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NEARLY A YEAR IN, PENNSYLVANIA’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW STILL HAS ISSUES TO WORK OUT
ucked into Penn Avenue in the Strip District, across from Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, sits another kind of dried flower shop: the CY+ Dispensary. Owned by Cresco Labs, the medical cannabis retail store opened in June 2018 and several months later they established the
BY ALYSE HORN-PYATT - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Education Center next door. Cresco Yeltrah’s dispensary in Butler, the name Chicago-based Cresco Labs operates under in Pennsylvania, was the first to sell medical cannabis in PA in February 2018. Since then,more than 134,000 patients have registered with the
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program and more than 2.3 million products have been sold. “Realizing 100,000 patient certifications and seeing the first Phase II grower and processor operationalized is a testament to the hard work of the Department of Health, the many advocates for this program, and our General Assembly
who passed this legislation nearly three years ago,” Governor Tom Wolf said in an April press release. “It’s progress that is making a difference in the lives of many Pennsylvanians.” Dr. Lauren Vrabel, director of patient care at CY+ Dispensary in the Strip District, says she became a pharmacist to help people with their
medical conditions, but didn’t think big pharmaceutical companies were “doing the best job of that.” “For the first time I’ve been able to genuinely help patients and see their progress and quality of life improve,” Vrabel says. Currently there are 21 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, including severe chronic pain, HIV/ AIDS, and epilepsy, and under the recommendation of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Board anxiety and Tourette syndrome may be added to the list. Nate Wardle, press secretary for the Department of Health, says these two conditions are still under review. Theresa Nightingale, patient acquisition specialist for the PA Medical Marijuana Education Center and local cannabis activist, says in general she thinks the state is doing a good job at promoting the program, but they could make the registration process easier. Right now if patients are having a difficult time signing up for a medical marijuana ID card or renewing, which they must do online, they are asked to send an email to the health department and can get stuck playing the waiting game. There is also a phone number to call, but Nightingale says most patients are met with an answering machine and it takes a long time to get a call back. In Pittsburgh, patients are able
to utilize the education center to register, find a physician, and troubleshoot the system, but it’s the only resource of its kind in the state. Ashley Corts, a medical marijuana patient and owner of Black Forge Coffee House, says cards must be renewed annually and she is currently in the process of doing so. She says registration was pretty simple, but an issue that she has run into is that patients must login to their account every four months or it is deactivated, and hers was. Now that she can’t login to the medical marijuana program website, she can’t renew her medical card and she is having trouble getting information on how to reactivate her account. “The issue I’m having right now is hoping someone contacts me and makes this a smooth process,” Corts says. Product consistency has also been an issue, Nightingale says, with not enough growers and processors making high-CBD products. (CBD is a cannabinoid, a natural component of the cannabis plant believed to have health benefits.) “Some people are very particular with what strains they’re looking for,” Nightingale says. “With conditions like epilepsy, you can’t be mixing and matching strains.” Corts uses cannabis to treat chronic pain and posttraumatic stress disorder and says there have
been times when she’s visited the dispensary to find a strain she liked wasn’t in stock or had been discontinued. Although inconvenient, Corts says employees are knowledgeable and helpful in finding other strains that works for her. Overall, the biggest concern for patients has been the price. The medical marijuana ID card costs $50, and there is assistance for individuals who participate in select government programs like Medicaid, but Corts says it will cost her $125 to renew her card and the initial visit to a certified doctor was around $200. As for cannabis products, Corts says an eighth of flower is around $65 depending on the strain, but as the industry grows there is the hope it will become more affordable. “The market in Pennsylvania is based on the free market, where people have the ability to go to the dispensary they feel offers the best product and best price to address their serious medical condition,” Wardle says. “We anticipate that as the market grows with more grower/ processors and more dispensaries, that the price will decrease.” Wardle says there are 13 operational growers/processors out of 25 in the state, but operational doesn’t necessarily mean the facility is producing. Harvest Health & Recreation, one of the largest cannabis companies in the country, announced in a press release on April 9 that they would be acquiring CannaPharmacy, Inc., the parent company of Franklin Labs LLC that operates a cultivation facility in Reading. Over a year ago, the 47,000-square-foot facility was slated as operational but has not provided cannabis to any dispensary in Pennsylvania. “The difference comes between being operational and shipping product,” Wardle says. Currently 10 of the 25 cultivation facilities are “shipping” product. The three that are not are AgriMed, Franklin Labs, and FarmaceuticalRX. Harvest also touted the ownership of 21 dispensaries in
Pennsylvania when the state medical marijuana law allows only 15 dispensaries per company. Harvest was able to bypass the limitation through a loophole and applied for the dispensary permits using limited liability companies, making each permit application considered a separate business. According to Philly.com, the state’s medical marijuana program responded to Harvest’s claims by issuing a letter that says, “Because each business is recognized as a separate legal entity under law, the department expects each to operate as independent entities as represented in the permit applications. Any continued misrepresentation that these entities are one and the same will be construed as a falsification of the permit applications and will result in the office taking action against each entity, including possible revocation of permits.” The state also reiterated that the Franklin Labs’ grow permit is “nontransferable under Section 603(B) of the Medical Marijuana Act,” according to Philly.com. The Medical Marijuana Act allows for 25 grower/processors and 50 dispensary permits all of which have been granted, and each dispensary is able to open three locations. Patients are currently not allowed to grow their own plants for personal use, but there is a bill in the House and the Senate, HB 50 and SB 350, that has started the discussion. Both bills call for cannabis legalization in the state allowing people to grow up to six plans for personal use and SB 350 would permit “micro-growers” to cultivate cannabis in their homes and sell to processors and dispensaries. Another important aspect of both bills is that individuals with previous criminal convictions for cannabis-related offenses would be automatically expunged—something that is currently keeping people out of the cannabis industry.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 7
THE HIGH ROAD
MAPPING THE PATH TO FULL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION IN PENNSYLVANIA COMPILED BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
There was a time in Pennsylvania when it looked like medical marijuana would never become legal in the state. Despite anecdotal evidence that the plant worked for a whole host of ailments, that law was blocked for a long time thanks to the piety and self-righteousness of state politicians, predominantly legislators on the right. Particularly those in leadership. At the end of the day, we finally got an imperfect bill saturated with red tape, hoops to jump through and a limited number of conditions that the medication can be prescribed for. But, most importantly, it eventually passed and a lot of seriously ill people got the medication they needed, especially kids with debilitating seizure disorders who finally received medical treatments chosen by their doctors, not elected officials. It didn’t take long, however, for the conversation to begin about full marijuana legalization. More citizens and elected officials than ever before in Pennsylvania are getting on board with at least exploring legalization. Locally, state reps like Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley have been at the forefront of this movement. On the state level, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman began the year pushing the agenda at town hall “listening tours.” And Auditor General Eugene Depasquale has been touting the financial benefits of legalization for the past several years. Adding to that, legalization would end unnecessary prosecutions for marijuana-related crimes, mainly possession. These arrests, convictions and sentences have been proven time and again to be racially biased. Full legalization is the only way to stop this from happening. The City of Pittsburgh decriminalized marijuana in 2015 -- reduced the penalty for weed possession to basically a traffic violation -- but the number of arrests actually increased and more than 50 percent of those arrested were black, according to a 2018 CityLab article. African Americans, meanwhile, make up just 13 percent of Allegheny County’s population. The fact is, full legalization will come to Pennsylvania, just like the legalization of medical cannabis, it’s just a matter of time. How much time, is the real question and these are things that need to happen and the questions that need to be answered before marijuana becomes legal.
CONVERSATION Thanks to folks like state Gainey, Wheatley and Fetterman and groups like Pittsburgh NORML, we began discussing this issue a few years ago. We need to cut through the red tape and get rid of laws on cannabis that are selectively enforced and ruin lives for no reason. “We need to cut through the red tape and get rid of laws on cannabis that are selectively enforced and ruin lives for no reason,” Gainey said in January. “We need to move away from the harmful rhetoric from those who would even refuse to have a conversation, and engage in a genuine examination of the benefits of legalization.” Fetterman’s listening tours have also allowed the message to reach a wider audience as has Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to study the issue and keep an open mind. Thats a big change from when Wolf first ran for governor in 2014. At that time, candidate John Hanger was the only candidate touting this issue and he was considered a fringe candidate at the time.
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This step is already well underway. Wheatley and Gainey led the charge in the house earlier this year when they introduced House Bill 50. The proposed law would direct taxes collected from marijuana sales to go toward affordable housing and debt relief for college students. In the state senate, Democratic Reps Daylin Leach and Sharif Street brought their own bill to the table,Senate Bill 350. Both proposals will go through its chambers’ proper committees as well as receive vetting at public hearings.
COOPERATION Medical cannabis would have never been legalized without support from both sides of the aisle. Leach, for example, had been introducing medical cannabis bills for several years before it was finally passed. The reason it passed was because Republican state Rep. Mike Folmer joined the cause. But this time around, Folmer isn’t on the green side of things. He told the Lebanon Daily News earlier this year that he was worried that full legalization would adversely affect medical cannabis research and product development. Other Republicans were even more fired up in December when Wolf announced full legalization should be studied. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the response: “swift and especially combative.” Centre County Republican Jake Corman spouted the usual, debunked reefer madness nonsense that opponents have been yelling about for years. He said Wolf’s “new position on the issue of legalizing the drug for recreational use is reckless and irresponsible. Recreational marijuana is a mind-altering narcotic which will harm our youth as it is a depressant and a gateway drug to other illegal substances.” Obviously this is the biggest hurdle.
MONETIZATION There was a time not too long ago when our elected officials would get all bent out of shape whenever the subject of legalized gambling would come up. At one point, no one thought it would ever be legalized … and then they realized how much money was involved. Now you can gamble on slots and table games in casinos, bet on sports, play lottery scratch offs from your computer and soon, you’ll be able to do all of this from your computer. All because the state needed the money. Depasquale has said the state could get more than half a billion dollars from legal weed. Say that estimate is high, what state can’t use an extra $200- or $300 billion every year. Even our most morally righteous state officials will likely put up with a little puff-puff- give for that kind of dough.
