KST Blog

Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s House Party Introduces an Immersive Cabaret Theme, Promises Intimate Performances and Bumping Beats

Saturday, July 13 Benefit Will Feature Performers Jesse Factor, Clara Kent, DJ QRX, and More

East Liberty, Pittsburgh, PA—Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) invites attendees to let loose at its annual House Party, an ever-changing bash and fundraiser that this year brings an immersive cabaret theme to the theater’s space on 5941 Penn Ave. The event will take place Saturday, July 13, and tickets are available at a variety of price points, from $50 – $250.

This year’s House Party will feature an immersive neon-noir environment with media design by Scott Andrew. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the occasion. The evening will begin at 7:00pm with a VIP Reception. This more intimate and individualized event will include a catered buffet, open bar, and performances from choreographer and dancer Jesse Factor and musician Clara Kent. Starting at 9:00pm, the reception will transition to a wild and welcoming Dance Party, with a cash bar and beats by DJ QRX and genre-bending DJ ROJO.

“Every year, House Party is a unique opportunity for Pittsburgh to show up, show off, and contribute to KST’s vital work,” says Co-Executive Director Joseph Hall. “This event buoys a vast array of programming that allows us to invest in the community at every level, from developing local artists to cultivating community dialogue to incubating new work from the most exciting voices on the local and global stage. These elements are essential to maintaining KST as a home where historically resilient artists can thrive.”

At the VIP Reception, KST will transform the theater experience from the usual stage-audience relationship to an unexpected format: the party takes place on the KST mainstage, while a floating stage erected in the center of the house becomes a site for discourse and performance. The VIP reception will feature a solo performance by Jesse Factor, whose work explores the legacies of legendary divas like Madonna through contemporary dance, theater, and nightclub influences. Factor’s work grows from an ongoing collaboration with media artist Scott Andrew that first blossomed during a Freshworks production at KST’s Alloy Studios.

VIPs will hear from KST leadership and enjoy exclusive open bar access in the company of this year’s Host Committee, which includes leading local voices in business and culture. The event will also include a performance by Afro-Indigenous musician Clara Kent, whose raw vulnerability made her Pittsburgh City Paper’s musical “Person of the Year” in 2019.

The 9:00pm Dance Party, which takes place in the KST Lobby, drives momentum from the VIP reception into an uninhibited, down-and-dirty dance party. Pittsburgh natives DJ QRX, aka Austin Bey, and ROJO will take KST’s House Party to its apex with a three-hour set. Rooted in soul, funk, and disco, ROJO’s DJ sets incorporate a vast range of genres, ensuring an eclectic evening within the immersive space.

A History of Creative Investment

Since 2009, KST has presented an annual summer fundraiser to benefit a vibrant array of programs intended to support historically under-served artists and Pittsburgh community members. Launched as Full Bloom, the event was reinvented in 2022 in the form of House Party, an ever-evolving celebration of KST’s role as an artistic home for Black and queer artists. Each year, the event attracts 250 – 300 attendees, inviting the community to take over the venue by flipping stage and audience spaces. Guests include local entrepreneurs and creative and cultural leaders, many of whom also sustain the event through participation in the Host Committee.

Melanie Paglia, KST’s recently announced Co-Executive Director, spoke passionately about the impact of House Party on the organization: “The generous support of patrons at House Party makes it possible to achieve KST’s creative and community goals and provides a vital level of financial stability to the institution, our operations, and our people. The price of admission to House Party covers far more than one evening of entertainment; it is a crucial investment in KST’s continued ability to thrive.”

Free Expression
Proceeds from House Party fund a wide range of programming, including a series of zero-cost events under the banner “Free Expression,” designed to bring together Pittsburghers from diverse backgrounds. This includes a series of free community dinners, classes, professional development workshops, and two yearly visual art exhibitions hosted in the theater’s lobby gallery space.

Telling Our Stories
KST also cultivates a range of incubation projects branded “Telling Our Stories.” These initiatives, intended to amplify diverse Pittsburgh voices, include the Freshworks residency for young Pittsburgh artists and the East Liberty Mutual Aid Residency, in which KST shares space and resources with PearlArts dance company and queer youth theater Dreams of Hope. It also includes Local and Global Performance, a lineup of performances, commissions, sponsorships, and developmental support for local, national, and international artists.

Producing Partners
The third branch of programming supported by House Party is KST’s work with approximately 40 local, national, and international Producing Partners each year. KST provides subsidized rates, front of house and technical staff, and sales and marketing support to bring a range of creative and educational partners (including Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Legacy Arts Project, Venture Outdoors, and TEDx Pittsburgh) to Pittsburgh audiences.

House Party: A Benefit for Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Saturday, July 13, 2024 | 7:00pm – 9:00pm VIP Reception | 9:00pm – 12:00am Dance Party

Kelly Strayhorn Theater | 5941 Penn Ave.

