Fortitude of spirit; endurance in spite of all financial limitations and burdens put on resources; a nearly virtuous steadfastness to the art you are committed to producing and the community you seek to uphold; a truly strong gaggle of “weirdo extraordinaires”—these are perhaps the defining, or at least standout, features of a fast growing, scintillating theatre company carving out its niche in a town very saturated with very compelling companies. Glitterbox Theatre, a creative/collaborative theatre space run and located in Bloomfield, somewhat ironically situated behind the myriad of opulent car dealerships that serve as odd bookends to the neighborhood before it transitions into Polish Hill, emphasizes a robustly and undauntingly DIY and self-authenticating approach. For the sake of clarification, “weirdo extraordinares” is a term coined by the one of the four creative leaders and founders of Glitterbox, but, certainly, the designation is high praise and highly applicable for the fascinating crew and fascinating array of shows attached to the venue.
Having reviewed Yinz Like Plays?! at the Glitterbox space for Pittsburgh’s Original Short Play Series, I was enamored with the intimacy and air of rustication and grit the space possessed. Sharing a space with other creative/workshop/DIY-centric groups (like Prototype), the venue is entrancing and almost amniotic, giving a sense of immersion and closeness that is a fulcrum for an engaged viewership, regardless of the style or type of show or performance being presented. Much of the commitment and crucialness of space comes from the nomadic—but no less intertwined—quality of the four founders and financial directors of the theatrical space, who had worked and produced together and independently for quite some time. The crew—including Teresa, a writer of musicals and puppet shows (something the space has become known for being a home for); Nick, an actor and composer; and Chris and Matt, talented actors—had the collective impulse to find a space that would “help to nurture and develop a community of people that makes things [they] love to see.” Indeed, the group’s proclivity for “folk” theatre—puppet shows, immersive/interpretative/interactive storytelling, nonconventional musicals, etc.—has been evidenced in the diverse and eclectic stagings and performances put forth thus far. Glitterbox Theatre has hosted monthly Story Times, with different themes or motifs each occasion to shape the parameters of the pieces, and has been the stage for unusually provocative performances, such as Migraciones, a powerful, puppetry-based dramaturge.
What complements the proliferation of “folk” theatre that the individuals responsible for Glitterbox are so wed to, is their unwavering commitment to making Glitterbox the most affordable theatre space in Pittsburgh. While the partners in charge admit that it “remains to be seen how truly sustainable the model is,” the Glitterbox crew managed to secure not only a relatively cheap spot, but thus far maintain a low enough overhead so as not to demand exorbitant fees from performers seeking to use the space (and even providing the space for free for good causes when they are able). The founders of Glitterbox, in the face of personal financial detriment, have and continue to sacrifice in order to make the space maintainable, hospitable, and accessible to a wide theatrical community to continue to espouse their ideology of collaborative, inventive theatre.
Glitterbox Theatre, and the folks responsible for it, strive to uplift marginalized individuals and groups. This is perhaps the most appealing and fascinating component of folk-centric dramaturgy and performance art. When individuals are provided the creative and literal space to produce content without the vexations of high costs or elaborate production, narratives of individuals and groups otherwise unspoken for or under-represented can ecstatically push to the forefront. Glitterbox’s productions—both their own and those by individuals and troupes who have used the space—have frequently been minimalistic in nature, keeping with the space’s immersive, amniotic character. Often, the props and set will be “crudely” designed out of whatever found materials are easily attained—carboard, shoestring, and other crafty accoutrements. Glitterbox is dependent only on a thoroughly maker-mentality, acting as a harbinger for a wave of theatrical productions in the community that harken back to the time many actors, playwrights, producers, set designers and so on recall fondly of creating their art from the ground up. Not only does the DIY aspect proffer more visceral and authentic art from the performers and creators, this brand of ingenious, on-the-fly production creates a more invigorating and participatory experience for the audience.
Looking to their exciting future, the folks at Glitterbox dream of a space that perhaps will have the proper trappings of a prototypical theatre—a green room, a full-fledged box office, mayhaps being their own landlords. Even if those dreams don’t come to fruition, they have within reach goals in site—continuing their tradition of hyper-inclusivity and creating an ever safer, more accessible space for certain groups/individuals who might create in or visit their space (i.e. building ramps for the physically disabled community to use). Future goals and current status considered, Glitterbox theatre is profoundly and intriguingly becoming one of the most unique and welcoming theatrical spaces in Pittsburgh—one in which narratives and performances from queer individuals, feminist individuals, persons of color, disabled individuals, individuals creating narratives on trauma, and so on can find a palisade. To be horrifically trite, perhaps Glitterbox is the exception to the rule—that all that glitters is, in fact, gold, in truly surprising ways.
For more on the Glitterbox and what they’re up to, click here.