Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gizelle at Pittsburgh Ballet, Beauty, Drama, Precision

Review of Pittsburgh Ballet's Gizelle
by Martin Thomas and Helene Vidovich

The Wilis ensemble in the forest, Act 2
Music: Adolph Adam
Libretto: Jules Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier
Staged at PBT: Terrence S. Orr and Marianna Tcherkassky

It has been said that music is the international language. One may argue that so is ballet or corporeal mime. However, when combined, they exponentially increase their impact. With no libretto to reference or language to interpret, there is only sound and the interactions of those on stage, the set designs, lighting and costuming. Masters of these elements dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft and teaching the next generations who will perpetuate their traditions. Pittsburgh Ballet's rendition of Giselle was a window into this long lineage of masters.

The music, written by Adolphe Adam, who also wrote,"O Holy Night," was masterfully played by the Pittsburgh Symphony. The music, from the mid-19th century, was Romantic, programmatic, and of course, dealt with the supernatural. But, unlike most orchestral work of 1841, it included harp and timpani. There were leitmotifs to help guide us and music scored to expose the subtle timbres of the harp and woodwinds.

The first set in full fall harvest colors, complete with a grape wagon, village cottages and a bridge to the outlying forest, transported us back to feudal Europe. The costumes were lush with color, texture and fabric. Tricks of lighting, corps movement and costuming transported the audience into the epoch. A big surprise was the appearance of a great pyrenees walking along in a group scene. The dog had to be persuaded to sit while members of the ballet alternately performed. Clearly, much of the audience focused on the dog!

During the second act, after the death of Giselle, the transformed set and costuming, combined with the dance and music, to create an ethereal effect of the hereafter. Were the actors/dancers dreaming, or was it a rainy or moonlit night?  Were our eyes playing tricks on us, or was it the cast and crew?

There was so much to observe that we could have watched it again. The dancers conveyed the story quite effectively and even made us forget there where no words spoken. Given the grand effect of these "fine arts," it makes one wonder why they are not pursued by more of the public.

Martin Thomas, Musician, Troubador
Helene Vidovich, Freelance Reviewer

Monday, October 22, 2012

Journey through the Mystical with Vertical Road b Akram Khan Company

Review by Helene Vidovich and Martin Thomas

Vertical Road, by Akram Khan Company was a journey through the mystical. Using only a scrim and backlight, one dancer's shadow started the audience down the primordial path. What was this Whirling Dervish so frantically writhing, sending shimmers of shadow and light up and down the scrim – the Book of Life, a poem by Rumi? 
Vertical Road Photo By: Richard Haughton

Lights up, scrim down, statues/dancers frozen, one moving figure and a set of runes -- we watched as the dancers were frozen, or prayed, or waited, discovered, disagreed, failed or eventually grew.

The troupe explored or helped us search our psyches. For example: the on-again off-again relationships of the "teacher-apprentice," the "lovers," the "life of prayer and mindful intentions" or "meditation while waiting for the path to open," and the "embrace of the shadow." A path opens a moment ~ closes, and later reopens. The false starts reflect how we as humans have opportunities to grow. At times, we make bad choices, which close the door. We must go back to reflect, which can eventually, reopen the door.

The ensemble moved with such synchronicity, it appeared they were even breathing together. It reminded Martin of the funny-mirrors at the carnival where one subject appears in a variety of shapes all at once; moving fluidly about the stage. And, Helene associated their twirling segment with the Olympic synchronized swimming event or an old Busby Berkeley film. At times they would sit in prayer as a Sangha, or freeze standing like statues. Another effect used what appeared to be dust from statues that broke into real life people. This gave the illusion of the iconic becoming alive after long periods of hibernation.

The music and sounds, like the stage, were minimalistic. But, much was lost as the bass drum, and occasional other sounds, were so loud that earplugs were used which blurred some of the more subtle sonic interplay. Are the bass drum half notes really 10-20 db more important than the violin section?

Overall, Akram Khan Company was quite exciting and seemed to be telling my story. (Martin)

It was my story. (Helene)

I thought it was mine. (Martin)

As our reviewers agree to disagree it can be said that the Vertical Road was a huge success.

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dancing in the Theatre and Dancing in the Street at "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Other Story Books

Presented as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Children’s 
Theater by Theatreworks USA

October 12-14 in Various Locations Around the City of Pittsburgh

This is the 43rd Family Series and is sponsored by Citizens Bank.