If there is a progressive idea floating around out there, Pennsylvania is usually one of the last states to get on board. That delay in this case will cost them several hundred-million dollars each year they fight the inevitable. Once they realize that, we’re home free. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 9
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MAY 1991 BY ARYANNA BERRINGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT POLITICAL COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ive police cars with lights flashing were parked in the driveway as a white Nissan Sentra pulled in behind them; four kids taking up the extra seats. There stood a black man with his hands cuffed behind his back while officers pulled everything from the home--what looked to be a rented flute used for performances in the elementary school band, an old desktop computer, and a turquoise Jansport backpack. As they pushed the black man’s head down to be placed in the back of the car, his eyes caught those of his daughter’s, and shame washed over his face. I was nine years old and that man was my father. He was being arrested for possession of marijuana. I see this picture, this one
moment in our life, often. It shaped much of who I am today and how I view the world. To be honest, when states started to legalize marijuana, I wasn’t for it. I watched the felony conviction of my father limit his ability to participate in what so many of us take for granted--getting a decent job, renting a home, even decades later trying to own a rifle to hunt. Or, hell, even running for office if he wanted to. My family was eventually ripped apart, partially due to that prison sentence and conviction. My parents divorced a few years later, but that conviction followed him for the rest of his life. My husband, Daren and I, had a long conversation over legalization back in 2013. One of those conversations that was full
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of emotion, tears, anger, and in the end, thoughtful reflection. I couldn’t see how something that for all intents and purposes ruined my family could be good for anyone. In that conversation with Daren, he helped me to realize that it wasn’t the possession of marijuana that was bad or the use thereof, but the systems in place that ensured my father, a black man, was fined and jailed. The laws that disportionately target people like my father,despite equal rates of usage is what is wrong. Black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites and those statistics are from 20 years after my father’s arrest. So I can only surmise that in 1991 the rates were higher than 2001 or 2011. This brings us to today. Last July I wrote about what I felt would be a viable path for legalization in Pennsylvania that also ensured that we properly invested the revenue into programs that made us stronger as a commonwealth right here in the Pittsburgh Current. It was what I campaigned on for Lt. Governor and as the first candidate in that race to call for legalization, I took a different approach than others who came after me. It isn’t just about economics, but
it’s about people’s lives. It’s about ensuring those like my dad who were charged with a felony could after legalization be a fully functioning member of society again. So as politicians go on “listening tours” and bring forth bills, I sincerely hope they take a couple of simple, yet powerful steps. 1. Review criminal convictions for marijuana charges and expunge the records of individuals who are serving and or served time for possession of marijuana. 2. As small businesses are granted licenses to sell marijuana that preference is given to applicants of color. I’m incredibly hopeful by the appointment by Lt. Governor John Fetterman of Brandon Flood as the Secretary of the Board of Pardons. I’ve gotten to know Brandon and he is a true champion for criminal justice reform. I believe that he has the insight and pragmatism as someone who served eight years in prison for drug and gun-related charges starting at the age of 22, to reflect and ensure that people like him and my father are given the second chances they’ve earned.
PUZZLING MOTIVES BY JESS SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
e all know the familiar pattern of checking out at a store and getting asked by a cashier to donate a small amount to a charity or foundation. “Would you like to donate a dollar to cervical cancer awareness?” Sure. “Round up to the next dollar to end hunger?” I mean, of course. I don’t mind donating a small amount to a good cause. Especially when I’m checking out at Target. “No, I don’t want to give a dollar, just ring me up for that footstool (which I needed!) and this oil diffuser, cat socks, jelly face mask (whatever that is) and a fuzzy phone charger (okay I didn’t need these).” But why not? That small amount is going to a good cause, right? The problem is, sometimes it doesn’t. A few days ago I had the exact scenario above play out at a TJ Maxx. As the cashier was ringing up my one essential item and the rest of my impulse buys, she said, “April is Autism Awareness Month. Would you like to donate to Autism Speaks?” I told her, “no.” As I was grabbing my shopping bag, I fumbled some words about how I had some autistic friends explain to me that Autism Speaks, the organization identified by a blue puzzle piece logo, is actually widely abhorred by autistic people. Less than an hour later, I was at Panera, and a large banner with pictures of cookies with blue puzzled pieces was on display. Damn, Autism Speaks really dominates the conversation, and the donation dollars when it comes to autism. It sounds great to donate to an organization helping out autistic folks and their families, right? As a neurotypical person, I wouldn’t have given this a second thought unless I had some friends talk negatively about the organization. I did a cursory dig, and discovered that
despite all of their fundraising, less than two percent of Autism Speaks’ budget goes to family services. Worse, I found that only a couple Autistic people have ever been on their board. In fact, noted Autistic advocate John Elder Robison was on their board and eventually left because he said they didn’t listen to him or other Autistic individuals, and he said he felt alienated because they continued to talk about Autism as a tragedy, a problem, and something to cure. “Autism Speaks is the only major medical or mental health nonprofit whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a large percentage of the people affected by the condition they target,” Robinson wrote in his resignation letter to the board. It is a red flag when any organization purports to advocate for a group that isn’t present and prominent in its leadership. Alternatively, we have an organization right here that is run by and for Autistic adults. The Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA) does peer support, self-advocacy training, resource coordination, legislative advocacy, and training and professional development for organizations. I spoke with Bethany Ziss, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, disabled person, and a board member for PCAA. “A major tenet of the disability rights movement,” she explained to me “is nothing about us, without us.’ People with disabilities should be the ones most centrally involved in advocacy efforts related to disability… At the most basic level, what’s often missing is the perspective of autistic people.” Jess Benham, an autistic woman, Director of Development for the PCAA, and a teaching Fellow at Pitt echoed this as well. “I’m tired of politicians ‘lighting it up for blue’
for a day or for the month, then not listening when I’m in their offices advocating for the issues that impact our lives. Autistic people need seats at the table where decisions are being made about us, not a month in which public figures and Autism organizations highlight negative stereotypes.” A common theme when talking to actual autistic folks about this month, is that they’d much prefer “Autism Acceptance” or “Appreciation Month.” “Awareness” is a word we use to talk about negative things like sexual assault, domestic violence, cancer and other diseases. We shouldn’t be talking about neurodivergent people like this. It’s stigmatizing and reeks of fear mongering. What does it look like to appreciate autistic folk rather than be aware? Ziss said that acceptance is about “how non-autistic people can better understand their autistic family members, co-workers, neighbors, and support and accommodate them.” She gave an example of the contrast. “A poster that says ‘Lack of eye contact is a sign of autism,’ that’s awareness. What’s missing is the poster that says, ‘Eye contact can be uncomfortable or painful for autistic people. It can be very difficult for an autistic person to look and listen at the same time.’ That centers the experience of the autistic person. The problem isn’t the lack of eye contact, but that eye contact is expected even though it causes distress and problems.” The final person I wanted to hear from is Cori Frazer, PCAA Executive Director and licensed social worker. I asked how they felt about Autism Awareness Month. “It’s ironic, because running an Autistic-led organization, April is a great time for PR, but it’s painful. There is just no other time of the year when the misinformation is so loud or so ubiquitous.” In terms of how PCAA reframes this, Frazer said. “We’ve worked hard to reclaim it as Autism Acceptance Month by running events reframing the issue.
Like everyone is aware of this big blue puzzley terror, but what if we teach folks what autism is and how to make the world a better place to navigate for Autistic folks?” It is important to counter the doom and gloom of Autism Speaks with positivity and affirmation. “We need people who know how to unabashedly love their brain because young people are watching and learning how to feel about their disabilities,” Frazer said. I asked Ziss how to tell whether a group is worth supporting. “In terms of alternative groups, I always ask three questions. Who is running the group, what are their goals and what are their methods? For disability advocacy, this means supporting groups run by and for disabled people and that don’t use language of tragedy to describe disabled lives.” Which leads us back to the dreaded blue puzzle piece. “The ‘puzzle piece’ reinforces harmful narratives about Autism,” Benham says. “I’m not missing part of myself, nor is Autism holding me captive: I’m a whole human being with strengths, and yes, with weaknesses as well.” Forget the puzzle piece. Here are a host of autism acceptance organizations you should support instead: • • • •
Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network Autistic Self-Advocacy Network Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy Self Advocates United
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 13
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at Schenley Plaza in Oakland. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
BY MEG FAIR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
t’s hard not to feel energized by the future that presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, describes. “We are fighting to save the planet...to end racism, and sexism and homophobia. In this pivotal moment...let us stand together,” Sanders told a diverse crowd of 4,500 Sunday at Schenley Plaza in Oakland. “Let us go together to become the beautiful nation we can become.” Although Sanders spoke for nearly an hour, the crowd stayed invested the whole time. His speech reflected his 2016 platform: Medicare for all, tuition-free public universities, a livable federal wage, immigration and prison reform. The Sanders “pre-show,” included speakers Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico, Ohio Sen.Nina Turner and a Pitt grad student who is looking to unionize the school’s grad-school workers.
The crowd was energized, cheering along with Yulín Cruz that Sanders was the only man that could “get the job done.” “Feel the Bern” chants erupted throughout the event and between speakers. Senator Turner lit a fire in the crowd when she announced that the campaign was “waging a war on a system rigged against working class people.” As a young queer person, saddled with college debt, who lives paycheck to paycheck, it is empowering to be acknowledged by an outstanding Democratic presidential hopeful. To hear that a candidate wants to end rigged, money-based politics, focus on people power, and tackle income inequality is thrilling. Ending racism? Yes! Ending voter suppression? Yes! Stopping attacks on access to abortion? Yes! Abolishing private prisons and reforming an inherently racist criminal justice system? Yes! Yes! Yes!
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When a fired-up crowd of hopeful people look on at the person they think can change the world and it doesn’t feel fraudulent, there’s some magic happening there. I’d argue that Sanders and those in his campaign would say it’s not just him, but all of those invested in the message and the goals who will change the world, and that’s why the campaign is so amped up. That being said, there are tiny points here and there that felt a little incomplete. Sanders definitely peppered reminders of the persistence of institutional racism, and Turner called for a moment of silence for Antwon Rose II, but the event still began with the singing of the National Anthem. The song was written by a man who was a slaveholder. There’s something itchy about the cognitive dissonance between the message of the campaign that a progressive, beautiful future free of “-isms” is possible and what America is and has been--racist, colonial, rigged. For me, beginning with the National Anthem can feel like blind patriotism to a government that has never truly walked the talk of equality. To not play the national anthem would be absolutely radical and unacceptable to anyone moderate, so I understand why politicians do it. It just feels odd. And like Vince Staples said, “The national anthem don’t even slap.” Additionally, the campaign style of speech used a lot of binaries. Speakers used a lot of “brothers and sisters” and “ladies and gentleman,” which as someone who identifies as neither feels kind of strange, given that a strict gender binary is hardly progressive. Additionally, there was brief mention in opposition to the transgender military ban by other speakers, but generally people were “gay or straight” or the entire LGBTQIA community was lumped under the “gay” umbrella throughout Bernie’s speech. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t sound smooth or sexy if you stop and list every single oppressed group in the country, and I wouldn’t expect a candidate to list
every single subcategory within the LGBTQIA umbrella, but if the campaign is hoping to go truly radical, gender-neutral language and an acknowledgement of the institutional violence against trans people is a great first start. After all, the campaign seeks to give dignity and financial security to people who live paycheck to paycheck or in poverty, and the transgender poverty rate is double the national average. Ultimately it was a strong rally early in the campaign for Sanders as he seeks to help create Democratic support in the Great Lakes and Midwest region of the country. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the electoral cycle and the intensity and conflict it brings. It’s easy to be disillusioned by the whole political system--the mess that it is and the violence it inflicts. But when the sun comes out on thousands of smiling people with a shared dream of a better future on a day when it was supposed to thunderstorm, it’s hard not to feel a little hopeful.
