David De Angelo — my good friend and fellow Pittsburgh blogger — got a peak behind the scenes at the preparation underway for the Public’s upcoming production of 1776 – The Musical. And, because he’s a grand fellow, he posted all about it on his blog. He shares some insights from cast members about the politics of the play, as well as the Public’s creative set design. Check out his post. Continue reading Theater preview: 1776 – The Musical at Pittsburgh Public Theater
Get out your waistcoats, goggles, and pocket watches. The Pittsburgh Public Theater is having a charming steampunk event next Friday before the evening’s performance of Around the World in 80 Days. Continue reading Age of Steam Night at Pittsburgh Public Theater
People bandy about the word “tragedy” too easily. Continue reading Turning grief into art: Electra at the Pittsburgh Public Theater
I love “stage door” plays and movies, like All About Eve, Singing in the Rain, All That Jazz, and pretty much every movie Fred Astaire made. So I’m particularly excited about the play that opens the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s new season, The Royal Family.
Enjoy a royal romp with the biggest celebrities of the Roaring Twenties in Kaufman & Ferber’s lavish comedy, The Royal Family.
NOW THROUGH OCTOBER 31
DIRECTED BY TED PAPPAS
After a critically-acclaimed 2009 Broadway revival, garnering multiple Tony Award nominations, The Public will present a brand-new production of The Royal Family.
The Cavendish clan lives in a lavish Manhattan apartment, befitting their status as the glamorous First Family of 1920s Broadway (think The Barrymores). The Royal Family takes us into the lavish lifestyle of these Roaring Twenties theatrical superstars, whose outrageous behavior is matched only by their love for their work.
For tickets, call 412.316.1600 or BUY ONLINE.
Disclosure: The Public is providing me with tickets to see this production.
What is it about art that makes us hate art lovers so very much? It’s
easy enough to love artists themselves, particularly artists who can
convey emotion beautifully on the canvas but who struggle to express
simple thoughts in conversation. I like that over-abstracting flavor of
awkwardness in a person. What I don’t like is the sorts of people who
speak fluidly and easily and steadily at art openings, stuffing green
grapes and Brie into their faces while deciding which painting will go
best in their guest bathroom. Do I hate their big, dusty piles of cash
that much? Or do I hate this urge to own something that came from such a
pure place, to frame it and show it off and use it to service their own
egos? But aren’t we all ego-driven louts?
That quote is from Heather Havrilesky’s column in Salon this week, reviewing Bravo’s new reality show, “Work of Art.” But it could well be a monologue from Yasmina Reza’s award-winning play “Art,” currently in a sharp, smart, entertaining production at the Pittsburgh Public Theater.
“Art” at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Pictured (l to r) Harry Bouvy, Rob Breckenridge and Darren Eliker. Photo credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater.
I don’t hate art lovers — some of my best friends are art lovers — but I do dislike the rarefied, condescending air that I feel hovering around a museum or gallery. Then again, is it the art lovers that are looking down at me, or is it me looking up at them, who have taken the time to understand the history and vocabulary of the art world? And what is art (or Art) anyway? Is it what I like, or what I understand the influences and framework of, or what I know cost a lot of money?
Reza’s play is a bit about these questions, and a bit about friendship. What value does one get from being a friend? How do you measure the ROI of friendship?
Yet as heavy and ponderous as all these questions are, the play itself is a hoot. At the Public, it’s fast-paced (literally, as it’s just 75 minutes long) and snappy. Harry Bouvy as Yvan delivers an extended monologue that brings down the house, but all three actors shine. It’s a perfect show to attend with close friends — whether they love art or not.
“Art” plays at the Public through June 27. Find details and buy tickets at the PPT website.
Pittsburgh Public Theater provided me with complimentary tickets for this production.
Pictured standing (left to right) John Shepard, Chris Landis, and Ross Bickell. Seated is Helena Ruoti. Photo credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater.
In 1982 I was Lillian Hellman for fifteen minutes.
For 10th grade English class, we were each asked to choose an author and to research and report on that author. We were encouraged to dress like the author, bring visual aids, and generally get into the assignment.
I had read Pentimento that summer, so it took me no more than a moment to choose Lillian Hellman as my author. I already wanted to live her life. She’d written plays and movies, had a love affair with Dashiell Hammett, stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee.
But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group. [source]
She wasn’t a beautiful woman, yet she was uncompromising and unstoppable, and I wanted to grow up to be her.
In preparing my report I couldn’t find copies of her plays — the school library and Butler Public Library offered limited resources. But I read An Unfinished Woman, her first memoir, and a biography of Hammett that talked about her. I re-read Pentimento, and tried to internalize Hellman’s poetic prose. Here’s the opening of Pentimento:
Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter “repented,” changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again. That is all I mean about the people in this book. The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.
I wanted so much to do justice to my subject, I stayed up all night reading and re-reading the night before the report — my first all-nighter. The class was in the afternoon; to stay awake I got a couple of tablets NoDoze from another girl in the dorm. For a prop I borrowed a cigarette from another girl in the class. I was tired, wired, and full of plans and ideals and beautiful language.
