KST Blog

Welcome to the KST Blog!

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

  1. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: KST Presents Dwayne Fulton with Anita Levels

    R.E.S.P.E.C.T. An Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert 

    EAST LIBERTY, PAKelly Strayhorn Theater brings together multi-faceted performer Dwayne Fulton and iconic vocalist Anita Levels for R.E.S.P.E.C.T., An Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert on Saturday, February 11th at 8:00pm. One year ago, Fulton and his team of Pittsburgh musicians rocked the foundations of KST and heated up the Valentine’s Day weekend with their Prince tribute, When Doves Cry. This year, the performance will honor the Queen of Soul, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, and the first woman to be entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Aretha Franklin.

    Franklin’s name is synonymous with virtuosity, vocal power, and musical genius. The artist, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942 and died in Detroit in 2018, began her prodigious musical career as a child singing in her Father’s Baptist Ministry. By the time of her passing, Franklin had amassed 112 charted singles on the US Billboard charts and 18 Grammy awards out of a staggering 44 nominations. Audience members of R.E.S.P.E.C.T., An Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert can expect to hear many of Franklin’s most well-known hits, including Think, Chain of Fools, Son of a Preacher Man, I Say A Little Prayer For You, Natural Woman, Rock Steady, and of course, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

    Dwayne Fulton is a native of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh and three decades of musical and theatrical performances under his belt. He has composed multiple operas, accompanied greats such as Sean Jones, and has won numerous awards for his work. Like Franklin, Fulton’s musical career is informed by the Gospel tradition and underpinned by acts of service to his community — from counseling troubled youth and families to working with academic institutions such as The University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College. Fulton mentors young musicians, songwriters, and actors in the Pittsburgh area. Notably, since 2002 Fulton has served as the Minister of Music/Director of Fine Arts at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, the largest church in the Pittsburgh area and western Pennsylvania serving over 8,000 members. To quote Fulton, “The world is longing for music and creative arts that speaks to the total man; body, soul, and spirit.”

    R.E.S.P.E.C.T. An Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert brings together some of Pittsburgh’s finest musicians. The ten-piece ensemble includes featured vocalist Anita Levels, whose vocal renown is well-known in Pittsburgh and beyond. The group also features  keyboardist Chuck Anderson, guitarist Gary Howard, bassist John Hall, saxophonist Lou Harris, and drummer Alex Hines, along with supporting vocalists Krystyn Kirkland, Keesha Sheffey, and Timothy Woodruff.

    Prior to the concert, be sure to come by the KST lobby beginning at 6:00pm for the opening of the newest exhibition in the BOOM Gallery, Neighbor to Neighbor. Curated by DS Kinsel, the show features the work of Takara Canty, Sophia Fang, atiya jones, Maggie Negrete, Jameelah Platt, and Danielle Robinson, who have created a beautiful community landscape by bringing together works that visualize ideas around active neighboring. The works are inspired by the KST space, the institution, the building, the neighborhood, the city of Pittsburgh, and the neighbors all around us. Bringing together a diverse range of visual strategies, Neighbor to Neighbor includes text, collage, portrait, dynamic pattern, and abstract mapping styles.

    Join KST and the artists on a rock-and-roll journey down the road of Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits on Saturday, February 11 at 8:00PM at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. Tickets are Pay What Moves You, $25 – $40 (All tickets general admission). For full season details, KST COVID policy updates, and tickets, go to kelly-strayhorn.org.


    ABOUT THE ARTISTS

    With over 30 years of Theatre and Musical Performance, Dwayne Fulton fully understands the power and influence of music and the arts. He is the founder and Chief Executive of Kingdom People Productions, inc. (‘99) and The SouLyfe Cafe (‘03). Dwayne Fulton is a native of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. Notably, since 2002 Fulton has served as the Minister of Music/Director of Fine Arts at Mount Ararat Baptist Church. Dwayne is an accomplished pianist whose musical career spans decades. Fulton has had the honor of accompanying such great musicians as Grover Washington, Jr., Roger Humphries, Sean Jones, and Nathan Davis. He has shared the stage greats such as: Keith Sweat, Guy, Fred Hammond, Bobby Jones, Kirk Franklin, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Michael Buble’. In 2011, he was hired as the Musical Director for the Opera Gospel at Colonus with the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh; and in 2012 he composed his first opera short for the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh’s Summer Festival, Bridal Suite. In 2013, he composed his second opera short The Mayoral Suite also for the Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh. In 2017, Fulton composed his first full length Opera with the Pittsburgh Festival Opera Theatre, A Gathering of Sons. This production was met with such success that it was filmed and shown nationally on PBS four times in 2018. This production also won a Bronze medal in the 2019 New York Festivals and International TV & Film Awards presented at the NAB show in Las Vegas, NV. In December of 2018, Dwayne composed his second full length Opera with the Trilogy Opera Company of Newark, NJ. Titled Scott, Garner, Gray, says Jimmy Baldwin, the opera was performed to a full house at the beautiful NJPAC Theatre in New Jersey. Fulton recently completed composing scene and background music for a production in Pittsburgh called Savior Samuel with the Pittsburgh Playwright Company.

    Anita Levels 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.

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


    ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER

    Named after 20th century entertainment legends Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, both natives of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) is reflective of the passion that its founders had for the arts. Today,  Kelly Strayhorn Theater carries on the legacy of its founders by fostering bold and innovative artistry with a global perspective. KST celebrates diversity in voice, thought, and expression, and upholds a firm commitment to inclusion. Furthermore, KST provides a safe and welcome space for dialogue and artistic expression for all who enter. Kelly Strayhorn Theater has a dynamic footprint in Pittsburgh, with two venues running along Penn Avenue. KST’s Alloy Studios is a cultural hub in the heart of East Liberty, and the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater is located in the thriving business district. More than 20 years after the founding of the theater, KST continues to use its broad reach to impact the contemporary arts and the community.

  2. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: KST Presents Neighbor to Neighbor

    EAST LIBERTY, PA — Kelly Strayhorn Theater presents Neighbor to Neighbor, a visual art exhibition held in the historic KST lobby from Saturday, February 11 through Saturday, May 27, 2023. The opening will be held on Saturday, February 11 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Presented in collaboration with BOOM Concepts, Neighbor to Neighbor challenges viewers to consider the possibilities around equitable, active neighboring. The participating artists, Takara Canty, Sophia Fang, atiya jones, Maggie Negrete, Jameelah Platt, and Danielle Robinson, have created a beautiful community landscape by bringing together works that visualize ideas around active neighboring. The works are inspired by the KST space, the institution, the building, the neighborhood, the city of Pittsburgh, and the neighbors all around us. Bringing together a diverse range of visual strategies, Neighbor to Neighbor includes text, collage, portrait, dynamic pattern, and abstract mapping styles.  

    Neighbor to Neighbor considers the fact that all people are neighbors in the sense that everyone exists and grows nearby, adjacent, and close to each other — ideally thriving in the world together. It is impossible not to engage in the identity or act of the neighbor if you are existing here, now, in this world. In another, more literal and localized sense, “neighbors” are the participants in the ecosystem that is the neighborhood. The goal of a neighborhood (to reach a positive and healthy state) relies on the collective ability and intention of each person within it — the health of the neighborhood is a reflection of each neighbor’s ability to empathize with, engage, and help each other. Encouraging the existence and growth of the other — your neighbor — and understanding how that encouragement can bring benefit back to the individual, is the keystone of an equitable neighborhood: It is the conviction that we can all grow together, with each other, without holding each other back. 

