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In 2010, Porter was cast as Belize in an Off Broadway revival of Angels in America, exactly the sort of great, high-profile role he’d been seeking. That led to his successful bid to originate the role of Lola in Kinky Boots, the Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper musical based on the 2005 film about a struggling, small-town British shoe factory that turns to making high-heeled footwear for drag queens. During those lean years, however, “Not getting work sort of pushed me to try other things and to challenge myself in other ways,” says Porter. He studied screenwriting at UCLA. In 2005, he premiered his autobiographical one-man show, Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) at New York’s famed Public Theater (where he was then an artist in residence). While I Yet Live, his autobiographical drama based on his upbringing, drew mixed reviews in its premiere production at Primary Stages. But Porter says the experience of its staging was “life-changing.” “I didn’t know that I could write,” he said in a recent interview with CP, by phone from Manhattan. “The lack of [stage] work is what helped me discover that that can be a part of my creativity, a part of my art.”

“I DIDN’T KNOW THAT I COULD WRITE.” It’s now a pretty big part: He’s also “developing some television-show ideas,” he says, adding, “I’m writing a gospel musical. I’m also writing a book.” The latter is a memoir of those lean years. With that unnamed new Broadway role looming, Porter admits to some “separation anxiety” about leaving Lola and Kinky Boots, which he calls “the piece of art that changed my life.” Next week, though, what will be foremost are those eight performances at the Benedum Center, with a fabulously bewigged and sequined Porter belting numbers like the saucy “The Sex Is in the Heel” and the introspective “Not My Father’s Son.” Asked why he’s taking this special, Pittsburgh-only turn in the show’s touring version, he says it’s partly for local folks who can’t make it to New York. But especially, he says, it’s for children of color who, like him, grew up in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “I see those kids now, and I know that it’s important for them to have representation, and representatives from their community who have transcended expectations,” he says. “It’s important for me to come back to being in the midst of that, so that those young people can see that: There’s something different, there’s something to aspire to.” DR ISC O L L @PGH C IT YPAPE R . C O M

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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER 07.29/08.05.2015

[BOOK REVIEWS]

LIT BRIEFS {BY BILL O’DRISCOLL}

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Its title notwithstanding, A People’s History of Pittsburgh, Vol. 1 ($20) shares little with Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, the revisionist classic that unearthed forgotten grassroots struggles against injustice. This book, one product of a two-year project by local photobook gallery Spaces Corners, recalls The Family of Man, the famous 1950s photobook surveying the human condition. Except that, rather than polished exposures by professional shooters, its images are snapshots by everyday Pittsburghers — 200 of them, culled from some 1,500 donated images. Working with photos ranging from posed 1880s black-and-white portraits to cameraphone snaps, editors Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar smartly curate the sorts of scenes people have considered important, from mill landscapes (natch) and other workplace shots to tableaux of people swimming, boozing or posing with pets or cars. (There are lots of cars.) A few — like a fawn lying by a grave marker at night — are mysterious, others just baffling: Why are all those men milling in the street? Intentionally, and somewhat enticingly, all the images lack dates, credits or other identifiers. Still, because snapshots seldom document troubling events, the book’s effects tend toward the anodyne, without even the unhappy associations we might bring to a family scrapbook. It’s a history of Pittsburgh, yes, but through a rather narrow lens.

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In its effect as well as its lore, beer typically incites jocularity. And indeed, there’s no crying in one’s beer over Brewology: An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.99). Aptly named local illustrator Mark Brewer’s new full-color hardback combines concise, straightword definitions of everything from “alpha acids” and “India pale ale” to “trub” and “wort” with wacky caricatures and goofy visual puns. Brewer (an occasional CP contributor) works rather in the style of the great Arnold Roth, with heavy but carefully rendered lines and a sort of benevolent dark edge to the humor. “Helles Bock,” for instance, is represented by sozzled winged goats yucking it up in Hades. “Final Gravity” finds astronauts clinking longnecks in space. Nominally, Brewology is for any beer-lover, but in practice it would surely appeal more to appreciators of craft brews (the folks Brewer seems to be addressing in his introductory “Brief History of Beer”). Most Budweiser aficionados, after all, probably wouldn’t be any more interested in knowing the definition of “oyster stout” than they would be in drinking it. DRISCOLL@PGHCITYPAPER.COM

Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30