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Publish date:03-27-2015 13:47:43

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Publish Date: 03-27-2015 13:47:00

How I Learned What I Learned;  

An Evening With August Wilson.

By Megan Grabowski

The Pittsburgh premiere of How I Learned What I Learned introduces today's generation of theatergoers to 1960's Black America and pointedly offers Pittsburgher's an intimate moment with Wilson, listening to him tell the tales of growing up poor in an urban ghetto.  Yes, I claim to heave heard Wilson himself speak- his mannerisms; linguistic style and body language  channeled on stage through a great medium, actor Eugene Lee. 

A satisfying continuation of the commemorative 40th season, Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) has once again stroked the spirt of Pittsburghers.  How I learned What I Learned, August Wilson's final drama is running for a full month of performances.

The one-man show is an enhancement of Wilson's stories about growing up and coming of age in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood.  The stories are reminiscent of the types of stories you hear in the corner bar or at parties and I imagine many anecdotes were often shared with his family and friends - but these biographical accounts were not fully conceived in dramatic form until Wilson requested the assistance of Todd Kreidler.   Collaborating with Kreidler, Wilson created a collection of stories for the stage, which mimic many themes commonly threaded throughout his other works.  He addresses social, economic, racial and familial subjects while simultaneously encompassing an audience with the art of storytelling.  How I Learned What I Learned was intended to be performed by Wilson himself.   After the shows initial run in Seattle, Wilson became ill and passed away before having a chance to tour the country as actor.   PPT's performance of How I Learned What I Learned is directed by Todd Kreidler, bringing an emotional depth to the stage that carries on a legacy which will move the audiences at their core. 

It appears to me, native Pittsburghers typically maintain a unified essence of their city, claiming ownership to all things Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol, Fred Rogers, Heinz Ketchup.  Wilson too fits in this list of notables, yet his characters and stories are indicative of you and me; the average guy, living day to day, striving to survive.

The great prodigious energy of August Wilson, pours from the lips of actor Eugene Lee, on stage at the O'Reilly Theater behind a backdrop of 8.5x11 sheets of paper.  He sits on a platform, covered in detritus and litter, perhaps a simulation of the stoop outside Wilson's basement apartment in the mid-1960's.  As Lee enters, the sounds of a typewriter, tap, tap, tapping, spell out the first chapter of the show, ˜My Ancestors'.   For more than 90 minutes Lee stands sits, paces and dances to the tales of Wilson's life, his only props being the stoop, a stool, a desk and a glass of water.  The set is simple yet significant; each story is introduced on the sheets of paper and the ambiance enhanced by lighting changes.  Sometimes music is added to complement a particular subject.  Lee speaks Wilson's stories- his experience with autodidacticism by way of the Carnegie Library, memories of his mentors, recollection of members of the Hill Art Society and frequently his drive to stand toe-to-toe with racism whenever and wherever he is confronted by it. 

The show is racially charged and should it be.  Wilson's account reflects upon a time in America when blacks were struggling to move past our nation's verbal and physical brutality against their race.  Wilson, intellectually understood humanity despite all of the injustices and insults, and does not cast blame. The message Wilson conveys to his audience is matter of fact.  These are stories about growing up black in America in the 1960's.  The way Wilson tells it; that's just how it was.   How did he cope?  How did his friends survive?  How did they overcome?  How did some, inevitably succumb?  We hear about his first few jobs, his time in jail, his friends, the women he loved the music that healed and moved him and the community where he lived.  It is the culmination of these experiences that shaped his art.  Each chapter title is typed letter by letter onto the sheets of paper hanging above the stage, ˜Jail', ˜Coltrane', ˜Hill District 1965', and in conclusion,  ˜How Do You Know What You Know'. 

How I Learned What I Learned completes what is commonly referred to as The Century Cycle .  Wilson penned one play for each decade of the 20th century, 9 of them set here in Pittsburgh.  As a play, How I Learned What I Learned is different.  Lee, incredible in his interpretation of Wilson, never struggles with a lack of energy, despite his 1.5 hour monologue, nor is there dearth in representation of character.  He appears to have resurrected the playwright, granting Pittsburgh a moment in time with August Wilson.

How I Learned What I Learned runs through April 5, 2015.  Ticket information is available HERE

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Income Maintance Caseworker at State of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast. 


Publish Date: 02-15-2015 00:44:00

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Beauty and the Beast of Smorgasbord of Elegance and Style

by Good News Reporters, Joanne Quinn-Smith and
Anaiyah Thomas

A quiet Saturday afternoon, little girls in party dresses, monkeys dancing on stage and a beauty and a BEAST, oh my! Beauty and the Beast had in all, five scenes and 92 costumes designed by Jose Varona.  The costumes alone were a high point of the overall performance adding tremendously to its style, and vibrant sense of whimsy, fantasy and stagecraft.

What a smorgasbord of visual elegance and style.  The beginning of the ballet was ensemble performances by very effective might looking stags complete with horns and beautiful graceful nymphs and other Forrest Creatures.

I am telling this review from my six year old granddaughter Anaiyah's point of view.  When I asked her what she liked best about the ballet, she said, the monkey dance and the bluebirds.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

 At first she was worried that The Beast was going to be very scary but when she actually saw him come onto stage he had the desired impact of getting her to feel just a little sorry for him.

She was on the edge of her seat most of the time and while other young children were asking why there was no talking and singing, her precocious six year old self, got the sense of the story even without words.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

For my personal preference I loved the rosebushes co-ordinated to match the scenery and loved the humor brought to the stage by Beauty's sisters, Olivia Kelly and Maris Grywalski.  I found them very under appreciated.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Anaiyah's favorite scene was however when the Beast (Prince) and Beauty came out in their long capes and crowns.  And always she loved the pas de deux.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Once again the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater stars and corps, costume and set designers have put on another production of grace and style and grandeur.  

Only selfie in existence of grandma Joanne Quinn-Smith and
partner reviewer granddauther Anaiyah Thomas
Joanne Quinn-Smith, publisher, host of PositivelyPittsburghLive with PPL Kidz Korner partner reviewer granddaughter Anaiyah Thomas known for being six year old fashion police and precocius six year old symphony and ballet reviewer.


Publish Date: 02-09-2015 10:55:00

Even Russian Politics in 1866 Can Be Funny, A Review of "Prussia, 1866"

by Megan Grabowski, Good News Reviewer

During the Seven Weeks War, in 1866, a Prussian victory meant many in the Kingdom praised the leaders who paved way for a new state. The Prussian parliamentary influence over the separation of Prussia from Austria and Germany, aided in revolutionizing the principals of the Enlightenment movement.  The social, political, economic and cultural changes encouraged a rapid growth of free thinkers, including women.  These women recognized the occasion to ride the coattails of this Enlightenment, and introduced many of the ideals we identify as fundamentals of feminism.
Prussia: 1866 is written to reflect the primal period of feminism.  

 Playwright Gab Cody vividly captures the essence of the time; the political atmosphere as well as the socio-economic status and religious diversities which commonly gauged the moral compass of females during the depicted time.  Prussia: 1866 offers the audience a twist, telling the story in the manner of comedic farce.

Young Friedrich Fritz Nietzsche, played by Drew Palajsa, is studying in the home of his mentor Heinrich Von Klamp, a famous poet, novelist and political force. Fritz is having an affair with Klamp's wife Mariska, a young seductress played by Laura Lee Brautigam.  Rosemary, played by Cody, is a major influence in the women's movement and Klamp's writing assistant. Rosemary exercises her values by interjecting them into Klamp's popular writing.  Hayley Nielsen stars as the meek, protestant servant, who often draws out laughs from the audience by quoting her father's interpretation of women, marriage and religion.  Before the end of the play, she too finds herself intertwined in the domestic love triangle. 

 Sam Turich portrays the American Delegate and Rosemary's secret husband.  The comedic timing between Cody and Turich is noteworthy during the translation scenes.   Another slapstick moment worth mentioning is the hilarious cacophony of absurdity in a final scene; books fly across the stage and the men rapidly undress in the name of Naturalism.  Throughout the performance the characters sexual prowess, interlaced with romanticism, witty dialogue and a mildly bawdy tone had the audience howling in their seats. Furthermore, I would not be submitting an honest review if I failed to mention the brief but instrumental nude scene. Knowing ahead of time there would be nudity in the production, I assumed at some point I would find myself staring at an actor's breasts.  Without giving any more details away, kudos to Cody for sticking true to the feminist motives that layer this amusing performance. 

