KST Blog

  1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Kelly Strayhorn Theater Announces Suite Life, A Night of Music Celebrating Pittsburgh Legends Billy Strayhorn & Gene Kelly


    EAST LIBERTY, PA (October 21, 2022) Suite Life is Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s annual celebration of its two namesakes and Pittsburgh legends, jazz composer Billy Strayhorn and polymath performer Gene Kelly. The highly anticipated staple of KST’s Fall season, Suite Life offers KST patrons a night of illuminating performances during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the tradition, and Suite Life 2022 promises to live up to its name with concept by Con Alma’s John Shannon and a VIP reception hosted by Duolingo.

    Suite Life 2022 will be under the stage direction of Monteze Freeland (Co-Artistic Director of City Theater) and musical direction of Akron-based Theron Brown. Lead vocalists Anita Levels and Billy Mason (Both Pittsburgh favorites) will have the audience swooning through an unmissable evening of sultry flare, as media design by artist Scott Andrew and lighting design by Jonathan Bucci Productions suffuse the East End tradition with sizzling atmosphere.

    Director Monteze Freeland is a multidisciplinary artist from Baltimore, MD whose talents include acting, directing, writing, producing, and teaching. Monteze is the current Co- Artistic Director of City Theatre Company and was named City Paper’s Person of the Year for Theatre in 2021, in addition to being named the Performer of the Year in 2017 by the Post-Gazette. 

    Musical Director and pianist Theron Brown currently resides in Akron, Ohio, where he is the founder of the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival, which takes place in the city’s downtown historic district. A glimpse of gospel, jazz, and soul from the great legends is what inspires Theron’s sound. The artist is immensely involved in promoting the music scene and the arts, and takes pride in teaching musicians and volunteering his musical talent at community activities. 

    This year, Duolingo will host the VIP Reception at their East End headquarters. Taking place in the hour and a half leading up to the Suite Life concert, the intimate affair will boast curated cocktails, elevated hors d’oeuvres, and an opportunity to mix and mingle with Pittsburgh’s foremost Jazz enthusiasts. 

    KST presents Suite Life on Saturday, November 26 at 8:00pm at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. VIP Reception at Duolingo, from 6:00pm – 7:30pm. More info at www.kellystrayhorn.org 


    Theron Brown (musical director, piano) is a musician whose sound is inspired by glimpses of gospel, jazz, and soul from the great legends. But the reason he plays is to encourage and influence people through his talents. Originally from Zanesville, Ohio, Theron currently resides in Akron, Ohio, where he is Professor of Practice at The University of Akron teaching jazz piano, and the program coordinator for Curated Storefront’s Artist Residency Program at the ‘I Promise School’. Theron also serves as an educator for the interactive piano learning app, Playground Sessions. Theron is heavily involved in the music community as the founder and artistic director of the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival, which takes place annually in Akron, Ohio’s downtown historic district. Theron performs and tours regularly with his trio that includes Zaire Darden on drums and Jordan McBride on bass. Theron received an amazing opportunity as he auditioned for and was cast as young Herbie Hancock in the 2016 film, Miles Ahead, directed by and starring Don Cheadle. In 2019, Theron released his debut album, No Concepts. Theron is currently working on his second album titled Spirit Fruit, which reflects on essential and fundamental characteristics that bring positive vibes to peoples lives. This was inspired by Galatians 5:22-23.

    Monteze Freeland (director) is a multidisciplinary artist from Baltimore, MD whose talents include acting, directing, writing, producing, and teaching. Monteze is the current Co- Artistic Director of City Theatre Company and was named City Paper’s Person of the Year for Theatre in 2021, in addition to being named the Performer of the Year in 2017 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Select directing credits include: The Santaland Diaries, The Young Playwrights Festival ’17 & ’21, Claws Out: A Holiday Drag Musical, The Garbologists and Clyde’s (City Theatre); King Hedley II and Fences (Co-Director with Mark Clayton Southers), Savior Samuel, Miss Julie, Clarissa and John, Christmas Star, In The Heat of the Night and Poe’s Last Night (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company); I know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Prime Stage Theater); Hairspray, Shrek, The Addams Family, and Freaky Friday (CLO Summer Academy); readings of Trouble in Mind and The Coffin Maker (Pittsburgh Public Theater) and Flyin’ West (DEMASKUS). Many thanks to the incredible KST staff and creative team.