    I believe equitable, active neighboring is creating space to have all take part in business, social, and entertainment aspects of community. Acknowledging people’s basic rights to impact and help shape what is happening in a neighborhood, and setting up scaffolded opportunities for that to happen. For individuals and organizations alike, it is simple acts of kindness and leadership that encourage a positive and improved quality of life.” 

     — DS Kinsel, BOOM Concepts 

    This exhibition occurs at a vital moment in the story of KST’s neighborhood, East Liberty, whose “health” is too-often measured along the lonely axis of economic growth. What happens when we check-up on our neighborhood from a different perspective? When we ask: Do I know my neighbors’ names? How do I extend care to them? How can we better rely on each other? — the answers reveal a far more complete picture of a community’s health than the number of new developments or hip restaurants along the main street. So, what can we each do to build stronger, more equitable neighborhoods? 

    “Day to day, this means a variety of actions and engagements that always consist of somebody sacrificing or donating knowledge, time, or money. It looks as simple as free tax services, shoveling snow for neighbors, childcare scholarships, youth sports coaches, businesses hosting community celebrations, mutual aid initiatives, clean green spaces, and contracting local creative talent across expertise.”

     — DS Kinsel, BOOM Concepts 

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


    ABOUT THE ARTISTS

    Takara Canty is a classically trained visual artist from Garfield Heights in Pittsburgh PA. From adolescence the artist has been creating and collaborating. Canty’s art is largely inspired by prominent artists like Frida Kahlo. Canty studied studio art in college, but working in traditional studio art class environments shrank her potential. Just a few credits shy of graduation, Canty decided to drop out and pursue art her way. For ten years, Canty has taught at-risk children in the Homewood, Hill District, Garfield, and Braddock neighborhoods where she workshops, tags, and paints. The artist has curated adult painting classes, painted murals, installed mosaic pieces on buildings all while raising her kids. Canty has worked with nationally known artists including George Gist, Therman Statman and James Simon, and has exhibited with Boom Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Sophia Fang is a startup marketer by trade, a creative dabbler by nature, and a social impact creator by purpose—all towards the artist’s personal mission to build vibrancy in her community. 

    With a passion for empowering local entrepreneurs, makers, and creators, Fang is an MBA candidate at Stanford Graduate School of Business as a ROMBA Fellow, a Commissioner on the Seattle Arts Commission, and a Venture For America alumni fellow. The artist finds joy in beautifying public spaces in her Seattle hometown and the Rust Belt. As an artist, she has always wondered what it means to exist — in relationship to the self, to others, and to the spaces and communities that we claim and claim us. Her murals combine whimsy and community joy to celebrate small businesses, immigrant placemaking, and food diasporas. Her work is represented at love, Pittsburgh, Heinz History Center Museum Shop, Adda Coffee & Tea, or her online shop. Fang graduated in 2018 from Pomona College, where she double majored in Economics & Digital Media Studies.

    atiya jones is a multidisciplinary artist exploring themes of human connection, gentrification, migration and isolation. Visually, she depicts the effects of accumulative action/community through her WildLines. jones utilizes her artwork and any subsequent press to create and hold discourse centering her Black experience as an artist, woman, transplant, and wanderer. The artist is also CEO of TWELVE\TWENTY STUDIO, est. 2017. Jones believes that art is and should be everywhere, and she used this impetus to offer affordable work. jones’s sites have included Crown Barbershop, Fieldwork Gallery, The Carnegie Museum of Art in the group show, Locally Sourced, Trace Brewery, Tryp Hotel and Knotzland.Clients include Pantene Pro-V and Head & Shoulders, Old Blood Noise Endeavors, and restaurants The Vandal and Speedy Romeo (NY). jones hails from Brooklyn, NY and has been a Pittsburgh resident and artistic community contributor since 2016. Jones has participated in residencies in Rochester, NY, Grand Rapids, MI and Pittsburgh, PA.

    Maggie Lynn Negrete is a storyteller specializing in illustration, zines and educating all ages about ecosystems from gardens to astrology. Negrete is the Art Director for Women in Sound and is a member of the #notwhite Collective. Negrete’s visual art focuses on hand lettering, portraiture, technical illustrations and radial designs for freelance clientele and for individual merchandise under the brand La Mama Magia. Negrete is a Pittsburgh resident and Vassar college alumni with over ten years of experience teaching in out of school settings. Her work explores femininity, community, and the occult with aesthetics influenced by 19/20th century illustration, psychedelia and a heritage of printers.

    A proud Pittsburgh native, Jameelah Platt trained in Fine Art at the University of Art in Philadelphia Pa. Platt’s work seeks out the anecdotes and fables of people of color, to reanimate the familiar narratives we are told and experience as children. Her goal is to to translate the nostalgic moments that we can mutually acknowledge and embrace as a community through the language of gestures and movement with the human figure.Her studio practice is driven by her interest in the art of story-telling, color, art history, assemblage and the decorative adornment of objects, spaces and people. She is currently a member of The Coloured Section Artist Collective and an artist in residence with the BrewHouse Association’s Distillery Emerging artist Residency.

    Danielle Robinson is a Pittsburgh-based artist who graduated from CAPA, and attended both Columbus College of Art and Design and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. A resident of Garfield, Robinson often collaborates with other local artists and musicians. Her main subjects are Black women and animals, rendered as goddesses, beasts, and super heroes. Her work takes graffiti with art deco and African art as its origin points, which she combines towards innovative new styles.


    ABOUT BOOM CONCEPTS

    BOOM Concepts is a creative hub dedicated to the advancement of Black, Brown, queer and femme artists. BOOM Concepts is located in Pittsburgh and since 2014 has curated 50 exhibitions on-site, paid out over $100k in artists fees and produced 200+ events across the country. BOOM Concepts serves as a space for field building, knowledge sharing, mentorship, and storytelling. In its 9th year, BOOM Concepts continues to work with creatives to find innovative strategies around entrepreneurship and artistic practice. In 2021, BOOM Concepts was selected to represent Pittsburgh for the Google Arts & Culture platform and was identified as an American Cultural Treasure through The Heinz Endowments and The Ford Foundation.


    ABOUT THE CURATOR

    DS Kinsel is an award winning creative entrepreneur and cultural agitator. He expresses his creativity through the mediums of painting, printmaking, collage, installation, curating,  performance and public art. Kinsel’s work puts focus on themes of space keeping, urban tradition, hip-hop, informalism and cultural re-appropriation.  A former AmeriCorps Public Ally member, D.S. has also been recognized as an Awardee of the Pittsburgh Courier Fab 40, Pittsburgh Magazine PUMP 40 Under 40, Pgh Tech Council Creative of The Year,  the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s “Top Ten People To Meet in 2016” and the Incline’s “Who’s Next” for 2018.  D.S has served as a board member of Pittsburgh Center for Creative REuse and the Black Transformative Arts Network.  Kinsel currently serves on the advisory board for Shady Lane School, PearlArts Studios, and the Artist Communities Alliance.


    ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER

    Named after 20th century entertainment legends Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, both natives of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) is reflective of the passion that its founders had for the arts. Today,  Kelly Strayhorn Theater carries on the legacy of its founders by fostering bold and innovative artistry with a global perspective. KST celebrates diversity in voice, thought, and expression, and upholds a firm commitment to inclusion. Furthermore, KST provides a safe and welcome space for dialogue and artistic expression for all who enter.