Premiering on stage of the Rauh Theater this period piece is enhanced by the talents of Cathleen Crocker- Perry, costume designer, who ensures the cast is dressed in apparel reflecting the time and tone in an authentic style.  Additionally, because the story takes place over the course of just one day, scenic designer Stephanie Mayer- Staley utilizes tall shelves filled with books, long drapes, elegant chaise and pillows as well as multiple doors, for the purpose of burlesque style humor; characters run amuck, wild witticisms frequently soar across stage and characters scheme to manipulate and entrap one another. 

No real background in world history or philosophy is necessary to enjoy Prussia: 1866, just a sound sense of humor and an instrumental respect for funny women and the men who love them.  This is a great show for a date night. 

"Prussia: 1866" runs from February 5 through February 22, 2015.  Information on ticket sales and show times can be found here

 Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

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


Publish Date: 02-02-2015 03:50:00

˜Wouldn't It Be Lovely' to see Pittsburgh Public Theater's Production of My Fair Lady?

By Megan Grabowski

Benjamin Howes as Henry Higgins and Kimberly Doreen Burns as Eliza Doolittle

 Have the winter doldrums set in?  ˜Wouldn't it be Lovely' to lose yourself in the transcendence of a classic musical production?  This
can be done by taking a trip to Pittsburgh's Cultural District and attending a showing of Pittsburgh Public Theaters My Fair Lady. 
The unforgettable musical score by Lerner and Lowe is just what the soul needs as a pick me up during a long dreary Pittsburgh winter.  From the overture through the final number the lightheartedness of the music fills the O'Reilly Theater with instant warmth of familiarity and enduring notes.  Audience members will have no difficulty transcending everyday strife and the drudgery of work and familial obligations to lose themselves in 1912 London.   The captivating cast of characters charms the audience with the carefree musical score and heartwarming rags to riches story.

First row left to right: John Little, Kimberly Doreen Burns, Susan McGregor-Laine, Benjamin Howes

It took a handful of lines before my mind adjusted to the eruption of cockney accents on stage but Eliza Doolittle, played by Kimberly Doreen Burns, easily glides between two worlds; one the disenfranchised flower- girl, the other, a lady who manages to jump beyond the bourgeois class and directly into the upper echelons of society by means of rigorous training provided by linguist Henry Higgins, played by Benjamin Howes and Colonel Pickering, portrayed by John Little. 

 Left to right: Benjamin Howes, Kimberly Doreen Burns, John Little

A bet is made between Higgins and Pickering.  Within six months' time the professor of phonetics will transform Miss Doolittle from gutter girl into a respectable aristocrat.  The final test will be to pass her off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball.  The compassionate
Colonel and the harsh Higgins get right to work, drilling Miss Doolittle night and day, around the clock, until her phonetics become articulate and proper.  Miss Doolittle, physically and mentally exhausted, finally reaches her turning point when she annunciates, The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain with exaggerated long A's.  This scene is most memorable as two highly recognized songs, ˜The Rain in Spain' as well as ˜I Could Have Danced All Night' follow each other in a succession of musical sweetness.

Center: Bill Nolte

What is so special about My Fair Lady? After all, it's the classic story retold over and over throughout theater, film and literature,
the underprivileged gets a lucky break and a taste of the good life through some type of alteration.  It's a feel good story, with some old- fashioned humor which further enhances its' charm.  If the audience is not familiar with the era or not ready to lose themselves in the manner of the musical, some lyrics could cause a raised eyebrow or two, such as the in the songs, ˜I'm an Ordinary Man' and ˜A Hymn to Him'.  Not for a moment does this stop me from humming along to the catchy melodies, or admiring the wonderful harmonizing of the ensemble.  Burns voice is delightful, whether
singing as a proper lady or as the poor street peddler. The supporting cast, specifically Joe Jackson as Freddy, Bill Nolte as Alfred P. Doolittle and Terry Wickline as Mrs. Pearce are strong characters who effortlessly carry the show from scene to scene with their seasoned vocal talents and skillful theatrics.  The costumes are stunning; rich hues, parasols and ascots boost the mood of the depicted occasions. It is a fun evening of escapism.

 Directed and choreographed by Ted Pappas, well acquainted with Pittsburgh winters, he chose a cheery musical that will surely seize the spirit and, if for just a few hours, take our minds off the snow and bleakness waiting outdoors.

˜With a Little Bit of Luck', you will make it to the Pittsburgh Public Theater for a performance of My Fair Lady. The show runs from January 22 through February 22, 2015 at the O'Reilly Theater.

Tickets can be purchased here

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

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


Publish Date: 01-24-2015 18:42:00

Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Just attending the Maceo Parker concert at the Byham Theater on January 16 would have been enough to convince you that his fans are an eclectic group ranging from James Brown era boomers to current college students.  I was a accompanied by my nephew Josh Kurnot, 23 year old, Mechanical Engineering Student from West Virginia University.  He had never heard of Maceo and quickly became a fan. Maceo is known as the funkadylic sax of the James Brown Band.  

Now a little education for those of you are not schooled in the music genre called "funk."  It is a genre that originated in the mid
picture by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
to late 1960s when African-American musicians discovered the rhythmic, danceable combination of soul music, jazz and R&B using the strong rhythm groove of electric bass and drums and in, my mind, hi-lighting brass instruments.  Funk uses the same extended chords as bepop jazz, often extending one vamp on a single chord.  James Brown developed the signature "groove" that emphasized the downbeat leaning heavily on the first beat of every measure, funky bass line, drum patterns and syncopated guitar riffs.

Not getting it yet?  Getting funky with these extended vamps will have your head bopping, dancing, dancing in your seats and having fun especially if it is to Maceo Parker's famed alto sax and the amazing trombone of Dennis Rollins who often graces the audience along with Maceo in vocals with his sultry deep baritone.

At 72, Maceo is still the consummate performer. He and his "super band" are the epitome of funk entertainment.  Each is a celebrated musician in his own right making the audience experience delightful for "smorgasbord listening."  Dennis Rollins on trombone, Will Boulware on keyboards, Bruno Speight on guitar, Rodney Skeet Curtis on bass, Marcus Parker (son of Maceo's brother and long-time drumming partner Melvin) on drums, Martha High singing backup and Darliene Parker (Maceo's cousin) singing backup as well.

Darliene Parker adds so much energy and absolute mirth and sex appeal to the backup singing but her solo of "Stand by Me" could almost stand alone along with her scat duo with Maceo on the flute.  Spellbinding!

picture by Josh Kurnot
The band truly is a family affair as some of the performers actually date back to Maceo's stint with George Clinton with his bands Parliament and Funkadelic.  A musician whose resume includes James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Prince, among others, would only bring entertainment giants to the stage.

These musicians perform as though they were born to be on the stage, performing.  And it is obvious they are having a rollicking good time with joking and comical antics.  The show is a musical rodeo that really ropes you in with equal parts of fun antics and exciting musical execution.  We should all have careers where we have as much fun as Maceo's band does. And this translated to the live performance at the Byham.

The entire band stacked one musical showcase of their individual talents on top of each other.   Each band member had an opportunity
picture by Josh Kurnot
to strut their stuff, with at least one if not more opportunities for a solo performance showcasing each of their outstanding talents.

In old-school jazz show fashion, the band led off the night vamping a Latin groove as the back-up singers announced a Funky Fiesta. Soon, Parker took the stage, and the show moved into full-on funk time with Off the Hook, as in the funk is off the hook. It's a Parker concert chestnut, as are Make It Funky (a James Brown number)"Baby Knows" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."  There are also tributes to Marvin Gay and of course Maceo's impression of and tribute to Ray Charles.

Still Maceo's mesmerizing saxophone playing remains the biggest reason to go see his show. Whether in tandem bouts with Boyer or soloing on his own, he retains the style and substance that made him a funk icon. Lest we forget I Got You (I Feel Good)"--James Brown, James can be heard in many recordings shouting, "Maceo, I want to blow." Even James was a fan!  Maceo is fond of saying that his music is 98% funky stuff and only 2% Jazz and he has a book out by the same name:

If you missed the show and you get a chance, please for the memory of your life, don't make the second mistake twice.