    Scott Andrew (media design) is a multimedia queer-oriented video, installation,  and performance artist. He creates speculative fantasies that peer into otherworldly portals and voids. He has exhibited at MoMA (NYC), Ballroom Marfa (Marfa, TX), the Hammer Museum (LA), and the J. Paul Getty Museum (LA), among others. Scott is an educator, advising and teaching animation, video, concept, and performance courses as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, a Visiting Lecturer in the Studio Arts program at the University of Pittsburgh, and with the CMU Pre-college program. Scott has taught at Youngstown State University, Seaton Hill University, The Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, and has conducted workshops at the Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory, and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Scott co-curates TQ Live! a yearly LGBTQ+ variety series that has been presented at the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Along with Angela Washko and Jesse Stiles, Scott organizes a National Endowment for the Arts funded performance series called Fail-Safe, which seeks to provide a supportive space for the presentation and potential failure of performative works-in-progress. Other previous curatorial projects include the drift and the Institute for New Feeling’s Felt Book.

    Jonathan Robert Bucci (lighting design) is the founder and chief creative technologist of Jonathan Bucci Productions, LLC. Along with his team, Jonathan produces live, hybrid, streaming, and video production content with a theatrical flair. As an alum of Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts, Jonathan is especially at home working in music, dance, and theatre. In recognition of all of the mentorship he has received, Jonathan enjoys spending time paying it forward to young people entering the fields of lighting, audio, video, and management; especially to those who are walking non-traditional paths.

    James Johnson III (drums) is described as a chameleon with a wide range of musical talents and began his musical journey playing drums at five years old. His father, Dr. James Johnson Jr., a nationally known pianist and educator sparked his passion for music. Soon Precursory to his worldwide career, he attended Pittsburgh’s high school for the creative and performing arts (CAPA) where he was under the tutelage of jazz great Roger Humphries and Greg Humphries. This laid the foundation for a stellar career that has included performing as a regular member with legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.  His musical adventures have led him to play prestigious venues around the world such as North America, Europe, Africa and Japan. As a part of his portfolio he has performed with  jazz masters Monty Alexander, George Coleman, James Moody, Geri Allen, Bob James, Kenny Garrett, Benny Golson, Mulgrew Miller, and Kenny Werner. James currently serves as a faculty member at University of  Pittsburgh School of Music, Chatham University and Afro American Music Institute—a Pittsburgh institution that preserves the heritage of African American music.  As a versatile percussionist, songwriter, composer and producer, James maintains a diverse freelance career.  Currently, he has two solo projects:  Between and Full Circle.

    Anita Levels (vocalist) is a vocal artist, voice influencer, songwriter and producer who began singing at the age of 3 years old in Frankfurt, West Germany. Texas-born, being a preacher’s kid, and a member of a musical family from New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A, singing and performance are in her blood. Anita’s powerhouse, soulful, but lark-like vocals have graced national and international audiences. She has performed in London, England, has toured the country of Holland with world renowned ethnomusicologist, Dr. Portia Maultsby,  was featured in the NFL’s Super Bowl 50 commemorative commercial, has appeared in the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, and has performed in many, many other private, public and virtual events. Ms. Levels has a plethora of original music on all streaming music platforms and enjoys sharing the history and influence of Black American music on world and American culture. Anita Levels, MS, has a Masters Degree in Training and Development from Carlow University (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) and believes that instrumentation and the voice have the innate ability to vibrate truth, healing and thought.  Anita’s more recent venture is, Corn and Potatoes Are Good For You, a podcast exploring the soul’s journey through all things spiritual and sensual. She will always be the Mother of two magical daughters, put clorox in her water, powder her sheets, season her vittles, sing, laugh and cultivate spaces for communication and thought.

    Billy Mason (vocalist), a multi-hyphenated artist, director and producer, and Pittsburgh Hometown favorite, is thrilled to make Pittsburgh his home once again. After spending nearly a decade traveling the country as front man and soloist to a 36 piece orchestra, Billy has returned to his Musical Theater roots and cabaret roots. Locally, you may have seen him in productions at Pittsburgh CLO, the Strand theater, Quantum Theater and a host of others, gracing the stages of the Byham theater, the Greer cabaret, the Benedum Center and many more. Splitting his time between Pittsburgh and NYC, Billy has changed the focus of his career from performing to producing and directing, creating opportunity and safe spaces for artists both in Pittsburgh and beyond. Billy is also the owner and operator of PennyJar Media, LLC, A digital arts and media company that will, after delays caused by the pandemic, debut in 2023. Peace and blessings.

