Features

Little Lake Prepares for a Paramount 69th Season!

By: Nicole Tafe
little-lake-logoIn this year’s 69th season, Little Lake Theatre Company is ready to delight audiences with incredible local talent. Since its founding in the spring of 1949 by Edith Disney and her son Will, Little Lake has been a theatrical gem to the many communities that surround Pittsburgh.  Once just an old barn on the side of a lake in Washington County, Little Lake transformed into the area’s first theatre-in-the-round, and has since featured more than 1,700 local actors and 1,200 productions on the local stage. From exploring the days before Peter Pan and his lost boys captured the hearts of many to asking the audience a popular board game’s question of “Who did it?”- this season of musicals, comedies, dramas, children’s theater and more will not disappoint. For more information about Little Lake’s 69th season and the shows listed below, visit www.littlelake.org.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHERPeter and the Starcatcher

April 27 through 29 at 8 p.m.

April 30 at 2 p.m.

May 4 through 6 at 8 p.m.

May 7 at 2 p.m.

May 11 through 13 at 8 p.m.

In Peter and the Starcatcher, audiences will embark on the adventure of a lifetime.  The play is based on the 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice.  The prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, this play will delight audiences by providing a backstory to the beloved character of Peter Pan. “Little Lake is thrilled to be doing Peter and the Starcatcher as our 69th season opener,” says Jena Oberg, Artistic Director at Little Lake and the show’s director.  Musical direction will be provided by Holly Jones. “We selected Peter and the Starcatcher for its humor, creativity, emphasis on storytelling, and its message that anyone can be a hero.” This show, perfect for all ages, is sure to provide a great night out for the whole family.  The cast will transform themselves and the space to create a thrilling adventure.  Everyday items will become pirate ships, crocodiles, tropical jungles, and more, and Little Lake provides the perfect playground as the theater-in-the-round setting allows audiences to feel as if they are a part of the worlds that are being created around them.  Aerial silks, ladders, ropes, shadows, lighting, and many more special effects are sure to dazzle anyone taking part in this adventure. PhiladelphaStoryTHE PHILADELPHIA STORY May 18 through 20 at 8 p.m. May 25 through 27 at 8 p.m. May 28 at 2 p.m. June 1 through 3 at 8 p.m. The Philadelpha Story is a beloved classic that is a favorite among Little Lake audiences and has been performed and well-received several times at the local theater.  The 1939 American comic play by Philip Barry tells the story of Tracy Lord, Philadelphia’s most eligible socialite, as she finds herself facing complications prior to her wedding in being attracted to multiple men- to the dismay of her fiancé. Directed by Lora Oxenreiter, this play is perfect for ages 10 and up and will leave audiences asking, “who will Tracy choose?” in this sparkling comedy.

PROOFProof

June 8 through 10 at 8 p.m.

June 15 through 17 at 8 p.m.

June 18 at 2 p.m.

June 22 through 24 at 8 p.m.

In a more mature setting, David Auburn’s play Proof will come to life on the Little Lake stage in June.  Best for ages 15 and up, as the show contains adult language, this play tells the story of Catherine, the daughter of Robert who is a recently deceased mathematical genius in his 50s and a professor at the University of Chicago, as she struggles with mathematical genius and mental illness.  When game changing proof is discovered, Catherine must face the biggest problem of all: how much of her father’s genius-or madness- has she inherited? The play will be directed by Art DeConciliis and was selected because “it is an incredibly well-written view of genius,” says Oberg.  “In this 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, the characters and relationships are beautifully complex.”

RAPUNZEL (A World Premiere)

June 14 through July 1 – Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. When a bit of fairy tale magic backfires, Rapunzel tumbles into an adventure that includes a preposterous Count, an impossibly tall tower and discovery of extraordinary courage in this world premiere production. This brand-new adaption of the popular fairy tale was written by Little Lake’s former artistic director, Sunny Disney Fitchett, who is now a children’s theater playwright in the state of California.  “Little Lake is beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to produce the world premiere of this play,” says Oberg.  “It is a fun, new twist on the classic story, where Rapunzel uses her smarts and courage to save herself from the tower.” The show will be directed by Mary Meyer and is part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theatre season for Young Audiences.  Anyone ages 3 and up will be sure to fall in love with this version of the timeless tale. OneManTwoGuvnorsONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS June 29 through July 1 at 8 p.m. July 6 through 8 at 8 p.m. July 9 at 2 p.m. July 13 through 15 at 8 p.m.   This hilarious farce of mistaken identity tells the story of the bumbling, but charming character Francis as he finds himself simultaneously employed by two bosses.  This play by Richard Bean is an English adaption of Il servitor di due padroni- a 1743 commedia dell’arte style play by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni- and featured the popular late night host James Corden during its Broadway run. Under the direction of TJ Fineno, this show is best for audience members ages 15 and up.  Fineno will be returning to Little Lake for a month’s time from Texas to direct this crazy comedy.  “TJ is particularly skilled in farce, and so this play was a perfect fit for him,” says Oberg.  “Also, audiences at Little Lake love farces- and this one will feature live music and high energy fun!”

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FANTASTIC MR. FOX

July 5 through 22- Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Fantastic Mr. Fox is an imaginative and creative adaption of the Roald Dahl classic.  Audiences follow Mr. Fox as he cleverly outwits three smelly, horrid farmers to save his family and friends in this “Dahl”icious play. The show will be directed by John Michnya and plans to feature puppets in addition to scenic elements based on the original illustrations and elaborate costuming that will create the world of Dahl’s story.  Part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theater season for Young Audiences, this show is perfect for ages 3 and up, and will feature the talent of young actors from the surrounding area.