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


Publish Date: 01-23-2015 10:10:00

 Learning to LIVE through PIPPIN

A Roving Pittsburgher Review

by Sunita Pandit, Mrs. Cardiology

My husband and I got tickets at the last minute.  Its busy during the week but I thought 'you only live once!' oh what a cliche! Convinced my husband to treat me with 'us' time and off we went... oh my...

Photo by Joan Marcus & Bruce Glikas   Pippin, Kyle Dean Massey
and father John Rubenstein.

Did not know what we were going to see... we are both first generation Indians that are still getting culturally Americanized! While walking from the parking garage to the Benedum I was able to hear a lot of chatter from the audience that had seen the Original Pippin and were all without fail excited at the prospect of seeing the original lead for Pippin arrive here in our very own Pittsburgh to play the part of the father of Pippin...In 1972 the starring role of Pippin was played by a virtual unknown, John Rubenstein.  Now Mr. Rubenstein an actor, composer, director and educator is back as the royal father of Pippin. 

Even as we sat down, the people behind us were commenting the same... We were excited about seeing acrobats... but what we actually saw and experienced was just astounding - a feast for the eyes - a smorgasbord for all of the senses... we had trouble focusing on one performer for long as so much kept happening at the same time. The performers filled the stage inch to inch with color action style all choreographed to timely perfection by Tony Award nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse and circus creation of breathtaking acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main.

Pippin also has a unique connection to Pittsburgh.  According to Playwright, Stephen Schwartz,  PIPPIN began as a show for the Sotch 'n' Soda club at Cargnegie Mellon University in 1967.  At that time Scotch 'n' Soda produced an original musical every year and he had written songs for two previous musicals. Schwartz had a friend, Ron Strauss, who had an idea to write a story about Carlegmagne's son launcing a revolution agains this father and had begun to write a musical about the idea.  So Schwartz and Strauss collaborated right here in Pittsburgh to create PIPPIN which became the most nominated Broadway show of 2013, won four 2013 Tony® Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.  

Pippin a journey of self discovery that draws you in to wonder about your own life... And I will never be able to do justice to the performance of the cast in their singing... they all carried strength, clarity, but most important of all all of them were in the 'zone'. I could not help but be drawn in completely... IMPRESSIVE is an understatement... 

Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs for a life filled with passion and adventure. Aided by an acting troupe headed by the Leading Player, the musical tells the story of Pippin's pursuit of the extraordinary.

And as for the original Pippin -well at this age he has an impressive stage presence and voice - oh I wonder and wish I could have seen him in the original version... I firmly believe that Cirque de Soliel has fierce competition in this troupe!

My husband and I are honored to have witnessed this feat of performance brought from Broadway to the Benedum... allowing us to enjoy such excellence in the comfort of our home town! The show swings through the Benedum from January 20 25, so be sure to grab your tickets for this unforgettable show!

 Sunita Pandit, host of Mrs. Cardiology which is an anchor podcast at is also the practice manager for her husband Santosh Pandit's private cardiology practice in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, she is also the Health Director on the Board of NAWBO Greater Pittsburgh.


Publish Date: 01-01-2015 22:56:00

An Electrifying Performance
Reviewer:  JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz,  

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE, presented a spectacular night of entertainment aimed to amaze, awe and make one wonder  out loud   How in the world do they do all the twisting, turning, leaping, climbing, juggling, acrobatic and aerial feat and still be smiling and ready to do more?    The international cast of 30 performers from 12 different countries are extraordinary as they whirl, twist and perform almost impossible feats through 20 acts, and 300 custom changes in a 2 hour production. 

 The show pulls out all the holiday favorites, gingerbread men, Santa Claus, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen ice men and maidens, and penguins all performing amazing feats to entertain you. So much is going on at one time it is difficult at times to take in all the activity.   Kudo's to all that design, produce and deliver this holiday spectacular.  The only thing I miss is not knowing the names and background of the individual performers and what country they are from.   I think each one would have an amazing story to tell.       

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Many of the performers have appeared on America's got Talent and although we can't be certain, my companion and I think we recognized Quick Change Artists, Lex Schoppi and Alina, masters of high speed haute couture entertainment.  Also we think we recognized  from America's Got Talent, quarter finalists Donovan and Rebecca although we cannot be sure as there was no program.

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is part of a franchise by directory Neil Goldberg, who created the groundbreaking Broadway hits CIRQUE DREAMS and JUNGLE FANTASY. CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is a cirque show, a Broadway musical, a holiday spectacular and family show all in one! 
photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Great entertainment! Amazing show with fantastic performers whose enthusiasm and boundless energy could produce enough electricity to light up downtown Pittsburgh for a week.  Who needs gas wells?  Just harness the performers of CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE.  Truly an amazing and electrifying performance by all!

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


Publish Date: 12-16-2014 13:06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publish Date: 12-14-2014 20:54:00

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

By Megan Grabowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

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


Publish Date: 12-06-2014 15:27:00

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

 to the O'Reiley Theater.

By Megan Grabowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

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


Publish Date: 12-04-2014 19:57:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publish Date: 11-06-2014 10:45:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publish Date: 10-30-2014 15:04:00

"Sleeping Beauty" Ballet a Sleeping Giant

Review of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 45th Season Opening Ballet

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

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

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

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

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

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


Publish Date: 10-30-2014 05:18:00

The Power of Prophecy
 Betrayal, Assassination, Guilt and Revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publish Date: 10-27-2014 15:59:00

A Triple Play with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
by Helene Vidovich and Martin Thomas

Pittsburgh Dance Council of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust started their 2014-15 season on October 11th featuring three commissioned works performed by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Aspen has a population near 7,000 -- it makes sense that they would combine efforts with Santa Fe to field a dance troupe. Both were mining towns in the Rockies and as distances go out West, not really very far from each other.
The first two sets were sparse. Black/white lighting, with the use of spotlights and
Courtesy of Company
shadowing, made things appear and disappear right before our eyes. This stage effect leads us into the depths of the dancers' creativity. The third set, awash with color, used bold lighting changes behind fabric to create the atmosphere. It is amazing what can be accomplished with good lights and a scrim, or two, or three. As the old Vaudeville adage goes, It packs flat and plays big. It does. .and did.
The Byham Theater is a beautiful place to watch a show, but from where we were sitting, the sound could use some adjustment. Again, the metallic and electronic sounds were so loud we needed earplugs. When the violins started, they were much softer and difficult to distinguish over the sound effects. In the first piece, Square None by
choreographer Norbert De La Cruz III, the music ranged from industrial sound effects that were thundering loud on the bass, to cellist and strings, and Handel Oratorio. The synthesized music on the second piece, Beautiful Mistake by choreographer Cayetano Soto, reminded Martin of Josquin des Prez. The third one Heart(s) pace by choreographer Ezio Bosso, was a minimalistic piece for strings that had more dissonance then the second -- quite the type of music you would associate with modern dance.
Courtesy Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Three separate choreographers provided a what will they do next anticipation between sets.  The dancers were five women and six disparate men who worked together to become a unit while creating drama and tension. Costuming showed their physiques and accentuated their movements. They exhibited the strength of gymnastics and the grace of ballet intermingled with modern dance movements. The stories they revealed seemed intricate and complex. This provoked a lively discussion all the way to New Kensington on our ride back from "dahntahn" Pittsburgh.

Martin Thomas, Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Videographer
Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter, Graphic Designer, Videographer


Publish Date: 10-25-2014 15:13:00

40 Years of Theater; PPT's 2014 season opens with an American classic:  The Glass Menagerie.

Review by Megan Grabowski

Fall has officially arrived in Pittsburgh.  This means, the Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) is opening their doors for another season.   On October 9, 2014 I stepped inside the wide windowed atrium of the O' Reilly Theater on Penn Avenue anticipating an evening of escapism at its' finest.   This performance of the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie will surely clutch the strings of the collective hearts of Pittsburghers- expressly those who have supported the success of the PPT since its inception 40 years ago.  Yes, that's right; this is the 40thanniversary of the PPT.   What better way to commemorate the achievements of the theater than by producing, Menagerie, mirroring the theater's first season.  

