Category: 2017-2018 Season

Review: Nomad Motel

May 25th, 2018

Pittsburgh in the Round | By Eva Phillips
May 25, 2018

Nomad Motel is an engrossing story that deftly balances the intensely personal resentments and sorrows experienced within families and the far less accessible difficulties and hardships experienced by those in situations of nomadic living.”

<Read the full review at Pittsburgh in the Round>

Announcing City Theatre’s Next Artistic Director

May 24th, 2018

New Play Pioneer
Named City Theatre Artistic Director

Nationally recognized arts leader and director
returns to Pittsburgh’s home for new plays

Pittsburgh, PA. (May 24, 2018) Under the leadership of Board President Beth Newbold and Managing Director James McNeel, the City Theatre Board of Directors has concluded an extensive national search, naming Marc Masterson the new Artistic Director of the region’s largest theater dedicated solely to new plays. Masterson brings decades of experience and an award-winning national presence as a champion of new works, having served as the artistic director of South Coast Repertory Theatre (2011-2018) and Actors Theatre of Louisville, home of the internationally acclaimed Humana Festival of New American Plays (2000-2011), two of the most distinguished arts institutions in the nation. He was City Theatre’s producing artistic director from 1981-2000.

Masterson’s field-wide contributions to the contemporary theater landscape reflect City Theatre’s core values: his body of work exemplifies a career-long commitment to diverse programming, robust community engagement and education initiatives, and gender parity across production teams. He will begin his new role at City Theatre on July 1, 2018.

“For decades City Theatre has built a reputation as one of the finest mid-sized theatres in America. I love the audiences in Pittsburgh, the friends and colleagues I have there, as well as the strong sense of community in the city itself,” said Masterson. “I couldn’t be more thrilled about the future.

“Coming into a season that has already been planned by the excellent City Theatre staff, my first task will be to get to know the current organization, the changes that have occurred in Pittsburgh since I left, and to work with James McNeel and the Board on planning for the future. We will continue to build on City’s engagement in the community, working with local artists as well as some of the finest theatre-makers in the country for a vibrantly diverse repertoire,” he concluded.

“Marc has an exemplary track record of artistic excellence, fundraising, community engagement and commitment to new plays,” said City Theatre Board President, Beth Newbold. “We are fortunate that he has chosen to bring his experience and expertise to City Theatre, to lead our organization into a new era. On behalf of the board, I am very excited to welcome Marc to the team, and cannot wait to see the work that emerges from the company with James and him at the helm. It will propel us forward to increased local and national recognition as a leader in new play development.”

“The appointment of Marc Masterson at City Theatre is tremendous news for the arts and for the city as a whole. It’s partly a homecoming to celebrate: during Marc’s first stint at City, he was an artistic force—not only a champion of the theatre, but an important leader in our cultural community,” said Janet Sarbaugh, Vice President, Creativity Programs, The Heinz Endowments. “But this is more than a homecoming; given the breadth of Marc’s career since Pittsburgh, his national profile, and his knowledge of American theatre, we are lucky indeed to have attracted him back to Pittsburgh.”

“I think City Theatre has made an inspired choice to have Marc back to the organization. He has consistently been an adventurous artistic leader, programming successful seasons at some of our nation’s most high profile theatres; seasons that have been truly diverse and exciting in the rich array of artists represented in making groundbreaking, important work,” said Michael John Garcés, Artistic Director of LA’s Cornerstone Theater Company and Vice President of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).

“When I say diverse, I mean it in every sense of the word: aesthetically diverse work that challenges audiences to see a wide range of plays that bridge disciplines and subvert expectations, and that represents the work of all Americans, reflecting the true richness of our nation,” continued Garcés. “And he’s a terrific artist himself, willing to take real risks, and succeeding in those risks far more often than not.  I count him as a mentor and a friend, and look forward to seeing what City does in this new chapter!”

As artistic director at South Coast Repertory, Masterson has produced dozens of world premieres, including A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, Mr. Wolf by Rajiv Joseph, and Office Hour by Julia Cho. As artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, he produced the world premieres of Elemeno Pea by Molly Smith Metzler, Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, and Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo, and many others. Masterson has developed hundreds of new works, many of which have transferred to some of the leading theatres in the country, including the Public Theater (New York), Manhattan Theatre Club, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and The Goodman, as well as Off-Broadway and Broadway. Recent directing credits include Shakespeare in Love, All the Way, Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Zealot, Death of a Salesman, Eurydice, and Elemeno Pea at South Coast Rep; Hand to God at the Alliance Theatre; Byhalia, Mississippi by Evan Linder at the Contemporary American Theater Festival; As You Like It for the Houston Shakespeare Festival; and The Kite Runner at Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Cleveland Play House.