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater has a dynamic footprint in Pittsburgh, with two venues running along Penn Avenue. KST’s Alloy Studios is a cultural hub in the heart of East Liberty, and the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater is located in the thriving business district. More than 20 years after the founding of the theater, KST continues to use its broad reach to impact the contemporary arts and the community.

  3. Owning Our Future. Thriving Where we Live. Sharing Pittsburgh with the World.

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater brings Adil Mansoor’s Amm(i)gone to New York City. January 12-14, 2023!

    EAST LIBERTY, PA — As part of its recently released Owning Our Future, Thriving Where We Live strategic direction, Kelly Strayhorn Theater is thrilled to announce a special New York City presentation of theater artist Adil Mansoor’s solo performance work Amm(i)goneThursday and Friday, January 12-13 at 8:00pm and Saturday, January 14, 2023 at 11:00am. Performances are presented in collaboration with The Performance Project @ University Settlement and take place in Speyer Hall at University Settlement’s 184 Eldridge Street flagship building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Tickets are sold at a Pay What Moves You sliding scale from $20 – $35.

    Amm(i)gone, an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone, is an apology to and from a mother. Creator and performer Adil Mansoor explores queerness, the afterlife, and obligation using canonical texts, teachings from the Quran, and audio conversations between him and his mother.

    KST co-commissioned Amm(i)gone in collaboration with The Theater Offensive in Boston, MA and the National Performance Network in New Orleans, LA and began developing the work with Mansoor in 2019. KST presented Amm(i)gone for a two-week run at KST’s Alloy Studios in April 2021 and remounted the work for the Theater Communications Group conference in a special co-presentation with The Andy Warhol Museum in June 2021. Now, in bringing the piece to New York during the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) conference, KST hopes to extend the life of the project with new engagements around the US and internationally.

    KST Executive Director, Joseph Hall elaborates…

    Owning our Future. Thriving Where We Live is about reaffirming KST’s position as a Black and queer centered organization, and building a future that includes a more concrete foundation for our vision. We will accomplish that through a number of strategies related to our spaces, our capacity, our money, and our story. Adil exemplifies the type of artist who KST strives to support. In bringing Amm(i)gone to New York City during APAP, we are telling our story to our national and international colleagues and creating an opportunity for exposure that most Pittsburgh based artists don’t get to experience.”

    KST Programming Director, Ben Pryor expands…

    “In the decade prior to my tenure at KST I created and directed American Realness, a festival of contemporary performance in New York that coincided with APAP conference. The festival annually welcomed over 200 performing arts professionals from 16 countries and 22 American cities and served as a launch pad for new national and international touring opportunities for the artists presented. Our goal in bringing Amm(i)gone to NYC is to have it seen by colleagues who can extend the life of the work with future presentations at their institutions around the world.”

    theater artist Adil Mansoor adds…

    “I am delighted to be able to share my work in this professional context. Kelly Strayhorn Theater has encouraged me, affirmed me, challenged me, supported me, and welcomed me home. I will never have enough words to express what this place has meant for me and my life.”

    Thursday and Friday evening performances will be followed by a small reception for attendees. These performances are not open for critical review, however interviews or other stories about the work, the artist, and Kelly Strayhorn Theater are welcome. Speyer Hall at University Settlement is ADA accessible and Kelly Strayhorn Theater is happy to further address any accommodations that will enrich your visit. Please reach out to our Box Office team in advance of your visit: 412.363.3000 x213 or boxoffice@kelly-strayhorn.org to let us know.


    ABOUT AMM(I)GONE
    Since discovering his queerness, Mansoor’s mother has turned towards her faith in an attempt to save her son in the afterlife. In an effort towards healing, Mansoor has invited his mother to join him as dramaturg and co-conspirator. In reading, discussing, and translating various adaptations of the source play, together they mine Greek tragedy, Islamic traditions, and their own memories to create an original performance locating love across faith. Can prayer substantiate care? Can care manifest as artistic methodology and inquiry? Can Mansoor and his mother contend with Antigone’s fate?

    Artistic and Production Team:
    Creator and Performer: Adil Mansoor
    Media Systems Designer: Joseph Amodei
    Projections Designer: Davine Byon
    Assistant Director and Administrative Support: Pria Dahiya
    Co-Director: Lyam B. Gabel
    Stage Manager: Leslie Huynh
    Sound Designer: Aaron Landgraf
    Video Designer: Bleue Liverpool
    Scenic / Lights: Xotchil Alyss Musser

    “Alif Lam Meem”
    Co-composed by Shahzad Ismaily and Aya Abdelaziz
    Vocals by Aya Abdelaziz
    Arranged by Aaron Langraf

    Developed with:
    Creative Consultant: Sharlene Bamboat
    Slide Film Consultant: Caldwell Linker
    Translation Consultant: Ned Moore
    Video Narration: Abid Mansoor and Luke Niebler
    Photo Embroidery: Rebecca Harrison
    In-process Stage Manager: Pixie Colbert
    Virtual In-process Stage Manager: Ferdinand Moscat
    Virtual In-process Board Operator: Erin Roussel

    Amm(i)gone is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by Kelly Strayhorn Theater in partnership with The Theater Offensive and NPN/VAN. The Creation & Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information, visit www.npnweb.orgAmm(i)gone is additionally supported by the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier; the Point Foundation’s Andrew A. Isen Internship; The Heinz Endowments’ Small Arts Initiative; Opportunity Fund; PNC Charitable Trust; A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation; Arts, Equity, Reimagined Fund; and Dreams of Hope.


    ABOUT ADIL MANSOOR 
    Adil Mansoor is a theatre maker and educator centering the stories of queer folks and people of color. He has developed new work with New York Theatre Workshop, New Dramatists, The Poetry Project, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, The Theater Offensive, NYU Tisch, and PearlArts Studios.

    In addition to his own practice, Mansoor also directs new and contemporary plays including “Daddies” by Paul Kruse (Audible), “Gloria” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Hatch), “Kentucky” by Leah Nanako Winkler (Pittsburgh Playhouse), and “Plano” by Will Arbery (Quantum). Mansoor is a founding member of Pittsburgh’s Hatch Arts Collective and the former Artistic Director of Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQA+ youth arts organization. As an educator, he has worked with Sarah Lawrence, Middlebury College, The Mori Art Museum, The Warhol and others.

    Mansoor has been an NYTW 2050 Directing Fellow, a Gerri Kay New Voices Fellow with Quantum Theater, and an Art of Practice Fellow and Community Leader with Sundance. He was part of the inaugural Artist Caucus gathered by Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Woolly Mammoth. Mansoor received his MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon. adilmansoor.com


    ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER 
    KST is a home for creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action rooted in the liberation of Black and queer people. We welcome our home to all who uplift Black, Indigenous, people of color, and queer voices. We will continue centering historically resilient folks. We focus our services on Black women, LGBTQIA+, People of color, and emerging artists. kelly-strayhorn.org


    ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE PROJECT @ UNIVERSITY SETTLEMENT 
    The Performance Project @ University Settlement engages young local artists and emerging professional artists with opportunities to connect, create and publicly present new work. Our neighborhoods have no shortage of creative leaders from all walks of life, at every stage in their development. The shortage lies in the opportunities available. This is where we are excited and ready to support these leaders. universitysettlement.org/programs/arts/performance-project/

  4. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: KST Announces Winter/Spring 2023 Season

    What you want            Baby, I got
    What you need            Do you know I got it?
    All I’m askin’
     
    Is for a little respect when you come home
    – Aretha Franklin, R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

    EAST LIBERTY, PA — As the winter months roll into Pittsburgh, Kelly Strayhorn Theater announces a season of programming to gather us and warm the spirit. The Winter/Spring 2023 KST Presents season continues to be a home for celebrating the Soul of East Liberty. Guided by our recently released strategic direction, “Owning Our Future. Thriving Where We Live.” KST is welcoming the new year with bold programming and renewed vision. We are determined to own our future and remain a home where artists and Pittsburgh residents of all backgrounds can thrive. 