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Supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at Schenley Plaza in Oakland. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 15
Inside rehearsal of “Indecent” at the Public Theatre (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
‘INDECENT’ BLURS LINE BETWEEN PLAY AND MUSICAL AT PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER
n Paula Vogel’s 2015 play Indecent, Reina—played by Emily Daly in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s upcoming production of the work— says “This will be the only role in my lifetime where I could tell someone I love that I love her onstage” when learning that she is being recast in the Broadway production of God of Vengeance, and can no longer share the stage with her real-life lover, Dine. For Daly, that’s true, without the recasting. She and Robert Tendy, who plays Avram, play a couple onstage and off, both making their Equity debut at the Public after both graduating from University of California-Irvine with an MFA in
BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM acting. “As actors, you use everything you’ve got and it only makes it easier to have someone you know and you trust playing on-stage couple,” she says. “That’s kind of the dream.” Daly and Tendy star in Indecent, which Pittsburgh Public Theater stages from April 18 to May 19. Based on a true story, the play centers around Sholem Asch’s controversial play “God of Vengeance,” where the cast for the original 1923 Broadway production was arrested on the charges of obscenity, based on its open depiction of same-sex love. Indecent—which was nominated for Best Play at the 2017 Tony Awards—combines pieces of Asch’s
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original drama with a biographical retelling and music, making a meta play-within-a-play-that’s-kind-of-amusical-but-also-not. In Indecent, Sholem Asch (Tendy) writes a play—God of Vengeance— about the love between a brothel owner’s daughter, Rifkele (Daly) and Manke (Meg Pyror), a prostitute. His wife, Madje (also played by Daly), is impressed with the play. Soon, it becomes popular throughout Europe and moves to Broadway. But Asch and the production face roadblocks when it reaches the Great White Way. The seven actors in the play— which include PPT veteran Laurie Klatscher and Ricardo Vila-Roger,
University of Pittsburgh Richard E. Rauh Teaching Artist-In-Residence— play more than 40 characters in total. According to Daly, who plays eight of those 40 characters, different dialects and costumes help put her into the headspace of playing each role. But, finding similarities between the women she plays—their youth, their innocence, their struggle with intimacy, discovering what it means to be in love and how to express that—allow her to balance each character’s arc in the storyline. “Actually coming from that place first has been helpful to say, ‘Okay, what do they have in common?’ and then kind of figuring out what makes them different,” she says.
According to Tendy, who plays six roles in total, it’s all about finding relationships between his characters and the other actors. “I feel like you know if I have status over somebody in one scene but then the next scene they have status over me we can sort of nicely meet in the middle and play off each other and tell that story,” he says. Tendy says that the play’s complexity—from themes of antiSemitism and homosexuality to the play’s complicated narrative structure—also challenge the actors to reach a deeper humanity in their characters. “It’s lots and lots of layers,” he says “And yet it can’t just be charactertures.” Indecent also features three musicians onstage, blurring the lines between play and musical. According to music director John McDaniel—a 1983 Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama graduate—the music’s underscoring heightens the tension and changes the mood of the show. “They always say, ‘if you make them laugh, you can then you can go for the jugular and make them cry.’ So I think the music goes a long way in the seduction of the audience,” he says. Along with playing multiple characters, the actors onstage sing and dance, making it feel like, “your brain is firing on all cylinders,” Daly says. “I’ve been joking to Rob and my parents and everyone that grad school kind of felt like the training and this is the Olympics,” she says. According to Tendy, this helps him imagine what it’s like to be one of the performers they play. “The story is about a classic troupe of actors who have to do it all,” he says, “And we have to do it all.”
Pittsburgh Public Theater. 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. April 18 through May 19. $30-$80. www.ppt.org or 412-316-1600.
April 27, 30; May 3, 5 at the Benedum Center Tickets start at $14 • Half-price for kids & teens pittsburghopera.org • 412.456.6666 SEASON SPONSOR
TUESDAY NIGHT SPONSOR: AMBRIDGE REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION & MANUFACTURING CENTER
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 17
Robert Priore’s Casita, Dancers: Matthew Saggiomo, Aleigh Hawkins, Shawn Cusseaux, Athena Flournoy, Robert Clores, Joi Ware
POINT PARK CONSERVATORY DANCE COMPANY SET TO CLOSE OUT 2018-19 SEASON
oint Park’s student Conservatory Dance Company closes out its dynamic 2018-19 celebrating the opening of the University’s new 60 million dollar Pittsburgh Playhouse at Fourth and Forbes Avenues with its Spring Dance Concert, April 18-21 at the Playhouse’s PNC Theatre. Following in the footsteps of prior programs on the season, the Spring Dance Concert is a mixed repertory program featuring works by high profile choreographic names and Point Park alumni.
BY STEVE SUCATO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT DANCE WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM One of the biggest names in dance, Christopher Wheeldon, the 2015 Tony Award-winning choreographer for An American in Paris and artistic associate of The Royal Ballet, puts CDC’s dancers to the test in his ballet “The American.” Premiered by Carolina Ballet in 2001, the 26-minute ballet derives its title from and is set to Antonin Dvorak’s “String Quartet in F Major Op. 96 (American Quartet)”. Says former New York City Ballet dancer Michele Gifford who staged the ballet on a dozen (six male/female
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couples) of CDC’s dancers, it gets its inspiration from “America’s topography and skylines”. One of two works on program by former Point Park students, visiting teaching artist in Jazz and 1999 graduate Kiki Lucas’ “The Vessel” has had several iterations since its premiere by Houston Metropolitan Dance Company in 2013 that featured male soloist and fellow Point Park faculty member Jason McDole. For this latest incarnation, Lucas has set three sections of the original 35-minute work on CDC’s
dancers that she felt were the most dynamic. Danced to original music by Ben Doyle and the United Kingdom’s Matthew Barnes (a.k.a. Forest Swords), the 11-minute excerpt for nine women and six men takes its inspiration from research Lucas did on “the learning patterns and trials and tribulations of kids with cochlear implants,” she says. A 2009 Point Park graduate, Robert Priore returns to stage his first work for CDC, “Casita”. Originally created on Priore’s
Robert Priore’s Casita, Robert Clores, Shawn Cusseaux, Matthew Saggiomo
Washington D.C.-based company PrioreDance in 2016, the work, says Priore via telephone from Washington, “The idea for the piece came from my small and humble beginnings [in Buffalo, NY] and also the story we tell and the family we build for ourselves.” The 23-minute work for multiple casts of five men and eight women is set to music by French-Lebanese musician Bachar Mar-Khalife and Yemenite-Israeli sister trio A-WA who sing in the Yemenite Arabic dialect while mixing in electronic dance music, hip-hop beats and folkloric melodies. Says Priore, “it looks at the relationships with the family you choose in life and not the one you are born into.” Rounding out the program will be Pittsburgh-native and 2013 MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Kyle Abraham’s “Drive” (2017). Danced to pulsating electronic music by Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep, the intense 15-minute work for eight dancers, says Abraham is an abstract statement on unity in the face of societal ills. Catherine Ellis Kirk, a dancer with Abraham’s company A.I.M who set the work on CDC says, “I spoke to the cast about the driving energy, intensity and community
within the work. I wanted the dancers to understand where we were coming from contextually and to live in the work confident in their identities. It’s important to see different folks represent their histories and take pride in who they are while connecting to people who are considered different from them. “Drive” is a fun, exciting work that brings people together, so I wanted to stress those aspects of the piece to the cast [in order] to take it to another level.”
Kyle Abraham’s Drive (L to R) Adrienne San Diego, Rebecca Garcia, Channce Williams
Be Greek for a Week St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Sunday, May 5 to Saturday, May 11
CONSERVATORY DANCE COMPANY PERFORMS ITS SPRING DANCE CONCERT, 8 p.m.,
Thursday, April 18 & Friday, April 19; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Saturday, April 20 and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 21. Pittsburgh Playhouse’s PNC Theatre, 350 Forbes Avenue, Downtown. Tickets are $20-24 and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Pittsburgh Playhouse box office at 412-392-8000 or by visiting pittsburghplayhouse. com.
Enjoy Wonderful Greek Food, Pastries & Lively Dancing SERVING HOURS Sunday: Noon to 8p Monday thru Thursday: 11a to 9p Friday & Saturday: 11a to 10p (music til midnight) LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
*St. Nicholas Cathedral is located on the corner of S. Dithridge St. and Forbes Ave., across from The Carnegie Museum.
Take-out available Monday through Friday Visit the FOOD FESTIVAL section of our website stnickspgh.org to place your ORDER ONLINE!* *Online orders can ONLY be picked up between 11a-2p & 5p-8p
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 19
Matthew Porter’s “Billy Goat Hill” will be at the PGH Photo Fair in the Carnegie Museum of Art April 27 and 28. (Photo by Matthew Porter)
THE PITTSBURGH PHOTO FAIR CONTINUES TO GROW IN ITS SEVENTH YEAR
he Pittsburgh Photo Fair is unlike any other celebration of photography. In fact, it is the only art event in the area that promotes photography. It is small and intimate, but draws quite an eclectic audience each year. Beginning in 2012, only six exhibitors were featured in the event. In its seventh year, the Pittsburgh Photo Fair has grown immensely and will feature 17 exhibitors. It is also the fifth year that the Carnegie Museum of Art will host the event in the Hall of Architecture.
BY MADELINE URY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT INTERN INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Co-director Casey Droege has been with the fair since 2016. In just three years she has witnessed how much it has evolved. “We have tried to bring in a range of galleries and exhibitors, and even just sort of more photo projects,” she says. Droege was originally approached by founder and codirector Evan Mirapaul to help with the 2016 fair. After a successful event, the two wanted to expand the fair and help maintain it as a longterm project. Moving the fair under
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Droege’s business Casey Droege Cultural Productions was the next step in doing so. Droege and Mirapaul work together to select the projects to put on display. The goal in making these selections is to connect the community and make the works feel as accessible as possible to the audience. When the work is accessible, the audience can always find something to relate to and appreciate. Droege explains that they work hard to maintain the original vision
of quality work and presenting topics that anyone can enjoy, even without an art or photography background. In preparation for the fair, the art and galleries are hand selected and invited by the directors themselves. The focus is typically on galleries, art dealers, collectives and photo focused projects. “The people we invite are asked to come because they show interesting work,” Droege explains. “We like what they present, and they’re good at talking about things in a way that is very accessible.”
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19
Sucks to Be an Animal
By Sienna Cittadino
by Andrew Schubert
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.
20 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENTemail: email@example.com
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21
series is one viewers won’t want to miss. The series features ordinary cars doing some impossible things against beautiful backgrounds. Porter’s series is just one of many exhibitions that audiences can enjoy throughout the weekend. While many exhibitors are traveling across the country for the event, it will also host a little piece of Pittsburgh, as the city’s own Silver Eye Center for Photography will be in attendance. Each will be unique and make viewers think, hopefully drawing them in with something they can connect with. As Droege emphasized, accessibility has
remained a constant, high priority for the event, and this year is no exception. For more information on the participating galleries and a schedule of events for the weekend, visit pghphotofair.com.
THE PGH PHOTO FAIR is at the
Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture on April 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission. pghphotofair.com
JOIN US AT THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION RESOURCE CENTER FOR ONGOING PROGRAMMING ON ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, DESIGN, URBAN PLANNING, AND OTHER TOPICS RELATED TO HOW CITIES FUNCTION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION AS A TOOL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.
THURSDAY, APRIL 18
6:00 P.M. TO 8:00 P.M.
FILM SCREENING: THE ART OF RECOVERY
THE CREATIVE AFTERSHOCKS OF A NATURAL DISASTER Kacper Kowalski’s “Seasons/Autumn #32” will be at the PGH Photo Fair in the Carnegie Museum of Art April 27 and 28. (Photo by Kacper Kowalski)
The energy of the fair is always lively and fun for people of all ages. Being held in a museum — a rarity among other photography exhibitions — a wide variety of people and families are constantly passing through. The bright, naturally lit Hall of Architecture creates an inviting atmosphere for lots of activity. “Our exhibitors often mention that our venue is the envy of many other fairs. We are proud of and grateful to the Carnegie for all of their support and curatorial guidance,” Mirapaul says. Droege explains that picking her favorite part of the event is tough, but what she really enjoys seeing is when audiences have somehow connected with one of the exhibitors, and they leave wanting to explore a topic in more depth.
