OUT NEWCHECK HORIZONS 'COWBOY' TELLS THEATER AND THE THE STORY OF OLD WEST TALE BLACK US YOU'VEAPROBABLY NEVER HEARD MARSHALL VOL. 2 ISSUE 21
Oct. 15, 2019 - Oct. 27, 2019 PGHCURRENT
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October 15, 18, 20
Mozart’s masterpiece meets film noir
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A mystical journey into the jungle... and beyond
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Robert Wideman (Current Photo: Jake Mslywczyk)
MEANINGFUL SENTENCES A NEW BOOK TAKES YOU INSIDE PRISON WALLS TO SHOW US WHY WE NEED TO REFORM THE SENTENCES
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
n many ways, it's a completely ordinary interview, with some ice-breaking talk about the Steelers' most recent loss, his basketball playing injuries, Pittsburgh's intimate neighborhoods and our shared love of the glory days of Big East hoops. But in 1975, Robert Wideman was an unfocused young guy, a wild man to hear him tell it; a heroin addict. During a robbery in which he and some friends tried to steal a truckload of stolen TVs, a man
named Nicholas Morena was shot and killed. Though he didn't pull the trigger, Wideman was convicted of second-degree murder, sometimes referred to as felony murder (a killing that happens while the defendant was involved in committing a felony) and sentenced to life in prison. On July 1, Gov. Tom Wolf commuted Wideman's sentence. On July 5th, after spending 44 years behind bars, he walked out of the State Correctional Institution at Mercer. As part of the commutation, he will remain
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on parole for the remainder of his life. Though he was released from SCI Mercer, he spent most of his time inside at the Western Penitentiary on the Northside until it closed in 2017. While at Western Pen, Wideman got himself together: he got an education, took up meditation and yoga, and became a mentor. Within those harsh walls, he found new purposes. Getting clean was a huge part of it. "I was truly on the verge of suicide. I couldn't stand myself," Wideman
says. "I couldn't stand that I kept doing things -- hurting myself and hurting all the folks who cared about me and loved me. When you're in the throes of addiction â€Ś obsession and compulsion are a mean master." He also became part of the Elsinore Bennu Think Tank for restorative justice at its inception in 2013. "Restorative justice is not an exact idea. But when you're talking about restoring justice, you are talking about ending mass incarceration, which I think is the legacy of slavery.
NEWS describe life on the inside in grainy detail. Ralph Bolden's description of being strip-searched forces the reader to confront the grim reality of prison life -- for both the prisoners and also the corrections officers. Wideman's portrait of his claustrophobic cell puts the reader right there with him in his welded-in-place-bed. "Those were the smallest cells of any place in the country," Wideman says, now able to laugh about it. "My feet could touch the sink when I was in bed. Teeny tiny cells." Robert Wideman's story is better known than the others because of Brothers and Keepers, John Edgar Wideman's stunning 1984 memoir about Robert, the pain of having a brother in prison and the dehumanizing engine that is mass incarceration, long before the term mass incarceration entered the common lexicon. John Edgar Wideman also penned the afterword to Life Sentences, and it is a battle cry toward our shared humanity and a call to end mass incarceration. The book opens with a preface by Amber Epps, a professor of communication and the founder of the hip hop collective, LOCAL 412. She is also the sister of Oscar Brown, one of the contributors to the book. One of the most moving pieces is "Lost and Gain," Wideman's chapter about the death of his son, Omar, who was murdered in 1993. It's all of our legacy," Wideman says with regard to the current criminal justice system. The idea behind restorative justice is not to merely punish the person who committed a crime but to address the needs of the victim, of the larger society, and the perpetrators, too. Justice is meted out with the goal of rebuilding rather than retribution. Elsinore Bennu takes its name from Hamletâ€™s forlorn and gloomy castle (Elsinore -- a fitting name for the old prison built in 1886) and the Egyptian symbol of rebirth (Bennu.) The think tank is a collaboration between faculty members from a few colleges, a licensed social worker and several incarcerated men. As they met, the men started to write about their experiences. They brought their work to the group where they shared and explored
"That story about Omar came," Wideman says, pausing a long time before continuing to speak about the deaths of both his mother and of his son. "Those were hard times because I wanted to be there. It was difficult. My son. It was just like a bomb exploded inside me. I don't know how else to say it except that a bomb exploded inside me." They close that cell door behind you and it's just you there, alone, with all your feelings and fears. Facing a life sentence, it can be hard to find the motivation to do anything. Some men give up. But you can grow, even in prison. "I knew a guy named Shoes," Wideman said. "And he said, 'You got to know when to make your own change.' I never forgot that. I knew I wanted to create some positive things that I did. I saw what happened to the guys that really didn't care. Shoes said, you gotta know when to make your own change. He didn't say you got to change, you got to follow some rules, or you need to go to school, or anything like that. Make your own change. I had to figure it out. I had to think about it and that's what I did." The think tank is an idea made flesh, a choice by each member to make their own change. With Life Sentences, these men are all choosing to be involved in the community, even as they are removed from it.
their thoughts about life in prison, guilt, regret, facing their mistakes, and the possibility of healing. Out this month from Belt Publishing, Life Sentences: Writings from Inside an American Prison, is a collection written by these six incarcerated men: Ralph (Malakki) Bolden, Oscar Brown, Richard (Khalifa) Diggs, James (Fly) Martin, Shawn (Clarence) Robinson and Robert (Faruq) Wideman. The collection takes the reader through their lives outside, their journeys through the criminal justice system, and how each moves forward to make their lives matter and help repair communities from the inside of a prison. There are essays and manifestos, confessionals and poetry. The men explore contrition and remorse with honesty and humanity. They PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 5
NEWS CHECKS AND BALANCES
DONALD TRUMP. THE UKRANIAN GOVERNMENT AND UNCLE JOE BY DAVID DEANGELO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM For this column, I was originally planning on looking at the 2017 Trump tax cuts, specifically how some members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation described and defended them over the past few years. I was planning on contrasting those statements with how the Congressional Research Service analyzed those tax cuts. I was planning on showing how the GOP descriptions of those cuts were wrong, wrong, wrong. But then the news of Donald Trump's phone calls to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hit the news and the idea of fact-checking a mere multi-billion dollar tax cut that skewed wealthy seemed rather quaint compared to a sitting President of the United States actively corroding the foundations of the republic for his own political gain. Given the republic-shuddering nature of the Ukraine story, let's take a look at how Trump's deflecting attention away from it with an otherwise untrue smear regarding former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Recently, the New York Times reported that, before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio, Trump described one call this way: “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.” It might take you a few minutes to decode the Trump-speak, but the implication is clear: we don't want them Biden boys to spread “their” corruption to Ukraine, now do we? This “corruption” to which Trump refers is the essential assertion upon which his entire argument rests. Trump's asserting that Joe Biden, as Vice-President, pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was reportedly investigating Hunter Biden, his son. The younger Biden was on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company. Let's get some important stuff out of the way: Hunter Biden probably should not have been on the board of that company. While no one has ever been able to show any illegality, it just looks bad. For instance, in 2015 the New York Times reported that near the beginning of
Biden's time on the board, Burisma Holdings had been under investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office. The Office froze millions of dollars of assets owned by Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky. By the way, he was then the Ukrainian ecology minister under Ukraine's Russian-friendly former president Viktor F. Yanukovych. By the way, after the 2014 protests in Ukraine, Yanukovych fled to Russia, where he is now living in exile still wanted for treason back in Ukraine. Just to fill in a few blanks on Russian corruption Trump never seems to mention. After the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office refused to cooperate with the British, the frozen funds were released and were then, according to the Times, shuffled out of the country off to Cyprus. This caused a bit of an uproar with the Obama administration, which was looking to reduce corruption in Ukraine. Geoffrey R. Pyatt, the American Ambassador to Ukraine even publicly criticized the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office for not cooperating with the British investigation. But with the Vice-President's son was on the board of the company, it just looked bad as it undermined the Obama Administration's attempts, see? In 2015 a man named Viktor Shokin was appointed as new prosecutor general and he wasn't any better at dealing with his country's corruption. Trump's smear goes that VP Biden personally pressured Ukraine to oust Shokin in order to protect his son from a corruption investigation being undertaken by Viktor Shokin. Too bad that's just not what happened. When Shokin was ousted in March 2016, the Times reported: The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite. At that same time, Radio Free Europe reported: Several hundred people rallied outside the Ukrainian parliament on March 28, calling for Shokin's resignation. The United States has repeatedly called
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for top-to-bottom reform of the Prosecutor-General's Office, which antigraft campaigners have said plays a key role in protecting vested interests and allowing corrupt practices to flourish. And recently, The Week reported: But the first problem for Trump's accusation, The Wall Street Journal reports, is that "Shokin had dragged his feet into those [Zlochevsky] investigations, Western diplomats said, and effectively squashed one in London by failing to cooperate with U.K. authorities." In fact, Shokin was widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective. "The whole G-7, the IMF, the EBRD, everybody was united that Shokin must go, and the spokesman for this was Joe Biden," says Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Zlochevsky's allies were "relieved" by
Shokin's dismissal, The New York Times reports, because while "Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma," he "was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team." So VP Biden did not personally call for Shokin's ouster. He was speaking as a representative of the United States of America and reflecting the criticisms of the G-7, the IMP and the EBRD (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). As its central point is wrong, Trump's smear is simply incorrect. The fact that Trump and his enablers in the GOP keep repeating it is a sad state of affairs for a once respectable political party.
