Culture

PICT Conjures a Ghostly Godot with “The Woman in Black”

“The Woman in Black” is one of those rare creations, like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” that has found success in multivarious forms as a novel, play, and film. Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 book, PICT Classic Theatre’s production uses Stephen Mallatratt’s 1987 adaptation (an unusually safe bet for this company that even wrote …

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My Flawed Church: A Treasure in an Earthen Vessel

Pittsburgh Catholics have had a really tough year. Changing the parish configurations of churches around the city at the same time we Catholics were dealing with the painful grand jury report was one crisis too many. Our home parishes were shuffled, our beloved priests reassigned, Sunday Mass schedules upended. Meetings and activities took place to …

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Still Squonky After All These Years

Leave your preconceived notion of an opera in the car. Whatever Squonk Opera is, it certainly isn’t what you’re thinking. A description that succinctly encapsulates this Pittsburgh native is futile. Not quite a rock band, anything but an opera. So, what then? Squonk’s strength lies in its innate pliability. Each show is built atop a …

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Finding Solitude in Westinghouse Park

Its pastoral charms are pleasant but unremarkable: 10 acres of well-tended lawn sprinkled with mature trees, a children’s play area and a utilitarian cement block park building. Other than the name, there is no reason to suspect that Westinghouse Park in the city’s Point Breeze North neighborhood was once the beating heart of a web …

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Exploring Andy Warhol’s Ancestral Home

Andy Warhol once said that he came “from nowhere.” And if ever you find yourself exploring the Lower Beskid mountains along the Polish-Slovak border, you might think he was right. At first glance, it appears there are no signs human beings were ever there. But if you look closer, you’ll realize that the holes and …

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The New MuseumLab: Past Transformed for Future

At nearly 130 years old, the building is an antique, but the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, known casually as the Carnegie Library of the North Side, was built to look centuries old from the start. Following the Romanesque Revival style of H.H. Richardson’s recent Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, cut stone, rhythmic arches and …

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On a Pedestal: Fallingwater, Allegheny Conference, Natural Areas Association, Healthcare Truce

Now, a world treasure: Fallingwater has gone global. Thanks to efforts from the Western Pa. Conservancy, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of modern architecture nestled in the verdant Laurel Highlands has been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage List. It’s recognition that in our backyard is a treasure considered in …

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Highland Meadows, Allegheny County, 1979

Sunday afternoons, we escaped across green waves of fenceless yards, hopscotched streets with split- level homes—their windowed eyes and garages’ open mouths. We screamed past the chained dog’s bark, lawns skirted with azaleas or crowned with the Virgin Mary. We lifted animals like bracelets from creeks and sat on Central Pharmacy’s curb snapping twigs of …

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George Washington DID Sleep Here

Forbes. Grant. Braddock. Duquesne. Washington. While these read like a list of Pittsburgh streets, they have immense significance to both Pittsburgh and its place in American and world history. But that history began around 50 miles away in Westmoreland County, in what is now the borough of Ligonier. It’s been kept alive and can be …

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Barebones Brings Sam Shepard’s “True West” to Life in a Stunning Production

We tend to think of the American West as director John Ford portrayed it: a vast, mysterious space as cosmic as the Egyptian desert, with the Rockies as our pyramids. The West is an ideal we all hold, a collective mythic dream, something verging on the spiritual the way our conception of patriotism verges on …

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Close to Home: Local Poets Get Personal

If all politics is local, perhaps all good poetry might be considered local, as well. Consider how setting and description flavor the Homestead poems of Robert Gibb and the Detroit poems of Jim Daniels. In his seminal essay collection on poetic craft, “The Triggering Town,” poet Richard Hugo asks writers to ground their work, saying …

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Lost and Found

Some days are memorable for obvious reasons: births, deaths, weddings and funerals. Occasionally, however, a day is noteworthy not for any dramatic event but for what you suddenly understand. For 58 summers in a row, I’ve gone to a little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula called Cedarville. What has turned out, in retrospect, to be …

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50 Years Ago at Woodstock

I was a skinny 20-year-old in August of 1969. My Woodstock Fever started on Monday of that week in Rochester, N.Y. I was working at St. Joe Paper Company, catching future cardboard boxes as they rolled off the corrugator. On the way home, I heard a radio ad for a three-day music festival. The ad …

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80’s Body Shop Elegy

We kept the radio on all day long. The news came on at noon. Reagan, Nicaragua, Iran. Tommy brushed his fingertips over the freshly primed fender of another rust-bucket Monte Carlo, feeling for waves, bows, any imperfections in the once rotted places he’d filled and shaped with fiberglass resin. Next door, the whitewashed Lighthouse Salvation …

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Breaking New Ground in the Pittsburgh Art World

Fiberart International 2019 is up through August 24, 2019 at Brew House Association and Contemporary Craft. “How did a small group of Pittsburgh housewives practicing the dainty craft of hand embroidery give birth to the rowdy, sophisticated, benchmark triennial we know as ‘Fiberart International?’” The answer to this rather cheeky question points to a group …

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Bringing Back Pittsburgh’s Steps

Along Schenley Drive in Oakland, the Frick Fine Arts building looks like a Renaissance villa, well suited to the grandeur of the adjacent Carnegie Museums and Library in the cultural part of Oakland. At the parking lot in back, though, you find the public steps down to Joncaire Street, a descent of 130-some treads into …

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Short Takes: “Imagining the Modern,” “The Best Seven Years of My Life”

“Imagining the Modern” is a gorgeous book about a period that not everyone thinks is beautiful: the postwar design of Pittsburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and the popular consensus holds that East Liberty, the Hill District and a key part of the North …

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A Meditation of Life in Twilight

Certain Pittsburghers could read Stewart O’Nan’s “Henry, Himself” just for the satisfaction of having their world described by a masterful writer. The Pittsburgh native’s novel, his 17th, takes place largely in the pleasant precincts of the East End, from well-tended houses in Highland Park to the Phipps Conservatory Flower Show in Oakland, Calvary Episcopal Church …

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History, Charm and Vitality

Saxonburg was founded as a German farming settlement in 1832 by brothers Friedrich C. and John A. Roebling, immigrants from Mühlhausen, Prussia, who purchased 1,582 acres. Destined to become history’s most famous Saxonburg resident, John had studied surveying, engineering, architecture and hydraulics in Europe. He soon lost interest in farming and began developing a crucial …

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“May We Live in Interesting Times”: The 58th Venice Biennale

I have just returned from my 10th (I think) Venice Biennale. They tend to run together. Probably more than 1000 artists, 300 Aperol Spritzes, 150 Bellinis and 3,271 hors d’oeuvres. Princess Stephanie has blown smoke in my face from the terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. The Russians have come and gone. San Marco has …

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Famous Last Words…

Editor’s note: Oil and gas man Michael L. Benedum and his wife Sarah created the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in memory of their only child who died in 1918 at the age of 20. On the anniversary of the Foundation, which has distributed more than $500 million in philanthropy to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, we …

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The Seeming Vastness of Summer

During a 15-minute break from a recent Friday night poker game, a friend and I were discussing medical things when the question arose: What would you do if you found out you had two years to live and would be in basically good health until the end? The conversation soon attracted a wider group, and …

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