Posts Tagged ‘quantum theater’

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

Dream of Autumn

Quantum Theater, once again, is pulling out all the stops.  And this time, it’s the world premier of “Dream of Autumn.”

What I’ve always liked about Quantum is how they use spaces in new and innovative ways, and especially how they use that mobility to support the local community.  “Dreams” is being staged in the former Park Schenley Restaurant in the Royal York, and the reviews have been very good.

The show runs through the rest of the week, and if you have a chance, certainly check it out (and hopefully I can make it to the next show!)

Find out more here.


The Electric Baby

Quantum Theatre was gracious enough to set up a time for me to chat with Karla Boos, artistic director and founder of Quantum about their latest production, The Electric Baby.  The play centers around the influence a child has on the adults in his life, bringing together those in Pittsburgh with his Romanian mother and Nigerian father.

Once again, Quantum returns with a world-premier, and this one has a special connection, being set in Pittsburgh, written after playwright Stephanie Zadravec’s time in the city.  Zadravec was on set for the first and last weeks of rehearsal, and she will be in town for most (if not all) of the run of the show.  The cast and crew, as always, includes a slew of locals, including those with Point Park and Carnegie Mellon filling out their resumes.

What I’ve always liked about Quantum is their dedication to the local community, and the East End in particular, the area they call home.  Like prior performances, Electric Baby continues their neighborhood initiative, this time heading to the Friendship neighborhood.  Quantum travels to the Waldorf School, in the shadow of the new Children’s Hospital, adding poignancy to the show.

The Waldorf School is described as a “bright space, with an old fashioned quality,” said Boos.  While they had originally thought to try to stage the play in Children’s Hospital, the logistics, as well as I can only assume, the additional stress placed on the patients and staff, moved the production to the nearby school.  The Waldorf, being an old convent

Boos mentioned that when you first walk into the school, you smell apples, as the students make applesauce each day.  I think that’s pretty awesome, and I wonder what kind of memories that is going to conjure in theater-goers throughout the run of the show.

Next season, I am happy to report, Quantum will continue their neighborhood initiative and will hopefully be premiering more plays.  Although I asked, Boos can’t disclose the shows or locations yet, and I completely understand, but I am eagerly anticipating the announcement to see what they’ll be doing next.

In the meantime though, make sure to check out The Electric Baby, which runs through April 22, and of course, take advantage of the nearby food partnerships, either Verde or Cafe Sam.

Note: I wrote this up two weeks ago, and apparently hit the wrong button, my apologies for the delay in getting this online.

Other things I learned from Twelfth Night

I saw Quantum Theatre’s production of “Twelfth Night,” and really enjoyed it.  However, I learned a lot of other random things that night.  In no particular order, here’s what else I gleamed from my trip to an unused building on a dead-end street in Bloomfield:

I recently got a new camera, and have no idea how to use it apparently.  However, I did manage to capture this really awesome shot, somehow.  And one, which I’ll never be able to do again, even if I tried.

As a whole, I think the audience had a hard time with the Shakespearean English.  The guy next to me, had no idea what was going on.  I know, because he told his wife that, multiple times during the first act (they left during intermission).  Now, it might have been all the wine he drank before coming to the show (again, I know, because he wreaked).

I found myself laughing a lot more than the rest of the audience.  Maybe I was just picking up more of the jokes.  Maybe I’m just the right mix of intelligent and immature, but this play has a lot of dark, adult humor in it.  So I of course, loved it!

I got bit by a mosquito.  Anyone who has camped with me, will not find this to be a surprise at all.  I’m a mosquito magnet.  But, I guess that’s a hazard (one that I’m willing to withstand) of seeing a play outside.

Which, aside from the interference from the trains, the actors also have to deal with car alarms, racing motors, police sirens, helicopters and what sounded like a table saw.  Good for them for being able to block it all out.

I had read about this production before going to see it, so I was prepared for the train stoppages (and kind of looking forward to seeing them), but I don’t think many of the audience members were.  Which, of course, combined with their apparent lack of understanding, made me laugh even more at their confusion.  Because I’m a horrible person.

I did find it extra amusing, what appeared to be the performance’s third train stoppage, which was announced with the train whistle after a very climactic moment…then to be called off.  I’m still amazed at how the actors and crew coordinate it all.

Again though, go see this show, you won’t be disappointed!

Twelfth Night by Quantum Theatre

Quantum Theatre was gracious enough to once again invite me out to see their latest production, “Twelfth Night.”  While I was enamored by “When the Rain Stops Falling” and I fell in love with the music of “Maria de Buenos Aires,” “Twelfth Night” kept me entertained and laughing inappropriately to myself (more on that in my next post) the entire night, and kept me engaged in a very cool way.

Ample parking, I promise

I love going to Quantum, since it is an adventure unto itself.  This time, the show is at the former West Penn Research Foundation building, next to the East Busway and under the Millvale Street Bridge.  I’ve seen this street and building many, many times (at least when I’m awake) on my commute into town, and have always wondered what it was.  The building is not being used at the moment, and the parking lot/loading dock around the back, with the addition of risers and seats, creates an awesome outdoor stage.  I was a bit nervous about looking for parking, but Quantum provided volunteers to help guide you to the ample parking spots available, so when you see the phrase “park where available,” which would normally conjure fear in Bloomfield, don’t worry.

I’ve never seen or read “Twelfth Night” before, although I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare.  Like his other comedies, this one is fairly predictable in terms of plot, but enjoyable nonetheless.  However, the location that Quantum has chosen adds a lot of uncertainty.  Since it is so close to the railroad tracks, when trains go by, the play stops, all the characters come out (after a cue from a really cool wooden train whistle) and put on some additional entertainment until they could be heard again.  I found myself hoping for more trains to go by, just to see what else the cast and crew had up their sleeves.