What an eclectic group of story books!  Of course the most famous is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and probably the most hysterical; my granddaughter Anaiyah is still telling the story about how he kept tricking the boy who gave him the cookie.  Although being from the hip hop generation she also loved Master Man. Martha Speaks was very endearing to her because of the dog costume and the barking an incessant talking because that is what she and most 4 year olds do—incessantly talk.

Amazing Grace was also another favorite of hers because she liked that a girl could play Peter Pan and a black girl at that as she is African American.

Imogene’s Antlers was a little lost on her at four but she loved the “Pick a Book” song as she loves to read.   My personal favorite was the three parted Imogene’s Antlers and Math Curse, having struggled both with math and being different.

What a day of musical mirth and rich symbolism.  Something for everyone especially the cunning of Borreguita and the Coyote.  A great story for children to learn about working things out and being creative!  Studies show that children learn much better through songs and rhymes than just rote memory.   This was a great way to make learning fun. 

It’s also a great way to see theatre in your neighborhood and not have to go downtown although there is something magical about taking a little girl to a downtown theatre.  Afterwards my granddaughter met a little friend and they danced with their reflections to the music coming out of the Renaissance hotel much to the delight of passengers in passing cars.

Children’s Theatre Schedule
·  Wednesday, October 17  |  7:00  |  Gateway HS
·  Thursday, October 18  |  5:30 & 7:30  |  Marshall MS   
·  Friday, October 19  |  7:00  |  Moon Area HS
·  Saturday, October 20  |  11:00 & 2:00  |  Mellon MS   
·  Sunday, October 21  |  2:00  |  Seneca Valley SHS
·  Ticket and additional information at:  http://pgharts.org

      Radio Host and Serial Blogger, Joanne Quinn-Smith is the host of PositivelyPittsburghLive™ Internet Talkcast and TechnoGrannyShow™  On her shows, Joanne has interviewed over 1800 guests.  As an advocate for small Business, she was awarded the National Small Business Administration Journalist of the Year Award.  She is also the publisher of PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com which is a 2010 National Stevie Award finalist for best Media Website or Blog. PPL Mag features the GOOD NEWS, about Pittsburgh  and is  Pittsburgh’s First internet radio and TV network. The Creative Energy Officer of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, Joanne also teaches her online media platform building to small businesses in a client personalized, “Web2.0 Gorilla Branding Training™”.  Connect with Joanne at:  http://joannequinnsmith.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

Center Plate Restaurant Takes Center Stage

Center Plate Restaurant Takes Center Stage

by JoAnn Forrester

94 Center Church Road, McMurray, PA 15317
Penny Folino
Penny’s back and are we glad!

This past Saturday, TechnoGranny, Joanne Quinn- Smith and Nano Granny,  JoAnn Forrester, took a ride over the hill and through the woods to Penny Folino’s new restaurant, Center Plate, in McMurray Pa. It is easy to get to, right off Rt. 19 South at 94 Center Church Road.  It was a beautiful fall day and just right for a drive.  And if you had to get lost (and we did, no matter what TechnoGranny says), it was the day for it with a brilliant blue sky, comfortable temperatures and a full tank of gas.

It was a great day to eat at a new restaurant.  I am so glad that Penny opened up shop again.  This lady knows how to make you feel special and serve you scrumptious food.  Hooray for Penny!

 We had a great time talking to Penny Folino and her partner, Lenny, as they told us about opening the new place.  They emphasized how everything is cooked from scratch and everything is fresh and made there under the supervision of Executive Chef Matthew Hellen.  As we talked, we sampled the food.  Oh my!  It was good!  So good that both Joannes stopped talking just to eat for at least 10 minutes.    Now that is some kind of record.   Two Greeks and an Italian not only stopped talking but stopped gesticulating with their hands.

Penny and Lenny, Co-owners
Center Plate is open 7 days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We sampled a wide variety of food, from appetizers to soups to dinner to desserts.  Every dish was very satisfying.   Penny and Executive Chef Matthew Heller have put together a menu meant to please - and it certainly does.

For starters you have to try the crab cakes - no breading,  no fillers, just crab cakes deliciously seasoned.  Then the Bougatza Meat Pie, another fantastic item.   The Avolegmo (Lemon soup) has just the right touch of lemon, you gotta try it.
 Sausage Rustica:  Pasta with fresh tomatoes with a vodka sauce, roasted red peppers and onions. A dish you must taste.

