The Andy Warhol Museum Arts Educator, Chuck Pearson: “You Can Take Warhol Out of Pittsburgh, But You Can’t Fully Take Pittsburgh Out of Warhol” 

By Gina McKlveen

When visitors step off Sandusky Street and enter The Andy Warhol Museum, they are instantly greeted by an industrial-esque entrance hall, complete with high ceilings, exposed pipes, studio lights, metal chairs, and high top-tables, and of course, Andy Warhol’s iconic red couch from his Factory. This location was the meeting space for my recent sit-down conversation with The Andy Warhol Museum Arts Educator, Chuck Pearson, about all things Andy, the aesthetics, the artist, the artwork, and the atmosphere.

The Aesthetics

“This building, actually, this is the old Frick & Lindsay building,” Pearson stated.

“[It] was built in 1911. This was an industrial warehouse for many years during Pittsburgh’s steel era. Back in the 70s and 80s it was a music store. And then it was empty for a period of time. That of course is when the [Andy Warhol] Foundation and the Carnegie [Institute] came together, got this building, and then refit it to be the [Andy Warhol] Museum.

“It’s interesting, if you walk through this Museum and look at its structure, you’ll see that the warehouse kind of aesthetics are still in play…It’s kind of an homage to Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage, but it’s also an homage to Andy’s ‘Factory’ and being a commercial artist and having that commercial side to him.”

The Artist

Although Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh and attended college at Carnegie Tech, now known as Carnegie Mellon University, majoring there in what today may be described as ‘Graphic Design,’ after graduating in 1949 he moved to New York City.

“Back when he graduated college in 1949, Pittsburgh was still very much an industrial city. It didn’t have the same kind of cultural and artistic aspects that it has today. Back then, a Pittsburgh boy wanting to be an artist, you want to go to a place where art was thriving. At that point, New York City was the big place.

“It’s kind of ironic that even though Warhol came from blue collar roots, that Steel City background and such, when he left Pittsburgh in 1949, after he graduated college and went to New York, he did not come back to Pittsburgh very much at all. There was kind of a distance he put between himself and Pittsburgh. I don’t think he wanted to be identified with Pittsburgh necessarily. He wanted the New York scene that’s what he wanted to be identified with.”

“Even though he did make an effort to kind of distance himself from his Pittsburgh upbringing in many ways, in some ways he could never really escape it.”

One such example of Warhol’s inability to escape his Pittsburgh industrial roots was his New York studio, aptly coined ‘The Factory’ for the amount of work, specifically the artists’ silk-screen prints which were produced there almost in conveyor-belt, industry-like speed and fashion.

“There’s strong [Pittsburgh] influence in [The Factory],” said Pearson.

“Not only was [The Factory] a place to hang out and party and have fun, it was also an actual working studio.”

“The Factory, also known as his ‘Silver Factory’ was a studio, a place where he and others did art, did screen printing, made films, not only was it that but it also became some sort of a social hub. It became a place in New York where people could go to hang out, to party, to network, to make connections with other people, and it was especially valuable when members of the LGBTQ community didn’t have a lot of safe places to go to, that became one of those safe places. It became a place where a lot of people who maybe would not have normally had opportunities to get into art, to get into media, to get into shows, to do all of these sort of things. The Factory gave them an opportunity for that.

“It attracted crowds across a whole spectrum of people. Members of The Rolling Stones went there to party. The Velvet Underground, Nico, but a lot of the people who worked with Andy and kind of became a part of his circle, were a part of that Factory scene,” Pearson continued.

“The Factory went through a few different addresses over the years. It didn’t stay in the same place. Over the course of his career, in early 1964, for the next 20 years it would go through a few different places there, but all Manhattan—all the same general area.”

The Artwork

Like his Factory, Warhol’s work also moved across several iterations, styles, mediums, and expressions throughout his career.

“He spent a lot of time in the 1960s doing film, screen prints of actors and celebrities, but as he got into his commissioned portraits era in the 1970s…he moved into a period of abstract work.”

Pearson recognized, “What you’ll notice with Andy’s abstraction is sometimes it will be coupled with very realistic pieces.”

“Even when he was a commercial artist, part of what got him his success as a commercial artist was his style of commercial art was so different from what other people were doing. Most industrial artwork at that time was very ‘Norman Rockwell-ish.’ That was the norm, that was the standard, the people in post-WWII conservative America were using for commercial and professional art. Andy was not ‘Norman Rockwell-ish.’ His style of realistic expression was quite different. I think that carries over into his abstract era and his experiment with color trying to find those kind of blends.”

