Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Quantum Theatre’s “Madagascar”


Photo courtesy Quantum Theatre

At its best, art makes us take a step back from our lives and examine ourselves, giving us the space to confront ourselves and grow in meaningful ways.  “Madagascar,” in an hour and a half, does just that, in a way that snuck up on me, but left me more than satisfied, if not a bit introspective.

What I’ve always loved about Quantum Theatre is the spaces they occupy temporarily.  I’m continually impressed not only with the diversity of the locations they choose, but how they use those spaces to enhance the show.  Quantum invited me down to The Carlyle, on fourth street downtown, a new space, and part of town, to me.

When I worked in town, I was closer to the other end of Grant Street, so often the blocks closer to The Point are new to me, but I always look forward to an adventure.  I write this not as a deterrent, but as encouragement for anyone looking for something exciting off the beaten path.  And besides, you’ll be taken care of, the entrance to the performance space was marked, as always, with a very visible “Q.”

I’ve always been impressed with how Quantum integrates itself with the local community.  This time, they have partnered with Tavern 245 to offer patrons a discount.  I actually ended up heading to Market Square afterwards, which is a short walk away, so you won’t be at a loss for food or drink before or after the show, or entertainment if you stop to watch the ice skaters at PPG Place.

The lobby of The Carlyle is regal, with three large columns filling your view of the stage.  The space itself reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in Cleveland which occupied an old bank (considering it used to be a bank, this should not surprise anyone): tall ceilings with fancy, tiled ceilings and marble everywhere you looked.  Most of the walls have been covered in cloth, but only about three quarters of the way up, evoking the headless statues mentioned in the show itself, what I thought was an ingenious touch.

Often I tend to judge things based on their soundtracks, the music added to the environment of the show, at the beginning and end, easing transitions between the characters, and at least in my mind, perfectly blending into the story and the scene.  I wish we could have heard more, but the fleeting bits of that haunting piano only added to the air of mystery and helped to set the tone of the play.  At night, that part of downtown is not overly busy, but you can easily imagine the cars and buses that you do hear as coming from the streets of Rome instead of Pittsburgh.


Photo courtesy Quantum Theatre

The story weaves between three characters, all telling one story that slowly assembles over the course of the evening.  Watching the three characters, each in a different time, imposed over one another was a treat, and engaging as they spoke directly to the audience, posing questions not only to their own morality, but ours as well.

Once the plot clicked into place, previous comments by the characters stood out in sharp relief, highlighting some of the themes of the show in unexpected ways.  Each of the actors gave a wonderful performance, and seemed to really enjoy being in this show, which always equates to more engaging and powerful performances.

Quantum is also heading to a new space on the Internet, specifically starting discussions with patrons after the show to talk about “Madagascar.”  So far, a few guests have responded and rudimentarily interacted with each other.  It’s a good start, but I had wished to see interaction with the cast and crew, but I hope that this is something they continue to develop for future productions, something unseen from other groups.

Many thanks to Quantum for inviting me down, and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you see “Madagascar,” which has just been extended for another week.  More information on this intimate show can be found here and be sure to make note of several special performances coming up:

  • February 7 – Wine Tasting and light hors d’oeuvres
  • February 8 – Post-show discussion with Psychoanalyst and Director
  • February 12 – Pre-show happy hour for young professionals

Good people of Pittsburgh

Save the Duck.  Sign the petition.

The summer at the Warhol

I’ve seen them popping up in City Paper, and I’d be they’re elsewhere as well, and CopyRanter over at Buzz Feed has picked up the awesome campaign for the Warhol.

This one is my favorite, even with the cringe it induces, and BuzzFeed is missing at least one (the firecracker underwear), unless there are more that I haven’t seen yet.

I’ve only been to the Warhol once, and I didn’t get to see much (I was volunteering as an usher for Pittsburgh Opera), which I know, makes me a bad Pittsburgher, but maybe this will be the kick in the pants for me to get there.

Fraley’s Robot Repair

I was out with Venture Outdoors this weekend on an art and wine walk, and we stopped at Fraley’s Robot Repair, one of Pop-Up Pittsburgh’s projects.

If you have a chance, head down to the cultural district and check out the shop, and to see what the robot is up to, he’s a busy guy.  We had a chance to talk with the artist (and even pose for a picture as satisfied customers).  We had an awkward moment when we realized some kids were checking it out, and we all hoped they hadn’t realized we were talking about it as if it wasn’t real.

If you want to check out my other photos from the event, you can see them here.

Braddock hospital documentary on Kickstarter

A new project on Kickstarter has popped up, a documentary about the fight to save the Braddock Hospital.