“I really love when it just clicks for people,” Droege says. “Maybe they just find a really interesting photo book, and they leave the fair feeling really excited about what they found.” Leading up to the event, PGH Photo Fair hosts a monthly occuring lecture series at the Ace Hotel since February. Among the speakers have been writers, museum curators, photographers and more. The aim of the lecture series is “to augment the already rich art and photography scene in Pittsburgh with speakers who will focus on the nuts and bolts of collecting including connoisseurship, the state of the art and an insider’s view of the market.” On April 27, the first day of the fair, will be the final lecture in the series with Matthew Porter, an artist involved in film, whose Flying Car
From chaos came creativity and hope for a broken city. When a massive earthquake shook Christchurch city, in the South Island of New Zealand in 2011, razing much of the city to its foundations, a vibrant community-led effort grows out of the quake’s aftershocks to transform the urban wasteland of the central city into a giant canvas for people to express their responses to the earthquake and their hopes for the city. The Art of Recovery documents one of the most dynamic, creative, and contentious times in the history of Christchurch. It tells an uplifting story of resilience and community spirit that informs a greater conversation about how we live together, and how we build our cities. Winner of the best documentary at the Lund Architecture Film Festival (Sweden, 2016) and best feature of the New Urbanism Film Festival (Los Angeles, 2016), The Art of Recovery was made available to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation courtesy of Fisheye Films Ltd, New Zealand.
“AN EXHILARATING AFFIRMATION OF PEOPLE POWER.” PETER CALDER, NEW ZEALAND HERALD
THIS SCREENING IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPS ARE APPRECIATED: MARYLU@PHLF.ORG OR 412-471-5808 EXT, 527.
744 REBECCA AVENUE - WILKINSBURG, PA 15221 - 412-471-5808 PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 25
Brittney Chantele (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
BRITTNEY CHANTELE GOES POP WITH ‘A FIRE ON VENUS’
BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
rittney Chantele has been making music and performing in Pittsburgh for some time now. Chances are you’ve heard her music, or caught a performance. With her curly blond hair, oversized glasses, and signature bandana-as-a-headband, she is very recognizable. Her activism and involvement in social-justice causes have taken her all over the city, and she is very much a daughter of Pittsburgh (leaving out the fact she was born on Staten Island). This is why there are going to be a lot of people who need a minute to realize that the melodic, emotional voice singing the tracks on A Fire On Venus, being released this coming Friday is, indeed, Brittney Chantele. But it’s true. It’s her. Brittney Chantele has gone and made a pop album. And despite previous
offerings, it’s the kind of record she’s always wanted to make. “I think I’ve been struggling for many years on the confidence in my voice,” Chantele says. “I think it’s because I didn’t sound like this favorite artist of mine, or that favorite artist, [I thought] that meant my voice isn’t good.” She also points out the habit that many middle and high school choruses have of boxing kids into groups. “You’re a soprano, and you’re an alto,” she recalls hearing. “It can keep you from singing a different way, and that channeled me into not really being confident. I didn’t really know what my own voice could do, because I was so focused on singing this ‘chorus way.’” Knowing she wanted to get more confident in her voice, Chantele did what many of us do when we need to quickly master
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a new skill--she watched a bunch of videos on YouTube. And while they were helpful, she felt the lack of professional feedback was holding her back. At the urging of her producer, Remy Vega, Chantele got a vocal coach. The results were immediate. “After one lesson I could tell a difference. I was more confident,” she says. “I was able to sing in a way that didn’t hurt my vocal chords.” People who know and love her current music might be surprised to hear the reason behind the vocal lessons. “I haven’t been making the music that I really, really want to make,” she explains. And the songs she was making, which she loves, still didn’t sound the way they sounded in her head. “Even things on labels, like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Bridge of the Gods,’ if you were to hear me singing them in my
shower, it’s completely different than the recordings.’” It took her awhile to get there because, well, singing makes you very vulnerable. And now that she’s there, she doesn’t have any plans to retreat. Instead, it’s full speed ahead. “I’m trying to do big things,’ she explains with absolutely zero trace of an apology. ‘I’m not just trying to stay a Pittsburgh artist. Not a Pittsburgh pop artist, not a Pittsburgh R&B artist. I’m trying to win a Grammy. I love my full time job, but being an artist is my passion. It’s what drives me. It makes me feel complete. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. I can’t just do it part time. I can’t do it here and there.” But saying that doesn’t mean she wants to leave Pittsburgh. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Chantele has been frustrated over the lack of artist management professionals in Pittsburgh. “I’ve been looking in Pittsburgh, and I agree with Drake’s line, ‘I’d rather give that 15% to people I fuck with,’ she says. “But, with me as an emerging artist, I need a manager who has been in the business, who knows exactly what they’re doing, and who has the connections, to help me get to where I want to be.” Like, for instance, opening for Maggie Rogers when she’s here in September. Rogers is a big influence on Chantele, even if their music isn’t exactly similar, but, as Chantele points out, it’s not supposed to be the same. Rogers music and background definitely helped Chantele prepare to make the leap she did with A Fire on Venus. A Fire on Venus is Chantele’s most vulnerable album, not just because she sings, but because of the stories she tells. “I love love,” she says. “I’ve been off-and-on single for a really long time. I’ve just been so ready for a long-term relationship. I got goals, I got dreams, I want someone to ride along with me. I want to support someone else. I have a lot of love to give.” In the process of working through
that, her longing for a committed, monogamous relationship, and navigating the pitfalls of dating, Chantele has made a queer-love album. A queer-love pop album, to be totally accurate. “A lot of what’s on the radio, let’s be honest, is heteronormative love stories. We can always switch out the pronouns in our heads and make the song what we want it to be,’ she explains, ‘but sometimes, you know... that sucks.” Not content with opening herself up with her newly-found voice and openly queer-love pop album, Chantele decided to take on one more new, scary challenge. “I’ve recently tagged myself as a dancer. I’ve always been one, but never tagged myself as one,” she explains. “Dancing is something that makes me feel really free. I have fibromyalgia so my body always hurts. It’s just a fact. There is no day when my body doesn’t hurt. It’s just like how much does it hurt.” There are different events around the city, like Slackers and Bangers and Yes, Queen, that Chantele likes to attend, but not to drink, not to party, not to mingle. Chantele is
there for a very specific reason. She is there to release all of the stress and pressure from the week. She’s there for herself. “When I dance,” she said, “a really weird thing happens where I forget about my pain. Don’t get me wrong, I feel it after. Especially the next morning, my body hurts really bad. Dancing is really freeing for me. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true.” Chantele feels like she has a lot to say through her dance, and people attending her album release show on Friday the 19 at Cattivo will notice her set includes a dancer. Additionally, she will have an ASL interpreter for her entire set. Inclusion means a lot to Chantele, and she’s dedicated to making everyone feel welcome at her performances. Chantele wants what most everyone wants; acceptance, love, the ability to do what she loves… and a Grammy. She’s not afraid to take chances, she’s not afraid to take risks and be vulnerable. She knows what she wants, and with a Fire on Venus, she’s making big strides to go get it.
Pittsburgh based music artist Brittney Chantele photographed at a park in the city’s Garfield neighborhood. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
April 26 -28
SCHEDULE FRIDAY — APRIL 26, 2019 7:30PM Opening Night: KNIFE + HEART
ios The Alloy Stud e. 5530 Penn Av 15206 Pittsburgh, PA
Q Pr e
SATURDAY — APRIL 27, 2019
2PM Screening: THE COCKETTES 4:30-6:30PM: ASSEMBLE + PUFF QUEER ART & COMMUNITY MARKETPLACE 7:30PM Screening: NARCISSISTER ORGAN PLAYER
SUNDAY — APRIL 28, 2019 2PM Screening: DON’T BE NICE 5:30PM Screening: PITTSBURGH QUEER SHORT FILMS A collection of locally based short films focused on LGBTQ+ themes.
Art/Design by harleyskibicki.com and AramDesigns.com
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 27
Los Vampiros Amarillos
PITTSBURGH’S LOS VAMPIROS AMARILLOS INTRODUCE A NEW NAME AND A NEW ALBUM BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
n some ways, Los Vampiros Amarillos are new to the local music scene, even though they’ve been here for quite some time. Jesse Baldoni (guitar) and Ben Vivio (bass) began playing together in 2008, joined by Kevin Koch (drums) shortly thereafter. They’ve released a few CDs and a split single. But they decided to rebrand themselves once a national movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault utilized a variation on their band name: The Me Toos. Baldoni says the Me Toos might not have to explain themselves at a performance. “Everybody who’d come to see us knew that, in no way shape or form, were we trying to trivialize that, or make light of that,” he says. “But it became pretty apparent that it wasn’t appropriate.” Los Vampiros Amarillos, in contrast, might be harder to pronounce (vam-PEER-os ahmah-REE-os) but it easily reduces to “LVA.” Besides, the name also carries a bit of family history. Koch’s
father-in-law played in a Mexican garage band during the ’60s with the same name, covering bands like the Beatles and the Who. The Me Toos’ music had a similar link to British pop, so it seemed natural to take on the name. Man the Manipulator, the trio’s new 12-track album, shows the band moving in more of garage rock direction. On tracks like “Injury Is Likely” and “Hey Man” the guitars snarl all over the music. Baldoni seems fired up as well, though he’s not above delivering a straight forward vocal in “I Don’t Mind.” Some songs get in and get out in two minutes or less and the power chords and driving rhythm section maintain the pop essence throughout. Like most of their previous releases, the group recorded Man the Manipulator at Attic Studios, literally the third floor of Baldoni’s house. He used ProTools to capture the clarity of the band, but he also brought in a Tascam cassette four-track recorder to add some edge. “The tape speed is
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not consistent,” he says. “So it flutters in and out a bit, especially if you double-track it against something that’s digital. It comes in and out of phase. It creates an interesting effect.” The last three songs on the album veer more toward the cleaner pop of the band’s earlier work. “Break Me Shake Me” features Wendy Hickman of the band For Dizzier Heights as a guest vocalist, belting out a ’50s style ballad. For the finishing touch, they bid farewell to their previous life with “We Are the Meat Shoes.” While the lyrics might be a tad sentimental, the title originated in an auto-corrected text from Koch. “I don’t know if he was voice-texting me, but instead of coming through as ‘Me Toos,’ it came through as ‘Meat Shoes,’” Baldoni says. “There was no context to what he was messaging me, so I had no idea what he was talking about. The Meat Shoes sounds like a terrible name for a band, like so terrible it’s good. Then I don’t know if that came before or after I had written that
song, but the song kind of reshaped into a goodbye song to that name.” Man the Manipulator — named for a lyric by ’80s new wave band Suburban Lawns — has another family connection. Baldoni was struggling to lay out the cover, which depicts the title with a photo Vivio shot of a chair and a television abandoned on the side of the road. “My six-year old daughter saw me messing around with it and said, ‘Daddy, that’s kind of boring,’” Baldoni recalls. “She took the phone out of my hand and picked out all the colors for the album art. I gave her credit on the back [cover].” The next generation helps the vampires live on.
