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City Speaks: Working with a Cultural Consultant on We Are Among Us

May 7th, 2019

City Speaks: Working with a Cultural Consultant on We Are Among Us

By Kristina Bylancik, Literary Intern

Stephen Belber’s new play We Are Among Us, beginning performances at City Theatre on May 11th, follows Laura, a military contractor working to reestablish herself after her time in Afghanistan. Investigative journalist Shar challenges this when she arrives, dredging up buried stories from Laura’s time overseas. In doing so, Shar drags Afghan immigrant Khadija into the mix while trying to confirm her suspicions of what really may have happened to Khadija’s father when he was brought in for questioning by the U.S. military.

By investigating what can happen in a warzone and Khadija’s experiences in America, this play brings with it the chance to also examine Afghan cultural intricacies that a Pittsburgh audience might not be immediately familiar with. In order to ensure that these were handled carefully and that the play itself was representing Afghanistan and Khadija’s experience accurately, We Are Among Us brought on a cultural consultant for the duration of the development and rehearsal process. City Theatre reached out to Literacy Pittsburgh through the City Connects Initiative to find someone who could fill this role. Through Literary Pittsburgh, City was put in touch with the Pittsburgh branch of No One Left Behind, an organization that helps Afghan and Iraqi combat allies resettle safely in the United States. Through this, City was connected with Noorulhaq Fazly. Noorulhaq was born and raised in Herat, Afghanistan. He earned a law degree from Herat University and worked for several years with the United States government, focusing on human rights. He moved to Pittsburgh with his family in 2016 and has since been working on a degree in Computer Science.

Noorulhaq’s work on the production began several months ago when he was invited to a workshop of the play hosted at City in December. There, he provided preliminary feedback and commented on the script as it currently stood. Following this, he shared notes with director of New Play Development Clare Drobot, director Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and playwright Stephen Belber. These notes included any cultural issues that Noorulhaq had identified within the script or other inaccuracies he noticed. Noorulhaq also spoke with Costume Designer Sarita Fellows about her design decisions. This began a collaborative, open relationship in which Noorulhaq was regularly invited to provide his feedback on how Afghanistan and the Afghan people were being represented in the play.

Since those initial meetings, Noorulhaq has been in the rehearsal room frequently, particularly whenever Stephen has new pages relevant to Noorulhaq’s personal expertise. When questions arise, the room often turns to Noorulhaq to have him explain how a situation would play out in Afghanistan. These questions often revolve around interpersonal relationships within an Afghan family or between an individual and the world around them. One area in particular that Noorulhaq has been especially helpful with is in explaining how Khadija and her neighbors would view the Taliban activity in their village and how that might impact their relationship with American forces. Noorulhaq’s illumination of this area led playwright Stephen Belber to make an adjustment to the script that now gives the audience a more accurate representation of the world that Khadija, and other Afghan people, come from.

Noorulhaq had not served as a cultural consultant for a production before this, but it is clear to him and everyone in the room that his perspective and advice are truly indispensable. Having someone from the specific region depicted in the play allowed the production team to more deeply explore, and more accurately portray, the characters and their lived experiences. Without this, the production team would be left to do research on their own, and this often depends on unreliable sources. I had the chance to speak with Noorulhaq and he shared why he feels the role of a cultural consultant is so essential, “I think that that’s the key, to have somebody from that region… otherwise, you are depending on online research and online media and Youtube that are not really realistic. They do not show the true culture. The most important thing is, if you have somebody from that region, it helps a lot avoid any cultural mistakes that may be exposed.” These “cultural mistakes” can be things like how a character feels, how they are behaving or speaking, and general information about how this world functions.

This play shows an important, new perspective on the Afghan experience during the war and it is important not only for the Pittsburgh community, but all United States communities to hear. In our interview, Noorulhaq highlighted the prevalence of Afghanistan’s presence in the U.S. media cycle: “Afghanistan, in 2001, appeared every day on the magazine headlines in the United States. If it wasn’t every day, it was every other day, and people talking, and some people have a misunderstanding about the situation. They think that the Afghans were having the Taliban or bad guys continue the war.” This dangerous misunderstanding has led to “a reduction of the people and the country.” It was not until later, as Noorulhaq explained, that people came to understand that the Afghan people were not responsible for the actions of the Taliban, but rather that they too were victims of Taliban attacks, a story that We Are Among Us helps to tell.

Noorulhaq hopes that this production will open up more honest conversations about the reality that many Afghan civilians faced during the war and the struggles they continue to face as refugees in the United States, “As much as [Americans] know about the cultural features, you know, Americans know about Afghan culture, people, and their tradition, that helps the Afghan community to adjust better, to make friends, to live peacefully, to not be afraid of each other.” Although this play only focuses on the life of one woman in Afghanistan and her immigration to the United States, it gives the audience the chance to identify with the Afghan civilian and immigrant experience. We Are Among Us shows us that we need to reach out and communicate with one another so that we can better understand each other’s stories and experiences. It gives us an opportunity to look beyond the harmful stereotypes perpetuated often by the United States media and better understand the human experience and the true toll of conflict.

No One Left Behind Pittsburgh:

An Evening Out at City Theatre

February 15th, 2019

Two members of our partner organization Strong Women, Strong Girls attended our performance of WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS? last weekend. They describe their evening out together below. 

