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!

June 2018

Join us for the Inspector General Improv Comedy Crash Course!

On August 18th at 6:45pm Connor McCanlus, Michael McBurney, and Tyler Ray Kendrick will be teaching the fundamentals of improv!

Connor McCanlus (Director) is a local comedy performer, producer, and director whose work has been featured in Chicago (Second City, The iO Theater, MCL Chicago, Athenaeum) and NYC (Upright Citizens Brigade, The Magnet Theater, The People's Improv Theater). He has taught improv and musical improv workshops at Philly Improv Theater, Coalition Theater in Virginia, and the University of Pittsburgh and coached the Point Park University improv club from 2014-2016. His team Well Known Strangers hosts the weekly Pittsburgh Improv Jam at the Cabaret at Theater Square; he performs monthly at Arcade Comedy Theater in Well Known Strangers with Extra Cheese and The babyGRAND Show.

Mike McBurney (Bobchinski) has been performing improv regularly at Arcade Comedy Theater since 2014. He is a member of short-form max team 8-Bit and house team Penny Arcade, which produces matinee shows for children on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. He also coaches the short-form house team Game Shark.

Tyler Ray Kendrick (Svistunov) has been taking classes, performing, coaching, and teaching comedy in Pittsburgh for the last 3 years. He's well experienced in writing and performing stand-up and sketch comedy as well. He started taking classes at Steel City Improv Theatre and the Unplanned Comedy Warehouse where he currently teaches.

Afterwards, stick around to enjoy Throughline Theatre Company's production of The Inspector General

Suggested donation of $5 for the Comedy Crash Course. Please note, this does not include a ticket for the show. Please sign up below if you plan to attend!

May 2018

Our Artistic Director, Sean Sears, was asked to share a few thoughts on his take on what theatre means to him...

I want to put down in writing what I think theatre is, and I guess I want to put down in writing what theater is. Theatre versus Theatre, y’know, the RE vs. the ER.

--The spelling thing; I get it all the time. Especially down South. That’s where I'm from. Down South. I had a friend that had someone look at them befuddled for ages when they said they work in theatre. It took 4 tries before they said “oh! You mean Thee-ATE-ER!” --

Mostly, it’s the art vs the space. Theatre, in its traditional sense is made up of the triptych; but instead of Father, Son, Holy Ghost (or Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Hi Mom) we have The Play, The Audience, and the Space.

My vision as the Artistic Director of Throughline Theatre is that it has to have all three to be Theatre. To be Theatre you gotta be doing a Play by a Playwright or you’re just doing something else: Improv, Performance Art, Standup, what have you.  It could have theatrical elements- in the same way a recording of all the songs of a Musical is not an actual Musical. It if it’s not a play by a playwright it's not theatre with an RE. I feel that there are only a few rules for it to be a play by a playwright;

1.       Anyone, or multiple anyone's, can be a playwright as long as they can in some way communicate their ideas  It doesn’t have to be written. Or language. Or words.

2.       The ideas inherent in the play have to be able to be performed as they are understood.

The Audience. You have to be doing this play for an audience. I did not say in front of an audience. In the days of Sarah Bernhardt (more on her and her wooden leg later) the audience could be in two types. With aisles in the middle or without. So boring. Without was called Continental and with was called American (who says were the most divisive we’ve ever been, amiright?)

Regardless of how many there are, where they are, or when they show up; someone, anyone, who is not involved with the show, in any way, and happens to see a moment, of any part of the show is; the Audience.If you saw a part of the show you weren’t supposed to see? Still Audience. What if you didn’t pay? Audience. What if the show has caused you such anguish in your normie stale has-been life as you must join the troupe RIGHT NOW!?! Audience; now go practice your 60 second edgy Mamet, Normie™.

