Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Highmark Holiday Pops at PSO, Something for Everyone This Holiday Season

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Highmark Holiday Pops at PSO, Something for Everyone This Holiday Season

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith aka TechnoGranny
Todd Elllison 

Friday evening, December 12, 2014, was incredible as my guest and I sat in the 5th row from the stage and were not only able to listen to wonderful PSO Holiday menu of excitement but also see the expressions on Santa's face. That part was PRICELESS.  Highmark Holiday Pops --what a way to jump start your holiday season, if you haven't attended put this one on your immediate holiday "to do" list. You can still see the Holiday Pops December 20 & 21.
The stage was resplendent with two beautifully designed vintage looking trees and Todd Ellison was in rare form, sporting his clandestine Steeler lining inside his white dinner jacket. His legendary stature was only dwarfed by the amazing 25-foot tree in the Grand Lobby!

It's easy to see why Todd Ellison is "Hailed by the New York Times as one of “Broadway’s Electric Conductors,”--one of the most
Ryan Vasquez
accomplished and sought after music directors working today.  He is charming, energetic, and witty and knows how to connect with the audience.  And the Mendelssohn Choir, well as Todd said, they look great for singing together for over 150 years and sound great also.
The concert started off with a resurgent "wow" with "O Tannebaum" and then the choir delighted the audience with "Three Ships." But the experience was moved into the "supernatural" with the absolutely heavenly rendition of "Ave Maria."  Ryan Vasquez was just signed for his first Broadway musical and it's easy to see why.

Kate Shindle
Then on a lighter note four lovely young ballerinas from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School performed a Musical Snuff Box to Opus 32. This was the most delightful gift of dance that the Ballet Theatre could have given the audience.  It was fresh and Christmassy and made one smile.

We really enjoyed the "high-low" progression of the concert as Kate Shindle's breathtaking voice filled Heinz Hall with "Love is Christmas." There was not a corner of the hall that was not permeated with joy as she sang.

Of course the treat after that with "Bassoon It Will Be Christmas" was both unique and delightfully entertaining as principal Bassoonist Nancy Groves and Bassoonist's Philip Pandolfi and James Rodgers took to the front of the stage. We know the bassoonists are there but featuring them was a stroke of absolute genius and one of the most memorable moments of the entire performance.

And the comic relief of Santa singing the "Christmas Alphabet" hit the bull's eye.  Since he never took off his Santa beard, I am assuming that Christopher Sanders played Santa and he did it deftly with verve and an ebullient Santa style.  His dance antics were right on also.

Finally, what a way to go off to intermission as the Choir filled the hall again with the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah.  What Christmas concert would be complete without it?
After intermission just in case you were beginning to be ready for a lullaby, not so!  A rollicking polka brought the audience back to life with "Trisch-Trasch (Chit Chat) from Opus 214 by Johann, Jr. Strauss.

And what PSO Concert would be complete without a wonderful tribute to the renowned Marvin Hamlisch as Ms. Shindle sang "Chanukah Lights."

Artist Joe Wos
Continuing on the path of "something for everyone" the symphony played a rousing version of "The Night Before Christmas" as artist and cartoonist Joe Wos plied his art on the large screen and the velvet voice of WQED's Jim Cunningham narrated.  This portion of the show along with Santa delighted kids of all ages in the audience.
After that we were again treated to the absolutely edifying voice of Mr. Vasquez in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" followed by Ms. Shindle and Mr. Vasquez in "The Prayer."  The thing that I loved about their rendition is that neither was dwarfed by the other as both are equally strong talents and blended perfectly.
Not finished yet, the stars of the show and the PSO and the choir and Todd Ellis also lead the audience in a traditional sing along.  What a way to finish the evening just before the very traditional "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

As we were leaving the theater the Pops Talk on stage was going on and what do you think was the biggest question, "Where and how did you get the Steeler lining for your dinner jacket?"  Hey it's not the Steelers but this reviewer thinks the Holiday Pops has the chance to be the second biggest tradition during the winter season in Pittsburgh. 

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster,
blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher, It’s a Privilege to See the Conservatory Theater Company’s Performance of Urinetown

It’s a Privilege to See the Conservatory Theater Company’s Performance of Urinetown.

