If you enjoyed the historical gravitas of The Homestead Strike of 1892, get ready for a whole group of productions spearheaded by that show’s playwright, Mark Clayton Southers. He is the artistic director and founder of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, and is responsible for bringing more diversity, representation, and originality to the city’s theatre scene. It’s not normally a compliment to call something “more of the same”, but when it comes to PPTCo’s 2017-2018 season in comparison to the company’s acclaimed past productions, that statement is a compliment and the truth.
An exciting regional premiere will set the tone for another unforgettable year of shows. Eugene Lee’s East Texas Hot Links opens on September 29th and plays at PPTCO’s downtown penthouse theater space through November 5th.
The play takes place in 1955 but, unfortunately, the insidious actions of the KKK that underscores the daily lives of black Texans who congregate at Charlesetta’s Top o’ the Hill Cafe in the play still underscore the lives of Americans today. The violence has even cost some young men in the town their lives. A man named Delmus blows into the cafe one night determined to celebrate good news in his life, but his friends find it harder to get in the spirit. They all strive to make a normal night like any other, but their efforts are in vain. East Texas Hot Links comes to Pittsburgh after earning raves in multiple Chicago productions in 1995 and 2016.
PPTCO’s next production, In the Heat of the Night, is also a resurrection of an established property. John Ball’s novel has inspired an Academy Award-winning film starring Sidney Poitier, an Emmy-winning television series, and this stage adaptation by playwright Matt Pelfrey.
This thriller takes place in Argo, Alabama in the dead of summer 1962. When the body of a dead white man is discovered, the blame for the murder quickly lands on the mysterious Virgil Tibbs. Much to the chagrin of the people that judged him solely based on his skin color, it turns out that Tibbs is himself a homicide detective. With all the town’s judgmental and fearful eyes on him, Tibbs agrees to take on the case., but finds that he may have met his match this time. Solve the mystery alongside Tibbs as In the Heat of the Night plays from February 16th to March 25th.
Iconic Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Pittsburgh native August Wilson chronicled the life of African-Americans in each decade of the 20th century with his 10-part series called “The Pittsburgh Cycle”. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place during the 1910’s and sees its characters still reeling from the aftershocks of slavery.
A Pittsburgh boarding house is the destination for many descendants of slaves migrating from the south to the north where they can fully embrace the freedom they won in the Civil War. Father and daughter Herald and Zonia Loomis are not only trying to escape their past but are also pursuing their long lost wife/mother. When the Loomises reach the boarding house, they (Herald specifically) immediately butt heads with owner Seth Holly and eventually warm up to his wife and fellow owner Bertha. The Hollys, Loomises and other transient residents of the boarding house all rely on each other to come to terms with the fact that an era of their lives and of their race has come to an end.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone marks the return of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company to the historic home of August Wilson at 1727 Bedford Avenue after last season’s production of Seven Guitars. Joe Turner… runs from April 27th to June 3rd.
Don’t worry about Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company’s downtown space being neglected while Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes over August Wilson’s former home. Overlapping that run from May 31st to June 10th back at Liberty Avenue is the 13th Theatre Festival in Black and White.
This signature annual event is no longer just a PPTCo tradition but also something that all avid theatre patrons in the city look forward to every year. The goal of the festival is to produce a collection of short new plays by up and coming and established writers alike. PPTCo’s twist on this familiar formula is the pairing of white directors and black playwrights and black directors with white playwrights to create theatre that combines those two unique points of view.
This year’s theme is “Energy”. A play that I wrote was featured in the festival a few years ago, and I can’t say enough how culturally and artistically enriching the experience was for me. I can definitely in good faith promise the same for audiences who attend the upcoming festival.
Whether your theatrical preference is for time-tested classics, inventive adaptations, or intriguing new works, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company has you covered.
For tickets and more on Pittsburgh Playwright’s upcoming season, check out their website here. And stay tuned for our reviews throughout the year!
Photos taken from PPTCo’s website.