Now in its 51st year, the McKeesport Little Theater puts on a rollicking adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, a comedy-drama that follows the roguish Randle Patrick McMurphy as he combats the draconian culture of a mental institution with a charming streak of rebellion. After successfully faking insanity to serve out his prison sentence in the hospital, Randle squares off with the sociopathic Nurse Ratched and enlists the support of an Indian whose presumed deafness and dumbness have enabled him to learn the benefits of deep introspection and the access codes for the ward’s chocolate-pudding fridge. The McKeesport Little Theater’s mission to bring quality theater to Western Pennsylvania benefits not only its audiences but also the play’s community-based actors, many of whom whittle their thespian teeth on the stage of the 207-seat theater, formerly a synagogue.
Teaching hips to swivel in style, dance instructors impart their masterful moves unto students in the respected tradition Arthur Murray has upheld since 1912. Arthur Murray dance teachers have inspired steps on the silver screen in a variety of films, including Dirty Dancing and Saturday Night Fever. The franchise has also worked to help ballroom dancing to gain popularity as an Olympic sport and appear in major national magazines such as Smithsonian and Sports Illustrated.
The McMurray and Downton Pittsburgh studios provide a warm, aesthetically sound environment for engaging in private and group dance lessons, surrounding students with smooth wooden dance floors and mirror-lined walls. Embodying the three-count time of a stately waltz brings partners in close, and rumba moves or swing steps add playfulness to one's dance repertoire. Protégés may find their new moves applicable in a number of settings, such as when prepping for a wedding dance or when dodging throws in a game of dodgeball.
In 1949, Charles “Chick” and Elda Mae Bruckman founded Bruckman School of Dance as a center of education for dancers of all ages and skill levels. A lifelong devotee of dance, Chick began his career at 6 years old and remains the school’s artistic director to this day. Along with a team of instructors, the Bruckmans introduce students to dance styles including tap, ballet, jazz, pointe, and hip-hop. As they lead students in mastering choreographed routines, they also teach dance history, imparting the origins of ballet and how NASA scientists made the moonwalk a dance craze in the early '70s. In addition to conventional dance classes, they host dance-inspired fitness classes, such as the Hip Hop Hustle and Turbo Kick, to get cardiovascular systems pumping.
Pittsburgh was about to fall off the theater map when Pittsburgh Public Theater debuted in 1975. Faced with shuttered ticket windows, a dwindling audience, and marquees holding messages like "Goodbye cruel world," founders Joan Apt, Margaret Rieck, and Ben Shaktman were determined to make their company a success. And that determination paid off: their first season's productions of The Glass Menagerie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Twelfth Night raked in critical acclaim and audience fanfare. Ticket sales climbed, and the trio eventually increased their season to six productions. Among these have been classics as well as plenty of new works, such as August Wilson's King Hedley II and Michael Cristofer's Amazing Grace.
The cloak of sparkling newness belies Benedum Center’s deep history in the theatrical world. Opened to regal fanfare and a holographic performance by Tupac in 1928, the theater then waded through the downs and ups of history until a $43 million restoration buffed its surfaces back to their former glory in 1984. Today, the 90 chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, the Grand Lobby’s mirrors and marble, and most of the 1,500 feet of brass rail throughout are all original. The centerpiece is the main chandelier, a 4,700-pound, 20-foot-high, 12-foot-wide behemoth that sparkles to remind visitors of the theater’s glory days.
Though having only recently celebrated its second birthday, the August Wilson Center commands a striking architectural confidence. Its two-story steel-and-glass sail juts into the night sky with the bravado of a toddler who just lassoed his first neighborhood cat. Within the steal and glass, a 486-seat theater hosts plays, dance performances, and lectures while multiple exhibition galleries display art and cultural treasures for the community. The center draws on the legacy and culture of African Americans from Western Pennsylvania, infusing each curation with a celebration of rich history.