Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jane Lynch Brings Her Talent to Heinz Hall

Performer Jane Lynch Credit: Jake Bailey

TV star Jane Lynch brings her unique blend of comedy, music and storytelling to a one-night-only experience, “Jane Lynch Sings the Great American Songbook (plus one Guatemalan love song),” with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Friday, July 7 at 8 p.m. at Heinz Hall.

Three-time Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress Jane Lynch from “Glee,” “Best in Show,” “Hollywood Game Night” and more joins the Pittsburgh Symphony, led by assistant conductor Andrés Franco, in a rollicking musical journey. Along with pianist Brad Ellis — the silent accompanist from “Glee” — Lynch will perform hits from Broadway and other classic favorites, such as “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” “King of the Road,” “Mambo Italiano,” “I Feel Good” and more, while sharing humorous and heartfelt personal stories.

Tickets, ranging from $35 to $85, are available at the Heinz Hall Box Office, via phone at 412-392-4900 or online at pittsburghsymphony.org/summer.

About the Artists

Actress JANE LYNCH was raised outside of Chicago and first cut her theatrical teeth at The Second City, Steppenwolf Theatre and in many church basements all over the greater Chicagoland area. No stranger to the stage, Lynch made her Broadway debut in the 2013 production of Annie as Miss Hannigan in a limited run at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theater in New York. Soon thereafter, Lynch decided to embark on her own musical comedy tour, See Jane Sing, in which she mixes her signature quick wit with beloved Broadway songs.

Lynch is the host of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night for which she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host. Lynch also recently wrapped the final season of Glee on Fox for which she is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner for portraying the iconic television character, Sue Sylvester. Some of her other recent credits include the Starz series Party Down, Lovespring, a Lifetime original series, Desperate Housewives and Weeds, as well as the last season of The L Word opposite Cybill Shepherd. She also had recurring roles on Two and a Half Men, Criminal Minds and The New Adventures of Old Christine.

Jane Lynch Coming to Heinz Hall July 7
In addition to her television credits, Lynch’s recent film credits include A.C.O.D, Three Stooges, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wreck-It Ralph, Julie & Julia, Shrek Forever After, The Post Grad Survival Guide, Paul and Brownie Masters. Lynch also authored the autobiography Happy Accidents, which topped several national best-sellers list, including The New York Times and LA Times. With her comedic timing, fantastic look, and remarkable wit, Lynch is an actress to watch.

You may recognize BRAD ELLIS as the curiously silent piano player on Glee who is killed in the final episode by Sue Sylvester. Other television includes Gilmore Girls, Bunheads, Rocky Horror Picture Show (2016) and the 81st Academy Awards. Film credits include Chicago, De-Lovely, and Beauty and the Beast. A long-time session player, Brad has led more than 6,000 performances of more than 400 different concerts and musicals in New York and Los Angeles, and orchestrates for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and The Philadelphia Orchestra. He's been the leader on 35 albums for RCA, DRG and Varese Sarabande. Artists he’s worked with include Matthew Morrison, Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Joel, Christoph Eschenbach, Ariana Grande, Rod Stewart and Tim Curry. He’s married to Jazz pixie Eydie Alyson, and they frequently perform as Ellis 'N' Alyson.

Having completed highly successful first seasons as music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC, as well as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, ANDRÉS FRANCO has established himself as a conductor to watch.

While maintaining his roles as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka, and artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s summer festival “Concerts in the Garden,” he continues to delight audiences with his imaginative programming and energetic style.

During the 2016-2017 season, Franco will make debuts with the Boise Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Texas Music Festival, and will return to conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

A frequent guest conductor in the United States, Europe and South America, Franco has appeared with the Columbus, Elgin, El Paso, Eugene, Fort Worth, Houston, Lake Forest, Mississippi, Saginaw Bay, Springfield, St. Louis and Stockton symphony orchestras; the Chicago Sinfonietta; Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Spain; the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru, as well as with the National Symphony, Bogota Philharmonic, Medellin Philharmonic and EAFIT Symphony Orchestra in Colombia.  Festival appearances include the Cabrillo, Grant Park, OK Mozart and Oregon Bach Festivals.

Franco formerly served as music director of the Philharmonia of Kansas City, as associate and resident conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony, and as Leonard Slatkin’s assistant conductor during the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

A native of Colombia, Franco is dedicated to preserving and performing the music of the Americas. As principal conductor of Caminos del Inka, he has led many performances of works by Latin American composers, such as Jimmy López, Diego Luzuriaga and the famous Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla.

