Kelly Strayhorn serves up various genres of entertainment

Kelly Strayhorn Theater Executive Director Janera Solomon wants Pittsburghers to step out and try something different.

She is making that possible with an eclectic mix of dance, music theater and interactive events that will be featured during the theater’s 2010-11 season, which begins Sept. 18.

CREATORS—Hallie Donner, left, director of the Alumni Theater Company, and Staycee Pearl, director of Staycee Pearl Dance Project, founded and lead their own companies.

“We’re starting with Shristi Dances of India that was founded in Pittsburgh in 1995 and they did a lot of their shows at the Kelly Strayhorn while they were still in Pittsburgh,” Solomon said. “It’ll be great to start with them because they are an original group using the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and we wanted to bring something different but also familiar to Pittsburgh.”

Each month of the year will feature a tantalizing tidbit of entertainment that is sure to please.

For one night only, Sept. 18, acclaimed classical Indian choreographer Srey­ashi Dey will be bringing a quartet of international dancers for one night only to premier “India—The Light Within.” The performance showcases beautiful shots by Carnegie Mellon photographer professor, Charlee Brodsky and spiritual poetry by Bombay native Zilka Joseph.

Tickets for “India—The Light Within” are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, $15 for residents in the 15206 zip code; $10 for art­ists, students and children.

Alumni Theater Company, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s resident youth company, will perform two yet-to-be-named original programs: Oct. 14 and 15 and Oct. 22-24. Company founder Hallie Donner will direct both performances.

“Halloween Mayhem” is a full day of activities geared toward kids and parents spending time together. It is an interactive day of music, performances and a hands-on workshop where participants reuse household items to make Halloween masks, costumes and decorations. “Halloween Mayhem” will be held Oct. 30 from 12-4 p.m.

November will begin with “My People” a three-part film series focused on the lives and experiences of gay people of color. the show will be presented Nov. 2, 9, 16 and 23. The series aims to help identify strong, active and vibrant communities.

“We seek to examine the relationship between queer communities and broader Pittsburgh by facilitating an open forum where all are welcome,” said Joseph Hall, Kelly Strayhorn program director.

Resident dance company Staycee Pearl Dance Project will return to the stage with a premier dance concert program, “Circle Pop.” The project combines contemporary movement and multimedia to produce an exciting work. The show will run Nov. 19-20. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, $15 for residents in the 15206 zip code, $10 for students, artists and children.

November culminates by celebrating the work and life of Pittsburgh jazz great Billy Strayhorn. The party will take place Nov. 27. It will feature noted national and local jazz musicians.

“The Billy Strayhorn birthday bash has been held annually at the Kelly Strayhorn since 2008,” said Yvonne Hudson, director of marketing and development at the theater. “It is an evening of cool jazz and a mixer from 7-8 p.m. and will be birthday-themed with cake, retro sweets (like Pittsburgh’s own Clark Bars) and an exhibit on Strayhorn’s life and work.”

The theater will help get people into the Christmas spirit and help with gift giving with the creation of the Holiday Bazaar Dec.11 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The event will feature handmade crafts for sale.

“There are a lot of craft markets around but they aren’t diverse so we thought that this would be a nice way to bring a diverse group of people together in East Liberty,” Solomon said. “In December there isn’t a lot of holiday celebrations in East Liberty and we wanted to give the people in East Liberty a celebration.

The 2010 season will end with a cornucopia of guest artists each bringing their unique brand of performance art to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

Nichole Canuso Dance, an innovative Philadelphia dance company will be premiering “Takes” a genre-bending exploration of dance and cinema that immerses audiences in a panoramic film world. “Takes” will be shown Jan. 15-16. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, $15 for residents of the 15206 zip code, $10 for students, artists and children.

East Liberty will celebrate the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 17.

“It was popular last year. We took the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and asked people to share their dreams for the world,” Solomon said. “This year we will take another speech and reflect on it.”

The Kelly Strayhorn Theater and the Shadow Lounge will collaborate for an intimate spoken word and music program entitled “Soulscapes” to commemorate Black History Month Feb. 17. Local artists will take the mic for this unique showcase.

Vanessa German will make her return to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater as an artist-in-residence to present a new version of a solo piece, which she premiered at the August Wilson Center this year.

“Roots” will explore themes of possession, creativity and memory by transporting audiences into her world inspired by her love of high theatrical drama and the feel and rhythm of words. “Roots” will run April 1-2, but German will spend a week at the Kelly Strayhorn. She will give a public reading of a work in progress March 28.

The Kelly Strayhorn’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival returns for a third year with some of the mid-Atlantic region’s most exciting choreographers and dancers to grace the stage May 12-15. Sunday matinees will showcase Pittsburgh’s youngest dancers from local schools and dance programs.

The theater’s annual fundraiser, “Full Bloom,” a summer dance party will start the 2011 summer series “Celebrate East Liberty,” which will feature music, dance, classic films and the yearly Gene Kelly birthday bash in August.

“Our goal is to draw more people in the audience. I want to get people to come out and enjoy themselves. I want people to know that tickets are affordable and they can see a high caliber performance at an affordable price,” Solomon said.

(For more information on the Kelly Strayhorn 2010-2011 calendar, visit or e-mail Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 1-800-838-3006.)

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