Some of Warhol’s most well-known works, like his silk-screen portraits of Marilyn Monroe, are on view at The Andy Warhol Museum. As an Arts Educator, Pearson offered a knowledgeable perspective on these iconic prints, sharing insights on the artists’ technique and timing.

“A lot of what Andy was trying to accomplish with his different series, particularly of like pop portraits [of] celebrities, was exploring through color different moods and aspects of a celebrity. The one we have upstairs of Marilyn that’s a 1967 series. The prominent feature of that, of course, is the hot pink lips and the earrings.

“Well, timing is kind of interesting in that…He did that in 1967. Well, what was going on in 1967? Summer of Love, Monterey Pop Festival, hippie movement, Haight Ashbury. And I’m thinking well maybe, but there’s also some darker backgrounds in that piece as well, but there’s that hot pink. Was he perhaps going with the contrast of the flower power movement of the Summer of Love verses also all the other stuff that was going around that the time, too. Because what else was happening? America was embroiling in the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and such. There was a lot of light and dark going on in America. You see a lot of that contrast with many of his pieces.

“…through color the artist, Andy, is able to explore those different shades of Marilyn. And he did that with a lot of his different celebrities and pop portraits, and of course the power of screen print process.”

The Atmosphere

Continuing Warhol’s legacy of silk-screen printing process is not limited to the artworks displayed at the Museum. In fact, the Museum operates a ‘factory’ in the downstairs portion of the building which is an actual hands-on studio that visitors can participate and create artwork in, very much like Warhol’s own Factory.

This initiative is just one of the many outreach programs and projects that the Museum participates in to adhere to its mission of promoting the arts here in Pittsburgh.

Pearson noted, “The Warhol Museum is the centerpiece of the Pop District, which for last couple years has been trying to sort of create and artistic, cultural center point here on the North Shore to invite local artists to participate [in].”

Pearson also emphasized the Museums many extra-curricular activities outside the Museum’s regular business operations, “Like the Warhol Academy, youth programs, being very much in tune with the LGBTQ community here, of course that’s a part of Andy’s legacy also and wanting to provide opportunities for inclusion… We do outreach programs to schools, to shelters, to organizations, libraries. We have opportunities for schools and other organizations to do workshops here on site. We operate the print lounge, which is a part of the Pop District. It’s kind of a larger working space to be able to do projects.”

The Museum is also expanding its reach in the coming years with a brand-new structure expected to be completed in 2026 that will mirror the part of Warhol’s Factory that was known for its social activities, hosting parties, and attracting crowds like artists, actors, and musicians.

Based on Pearson’s experience with the Museum, he stated, “People love to use the Warhol for all sorts of venues and events. With the new facility, it’s mainly going to be devoted to special event venue space [for] functions and concerts, to help attract awareness to what’s going on here.”

In the next few months, the Andy Warhol Museum will celebrate its 30th anniversary since its founding.

“The Museum opened in 1994. It has been a point of cultural and artistic interest and attraction for all of those years. Especially in a time, back in 1994, when Pittsburgh was struggling to…keep afloat, and to try to find ways to keep the city going once the whole industrial aspect of the city died. But there’s been a lot of efforts in recent years to build up Pittsburgh in terms of being a progressive and 21st century city, and bringing in arts and culture has been a major part of that. The whole cultural district downtown, the Carnegie museums, all of this, the Heinz, you know tried to help to bring a renewed sense of life to Pittsburgh, which has been very successfully done. The Warhol Museum was coming in at time when that was starting to happen, so there was opportunity.”

Those opportunities have only multiplied over the years. Starting May 18, 2024, visitors will have an opportunity to see the work of artist, KAWS, in collaboration and conversation with some of Warhol’s darker themes around death and disaster. More information on this upcoming exhibit can be found here:

Chuck Pearson is a California native who relocated to Pittsburgh in June 2022 after teaching high school English for many years.  A published author, Pearson’s writing credits include the Once Upon A Realm fantasy novel series (written as C.J. Pearson) and the Fate, Chance, and Choices trilogy (written under a pen name, Ariel Archer).  For the past year and a half, he has worked at the Andy Warhol Museum as a Gallery Associate and Arts Educator.


Hear the full interview here:








Emma Let You Finish, but the Bennets are the Best Jane Austen Characters of All Time: A Review of Pride and Prejudice

By Joseph Szalinski

If British Literature is your cup of tea, then The Pittsburgh Savoyards have a treat for you at the Margaret Partee Performing Arts Center in Bellevue. For the fourth production in their 86th season, they’ve decided to bring a classic romance to the stage with their adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted and directed by Marsha Mayhak.