Last Thursday, as a professional woman and college mentor pair, we had the opportunity to attend the first ever SWSG Evening Out to have dinner together and view City Theatre’s showing of the play Where Did We Sit on The Bus? As soon as we heard about the event, we knew we had to apply. Three of our favorite things are art, good local food, and mentoring. We couldn’t think of a better combination than the SWSG Evening Out! We were so excited when we found out we were selected, and were anticipating our night together for weeks.

We knew going into the evening that we share a lot of common interests, as Pat is a Duquesne pharmacy professor and Maggie is a Duquesne Speech-Language Pathology student. We share a passion for helping others through healthcare, and found out that we have much more in common during our evening out together. Before the show, we had a truly phenomenal meal at Café du Jour, just a couple blocks away from the beautiful City Theatre. We both love local restaurants, and are adventurous eaters. This gorgeous hole-in-the-wall French eatery was perfect for our pre-show dining. As we made our way through a cauliflower appetizer, pork loin and short rib, we discussed everything from our favorite dog breeds, trips to the theater, and our journeys as strong, self-sufficient women. We watched the chefs prepare everything from scratch right in front of us, and the owner even came over to greet us and take this photo of us as we shared a slice of warm pecan pie.

When we arrived at the City Theater, we were greeted warmly by Joel Ambrose, City Theatre’s director of patron services, who welcomed us as guests of Strong Women, Strong Girls. We were struck by the cozy, community-like environment of the theater. It seemed very modern and progressive, but with a rich history. And we love any theatre with a built-in snack bar! We were both surprised that we had never been to City Theater before, considering how close it is to Duquesne, and how much we both love going to shows. We were ushered into a traditional black-box theater- one of the best ways to watch a show. Black-box shows are so intimate, and because the actors play to all sides of the theater, it creates a very three-dimensional and high energy experience.

And high energy it was! Brian Quijada is the mastermind and only actor behind his hip-hop autobiography, Where Did We Sit on the Bus? He thoroughly amazed and entertained us for the entire show. Quijada’s performance was the epitome of a one-man show. He effortlessly recorded his own acapella backing tracks live, right in front of our eyes. With no set other than a chair and his mixing board, Quijada filled up the entire theatre with his story, his voice, and his music. He told his own personal narrative of growing up Latino in a black-and-white America. His powerful story combined with his multi-faceted talent made for a thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable evening. Quijada’s story brings up an important point about the identity questions children of minority racial and ethnic groups face when growing up. It connects perfectly to how we should approach diversity in the mentoring space. It reminded us to consider that our elementary school girls are still forming a cultural identity of their own, and how important it is to provide them with role models from many different backgrounds. We loved having an evening out together to learn more about each other, visit two beautiful local establishments, and reflect on an America full of strong identities and strong women.

City Theatre presents WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS? Written and Performed by Brian Quijada

December 17th, 2018

City Theatre presents  WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?

Written and Performed by Brian Quijada

January 19 – February 24, 2019

“An explosion of energy, comic verve, playful sexiness, raw emotion and irresistible storytelling.”

-Chicago Sun Times

Pittsburgh, PA (December 10, 2018) –  City Theatre is thrilled to announce the details of the third show of the season: Where Did We Sit on the Bus? written and performed by Brian Quijada. Where Did We Sit on the Bus? stages a hip-hop autobiography about growing up Latinx in a world that categorizes everyone in black and white. It is directed by Chay Yew, Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater, in Chicago, and will run in the City Theatre Lester Hamburg Studio Theatre, January 19 – February 24, 2019. Tickets are on sale now.

Where Did We Sit on the Bus? was originally produced at Teatro Vista/Victory Gardens in Chicago, directed by Mr. Yew. The Off-Broadway run at Ensemble Studio Theatre was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards in 2017.

“Where Did We Sit on the Bus? encapsulates our 2018/19 season theme of ‘your world, our stage’,” says Director of New Play Development, Clare Drobot. “We’re thrilled to bring Brian Quijada and Chay Yew to Pittsburgh with a production that’s both timely and immensely engaging.  It’s a joy to watch Brian’s story unfold and see the magic of what one performer and a laptop can do. In addition to featuring a tour de force performance, the play’s themes of family, heritage, and an artist finding his voice will deeply resonate with our community.”

In a continued effort to better serve the community, City is continuing Pick-Your-Price-Previews: tickets start at just $5 (plus fees) to all performances January 19- 24. See details at This offer may not be combined with discounts.

About Where Did We Sit on the Bus?:
With pulsing rhythms and original rhymes set to a live, looped soundtrack, Brian Quijada stages a hip-hop autobiography about falling in love with performance, the power of family, and growing up Latinx in a world that categorizes everyone in black and white.

Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is directed by Chay Yew. The cast includes Brian Quijada. The production team includes Chay Yew (scenic design), Diane D. Fairchild (lighting design), Brian Quijada (sound design/composer), Liviu Pasare (projection design), and Taylor Meszaros is Stage Manager.


January 19 – February 24, 2019

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, January 25, 2019 – 8pm


Pick-Your-Price-Previews Performances January 19 – 24
Tickets starting at just $5 online, plus fees; purchase tickets in advance at, by calling 412-431-2489, or in-person at the box office. Subject to availability.