Now the main courses.  I went for one of the great dishes on the Mac & Cheese Board, Mac & “Balls:”  Penny’s homemade  meatballs, chopped up and baked macaroni and cheese  with Parmesan cheese and  butter bread crumbs. Better than Mom used to make. I also sampled the Chicken Marsalla.  For those who love Chicken Marsalla it’s a must try. 

After all this food, we tasted a dessert:  Chocolate Pie and Almond Torte.  What can I say?  They were the final touch of a great evening.

The menu is reasonably priced and for those who live in McMurray, I am jealous. For the rest of us its about 6 miles South on Rt. 19 from South Hills Village.  Catering is also available for your special holiday needs..or anytime you  want to serve a special meal.

Oh!  By the way, Penny will be having a wine dinner on November 8 from 6 to 8:30.  A good way to taste wines and the foods that go with them.   Nice treat for special clients and those for whom you wish to do something nice.

In short, folks, make your way out to Center Plate in  McMurray Pa.  It is good to say, “Well, Hello, Penny.”  
She is back where she belongs.

Roving Pittsburgher Good News Reporter, JoAnn Forrester is the Host of "Empress of Biz, Reinvent in Rugged Times," a business Talkcast syndicated on PPLMag, Pittsburgh's First Internet Radio and TV Network.  You can hear JoAnn and Business friends every Thursday at 9 AM on the TalkShoe network or archived later at:  http://pplmag.com  Jo Ann is also a regular business tip columinist at the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Another Successful Professional Development Day for Win Pittsburgh

Win-Pittsburgh’s Professional Development Day held at Gaetano’s on Wednesday, October 3, proved to be very motivationally stimulating to its guests.  TechnoGranny actually showed up long enough to do video interview with Executive Director Dawn Pomaybo about the organization which will be posted later this week on PositivelyPittsburgh News Channel at http://pplmag.com

I stayed long enough to hear Sanna Carapellotti of Pittsburgh Medical Hypnosis talk about the pitfalls of the mind and how to work them out.  Sanna’s using her own case study of what happened when she lost her mother as a teenager in a culture of denial,  touched everyone in attention.  Most useful was her suggestion on how to stop a rant when you get one.  Oh come on now, even the calmest of us have them.  Very useful information and also once you understand what happens in the mind, knowledge is often very powerful.  I was off to cover another event and to stand in line for a property tax appeal hearing so Sanna was the only speaker that I heard so my review is based on comments by other attendees.  All of the comments were extremely positive.  So Win Pittsburgh had another successful annual event.

Sanna Carapellotti and
Trina Hess, complilments Trina Hess
Dr. Trina Hess' Humor Academy  In yesterday's WIN Pittsburgh presentation, The Messages That Change Everything, Sanna talked about the need to interrupt the racing thoughts we have--- especially during change. And she showed us a useful & easy tip for doing that. Another great way to stop racing thoughts is LAUGHTER

compliments Trina Hess
What a great--and funny-- storyteller, thanks Michelle for the laughs

photo compliments Trina Hess

What an amazing day filled with intelligence, inspiration and education! Professional Development Day was a hugely successful event thanks to our wonderful speakers, our sponsors, the vendors, attendees, Gaeatano's Restaurant, Lisa Wagner Freeman Romy Banks and to all of the media and others that support WIN-Pittsburgh.

Executive director Dawn Pompayo managed to put together a wonderful group of speakers and the company at the event because of the amazing members of WIN Pittsburgh was delightful.  So sorry I could not stay longer.

Rigoletto at Pittsburgh Opera, Revenge the Italian Renaissance Way

Rigoletto at Pittsburgh Opera

Pittsburgh Symphony 
October 6, 9, 12, 14 2012
REVIEW by JoAnn R. Forrester


 The prime time soap Revenge, that so many are loving to watch with its sex, vengeance, murder, betrayal, dastardly people, sexual conquests and scandals has met its match and MUCH more in Verdi’s opera RIGOLETT0.  We think, today, we live in immoral and scandalous times…hah! It is nothing compared to the Italian Renaissance where excess was the rule.  Fabulous amazing art was created and flourished during that period … but the morals of the time were centered on the pleasure and revenge principal. Life for the rich, powerful and nobility was one constant hunt for pleasure and relief from boredom.

I love the opera for many reasons.  First let me explain I am not musically trained.  I do not have the ear of a music coach.  I am lucky that I know  women sing alto, soprano, mezzo soprano, contralto, men think bass, tenor  and baritone (I hope this is right).  What I love about the opera is how the drama and foibles of life are portrayed.  I find myself engulfed in the drama and music.  I lose myself and I am transported to that time and period. 

