Pittsburgh Theater Isn’t Just For Fancy Folks, It’s For Yinz

Pittsburgh Theater

Coming up in local Theater (and Theatre) this winter and spring are the following shows. I’m looking forward to something on each schedule.

It was 11 years ago that I began intentionally reviewing, mostly the arts but some other occasional ventures. I don’t profess to be an expert on any of these things. But I do write from my heart and my lived experiences. And from my expectation. I anticipated recycling, decent parking, and accessibility, for example.

One experience I did not have during my growing up years was live theater. I did see a dinner theater version of Guys and Dolls in the early 80s and found it thrilling. But we never actually attended any performance. I don’t think that’s atypical for kids in my generation and economic class.

In fact, I did not attend the theater until 2004 when my friend Jim Fischerkeller invited me to see a one-woman show at City Theatre. I didn’t go again until 2006 to see I Am My Own Wife at the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

I did not have a lot of funds and carried the perception that live theater was for affluent folks. That would hold true for years, until 2013. I don’t know why, but my wife and I attended a performance at Carnegie Stage and I was enthralled. Slowly, we visited other theaters in the area – Pittsburgh Public Theater, City Theatre, PICT Theater, New Hazlett Theater, even Heinz Hall. Of course, there are more. And I write reviews I would like to read, to address issues of accessibility, parking, crowd control, and so forth in addition to the usual theater things.

I don’t know much about the usual theater things so I’ve interviewed some folks from behind the scenes and on-stage.

People can be snobs. I’ve been criticized for my clothes, had giant furs flung in my face by people sitting near me, and listened to someone drone on and on about the Chekhovian elements fused with the underlying surrealism of the narrative. I’ve been denied entry by docents because my perfectly legal water is secured in the cup from another theater. I’ve definitely been shoved – a lot – near elevators, refreshment tables, and the bathroom. I’ve had actors unintentionally spit on me and been triggered by storylines. And I’ve been thoroughly confused by a show.

My wishes for better productions are all focused on accessibility

  • More accessible stairways, elevators, program guides, and seating.
  • Add a Theater 101 to the program for newbies who don’t realize if they leave their seat during a performance, they may not be able to return. A few simple bullet points.
  • Create a section where people who use digital devices as assistive devices can sit with sound off and the screen dimmed can enjoy the show in peace while people who find any screen lighting distracting.
  • Make accessible the information about accessibility. Access to water, gender neutral bathrooms, a low stimulus or sensory friendly room where anyone can go to process responses to these big important stories unfolding in front of them.
  • Trigger Warnings. Content Notes. Whatever you want to call them. The dramatic twist of an unexpected reveal does not offset the real pain and hurt someone may experience. It may sever their connection to the arts. That’s not good. It doesn’t have to reveal plot points. If you write “sensitive content” or “some themes may be adult” or other phrases I’m sure exist somewhere, people like me will be prepared. Personally, I read all the spoilers I can find so my apprehension doesn’t diminish the experience. But all of us with trauma know how to protect ourselves if we are just given the right information.

Most of all, I want to assure you that the theater doesn’t require fancy clothes, familiarity with Shakespeare, or know any stage lingo. It simply requires you to be human, to open yourself to the vast width of human experience. And what you take away doesn’t need theater language to express. You can use everyday words.

Tell us about your local live theater performances.

City Theatre

SOUTH SIDE STORIES REVISITED January 11-February 8, 2024

FAT HAM March 2-March 24, 2024

Pittsburgh Public Theatre

Dragon Lady Wed, Feb 7 – Sun, Feb 25, 2024

The Importance of Being Earnest Wed, Mar 27 – Sun, Apr 14, 2024

New Hazlett Theater

Teaira Whitehead – February 15 – 16, 2024

And Then They Came for Me -March 1 – 10, 2024

Carnegie Stage

Three Sisters – January 12 – 21, 2024

Jesus Christ Superstar – January 11-21, 2024

Gutenberg! The Musical! – January 10 – 21, 2024

Pittsburgh Playhouse

Rent – March 13 – 17, 2024

The Winter’s Tale – April 10 – 14, 2024

Quantum Theater

Scenes from an Execution – April 5 – 27, 2024


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