Honestly, I don’t know much about theater.  I judge just about everything by its music, and the pieces in “Twelfth Night” were a lot of fun.  I know nothing about costume work, but they all looked really awesome, kind of like Renaissance Fair mixed with going-out-to-a-club (but probably in the Strip or the Cultural District, not South Side).

What impressed me the most though, was something I didn’t expect, but really should have: the passage of time.  The play starts at 8 p.m. and runs until 10:15 (with intermission, although I’m guessing times may vary depending on how many trains go by).  The play starts during the daylight, or at least, pre-dusk, and ends in darkness.  I think bringing the play outside, and allowing it to exist, maybe not part of, but at least right next to, nature, is a wonderful thing.  The falling darkness pulled me deeper into the play, and even though at a few points, the characters make light of it being a performance, I found myself forgetting I was with a crowd of strangers, instead convinced I was watching real life unfold in front of me.

Certainly, you should go see this show.  Go for an adventure.  Enjoy nature a little bit, get some culture, and laugh a lot.  It’s a great night out, and you can be urban explorers without too much fear!  “Twelfth Night” runs through August 21, and once again Quantum has partnered with local restaurants, so make an evening out of it (get the pre-show picnic, it sounds really cool) and enjoy the show.

Coming up on Metblogs

Couple fun things coming up.  First up, later this week, Quantum Theatre invited me out to see “Twelfth Night,” so once more, I”m going on an adventure!  I always look forward to trips to Quantum, as it lets me explore Pittsburgh a little bit more (even though I get a little nervous about finding a legal place to park), and this time is no exception.  I’ll have more about that later this week.

Also, I’m helping out CMU (when will I ever be able to type those words again?!) with the beta test of their new Tiramisu Transit app for Android (already released for iOS).  I’ll be making my way to Oakland later this week, as I try to avoid the Batman filming, to get it installed on my phone.  But I’m really excited to try out a new transit app, esepcially one that utilizes crowdsourcing.  RouteShout doesn’t always like to work, and of course, is based entirely on the time tables, not actual conditions.

I have a couple other things in the works as well, so keep an eye out as I ramp back up after my light summer schedule.

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!)

Coming up later this week

Coming up later this week, I’m heading to East Liberty for a special preview of Quantum Theatre’s latest production, “Maria de Buenos Aires.”

Quantum has been gracious enough to once again reach out to local bloggers and invite them to a preview of their 2010-2011 season which features their neighborhood initiative.  I’m looking forward to it, and think I’ll be taking a few trips on the East Busway to do it this time, so I’m sure that will provide an entertaining post as well.

Check back later this week for (hopefully) some pictures and a write up of the East Liberty YMCA and Quantum’s latest production.

Another question

Is it still a flash mob if you know it’s going to happen?

Market Square tomorrow at eleven.  Better get there a little early.

Once again, just sayin’

“When the Rain Stops Falling”

Quantum Theater opens it Neighborhood Initiative with their production of “When the Rain Stops Falling,” featuring an all-local cast.  They invited a small group of patrons and bloggers to their technical rehearsal and allowed us the chance to walk around, take pictures, and talk with some of the cast and crew.  Sadly, I didn’t grab the names of any of the other bloggers (I was off looking around) except for Joe and Betsy, but they’ll be posting about it soon I imagine.

I am really excited about the Neighborhood Initiative as a way to engage the local community and as a form of outreach to not only theater goers and patrons, but entire neighborhoods.  I’ll be interested to see where else Quantum will be going over the next 18 months.  During the run of “Rain,” you can stop by Church Brew Works for a special three-course meal.

This production takes place in the Iron City Brewery, a sign with the letter Q marks where to turn off Liberty onto Sassafras Street.  The location, simply put, is awesome.  We got to explore a little bit beyond where the production is, which was a lot of fun.  The space itself is heated, and a bit cavernous, offering seating for 150 at each performance on custom built risers (a tradition of Quantum).  The set is extremely wide, which puts the audience off center, but I really liked the affect.  Other performances of “Rain” around the world have featured rotating stages or giant water machines, making it rain.  Iron City Brewery offers not only the room to create one large set and giant set pieces, but the projection of stars onto the exposed insulation of the walls and ceiling, creating a beautiful scene.

Being a technical rehearsal, lights and sounds were being cued and adjusted, and it was great to see the actors interact with the small audience as things were fiddled with.  There was one stinkbug that got shooed away, and a scene was restarted at one point as we waited for a train to pass.

Set design by Tony Ferrieri

That is one of the hallmarks of Quantum though, being outside of normal theater spaces offers a chance for the world to interact and be part of the production, for good or for ill.  I couldn’t help but hope for rain during at least some of the performances.  The sound and smell of a rainstorm I think would be a wonderful addition to the already water-centric piece.

“When the Rain Stops Falling” opens Thursday and runs through November 21, and special nights with receptions and discussions have been planned.  Learn more and buy tickets online here.  Here is the official blurb to wet (oh, the pun) your appetite:

Seven people, bound together by blood and circumstance, share a story that stretches across time and place, from London in 1959 to the coast of Australia in 2039. Alone in a torrential downpour, one man finds himself on the receiving end of this legacy of secrecy, betrayal… and love. A fish falls from the sky. And the mysteries of his past begin to unfold.

A special thanks to Quantum Theater for allowing me to come to their rehearsal, poke around and interact with cast a crew, it was an absolute blast.  Check out the rest of my pictures here.

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