Repeal Day Party Thursday, Dec. 5th 7 - 10 PM the speakeasy at Max's Allegheny Tavern PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 7
THUMBS DOWN, FACEBOOK
BY JESSICA SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
couple of weeks ago, I was at my wits’ end with Facebook. A friend of mine, “Ashley” (name changed for privacy) recently came out as trans and wanted to update her first name and gender on her profile. This should be fairly easy, right? But she wasn’t able to change it. Facebook required various pieces of documentation proving Ashley was her name. This hasn’t always been an issue. Years ago I changed my name to “Jessica Rabbid” to reflect my blog/pin-up modeling name, and to hide potential employers from my political views and lingerie pictures. My friend Courtney changed her handle to “Court Knee” in order to keep herself unsearchable. Also, we all have the Facebook friend from high school that made her profile name something like “Karen LiveLaughLove Smith.” We get that you love your life, Karen. We still don’t want to join your MLM. Getting her name changed was really important to Ashley. Social media is where a lot of folks come out to begin with. Facebook can be a haven for queer and marginalized folks who might not otherwise have support in their every day lives. We messaged back and forth for hours for a couple of days. We posted on our individual pages, asked LGBTQ organizations what to do, and tried like hell to get in touch with someone from Facebook, which was impossible. Facebook provides a customer service line for business
accounts, but not individuals. “I don’t like that, honestly: they have all of my information, and yet I can’t access someone to talk to.” Around the same time, another friend reported a similar experience. “I changed my name legally and had to provide legal documentation in order to do so. Facebook is transphobic. They made the conversation as uncomfortable as possible.” Deflated but not deterred, Ashley and I looked over the list of documents that would be acceptable. Nearly all of the documents required an official government name change. Should she choose to go through a pro-bono program for the name change, it would take months. Changing it on her own would also take time, and cost a big chunk of change. We discussed signing her up for a subscription to Vogue with her new name, awaiting its arrival to her doorstop, snapping a picture of that and sending it in. “It is possible, but you have to jump through a bunch of hoops that would literally drive a sane person insane,” Ashley commented as we compared her options. Facebook has 2.41 Billion users and prides itself on being a big connector, on making the world smaller and more accessible. After the Cambridge Analytica debacle, Mark Zuckerberg went on his apology tour, and they’ve revamped their policies, including pulling in some heavy hitters who came from the Department of Justice and the
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State Department. After all of this, when selecting “gender transition” as the reason for a name change, the process isn’t reflective of the fact that an official legal name change is typically one of the last things a person completes when transitioning. The Guardian reported four years ago on this issue. Facebook initially created these rules with the aim of reducing fake profiles folks were using to be trolls. If you saw someone engaging in bullying and it was clear they were using a pseudonym, you now had the chance to report them for using a fake name. As per usual though, impact is more important than intent. This policy is regularly blocking trans folks from changing to gender affirming names. This week a friend of mine who moderates an online group that fundraises for black women and femmes in Pittsburgh posted a meme on her personal page of a woman sipping wine. The text said, “Someone said not to dress up as a serial killer on Halloween because it’s appropriating white culture.” I cackled loudly, which was mildly embarrassing since I was out in public. The moderators at Facebook didn’t find this as funny as I did: she was banned for 24 hours, and when she tried to appeal it, they smacked on another 7 days. This morning, another friend of mine, a badass union organizer texted me a screenshot. She was banned on Facebook for three days because
she used “hate speech.” The hate speech in question? “Why are cishet men so trash? Get a damn personality.” I almost spit out my coffee. I was already in the middle of typing about the platform’s backwards community standards, and salty that white cisgender straight men are treated as a more protected class than actual marginalized groups. I did some research on this censorship issue, and I found a host of creepy conservative alt-right blogs complaining that Facebook is actually blocking their voices and censoring them. Vanity Fair did a deep dive on Facebook’s quest to address its community standards in an equitable way. “In the abstract, almost everyone on Bickert’s team favored a hatespeech policy that took into account power imbalances between different groups. But for a user base of more than two billion people, such changes proved impossible to scale. On some level, there are no ‘fixes’ to Facebook’s problems. There are only trade-offs. Like an actual government, it seemed, the best Facebook could hope for was a bunch of half-decent compromises.” After all, no matter what Facebook did, it would be angering a lot of folks on both sides of the political spectrum, right? The notion that Facebook has their hands tied over this is simply a false equivalence. First, people that wish to eradicate whole groups of people are not the flip side to people speaking out about their oppression. Next, the fact that these censoring incidents are so prevalent still, after years of calls for change, shows that Facebook is either not aware of the power dynamics they claim to be cognizant of, or they just don’t care. To treat these groups as if they are on equal footing (men = women, white folks = black folks), from a “color blind” or neutral stance, is to automatically favor those who already have more power, in this case, men and white people. Reverse racism isn’t a thing just like reverse sexism isn’t a thing. You can't punch down to men if you’re a woman. In a white supremacist patriarchy, men are the ones with institutional power. Although, if I’m going to post about this more on Facebook, I’ll be typing m*n instead of men. I don’t want to be banned, too!
