Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pittsburgh Watercolor Society Set to Open 70th Annual Aqueous International Exhibit

 Lance Hunter - A Will to Play II

The Pittsburgh Watercolor Society presents its 70th Annual Aqueous International Exhibition 2016 on October 1-22, 2016 at the Spinning Plate Gallery. The 70th Annual PWS Aqueous, open to any artist working in water-based media, opens with a reception on Saturday, October 1 from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, at Spinning Plate Gallery at 5821 Baum Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15206. The opening reception is free and open to the public.

PWS is a regional artist’s organization that hosts an international exhibit and has developed a reputation as a prestigious group of watercolor artists.  The PWS Aqueous Annual International Exhibition is open to all artists 18 or older working primarily with water- based media on a paper surface and unvarnished (YUPO and Tyvek are permitted.) Mediums include: Watercolor, acrylic, casein, gouache, egg tempura, watercolor with ink, water soluble pencil, crayon or graphite and must be artist's original work only. Work is new and must have been completed within the last two years and not previously shown in a PWS exhibit.

This year’s 70th Annual Aqueous includes the work of 62 artists from all over the globe, including 19 artists from the greater Pittsburgh area and the other 43 from Malaysia, Canada, and 18 other states (WI, MO, SC, MD, LA, FL, VT, AZ , VA, OH, CT, OK, TX, CA, NY, UT, IL, NJ.) All works are for sale.  The exhibit runs from Saturday, October 1 through Saturday, October 22. Gallery Hours are Wednesday 11-4, Thursday 11-8, Friday 11-4, Saturday 11-4.


Connie Clutter - "Looking Back"


The Juror for Aqueous Open 2016 is Gerald F. Brommer, a member of NWS, AWS, WCWS, RMNWS, is author of numerous books and articles in art education journals. His most recent book, Emotional Content: How to Create Paintings that Communicate was published in 2003. Jerry has twelve instructional videos including, Watercolor in Action  - Responding to Nature and Exploring Watercolor for Location to Studio.

Brommer has written and edited over 25 art books for high school and college art education, and has 13 art education video programs. His paintings have appeared in more than 160 one-man shows, 200 group shows, and over 20 international exhibitions. He is represented in over 4300 private art collections in 44 states and nine countries. He currently leads art workshops throughout the world.

Brommer holds a Master of Arts degree and an Honorary Doctor of Literature degree. He studied at the University of Nebraska, Nebraska's Concordia University, USC, UCLA, the Chouinard Art Institute, and Otis Art Institute. Around the world he has been acknowledged as the master of watercolor, acrylic, and collage techniques and is in high demand as a teacher, consultant, and art exhibition juror. He has been described as humorous, sincere individual, with a genial personality who has inspired many artists.At the age of 91, he has announced this is his last year teaching.

He will be presenting a very special demonstration created for this exhibit on Sunday, September 25 at 1:00PM at the PWS membership meeting at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Simmons Hall, 1047 Shady Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232.  This event is open to the public with a cost  $5 for the public and free to members. To register for the event, please go to the PWS website, http://www.pittsburghwatercolorsociety.com/event-2208428/Registration

Susan Sparks - "Ciotola di Fungi"
The Pittsburgh Watercolor Society was founded in 1945 to develop, encourage and maintain interest in watercolor painting. The original membership of 20 was one of the first groups to be affiliated with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The membership of the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society has grown to over 200 artists who enjoy this opportunity to explore and share their broad range of style and techniques.

The Pittsburgh Watercolor Society sponsors two exhibits per year. "Waterworks" is a members-only show with awards selected by a local juror. Members may choose one piece to exhibit. "Aqueous Open" is an international juried exhibition with entries open to artists from around the world. The show is selected by a nationally known artist/juror who travels to Pittsburgh to jury the show and teach a workshop.

For more information about this exhibit or the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society, please visit the PWS Website at www.pittsburghwatercolorsociety.com.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nature Wonder Weekend Spotlights Wild Foods

Buffet table with prepared wild foods Credit: Curtest Photo

Wild food foragers from across the country will return to North Bend State Park Sept. 16–18, 2016, for the 49th annual Nature Wonder Weekend. Reservations are open and available for this annual gathering held at the park located on the north fork of the Hughes River near Cairo, West Virginia.

Featured speakers include wild foods cooking author Leda Meredith and hearth cook and food historians Martha and Richard Hartley.

“This year’s program will highlight foraging as well as wild food preparation and preservation, past and present,” said Deputy Director Emily Fleming of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The event, North America’s premier and longest-running wild foods event, begins Friday evening and concludes Sunday midmorning. It includes speakers, presentations, nature walks and collection and preparation of wild foods.

Activities include a park tour, wild food identification instruction, the Hazel Wood National Wild Food Cooking Contest and the Bill Faust Wild Cake Contest. The Wild Drink Contest winner is awarded the honorary Maxine Scarbro Friendship Cup.

The weekend offers overnight packages as well as day-only attendance options. The individual cost is $174 when two people share a room. This rate includes five traditional Appalachian-style buffet meals provided by North Bend Lodge Restaurant, as well as all activities and programs. Other rates are available for single occupancy rooms, cabins and fees for meals-only or single activities.

Overnight options include lodge rooms, cabins or camping sites. Please specify your preference during registration. Openings are available for campsites and cabins, but lodge rooms are filling fast, so early registration is important for those who want to stay in the lodge.To register, please contact Wendy Greene at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources at 304-558-2754 or email Wendy.L.Greene@wv.gov. Reservation forms and additional information are available online at the Event Calendar listings at www.northbendsp.com.

Nature Wonder Weekend Schedule Registration begins at the North Bend State Park Lodge Friday, Sept. 16, from 2 to 8 p.m. A park tour is scheduled at 3 p.m. and a buffet dinner is at 6:30 p.m. The Wild Foods Cooking Contest will be held that evening, including prizes for best wild food cooks, best wild cake and best wild drink.

After Saturday breakfast, small groups will take guided hikes in search of edible wild foods. Following lunch, the groups will prepare wild foods for the social hour that afternoon. A buffet dinner is available in the lodge restaurant Saturday evening. Sunday will include a morning service and a wild foods workshop.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Touchstone Center for Crafts Fall Workshop




Touchstone Center for Crafts presents a fall workshop, Metal Mesh, with Pittsburgh based sculptor Atticus Adams.  September 23-25, 2016.