The OG Bridget Jones’s Diary follows Mrs. Bennet’s (Apryl Peroney) quest to become an empty nester by marrying off her daughters to well-to-do gentlemen. While Jane (Mary-Cait Cox) and Charles Bingley (Calvin Brookins) hit it off splendidly, Elizabeth (Rebecca Radeshak) and Mr. Darcy (Alex Policicchio) experience a bit of turbulence at first before becoming smitten and then engaged.

Staging a story that’s famous in various mediums, particularly film and television, can be a bit tricky. With a novel, the interior lives of characters can be probed; there’s license to explore and plod. Similarly, miniseries can take the time to touch on a multitude of plot points and ideas. Theatre can’t afford those luxuries. Even with source material provided, the act of condensing the text and converting it into a script can be as challenging as writing a play from scratch. While the runtime could be shorter for pacing’s sake, Mayhak addresses all of the crucial moments in the narrative, occasionally being bogged down by excessively wordy dialogue.

The cast of “Pride & Prejudice.”

Tasked with delivering these academic rhapsodies, with English accents, is a talented cast whose members swap in and out depending on the date of the performance. Despite the reluctant romance between Lizzie and Darcy being the focus of the show, the chemistry between Jane and Lizzie in the scenes they share together is the most palpable. In addition to the more emotional elements, there is also a great deal of comedy in the form(s) of Mr. Bingley, William Collins, and Mrs. Bennet, who all elicit chuckles verbally and physically. The dance is perhaps the scene that stands out the most. Not only is it well choreographed and executed, but the physicality is a great mirror of the battle of wits occurring concurrently.

Aside from performances, this production delights from a technical standpoint as well. The set is expertly designed, taking advantage of the space provided, with a few instances where the performers get particularly close to the audience, making the whole thing seem a bit immersive. Costumes are amazing. They evoke the sense and sensibility of those who don them, existing as set pieces and characters themselves.

Bellevue is another spot close to the city that’s experiencing a revival in art and cuisine. Its residents, and interested thespians, are incredibly fortunate to have a seasoned theatre company and a dependable venue in town, especially one that so heartily encourages all members of the community to get involved in helping to create something meaningful.


Pride and Prejudice continues its run at the Margaret Performing Arts Center in Bellevue, PA February 16th, 17th, 23rd, and 24th at 7:30 PM and a matinee performance at 2:30 PM on Sunday, February 18th. For more information, click here








A Story by the Storyteller—a Review of “Dragon Lady”

By Claire DeMarco

Sara Porkalob invites you into her world to see, hear, and feel her stories about the maternal side of her family in “Dragon Lady.” Her maternal grandmother, Maria the “Dragon Lady” is the center of this adventure into her past.

As Maria’s 60th birthday approaches, she feels the need to pass on details of her life and her confidant is Sara Porkalob. As her story unwinds, its apparent that she has quite a few secrets to unveil, from a brief career as a singer in a tawdry club to a pregnancy (the child is Sara’s mother, also named Maria), a kidnapping and a murder. But through all the drama associated with her life, Maria is a fighter and a survivor (with a sense of humor).

Maria’s life changes again as this young Filipina woman immigrates to the Pacific Northwest. Her oldest child (Porkalob’s mother) is to care for her siblings. Now, without a husband, Maria works several jobs, often leaving her young daughter in charge of not only the running of the household but also caring for her siblings. The ramifications of this situation are that young Maria often isn’t able to attend school. This situation causes the resentment and rift that exists between the young and old Maria. That tension is highlighted at Grandmother Maria’s 60th birthday party.

Sara Porkalob goes full throttle on stage at the O’Reilly Theater.

Porkalob’s performance is brilliant, stunning, and creative! This is not just a solo performance, but many as Porkalob plays the parts of those relatives and acquaintances who are part of her narrative.

Her timing is impeccable as she smoothly reinvents herself as her grandmother, mother, her mother’s young brothers, and any character that’s part of her story. Reinventing also includes not only the vocal pitch of those she’s portraying, but their unique mannerisms as well. Great comedic timing, excellent facial expressions, and a beautiful voice elevate those roles.

There are not enough superlatives to describe this unique, stimulating, and wonderful performance by Sara Porkalob.

Porkalob created the Dragon Cycle, a trilogy of works about her grandmother (“Dragon Lady”), her mother (“Dragon Mama”), and Porkalob herself (“Dragon Baby”–still in development).

