Pittsburgh Public Adds Four Productions for 2023-24

Premiere by Southers, Wilde Classic, Sara Porkalob Cabaret, Poe Experience Fill Season Slate


Pittsburgh Public Theater has completed its 2023-24 season announcement, including a new work by Mark Clayton Southers, a cabaret-style show by Sara Porkalob, of Broadway’s 1776, and adaptations of The Importance of Being Earnest and A Tell-Tale Heart.

The season will include six mainstage productions, as well as one immersive experience that will bring audiences out of the O’Reilly Theater, Downtown. 

The additions named this week include Southers’ The Coffin Maker, which has been under development at the Public, directed by Monteze Freeland, in a three-theater collaboration (Southers is the leader of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company; Freeland is a co-artistic director at City Theatre). The Coffin Maker will close the season in May 2024. 

Also newly unveiled are Porkalob’s solo Dragon Lady and The Importance of Being Earnest. The Oscar Wilde classic was among the earliest full-cast Zoom readings out of the gate when the Public made a quick pivot as the pandemic shutdown began in March 2020. Pittsburgh actor-playwright Alec Silberblatt first performed his own solo adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart in October 2020, for the Public’s online PlayTime series. Directed by Public artistic director Marya Sea Kaminski, it re-emerges as a Public Unplugged experience that will begin in October and close on Halloween 2023.

These shows, announced at the Public’s Spring Gala, build upon three unveiled in March, including the season-opening world-premiere musical Billy Strayhorn: Something to Live For. Pittsburgh native Billy Porter, who took home a Tony (his second) as a producer of A Strange Loop, is among the producers of the musical about the local jazz legend.

Also this season, the Public will produce a stage adaptation of the Reese Witherspoon book club pick Tiny Beautiful Things, and the return of A Christmas Story: The Play.


September 19-October 8, 2023: Highmark Presents Billy Strayhorn: Something to Live For, music and lyrics by Billy Strayhorn, book by Rob Zellers (The Chief) with Kent Gash, who also directs, musical direction by Matthew Whitaker, choreography by Dell Howlett.

A world-premiere musical that tells the story of jazz legend and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn, featuring live music led by Yamaha-sponsored Matthew Whitaker. Something to Live For pulls back the curtain to reveal the man behind hits like “Lush Life” and “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Even as he composed for and inspired greats like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, Strayhorn endured hostility and heartbreak as an openly gay Black artist in mid-20th century America.

October 5-31, 2023: A Tell-Tale Heart – By Edgar Allen Poe, adapted and performed by Alec Silberblatt, directed by Marya Sea Kaminski.

A chilling mystery with a Pittsburgh twist in an immersive experience, as “a terrifying cycle of violence threatens to envelop a neighborhood.’

November 1-19, 2023: Tiny Beautiful Things. Based on the Book by Cheryl Strayed, adapted by Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), co-conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail, and Vardalos, directed by Marya Sea Kaminski.

Meet anonymous advice columnist Sugar and the countless readers who pour their hearts out to her. With a wild sense of humor and an empathetic ear, Sugar draws on her own experiences to provide her readers with tough love and sweet insights. “A theatrical hug in turbulent times.” – Variety

December 9-23, 2023: A Christmas Story: The PlayPlay by Philip Grecian, based upon A Christmas Story (1983 Turner Entertainment Co., distributed by Warner Bros.) written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, and In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

Last year’s hit becomes the Public’s newest yuletide tradition as Ralphie Parker and Co. return to the O’Reilly Theater stage for the holiday season.

February 7-23, 2024: Dragon Lady – Written and performed by Sara Porkalob, directed by Andrew Russell.

A funny and fearless one-woman cabaret musical. Guided by the beats of her grandmother’s karaoke machine, Sara takes us through more than 50 years of the bittersweet memories and adventures of her family’s matriarch, who the Boston Globe called a “mercurial, glamorous and fierce woman with whom even gangsters trifle at their peril.”

March 27-April 14, 2024: The Importance of Being Earnest – By Oscar Wilde, adapted and directed by Jenny Koons.

Wilde’s wonderfully entertaining “trivial comedy for serious people” introduces two debonair bachelors, Jack and Algernon, who each lead a hidden double life. 

May 29-June 16, 2024: The Coffin MakerBy Mark Clayton Southers, directed by Monteze Freeland. 

This new installment of Southers’ century-spanning chronicle of the Black experience, inspired by his mentor, August Wilson, is set in 1849 Oklahoma. There, free man Lawrence Ebitts and his wife Eula live peacefully, preparing bodies for burial until their world is turned upside down by a bounty hunter and a fugitive determined to forge his own future. “This Western-Comedy-Revenge play is a genre-defying world premiere spiked with heart-stopping revelations.”

Find tickets and other details at ppt.org or by calling 412-316-1600.

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