Atticus Adams will lead a workshop in sculptural exploration using metal mesh and other approachable and readily available materials. 

Known for his metal fiber sculptures, Atticus has been creating award winning sculpture and art from mesh and other industrial materials since 1992.  His work is in numerous private collections and has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows across the U.S.  His formal art training included studies at Yale, Rhode Island School of Design, and Harvard’s School of Architecture.  For a gallery of photos, a list of shows, an artist’s statement and resume – atticusadams.com.

“Metal mesh is a beautiful, flexible material that allows you to explore shadow and transparency in endless ways,” he says. “The material lends itself to these biomorphic shapes, which aren’t necessarily intentional . . . The sculptures seem fragile but are actually quite resilient—like nature itself,” Atticus Adams.

For Touchstone Center for Crafts workshop registration, touchstonecrafts.org.

Metal Wreath by Atticus Adams


Touchstone is Pennsylvania’s only residential craft center.  Located in Farmington, the campus is on 150 acres of pristine woodlands, nestled in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania.  FB at touchstonecenterforcrafts; IG @touchstonecenterforcrafts

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival Promises 'A Good Time!! "

Boss Wench at Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival; Courtesy Photo


I’m a week late on this one but the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival lasts six weekends and closes on September 25.

AFFORDABLE FUN for EVERYONE !With More Turkey Legs, Music, Magic, and Merriment than Ever Before. Open Six Glorious Weekends & Labor Day August 20th ~ September25th
Located at the Gateway to the Laurel Highlands.Just southeast of Pittsburgh off I-70, exit 51A.

The Festival looks to an Exciting & Memorable 10th season! Festival goers will enjoy a Medieval Theme Park filled with an Adventure to the Past!

Today’s audience wants to be more then spectators. They want to participate and be surrounded by their entertainment as they seek to escape the everyday world. At the Festival, the audience is a special guest in another place and time.

Some of the Best Entertainment in all theLand!~ Back by popular demand… Cast in Bronze... ~ Come enjoy the Amazing Musical Adventure of the “Carillon” Bells, a rare medieval instrument of bells weighing fourtons!

The Washing Well Wenches ~ Doing laundry has never been so much fun!


Jousting at the Festival

The Joust: The Knight’s of Noble Cause Productions ~ Come experience the thrill of Chivalrous Knights and Brave Steeds engaging daily in 3 Exciting Jousting Competitions!  Featuring the Finest in Equestrian Skills and Combat Jousting

 Rick Stratton, Master Hypnotist ~ Be Amazed by the Power of the Mind!

The German Brothers ~ Outrageously amusing “German Rap Stars”!

The Roving Blades ~ Singers & instrumentalists focused on Celtic, maritime, and world music! They’ll keep you smiling, even if you’re thrown overboard!

The Righteous Blackguards ~ Bringing their irreverent blend of Celtic, Folk, & drinking songs to the stage, you’ll never have more fun!

 The Angels ~ Heroines in Disguise! Heavenly beautiful, devilishly dangerous!

The Duelists ~ Matching wit & witticism with combat & comedy, The Duelists use rapiers & daggers, swords & shields, axes, halberds, maces, flails and more, to deliver exciting and non stop Sword fighting action!

The CRAIC Show ~ “Bagpipes & Drums = Renaissance Rock ‘n Roll! “ Celtic Music has never been performed like this before! High-Spirited, Musically Savvy, Foot Stomping’ and Outrageously Energetic Music to get your heart pumping.

Adult Admission is $19.95 with $3 off discount tickets available at all participating Walgreens. Discount coupons are also available at Wendy’s and Shop N’ Save Stores throughout the Pittsburgh Region. Children 5-12 are $9, and children under 5 are free. 

For information call 724-872-1670 or visit the web at www.pittsburghrenfest.com


Living Statue

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Western PA National Parks Invite Everyone to #FindYourPark during the Centennial Birthday Weekend

Albert Gallatin Celebrates NPS 100th Anniversary Credit: NPS

The National Park Service invites visitors of all ages to join in the celebration of its 100th birthday this weekend.  With special events across the country, and free admission to all 412 national parks from August 25 through August 28, the NPS is encouraging everyone to #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque for the centennial.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

To make it easier for visitors to #FindYourPark entrance fees will be waived nationwide including at the three Western PA National Park Sites that charge an entrance fee. This includes Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Johnstown Flood National Memorial and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Flight 93 National Memorial and Friendship Hill NHS are fee-free year round. All entrance fees are waived from August 25 through August 28 to encourage everyone to visit a nearby Park and celebrate the NPS 100th birthday. 

August 25 through August 28 – our birthday weekend – will be a nationwide celebration of national parks, and we’re inviting everyone to the party,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.  “We like to think that we look pretty good for 100, and with so many events and activities to commemorate this milestone, we hope all Americans will join us to celebrate the breathtaking landscapes and inspiring history in our nation’s parks and public lands.  Whether it is in a distant state or in your own community, there are hundreds of ways and places to find your park!”

On Thursday August 25, to celebrate the NPS Birthday with a bang, Fort Necessity NB Rangers and volunteers will fire reproduction artillery pieces to commemorate the 100th Birthday of the National Park Service.  These historic weapons demonstrations will take place at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Friendship Hill NHS Rangers and volunteers will celebrate the creation of the National Park Service by offering special NPS Centennial themed guided tours of the Gallatin House throughout the day.

Flight 93 National Memorial Park Rangers will present the “Discovery Table” and other special NPS Centennial programs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in the Learning Center. The Children’s Discovery Table helps younger visitors understand the story of Flight 93 and the Memorial that honors the passengers and crew through tangible objects. 

At all five Western PA National Park Service sites children are invited to celebrate the National Park Services 100th birthday during the upcoming weekend by participating in free special Centennial Junior Ranger programs at each Park. Any Junior Ranger who completes all five of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania Junior Ranger Programs will earn a special 2016 patch.  To learn more check out Centennial Junior Ranger Program.

 
On Saturday, August  27, at Johnstown Flood National Memorial there will be a free, special program, presented at 7:00 pm in the Visitor Center Auditorium entitled “Evening on the Lake: Judge John W. Kephart’s Connection to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.” Susie Huber, of the Cambria County Historical Society, will discuss the papers of PA Supreme Court Justice John W. Kephart. Approximately 12 years after the Johnstown Flood of 1889, Kephart, a young lawyer was assigned to “wrap up” business at the site of the Clubhouse and grounds of the South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club. This presentation will include the opportunity for visitors to view never before displayed original Club records and new evidence as to the ownership of the cottages on grounds.