The set is striking with a modicum of stage props. The center stage is highlighted and framed as an intricate lounge setting for musical numbers. Different stage levels allow Porkalob to move up and down, often showing a different location and/or time as her story unwinds.

Excellent music by Hot Damn Scandal: Pete Irving, Jimmy Austin and Mickey Stylin.

Kudos to Scenic Designer Sasha Jin Schwartz.

Expert direction by Andrew Russell.


“Dragon Lady” is a production of the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Performances run from February 7 through February 25. For more information, click here.

The Power of “Black Flowers”

By Gina McKlveen

Along the Allegheny River, beneath the Fort Duquesne Bridge, a garden of greatness is blooming right before our city’s eyes.

Cameron “Camo” Nesbit, the Artist Resident responsible for the 12 portraits of local Black artists, leaders, and entertainers, “see[s] this site as having the potential to grow into a public art mecca for the city of Pittsburgh, and beyond.” The faces of these colorful portraits stare across the waters towards the North Shore, intertwined with images of various bright flowers and brilliant monarch butterflies that break up the industrial feel of the bridge’s beams and invite the viewer to picture a nourished culture. Among the portraits of Black excellence are the familiar faces of the Artist Resident himself, and other well-known Pittsburghers, like Billy Porter, the Broadway and movie-star actor, Wiz Khalifa, the Grammy nominated rapper, Dr. Ayisha Morgan Lee, founder and CEO of Hill Dance Academy Theatre, Alma Speedfox, the “Mother of Pittsburgh’s civil rights movement.”

A portrait of Billy Porter.


A portrait of Alma Speedfox.

The project, which was established in 2021, grew out of a previous Black Lives Matter mural created along this same pathway by another group of Pittsburgh mural artists following the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. In concert with those mural artists and in conversation with Pittsburgh’s Office of Public, Camo sought to engage the community around the subjects of healing, strength, and enlightenment. In his artist statement, Camo declared, “I believe Pittsburgh is ready for this: a place for people to gather and celebrate new voices and a new style of street art and murals.”

A portrait of Dr. Ayisha Morgan Lee.
Camerin “Camo” Nesbit

Nourished by its location at the riverfront and sponsored by the Office of Public Art, Riverlife, and Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust, Camo’s “Black Flowers” is hopefully the first of many art gardens in Pittsburgh where community and conversations around culture, civil rights, and contributions thereto can flourish. “Black Flowers,” in particular though, is a perfect bouquet—a dozen faces—all picked to honor lives and legacies that were at one point or another rooted right here in Pittsburgh. This writer was fortunate enough to experience this beautiful arrangement on the warmth of a recent February weekend, which served as a reminder that as the weather turns closer towards spring by the day soon the City of Pittsburgh will also be in full bloom.

“Black Flowers” is located along Three Rivers Heritage Trail, approximately a half mile from Point State Park, and discoverable by GPS at “Ecstatic RiverFront.” For more information, click here.


Made to Order? – a Review of “The Perfect Mate”

If you can’t find the perfect mate, why not create one? After all, it is 2063 and technology has advanced to a new level.

Joan Sweete (Autumn Hurlbert) still wants true love with a human but as she pursues the dating scene, no one she encounters passes the test. Humans are letting her down. Her bubbly enthusiasm as she meets new possible love interests dwindles with each new encounter.

Susan Botelli (Josey Miller), a savvy business woman, intent on promoting and gaining funds for her idea, wants to create a humanoid, someone who looks like a man but can be programmed to have the qualifications required by that specific client.

Note: One of those techie advancements but not on the level of a humanoid is HomeBody (Ryan Cavanaugh), a human-looking robot built like a man but with an arm appendage that is a sweeper nozzle. He diligently (with appropriate sweeper sounds) earnestly cleans everything in sight.

Sweete finally agrees to the creation of a humanoid. Kenna and others (Jimmy Nicholas), based on Sweete’s criteria is programmed and created.

The perfect mate is perfect for a short period of time. He is agreeable, maybe too agreeable, doesn’t move much, possibly even boring. He is deprogrammed and Sweete agrees to another incarnation of her perfect mate with perhaps more realistic changes. This perfect mate comes to life as an Elvis-type gyrator who never stops moving and prancing. Another perfect mate

What does Sweete decide to do after these fiascos?

Note: I think we’ll leave the finale unknown. Come and see this funny, music-filled world premier rom com musical and you’ll find out!

Autumn Hurlbert gets ready to meet her match.

