COVID delays ‘How the Hell Did I Get Here?’ at Public; show goes on for school kids

By Sharon Eberson

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s schedule, like so many other plans in our lives, has been thrown a curveball by COVID-19. The solo show How the Hell Did I Get Here?,that was supposed to bring actress Lesley Nicol from London to Pittsburgh this month, has been moved to July due to uncertainties in international travel.

Lesley Nichol, best known as “Downton Abbey’s” cook extraordinaire, Mrs. Patmore, has been delayed by COVID travel restrictions in bringing her solo show, “How the Hell Did I Get Here?,” to the O’Reilly Theater.

We will have to wait till summer to see “Downton Abbey’s” Mrs. Patmore onstage at the O’Reilly Theater, in what was to be the launch of a North American tour. The one-woman musical tells how Nicool “overcame personal demons, found love, and achieved hard-won success.”

In a video message, Nicol addressed Pittsburgh Public patrons about the delay, caused by international touring being “a little bit tricky at the moment.”

When she’s here in July, she will perform 10 “cracking songs” by co-writer Mark Mueller, “and this show will just celebrate the ups and downs of life.”

Despite the COVID timeout in the regular season, members of The Public’s staff have not been idle. 

If you follow the company on social media, you can get a much-needed dose of theatrical joy, courtesy of Western PA school children participating in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Creative Dramatics program.

Throughout the day on Jan. 18, images were shared on Facebook of the participating schools in the Public’s most recent session, which included Kerr Elementary School (Fox Chapel Area School District), Elizabeth Forward Elementary School, Highcliff Elementary School, Ross Elementary School (North Hills School District), Miller Elementary and Clairton Elementary School.

The most recent session of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Creative Dramatics program included Pittsburgh Miller Elementary in the Hill District, where students performed “Evil Saiyan vs. the Earth Protectors.”

There you can witness the arts at work. For example, sample colorful scenes with students from Miller Elementary’s “Evil Saiyan vs. the Earth Protectors,” in which a chicken makes Super Saiyan use his powers for evil. Enter Earth Protectors with names like Beyonce and Magical Hair-Bun and Starbucks Employees, who assemble to save the world.

The most recent session of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Creative Dramatics program included Ross Elementary in the Fox Chapel Area School District, performing “The Blast to the Past.”

Or take a “Blast to the Past” with Ross Elementary students, and find out what happens when four friends, and their dog, Buster, travel back in time. 

Even with masks on, you can’t miss the excitement and fun of a creative activity shining through. 

The Public’s in-person season is set to continue with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, April 13-May 1, followed by August Wilson’s Two Trains Running June 1-19, and How the Hell Did I Get Here? July 20-Aug. 2.

PICT’s Expanding the Canon online

You can stay warm and cozy at home on Sunday and catch quite the cast – Ericka Strasburg, Wali Jamal, Robin Walsh and Cotter Smith – in After Independence, part of PICT Classic Theatre’s Expanding the Canon series.

The staged readings are curated by Sharon McCune. After Independence, by May Sumbwanyambe and by Linda Haston, is described as: “Africa is changing, country by country. Inspired by real events in Zimbabwe, this debut play is an unflinching examination of land ownership, dispossession, and justice in a post-colonial world.”

The reading streams Sunday, Jan. 23, at 2 and 7 p.m. Click here for free tickets. 

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