To continue the national park adventure beyond these entrance fee free days, the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 sites, including all national parks, throughout the year. There are also a variety of free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members, fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.
Trail to Memorial Plaza at Flight 93 NM Credit: NPS

About the Western PA National Parks: Visit the parks website Western PA National Parks, Facebook pages, email WEPAinformation@NPS.gov or call MaryEllen Snyder at 724-329-8131 for more information on the events planned in the five National Parks in Western PA.


About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 412 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter at www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube at www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bach Choir of Pittsburgh Holding Auditions for New Members



Thinking of joining the Bach Choir?

Audition Process

To become a member of Bach Choir of Pittsburgh you must pass a musical audition. For details and to schedule a time, contact auditions coordinator, Carter Wellons at auditions@bachchoirpittsburgh.org.

New singers will prepare a song of their choice. They need to bring a copy of their music for the accompanist and may sing memorized if desired. Sight singing will be required. Non-core auditions are five minutes in length.
For singers whose audition is successful, an orientation session for new members will be held when rehearsals start in the fall.
All choir members must re-audition for each season.

Core Auditions

Bach Choir of Pittsburgh supports a professional core of paid singers. These positions are selected based on core auditions and held for one season at a time. Those interested in auditioning for the professional core will sing two memorized songs in different languages. They will need to bring copies of their music for the accompanist. Core auditions require demonstrating knowledge of music theory and terminology, chords and intervals. Sight singing will be required. Core auditions are ten minutes in length.

Membership Expectations

To join the Choir implies a desire to participate in making great music together with the conductor and your fellow singers, and a promise to attend the rehearsals and the concerts for the entire season. The Choir’s rehearsal and subscription season runs from late August through early May.

Rehearsals are held each Tuesday evening from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Avenue in Oakland. Rehearsals usually begin the first Tuesday after Labor Day and end in early May following the last scheduled season concert.

There are two dress rehearsals, typically the Thursday and Friday evening before each concert weekend, which all members are required to attend. Concerts are typically Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. A half-day, Saturday choir retreat may also be required during the fall or spring, depending on the difficulty of the music and concert schedule.

Choir members are expected to pay dues to the organization each year. Dues for this season are $185 ($155 for students and seniors [65+]). Dues help cover a small portion of expenses related to music purchase and copying, artistic and administrative staff, liability insurance, and concert venue rental. If paid prior to the first rehearsal there is a $10 discount ($175 and $145). Payment schedules can be arranged and there is a small scholarship pool for those needing help.

Concert dress for women is a solid black one-piece dress or two-piece top/skirt combination. Men wear a black tuxedo with black bow tie and a white shirt.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Anchor Distilling Co. and Nikka Japanese Whiskey Introduce Coffey Malt Whiskey to the U.S.


Named for creator Aeneas Coffey, whose 1930s patented continuous-still design changed distilling, the two Coffey stills at Nikka Whisky Company’s Miyagikyo distillery in Sendai, Japan, were imported from Scotland in 1963 and are the masterful instruments behind Nikka and U.S. importer Anchor Distilling Company newest entry into the Japanese whisky market in the U.S.: Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky, which launched nationwide in May joined the beloved Coffey Grain Whisky, which arrived in the U.S. in 2013.

Distilled from 100% malted barley through a Coffey still, which is rarely done given the complexity and skill required, Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky boasts notes of cinnamon, clove, lemon and rich oak, making it ideal for sipping neat or as the base spirit in a cocktail. The Coffey stills contribute the unique depth and flavor of the distillate, not found in modern column stills of today.

"This latest release to the U.S. market is just another example of the skill and finesse the Nikka distilling team puts into every whisky they produce," says Dennis Carr, president of Anchor Distilling Company. "We couldn’t be more excited to share this incredible malt whisky with the country’s most discerning bartenders and consumers."

Tasting Notes: Nikka Coffey Malt (45% ABV, $74.99 SRP)
Nose:   Notes of rich spices and candied citrus.
Palate: Robust dense texture with notes of cinnamon, clove and lemon.
Finish: A long finish with a blend of rich oak, tobacco and mild chocolate

Equally adept as a neat serve as in a cocktail, Nikka Coffey Malt serves as a flavorful base spirit in an Old Fashioned:

Nikka Coffey Malt Old Fashioned

2.5 oz Nikka Coffey Malt
0.5 oz Demerara Syrup
4 dashes Abbott's bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

In an old-fashioned glass, muddle lemon peel with bitters and demerara syrup – just enough to bruise the peel and release its oils. Add Nikka Coffey Malt and ice; stir for 20 to 30 seconds, or until well chilled.

* A rare spirit produced from 100% malted barley distilled
in a continuous column still *

* Named for pioneer still designer Aeneas Coffey *

* Notes of cinnamon, clove, lemon and oak, making it ideal for
sipping neat or in a cocktail *

For more information on Nikka or distribution, visit AnchorDistilling.com or email info@anchorsf.com.

About Anchor Distilling Company
Named the 2015 Icons of Whisky Importer of the Year by Whisky Magazine, Anchor Distilling Company aims to provide the bridge between discerning buyers and world's finest spirits. A privately owned San Francisco based distiller and importer, Anchor boasts a portfolio with over 300 premium niche spirits from nearly 23 countries. Our products are from multi-generational family-owned companies, and are sought by enthusiasts and connoisseurs for their superior hand-crafted artisanal qualities. In addition to being an importer, Anchor Distilling is dedicated to creating very small batches of traditionally distilled spirits. www.anchordistilling.com


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Durang's Tony-Nominated, Musical Comedy Staged at Genesius Theater


Nathaniel Yost as Hank singing "We're in a Salad" Credit:Justin Sines

The Summer Company will be performing its third and final show of the 2016 season, "A History of the American Film," with book and lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Mel Marvin. The show is directed by one of the founders of The Summer Company - John E. Lane, Jr.

A History of the American Film won Durang a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical when it premiered in 1978. A hilarious satire of American films, especially those from the 1930s through the 1950s. The cast play a ton of characters, and the parts they play are wild parodies from silent movies, to movie musicals, to war films and even screwball comedies.