Rigoletto was filled with performances I enjoyed.  The singing, the dramatic acting, the costumes (on and off stage) the scenery, all conveyed this mesmerizing and yet dangerous age.  The search for pleasure rules the day.  The wealthy and powerful seek relief from boredom by affairs, intrigues while maintaining their power by political manipulation, cruelty, power and assassinations.

The story centers around Rigoletto, the court jester, a hunch back, who wields his personal bitterness into a sharp tongue to amuse, jab and make fools of all those involved in Duke Mantua’s court.  While he amuses the Duke he antagonizes many of his “followers” and they look for ways to make a “fool” out of him.
Photos by David Bachman for Pittsburgh Opera

Rigoletto has a secret….he has a daughter.  Gilda, young, beautiful, terribly naïve, and longing for romance. He loves her and wants to protect her from all harm. And of course that cannot happen.  His love for her and desire for vengeance after the Dukes betrayal becomes the source of his downfall and ultimate tragedy.

I invite you go see this fabulous Italian opera.Rigoletto.  You will enjoy the experience of the sights, sounds and ambiance of it.   Go and have a wonderful time indulging your secret soap opera fantasies.

Also for those classic opera fans my Italian, opera loving companion tells me you will not be disappointed by Michael W. Lee’s Rendition of “La Donna e Mobile”.  TechnoGranny says the aria was an instant success as soon as this opera hit its original stage in Venice and a classic hit today.   She remembers her Italian uncle Si Pepe, singing it repeatedly around their home when she was a young girl.


JoAnn Forrester is the Host of Empress of Biz, Reinvent in Rugged Times, a business Talkcast syndicated on PPLMag, Pittsburgh's First Internet Radio and TV Network.  You can hear JoAnn at Business friends every Thursday at 9 AM on the TalkShoe network or archived later at:  http://pplmag.com 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Matthew Morrison Sings at Marvin Hamlisch’s Wake

Tamar Cerafici
Pittsburgh Pops!                                                                                                                        
Heinz Hall
September 30, 2012

It might seem the height of folly to review a concert at its last performance. But the Pittsburgh Pops concert series shows so much promise that it’s inevitable I should urge everyone to leave this site and become a subscriber. Go. NOW.

This was a remarkable opening to a fun season that includes a 50th anniversary tribute to the Beatles and the ever-popular Holiday Pops.

Marvin Hamlisch was supposed to conduct this concert. He had planned the entire season before he died in August. In his stead, Lucas Richman proved an admirable and capable substitute. The concert began with memories of Mr. Hamlisch and his relationship with the Pittsburgh Pops program. I wasn’t aware of the great impact that Marvin Hamlisch had on the cultural lives of Pittsburghers. (Remember I’m new to this venue.)
But when Lucas Richman sat down at the piano, lovingly placed in the “Marvin position” to conduct a soaring “The Way We Were,” I knew I was in for a special evening of tribute. This concert is the beginning of a long goodbye to Marvin Hamlisch. The PSO is going forward with the pops concert as Marvin planned with the stars he wanted, the arrangements he needed, and the orchestra members and audience that he loved so much.

Marvin Hamlisch conducting
I was surrounded by concertgoers who did have fond memories of Mr. Hamlisch at the podium. They described an engaging and utterly unpretentious entertainer and friend. When I told them I was writing a review for this magazine, all around me started to regale me with tales of Mr. Hamlisch and his contributions to the concerts.

One recounted Marvin’s habit of updating Steelers games from the conductor’s podium during Sunday afternoon programs.

Another told me about the original Hanukkah material Marvin created especially for the annual Holiday Pops programs.

Marvin would see a regular concertgoer in her traditional seat and stop the concert to say hello; he would make sure that the folks in the gallery were having as much fun as the patrons in the dress circle.
Their Marvin was not some Broadway Big shot who’d won an Emmy, a Tony, an Oscar, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize (the only one besides Richard Rogers). Their Marvin was someone who loves music, loves the theater, loves telling stories, and above all loves leaving people happier when they left the concert hall than when they came in.

(I have to add here that this is the coolest thing about living in Pittsburgh that is different from the four other places I’ve lived since 2009. People will talk to you. They will share themselves with you. They want you to know their story. I totally love that.)

But enough about Marvin and Pittsburghers; I was there to hear one of the orchestras that provided the soundtrack to my youth in the Intermountain West.

