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Donora returns to Brillobox for "Ha Ha Heart" release show

January 30, 9 p.m.
Few bands have defined and help grow Pittsburgh’s indie-rock scene over the past decade more than Donora. That’s due in part to their consistently tight guitar pop that has evolved admirably over the course of three albums, but it also has to do with their longevity and commitment. Many of the Pittsburgh bands the trio was most associated with during their early heyday in the late aughts -- including Boca Chica; Good Night, States; Lohio; and The Harlan Twins -- have all taken extended hiatuses to either explore new projects or to focus on their non-rock star lives.This isn’t a criticism; it’s simply the typical life cycle of a vibrant local music scene.

But now, Donora seems to be moving in a different direction than its peers, emerging as the esteemed scene veterans amid a new crop of hungry up-and-coming bands. And with their latest release, Ha Ha Heart, they’ve made their most accomplished record yet, one full of gorgeous studio flourishes and robust arrangements that fill in the group’s arsenal of insanely catchy compositions with a glittering galaxy of synth lines, tape loops, and sampled sound collages. Donora’s studio-centric approach, cultivated in moments on their 2011 album Boyfriends, Girlfriends and augured on their 2013 EP Play Nice, has now blossomed to its full potential. Lead single “Always Gonna Be” has all of Donora’s trademarks: lead singer Casey Hanner’s crunchy guitar work and perfectly calibrated harmonies, bassist Jake Churton strutting, restless basslines, and drummer/producer Jake Hanner’s party-ready percussion. But when the song snaps into its chorus, there's greater depth and dimension thanks to a cascading collection of electronic keyboard riffs and playful vocal samples, which ebb and pulse on each progression.

Probably no song on the album personifies the group’s evolution better than the guitar-less shimmering daydream “Memory,” a gauzy, wafting track that recalls the somnambulist qualities of classic Beach House and even Top Gun OST-era Giorgio Moroder. This immersive, headphone symphony of a song uses every inch of the new studio Jake Hanner recently built in his Gibsonia home, where the band recorded Ha Ha Heat in its entirety. After releasing the album in early December, the trio are finally readying a proper release show on Jan. 30 at the Brillobox, the venue that has been their de facto homebase since Donora's earliest shows. Don’t miss this chance to see one of the Pittsburgh music scene’s most-revered bands operating at the height of their powers. (4104 Penn Avenue, Bloomfield, Brillobox)

Quantum Theatre readies premiere of "BRAHMAN/i: A One Hijira Stand-Up Comedy Show"

January 30 - February 22
For its latest theater piece, East Liberty-based Quantum Theatre moves into a space on North Pacific Avenue in Garfield, aiming to bring audiences to a neighborhood that, over the past year, has been hurt significantly by extensive construction on several blocks of Penn Avenue. Bolder yet, Quantum has turned the space into "The Temple of Comedy," a pop-up comedy club that will host a production of BRAHMAN/i: A One Hijira Stand-up Comedy Show. The work was originally Part 1 of acclaimed playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil’s ‘Displaced Hindu Gods’ trilogy, a series that riffs on the deities of the Hindu Trinity. 

BRAHMAN/i stars New York-based actor Sanjiv Jhaveri and is directed by the founder of Los Angeles' Cornerstone Theatre Shishir Kurup. Kapil, who was born to Indian and Bulgarian parents and raised in Sweden, created the show to explore her Indian heritage through the prism of her globalized perspective. As the title suggests, the play itself is styled after a one-person comedy show, where a sole performer is tasked to take on history, mythology, and gender while providing the voice for a dozen different eclectic characters. For director Kurup, BRAHMAN/i takes a medium beloved by American audiences, stand-up comedy, and uses it to pull Kapil's themes and ideas together in increasingly dramatic ways. 

"For better or worse, America is in love with stand-up comedy. And in certain ways, it’s much more of a high-wire act than theater," said Kurup. "I think it's like when people go to a Indy Car racing event, and they're sort of hoping to see some big crashes that people somehow walk away from. That’s why I think stand-up comics are so popular, especially those who are edgier and can improvise. The crowd is always like, 'Oh, will he crash and burn?'"

As for preparation, Kurup hopes that turning traditional theater into a comedy club atmosphere will bring a new dimension to the one-man show form. But even with a one-man show, translating that script to the stage can be a challenging, confounding endeavor. And while Kurup has worked with Sanjiv previously, who himself has been rehearsing this piece since late November, breathing life into BRAHMAN/i was no easy task.

