NEXTpittsburgh – Location: Carrie Blast Furnaces, the site of Quantum Theatre’s production of “Hamlet,” running through Aug. 27
Featured guests: Karla Boos, founder and artistic director of Quantum Theatre, and Cody Spellman, Quantum’s director of production
3 things that surprised me:
1. Quantum Theatre does not put on shows in theaters. Instead, it performs in nontraditional spaces, allowing for unusual and experiential productions. A few years back, the company staged “King Lear” at the Carrie Blast Furnaces. Quantum had been planning on staging “Hamlet” at an indoor space at the industrial landmark but due to unforeseen circumstances, it had to pivot and stage the show outside under one of the historic blast furnaces.
2. Boos recalls when Quantum staged a performance of “Anna Karenina” Downtown in 2000. Just as the performance was about to begin, a construction crew started jackhammering down the street. She remembers other times when flocks of geese flew over productions or rainbows appeared. For her, that’s the magic of Quantum Theatre — every show is going to be a little different.
3. Walking up to the area where they’re staging the play, it looked like the actors would be performing on a rusty U-shaped steel walkway. As I got closer, I realized that the walkway wasn’t part of the old blast furnace — it was a set. Constructed out of plywood and fabric, the set is painted grey and touched up with rust-colored paint to make it blend into its surroundings.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: I was surprised to learn that the blast furnaces at the site was used up until the late 1970s. After iron ore was melted down at the facility, it was taken by train over the river to be formed at Homestead Steel Works. The site was in operation for over 90 years and now is a National Historic Landmark.