Matthew Morrison
The first half of the concert was a tribute to Marvin’s life and love of music. The overture to Funny Girl was on the program because Marvin would procure chocolate donuts for Barbra Streisand during rehearsals. Lucas Richman’s own composition, Romancing the Cinema, highlighted love songs from the great movies that Marvin loved. (A note to Richman: rather too many references to Titanic thank you very much, but I loved your arrangement of As Time Goes By.) And, since we are celebrating one of the great lights of modern American theater, why not throw in a little West Side Story? The PSO’s animated “Mambo” could have been a trite throwaway, but they performed it with passion and verve.

Oh wait! The guy from Glee! Mr. Shuester! That’s why we’re all here! That explains the bevy of teenagers and college students and the school buses lined up along Sixth Street.

Yes, Matthew Morrison was supposed to be the main attraction this afternoon. And he delivered. His program was part autobiography, part song and dance, and part motivational speech. Between standbys like “It Don’t Mean A Thing If You Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Luck Be a Lady,” and “The Lady Is A Tramp,” we learned about Morrison’s introduction to musical theater. He described his own Glee Club experiences at the Orange County High School for the Arts with pretty decent riffs on some Duke Ellington pieces.  He highlighted his rise to fame on Broadway with medleys from “South Pacific” “West Side Story” and “A Little Night Music” (of course it was “Send in the Clowns”). His choice to join the cast of Glee was difficult because really all he wanted to do was be a song and dance man like Sammy Davis Jr. Then he went on to prove that he would’ve been a very good song and dance man instead of a washed-up Spanish teacher in Lima, OH. Very few of us will forget his moonwalk during “Ease On Down The Road.”

The great strength of his program, though, was his willingness to attribute his success to choices that other people made. While I liked Morrison’s lyrical tenor voice immensely, it was fun to watch him throw a little bit of Mr. Shuester into the mix. He told of a teacher who said “you have three Life Days where you realize that you have a chance to do the one thing that changes your life forever.” He reminded all of us that the world is full of choices, but when you do what you love and live your passion you realize that there never really was a choice to make. 
Tamar Cerafici is an environmental lawyer whose national practice includes nuclear power and sustainable development consulting. She is the author of “Dominate: How Lawyers Crush Their Competition (with these 4 Powerhouse Marketing Techniques),” and the founder of The-Barefoot-Barrister.com as well as LegalShoe, and The Lawyer’s New Clothes, new media channels on PositivelyPittsburghlivemagazine.com that teach lawyers how to build enterprises and find balance in their practices without selling their souls.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Audience Says, "Ouch" as STREB Performs Very Physical Dance

Audience Says, "Ouch" as STREB Performs 

 Very Physical Dance

Giant steel beam seesaw
Helene Vidovich and Martin Thomas

We go to the theater to be transported from our seats into the imagination of the artists.
Dance in the age of digital media is different than that of Martha Graham or the NYC Ballet.  The use of video feeds and files, computers and projectors changes the focus. I didn't know whether to look at what the projector was displaying, what the dancers were doing or at their silhouettes on the back screen.

Elizabeth Mitchell
Streb Choreographer
Streb, aka known as the Evil Knieval of dance, is a bang-up exhibition of acrobatic tumbles, jumps and flat-out face-down, or face-up, slams onto a mat.  Streb with her cast from the tough streets of Brooklyn, tries to exploit "extreme action." They called their pieces "action events." I kept saying, "ow, that had to hurt!"   Some examples: Doing the "Limbo" with a spinning I beam suspended from a chain -- jumping from 10 feet, 20 feet, even 30 feet face down onto the mats -- hanging bound, while upside down, from a rope panicking -- "flying" by use of a giant steel-beam see-saw on a turntable -- writhing in an open ended box suspended from the ceiling.  
The sets: raw metal, chains, brick, mats and the workout wardrobe, were matched with industrial sounds of a loud bass rumble.  There was also a turntable within a turntable made up of mats on the floor, that were used with camera feeds projected with great effect.  Another event had a large diagonal mat where the cast log-rolled with, and over each other. These action events, brought to mind childhood times and playground fun.  

Some of their pieces were more traditional modern dance-like and very gratifying.  One had a backdrop of a spinning planet while the dancers appeared to fly over it suspended in harnesses.  Another, my favorite, "Anti-gravity,"  had the dancers flat on the floor with an overhead camera feed projecting their images onto the backdrop, making them appear weightless on a distant planet.  This "action event" had the audience in awe, like children watching fire works.  All in all, Streb did transport us from our seats into their imaginations. But, ouch! some of those falls had to hurt.

Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter
Martin Thomas, Videographer ~ Troubadour