Greenroom: Art & Afterparty Friday, February 1 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 will be provided. Tickets are $30 for the evening with promocode GREENROOM.

Pay-What-You-Want Saturday, February 2 at 1:00 p.m.
A block of tickets is reserved for audience members to name their own price at this performance.

ASL Interpretation Tuesday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m.
Open Caption & Audio Description Sunday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m.

412.431.CITY (2489) or
Tickets start at $29

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 $9, subject to availability.


Founded in 1975, City Theatre is in its 44th season as Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays. Located in the historic South Side on its four-building cultural campus, the company produces a season of regional and world premieres, including the upcoming The Burdens by Matt Schatz and We Are Among Us by Stephen Belber; its renowned Young Playwrights Festival; a season-long reading series of new works in progress; and the annual Momentum Festival. 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. With an annual average operating budget of $2.75 million, City is the largest performing arts organization not located in Pittsburgh’s downtown Cultural District and is a constituent and core member of the League of Resident Theaters (LORT), Theatre Communications Group (TCG), and the National New Play Network (NNPN). Marc Masterson returned as Artistic Director in July, after a 18 year absence, to join Managing Director James McNeel as co-leaders of the organization.


Timeline of Female Revolutionaries

September 25th, 2018

by Emma McIntosh, Literary Intern


Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists dramatizes the political experiences of four forward-thinking and incredibly influential women from the French Revolution. Although their stories took place centuries ago, there is something in the narratives of these female revolutionaries that continues to resonate from generation to generation. This is especially true today in the face of the #MeToo movement and the consistent increases in the number of women in high-ranking positions year after year. It is critical to take the time to consider the women who came before us, who in many ways built the foundation for women to be able to take charge. There have been female revolutionaries of all ages, all ethnicities, all races, and all religions, and they each fought for what they believed in their own ways.

Therefore, let’s not limit ourselves to thinking that Marie, Olympe, Charlotte, and Marianne (a fictional character, but still a combination of several real female revolutionaries from the Caribbean) were unique cases. Instead, let’s take a brief tour through history with a timeline of important revolutionary women, each of whom made her own impact around the world. You’ll find that some are much more well-known than others, but it is more important than ever to consider the voices left unheard and to hear the stories left untaught.

Related image   Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

As a teenager, Joan of Arc began to see visions of Christian saints telling her to take up arms and fight for France against the English. She listened to these visions and sought out the French court to convince them to allow her to fight. The royal court supported Joan’s holy cause and she was given armor and her own troops, ultimately winning a critical battle at Orleans in 1429. However, Joan was captured by English forces a few years later and burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft at the age of 19.


Image result for mercy otis warren Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) 

During the American Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren hosted political salons in her home, which came to be known as “One Liberty Square.” These salons created a setting for people fed up with the British rule to come together and air their grievances. Warren was also a writer, responsible for a number of political plays, poems, and a three-volume work called History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.


 Image result for sanite belairSanite Belair (1781-1802)

Sanite Belair was a freedom fighter and revolutionary during the Haitian Revolution. In her fight for Haiti’s independence, Belair became a sergeant and later a lieutenant. She also led the Haitian army alongside her second husband General Charles Belair, but there are accounts from both the French and Haitian sides that she was the true leader of the troops, much more so than her husband. Nonetheless, when both Belairs were captured by the French and sentenced to die, Charles Belair was awarded a military execution (being shot) while Sanite was to be beheaded instead, because she was a woman. She demanded to be shot instead so that she could die a soldier’s death, as she believed she deserved nothing less. Her legacy as a critical asset to the revolution remains ever-present in Haiti, as evidenced by the Haitian banknote for the “Bicentennial of Haiti” which features her image.



Related image Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

At the age of 26, Susan B. Anthony began to fight for equal pay for female teachers. She toured the country with fellow suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton advocating for the right to vote. Anthony eventually founded a women’s rights newspaper known as The Revolution, as well as the National Women’s Suffrage Association. While she died before the passage of the 19th Amendment, through which women were granted the right to vote, in 1872 she was arrested for voting illegally and refused to pay the $100 fine for doing so.



Image result for harriet tubman Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)

Born into slavery in 1820, Harriet Tubman liberated herself by escaping from Maryland to Pennsylvania. Soon after, she returned to free her family, ultimately, leading hundreds of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman was also the first woman to lead a military expedition rescuing slaves in South Carolina during the Civil War. She spent the rest of her post-war life fighting for women’s suffrage in New York.


Image result for emmeline pankhurst Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)

A leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain, Emmeline Pankhurst did not limit herself to non-violent activism. In fact, after forming the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1898, Pankhurst was often arrested for her group’s use of arson and vandalism during their protests. Although her methods may have been controversial, resulting in a total of 12 arrests in 1912 alone, Pankhurst made her intentions very clear when she stated, “we are here not because we are lawbreakers; we are here in our efforts to become lawmakers.”