Born into a musical family, Franco began piano studies with his father, Jorge Franco. An accomplished pianist, he studied with Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jose Feghali, and attended piano workshops with Rudolph Buchbinder in Switzerland, and Lev Naumov in France.  He studied conducting with Marin Alsop, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kurt Masur, Gustav Meier, Helmut Rilling, Gerard Schwarz and Leonard Slatkin.

Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as master of music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University.

Franco is married to Victoria Luperi, associate principal clarinetist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Stroking Its Ego" - A Sensuous, Erotic Dance Performance That Strips away Societal Expectations



I've been to several of Elisa-Marie Alaio's dance performances and always came away amazed by the theatricality, expertise and intriguing subject matter she and her company come up with. The current dance creation, "Stroking Its Ego" seems a doozie, one that promises to peel back societal expectations in its choreographed exploration of sensuality and eroticism.

"Stroking Its Ego" runs for four performances starting tomorrow at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street in Carnegie. For tickets, go to www.insideoffthewall.com or phone 724-873-3576. 

Famed British Actor included in Special Battle of Homestead Events



The Meet, Greet, Commemorate event with actor-activist Mark Rylance as guest of honor, acknowledges the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Homestead, when thousands of locked-out steel workers and townspeople clashed with Pinkerton guards hired by Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie. Rylance calls it "a story worthy of Shakespere." Rylance will meet guests, who can tour the steelmaking exhibits and artifacts at the historic Bost Building. The evening features light fare, drinks, and songs led by local musician Jason Kendall.

Friday, June 30, 7 to 10 p.m.
LOCATION
The Bost Building
623 East 8th Avenue
Homestead, PA 15120
Tickets are $90 and benefit the non-profit Battle of Homestead Foundation.
For tickets to these events go to battleofhomestead.org.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Body in the Landscape of the Mind" at the Penn Gallery Starting July 7



"12 Tower Detail" Artist: Angela Biederman

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces Body in the Landscape of the Mind, work by Angela Biederman, will be on view Friday, July 7 through Sunday, July 27, 2017 at 707 Penn Gallery, located at 707 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. The opening of this exhibit will coincide with the quarterly Gallery Crawl, and an opening reception will be held on Friday, July 7 from 5:30-10:00 p.m. A talk with the artist will also be held on July 28 at 6:00 p.m.

The works in Body in the Landscape of the Mind resulted from two objectives bound by one cohesive goal.  Biederman’s first objective was to make ceramic sculptures that referenced the body by abstracting and merging components such as appendages, organs and bones.  Her second objective was to turn the mind and its thoughts into tangible art objects that resembled a landscape in which these body forms existed.

“Thoughts about the body resided in my mind, which came to be their environment, and resulted in depicting the body in the landscape of the mind. In perceiving the mind like a landscape, the natural world guided these manifestations, because growth, decay and regeneration are inherent qualities of both. Some forms, colors, and textures mimic those found in nature, and some materials were repurposed from my environment, appropriated, altered, and renewed, just as our thoughts often are or can be,” Biederman explains. “Together, these objects became a hybridization of personal and natural landscapes, and depict the internal and external self.”

Regarding further influences of work, Biederman also shares, "when I traverse the landscape, I am engaged in my environment, and simultaneously have the freedom to let musings enter, remain and develop in my mind. The features in the landscape correlate to these encounters and abandonments, and the unpredictable discoveries found in both nature and thought arouse curiosity, astonishment and a sense of calm in me.  It is this same experience that I undergo when making art, and attempt to ultimately uphold in final form.”

About Angela Biederman

Angela Biederman is a sculptural artist whose primary medium is clay. The natural world has always been the principle influence of her work, and it is often used to also recognize personal and human endeavors such as growth, relationships, and existence.

\Angela earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Ceramics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010. She maintained a small, personal studio in Milwaukee for over four years before beginning her graduate studied in the ceramics department at Kent State University in the fall of 2014. Before earning her MFA in May of 2016, she taught ceramics at Kent State, and was the Curatorial Assistant in the School of Art Galleries.

She has exhibited nationally at NCECA’s Providence and Philadelphia conferences, locally where she resides in Pittsburgh, and regionally in Kent, Cleveland, Columbus, Milwaukee, and the John Michael Kohler Center for the Arts in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
For more information, please visit www.angelabiederman.com.

