stories and a few select tricks.  The most well received escapade demonstrated is not for the squeamish; the “Human Blockhead”.  Miller began his presentation by asking an audience member to choose a nail from a box of nails. Then he requested someone examine a hammer and confirm it is a standard, regular old hammer.  Next, Miller casually used the hammer to insert the nail into his nose.  Many in the audience turned their heads, but only slightly, so they could still see Miller extract the nail from his nostril with the claw end.   Ward, demonstrated the same trick using a glow stick.  The audience, clearly relieved she did not choose a nail,  but every bit as impressed.  These stunts earned several gasps followed by vigorous applause from the audience. Miller and Ward primarily entertain at popular festivals, fairs, and carnivals but they are also engaging storytellers.   Through a carefully planned narrative, they each tell their own stories; how they found their calling as sideshow performers, performances that were less than successful as well as some of their favorite showcases. I  enjoyed this show.  I loved the storytelling and hearing about the history leading up to the forming of the troupe.  As a Pittsburgher, I have seen The Daring Douglasses perform at least one dozen times.  I think the concept of Straw, Mud and Old Boards is a crafty way to promote themselves and share their art despite the limitations due to the provisions set forth by the Fringe Festival;  and for good reason.   For just one second, imagine the liability associated with a fully bearded man, eating fire, in the back room of a bar on Pittsburgh’s Northside! Audience members who have not witnessed The Daring Douglasses performance in full, Straw, Mud and Old Boards should whet your appetite for good old fashioned sideshow. bbshakespeare_1Rounding out my Fringe Festival tour for Pittsburgh in the Round, is a witty performance by Pittsburgh’s Brawling Bard Theater, Shakespeare Annotated.  Written Alan Irvine, with help from William Shakespeare and performed by a company of extraordinary actors. The showcase begins with a brief introduction from Irvine, explaining the plot; actors deliver classic Shakespeare scenes and monologues while an expert librarian sits off to the side, prepared to provide footnotes when necessary.  He introduces the first performance, Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1.  Alex, with her long flowing dark hair takes the stage and without warning begins reciting Sonnet 18.  The cast is quick to interrupt.  Alex insists, the sonnet is her favorite piece.  Everyone agrees it is a lovely sonnet- but despite her earnest attempt to persuade, the show continues with Hamlet.  I must say, being the most recognized Shakespeare play next to Romeo and Juliet, and despite attempted comedic elements the launch of the show fell short with Hamlet. The most memorable moments come from the apt and presumptuous ‘librarian’ sitting quietly with her nose in the books, barking out exceptional interpretation, whenever she felt it was needed.   By the second arrangement,  As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, the cast seems to have warmed up and the show gets livelier.  I was relieved to see and hear some of the initial rigidity in the actors voices and movements melt away.   A genuine and more professional production emerged and it was almost an a-ha moment for the audience collectively once we figured out the entire show is a farce.  By the time A Winter’s Tale is presented, more props are introduced and the is loving the levity bestowed upon the classics.  With the presentation of As You Like It, we discover the world’s first flushing toilet. In The Winter’s Tale, Act 3 scene 3, a bear races through the theater.  The footnotes included in the introduction of Much Ado About Nothing, had the audience in stitches.  Alex’s second attempt to present her favorite sonnet was a small fiasco and the zany, knife fighting scene from Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 1, is expertly directed by Tonya Lynn, adding another layer of theatrical expertise to the company’s exhibition. What began as a weak and lackluster program ended with cheers and smiles from both the cast and audience. I read my fair share of Shakespeare in high school and college and I’ve seen several Shakespeare productions, of varying degrees, performed live, but none that compare to Shakespeare Annotated. The cast is energetic and invested in their roles, but it is the originality of the script that really won me over.   Shakespeare Annotated is not assigned reading in English 101, but probably should be. For more information about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival click here.