At the time I had never heard of Method acting, but I suspect this might have been the first use of the technique in presenting a report in 10th grade English class.
I tottered around the front of the classroom in low-heeled pumps, and a belted beige suit, waving my (unlit) cigarette around and talking. I had no outline, just a page of phrases and quotes that I peered at now and then. Mostly I ranted in a vague attempt at a Southern accent. I told the class about my life with Dash, about my plays and films, about my childhood, and about how to write.
Eventually the fifteen minutes allotted for my report ended. I didn’t have a final statement, so I said “thanks” and sat down. Afterward my friends who smoked told me that I did the smoking part all wrong; I never exhaled. Despite my cigarette misuse I got an A.
Since that time, I’ve learned a lot more about Lillian Hellman. It’s likely that she fabricated the story “Julia” in Pentimento, created it from the private memoirs of another woman. She probably made up or at least embellished much of what she wrote about herself. Dashiell Hammett may have played a bigger role in the writing of her great plays — the memorable characters, the quotable dialogue — than she or he would admit.
It’s strange to look back on my childhood hero and see her in a new light, one that’s not wholly flattering. I think now that she was who she was, struggling through her life as we all do, making what sense of it we can. I still want to be like her, at least a little.
Actually, I would settle for writing one thing as unforgettable as The Little Foxes. The Pittsburgh Public Theatre is running Hellman’s most famous play until December 13.
I saw the show on Press Night (disclaimer: The Public provided me with complimentary tickets.) and thought the three-act play snapped along well. As always, the production is top-notch: stunning set (with a beautiful and very important staircase), lush costumes, perfect lighting, juicy and biting performances. Helena Ruoti plays an elegant, cold, scheming Regina, and I enjoyed Ross Bickell’s take on Ben Hubbard. I fear that Michael McKenzie seemed a little too healthy for Horace Giddens, verging on athletic, but otherwise he was convincing as a dying man trying to do right in a poisoned world. Deidre Madigan is heartbreaking as Birdie Hubbard, fragile and fearful, living on memories.
The play carries an emotional wallop. During the critical third act, I heard people in the theater gasping at all the right points.
Being a tale of a quintessential dysfunctional family, The Little Foxes is either a strange play to see during the holiday season or a perfect one. I recommend it.
[Get more information about The Little Foxes at the Public’s website.]
There’s a new play in Pittsburgh that I want to see, but my schedule is conspiring against me. In case I can’t attend, I thought I’d at least let everyone else know about it — maybe if there’s a strong, positive response, the theater will extend it for a while until I can get a bit of free time.
The play is “Harry’s Friendly Service,” by Rob Zellers.
Zellers also wrote “The Chief,” a hit play about Art Rooney Sr., founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This new play has other things to recommend it: an appealing cast, excellent production, great space (the O’Reilly Theatre) in which to enjoy it.
Plus the plot has resonance for me: set in the Rust Belt (Youngstown, Ohio), in 1977, when industrial layoffs were looming and small towns were in jeopardy. I grew up in that environment, when the major industries in my home town — steel and rail car manufacturing — were falling apart. In the current economic climate, it seems ever more important to look back on those years.
If you need a bit more temptation, here’s a little video promo the Public created:
From the email inbox, an announcement of a very cool event involving my friend Rick Schweikert and some of Pittsburgh finest theatre professionals:
B.U. S. 4 Bricolage Urban Scrawl
Bricolage presents our third annual Play-in-a-Day Series
MARCH 21ST 937 LIBERTY AVENUE FIRST FLOOR
Join Bricolage for a unique benefit to unveil a brand new season for 2009.
6 Playwrights, 6 Directors, 24 Actors, 24 Hours, 120 Seats.
We are back again with another incredible line-up of local artists risking their creative necks to write, direct, perform, and present 6 new plays in one day. Each writer will have 12 hours to write a 10-minute play inspired by a 90-minute journey on a city bus. The directors and actors will have the next 12 hours to rehearse, memorize and stage each play to debut that same evening exactly 24 hours after the first meeting.
Come see an exciting new line up of artists including:
Gab Cody, Robert Isenberg, Wali Jamal, Michael McGovern, Rick Schweikert, Robin Walsh.
Martin Giles, Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Sheila McKenna, Anya Martin, John Shepard, David Whalen.
Eric Anderson, Nancy Bach, Karen Baum, Tyler Berube, Laura Lee Brautigam, Bridget Carey, Brian Czarneicki, George Dalzell, Don Digiulio, James Fitzgerald, Dave Flick, Tressa Glover, Lonzo Green, Daina Michelle Griffith, Mary Harvey, Chris Josephs, Kelly Marie McKenna, Robyne Parish, Joshua Elijah Reese, Rita Reis, Mark Clayton Southers, Genna Styles, and James Wong.
Enjoy cocktails and food provided by Penn Avenue Fish Market, Sonoma Grill, and Seviche. Bid on fabulous silent auction items such as sports, theatre, and film tickets, spa packages, and much, much more. Be witness to this exciting experiment in theatre and learn more about what Bricolage has in store for the coming year.
