Pittsburgh Classic Players: A Classic in the Making

The Pittsburgh Classic Players theatre company was founded by three Shakespearean scholars who met in graduate school at Mary Baldwin University. Brett Sullivan Santry, Harper York, and Katie Crandol became friends in graduate school, and in 2013, the trio of collaborators moved here and founded Pittsburgh Classic Players. They have made Hazelwood PCP’s theatrical home. PCP’s theatrical space is in the Spartan Center of Hazelwood, which is behind St. Stephen’s church and is the former St. Stephen’s school. Spartan Center is their third space, and with a permanent home, they are now able to rehearse and perform regularly. The theatre company has also expanded beyond the original trio, adding three additional company members: Chuck Beikert, Andrew Miller, and Jason Via.

Pittsburgh Classic Players was a name the founders chose carefully with great intention. Pittsburgh is not just the name of their theatre company’s home city. The company proudly pulls from Pittsburgh’s deep pool of theatrical talent while also fostering the growth of local Pittsburgh-based actors. Classic reflects their Shakespearean roots. They want to shine a light on classics (both established and in the making) as evidenced by this season’s line-up, which includes both Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and 2000 newcomer Proof. Classic also reflects their focus on storytelling and following the low-tech substance over spectacle theatrical approach of Shakespeare’s day. Players is the third component of their name, which reflects the company’s focus on actors.  While directors certainly help sculpt the show, PCP is first and foremost about actors.

Photo by Pat Jarrett

Despite being founded in 2013, the Pittsburgh Classic Players are only now launching their first full season given they just found a permanent home at the Spartan Center. With their process-driven, actor-focused approach, having an always-available rehearsal space was critical. This year promises to be an excitingly ambitious five-play season of classic plays. The season will open with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will, which will open on the twelfth night (January 4th). This play, taking place at the end of the holiday season,  captures the malaise of the holidays ending. Oddly enough, Twelfth Night is almost always performed in the summer with seersucker suits. PCP’s production will be a refreshing and seasonally appropriate change, complete with signs of the season. The play’s box trees will be Christmas trees, and there will be live, actor-generated music set to Christmas carols. PCP has been talking about doing this play for five years now, so this production is long in the making.

Co-founder Brett Sullivan Santry will be directing Twelfth Night. Brett also serves as the company’s director of education, and PCP takes inclusion seriously, both in casting and education. They’ll be transporting the production to a local school for the deaf and the blind for a special performance. Brett’s wife, Holly, will be baking homemade Christmas cookies for the Twelfth Night intermissions, just one example of the all-in collaborative effort beyond the six. Brett will also be playing the minor role of the priest in Twelfth Night. It’s a special role because when he and Holly got married, the priest’s lines were part of their ceremony.

Following Twelfth Night, instant classic Proof will premiere over St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire will open in late June, another seasonally appropriate choice given the play’s steamy New Orleans setting. October will bring John Webster’s under-performed Jacobean revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. Much like the long genesis of Twelfth Night, this 17th-century classic is one PCP has been itching to do for six years, illustrating how theatre is about the long game. The year and their season will close with Romeo and Juliet in December.

The Pittsburgh Classic Players theatre company is currently composed of six core members. However, they envision PCP as part of the Pittsburgh landscape for generations to come, which makes their vision of fostering local talent even more relevant. Three generations ago, Brett’s ancestors came to America and settled in Hazelwood less than a mile from where he now lives. Three generations from now, one can imagine his descendants and those of the other company members continuing to bring the classics to Pittsburgh. Join this classic in the making. Visit PCP online to buy tickets and learn more about this season’s line-up.

Tiffany Raymond has her PhD in 20th century American drama from the University of Southern California where her research focused on labor and social protest theatre. She also has two master’s degrees, one from the University of Southern California and one from the University of Tennessee. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her family. In addition to being a theatre nerd, she’s also a tech geek, avid reader and occasional half-marathon runner.

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