KST Blog

Welcome to the KST Blog!

The KST Blog serves as an alternative view of the KST programming, showcasing our artist talk series, KST curated weekly playlists, and more!

  1. 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  

    DONATE TODAY!

  2. 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
s
    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.

  3. 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

    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

    Competition

    And spark of interest

    Who is this guy?

     

    Sappho

    Protest

    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
    Loud
    Maybe witnessed
    Crazed

    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

  4. AUDITION FOR STAYCEE PEARL DANCE PROJECT & SOY SOS

    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

    REGISTER TO AUDITION

    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.

  5. 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 
    Butterfly 
    Massage Parlor Outreach Project


    CHECK OUT THIS RELATED EVENT

    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.


     

  6. From the Classroom to a Creative Work Lavender Terrace Asks The Question, “What Does 100 Years of Protest Feel Like?”

    As a part of Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Freshworks, a month-long creative residency for Pittsburgh-based artists and collaborators, NaTasha Thompson and Petra Floyd will debut their work in progress entitled, “Lavender Terrace.” Both are graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University and have extensive experience using their work to communicate underrepresented voices and shared cultural inheritances. 

    I had the opportunity to talk with them and from watching their interactions with each other I assumed that they were long-time friends only to find out that their relationship is just 1 year in the making! In fact, Lavender Terrace started out as a classroom assignment and blossomed into a creative work along with their friendship.

    NaTasha was reading Harlem Renaissance writer Marita Bonner’s The Purple Flower for an analysis assignment and a few times the two would bump into each other during classes at CMU. “The School of Drama and the School of Art were hosting interdisciplinary workshops – one was experimental writing and the other was experimental dance,” Petra explains. “We were the only two Black students in the classes and naturally gravitated to each other.”

    “After completing The Purple Flower, I reached out to Petra to see if she would be interested in doing visual work for an idea I had around the play and that we could use it to experiment inside of our education, and after the first draft, it took off from there!” 

    The idea took off indeed! The two entered the first iteration  of their work to an on-campus contest and won. “The College of Fine Arts hosts an interdisciplinary award and I reached out to NaTasha and told her that I think we should enter it,” Petra said. “It was a two-day marathon of work and we won! We won $2500 and this provided an opportunity to execute something really big, but then COVID didn’t end. Then we saw the announcement for Freshworks and it provided a way that we couldn’t work at school as well as an opportunity to work with others – safely.” 

    Lavender Terrace is a speculative movement response to Marita Bonner’s play The Purple Flower. Bonner’s writing  was first published in The Crisis, the official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1928. Bonner’s play is an allegory for sexism and racism against black women, and the play was never performed in Bonner’s lifetime.

    The two creatives didn’t want to spoil any surprises but shared that the audience will experience beautifully choreographed movement pieces, pre-recorded performances, live elements and interactive opportunities. We will also meet two characters “Cornerstone” and “Finest Blood” pulled from the original work, who represent the problematic tropes that have persisted about Black people over the past century. “Our work is about the  pursuit of “life at its fullest” by Black Americans in the late 20’s,” NaTasha said. “Our goal is to craft snapshots of that pursuit over the years.”

    Lavender Terrance debuts on Friday, March 5 at 7:00PM. Click Here to purchase your ticket to this Pay What Makes You Happy performance.

     

  7. FBI FILES: GENE KELLY & BILLY STRAYHORN

    When you hear the names Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn you think of two entertainment legends: Kelly, an actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, comedian and choreographer and Strayhorn a jazz composer, pianist, lyricist and arranger.

    What doesn’t come to mind is that both individuals were being monitored by the FBI. This juicy nugget came up as I was listening in on a conversation between Patricia Ward Kelly, official biographer and wife of Gene Kelly and David Hajdu, official biographer for Billy Strayhorn as they met for the first time during a Zoom call I arranged with KDKA TV & Radio Reporter Lynne Hayes Freeland. We all got together to chat about the live moderated conversation that the three of them will have during Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Suite Life 2020 Concert on November 28th where, for the first time, we will pay tribute to both of the organization’s namesakes.