Image result for constance markievicz Constance Markievicz (1868-1927)

Constance Markievicz was an Anglo-Irish Countess, suffragette, socialist, and revolutionary nationalist. She took on a position of leadership in the Easter Rising of 1916, during which she wounded a British sniper. She was placed in solitary confinement and sentenced to be executed. However, Markievicz was ultimately pardoned because of her gender, even though she supposedly told the court, “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.” After her release from jail, she became the first woman ever elected to the British House of Commons, and yet she rejected the position and continued to strike, protest, and risk imprisonment in her fight for Irish independence.



Image result for qiu jin Qiu Jin (1875-1907)

A poet and revolutionary leader, Qiu Jin went out of her way to combat the patriarchal Beijing society in which she lived, despite the fact that she herself came from a great amount of wealth and privilege. She enrolled herself in college and when she returned to Beijing two years later, she did so with newfound skills in swordplay, cross-dressing, and bomb-making. Giu Jin also set up a school for young revolutionaries and created the Chinese Women’s Journal. Ultimately, she met her demise when she was tortured and executed for attempting to overthrow the Qing government.



Image result for petra herrera Petra Herrera (birth unknown, died 1917)

During the Mexican Revolution, Petra Herrera disguised herself as a man by the name Pedro and established herself as a strong leader and soldier. Herrera and the other soldaderas (female soldiers who went into combat with men) often faced gender discrimination despite them having proved themselves time and again on the battlefield. When Herrera wasn’t giving proper credit for her accomplishments during the second battle of Torreón in 1914, she left the forces of Pancho Villa and created her own all-female brigade composed of over 400 women. Herrera would go on to become a spy for one of the primary leaders of the Mexican Revolution. During this time, she was shot by a group of drunken men while working as a bartender, eventually dying from her wounds.



Image result for lakshmi sahgal Lakshmi Sahgal (1914-2012)

Fondly nicknamed Captain Lakshmi, Indian independence revolutionary Lakshmi Sahgal commanded an all-female regiment dedicated to ending British rule in colonial India. The Rani of Jhansi Regiment, which was named after another Indian female revolutionary, was one of only a few all-women combat regiments during World War II.  Sahgal was an officer of the Indian National Army and later on in life she became the Minister of Women’s Affairs.



Image result for sophie scholl Sophie Scholl (1921-1943)

Sophie Scholl was a German revolutionary and active participant in the fight against the Nazi Party and a founding member of the underground resistance group known as The White Rose. Scholl’s activism was brought to an end when she and other members of The White Rose were arrested after handing out copies of an anti-Nazism leaflet titled The Manifesto of the Students of the Munich. Scholl was convicted of treason and executed by guillotine in 1943.


Image result for corazon aquino Corazon Aquino (1933-2009)

After the assassination of her husband, a Philippine senator Benigno Aquino Jr., Corazon Aquino took matters into her own hands protesting the  continued rule of autocrat Ferdinand Marcos. Her non-violent movement in honor of her husband’s death gained strong support from the people as well as the military, and Aquino ultimately was elected President after Marcos’s consequent resignation. During her presidency, Aquino went to great lengths to fight for democracy, and she even ratified a constitution that limited the power of the president, a true testament of her dedication to the Philippines as a democratic country.


Image result for angela davis Angela Davis (1944-present)

Political activist and member of the Black Panther Party Angela Davis was a Most Wanted Fugitive of the FBI before she was even 26 years old. As a young person she was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the American Communist Party. She also attempted to rescue three of her fellow Black Panthers from jail, a failed endeavor that resulted in the death of a federal judge. Davis subsequently went into hiding, but was caught and acquitted wrong doing in 1972. Davis continued to teach at different universities in California, despite then Governor Reagan’s distaste for her and her political affiliations. Davis was a professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, until she retired in 2008. Now, she lectures at different universities around the country and served as  a speaker and honorary co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C.


Image result for phoolan devi Phoolan Devi (1963-2001)

Phoolan Devi, most well-known as the “Bandit Queen,” is a prime example of a victim taking back her own agency, by usinga strategy of combating violence with violence. After her birth in rural Uttar Pradesh India, Devi was abused for many years by several different high-caste men, and she took it upon herself to find a way to fight back against the system that hurt her so much. In 1981, Devi returned to a village where she had previously been gang-raped by high-caste bandits. There, she led a gang of her own bandits to murder more than 20 men. Devi spent 11 years in prison, but soon after being released she was elected to Indian Parliament.



Image result for esraa abdel fattah Esraa Abdel Fattah (1978-present)

Widely known as “the Facebook Girl,” Esraa Abdel Fattah is so much more than a social media user – her activism via the platform of Facebook has actually landed her in jail. Abdel Fattah created a Facebook group in 2008 in support of an Egyptian textile workers’ strike. In addition, in 2011, she documented her experiences as a leader in the January Revolution and protests in Tahrir Square, posting her experiences on Facebook and Twitter. Her use of social media for political activism allowed for her strikes and protests to gain traction across Egypt and the world, bringing Egyptian politics to the forefront of national news. Abdel Fattah ultimately assisted in the overthrow of the Mubarak government and she was consequently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.



Image result for tawakkol karman Tawakkol Karman (1979-present)

Tawakkol Karman is a mother, a Yemeni human rights activist, chair of Women Journalists Without Chains, and the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In spite of her dedication to peaceful protest, she has still been arrested multiple times. Between the years of 2007 and 2011, Karman made a point of protesting every week outside of Sana’a University, fighting for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.