A Very Yinzer Christmas FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13TH 7:30 PM ROXIAN THEATER
The Bill Henry Band
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 9
DEREK PEEL'S NEW ART INSTALLATION EXAMINES OUR USE OF IMPERSONAL 'GET WELL' MESSAGES BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
rt is where many of us go for solace, particularly when we do not feel well, either physically or emotionally. We look to paintings, film, television, and more to cheer us up or to distract us from what we are feeling. This is an idea that installation artist Derek Peel hopes to turn on its head with her upcoming solo exhibition, “Get Well Soon,” which will open October 18 at 707 Gallery downtown. This
will be Peel’s ninth exhibition since beginning her artistic career in 2017. The concept for “Get Well Soon” was inspired by the ways American society deals with illness, and how those methods are often impersonal or merely serve to cover up the larger issue. “The idea of this show is something I’ve had for a long time, like Hallmark cards that say these kind of insincere messages, like ‘Get Well Soon,’” says
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Peel. “It developed into a thing that is about living with feeling broken, and giving up. People live their whole lives this way, like being in quicksand.” Peel’s installations are distinctive for incorporating a wide range of unconventional and found materials. “Get Well Soon” is no exception, with items like party balloons and road signs making appearances. Her choice to work with these materials is partly out of necessity, to create the image she wants with limited resources. But the use of everyday items also heightens the impact of each piece because of how familiar they feel to the audience. “Using familiar images definitely resonates with people more, and that’s important,” says Peel. “Things resonate with you and you hope people see that too, because then you’ve done a good job.” The familiar appears in a number of ways throughout “Get Well Soon.” For instance, one of the installations, titled “Big Day,” takes the form of an oversized pill organizer. Each day of the week filled to the brim with prescription bottles, meant to critique how society over relies on drugs to solve health problems, often to the detriment of the individual. “You see a lot of elderly people or people suffering mental illness, they might not even remember what they’re taking anymore, it’s so serious,” says Peel. While “Big Day” certainly grapples with a dark subject, it also keeps a humor to it, as each day on the organizer is labeled “Monday.” To Peel, humor is a way to cope with the distressing and difficult, an attitude which comes through in her work. “When I come up with an idea or image and it makes me laugh, I know that that’s what I need, because it must be painful, and therefore true or genuine,” Peel says. Coping with distress was what initially drew Peel to the art world in the first place. Nearing the end of her college career, Peel says she struggled with not feeling a sense of purpose, not knowing what she was meant to do. Creating art, she felt, gave her that direction she was craving, and it expanded into a whirlwind that has carried her through nine exhibitions in just three years. “I just started making things, and it developed, and here I am. It’s kind of weird,” she says with a laugh. And while Peel certainly knows what
she gets out of the art she creates, she does not want to decide what her audience takes away from “Get Well Soon.” Instead, she hopes that her work will help those who view it process their own emotions, and maybe identify emotions they didn’t even know they were feeling. “I hope that I’m saying something that resonates with people, maybe explaining feelings that people have that they don’t know how to express,” says Peel.
“GET WELL SOON”
will be open to the public from October 18 to December 31 at 707 Gallery in the downtown Cultural District. An opening reception will be held on October 18 from 6-9 p.m.
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8TH ANNUAL PITTSBURGH ZINE FAIR TAKES PLACE AT ACE HOTE BY MEG FAIR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR MEG@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he Pittsburgh Zine Fair is an annual exposition of creatives who publish anything in the realm of zines, which is typically a photocopied publication that is done in a small run and self-published. It’s an opportunity as an attendee to discover a lot of different styles of art and writing, because zines are a medium in which you make all your own rules. Juan Fernandez is the vendor relations and day-of coordinator for PZF, and he points to the freedom that zines offer from a creative and monetary perspective. “Zines are amazing because they create a space where you can set all of the rules. And you can share these little creative spaces with others. They can be weird, high-brow, love letters, archives, informational, in-
spirational, shocking - honestly, anything. All it comes down to is what people value and think is important and decide to include in these publications,” says Fernandez. “At their core, they can be made with the cheapest materials around, office paper and printed on school/ work printers on the sly. You can create the contents digitally, or physically - it doesn't matter so long as the process is easy and intuitive for you! So making an awesome zine is always within anyone's reach.” PZF organizer Christina Lee also points out that zines are slightly less formal, so they can be a place to explore material that may not be suited for a traditional gallery space. “Zine Fairs are a great way to motivate yourself to publish a sequential
work, be it a book, comic, poetry, and yes, zines,” she says. The event had previously taken place at The Union Project, but this year the event will take place at Ace Hotel, a first for PZF. The PZF organizers will, however, be returning to the Union Project in early spring next year to put on some educational programming and a day of hands on zine making. Even with a new venue, it’s still challenging to narrow down who all will be at the event. The PZF receives about 150 applications every year from local zinesters and out of town artists too. “The most challenging part (but also a lot of fun!) is curating the exhibitors. We have so many talented zinesters apply every year...and we have so few tables,” says Lee. “Our
curatorial philosophy is to be inclusive, but we often get in to tough philosophical questions about the PZF during this curatorial process.” The inclusive philosophy of the curation process also flows into its financial accessibility. It’s a free event to attend, and it’s only $15 to table at the event. That’s an incredibly low cost for an event like this, and it’s intended to make the event as accessible to artists as possible. “It allows people to make work fearlessly without needing to worry about money very much, a concern that usually dominates in a lot of other domains of people's lives,” says Fernandez. “I'm so excited to see what people have been making this year and what they want to share with the world.”
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 11
ART HISTORY LESSON
'COWBOY' AT NEW HORIZONS TELLS THE STORY OF BLACK US MARSHALL BASS REEVES BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he Western is one of the most familiar genres in both film and theater. and brings to mind characters like the Lone Ranger, Butch Cassidy, and Shane. While it is doubtless how influential these cultural figures have been, they fail to tell the full story of the American West, a story playwright Layon Gray hopes to show Pittsburgh audiences a different side of. New Horizons Theater will kick off its 2019-2020 season with the Pittsburgh debut of Cowboy, written and directed by Layon Gray. This will be the first iteration of the play following its debut at the 2019 National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Cowboy is based on the life of Bass Reeves, the first black U.S. Deputy Marshall in American history. Over his 32-year career, he apprehended more than 3,000 wanted felons, including some of the most dangerous criminals of the time. Despite this, he killed just 14 men in self-defense and was never wounded in the line of duty. According to Tommie Moore, who portrays Reeves in Cowboy, this was the result of his sophisticated detective skills. “He liked to trick people to arrest them. If you had a warrant, he’d trick you, befriend you,” says Moore. Set in Oklahoma Indian territory in 1888, the play follows Reeves and his companion on their search for the Colton brothers, two outlaws fleeing to the Mexican border. “The play is centered around [Reeves] and his Indian companion, searching for two wanted criminals,” says Layon Gray. “They all find themselves stuck in a saloon as a tornado is approaching.” Taking place just 23 years after the abolition of slavery, the wide-ranging impacts of the institution manifest themselves in the show’s central characters. Just one of these effects, Gray discovered, was that after the slaves were freed
will run at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater from October 18 to 20 for four performances. Visit newhorizontheater.org or kelly-strayhorn.org for tickets and more information.
The cast of Cowboy.
in 1865, many of them traveled significant distances to find family members they had been separated from during slavery. “The play is centered a lot around that, what happened post-slavery to the African-American male and female,” says Gray. The character of Levi Colton in Cowboy, for instance, was born into slavery with his brother. During their childhood, his brother was sold to another plantation. They would not reconnect until after slavery was abolished. “So many of these men had the scars of slavery, and that’s the case with Levi Colton,” says Thaddeus Daniels, who portrays Colton. “He has lived through slavery, and is now getting a chance for the first time to see how big this country actually is.” This deep connection to African American history is a signature of Gray’s work, as he strives to tell stories that aren’t taught in history classes. “I love to write about history, particularly African-American
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history, stories no one really knows about, from the African-American perspective,” Gray says. His passion for history is evident from his very first play, “Meet Me At The Oak,” which tells the story of a black family in 1950s Louisiana and their deep connection to a large oak tree, once a hanging tree. “Meet Me At The Oak” opened in Los Angeles in 2003 under Gray’s direction, and received numerous accolades, including Best Play, Best Writer, and Best Director at the Los Angeles MADDY Awards that year. Other plays Gray has written and directed include Black Angels Over Tuskegee, about the Tuskegee airmen and Kings of Harlem, about the 1939 Harlem Rens basketball team. Both of these plays, like Cowboy, had some of their earliest productions at the National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina. Cowboy received rave reviews at the 2019 Festival, selling out all four performances before opening night. “Everyone was really interested in seeing this old Western on stage
about black cowboys, because you never see these in the old Western movies,” Gray says. For Gray, bringing the show to New Horizons Theater is a natural next step, having worked with them three times before. Cowboy, however, will be his most technologically ambitious production with New Horizons to date. “This particular play, from a technical standpoint, has been my most challenging, yet most fun,” Gray says. “We use projections, we use video. A tornado is coming, and when that tornado hits, the audience is gonna lose their minds.” But while entertainment is always the primary goal of a good show, Gray and his cast hope that the audiences will also take with them a deeper knowledge of the black men and women who bravely forged a path West. “Bass Reeves is the first US Deputy Marshall, his story should be told,” says Moore. “There’s other people out there whose stories should be told, and not forgotten.” Daniels adds, “I really want them to understand the scars of slavery and what it can do to individuals, but also the resiliency that it created in us as a people, to go on no matter what, to not be broken.” “What I would like them to take away is the understanding of the journey from where these men came from as slaves, to becoming free men and going on and doing wonderful things in the world,” says Gray.