LOS VAMPIROS AMARILLOS CD RELEASE WITH BEAGLE BROTHERS, LOFI DELPHI. 8 p.m.,
Saturday April 26. The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, 400 Lincoln Avenue, Millvale. $7-$10 (price includes free download of CD). www.mrsmalls.
Sara Zebley (left) and Hayley Prosser (right) of The Steel Blossoms.
AMERICANA DUO, THE STEEL BLOSSOMS ARE RETURNING HOME FROM MUSIC CITY TO RELEASE THEIR NEW RECORD
f Hayley Prosser and Sara Zebley had any doubts about their decision to move to Nashville and become full-time musicians, the long ride home in their new, giant 15-passenger van erased all doubts. “We bought a van today,” Prosser excitedly tells the current during an April 12 interview. “We kept looking at each other, kind of in disbelief over what we had just done. But we needed it if we were going to tour with a full band. It was a big step, but you train your brain to be OK with it.” But taking giant leaps is nothing new for these two women bornand-raised in separate Western Pennsylvania river towns. Prosser grew up in Jefferson Hills in the
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Monongahela Valley; Zebley was from further south in Fayette County’s Dawson, Pa., which sits on the Youghiogheny River. In 2014, the pair became the Steel Blossoms, packed up their belongings and moved to Nashville to make a go of it as professional musicians. And while they’ve spent the past five years in Nashville, their hearts still belong to Western Pa. That’s why at 7 p.m. on April 26, the Americana duo will roll that brand-new van into Pittsburgh for a record release show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square. That’s the day their new, selftitled album drops from their new label, Billy Jam Records. “We’ve always felt so supported at home,”Prosser says. “In the
beginning, we would come home a lot to play and we probably got a little oversaturated in Pittsburgh. But we haven’t played there since October.” Playing the local music scene is how Prosser and Zebley first met in 2008 when bands they were in both played at a music festival in Jefferson Hills. Prosser was 15 and Zebley was 18. Although younger, Prosser, who sings most of the lead vocals, was the more daring of the two, even by Zebley’s admission. The two played at a lot of the same events and began playing together. In 2011, Zebley’s band, Girlz in Black Hats needed a singer. Prosser was in college at the time, but still, she tried out and got the job.
The duo complimented one another. Prosser had always been a singer, Zebley not so much. “I was never much of a singer, but I played a lot of instruments,” said the multi-instrumentalist. “I remember I asked Santa for three or four straight years for a violin. One year, he came through. I can’t even pinpoint why I wanted to play it. But it was so strange, I touched it for the first time and knew exactly where to put my fingers.” One weekend, Zebley, who was in her third year of teaching elementary music, visited Prosser, who just began her student teaching, at Shippensburg University. “We both knew this wasn’t the end of playing music,” Prosser said.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 29
“During my student teaching I decided that I couldn’t do this every day for the rest of my life. I called Sara and told her I wanted to move.” It wasn’t that Zebley didn’t want to move, but she needed a little more time. “She called me up and said she wanted me to quit my job and move with her to Nashville,” Zebley says. “I thought she was nuts for so long, but eventually after a little convincing, the time was right and we moved. “Everyone needs that rebel friend to push them into doing something they never thought they’d do.” They went into the move with a plan. They worked hard and saved up six months of rent and utilities so they could give music an honest try. moved in August 2014. Prosser initially took work at a daycare center but, “I worked there for three days. This wasn’t the reason I moved here, to sit in traffic and cuddle babies all day,” she said. Adds Zebley, “The hardest thing is for people to go blindly into a situation. I think you can go deep into your backup plan. But once you make this decision, you have to trust yourself and whatever happens, happens.” Not too long after the move, they got a gig playing “seven days a week” at Tootsies in Nashville. They began working regular gigs elsewhere and in November 2016, they put out their first full-length record, Country Enough. That sentiment, sort of sums up the duo’s sound. While Nashville is full of bands that have spent decades ruining the true country sound, Steel Blossoms embrace American roots and folk music. They aren’t Nashville’s typical rock-driven, radio-country bands. In a city that is more responsible for ruining Country and Western music than anything else, they have managed to stay true to the sound they’ve developed. “We don’t really fit into one specific genre. We really developed our sound more solidly once we moved here,” Prosser says. “It was our job, we had more time to write together and play together.”
Says Zebley: “We worried that someone would try to change us and we wanted to continue to play music that mattered to us. In the end, talent is talent. We may not be the band everyone wants to hear at the bar at 2 a.m. when it’s time to go home, but we are true to our selves and we’ve been able to map our own way.” Talent is not something this duo lacks. Steel Blossoms, is a lyrically-driven record packed with memorable songs. While they are really good musicians and vocalists, the pair’s genius really shines in their song writing. On an album of really good songs, songs like “Heroine,” “County Line,” “You’re the Reason I Drink,” “Killed a Man” and “Revenge” really stand out. On “Revenge,” for example, Prosser’s vocals are strong, selfassured but still vulnerable. Zebley’s violin and a haunting melodic guitar build this song about domestic violence into a tense, heartpounding, goosebump-raising anthem that rose out of the “Me-Too” movement. There’s not a bad song on the record and the secret ingredient to each are the harmonies that Prosser and Zebley produce. Despite not being related by blood, their voices mesh together in a way that you typically don’t hear outside of sibling duos like the Everly Brothers or Sweethearts of the Rodeo. “I tell Sara all the time, ‘thanks for moving with me,’” Prosser says. “If I had come alone, I probably would have been eaten alive or become an alcoholic.” Zebley laughs and then add, “When Hayley told me she was coming no matter what, I really, truly commend that. For a long time it felt like we were going nowhere and having each other made social situations much easier. We are each other’s wingman. We are such close friends, It’s not an act. We truly love and care about each other. I’m so glad we made this leap together.”
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DID YOU GET YOUR TAX RETURN?
TALE OF THE TAPE
Lawrenceville. “It was one of the very first recordings of The Lopez, and Jesse recorded the track himself in our apartment. It was the first song we ever wrote/played as The Lopez.” It’s far from the record’s only thought-provoking moment. On the lighter side, there’s Princex and its almost-funkified “Colors,” which details the subtleties of shooting pornography. But the tone elsewhere is more serious. The record starts with a punch to the gut, Short Fiction’s “Prologue: Living In Places Like These Can Be Bad For Your Health,” which traffics in rain clouds and “the kids in Oakland” before slamming gentrification. It’s that rawness that drives the compilation in its finest moments. “It’s not a super-polished city,” Murray says. “We’re gritty and we have a sense of pride about it. But our shit don’t stink. No offense to Philly, but we’re not Philly.” We’re also not homogenized, as “Bridges” – which avoids the alltoo-obvious black-and-gold tropes
– deftly shows. “Since we started playing shows in fall 2018, every single bill we’ve been on has been a diverse array of rock-adjacent musicians,” said Eli Enis, the guitarist/vocalist of Swither, which appears on the compilation. “Pittsburgh has such a wealth of sounds and styles that all are under the same umbrella, which ‘Bridges’ is propping up.” Murray, who plans to intern for Highmark this summer after graduating from Pitt, said there was no complicated method to choosing what would – or would not – find on the new album. “I’m not putting out the next pop hit,” he said. “When I go to a show, I want to feel something I haven’t felt before. With this compilation – yes, there’s artist discovery – but I want people to think about things they haven’t thought about before.” “I tried my best to arrange ‘Bridges’ like a roller coaster of sounds.”
CRAFTED SOUNDS’ ‘BRIDGES’ IS A 21-SONG SALUTE TO PITTSBURGH’S UNDERGROUND, PUNK SCENES BY JUSTIN VELLUCCI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
onnor Murray turned 21 on April 13, but he didn’t celebrate in the usual way. Yes, there were the obligatory drinks at midnight but, instead of just rising reluctantly the next morning with a horrible hangover, the Pitt senior woke up with a new release on his cassette-centric label, Crafted Sounds. “Bridges,” the appropriately titled deep-dive into Pittsburgh’s underground rock and punk scenes, features 21 songs by 21 bands. It’s vastly more informed about the noisy landscape of SWPA than Murray’s last stab at a compilation, 2017’s “Have A Nice Day.” “I always felt like having a home base was super-important,” says Murray, who released his first cassette in Annapolis, Md. on his 18th birthday and then moved to Pittsburgh in the same year, 2016. “I
wanted a sense of community.” On “Bridges,” you can hear the musical collusion, with unheard links bonding garage-rock vagaries (Bat Zuppel, The Zells) and mindbending punk (the awesome Water Trash) with more nuanced, even subtle fare (tremendous offerings from Same and Sad Girls Aquatics Club). And then there’s the eulogy. Many in the scene were shaken by the unexpected death last year of The Lopez’s Jesse Flati. Instead of choosing to advance a single from the band’s forthcoming album, Heart Punch, The Lopez and Crafted Sounds opted for something more meaningful. “The song I gave him is Gates of Heaven, which we’ve previously released -- but the track on Bridges is the first-ever-recorded version of the song,” says Steph Wolf, of PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 31
Lawrenceville’s CBD boutique, Hippie & French (Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
HIPPIE & FRENCH INTRODUCES NEW CBD/FOOD COLLABORATIONS
f you’re a CBD enthusiast in Pittsburgh, you’ve probably been to Hippie & French. The Lawrenceville boutique belongs to Lindsay French and offers a curated collection of CBD products for people and pets. CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of the cannabinoids that can be extracted from marijuana and hemp plants. People use it to treat anxiety and pain, to help them sleep or to improve their focus. And unlike marijuana or THC—the other main cannabinoid in cannabis—it is non-intoxicating, meaning that users won’t feel ‘high.’ The “overthe-counter” CBD products sold
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM by stores like Hippie & French are derived from industrial hemp, which is unregulated. Over the past few years, CBD has become a popular alternative to medical marijuana for those who either can’t get it, or who don’t like the way it makes them feel. “For 95 percent of people that walk in my door, stress and anxiety is what they’re dealing with and it just helps to take the edge off,” French says. “It’s a nice body relaxation without that heavy head high that you would get from its marijuana counterpart.” From naturally flavored oils, to hemp flower, to gummies and
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chocolates, to bath products and balms—Hippie & French has it all. But recently, French has been introducing some new and exclusive CBD products to her store in collaboration with two other local businesses: Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches and Curly Tail Coffee. The partnership with Leona’s came first. “I think it was back in January is when I approached them and I researched their company a little bit,” French says. “I really wanted to partner with a local, woman-owned business and they just seem like a perfect fit.” Leona’s started doing business
in 2012, after the newly married coowners, Katie Heldstab and Christa Puskarich, received an ice cream machine as a wedding gift and started experimenting. Heldstab is lactose intolerant, and she wanted to make a real, dairy-based ice cream that she could eat. Through the use of a natural enzyme, the lactose is broken down. What’s left is 100 percent real dairy with zero lactose. They named the company after their rescue dog, and now Leona’s ice cream sandwiches are sold at more than 60 coffee shops, restaurants and markets in Western PA. The CBD sandwiches are only sold at Hippie & French.