WONDER OF THE WORLDWonderoftheWorld

July 20 through 22 at 8 p.m.

July 27 through 29 at 8 p.m.

July 30 at 2 p.m.

August 3 through 5 at 8 p.m.

On a hilarious journey of self-discovery, Cass teams up with some unlikely sidekicks in what become a wild ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel full of laughs in the play Wonder of the World.  This play, written by American playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, premiered at the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in 2000 and then ran Off-Broadway in 2001. Little Lake’s production will be directed by Jena Oberg and is best suited for ages 15 and up, as the show contains adult language.  “This play has always been one of my favorites,” says Oberg.  “It is hilariously funny and absurdly uplifting.  I really think our audiences are doing to love this one and leave the theater feeling just a little bit more optimistic about the future.”

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE!, JR.

July 26 through August 12- Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Let’s get ready to rock! Based on the popular, award-winning 1970s cartoons, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Jr. is a fast past musical that teaches lessons with clever, catchy tunes and is a one-hour version of the full musical. Follow new teacher Tom as he learns how to win over his students with imagination and music. The show will be directed by James Critchfield, with musical direction by Holly Jones.  The musical is part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theatre season for Young Audiences- perfect for ages 3 and up- and is full of songs that many adults may remember from their childhood. “We think it’s a perfect back-to-school treat for our young audiences, as cast members sing and dance to musical numbers about basic math, language, and history concepts,” says Oberg.  The cast for this show will all be under the age of 18, showcasing the amazing talent of the young actors that grace the Little Lake stage. TheAudienceTHE AUDIENCE August 10 through 12 at 8 p.m. August 17 through 19 at 8 p.m. August 20 at 2 p.m. August 24 through 26 at 8 p.m. Glimpse into the secret weekly audiences between Queen Elizabeth II and her twelve Prime Ministers during some of England’s most defining moments in Little Lake’s production of The Audience. Directed by Ponny Conomos Jahn, this show is best for ages 13 and up and is a fascinating look at the modern monarchy and relationship between the Queen and her Prime Ministers.  The play, written by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan, opened on Broadway in 2015 and featured Dame Helen Mirren. Audiences will have the opportunity to be a fly on the wall for conversations regarding some of the major events in history.  Fans of the popular television show “The Crown” are especially sure to love this production, as its plot feeds into the current fascination with the Royal Family.

A MASTERPIECE OF COMIC…TIMINGMasterpieceofComicTiming

(An Area Premiere)

August 31 through September 2 at 8 p.m.

September 7 through 9 at 8 p.m.

September 10 at 2 p.m.

September 14 through 16 at 8 p.m.

As a wiz-kid author and theatre producer endeavor to write the next comic masterpiece, the line between comedy and drama is found to be much narrower- and sillier- than you’d think! This newly published play by Robert Caisley will be a regional premiere at Little Lake and was suggested to the artistic staff by a patron who saw a production of the show at a theater in the state of California.  “Once we read it, we know it was perfect for Little Lake,” says Oberg.  As an added bonus, communication with the playwright will last throughout the production- giving Little Lake a true view into the artist’s creative mind and desires for his piece.  “It’s truly exciting to have Robert Caisley on board as a resource when working on his very show,” says Oberg. A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing will be directed by James Critchfield and is perfect for ages 15 and up. Middletown MIDDLETOWN September 21 through 23 at 8 p.m. September 28 through 30 at 8 p.m. October 5 through 7 at 8 p.m.   A deeply moving and funny play, Middletown explores the universe of a small American town.  As a friendship develops between longtime resident John Dodge and new arrival to the town Mary Swanson, the lives of the residents of Middletown intersect in a journey that takes them from the local library to outer space and all points between. The Off-Brodway play written by Will Eno has been hailed as “a testament to the power of words and wordplay” by the Chicago Sun Times.  “The worlds Eno creates are shaped by the cadence, timing and positioning of words to tell stories about the everyday.  In his absurdist, abstract drama, Eno offers up an old-fashioned version of small-town life that is familiar, but with a title to the surreal.” Little Lake’s production will be directed by Ponny Conomos Jahn and is best for ages 13 and up.  “This play is really an artistic piece,” says Oberg.  “It is poetic in the way it is written and is really a cross-section of the complexities, joys, and mysteries of modern life.”

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JUNE B. JONES, THE MUSICAL

September 30 at 2 p.m. October 1, 7, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28 at 2 p.m. First-grade couldn’t be more exciting with a new pair of glasses, a kickball tournament, a “top-secret personal beeswax journal,” and much more!  Best for ages 5 and up and part of Little Lake’s Fall Family Matinee series, June B. Jones, The Musical is based on one of the best loved book series of all time. “We are delighted to be bringing this fun and energetic musical to our stage,” says Oberg.  “It celebrated being unique and discovering the things that makes each kid special.” This show will be directed by Sara Barbisch, with musical direction by Holly Jones.

CLUE: THE MUSICALClue

October 12 through 14 at 8 p.m.

October 19 through 21 at 8 p.m.

October 26 through 28 at 8 p.m.

