Pittsburgh 2018/2019 Season In Review by Mora V. Harris and TJ Parker-Young
This season, Pittsburgh-based Guild members produced diverse new works in spaces ranging from proscenium theatres to makeshift huts, all of which invited the people of this area into specific, nuanced, and celebratory theatrical conversations and spaces. PICT (previously known as the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre) presented Run the Rabbit Path by Ray Werner, a family drama following a two grieving brothers, set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh’s infamous steel mills. This, coming on the heels of a festival of Werner’s work by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre earlier in the season.
Pittsburgh Playwrights also produced a new play by their Artistic Director/Founder, Mark Clayton Southers, titled Saviour Samuel. Confronting the themes of religion, family, and the true nature of faith, this piece boasted a majority African-American cast and highlighted the diversity in voices here in Pittsburgh.
The Hiawatha Project produced My Traveling Song, an interactive piece designed for children ages one-five, the young at heart, and the grown-ups who love them. The sold-out piece was created by a group of professional artists who are all mothers of young children and directed by Dramatists Guild member Anya Martin.
The celebrations of strong women continued with Real/Time Interventions’ hugely ambitious devised theatre piece Khuraki, created by Molly Rice in collaboration with recently resettled Afghan refugee women, which was performed at four different locations around the city, combining food, music, and story-telling which honored Afghan culture and highlighted the struggles and triumphs involved in making a home in a new country.
Local companies also produced world premieres by writers with connections to the area. Carnegie-Mellon University School of Drama commissioned and produced The Way Out West, which took a behind the scenes look at the Manhattan Project and was written by CMU alumna Liza Berkenmeier.
Matt Schatz, another Carnegie Mellon graduate, returned to Pittsburgh this season for City Theatre’s production of his dark comedy The Burdens, a story about family told almost entirely through text messages. Matt really loved that the piece premiered in Pittsburgh since he fell in love with the city during his time at Carnegie Mellon.
The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO) continued to demonstrate its commitment to new musicals, producing The Double Threat Trio a hilarious new musical comedy by former Dramatists Guild Fellow, Adam Overett. The show was developed through the CLO’s SPARK Festival, which workshops and presents readings of new musicals every year in downtown Pittsburgh.
The push for homegrown theatre is strengthening here in Pittsburgh. Smaller companies like Non-State Actors and Throughline Theatre Company are working with local writers to flesh out their upcoming seasons. 12 Piers Theatre Company gives playwrights the chance to write as part of their anthology series Mythburgh. These things, coupled with the Momentum Reading Series presented by City Theatre, point to good things to come for new plays in the Steel City.