Colleen Garrison as Loretta, Jill Jeffrey as Bette, and Sarah Murtha as Eve Credit: Justin Sines


The production runs August 18-21 and August 25-28. Thursday through Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at  2 p.m. All shows will be performed at the Genesius Theater at Duquesne University, adjacent to the Mary Pappert School of Music. Ticket prices are $15 for general admission, $10 for senior citizens, and $5 for students. Group rates are also available. Tickets can be purchased at www.thesummercompany.com.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This Just In From the Pittsburgh Opera

Nmon Ford. Photo via Musicaglotz Artist Management website.


Pittsburgh Opera is pleased to announce that Maestro Christian Capocaccia will conduct the Giuseppe Verdi favorite La traviata, which opens its 78th season at the Benedum Center October 8th -16th.

Pittsburgh Opera Music Director Antony Walker, who was scheduled to conduct La traviata, has been invited to conduct Rossini’s Semiramide at the Maggio Musicale Florence.

"I had been looking for an opportunity to work with Christian," said Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn. "When Antony Walker was offered a chance to make his debut with Maggio Musicale and Christian was available to conduct La traviata, I gladly let Antony out of his engagement with us. We are pleased that the audience in Florence will enjoy the same world-class conducting which Pittsburgh Opera audiences will get to experience at the rest of our Benedum Center productions this season."

Capocaccia will be a familiar face to many Pittsburgh classical music enthusiasts. He has conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in, among other things, an acclaimed program starring pianist Xiayin Wang.

Walker will conduct the remainder of Pittsburgh Opera’s mainstage productions in the 2016-17 season: Richard Strauss’s Salome (Nov. 5-13), Puccini’s Turandot (March 25-April 2), and the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King – the Josh Gibson Story (April 29 – May 7.)

In addition, Pittsburgh Opera is pleased to announce that two-time Grammy-award winning baritone Nmon Ford will make his Pittsburgh Opera debut in the role of Jochanaan (John the Baptist) in Richard Strauss’s Salome, Nov. 5-13 at the Benedum Center for Performing Arts.

Ford is "matinee-idol handsome, with a rich and supple baritone capable of both power and subtlety. He radiates star quality" testifies the Hollywood Reporter.

"We are thrilled that an artist of Nmon’s caliber will be singing the role of Jochanaan," says Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn, "and it will be especially exciting to see the electricity onstage between the Salome of Patricia Racette and Nmon’s John the Baptist."

Ford has performed throughout the country, as well as in France and Italy. He was a featured soloist on the Grammy Award winning Transmigrations (Telarc) and Songs of Innocence and of Experience (Naxos).

For more information, go to www.pittsburghopera.org/season.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Tidbit from Bottlenotes about Julia Child



Here’s a write up in Bottlenotes’ The Sip, an online newsletter for wine lovers.

August 15th is Julia Child’s birthday. She would have been 104.

Child essentially was our first celebrity chef. The Emmy-award winner, pioneered the idea of a cooking show, authored 18 cooking books (one posthumous) and graced the cover of Time Magazine in 1966.

She was 6’2,” lovable and funny and taught millions of people how to cook.

And while the world knew her as the consummate chef, she had a deep love for wine and was fascinated by how it could bring out specific tastes in food. Wines from Burgundy, France were among her favorites.

So she encouraged her followers to continually learn about wine.

And since your kids are probably finishing up their summer reading before school starts, why not read along with them, in honor of Julia.

So grab a book to further your wine education and raise a glass to an American Icon.

Here are are few  favorites:

Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 30th Anniversary Edition, by Kevin Zraly, $21

Zraly teaches one of the best wine classes out there. His 8-week course originated at Windows on the World, atop the World Trade Center. He now teachers at JW Marriot Essex House in Manhattan but the book chronicals his classes.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine, by Madeline Puckette, $15
Puckette is content director and host of winefolly.com The book has tons of graphics, tons of facts and is super-fun and easy to read.

The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil, $15
This book is almost as big as the Bible but its informative and packed with material.


Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.

PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCES FOUR SPECIALS FOR 2016-2017 SEASON

Celtic Women


On August 15, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announced its first four pops specials for the 2016-2017 season. They include tributes to Prince, the Beatles and Neil Diamond, and the return of Pittsburgh favorite Celtic Woman.

These one-night-only concert experiences feature the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and world-renowned guest artists performing a variety of musical styles and genres. All concerts are at Heinz Hall.

Classical Mystery Tour

·       Classical Mystery Tour: Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary — Saturday, October 22, 8 p.m.

A tribute to the Beatles, backed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This concert offers Beatles fans an opportunity that they may have never had — to experience the classic songs of John, Paul, George and Ringo live! The first half of the concert will feature the "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" album performed in its entirety and the second half will showcase the Beatles’ greatest hits.

·       Celtic Woman Holiday Show — Monday, December 5, 7:30 p.m.

This popular holiday music concert returns! Celebrate the season with the celestial voices of multi-platinum Irish singing sensation Celtic Woman together with the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Windborne's Music of Prince

·       Windborne’s Music of Prince — Friday, December 16, 8 p.m.

Known for stretching the boundaries of music and seamlessly tying together multiple genres of pop, funk, R&B, folk-rock, hip-hop, jazz, soul, new wave and psychedelic, Prince Rogers Nelson died unexpectedly this past April. The Pittsburgh Symphony is joined by guest conductor Brent Havens and a live band in a symphonic tribute to this beloved and much-missed musical and pop culture icon, performing hits like "Purple Rain," "When Doves Cry," "Little Red Corvette," "Kiss" and more!

Neil Diamond Tribute

·       Super Diamond: The Neil Diamond Tribute — Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 8 p.m.

Led by Assistant Conductor Andrés Franco, this concert features Super Diamond, the premiere Neil Diamond tribute band who has performed on "The Late Show with David Letterman," CNN, VH1 and more. This high-octane performance features the hits made famous by "the Man" himself, including "Cracklin’ Rosie," "Sweet Caroline" and more.
 Additional orchestra specials will be announced throughout the season as they are scheduled.

All orchestra specials are at Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh. Tickets for these concerts go on sale August 19 at 9 a.m. To purchase tickets, visit the Heinz Hall Box Office, call 412-392-4900 or visit pittsburghsymphony.org.