The evening began when  Producing Artistic Director, Ted Pappas, bestowed upon the eager audience an honorable introduction, which included a gracious recognition of PNC and their long withstanding commitment, not only to the achievements of PPT  but to the arts as a whole in our region. Then the lights dim-
The show begins with an overview of the period by Tom Wingfield, played by Fisher Neal. Neal, a
Fisher Neal as Tom and Lynne Wintersteller as Amanda.
seasoned actor is making his Pittsburgh debut in Menagerie.  Williams writing is a vessel for Neal's eloquence. His voice grants the audience a glimpse into the lives of his family in 1937.  As narrator, Neal reminds us, with the reflective and introverted tone, utilizing the intellect of a poet, that this story is not real; it is a memory and intended to be interpreted as such.  The show proceeds with the remaining characters, Cathyrn Wake, as Laura Wingfield, Lynne Wintersteller staring as Amanda Wingfield and Jordan Whalen cast as Jim O'Connor. Each actor shares with the audience a moment in time, a snap chat of memory and most unfortunate, the immense cruelty and weight of disenchantment that can accompany said remembrances. 

Cathryn Wake as Laura and Jordan Whalen as Jim.
The plot, centers on Laura, a painfully shy and childish young woman.   She suffers from a defect causing her to walk with a pronounced limp. Tom, Laura's brother, is obliged to play the role of family man since their father left 16 years prior.  Amanda, Tom and Laura's mother, is a loquacious Southern woman who possesses a parenting style which is nearly suffocating both them both.  Amanda cannot accept her children for who they are. Tom, a poet at heart, works a dead end job in a warehouse, forced to, ˜rise and shine' day after day, in order to earn a meager wage.  Laura suffers from disillusionment and appears perfectly content to live without ambition.  She spends her time tinkering with a collection of glass figurines, her menagerie, a tactic used to elude her future and any associations with the outside world.  With no plans and no prospects for life on her own, Laura is at the mercy of her mother.  Amanda is becoming increasingly desperate to secure some manner of care for her fragile daughter.  She schemes, and then introduces Tom to a plan to find Laura a gentleman caller.  Tom invites an acquaintance from the warehouse to dinner.  Amanda, irrationally optimistic, believes this gentleman caller, the dinner guest, is Laura's opportunity to secure a husband. Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, accepts Tom's dinner invitation; totally unaware of any ulterior motives.

Fisher Neal as Tom
Wintersteller's performance as the high strung and excitable Amanda was unquestionably authentic. Amanda's incessant criticisms of her children followed by over simplified solutions to their shortcomings in rapid and continuous chitchat was as natural as any neighbor. The rate of her dialogue is sometimes disorienting yet entrancing, as lifelike a character to ever stroll a stage.   Neal presents Tom as astute and withdrawn. His character personifies the struggling artist; a visionary who must break free from the familiar order in to enable the growth of his creativity. Neal naturally captures his place amidst the family dynamics through his portrayal of Tom. The arguments that swell between Tom and Amanda provoke a sense that is unique to familial conflict. His cool mannered narration preserves Laura's memory and a minute of the past, for all to take in. 

Wake portrays the meek and innocent Laura.  She is quiet and reserved, and very aware of the future unfolding before her.  Nearly a hermit, she has no goals and no self-esteem.  When Amanda announces Laura is to open the door upon Jim's arrival she is nearly paralyzed. The anguish in her voice as she pleads with her mother not make her open the door is gut wrenching.  Then dinner is served.  Laura is summoned to the table; she collapses in a heap onto the floor.  This moment, Wake's finest scene in the play, produced gasps and compassionate sighs from the audience.   It was during this scene I felt the burden of humanness.  Wake's depiction of Laura awakened the memory referred to in the opening narration- Laura's display of anxiety rings true; it is something primal. Who hasn't, at one time, frozen with fear?  She is petrified; stifled by her own self judgment and inadequacies.    Wake's small stature helps give rise to the young Laura.  Her shakiness, limp and near inaudible single word responses to Jim's inquisition further enhances the model of a weakly young woman. Whatever ails sweet Laura, Wake invokes.

Whalen, cast as Jim O'Connor, the handsome has-bin with natural magnetism, incites Laura.  As a man of many talents, O'Connor excels in reading people's dispositions.  It is this particular skill that he uses to begin coaxing Laura out of her shell.   His voice and gestures communicate a man on a mission; he's going places.  Not just in the role of Jim O'Connor the warehouse worker by day, public speaking student at night; destined for something bigger and better than the warehouse, but as a renowned actor sure to make many more appearances on stage across the country.

PPT's 3rdrendition of The Glass Menagerie reminds us, Time is the longest distance between two places . Pittsburgh in the 1970's, and St. Louis, Missouri in the 1930's couldn't be more different, yet, the expertly attuned direction from Pamela Berlin captures the memory of the Wingfield's troubles through moving dialogue and staging.  The actors make it easy for the audience to suspend their own feelings of disbelief and become swept up into the unfolding drama. But it is Williams's words which give us an honest glance into the enduring complexities of humanity.
  The Glass Menagerie is a classic 20thcentury American drama and can be seen from now through November 2, 2014. Purchase tickets here:

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 09-11-2014 15:01:00

Hopes and Dreams
Review of REP's Of Mice and Men Sept. 5th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Sept. 08, 2014

It is no secret that we live in a ridiculously fast paced world these days.  And for opening night, September 5th, 2014 of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, there was a pause.  It was a beautiful pause and a challenging one.  Point Park University's The Rep Professional Theater Company has set the bar for the 2014-2015 season for ALL artistic performances in the Pittsburgh area.  And they set it high.

I smiled with sincere pleasure in my heart, chuckled in humor, stirred in quiet disappointment, felt heartbreak, and was moved by a very deep yearning of hope.  One might think that could be sensory overload, but I think that was the genius of Steinbeck and the amazing artistry of this cast.

Set during the Depression in the rolling golden hills of California, we join roaming farmhands George (Jarrod DiGiorgi) and Lennie (Leandro Cano) leisurely camping under the stars on the eve of starting work at a new ranch.  They are an unlikely pair for the times; Lennie Small, a massively sized and strong man with but a wee child's intellect, and George Milton, a practical and witty man who tries to look after Lennie as they work hard to pursue the great American Dream.  As they report to the nearby ranch, the simple story of two men just lookin' for an honest day's work, quickly becomes complicated.

Carlson, Candy, Whit, George and
Copper the Bloodhound
Photo Courtesy: The REP
George and Lennie's brotherly bond and hope for the future of owning their own land someday becomes one of great intrigue, inspiration, and suspect to practically everyone on the ranch.  The ranch superintendant Slim (David Whalen) is accustom to, but still struggles with the lonely nature of the job, and notes the men's loyalty to each other.  Candy (John McManus) grapples with his increasing age and fate to greater degree when a fellow ranch hand shoots his aging hound dog to put it out of its misery.  Crooks (Tommy Lafitte), who lives in the barn where manure is stored because he is black, has such lack of hope for his own future that he thinks of Lennie as being even more stupid than he'd first thought, because of Lennie's wild story that he and George will someday own their own land and live from its plentiful bounty.  The Boss's son Curley (Luke Halferty, a PPU senior) is always looking for a fight, trying to prove his dominance, and looking for his wandering new bride (Erin Lindsey Krom).  And while Culey's Wife says she just wants someone to talk to because she's lonely, all the ranch hands know that she is not only pretty, but a pretty good way to loose their job if seen talking or anything else with her.

The struggles of Lennie's fellow ranch hands are far beyond his understanding.  He, for the most part, is a gentle giant with a simple understanding of life and his surroundings.  What Lennie knows is that he loves to pet soft things like a dead mouse in his pocket, his new puppy, soft fabric, and someday big soft furry rabbits that he'll feed alfalfa, that is reaped from their own land, at their own place complete with a windmill.  He and George's dream will come true if he puts his overwhelming strength to good use and doesn't get in any trouble.  But even, he had a sense that things aren't going to end well when he said, Its mean here.