Fringe Day 3: St. Mary’s Lyceum: Part 1
By: Megan Grabowski
Ballet, Puppets, Memories, and Marxism: Fringe Day 3
By: Cayleigh Boniger
A Fringe Bookend
By: Carson Singer
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are – Fringe Day 2
By: Helen Meade
An Evening at St. Mary’s – Fringe 2018
By: Alex Walsh
I am Feeling a Fringe Ocean (metaphor) Against My Body
By: Carson Singer
Day Two of Fringe 2018
By: Megan Grabowski
Fringe 2018: A Day of One Person Shows
By: Tiffany Raymond
It Sounded Like Shakespeare Hypnotized Children of Heaven in My Dreams
By: Helen Meade
What Do Tentacles, Judy Blume, and Anxiety Have in Common?
By: Carson Singer
Puppets, Proletarians, Things That Go Pop, and Police Violence
By: Alex Walsh
First Friday of Fringe!
By: Megan Grabowski
Gala Round Up 2018
By: Eva Phillips
Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks’ Week of Will Preview
By: Ringa Sunn
“Moby-Dick” Coming to Pittsburgh Opera
By: George B. Parous
Spring Preview 2018
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Front Porch Theatricals Finds Universal Truths in Two True Story Musicals
By: Brian Pope
Inclusion and the Unknown: Pittsburgh Fringe Festival 2018
By: Mark Skalski
Igniting Creativity with CLO’s SPARK Festival
By: George Hoover
Little Lake’s 70th Anniversary Season!
By: Tiffany Raymond
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring: 2018
By: George Hoover
Quantum Makes Way for the Next World Premiere: Inside Passage
By: Yvonne Hudson
Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 2018-2019 Season!
By: George Hoover
Eric Ferring on Pittsburgh Opera’s “Ashes & Snow”
By: George B. Parous
Pittsburgh Opera Announces 80th Season’s Line-Up
By: George B. Parous
Pittsburgh Opera’s Benjamin Taylor Takes “The Long Walk”
By: George B. Parous
Winter Preview 2017
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Weirdo Extraordinaires Find Homes at the Glitterbox
By: Eva Phillips
5 Christmas Shows To Put On Your Nice List This Holiday Season
By: Brian Pope
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Winter 2017
By: George Hoover
Aftershock Theatre: Bringing Relevant Works to Lawrenceville
By: Meredith Rigsby
Danielle Pastin – Homegrown “Countess” to Grace Pittsburgh Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro”
By: George B. Parous
Corset Up and Remember to Breathe
By: Lucy Franklin
PICT Teaches Romeo and Juliet Lessons in the Neighborhood
By: Yvonne Hudson
off the WALL Opens 2017-2018 Season with I Won’t Be in on Monday
By: Eva Phillips
Pittsburgh Savoyards Celebrate 80th Season!
By: Robyne Parrish
Bricolage Presents Its Latest Immersive Experience: DODO
By: Meredith Rigsby
12 Peers Presents Pittsburgh Plays in First Installment of Mythburgh
By: Tiffany Raymond
Everything Old Is New Again: The Silver Theater Project
By: George Hoover
Real/Time Interventions Presents Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers
By: Nichole Faina
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company Represents In Its New Season
By: Brian Pope
PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 3
By: George Hoover
Fall Preview 2017
By: Mara E. Nadolski
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall: 2017 Edition
By: George Hoover
There’s No Place Like City Theatre’s 2017-2018 Season
By: Brian Pope
Artist Spotlight: Rachel M. Stevens
By: Yvonne Hudson
A Space to Subvert: The New Hazlett Theater’s Community Supported Art Fall Season
By: Mark Skalski
Historic Labor Conflict Comes to Life in New Battle of Homestead Play At The Pump House
By: Yvonne Hudson
Ted Pappas’ Grand Finale at PPT
By: Yvonne Hudson
Pittsburgh Opera – 79th Season Preview
By: George B. Parous
Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center Dreams Bigger
By: Emily Koscinski