The question is... “Who did it?”  Clue- the popular board game- will spring to life in this uproariously funny and interactive musical.  Each night, the audience will actually play the game and the show will change based on the different cards drawn by the night’s participants.  The actors that will bring this show to life will learn 120 possible variations of the script to provide a completely unique experience each show.  The show features all of the timeless board game characters, and the Little Lake stage will be painted to look like the game board, as poster-sized game cards are created. With a book by Peter DePietro, music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci, and lyrics by Tom Chiodo, this show originally opened Off-Broadway at the Players Theater on December 3, 1997. Little Lake’s production will be directed by Art DeConciliis, with musical direction by Laura Daniels and is ideal for ages 15 and up. CrucibleTHE CRUCIBLE November 2 through 4 at 8 p.m. November 9 through 11 at 8 p.m. November 16 through 18 at 8 p.m.     Salem, Massachusetts is ablaze with accusations of witchcraft in this exciting drama, still astoundingly relevant today.  A 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller, The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Harshly reviewed at the time of its premiere due to its controversial nature, the play won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play, and a year later a new production paved the way for the classic that is regarded as a central work in the canon of American drama today. The Crucible will be directed by Jena Oberg, is appropriate for ages 13 and up, and will feature two performances for school groups during its run at Little Lake.  “The Crucible seemed like a timely parable for the struggles contemporary society is facing,” says Oberg.  “Our production will use percussion and dancing to create the mood and play transitions as performed by the actors playing Tituba and other girls.”

YES VIRGINIA!

November 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 2 p.m. This feel-good, family musical is inspired by one of the most famous newspaper editorials of all time: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” With music by Wesley Whatley, lyrics by William Schermerhorn, and a book adapted by William Schermerhorn from the animated special and storybook by Chris Plehal, Yes Virginia! perfectly captures the holiday spirit and is a great show for the whole family to attend right before the bustling, beautiful Christmas season begins. The show will be directed by Rick Campbell, with musical direction by Holly Jones.  Little Lake will also provide a letter writing station at each performance, giving young ones the opportunity to write their own letters and mail them out to Santa Claus before the big day.

A TUNA CHRISTMASTunaChristmas

November 30 through December 2 at 8 p.m.

December 7 through 9 at 8 p.m.

December 14 through 16 at 8 p.m.

Celebrate Christmas with the good folks of Tuna, Texas in this hootin’, hollerin’, laugh-out-loud, smash hit comedy.  Wrapping up Little Lake’s 69th season, this show will be a restaged version of Sunny Disney Fitchett’s and Art DeConciliis’ previously performed production. The show will feature Kevin Bass and Art DeConciliis, as they play all the characters of Tuna, Texas!  “This is the most requested play at Little Lake of all time!” exclaims Oberg.  “We are delighted to be bringing it back again this season.  It has become a favorite holiday tradition.” Other Season Offerings: SEVEN WEEKS OF SUMMER FUN! In addition to a jam-packed season of theatrical fun, Little Lake will offer seven weeks of summer camps for kids this year including an Improv Camp, Be A Star Camp, Acting Camp (two sessions), Behind the Scenes Camp, Musical Theater Camp (two sessions), and Teen Camp.  These great offerings will help kids hone their skills and take their acting to the next level.  For more information or to sign up, visit www.littlelake.org. ADULT THEATRE CLASSES AT LITTLE LAKE Adults can have some extra fun, too!  Two new classes, Improv for Adults and I Can Do That Too!, will be offered in the evenings for adults, ages 18 and up.  Laugh, play, build your skills, and take your acting to the next level. For more information or to enroll, visit www.littlelake.org.

Paying Attention to Miller’s Masterwork at PPT

By: Yvonne Hudson

Layout 1“He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”