By Megan Grabowski

 A relatively new show, Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001.  The initial response from theatergoers was overwhelmingly positive; earning Urinetown three Tony Awards in 2002.  More than a decade later, the show continues to incite glowing reviews.  The Thursday December 11 performance of Urinetown by the Conservatory Theater Company was sold out.  I sat elbow to elbow in a seat on the balcony of the Rauh Theater at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  The audience was as eccentric as the story. Students with purple hair in torn jeans were just as abundant in the crowd as the older women in hip length fur coats.  What I didn’t realize before seeing the show, Urinetown is a musical rife with potty humor; is a quirky social and political satire that will appeal to individuals with a higher level of awareness or engagement.

The musical takes place sometime in the future, after a 20 year drought has caused a serious water shortage.  In order to combat the water crisis, a ban is placed on all private toilets.  In the fictional town toilets are owned by Urine Good Company or UGC for short, and require a fee to be used.  Two of the central characters, Penelope Pennywise and Bobby Strong work for Caldwell B. Cladwell, President of UGC, a corporation known best for their greed and corruption.  Under Mr. Cladwell’s supervision, “Look the other way as we run the company as we see fit”, Bobby Strong and Pennywise manage Amenity #9, the poorest and filthiest toilet in town.  Early in the show, Bobby’s father, “Old Man Strong”, is arrested for public urination because he cannot afford to pay his admission into the Amenity.  As Old Man Strong is carted off by two police officers, Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel, to a mysterious place called Urinetown, he yells, “Remember me”.  Soon after his father’s arrest Bobby meets Hope, Mr. Cladwell’s daughter, who has come to work for the UGC.  Bobby and Hope quickly fall in love; Bobby is enamored with Hope’s ideals to just follow your heart as described in the beautifully harmonized song.  Hope is intrigued by Bobby’s honesty when he admits his guilt for not doing more to save his father from Urinetown.  

The story unfolds when rumors of an Amenity price hike spread among the citizens, especially Bobby and the patrons of Amenity #9.  The people who frequent Amenity #9 know they are in big trouble; they can barely afford the toilets for their current charge.  Soon a protest erupts and word of the rally reaches Hope and her father Caldwell B. Cladwell and the others at UGC.   Hope is surprised to learn Bobby is a leader in the revolt but because she is in love with him, she urges her father not to resort to violence.  She pleads with her father to look inside the rioters’ hearts.  A truly ruthless corporate rat, Cladwell sings a perpetually catchy tune Don’t Be the Bunny, where he compares the citizens of the anonymous town to bunny rabbits, singing,

                   “A little bunny at a toll booth
                    He needs a measly fifty cents
                    Our little bunny didn't plan ahead
                    Poor bunny simply hasn't got the bread
                    He begs for mercy, but gets jail instead
                    Hasenpfeffer's in the air
                    As the bunny gets the chair! “

By the end of Act 1, Bobby has kidnapped Hope and real trouble ensues.  Act 2 is full of plot twists and surprises.  Main characters die, the revolution is taken over by Hope and t
the true meaning of Urinetown is revealed. 

Although there is an abundance of humor and plenty of laughter throughout the show, Urinetown is not a comedy.  The theme is frighteningly real and the characters, while exaggerated, are none the less authentic.  The lighthearted nature of potty humor helps to balance the seriousness of the plot and the extremely catchy musical numbers, it’s a Privilege to Pee, Mr. Cladwell and Snuff That Girl, are weirdly enchanting.

My seat on the balcony allowed me to look directly above the stage onto the loft at the jazz band.  The sweet sounds of the sax and percussion billowed through the theater, setting the mood for the fictional world I was about to enter.  Lights above the stage read, Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health a complete farce from the set design which looks like an alley or a ghetto, with litter strewn on the ground and graffiti scaring the building walls.

Officer Lockstock, played by Luke Halferty, served as the shows narrator.  His stage presence emanated charisma.  His talents appear to be great as he wrapped up Act 1 with a scene summary in slow- motion movements; comical and accomplished expertise.  One of my favorite characters, Caldwell B. Cladwell, portrayed by Taylor Warren offered the audience a spectacular performance.  When I find myself hating the bad guy I know they are doing a good job.  Warren’s portrayal of evil entrepreneur combined with his abilities to generate laughter from the audience at just the right times is an indication of his prospects on stage.  The two leading ladies, Tara O’Donnell playing Pennywise and Morissa Trunzo staring as Hope Cladwell deserve recognition.  Whether the sound system in the theater was turned up too high, or the acoustics in the balcony were wonky, the high pitched squeals of O’Donnell made it difficult for me to see her as anything but the screech-er.  Portraying a cold- blooded character requires conviction in unique traits that must be expertly enacted on stage.  