City Theatre presents the Pittsburgh premiere of THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY

December 28th, 2017

City Theatre presents the Pittsburgh premiere of THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY

By James Lecesne

January 20 – February 18, 2018

Lester Hamburg Studio

“Undeniably Powerful.” – Living Out Loud LA

“A Whodunit with a Heart of Gold.” – The New Yorker

Pittsburgh, PA (December 27, 2017). City Theatre’s 2017-18 season continues with the uplifting one-man drama The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by Academy Award-Winner James Lecesne. Keith Randolph Smith (Sunset Baby, November 2015) stars as Chuck DeSantis, a small-town detective recounting the disappearance of a gay teenager named Leonard Pelkey, and the community who helped him uncover the truth. Directed by Laura Savia, Associate Artistic Director of internationally renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival, the play runs January 20 – February 18, 2018, in the Hamburg Studio Theatre. Tickets are on sale now.

City Theatre continues its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community engagement with partnerships and outreach specific to the issues addressed in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

Led by an all-female and transgender design team, City Theatre is collaborating with Dreams of Hope to include LGBTQA youth in the creative process and behind the scenes. Students are working closely with the scenic designer Britton Mauk and the City Theatre staff to curate, design, and produce the props and photography seen in the production. Dreams of Hope provides the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) youth a welcoming environment to grow in confidence, express themselves, and develop as leaders. Their creative contributions educate audiences, build awareness, and increase acceptance.

City Theatre will host and donate a benefit evening for the Dakota James Foundation on Friday, January 19, at 5:30 p.m. Tickets include a reception with food, cash bar, and silent auction in the Gordon Lounge, followed by a private invitation to the final dress rehearsal of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at 7:00 p.m. See for event tickets and more information. The Dakota James Foundation encourages collaboration to ensure public safety through improved surveillance, police procedures and cooperation, raising awareness, and supporting families of a missing person. All proceeds benefit the foundation.

Representatives of the Dakota James Foundation will host a post-show talkback forum following the Pay-What-You-Want performance on Saturday, February 3 at 1:00 p.m.

About The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey:
Leonard Pelkey is a fourteen-year-old intent on living life out loud while marooned in a sleepy Jersey shore town. When Leonard suddenly vanishes, a hardboiled detective takes the case, unraveling the mystery with the help of a colorful band of locals. Written by Academy Award-winner James Lecesne, this hilarious and heartwarming one-man show celebrates the power of a single person to uplift an entire community.

Laura Savia is director. The design and production team includes Britton Mauk (scenic design), Madison Hack (costume design), Isabella Byrd (lighting design), Elizabeth Atkinson (sound design), and Taylor Meszaros as stage manager. Dreams of Hope student artists Grey Buchanan and Red Goblet are specialty props coordinators.


January 20—February 18, 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, January 26, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.


Post-Show Talkbacks: Immediately following the performances on January 28 at 2:00 p.m., February 3 at 1:00 p.m., and February 4 at 2:00 p.m.

Hosted by Director of New Play Development, Clare Drobot, post-show talkbacks encourage audiences to engage with the artists and ideas behind the productions.

Greenroom: Art & Afterparty Friday, February 2 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 will be provided. Tickets are just $30 for the evening with promocode GREENROOM.

Pay-What-You-Want Saturday, February 3 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.

ASL Interpretation Tuesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Open Caption & Audio Description Sunday, February 18 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.
South Side Nite Rider: Friday and Saturday evenings only. Patrons may park for free at the Second Avenue Parking Plaza and use a shuttle with drop off at nearby Bedford Square. Details:

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 the upcoming Citizens Market by Cori Thomas and 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.


CitySpeaks: PigPen Theatre Co. Brings Storytelling Back To Its Roots

November 20th, 2017

The Old Man and The Old Moon appeals to human nature’s need to connect with others and tell stories.

By Jillian Bradshaw
Artistic Intern

PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Old Man And The Old Moon at The Gym at Judson on Broadway.

When you hear the word “storyteller,” what comes to mind? A stand-up comedian? A wise old man who recounts stories of his past? Or a poet, perhaps? How about an ensemble theatre company that’s taken DIY (do-it-yourself) theatre across the country? PigPen Theatre Co. originated in 2007 when the creators met as freshmen at Carnegie Mellon University. Since graduation, the company has produced their original plays in New York City and toured them across the country, produced an album and EP, as well as made their feature film debut in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep. As part of their creative methodology, PigPen is known to use found objects to create props. A sheet becomes ocean waves; a mop head and empty cleaning container becomes a shaggy dog; and a piece of cardboard lit with a flashlight creates a rickety old ship. In addition, the creative team behind The Old Man and The Old Moon provides indie-folk music and Foley SFX (stage reproductions of everyday sounds) to enhance the play’s sense of time, space, and movement. With the use of found objects, light, and music, PigPen Theatre Co. is able to bring this intimate story to life with some theatre magic.