PSIP Continues Its Mission to Offer Fun, Accessible Theatre with Henry V
By: Robyne Parrish
PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 2
By: George Hoover
Collegiate Preview 2017
By: Mara E. Nadolski
CMU Drama Pulls Out All the Stops this 2017-2018 Season
By: Robyne Parrish
Carlow University Presents Alumni Show This Fall
By: Ringa Sunn
Duquesne Red Masquers’ Ambitious 105th Season
By: George Hoover
Finding New Solutions in Old Problems: Pitt Stages’ Upcoming Season
By: Mark Skalski
Point Park Gets to Work on Another Eight Shows at the Pittsburgh Playhouse
By: Brian Pope
PNWF – New Works from Around the World: Part 1
By: George Hoover
Show Tune Saturday Night
By: George Hoover
Hot Metal Musicals 2017
By: George Hoover
The Triumphant Return of Hot Metal Musicals
By: Eva Phillips
“If I Loved You…” – Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s New Revue
By: George B. Parous
PITR’s Top 5 Picks for Summer 2017
By: Jack Lake
Summer Preview 2017
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Love, Ethics, and Religion: Kinetic Theatre’s Season Lineup
By: Stephen Arch
off the WALL to Hold Benefit for Planned Parenthood
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Artist Spotlight: Tony Sirk
By: Nichole Faina
Pittsburgh’s Polished Musical Theatre Gem: The CLO
By: George Hoover
Everything Old is New Again – Pittsburgh Festival Opera Coming Soon!
By: George B. Parous
Split Stage Wraps a Successful Third Season, Announces an Ambitious Fourth
By: George Hoover
Throughline Theatre: Heading to New Places
By: Ringa Sunn
Reacquainting Ourselves with Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP)
By: Eva Phillips
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Summer: 2017 Edition
By: George Hoover
Music that Matters – A Gathering of Sons, Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s World Premiere
By: Nicole Tafe
Artist Spotlight: Quinn Patrick Shannon
By: Brian Pope
Little Lake Prepares for a Paramount 69th Season!
By: Nicole Tafe
Paying Attention to Miller’s Masterwork at PPT
By: Yvonne Hudson
Sensations and Emotions: Fringe Day 3
By: Eva Phillips
Trump and Circumstance: A Politically Charged Day 2 at Fringe
By: Eva Phillips
That’s a Wrap: Fringe Day 3
By: Alex Walsh
Unpredictable Treasure: The Fringe Fest Day 3
By: Mark Skalski
Apocalypse, Adventure, Sex, and Bingo: A Fringe Odyssey
By: Mark Skalski
Into the Fray: First Night of Fringe
By: Eva Phillips
Fringe-Worthy Entertainment
By: Brian Pope
Sunday Fringe: Taking a Dive into the Absurd
By: Nichole Faina
Bring It Around Town: Fringe Sunday
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Jed Allen Harris is at Home with Quantum for Collaborators
By: Yvonne Hudson
Solos Going Steady at the Fringe
By: Alex Walsh
First Time Fringer Saturday!
By: Victor C. Leroi
Tips and Tricks at Saturday’s Fringe
By: Nichole Faina
No April Foolin’ at the Fringe
By: Cayleigh Boniger
An Apocalyptic Tour of Fringe 2017
By: Jason Clearfield
Fringe Culture
By: Brian Pope
Fringe 2017 Day 1: Teeth & Sinew and The Chronic Single’s Handbook
By: Nichole Faina
Friday Fringe at AIR!
By: Megan Grabowski
The Fringe Awakens
By: Alex Walsh
First Time Fringer Friday
By: Victor C. Leroi
Gemini Children’s Theater – Making Magic for Young Audiences
By: Yvonne Hudson
Bricolage Production Company’s 12th Annual BUS!
By: Jason Clearfield
Artist Spotlight: Billy Hepfinger
By: Ringa Sunn
Cup-A-Jo Productions’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Inviting Audiences Into Their Home
By: Stephen Arch
Spring Preview 2017
By: Mara E. Nadolski
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring
By: George Hoover
The New In The Mythical: 12 Peers Theater’s Latest Season To Seek Unity In Discord
By: Mark Skalski
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