Perhaps it was a directional thing, but de repetitive high pitched squeals did not convey the attitude of a callous supervisor hell-bent on enforcing the rules.  Trunzo, on the other hand, caught me completely off guard.  Her first appearance on stage did not indicate the strength of her voice.  Her harmonizing abilities, specifically in Follow Your Heart, were very lovely.  Her voice perfectly mimics the innocence of her character. Two other characters deserve a special mention. Eddie Layfield, Bobby Strong, a senior at Point Park University offered the audience a brilliant showing of his theatrical abilities, as vocalist, actor and dancer.  His skills were on spot, eliciting laughter from the audience as well as feelings of compassion and regret.  I expect to see his name on many Playbill’s in the future.  Additionally, supporting character Little Sally, played by Emma Feinberg portrayed her character as sweet and cute, just like a little girl would be.  She was a wonderful accompaniment to Officer Lockstock, the hard-headed cop forced to the harsh realities of the laws and Urinetown to Little Sally, the simple child, who in fact wasn’t so simple.  For a child, Little Sally offered the audience an honest perspective on what it means to be poor, and the real face of the victims of socio-economic injustices. 

Having most recently seen shows at the posh and glamorous Benedum Center, the cozy Rauh Theater was a welcome change.  The history of the Pittsburgh Playhouse radiates through the bones of the performers.  One thing for sure, the Point Park University’s production of Urinetown did not disappoint as a professional quality performance.  There are no cocktails at intermission but a nice café that offers soda and tea and coffee.  The affordability of tickets as well as the wide selection of various shows makes this a great theater for date night. 

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report, World Premiere L’Hotel Brings Life and Laughter

PPT’s World Premiere L’Hotel Brings Life and Laughter

 to the O’Reiley Theater.

By Megan Grabowski

On Thursday evening, November 20, 2014 I traversed downtown to the O’Reiley Theater for my first world premiere. Pittsburgh Public Theaters (PPT) debut of L’Hotel, by Ed Dixon, a unique and intelligent comedy lured a vastly astute audience into the invitingly bright playhouse.  I was merely aware of the shows plot before sitting down in my seat and skimming the program.  That turned out to be o.k., as the actors were so true to character I never once felt I was missing a beat.  The performance of L’Hotel is an all-inclusive dose of culture for Pittsburghers who may not be familiar with all of the artists portrayed in the show.  Theatergoers will be driven to investigate the characters unfamiliar to them after experiencing the dramatists’ flair for language and his intimate knowledge of each artiste under the skillful direction of Ted Pappas.
Deanne Lorette as Sarah Bernhardt and Daniel Hartley as Jim Morrison.

The show takes place, today, in the lobby of a posh French hotel,occupied by an eclectic group; Victor Hugo, Isadora Duncan, Gioachino Rossini, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Jim Morrison and the hotel’s loyal waiter.  Act 1 begins with the animated and adorable waiter bustling with the hurriedness only a perfectionist server can deliver; setting tables, straightening linens, pouring beverages before the hotel’s guests arrive; almost giddy with anticipation.  First to appear for morning cafe is the greatest and best known French writer, Victor Hugo, followed by Oscar Wilde.  The two literary minds sit at different tables and immediately begin to insult one another, a practice that follows the guests throughout the show.  Annoying?  Hardly, as the jabs consistently thrown across the stage between the actors contain brief spurts of biographical detail allowing the audience to collect tidbits of historical truths about the personalities.  

The strings of witticisms are brilliantly crafted. Only a writer schooled in the masterworks of each character could conjure.  The verbal pokes and prods pick fun at each characters iconic flaw, inevitably acknowledging the time period of their lifetime and success. No sooner does the audience begin to wonder why these 6 antiquated artists are dining, clearly they can scarcely tolerate one another, when they answer that through their banter. 

Sam Tsoutsouvas as Victor Hugo, Kati Brazda as Isadora Duncan, Tony Triano as Gioachino Rossini, Deanne Lorette as Sarah Bernhardt, Daniel Hartley as Jim Morrison, Brent Harris as Oscar Wilde, and Erika Cuenca as The Young Woman.
The jests, which skillfully span centuries, incorporate each person’s life miseries and awaken the harsh realities of their personal purgatory; confined to L’Hotel.  Together they are doomed to repeat the behaviors and dismal thoughts they harbored during life.  Their connection to one another, each are buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.  Each a celebrity during their lifetime is now condemned to live out eternity as guests in L’Hotel. Much of their time appears to be spent chastising each other, and attempting to validate their own self- worth by talking about how great they are at creating; constantly striving to outdo the other in stardom. 