“Our stories come from our lives and from the playwright’s pen, the mind of the actor, the roles we create, the artistry of life itself and the quest for peace.” ~ Maya Angelou

Whether teaching lessons and morals, providing inspiration, or preserving history, storytelling is innately human. In order to tell stories based in fact or fiction, you must have use of your imagination. That’s why children make the perfect storytellers. Although you may not fancy yourself a storyteller now, there is no doubt that as a child, you once dipped into your imagination to tell a story; if only for entertainment’s sake. When watching The Old Man and The Old Moon, you may be struck by the imaginative world and childlike essence of the production. PigPen has mastered the art of creating a world so fantastic, yet grounded in the tradition of storytelling.

PigPen Theatre Co. in The Old Man and The Old Moon.

The transition from oral storytelling to theatrically-staged performances has created a framework that deeply influenced the theatrical experience of PigPen’s production. Beginning as an oral tradition passed from generation to generation, folklore and stories developed into a theatrical form around the world. The roots of oral storytelling are evident in Japan’s Rakugo, a theatrical performance in which a single performer gives a complicated, yet comical performance by themselves while seated in front of an audience. The Old Man and The Old Moon shares similarities with the Japanese puppet theatre, Bunraku. In Bunraku, puppets act as the visual medium for audiences, while music and songs are provided by separate performers. Like this traditional form of theatrical storytelling, the characters in The Old Man and The Old Moon transition from being portrayed as puppets to the actors performing as the characters without a mask.

“There is no force on earth, be it electric, hydraulic, or whatever you call the other one for wind, that comes even near close to matching the power of memory.” ~ PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Old Man and The Old Moon

After observing a tech rehearsal for The Old Man and The Old Moon, I can say without a doubt that the story is transformed by the Foley SFX, folk music, props, and lighting. These tools help the story stay grounded in the concept of memory. Although not a memory play in the traditional sense, The Old Man and The Old Moon, uses memory to transport characters from one scene to another. In The Old Man and The Old Moon, The Old Man is on a quest to find his wife who is traveling to the end of the world searching for the source of a tune she hears calling for her. The tune she hears comes from a memory that both the Old Man and the Old Woman share but neither can remember. Their love for each other is tested and grows stronger through the journey they undertake, presenting a message of love and forgiveness, aligning this piece with stories that have been told since the beginning of time.

The guys of PigPen Theatre Co. from left to right: Curtis Gillen, Dan Weschler, Arya Shahi, Ryan Melia, Alex Falberg, Matt Nuernberger, and Ben Ferguson.

If you would like to see PigPen Theatre Co. give an in-depth interview on their approach to storytelling, check out their TEDxTalk presented at Columbia University in 2013:

The Old Man and The Old Moon runs at City Theatre from Nov. 11 – Dec. 3, 2017. Tickets for PigPen Theatre Co.’s, The Old Man and The Old Moon can be purchased here, or by calling the City Theatre box office at 412-431-2489.

CitySpeaks: Cancer on the American Stage

October 13th, 2017

While cancer is not an easy topic to tackle, it’s certainly a relatable subject. How has City Theatre managed this issue while working with A Funny Thing Happened…?

By Emily Ernst, Literary Intern

What do these statistics mean for the cast, creative team, and staff at City Theatre for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City? Comedies such as Halley Feiffer’s play seem as though they’d be a laugh a minute in rehearsal, but the personal realities surrounding these topics can be challenging to a theatrical team. I spoke with a few of the staff members here at City Theatre, and this is what they say about how their individual experiences with cancer have influenced their relationship to the script:

On the closeness of cancer…

Have you or have you ever known anyone that has fought cancer? Have those experiences influenced your work on the production?

Leah Blackwood, Scenic Artist

“My father was treated at Sloan-Kettering from 1996-98. It was exciting for him to know the hospital was world renowned and his doctors were at the top in their field. Sadly, they could not save him and he died in 1998. Also, only two weeks ago, I lost my best friend to cancer. She had been in Sloan-Kettering’s care for seven years fighting colon and liver cancer, and eventually lung and bone cancer as it spread… Working on this play has made me very emotional, from building Tony Ferrieri’s model to seeing the completed set. When Patti Kelly took the actors onto the set at the first day of tech in costume, I was swept over with emotion.”

Christina Bordini, Company Manager

“I’ve unfortunately known too many loved ones to be stricken by cancer. Some have survived, some have not. But nothing hits you quite as hard as when you find out one of your parents has been diagnosed. When I was a freshman in high school, my family found out on the day before Christmas Eve that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Needless to say, that winter break was not the most fun of my adolescence. For the next few months that turned into years, my mom fought her hardest, and thankfully, came out on the other end with a clean bill of health. But every year when she goes for her check-up, we all hold our breath… The word “cancer” itself is very scary, and it shakes you to your core when it’s in association with a loved one. That’s why I love that this play is a comedy; when you go through a situation like that, a good sense of humor and optimism can make all the difference… I believe it’s important to make our audiences laugh, while also dealing with a heavy subject matter like cancer. It’s a universal issue. I believe our audiences will appreciate the humor, while also relating to the nitty gritty of the down moments. All we have is each other. If we can’t laugh at the little things in our unfortunate times, all we’ll do is cry.”

