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Party on August Wilson's birthday

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

Wade AugustWilson 

 
August Wilson would have been 69 on Sunday, which would be young enough for him to still be, a realization that makes his age at death a hard fact to swallow considering how much writing there remains in a gifted 60 year old. He died in 2005 in Seattle, the home he had adopted after a childhood and young manhood in Pittsburgh.
 
His niece, Kimberly Ellis, had been planning a birthday party for her mother, Mr. Wilson’s sister, Freda, when Gab Cody, the Pittsburgh regional rep for the Dramatists Guild, asked her if they could throw a party celebrating Mr. Wilson's birthday.
 
“My mother’s birthday is April 17 and his is April 27; I remembered that ever since I was a little girl,” Ms. Ellis said. “With all the talk about the August Wilson Center, Gab approached me thinking about doing something to celebrate his birthday. We decided on a party to remind people about the person and why he is celebrated and respected, not the center debacle.”
 
The August Wilson Center is currently in the hands of a bankruptcy judge who recently had been parsing offers from suitors to buy it when it became apparent she had a favorite; the foundation group that had made an offer to buy it, restructure it and retain the mission of the center, bowed out. Read that story here.
 
The memorial birthday party for August Wilson is from 3-6p Sunday, April 27 at the Kaufmann Auditorium, 1835 Centre Ave.
 
The event is free but you need to register so the organizers can know how much cake they will need. You can also donate at that link to help them with the expenses of producing this party.
 
Besides cake, there will be live music, dramatic readings, birthday card readings and presentations of Wilson's monologues.
 
Ms. Cody said she presented the idea to the Dramatists Guild, "an idea of people from all over sending cards and celebrating August Wilson and they loved it. The guild works to promote in any way they can writers and playwrights by offering them opportunities to work on their craft or to learn more about what the guild offers, including rights writers have when they enter into contracts with theaters."
 
The guild also has fellowship and scholarship funds and emergency funds sometimes made available to writers in need.
 
"This event is a celebration of an author whose legacy has had a big impact on the region and the purpose is to bring a large group of people across the theater community and to strengthen and build rapport." But you don't have to be in theater to attend.
 
“I’ve never taken on the role of maintaining August Wilson’s legacy,” Ms. Ellis said. “But Pittsburgh is experiencing change, and I thought let’s do something that is unifying and fun, celebrates a great legacy and brings the figurative family together. The Dramatists Guild supports the idea and wants to see more inclusive projects.” 
 
In an email, Ms. Cody wrote of the opportunity “to bring folks of varied backgrounds together through this event, which we see as a community-building celebration.”
 
Pittsburgh was a disquieting hometown for the playwright. He told an interviewer once during a visit back:
 
“Like most people, I have this sort of love-hate relationship with Pittsburgh. This is my home and at times I miss it and find it tremendously exciting, and other times I want to catch the first thing out that has wheels.” 
 
Pittsburgh gave him deliciously and delightfully rich fodder for the 10 plays he wrote that cemented his legacy in American letters. Each play presented scenes of each decade of the 20th century, mostly portraying the life and characters of the Hill District. One of them, "Fences," won Pulitzer and Tony awards and "The Piano Lesson" also garnered a Pulitzer Prize.
 
Post Gazette photo by Bill Wade
 
 

 

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Grocer's special: Music + Food

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

musicatmartysfeb14 Marty’s Market in the Strip has a partner in the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council for its 2014 spring “Music at Marty’s” events, which create ensemble evenings of music and food (and grocery discounts).

 
Twenty-five bucks gets you in to hear an interview with and performance by a local musical act and dinner based on a menu designed by the musician(s). Visit this site for tickets and more information about this Friday’s featured artist, jazz singer Phat Man Dee (in photograph below by Adam Blai). Photo above was taken by Lawrence Capozzolo at February's concert featuring Judith Avers and Daniel Marcus, with Andy Mulkerin at right.) fat man d
 
The event starts at 6 p.m. Marty’s Market is at 2301 Smallman St.
 
The menu, to be prepared by Chef Ariel Alexander is as follows: curried pierogies, tomato stewed green beans, spicy house kielbasa and braised house kraut, with a cheese board. The cheese board has cheese on it, too.
 
Andy Mulkerin, the City Paper's music critic, conducts interviews and attendees are encouraged to interact. Attendees also get  a voucher for a discount on groceries at Marty’s.
 
If you bring your own wine, there will be a per-table corkage fee. If you take your own beer, you might be able to pop it on your own.
 
On May 16, the next event features members of the Boilermaker Jazz Band.
 

 

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Photo show: the beautiful and the haunting

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

praguesynagogie
A few years ago, photographer David Aschkenas invited me to view an exhibition of his work at the Jewish Community Center and I met him there to look at them.
 