ART proach. "I wanted to be able to tell a story about somebody who is reluctant to know everything at first. It is not a commonly told story. Usually, the stories we read about secrets, the searcher is really trying to find out everything," Berstein said. "Sometimes it's hard for people to actually really ask difficult questions. Who am I? And who are you? And how was I shaped? It can be very tough." Just as much as investigating how we sense and cope with secrets, she is able to explore notions of how we love, what it means to love, and how do we feel COHE N
G R IG SBY
and give love when it's not reciprocated. She gets at the very core of how we define and express love. "It deepened my understanding of love -- what it is to just feel something for somebody, who is a blood relative or not. I don't think the blood relative matters. I think love transcends that."
will read at White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 29.
T R U ST
P R E SE N TS
SE R I E S
“Big-hearted Bollywood razzle-dazzle.” — London Evening Standard
Author photo Jane Bernstein.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER CMU PROFESSOR'S NEW NOVEL ON THE 'REPRECUSSIONS OF NOT KNOWING'
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
his is something — things that are family secrets, shadows in ordinary life -- these are things I come back to again and again and again," Pittsburgh writer Jane Berstein says of her new novel, The Face Tells the Secret (Regal House Publishing, 2019). A professor of creative writing and creative non-fiction at Carnegie Mellon, Bernstein has written several novels and a screenplay. Her talent for memoir (she has authored three of those) is put to beautiful effect in this novel that reads like memoir. Events are remembered and connections are made in very ordinary ways. The pieces don't fit, until they do. "It was very important for me to write a novel about the repercussions
of not knowing. The larger story is she doesn't know anything. She's raised in an absence, in a negation of family, of religion, of community, of anything that defines and shapes who we are," she said. Bernstein's gift for understatement serves all of this well, as foundation-shaking discoveries unfold in a lived-in way. There are no big cliffhangers or detective show reveals. Instead, our protagonist, Roxanne, starts to piece things together by having a conversation or a thought in the course of her workaday life. Roxanne, it should be said, is a wary detective, a woman who doesn't really want to know the things she doesn't know. It's an unconventional ap-
NovEMBER 6, 2019 | 7:30pm | Byham Theater 412-456-6666 | GROUPS 10 + Tickets 412-471-6930 BOX OFFICE AT THEATER SQUARE
TRUSTARTS.ORG PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 17
ART his art from childhood all the way through his death,” Diaz says. The museum explores Warhol’s relationship with religion in its newest exhibition, "Andy Warhol: Revelation," the first exhibition to comprehensively examine the pop artist’s complex Catholic faith in relation to his artistic production. Running from Oct. 20 to Feb. 16, 2020, the exhibit features more than 100 objects—archival materials, drawings, paintings, prints and film—that intimately look at this facet of Warhol’s life. Andy Warhol was born into a devout Byzantine Catholic family, attending multiple weekly services at Saint John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church with his mother, Julia Warhola. Growing up in Greenfield—home to Pittsburgh’s Carpatho-Rusyn community—life revolved around the church. As he became a celebrity artist, Warhol maintained some of his Catholic
Andy Warhol, Raphael Madonna, 1985. Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.
BROTHER ANDY THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM EXPLORES THE POP ARTIST'S CONNECTION TO CATHOLICISM IN "ANDY WARHOL: REVELATION"
BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he last time the Andy Warhol Museum examined the Pop artist’s Catholic upbringing was in 2007, with "Personal Jesus: The Religious Art of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol," which explored religious iconography in both artists’ work. But, The Warhol has never dedicated
an entire exhibition solely to Warhol’s Catholicism. That is, until now, says José Carlos Diaz, chief curator at The Andy Warhol Museum. “It was really important for us to really showcase the importance of Warhol's Catholic upbringing and how it sort of represented visually through
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Andy Warhol, Cross, 1981-1982. Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.
practices while his peers removed themselves from religion. However, as a queer man, Warhol may have felt a sense of fear and guilt from the Catholic Church, which prevented him from fully engaging in his faith. He explored some of this tension through his art. Warhol reframed styles and symbols of Eastern and Western Catholic art history through the lens of Pop, creating iconic portraits of celebrities and appropriating Renaissance works, blurring the lines between kitsch, mundane and sacred high art. Religious motifs also appear explicitly and metaphorically in his work. For example, the Pop artist depicted
Andy Warhol, Repent and Sin No More!, 1985-1986. Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum.
crosses and Christ directly, like Last Supper (1986), where he prints the Da Vinci classic in black and pink. A 1967 unfinished film reel depicting the setting sun—originally commissioned by the de Menil family and funded by the Roman Catholic Church—provides a more coded depiction of spirituality. According to Diaz, the exhibit presents this dichotomy, along with reimaginings of other works. “I think there's a lot of new arrangements of objects that people might have not put two and two together,” he says. Diaz says the show also highlights Warhol’s ability to disseminate information. “He's able to take very strong visual language — whether it's Marilyn Monroe, the Mona Lisa or da Vinci's Last Supper — and present to the masses, and it's just understood as being something very secular or very sacred.” After opening at The Warhol, "Andy Warhol: Revelation" will travel to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and be on view from April 3-August 21, 2020. Diaz says the exhibit isn’t just for people of faith. It’s also for Warhol fans and scholars who want to get a deeper look into the Pop artist’s life and his art. “This is specifically looking at Andy Warhol's production of paintings and film and his art and then just putting into a religious context,” Diaz says. “So I'm hoping that people will come here and rethink Warhol, but the new scholarship will come from this and new interests will emerge.”