"Sometimes I Just Don't Know How to be in the World" Opens July 7 at Landmark Buiklding

Exhibit of Work by John Pena Opens July 7 at the Landmark Building

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is excited to announce Sometimes I Just Don’t Know How To Be In The World, works by John Peña, will be on display July 7 through August 31, 2017 at the Lantern Building, 600 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. The exhibit will open with the quarterly Gallery Crawl and an opening reception will be held July 7 from 5:30-10:00 p.m. An artist talk will be held August 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Sometimes I Just Don’t Know How To Be In The World consists of a series of three-dimensional word balloons that will be suspended off the ground with two-by-fours. The audience will be encouraged to physically navigate the space of the gallery in order to investigate the individual sentiments written on each object, completing the special narrative. “I want to continue exploring how the act of speech has the capacity to carry a significant intellectual and emotional weight,” shares Peña of the exhibit.

In addition to the word balloons, Peña will exhibit selected drawings from an on-going project titled Daily Geology. This project consists of a collection of daily compositions that Peña has drawn over the past seven years, recording a memorable moment from his day. “I am interested in slow and gradual actions that over a sufficient period of time begin to carve out and shape forms that are monumental and powerful. In effect, I am creating an art practice that mimics geological processes like drift and erosion. With “Daily Geology,” no given entry carries that much important. It is only when they are put together that they gain a momentum to illuminate a larger story, one that hopefully evokes an appreciation for the ordinary and daily experiences of my life,” Peña states of the process.

About John Peña

John Peña is a multidisciplinary artist, illustrator and educator from the desert of Washington state. He makes art as a way of exploring the natural world and his daily interactions. A few of John’s projects include: racing with clouds, sending a letter to the Pacific Ocean every day for the last twelve years, making daily drawings about his life and constructing large-scale plaster word balloons that are precariously balanced on two by fours. John has attended a number of residences including The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art & Fine Art Work Center in Provincetown, MA. He currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA.

For more information about John Peña, please visit www.johnpena.net and follow him on Instagram @johnpenastudio.

Lantern Building
Donated by PNC, the Lantern Building, located at 600 Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh, is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Gallery hours are Wed., Thurs. from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Fri., Sat. from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sun. from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information about all gallery exhibitions featured in the Cultural District, please visit www.TrustArts.org.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"The Christians" - Theology Presented in a Most Entertaining Way

David Whalen and Mindy Woodhead in Kinetic Theatre's THE CHRISTIANS Credit: Rocky Raco


The Christians
Presented by Kinetic Theatre
June 16 - July 2
Pittsburgh Premiere
Written by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Andrew Paul
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Douglas Levine

Pastor Paul has spent 20 years successfully growing his church from a modest storefront to a gleaming megachurch, but he no longer believes in Hell, and he’s about to preach a sermon about it. He thinks all of the people in his church are going to be happy to hear what he has to say. He’s wrong…
The Christians is epic and unexpectedly intimate, an unflinching look at faith in America.
For tickets, phone 1-888-718-4253

I sat through this very thought-provoking play on opening night and got caught up in some interesting theological issues. So much so that II concluded I'd like to have attended a discussion group with a bunch of knowledgeable ministers afterward. The playwright, author of the much acclaimed "A Doll's House, Part 2" that's racked up 8 Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, poses some intricate food for thought about Hell and other doctrinal tenets most of us take for granted.

Joshua Elijah Reese, David Whalen, & choir in Kinetic Theatre's Pittsburgh premiere production of THE CHRISTIANS Credit: Rocky Raco
David Whalen as Pastor Paul puts in a valiant (and commendable) effort to get his points of view (beliefs)  across and opens up the gate to some heady reactions on the part of his congregation. Associate Pastor Joshua, played with passion and conviction by Joshua Elijah Reese, takes umbrage with Pastor Paul's debatable, (and perhaps heretical?) outlook and initiates the inevitable schism within the congregation.

Besides exploring the implications of the minister's new spiritual insights, the playwright includes some more practical concerns such as the economic impact his revelations has on both his church and the board of directors who govern it.

One of the most interesting elements of the practical argument comes from Jenny, a congregant (Gayle Pazerski), who confronts the minister with less than admirable motives some of his flock have attributed to the beleaguered cleric.

In addition to 90 minutes of scintillating dialogue, the audience gets treated to some fine Gospel music sung by Monteze Freeland, Natalie Hatcher and Missy Moreno that's part of the church service that anchors the play. It's like a mini concert full of spirit and electrifying harmony.

Coupled with the "Act of God," currently getting a staging at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, local drama lovers can certainly get their theological fix in a pair of contrasting plays that are both presented in an extraordinarily entertaining way.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

O'Jays Join Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall June 29

O'Jays Coming to Heinz Hall Credit: Courtesy Photo

Icons of the 1970s R&B and soul sound, the O’Jays, join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for a summer concert that’s sure to sizzle on Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Hall.

