Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – After sold-out success with its outdoor show “The Current War,” Quantum Theatre is keeping up the creative momentum.
Quantum’s 30th anniversary season returns to shows that were rescheduled due to the pandemic and one new play announced for April 2022.
The first one is a world premiere of “An Odyssey.” Adapted by Jay Ball, the play explores what defines heroism through the female characters of Homer’s epic, “The Odyssey,” sprinkling humor throughout the mythic journey. In true Quantum fashion, “An Odyssey” is slated to be performed at the Schenley Park ice skating rink near the park’s Oval Sportsplex on Aug. 13 through Sept. 5. The play has an immersive design and may require 1,000 feet of rope, said Stewart Urist, Quantum’s executive director.
“Chimerica,” an award-winning 2013 play by Lucy Kirkwood, follows a young photojournalist who stunned the world with the photo of a lone protester facing down tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. The play fast forwards to our time to examine the geopolitical dominance of the U.S. and China and the ethics of photojournalism. “Chimerica” runs Nov. 27 through Dec. 19, and a venue has yet to be finalized.
Costume designer and Carnegie Mellon University professor Susan Tsu will serve as scenographer on “Chimerica,” creating scenes and costumes for the play. She previously worked with Quantum on such shows as “King Lear” at the Carrie Blast Furnace and the recent digital production “Far Away.” Tsu had students in China during the massacre at Tiananmen Square, Urist said, and Quantum plans to exhibit her photos from that time in the lobby for the production.
The final announced play, “Plano” by Will Arbery, takes a look at three sisters in Dallas — not Plano. The sisters experience life as a whirlwind as they face difficulties with their husbands who sometimes find themselves in the title town. The play takes a witty and unsettling look at domestic drama played out in fast-forward absurdity. “Plano” runs April 1-24.
Urist said Adil Mansoor, theater director and founding member of Hatch Arts Collective, brought “Plano” to the attention of Quantum Theatre artistic director Karla Boos. He previous worked with Quantum on Paul Kruse’s “Chickens in the Yard” and “The River” by Jez Butterworth, a production at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
“It’s an interesting, deceiving play in some senses,” Urist said. “It’s very surreal in its execution, and it’s very biting. It critiques white family society.”
“The Current War,” the musical tale of the intense rivalry between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison by Michael Mitnick, is still available to stream online after sold-out shows at Westinghouse Park. The recording will be available at quantumtheatre.com until June 27. $20 grants on-demand access to the performance for 72 hours.
“This season is really showing our range,” Urist said. “We’re talking about it from the classics to very contemporary plays, from something classic and realistic to something more surreal and unconventional like ‘Plano.’”
Urist said the 30-year journey of the theater company mirrors the artistic journey of Boos, Quantum’s founder. He noted the nontraditional spaces Quantum staged its shows in 30 years ago and its evolution alongside Pittsburgh’s reinvention. Quantum has performed at the Ace Hotel in East Liberty, the Union Trust Building in Downtown and the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District, among many others.
Boos came to Pittsburgh as a recent graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and founded a company “that created the kind of art she wanted to see in Pittsburgh,” Urist said. “Bringing art that was really driven strongly by international influences she wanted to make sure had a home here. Now, so much of it is culminating. Here’s what she has to offer the city of Pittsburgh and wants to reflect out into the rest of the world.”
He emphasized the 30th anniversary is also a reminder to look to the company’s future. Quantum’s neighborhood initiative NearBuy will continue. Funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the nonprofit purchases meals for 412 Food Rescue, matching patrons’ purchases at nearby restaurants dollar for dollar up to $3,000 per restaurant partner. Customers mention they are friends of Quantum Theater at participating restaurants to trigger the match.
Urist said Quantum is likely to continue to undertake large-scale works like “King Lear,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “Looking for Violeta.”
“Where do we go from here is something big on our minds,” he said. “These big projects … that have sparked the city’s imagination, that’s where we see ourselves going more and more and what we want to be known for locally. These big projects inspire us, and we hope they inspire audiences too.”