EVENTS THE CAN’T MISS
The Carnegie Science Center holds Sensory Sensitive Science hours for children and adults on the autism spectrum or with sensory sensitivities. Exhibit lights and sound effects are adjusted and additional activities are provided to ensure a safe and fun day for all attendees. There is no additional cost to attend. 10 a.m. One Allegheny Ave. $11.95 for kids, $19.95 adults. 412-237-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org (EA)
BY EMERSON ANDREWS AND MARGARET WELSH LISTINGS@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
Santonio Holmes, former Super Bowl Hero of the Pittsburgh Steelers, invites Pittsburghers to the 3rd Annual Strikes Against Sickle Cell. Other local celebrities will be at the III & Long Foundation’s charity event for meetand-greets, music performances and more. Complimentary food will be provided and registration is required. A tiered donation system grants varying privileges to participants. 6 p.m. 2440 Noblestown Rd. $250$5000. thirdandlongfoundation.org or email@example.com (EA)
The Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series at Carnegie Lecture Hall continues with author Julie Lythcott-Haims whose book, How to Raise an Adult, led to critical acclaim and a highly popular TED Talk, with a follow-up book geared towards young adults in the works. The author will be signing copies of her books after the lecture. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave. $10. 412-6228866 or firstname.lastname@example.org (EA)
For those 21 and older, paint a ceramic sugar skull at Buckhead Saloon. All materials are provided, and using the promo code YAYPGH will knock $10 off the ticket price. 7 p.m. 225 W. Station Square Dr. $40. Yaymaker.com (EA)
OCTOBER 16 Kids 5-to 8-years old are invited to another History Explorers program at the Heinz History Center. This time, the explorers will be learning to make recipes spanning the 150 years of Heinz history using Heinz products. 10:30 a.m. 1212 Smallman St. $8. Heinzhistorycenter.org (EA) Radiant Hall Studios invites Pittsburghers to a free behind-thescenes look at where local artists create their art. The tour will show attendees various artists’ processes, allow them to ask the artists questions and even buy artwork straight from the source. 6 p.m. One Allegheny Square, Nova Tower 1. Free. radianthall.com (EA)
Luigi Toscano’s Lest We Forget exhibit opens at the University of Pittsburgh Campus. The outdoor exhibit, featuring largescale portraits of Holocaust survivors to directly confront the past and to raise awareness in the present, has toured from Berlin to New York to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. This newest iteration will feature brand new portraits of Pittsburgharea survivors. The event is free with registration encouraged. 4:30 p.m. 4200 Fifth Ave. Free. 412-939-7289 or jfedpgh.org/luigi-toscano (EA) Mudhoney isn’t always the first name that comes up when we think of grunge, but they should be. As frontman for Green River, the first band Sub Pop marketed as grunge, Mark Arm was in on the ground floor, before, he told Rolling Stone, it was even a genre “In the early ’80s, it was more of an adjective,” he explained. “It meant a raw, fucked up thing.” Young musicians still lovingly rip off Mudhoney’s 1988 debut EP Superfuzz Bigmuff, and all these years later the band still sounds like itself (as guitarist Steve Turner told
Mudhoney Photo courtesy of Niffer Calderwood
me in 2015, “It’s not our [full-time] job, [which] kind of frees us up a little bit to do exactly what we want to do, and we’re fairly limited, I think, in what we want to do with Mudhoney.) See the four-piece play songs from across its catalog Thursday, Oct. 17 at Mr. Smalls Theatre, along with the amazing Kid Congo Powers + the Pink Monkey Birds and locals The Gotobeds. 7:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $20. www.mrsmalls. com (MW)
City of Asylum @ Alphabet City celebrates 15 years with a reunion of five former writers-in-residence. Huang Xiang, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Khet Mar, Israel Centeno and Yaghoub Yadali will each present a special reading, reconnecting with the community of Pittsburgh that provided sanctuary when they were exiled from their home countries. 3 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or kzeigler@ cityofasylumpittsburgh.org (EA)
The Andy Warhol Museum opens its doors for a free Community Day in celebration of its 25th Anniversary. Live performances, hands-on activities, a participatory art installation by artist Alisha Wormsley and more will be occurring throughout the day. 10 a.m. 117 Sandusky St. Free. warhol. org (EA)
Willie Nile draws a lot of comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, thanks to his big, bold, major chord-filled anthems. Like almost everyone (it seems) who’s been compared to the Boss, Nile has shared stages with him. But Nile is more than able to hold his own on stage and record alike. His most recent release, 2018’s Children of Paradise responds bluntly to the horrors of the current age: “I turned on my TV to watch some news,” he sings on “Getting’ Ugly Out There.” “Some big shot spouting their views/Saw a child refugee drown on the seashore/I had to turn it off I couldn’t take it anymore.” The next track, “I Defy” serves as a tonic and a manifesto: there, Nile channels both Joe Strummer and Paul Westerberg and is punk enough to pull it off. Check him out in person when he comes to Club Café, Sunday, Oct. 20. 8 p.m. 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $20. www.clubcafelive.com (MW)
City of Asylum @ Alphabet City screens Birth on the Border, a documentary following the journey two women from Ciudad Juárez who legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border to give birth. Following the screening, filmmaker Ellie Lobovits will be present for a discussion. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or email@example.com (EA)
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EVENTS OCTOBER 23 Hocus Pocus fans 18 and older can enjoy a trivia night at Painting With a Twist. Teams should consist of 1-3 people, though larger groups can split up for the trivia and come back together for painting the Sanders Sisters on a 10x30 canvas. 7 p.m. 5994 Steubenville Pike. Ste G. $35. paintingwithatwist.com (EA)
HEARTH hosts a costume contest at Southside’s Bar 11. Entry into the contest gets participants entry into the bar and a raffle ticket. Those not entering the contest pay a $5 cover fee at the door. 7 p.m. 1101 Bradish St. $20 online, $25 at the door. 412-8182207 (EA) Come to the Hard Rock Cafe for a villain-themed Cosplay Karaoke. Multiple winning categories will be awarded. Costumes must be family friendly and cannot include live steel or firearms and firearm replicas. There is a $5 minimum donation to the Hero’s Initiative in order to participate, which goes towards supporting comic book creators who are struggling to make ends meet. 7 p.m. 230 W. Station Square Dr. $5. 412-481-7625 or 3riverscomicon. com/cosplay-karaoke (EA) Families can head to the Ross Park Mall for a Halloween Spooktacular. Events include pumpkin carving demonstrations, face painting, lego building and more. Each family must pre-register online and pay a $5 fee which goes towards the Simon Youth Foundation. 6 p.m. 1000 Ross Park Mall Dr. 412-369-4401 or simon.com/ mall/ross-park-mall (EA)
OCTOBER 25 Author and celebrated disability theorist Rosemarie GarlandThomson leads an evening on human difference and combating talk of “curing” disabilities through genome editing at the Heinz History
Center. Activists, scholars and bioethicists from across the country will be present for this free and open event. 6 p.m. 1212 Smallman St. Free. heinzhistorycenter.org (EA)
The Carnegie Museum of Art holds a Yoga Paint Party. Participants 18 and older will create unique paintings based on their yoga flow that they can take home with them after the session. Ticket price includes painting materials, specially provided mats and admission to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History for that day. Spots are limited. 11 a.m. 4400 Forbes Ave. $45. 412-622-3288 or firstname.lastname@example.org (EA)
Sleater-Kinney Photo courtesy of Jason Williamson
admission. heinzhistorycenter.org/ meadowcroft (EA)
Fans already know that it will be a different Sleater-Kinney coming through town on Saturday, Oct. 26. Drummer Janet Weiss quit the band around the time the trio announced a new record. Weiss, who played on every record from Dig Me Out to this year’s The Center Won’t Hold, noted that Sleater-Kinney was moving in a new direction, and anyone can hear that’s true. Producer Annie Clark (St. Vincent) sent Center through a rocktumbler, smoothing and pop-ifying out some of the band’s harder edges, keeping electrifying rage bubbling under the surface. Angie Boylan of Aye Nako and Freezing Cold has replaced Weiss behind the kit; don’t’ miss the band as they embark on a new chapter. 7 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Drive, North Side. $32. www.stageae.com (MW)
Pittsburgh-based singer/songwriter Sam Stucky makes the kind of music you’d happily stumble upon surfing the AM radio dial on a sunny fall afternoon: His voice brings to mind the sweet melancholic warmth of James Taylor, but with the subtle indie-pop edge of Foxwarren’s Andy Shauf. Some of Stucky’s songs move in a rootsy direction, and his ear for tasteful instrumentation ties it all together. His new record, Saccharine, is heavily inspired by nature, but also deals with what it means to be a musician or artist in a world where, he says, “it can be hard to get noticed.” He celebrates the release of Saccharine Saturday, Oct. 26. Address provided after ticket purchase. $10-20. Email email@example.com for information. (MW)
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village holds their Fall Finale to close out their season. Aside from their usual activities, participants can enjoy a taffy-pulling party for an additional $3. Spots are limited and reservation is requested. Discounts for children, seniors, active duty and retired military and History Center members are available. 12 p.m. 401 Meadowcroft Rd. Avella. $15 general
The Sembène Film Festival continues with a screening of CHISHOLM ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, a documentary on Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and her 1972 campaign to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America. 6 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or kzeigler@ cityofasylumpittsburgh.org (EA)
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Erin Calvimontes of Divine Celebrations invites the LGBTQIA+ community to a Love is Love Wedding Expo. The show will feature Pittsburgh area wedding vendors who proudly serve LGBTQIA+ clients. Some of the proceeds of the show will go towards the Pittsburgh Equality Center. 1 p.m. 100 South Commons. $5. 412-4360337 or loveisloveweddingexpo.com (EA)
Noelle Johnson was long a fixture in the Kansas City punk scene. But coming from Peculiar, Missouri, she found it tough to find like-minded folks to forge new bands. Instead, she told Kansas City alt weekly The Pitch earlier this year, “I started learing the lineage of techno, and I learned how I personally identified with it.” Her project Bath Consolidated has historically indulged in the harsher end of electronic music; this year’s Nerryer Gneiss Terrane draws the listener into its ambient space-age soundscape, lulling but sometimes jolting us to attention. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, Bath Consolidated comes to Collision Music Hall, joined by locals Samir Gangwani and The Universe Online. 8 p.m. $8. All ages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for address. (MW)
MUSIC 'THE HAPPY FEW' BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ON THE DL BY JUSTIN VELLUCCI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ean Atkins understates things. His band, Revival Choir, quietly released its debut LP, Finn, in September. Nobody ever shot-gunned out press releases, blitzed social media or even threw a release party. “Some people were like, ‘You gotta build it up. You gotta start a groundswell,’” says the Pittsburgh singer-songwriter, whose day job involves accounting. “I got the final mix and I just uploaded it. “I just want the album to exist on its own. I just threw the album online and here we are.” Atkins exorcised the LP’s 11 songs – available as a Bandcamp name-yourown-price download -- at Club Café open-mics and recorded with club regulars. His first show with a proper band, which has been rehearsing in a McKees Rocks warehouse, took place last week. You wouldn’t know the material’s infancy from listening; Atkins’ songs are melancholic and fully formed folkpop gems, distilled with smoky vocals and arrangements that are sparse but emotive. The work can hold its own among Pedro the Lion, Swell Season and Ryan Adams. Andrea Schaertel, Revival Choir’s keyboardist, met Atkins at a Hambone’s open-mic last year. “The simplicity of his music is my favorite part,” says Schaertel, of Dormont. “I always tend to gravitate toward more simple music. I think
it’s the most beautiful. I think Sean’s music does a terrific job at eliciting a certain feeling … and his lyrics are just gorgeous.” Many songs are vignettes on relationships, some of broken varieties. “It reflects on how blurry the line is between an argument and emotional abuse, that kind of searching over whether I was a good guy or a bad guy in the aftermath of a blow-up,” Atkins says. “I think I feel guilty for the ways I didn’t treat people well in relationships or how I handled things immaturely. I think it’s complicated.” Daniel Owens joined Revival Choir on bass after seeing a CraigsList ad citing Songs: Ohia and Elliott Smith as influences. “The songs have an emotional resonance that I feel is really compelling,” says Owens, of Regent Square. “As soon as I heard the songs, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.” “I dig how they are harrowing, in a sense, but not totally dark,” he adds. “There’s always a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.”