Now before I get too carried away sounding like a stuffy literary elitist with some profound academic understanding about Steinbeck's work or specifically about his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, I have a confession.  To the astonishment of a gentleman I spoke with at intermission, I have never read the book.  It felt embarrassing to admit.  In high school the book was required reading for the English honors students, which I was not.  So as we were walking back to our truck, I asked my analytical chemistry professor boyfriend if the point of the work was to challenge the reader/audience member to think about all the very serious social issues the story raises.  During my little literature lesson he responded, Well,  Steinbeck just traveled and wrote what he observed, but because it does depict so many issues, that is why it's so frequently used in the classroom.  BUT because it so vividly depicts them that is why some people want it banned from schools completely.  Now I have some thoughts on that.

Of Mice and Men shows how far we've thankfully come as a society in many ways, but it takes work to maintain progress and there is work still yet to be done.  The will to do that work is displayed best, but not solely by George, in the form of empathy and then a willingness to dutifully respond with action.   Empathy is what has given our society the inspiration to rise above the wrongness of slavery, segregation, and using the terms like nigger and retard.  So if you don't think that teaching empathy in a historically accurate context is a good idea, that's just sad.  We're not talking about 17th century history either.  This is our country's recent past, 50-80 years, as in there are still people around who lived it, and to some degree still do.  Gender inequality, racism, economic disparity, euthanasia, treatment of the aging or disabled, and mental healthcare are all contemporary global and local social issues.

Lennie (Leandro Cano) and George (Jarrod DiGiorgi)
Photo Courtesy: The REP
I'm going to veer back on to course here¦ I got off course because the story is good, as tragic as it is, and the fact that it was performed beautifully.  The set was simple and perfectly so.  Every single cast member WAS their character - living the story.  The superb acting of especially Leandro Cano and Jarrod DiGiorgi gave this stage performance the robustness of a movie amidst the seaming simplicity.  They brought to life their characters and the bond between Lennie and George to show the simple and beautiful notion that hopes and dreams are worth smiling for, even amidst the turmoil of social injustices.  I have not been to a more deserving performance of multiple standing ovations yet in Pittsburgh.

Additional Performances:
Friday, September 5 - Sunday, September 21, 2014  |  Pittsburgh Playhouse - Rauh Theatre

For more information and tickets, please visit

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 08-18-2014 03:54:00

Yanni Brings Agape, "Love" to Benedum 

YANNI: WORLD TOUR 2014August 16, 2014 | 8 p.m. | Benedum Center

Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Yanni GRACED the Benedum Stage last night with his mesmerizing smile and consummate rapport with the audience who were raucous and appreciative and never faltered in their unity with the performance. The audience was captivated as Yanni took the stage and seemed to say, "Excuse me while I make love to my piano and you can watch and listen as I am accompanied by my 'United Nations' of musicians."

For those few who do not know who Yanni is.  He is a Greek pianist, keyboardist, composer and music producer who has spent most of his adult life in the United States while managing to still travel the world and appear in such historic places as the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, China's Forbidden City, Russia's Kremlin, Puerto Ricco's El Morro Castle and last night, the world famous Benedum in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Yanni photo by Krystal Ann
Yanni continues to use the musical shorthand that he developed as a child blending jazz, classical, soft rock, and world music to create predominantly instrumental works. As this genre of music was not well suited for commercial pop radio and music television, Yanni achieved international recognition by producing concerts at historic monuments and by producing videos that were broadcast on public television.  That was my first experience with Yanni on PBS, "Yanni, Live at the Acropolis," which by the way yielded the second best-selling music video of all time.

I must tell you it is nothing like sitting in an orchestra seat in a theatre as intimate as the Benedum which, Yanni mentioned how cool it was to be so close to the audience and he took full advantage in engaging and interacting with the audience throughout the evening.  At least fourteen of Yanni's albums have peaked at No. 1 in Billboard's "Top New Age Album" category and two albums (Dare to Dream andIn My Time) received Grammy Award nominations.

Yanni photo by Krystal Ann
Yanni's musicians represent 11 different nationalities including England, Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, Paraguay, China, Canada, USA, Russia, Armenia and Greece.  The talents from each member surpass anything you can imagine prior to attending a performance, and they are all brought to you on one stage under the guidance of a true modern day orchestrator.  The first thing you notice about this orchestra is how much fun they are having and the smiles on their faces. 

The music is at once uplifting, calming, romantic and often intensely sensual and erotic. My nephew had not even heard of Yanni when I asked him to attend at the last minute but became an instant fan coming away from the concert slightly hoarse from cheering.

My nephew Josh (an engineering student form WVU) and I immediately zeroed in on Victor Espinola, the harpist from Asuncion Paraguay.   We were amazed at the octaves that his Paraguayan harp was able to reach with its 36 strings and also excited to discover with research that the harp is Paraguay's national instrument.  His World Electronic Acoustic Music brings a blend of flamenco and gypsy style to the music of the Yanni orchestra.

Yanni, photo by Whit Padgett.
About half way through the concert Yanni features Alexander Zhiroff from Russia on the cello.  We decided that we never knew that the cello could issue such sounds and be such "fun."  The solo was an experience in pure, light-hearted amusement.

From amusement to the international language of music,  Samvel Yervinyan, Violinist from Yerevan, Armenia clearly knew how to make his instrument speak and have it understood in any language. He shows all the signs of beginning his studies at the age of 7 and graduating from Tchaikovsky's Music Conservatory, perhaps inheriting Tchaikovsky's penchant for gypsy melody.

From the bigness reminiscent of Tchaikovsky to the sounds of the the violin played by the diminutive Mary Simpson, Violin, Virginia, USA who brings a touch of bluegrass to Yanni's orchestra.  From row E we could see her constant smile and hear her making her violin smile also.  Her hi-lighted performances were both energetic and musically endearing.

Other Hi-lights of the concert:

Yanni describes this song as something he wrote about the learning that took place rather than initial reactions like frustration and anger.

Charlie Adams brought down the house with his drum solo.  We weren't timing it but it seemed at least ten minutes long without a hint of boring the audience.  Charlie with his Steeler t-shirt and "Pittsburgh Coffee" used his high energy stage performance and stamina in what was probably the best drum solo the audience had ever heard.

Yanni, photo by Whit Padgett.

Played with the orchestra bathed in red light, you could feel the agape love that Yanni speaks of in his introduction about his mother knowing about "healing" love.  The music wraps around you like a mother's arms and encourages the audience to at once feel loved and excited to be alive.

This rendition is so LARGE that it makes you feel as though something epic is about to happen not only from the stage but in your life and at times let you languish in the victory. This piece puts you in the mind of running through open fields, ascending the mountain and then triumphantly observing the beauty of the view.

Yanni didn't tell the story but the world knows he was inspired to help protect giant pandas after he adopted a two-month old panda cub at the Chinese Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in October 2011. Yanni was the first western artist to be given the honor of symbolically adopting one of Chengdu's pandas (a privilege reserved almost exclusively for nations, rather than personalities). He named the panda Santorini after one of the most beautiful islands in his native Greece.

Lauren Jelencovich joins Yanni for 'Nightingale' with its oriental theme with her effortless soprano very realistically portraying the song of the Nightingale which Yanni says has the sweetest song of any bird in the world.

The concert was just too full of too much to talk about and after this review is published I will remember more dynamic moments.  I should not neglect to mention outstanding solos by Jason Carder; Trumpet from Arizona and moments of grandeur fromYoel Del Sol; Percussion, Cuba and the duets of Yanni with keyboard player,  Ming Freeman, Taiwan; and also some very unique runs and scales from Gabriel Vivas, Bass from Caracas Venezuela.

There is just not one musician in the group who is not a consummate professional and cannot or has not shown brightly on their own on the international music scene.  I attended the concert under physical duress coming straight from my new daughter-in-law's bridal shower which I had been preparing for three days.  I had told my nephew to nudge me if I fell asleep.  Fat chance!  I arrived exhausted and spent and from the time the orchestra hit the stage began to revitalize.  I left like all of the rest of the audience with a feeling of absolute joy and elation at hearing "art" personified in music with passion, verve, compassion and style.

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


Publish Date: 08-05-2014 18:20:00

Family Night at the Symphony is a Home Run
Review of Triple Play the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Aug. 2nd 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Aug. 02, 2014

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra closed their 2014 summer season on Saturday, August 2nd, with a concert entitled Triple Play.  For a baseball loving family, we thought the concert was a home run.  With my partner's children visiting for the summer, this was a great concert to take the whole family to.  It featured opera and operetta overtures in the first third, a stunningly played piano concerto in the second, and for the final third movie music from some of our favorite action blockbusters.  Now I normally report mostly on the music and just a little on the experience, but for this review I will share how fun it can be to take the whole family to the symphony.

