“Pittsburgh is an incredibly vital theatre town,” says scenic designer Anne Mundell, who heads design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Great vendors include “Pittsburgh Cut Flower (wholesaler for anything floral or decorative), AB Charles & Son (excellent and odd model supplies, with a knowledgeable and passionate staff), and The Strip District (wholesale district with everything from antiques to kitchen supplies to upholstery fabric).”
“We have incredible scenic artists,” Mundell adds, naming Beth Zamborsky and Celeste Parrendo, “master scenics who can do anything you'd need with a great deal of skill and artistry. I'd trust either of them with absolutely any project.” Kerri La Charitie and Leah Blackwood are also among her favorites.
Susan Tsu, also on CMU's faculty, says the arts are “thriving in a reborn cultural district.” And if the sourcebook she provides students is any indication, Pittsburgh has magnificent resources — from shoes to hats, from uniforms to lingerie — to support whatever a costume designer imagines. ED asked her to pick three favorites.
“The Culture Shop has a wonderful array of clothing, puppets, and Tibetan jewelry that always fascinate me,” Tsu says. Cabelas has an extremely large stock of sporting goods “and is a trip in itself, rivaling any natural history museum, if you don't mind looking at a lot of dead animals while shopping.” Elsen Associates “did a splendid job” on wigs for CMU's Candide.
Sound and Light Sources
Zach Moore visits Pianos N Stuff for “a good selection of pro gear at reasonable prices, and excellent rental prices. Their rental selection isn't very high end, but usually does the job nicely (and stays within budgets.)” Other theatres can be helpful, too, Moore notes. “Chris Evans at the Benedum Center helps me out, as he has a lot of gear and gadgets and all around sound know-how.”
Joe Hartnett, master electrician at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, finds Vincent Lighting most reliable for equipment rentals. He also gets gels, templates, and other expendables at this Cleveland-based company that has outlets in Cincinnati and Detroit as well as Pittsburgh. Other rental houses, Chujko Brothers, Northern Sound and Lighting, and Performance Lighting are also useful. For purchasing, Pittsburgh offers LeFace & McGovern Associates and Knight Lighting.
Researching in Pittsburgh
Mundell's favorites include “The Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA), the Frick Art & Historical Center, a museum and art reference library, and The Warhol — not just Andy Warhol, many more exhibits of contemporary art.”
Tsu also likes the CMOA, partly for its architecture collection. “The Museum of Natural History houses one of the best dinosaur collections in the world,” she adds.
Zach Moore says the Carnegie Library in nearby Oakland has “a huge selection of music and music information.” It is part of the cultural complex established in Oakland by Andrew Carnegie, which includes the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Music Hall. An online catalog allows borrowers access to other libraries, too. “They also have a few sound effect libraries. The best part is, of course, it's all free!”
Where Designers Work and Play
Mundell says the Pittsburgh Public Theatre does top-notch work in its new home, the O'Reilly, a 600-seat house designed by Michael Graves. Moore says the O'Reilly has “a nice selection of gear and a great sounding system, as well as a great sounding room. It's a thrust theatre, which lends to the intimacy of it all.”
Moore and Mundell applaud the Pittsburgh City Theatre, a 350-seat house in a renovated church. “All seats are close to the stage,” says Moore. “They produce mostly newer and cutting-edge shows, and the crew is a bunch of great people.” Mundell likes the PCT's “great space with many fun quirks, commitment to new work, and excellent production values.”
Both Mundell and Tsu put The Mattress Factory on their lists. “Some of the most interesting new devised work happens here,” says Tsu.
The 3,000-seat Benedum Center, a state-of-the-art restored vaudeville theatre, is “beautiful and grand,” according to Moore. Mundell and Tsu list it also, along with the Byham, another restored vaudeville theatre with 1,000 seats.
Mundell reports that the Pittsburgh Playhouse offers a “huge season with everything from dance to children's theatre.” Quantum Theater does “cutting edge” site-specific work. Attack Theater offers “cutting edge, dance-based storytelling.” Kuntu Repertory Theatre, housed at University of Pittsburgh, showcases African-American writers.”
The Purnell Center for the Arts at CMU has “two state-of-the-art theatres and a video studio,” Mundell adds, noting that, “CMU is bursting with all kinds of creative projects, everything from our own ‘fringe festival’ called Playground to collaborations with the Robotics Institute and with Theatre O to our Festival of Firsts.” The latter festival brings in companies that have never been to the US and that Mundell says are “truly cutting edge and eye opening.”
For music, Moore likes Heinz Hall, for its “big, full, huge sound.” He says Mr. Small's Funhouse — housing a 650-seat theatre, two full-service recording studios, an art gallery, and more — has a good system and has “done a lot to contain the acoustics.” The 31st Street Pub is “a good place to see underground local and touring acts” that recently upgraded their sound system. “It's a very intimate venue, and the bands usually sound very full, warm, and clear,” comments Moore. “It also has a great, dirty atmosphere to it, and everyone loves the skull collection!”
If you have used design resources in Atlanta, Orlando, Seattle, Providence, or Minneapolis, please contact Davi Napoleon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE TO GO IN PITTSBURGH:
Chujko Bros Inc.: 412-771-4500
Knight Lighting: 330-940-4078, www.knightsoundandlighting.com
LeFace & McGovern Associates: (Stage Rep: Terri O'Toole), www.laface-mcgovern.com
Northern Sound and Lighting: 412-331-1000, www.northernsound.net
Performance Lighting Rental Inc.: 412-781-5655
Pianos N Stuff: www.pnsmusic.com
Vincent Lighting: 412-788-5250, www.vincentlighting.com
The Carnegie Museum of Art: www.cmoa.org
Carnegie Museum of Natural History: www.carnegiemnh.org
Carnegie Library: www.clpgh.org
Frick Art & Historical Center: http://frickart.org
The Warhol: www.warhol.org
Attack Theatre: http://attacktheatre.com
Benedum Center: www.benedumcenter.org/venues/benedum.php
Byham Theater: www.pgharts.org/venues/byham.php
City Theatre: www.citytheatrecompany.org
Heinz Hall: www.pittsburghsymphony.org
Kuntu Repertory Theatre: www.kuntu.org
Mattress Factory: www.mattress.org
Mr. Small's Funhouse: www.mrsmalls.com
Pittsburgh Public Theater: www.ppt.org
Pittsburgh Playhouse: www.pointpark.edu/default.aspx?id=835
Purnell Center: www.cmu.edu/cfa/drama
Quantum Theatre: www.quantumtheatre.com
The 31st Street Pub: www.31stpub.com
[Editor's Note: All information is provided by participating area designers and as such omissions are possible. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of resources but rather a snapshot from a handful of artisans.]