Tag Archives: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

UPJ students to perform ‘Hamlet’ spin-off

Our Town Correspondent

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s theater department will present Lee Blessing’s “Fortinbras” April 5 through April 8 inside the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

The play, which was voted by Time magazine as one of 1991’s 10 best plays, tells the story of Fortinbras, who enters during the last scene of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” orders the bodies to be taken away and quickly devises a plan to ascend to the throne of Denmark. Fortinbras designates Horatio as his public relations person, which doesn’t thrill Horatio.

Meanwhile, ghosts have invaded Poland — and not just any ghosts. Ophelia and Gertrude are among many seductive ghosts who ultimately make Fortinbras question what distinguishes a good ruler from a great ruler.

“Fortinbras is a naive prince who just wants to be a popular and beloved ruler,” said John Teacher, Pitt-Johnstown’s director of theater arts. “Unfortunately, that encourages him to make some less than ideal choices while — quite literally — having to deal with the ghosts of his predecessors.

“While not a hard-hitting political piece, I think ‘both sides of the aisle’ can have a bipartisan laugh at the trials and tribulations of leadership versus popularity while watching young Forinbras negotiate his new kingdom. Additionally, those with a fondness for Shakespeare can enjoy a laugh at this speculative look at what happens to Hamlet and his family, friends and enemies after they die.”

The “Fortinbras” cast features Michael Cadden as Fortinbras, Mark Bambino as Horatio, Bradley Keller as Osric, Victoria Kwok as Captain, Erin Cain as Marcellus, Ben Berkebile as Bernardo, Carolyn Zeis as Polish Maiden No. 1, Kelsey Chabal as Polish Maiden No. 2, Grant Kristo as Hamlet, Paul Douglas Newman as Polonius, Erin Whyte as Ophelia, Devin Parfitt as Claudius, Emma Adams as Gertrude and Samuel Jackson Miller as Laertes.

Teacher said the script for “Fortinbras” appealed to him because he felt the students would have a lot of fun with it.

“In addition to picking a play that satisfied the academic goals of our department, I felt I needed something to help pick up the spirits of students, something fun that students would laugh at, and laugh while working on,” Teacher said. “This play is a great little comic romp that fills that bill while being a very intelligent and well-crafted piece of theater.”

In addition to the aforementioned cast, many other Pitt-Johnstown students make up the crew, designers and production/stage management team, bringing the total of students involved in “Fortinbras” to 47 altogether.

“Everything on that stage is a result of student effort,” Teacher said. “For this production, 100 percent of the costuming will have been made in our costume shop (including armor) by students under the guidance of me and our costumer, Judy Bingler. Sophomore Temperance Moore designed all of the female costumes as part of her degree study focusing on costume design.”

All four performances of “Fortinbras” are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can only be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the arts center box office during regular business hours.

Teacher rated the play “PG-13” due to crude humor and implied sexuality. He encouraged community members to come and see for themselves what makes Pitt-Johnstown’s theater department special.

“The continuation of the arts for years to come starts right here with the efforts of these students,” Teacher said. “In addition to rewarding their hard work and time devoted, supporting them and all of the academic arts here (music, dance) is also a declaration that one wants to see and attend these activities into the future.

“It is, in many ways, a validation of the arts as a whole.”

Curious George coming to arts center

Our Town Correspondent

This month, a curious monkey is paying a visit to the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.

“Curious George: The Golden Meatball,” a new musical based on the beloved “Curious George” children’s books, is to be presented April 24-25. The first performance is scheduled for 3 p.m. April 24. 

Two school performances are to be held at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. April 25. Limited public seats are available for the school shows.

Michael Bodolosky, executive director for the arts center, said that the Curious George books, written by Margret and H.A. Rey, continue to remain popular. In fact, the books inspired movies as well as the “Curious George” PBS television show.

“George is time-tested,” Bodolosky said.

The musical takes place during “All-You-Can-Eat-Meatball Day,” a day that George has been waiting for a long time. After George helps his friend Chef Pisghetti cook the meatballs, they prepare to serve them. The problem is, the crowd of meatball eaters has vanished.

It turns out that George and Chef Pisghetti must deal with Phinneas T. Lightspeed and his speedy Meatballs O’Matic machine. When Chef Pisghetti learns about this machine, he tells George that he is no longer interested in cooking. George, however, doesn’t want his friend to give up, so he enters Chef Pisghetti’s meatballs into the world-famous Golden Meatball Contest in Rome.

Audience members are to have the opportunity to learn about Rome, food and even secret ingredients that George is willing to share.

“Curious George: The Golden Meatball,” is 50-minutes in total and recommended for ages 4 and up.

“Curious George: The Golden Meatball” features a book and lyrics by Jeremy Desmon with original music by John Kavanaugh.

“Bringing kids to this show will be a great way to introduce them to live theater, not to mention theater etiquette,” Bodolosky said. “And the show itself will teach kids about perseverance and outside-of-the-box thinking.”