Hurlbert shines as the young woman looking for love (sometimes in the wrong places). Her character evolves from a bubbly energetic woman to one who becomes more frazzled as her experiences in finding the perfect mate reach a dead end. It becomes apparent that she really doesn’t know what she wants. Hurlbert also has a lovely voice and “Ready for Love” exemplifies

Nicholas is excellent as the multiple perfect mates. He is endearing and agreeable in one of his incarnations and extremely humorous as a gyrating Elvis-type in another version. He has great comedic skills and timing and his facial and body movements contribute to his delivery.

Miller does a great job of portraying Botelli as the dominating business woman intent on obtaining funds to produce the perfect mate. She is overbearing at times but she’s on a mission.

Buchheit as Moya delivers with the song “Moya’s Opinion”.

Only making a brief appearance as HomeBody, Cavanaugh is delightful as the human-like robot with the sweeper nozzle arm who consistently exclaims: “I love dirt”! “I love dirt.”

The set’s backdrop is a huge computer with multiple buttons and flashy lights. In front of this mammoth mechanism is a bulky and very large desk. Behind the desk are three people who at first glance appear to be computer operators. It is apparent as the show begins that this large
desk partially hides the fact that the musicians are on stage.

Wonderful direction by Carolyn Cantor.

Hats off to the Pittsburgh CLO Band.

This world premiere of Rom Com Musical of the future was developed and made in Pittsburgh, with book, music, lyrics by Dan Lipton and David Rossmer.

Its genesis is the result of SPARK, an initiative dedicated to the development of new small musicals.


“The Perfect Mate” is a production of the Pittsburgh CLO Kara Cabaret Series. Performances at the Greer Cabaret Theater run from February 2 through March 17. For more information, click here.

Blues is the Roots and Everything Else is the Fruits – a review of “Blues is in the Roots”

By Lonnie the Theater Lady

This world-premiere biographical musical about Willie Dixon, opens in a courtroom in Chicago in 1977. Willie Dixon (Sam Lothard), his wife Marie (Michele Bankole) and Muddy Waters (Nickolas Page) are suing Chess Records because of a financial dispute.

From the courtroom, the audience is transported back to Willie’s childhood to trace the sequence of events leading up to the courtroom scene. From an early age, Willie spoke poetically and often in rhyme, foreshadowing his songwriting career. His mother Daisy (Angelique A. Strothers) gave birth to fourteen children, of which Willie was number seven. (The inspiration for the song “I’m The One They Call the Seventh Son”). His mother stressed the importance of education to her children as well as the role that their ancestors played in laying the foundation (roots) of who they would become.  Willie started singing in the church choir when he was only four years old. He later spent time in a prison farm when he was just thirteen years old–after being convicted of a fabricated misdemeanor.

He was a heavyweight boxer, a jailed conscientious objector, a producer, musician, vocalist, and musical arranger. He was a prolific songwriter, with over 500 songs written. All of his accomplishments, however, take a backseat to the textured music in this show. This is not simply a play about Willie’s life. It’s a concert/musical revue that entertains and captivates. In addition, it’s a sometimes excruciatingly painful look into Jim Crow laws and the historically brutal treatment of African Americans in this country.

Left to right: Kevin Brown, Angelique Strothers, and Mils MJ James sing.
From left to right: Sam Lothard, Nickolas Page, Cole McGlumphy take the stage.

Sam Lothard is perfectly cast as Willie. He is marvelous in this role. Not only is he comfortable and totally natural in his embodiment of Willie, but he is having the time of his life. It’s a joy to watch him as he confidently enjoys himself on stage. And, oh, yeah, he can sing the blues–with real emotion, — in fact, he owns the blues. I love his rendition of “I’m Ready” as he playfully flirts with Marie, his future wife. He kills it with every one of his musical numbers.

Nicholas Page  (Muddy Waters) exudes charm. His pompadour wig and period costume (Deryck Tines Mitchell, designer) contribute to his striking resemblance to Muddy Waters.

Kevin Brown plays his multiple roles smoothly with sophistication and aplomb. His portrayal of Otis Rush singing “I Can’t Quit You Baby” is a show-stopper.

Michele Bankole as Etta James is comically entertaining as she sings Hoochie Coochie Man– her beautiful, rich voice shines in this and in all of her numbers.

Mils “M.J.” James as Sonny Boy Williamson performs a rendition of “Back Door Man” that is steaming hot—–ever so sexy—phew!  He later transforms into Chuck Berry—singing “Maybelline” as he accurately impersonates many of Chuck’s distinct dance moves. His spirited performance is a real crowd-pleaser!

