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.
Arthur Murray has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and The Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, The Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
A nonprofit arts organization, Pittsburgh Musical Theater has energized the tapping of toes for more than two decades. The historic Byham Theater dates back to 1903, when the venue was originally erected as the Gayety Theater, and now fills its flashing marquee with Broadway shows, dance troupes, and films.
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.
The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater is an intimate, 350-seat multiple-use performance venue. With a commitment to support the burgeoning arts community in the city of Pittsburgh, the theater serves as an ideal place for emerging local artists, regional artists and arts organizations to take risks and present new work.
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