- Linda Loman, Death of a Salesman

When Zach Grenier wrapped up his long-running role as David Lee on “The Good Wife,” he pondered what character he’d most like to have a chance to play on stage. Grenier admits that he didn’t think he’d have a shot at Willy Loman, the titular character of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer and Tony winning Death of a Salesman. After all, how often is that great American tragedy produced? Meanwhile, stage director Mary B. Robinson says during our interview at Pittsburgh Public Theater, “I’ve known I’d be directing Salesman for a while. I love Pittsburgh audiences, having been here before,” says Robinson, who staged Freud’s Last Session at The Public. “I directed Miller’s All My Sons just last summer--always with Death of Salesman coming up in my head. That was very exciting.” Surrounded by posters and memorabilia in the office of PPT artistic director Ted Pappas on a busy day at the Cultural District theater, Grenier and his director conjured their own dreams and memories. Grenier says: “One Monday I was sitting around with my wife and no longer a regular on “The Good Wife”, doing a number episodics, looking for the next thing,” says Grenier. The couple even discussed moving from New York, perhaps to a good theater town--like Philadelphia, where he’d worked before. He’s been thinking about it for 20 years. Grenier’s that guy who has been on stage with the likes of Frank Langella, Julie Harris, and Jane Fonda. He’s appeared in a wide repertoire of works ranging from Shakespeare to David Rabe to David Mamet. His historical characters have included Beethoven, Oliver Cromwell, and Dick Cheney. Television audiences know him for seven seasons on “The Good Wife” and movie fans will remember him in “Fight Club”, among other films. [caption id="attachment_4641" align="alignleft" width="329"]Greiner in The Good Wife Greiner in The Good Wife[/caption] Grenier said to his wife Lynn, “The thing is that I’m never going to play Willy Loman. I know it. I’m never going to play him. And the next morning I get a call asking if I can play Willy Loman, in Pittsburgh!” he says, sounding as surprised during as a short rehearsal break in April as he probably did in on the Martin Luther King Monday holiday in January. When Grenier learned Robinson would be his director, the deal was sealed. He’s worked with her for Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten in the early1990s, he trusted fate, adding “I’ve heard great things about the theater.” “Zach played James Tyrone, another mountain of a role,” says Robinson, adding that Shakespeare’s King John had first connected them a decade earlier in the 1980s. Now Grenier plays the American Lear in Robinson’s Salesman in which Willy Loman wins and loses in his pursuit of the American Dream. The actor began his own preparation well before rehearsals began at the end of March. “With this kind of mountain, you start climbing,” he says of Willy. In February, after he was cast, Grenier turned 63, the same age as Willy. The realities of playing a role coveted by seasoned actors isn’t lost on him for “there is something about getting to this age. When I was younger, I thought Willy was for ‘when I’m an old guy’.” “When I said, ‘I’ll never play Willy’, it had some weight that Monday,” Grenier observes, “because you don’t know what the future holds. When you get to a certain age, you don’t know how much longer you have. You have less time than you have had--unless they come up with something really fancy. In a way time is running out.” Miller’s iconic drama introduced innovative leaps in time and space when it debuted in 1949. Considered on the masterpieces of 20th century American theater, Salesman foreshadowed techniques that have made theater more imaginative for both audiences and actor. Because of Salesman, productions became more nimble. At the same time realistic and abstract, Miller’s script has its lead character traveling from present day into his memories. He recreates a human journey informed by the recollected past and trepidation of the future. Willy Loman is on a downhill journey in his career and relationships. Dreams are built from his delusions as the traveling salesman’s self-confidence erodes. His wife Linda is concerned while their sons Biff and Happy struggle with respecting their father. Robinson and Grenier agree that Willy is a recognizable member of many families. “My father was nothing like Willy,” says Robinson, “but many of my friends’ fathers were a lot like Willy. I was certainly around a lot of Willys growing up.” “Miller really captured something so specific yet so universal and yet so not dated,” says the director. “Such rich characters and such real human beings--contradictions and all. The relationships are so full, fascinating and complex. And Miller set his plays all in a larger context so that these plays without being didactic about it, he cites something about this country as well. And I just find that extraordinary.” Grenier notes his own personal connections to the Miller’s characters: “My father’s family is from the Bronx. Four boys grew up there in a very, very tough family emotionally. It happens with Neil Simon, it happens with Miller--not as much with O’Neill--but there’s an emotional language that I understand because it came from being around my uncles. I have a Manny Newman [the playwright’s uncle and inspiration for Willy] in my family.” Grenier says that was his Uncle Vin. “There are things in the play--the kind of emotional blackmail that happens and broken dreams, like those my own father,” Grenier recalls. “I love the fact we are doing this in a thrust space, says Robinson who is thrilled about her design team that includes scenic designer James Noone and costumer Tilly Grimes, with lighting by Dennis Parichy, and sound by Zach Moore. [the_ad id="2996"] Robinson recalls the story of a producer who questioned Miller’s use of flashback to share Willy’s past and present journey: “I don’t get it, these flashbacks, what are they there for?” “They are not actual flashbacks, they are not memories,” she says. “They are Willy’s constructs. The play was originally titled ‘The Inside of His Head’. So we go inside Willy’s mind.” So what was initially defined through theatrical effects as Willy Loman’s fantasies or memories are now accepted by audiences as an expected form and experience. She and Grenier agree the PPT set is perhaps even more minimalistic than the original yet complicated enough to accommodate both the realistic and dreamlike scenes. Grenier says catching some news on a break he considered how now many voices are talking to us via the media. He compares Miller’s expressionistic and leading edge approach was a precursor to today’s delivery of many messages that distract, inform, and converge--much like the influences of Willie’s thoughts, dreams, emotions, and delusions. “In a way this audience is in some ways more primed for this play,” Grenier observes. “We all do this now in so many ways. What it allows in the production is to not worry so much about that and go to the heart of the matter, the poetry of the play, the moment-to-moment. Of course, they did that then, but now I feel we are most comfortable in this form.” Grenier considers Miller’s text “a long poem” in a form reminiscent of Shakespeare’s poetic prose. “When you really take this play apart,” he says, “you really are reminded of Shakespeare, of how he uses the verse. It’s a Brooklyn Shakespeare that we are reciting. Grenier delights in the harmonics and the echoes of words and emotions in Miller’s script as he relishes the role of a lifetime. “To get to do this is such a gift.” Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman previews at Pittsburgh Public Theater beginning Thurs., April 20, with the official opening on Fri., April 28. Performances continue Tuesdays through Sundays until May 21. Curtain times vary. Audiences have several chances to delve deeper into the play and production. Featured Salesman events include “Sips & Scripts” on Wed., May 10, which provides a pre-show reception, a talkback after the show, and a script sent in advance with ticket purchase at $45. Use promo code PITTSCRIPTS online or by phone at 412-316-8200, ext. 704. Tickets otherwise start at $30 with discounts for groups of 10 or more. A special price of $15.75 for age 26 and younger (valid ID required) is offered with code HOTTIX online while Friday and Saturday tickets may be purchased at the O’Reilly Theater box office. Order online at PPT.ORG or call 412-316-1600.