    KST begins the Winter/Spring Season with two staples of Youth & Family Programming: On January 16th, The Audacity to Believe, an MLK day Celebration reflects joyfully on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then, The Alloy School Open House kicks off February 4 with a free survey of KST’s weekly dance classes, followed by an eight week class session and celebratory Let’s Move Family Dance Party!

    Our Community Partnerships this season will bring a Black Culinary Excellence from documentarian and Exposure Fellow Chris Ivey to KST. On February 4, four local chefs will present their artistry, followed by a moderated discussion with legendary Steeler and restaurateur Franco Harris. Our second community partnership on March 11 centers writers Dorothy Santos & Adrian Jones with a workshop co-hosted by The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.

    Boundary-pushing new Freshworks performances will come to KST’s Alloy Studios in April and May. Choreographer Nick M. Daniels presents the globally-inspired Nonsensical search for truth and understanding, while B Kleymeyer uplifts Pittsburgh’s trans community and celebrates every part of transition with I’m not done with this body (and I never will be). 

    This season’s Local & Global Performance offerings include contemporary works of music, dance, and theater—Something for everyone! First, Dwayne Fulton returns to KST on February 11 with R.E.S.P.E.C.T., a celebration of soul music to soothe our spirits. Carrying on this musical momentum, on March 18 KST presents the annual Sunstar Festival: Women & Music, this year co-curated by the SCALE Fellowship Program

    From April 12-15, KST welcomes choreographer and 2020 Guggenheim fellow Shamel Pitts back to Pittsburgh with a Welcome Dinner and Artist Talk, Gaga Dance Workshop, and the Pittsburgh premiere of BLACK HOLE, an evening-length multi-media performance work that is a journey in movement through an evocative soundscape. Our Local & Global Performance program closes with Or Forever Hold Your Peace, a performance from Pittsburgh’s Big Storm with big dance numbers and even bigger laughs. 

    This Winter/Spring season, KST mutual Aid residents PearlArts are looking forward to bringing CIRCLES: going in, a work debuted with KST at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Pittsburgh, on tour to The Dance Center at Columbia College Chicago on February 23. At home at KST’s Alloy Studios, PearlArts brings a full class season, with Open Company Dance Classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. For experienced dancers, 20 weeks of Adult Dance Clubs will begin on January 18 and run through the end of May. PearlWatch/Charrette is back on March 24, showcasing new and unseen dance-for-camera and live choreography in different stages of development. The process becomes the performance in this incubator series, which is followed by a discussion and response from a panel of multidisciplinary artists. Finally, on May 12, PearlArts share an evening of multi-disciplinary and collaborative explorations with INTERIM: Props Prompts Play.

    Finally, throughout this season of programming, visit the KST lobby for a new visual art exhibition from BOOM Gallery, Neighbor to Neighbor, featuring Takara Canty, Sophia Fang, atiya jones, Maggie Negrete, Jameelah Platt, Danielle Robinson , which will run from January 19 through May 27.

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is a home where we respect and uphold each other. This Winter/Spring, join us in uplifting creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action rooted in the liberation of Black and queer people. 

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

    Joseph Hall, Executive Director

    For information on our COVID-19 policy and protocols, please visit this page.


    DANCE | MUSIC | PERFORMANCE | COMMUNITY
    The Audacity to Believe
    A MLK Day Celebration

    Monday, January 16
    12:00pm – 3:00pm

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $0 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | COMMUNITY
    The Alloy School  
    Winter/Spring Eight-Week Session

    Saturday, February 4 – April 8
    10:00am – 1:00pm

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10/class for full session; $12.50/drop-in

    Click here to learn more…


    COMMUNITY | FOOD | DISCOURSE
    Black Culinary Excellence 
    Rander Thompson and Becky Cowan, Jackie Page, and Asante Samuels

    Saturday, February 4
    12:00pm – 3:00pm 

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $0 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    VISUAL ART
    Neighbor to Neighbor 
    Takara Canty, Sophia Fang, atiya jones, Maggie Negrete, Jameelah Platt, Danielle Robinson

    Saturday, February 11 – Saturday, May 27
    Opening Reception: Saturday, February 11, 6:00pm 

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $0 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    MUSIC | PERFORMANCE
    Dwayne Fulton with Anita Levels
    R.E.S.P.E.C.T. An Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert 

    Saturday, February 11
    8:00pm

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $15 – $35

    Click here to learn more…


    MUSIC | DANCE | PERFORMANCE
    Synchronized with Soy Sos 
    Featuring Guest Artists

    Friday, February 24
    8:00pm

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    WRITING | WORKSHOP
    Dorothy R. Santos & Adrian Jones 
    Docu-poetics and Creative (Flash) Non-Fiction Writing
    Co-Presented with Frank-Ritchy The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

    Saturday, March 11
    3:00pm – 5:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    MUSIC | PERFORMANCE
    Sunstar Festival 
    Women & Music
    Curated in partnership with the SCALE Fellowship Program

    Saturday, March 18
    8:00pm 

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $15 – $35

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | PERFORMANCE | FILM
    PearlWatch / charrette 
    Performance & Dance for Camera

    Friday, March 24 
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | THEATER
    Freshworks: Nick M. Daniels
    Nonsensical search for truth and understanding

    Friday & Saturday, April 7 – 8
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | COMMUNITY
    Welcome Dinner & Artist Talk 
    with Shamel Pitts | TRIBE

    Tuesday, April 11
    7:00pm

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | WORKSHOP
    GAGA Movement Session 
    with Shamel Pitts
    Co-Presented with PearlArts

    Wednesday, April 12
    9:00am – 10:15am

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    DANCE | PERFORMANCE
    Shamel Pitts | TRIBE 
    BLACK HOLE: Trilogy and Triathlon

    Friday & Saturday, April 14* – 15
    8:00pm 
    *Post Performance Discussion with Alisha Wormsley

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $15 – $35

    Click here to learn more…


    MUSIC | DANCE | PERFORMANCE
    Synchronized with Soy Sos 
    Featuring Guest Artists

    Friday, April 28
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    PERFORMANCE  | THEATER
    Freshworks: B Kleymeyer
    i’m not done with this body (and i never will be)

    Friday & Saturday, May 5 – 6
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    MUSIC | DANCE | PERFORMANCE
    Interim
    Props Prompts Play 

    Friday, May 12
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    THEATER | PERFORMANCE
    Big Storm 
    Or Forever Hold Your Peace

    Friday & Saturday, May 19 – 20
    Wednesday – Saturday. May 24 – 27
    8:00pm 

    KST’s Alloy Studios | 5530 Penn Ave.
    Pay What Moves You: $10 – $25

    Click here to learn more…


    ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater is a non-profit community performing arts center in East Liberty,  advancing live art through strategic vision and community collaboration with two venues running along Penn Avenue. KST’s Alloy Studios is a cultural hub in the heart of East Liberty, and the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater is located in the thriving business district. More than 20 years after its founding, KST continues to use its broad reach to impact the contemporary arts and the community. KST’s mission is to be a home for creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action rooted in the liberation of Black and queer people. Welcome to The Soul of East Liberty!