Angelique A. Strothers beautifully sings Koko Taylor’s hit “All Night Long.” It’s a number that one could listen to all night long. (on repeat and be perfectly happy). Her voice is stunning in every one of her numbers.

Jenny Malarky plays multiple roles–both male and female–she does them all with panache that showcases her great versatility.

The entire cast and ensemble, (too numerous to mention) is strong, energetic and engaging. Every musical number, without exception, is sung with passion and without inhibition. The director, Herb Newsome, brings out the best in all of the actors, in their acting, movement, and vocals. He makes sure that every magical moment is used to its full advantage.

The playwright, Charles Dumas, is not only the first tenured Black professor (now emeritus) in the Penn State Black School of Theater but is Willie Dixon’s great nephew, as well. His loving tribute to Willie is bound to be a hit that withstands the test of time. I think it’s reasonable to expect to see this playing on Broadway in the not-too-distant future.

This production by New Horizon Theater is an exceptionally well-acted musical masterpiece that is not to be missed. It’s a show that begs to be seen, and savored, more than once!


“Blues is in the Roots” runs until February 18 at the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Helen Wayne Rauh Rehearsal Hall – 621 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.


“Blues is in the Roots” runs until February 18 at the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Helen Wayne Rauh Rehearsal Hall – 621 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.

Hooked on Phonics – a review of “My Fair Lady”

by Michael Buzzelli

Down and out Eliza Doolittle (Anette Barrios-Torres) becomes a guinea pig in an experiment concocted by Professor Henry Higgins (Jonathan Grunert) and his colleague, Colonel Hugh Pickering (John Adkison) in the Lerner and Loewe classic musical, “My Fair Lady.”

The show is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” which is based on a Greek myth of a Cypriot sculptor who carves a beautiful woman out of ivory, and falls in love with his own creation.

Higgins believes he can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse with the power of proper pronunciation (say that three times fast). He invites Eliza into his home, where he begins to teach her phonetics. She spends the majority of her days reading and enunciating her vowels.

His experiment is a success! But, like Pygmalion, Higgins falls in love with his creation.

Eliza, however, is now more uncertain about her future than ever, finding no place to fit in, and runs off with Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Nathan Haltiwanger), a young man who has been mooning after Eliza since he first met her.

Eliza confides in Henry’s mother (Becky Saunders) in her atrium. When Henry goes to tell his mom that Eliza has fled, he finds her there and the two have an epic confrontation. It’s one of the many will-they-or-won’t-they moments that keeps you on the edge of your seat (skip the liquids, this show is three-hours long).

Side note: There’s a subplot with Eliza’s father, Alfred (Michael Hagarty) and his cronies, Harry (Nicholas Carroll) and Jamie (Ryan Farham)  that has very little to do with the main story, but has some of the best songs. “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get me to the Church on time” are completely superfluous to the plot, but are absolute highlights of the show.

Henry Higgins (Jonathan Grunert) gets ready to take Eliza Doolittle (Anette Barris-Torres) to the Embassy Ball.
Higgins takes Doolittle out for a spin in her first event with high society, a horse race.

Barrios-Torres is an amazing Eliza. She has an incredible vocal instrument, and she is lovely…er…”loverly.”

Adkison’s Pickering is a total joy. He plays the man with an effete allure. Its hard to nail nuance when you’re playing to the back row, but, somehow, Adkison manages it.

Hegarty is marvelous as the drunken lout of a father. He gets to perform two of best numbers in the show. “Get me to the Church on time” is a glorious tribute to excess. It’s a showstopper.

Haltiwanger’s “On the Street Where You Live” is a masterpiece.  Haltiwanger is a delightful Freddy. He is handsome, poised and a masterful singer. Let’s hope the character falls in love again.

Higgins’s mother is the kindest of high society matriarchs. The antitheses of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley. Saunders plays her to perfection.

Additional show highlights include Christopher Isolano as the wickedly funny Professor Zoltan Karpathy, and Maeghin Mueller’s Mrs. Pearce.

Let’s face it, Professor Henry Higgins is a disagreeable fellow, Frasier and Niles Crane (“Frasier”),  Charles Emerson Winchester, III (“M*A*S*H*”) with a touch of Oscar the Grouch (“Sesame Street”) rolled into one. He treats Eliza like his prize pig at the county fair.  Grunert plays him comically broad, but seems to lack the charm he needs to win her back. The writing is partially to blame here. The chauvinism doesn’t age well. In every other way, there is a beautiful timelessness to the production.

Fantastic sets by Michael Yeargan matched with flawless costumes by Catherine Zuber.