The project itself has already had a lot of help, but they need a little extra push to finish up some video and sound editing, as well as mastering and DVD production.

Levels of giving come with a variety of goodies, including copies of a series of five documentaries about Braddock, all by Tony Buba.

To support the We Are Alive! project, or to learn more, check it out here on Kickstarter.


Warhol’s Soup Cans

Now available for purchase (starting today, actually), Target will be selling special-edition cans of Campbell’s tomato soup in iconic Warhol colors and with quotes from the artist.  Check out the article from High Snob here.

h/t to Man Made DIY

Nominating Calvary

The PG’s blog City Walkabout has a write up about the nomination of Calvary Church to be added to the list of National Historic places, based on its architecture significance.

I belong to Calvary, and it is a beautiful church.  I’ve never had a chance to take one of the architecture tours, although I do want to.  A book that explains a lot of the beauty of the building is available in the bookstore, and here are a few links to learn more.

In the meantime, stop by any time, it’s a welcoming church in Shadyside at the corner of Shady and Walnut.

Seriously, Johnstown?

A Johnstown area school district, Richland, pulled their scheduled performance of the play “Kismet” (which I’ve never heard of by the way), because there are Muslim characters in the play and the performance was going to be near September 11.

The superintendent cited the fact that they are near Shanksville as the reason for pulling the play.

I’m going to let a quote from the article speak for itself:

Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that literature and the arts are some of the best ways to bridge gaps between people.

“And those in education ought to know that more than anyone,” Rehab said. “We’re a country of immigrants. It’s doesn’t stand true to our legacy as a nation. I think they need to reinstate the play.”

Still looking for something to do tonight?

Head on down to the Cultural District for tonight’s gallery crawl: Cosmopolitan Pittsburgh.  Afterward, starting at 9 at the Bally’s Building is the part, including live entertainment, dancing and drinks.

I have a friend who is down there as we speak, and his Facebook updates have been pretty awesome, so head on down to Liberty Ave and collect your passport stamps as you see some awesome art!

Maria de Buenos Aires

Dancers from Attack Theater discuss the show as they sit on the winding stage

Quantum Theatre recently invited me out to a special preview of their latest show, “Maria de Buenos Aires,” and all I can say is this: go see this show.

Sometimes I forget how much of a sucker I am for good strings (and good cymbals), and the live orchestra during just the little bit that I saw kept me transfixed, even to the point of occasionally ignoring the singers.  Not to say the singers were not amazing, because they were, but the live orchestration kept me enthralled.

“Maria” is about the history of tango, and the theme that form must die to be reborn.  The entirety of the show: the dialogue, dance, music, set design, even location, all explore that theme.  Karla Boos, Quantum Theatre’s artistic director said that “Maria” really is a big experiment, and she’s anxious to hear from the patrons what they liked and what they didn’t.  I certainly appreciate the dialogue, and am happy for that.

Quantum has taken a few liberties with the piece, all of which I think are for the better.  The orchestration has been modified a bit, putting more emphasis on the violin, which of course, makes me extremely happy.  They also changed the narrator’s part, not only adding more singing, but making it more English-focused as well, which helps to clarify the story as it progresses.  Additionally, the use of projection screens, with custom movie clips (written and created by Joe Seamans) will enhance the performance, again helping to bridge the language barrier and keep the audience from becoming lost.

East Liberty YMCA. It doesn't look like it, but for now, it's a theater.

During our preview, we became part of the blocking, as two of the dancers from Attack Theater made sure they could move one of their props through the audience without hitting anyone in the head (spoiler alert: no injuries, plenty of room).  The preview that I saw, was also the first time the orchestra and actors were together in the performance space, so it was like every other musical rehearsal I’ve ever been at or seen, which was comforting.  Also, every single musical makes the same face when a note is played out of tune: it’s nice to see universals like that.

I only have one bit of criticism, and it’s not even about the show itself.  Later in April Quantum will be doing a “Women Only” evening.  Now granted, I’m not a woman, and I don’t think this is their intent, but I refuse to believe that women can be so weak or scared that they need a night all to themselves.  Yes, it can be nice to meet in a setting and already have something in common, but I come from the Joss Whedon school of thought, so I view my feminism through a lens of actual equality and strength.  But hey, if it fills the house, more power to Quantum, I can’t argue with economics.

“Maria de Buenos Aires” opens tomorrow and runs through April 17.  Find out more, including local dining partners and directions (it’s just a short walk from the East Busway!) at Quantum’s websiteCheck out all my photos here (just be warned, I am not a good photographer!)

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