ESSENTIAL MACHINE. 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1. Mr. Smalls Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $5. www.mrsmalls.com
arry Ochs, the tenor saxophonist in the Rova Saxophone Quartet, says the group’s baritone man, Jon Raskin, once opined that the group should release an album called The Happy Few. “Because the few who do actually come [to see us] are really happy they came,” Ochs says. “We really should use that at some point.” That comment might imply Rova is searching for an audience, but the Bay Area quartet has won admirers around the world over the past 42 adventurous years. That includes listeners in the Soviet Union, which Rova first toured in 1983, the first American new music ensemble to make such a journey. (Their travels were filmed for a PBS documentary at the time.) In addition to a wealth of original material, the group has embarked on ambitious projects like Electric Ascension, a reimagining of John Coltrane’s tumultuous “Ascension,” which Rova performed with a 13-piece group of A-list improvisers that included guitars and electronics along with horns. Throughout it all, the quartet has developed its own sound, which is more than free jazz. “We play art music, not jazz. It’s absolutely jazz-influenced. Certainly, the kind of saxophone stuff we do is primarily from ’60s free jazz on up,” Ochs says, pausing mid-thought. “Well, we’re really into everybody.” Although it might not draw arena-sized audiences, Ochs’ most recent visit to Pittsburgh offered proof positive that people will dig this music if they listen. He came to town in 2017 with drummer Gerald Cleaver and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. “There were a lot of young people there who came probably most likely because of who Nels is in his other life, as the Wilco lead guitarist, one of the Top 100 guitarists on Rolling Stone’s list,” Ochs says about the performance at Spirit Lodge. “They were blown away. I’m sure there were some who weren’t, but the overall situation, or feeling after the concert was over, was ecstatic. But you’ve got to get [people] in a room first. Once they’re there, most people are willing to find the sense in what you’re doing.”
The Rova Saxophone Quartet, which last visited Pittsburgh 25 years ago, came together in 1977. The original group consisted of Bruce Ackley (soprano), Andrew Voight (alto), Ochs (tenor) and Jon Raskin (baritone). Steve Adams replaced Voight in 1988. The World Saxophone Quartet had come together in New York just a few months earlier, but Rova had yet to hear of them. “We thought, ‘Wow these guys are doing it, that means we’re not going to seem so strange,’” Ochs says. “And it didn’t work out that way. We’re still strange, 42 years later.” Before they even released their debut album, a cassette of a live performance landed on the desk of the director of the adventurous MOERS Festival in Germany. One of the people who heard it was saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, who pressed the festival to invite the band to perform in 1979. “At the point, we were like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re for real. Let’s dig into this,’” Ochs recalls. Their approach to collective improvisation sets them apart from other horn-only groups. Ochs cites a composition “NC-17” as an example. Rather than a written score, it consists of five sets of directions, which any member of the band can direct during a performance, with choices ranging from rhythmic figures to multiphonics. Thus, one performance of it can sound vastly different from a previous one. “This is the kind of thing that keeps this band going. We keep getting challenged by pieces that really last a long time,” says Ochs. And the happy few keep growing.
ROVA SAXOPHONE QUARTET with BEN OPIE & JOSH WULFF.
7:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. First Unitarian Church, Morewood & Ellsworth Avenues, Shadyside. $20-25. Rovapittsburgh.brownpapertickets.com
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 21
The Childlike Empress. (Current Photos: Jake Mysliwczyk)
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
THE CHILDLIKE EMPRESS TACKLES HEALING, LOVING YOURSELF AND TAKING UP SPACE ON THEIR DEBUT ALBUM BY MEG FAIR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR MEG@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
eeing The Childlike Empress perform is a transformative experience. Banjo in hand, they sing songs that are emotionally raw and challenging with a voice that’s at times soaring and powerful and at other moments quiet and unbearably vulnerable. It’s hard not to get sucked into
the songs, into the world and aura of The Childlike Empress. It’s 25 minutes of emotional catharsis and magic, and it’s electric. Their debut album Take Care Of Yourself, set for an October 26 release, is much anticipated by the strong following they’ve gained from playing live shows for about three years, and
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it does not disappoint. It’s a half-hour of beautiful melodies, dynamic vocals and moving string arrangements. It’s pretty and ethereal, but it’s incredibly powerful too. The emotional openness and huge sound of Take Care Of Yourself make it a force to be reckoned with. The Childlike Empress -- known as
Tatiana in their day-to-day life -- was previously a solo endeavour, but the live performances and record feature a full band. That band consists of Shani Banerjee on violin, Eric Weidenhof on cello, Sam Cope on drums and Rowdy Karanek on guitars, with Tatiana playing the banjo and singing. The album was recorded by
MUSIC Karanek at his studio in Hazelwood. The story of Take Care Of Yourself began long before Tatiana moved to Pittsburgh from New York, right after their 18th birthday. “This album, in summary, is about the relationship I was in before I left NY. We met each other and fell in love instantly--like, I went from never knowing this person at all, met him once, didn’t see him for a day, and then after that we were attached at the hip. It was very passionate, very fast, and what I was looking for at that age.” But very quickly the whirlwind relationship went south, and things took a turn for the worse. “When you’re madly in love and severely attracted to someone you romanticize the red flags, and you zoom right past them,” says Tatiana. As their partner’s drug abuse and mental illness escalated, Tatiana was in the position of taking care of someone who they deeply loved (and who deeply loved them), but in an incredibly unhealthy way. There’s a grim, strained moment on the song “Yikes” where Tatiana belts about watching their partner get sick after mixing downers, about him getting arrested every time he promises to introduce Tati to his mother. The end of the relationship was messy. On the same day that Tatiana discovered their partner had been cheating on them for months, they also discovered that they were pregnant. “We were gonna hang out and talk about it, but he went down to the train station to go steal something to sell it. I was gonna go back to the house with him when he came back to talk about our problems, but in a split second, clear as day, I was like, ‘If you stay, you’re gonna die. You’re gonna become like him and die in New York.’” They turned around and left before their ex returned. They spent the next few weeks in total self-isolation, terrified to be pregnant, with no one to turn to. Tatiana’s best friend Natasha was living in Pittsburgh and invited them to come down for a visit. “The way I saw was, I either check myself into a psych ward because all of my mental and emotional issues were at the surface and were raging in my brain, or I’m going to take my life,” says Tatiana. “But I felt that I needed to go see my best friend one last time, that’s where my brain was at.” “I came out here, and we had a really good week. I was supposed to leave,
THE CHILDLIKE EMPRESS ALBUM RELEASE SHOW with CALYX, KY VOSS, CLARA KENT.