Marc’s community-focused new play development initiatives include the creation of the DIALOGUE/DIÁLOGOS project at South Coast Rep, a two-year bilingual theatre project to gather and tell the stories of the Santa Ana Latino community, as well as the ongoing CrossRoads Commissioning Project, which brings playwrights to Orange County to engage with the area’s diverse communities through exploratory residencies. City Theatre’s current world premiere production of Nomad Motel by Carla Ching was originally a CrossRoads Commission issued by Masterson.

In 2017, Masterson was honored with the 2017 Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theater Outstanding Leadership Award, for his commitment to creating a programming stream that reflected the diverse populations of Southern California.

He served as producing artistic director of City Theatre in Pittsburgh for 20 years and was co-founder of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance (now known as the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, or GPAC).

City Theatre’s search for a new artistic director was conducted over six months, with a seven member committee comprised of board members, community leaders, McNeel, and led by Newbold. Stephen Richard of Management Consultants for the Arts provided counsel.

Now completing its 43rd season, City Theatre is Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays. Located in the historic South Side, the company produces a season of regional and world premieres, including, this year, Citizens Market by Cori Thomas and an NNPN rolling World Premiere Nomad Motel by Carla Ching. City Theatre’s mission is to provide an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays of substance and ideas that engage and challenge a diverse audience. Operating with an annual budget of $2.8 million, City is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Groups (TCG) and the League of Resident Theatres (LORT).

The 2018-19 season was curated by Artistic Producer Reginald L. Douglas and Director of New Play Development Clare Drobot. It begins on September 8, 2018 with The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson.


‘Nomad Motel’ explores family, inclusion and understanding

May 23rd, 2018

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | By Christopher Rawson
May 22, 2018

“What feels freshest is the skillful way the play reveals itself. […] Katie Lynn Esswein… ably combines vulnerable and tough. Christopher Larkin is luminous.”

<Read the full review at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette>

Advocate’s Experience As A Homeless Child Partly Inspires Play At City Theatre

May 22nd, 2018

90.5 WESA | By Bill O’Driscoll
May 22, 2018

One character, a teen-aged girl named Alix, was inspired by a real person Ching interviewed: Jennifer Friend. Back in the 1980s, Friend and her three siblings grew up with both parents. But her father, a tech entrepreneur, and her mother, a pre-school teacher, lived in financially precarious circumstances. Often, a rent-by-the-week motel was the best they could do. Sometimes, the family simply slept at friends’ houses until other arrangements could be made.

<Read the full article at 90.5 WESA>

CitySpeaks: A Nomadic Journey

May 16th, 2018

By Spencer Whale, Directing & Producing Fellow

The path of a new play from conception to production, page to stage, is a long and winding one. As a producer of new plays, City Theatre provides a home for these works, and for the artists who journey with them. Many of those currently collaborating on City’s current production, Nomad Motel, have been on the road with the play for four long years, pouring themselves into what is now a deeply personal piece for all involved.

As the assistant director of our production and one of the newest team members, I’ve striven to learn as much as I can about its uniquely collaborative development process, and how each artist involved has left their mark on the piece.

Spencer Whale Nomad Motel City Theatre

Spencer Whale, directing & producing fellow at City Theatre, assistant directed the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of NOMAD MOTEL.

When Carla Ching set out to write a play about a Motel Kid and a Parachute Kid searching for home in the shadow of Disneyland, she drew not only on personal experiences of people she knew, but also from actors she envisioned in the roles. In particular, she tailored the lead role of Mason, a high school student from Hong Kong living alone in the US, to the unique talents of actor Christopher Larkin.

Chris, who has been with the play since its inception, was last seen at City in 2015’s Oblivion. He is an accomplished musician who performs under the name Carry Hatchet, and Carla wrote Mason’s musical aspirations with Chris in mind, making live performance with a loop pedal a vital element of the play.

Pittsburgh audiences will be treated to some of Chris’ original compositions performed live onstage, crafted in collaboration with sound designer and original music composer Florian Staab, who has been with the team since a 2015 O’Neill Playwrights Conference workshop.

The company of NOMAD MOTEL’s O’Neill Playwrights Conference Workshop.

Leading the room in remarkable symbiosis with Carla is director Bart DeLorenzo, who has also been collaborating with her since the first partial drafts of Nomad. The two met in 2013 when Marc Masterson of South Coast Rep paired them up for the premiere of Carla’s play Fast Company.