"It’s one of those productions where people say [in regards to preparation] ‘Oh, well, it’s just a solo performance.’ Well, yes, but the script is 62 pages long of very interesting, dense material," said Kurup. "What it aspires for is a stand-up piece, and the immersion of this work is creating an atmosphere of a comedy club. So that’s the mountain we’ve been climbing for the past few weeks, turning those 62 pages into flesh, blood, truth, life."

For ticket and event information, visit BRHAMAN/i's event page at www.quantumtheatre.com/season/brahmani/.
(113 N. Pacific Avenue, Garfield, The Temple of Comedy)

Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent opens at the Warhol Museum

January 31 - April 19
Starting Jan. 31 and running through April, The Andy Warhol Museum will host the first comprehensive survey of Corita Kent’s lifetime work titled Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent. Considering the impact that Kent had not only as a trailblazing artist in the pop art scene of the '50s and '60s, but also as an activist during civil rights and women’s liberation movements, it’s stunning to think no major gallery has ever taken on an expansive retrospective of her work before now. The museum plans to not only focus on her most famous screen-printing work from the 1960s, but also her early text and abstract pieces and the work she produced in the '70s and '80s while living in Boston.

Kent cut a fascinating figure, studying art at Otis College of Art and Design, Chouinard Art Institute, and Immaculate Heart College while being a member of the Roman Catholic Order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles. She eventually became the head of Immaculate Heart College’s Art Department and her classes proved to be the epicenter for Los Angeles’ avant-garde artist community, including the likes of visionaries such as John Cage, Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller, and Charles and Ray Eames. In her work, Kent was fond of incorporating various pieces of texts accrued from religious, political and philosophical works, as well as street signs, films, and popular music, into large screen prints with bold colors and innovative designs.

With Someday is Now, The Warhol offers Pittsburgh a chance to explore one of the most important and groundbreaking voices the American art community has ever produced. For more information about the exhibit, check out The Warhol’s custom exhibition page at www.warhol.org/CoritaKent/. (117 Sandusky Street, North Side, The Warhol)

Robert Morris University unveils documentary on the Allegheny Conference

January 21, 5:30 p.m.
The transformation of Pittsburgh from a heavy industrial steel town, to depressed Rust Belt rescue case, to a thriving, revitalized example of urban renewal has been touted and dissected by politicians, national and local publications, and community stakeholders countless times. Pittsburghers are proud of both the city’s past and what it has become, but how many people really understand the scope and breadth of the work that was done over the past half century to execute this transformation? 

Over at Robert Morris University, Provost David Jamison and the school's Academic Media Center Director Michael DiLauro decided that the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development was a better time than any to explore the people and organizations behind Pittsburgh’s progression into the city it is today. With the support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Jamison and DiLauro produced the documentary We Built This City: How The Allegheny Conference Remade Pittsburgh. The film tells the story the ACCD emerging from a loose consortium of a handful of civic-minded corporation heads into a large nonprofit organization that has helped to catalyze some of the first, and largest, public/private city and economic planning collaborations in the nation.

Evolutions just don't happen overnight,” said DiLauro, who directed and edited We Built This City. “In order to understand and learn how Pittsburgh has gotten to this pinnacle of attention, it's important to understand how the ACCD has been a major player in Pittsburgh's and our region's positive transformation.”

And by telling the story of the ACCD, DiLauro and Jamison, who wrote the script, tell the story of how Pittsburgh developed the tools that supported the novel idea of “urban renewal.” The film explores how the Urban Redevelopment Authority was established under the auspices of the ACCD, which then led to the establishment of essential agencies like the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, and the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority.

But even as DiLauro and Jamison lionize the efforts of the ACCD, the URA and the business community, they don’t shy away from the controversial development projects in the late '60s and early '70s, including the building of the Civic Arena and the establishment of Penn Circle in East Liberty. Regardless, the extensive research and interviews with public figures such as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, former Mayor Tom Murphy; former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh; former Pittsburgh City Councilman Sala Udin; Morgan O’Brien, CEO of Peoples Natural Gas and chairman of the Allegheny Conference; and Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky and former CEO Bob Pease, help paint a fascinating picture of ACCD’s role in shaping Pittsburgh’s future. 

“As a documentary filmmaker, I'm curious as to what people think and do and how they affect those around them. So, the story of the ACCD is a logical extension; profiling people who have made a difference for their community,” said DiLauro. “The biggest impression of the ACCD's work over the years is the spirit, the cooperation, and the mission of the conference to make Pittsburgh a most desirable destination for business, education, livability and sustainability.” 

Robert Morris University will host a premiere screening for the public tonight at the Colonial Theatre in Massey Hall on campus. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. with a light reception, followed by the screening at 6 p.m. and a short Q&A at 7 p.m. (6001 University Blvd., Moon Township, Robert Morris University)
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