Leona’s collaborated with Hippie & French to make CBD ice cream sandwiches. (Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
Curly Tail Coffee came together with Hippie & French to create CBD infused coffee beans. (Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
“It’s something that we really think is a good product—highquality CBD has lots of great benefits attributed to it,” Heldstab says. “And we thought, you know, we make something that makes people happy and CBD helps people be happy and healthy and it’s just a good combo.” The first release on Feb. 26— which sold out of 60 sandwiches in two hours—featured lemon cream ice cream on ginger molasses cookies. They’ve restocked several times since then, rolling out a chocolate peanut butter sandwich and one with sweet mint ice cream on chocolate wafer cookies. Each sandwich costs 11.50.
Heldstab says she was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to get the CBD in the ice cream. They use a high grade coconut oil with CBD that they mix in with the flavoring before adding it to the dairy. Each sandwich has 20 milligrams of CBD. “Ice cream is one of those things that it’s a beautiful, blank canvas and you can throw most things at it and it accepts it and makes it even more delicious,” Heldstab says. “[The CBD ice cream] has a nice herbal note to it, almost like an herbal tea.” For Hippie & French regulars and CBD connoisseurs, the Leona’s sandwiches have been a fun and tasty new product to add to the mix.
CBD hemp for sale at Hippie & French. (Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
But they’re also bringing curious Leona’s lovers into the shop to try CBD for the first time. “I’ve had several stories about people that come in and buy a bottle of our oil after eating a sandwich because they liked how it made them feel,” French says. After having such a good experience working with Leona’s, French decided to collaborate again. This time, she worked with local coffee roaster, Nicole Waltenbaugh. Waltenbaugh started Curly Tail Coffee in 2015 because she wanted to be able to support local animal rescue. She donates a dollar from every bag sold, donating more than 10,000 dollars to date. The coffee roaster says she originally found out about Hippie & French through social media and dealing with anxiety for most of her life, Waltenbaugh was curious about CBD. She stopped in the store in March and got to talking with French. “We just hit it off from there,” Waltenbaugh says. “I’m familiar with the coffee and she’s the brain on the CBD end, so we put our knowledge on the two together.” Waltenbaugh roasts all of her coffee herself. After a few test batches, she figured out how to get the combination for the Hippie & French roast just right. “I roast the coffee fresh whenever
Lindsay places an order, she provides the CBD oil and pretty much the oil is just put on the beans when they’re whole...it absorbs into the beans,” Waltenbaugh says. Their CBD infused coffee hit the Hippie & French shelves on April 7. Each 12 ounce bag of coffee contains 600 milligrams of CBD. “The theory behind CBD coffee is that you get all of the caffeine and the energy without the caffeine jitters,” says French. French is also a dog-lover and was happy to continue with Waltenbaugh’s charitable mission. 10 dollars from every 59 dollar bag of Hippie & French Roast is donated to a local animal rescue. Right now the donation goes to Senior Hearts Rescue and Renewal in Bradford Woods. Both collaborations have been going great, according to all the business-owners involved. French plans to keep them going and is already planning more for the future. “They’re so much fun [collaborating], and in particular, with women,” French says. “It has been so great working with local, woman-owned businesses. “We’ll keep doing them as long as people want us to and as long as people keep buying them.”
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Mary Quick and Margaret Ogden of the improv duo, Elizabeth, at B52. (Photo by Haley Frederick)
THIS TASTES FUNNY:
DINNER AT B52 WITH IMPROV DUO ELIZABETH
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
hen I arrive at B52, Margaret Ogden and Mary Quick are already sitting inside the door, waiting for a table. It’s an early dinner hour on a Monday, so we didn’t expect to have to wait. But it’s a good sign about the quality of the meal to come. B52 is a Middle-Eastern inspired vegan cafe and espresso bar in Lawrenceville. It’s a relatively small place that sits near the intersection of Butler and 52nd St—hence B52. Together, Quick and Ogden make up an improv duo dubbed Elizabeth, after the middle name they share. And the three of us make up a trio of hungry non-vegans who don’t plan on making the switch, but understand that there are a lot of good reasons to cut back on the consumption of animal products. We could sit at the bar right away, but we decided to wait it out for a table. It ends up being the right
call when we’re sat at a nice round table that’s tucked away from the rest, right by the big front window. The window proves perfect for one of Ogden and Quick’s favorite pastimes: dog watching. It’s a beautiful spring evening and the streets of Lawrenceville are teeming with dog walkers. The women of Elizabeth are happy campers. Dog-loving is one of many things that they have in common. Quick and Ogden met in an improv class a few years ago and became fast friends, bonding over a desire to destroy the patriarchy and a sense of millennial ennui. They quickly decided to take their friendship to the next level: improv partners. “One of the big things in improv is this idea of the ‘group mind,’’ Ogden says. “You practice with people, you interact with people and then you all kind of get the same ideas—
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like I’m going to say one word and that’s going to trigger a memory or a shared experience we have that’s going to instantly get us on the same page in a scene.” In other words, it’s easier to play make-believe with someone who truly understands you. Ogden and Quick’s friendship enhances their improv, giving them a basis of common ideas that helps them to speak to each other in their own language. Sometimes, they don’t even need words. Quick remembers hearing improvisers say that you know what’s happening in a scene because it’s in your partner’s eyes. “When somebody first said that to me when I was in an improv class full of people I didn’t know, I was like, ‘what is this? This is some hokey hippie shit,” Quick says. “But doing improv with Margaret, literally I can look in her eyes and be like ‘ok, I
kind of know what she’s doing.’” I can see their group mind at work while we talk. When one can’t find the right words, the other fills in the blanks. And when it comes to ordering appetizers to share, there’s no argument. We start with water and kombuchas all-around. For the uninformed, kombucha is a fermented tea drink. I’d say if you’ve never had the thought ‘I love vinegar so much, I’d drink it,’ kombucha probably isn’t for you. But I would drink vinegar, so I’ve had a few kombuchas. B52 makes their own, and it’s great. It doesn’t have that chemically taste that makes some store-bought ‘buchas taste like cleaning solutions. For starters we share a spinach pie, buffalo cauliflower and a cashew cheese flatbread. It’s all tasty, but the delicious cherry pomegranate harissa sauce on the cauliflower makes it the stand-out of the three. Knowing your improv partner well helps a lot, we establish, but really liking who they are is also quite helpful. Quick says that when you’re doing improv and your scene partner takes the scene in a direction you wouldn’t have taken it, it can be hard to keep going with enthusiasm. “If you’re doing a scene and you as a human don’t like the person you’re up there with, it’s much harder to be like ‘yeah that’s what we’re gonna do,’” Quick says. “The energy you bring in is very important.” But Elizabeth doesn’t have that problem. Their trust in each other as friends and performers sets the stage perfectly for Quick and Ogden to enjoy themselves. “It’s this idea of taking joy in your friends ideas and not like making them better, but playing around with them together in a way that honors the brilliance of your friend,” Ogden explains. “When you have someone whose ideas you like and enjoy, it’s much easier to have that element of common play together.” When our main dishes arrive, we remark on the beauty of the food. There are vibrant hues of purple,
Falafel salad, sandwich, and shawarma from B52. (Photo by Haley Frederick)
green and red—it’s amazing how much more color their is in plantbased meals. And at B52, there’s plenty of flavor, too. Quick and I both went for falafel—hers in a salad, mine in a sandwich. The mediterranean slaw and pickled turnips paired with the falafel create the perfect bite. Ogden enjoys her shawarma made with seitan, a wheat gluten protein. We all take home leftovers, and although I’m quite full, I don’t feel incapacitated by a food coma. Vegans may be onto something. It seems improv for Quick and Ogden is, at its simplest, playing around with a friend. It makes perfect sense, then, that their monthly show “Four Square” puts them in a schoolyard recess setting with another duo. It’s a competition between Elizabeth and their guest duo and even the audience at times. They mix short form improv games and long form duo improv to create
a show with fast-paced fun that is accessible to people who have never seen improv before. They wanted “Four Square” to give people a chance to enjoy some short form improv, which is rarer than long form in Pittsburgh, and to highlight improv duos. “A lot of times duos are people who are friends and it’s really obvious when you’re watching them that they’re having fun, which I think is the most important,” Ogden says. Quick agrees. “You’re there to have fun.”
THE NEXT “FOUR SQUARE: A 2X2 IMPROV SHOW”
with Elizabeth and special guests Iguanatron is April 26 at Arcade Comedy Theater at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 online or at the door.
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arcadecomedytheater.com PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 35
KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM April 1, midnight: I’ve decided to do a dry/grounded month. No booze or weed all April. Why? Because, I’m a fool. Also, between the worlds of craft beer and entertainment, it’s easy to lose yourself in it all. As long as you’re making shit happen, no one questions your intake. But there’s a fine line between passive alcoholism and standing on the corner with a “Why lie? I need a beer,” sign. I also want to see the world with
the clarity of a lens I haven’t had since high school. Last time I was sober for this long, Ja Rule was the #1 rapper in America, Blockbuster had a bright future, and Nazis weren’t welcome in the White House. I may have to pick up a coke habit to get through the month. April 5, 10 a.m.: Brew day with Black Brew Culture and East End Brewing. They are working on their next collaboration for Fresh Fest, America’s 1st Black brew fest and 2nd best in the nation, according to USA Today. I’m not at liberty to divulge the name of this new and improved brut IPA, so let’s call it “For The Culture 2.0.” These guys have been at it since 6:30 a.m. and I’m just arriving because I don’t approve of their early lifestyle. Brewer Brendon Benson is waxing poetic about the art of the malt, while Mean Joe Green darts around the brewery like a mad alchemist. Me: What kind of hops are you using in this collab? BBB: We’re going to use the same varieties that we used last year, but we’re going to up those amounts, Nelson Sauvin, Hallertau Blanc, and Idaho #7, for a champagne flavor with some fruitiness. Nelson Sauvin is an Australian variety that’s big on grape character, Idaho #7 has some other fruity notes, and Hallertau Blanc is a German variety that’s kind of a new thing
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that has some wine characteristics. We’re also going to do a twist with this year’s version and throw some citrus peel in it. April 5, 11 a.m.: Someone asks if I want a beer and I look at the clock. 11 a.m.?! Of course I want a goddamn beer! But I choose a Commonplace cold brew coffee on nitro, and I’m not disappointed. It’s creamy, beany, and as close to cocaine as I can afford. Apparently, Commonplace Coffee was originally brewed in the same building as East End Brewing Company, before moving to their current facility. It’s the lifeblood of EEBC, a constant in their Eye Opener Coffee Porter, and always on tap for weary designated drivers and bean fiends. April 5, noon: Scott Smith, owner of EEBC walks in. Me: Gratitude just dropped. Tell me about it. SS: It’s a barleywine, which is a very specific brewing process that uses concentrated wort to make a high ABV beer. With the leftover sugars in the grains, we can also make what’s called a second runnings beer, like the small beer on tap right now, Apollo. Gratitude is somewhere between an English and American style barleywine. The English style is a little more malt forward while the American version is hoppier. If you like less hops in your barleywine, sit on it for three to four years, and the hops will age out. Me: What is it that you’re grateful for about Gratitude?