Tickets for House Party are $150 – $250 per attendee of the Immersive VIP Reception, or $50 – $100 per attendee of the Dance Party, and can be reserved here.

Immersive VIP Reception tickets include all-night open bar access, a catered buffet, and live performances. Dance Party tickets include one complimentary beverage from the cash bar and performances from local DJs ROJO and DJ QRX.


Jesse Factor trained at the Martha Graham School and danced with Graham II, and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Jesse’s solo creative work, which playfully explores the Martha-verse and other legendary divas, is frequently presented in the context of dance, theater, and nightclub performances. Factor’s work-in-progress Show Queen was recognized as a 2023 National Dance Project finalist. jessefactor.com/about

Clara Kent is an Afro-Indigenous multidisciplinary artist, a community liaison from Homewood, Pa, and the host of More Bounce on WYEP. Whether the medium is music, canvas, or curation, Clara uplifts the creative community, especially Black artists and youth, through her actions in mentorship, her raw & vulnerable artistry, and her arts advocacy work. Clara was named Pittsburgh City Paper’s “Person of the Year” for Music in 2019 and has performed across many stages. www.wyep.org

Scott Andrew, born 1982 in Waynesburg, PA, is a multimedia queer-oriented video, installation, performance artist, media designer, educator, and curator. Media Design projects include Suite Life at KST, Underland x Alice at the New Hazlett Theater, and Show Queen, a 2023 NDP finalist and ongoing collaboration with Dance Artist Jesse Factor that grew out of a Freshworks presentation of I Am A Haunted House at KST Alloy Studios. scottnandrew.com

DJ QRX a.k.a. Austin Bey was born and raised in Homewood, PA. QRX Went to college at IUP, becoming their very own resident DJ. He loves the culture and art of DJing. He started DJing in 2012 and had his first gig in 2014. He has DJed some very notable events, including the Three Rivers Art Festival, Picklesburgh, Slappers’N’Bangers, and IUP Homecoming where he opened for Lil Uzi Vert, DaBaby, Young M.A, Lil Yachty, Offset, and PnB Rock.

Born and raised in New Kensington, PA, ROJO was introduced to Pittsburgh nightlife as a teen. ROJO’s passion for music is deeply personal. His taste is rooted in soul, funk, and disco and is inspired by his mother, who regularly played cassette tapes around the house and reminisced about growing up in the disco era. ROJO believes in the healing power of music and views DJing as a means of performance, artistic expression, and storytelling. During his DJ sets, you’ll experience a mixed bag of various genres including House, Techno, Club, Funk, R&B, and more. Rojo’s Website.

Zhen Lee is a tattooer, a performing artist, and illustrator. They have tattooed in Pittsburgh since 2017. They have performed in City of Play’s Greenfield Bridge Opening, Intimate Subjects, solo piece Emotional Landscapes, Glitterbox’s Pink Potatoes, and Big Storm’s Or Forever Hold your Peace. Their comics can be found in anthologies Drawn To Home, Chutz Pow Vol. 4, Love and Monsters, and Overgrowth and Underbrush. Their tattoo work can be found @yangzhenlee on Instagram.

Quaishawn Whitlock is an artist, educator, and business owner in Pittsburgh, PA, having held teaching positions at many Pittsburgh institutions including the Andy Warhol Museum and Artist Image Resource. Currently, Whitlock is collaborating in partnership with Boom Concepts and ACH Clear Pathways, as owner and director of 1st Layer LLC, a small business specializing in print and design. Quaishawn has directed many workshops and classes for elementary, middle, and high school youth, in addition to programming to engage adult and experienced learners. @qultivate on Instagram.


Demeatria & J.G. Boccella
Melanie Marie Boyer
Orlana Darkins Drewery
Stephanie Flom
Pam Golden
Justin Gunther
Gregg Kander & Anna E. Hollis Kander
Kendra Whitlock Ingram & Ben Ingram
County Executive Sara Innamorato
Anne & Vincent Lackner
Amanda Markovic
Cathy McCollom
Gwendolyn Moorer
Clarissa Morales & Brandon M. McGurer
Gerald Morosco
Nadyli Nuñez
Kris Rust
Jennifer Sciullo
Felicia Snead, MD
Megan & Adam Sukhia
Tammy Thompson
Chaton Turner
Elise Walton



Named after 20th century entertainment legends Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn, both natives of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 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.

KST is an institutional arts anchor in Pittsburgh’s East End that has served the community for more than two decades. Since launching KST Presents programming in ’08, KST has been Black-led, fostering radical imagination for Black and queer arts, culture, and community in Pittsburgh by cultivating BIPOC and/or queer artists, entrepreneurs, and arts administrators, developing their careers, and shifting narratives around Black possibility.