We have only been here for a year, so this was the first opportunity to bring the kids to Heinz Hall and it was so fun to see their reaction walking into the beautiful hall.  They were in aw just as we were the first time.  But the most quote of the evening came as we were getting seated.  We had two sets of seats: two media seats fifth row/stage left, and four towards the back/center section/isle seats - still main floor mind you.  First, we got Dad (Mike VanStipdonk), Martin (15), Josie (13), and Quinn (10) seated and then Nina (7) and I proceeded to find our seats.  After we at least located them I asked Nina if she wanted to go back and hang out with the rest of the family until the concert started.  She replied, No I don't think I want to go way back there.  These seats are WAY better.  And with that we now have a seven year old, prime seating connoisseur.  Instead we practiced reading the concert notes, which proved to be very good concert preparation even for her.

Christian Capocaccia
(photo courtesy: PSO)
With a countdown of the side stage doors closing one by one, we were tuning up for our first family PSO experience.  As a result of her pre-concert reading, Nina was able to point out the evil dwarf played by the basses in Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla.  Next was one of my favorites of the evening, Franz Von Suppe's Overture to The Beautiful Galatea.  Nina thought she might have been familiar with the third piece, Intermezzo and Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann.  But at its conclusion, said Maybe I know one of his other songs, because I did not know that one after all.  To close out the first section of the concert, the PSO played Rossini's Overture to William Tell.  Guest conductor Christian Capocaccia playfully reminded us that we should also recognize it from many cartoons, like Looney Tunes.  During this piece Nina nudged me and perceptively pointed to the words thunderstorm, countryside, and triumphant return during each of the respective sections.  During the first intermission we met up with the rest of the troops for a leg stretch and work out the wiggles walk.  Quinn noted that he heard lots of cymbals during the Bugs Bunny song.

Xiayin Wang
(photo courtesy: PSO)
Next on deck was Ravel's Concerto in G major for Piano and Orchestra.  As we readied for the second part of the concert and enjoyed a rootbeer barrel, Nina noted how beautiful the pianist Xiayin Wang is and that she studied from another person named Nina (Svetlanova).  Miss Wang played exquisitely.  The program notes used the perfect words to describe each of the movements, the first sparkling, the second graceful, and the third whirling.  Wang's care in how she played each note was stellar and her interaction and balance with the PSO was perfect.  As we got up for the 7th inning stretch (yes, exactly after seven movements) Nina again pointed out how primo our seats were and that we could actually see Miss Wang playing each note even in high heals and a pretty purple dress with sparkly gems.

Reluctantly Nina, shared her great seats with Martin and Josie for the last section of the concert.  Leading off was a Medley from Pirates of the Caribbean by Hans Badelt and then Hans Zimmer's Music from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.  And finally, as maestro Capocaccia pointed out, no movie music section is complete without John Williams.  The concert concluded with Suite from Star Wars including The Imperial March, Princess Leia's Theme, and the Main Title.  Watching the older kids from afar made Mike and me smile to see how engaged they were enjoying the music.

As we were exiting the concert hall we got many compliments on how well behaved everyone was and that we brought them at all.  As a note to other parents who might be thinking this all happened in the twilight zone of perfection¦ the evening was not without little reminders to not have our feet in the chairs or that you can read the program but not whip it around like a fan.  We took potty breaks, exploration walks, and had a piece of hard candy before the show and at each intermission.

There was something for everyone in the family at our night at the symphony.  Other than the music being very pretty and the PSO being really good, the kids noted the hall is beautiful, the 12 chandelers are very sparkely, the main stair case is really old and cool, and the small round red couch in the ladies lounge is so fun.

On the ride home, we went around the car and all shared our favorite pieces from the concert.  Here are the final stats:
Nina (7) Overture to William Tell AND Star Wars: The Imperial March
Quinn (10) Star Wars
Josie (13) Medley from Pirates of the Caribbean
Martin (15)  Music from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
Dad Ravel Piano Concerto and Star Wars: The Imperial March
Miss Stephanie Overture to The Barcarolle and Ravel Piano Concerto

So if you are on the fence about taking your children or grand children to the symphony, our advice is to take them.  It is an experience they will always remember, and you will too.  The PSO has two great series that are extra family friendly PNC POPS! And Fiddlesticks Family Concerts presented by Macy's.  As for our experience, we all thought our evening at Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was an out of the park home run.

Fiddlesticks Family Concerts presented by Macy's Recommended for children ages 3 to 8
Introduce your children to music at these special Saturday morning concerts with your world-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!  During the pre-concert DISCOVERY TIME ADVENTURES, children will have the opportunity to sing, dance, create a take-home craft, meet musicians and listen to stories all unique to each concert.

PNC POPS! Rated E: For Everyone
Welcome to a season of big pictures, accompanied by big sounds. Popular movies, beloved Broadway musicals, animated Disney adventures, successful television shows and award-winning jazz artists take front and center stage in the 2014-2015 season of PNC POPS! It's entertainment for the ages. For all ages.

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 07-24-2014 13:25:00

CATS, Benedum Theater
JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz. 

Elizabeth Stanley as Grizabella
Millions of people have seen Cats since 1981 and have just purred over the Jellicle cats and their salute to immortality.  The performance of this weekend at the Benedum Theatre was purrfect.  The audience was immediately in love with the performance from the very talented Broadway quality cast.  They were singing joyfully and dancing exuberantly.  In a nonstop musical acrobatic, twisting, somersaulting, cartwheeling performance that put permanent paw prints of joy into everyone hearts. 

We all know the  favorites Mr. Mistofeles' and 'Memories'., but
Jenna Nicole Schoen as Demeter, Lily Emilia Smith
as Jellylorum and Ashley Chasteen as Bombalurina
wait what about Old Deuteronomy,  Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, once a real looker and now a faded raggedy cat¦and MaCavity the bad boy cat.  All amazing performances and a musical wonder to see

Andrew Lloyd Weber musical masterpiece will go on forever just based on the music, memorable songs and outstanding  choreography, with the wonderful them of  presenting  the captivating story of the Jellicle cats
My view of the play was fantastic.  We were seated in the Directors Circle, second floor.  Where we could look down at the
Will Porter as Mungojerrie and
Mara Newbery as Rumpleteazer
performance and just soak up the energy that flew up from the stage. Amidst that incredible view I found myself developing a different perspective.  In the midst of all the joy and exuberance I was reflexing on the tales of the cats and their possible human counterparts.  There are people I know who, I could swear their lives were being portrayed right on stage¦for better or worse. 
Ken Prymus as Old Deuteronomy

Hmmm¦.I wonder if anyone asked the shows originators who were the models for your cats?   

Anyways, as always excellent quality from the Pittsburgh CLO and Kudos to all those who work so hard to bring the best of the musical theater to our part of the world.  We are so fortunate to have you.

And as a human being who is owned by Ginger the Cat¦I am instructed to tell you the rating is a four meow rating¦the highest praise a cat will give.

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


Publish Date: 06-26-2014 03:00:00

Lose Your Blues at Footloose.

Pittsburgh CLO's Footloose.

June 24, 2014

By Megan Grabowski

Pittsburgh's debut of Footloose brings to stage  idyllic, youthful and perpetually  poignant  teenage strife with a musical score that is toe tapping and finger snapping.  So long as there
Stephen Wilde, Christine Laitta, Patrick Cassidy,
 Betsy Lawrence and Jeffrey Howell
are teenagers, there will be rebellion, a question of  authority and a free- spiritedness that teeters between innocence and blind stupidity for years at a time.  This message plays without a hiccup on the stage of the Benedum Center from June 24 through June 29, 2014.

Kristen Martin as Ariel, Dee Hoty as Vi Moore
 and Patrick Cassidy as Rev. Moore
The story begins when an average teen, Ren McCormack, moves from the big city of Chicago, to the small country town of Bomont.  His mother chooses to relocate after her husband, Ren's father, abandons them.  Once in Bomont Ren meets Rev. Shaw and quickly learns about a town law banning dancing.  The no dancing ordinance was passed, 5 years prior, after a horrif accident took the lives of 4  Bomont teens who had been out dancing and drinking.  In the beginning Ren struggles to make new friends but soon gains support from his peers  as he attempts to convince the town council and Rev. Shaw that a ban on dancing is not helping anyone, but rather trapping them in the pain of the past.  