    During the virtual meet and greet, Mrs. Kelly casually asks Mr. Hajdu, “Do you have Billy’s FBI files?” And he replies, calm and matter-of-factly, “Why yes, they are over here in these boxes.” He returns the question back to her, “What about you? Do you have Gene’s files?” She says, “Yes, they are right here in my office?” 

    Wait? What just happened? FBI files? I had so many questions: Why did the FBI have files have on Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn? What did they do? Why was the FBI watching them? What did the files say? How many files did they have each?

    Realizing this opportunity was not for me to get my questions I answered, I quickly started searching for information on my laptop. There I found a treasure trove of information that the FBI’s focus on musicians and entertainers has its roots in the agency’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which led to the surveillance of several of the most important entertainers and Black jazz musicians of the mid-20th century. The bulk of this activity took place when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover unleashed this program which aimed to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” subversive political groups.

    The bureau had been keeping close tabs on the civil rights movement, accumulating massive files on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI also spent countless hours investigating thousands of celebrities, entertainers, writers and other prominent individuals during the Cold War. The official story was that the effort rooted out communists and others who wanted to overthrow the government. The reality is that countless citizens who had not committed wrongdoing found their lives under the bureau’s lens of hyper-acuity.

    Like many others in Hollywood, Gene Kelly was under investigation for his presumed “Communist” activities. He, of course, was not a Communist, but he was under constant surveillance by the FBI under the heading “Security Matter C.”

    Among the earliest entries are those for Duke Ellington, reaching back to the 1930s. Agents compiled a dossier that runs as a counterpoint during his life, that had little to do with his musical achievements. The first entry is from 1938. Jazz historians mark this as the year Ellington first met Billy Strayhorn. For the FBI, it was when he performed for the All-Harlem Youth Conference, a progressive gathering that included well wishes sent by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Ellington’s band would play at a variety of concerts, but if the FBI didn’t like what group was hosting the event – for them that meant the entertainers were not only supporters, but participants of the groups.

    Mrs. Kelly and Mr. Hajdu also talked about what influence the City of Pittsburgh had on both artists, how both felt like outcasts and navigated discrimination, and so much more! I was amazed on how much I didn’t know about our namesakes outside of their celebrated talents, and how watching the interplay and connection between both biographers would be so engaging.

    I invite you to join me and listen in on a LIVE moderated conversation led by KDKA-TV & Radio Reporter Lynne Hayes Freeland, with Mrs. Patricia Ward Kelly and Mr. David Hajdu on Saturday, November 28 at 6:00pm, right before the Suite Life concert that will feature music from both entertainment giants, performed under the musical direction of Pittsburgh’s own Poogie Bell!

    For more information, visit Kelly-Strayhorn.org/suitelife

  8. Perfect Sun Days!

    Get lost in the vibes of this eclectic playlist full of sweet beats, melodies and soft whimsical moments by some of the brightest Pittsburgh artists. Clara Kent digs into your feelings with her Neo-jazzed track “Souled”. The folky sounds of The Commonheart transports you to the mountains in Spain, sipping on coffee that has a splash of introspection and with “Heart Dance” by Mars Jackson, it does simply that, makes your heart and body dance. Stream this playlist to turn any day into Perfect Sun Days! (18 songs, 58 min)

  9. Little Plastic Castles

     

    Here’s your ultimate LQBTQIA+ driven playlist. These hits highlight Queer Pittsburgh artist and their real good music! This eclectic roster is full of Bops, unforgettable melodies, dance club beats, heart gutting tunes, folky guitars, Hip-Hop and more. #JustSayin’ (13 songs, 39 min)

  10. Pop N’ Soft Drinks

    Poppy tunes, driving fun beats and dope lyrics. This playlist is ready for your next road trip, backyard chill, or ambitious venture from your living-room to your kitchen. Let the jams of Samurai Velvet, LoRen, BBGuns, Mars Jackson, The Childlike Empress and so many more rock with you while you sit back Pop N’ Soft Drinks.