The soundtrack of multiple generations, the O’Jays — with founding members Walter Williams and Eddie Levert — will perform their legendary hits with an orchestral twist provided by Assistant Conductor Andrés Franco and the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout their career, the O'Jays have achieved 10 gold albums, nine platinum albums and 10 #1 hits. The audience will shake their groove things to songs from these Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees such as “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “I Love Music” and many more.

Tickets, ranging from $39 to $119, are available at the Heinz Hall Box Office, via phone at 412-392-4900 or online at pittsburghsymphony.org/summer.

About the Artists

THE O'JAYS are touring history, a connection to an era and a sound that formed the soundtrack for the lives of several generations. The O’Jays are still hitting the road with the same electrifying energy they’ve had for more than 50 years.

Walter Williams and Eddie Levert first met when they were the ages of six and seven respectively. As teenagers in Canton, Ohio, they formed a band originally consisting of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. In 1963, the band took the name The O'Jays in tribute to Cleveland radio disc jockey Eddie O'Jay. Several members have changed, but the core, original lead singers Eddie Levert and Walter Williams, continue to front the group.

In 1972, Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters with whom the O'Jays had been working for several years, signed the group to their Philadelphia International label.  With this magic formula, often called The Sound of Philadelphia, The O’Jays scored the first number 1 and million-seller, “Backstabbers.” Subsequently, they succeeded with various chart-topping pop and R&B singles including “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,”  “For the Love of Money,”  “I Love Music,”  “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love),” “Livin’ for the Weekend” and  “Use Ta Be My Girl.” This success propelled The O’Jays to be the first black vocal group to perform in arenas throughout America during the ’70s and ’80s.

Levert and Williams have a rare lifelong bond that few of us will ever experience; friends and partners for almost 65 years.
“We still appreciate our friendship, dedication to each other and the group and our love for good music." Walter continues, "We probably could have had great solo careers, but I don't think either one of us could have ever have been as big as The O'Jays."

Williams has battled multiple sclerosis for 30 years and continues to execute his dance moves with perfection when performing onstage with the group. Williams is also a volunteer national ambassador for the MS Society and a spokesperson for MS Active Source. Levert is known for his raspy voice and has a range that takes him from alto to second tenor. Levert teamed up with his son, Gerald, for a duet on  “Baby Hold on to Me,” which hit number one on the R&B charts. Levert has also mentored his very successful sons, Gerald and Sean, who became major forces in the music industry.

The O'Jays were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005 and honored with BET's Life Time Achievement Award in 2009. In 2013, they were inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame. Today, the songs of The O’Jays are still being used in many movies, commercials and TV shows. “For the Love of Money” continues to be the theme song for “The Apprentice.”

Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant, who joined the group in 1995, continue to thrill fans today. Throughout their career The O'Jays have achieved 10 gold albums, nine platinum albums and 10 #1 hits. It's been a long journey but thanks to the fans the LOVE TRAIN is still going strong!

Having completed highly successful first seasons as music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC, as well as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, ANDRÉS FRANCO has established himself as a conductor to watch.

While maintaining his roles as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka, and artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s summer festival “Concerts in the Garden,” he continues to delight audiences with his imaginative programming and energetic style.

During the 2016-2017 season, Franco will make debuts with the Boise Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Texas Music Festival, and will return to conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

A frequent guest conductor in the United States, Europe and South America, Franco has appeared with the Columbus, Elgin, El Paso, Eugene, Fort Worth, Houston, Lake Forest, Mississippi, Saginaw Bay, Springfield, St. Louis and Stockton symphony orchestras; the Chicago Sinfonietta; Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Spain; the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru, as well as with the National Symphony, Bogota Philharmonic, Medellin Philharmonic and EAFIT Symphony Orchestra in Colombia.  Festival appearances include the Cabrillo, Grant Park, OK Mozart and Oregon Bach Festivals.

Franco formerly served as music director of the Philharmonia of Kansas City, as associate and resident conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony, and as Leonard Slatkin’s assistant conductor during the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

A native of Colombia, Franco is dedicated to preserving and performing the music of the Americas. As principal conductor of Caminos del Inka, he has led many performances of works by Latin American composers, such as Jimmy López, Diego Luzuriaga and the famous Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla.

Born into a musical family, Franco began piano studies with his father, Jorge Franco. An accomplished pianist, he studied with Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jose Feghali, and attended piano workshops with Rudolph Buchbinder in Switzerland, and Lev Naumov in France.  He studied conducting with Marin Alsop, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Kurt Masur, Gustav Meier, Helmut Rilling, Gerard Schwarz and Leonard Slatkin.

Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as master of music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University.

Franco is married to Victoria Luperi, associate principal clarinetist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.