Customized sponsorships with benefits and client entertainment opportunities are available for these events. Contact Al Jacobsen in the Pittsburgh Symphony Development Department at 412-392-2207 or ajacobsen@pittsburghsymphony.org for more information.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Two Plays Worth Your Consideration

The Cast of "Driftless" L-R: Alec Silverblatt, Tammy Tsai, Trevor Butler, Ken Bolden and  Siovhan Christensen


Looking for something to do over the weekend? Get indoors where it's cool and air conditioned and enjoy an evening of theater. Here are two productions worth considering.

Hatch Arts Collective presents Driftless, a new, evening-length play at the New Hazlett Theater. Written by Paul Kruse, Driftless traces the course of a family and one Catholic priest as they unearth the full cost of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Directed by Adil Mansoor, this production stars Ken Bolden, Trevor Butler, Siovhan Christensen, Alec Silberblatt, and Tammy Tsai. Strung between Eastern Minnesota and Southwestern Pennsylvania, Driftless maps the intimate connection between time, the land, and our bodies.

A young family sprouts from the hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A Catholic priest from Eastern Minnesota embeds himself in a new community. Guided by the science and wisdom of two saints, Driftless discusses the effects hydraulic fracturing on our communities. Why must families choose between their health and a healthy economic future? Driftless brings an ongoing debate into the heart of our family kitchens and asks us to consider lives, relationships, and heritage.

Driftless is based on interviews with landowners, activists, and other community members, as well as extensive research and community-based workshops. After three years of artistic and academic exploration, this final production provides a nuanced look at a complicated issue. The show features haunting soundscapes by experimental duo slowdanger, set design by Michelle Carello, lighting design by Kathryn A Devlin, and costumes by Rebecca Harrison.

WHEN: August 11, 12, and 13, 2016 at 8:00 PM | August 14, 2016 at 2:00 PM WHERE: New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square E, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 COST: $15.00 advance; $20.00 door. Phone 412-320-46190
 Lobby opens 1 hour before showtime (lots to do and see, come on by early!)
Theater opens 30 minutes before showtime
The show runs 100 minutes (this includes one 10-minute intermission)

There is free street parking around the theater as well as $7 parking (CASH ONLY) in the Allegheny Health Network garage. More details about parking HERE.

Following each performance, a reception will be held in the lobby where community organizations will be present to connect audience members with more information about fracking and environmental justice in our region. Also, artists Maritza Mosquera and Mandy Kendall are both sharing work in the lobby that sheds light on different ideas present in the play. And, of course, what is a reception without FREE PECAN PIE for everyone!

Gayle Pazerski as Diane and Nick Mitchell as Nat in "The Birds" Credit: Andrew David Ostrowski.

The Pittsburgh Premiere production of The Birds concludes the 2016 Name Your Own Price season at the Studio Theatre at the University Of Pittsburgh Cathedral Of Learning, August 4 – 21, 2016.  The play is written by Conor McPherson and is directed by 12 Peers Theater Artistic Director Vince Ventura.  For tickets call 412-626-6784 or visit www.12peerstheater.org.

Daphne du Maurier’s short story, also the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, is boldly adapted by Conor McPherson—a gripping, unsettling, and moving look at human relationships in the face of societal collapse.

In an isolated house, strangers Nat (Nick Mitchell) and Diane (Gayle Pazerski) take shelter from relentless masses of attacking birds. They find relative sanctuary but not comfort or peace; there’s no electricity, little food, and a nearby neighbor may still be alive and watching them.

Another refugee, the young and attractive Julia (Sara Ashley Fisher), arrives with some news of the outside world, but her presence also brings discord. Their survival becomes even more doubtful when paranoia takes hold of the makeshift fortress—an internal threat to match that of the birds outside.

The Birds features Gayle Pazerski as Diane, Nick Mitchell as Nat/Tierney, and Sara Ashley Fisher as Julia.  Creative team includes Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting design), Hank Bullington (set design), Angela Baughtman (sound design), Madison Hack (props and costume design), and Alex Barnhart (technical director).


About the Playwright
Conor McPherson was born in Dublin in 1971. His plays include Rum & Vodka (Fly by Night Theatre Company, Dublin), the Good Thief (Dublin Theatre Festival; Stewart Parker Award), This Lime Tree Bower (Fly by Night Theatre Company, Dublin/Bush Theatre; Meyer-Whitworth Award), St Nicholas (Bush Theatre/Primary Stages, New York), the Weir (Royal Court/Duke of York’s/Walter Kerr Theater, New York; Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, George Devine Awards), Dublin Carol (Royal Court/Atlantic Theater, New York), Port Authority (Ambassadors Theatre/Gate Theatre, Dublin/Atlantic Theater, New York), Shining City (Royal Court/Gate Theatre, Dublin/Manhattan Theater Club, New York; Tony Award nomination for Best Play), the Seafarer (National Theatre/Abbey Theatre, Dublin/Booth Theater, New York; Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Tony Award nominations for Best Play) and the Veil (National Theatre). Theatre adaptations include Daphne du Maurier’s the Birds (Gate Theatre, Dublin/Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis) and August Strindberg’s the Dance of Death (Donmar at Trafalgar Studios).

Work for the cinema includes I Went Down, Saltwater, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, the Actors, and the Eclipse. Forthcoming screen work includes an adaptation of John Banville’s Elegy for April for the BBC to be broadcast this year. Awards for his screenwriting include three Best Screenplay Awards from the Irish Film and Television Academy, the Spanish Cinema Writers Circle Best Screenplay Award, the CICAE Award for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival, the Jury Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival and the Melies d’Argent Award for Best European Film.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

View the 2016 Meteor Shower with the Amateur Astronomers of Pittsburgh

A Perseid Meteor streaks across a star-encrusted and cloud-scattered sky. Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake

The Greater Pittsburgh Area  public is invited to view the 2016 Perseid Meteors with the  Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh at six viewing events including the designated Perseid Viewing Party at AAAP’s Mingo Observatory, August 11 into the morning of August 12, 2016, AAAP’s Wagman Obseratory August 11-12 Perseid Meteor Viewing and the regular August Star Parties at Mingo Observatory and at Wagman Observatory, Friday and Saturday evenings, August 12 and 13, 2016.

The regular Friday and Saturday star parties will be regular hours, generally beginning at dusk. Wagman’s Thursday Perseid Meteor Event (See more below.) does not begin until after 12 Midnight and ends before 5 AM, and will only occur under clear skies. The Thursday Mingo event begins at 9 PM and carries on long past Midnight in order to avail that night’s anticipated outburst of Perseid meteors, which may be as high as 200 meteors per hour. To catch this rare opportunity  no equipment or  experience is needed, as meteors are best observed with the unaided eye. With peak occuring in daylight the morning of August 12, best viewing is projected to be between moonset and prior to the first light of dawn Friday morning, August 12.