7 p.m., Friday Nov. 1. Babyland, Oakland.$10.thechildlikeempress. bandcamp.com
but I cancelled my return bus ticket. Once I was here, I felt like I could breathe again, like I was a person again.” So they stayed, got a job, got an abortion, was gifted a banjo and began and the healing journey. “Once things started scabbing over I felt like I could turn it into something artistic,” says Tatiana. “I started writing
it out almost as the healing process itself.” The songs came fast, and each song on the album took only about five or ten minutes to come to life. As a result, the album is a very tangible manifestation of self-preservation, of healing and protection. “The album is called Take Care Of Yourself because it was about me being
pushed to absolute rock bottom and, in turn, that made me realize how poorly I’ve treated myself my whole life. My destruction at the hands of someone who was not worthy of destroying me made me realize that nobody is allowed to do that to me ever again.” “If you’re not taking care of yourself, if you’re not putting love into yourself, if you’re not checking in with yourself first, that lack of self-awareness and self-care is going to bleed into all your relationships,” says Tatiana. Tatiana’s self-love is infectious, and that’s intentional. They hope that others will see them doing their thing without hesitation and be inspired to do the same. “I’m stoked to be in this place where I’m fearlessly who I am. I’m just here to fuck shit up, to make noise, to take up space,” says Tatiana. “To be a genderfluid, sexually fluid, black, indigenous person that plays the banjo, I think it’s really important. I know I’m not the only one out there, and I think that’s so dope,” says Tatiana. “Hopefully I can be a source of inspiration for anyone, but especially for some weird little emo black kid that doesn’t think anyone like them exists.” “I’m excited to see what these songs do once they are out in the world, for me and for other people, and how they’ll continue to manifest in my life and continue to heal me,” says Tatiana. “I’m excited to move on from them and really put this part of my life to rest.” That closure comes to life on the title track, as Tatiana gently but firmly sings, “Let go of that anger, clean off that shelf. Make a vow to grow and take care of yourself.”
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | 23
FOOD DAY DRINKING
KEEPING TABS ON PITTSBURGH'S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ct 3, 10 a.m.: I’m in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, sharing a Lyft with an Arab couple in from NY for the same event. They
ask me my plans for the weekend. “First things first, I need to find some weed!” Just then, the driver pulls out a pill bottle stuffed with a gram of marijuana.
“Take that so my kids stop playing with it.” I guess it’s going to be that kind of trip. Five stars. Oct 3, 4:30 p.m.: The Great American Beer Festival has been running since 1982. There are hundreds of breweries with thousands of beers from all 50 states and more than 60,000 people in attendance. The brewers are split into 13 regions and you are given a map to find your favorites. It’s bigger than anything I could have imagined and more than any person can cover in a month, let alone three days. You can tell who the popular breweries are by the length of lines, though it boggles my mind why anyone would wait in line when there are literally thousands of options within arms reach. Craft beer is a lot of science with very little logic. Looking around, I begin to see for the first time just how diverse the industry is in America. I have never seen so many nuances of white bearded men. They’ve got long beards, short beards, neckbeards, tall white guys, short white guys, bald white guys, fat white guys, red flannels, blue flannels, green flannels, and more work boots than you can shake a stick at! My mind is playing tricks on me. I find myself excited to see people I know at this festival, only to realize upon closer inspection that they are not the beard I’m familiar with. This is going to be a long trip.
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Oct 3, 5:30 p.m.: I run into a familiar group of Black people called the Brewing Change Collaborative, whose mission is to “foster diversity, equity and inclusion for people of color in the brewing industry through advocacy, outreach and education.” I first met this group at Fresh Fest. They were given tickets to this event by Craft x EDU, whose mission is to champion “inclusion, equity, and justice in the craft beer community through education and professional development.” The effort is headed by Dr. J. Nikol Beckham and sponsored by New Belgium. The initiatives of these groups are clearly working, because without these 12 people of color, I’m not sure there would be any at all in attendance, besides Garrett Oliver and myself. Speaking of which, we should go grab a diversity photo with him for the interwebs. Oct 3, 10 pm: Weed and tequila. Oct 4, 2 am: Weed and beer. Oct 4, 4 am: Weed and dinner. Oct 4, 9 a.m.: Weed and breakfast. Oct 4, Noon: Weed and Black American West Museum. Oct 4, 5:30 p.m.: Beer and beards. Oct 4, 10 p.m.: Weed and beer. We’re at Epic Brewing following day 2 of GABF. We’ve met up with Dom “Doochie” Cook of Beer Kulture, a lifestyle brand and craft beer consulting agency whose mission likely includes diversity, equity, inclusion, blah blah blah. You getting the gist of this? Black people are sick of drinking alone, and they are making concerted efforts to bring others with them. Doochie and I have a passionate conversation about the direction of the industry and how to best carve out a place for our people. If you’re into books, I recommend his work.
Oct 5, Midnight: Falling Rock Tap House is touted as the best watering hole in Denver. It has to be, Garrett Oliver is here. I also run into the bro gods from Warcloud Brewing. The Slow Pour Pils is a house favorite. It takes five minutes to pour with a frothy head that’s worth the wait. Oct 5, 11 a.m.: Weed and Mexican food. Oct 5, Noon: Beer and beards. Oct 5, 4 p.m.: Raices, Spanish for roots, is the first Latinx owned brewery in Colorado. The co-owner, Jose Beteta, is also founder of the first Latinx festival in America, Suave Fest. The beer is delicious, the music is ethnic, and the vibe is communal. I’m given a tour of the place by Quique Iglesias, who owns Olentangy Brewing in Columbus and is also credited for opening Dacay, the first craft brewery in Puerto Rico. Tamil Maldonado, co-owner of Raices, tells me that they want to focus on her culture, while building a space that is welcoming to all. She considers her brewery to be a multicultural community center and hopes to empower the people in her neighborhood through craft beer. Oct 5, 8 p.m.: Weed and music. Red Rocks is an amphitheater cut into a mountain overlooking Denver. The acoustics and scenery are unmatched by any I’ve ever witnessed. If you ever get a chance to visit Denver, don’t leave without visiting this unique space. Oct 5, 11 p.m.: I’m sharing a Lyft with some gals from the concert on their way to more fun. I’m on my way to bed, with a 5am flight. Before I get out, I offer the driver the last of my weed, about 3 grams. “I leave in the morning and I can’t fly with flower. Do you want it?” His face says, “Five stars.”