The arbitrariness of the guests, author Victor Hugo, composer Gioachion Rossini, actress Sarah Bernhardt, dancer Isadora Duncan, novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde and rock musician Jim Morrison, jointly generate a synergy of stereotypical artistic traits; egotism, arrogance and eccentric behavior that produce consistent laughter from the audience.  Despite the cast’s woeful reminiscing of being, they unite during the development of a scheme to return one of them back to the land of the living.  The plan is initiated after a young girl visits the cemetery and leaves behind a bouquet of flowers on the grave of an unknown person.  Nothing incites the deceased celebrities more than seeing someone pay homage to a no-body.

The absurdity continues as the cast deliberates messages delivered through the Ouija Board.  Upon Bernhardt’s encouragement, the dead guests seek advice from other spirits about how to attain the means for rebirth.  The unusual plot and the sharp dialogue make this show full of energy and genuine entertainment. 

Each actor is undeniably cast appropriately and they work flawlessly together. The waiter, played by Evan Zes has perfected comedic timing.  He charms the audience with his knack for hustle and attention to detail as he strives to meet the needs of his patrons.  His characters warmth and honesty toward life and death emanate on stage and keep the audience grounded.

Kati Brazda as Isadora Duncan, Sam Tsoutsouvas as Victor Hugo, Tony Triano as Gioachino Rossini, Evan Zes as The Waiter.
Sam Tsoutsouvas cast as Victor Hugo portrays a highbrowed spirit who compulsively condescends each guest continually throughout the course of the play.  It is his disturbing reserve of emotion and a deep seeded arrogance which prevents him from fully bonding with any other character. His loftiness inhibits any ability for him to let go of the past and move forward in the ethereal realm. It is his role as a somber spirit, and Tsoutsouvas’s deep and sullen voice combined with his depiction of overtly forced self- worth, that permit me to believe he is Hugo. 

Brent Harris portrays Oscar Wilde with the flamboyancy and raunchiness I imagine he would possess if alive today.  Harris mastered the knack of gesturing while speaking, swaggering across the stage in a loud colored suit and retorting Hugo’s incessant insults with humor and guile. He spends a great deal of time self- examining his soul while wrestling with his spiritual demons, but it is the moments when Wilde is alone on stage speaking to his long- lost lover with passion and yearning that Harris truly engages the audience.  We listen, quietly, during these solemn moments, laughter subsides; Wilde’s pain is nearly tangible.

Brent Harris as Oscar Wilde.
Kati Brazda, sways across the stage, madly flinging her arms about, spinning, brushing the floor with her fingertips.  Brazda overstates Duncan’s sadness, her regrets and her revelries through movement; through dance.  Brazda’s presence on stage, depicting dancer Isadora Duncan, is enthusiastically exaggerated.  Duncan, although eager to unearth the steps toward reincarnation, also realizes the reality of her place.  She needs confirmation from the world that she is still influential and she attempts to draw this from her cast mates as she sashays across stage in a satin gown.  These eccentricities flow naturally from Brazda and I enjoyed listening to her speak of her time on the stage, communicating through movement. This zeal makes her a perfect accompaniment to Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, played by Tony Triano.  Duncan is patient and kind toward Rossini’s naiveté.  

While Triano plays up the gullible nature of the composer, who despite an appearance of flightiness is sincerely a musical genius Rossini ignores the matter of death altogether. He is a grand lover of life and his ability to produce and create beauty through writing music; he does not like the thought of being dead. Triano is stocky in stature and this adds to Rossini’s delight in eating.  Triano conveys Rossini’s pride by ensuring he speaks sincerely about his art and ignores most of the zingers Hugo, Wilde and Morrison throw at him.  Rossini never loses sight of his desire to continue composing so he pursues the opportunity to be born again.   

