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Arts

Measuring the Law

Many years ago, I worked on a production of Measure for Measure, and many of those lines are still stuck in my head.  Shakespeare is of course supremely quotable on any number of subjects.  But this difficult and brilliant play about the law as it relates to sex has potent language that keeps floating up …

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The Pinnacle of My Time at Quantum

Dear reader, I think you may benefit from a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s. Or a pot of coffee. Or a screened-in porch with an ancient comfortable chair for a September afternoon, whatever your version of support props. This story has twists and turns that challenge one’s staying power. But I appreciate your lending an ear …

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Breaking and Healing

Artists begin with one question regarding any new creative work. Most might think artists ask themselves, “What should I create?” But the question really needs to be, “Why should I create it?” Intention. It is the driving force behind any project, plan or goal. Without it there can be no satisfying end result. Without it …

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Capturing a Giant

There’s never been anything quite like it. In its heyday, the Homestead Works sprawled across 420 acres, much of it hugging both sides of the Monongahela River. Roughly 15,000 people worked there, in 450 buildings, dominating the landscape with more than 100 miles of railroad tracks and becoming so intertwined with the town that when Big …

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Art and Intention

Growing up on a farm in Mercer County, surrounded by expansive fields and wooded hills, I spent much of my childhood either outdoors exploring or inside reading. I was (and still am) particularly fond of stories that explore hidden worlds, like the poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden.” …

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Quantum’s “The Cherry Orchard” is Brilliantly Inscrutable

Often in theater, the more mundane the plot, the more iconoclastic the drama.  Thus, if “Hamlet” is essentially about a man who cannot make up his mind, and in “Waiting For Godot” we watch nothing happen, twice, then “The Cherry Orchard” offers us four acts about the refinancing of a mortgage in arrears. What could …

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Now and Then: Artemesia Genteleschi and Kehinde Wiley at the Frick

The Frick has gifted us with a rare treat: the opportunity to view an iconic work from the 17th century paired with a major work of our century. The two paintings of the Judith and Holofernes story, created four centuries apart, comprise “Slay” which is on exhibit through Sunday. Artemesia Gentileschi’s version depicts the classic …

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Kinetic Theatre’s World Premiere of “The Illustrious Invalid”

There is a saying in the world of martial arts that “Control is the mother of speed,” and it could be said that in the world of theater, control – in the form of precise writing, acting, and directing – is the mother of farce.  In both cases, when speed is the sole objective, things …

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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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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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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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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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Back in the Lights!

After a one-year hiatus, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Pointe in Time gala returned to The Westin Saturday with an evening of dining, dancing and performance, including a sneak peek at choreography from Artistic Director Susan Jaffe’s new staging of “Swan Lake,” which will debut at the Benedum Center in May. The event welcomed 400 guests and took …

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PICT Emerges from the Darkness with a Brilliant “As You Like It”

It’s certainly more than a little ironic that the last play I reviewed before the pandemic shut down all the theaters nearly two years ago was a work by Shakespeare, set in a forest, and performed by PICT Classical Theatre in the Fred Rogers Studio at WQED. . . and now in reviewing the first …

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Myth?

In all the productions I’ve attended over the past several decades, I’ve never seen a playwright attack the play he was adapting in the program notes. Jay Ball writes that when director Jed Allen Harris asked him to collaborate on a production of Homer’s eighth century BCE epic poem “The Odyssey” for Quantum Theatre, he …

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The Triumph of “The Current War”

Since the emergence of drama two-and-a-half-millennia ago, the theater’s greatest enemy has always been the plague. It is no coincidence that during the fifth century BCE, as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were writing the first great tragedies, Hippocrates was writing the first great medical treatise, called the Epidemics. Theater, unlike virtually any other art form, …

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Decorating the Silver Screen

Jan Pascale would be really great on a scavenger hunt. Fifty place settings of vintage Blue Willow china? A candlestick telephone? Camera equipment from the 1930s? A lineup of old, clunky manual typewriters? As a set decorator, she found all this and much more just for one movie, “Mank.” As Pascale said, “We did a …

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Who Quotes Nero?

Poems have birthdays but no funerals. They somehow manage to outlive their creators as well as the times and cultures in which they were written. Why? How? Numerous answers have been given—some academic, others pedestrian, and still others with silence and a shrug. The common theme that appears in these various answers is that poems …

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George Lange: Through a Joyful Lens

Internationally renowned photographer George Lange grew up in Squirrel Hill and recently returned with his family to live in his childhood home. He credits the joy from his Pittsburgh childhood with influencing his playful approach to photography, which often involves allowing his subjects to reveal sides of themselves that are not often shared. “I am …

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Photo as Fact?

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic will become another watershed moment in our lives, and we will be asking “Where were you when…” for years to come. I remember what I was doing when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11, but the event that rocked my world was the assassination of JFK. I might …

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Restarting Pittsburgh’s Arts Economy

In late summer of 1606, one of the liveliest theatre seasons London, England, had known was abruptly shut down by the sudden onset of bubonic plague. When public entertainments were allowed to resume almost two years later in April 1608, several drama companies that had flourished pre-plague were nowhere to be found. William Shakespeare’s company, …

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