Lastly, Space…The final frontier. About 20 years ago doing shows in weird spaces was super cool and fun. The Space, the last part of the triptych, this sacred third of our magical art pie? The only thing that makes it The Space™ is that you have chosen it specifically. In whatever rad space we find this time, in a renovated church, in your front yard at midnight at the full moon? That’s trespassing…but THEATRE!

All of the Pittsburgh artistic scene -Devised works, found spaces, immersive audiences. You should see them. All of them. Its a kind of magic you know. A holy magic. Maybe that’s why it comes in threes.

April 2018

Our Managing Director, Katherine Stienstra, wants to share how she got involved in Throughline...

A few years ago -after a brief hiatus from working in the theatre- the itch that starts when you have been away too long showed itself and I was called back. I love the theatre because it is intense, enriching, and thought-provoking, but I feel called because there is something undefinable about communicating with a live audience. At every performance a story is told and through that telling we are all left changed and transformed.

When I returned to the theatre was met with open arms by the wonderful group of artists at Throughline Theatre Company. Through this I have gained wonderful friends, a wealth of experience, and gratitude for the opportunity to do what I love. If you are like me and want to share stories, make friends, and bring opportunities to others- join us. We would love to see you at the theater.

Ubu Roi is playing 6/22-30 at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre.

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.

January 2018

January's blog post is from our Business Manager, Eric Leslie, who has been with the company since almost the very beginning:

This is going to be a little sappy, coming from the business guy. Sorry not sorry.

You can do good theatre without a lot of things. And in the eight(!) years I’ve worked with them, Throughline has done good theatre without most of them. You can get by without a lavish set, or any set at all. You don’t need expensive props, or fancy costumes. Elaborate light and sound designs are optional. (Having lights is very tough to forego, but even that is possible in a pinch, though I don’t recommend it.) Having all those things is nice! Given the option, I don’t know many people who would turn them down. But you can go without them, and still have a great show.

But you cannot, cannot do good theatre without heart. You can’t do it without enthusiasm and honesty and gratitude. Audiences know. If you’re not putting up something you believe in, something you’re excited about, something you’re eager to invite them to take part in, they’ll check out. And then you’ve spent a lot of time and energy making something that in the end, didn’t reach people, because the work isn’t enough. It’s about connections. It’s about people. You, whether you’re on the stage or behind it, need to reach the people in the seats.

I think everybody who’s done theatre has had a couple of shows (or more) where that equation doesn’t fully come together. I don’t think any company, Throughline included, can swear they’ve never fallen into that trap for a performance or even a run. But I can say that since I joined the company back in our inaugural year of 2010, enthusiasm and honesty and gratitude have never been missing from this team. I was lucky enough to be brought into the company by friends, I’ve brought in friends of my own, and I’ve made new friends that I treasure along the way; all great artists and just as importantly great people I’m lucky to know. Watching Throughline grow - in size, in capability, in prominence - for what is quickly approaching a decade has been full of proud and grateful moments, and those have often centered around the artistic quality of our shows. But for me personally, the most satisfying pride and deepest gratitude has been in seeing how many people are excited to work with us and excited to see our work. Excited to know what Throughline will do next. Excited to hear when auditions are coming around again. Excited to become or remain part of this family.

That’s the “community” part of “community theatre”, and it’s why I’ll never have a problem with that label no matter how big our organization or our stage might get. It doesn’t indicate a lack of quality, and it doesn’t tell you how much money was or wasn’t behind a show (though hey, have you considered becoming a Throughline patron over on Patreon? because we do actually still need money. Okay, sorry, business manager talking). It says that the focus is on the people; the people who make the art and the people they present it to. People who need this, who fill their nights and weekends driving their families nuts and giving up their time and their sweat because they just can’t not. I believe that’s what has always gotten Throughline’s family excited, and why folks come back. It’s why I come back. 2018 will be another year of change for this crew, and change is both exciting and scary, but I can’t wait to see where we go next and I hope you’ll all come with us - on stage, backstage, and in our seats.

Happy New Year.