Daniel Hartley cast as Jim Morrison, the musical guile behind The Doors.  Morrison, a sex object even after death, wrecked his career with drinking and drugs and inevitably fashioned his own demise.  Morrison’s character maintains the same self- destructive behaviors throughout L’Hotel. His first appearance involves retching loudly off stage, then sauntering on in leather pants, sunglasses, smoking a cigarette and requesting a beer for breakfast.   Morrison does not regret how he lived, but is remorseful that he is no longer alive. Hartley’s display of Morrison’s coolness and immortal attitude is something the audience can relate to on a number of levels. The role requires Hartley wear leather pants and gyrate his hips while brazenly referring to sexual exploits.  More important is Hartley’s responsibility to demand the audience connect with him through reflection. What does it mean to be a celebrity in the 21st century?  Who deserves our revere?  Far too often the world loses a brilliant talent to drugs, alcohol or other negative behaviors.  Hartley’s portrayal of Morrison made me question my choice of idols.  Who do I think deserves the fame, fortune and recognition?  

Who do I think will be famous for just 15 minutes?  What do celebrities really want to be remembered for?  What do I want to be remembered for after I die? 

Sarah Bernhardt, ‘the most famous actress the world has ever known’ played by Deanne Lorette, is showy, proud, and overly dramatic.  She knows she was a renowned star and doesn’t hesitate to remind the others.  She holds steadfast to her reputation as a serious actress and uses her natural inclination toward the theater to lead the Ouija expedition.  She cajoles the remaining cast members with her vivacity to follow her as she contacts spirits, requesting instructions for escape.  Bernhardt insists she is no longer dramatic, but through Lorette’s hysterical interpretation we see Bernhardt as an eternal actress on and off stage, in life and after death. 

The young woman, played by Erika Cuenca is refreshing in her grief.  She is real and tormented. She agonizes over modern day difficulties. She speaks from the heart and unintentionally unites the cast in a demented and twisted manner without flinching.  She begs for someone to hear her and Hugo, Duncan, Wilde, Bernhardt, Rossini and Morrison holler back. These traits are the only aspects that impede a complete suspension of disbelief. 

Playwright Ed Dixon, has captured the essence of each character through dialogue and an original concept.  His familiarity of each character is uncanny as he attempts to have them shape the modern day images and ideals of an afterlife. The audience is left with a sense of ease, pondering our long held beliefs. Perhaps the uncertainty is not as frightening as we have thought. Or maybe more so!  Either way, Pappas, Pittsburgh’s stage mastermind, seizes the crux of each artist’s true being.  Through his impeccable direction 6 characters manage to transcend time and space on the stage of the O’Reiley, offering the audience they type of randomness that really makes a person wonder.  

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Its Not About Keeping Up with the Jones's, It Is About Utilizing Technology to Grow Your Business: 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference Nov. 13th 2014

Its Not About Keeping Up with the Jones's, It Is About Utilizing Technology to Grow Your Business
Review of the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference Nov. 13th 2014

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and PositivePittsburghLiveMagazine.com
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Nov. 15, 2014

You can watch or read a news story almost daily about a new successful company with a new cool idea that they are bringing to fruition with new and innovative technologies almost daily. And as an aspiring entrepreneur one could hear these stories and say oh the stars just aligned for that new company but how can I get my idea off the ground like that? And how will I ever afford to? How can I keep up with the Jone's company when I am struggling with the current technology to even get in the race? Well the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has the just the right resources to help any company get up and running. On Friday November 13th, 2014 they hosted the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference to connect entrepreneurs with technology resources to make their business more competitive, efficient, and accessible.

The conference started with a breakfast and opening remarks from SBDC Director Mary T. McKinney, Ph.D.  She shared about her recent trips to the White House to discuss the Small Business Administration's upcoming initiatives. Then she introduced the opening panel speakers. Sue McMurdy of Endeavor Management started the discussion and day off with a very key point, that it is crucial to make sure that your company's IT efforts and endeavors are truly in sync with your overall business strategy. Doing technology stuff for the sake of having new or whatever reason can be in vain and have a negative impact not only on your bottom line, but effectiveness and efficiency operations too. Companies today depend so much on technology throughout their businesses, her advice was to make sure the use and implementation in your company is getting the thought and planning it is due. Jay Markey of Green Seven Technologies provided a great follow-up with the importance of then protecting all of your digital information and the resources available to do so. His advice was not to put all your digital eggs in one basket; Redundancy when it comes to data storage is like an insurance policy. Indigo Raffel of CCI rounded out the opening discussion with ideas to reduce your business's carbon footprint and the advantages of running a green company.