For a 7-minute video of past BUS events visit:
B.U.S. FARE: $40 cocktails and yummies
V.I.P. FARE: $75 private reception and Friday night actor selection party
Doors open at 7PM performance begins at 8PM.
Seating is limited. For tickets call 412-381-6999 or buy your tickets on-line at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/58505
To RSVP contact Tami at email@example.com. For more information visit www.webbricolage.org
V.I.P. Fare – This ticket entitles the fare holder to cocktails, lite yummies and a front row seat to the intimate Friday Night Actor Selection Parade. This is rare treat for the VIP to get a behind the scenes look at the making of a 24 hour play event. This portion of the process is probably our favorite exchange. Choosing this fare will also give the VIP reserved seating for Saturday evenings BUS 4 event. Limited number of tickets available. Make your reservation today. Call 412-381-6999.
Supported in part by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
If you grew up poring over the advice that Ann Landers and Dear Abby handed out in their daily columns — or if you just enjoy a night of great live theater — you’ll want to check out the next production at the Pittsburgh Public Theater: "The Lady with All the Answers." (Local bloggers have a chance to see and write about the show too — read on for details.)
THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS
November 13 – December 14, 2008
Starring Helena Ruoti
By David Rambo
Directed by Ted Pappas
For Ann Landers, no topic was taboo. If you needed blunt advice, she was the one to ask. She answered countless letters in a newspaper column that made her a legend. But who could she turn to when life threw her a curve? Pittsburgh treasure Helena Ruoti brings Landers to life in this one-woman play that’s as honest and humorous as the lady herself.
Here’s an extended description from the press release:
Before web sites and blogs, Ann Landers’ groundbreaking newspaper advice column started a dialogue that gave voice to a changing American culture
Helena Ruoti stars in this dazzling one-woman show directed by Ted Pappas
PITTSBURGH (Oct. 9, 2008) — Pittsburgh Public Theater brings to life newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers in The Lady With All the Answers, running Nov. 13 – Dec. 14, 2008 in the O’Reilly Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater’s home in the heart of Downtown’s Cultural District. Tickets are available at 412.316.1600 or www.ppt.org <http://www.ppt.org> . Pittsburgh Public Theater is led by Producing Artistic Director Ted Pappas.
This stylish and surprising one-woman show stars Pittsburgh’s extraordinary Helena Ruoti as Ann Landers. Ted Pappas directs and is also the costume designer. The Lady With All the Answers was written by David Rambo, who is also a writer and producer of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the most widely viewed television show in the world.
Ann Landers started life as Eppie Lederer, along with her identical twin sister, Popo. In 1955 she became the writer of a newspaper advice column that would eventually bring her 60 million readers. In The Lady With All the Answers we’ll meet Ann in 1975, a chic and sassy 57-year-old who describes herself as a “Jewish Joan of Arc.” At this point she is a celebrity, living in a world of Chanel and chocolate, bubble baths and bouffant hair.
Speaking directly to the audience, Ann will tell us about her friends – everyone from Hubert Humphrey to Hugh Hefner – and her twin, who became Dear Abby. But mostly she’ll talk about the questions that led to her most famous columns. A trivial question about the correct way to hang toilet paper brought a landslide of responses. More important, people wrote to Ann because they didn’t have anywhere else to turn. Women’s rights, gun control, the sexual revolution, and cancer were all topics she brought to light. Ann was the first to put the word homosexual in print. In The Lady With All the Answers we’ll learn about Ann’s experience with the movie Deep Throat, hear about her trip to Vietnam, and ultimately learn what was the hardest column of her career to write.
The design team for Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of The Lady With All the Answers is: James Noone (Scenic), Allen Hahn (Lighting), and Zach Moore (Sound). Fred Noel is the Production Stage Manager and Adrienne Wells is the Assistant Stage Manager.
About the Playwright
In addition to his work on television’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” David Rambo wrote the plays God’s Man in Texas, The Spin Cycle and The Ice-Breaker, which was read at Pittsburgh Public Theater as part of the Public Exposure series. He has adapted Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit, written a new book for the Lerner & Loewe musical Paint Your Wagon, and adapted several classic screenplays for live performance, including All About Eve, Casablanca, Adam’s Rib, and Sunset Boulevard.
For interviews and photos contact Margie Romero at 412.316.8200 ext. 707 or mromero at ppt.org
SPECIAL NOTE: The Public is offering a special deal to bloggers for this show. If you’d like to attend the show and blog about it, the theater will provide you with one or two complimentary "press" tickets for a night of your choosing (depending on availability of course). Interested? Please email Margie Romero (mromero at ppt.org) with your name, the name and URL of your blog, and the show date and time you’d like to attend. There are a limited number of press comps available, so act quickly!
Find information on show times and tickets at the Pittsburgh Public Theater website.
New post up at the Pittsburgh Symphony blogs: “Compare and Contrast.”
(Photo credit: Scenes from Shakespeare – Macbeth taken by kimberlyfaye)