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 2019

After our holiday hiatus we jump back into the blog with a note from our Marketing Director, Hannah Brizzi

The Great Works Continues was an article I stumbled upon early last year. It lists the 25 Best American Plays Since Angels in America. Kushner’s classic is my favorite play of all time. I read it in college and became obsessed with Harper’s journey. Throughline Theatre Company performed Angels in America in 2014 to celebrate their five year anniversary. Looking at the article though, I realized that the number of plays that I read was pretty low. Yes, I had read the Shakespeare classics and a couple of odd-ball plays in college like Dog Sees God and Rockaby, but I saw that my literary journey could use an update.  I started diving in and devouring plays like Ruined, The Humans and This Is Our Youth. I added a couple more to the list and without even knowing it was going to be a part of our season, I picked up ‘Night, Mother by Marsha Norman. It had rave reviews and during it’s professional runs had featured acclaimed actors like Kathy Bates and Sissy Spacek. It’s not an easy read. The play tackles difficult issues like mental health and suicide. Throughline recognizes the seriousness of these issues and will be sharing opportunities for awareness and prevention as our show approaches.

There are so many fantastic plays out there that aren’t the typical ones you see all the time. I’m so proud to be a part of a company that is featuring those interesting and original plays, along with brand-new plays like How To Die Alone from the New Play Exchange.

August 2018

Our very own Sarah McPartland shares some wonderful news and insights about theatre this month:

My first play was in the third grade. I was cast in the leading role of “Winnie the Witch” in a Halloween production for my elementary school. I would tell you the title, but it’s only performed Off-Off-Off Broadway; very avant-garde theatre.

I would say that was the moment I knew theatre would be a big part of my life, but I would be lying to you, as well as myself. Growing up, I always wanted to keep up with my older sister, which meant that I was in all the Honors courses and strived for a GPA that was high enough to get me induction into the National Honor Society.

Induction into this elite organization required the completion of a certain number of community service hours, and since I was a kid who read a lot and spent my afternoons at the library, I had no idea where to begin when it came to finding a service project. At the time, our high school was putting up a production of “Cinderella,” and they were always looking for volunteers. I borrowed my sister’s Velcro billboard t-shirt, similar to the felt letter boards that can be found in any millennial’s home. My shirt read “CINDERELLA, TONIGHT ONLY” even though there were four performances total and this was opening night. For those of you that know me, this stunt was proof that I was a riot even at 13.

My assignment that night was to run flowers and candy to the dressing room before the show and during intermission. When I got my duties, I rolled my eyes, but knew that it would soon be over, and I would get my hours needed for membership.

Who knew that running flowers and candy to screaming high school kids would be the moment that it hit me? The locker rooms were filled with this raw energy and electricity that exists now only in my memory as I have witnessed no other atmosphere like it; so full of excitement and love for performing in mere minutes before a crowded house.

The next year, I auditioned for the spring musical, and my life has never been the same. I would spend the remainder of my formative years learning lines and taking down blocking and writing scripts and directing some amazing talent, but when I got out of school, I was lost like a tourist trying to navigate the New York subway system.

Here’s the part of the story where we fast-forward to 2013, a year out of college, a BA in Theatre Arts/English Literature, ready to take on the world. Through alumni connections, I had great opportunities to network and grow as an artist, really find my people in the Pittsburgh theatre community, but it was going to take a slew of long rehearsals and late nights and spilled coffees and broken computers and worn-down Chuck Taylors to get me to my goal of being an Artistic Director.

Through the next five years leading up to today, I would break three computers and wear down roughly 10 pairs of Chucks and spill coffee and lose sleep and cry and laugh in hindsight of the tears, looking back to see that I made some great theatre over the years with some ridiculously bright and talented artists. I directed my first show out of college, which was a new work [my favorite] that received glowing reviews. I observed those around me to see what true leadership is and how that just strengthens the bond between friends. I took mental notes of what I should keep doing every day I have air in my lungs and what I should block out so hard that I create a new narrative seen through rose-colored glasses.

I grew as an artist, yes, but I also grew as a human. My goal as Artistic Director of Throughline Theatre Company is to work with artists that are looking for their way into the scene, looking for their opportunity to showcase their talent. I want to work with artists who are simply looking for their people.

I will create those opportunities for those whose voices are left unheard because I’ve been where they stand. I know what it feels like to be at the starting line never knowing if the finish line exists, let alone if you make it there at all.

Many moons ago, Throughline Theatre gave this scared 22-year-old a chance to bring her thoughts to the table, and once she started talking, my fellow company members can attest that it has been a struggle to make her stop.

My job as Artistic Director is to carry out the mission statement of our company while providing equal opportunities to artists in the Pittsburgh theatre community, and this letter is my promissory note to do just that.

I have plans for the future of Throughline, and I cannot wait to share them all with you!

See you at the theatre.

July 2018

Our newest Throughline Company member, Jalina McClarin, fills us in on how she got involved in theatre:

Growing up, I never had a lightbulb moment when I realized, “I want to be involved in theatre!” I never saw any plays outside of the ones put on in school, but I also never considered missing an audition. Acting in school plays was a given, but never a passion. During college though, I fell in love with theatre, but I didn’t (and still don’t!) have any educational background to support my interest, so it took me a couple years after graduating to work up the gumption to audition elsewhere. Last summer, when I finally managed to power through that fear, I auditioned for and was cast in Throughline’s production of Cloud 9. This show zapped me into a perspective shift. Theatre was no longer just something I participated in for social fun; it was very quickly becoming the most fulfilling part of my life.