    Photo Credit:

  5. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Kelly Strayhorn Theater Presents Music From the Heart: A Diana Ross Tribute

    EAST LIBERTY, PA (November 22, 2022)  — Music From the Heart: A Diana Ross Tribute is a showcase about the songs that bring us together, sung from a uniquely Pittsburgh perspective. KST Fall 2022 Freshworks resident artist Michelle Johnson is a Pittsburgh born-and-raised vocalist whose

     new show weaves the parallels between her own life story and the music of Diana Ross. In doing so, Johnson, who goes by the moniker Mish, reveals a message of love, acceptance, and perseverance that promises to uplift and energize audiences at the beginning of the holiday season. The intimate performance will take place at KST’s Alloy Studios on Friday, December 2nd and Saturday, December 3rd at 8:00pm.

    Music From the Heart: A Diana Ross Tribute was conceived by Mish as a tribute to her mother and grandmother, the women who raised her and who nurtured her gift for music. For Mish’s grandmother, Diana Ross’s music was a constant, called upon in both good and hard times as a source of healing, energy, and inspiration. When asked about the genesis of  Music From the Heart, Mish explains:

     “I have my grandmother to blame! From a very young age, she turned on the 1979 concert, Diana Ross: Live at Caesar’s Palace, and I was hooked. I remember going over the whole concert, and since that very first concert, I was amazed. I was able to continue studying Ross’s work, I did school reports about her, and I’ve always wanted to perform her.”  — Michelle Johnson

    Much has been written about Diana Ross’s accomplishments. Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of The Supremes, who remain the best-charting female group in history, and went on to both musical and acting acclaim as a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. What is less known are the parallels between Ross and Mish’s experiences. Looking back to a 1981 Interview Magazine conversation between Diana Ross and Andy Warhol, Ross reveals that (like Mish) her singing career began at a young age, at home, listening to her mother play popular music of the time:

    “I’ve been singing since I was really little. I’m from a singing family, but they’re not professional singers, only gospel—my grandfather was a minister. I started to sing the music that was out then because my mother used to play it all the time. It was the end of the ’50s, the beginning of the ’60s. There was Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, Etta James…” — Diana Ross 

    Perhaps even more striking are Ross and Mish’s shared fierce love and respect for their hometowns. Just as Ross’s musical career began and accelerated with support from her Detroit neighbors (Smokey Robinson among them), Mish credits Pittsburgh with giving her the network of acceptance and support necessary to pursue a singing career. From her colleagues at C.A.P.A. to the vocalists who will join her on the KST stage — Carmen Miller, Delana Flowers, Katy Cotton, Martel Brown, and Jordan Robinson, the artist speaks generously of her gratitude. Mish is kind enough to extend her thanks to KST as well, expressing of her time as a Freshworks resident: 

    My experience with KST has been life-changing. I wanted my idea, my show, to have a home where people would be open to the possibilities of what it can be, and I found that in KST. I’m very thankful. Between the studio and the theater, I’m like, Oh my Gosh, this is now my new home! I have been able to express, not only the different creative ideas I have, but also be able to share that with my family, my hometown. — Michelle Johnson

    KST presents Music From the Heart: A Diana Ross Tribute on Friday & Saturday, December 2 – 3 at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave. For press comps, please contact lizrudnick@kelly-strayhorn.org

    ABOUT THE ARTIST 

    Mish, who is known off-stage as Miss Michelle Johnson, is a vocalist, songwriter and choreographer whose heart belongs to her hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. The C.A.P.A Middle/High School graduate has taken audiences through a storm of song and style at venues including the Pittsburgh Hard Rock Cafe, The Rex Theater, and The Greer Theater. Mish’s classically trained, soulful vocals incorporate stylistic elements from Aretha Franklin to Beyonce, earning her the moniker, “The Velveteen Voice of Pittsburgh.” Whether she is covering Aretha Franklin classics or original selections, she is at ease in any vocal capacity. Johnson played the role of Motormouth Maybelle in the 2014 CCAC South and 2019 Stage 62 production of Hairspray, and has performed with the renowned Pittsburgh Opera company in Aida. She has opened for pop superstars Nick Jonas (2015) and Ke$ha (2018). In 2019 and 2022 Johnson was a featured singer for Broadway Meets Motown at The Strand Theater. Mish shows involve extraordinary live vocals, vivacious hand-made, red carpet worthy costumes. Most recently, Johnson appears as the dynamic, hilarious, host and producer of her homegrown local TV talk show ‘The Mish Connection’ on Pittsburgh’s PCTV.

    ABOUT KELLY STRAYHORN THEATER


    Named after 20th century entertainment legends Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, both natives of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) is reflective of the passion that its founders had for the arts. Today,  Kelly Strayhorn Theater carries on the legacy of its founders by fostering bold and innovative artistry with a global perspective. KST celebrates diversity in voice, thought, and expression, and upholds a firm commitment to inclusion. Furthermore, KST provides a safe and welcome space for dialogue and artistic expression for all who enter.

    Kelly Strayhorn Theater has a dynamic footprint in Pittsburgh, with two venues running along Penn Avenue. KST’s Alloy Studios is a cultural hub in the heart of East Liberty, and the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater is located in the thriving business district. More than 20 years after the founding of the theater, KST continues to use its broad reach to impact the contemporary arts and the community. KST’s mission is to be a home for creative experimentation, community dialogue, and collective action rooted in the liberation of Black and queer people.

  6. Owning Our Future. Thriving Where We Live.

    At the height of the pandemic, KST staff, board members, artists, and community members came together to reflect on the impact KST has made in our community and to imagine the impact KST will have 100 years from now. We envisioned KST as a national cultural destination, a brave and creative home for bold voices, owned by a Black Cultural Trust. Huddled around the Zoom screen, we recognized that the future of our organization hinges on our ability to strategically plan for the next three pivotal years. Owning our Future. Thriving Where We Live. sets forth KST’s path toward ownership, sustainability, and making this vision a reality.

    Our plan has four pillars — four interconnected priorities for realizing our goals: Our Story, Our Space, Our Capacity, and Our Money.

    Our Story guides KST’s strategic communications so regional and national audiences understand, share, and stand in support of major KST initiatives. The story of KST is not only the story of East Liberty, a Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh that was systematically neglected and is now re-emerging with high rents that push out historic residents. It is a story of so many Black and brown neighborhoods and organizations. Many Black-, Indiginous-, and people of color-led organizations and businesses get the rug pulled out from under their feet in gentrifying neighborhoods because they do not own their spaces. Owning Our Future is OUR story, where OUR represents the plurality of Black communities, the hundreds and thousands of Black-founded and Black-led organizations that want to thrive in a space that is owned by them. We are building for the shared futures of Black people. We want to create a model for other Black-led organizations to claim their impacts and future. And we want to do it together—across the nation.