Some Back Ground Info

Meteors are best viewed with the unaided eyes and the observatory and members telescopes will not be the “focus” this meteor viewing event.  As staffing and conditions permit there may be some telescope viewing and, or planetarium programming, but the real show is in the sky outside of the observatory building.

The annual August Perseid meteor shower ranks as the favorite meteor shower of the year peaking on August 9-13, 2016, with high rates for several nights on either side of the peak. On a dark, moonless night, you can often see 50 or more meteors per hour. This year there is an outburst predicted the night of August 11 into the morning of August 12 offering possible rates of 200 meteors per hour.  The predicted outburst along with the 12:18 AM Moonset make this an optimal year.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is more likely than any other to produce unusually bright and large meteors called fireballs. Enjoy a 3 minute instructional NASA video about fireballs here. Be aware video’s dates are off from 2016 dates.

To plan join our Perseid Watching Party on August 11,2016 no reservations are needed. Follow the weather and prepare accordingly. Bring a chair, a bottle of water and snacks if you like, outdoor footwear and possibly insect repellent.  Please make this a zero litter event. There is no alcohol or smoking permitted on the observatory grounds. Be alert to pedestrians and especially small children and those who may be seated on the ground.  If electing to be directly on the ground, locate far from vehicle traffic. Please avoid white lights in the eyes of those already dark adapted for viewing. Automobile light shined into the eyes of those already observing can detract from the viewing experience. It can take 15 to 20 minutes for the eyes to become dark adapted each time bright lights interrupt viewing. Please park your vehicle at the bottom of the hill and walk to the viewing spot of your choice, and prepare to settle back and be amazed. There is limited  handicapped parking adjacent to the observatory building. Give yourself at least an hour of observing time because these meteors come in spurts and are interspersed with lulls and because it will take your eyes 20 minutes to become accustomed to darkness.

The 2016 Perseid Peak Rates are predicted to last about half a day, from late August 11 to mid-August 12 UTC. For Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) we subtract 4 hours from Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated UTC).  That makes late Thursday night into Friday morning the best time to come to our hill and pick out a spot to see nature’s fireworks. Thursday’s Moon sets after Midnight, at  12:18 AM Friday morning darkening the skies for even better viewing. In the meantime don’t wait until the peak nights of the 2016 Perseid shower to watch for meteors. Start watching now as other smaller meteor showers are peaking the  last week of July, and early Perseids are already gracing the sky. Find a dark location, allow eyes to become dark adapted and look at the sky, really anywhere in the sky. It is fun to observe meteors with a group of friends where you all face toward each other and look over each other’s shoulders to the sky.  That way the entire sky is under surveillance. One can alert others calling out when a meteor is spotted.

If you trace the path of these meteors backwards you will find they come together at a point in front of the constellation Perseus, where they get their name. Because the meteors are all over the sky you do not need to know the constellation Perseus or any other constellation.

The Perseids radiant and adjacent constellations. Credit: NASA


The Perseid radiant, or point in the sky where the meteors seem to originate, does not rise until around 11PM, varying with your horizon, elevation and particular date. After the radiant is high enough and when your neighbors turn out their lights (usually after 11:30 PM), viewing improves.  Do not rule out early evening viewing completely.  The stunning “earthgrazers” are most likely to occur near the time of radiant rise and set. Earthgrazers are the low, slow, colorful meteors traveling horizontally across the evening sky. They are rare but most exciting and memorable if you should be so lucky to see one. Sometimes they even produce sound.

The meteors themselves are dust particles and larger fragments left in the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Before the particles burn in the atmosphere they are called meteoroids. These bits and pieces of Comet Swift-Tuttle collide with the Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 210,000 kilometers (130,000 miles) per hour. Heat of friction with the air molecules causes them to burn, lighting up the sky with fast-moving Perseid meteors. If our planet happens to pass through an unusually dense clump of them,we’ll see an elevated number of meteors, as predicted for this year. We can always hope!

Mingo Observatory will open to the public for Perseid Meteor Viewing at 9:00 PM on the night of Thursday, August 11, into the morning of Friday, August 12, 2016.  Address: 1 Shelter 10 Road Finleyville, PA 15332. Located within Mingo Creek County Park, Washington County, at Henry Covered Bridge, go up Mansion Hill Rd., pass Shelter10 to the right, up the Hill to the observatory at the top of the hill. Mingo Observatory Phone: 724-348-6150. Mingo Park Map. Latitude 40.211 degrees Longitude -80.020 degrees. Google Map.  When programming your GPS, longitude and latitude are suggested rather than the address.

Event is scheduled Conditions Permitting but the long range weather forecast looks good. There is no fee for this event, but your donations are gladly accepted at the reception desk to support this and similar events. AAAP is a 501(c)(3) and contributions are tax deductible. Simply bring a chair, a lounge or a blanket to comfortably settle back to observe meteors streak across the sky. Our all volunteer helpful and knowledgeable staff will assist you in enjoying the event. This free and open to the public event attracts a multitude of astronomy enthusiasts and many families. Weather permitting.


Wagman Observatory will open only if it is clear for a special pubic meteor viewing on Thursday, August 11, 2016 suggesting a start time of 12 Midnight, because of the bright moon and the peak being in daylight this year.  Guests are to plan to have exited the Wagman Observatory grounds by 5 AM.  Wagman Observatory is located inside Deer Lakes Park,(map) Allegheny County, at 225 Kurn Road, Tarentum, PA 15084. Coordinates: Latitude 40.627 degrees N, Longitude 79.813 degree.  Observatory Phone 724-224-2510.

Helpful and knowledgeable volunteer staff will assist in enjoyment of the meteor watching and observation of the night sky. Please avoid white lights in the eyes.  No equipment is needed to enjoy the meteors. There is no alcohol or smoking permitted on the grounds. Guests should be aware of pedestrians, especially children and those already seated or reclining to observe the meteors and drive most cautiously. Also be alert to traffic when walking, standing or selecting meteor viewing location. This event is weather permitting and is free and open to the public. Donations gladly accepted.