Taylor Meszaros, Properties Assistant

“I have known many people who fought cancer, but the one person whose struggle impacted me most was my best friend, Meghan. From ages 21-23 she battled with two forms of cancer, and her journey greatly influenced me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young person accept their fate with such grace and strength as she did… I have not worked intricately with the script of A Funny Thing… but I do know that going through that experience of my best friend’s struggle and death has shaped the way I react to art. I cry more easily with heartfelt stories, especially those of a medical or illness-related nature. I can sympathize a bit more with people going through difficult situations.”

Clare Drobot, Director of New Play Development

“Table work for A Funny Thing… sort of caught me by surprise. My grandmother died of cancer when I was 17. It all happened very quickly; she was diagnosed in September and passed by December. It was one of my first real experiences with seeing death and caregiving up close. I remember driving home from rehearsal one night and feeling a little overwhelmed with all these memories. What it was like to go through that and not knowing how to be there for my parents at the time (or how to process what was happening myself). It really helped me to understand Karla’s character and appreciate how nuanced Halley’s portrayal of her journey and relationship to Marcie is.”

James McNeel, Managing Director

“During this production process, I keep harkening back that this play, and these characters, are given the much-needed voice of those that endure the disease. I salute Halley Feiffer for taking her own personal experience and making it universal. And, ironically, she has taken a singular word experience – cancer – and blown it up with a 22-word title. Those who are diagnosed, or have loved ones who are, deserve more than two syllables. Their journey needs to be told. And this is an example of that. With jokes. Because laughter can really be the best medicine.”


See A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City at City Theatre now through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Tickets are available here!

Behind the Scenes at City: Our Biggest Disney Fan

May 9th, 2017

Meet John Michael Brucker, City Theatre Carpenter and Disney World Mega-Fan.

John Michael Brucker, pictured in the City Theatre scene shop.

Our hit production of Wild With Happy closes on Saturday, May 13. This bright comedy by Colman Domingo is full of magic and wonder with quick costume changes, hidden set pieces, and transformative performances—just like the famed Disney World park in Florida that gave Adelaide so much joy. John Michael Brucker is a shop carpenter responsible for bringing our beautiful sets to life. He also happens to be City Theatre’s resident expert on all things Disney World. We chatted recently about his fandom.

So where did it all begin? How did you become a Disney Mega-Fan?

I remember my parents buying all of the Disney classics in the plastic boxes and watching them as a little kid including Beauty and the Beast, which was my favorite. I watched it so much as a little kid that I broke the cassette tape! So they had to buy me another one. I think that’s where I started my love of Disney.

Then the two influential people who got me into theater also love Disney World as much as I do, and they go every year. David and Christy Lesinsky were the technical director (and his wife) of Woodland Hills High School theater department. That’s also where I started stage crew my freshman year. I loved it and he taught me a lot of what I know and do now as a shop carpenter.

That’s awesome! So what makes Disney World so important to you now?

Disney is special because I asked my wife to marry me while we were down there. Then we had our honeymoon there. It’s just this place where you can feel the magic, more than any other place I can think of really!

Tell me about the engagement trip. Was that your first trip to Disney together?

Yes! That was her first trip ever to Disney. I actually went as a senior in high school and then I went every year for a while. But when Megan and I started dating, I couldn’t always get the funds together or work came up and things like that.

How did you propose?

So there’s a ride in Disney Springs called Characters in Flight. It’s a hot air balloon and its tethered, so you go up 400 feet and you can see the different parks. I asked her while we were up in the air.

That’s so cute! Where any of the Disney characters in on the action?

I didn’t ask anyone, but when we got down from the ride, they found out what we did and they gave us—there’s a packet and photo you can buy in front of the hot air balloon—and they gave it to us for free!

Megan and John Brucker with Chef Mickey in Disney World during their Honeymoon trip.

Do you guys have a favorite ride?

I wouldn’t say a favorite ride, but I have a favorite park: Epcot. It’s the world showcase where you can learn about the cultures of the other countries, and the fireworks show there in the evening is my favorite. The Magic Kingdom has a lot of magic in it and that’s my wife’s favorite park, but I like Epcot for the variety of things you can do.

Did you do anything special on the Honeymoon trip?

We had an extra three days that time. We only had enough money to do a five day trip when I asked her to marry me, so we were running around. We took a red eye flight, got to Disney and to the Magic Kingdom and then we did the Halloween party, so we didn’t sleep for 22 hours. This time, we got down there and spent a whole day just getting situated and had a whole day to explore Disney World, around the parks, and we planned to have a rest day in between our park trips.

Have you ever seen the Cinderella Suite?

I have not. I would love to, but it’s a special giveaway that Disney does, just as a sweepstakes or a make a wish foundation request. It’s like winning the lottery

Have you ever tried to enter a sweepstakes to win a trip like Gil’s mom, Adelaide?

[laughs] Yes…

Good luck! We also heard there’s some very exciting news in your household. A sequel perhaps?

We’re expecting a baby girl in August! We announced it with a picture of a little Mickey hat — in pink! We’re excited to bring a bundle of joy into the world.

John and Megan are welcoming a baby girl in August, 2017. We’ll let you know if they name her Minnie.