The conference continued with 3 break-out sessions. Attendees could choose from several workshops on e-commerce, social media, e-mail strategies, marketing with technology, software, and search engine optimization. The first one I went to was "How to Build, Manage & Promote Your Own Do-It-Yourself Website" by Joe Polk of Thirteen Ball. There he covered the all of the basic nuts and bolts of how to actually get a website up and running, including going through many of the the service providers and platforms. His personal insight was very helpful as to which companies to use for what and discerning when you need to consult professionals for advanced website design or coding.

The second session I went to was "Compel and Sell: Content and Calls to Action That Get Results" by Dan Droz of Droz and Associates. He had a very engaging and inspiring presentation that gave attendees a very structured and practical understanding about marketing strategies to implement and the motivations that should be behind them. Sometimes people can think of marketing as superfluous, but Droz made it clear that if everything you do in marketing and business development is done with purpose and leads your customers down a planned path, that path will lead to sales and a repeat customer relationship, which only means more sales. A key component of building relationships with customers is through communication, thus as Droz put it, that makes getting peoples emails like the holy grail. This perfectly teed up my last session choice.

The third session I attended was High-Impact Email Marketing: Best Practices & Winning Strategies by Autumn Edminston of the Edminston Group and Stephen Wayhart of Brandmill. Autumn shared great information about the timing strategies of emailing and automating the process. She is an authorized consultant for Constant Contact, one of the leading companies in email automation services, and showed its advantages of database management, customer segmentation, and analytics. Stephen continued with email content quality and layout. A key caution point he made was to not make emails overly complicated. These days most people are viewing emails on their smart phones, which are obviously smaller than an entire computer screen, and if an email is not well organized and scroll-able it will simply get trashed.

Dr. Anind Dey
Director of Human Compute
Interaction Institute of CMU
Probably most exciting of all was the the keynote speaker Anind Dey Ph.D., Director of the Human Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. His talk on "Novel Ways You will be Connecting to Our World in the next Five to Ten Years Through Mobile Devices, Gaming and Computers" was packed full of wicked cool ideas of the future that are being developed right here in Pittsburgh, right now. One of the numerous examples of ideas he shared was an on-body computing interface being developed by one of his colleagues at CMU.   Now, as someone who is not in any hard technology industry, the idea of even thinking up some of the things he shared is mind blowing.  But his take away was an important one. In the times we live in, you don't have to be an expert, top to bottom, or even engineer everything yourself if you have an idea. Truly, an idea is all you need to be the next top innovator, because there are boundless and numerous resources to bring your idea to reality.

No conference would be complete without great networking opportunities. The trade show in the afternoon was a great time to check out local technology services and products available to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Many vendors featured great opportunities exclusive to conference attendees. I made several business contacts at this conference and got a lot of great ideas about different products and services to benefit my business and clients.

Upcoming SBDC Events:
First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 4, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  798 Turnpike St, Beaver, PA

Pacific Alliance Exports Event
Dec. 11, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall Room 505

First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 11, 2014  |  1:30 - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall

Entrepreneur's Growth Conference 2014
May 15, 2015  |  8:30 AM - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University

For More Information Contact:
Duquesne University
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
108 Rockwell Hall 600 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15282-0103
(412) 396-6233  |  duqsbdc@duq.edu
Twitter: @DUSBDC  |  Facebook: Duquesne University SBDC

Written By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report: A Resounding Musical Pastiche of Not-To Be Forgotten Hollywood’s Good Guys and Bad Guys by the PNC Pops

Review of _
Heroes and Villains at the Pittsburgh Symphony 
From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and PositivePittsburghLiveMagazine.com
Written By:  Hank Walshak

Heroes and Villains
A Resounding Musical Pastiche of Not-To Be Forgotten
Hollywood’s Good Guys and Bad Guys by the PNC Pops
Hank Walshak

Even the most demanding film buff had to be pleased with Heroes and Villains, Conductor Lucas Richman’s October 18 pastiche of film-music nostalgia. OK, to be more specific, the 18 pieces on the Heroes and Villains program carried me back to Hollywood’s depictions of the good guys and the bad guys in films.

Lucas Richman via Pittsburgh Symphony blog
What was not to like? The opening piece, Rossini’s “Finale” to the William Tell Overture, launched long-forgotten memories of that good guy, the Lone Ranger. The program’s conclusion, “The Imperial March” by John Williams from Star Wars, recalled the frightening presence of that bad guy, Darth Vader, from Star Wars.