Since last summer, I’ve been on that high. Pittsburgh is so saturated with opportunities to get
involved, and I’m genuinely still taken aback by how warm and accepting the community is. Throughline, for example, has not only accepted me back for a second show (The Inspector General, opening August 10th), but has welcomed me onto their Artistic Committee as the Volunteer Coordinator. Thanks to Throughline, I have the ability to contribute to the community not only as an actor, but as one of the people who helps Make It Happen.
I’m just… so thankful, and I want anyone who might be a little afraid to get involved to know that there’s honestly nothing stopping you. There’s so much theatre happening in Pittsburgh, and at Throughline specifically, that there’s room for you. You will be welcomed, I know it.

P.S. -- I honestly did not intend for this blog to end up a sappy pile of “oh my goodness, thank you!” and “you can do it!” but I guess when I think about theatre right now, that’s what comes out.

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.

February 2018

This month's post comes to us from our Volunteer Coordinator, Shannon Knapp! She gives us the scoop working with us:

Hello friends of Throughline! As one of the company's newest members, I would like to take this moment early in the New Year to talk about getting involved.

The news seems to get worse daily, and the arts seem to be in the news more and more as politicians debate funding for education and public arts grants. Our season theme "Make 'Em Laugh" feels more and more like an insurmountable challenge than a fun way to engage more people. This summer, I will be directing our production of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, a play about a gross, violent, and petty man who seizes power and wrecks a country. But since that has nothing to do with anything, let's talk about another type of getting involved!

You are probably here because you like theatre. At some point in your life, you were in or saw or worked backstage for a show that Mattered. A show that touched your life and made you different. Or maybe you just like to pretend to be someone you're not (or to see other people pretending to be someone they're not). Whatever it is, you've made the choice to follow Throughline Theatre. I made that same choice several years ago and then I went a step further. I emailed them and asked how I could help.

If you, like me, spend a lot of time on websites of theatre companies in this city, you find that there are many different ways each organization approaches talent acquisition. Most post jobs as they become available, some have a Contact Us form, some accept resumes year round. Some I have no idea, because it's impossible to figure out how to become involved from their websites. Sometimes you can't even figure out a person's name to address an email to! At Throughline, we want it to be easy because we WANT you to be involved. At our Work With Us page http://www.throughlinetheatre.org/work-with-us/ we not only have a form you can fill out if you don't want to email someone directly, but we have company members' names and email addresses where you can specifically address whomever you want to talk to. In fact, don't even click that link, just email me, Shannon Knapp, at sknapp@throughlinetheatre.org

"But I don't have enough experience!" you cry, longing to click send, but afraid of the reaction. Tell those fears to be silent. Why? Because two years ago I sent an email to Associate Artistic Director Sarah McPartland with my resume and YouTube links to radio plays I had made, asking to try my hand at sound design. I can't overstate the support I have received from this group of people. Since beginning my sound design work with Throughline, I have developed my skills on four shows here, booked three paid gigs with other companies and assisted the resident Sound Designer at Pittsburgh Public Theatre.

Few companies can say that they are willing to take chances working with people they don't know; even fewer will accept you so much that they feel like a family. As we are gearing up for our 2018 season I want to encourage everyone to try their hand at something new with Throughline! Audition, volunteer as an usher, submit that script you've been writing, sign up to assist me with sound design, become a patron! I promise that you will learn new things and be surrounded by a supportive group of fellow artists. You may even meet your new squad.

Still not convinced? Consider becoming a sustaining member (yes, just like for public radio!!!) You will get fabulous prizes, exclusive content, and those warm fuzzies that come from supporting local artists. 

 It's very simple; just click this link https://www.patreon.com/throughlinetheatre 

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.

November 2017

Our November update comes from our Assistant Production Manager, Dan Freeman. He fills us in on some of upcoming events and why we chose the plays in our 2018 season:

"Hello, friends of Throughline! Here we are in the doldrums of autumn, but the Pittsburgh theatre scene – as well as our company! – are vibrant as always. I am very excited for what’s to come to Throughline with our 2018 season. We have decided to curate a season of comedy! With the seemingly ceaseless stress of living in our world today, we at Throughline thought it would be a welcome relief to take a step back and let our wonderful audiences laugh their cares away. We will be producing The Inspector General, Ubu Roi, and Picasso at the Lapin Agile; these shows come from different times and different places, and represent a dynamic range of comedic techniques – but each is sure to have something to make ‘em laugh! I’m so thrilled to be able to work with such a talented group of theatre-makers, and hope you’ll be able to join us in 2018!"

October 2017

For our first post Hannah Brizzi, Marketing Administrator, discusses one of her favorite Throughline performances and some of the reasons why she loves volunteering her time with us:

"I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in numerous seasons of Throughline Theatre Company. A couple years back, I acted in their all-female production of "Everyman." It was incredible to work with a bunch of fierce, talented, incredible ladies (plus our fearless co-director Joey Yow). I love how this past season, The Fair Sex, featured numerous plays with female centered plots and a bunch of juicy roles for us to play. I remember when Sean Sears announced we were doing “The Vibrator Play.” I gasped at the table out of excitement. It’s a fantastic show with a solid message, and not nearly as scandalous as it might sound. Throughline always does exciting work that is inclusive to all. I’m proud to be a part of it."