Special shout out to sound designers Marc Salzberg and Beth Lake. On opening night there wasn’t one glitch or popped P.  The sound was crisp and clear and it sounded like we were in the Higgins household.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Fall in love all over again at “My Fair Lady.”


“My Fair Lady” runs from January 30th to February 4th at the Benedum Center, 237 Seventh Street, between Penn and Liberty, downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here

A Strange Maze to Navigate – A Review of Crave

By: Joseph Szalinski

As much as theatre echoes the tried and true, as rehearsing is paramount in mounting productions, it can also be an art form full of experimentation. And I don’t just mean improv. Works that challenge not only the mores of society, but also the art form itself, are equally powerful and important, in addition to being difficult to helm. This makes ELSEWHERE Theatre Company’s rendition of the late Sarah Kane’s play, Crave, now running at Carnegie Stage, much more remarkable.

Katy Chmura directs this particular production, bringing the infamous show to life in tandem with a terrific cast and crew. Kane’s scripts have always been controversial, usually on account of violence, but her last two works, of which Crave is one, drew attention for the subject matter while also because of their unorthodoxy. There’s no story, per se, aside from some brief narratives that are shared randomly. Even the dialogue is without much, if any, context, leaving the delivery and intonation almost totally up to the actors and Chmura. Despite traditional theatre’s ability of being able to demonstrate a director’s abilities more clearly, abstract art is still reflective of their talent and style, and this production bears Chmura’s influence.

In keeping with the unusual approaches this play warrants, there are two casts for this show, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Unfortunately, this review only covers the first cast used, which consists of A (Joe York), B (Samantha Hawk), C (Jamie Rafacz), and M (Kauleen Cloutier), characters who are then portrayed by Amanda Weber, Marisa Rose Postava, Abbie Siecinski, and Harper York, respectively. It takes a special kind of thespian to tackle a role like these. Memorizing one’s own lines in the correct order would be hard enough, let alone having to remember them in relation to the equally random lines from one’s castmates, requires a great deal of skill, and deserves commendation, especially considering the reprehensible character(s) one plays, or at least characters who discuss a multitude of reprehensible things. It’s no small feat. Another strength of the cast is their physicality, whether that’s their coordination as a group, moving in dizzying trajectories or contorting their bodies into odd postures to better elicit a response from a line or expression.

Even for being a production that relies heavily on its cast and director, the crew as just as invaluable, as they are with everything else. The stage is simple: a perimeter of lights fencing off stations of varying heights for the performers to stand on and move around. While an uncomplicated setting can allow greater accessibly, which would attract more interest in staging said show, a more basic arrangement can serve as a gauge of the technical brilliance of a company too. Working within constrictions and embracing the minimalistic elements of this show are crucial in delivering a production that stands out. Lighting and sound were also done sparingly and tastefully, elevating the performance(s). The technical aspects of the production really helped bring audiences into the world being realized onstage.

Weird theatre is important, not just for theatre itself, but also for the artistic communities and artists in the area weird theatre is done in. It’s a great change-up from an oversaturation of overdone staples, musical or otherwise. Discussions are spurred; uncomfortable ideas are mulled over; we get to exist in uncommon emotional states. Theatre is more than just escapist entertainment, it’s an experience, a way to confront the awful parts of life, and Crave most definitely echoes this.


For more information, click here.


The High School Drama Award Winners are announced


By Michael Buzzelli

On January 29, the Prime Stage Theatre company filled the New Hazlett Theater with kids competing for the High School Drama Awards.

Monteze Freeland, who credited his start in theater to Prime Stage, hosted the event. Local luminaries, who handed out awards, included Scenic Designer, Tony Ferrier; Saturday Light Brigade’s Larry Berger; Playwright Gab Cody; Playwright and actor Matt Henderson; Theatrical Power Couple, Daina Griffith and Dan Krell; Post-Gazette’s Performer of the Year, Wali Jamal; and Prime Stage co-founder Wayne Brinda, among others.

Several schools competed for the Best Drama Award. They were Avonworth High School, Carlynton High School, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, North Allegheny Intermediate High School, Thomas Jefferson High School, Shady Side Academy Senior School, Pine-Richland High School, Deer Lakes High School, Quaker Valley High School, Penn Hills High School, Hampton High School, and Fox Chapel High School.

Throughout the ceremony, several high school’s performed scenes from their nominated shows.

A scene from Shady Side Academy Senior School’s production of “Macbeth.”


A scene from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s production of “We Are the Sea.”