Musical master, Richman, lived up to his conducting  and recording reputation for film scores like the Academy Award nominated, The Village, As Good As it Gets, Face/Off,  Se7en, Breakdown, The Manchurian Candidate, and Kim Kittredge: An American Girl. In 2010, at the request of John Williams, Richman led the three-month tour of Star Wars in Concert.

To add to our pleasure, Richman introduced each piece and flavored his articulation with descriptions of the many artists he‘d worked with over the years.

The PNC Pops was in ultra-fine fiddle, if I may say so, playing a variety of musical memory rousers. These included not-to-be-forgotten masterpieces like the “Parade of Champions” from Ben Hur, the “Love Theme” from The Godfather, and music highlights from Rocky.   I remembered how Bernard Herrmann’s slicing and chilling “Narrative for String Orchestra” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. frightened me away from taking showers, but for a short time only.
Sheena Easton, vocalist

The highpoint of Heroes and Villains came in the presence and vocal mastery of Sheena Easton. I loved her rendition of “Nobody Does It Better” by Marvin Hammlisch from The Spy Who Loved Me and Bill Conti’s “For Your Eyes Only” from the movie For Your Eyes Only.

A six-time Grammy nominee in the US, Easton is a two-time Grammy Award winner, winning Best New Artist in 1981 and Best Mexican-American Performance in 1985, for her duet with Luis Miguel on the song "Me Gustas Tal Como Eres". And let’s not forget that she’s sold more than 20-million albums and singles worldwide.

“Heroes and Villains” presented my first opportunity to listen to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Student Chorale, whose members include young men and women vocalists in grades 10 and 12 and college singers.

What a treat it was to hear their youthful voices interpret John Williams’s pieces—“Battle of the Heroes” from Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Dry Your Tears, Africa,” from Amistad. Under the Direction of Christine Hestwood, these young men and women touched my heart with their professional, vocal accompaniment.

One segment in particular of Heroes and Villains caught my attention--the “Overture to Tarare" by none other than Antonio Salieri, contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Before this, I had never experienced Salieri’s music on a symphony program. Herr Mozart, I thought, would have been amazed beyond measure had he witnessed this. Truly!

By:  Hank Walshak
Good News and Cultural Reporter
Hank Walshak, Founder and President of Walshak Communications, Inc., helps experts to be read, be heard, be seen, and be known. He assists experts in creating and delivering expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts.
He empowers experts to creatively articulate themselves and to stand out in the scarce space vis-à-vis their competitors in the markets they serve. He is adept at helping executives and business owners communicate their ideas in ways that energize and stay with their audiences.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report "Sleeping Beauty" Ballet a Sleeping Giant

"Sleeping Beauty" Ballet a Sleeping Giant

Review of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 45th Season Opening Ballet

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

This past week-end the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater opened its 45th Season with a stunning performance of “Sleeping Beauty,” telling the
story of Princess Aurora and her enchanted slumber. My six year old granddaughter and I watched this classic fairy-tale come to life as more than 150 dancers in the world famous score was performed by The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Martin West. In our humble view it rivaled the performances of much larger ballet companies.  With all the special effects and beautiful period costumes, my granddaughter said, "It's like a movie."

What an engaging ballet couple, Julia Erikson as Princess Aurora and Noralan Abougaliev as Prince Desire.
We especially enjoyed the fairy solos in the first act accompanied by the men of the corps de ballet. What strong and mesmerizing performances.  We often don't realize that ballet artists are real athletes.  This is particularly emphasized in the famous “Rose Adagio,” performed by Aurora and her four suitors, showcases the strength and control of the ballerina through a series of impressive balances and promenades.  Just the length of time Julia held he poses with grace and seemed to do it with such grace and ease was phenomenal to watch.
The orchestra, playing Tchaikovsky’s historic score under the baton of guest conductor Martin West, this “Sleeping Beauty” truly could feed the soul of any arts enthusiast.  Ballet is so much more exciting with a live orchestra out front and center.   
photo by Rich Sofranko.
Artists: Amanda Cochrane & Yoshiaki Nakano. 
As a grandmother it is important to me that children who attend this ballet are introduced to many Tchaikovsky classics such as “Garland Waltz” used as the tune for Disney’s “Once Upon a Dream.