NEIGHBORHOOD HAUNTS ANGELO'S II IN MONONGAHELA BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
appy October! It’s the H month for all things spooky, so each week we’ll be
exploring one of Pittsburgh’s favorite neighborhood ‘haunts’! This week we visit Angelo’s 2, where the hauntings are so bad, the Ghostbusters showed up! A little restaurant in Monongahela is causing quite the stir. Angelo’s II has been serving up fine Italian dinners for over 50 years, and now it all comes with a side of whoa, in the form of giant green tentacles. Owner Ryan Dzimiera decided to take his Halloween decorating next level this year. What started as a way to delight local customers quickly picked up steam, and people have been coming from all over to see the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the roof and the tentacles spilling out of the third story windows. The migration of folks to Monongahela has been fueled by an avalanche of press, both local and national. Jacqueline Inserra, a server at Angelo’s II, said it’s been surreal. “We never thought it would spread like this.” It’s a
small, close staff, and the group chat they all share started to blow up with updates. “Every couple minutes it was something different. CNN called. Fox News called. Time Magazine. It was crazy.” Just this past Saturday they had a visit from the Steel City Ghostbusters. The Steel City Ghostbusters are exactly what you think they are; a group of fun-loving Ghostbusters fans who enjoy dressing up as the iconic spirit-chasers. Austin Savatt, event coordinator for Steel City Ghostbusters, explains the group formed in 2008, when a group Halloween costume suddenly became so much more. “Their outfits were such a hit that they were invited to appear at other events such as parades, parties, charity events and movie showings of the classic film.” These aren’t your average costumes, either. They are film-quality, including the gear. And of course they have an Ecto-vehicle. Savatt said their fans started flooding them with messages about a possible haunting at Angelo’s II. Asked what the reaction
was when they showed up, Savatt says it was “instant smiles.” “Fans love interacting with us, experiencing the nostalgia of the classic films, exchanging jokes back and forth, and asking how we crafted our gear. It's one of the best things about the hobby to be able to interact with people who are just going about their normal routine, and show them something out of the ordinary that brings a sense of joy and a bit of levity to their day.” And that’s what the over-thetop decorations are all about; a sense of joy. To Dzimiera, Angelo’s II isn’t just a restaurant, it’s his life’s work. Dzimiera started working at Angelo’s II when he was 15, eventually moving on to bartending, then managing, then purchasing the restaurant in 2011. The original Angelo’s opened in 1957 but moved during a bout of construction, thus the addition of the II. The location and owners might
have changed, but the dedication to traditional Italian fare has not. The menu has everything you would expect, like spaghetti, chicken parm, garlic knots and pizza. Because it’s Western Pennsylvania, there is also pierogies. An informal poll of diners gave high marks to the gnocchi and the meatballs, if you’re looking for suggestions. And if you’re looking for ghosts? According to Savatt, it’s possible. “We were informed by multiple patrons that the area was indeed haunted, and definitely got very high readings of supernatural activity. So much so that we might have to plan a return trip this Halloween season!” Think your neighborhood ‘haunt’ should be featured next? Email your idea to bethany@ pittsburghcurrent.com.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
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CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.
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EXTRA Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
’m a Seattle local who basically grew up reading your column. I think you’ve always given really sound advice, so I’m reaching out. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. We started out poly, but I was clear from the start that when I fall in love with someone, I lose all attraction to anyone other than that one person. I fell in love with him, and we decided to be monogamous. But I know he’s still attracted to other people, and it makes me feel like ending the relationship. I love him like I’ve never loved anyone else, but because he doesn’t feel the same way I do on this subject, I don’t believe he loves me at all. I don’t feel like I can bring it up with him, because it will just make him feel bad for something he probably can’t control, and I don’t think I can make him love me. But I also feel like I’m wasting my time and living a lie. Help! Heartbroken Over Nothing This thing about you—how being in love with someone renders you incapable of finding anyone else attractive—that’s pretty much a uniqueto-you trait. The overwhelming majority of even the blissfully-in-loves out there still find other people attractive. And you should know that if you grew up reading my column. You should also know that a monogamous commitment doesn’t mean you don’t want to fuck other people, HON, it means you’ve promised not to fuck other people. We wouldn’t have to make monogamous commitments if sincere feelings of love extinguished all desire for others. Since no one is ever going to love you in precisely the same way you love them—since no one else is ever going to meet the impossible standard you’ve set—every person you fall in love with will disappoint you. Every potential
love arrives pre-disqualified. You meet someone, you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, you are not attracted to others, they still are, you have no choice but to dump that person and start all over again. Lover, rinse, repeat. Zooming out: People who create impossible standards for romantic partners—standards no one could ever hope to meet—usually don’t want to be in committed relationships but can’t admit that to themselves. We’re told good people want to be in committed relationships, and we all want to think of ourselves as good people. So someone who doesn’t want a longterm commitment either has to think of themselves as a bad person, which no one wants to do, or has to redefine for themselves what it means to be a good person, which can be hard work. But there’s a third option: set impossible standards for our romantic partners. And then, when all of our romantic partners fail to meet our impossible standards, we can tell ourselves we’re the only truly good person as we move through life breaking the hearts of anyone foolish enough to fall in love with us. So while my hunch is that it’s not your partner who is incapable of loving you, HON, but you who are incapable of loving him, you’re free to prove me wrong. One way we demonstrate our capacity to truly love someone is by believing them when they say they love us. That’s step one. Step two is accepting that someone’s love for us is legitimate even if they don’t experience or express love in precisely the same way we do. ******** My father passed away recently. I received a contract to sell his house, and soon I’ll have to clean the place out. My question is this: What to do with a dead relative’s porn? I don’t want to keep it, I don’t want to waste it by just putting it in
26 | OCTOBER 15, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
the trash, I can’t donate it to the library. There’s nothing especially collectible in it, so eBay is out. Maybe someone would buy the lot of it on Craigslist, but I’m not entirely clear what the legalities are for selling secondhand porn out of the back of a car, let alone what the potential market might be. I mean, how many folks are looking to buy a deceased elderly man’s former wank bank? I’m certain I’m only the most recent in a long line of folks to find themselves in this situation. Any advice for finding the porn a new home, or is it a bad idea to even try? Added difficulties: smallish town, Midwestern state, and I’m his only living family member. Rehoming Inherited Pornography You would be in the same predicament if you had lots of living family members. I have an enormous family—lots of aunts and uncles, countless cousins—and “Who wants the porn?” isn’t a question I’ve ever heard asked at an elderly relative’s wake. And that can’t be because none of my elderly relatives had porn stashes; the law of averages dictates that at least one and probably more dead Savages (RIP) had massive porn stashes, which means whoever cleaned out the apartment or house quietly disposed of the porn. And that’s what you should do. If you’re concerned about your dad’s porn “going to waste,” dispose of it in a conspicuous manner, e.g., drop it off at a recycling center in open boxes or clear bags. Maybe a worker or someone else making a drop-off will spot the porn and decide to rescue it from the pile. And, hey, my condolences on the death of your father. ******** I went on Grindr just before Xmas last year, this handsome dude messaged me, and we ended up hooking up at his place. It was apparent from the get-go that this was no regular hookup. We didn’t even have sex. We just kissed and talked and cuddled for six straight hours. Sounds perfect, right? Well, at about hour five, in the middle of this surprisingly deep conversation, he said something that made my head spin. I asked him how
old he was. “Twenty-one,” he replied. Holy shit. He asked how old I was. “Fifty.” Neither of us had our age on Grindr. He looked about 30 to me. He said he thought I was in my late 30s. It was basically love at first sight for us. After nine months of trying to keep a lid on our feelings, he moved away and found a guy close to his own age, which I strongly encouraged. Before they became an official couple, we went on a goodbye walk, which was full of love and tears. We agreed to do the “no contact” thing for one month (he thought three was extreme). But here’s my issue: I’m in love with him. I’ve been incredibly sad since we last spoke about three weeks ago. It’s a week until the agreed upon day when we can say hi if we want to, and I don’t want to. I can’t. I have to let him go. I know he’s going to want to talk, but I’m afraid if I have any contact with him, it will set me back and I won’t want to stop. It’s taken all my willpower to not contact him so far. My question: How do I let him know I don’t want any further contact without hurting him? Impossible Love Sucks Call the boy, ILS, ask him to meet up, and tell him you made a mistake. Yes, you’re a lot older, and the age difference may be so great that you two aren’t going to be together forever. But maybe you’re perfect for each other right now. A relationship doesn’t have to end in a funeral home with one person in a box to have been a success. If you have three or four great years together before the window in which your relationship makes sense closes, ILS, then you had some great years together. People get it into their heads that they can’t enter into a relationship unless they can picture it lasting “forever,” when really nothing is forever. To quote the great James Baldwin: “Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?” On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Joan Price about senior lovin’: savagelovecast. com.
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