Virtual/Outdoor Theater Company: City Theatre Company
Theater companies had ample reason to lay low in 2020. With in-person performances impossible, companies either battened down the hatches or pivoted to virtual programming. Many innovated and collaborated, making for digital content that — while lacking the communal aspect integral to live theater — was engaging, illuminating and inventive.
That wasn’t good enough for City Theatre.
The South Side-based company switched sides of the Monongahela River, decamping for the Hazelwood Green development. There, they hosted the Drive-In Arts Festival, bringing companies and creators together for 12 nights of in-person entertainment, with audiences safely bubbled inside their cars.
“The main goal was to keep people working and keep people engaged,” says City Theatre Artistic Director Marc Masterson, “and also to look at the circumstances and say: ‘These things are given. What can we do with those given circumstances?’”
Over the course of those 12 nights, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brought ensembles. MCG Jazz assembled trios and quartets. The Drinking Partners arrived with live comedy. Lee Terbosic performed works of magic. WYEP hosted concerts. Each evening brought a different art form with different collaborators — all greeted by grateful audience members, expressing their pleasure with flashing headlights and honking horns.
“People were really longing for connection — and performers were longing for the ability to express themselves in the way that they do,” Masterson says. The event was also a triumph of collaboration, as organizations from throughout the city pooled their talents. “Two or three organizations working together can do things that one organization, who might be under-resourced, can’t do on their own.
“Part of it is just Pittsburgh, really. Pittsburgh is great at coming together.”
City Theatre did more throughout the year, including Zoom content, “enhanced” virtual performances and commissioning future work; they also returned to Hazelwood Green to mount Manual Cinema’s “Frankenstein.” The big swing, however, was the Drive-In Arts Festival — and it connected.
“We put ourselves out there, we made a best effort, it seemed to work out and people were grateful — all of us were grateful.” — SC
1300 Bingham St., South Side, 412/431-2489, citytheatrecompany.org
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Row House Cinema
Dependable Drive-In Theater
Oakmont Country Club
Holiday Light Show
Place to Take Kids
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Virtual Benefit Gala
Animal Friends Black Tie & Tails