Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Behind the Curtain
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Paul Taylor Dance Company will stage "3 Epitaphs" at Byham Theater on Feb. 23 as part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council's 2018-19 season. Created in 1956, "3 Epitaphs" is the late choreographer's oldest-surviving work in the company's repertoire. (Paul Taylor Dance Company)

A dance pioneer with Pittsburgh roots: When Paul Taylor Dance Company travels to Pittsburgh this week, it will be its first visit since the death of its namesake founder last August. Paul Taylor was born in Wilkinsburg and lived for a while in Edgewood. To honor his prolific and influential career in modern dance, proclamations are to be issued by the City of Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. The repertoire that's planned for the program also has been revamped to include highlights from Mr. Taylor's career, including his oldest-surviving work for the company. Ahead of the performance, the Post-Gazette spoke with the company's new artistic director to learn more about his vision for the future of this 65-year-old dance troupe.

Dancing for a cause: After 46 hours of moving and grooving, Penn State University students raised more than $10 million over the weekend during Thon, its yearly fundraiser for childhood cancer. This year, the event raked in $470,019.83 more than it did in 2018. Since 1977, Thon has raised more than $157 million in partnership with the Four Diamonds Fund, a nonprofit that helps raise awareness and provide support for families impacted by childhood cancer.

Critic's choice: Dance faculty at Point Park University will showcase original works in the "Faculty Dance Concert" Thursday through Sunday at the GRW Performance Studio on Point Park's campus, Downtown. Purchase tickets at pittsburghplayhouse.com.

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Pianist Emanuel Ax performs with violinist Alexi Kenney, Christopher Wu, Tatjana Mead Chamis and cellist Anne Martindale Williams for a PSO360 series performance.  (Edward DeArmitt)

Newsflash: Things are settling down in Boston, where principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe had sued the Boston Symphony Orchestra alleging that her salary was unfairly lower (by nearly $70,000) than her closest peer, a man. She has settled the suit for an undisclosed amount. In Chicago, on the other hand, things are heating up — the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians' union authorized a strike on March 10 if contract negotiations continue to sour. Finally, The New York Times reviewed a contentious musical comedy performance involving pianist Yuja Wang, with the reviewer writing a follow-up piece on whether the performance was racist and sexist or all in comedic good fun.

The scorecard: Last weekend was full, with the PSO pulling double duty in both a 360 concert (the format that seats listeners onstage with performers) with pianist Emanuel Ax and their typical weekend performances. All was well — the intimacy of Thursday's chamber music experience cannot be overstated, and the brass in particular outdid themselves Friday night. As a bonus, I reviewed a performance by the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra and The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.

Critic's choice: Pittsburgh Opera this Saturday premieres "Glory Denied" at the organization's headquarters in the Strip District. According to the release, "Based on a book by Tom Philpott, Glory Denied tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war. The opera deals not only with Thompson’s suffering in the jungle of southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, but also the tragic aftermath that followed his liberation." For tickets and further information, visit pittsburghopera.org.

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Sidney Crosby inspired his Nova Scotia neighbor to write the play "Hockey Messiah." (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Hockey onstage: I couldn't help but notice a play titled "Hockey Messiah" on the Manhattan Theatre Club's prestigious Ted Snowdon Reading Series. The press release described it as: "Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, 2001. Shawn is a 13-year-old hockey prodigy, on a track leading him to the NHL. Viola is the weird girl who lives up the street. When Shawn and Viola collide as teens, they begin an unlikely friendship that follows them throughout their lives. ... A tender comedy about friendship, love, success and hockey." Well, any Penguins fan knows Cole Harbour and hockey must mean Sidney Crosby. I asked the question of an MTC spokesperson, who answered: "Good catch! We’ve learned the following from playwright Kristin Slaney: She did grow up on the same street as Crosby in Cole Harbour, but they don't know each other at all. The characters in the play, Shawn and Viola, are both fictional, but the character of Shawn is very loosely inspired by Crosby's rise to hockey fame and the influence it had (and continues to have) on Cole Harbour."

Casting news: Front Porch Theatricals "Bright Star" (May 17-26), and "Fun Home" (Aug. 16-25) have their casts and creative teams. Drew Leigh Williams and Daniel Krell star as Alison Bechdel and her father, Bruce, in the musical based on Alison's autobiographical graphic novel that won the 2015 best musical Tony. Spencer Whale (Front Porch's "Big Fish") directs. Point Park grad Jerreme Rodriguez, currently a castmate of Ms. Williams in Pittsburgh CLO's "The Double-Threat Trio," and Sarah Quinn Taylor (CLO's "Brigadoon") lead the "Bright Star" cast that includes three-time Gene Kelly Award winner Marnie Quick of Schenley High School. The bluegrass musical, inspired by real events and featuring a Grammy-nominated score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, will be directed by Nicholas B. Mitchell. Both shows are at the New Hazlett Theater. www.frontporchpgh.com for more info.

August Wilson at CAPA: While his own play set in the 19th century was opening at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Mark Clayton Southers was busy elsewhere. The company’s artistic director was at the helm of August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at Pittsburgh CAPA this past weekend, which was “a milestone in my theatrical career,” Southers announced on Facebook. “Although it’s a high school production, I’ve just completed directing August Wilson’s epic American Century Cycle!” 

Critic's choice: Catch these bold, artful Pittsburgh premieres:   "An Octoroon" ties America today to the eve if the Civil War  (Kinetic Theatre at the New Hazlett, North Side, through Feb. 24), while in Braddock, an Elvis impersonator discovers his inner drag queen in "The Legend of Georgia McBride" (barebones blackbox through March 9).