Though Carla refers to it as “the shotgun wedding” because of how quickly they entered production together, it turned out to be  artistic matchmaking at its best. As Bart puts it, “We have just always agreed. On pretty much everything.” Whereas all instruction to the cast is traditionally filtered through the director, Bart is more than happy to step aside as middleman and let Carla communicate her thoughts directly as they develop their collaborative vision for the play.

For her part, Carla feels a sense of relief knowing that Bart will be on a project, “because I know that he’s going to hold it and protect it and that he’s got it. And I can relax and he always makes everything better.” Also in that production of Fast Company was Nelson Lee, who plays Mason’s father James in Nomad Motel and has worked with Carla on three of her plays.

When an early rewrite eliminated a character from the play (English Lit teacher Mr. Edgerton, whose offstage influence is still felt throughout), Carla replaced him with Oscar, a street-wise dreamer held back by the foster system. Bart suggested casting Shahine Ezell, whom he had directed once while Shahine was an undergraduate at CalArts.

Nelson and Carla connected during South Coast Repertory’s 2013 world premiere production of FAST COMPANY by Carla Ching. From left to right: Emily Kuroda, Jackie Chung, Lawrence Kao, and Nelson Lee. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.


Shahine hadn’t performed onstage in over a decade, but Carla found that he had a “particular affinity” for her language, explaining, “You’re really lucky when you find an actor that just understands your words from the inside and lifts them off the page so they sound better in the air.” She says he embodies Oscar so well that it helps her to better understand the character.

Shahine gets excited thinking about their multi-year collaboration, remembering, “To see Carla take super small things… I would just tell her stories about my life and things that I’ve gone through and things that were personal to me and she just took it and made this super well-rounded character that has gone through so much but didn’t let it break him down.”

This production also comes with a whole slew of Pittsburgh-based artists that Bart calls the “missing piece” of the play. Rounding out the cast are Katie Lynn Esswein of the North Hills as Alix, a Motel Kid who dreams of designing spaces that feel like home, and her flailing but determined mother played by Lisa Velten Smith, last seen on City’s stage as Margery in Hand to God.

A handful of actresses had read Alix over the years, but when it came time to cast the tricky, crucial role, Bart says Katie “woke Carla and I up. She kind of just came in and took the role. We just sort of knew she was the right one.” Carla responded to the spunk and toughness she brings to the role, elaborating that “it really changes the part because the way that Katie plays it, she’s never a victim, and so that changes the play.”

Nomad Motel City Theatre 3 1

Lisa Velten Smith (Fiona) and Katie Lynn Esswein (Alix) in City Theatre’s production of NOMAD MOTEL.


As for Lisa, Carla admired her performance alongside Chris in Oblivion, and calls her a “ferocious and intelligent actor,” both “emotionally available and attuned.”

Featuring the design talents of local favorites Gianni Downs (Scenic), Robert C.T. Steele (Costume), and Andrew David Ostrowski (Lighting), our production also marks the first time Nomad will be brought into full, three-dimensional life. Excitement abounds at the chance to finally share a production with audiences, and the construction of Gianni’s ambitious set has made that reality all the more immediate.

With a new play, there is no precedent on how to bring the script to physical life, and Bart admitted that he and Carla “didn’t know how to do the play” before this production. With its many shifting locations and simultaneous action, the script presents unique challenges, but over the course of the long design process, the shape of the set “grew organically in Gianni’s mind.”

The final design allows three spaces to exist simultaneously, with plenty of tricks and theatre magic used to transform each location from scene to scene. On the accomplishment of the design, Bart muses, “I think he’s solved it sort of iconically, so that I don’t know future productions will be able to do it differently.”

Reflecting on what all this means to her and to the Nomad family, Carla explained that, “We’ve music stand-ed this in readings across the country for so many years and literally we couldn’t go any further with it; it would have gone in a desk drawer had City not decided to produce it.”

The play has found a home, but Pittsburgh is not the end of the road: City Theatre was instrumental in securing Nomad Motel as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, which guarantees that the play will have at least two more productions over the next year at Unicorn Theatre (Missouri) and Horizon Theater (Georgia), providing Carla further opportunity to refine the text and to invite new artists and audiences into its world. I, for one, cannot wait to follow its journey.

Nomad Motel runs at City Theatre now through June 3rd. Tickets are available here!