SS: My wife is our master taster for EEBC. She consumes more Gratitude than anyone else, which makes her sound like a complete drunk. But the reality is she’ll crack a bottle and have it over the course of an evening. So, when we have questions about quality, she can pick out the difference. We’re all too close to it. Me: Every writer needs an editor. A fresh set of eyes. You guys need a fresh palate. SS: For sure. One thing that I love about Gratitude looking back is that it’s still the exact same recipe as we did back then. I’ve kept a bottle from every year. There was a movie with Harvey Keitel, “Smoke,” where he had a bodega in NYC, and everyday at 2 p.m. he’d go out and take a picture of the street. People would invite him on trips and he’d refuse because he had to do this. After 30 years it was like a flipbook and you could see how the neighborhood evolved. Similarly, I think about what was going on in my life in 2005. My son was five and starting elementary school. We had just moved house. The brewery was just getting started. I look at it now, and he’s in college. A lot of time has passed. A lot about us has evolved, but the only thing that’s still the same is that liquid. April 10, 6:30 p.m.: Sobriety is overrated. 2/5 stars. Would not recommend. I’d rather have windmill cancer.
The Green Tree welcome sign with spring flowers (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
“Family” is a word often said in Green Tree. It’s a word that residents use frequently when talking about the borough they call home. “Family” describes not just blood relatives, but neighbors, customers, the hard workers who keep a municipality running like clockwork, the business that your father ran and his father ran before that. Family is integral to Green Tree. Located immediately southwest of downtown Pittsburgh, Green Tree sits nestled in the rolling South Hills off I-376. While originally named
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM for a large sycamore tree that was a meeting point in the town’s early history, “Green Tree” still serves as an accurate moniker. Trees and other greenery line the streets and fill the view in the distance. This connection to the natural goes back to Green Tree’s earliest roots. Family farms made up the majority of residents in the borough at the time it was incorporated in 1885. In fact, it was these farmer’s disputes with the miners in neighboring Banksville that contributed to the decision to
incorporate Green Tree as a separate borough. “[Green Tree was] the closest farming area to the city of Pittsburgh until 1950,” says Walt Heckla of the Green Tree Historical Society. The turn of the century would bring big changes for Green Tree. In 1904, the first train would christen the tracks of the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad and stop at what is now known as Rook Station, one of the first major rail stops in the borough. It would provide both passenger and cargo service
between Pittsburgh’s southwestern communities. Rook Station proved influential on Green Tree over the next decade, bringing in more commerce and residents from the city, causing the borough to grow. The years between the opening of Rook Station and the end of the 1920s saw the creation of Green Tree’s police force, the dedication of its first park, and even early public transportation in the form of the Oriole Motor Coach Company, which operated a route from Green Tree to West End.
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The WDVE building along the parkway (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
By the end of the ’20s, however, Green Tree was beginning to stagnate. While the population had nearly doubled from 685 in 1890 to 1043 in 1920, the surrounding communities had seen population growth five times larger. Furthermore, the city was no more accessible to Pittsburgh proper than it was in the 1880s, relying on the poorly maintained Washington Pike, now Greentree Road. The Pike became the subject of many grievances from residents until it was paved in 1929 after a prolonged period of negotiation between the borough, the city of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania. The start of the Great Depression late in 1929, however, would put a hold on any major new developments in Green Tree, a hold that would last through the Second World War. The 1950s would be a turning point for Green Tree, with the construction of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway. The Parkway itself opened in 1952, causing a boom in population growth in Green Tree virtually overnight. The completion of the Fort Pitt Tunnels in 1959 would connect the borough to Pittsburgh like never before, now just eight minutes of driving time away.
The Parkway would accelerate the pace of development in the borough. The 1960s saw the borough’s first apartments and shopping centers. The 1970s would bring the massive Foster Plaza and Parkway Center business complexes, which dominate the Green Tree economy today. Development has continued into the modern day, with the construction of more housing and office space, and the arrival of major chain restaurants and hotels. Despite this suburbanization, Green Tree is far from a concrete jungle. The borough is not for want of green space, with seven local parks. The first, Johnny Wilson Park, was dedicated in 1923, and the most recent, Green Tree Park, was dedicated in 2002. Nor has Green Tree lost its family values with the onset of increased commercialization. Many people think of Green Tree as a place for chain stores and restaurants. In reality, family-owned businesses are commonplace and often longlasting, with Aracri’s Greentree Inn and Alexion’s Bar & Grill having been open for over six decades each. Another of these family businesses, Scoglio’s Italian Restaurant, sits in the Foster Plaza Complex. The restaurant originally opened in
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downtown Pittsburgh 28 years ago, according to co-partner Paul Kennedy. “My aunt and uncle started Scoglio’s almost 28 years ago, my mom worked with them forever with her husband,” Kennedy says. “When they decided to get out of the business, my mom decided to take over this place, and we’re at almost ten years here in Green Tree.” Scoglio’s current space used to be a different Italian restaurant than the one where Kennedy’s grandmother used to waitress. This family connection was part of the draw to bring the restaurant to Green Tree, a move which Kennedy says he doesn’t regret. “The neighborhood is extremely welcoming. I think a lot of people don’t give Green Tree its credit,” Kennedy says. “It’s a beautiful borough, and everyone, the police, firemen, municipal people, they’ve all been great, they’re family.” Across the borough from Scoglio’s sits Antney’s Ice Cream, another family-run neighborhood gathering place. The founder of Antney’s, known simply as Anthony, began his business as a Rita’s Italian Ice franchisee, but became driven to be his own boss. Having made ice cream as a hobby for many years, Anthony, who learned his trade through the famous Penn State Creamery program. opened Antney’s 15 years ago, and has since built a loyal customer base in the region and beyond. “I have people come all the way
from West Virginia for a licorice flavor I make,” Anthony says. Connecting with the community is imperative for business at Antney’s. Anthony will accept customer suggestions for new ice cream flavors, which he sometimes names after those who suggest it. “We actually name them like ‘Becky’s Gooey Butter Cake,’ and ‘Becca’s Chocolate Macaroon,’ Anthony says. Anthony also makes a point of welcoming the neighborhood dogs to Antney’s by offering “pup cups” for sale to dog-owning customers, a large demographic in Green Tree. “Oh, [the dogs] come down here and jump on the counter, they order it themselves!” Anthony said. Anthony believes that level of service has contributed to his loyal customer base, something he is very thankful for. “Our customer base, I wouldn’t trade those guys for the world, we know them by name,” Anthony says. The community members of Green Tree are not just connected to each other, but also to their history. Many buildings built before 1900 in Green Tree are still standing and in use today, from houses to government buildings. The Historical Society is also currently working to place plaques at several of the historic locations in the city, from Rook Station to the location where the original “Green Tree” grew. The end result is a borough with a firm foundation in its past, looking brightly toward its future.
A playground set with the Green Tree water tank behind (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
Christopher Cropp, Owner of Brutus Monroe (Current photo by Nick Eustis)
CHRISTOPHER CROPP, OWNER OF BRUTUS MONROE CRAFT SUPPLIES
ocated in the heart of Green Tree, craft supply store Brutus Monroe is a craftmaker’s paradise, replete with paper, paint, glitter of every color, along with many other products. Founder and creative director Christopher Cropp opened the craft supply store in 2016, which manufactures and sells Cropp’s own line of craft products, as well as third party products. What inspired you to open Brutus Monroe? I worked for another craft company and I was never really satisfied with selling someone else’s products. Anytime there were questions about other people’s products, I could never answer them because they weren’t my own. So I went out on a limb and started designing a couple of things, created a couple of products, and opened our first office a little over two years
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM ago. We realized that we were growing very, very quickly, so we opened up our new 8,000 square foot facility. Now we can have all of our products here, as well as our offices, as well as fulfillment. It just kind of snowballed! Why did you decide to locate in Green Tree? I grew up right down the street, very familiar with Green Tree. I’ve worked in Green Tree when I was younger, in high school and college. This space was just always so cool, it was a floral shop when I was growing up in Green Tree. Never in a million years did I think that this building would be where my business is, but now it is. What inspired the business’ name? It’s actually named after my late
dog. He was a rescue dog and his name was Brutus when I got him, and I gave him the middle name Monroe. When I was naming the business, I didn’t want to name it after me, everyone names things after themselves, so I used his name. It just kind of caught on, because Brutus is obviously very masculine, and Monroe is extremely feminine. The name caught people’s interest because the name “Brutus Monroe” is very unique and different. Have you had any particularly memorable or crazy projects come in? We’re very fortunate because we manufacture things here as well, so with our manufacturing and fulfillment, there’s never really a project that’s too strange. I can think up something crazy at 10 a.m. and we have it ready for production by noon. There’s never been a task or a
project that’s too weird. Weird is fun here! What are your plans for the future? We’re always talking about expansion. We’ve grown exponentially since we moved to this space. When I first walked into this building, I thought there was no chance we would fill it up. We would never ever be able to make this place look like a full storefront, but as you can see, it’s filled up very quickly. Now that we’re moving more into the manufacturing side of it, we are going to need to expand at some point. We’re always gonna have this space, I’ve always said we’ll never let go of this location, but we’ll probably have to expand to something next door or very close by for our manufacturing.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 39
THE CAN’T MISS BY MARGARET WELSH AND MADELINE URY INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy, deemed “the best musical of this century,” by The New York Times. The show opens tonight, and runs through April 21 at Heinz Hall. Following two missionaries on a journey around the world, the show is an adventure that you will not want to miss. 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. Starting at $46. culturaldistrict.org
North Hills Community Outreach is spreading the importance of growing your own fresh produce with CoreLife Lesson: Starting From Seeds. Their garden coordinator will show you how to do so no matter if you’re living in a house or an apartment. Join the fun at CoreLife Eatery, enjoy a CoreLife meal and leave with some of your very own seeds. 7 p.m. 8009 McKnight Rd., Ross Township. Free. eventbrite.com On its latest record, Everybody One of a Kind, Chicago-born, LA-based Wild Belle runs the gamut of warm-weather music. Siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman are at their best when they really lean into their love of ska and reggae (the sax-heavy dub of single “Mockingbird” is pretty irresistible), but Natalie’s sultry, soulful delivery elevates the band’s shiny, straight-ahead pop (“Have You Both,” for one, brings to mind a groovier Lana Del Rey). The duo appears at the Club at Stage AE on Wednesday, April 17 with Jeffertitti’s Nile. 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Drive., North Side. $13. www.stageae.com
“Making Montgomery Clift” is a documentary about the famous Hollywood actor, often controversial and reduced to labels based on his sexuality. His life has been further examined and those closest to him have been interviewed by filmmakers Robert Clift (Montgomery’s nephew) and Hillary Demmon. The film gives a new insight into the actor’s life, and you can see the first screening of it tonight at The Andy Warhol Museum. There will also be a Q&A with the filmmakers following the screening. 7 p.m. 117 Sandusky St., North Shore. $10. information@ warhol.org or warhol.org
Silence, Pittsburgh’s own gothy anarcho peace punk outfit, is celebrating the release of a new record. It’s a follow-up to the band’s first fulllength The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing, which delivered grim social forecasts and activism-based avowals in the form of dark, catchy, slightly crusty post-punk tracks. On April 20 Silence celebrates the new album – which is being released by Minneapolis-based anarcho punk collective Profane Existence -- with a show at the Rock Room. Pandemix opens and DJ Erica Scary will be on hand to spin 80s post punk and death rock tunes. 8:30 p.m. 1054 Herron Ave., Polish Hill. $5.
