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On a Pedestal, Summer 2022

When Harris Ferris became executive director, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre had lost its orchestra and faced a mountain of debt and a dubious future. Nearly 17 years later, he leaves the PBT stronger than ever. A former principal dancer, armed with a Rutgers MBA and a winning personality, Ferris expanded the company’s national and international …

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Taking Flight With the Ordinary

“Speaking from the gut” was known in ancient Greece as gastromancy. It also became known as an early form of ventriloquism. According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica, “the noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving, who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret …

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The Tamburitzans, Pittsburgh’s Oldest Stage Act, Holds Fundraising Gala

“The Tamburitzans share the world’s cultures through folk song and dance, as well as through authentic ethnic dress, with audiences across the United States,” said Alyssa Bushunow, Tamburitzans Executive Director. “By coming together to celebrate the folk culture of diverse nations — most traditionally those in Central and Eastern Europe —The Tamburitzans transcend politics to …

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PICT Theatre’s “Endgame”

“Endgame” is an enormous play set in a small room occupied by four persons who speak absurdly, recounting stories or delivering monologues apropos of nothing — as nursing home residents often do — prompted by memories that float into their minds from the effects of old age, disease, or boredom.  Written by Samuel Beckett as …

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The $3,000 Hippopotamus

“Lucy is dead” was the headline of the March 17, 1902 Pittsburgh Press article that announced the passing of Lucy Juba-Nile, the popular hippopotamus that had been dwelling at the Highland Park Zoological Garden (now called the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium) for the previous three years. Lucy had been ill for about a week. …

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Reflections on Masculinity

In his award-winning recent memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, Brian Broome lovingly describes the antechamber of the now-defunct Hills Department store in his hometown of Warren, Ohio as smelling “like the emotions of a child. Pre-adolescent bacchanalia. It was dizzying. It was a roasted peanut, soft pretzel factory wrapped inside a chocolate-covered everything. …

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Dressick Packs 63 Quick-hit Tales into Fables of the Deconstruction

Flash fiction wasn’t invented by Hemingway but his classic six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” stands as a well-known exemplar of compressed emotion. With a word count that runs anywhere from five to 1,500, Writer’s Digest further defines the genre as not “focusing on plot or character development, the writer instead focuses on …

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No More Love Letters

I have always been amused by Hollywood’s vision of writers at work. The writer is presented seated at a desk on which sits a typewriter or a computer. Suddenly the writer seems inspired and begins typing feverishly. The camera stays on him as he continues to type, and his manuscript grows page by page into …

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Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?

In a rare show of unity, Congress seems poised to declare daylight savings time to be permanent.  No longer in March will we drive distracted as we futilely fiddle with the buttons on our old car’s dashboard in a sleep deprived commute to work.  The slight increase in automobile accidents in the week after the …

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Fern Hollow Bridge

The high bridge carries a roadway out of town,an earlier generation’s pride and wonder,emblem of man’s ambition. From belowon the park path, it’s an iron rainbow, a sky that booms with ungiving thunder above a shallow stream that gave no graceto the promising son who did himself to deathchoosing to break himself on the dusty path. …

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Remembering Our Ethnic Heritage

I was born in Pittsburgh in April 1939, less than five months before Hitler began World War II by invading Poland.  I entered first grade in September 1945, a month after the end of the war.  I was a member of the war-babies generation, the pre-baby boomers, who would grow up searching for an identity …

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Pittsburgh Opera’s “In a Grove” – a Revelation of Sound and Sight

In speaking of opera, French composer Claude Debussy praised what he termed “music that’s lit from within,” and this might be the best way to describe Pittsburgh Opera’s world premiere of “In a Grove,” a phantasmagoric reinterpretation of the eponymous story by Japan’s great modernist writer, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.  The original narrative, published in 1922 — …

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Full Moon, Occ Health

By the time he reaches Occupational Health the security officer tips his head, says Full moon. You can tell.    In the bright sting of winter and vaccine pod fender-bendersglass doors on this edge of hospital campus part and shut, part and shut.  Last week a diamond earing went missing.With a distraught patient Iduck-walked the foyer, examined elevator tracks, feltbehind parked wheelchairs and the …

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Torpedoes to Aquaponics

They called Rhonda Jordan’s dad lucky lee because he caught shrapnel just hairs away from his carotid artery over in Europe. While he was fighting the Germans, his wife was one of thousands of women who put away their heels and aprons for work in the massive Westinghouse factory in Sharon, Pennsylvania. You could say …

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A Swissvale Sleuth

Shawn Rossi is up against it, as folks in Swissvale might say. As both a Harvard Law School student in the early 1980s and as a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh in 2008, the protagonist in Ken Gormley’s debut novel, The Heiress of Pittsburgh, does his best to maneuver through multiple conflicts that often keep him …

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Needed: City Leadership

Until yesterday, in 60 years, I have only called a political representative once to try to persuade him to vote on something I thought was important. It was in October 2008, when Congress was again considering the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Days earlier, the bill failed to pass the U.S. House by 13 votes, …

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The War Against Aesthetics in Contemporary Literature

There used to be a saying in the painting department at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, “If you can’t make it good, make it red; if you can’t make it red, make it big,” which, as I understand, was not meant to be cynical, but to mock those attending art school for reasons …

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The Dreaded Bumper Blocker

When you think about it, what’s more benign than a parking lot?  A neutral zone where idled cars pass the time like languid dogs sleeping in the sun. Well, think again.   Parking lots can be hazardous to your health.  I’m not talking about  fender-benders or road rages when careless drivers clash while parking their vehicles. …

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Jazz Renaissance

It’s hard to play the alto sax when you’re wearing a mask, so Tony Campbell simply cut a hole in his and played right through the pandemic, appearing at any number of venues from Wallace’s Whiskey Room + Kitchen in East Liberty to a concert on the lawn at a private home in Forest Hills …

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Famous Last Word

I decided a few years back, as I approached the magic number 80 that it would be a good idea to die at home. Dying at home, I figured, surrounded by my children and grandchildren, in the house where Susan and I raised our three sons and daughter, would be a storybook ending to a …

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An Alternative History of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has been labeled variously as a “mosaic,” “hell with the lid off,” and “the Paris of Appalachia.” The East Liberty-born poet Jack Gilbert describes the city in his poem, “Searching for Pittsburgh,” as being made of “brick and tired wood/ Ox and sovereign spirit/ a consequence of America.” Those characterizations loom as well-played section …

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After A Pitcher of Beer at Antlers Pub, I Believed I Was Brave

After A Pitcher of Beer at Antlers Pub, I Believed I Was Brave And walked with my friend Mike to the State Street Pier. Mike was funny, a good drinking buddy, and fearless.  He pissed from the edge of the pier, then pole vaulted over the railing and landed hard with both feet,  right on the lake below. …

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