Stage preview: ‘Nomad Motel’ debuts at City Theatre before moving on

May 10th, 2018

Pittsburgh Post Gazette | By Sharon Eberson
May 10, 2018

“She’s so tough, but she’s still a kid dealing with really adult problems. She’s trying to literally survive each day — making sure she has enough food to eat, that she has a place to sleep at night. But also, she’s a dreamer, and she wants something larger for herself and create a life that is more than just day-to-day.” -Katie Lynn Esswein

<Read the full article at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette>

Q&A: ‘Nomad Motel’ Playwright Carla Ching on Creating Responsible, Thoughtful, and Human Art

May 9th, 2018

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents | By Sue Kerr
May 8, 2018

“We need to address as a nation… how we help young people who have a shattered or unhealthy home situation. Where do we lend support? How do we help them find a new home, traditional or not.” -Carla Ching

<Read the full article at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents>

Don’t miss Carla Ching’s Nomad Motel at City Theatre Company

May 9th, 2018

NEXTpittsburgh | By Jennifer Baron
May 8, 2018

“Directed by LA-based artist Bart DeLorenzo, “Nomad Motel” depicts a “family consumed by California’s crippling housing crisis and the life of a ‘parachute kid,’ sent to live alone in America while his father remains in Hong Kong.” Featuring live music, the coming-of-age tale explores concepts of family, survival and home, while chronicling the lives of two determined teenagers.”

<See the full article at NEXTpittsburgh>

City Theatre closes 2017-18 season with NOMAD MOTEL By Carla Ching

April 27th, 2018

City Theatre closes 2017-18 season with
By Carla Ching
May 12 – June 3, 2018

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

Pittsburgh, PA (April 26, 2018). City Theatre is thrilled to announce the details of the final production of the 2017-18 season: Nomad Motel by Carla Ching. Originally commissioned as part of South Coast Repertory Theatre’s CrossRoads initiative (Marc Masterson, Artistic Director) the play explores a family consumed by California’s crippling housing crisis and the life of a “parachute kid,” sent to live alone in America while his father remains in Hong Kong. It is directed by LA-based artist Bart DeLorenzo, and will run on the City Theatre Main Stage, May 12-June 3, 2018. Tickets are on sale now.

Nomad Motel – a 2017 Kilroys List play – is the first work by playwright Carla Ching to be produced in Pittsburgh. It also marks a new play development milestone for City Theatre: Nomad Motel is produced at City Theatre as part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere; other partnering theaters include Horizon Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, and Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. Learn more about the Rolling World Premiere program at

“Carla and I have been involved with this project – with many of these artists – for 3 or 4 years now. It grew out of this special initiative to explore real stories from people who live in Orange County – people whose stories typically aren’t told. And among all those projects, Carla found a unique way to examine home and family in this very strange time that we’re living in,” said director Bart DeLorenzo to the staff and production team at first rehearsal. “I think there is a lot that is transforming in this country, and this play really examines the way that families are changing and transforming. I like to think of what Alix says in the play when she’s asked ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ She says, ‘You flail. And then you figure it out.’”

City Theatre is continuing its season-long City Connects partnership with Allies for Health + Wellbeing. Patrons may drop off donations of Port Authority Connect Cards and non-perishable items for Allies’ food pantries. Allies for Health + Wellbeing envisions a healthier community whereby all individuals can access integrated medical care and supportive human services in a respectful setting, free of stigma and discrimination. The final City Connects Happy Hour of the season will highlight the partnership on Wednesday, May 16 at 5:30 PM in the Gordon Lounge.

Additionally, in an effort to better serve our community and to eliminate economic barriers to entry, City is opening up the Pay What You Want model beyond walk up sales at a single performance. With Nomad Motel, City is introducing Pick Your Price Previews: tickets may be purchased online, starting at just $5 (plus fees) to all performances May 12-17. See details at May not be combined with discounts.

Momentum Festival: New Plays at Different Stages will take place over the closing weekend of Nomad Motel, and includes readings and behind the scenes looks at the play development process. Meet the 2018 Momentum artists on Friday, June 1 at a happy hour from 5:00-7:00 PM. Full schedule and program line-up to be announced.

About Nomad Motel:
The not-so-sunny side of California is nothing new to Alix: she’s bouncing between motel rooms taking care of her twin brothers for her mostly MIA mother. Her classmate Mason is a budding songwriter trying to keep off the radar of his absent father’s Hong Kong mafia friends. Together, the savvy teens must learn to scrape by without giving up their dreams. This NNPN Rolling World Premiere play by newcomer Carla Ching (Fear the Walking Dead, I Love Dick) is a coming-of-age tale about making something out of nothing in the land of plenty.

