Saturday, February 4, 2017

A scene from "The Royale" L to R: Tony II Lorrich, Bria Walker, (down) Andrew William Smith, (up) Bernard Gilbert, Desean Kevin Terry, Siddiq Saunderson, Tim Edward Rhoze Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover

I just experienced a riveting City Theatre production of ":The Royale," a play loosely based on the boxing career of one of the early 20th cventury's greatest boxers, Jack Johnson. As a supplement to the play, City Theatre is initiating a new initiative that uses the power of theater to foster understanding of others and social issues in general. Read on to discover more about the initiative that will also apply to City Theatre's remaining plays in its 2016-17 season in a release by the theater's marketing director, Laura Greenawalt:

City Theatre is proud to announce a new community partnership initiative called City Connects. The program builds on the organization’s long-standing commitment to encouraging discussion and engagement beyond the work seen on stage and celebrates City Theatre’s core standing as an institution dedicated to inclusion and building a positive and enlightened world through theater. To advance this goal, City Theatre identifies local and national nonprofit partners who have specialized expertise in addressing the topics and issues inherent in City productions.

“For over 40 years, City Theatre has been presenting theater that affirms the power of live performance to bring people together for a shared experience and cultivate a deeper understanding of our similarities and differences. As artists, we strive to reflect the world we live in and imagine a better future,” stated Artistic Director Tracy Brigden. “I am proud of the goals of City Connects—to use theater as a force for positive change, deeper understanding, and active engagement—and to work closely with these dynamic and critical nonprofits.”

City Connects will highlight four distinct values—Equality, Unity, Love, and Opportunity—which strongly resonate in the remaining shows of the 2016/17 season. With each production, City Theatre has partnered with a different local group to encourage an in-depth exploration of how these values intersect on stage and in the world today. These partnerships will take form through historic and contemporary context and scholarship, panels, curated presentations, and other ways for audiences to delve deeper into the issues at hand, as well as learn more about these vital partners. In the coming months, City Theatre will work closely with the local chapter of the NAACP, the Thomas Merton Center, Proud Haven, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh Center for Race and Gender Equity, and the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Pittsburgh, amongst others, to advance these goals.

Partnering organizations will coordinate with City staff to provide a real-world perspective on the plays, while encouraging their own constituents to experience the powerful impact of theatrical storytelling. City Theatre will provide custom-made support for each organization which includes complimentary tickets, lobby and program visibility, and post-show discussion events to generate dialogue amongst a large cross-section of local residents, and provide actionable engagement opportunities for patrons.

Further, much of the programming will be affiliated with City’s “Pay-What-You-Want” ticket outreach effort, which allows audiences to literally pay any amount to see a show. With this logical tie-in, City Connects seeks to ensure no barrier prevents the community from being enriched and entertained by City Theatre programming, and experience the positive impact of its partners.

Current City Connects partnerships include:

The Royale: EQUALITY.
Inspired by the trailblazing boxer Jack Johnson, The Royale tackles themes of racial equity and justice in the face of discrimination and fear. In partnership with the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP, City Connects: EQUALITY will take place on Saturday, February 4, following the 1 p.m. matinee.
About the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP: Located on Wiley Avenue in the historic Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA, The NAACP has been in the community for years fighting for equality and civil rights issues.

The Guard: UNITY.
Examining the effects of love and grief, The Guard honors the power of art to heal, unify, and evoke compassion throughout history. In partnership with The Thomas Merton Center, City Connects: UNITY will take place on Saturday, April 1, following the 1 p.m. matinee.
About The Thomas Merton Center: The organization works to build a consciousness of values and to raise the moral questions involved in the issues of war, poverty, racism, classism, economic justice, human rights, and environmental justice. TMC engages people of diverse philosophies and faiths who find common ground in the nonviolent struggle to bring about a more peaceful and just world.

Wild With Happy: LOVE.
Investigating the complex identity of being gay in the Black church community, Wild with Happy celebrates the need for love and diversity in our world. In partnership with Proud Haven, City Connects: LOVE will take place on Saturday, April 22, following the 1 p.m. performance.
About Proud Haven: Up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer). Proud Haven's mission is to provide a safe shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ youth in Pittsburgh and to provide emotional support and resources to help these youth develop the skills necessary to live independently. More information can be found at

Depicting the life of a Polish immigrant woman, Ironbound is a contemporary exploration of the American Dream and existence on the economic margins of society. In partnership with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Pittsburgh, City Connects: OPPORTUNITY will take place on Sunday, May 21 before and after the 2 p.m. show.
About the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Pittsburgh: An independent 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to help people through life's changes and challenges by providing psychological, employment and social services. JF&CS is an acknowledged leader in helping immigrants and refugees resettle and successfully build new lives in our community.

YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s Center for Race & Gender Equity promotes awareness of equality issues, educates individuals, and advocates for change in communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Center supports and promotes the YW's national advocacy agenda and identifies legislative action (federal, state and local) that advances YWCA’s focus areas of Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women.

The YWCA partnership will be season long and feature a post-performance discussion on Saturday, February 11th following the 1 p.m. performance with YWCA CEO Magdeline (Maggie) Jensen.

City Theatre is now in its 42nd season. Located in the historic South Side, City Theatre is Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays, commissioning and producing work by playwrights including Daniel Beaty, Jessica Dickey, Christopher Durang, Michael Hollinger, Willy Holtzman, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Madeleine George. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, Managing Director James McNeel, and the Board of Directors, City Theatre’s mission is to provide an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays of substance and ideas that engage and challenge a diverse audience.

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