    Jordan McBride (bass) picked up the bass at age 12 and began to develop a sound influenced by the Philadelphia Jazz scene. There he joined a group of young jazz performers and began performing in and around Philadelphia. Jordan has studied with jazz greats such as bassist Andy McCloud, Mike Boon, Peter Dominquez and Gerald Cannon. As an artist, Jordan has performed with musicians across many genres. Jordan has shared the stage with the Sean Jones, Kenny Werner, The Theron Brown Trio, Dan Wilson, Jimmy Health, James Carter, Justin Faulkner, Jerome Jennings, Jamey Haddad, Paul Samuels, Jay Ashby, Chris Coles, Javon Jackson, The Admirables, Nathan Davis, and Tommy Lehman’s Squadtet. Jordan McBride holds an Artist Degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Jordan is a creative arranger and composer, as well, based in Akron, Ohio.

    Kelsey Robinson (dancer) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn. She’s grateful to have worked with well-celebrated Pittsburgh theater companies including Quantum Theater, Bricolage Production Company, Carnegie Mellon University Drama and Pittsburgh CLO. She’s also played world-renowned venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, MoMA, The Studio Museum of Harlem and The Shed. Kelsey was granted the opportunity to bring the words of MacArthur Fellow, Claudia Rankine, to life under their direction in the newly released White Card. Kelsey’s own project Talking with Ghosts About Freedom, which traverses the nation by bicycle in search of regional Black history, has been produced in residence with Kelly Strayhorn Theater and received the support of The Opportunity Fund, Advancing Black Arts, Cultural Trust and #notwhitecollective. Kelsey choreographed Point Park University Conservatory production Everybody at her alma mater where she studied Musical Theater. She’s a proud recipient of the SCALE Fellowship and was recently commissioned by The Carnegie Museum of Art to reinterpret songs for the opening of Working Thought. Kelsey has spent the last year touring North America with Squonk Opera and is thrilled to be home celebrating a new year’s Suite Life!

    John Shannon (concept, guitar) is a guitarist and songwriter born in Pittsburgh, PA who grew up studying with local luminaries Dwayne Dolphin, Eric Kloss, and Mike Ross before attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. After college John moved to New York City, where he lived for over a decade, playing locally and touring the globe as a freelance guitarist for many prominent artists across many genres. John performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the MIDEM Festival in Cannes, France, as well as internationally releasing three critically acclaimed albums of his own music under his name with French/NYC record label ObliqSound. After accepting an offer to run the music for a modern circus show in Australia for two years, John returned to Pittsburgh to tour relentlessly with his rock’n’roll band theSHIFT, whose song “Dreams” became a Number 1 hit in South America. While back in Pittsburgh and reconnecting to the jazz scene where he spent many formative years, John was part of the creation of Con Alma Restaurant and Jazz Bar. Born through the concept of giving the Pittsburgh jazz scene a new home, Con Alma celebrates its legacy in a space of great atmosphere, cuisine and cocktails. In the summer of 2021 Con Alma was named in Esquire Magazine’s “Best Bars in America of 2021” and is the only jazz bar to ever have been named on the prestigious list.

    Treasure Treasure (dancer) is an artist and multi-instrumentalist working in music, comedy, film, and visual art. Theatre credits include Cabaret (Emcee, Hangar Theatre,) This Ain’t No Disco (Atlantic Theater Company,) Agnus Teaches Acting (The Duplex,) Fiddler on the Roof (CLO). She made her Broadway debut in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun. She holds a BFA from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Her debut EP, Hypnerotomachia, is available on all platforms. IG: @manifestingtreasure