Barry Ivan,  director/ choreographer,  is no stranger to the
Manuel Stark as Ren
Benedum Center and CLO. He is attentive to  what Pittsburghers expect and he undrestands what we have grown to demand from CLO productions.  Musical director, Tom Helm, ensures the audience never misses a beat of beloved 80's  top 40 hits;  Let's Hear it for the Boy, Almost Paradise and of course, the title song, Footloose .  The talented and accomplished orchestra duplicate these well known  hits, originally made popular by the 1984 film Footloose, with the same spunk and charm I recall from the radio play of my youth. Together, Ivan and Helm execute another enjoyable night of musical theater in Pittsburgh.

Manuel Stark as Ren and Kristen Martin as Ariel
From the opening number, I quickly caught on to the obvious cast chemistry, which works wonders  with the tightly synced choreography.   The amount of energy emmeniating from the stage throughout this rendition of Footloose is invigorating.  Lead,  Manuel Stark as Ren McCormack, is a showcase of all around talent from the moment he graces the stage.  In scence 2 when the audience is introduced to the troubled young Ren, his mannerisms, depicting an angst filled teen, are spot on, proving he is an exceptional actor and can offer the audience more than just a good voice- he is the whole package.  This is again evident  in scene 4 as  Stark accomplishs numerous dance combinations while simultaneously displaying an superb vocal range.  Opposite Stark, female lead Kristen Martin as Ariel, the teenage daughter of Rev. Shaw,  continually portrays a relatable and resonant adolescent.  Despite my initial disappointment in her vocal performance during scene 3, The Girl Gets Around , Martin quickly reverses  my impression.  In scence 6, Learning to Be Silent , Martin's performance highlights  the dynamic role she is challenged to play.  I give her much credit for  animating an adolescent  with authentic vigor and impertinence . In Act II scene 4, Ren and Ariel's delivery of Almost Paradise is full of the enchantment I love about musical  theater.  Their presentation  further confirms my initial sense of cast chemistry.

Rusty, played by supporting actor Jessie Hooker, belts out song after song with effortless breaths.  Her strong stage presence and infectious smile light up the stage.   Hooker's  melodious voice and skillful  harmonizing are carried out with ease, most notably  in scene 5, Somebody's Eyes . Hear it for the Boy , another of Hooker's shining moments, is the most memorable musical number from the show.    
A rock solid ensemble is a necessary foundation for any musical.  Footloose's ensemble  is uplifing, talented and vivacious.  Even
Jessie Hooker as Rusty and Billy Hartung as Cowboy Bob
during  the more serious scenes  they keep the audience cheerful and sincerely entertained. 

From the opening scence in a  Chicago night club to the final Footloose number in the high school gymnasium, Footlooseretains its momentum.  The dancing is  fun to watch and  the music encourages the audiene to bounce their knees in their seats.

The show opens with high energy dancing and singing and ends on
Kristen Martin as Ariel and Manuel Stark as Ren
the same note.  A fun performance from start to finish.  Footloose mingles song and dance with a story encompassing the multi- generational  struggles of adult vs. juvenile with a lighhearted mood and just a hint of nostalgia. 
Through June 29, 2014
For  information, on ticket purchase and show times  please visit HERE.
Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 06-11-2014 20:31:00

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett's Sardonic Lament on the 20th Century

PICT Classic Theatre..JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz.

Good theater, a play well acted, leaves an impression with the audience for a couple of hours, or maybe  a day or two.   A great play well acted,  stays on one's mind for days and often leaves haunting lingering questions.   Such as it is with the PICT and their presentation of Waiting for Godot .
James FitzGerald, Martin Giles

 Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot, is  purposefully designed to tease, taunt and torment an audience with its dark humor and confusing plot laced with  sardonic laments of its main characters, Estragon and Vladimir.  Two friends, caught  in their own world of forgetfulness and sometimes shared memories.  They wait...they complain, they wait...they're hungry,they wait...they're bored...they wait.   They wait cemented together in their refusal to break free of the interminable waiting. 
Then aha...a break comes-Pozzo, ( Alan Stanford) the pompous rich man carrying a whip and loaded with the burden of his self importance and Lucky (Ken Bolden),the human mule,dying inch by inch from the lack of expectation.  The interplay between the two created a strong reaction in me.  I wanted to stand up and yell, Stop being his human mule, his jackass,  kick him, bite him, leave him wallowing in his own self indulgence.   Great acting gentlemen. 

Martin Giles, Ken Bolden, James FitzGerald, Alan Stanford
 Our two main characters, Estragon (Martin Giles) and Vladimir (James FitzGerald) play exceptionally well off one another.  They reminded me of a despairing and doomed version of Laurel and Hardy, forever caught in a confusing  no-mans land.  Two friends bonded together for 30 years.  They are at the end of their road, depleted, weak, fading memories and poverty stricken and yet they cling to one another without remembering the rhyme or reason of the bond.   Each act at the end has a slender shred of hope dangled by the young boy (Elliott Pullen)  who appears delivering the message that Godot cannot appear today--but please wait for tomorrow.

Often during the play I found myself wanting to stand up and shout, Hey, wait a minute...what the do you mean by this? What
Martin Giles, James Fitzgerald
do you think audience?  Let's discuss this."  After the play, my friend and I had a lengthy conversation  on the meaning of the play.  We both had different spins on the play and what we thought Samuel Beckett was trying to create.  Was it to whine in despair? Or to explain the last 20 years of war and insanity? Or was it to wail a lament on dire conditions of mid 20th century mankind,  or was it  to challenge , to prod to make us move and examine out lives of quiet desperation?
Kudo's to the PICT, its director, Aoife Spillan-Hinks, and the fine crew for presenting this thought provoking performance of Samuel Beckett's play.  The only thing I wish would have been different, that I  could have stood up and yelled hey and started asking questions of everyone and how the play spoke to them. Aha...maybe next time!

PS¦I just loved that Alan Standford, had to keep his promise of shaving off his famous trademark beard if so much money was raised.  Thank you for your sacrifice and fine leadership of Pittsburgh finest Classical Theater.

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


Publish Date: 06-10-2014 16:52:00

And the Award for Best Dramatic Backstage Performance Goes To¦
Review of Noises Off, Pittsburgh Public Theater's June 5th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  June 07, 2014

Upstairs: Garret Long
Downstairs (l to r): Noah Plomgren, Laura Woyasz,
Helena Ruoti, Preston Dyar, Karen Baum
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
For anyone who has ever performed on stage, probably the most memorable moments did not occur on stage, but instead at rehearsals and back stage - where there is typically WAY more drama.  The Pittsburgh Public Theater is wrapping up their 39th season with Michael Frayn's comical farce Noises Off, directed by Don Stephenson.  The O'Reilly Theater was roaring with belly-aching laughter at the opening show on June 5, 2014.

Now most businesses have at least one person that is a pro at stirring up workplace drama.  You know the pretty person who somehow skates by on looks and not much more, the annoying over-analyzer, the dinosaur who is way past their prime and barely contributes, or an egotistical, arrogant, condescending boss?  Well in the world of the arts, specifically theatre, those are ALL practically cast staples only amplified a lot.  Noises Off is a hilarious play full of misinterpretations, innuendo, and big personalities that is a window into the world of live stage acting.  Ok, so it may be slightly over exaggerated, that's what a farce is¦ but really, only slightly.

Foreground: Helena Ruoti and Noah Plomgren
Background: Karen Baum
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
Noises Off is a show in a show.  No, Nothing On is a show in a show with a cast of actors who play actors in Noises¦  No, that's not right either, did the chicken or the egg?  Ok, Noises Off is a funny show in another funny show, in which the cast portrays a cast of actors with big personalities.  Explaining this is like those little Russian doll things, Matryoshkas or Babushkas.