Join The Free Public Star Party on August 12 and 13 at Mingo County Park

Come and learn about the Mingo Creek Park Observatory, the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh and astronomy in general. The evening events consist of the following:

There will be safe observing of the Sun beginning approximately two hours before sunset through the 4” Lunt Hydrogen Alpha telescope.
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After dusk using both the 10” D & G Refractor and the 24” Optical Guidance Systems Reflector telescopes, observe the wonders of the July night sky.  Some objects observed may include views of Jupiter and its moons, Saturn and its rings, Mars and the craters of the Moon.  Many deep sky objects may also be observed such as the Ring Nebula and other nebulae, clusters and double stars.
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 Presentations about current events in astronomy and the Mingo Creek Park night sky will take place in the Richard Y. Haddad Planetarium at various times throughout the night.
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Although it is past the peak time, there should still be good viewing of the annual Perseid Meteor shower this weekend.


Dates:  Friday and Saturday, August 12 and 13

WEATHER PERMITTING

Times: Safe solar observing; 6:30 PM
Night sky observing; approximately 9:00 PM



Monday, August 8, 2016

August in August - "Seven Guitars" - A Memorable Marathon at a Monumental Site

A scene from "Seven Guitars" CreditL Gail Manker

Given Pittsburghers’ fanatic loyalty to its sports teams, it’s no wonder that its arts-loving community has a similar fidelity to its playwrights, dancers, musicians and visual artists.

With bragging rights to names like Gertrude Stein, George Kaufman, Andy Warhol, Gene Kelly and Martha Graham on the list of famous Pittsburgh celebrity virtuosi, Pittsburgh culture vultures also have a heart-felt affinity for the most recent luminary to make the creative A-list - playwright August Wilson, considered by those in the know as one of the 20th Century’s most influential dramatists. Pittsburgh has even gone so far as build a magnificent culture center downtown that bears his name.

Without bragging, I’m proud to say that I got to sit through productions of Wilson’s "Joe Turner’s Come and Gone," "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom," "Fences," and the world premier of "King Hedley II," staged at the Pittsburgh Public Theater back in 1999. Somewhere along the line, I even managed to get Wilson’s autograph when he was in town for one of his Pittsburgh productions. (It’s one of my most cherished signatures, by the way).

I’ll bet you can guess my reaction when I discovered that Wilson’s "Seven Guitars," his fifth play and one I hadn’t yet seen, was not only going to close out Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company’s current season, but was also going to be staged outdoors in the back yard of Wilson’s boyhood home in the Hill District. What a feather in my cap to be able to tell theater-going friends and relatives across the country that I got to experience this rare treat, this theatrical plum, if you will.

Those planning to catch a production in the run that ends on August 28, should take care to step lively to the rear end of the building where the dirt and gravel back yard serves as the stage. The building is undergoing a renovation to serve as the home of Daisy Wilson Artist Community, an organization devoted to educational and artistic programming "that promotes personal development in the spirit of August Wilson." The walkway, while safe for passage, is a little rough going in spots.

For the Pittsburgh Playwrights production of "Seven Guitars," three sections of seats embrace the staging arena in close proximity to the actors, which gives the theatrical experience an uncommon but welcome intimacy.

For those who may not know, Wilson penned ten plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th Century, nine of which are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Known collectively as both the Pittsburgh Cycle and the Century Cycle for obvious reasons, the plays focus on the African-American experience during the 1900s.

"Seven Guitars" is set in 1948, just after several of the characters return home from the war, only to find the same racial discrimination and prejudice waiting on their doorstep that they left behind on their way to help fight for their country overseas.

Jonathan Berry stars in "Seven Guitars"
At the outset, many of the characters are shown gathered back at a boarding house just after the funeral of rising star blues musician, Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, murdered before he could get a stab at stardom. The story then unfolds in flashback at the time Barton arrives back home in Pittsburgh after spending 90 days in a Chicago jail for vagrancy, an unjust arrest in his opinion. But with a hit recording and incipient pop culture celebrity beginning to foment, he’s back in town to rekindle his romance with Vera (Ty Barrow) and encourage his fellow musicians to make a return to their Chicago studio for a recording follow up.

More on the quiet, introspective side, Vera resists his efforts at rapprochement, memories of his most recent affair with another woman still percolating in her mind. But Barton’s charisma and persistence are hard to resist, and Vera struggles with hurt feelings from the past as a hindrance to future intimacies.

Teri Bridgett as Louise in "Seven Guitars"

All of the six supporting actors are exceptionally talented and, considering the play’s run time of three and a half hours, also have incredible stamina and staying power. Teri Bridgett, who reminded me of a Black Betty Davis, is a charismatic actress with a well-honed sense of comedy, and, as Louise, the boardinghouse owner, a certain affable but strong-handed dominance.

Barton’s two musical henchmen, Canewell (Kevin Brown) and Red Carter (Leslie "Ezra" Smith, are both formidable actors who show a wide range of sensibilities and moods going from affability and jocose to belligerent and bellicose when provoked.

As Hedley, the eccentric and perhaps schizophrenic mystic, Wali Jamal mesmerizes as the outsider from the Caribbean with dark inclinations and demons lurking just over his psychological horizon. For sheer knock out feminine allure, Louise’s niece, Ruby, (Jamila Chanie) arrives late on the scene but rouses the erotic sensibilities in the male characters. A formidable sexpot, Ruby instinctively  knows how to dress, move and shake to get everyone’s attention, and the men are soon snared by her sensuality.

In spite of some heady support from his fellow Thespians, Jonathan Berry is the play’s real standout. Handsome, dashing and energetic, his performance is nothing short of electric. He’s just as capable of showing a softer side when pleading with Vera to give his a second chance as he is by becoming inflamed by his sidekicks when they get contentious and competitive. His combination of boyish qualities and manly machismo make for a winning balance, one that got the audience up standing on their feet to give him a rousing round of applause at curtain.

Wali Jamal at Hedley in "Seven Guitars"


Deirector Mark Clayton Southers manages to accentuate the ensemble nature of the play, allowing each character to interface on an equal playing field, each bringing his or her own nuanced personality to the mix. To me, the play’s seven characters reference its title, each bringing with them their own life story, their own take on their experience in a society where much of the deck has been stacked against them.

In much of the dialogue, imbued with Wilson’s rich, poetic way with words, plot is not as important as the exposition of daily life, told with wit, humor, insight and, at times, serious-mindedness and sobriety. The conversations are eclectic and roam over seemingly trivial as well as more momentous topics like how best to cook collard greens, favorite risqué limericks, even how to differentiate chickens in various Southern states as well as unfortunate encounters with the police. But taken together, they provide the flavor of quotidian, everyday occurrences that make up the lives of a unique community in a defined moment in time.