The winners are:

Best Overall Production: Shady Side Academy Senior School for Macbeth in “Macbeth.”

Best Actor: Lincoln Marshal from Fox Chapel Area High School for Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

Best Actress: Jay Zhu from Shady Side Academy Senior School for Macbeth in  “Macbeth.”

Best Supporting Actor: Gavin Windows from Deer Lakes High School for Brett in “Winter Break.”

Best Supporting Actress: Elise Schaeffer from Deer Lakes High School for A.J. in “Winter Break.”

Best Student Director: Kiley Vande Geest & Andrew Kaehly for Hampton High School’s production of “Puffs.”

Best Student Stage Manager: Alec Mahathey  & Madeline Potts for Thomas Jefferson High School’s production of “Trap.”

Best Student Scenic Design and/or Fabrication: Jacob Baker, Margaret Sager & Lily Stalewski for Hampton High School’s production of “Puffs.”

Best Student Lighting Design and/or operation: Brandy Bandik for Thomas Jefferson High School’s production of “Trap.” Bandik also took the award for Best Student Use of Creative Special Effects.

Best Student Makeup Design and/or Application: Marena Miller for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s production of “We are the Sea.”

Best Student Sound Design and/or Operation: Laren Mutmanksy & Jeremy Thompson for Thomas Jefferson High School’s production of “Trap.”

Best Student Backstage Run Crew: Alexander Bi, Sam Davidheiser& Ada Lin for Shady Side Academy’s “Macbeth.”

Best Student Poster Design or Fabrication: Kaylee Dunham for Fox Chapel High School’s production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”


For more information about the Drama Awards, please click here.

Barbara Luderowski: She’s Better Known For the Things She Did At the Mattress Factory

By Gina McKlveen

Last Friday, the Mattress Factory opened up its doors to the public to celebrate the birthday of its founder, Barbara Luderowski, who passed away in 2018 at her residence on the top floor of the six-story building she turned into North Side’s premier contemporary art museum.

The Mattress Factory nestled in the Mexican War Streets on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Luderowski was introduced to Pittsburgh first as a student at Carnegie’s Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, though she completed her formal education at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where she remained until the early 1970s. Working primarily as an architect and designer in those days, Luderowski returned to Pittsburgh to pitch a public works project, but ended up catching an interest in the city’s North Side community. Insistent on contributing to this community and effectuating its culture, Luderowski packed up her Michigan life and headed east, eventually landing the old Stearns & Foster Mattress Firm building as her joint residence and studio space.

Barbara Luderowski talks about the Mattress Factory.

In her lifetime, Luderowski frequently pushed back on the idea of being a visionary; however, she undoubtedly had a clear vision for the Mattress Factory from conception to present day. As a special exhibit for the founder’s birthday, the Mattress Factory replayed a video of Luderowski explaining the museum’s significance to Pittsburgh’s North Side. In the founder’s own words, she described her goal as making “a building that housed creative people of different disciplines” and though many nay-sayers suggested, “Pittsburgh is a rotten city…not for creatives,” she emphasized that “creative people are drawn here based on the energy put out” by the museum.

The Mattress Factory’s most famous exhibit, Yayoi Kusama’s 1996 mirrored room “Repetitive Vision.”

To this day, the Mattress Factory has done just that, touting over 55,000 annual visitors, generating close to one million in earned income, and exhibiting upwards of 500 artists across various disciplines, nationalities, and backgrounds since its founding just shy of 40 years ago. Two of the museum’s most notable exhibiting artists Yayoi Kusama and James Turrell, each have iconic works displayed on the museum’s third and second floors respectively, and are part of the permanent collection. The energy Luderowski first envisioned for this space filled up an abandoned corporate relic and transformed it into an artistic playground that surpassed the interior walls and has extended to annex buildings scattered about the North Side neighborhood, translating this small community into a large community within an even bigger community.

“Catso, Red,” by James Turrell.

Luderowski’s own work as an artist was similarly inspired by the city of Pittsburgh. She once compared her work as a sculptor to the typography of Pittsburgh, referencing how the city “interlocks little pieces that fit together and go on hills” almost like a puzzle. More than likely that same sentiment developed her interlocutory or interdisciplinary approach to the Mattress Factory, which is much less like a formal art gallery with rigid rules and more so a place where visitors are encouraged to break from convention and metaphorically jump on the mattress.


Not to be confused with The Original Mattress Factory, the Mattress Factory, art museum, is located at 509 Jacksonia Street in Pittsburgh’s North Side, and is open Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM and from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM on every Wednesday.