    Reggie Watkins (trombone) Pittsburgher, trombonist, pianist, arranger and composer has released three recordings as leader and has been featured on many others. From 1999 to 2006 he served as trombonist and musical director  for trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz from 2008 to 2013. In 2003 Watkins was chosen as a semi-finalist in the “Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.” Watkins has performed and recorded with many great artists from various genres including  Aretha Franklin, Dave Matthews, Dianne Shuur, Warren Haynes, Beverley Knight, Jose Feliciano, Willie Nelson, The Backstreet Boys, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ariana Grande, Dumpstaphunk, Arturo Sandoval, Trombone Shorty, The Temptations and The O’Jays. Currently, in addition to leading the Reggie Watkins Trio, he is also a member of the Grammy nominated Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, Scott Bradley’s Postmodern Jukebox and a founding member of The Keystone Jazz Collective and Steeltown Horns. Reggie plays a Michael Rath trombone and David Monette mouthpieces.

  2. KST Presents Visual Art Exhibition BOOM Capsule: Marking this Moment in Time

    EAST LIBERTY, PA — Opening Saturday, September 17 at 6:00pm, KST Presents Marking this Moment in Time: BOOM Capsule, a visual art exhibition featuring work by J. Thomas AgnewDS Kinsel, and J.L. Mallis. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Heinz Endowments created Marking this Moment: Pittsburgh Artists in 2020, an initiative to put money in the hands of artists and document their impressions of the rapidly changing reality facing us all. Through the initiative, BOOM Concepts supported the work of artists J. Thomas Agnew, D.S. Kinsel, and J.L. Mallis. These artists use agitprop, surveys, and mixtape as mediums to document and share images, music, sounds, and writing from artists in the Pittsburgh community. The works can be experienced in the Kelly Strayhorn Theater lobby through December 2022.

    To better understand the effects of the pandemic on the music industry in Pittsburgh, J. Thomas Agnew and Jourdan Hicks created the survey A Moment In TIme: Musicians Working In Covid. The survey was administered and monitored by Agnew and Hicks to document what life thorough COVID looked like for artists and creative entrepreneurs. The work provided insight into artists’ awareness of funding opportunities, whether they had felt supported or overlooked by the arts and finance entities in the city, and how they felt the Pittsburgh creative and funding landscapes could better respond to the needs of the community going forward. 

    DS Kinsel’s contribution to the exhibition, Sign O The Times: 2020 Protest Sign and Archive Reproduction identifies and reproduces protest signs from #blacklivesmatter protest and civil actions that happened across the country during 2020. The artist recreated a protest sign for each day of the year 2020. 

    Marking This Moment In TIme: In Pursuit of Visual Engagement, An anthology organized by intermedia artist J.L. Mallis documents the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on local creatives. The artists and artist collectives reflected in the anthology have demonstrated new ways of utilizing visuals, video, and visual imagery to tell their stories. The anthology highlights the renewed focus on visual media within a larger audio-visual landscape, exacerbated by COVID-19, and how the pandemic affected our experiences of interaction, engagement, communication, and the intake of media. 


    J. Thomas Agnew is a consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. Agnew is Co-Founder of BOOM Concepts Gallery, a co-working and community arts space in Pittsburgh, and EIC of JENESIS Magazine, a media outlet focusing on youth culture lifestyle and young creative entrepreneurs. Through JENESIS Magazine and BOOM Concepts’ national networks, Agnew has produced numerous arts and culture events, in collaboration with high level partners such as the Carnegie Museum Of Art, The Pittsburgh Cultural TrustAugust Wilson African American Cultural Center, Thrival Festival, Pittsburgh Music Ecosystem Project, and Love PGH Music and more. “My passion is to create forums of expression to represent and build up underrepresented voices in media, entrepreneurship, and art businesses.” Agnew is known for his track record of early start-up mentoring, design and marketing, operations management, and content creation/management targeted to young adult audiences.

    DS Kinsel is a Black creative entrepreneur and arts administrator based in Pittsburgh, PA. He expresses his creativity through the mediums of painting, window display, installation, curating, action-painting, non-traditional performance and social media. While Kinsel’s primary practice is painting, he believes that experimenting in other disciplines will ultimately further his development as a painter. Kinsel’s work puts focus on themes of escapism, space keeping, urban tradition, pop culture, hip-hop, informalism and cultural appropriation.