Tickets for this performance are on sale now at the Pasquerilla Performing Art Center’s box office. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.upjarts.org or call the box office at 814-269-7200.

Michael Facciani returning to UPJ


Our Town Correspondent

“Turn Back the Hands of Time,” a concert presented by Michael Facciani, will be performed at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus Sept. 30 beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Facciani will perform legendary love songs that were popular in the 1960s, including “Spanish Eyes,” “Release Me,” “Galveston” and “Return to Me.”

Facciani performed at on the UPJ campus last year as well. His performance was so well-received that he was asked to return once again this year, arts center Executive Director Michael Bodolosky said.

“The show did pretty well,” Bodolosky said. “Last year was his first time performing in Johnstown, and I think this year is going to be just as fun. We’ll hear love songs from yesteryears.

“It’ll really take you back. It’s just really cool. He performs music from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, all those guys.”

Revue to feature Broadway hits


“Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway” is coming to the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus April 26 beginning at 3 p.m.

The single-show performance features five Broadway actors and actresses: Maria Eberline, Rebecca Pitcher, Richard Todd Adams, Lawerence Clayton and Danny Zolli. In addition to musical director and pianist Neil Berg, the performers will be accompanied on stage by a New York-based band.

This musical revue celebrates Broadway’s most popular shows, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “CATS,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Jekyll and Hyde.” 

The show is designed to recreate the greatest moments from these shows with the help of the Broadway performers who starred in them.

Renowned poet coming to Pitt-Johnstown

Our Town Correspondent

Each spring semester, the humanities division of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown sponsors a professional poetry reading as part of the Esther Goldhaber Jacovitz Poetry Reading Series.

This year, award-winning poet Jericho Brown will share his poetry inside the Whalley Memorial Chapel on campus. The free reading is scheduled for March 30 beginning at 7:30 p.m., and is open to the public.

Brown’s first collection of poetry, “Please,” won the 2009 American Book Award, and his second collection, “The New Testament,” was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. His poems have been published by The Nation, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The American Poetry Review and The Best American Poetry, among others.

He received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and the Bread Loaf writer’s conference, and is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award.

Marissa Landrigan, assistant professor in Pitt-Johnstown’s program in creative and professional writing, said that she discovered Brown’s work while she was also in attendance at the Bread Loaf Writer’s conference.

“I heard him read there for the first time and I was blown away by his powerful and provocative performance,” Landrigan said. “He’s a great reader of his own work, and he has a great understanding of rhythm and cadence . . . people have described his readings as ‘testifying.’”

Landrigan, who helped organize Brown’s appearance at Pitt-Johnstown, said that the poet explores a variety of themes in his work, including race, sexuality and masculinity.

“It’s really exciting to have a poet of this caliber on our campus and a poet who, in many ways, is bringing a different voice and a different experience,” she said. “It’s really great for our students and our community to be exposed to as many voices and perspectives as possible.”

Brown’s poetry has been described by fellow poet Terrence Hayes as “the poetry of bloodship,” exploring “the meaning of family, of love, of sexuality; the resonances of pain and the possibilities of redemption.” He currently resides in Atlanta and teaches at Emory University.

Brown’s appearance marks the 12th anniversary of the annual Esther Goldhaber Jacovitz Poetry Reading Series, begun in 2004 and made possible by a generous endowment from Pitt-Johnstown alumnus Esther Goldhaber Jacovitz. Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, George Bilgere, Mark Doty, Terrance Hayes, Nick Flynn and Mark Halliday have previously participated in the series.

“I encourage people to attend because to sit in a room and listen to a poet read his own work is almost like a theatrical performance or musical performance,” Landrigan said. “This is an amazing opportunity, and we’re incredibly grateful for Esther Goldhaber Jacovitz’s generosity.”

All-star cast assembled for ‘Sweeney Todd’

Our Town Correspondent

The Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, in conjunction with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, will host a production of the musical “Sweeney Todd.”

Scheduled to take place Feb. 15 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus, the performance is to benefit Arts Coalition of the Alleghenies.

Arts Coalition of the Alleghenies is a “collective group of artists and arts organizations among Cambria, Somerset and Bedford counties, all looking to jointly promote and protect the arts community,” according to the organization’s official website, www.artscoa.org.

This performance of “Sweeney Todd” stars both Broadway and local performers. The cast includes Scott Logsdon as Sweeney, Liz McCartney as Mrs. Lovett, Mary Setrakian as Beggar Woman, Michael Marra as Judge Turpin, Buck Dietz as Pirelli, Mickey Orange as Anthony, Noelle Patrick as Johanna, Isaac McNulty as Tobias, Jeffrey Webb as The Beadle, Mary B. Mauzy as Lucy and Nathan Magee as Fogg.

Logsdon was an original cast member in the national company of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “Les Miserables,” a show he also appeared in on Broadway and internationally. Other stage credits include “The Fantasticks,” “South Pacific” and “Chess in Concert.” Logsdon has performed for former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, and has been invited to the White House twice as a guest of the Clintons.