PRESS RELEASE: City Theatre presents historically-inspired drama: THE ROYALE By Marco Ramirez

December 20th, 2016

City Theatre presents historically-inspired drama:
By Marco Ramirez
January 21 – February 12, 2017

Pittsburgh, PA (December 20, 2016) – City Theatre rings in 2017 with The Royale, a knockout new play by Marco Ramirez. It is directed by Stuart Carden, and runs on City Theatre’s Main Stage, January 21 – February 12, 2017. Tickets are on sale now.

Jay “The Sport” Jackson is a legend in the making. He has his eyes set on becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, but the Jim Crow reality of 1905 America might just be his fiercest opponent yet. The Royale goes ringside for the fight of the century, following one man’s quest for victory against all odds.

The Royale is a heart-pounding drama inspired by the true story of the trail-blazing African American boxer, Jack Johnson. Johnson’s insistence on fighting—and ultimately defeating—the white champion of the time ignited racial tensions and thrust him into an international spotlight.

“I didn’t set out to write a play about race relations,” said playwright Marco Ramirez. “I set out to write a play about boxing. But as I started to zero in on the elements I knew I wanted to highlight—the percussive, distinctly musical nature of the sport, the braggadocio of celebrity, the narratives that get spun in and outside of the ring—the story of Jack Johnson kept bubbling to the surface, like a song I couldn’t get out of my head.”

“August Wilson often gets credited as the greatest African American playwright. I’d go a step further. I think he’s the greatest American playwright,” Ramirez continued. “I could never have written The Royale without August Wilson’s influence. When I sit to write a new play, it’s his toolbox I carry with me. The monologue as music. The ghost that walks across the stage. The argument between loved ones in which each party is 100% correct. In his work, there’s no such thing as a simple message. There is no moral high ground. There are just human beings born at the wrong time, or into the wrong families, trying to find joy in a world where the only constant is change, yet somehow everything stays the same.”

“Marco’s play not only brings us deep into the world of professional boxing at the turn of the 20th century, but it also gives us a ringside view of America at that moment in time as well,” said Artistic Director Tracy Brigden. “It’s a play that has real resonance to our present challenges as a nation, but as told through the lens of sports, it makes for a highly entertaining and exciting piece of theatre.”

Marco Ramirez has had plays produced at Lincoln Center (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination), The Kennedy Center, The Humana Festival, The Old Globe (San Diego), The Bush Theatre (London), and Center Theatre Group. Honors include Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship, Lincoln Center’s Le Comte du Nouy Award, and both WGA and Emmy Award nominations. Education: NYU and Juilliard. TV credits: Sons of Anarchy (FX), Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Fear the Walking Dead (AMC), Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix), and Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix).

The Royale is directed by Stuart Carden. Performing the role of Jay is Desean Kevin Terry. The cast includes Bernard Gilbert as Fish, Tim Edward Rhoze as Wynton, Andrew William Smith as Max, Bria Walker as Nina, and Tony II Lorrich and Siddiq Saunderson as members of the Ensemble. The production team includes Brian Bembridge (scenic and lighting design), Karen Gilmer (costume design), Mikhail Fiksel (sound designer), Clare Drobot (dramaturg), and Patti Kelly (stage manager). Stephanie Paul will create the unique soundscape of The Royale as Body Percussion Choreographer.

January 21 – February 12, 2017

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, January 27 at 8:00 p.m.

Sipping Sunday – Jan. 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Sample wines specially chosen to complement the production.

Sunday Talkbacks – Jan. 29 & Feb. 5
Conversation with the artists immediately following the 2:00 p.m. performances, moderated by City Theatre artistic staff.

Greenroom Young Professionals Night – Friday, Feb. 3 at 8:00 p.m.
$25 Greenroom ticket includes complimentary snacks, beer, and wine after the performance, and mingling with the cast. Use code GREENROOM when ordering.

Pay-What-You-Want – Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1:00 p.m.
A limited number of tickets are reserved for PWYW and go on sale two hours before curtain, walk up sales only. Call the box office in advance to check on availability.

ASL Interpretation Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Open Captioning and Audio Description Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2:00 p.m.

City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)
Patron parking is available in the lot across from the City Theatre entrance for $8.

412.431.CITY (2489) or

Single tickets start at $37.50.
Season subscriptions are still available and three-show packages start at $99.

Audiences under 30 may reserve $15 tickets in advance for all performances except Fridays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.; on Fridays and Saturdays, rush tickets are available two hours prior to show time and based on availability. Seniors age 62 and older may purchase $22 rush tickets at the Box Office beginning two hours before show time, based on availability. Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounts – contact Joel Ambrose at 412.431.4400 x286.

City Theatre
is now in its 42nd season. Located in the historic South Side, City Theatre is Pittsburgh’s home for bold new plays, commissioning and producing work by playwrights including Daniel Beaty, Jessica Dickey, Christopher Durang, Michael Hollinger, Willy Holtzman, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Madeleine George. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, Managing Director James McNeel, and the Board of Directors, 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.


Kidsburgh: Young Playwrights Festival at City Theatre Company

November 28th, 2016

NEXTpittsburgh | By Jennifer Baron
Nov. 28, 2016

“From a drama that reimagines the legendary Salem Witch Trials to a tale about anthropomorphized birds and books, the upcoming Young Playwrights Festival will showcase six world premiere plays written by talented local middle and high school students.”

<Read the full article at NEXTpittsburgh.>