    J.L. Mallis is an intermedia artist and community leader based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the Executive Director at Repair The World Pittsburgh, a Jewish social justice organization connecting communities in meaningful service-learning programs. In 2020, Mallis was honored with a 40 Under 40 award by Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP. Over the past 13 years in Pittsburgh, Mallis has been organizing creative endeavors and community programs. They perform live as a VJ and DJ and use digital media, paint, installation, performance, sound and audience interaction to create unique creative and enriching experiences. Their artistic production focuses on building community, audio-visual experiences and speaking truth. They utilize playfulness, maximalism, and imagined environments as critical elements in their work.

    For full season details, KST COVID policy updates, and tickets, go to kelly-strayhorn.org.

  3. Green Mountain Energy Presents: PennAve-BOO-looza, Saturday, October 16!

    Green Mountain Energy Presents

    Saturday, October 16
    12:00pm – 6:00pm

    Mathilda to Negley on Penn Ave
    Green Mountain Energy Stage located at Winebiddle and Dearborn.

    Celebrate small businesses on Penn Ave with a day of fall-tastic fun! See live art with performances by local youth, music, and dance artists, make crafts with Assemble, join the costume parade, play games and win prizes! Local businesses will be open with happenings as well! Stop by 5472 Penn Ave to see Glowing Glass with the Pittsburgh Glass Center’s Hot Wheels! Hot Wheels is an outreach vehicle that allows furnace-fired fun and glassblowing demonstrations to travel far beyond the walls of our Penn Avenue building. Fun for all ages as artists make glass art right in front of you!

    Schedule of Winebiddle Stage Events:
    12:00pm: BOOM CONCEPTS Presents Music by Shade Cobain
    1:00pm: Local Business Performances including Los Sabrosos
    2:00pm: School Supply Giveaway with Games
    2:30pm: Demonstration by KST’s The Alloy School
    3:00pm – 6:00pm: BOOM CONCEPTS Presents Music from Local Youth organized by “From INEZ With Love LLC” featuring Mani Bahia, Anomaly The DJ and Cornell Collins

    This event is sponsored by Boom Concepts, Green Mountain Energy, ZeroFossil Fuels, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, URA, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Explore BGL, Assemble, and Pittsburgh Glass Center.

  4. Hotline Ring 2021 Spotlight: PearlArts

    Check out this spotlight video from Hotline Ring 2021 partner: PearlArts

    A Collective Virtual Fundraiser

    PearlArts is a dance-focused arts organization that also provides music and media arts programming. We offer artistic experiences through creative residencies, innovative collaborations, and a broad range of dance and sound education and outreach opportunities. PearlArts is the creative parent organization for STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos and Tuff Sound Recording.

    We are thrilled to announce the return of Hotline Ring, a collective virtual fundraiser led by Kelly Strayhorn Theater in collaboration with 1Hood Media, BOOM Concepts, Braddock Carnegie Library Association, Dreams of Hope, The Legacy Arts Project, and PearlArts. Join us for the live streaming program as Hotline Ring brings together our aligned missions and our supporters to create a spectacular event as an opportunity for giving that will have an enormous impact on our region.

    Thursday, July 15, 6:00pm – 10:00pm  


  5. KST in the news: Juneteenth celebrated as a day of service, song and remembrance

    “When we say we’ve come this far, Black people, and we’re able to have our art in a beautiful building like this — that really says something” -Women of Visions president Christina Bathea
    We were so honored to partner with Women of Visions for MAGNIFICENT MOTOWN! Art Inspired by the Music. The opening reception, coupled with the ORIGINS Marketplace, was a success, as we welcomed the community to our first in-person event of the summer with music, art, and celebration!
    Read the Post Gazette’s write-up below:
  6. Hotline Ring 2021 Spotlight: Erin Perry from the Legacy Arts Project

    Check out this spotlight video from Erin Perry highlighting The Legacy Arts Project and the impact of Hotline Ring!

    A Collective Virtual Fundraiser

    We are thrilled to announce the return of Hotline Ring, a collective virtual fundraiser led by Kelly Strayhorn Theater in collaboration with 1Hood Media, BOOM Concepts, Braddock Carnegie Library Association, Dreams of Hope, The Legacy Arts Project, and PearlArts. Join us for the live streaming program as Hotline Ring brings together our aligned missions and our supporters to create a spectacular event as an opportunity for giving that will have an enormous impact on our region.