    Our Space means developing and effectuating a plan that anchors KST in East Liberty as a property owner. Currently, KST is renting space in two locations: The main Kelly Strayhorn Theater and KST’s Alloy Studios. The lease on the theater is expiring in seven years, and the lease on KST’s Alloy Studios is ending in three. While we have been in conversations with the property owners about our future in those spaces, it is clear to us that our physical spaces are not guaranteed to stay as they are, and that their loss would possibly erase the KST from the map of East Liberty. We know with the loss of the other neighborhood cultural and social anchors that there’s no history of sustaining Black-led institutions in East-Liberty. We choose to find a pathway to achieving equity and owning our own space. We invite Pittsburgh policymakers to show up and stand in communion with us in ensuring that mistakes of the past, when East Liberty suffered an economic downfall because of urban policies, are not repeated.

    Our Capacity means ensuring KST is staffed and resourced sufficiently in order to provide our artists, patrons, and partners with high-quality, thought-provoking experiences. We realize that to effectuate our mission and vision, Kelly Strayhorn Theater needs to ensure that our people — staff — are taken care of, inspired, and equipped to do the work. During the last few years, low compensation, a fast-paced work environment, and long to-do lists have caused burnout and a high staff turnover rate. This, in return, has inhibited KST’s capacity and drained institutional knowledge that propels the organizational systems, culture, and learnings. We plan to grow the team in the upcoming years to meet our capitalization goals and to advance our vision of Owning Our Future. Our strategy includes cost-of-living adjustment salary increases and expanded benefits.

    Our Money addresses enhancing our business model in order to generate new earned revenue streams. KST wants to ensure that our organization grows and thrives in fiscally sustainable and generative ways. Like most nonprofit organizations, our revenue could be more diversified. We primarily rely on local philanthropic support, which makes us dependent on a few funders. The lasting reality of COVID-19 has affected in-person revenue opportunities such as rental income, tickets, and merchandise. Our goal is to diversify our contributed income moving forward by building relationships with national philanthropic funders, policymakers, and corporations who share our values.

    For KST, ownership is about safeguarding the spaces where we create as a community. Where we care for one another. And where we unapologetically claim our right to possess and present our stories. Our vision represents a collective moment to set brave intentions. For Pittsburgh, our region, and nationally. We must ensure our Black and queer communities have the freedom, ownership, and opportunity to nourish new generations. We must control our futures.

    We choose to own our futures.
    We choose to thrive where we live. 

    We will achieve our vision by working in partnership across sectors with community, allied partners, and You. We are determined to own our future and thrive where we live: Join us.

    As you read our strategic plan, imagine where you will fit into this journey. Consider Supporting the mission by adding your voice today.

    Add Your Voice

  7. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: KST Presents Fail-Safe

    EAST LIBERTY, PA (October 21, 2022)  — Fail-Safe is a recurring variety performance show bringing together artists exploring and expanding the performance genre. On November 11th and 12th, Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) will present the fourth edition of Fail-Safe, creating a dialogue between Los Angeles and Pittsburgh with two evenings of new and in-progress performance works by interdisciplinary performers from both cities.

    Fail-Safe was created by artists Angela Washko, Scott Andrew, and Jesse Stiles with the intention to become a safe space for failure — a safe space to perform works across fields that may not be fully figured out yet. Created in 2019, Fail-Safe is now a National Endowment for the Arts-funded project that invites artists to present new work that is experimental, in-progress, improvisational, or open-ended. The resulting projects span the fields of digitally mediated performance, cabaret, experimental sound art, interdisciplinary theater, readings, dance, music, body art and more.

    After a long pandemic (and a lot of fundraising), we’re back and partnering with Kelly Strayhorn Theater to have celebrated Los Angeles-based artists Young Joon Kwak, Kim Ye, and Xina Xurner join nine Pittsburgh-based artists, musicians, and performers for two evenings of daring new work presented for the first time at Kelly Strayhorn Theater.  We were drawn to the collaborative, experimental, aesthetically and conceptually maximalist, complex, challenging, and expansive approaches to body art, music, and performance presented by Kwak, Ye, and Xina Xurner (a music project by Young Joon Kwak and Marvin Astorga).  The Pittsburgh-based artists joining the roster share many affinities with the LA cohort including explorations of the body, queer aesthetics, mediated performance, deconstruction of gender/race power structures, sex work, and beyond.” —Angela Washko, Fail-Safe Co-Founder

    On Friday, November 11th, after a lineup of local performance artists exploring hybrid identities, queer futurities, and bodily liberation, Fail-Safe welcome Los Angeles-based artists Young Joon Kwak and Kim Ye as they present a new, experimental performance work, Matrilineal Ambivalences. The performance challenges limitations around cultural stereotypes surrounding womanhood, femininity, sexuality, and motherhood through a complex and interactive set of exchanges with each-other, the space, and the audience. We can’t wait to see what they say will be “a journey of failure and discovery of new selves and new bodies, and new forms of love and kinship.” Featured Pittsburgh-based artists include Caroline Yoo, Goofy Toof, London Williams, Davine Byon, and MICHIYAYA Dance featuring Anya Clark.

    “I’m most interested in working in and with the local Pittsburgh performance art scene to offer opportunities for performers to experiment, be celebrated, and create meaningful exchanges with other local artists and visiting performers from across the country.  Some Fail-Safe performers are community members we wanted to feature who we respect and have encountered professionally and performatively within the Pittsburgh performance landscape like Michiyaya Dance, Swampwalk and Formosa. Other local performers are also past or present students who we have developed long-lasting collaborative relationships with and whom we want to offer continued support.  I’ve known Goofy Toof for over a decade, as a past pre-college student and performer in classes I’ve offered at CMU. Samira and Davine are also past students that we have worked with in various capacities and who we are excited to continue a professional relationship with outside of the institution.  For me it is about both offering new performance opportunities to community members and to, in a small way, contribute to Pittsburgh being a city that can retain young artists and performers to grown and enliven the performance scene.” —Scott Andrew, Fail-Safe Co-Founder 

    On Saturday, November 12th, after a lineup of local musicians exploring experimental storytelling, embodiment, and power dynamics through sound, visiting Los Angeles-based artist duo Xina Xurner (Young Joon Kwak and Marvin Astorga) will present their cathartic experimental music set. Combining DIY and power electronics, mutated vocals, and bad drag, the artists expand ideas around queer and trans bodies. Xina Xurner melds a variety of genres, including happy hardcore, industrial, drone metal, and techno in order to create sadical and sexperimental noise-diva-dance anthems that evoke a sense of transformation, rebirth, and renewal. Local features include Swampwalk, Samira Mendoza, and Davine Byon. Both nights will feature ASL interpreters. 

    “Acknowledging and appreciating Young Joon’s commitment to collaboration and intentional community-building within performance, we invited Young Joon to bring collaborators along for their performances in Pittsburgh. We were thrilled that they chose Kim Ye and Xina Xurner to join them at Kelly Strayhorn Theater. We were so excited by Kim’s work exploring power dynamics – bringing together social practice, sex work, feminist performance, and institutional critique in brilliant new ways. We decided to add a second music-themed night to Fail-Safe in order to highlight Xina Xurner, whose drag and body art performance-infused electronic music promise to get us up and dancing and end the series on an exhilarating note.” — Angela Washko, Fail-Safe Co-Founder

    Saturday nights performances will be followed by a dance party in the KST Lobby with Formosa a.k.a. Steph Tsong of Jellyfish keeping the vibes bumping. 