The images mesmerized me. They were from Eastern Europe. They were stark; I remember them as black and white, or sepia. 
 
They homed in on pieces of a scene and magnified the mundane along with the glorious.
 
Not long afterward, he sent me some emails of photos he had taken in Prague, a city I had visited at the dawn of the post-Soviet era. I fell hard for that city of gorgeous 14th and 15th century buildings.
 
On that trip, I found the old Jewish cemetery and took slow, quiet steps along its paths. Its tablet tombstones were tightly packed together in disheveled states of leaning, fallen and stacked It was one of the most disquieting and moving sites I’ve ever visited.
 
His emailed photo of the same cemetery struck a chord of remembrance and I have studied his work ever since, including the series of shots showing the process of disassembling the Civic Arena.
 
His latest photo show "Synagogues of Prague and Budapest," is up now at the Berger Gallery at the Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center, 5738 Darlington Road, Squirrel Hill. The official opening reception is from 6-8p, April 23, and it’s free and open to the public. Museum hours are 5.30a to 10p Monday-Thursday, 5.30a to 6p Friday and 8a to 6p Saturday and Sunday.
 
It shows 23 photographs of the architecture and the artifacts that described the community over time, including pieces of cloth, threadbare chairs and old desks. He took these photos during trips to these cities between 2011-2013.
 
During the run of this show, his works will be displayed at the American Jewish Museum and Jubilee Synagogue in Prague.
 
David Aschkenas photo of the oldest synagogue in Europe, dating to 1270, in Prague, the Czech Republic

 

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5 days to back bike safety kick-starter

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

BikePGH has five days to raise the last $20,000 on Indiegogo to broaden the reach of its Drive With Care campaign. 
 
The effort arose after some well publicized accidents between cars and cyclists to remind drivers that people on bicycles aren’t just people on bicycles but people they might know and even love. 
 
Rude bicyclists and those who do not obey traffic rules and etiquette have their own critics. It may be hard to love those guys who wear skin-tight gear and pedal past you on a trail as if they own it, and a bicyclist weaving around cars and riding in the wrong direction poses his own threat.
 
If the progress we expect and hope to see in Pittsburgh’s bicycle infrastructure is going to sustain itself, we will need more than this but it’s a step away from the antagonism that seems to keep perpetuating the problem.
 
The campaign has been underway on billboards and bus shelters showing real Pittsburghers riding their bikes and reminding others that their lives should be valued, considering they are Pittsburghers’ kids, parents and, of course, (at least one) Steeler, Antonio Brown.
 
BikePGH sponsored these public service announcements last year to positive feedback. The Indiegogo campaign “will allow the Drive With Care message to be broadcast on a much larger scale to make a broader impact,” BikePGH said. 
 
Becca Susman of BikePGH wrote in an email that this spring “marks two years since our colleague Dan Yablonsky nearly lost his life in a hit-and-run crash while he was riding his bike. His road to recovery has been long and has had a profound effect on those of us who know and care about him. There have also been several other serious collisions since then and people riding bikes contend with aggressive encounters with cars on a daily basis.”

 

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Best Neighborhoods nominations open

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

fountainPittsburghers, here’s your chance to get some recognition for your neighborhood.
 
Northwood Realty Services is holding a first-ever process for people to nominate their neighborhoods on points such as best view, best yard sale, architectural features, best holiday decorations, etc. The winners will be featured in regional editions of InCommunity Magazines and receive special recognition and bragging rights.
 
Residents of Allegheny, Butler, Westmoreland and Washington Counties can nominate their neighborhoods across a range of categories, which you can get more information about here.
 
The nomination deadline is April 30.
 
Here is the nomination form.
 
Winners will be notified and announced on June 15.
 
Here at Walkabout, we don’t value neighborhoods based on property values, although this contest’s “best all-around neighborhood” qualifications are based on these, the most prestigious of three being the legendary division, which has property values above $350,000.
 
I will refrain from nominating my neighborhood, but the Mexican War Streets would be a contender in the “best spirit” category, i.e., “most stoop parties,” i.e., “most empty wine bottles.”
 
Best view? Must we see the same Mount Washington hands? How about Fineview? Best yard sales? Anyone?
 
I have some categories that Northwood isn’t considering, with Walkabout winners already decided:
 
Best dried fish, Andean knitted goods and biscotti? The Strip.
Best metal awnings? Tie: Lawrenceville and Bloomfield.
Best bird watching? Duh. Hays.
Best pot holes? Squirrel Hill.
Best fountain? Downtown.
Most rentals? Shadyside.
Best kept secret? Brookline.
Most slender? Esplen.
Most quiet? Ridgemont.
Most potential: Homewood.
 
Go!

 

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