Sensations and Emotions: Fringe Day 3

By: Eva Phillips
The final day of Fringe started, admittedly, with a bit of delirium. Fatigued, processing all the mini-dramaturgical moments from the past two days, I was a bit beleaguered re-entering the Alphabet City bookstore, now on the sun-soaked top floor, ensconced in bookshelves. I wasn’t entirely certain what to anticipate going into Penelope’s Dragon, a kid-friendly puppet-romp from a img-20170131-092118468troupe out of my home state of Virginia. Perhaps it was my fatigue, or the right amount of soothing warm sunlight, but I was able to find the play pretty enjoyable, even chuckle-worthy at time. Penelope’s Dragon was predicated on bestiality, so I really admired the audacity in presenting it as a children’s production. The story centers around a kingdom where dragons and other winged beasts of that variety are strictly forbidden by the queen. However, unbeknownst to the rather buffoonish denizens of the kingdom, not one but two dragons dwell in the kingdom.  The larger of the two is the titular dragon, and rather than being a pet (although, perhaps a pet of sorts) he is dating Penelope, much to the terror and repulsion of her father and members of the kingdom. Though there are some awkward moments and transitions and unresolved storylines, the songs and the hysterics of the foppish knight are truly the highlights of the show. It was ideal that the day started with some bizarre, puppeteer-driven levity, as the remainder of the day at Fringe was the heaviest-hitting and most emotionally-fraught. Moreover, it was the strongest assemblage of shows I had the privilege of viewing. My final evening started with a show so hauntingly visceral, it is hard to adequately convey the phenomenon of watching the show put forth by Pittsburgh’s always exquisite Cup-A-Jo productions. Teeth and Sinew begins with a woman intricately and passionately dancing as another woman narrates from off-stage. We understand that the woman is rhythmically and bodily conveying the narration of the unseen woman, a story of burgeoning, awkward, maybe imagejpeg_0unintended romance. As the dancing and narrative go on, two black-clad individuals, a man and a woman, stand behind the dancing woman and begin to purposefully paint with their hands onto a canvass. This is the masterful trifecta that enraptures the audience—part dance, part painting-in-motion, part storytelling. Each part of this dynamic is developed and fascinating in its own rite, but when functioning as a cohesive unit to express one woman’s story and one romance’s disintegration into acrimony, contempt and eventual violence. As the emotions become more complicated and tempestuous, the dancing, which alternates between three women for three different stages of the narrator’s life, becomes more frenzied (though never out of control) and more breathless. The painting too becomes more feverish. The eventual product leaves the audience exhausted and ravished, and I was blissfully overwhelmed with what I had experienced in a few short moments of performance. chron-single-3in-72dpiFascinatingly, I jumped from this show to the intriguingly titled Chronic Single’s Handbook. Created by author and performer Randy Ross, the show, allegedly fictional (or at least for the most part) centers around a neurotic, recently unemployed mid-life crisis caricature as he blows all of his money on a multi-national trip to find himself. A one man-show, the play unfolds with an intermingling of first person narration and interpretative acting out of the various, surreal or just uncomfortable encounters Randy experiences. Though often offensive, generally in no way, shape or form P.C. and borderline, if not explicitly, misogynistic, the vignettes acted out are compelling and amusing (in a guilty sort of way) and the cohesion of the show is flawless. Moreover, Ross is himself a meticulous and seasoned performer, and no moment of the show seems unpolished or misplaced. But one can only hear so many off-color Thai accents before one gets a bit uncomfortable. logo_origGiven the raunchiness and satire of the preceding show, I was caught completely unaware of the intensity of my last show of the evening, Love Stories. Produced by Laugh/Riot Performing Arts Company out of Edinboro University, the show is a collection of stories and moments that evoke the multifarious, and often problematic, forms of love, desire, seduction and need. The show opens with a difficult to approach piece: a schoolteacher is caught on tape raping a twelve-year-old student and is confronted by his superintendent. The performances are flawless and as unpleasantly nuanced and painful as one might anticipate. Having started the day the way I did, this was both a horrifying and utterly fascinating piece to watch. The show proceeded with this same unflinching commitment to showing the complexities of our impulses and behavior. Perhaps my favorite bit, for a myriad of reasons, was the second story chronicling a man’s aghast realization this the dancing his PhD-candidate girlfriend did for tuition money was, in fact, stripping, as she is the hired dancer for his friend’s bachelor soiree. This particular story perfectly encapsulates the furious and even hilarious awkwardness of this scenario, and even though the final moments are enraging, the performances allow for a certain fondness to be held throughout.  A compelling array of sensations and emotional registries, this was the ideal way to end a multifaceted, emotionally charging three day haul.
Stay tuned for more Pittsburgh Fringe fun! Follow along with our adventures through our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #PITRdoesFringe 
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival for complimentary press passes. For more information about Fringe, click here. 

