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2023-2024 SeasonIn the News

Pittsburgh’s People of the Year 2023: Performing Arts

By December 20, 2023No Comments
Karla Boos

Pittsburgh City Paper – Karla Boos takes Pittsburgh theater beyond the stage.

Karla Boos admits that, when she founded Quantum Theatre in 1990, she never thought it would become her life’s work. Over 30 years later, few things have changed from the company’s original mission: taking theater beyond the stage and into unorthodox venues.

“We were just looking for any place to make a show once upon a time in the first year,” she tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “The places that we found were not theaters, and then there was such a big reaction to that … And the thought of going into a theater, when we could afford it, was just so limiting compared to what we had done in these places that were ‘inadequate.’”

While Quantum has staged numerous inventive, immersive shows, 2023 marks an especially progressive year. Boos and her crew returned to Carrie Blast Furnaces — the site of Quantum’s 2019 King Lear production — for a Hamlet like no other, featuring a powerful lead in Treasure Treasure, who was given the space to play the Danish noble as a trans woman.

Audiences were also treated to The Devil is a Lie, a tech-age Faustian tale written by Asian American playwright Jennifer Chang and directed by Kyle Haden, a local Black theater professional and educator. The year closed with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a musical about famed Jewish painter Marc Chagall that was staged at Rodef Shalom and done in collaboration with Violins of Hope, a touring exhibition of instruments rescued from the Holocaust.

Boos explains that, while Quantum plays are chosen not based on what audiences want to see but on what reflects her “lifelong journey in the theater,” they do not exist in a vacuum. For example, The Devil is a Lie, she says, came as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement — rather than put out a statement, like many other organizations had done, Boos says they reached out to Black artists in the city and asked if they wanted to develop a work.

Boos also expresses gratitude for Pittsburgh playing a major role in the works, adding, “the city is such a partner in us pulling off what we do.”

As Quantum heads toward 2024, and the already announced production Scenes from an Execution, Boos sees herself nearing the end of a career that created a platform she hopes will remain intact “after her time.”

“Each work is very precious to me right now,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ll do another Shakespeare, and that’s why Hamlet was such an investment. I don’t want to waste a minute, and I hope to be communicating my lifelong values as an artist in every single work, including in the people I support, the people who I give the reins to.”

Read the full story here.

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