An exciting Easter celebration can be had today at the Made & Found Spring Market at Made & Found. The event features vintage shops, makers and artists from the Pittsburgh area, with brunch, coffee and
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cocktails are available for purchase. 10 a.m. 7800 Susquehanna Sq., Homewood. Free. facebook.com/ madeandfoundpgh
Sloane Crosley is a bestselling author and essayist whose books tell the hilarious stories and adventures of her life. This Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series features Crosley discussing her new book, Look Alive Out There. Join her at Carnegie Lecture Hall to hear her tales and experience her wit and charm in person. Books will be for sale at the event and a book signing will follow the lecture. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $22. firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-622-8866
Two decades in, experimental metal band Sunn0))) remains a giant of the genre, and the impact of its blend of ambient drone, black metal, trance, noise rock and pure, punishing volume can be felt almost the entire way across heavy music. The famously cloaked guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are at the core of the project, but are usually joined by collaborators: some special guests can be expected on this tour, which comes to the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. Bring earplugs and a ready mind. David Pajo, who performs as Papa M, opens. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th St., Munhall. $30-45.
Art All Day: A Spring Fundraiser
for Prototype PGH aims to connect community members in support of building gender and racial equality in technology and entrepreneurship. The event at Frame Gallery features a DJ, a silent auction raffle, art you can purchase and networking opportunities. The goal is to raise $5,000 to fund Prototype PGH and their programs that will benefit the community and promote equity. You can buy the Boss Lady ticket for $50, Bada$$ Babe for $30, DIY Maker for $15, or pay the door rate of $20. 12 p.m. 5200 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $15$50. eventbrite.com
Tonight, spend an evening with award-winning non-fiction author Erik Larson. His books have been published worldwide and landed on the New York Times bestsellers list multiple times. You can purchase a book to be signed at the lecture, hosted at Mt. Lebanon Public Library at Mellon Middle School Auditorium, or bring your own book to be signed. You can also purchase VIP tickets to a pre-lecture reception for $50, which includes reserved seats for the lecture. 7 p.m. 11 Castle Shannon Blvd., Mt. Lebanon. $20. 412-531-1912 or email@example.com
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APR. 16, 2019 | 41
NEWS OF THE
Universal Crossword Edited by David Steinberg April 16, 2019
ACROSS 1 “Believe” singer, 1998 5 Get distorted 9 Olympic sword 13 Give off light 14 Backside 15 Vein of ore 16 *Caring person (note each starred answer’s first word) 19 Suffix for “finish” 20 World’s fair 21 Potion holder 22 Cocktail with rum and lime 24 Tom, Dick and Harry 25 TV brand 28 *Make sense of the world 32 Military attack 33 Lawsuit basis 34 Ham it up 37 Expert 38 Cheap college meal 39 Fit to stand trial 40 Entry point 42 *They form letters 45 Hotel-rating org. 4/16
46 Portrait or landscape 47 Coming up 50 Mexican food truck order 52 Stoop (down) 54 A long, long time 55 *Source of entertainment? 59 Portable music player 60 “___ it going?” 61 Bit of color 62 Brazilian soccer legend 63 Royals manager Ned 64 Certain waffle DOWN 1 Most populous country 2 Tennis champion Martina 3 Finish line 4 Practice 5 Cover with paper 6 “Dynamic” lead-in 7 Long-tailed rodent 8 Nip in the bud 9 “Frozen” queen
10 Place to play nine-ball 11 End of UCLA’s URL 12 Slippery fish 13 Low-fat milk choice 17 They’re on the way out 18 Small dent 23 Exactly 24 Address for a nobleman 26 Remedy 27 Memo abbr. 29 Use one’s last chip 30 Lake Michigan neighbor 31 Put down roots 34 This, in Tijuana 35 “SNL” alum Rudolph
36 Watching over a neighborhood, say 38 Yard sale’s backup time 40 Toto’s owner 41 Like 2+2=5 43 Many an emoji 44 ___-eye dog 48 Central African river 49 Leg joint 51 Senator’s assistant 52 X5 and i8 cars 53 It’s right on the map 55 Red carpet figure, briefly 56 Orangutan, e.g. 57 “___-hoo!” 58 Swerve
PREVIOUS PUZZLE ANSWER
Mind Your Manners
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© 2019 Andrews McMeel Universal www.upuzzles.com
by Todd Gross
BY THE EDITORS AT ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION WEIRDNEWSTIPS@AMUNIVERSAL.COM NEW WORLD ORDER In Raleigh, North Carolina, residents of The Dakota apartment complex are stepping out a little more confidently after management engaged the services of a company called PawzLife. The Raleigh News and Observer reported on March 22 that residents were growing disgusted with the amount of dog feces on the sidewalks and green spaces around the complex. So management turned to a high-tech solution: Residents who own dogs are required to bring them to a “pup party,” where PawzLife collects their DNA with a simple saliva swipe and creates a “unique DNA profile” for each dog. The company then visits the neighborhood to pick up any stray poop, and owners whose dogs are a match with the poop DNA are fined $100 per offense. PawzLife owner Matthew Malec said, “We are just trying to make the Earth a little bit better to live on.” NOTHING BETTER TO DO ... A wealthy San Francisco philanthropist, Florence Fang, 84, is being sued by the city of Hillsborough over the “Flintstones” home and grounds she has created in the suburb. The oddly shaped house was built in 1976, and Fang bought it in 2017. Today it’s painted purple and red, features a large “Yabba Dabba Do” sign near the driveway, and Fang has added dinosaur and mushroom figurines, along with Fred Flintstone himself, to the yard. “We don’t like it when people build things first, then come in and demand or ask for permission later,” huffed Assistant City Attorney Mark Hudak, who told KTVU Fang built without the proper permits and the property is subject to code violations along with offending the neighbors’ aesthetic sensibilities. But Angela Alioto, Fang’s attorney, said the home is Fang’s “happy
place.” Fang doesn’t live in the home but uses it for entertainment and charitable events. “She’s had an incredible life, and I think it’s wonderful that, at 84 years old, she has found something that makes her so happy,” Alioto told the San Mateo Daily Journal. PEOPLE DIFFERENT FROM US Kaz James, 37, from Salford, Greater Manchester, England, has known since he was a child that he was different from other people. “I didn’t ever feel like a human. I always felt like a dog that was really out of place,” James told Metro News. He first started to understand his peculiarity when he gained access to the internet at 17 years old. “I was known by my friends for ... grabbing hold of the collar of their shirt in my teeth and biting or licking them, very canine-type behaviors,” James said. Today he eats out of a dog bowl and owns three custom-made dog suits -- one a $2,600 fur suit shipped from Canada. “(M)y behaviors were quite dog-like in childhood, probably from the age of 6,” he said. “No one ever talked about it. It was never mentioned.” WHAT’S IN A NAME? The Smuggler’s Inn on Canada View Drive in Blaine, Washington, sits just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. Fittingly, on April 4, a Canadian court charged its owner, Robert Joseph Boule, 69, with 21 counts of “inducing, aiding or abetting” seven people who tried to illegally enter Canada between May 2018 and March 2019. Boule had remarked to CBC News in the past that it wasn’t unusual to see people with night-vision goggles sneaking across the border at night. He remains in custody in Canada. Send your weird news items with subject line WEIRD NEWS to WeirdNewsTips@amuniversal.com.
Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
When I first started dating my girlfriend, I asked her about past boyfriends and she said she hadn’t met the right guy yet. After dating for nine years, I found out about a past boyfriend and looked through her e-mails. I found out she dated her married boss for three years. She broke up with me for looking and for judging her. I feel like she lied, and she thinks it was none of my business. We’ve been broken up for five months. She’s reached out, but I can’t get over my anger or disgust that she was someone’s mistress. Am I a bad person? Still Angry And Disgusted Yup. “Haven’t met the right guy yet” ≠ “Haven’t met any guys ever.” Almost everyone has done something and/or someone they regret doing—although it’s possible your ex-girlfriend doesn’t regret fucking her married boss for three years, SAAD, and it’s possible there’s no need for regret. Sometimes people have affairs for all the right reasons. Sometimes abandoning a spouse and/or breaking up a home with kids in it, aka “doing the right thing” and divorcing, is the worse choice. Life is long and complicated, and it’s possible for a person to demonstrate loyalty and commitment with something other than their genitals. Sometimes people do what they must to stay married and stay sane, and their affair partners are doing good by being “bad.” It’s also possible—and perhaps likelier—that your ex-girlfriend made an impulsive, shitty, selfish choice to fuck someone else’s husband. It’s possible he’s a serial philanderer, a cheating piece of shit, and then, after fucking him that one time, your girlfriend felt pressured to keep fucking him and wound up having
a years-long affair with her married boss. And then, when it was all over, she stuffed it down the memory hole because she wasn’t proud of it and wanted to forget it. It’s also possible she didn’t tell you about this relationship when you asked because she intuited— correctly, as it turned out—that you are, in your own words, a bad person, i.e., the kind of guy who would punish his girlfriend for having a sexual history, for making her fair share of mistakes, and for deciding to keep some things private. (Not secret, SAAD. Private.) In other words, she correctly intuited that you would punish her for being human. Finding out about a past boyfriend doesn’t give you the right to invade your partner’s privacy and dig through their ancient e-mails. Your girlfriend was right to break up with you for snooping through her e-mails and judging her so harshly. And she didn’t even lie to you, dude! Her boss clearly wasn’t “the right guy,” seeing as he was married and her boss, and the relationship ended before you two even first laid thighs on each other nine years ago. And from where I’m sitting, SAAD, it looks like she still hasn’t met the right guy. To be perfectly frank, I don’t want to help you get over your anger and disgust—not that you asked me to help you get past those feelings. It kind of sounds like you want your anger and disgust affirmed… and I’m going to go with that and affirm the shit out of those feelings: Stay angry! Stay disgusted! Not because those feelings are valid—they’re not—but because those feelings prevented you from taking your ex back when she reached out. She may not know it yet, but she’s better off without you, SAAD, and here’s hoping you stay
angry and disgusted long enough for her to realize it. I’m a few months into OkCupid dating, and it’s going well! I’ve stuck to two “automatic pass” rules: anyone who mentions my looks and nothing else in the first message and anyone with no face pic. It’s worked out great so far. But I’ve noticed that most kinksters on OKC don’t post face pics. I can understand this. I once came across a coworker on the site—didn’t look, passed immediately—and I can imagine nobody wants their boss or coworkers to know they’re looking for puppy play and CBT. Not everyone has the luxury of taking a risk like that. So I’m tempted to drop my “no face pic = pass” rule for kinksters. But then I imagine how that would go: “Chat, chat, chat. ‘Hey, can I see a face pic?’ Oh no, I’m not physically attracted to this person!” Then I have to awkwardly un-match and feel terribly shallow and guilty for a while. So do I keep my rule and pass on some very promising profiles without face pics to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? Or do I bend the
rules? I’m just not looking to hurt anyone in a bad way. Not That Kind Of Sadist Lead with your truth, NTKOS: “Hey, we share a lot of common interests—BDSM, CBT, TT—but I usually require face pics before I chat. I understand why you may not be able to post your pics and why you would want to chat for a bit and establish trust before sharing pics with me privately. So I’m happy to chat so long as you’re okay with the risk that I might pass after seeing your face pic. Still, even if we’re not ultimately a sexual or romantic match, every kinkster needs some kinky friends!” On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow: savagelovecast.com.
E’S DAN SAVAG
IVAL FILM FEST
May 10 & 11 REGENT SQUARE, PITTSBURGH T I C K E T S AT H U M P F I L M F E S T.C O M
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