    Thursday, July 15, 6:00pm – 10:00pm  


  7. Gia Fagnelli & Jordan Harris Showcase A Different Way to Meditate & Find Balance

    The benefits of meditation cannot be ignored, but not everyone finds it easy to sit in one spot and in total silence. This is why another type of meditation, called movement meditation, can be so beneficial. Movement meditation is not your usual meditation where you sit still and focus on your breath. Instead, you are moving through various positions with a mindful and slow pace.

    Gia Fagnelli, a third-generation yinzer, the current reigning Mx. Innovative at the Portland Erotic City Awards, and a writer, speaker, death doula, video producer, actor, performer and extraterrestrial gender experiment who combines the arts of drag, pole, prose, video, sound, installation and movement and transmits the amalgam to screens and stages across the galaxy, and Jordan Harris, an experimental movement artist, aerialist, choreographer, dance instructor, and drag artist currently working in both Pittsburgh, PA and Austin, TX will present their interpretation of movement meditation with the assistance of various movement artists during Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Freshworks Residency Showing: Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetics on Friday, May 7 at 7:00pm on Zoom!

    Being quarantined during the pandemic was the inspiration for this 30-minute meditation tool for community members in the world of drag and sex work. “I noticed two things,” Gia said. “One, we definitely need to recognize that we need a work/life balance and that television is programmed to make us nervous, panicked and tense. I wanted to create something therapeutic that focused on healing through movement with different artists from the drag world to sex workers. The piece will show how we can use our bodies as movement meditative art.


However, the piece is open to a variety of folks as Jordan explains, “Although we focus specifically and identify with sex workers and queer bodies of color, our piece is open to anyone who consumes the meditative medium.”

Gia agreed stating, “A lot of folks will be able to engage and recognize their own energy and representation in the piece. It’s not literal. It’s very abstract. I believe that we are all a cluster of quivering cells and will be able to identify with something or someone in the piece.


The main objective is for the viewing audience to notice their current state and notice if their breathing is more relaxed and their heartbeat is at a steady rate. “I don’t think people realize when they fall asleep with the television on their subconscious is soaking in the panic, noise and explosions,” Gia said. “We are recording and internalizing this stress and it’s living in our bodies. This piece will provide a rinse cycle for the mind, spirit and be visually stimulating.


The soundscore for Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic was created by dynamic Pittsburgh music and dance duo slowdanger who collaborated on the experience with Fagnelli and Harris. 

To experience Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic yourself, visit Kelly-Strayhorn.org to purchase your tickets and join us on Friday, May 7 at 7:00pm.

    Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic
    Gia Fagnelli & Jordan Harris
    Freshworks Residency Showing

    Friday, May 7, 7:00pm
    Join us on Zoom

    Pay What Makes You Happy!

    Buy Tickets Now!

    Gia Fagnelli is a third-generation yinzer, the current reigning Mx. Innovative at the Portland Erotic City Awards, and a writer, speaker, death doula, video producer, actor, performer and extraterrestrial gender experiment who combines the arts of drag, pole, prose, video, sound, installation and movement and transmits the amalgam to screens and stages across the galaxy. Jordan Harris is an experimental movement artist, aerialist, choreographer, dance instructor, and drag artist currently working in both Pittsburgh, PA and Austin, TX. The artists collaboration proposes a meditation tool for community members in the worlds of drag, art, and sex work, exploring queer creative alchemy, gender identity, and the intimacy and isolation of performing digitally. Moving Meditations – Kinaesthetic features movements and a healing soundscape by Pittsburgh’s slowdanger.

  8. Jasmine Hearn on [text me when you get home]

    Contextual writing from Jasmine Hearn concerning [text me when you get home] the upcoming Artist Talk with Joseph Hall. 

    Joseph Hall and I met a lesbian dance party in 2011 or maybe in the lobby of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. If the first, I was in complete shock that he won first place in the dance competition that we both had entered into. I placed second. If the second, I was in complete admiration of this person who cared so deeply for artists and order.

    Joseph and I kept meeting on dance floors from then on at SAPPHO — a bimonthly queer dance party … at post show dance parties at the Kelly Strayhorn… at protests.

    We found each other in sweat in joy in movement together spinning in the night.