Wait no I've got this¦ in the hilarious show Noises Off a cast of fabulous professional actors (undoubtedly with big personalities) play a troupe of mediocre British actors with stereotypical theater personalities, in Nothing On, a sexy comedic play about characters who, with the tiresome and haphazard orchestration of a sassy house keeper, unknowingly end up in situations that could be misinterpreted and then intertwine the cast into a swirl of humorous and compromising situations.  Whew!  We see the cast of Nothing On attempt a dress rehearsal, then see the same show a month into the tour, from backstage and after the cast has become shall we say more familiar with each other, and then finally again two months out on tour when the drama from backstage really spills over to the front and the wheels come off.  But the show must go on!

Laura Woyasz
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
Just to be clear the wheels didn't come off Noises Off.  It was amazing and so much fun.  The intricate choreography of Noises Off to create the impression of not-quite-perfected or mistake-and-accident-prone staging of Nothing On was outstanding.  Characters going into closets then reappearing through the wrong door, plates of sardines remaining in the kitchen when they are supposed to be brought out by one person for a different character to play off of in the next scene in a different room, missed lines, preempted entrances, props breaking on stage, were all carefully choreographed to purposefully seem like the hokey mishaps of an Ed Wood movie or Night of the Living Dead.  If Nothing On was a movie, the guys from Mystery Science Theater would have a field day.

Led by the accomplished director and actor, Don Stephenson, the cast of Noises off was phenomenal.  Noah Plomgren, Laura Woyasz, Preston Dyar, and Garrett Long were all very funny, as they were creatively corralled by the hilarious Helena Ruoti as the house keeper in Nothing On .  The angst of the on stage director trying to coordinate this show was too funny.  Michael MacCauley reminded me of Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and Portlandia.  The entire cast was so good and so funny!  Noises Off is a must-see, it was so much fun!

Additional Performances:
Show runs through June 29th, 2014 at the O'Reilly Theater

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 06-02-2014 21:38:00

My Favorite PSO Concert!!!
Review of PSO's Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart, and Haydn Concert, June 1st 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  June 02, 2014

I'll lead this review off with the tweet that I sent right after the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Sunday, June 1st 2014 performance.  Today was my favorite @phgsymphony concert of the season!  3 great pieces. Ye-Eun Choi was stunning. Loved Loved Loved Nicholas McGegan!  And, that pretty much sums it up.  In my first PSO concert and review on Jan. 17, 2014 I wrote, Now of course, I should let on that I'm partial to this era of music and the one before it.  So in my opinion Franz Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries of the first Viennese School hit that sweet spot.  So you can imagine my excitement about this concert.  Vivaldi, Mozart, AND Haydn, it was like Christmas morning at the symphony.

Ye-Eun Choi
The concert began with Vivaldi's Four Seasons and got better and better with each concerto.  Violinist, Ye-Eun Choi making her PSO debut played beautifully.  She showcased both energetic virtuosity and lovely lyric lines full of passion.  She is very young and demonstrates the technical capabilities and musicianship that will develop even more with time like a fine wine.  By the middle movement of Autumn the entire ensemble settled into a groove with smiles and acknowledgements to each other that capture the essence and intimacy of chamber music.  The music was gorgeous and full of energy, but it is taken to a whole other level when you can observe sincere enjoyment of the players.  It was fun to listen to and watch Baroque music is fun and makes you want to dance, not like the electric slide, but you know a Gavotte, Minuet or Chaconne!

Nicholas McGegan
The concert was lead by world-renowned conductor Nicholas McGegan, and for the Vivaldi he did so from the console of the harpsichord.  It was a treat to see the work not only played beautifully but also in this configuration that would more than likely have been how it was performed back in 1725.  The only unfortunate thing was that the big, beautiful Heinz Hall kind of swallowed up the harpsichord.  McGegan evoked both the lush swells of passion-filled themes and clean precision, full of energy, from the small ensemble.  More impressive was his ability to quickly lead the shifts from one style to the other at the manic changes characteristic of Baroque music.

The second half of the concert began with a fun and stately Mozart ditty, Chaconne from Idomeneo, Re di Creta.  It showcased several contrasting sections that were each played with due flair.  The featuring of the woodwinds was really quite lovely.  The concert was capped off with Haydn's Symphony #103 in E-flat major and was great.  Beginning with its nickname Drumroll, the work featured a neat timpani part and great wind passages.  A standout was the violin solo in the second movement by concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley.  I love hearing and watching him play; he makes it look and sound so easy.

Did I say I love this style of music?  It makes me feel like Agnes from Despicable Me when she expresses her excitement about the stuffed unicorn, It's so fluffy.  It's just so fun!  The music was expressive and energetic.  I would imagine the rehearsals were fun and productive, and I would have paid to see them too with McGegan's commentary.  The PSO rocked it (Baroque and Classical style you could say they barocked it) and I absolutely LOVED watching Nicholas McGegan conduct!

By:  Stephanie Sue Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 05-31-2014 09:23:00

May Showers Bring "Singin' in the Rain" to the Benedum - Lockwood and Lamont Grace Pittsburgh Stage Once More
Review of Pittsburgh CLO's "Singin' In the Rain" May 30, 2014 Performance
From: Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By: Megan Grabowski  |  May 31, 2014

The opulence of the historic Benedum Center is a perfect venue for Singin' In The Rain. The theater's original mirrors, woodwork and chandeliers recreate the atmosphere reminiscent of that which fans of the romantic team, Lockwood and Lamont, would have sat amid while witnessing the birth of the talkie.

Opening night for the 68th summer musical season of The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, welcomed to stage David Elder as leading man Don Lockwood; Mary Michael Patterson as his true love, Kathy Selden and supporting cast, Ashley Spencer, starring as Lina Lamont, the beautiful actress opposite Lockwood, and Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown, Lockwood's comedic sidekick. The story begins with Lockwood and Lamont, 1920's Hollywood silent film stars, at the height of their fame and success. In 1927 new technology allowing sound to be placed in film is introduced. The movie studio contracting Lockwood and Lamont, Monumental Pictures, must incorporate sound into their films to stay competitive. For leading lady Lamont, this is a problem. Her diction as well as the tone of her voice does not complement the pretty face her fans adore. Suddenly, Kathy Selden, an unknown girl who dreams of becoming an actress on stage in New York City stumbles into Lockwood˜s life, on the set of his next film and into his heart as a love interest.

Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown and
David Elder as Don Lockwood
Gene Kelly, Pittsburgh native and star of the 1952 film isn't just a former Pittsburgh resident. He is an iconic Pittsburgher; adopted by locals; part of our regional soul, so filling the role of Don Lockwood on stage in Pittsburgh requires some pretty big shoes. By scene 9, Elder confirms his worthiness for the role of Lockwood, showing off exemplary foot skills as he and Selden dance together with easy fluid motions, singing, You Were Meant For Me . By the final scene of Act 1, the title number, "Singin' in the Rain," has the audience smiling from ear to ear. Lockwood frolics from one end of the stage to the other, swinging from the lamp post with only one arm and lightly dancing up the stairs while carrying an umbrella as rain falls upon the set drenching the floor of the stage and creating puddles for splashing. His smooth voice, ˜singing and dancing' in the rain, create feelings of warmth, and familiarity for the viewers.

Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown, Mary Michael Patterson
as Kathy Selden and David Elder as Don Lockwood
Tedder, a strong supporting character, has marvelous comedic timing and energy on stage that encourages the audience to laugh freely and boisterously. His timeless jokes add depth to the Lockwood character and reinforce Lamont's mean spirit. In addition, Cosmo dances with boundless energy and is pure pleasure to watch. Spencer's stage presence screams pomp and glamour. During her diction lesson scene the audience howls in laughter. Selden a small town, girl-next-door type with loads of talent receives applause for her operatic and melodious voice in musical numbers such as You Are My Lucky Star and GoodMornin' . One of the most fun scenes in the show, Broadway Ballet , is carefully choreographed to showcase the talents of each cast member.
David Elder as Don Lockwood

The music in Singin' in the Rain is infectious. Every person I passed by in the lobby, stood next to at intermission or rode in the elevator with in the parking garage after tonight's performance was humming various tunes from the musical. Tonight's showcase of vocal talent, dance ability and theatrical execution put a smile on my face. This is a happy and carefree production to celebrate summertime, a timeless show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Singin' in the Rain runs through June 8, 2014.
For ticket information visit 

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.  Contact Megan