Nomad Motel is directed by Bart DeLorenzo. The cast includes Katie Lynn Esswein (EQT Young Playwrights Festival, 2016), Shahine Ezell, Christopher Larkin (The CW’s The 100; Oblivion, City Theatre: 2015), Nelson Lee (Maple and Vine, City Theatre: 2012), and Lisa Velten Smith (Hand to God, City Theatre: 2016; Oblivion, City Theatre: 2015). The production team includes Gianni Downs (scenic design), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting design), Robert C.T. Steele (costume design), M. Florian Staab (original compositions and sound design), Clare Drobot (dramaturg), Randy Kovitz (fight choreographer), and Patti Kelly is Production Stage Manager.

About Carla Ching: An L.A. native, Carla stumbled upon the pan-Asian performance collective Peeling at the Asian American Writers Workshop and wrote and performed with them for three years, which she still considers her first theater training. Her plays include Nomad Motel (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere also at Unicorn Theatre and Horizon Theatre; O’Neill Playwrights Conference, National New Play Network Showcase of New Plays), Fast Company (South Coast Rep, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lyric Stage, and Pork Filled Productions; winner of the Edgerton New American Play Award), The Two Kids That Blow Shit Up (Artists at Play and Mu Performing Arts), TBA (2g), and The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness (Ma-Yi Theater Company). She’s an alumna of The Women’s Project Lab, the Lark Play Development Center’s Writers Workshop, and Meeting of the Minds, the CTG Writers’ Workshop, and the Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Former Artistic Director of Asian American Theater Company, 2g. TBA is published in Out of Time and Place. Fast Company is published by Samuel French. She will be working on her Toulmin Commission for The Atlantic Theater Company at Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor this summer. BA, Vassar College. MFA, New School for Drama.


May 12 – June 3, 2018
Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and/or 7:00 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 1:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and/or 9:00 p.m.
Sundays at 2:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.
For a complete listing of show times, please visit or call 412-431-2489.

Friday, May 18, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.


Pick Your Price Previews Performances May 12 – 17, 2018
Tickets starting at just $5 online, plus fees; purchase tickets in advance at Subject to availability.

City Connects Happy Hour Wednesday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m.
Featured partner: Allies for Health + Wellbeing. Meet the season-long City Connects partners and learn how to get involved in your community. Drink specials in the Gordon Lounge; food trucks at 13th & Bingham.

Post-Show Talkbacks Sunday, May 20 & 27, following the 2:00 p.m. performances
Hosted by Director of New Play Development Clare Drobot, this talkback discussion will feature the cast in conversation about the play’s themes.

Greenroom: Art & Afterparty Friday, May 25 at 8:00 p.m.
Join the cast and artistic team for a party in the Gordon Lounge following the performance. Complimentary house wine, Penn Brewery beer, and light snacks by Mallorca Restaurant will be provided. Tickets are just $30 for the evening with promocode GREENROOM.

Pay-What-You-Want Saturday, May 26 at 1:00 p.m.
A block of tickets is reserved for audience members to name their own price at this performance. Walk up sales only, beginning two hours before curtain. Call the box office to check on availability.

Momentum Happy Hour Friday, June 1 from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Meet the 2018 Momentum Artists and help kick off our annual new works festival during closing weekend of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of Nomad Motel. Free and open to the public.

ASL Interpretation Tuesday, May 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Open Caption & Audio Description Sunday, June 3 at 2:00 p.m.

412.431.CITY (2489) or
Tickets start at $38

Under 30: Reserve $15 tickets in advance for performances except Opening Night and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.; rush tickets may be available at those performances. Must present ID to receive Under 30 pricing.
Seniors age 62 and older: $24 rush tickets may be purchased at the box office beginning two hours before curtain, based on availability.
Groups of ten or more: Contact Joel Ambrose at 412.431.4400 x286.

1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)
Port Authority bus routes: 48, 51, 54, 81, 83

Patron parking is available in the lot across from the City Theatre entrances for $8, subject to availability.

City Theatre is Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays. Located in the historic South Side, the company produces a season of regional and world premieres, including Citizens Market by Cori Thomas and an NNPN rolling World Premiere Nomad Motel by Carla Ching. City Theatre’s mission is to provide an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays of substance and ideas that engage and challenge a diverse audience.


Review: THE WHITE CHIP, City Theatre

April 21st, 2018

Burgh Vivant | By Lonnie The Theatre Lady
April 21, 2018

“It would be fun to see even more than once.” Lonnie The Theatre Lady is mending a broken hand and medicating with champagne – but it hasn’t stopped her from getting out and seeing some of the finest theatrical performances Pittsburgh has to offer.

<See the full review at Burgh Vivant>