Trump and Circumstance: A Politically Charged Day 2 at Fringe

By: Eva Phillips
fringe-3x3It is apropos, perhaps, that when entering the Artist’s Image Resource, I was tantalized by phenomenally raw pieces crafted by artists of varying levels of experience that lined the wall. The images, by and large, captured the aching and angry sentiments surrounding the current state of things—paintings of distorted American flags; screen prints of Trump in all his pompous vainglory; graphics of an outraged cat projected on a Soviet Crest. These images bore auguries of the shows I was about to see all day, more presciently than I may have guessed in my frazzled, Saturday morning state. The most interpretative show of the line up was indeed the first, The Seven Suitcases of a Snake Oil Salesman. Given my religious schooling, I was both incredibly anxious and intrigued by the prospect of witnessing a rendering of the snake oil peddler that exists in the mythology of the Southern zealous consciousness. O’Ryan the O’Mazing, or as it may or may not say on his birth certificate, O’Ryan McGowan, is a striking man and personality—lanky; nimble yet rambunctious; physically boisterous, yet rickety in certain ways; ostentatious yet vulnerable. He opens the show by addressing the historical context and background of the snake oil salesman—that it originated in theft and deceit. O’Ryan explains that Americans stole the concept from Chinese laborers working to construct all of America’s railroads. He displays the double ignominy of the exploitation of the culture and the practices of the individuals used for slave labor to create an inauthentic commodity to pander to small-town, religious zealots. This is the compelling construct of O’Ryan’s show—he meticulously works to display different types and layers of chicanery, meretricious guile and outright deceit as he opens and unpacks each of his suitcases. As a parallel to this, he performs various physical feats of escalating danger—magic tricks, juggling, throwing knives—to underscore the perilousness of the depth of deceit. O’Ryan is at his best when he divulges his own personal untruthfulness—his history of breaking into homes, creating false identities, lying to friends etc. It is those moments where the rambunctious arrogance of O’Ryan’s show subsides and reveals something vulnerable, aching. By the time O’Ryan concludes the show to crawl into his final suitcase, allowing deceit to encompass him, we are blissfully disrupted with our own relationship to “truth.” I did not anticipate that my Saturday would involve witnessing a moment of oral sex between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But I did not know what I was getting into when I trundled to the basement of Alphabet City. The eva-hillarysetting was intimate—a few seats in a bunker-esque room, in which the audience was situated with extreme closeness.  A woman is sprawled across a couch, watching news with dismay on a large screen television. Strewn around the couch and on the coffee table are countless bottles of whiskey, wine, beer etc. and junk food paraphernalia of all sorts. The woman on the couch was besotted in a pink bathrobe that she appeared to have not shorn in ages. As the show begins, the woman answers a phone, and through pieces of the conversation, it is revealed that this blonde-wigged, bedraggled woman is Hillary Clinton. As the conversation proceeds, a beautiful buxom woman enters the room, dangling a cigarette, glancing admonishingly at the wreckage of Hillary Clinton’s surroundings. This woman, we discover, is Eva Peron, famed former First Lady of Argentina. As she sumptuously engages in a tet-a-tet with Hillary, we understand that she has scheduled the meeting to critique Hillary on her likeability factor and the reasons behind her loss. Though the piece veers on gimmicky at times, with the show relying on the normal foibles of Hillary caricatures, the dynamic between the unlikely duo, particularly two women who are so historically stereotyped and given characteristics outside of their own control, is stellar. The energy between the two leading women, from the Tardigrade Theatricals Company, is electric, particularly when they break the fourth wall and engage with the audience, and their performances riveting. When the flawless Trump impersonator enters the stage, the logic and cohesiveness falls apart a bit, though the show is no less amusing. And then, of course, there is the Trump cunnilingus moment. While it is a bit tacky in how it borders on non-consensual, the moment is curiosity piquing and thought provoking, to say the least. The show is a success not so much in humanizing Hillary, but in demonstrating the superficiality that underscored the election and ultimately catalyzed the pickle we’re all in. IMG_1157I admittedly always have some trepidations going into an improv comedy show. Having done improv and comparable forms of comedy as a theatre kid, I know the anxiety, the mechanisms of delivery, the tension that can be palpable throughout a performance. I allow myself to feel a great deal of anxiety for the performers and for the audience that often taints my experience. That being said, That Really Funny Improv Show, put on by Awkward Attic Ensemble, was a welcoming and enjoyable experience. While the troupe certainly had moments of the awkward shifting and uncertain bits, it made the comical moments that much stronger. The troupe efficaciously enacted both long and short form improv, and truly shined in their short form, game/sketch-based moments. The dynamic between and rapport between the group was electric and in no-way combative, and certainly the highlight of the show was the uproarious “My Dick” segment, in which the troupe took audience suggestions of things to compare their phalluses to. The best? Perhaps the parallels between their dicks and weedeaters. Obviously. the-principle-posterOne of the most harrowing viewing experiences of Fringe was, perhaps, The Principle. Resonating acutely with the looming anti-Trump, anti-regulatory sentiments that had been pulsating throughout the tenor of the shows all day, The Principle, set in a not-so-unfathomable dystopian cell at a queer conversion camp, bellows with the fear and dread dramaturgical art is so magisterially able to convey. The play centers around two people, one gay man and one trans man whose female-to-male transition was cruelly halted and reversed when he was put in the conversion camp, who are forced into a cell together to have heterosexual intercourse. The characters reveal ghastly glimpses of their diagnosis/conversion processes—masturbating in front of a psychologist; being forced to change their names to something more befitting heteronormativity; alienation from their loved ones—and hint at what made them happy before they were forced into their current conditions. The play is not only gut-wrenching in demonstrating the normalized agonies of being queer or trans, but is also hauntingly exquisite in showing the defiance of those who refuse to accept tyranny of ideas, of bodies, of selfhoods. It is a true triumph of short-form theatre.
Stay tuned for more Pittsburgh Fringe fun! Follow along with our adventures through our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #PITRdoesFringe 
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival for complimentary press passes. For more information about Fringe, click here. 