    Please be advised: performances during Fail-Safe: Los Angeles x Pittsburgh will explore the topic of sexuality and some may include nudity.

    KST presents Fail-Safe on Friday and Saturday, November 11 – 12  at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. For press comps, please contact lizrudnick@kelly-strayhorn.org

    ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS

    Angela Washko is an artist who creates new forums and forms for discussions about feminism. Washko’s practice spans social practice interventions in mainstream media, performance art, video, video games, and documentary film.  She is the founder of The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft, a long-term intervention inside the popular online video game. A recipient of the Creative Capital Award, the Impact Award at Indiecade, and the Franklin Furnace Performance Fund, Washko’s practice has been highlighted in The New Yorker, Frieze Magazine, Time Magazine, The Guardian, ArtForum, The Los Angeles Times, Art in America, The New York Times, Rhizome and more. Her projects have been presented internationally at venues including the Museum of the Moving Image (New York), Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Milan Design Triennale, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Helsinki), and the Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial. Angela Washko is an Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

    Scott Andrew 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’s PopRally Performance Series (NYC), Ballroom Marfa (Marfa, TX), the Hammer Museum (LA), and the J. Paul Getty Museum (LA), among others. Recently, Andrew has worked as a media designer for collaborative stage performances with dance artist Jesse Factor, drag performer Veronica Bleaus, the opera, ‘Looking at You’ with the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, as well as VFX editor for the documentary film, ‘Workhorse Queen’ by Angela Washko, and the interactive music video, ‘Gestures of Devotion’, by Congregation of Drones.

    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 co-curates TQ Live!, a yearly LGBTQ+ variety series that has been presented at the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art, and 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. 

    Jesse Stiles is an electronic composer, performer, installation artist, and software designer.  Stiles’ work has been featured at internationally recognized institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Park Avenue Armory.  Stiles has appeared multiple times at Carnegie Hall, performing as a soloist with electronic instruments. In his music and artwork, Stiles creates immersive sonic and visual environments that encourage new methods of listening and looking.  His musical output ranges from highly experimental, using texture and spatialization to create abstract clouds of sound, to borderline danceable, exploring the sounds of electronic dance and rock music to create avant-garde performances and recordings.  Stiles’ installation artwork makes use of generative algorithms to control sound, video, light, and robotics – combining these mediums to create synaesthetic compositions that transform museums and galleries into evolving audiovisual environments. Stiles is currently a Professor in the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University, where he leads courses on emerging music technologies.

    ABOUT THE ARTISTS

    Young Joon Kwak (b. 1984 in Queens, NY) is a Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary artist who primarily uses sculpture, performance, video, and community-based collaborations to reimagine new and continually evolving bodies, selves, and futures. Kwak received an MFA from the University of Southern California in 2014, an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2010, and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. They are the founder of Mutant Salon, a roving beauty salon/platform for experimental performance collaborations with their community of queer, trans, femme, POC artists and performers, and lead performer in the electronic-dance-noise band Xina Xurner.

    Kim Ye (b. 1984, Beijing, China) is a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist whose work incorporates performance, video, sculpture, installation, and text. She received her MFA from UCLA (2012) and her BA from Pomona College (2007). Influenced by language and aesthetics from BDSM, drag, and other avenues for self-actualization, her work explores the inversion of power dynamics through creating situations of exchange and intimacy. She has performed and exhibited nationally and internationally at The Hammer Museum, Getty Center, Banff Center for Arts and Creativity, Material Art Fair, Human Resources, Machine Project, Morán Morán, Satellite Art Fair, and Visitor Welcome Center among others. As a visiting artist, she has taught and lectured at institutions such as California Institute of the Arts, Pomona College, University of California Los Angeles, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Loyola Marymount University.

    Xina Xurner is an experimental music/performance collaboration between Marvin Astorga and Young Joon Kwak, whose cathartic performances combine DIY and power electronics, mutated vocals, and bad drag to expand ideas about queer and trans bodies. Their music combines a variety of genres (including happy hardcore, industrial, drone metal, and techno), in order to create sadical and sexperimental noise-diva-dance anthems that evoke a sense of transformation, rebirth, and renewal. Xina Xurner released their debut album “DIE” in 2012 and their follow-up, “Queens of the Night,” was released in April 2018. Xina Xurner will make you sweat.

    Caroline Yoo is an artist and community builder performing history. Born in Lawrence, Kansas to Korean immigrants, Yoo’s lived experiences in Anglo-suburbia as well as her time in Los Angeles surrounded by joyous Asian diasporic culture, have informed her art practice of searching for radical existence in creating safe spaces that allows her communities to dream wild, process unheard traumas, or plant grounds for new futures. Using making as a way to subvert, question and resist the silent, unseen systems of power we are ingrained, Yoo creates to imagine alternative education, unravel cultural colonialism, and pose questions on assumed narratives based on the consumption of other-ed bodies through social practice, intimate gathering space, experimental performance, and lens based installations. Yoo is additionally a member of Hwa Records, JADED PGH, and Han Diaspora Group all artist led collectives focused on producing spaces for diasporic Korean and/or AAPI narratives. Yoo has performed, exhibited, and/or culturally produced at Carnegie Museum of Art, McDonough Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, San Francisco, University of Southern California, LA Art Show, and more.

    London Williams is a practicing artist working in Pittsburgh, PA, and a second-year graduate candidate for a Master’s in Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University. Originally from Milwaukee, WI, Williams earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2021. Williams engages with his identity within his practice, exploring intersections of masculinity, sexuality, and Blackness. He imagines a home that cherishes his Blackness and Queerness. Identifying as an interdisciplinary painter, Williams uses multiple mediums as a response to a history of painter techniques. His paintings evolve as documentation of the domestic interior, a reproach of a past that has yet to be lived. Running parallel to how his grandmother curated her home, the influences of childhood guide his imagination of a home, familiar, but not inherited, in its uplifting of Blackness and Queerness. Recently Williams has developed a relationship with Ballroom and the art of vogue performance, utilizing the dance’s five elements—and the community that comes with it—to engage with an uncharted dimension of his identity. London is passionately collaging different themes, skills, and platforms that result in a manifestation of his Black Queer Utopia.

    MICHIYAYA Dance featuring Anya Clark (they/them) Born and raised in Brooklyn, with roots hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, Anya Clarke-Verdery is a queer choreographer, dance artist, and educator. They received their BFA in Dance from Long Island University, where they began their choreographic career, choreographing for the American College Dance Association. Anya has worked with choreographers such as Matthew Rushing, Sidra Bell, Earl Mosley, Clifton Brown, Holly Blakey, among others. Anya won 1st prize for Choreographic Excellence in the 11th International REVERBDance Festival. Described as movement that “moves between lucid and fluid to downright jarring in the most effective way,” Anya’s work has spread nationally at venues such as Brooklyn Museum, Andy Warhol Museum, Gelsey Kirkland Theater, among others. Alongside partner Mitsuko Clarke-Verdery, they were selected as the 2019 Guest Lecturers and Resident Artists at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art & Drama, and 2018 PearlDiving Movement Resident Artists. Anya currently serves on the Junior Board and as guest faculty for Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance. With MICHIYAYA, Anya creates highly physical and visceral choreography that molds with each dance artists’ voice.