    As I continue my residency at Kelly Strayhorn Theater with A Patient Practice, I am remembering how I have learned to move my queer black body and listening to who I learned from, alongside.


    Queer dancing black body

    Queer dancing black body at night with spirit and kin alongside

    Queer dancing black breathing body at night alongside


    Sweat through my white geometric print dress

    We were together tequila on the floor
    Gin on tongues

    Maybe you make out with that one
    And I make out with this one

    Meeting you at first at a lesbian dance off
    You win
    And I identify lesbian
    You had heels
    I got second place


    And spark of interest

    Who is this guy?




    Mayor’s office

    Sleep overs

    Living room spillage of grooves and the tempo of want and release


    Sappho — a bimonthly queer dance party
    Like full moon
    Like new moon
    Like best time to make medicine of sweat and the accidental bumps that immediately are followed by sympathy and apology

    The wild
    The ancient
    The naming of ourselves

    Rhythm that didn’t prescribe it self

    Cypher without pressure

    Sometimes white hands on our breathing black brown sweaty bodies

    Mostly eyes

    Mostly awe

    The Walk home always measured
    In the middle of the street
    Maybe witnessed

    Or lucky rides with friends with cars

    Bus no longer running
    Black bodies running or walking fast
    In middle streets


    Or alongside with two others
    We flank ourselves

    Text me when you get home


    photo by Caldwell


    STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos is seeking 2 full company members and apprentices for upcoming seasons. Contracts include training, rehearsals, performances, and teaching. Please review their website to learn more about SPdp&SS at spdpandsoysos.com. Hourly and salaried pay information will be discussed upon invitation to the next stage of the audition process. 

      • May 10, 2021, Video Audition Deadline.
      • July 5, 2021, In-person Call Back in Pittsburgh, PA by invitation only
        (Invited dancers will be notified by May 24, 2021).
      • Aug 16, 2021, Contract Start Date On-Ground in Pittsburgh, PA


    Upon completing the audition registration, you will receive a private link to access video audition criteria which will include three sections of submission:

      • SPdp&SS Repertory
      • Composition
      • Ballet Technique

    Applicants must have:

      • Excellent physical ability and stamina
      • Technical and aesthetic versatility
      • Curiosity of various movement methods
      • A positive attitude
      • A strong work ethic

    *People of color are strongly encouraged to audition and passionate allies of all race/ethnicities are welcome.

  10. Sex Workers Seek Justice Online

    There’s a movement that’s happening. Sex workers have been fighting for decriminalization for generations. Lena Chen, Chinese American performance artist, writer, and activist; and Maggie Oates, who works at the intersection of art, privacy, and computing technology, building containers that facilitate collaborative play and intimacy, are the creators behind OnlyBans, an interactive game that critically examines the policing of marginalized bodies and sexual labor. The artists will present a play through of the game with Kelly Strayhorn Theater as their virtual Freshworks Residency Presentation on Friday, April 2, 2021 at 7:00pm on Zoom!

    Many people use the internet to promote their activities and events, amplify the work and good news of others, see what others are doing, and scroll for enjoyment. They accept the social media platform’s attempt to “control content” as a form of adding order to the platforms and even providing additional online security. The reality is that this is one form of censorship that targets sex workers and other industries.

    In fact, sex workers face higher levels of stigma and discrimination than those in other service professions. And you can thank the United States Congress for that! 

    In 2018, President Trump signed into law a set of controversial bills intended to curb illegal sex trafficking online. Both bills — the House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — have been hailed by advocates as a victory for sex trafficking victims, though their efficacy has been questioned by critics – including American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation who warn of threat to free speech.

    The bills also poked a huge hole in the Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Known as “Section 230” and generally seen as one of the most important pieces of internet legislation ever created, it holds that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In other words, Section 230 has allowed the internet to thrive on user-generated content without holding platforms and ISPs responsible for whatever those users might create.

    “The Internet has long been celebrated as a limitless realm of free expression, but this digital wonderland is becoming increasingly oppressive to those who express their sexuality as part of their art, activism, or work,” Freshworks artist Lena Chen explained.

    FOSTA-SESTA creates an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers would be responsible if third parties are found to be posting ads for sexula services — including consensual sex work — on their platforms. While the legislation purports to end trafficking, what FOSTA-SESTA has actually done is create confusion and immediate repercussions among a range of internet sites as they grapple with the ruling’s sweeping language.