While the person responsible for Barton’s death isn’t revealed until the near end of the play, it reminds us of the specter of danger that hovers over all of members of  a community that has suffered the indignities of poverty, neglect and suppression for generations. In the hands of story teller, August Wilson, the tale is as entertaining as it is enlightening.

"Seven Guitars," a production of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, is at the August Wilson House, 1727 Bedford Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District through August 28. Parking is available a few blocks away at the Energy and Innovation Center, 1435 Bedford Avenue A complimentary shuttle provides transport between the parking lot and theater. For tickets, log on to www.pghplaywrights.com/sevenguitars.

Cast of "Seven Guitars" Credit:Gail Manker

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Peribañez" - A Play from the Golden Age of Spanish Theater Gets Quantum Staging

RicardoVila-Roger, Siddiq Saunderson, Isabel Pask, Amanda Pulcini, Sol Crespo, Freddy Miyares, Ethan Saks, David Bielewicz Credit: John Altdorfer

Years ago, a fellow employee and I struck up an impromptu conversation about Hispanic culture. As a proud Mexican-American, he began extolling some of the highlights of Spanish and Hispanic arts and literature and brought up the name of playwright Lope de Vega, someone I’d never even heard of at the time.

Comparing Vega’s expertise and renown to that of Shakespeare, he added with self-satisfaction that the former produced many more works than his English contemporary. Vega (1562 - 1635) is believed to have written as many as 1,800 plays (nearly 100 are considered exceptional) as to Shakespeare’s 38, who lived from 1564 - 1616.

Years have since passed since our conversation, and, regrettably,  I’ve never been able to attend a mounting of one of Vega’s plays, mainly, as I gather, because they’re so rarely reproduced in the U.S. That’s why, when Quantum Theatre announced that is was staging "Peribañez," considered by some to be one of Vega’s masterpieces, I jumped  at the chance to experience it.

Don’t let the possibility of listening to a text with archaic language scare you away from catching a performance in the run that ends on August 28. The translated version by Tanya Ronder is very accessible and totally understandable to modern-day  theater audiences. And many of the themes - abuse of power, sexual harassment, class divisions and wealth inequities, are relevant to those interested in current issues broadcast on the news.

Quantum decided to stage the play in the Jennie King Rose Garden in Point Breeze’s Mellon Park, a venue used by the peripatetic theater company three times previously. The stage consists of three parts, a central core flanked on either side by near-circular enclosures, a configuration that symbolizes the polarized world of the peasant/farmers on one side and the aristocracy on the other. Their worlds meet and collide in the middle where much of the linear plot takes place. As witnesses to the action, the audience surrounds the dais on three sides in close and intimate proximity the ten member cast.

The play opens on the wedding day of Peribañez and Casilda, a comely maiden who beauty immediately sparks the obsessive passion of the local Commander, a royal knight and one of the king’s favorites, who arrives at the nuptial festivities unannounced after being injured by a fall from his horse.

One of the play’s most beautiful moments comes early on when both spouses express their love for one another in idyllic, poetic imagery that exposes de Vega’s deft way with words. (The playwright also penned an estimated 5,000 sonnets). Much of his writing is finely detailed which gives the text a rich and dense textural quality.

Peribañez’ wide-eyed naiveté contrasts poignantly with the wily machinations of the Commander, who plots with his two servants ways to seduce Casilda. Along the way,  the audience is taken on Peribañez’ transformative journey that shows him grow from simple farmer to a man of considerable consequence.

Don DiGiulio as Lujan and,Mike Mihm as the Commander Credit: John Altdorfer

While the play does have its brutal moments, it’s also surprisingly ripe with comedy. Al la Shakespeare, it often comes from the lower class characters, servants and lackeys, in this case Costanza/Helipe (Amanda Pulcini) and Lujan (Don DiGuilo). More levity comes from the rounds of live music sung by the cast accompanied by David JM Bielewicz’ work on the guitar.

As the title character, Carnegie Mellon University BFA Acting senior, Siddiq Saunderson, has his youth going for him getting the right pose for the newly wed husband, then grows more worldly wise as the Commander’s villainy sculpts his passion for his wife into a passion for revenge.

As Casilda, Isabel Pask projects a demure guilelessness that’s capable of transforming into a rousing and ferocious loyalty to her new spouse, and Sol M. Crespo is potently credible in the momentous role of Inez, whose gullibility gives the Commander entry into Peribañez’s house while he’s supposedly away at war.
DiGuilio, as the Commander’s peasant lackey, Lujan, is a vivid contrast to the more polished, manipulative and educated henchman, Leonardo (Freddy Miyares), and Mike Mihm is a worthy Commander, full of bravado, self-centered, obsessively chained to his desires and devoid of moral fabric. His character does, however, make a weak redemptive effort near the end, but it too seems much too true to form with its hints of self-aggrandizement.

Husband and wife directors, Megan Monaghan Rivas and Tlaloc Rivas make intelligent use of the stage and propel the narrative at a heady clip. One thing I personally had trouble with is the over zealousness and ardent delivery of the lines by some in the cast, an experience I’ve previously encountered, strangely enough, in the some of the productions of plays by Shakespeare. The tone comes off as overly artificial and prevents me from completely suspending my attitude of disbelief.

Kudos to costume designer Samantha Pollack, whose elaborate regal and not-so-regal outfits are some I’d like to borrow come Halloween. Give credit to C. Todd Brown for his lighting design, which has to take into account the outdoor elements of a full sun at the start of the play, then segue into the lighting requirements for twilight and the even later darkness of nightfall.

Take care to watch for the telling moment at play’s end I almost missed that has Peribañez and Casilda standing on opposite ends of the stage in a nuanced vignette that speaks volumes without the use of words.

Lope De Vega’s rarely produced "Peribañez," a Quantum Theatre production, runs through August 28. For tickets, phone 412-362-1713 or visit website www.quantumtheatre.com. Special evenings include:
Ladies Night on August 10, a ladies-only pre-show reception and viewing.
Quantum Quaff on August 11, pre-show wine-tasting & hors d’oeuvres.
Quantum-on-the-Couch, August 27, post-show discussion of the psychology of the characters led by analyst David Orbison, Ph.D.