“The Sleeping Beauty” features scenic and costume designs by David Walker, who evokes a 17th century theme with the regal columns and gold finery of the palace that frames the story. Costume styles include the intricate classical tutus of the fairies, elaborate robes of the courtesans and the jeweled snakes and spiders of Carabosse’s costume. I wondered at not being able to see some of the leg movements in the flowing robes but the overall effect was spellbinding.  Stage effects also enhance the atmosphere, especially with the entrance of Carabosse, whose carriage arrives onstage in a swirl of fog and thunder accompanied by her ghouls. I was particularly impressed with the sheer curtaining, barely discernible that was part of the scenery that set the mood with several acts.  We are so blessed in Pittsburgh with what his ballet theatre can produce in a relatively small city and with I am sure not the resources of bigger city corps.
Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's
'The Sleeping Beauty.' photo by 
Rich Sofranko

Anaiyah Thomas loving
the ballet
We missed the Act III cameos by Puss N Boots because a two and a half hour performance is a bit much for a six year old.  She hung in there as long as she could and then told me she was tired and wanted to go home and go to bed, not without regret.  But as we reached the wide expanse of the lobby and while waiting for our cab, she utilized the entire front lobby to imitate the ballerinas flying movements, even using her cocktail sweater as a prop, dancing from end to end of the empty lobby accompanied by the orchestra which we could hear in the lobby.  I think my granddaughter will be dancing around our houses for some time to come although I am sure not as freely as she did in the grand lobby of the Benedum as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre played on for Act III of Sleeping Beauty.

 Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report, "Macbeth" The Power of Prophecy, Betrayal, Assassination, Guilt and Revenge

The Power of Prophecy
 Betrayal, Assassination, Guilt and Revenge

Directed by Alan Stanford
PICT Classic Theater
JoAnn R. Forrester, Review

Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s shortest and darkest plays was first
David Whalen as Macbeth
staged over five hundred years. It’s insights into the human character and the thirst and consequence of greed and power still ring true.
The play Macbeth depicts the tale of a brave Scottish General, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth, who become consumed by a prophecy of glory and power based on the prediction of witches heard shortly shortly after a major victory and promotion.  This prophesy grabs him, twists him and turns into a murderous and paranoid man who retains his power by eliminating all those he  perceives as a threat. 

Lady Macbeth passion for power is ignited when she reads the witches prophesy in a letter from her husband.   She sees herself as Queen of Scotland and what is a little murder or two to get what has been prophesized.  She is his eager partner in the royal murder and cover up.  Unexpectedly her conscience raises it head.  Lady Macbeth is gripped in remorse and guilt, and is driven to commit suicide to escape her pain. 

The witches
Macbeth, the “Scottish Play” is a play that is a great challenge to those who embark on it.  It is the one that actors desire and dread.  David Whelan, as Macbeth, is masterful and he passes the actors test.   Lady Macbeth, played by Gayle Pazerski is accomplished as Lady Macbeth who quickly is gripped by the witch’s prophecy and moves to “incite” her husband to strike while it is the opportune time.  Remind me never to be the guest of anyone who has the name Macbeth.

Alan Stoppard is a great director and has that touch that brings the theater alive, whether it is drama, comedy or tragedy.  One of his unique touches was how the witches are portrayed.  They weave an eerie spell of magic with  sinuous movements and their multi layered costumes weave a spell of first they are there and then they are not.

 The Charity Randall Theater captured my imagination with its dark gray vaulted ceiling setting the scene as medieval Scottish castle.  The use of mist to portray the mysterious atmosphere worked well.  The costumes at first seemed drab to me and I wanted to see more color and splendor.  But it worked and forced me and I believe the actors to project their character.  The choreograph scenes of the battles and murders with mist, drums and lighting conveyed the dark murderous times.

I am fascinated by English, Scottish and Irish history.  I revel in reading about the time when the sword and the pike often settle the score and decided who will reign.   It is a bloody ruthless time that we in the US find difficult to understand.  After all, we believe in the “peaceful transfer of power” and fight our battles at the polls.  Of course, if we are honest, we would admit we now use character assassination to accomplish our drive and thirst for political power.  And unfortunately wars are still fought to gain and keep power today.  Regardless of the “reasons” we have wars today; it is still based on Shakespeare’s reading of the human character. 

As one of my British friends would exclaim, “Good show”   I suggest you make the time to see PICT’S Macbeth.  It is first rate theatre.  We are so fortunate to have this first rate Theatre Company with us. Go, enjoy and be immersed in murder and intrigue at its finest. 

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on PositivelyPittsburghLiveMagazine.com
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT™ cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.