    In the aftermath, numerous websites took action to censor or ban parts of their platforms in response (remember Craigslist’s Personals section?) – not because those parts of the sites were promoting ads for sexual services, but because monitoring potentially unlawful content was too hard.

    So, who is a sex worker? 
    Turns out that “sex work” is a broad category; and OnlyBans will spotlight a specific area. “We are focused on people who are advertising their services online and people who may be selling digital content,” Maggie said.

    If you didn’t catch it, OnlyBans, is a play on “Only Fans,” which is a content subscription service where content creators can earn money from users who subscribe to their content as “fans.”  The site is popular in the adult entertainment industry. 

    So, how does the digital performance game work?
    Assuming the role of a sex worker, players attempt to establish an online fanbase and earn money through posting sexy images provided in the game. Players encounter content moderation algorithms, shadow-banning, “real name” policies, facial recognition software, and other threats based on actual experiences of sex workers. As their content gets flagged, they discover just how “free” the internet really is when you are engaged in stigmatized labor subject to policing and criminalization. 

    OnlyBans offers a speculative vision of how marginalized communities might band together to protest these unjust policies and create better alternatives,” Lena said.

    Built on Twine, OnlyBans incorporates actual images from real-life sex workers who have been censored and deplatformed by social media companies. “We hope this interactive experience can educate and entertain viewers through combining the aesthetics of social media with real knowledge and engaging storytelling,” Maggie said.

    The game prototype was initially developed by Lena Chen with Open Data Institute’s Violeta Mezeklieva through a residency with Polis180 (Berlin). Now as artists-in-residence at Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh), Lena, Maggie, and their collaborator Goofy Toof are revamping both the gameplay and visual design. OnlyBans incorporates research from Hacking//Hustling’s study on content moderation “Posting Into The Void” and draws inspiration from Lien Tran’s social impact game on condom criminalization “Cops & Rubbers.”

    To experience OnlyBans yourself, visit Kelly-Strayhorn.org to purchase your Pay What Makes You Happy! ticket and join us on Friday, April 2 at 7:00pm. 

    In addition, given the March 16 racially and misogynistically motivated massacre in Atlanta that intersects with the issues of OnlyBans, we share this message from Chen and affirm our institutional and individual solidarity with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities, immigrants, sex workers, and marginalized people around the world. 

    “As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, as a trauma survivor, and as a sex worker, I see elements of my own story in the lives of the victims in Atlanta.

    Their murders were the consequence of a culture that has normalized sexual shame, gender-based violence, and xenophobic fear-mongering. 

    Digital surveillance and deplatforming is intertwined with state sanctioned violence and discrimination against sex workers, such as police raids leading to the arrest, deportation, and deaths of migrant massage parlor workers.

    Research shows that increased policing, whether on the streets or on the Internet, only endangers sex workers further. Decriminalization is the most effective approach to ensuring the safety and autonomy of sex workers.

    The killings in Atlanta are a traumatic reminder of the violence faced by AAPI and sex worker communities everyday. I hope we can take this moment to rest and to care for ourselves and each other. As we move forward, we must work in collaboration with those directly harmed by policies that continue to stigmatize and criminalize our existence.” 

    Please support these organizations which serve Asian migrant massage workers:

    Red Canary Song 
    Massage Parlor Outreach Project


    In response to the violence in Atlanta, Lena is co-organizing a day of healing and art with Sex Workers Outreach Project Pittsburgh and women AAPI artists and organizers. The event will feature free wellness services donated by community members. If you would like to volunteer, donate a service or product (for care packages to be distributed at Asian-owned massage businesses), or offer financial support, please contact swop.pittsburgh@gmail.com.

    REST: A Day of Healing & Art
    For The Asian American Pacific Islander, Massage Worker, & Sex Worker Community

    Featuring Massage, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Yoga, Reiki, Workshops, Music, Children’s Activities, and more!

    Free Admission
    Thursday, April 1, 4:00pm – 7:30pm
    Carnegie Museum of Art
    4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

    Hosted by Sex Workers Outreach Project + AAPI women of Pittsburgh with support from Carnegie Museum of Art, Office of Public Art, Intersectional Health Collaboration Summit, & Heal Her.