April 2019

For our April post our Public Relations Director, Mike McBurney, discusses some of the cultural impacts of the arts and local theatre.

If there is any year where I feel local theatre can go a bit more unnoticed, 2019 is certainly a strong candidate. Television and movies this year are producing some of the biggest and, one would hope, best stories yet seen – not to mention concluding some of the most followed sagas of the past several years or even decades (hey there, Game of Thrones, Marvel franchise, and Star Wars). Additionally, the continuing saga of well-storied sports franchises and their games that draw huge crowds fill fans with excitement and anticipation, and those tickets can demand higher priority than a lot of other fare. But local theatre offers something that those things desperately lack, which is a sense of intimacy – a closeness between the performers and the audience that, I feel, is an increasing rarity in entertainment today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be there for a lot of those major cinematic and televised moments – can’t wait for ‘em. I also really enjoy following the Penguins, through ups and downs, but I’m very thankful the ups have been more prevalent the past few years, and I will continue to be excited about every game and the stories of the players. Nothing there will make me have quite the human connection, though, that I have when seeing a show produced by Bricolage – whether seeing a live-action radio show, hearing storytellers weave tales from their personal lives that absolutely enthrall, or being immersed in a world created to have the audience truly be part of the performance. It’s doubtful any of it will make me laugh as hard as I do at an Arcade show – not just because I know and get to perform with some of the folks I’m watching, but because it just feels different and more genuine watching people create comedic magic fifty feet away from you. Quantum, PICT, the Public, Pittsburgh Playwrights, 12 Peers, City Theatre, and so many more are always at the forefront for me in terms of where I want to ensure I spend time because what I take away from those performances isn’t like anything I can get from a movie or television show or sporting event (much as I enjoy those, and I do). Because when I leave those shows I feel like I’ve partaken in something that was a moment shared between myself, the performers, and the other people in that room – and a moment that will never quite be seen the same way again.

Throughline is Staging the Nation this year in Aftershock Theatre and I have an idea of what I’m going to see, but I’m not actually going to know what it is until I’m there – because that’s how live local theatre works. I also know I’m never going to see quite the same show twice, even if I attend multiple nights of each production. Because each performance will be different based on how the performers are experiencing the show that night and what the audience is like and how my day was and whether it’s a quiet night or there’s a traffic jam with horns blaring outside the theatre or maybe one actor looks into another actor’s eyes and finds something there they didn’t see before. Whatever the case, it will be a different story for me to take away. How unbelievably cool is that? Let’s do this Throughline 2019!

March 2018

This month's blog comes from our Public Relations Director, Michael McBurney, who is an active member of the Pittsburgh theatre community and avid comedy fan and performer:

The theme for the 2018 season is “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and there are a number of reasons I’m excited about that. On a very basic level, comedy is a wonderful salve for the many stresses and injuries that can happen in life, whether in the sense of everyday mishaps or much larger concerns (say concerns over the state of the global climate, the political health of the nation, or how we can ultimately come to properly treat each other as human beings, just as completely random examples). On a personal level, I’m excited because comedy has always been, and continues to be, an important part of my life. I remember getting books out of the library as a young boy to try and teach myself how to make sound effects with my mouth and vocal chords, and while I recall failing spectacularly, I think that started me down the path of trying to mimic voices and accents. That in turn, along with having an English teacher for a father, almost certainly set me down a path to be drawn to theatre and performance.

Now, years later, I find myself lucky enough to be using those skills regularly in many different ways - not least of all at Arcade Comedy Theatre on a team called Penny Arcade. The team performs in the afternoon twice a month, on the second and fourth Saturdays, for an audience of children and adults, and we get to engage everyone by taking suggestions from them and asking for volunteers to help with the short form improv games we play during the show. It is a constant source of joy to see the connections people can find through comedy in these shows, regardless of what was happening in their lives before they walked through the door, and to know that they leave feeling happy, and perhaps a bit recharged and ready to face the world again.

For similar reasons (and for the fact that many of us have had thoughts of numerous comedic plays we’d love to perform), Throughline hopes you will come and join us for this season’s shows. Whether the comedy is witty or bizarre or highly satirical, they all provide opportunities for us to take a pause and revel in a moment outside of our personal lives and be entertained. In taking such a moment, we can sometimes, if lucky enough, gain a moment of perspective that allows us to see things as we hadn’t before, and realize that with the right amount of good humor at our side, almost no task is impossible.

One of the aspects of improv that Penny Arcade emphasizes to our audiences is the necessity of collaboration – in order to perform a truly entertaining scene, the performers have to work together and support each other. Similarly with Throughline, all productions are naturally collaborative efforts, dependent upon the talents of actors, directors, crew, company, and board of directors. Through all of this, though, the collaboration of patrons is an integral part; without an audience to come and see (and truly be engaged in) a performance, everything is somewhat academic. To that end, helping us by becoming a sustaining patron through our Patreon account, a one-time donation, or volunteering to usher or assist with other behind-the-scenes aspect of a show is a collaboration with Throughline that helps immensely and also allows us to connect with the community on a deeper level.

So again, I hope to see you and laugh with you this season! A long-maintained comedic trope is the happy ending, and the more we come to collaborate and laugh together, the more I’m certain we’ll find our way to happiness in each and every day.