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Feedback: Letters to the Editor

Friday, February 02, 2001

Can we Trust this architect with another theater?

I was absolutely delighted to read that the Cultural Trust has slated acclaimed architect Michael Graves to design their latest building, one with a cabaret within (Jan. 17). This gives Mr. Graves the perfect opportunity to build yet another Pittsburgh landmark -- The Second Most Uncomfortable Theater In Thespian History. It will stand next to his shining prototype, the O'Reilly.

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Mail: Feedback, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh


As most theatergoers know, this unapproachable building has inadvertently resurrected classic vaudeville. The evening usually begins with a prelude in pantomime -- "The Stagger Of The Stunned SRO's" (Standing Room Only's). These bewildered clowns bumble about haplessly when they realize that they cannot actually see the stage from whence they stand. Hilarious.

Next, the acrobatic tragicomedy of "The Bruised Balconites." As these gyrating gymnasts desperately grasp the railing, leaning painfully over it to glimpse a piece of the stage, they simultaneously search their pockets for their chiropractor's phone number.

For pure pathos, nothing surpasses "The Senior Stumblers" as they strive to surmount the unassailable auditorium steps. And who is not thrilled by the Houdini-esque escapades of "The Reluctant Fetalists," those vertically endowed patrons who struggle to squeeze into their tiny seats like so many sardines in a theatrical can? Yes, the overall effect of these motley acts is bound to please even the most jaded first-nighter.

To those who would suggest that The Cultural Trust should admit a massive misstep and call in a Real Theater Architect to fix things, I say, nonsense -- let Mr. Graves try again! And to those who insist that he has a charming sense of the decorative but none of the ergonomic, I say, that's a tempest in a teapot -- why target his theater just because you can buy his teapots at Target?


The writer is a member of The Musical Komedy Company.

Acoustics sound Great

I was pleased to read Robert Croan's glowing review of the Morris-Bolcom performance for Music in a Great Space at Shadyside Presbyterian Church ("Morris-Bolcom duo sparkles despite acoustical handicap," Jan. 22).

Their artistry, no doubt, merits his praise. His concern for the church nave's acoustics, however, puzzled me.

He contends that the space is not conducive to appreciation or even understanding of lyrics. This runs counter to my experience as a regular worshipper there on Sunday mornings. In addition to big anthems and organ passages, we often hear quiet solos or duets with minimal accompaniment or a cappella. Regardless of the size, the words in liturgical songs carry significance at least equal to that of the music.

Early on in our attendance at Shadyside Church, my wife commented that she could understand every word the choir sang. While her admiration was for the choir, it attests to the acoustics of the space. I must admit we have been in isolated pockets of the sanctuary where the sound was not ideal. Perhaps Mr. Croan found himself in one of those.

I defer to Mr. Croan's expertise in such matters. I only urge that readers not be dissuaded from enjoying future installments of Music in a Great Space because of acoustical concerns. The same assurance applies to those who would wish to worship with us in this Great Space.


Why we want to Save the Buhl

Richard Kaplan misunderstands my efforts to reuse The Buhl and its science education capabilities (Feedback, Dec. 22). His "duplication" argument implies that our region is to shrink in scale to that of a Third World country. Perhaps Mr. Kaplan prefers a region with only one art museum, one college, one church, or just one idea.

I regret that Mr. Kaplan was disturbed by the possibility of another idea. (Perhaps he is more comfortable with choice, when the choice is made for him.) An address was supplied for the curious to learn more, but tragically, Mr. Kaplan would rather rush to judgment in the absence of information he could easily have obtained with just a letter.

There is no hidden agenda or hastily prepared disingenuous plan regarding Buhl. It is not that I have an idea that must be followed with exacting detail, nor is it the only possibility. The plan I propose (or something similar) could easily be implemented in conjunction with or under the Children's Museum.

Those who feel as I do just want to see a valuable historic resource preserved and re-employed, not merely as some wounded architectural artifact, but retaining the full potential that its builders gave it. The Buhl was designed to be a science facility and offers a unique opportunity to augment or extend the Carnegie's efforts, independently or as a component.

The Buhl (and its equipment) is too valuable to be dismembered and only marginally utilized. Patricia Lowry' s article "Something to build on" (Dec. 12) succinctly voices the thrust of my concerns: "The bad thing is that, after spending a big chunk of change staging the [design] competition, the sponsor usually feels obligated to build one of them."


The writer is the director of Save The Buhl.

A special thank you

Thank you all so very much for the singular honor to have been selected as the Performer of the Year, 2000 (Jan. 14). I am touched and as proud as a dash of humility will allow. Inspired by your attentions I shall endeavor to enhance and hone my gifts and skills still further for a city that heralds its theater offerings.

Please allow me too to offer the highest gratitude for the truly wondrous sponsoring and support that you provide for the city school students through the annual Shakespeare Monologue event. I weep, I laugh and I receive insight. That is Great Theater.

Point Breeze

Karaoke time

I saw the movie "Duets" in Pittsburgh during its limited release to this area. The year-end edition of Weekend Magazine rated that movie one of the year's 10 worst.

I agree with you entirely that it was inappropriate for Andre Braugher to appear in it. After all, he was the only performer in a singing role who lip-synched his songs. I thought other statements you wrote about the movie were unfair, however.

Singing in karaoke bars has been my hobby for nearly a decade now. I object strongly that the PG dubbed Hollywood's first serious though obviously flawed effort at making a movie about karaoke "obnoxious." Karaoke bar patrons are normally sympathetic toward first-time performers. The Post-Gazette should have shown that same feeling toward Hollywood's initial effort at making a movie about karaoke.

A fairer criticism would have been "Only aficionados might find this poorly written movie about a karaoke contest interesting."

The statement about Gwyneth Paltrow's role in the movie was uninformed. First, her father, Bruce, was involved in directing and writing "Duets," so his daughter was naturally interested in being part of her father's production. Second, according to reviews and other information in People magazine around the time of the movie's release, Gwyneth Paltrow has always been interested in singing.

Speaking of Gwyneth's father, he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer when the project was conceived. Again, that information is according to People magazine. That fact and other problems that occurred before the project was started are perhaps the reasons why the movie wasn't better than it was.


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