That’s a Wrap: Fringe Day 3

By: Alex Walsh
Day 3! The last day of my first Fringe Festival! And it was a beautiful one. Finally, I could happily live the dream of comfortably biking around town seeing plays. On Friday it was all dreary and rainy for my agenda of puppetry and chiptunes. Saturday was super cold as I caught hugs, colorful fabrics, and classy mid-Atlantic wit. But Sunday! Lovely sun and balmy air for… cancer, conversion therapy, and an examination of mental illlness. Get ready for a good time, everyone. My second paragraph always opens with a beer at James Street, so let’s get that out of the way. Coffee stout instead of brown ale today! Having checked that box, I headed over to AIR for The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within, written by and starring Valerie David, and directed by Padraic Lillis.unnamed (12) The Pink Hulk is a one-woman show following David’s diagnosis with and treatment for breast cancer, opening with her celebration of fifteen years cancer-free after an earlier struggle with lymphoma. This show spans just about the whole range of human emotions, from a playful hookup in Aruba in the beginning to sadness and loneliness after the second diagnosis and a rollercoaster between defiance and despair as the treatment goes on. David offers inspiring moments when she chose to do things differently from her first battle with cancer, to place them on her terms instead of passively letting them happen – having a party to shave her head before the hair falls out; getting a better wig, then deciding she doesn’t need it. But each one is soon followed by doubt, reflecting the sadness of having struggled with the disease once only to have to do it all over again. David’s performance is as intimate and boundary-free as a show of this nature needs, and in the lighter moments, she’s very funny – which helps the audience deal with the gravity of the material. The set doesn’t change throughout the performance, but changes to the lighting give a different tone to each scene. Unfortunately, I had to skip the talkback afterward, as it was time to head over to the Allegheny Inn for Happy/Sad Collective’s The Principle, written by Alan Stevens. The Principle is a short, but dense, drama focusing on Thomas and Jess, a gay man and a trans man who have been forced into Conversion Camp, where the doctors force them to live as Tom and Jessica. The dark, dungeon-y basement of the inn is a perfect setting for the room the two have been placed in for their final test.unnamed (13) The two characters, portrayed by Jim Hartley and Brittany Stahl, use the occasion of the test to finally talk about who they really are, away from the constant monitoring of the camp. They share their experiences, what made them happy in their former lives, and their feelings on what they’re going through in the program. The actors have clearly put a lot of work into these performances. Their tense movements and body language convey the emotions their characters have been struggling to keep bottled up for so long. Despite its short runtime, Stevens’ writing draws you into the world of the show. A decision is made at the end that implies there could be more story to portray if he wanted to extend the show. But the heart of the play is the examination of these two characters, and the moment Stevens has chosen for this scene gives you all you need to get to know them. I think it will win an award. Call it a hunch. After The Principle, I bolted over to St. Mary’s, but my first show there was canceled so it became dinner time! Back at James Street after an attempt to eat at Park House, I wound up sitting next to The Pink Hulk herself, Valerie David! We had a whole corner of the bar just for New Yorkers. Yay for making friends! On Friday I saw the very first show of the festival, and now it was time for me to see the very last: Krish Mohan’s Approaching Happiness. Approaching Happiness is Mohan’s standup act, that he has performed on tour throughout the country. As the title suggests, Mohan is interested in helping people to be happy, particularly those with anxiety and mental illness. Starting with the personal, his own anxiety and its origins – his discussion expands to society and the human mind. With jokes, of course. That sounded a bit heavy, but don’t worry, it definitely is comedy. One of the Fringe volunteers told me “The closer you get to the front, the better it will be for you.” I was the only one who heeded that advice, so I wound up alone in the front row, receiving a lot of eye contact. Which kind of fit with the talk of anxiety. I was feeling it. Comedy’s not always supposed to be comfortable, and Mohan warns at the top that he’s going to get weird and esoteric. He keeps his promise, but fortunately also keeps you laughing. The night ended with the awards ceremony, where I got to see a ton of familiar faces from the weekend and enjoy a few drinks with the rest of the PITR crew that spent their weekends running between the venues. Overall, it was a solid day and weekend.
Stay tuned for more Pittsburgh Fringe fun! Follow along with our adventures through our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #PITRdoesFringe 
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival for complimentary press passes. For more information about Fringe, click here. 