McCartney created the role of Sue Tilly in the Boy George Broadway musical “Taboo,” which was produced by Rosie O’Donnell. Most recently, she has been touring with the Papermill Theater Co.’s production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” McCartney has also starred in “Into The Woods,” “Wicked” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” This year she’s celebrating 20 years on Broadway.

Setrakian made her Broadway debut in “Hello, Dolly!” alongside Carol Channing. She toured the United States and Europe, performing in shows such as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables” and “Evita.” Working as a voice teacher, Setrakian prepared Nicole Kidman for her Golden Globe Award-­winning and Oscar-­nominated performance in Baz Luhrman’s “Moulin Rouge.” She has also worked with Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mandy Moore, Bobby Cannavale and Mary J. Blige.

Fellow Broadway star Marra appeared in “Les Miserables” and “Jekyll and Hyde,” among others. His off-­Broadway credits include “Shakespeare Off-­Key,” “Choices: The Musical” and “The Redemption of Jamie Harris.” Since moving back to Pennsylvania from New York, Marra has starred in Pittsburgh CLO’s production of “The Producers” and has also appeared on the Mountain Playhouse stage in “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Orange has previously starred in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Children of Eden” and “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.” He is currently a junior at St. Vincent College and holds a major in biology and a minor in Spanish.

Patrick is a member of St. Vincent College’s student-­run theater group, The Company, where she has been cast in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Nine to Five.” She is a graduate of Cambria Heights High School, where she played the roles of Johanna in “Sweeney Todd,” Crystal in “Little Shop of Horrors” and Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden.” Patrick is a sophomore biology major at St. Vincent College.

Vocalist and musician McNulty has been to PMEA Region III Chorus (2014) and to PMEA All­-State Orchestra as a cellist (2014). He also played bass in the Altoona Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestra Teresa Cheung. His acting credits include “Les Miserables,” “Bonechiller” and “Camp Rock: The Musical.” Dietz’s stage credits include “Children of Eden,” “Promises, Promises” and “The Secret Garden.” He also appeared in the national tour of “The Sound of Music” with Marie Osmond. He most recently played “Roger Sherman in 1776” at The Cape Playhouse opposite Christiane Noll and George Lee Andrews. His TV credits include “Guiding Light,” “All My Children,” “Surprise by Design” and “Sex and the City.”

Webb serves as associate professor of music and director of choral activities at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Allegheny College and a Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Binghamton University. Since joining the Pitt­-Johnstown faculty in 2001, Webb has taught courses in music theory, western art music, critical listening, jazz and popular music. He also conducts the Pitt­-Johnstown Concert Choir and Chamber Choir. His theater credits as an actor and musical director include “Aint’ Misbehavin’,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” among others.

The ensemble and chorus features Jean Arcurio, Tony Anthony, Scott “Biff” Baron, Kevin Bean, Mallory Bean, Ariana Bittner, Maggie Borodach, Jayme Brooks, Alexis Buncich, Nathan Cook, Johnna Cwik, Josh Devett, Kelly Devett, Laura Eidem, Tessa Evans, Emily Felton, Sam Fuge, Cassandra Gallina, Amber M. Gobbel, Matt Harris, Cheyenne Helsel, Carrie Law, Mari Grace Lingenfelter, Tony Malvoisin, Mary B. Mauzy, Chris McAllister, Jacob Meager, Michael Nicholson, Jennifer M. Oaks, Jonathan Pauley, Morgan Rickley, Joshua Rinaman, Hunter Tresnicky, Ian Wieczorek, Kelly Jo Wise, Gregory Zaborowski and Rachel Zaborowski. Zach Leventry, Emily Peters and Paul Tretter are also part of the cast, and Matt Thomas is to serve as musical director.

Logsdon, who is not only acting in the production but also serving as its director, said that he is excited to bring this performance to Johnstown.

“This is one of those really rare shows where everything feels great,” Logsdon said. “I’m trying to not get ahead of myself and get depressed that it’s almost over.
Everybody (in the cast) is excited. I get messages and emails from them frequently, saying they can’t wait.”

Choosing to perform “Sweeney Todd” was a no-­brainer for everyone involved behind the scenes, he added.

“I think it’s the most perfectly written musical of all time,” he said. “There are certainly other shows that are very good, but taking it apart and studying it, there’s not a weak link in the material. Plus, this show allows us to use a large talent pool.

“I think the Johnstown audience will be astonished at the level of talent we have in this show. It was funny because we originally planned for the cast to be much smaller, but we got to auditions and amazing person after amazing person kept coming in. The numbers just kept bumping up. For the local audience to see five Broadway veterans and many local performers, it’s a big bang for their buck.”

The performance is to begin at 2 p.m. All seats are reserved. The production is rated PG­-13.

Logsdon said he’s not sure if an annual production to benefit Arts Coalition of the Alleghenies will continue to take place in the years to come, but he’s certainly open to the opportunity.

“Since this is going so well, it would be great if there would be other shows to pop up down the road,” Logsdon said. “Raising money for the arts is a great way to remind people how important art really is.”