    Swampwalk (they/them) is a Pittsburgh writer/composer/producer/performer/translator who weaves tales of guts and glory, fear and sadness, love and hate, pain and suffering, tapping into the sacred pool of words that rhyme to reveal congruences and connections between things and people and experiences through their voice and whatever instrument(s) they meet, in an attempt to create and/or release energy, in between save points, singing for food or money, for medicine, in its many forms, to stay safe, or simply for the love of the game.

     

    Samira Mendoza (they/them) is an interdisciplinary performance artist, curator, and educator based in Pittsburgh, PA. Their work centers improvisation through different mediums including sound, sculpture, organizing, and movement to investigate oppressive systems, familial history, and personal experiences. Mendoza currently collaborates with Gladstone Deluxe and Lola Machine as Dendarry Bakery, The Universe Online, Ricki Weidenhof, and Johnny Zoloft as WFP, and XC-17 and Yessi as Dyspheric. You can catch Dyspheric deejaying live on their monthly radio residency on Verge FM in Columbus, Ohio every third Saturday at 9PM.

    Davine Byon (she/her) is a Pittsburgh-based interdisciplinary media artist from New York City. She received her BFA in Video and Media Design at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. In addition to her background in collaborative design for performance works, Davine is developing an independent practice in new media video and installation art. This work draws from personal archives, Internet culture, popular media, and lens-based artifacts to reveal and remix narrative. She is interested in what documentation of the sacred and mundane might elucidate about intimacy, particularly in the queer community and among people of color. This fascination is informed by her own experience constructing, interrogating, and appreciating her queer Korean-American identity via media found at home and online.”

    Formosa aka Stephanie Tsong is a multi-disciplinary Taiwanese-American DJ, artist, and designer who performs as “Formosa” and as one-third of monthly Pittsburgh queer party, Jellyfish. Raised on an eclectic mix of sounds that reflects a youth spent listening to global pop music and dancing in international clubs, you can expect their sets to range from international pop to disco, freestyle, leftfield, electro, boogie, and house. Jellyfish and Formosa have been featured at Honcho Campout, The Lot Radio, Nowadays, Maybeland, Haute to Death, 88.3 WRCT, and Hot Mass. You can catch Jellyfish every month at P-Town Bar (N Oakland) and Formosa every fourth Saturday at Cobra Lounge (Bloomfield).

    Goofy Toof is an erotic artist and self-proclaimed big weirdo. Winner of the London Fetish Film Festival’s Best Comedy award for directing and starring in- the asexual porn parody CREAMPIE GLORYHOLE. Graphic designer and video vixen of OnlyBans, a game about the surveillance and censorship of sex workers. Animator of sexy cartoons, pole dancer, and probably the neighborhood freak. www.GoofyToof.com

  8. 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 

    ABOUT THE ARTISTS

    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.

  9. Kelly Strayhorn Theater Presents: Halloween Mayhem 2022

    EAST LIBERTY, PA  — Every year, Kelly Strayhorn Theater invites families to come celebrate Halloween with a day of activities and performances that celebrate the spooky season. Part of our Youth and Family Programming, this year the fun starts in the Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby at 12PM with make-and-take crafts, pumpkin decorating, and more. After hanging out in the Lobby, the Halloween revelers and their caretakers will file into the theater for performances by Pittsburgh favorites Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Alumni Theater Company, and KST Freshworks Fall 2022 Artist in Residence, Michelle Johnson.

    KST presents It is from her these seeds are sown on Saturday, October 29 at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. For press comps, please contact lizrudnick@kelly-strayhorn.org

     

    ABOUT THE ARTISTS 

    Alumni Theater Company (ATC) operates a year-round program providing talented Black youth in grades 6-12 with high quality performing arts training and a platform to express their ideas. The organization is in their 15th season of creating bold theatrical work that gives a fresh voice to the experience of young Black artists and highlights their rich contribution to our community. With anti-racism at the core of their work, ATC is a space free from stereotypes and otherism, where young artists can openly share their experiences growing up as Black teens in Pittsburgh, and in turn create art that speaks to their peers and the community at large.

    The mission of Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Inc. is to provide an insightful, woman-centered perspective on West African tradition and culture as a source of healing and balance by providing quality education and entertainment to audiences of all nationalities and walks of life.

    Michelle Johnson is a vocalist, songwriter and choreographer whose heart belongs to her hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. She has opened for pop superstars Nick Jonas (2015) and Ke$ha (2018). In 2019 and 2022 Johnson was a featured singer for Broadway Meets Motown at The Strand Theater. Mish shows involve extraordinary live vocals, vivacious hand-made, red carpet worthy costumes. 

  10. KST Presents Fall 2022 Freshworks Artist Alyssa Velazquez: It is from her these seeds are sown

    EAST LIBERTY, PA (September 26, 2022)  — It is from her these seeds are sown is a mango-infused story about second generation Latinx family building, personal desires, and mother daughter relationships by emerging playwright and KST Fall 2022 Freshworks resident artist Alyssa Velazquez. A deeply personal exploration of gender, pregnancy, autonomy, and choice, Velazquez’s work balances cultural critique with an expression of love that expands the canon of Puerto-Rican representation in theater.

    It is from her these seeds are sown follows a young wife in Brooklyn, New York who is expecting her first child and craving a mango, but what begins as an infatuation or a pregnancy craving gives way to an obsession. As her bodily hunger for mangos — a fruit that originally made its way to Puerto Rico from India by way of colonialism — grows, so too do the external tensions to become a mother. Ultimately, the protagonist is pushed to reimagine the nature of the life she wants to create, and the audience is asked to reconsider whether the eventuality of motherhood is really as “natural” as we’ve come to believe.

    No one is going to look at a mango the same way again.” — Alyssa Velazquez

    This Freshworks showing of It is from her these seeds are sown is an immersive and participatory excerpt of the longer play. Set in the rehearsal room, audience members can opt into the world of the play by volunteering to read one of the roles aloud. In doing so, not only are audience members invited to experience the work, but they are encouraged to participate in bringing it to life. Audience members who would like to participate can express their interest during ticketing at kelly-strayhorn.org.

    “I thought, what about taking the next step, that closed reading between loved ones and friends, and opening it up to the audience? What if you were to allow the audience into the process, a peek behind the curtain, if you will, of what it takes to make a play?” — Alyssa Velazquez

    KST presents It is from her these seeds are sown on Friday & Saturday, October 7 – 8 at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave. For press comps, please contact lizrudnick@kelly-strayhorn.org

     

    ABOUT THE ARTIST 

    Alyssa Velazquez is a writer specializing in the material culture of gender, performance, and women’s studies. Prior to living and working in Pittsburgh, she was the Curatorial Research Associate at Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina. She also assisted in the development of exhibitions at Bard Graduate Center Gallery, New York. Velazquez holds a MA in decorative arts, design history, and material culture from the Bard Graduate Center and a BA in history and anthropology from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. She organized Locally Sourced, highlighting new work by the Pittsburgh region’s most talented present-day makers of functional goods and furnishings at Carnegie Museum of Art. Other projects include Extraordinary Ordinary Things and Sharif Bey: Excavations. She has published articles in AutoStraddle, GRLSQUASH, The Establishment, Women’s History Magazine, The Fashion Studies Journal, and Votive Project. Velazquez was selected in 2021 to participate in María Irene Fornés Playwriting Workshop, sponsored by the Latinx Theatre Commons that included writers from India, Mexico, Argentina, Canada and Puerto Rico. In 2022 she was writer in residence at City Books, Pittsburgh’s oldest bookstore.