Unpredictable Treasure: The Fringe Fest Day 3

By: Mark Skalski
The conclusion of my Fringe Festival experience took place in the chilly Artist’s Image Resource building, a small yet colorful space dotted with anti-Trump art pieces. I would be seeing 5 completely disparate one person shows here. As with the rest of my time at the festival this weekend, none of them resembled each other in any way. 14940052-10154289454893143-39234906837708829-o-1The first show is Holiday Countdown, a live reading of a writing project from local author Jenn Stover. While Stover’s short pieces are indeed a series of quirky, bizarre, often humorous moments tied together by impending holidays, this drab title fails to capture the absurdist joy of both her writing and her show. The conceit is like this: Stover chose a seemingly arbitrary series of days before the four most major US holidays, and wrote a short, usually fictional piece at least tangentially related to the event or the culture surrounding it every day for half a year. Rather than a series of memoir-style musings about how ‘Christmas sure is stressful,’ these pieces quickly explode into insane parables about elf genocide, cupid’s alcoholism, and the threat of Mayor Bill Peduto who, to paraphrase, is accompanied ‘by the scent of bike lanes and a culture of acceptance.’ Stover’s pieces are likable and hit like a brick at their best. They’re not entirely dissimilar to the prose of a writer like Patricia Lockwood. However, the pieces Stover read were seemingly at a whim, and the fact that the project appears to be currently half finished means it’s lacking in clear narrative bookends or even a strong central theme of any kind. Stover is a powerful humorist and a great writer but the relative lack of focus cut into an otherwise super cool conceit for a series. I returned to AIR an half hour later to find it had been transformed into a ‘40s pittsburgh-image-2hotel room for one of this year’s biggest highlights, The Portable Dorothy Parker. Instead of a traditional series of autobiographical scenes, show creator Annie Lux instead opts to retell the life of the punchy author by giving us a window into the editing process of the eponymous collection of Parker pieces the play is based upon. In other words, as Parker picks pieces for her collection, she has reason to retell more and more stories from her life. It’s one of those conceits that scream ‘hey I’m the conceit!’ but it essentially opens the show up to cover a greatest hits of moments, quotes and written pieces from Parker’s life in a really tasteful way. The show quickly sinks into an identical rhythm of poem-anecdote-quote-bittersweet reflection, yet I found myself looking past the show’s repetition due to the otherwise quality script and a stellar performance from Margot Avery, who possesses both the grace and the subversion the character demands. I’m at the mercy of any play which can effectively utilize a quote like “I hate actresses…they simply cannot stop undulating.” fringe-3x3Next was The Seven Suitcases of a Snake Oil Salesman, a one man comedy/magic/puppet show. As with Dorothy Parker, Snake Oil possesses a clever ‘aha!’ conceit; onstage are seven suitcases stacked on top of one another, each containing a new lie to explore. O’Ryan the O’Mazing’s strange yet simple exploration of identity in falsehood is a fun, yet incomplete-feeling show. While the narrative mostly works, it is oddly paced. The first suitcase, which contains rubber snakes for O’Ryan to grind, establishes the fun, somewhat intimate tone, but other sequences like the puppet show arrive at their thematic conclusion far earlier than their actual conclusion. There is some worthwhile whimsy here and O’Ryan is a likable host, but Seven Suitcases would do better with a sharper focus on its best and quirkiest moments. Mo-on-the-oncle, Melissa Cole’s one woman comedy about a teenager who is forced to use a monocle for his schoolwork after his father loses their vision img-2737coverage is fast-paced and idiosyncratic enough to resemble a shorter, more socially conscious Wes Anderson film. Cole jumps from bizarre caricature to bizarre caricature to deliver a series of booming monologues: there is the teen’s wealthy uncle, a pimp who loves to sing out his feelings to karaoke Rascal Flatts songs, the put-upon father and his paycheck dance, and a clueless, tactless doctor who spends most of his day convincing his patients not to sue. What Cole’s characters lack in complexity they make up for in sheer presence. Some of Cole’s comedic delivery is too bent towards sketch comedy to make the show as a whole sing, but she has also written moments of undeniable power. The teenager, after a consultation with the most pretentious ophthalmologist in the world, performs an entire rap song about his impending death by monocle. Mo-on-the-oncle, incidentally, is the one show I caught at the festival I thought could stand to last a little longer. Clocking in at a concise twenty minutes, this is a show that may benefit from not only tonal variety, but maybe a few more characters as well. 17636851_781096878709340_3255313992491545639_oI ended the festival with Laundry Night, meaning my Sunday was bookended by shows whose overall quality is much greater than their cookie-cutter titles. Laundry Night chronicles the origins of accordion-toting superhero extraordinaire, Captain Ambivalent. While the show does feature a giant inflatable dinosaur, glittering costume design and the appearance of a clownish hippie who plays songs using Micro Jammer toys, Laundry Night is an intimate experience as far as musical comedies go. We sit with Ambivalent as he wastes away in a job he hates and an apartment complex that perpetually leaks Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” through the walls. The audience happily cheers Ambivalence on as he quits his job to pursue fame and fortune as a musician, but his self-deprecating demeanor suggest that this is a false narrative; Ambivalence isn’t seeking glory much as he’s finally becoming a truer version of what he’s always been. Laundry Night is a good show, and a fitting festival closer. Pittsburgh’s Fringe Fest has nowhere near the presumed splendor of its big brother in Edinburgh, which feels somehow appropriate for a city that so often prides itself on being the underdog. This weekend, for me, wasn’t a series of high profile artists marathon-ing their established material, but instead a series of intimate mysteries waiting to be unpacked, an unpredictable treasure chest that replenishes itself every hour.
Stay tuned for more Pittsburgh Fringe fun! Follow along with our adventures through our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #PITRdoesFringe 
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival for complimentary press passes. For more information about Fringe, click here. 
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Sunday Fringe: Taking a Dive into the Absurd
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Artist Spotlight: Billy Hepfinger
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By: Mara E. Nadolski
5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring
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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
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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”
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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
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By: Meredith Rigsby
Artist Spotlight: Sean Sears
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By: Eva Phillips
Building an Organism, Part 2: The Space Upstairs
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A Peek into the Pittsburgh Actor’s Space
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5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall
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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”
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Twenty Years of Prime Stage
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Fall Preview 2016
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Dancing into Fall 2016
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A New Day for PICT Classic Theatre at the Union Project
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Fun with Shakespeare in the Parks!
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PNWF Returns for 26th Annual Showcase
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Pittsburgh Playhouse Brings Dramaturgical Powerhouse Season
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Student-Run Red Masquers to Push Boundaries in Upcoming Season
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Ubu the King Hits Pittsburgh, One Night Only!
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Artist Spotlight: Connor McCanlus
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Dimitrie Lazich and “The Silent Woman”
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Local Company to Hold Shakespeare Event in Support of Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub
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Momentum 2016: New Plays at Different Stages
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off the WALL’s Season of Pittsburgh Premieres
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Summer Preview 2016
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Much to Be Expected from Throughline This Season
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Another Round of 10 Minute Plays!
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A Quarter Century of Quantum
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The 12th Annual Theatre Festival in Black and White
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“SummerFest” Is In the Air!
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5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Summer
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One Stop Shopping: The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival Coverage 2016
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Fringe Day 1: Storytelling and Eulogies
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Book of Will: Celebrate the First Folio
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“And Suddenly You Know…”
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By: Jack Lake
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What’s to Come for SWAN Day 2016
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By: Mara E. Nadolski
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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
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By: Isaac Crow
Coming for 2014… TPS Reports!
By: James Ormond