Monday, March 31, 2008

King Lear at Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theatre

For immediate release:

Contact: Melissa Hill Grande

Director of Marketing

(412) 561-6000 x203

Family betrayal, sibling rivalry take center stage in PICT‘s King Lear

starring Dakin Matthews

Pittsburgh, PA – March 24, 2008. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre kicks off the 2008 season, Family Affairs, with the grandfather of all Shakespearean tragedies, King Lear, in a bold, visceral new production directed by James J. Christy and generously sponsored by BNY Mellon. Previews begin April 9th, with an opening on April 12th and performances through April 26th at The Charity Randall Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland.

The aging king divides his kingdom among his three daughters, basing each one’s share upon a public declaration of love to her father. Goneril and Regan make eloquent and hypocritical speeches, but the youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to participate and is disinherited. Meanwhile, the Earl of Gloucester is falsely persuaded by his bastard son, Edmund, that his other son, Edgar, is conspiring against him. It is only after these stubbornly misguided fathers have endured terrible physical and mental suffering that they realize it is the offspring they have so bitterly renounced, not those to whose flattery they have succumbed, who truly love them.

King Lear is directed by James J. Christy, with scenery by David P. Gordon, lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski, costumes by Pei-Chi Su, and sound design by Nicholas Crano. The production stars Dakin Matthews, Simon Bradbury, Larry John Meyers, and David Whalen; with Helena Ruoti, Robin Walsh, and Karen Baum as the three sisters.

Philadelphia-area director James J. Christy makes his PICT debut with King Lear. Local audiences may remember Christy from his work with the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival in the 1990’s, where he directed As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors. He has directed over twenty Shakespeare productions at theatres like the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and at Villanova University where he taught theatre for thirty-nine years. He has garnered seven nominations for directing by the Philadelphia Theatre Alliance Barrymore Awards, winning two Barrymore Awards for directing and a special Barrymore for Lifetime Achievement.

Lear is played by Dakin Matthews, a renowned actor, dramaturg, and writer. Matthews is an Associate Artist of the Old Globe Theatre, a founding member of the Acting Company, and the former Artistic Director of California Actors Theatre, Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, and the Antaeus Company. As an actor for such companies as ACT in San Francisco, the Old Globe, The Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and numerous summer Festivals, he has specialized in Shakespearean roles, including Falstaff, Julius Caesar, Capulet, Brutus, MacBeth, Shylock, and many others. On Broadway, he appeared in his own adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV (directed by Jack O’Brien), winning the Bayfield Award for acting and a Drama Desk Award for adaptation. No stranger to contemporary plays, his many recent roles include Dick Cheney in Stuff Happens and Hector in The History Boys at the Mark Taper and Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock Blonde at South Coast Rep. His 20 films include Thirteen Days, Nuts, and Clean and Sober. He has also appeared in over 200 television shows, including, most recently, recurring roles on Desperate Housewives, The King of Queens, and Gilmore Girls.

Simon Bradbury returns to PICT to play Lear’s Fool. Recent credits in Vancouver include Charlie Chaplin Goes to War, Oliver and the upcoming Stargate movie. Bradbury spent sixteen years as a company member at the Shaw Festival, and was PICT's 2006 actor-in-residence, performing in The Pillowman (Ariel), Endgame (Clov), and The Shaughraun (Conn).

The Earl of Gloucester is played by Pittsburgh-based actor Larry John Meyers. Meyers has performed in more than a dozen PICT shows over the past seven seasons, including the acclaimed 2006 production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame (Hamm), and last season’s Julius Caesar (Caesar) and Stuff Happens (Dick Cheney).

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2007 Performer of the Year David Whalen returns to play Edgar. Last season, Whalen was seen as George W. Bush in Stuff Happens, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Padraic Osbourne in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. A Pittsburgh native, Whalen is a graduate of Point Park University and the North Carolina School for the Arts. He played Joe Pitt in the American regional premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at Houston’s Alley Theatre and toured Europe with the production. He also appeared in the Arden/City Theatre co-production of Michael Hollinger’s Opus.

Lear’s three daughters are played by Pittsburgh residents Helena Ruoti (Goneril), Robin Walsh (Regan) and Karen Baum (Cordelia). Helena Ruoti was last seen in PICT’s Heartbreak House. Previously for PICT, Walsh played the title role in Hedda Gabler, as well as appearing in The False Servant and Henry. Karen Baum returns to PICT after playing Moya in The Shaughraun and Catherine in Boston Marriage. The King Lear ensemble includes David Cabot, Matt DeCaro (Kent), Jarrod DiGiorgi, Kevin Koch, Randy Kovitz, Christopher Maxwell, Maurice Redwood, Mark Staley, Paul Todaro (Edmund), Evan Walker, and Dereck Walton.

Scenic designer David P. Gordon makes his PICT debut with King Lear. A recipient of three Barrymore Awards and ten nominations for Outstanding Set Design for his work in the Philadelphia area, Gordon currently serves on the faculty of Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School for the Arts. The costumes are designed by Pei-Chi Su, whose previous PICT credits include Pride & Prejudice, Private Lives, and BeckettFest. Andrew David Ostrowski (Hedda Gabler, Private Lives) designs lights, and Nicholas Crano (Shakespeare’s Henry IV) sound.

This production runs April 9th through the 26th in the stately Charity Randall Theatre, located in the Stephen Foster Memorial on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. Student matinees are scheduled for school groups on April 9th, 15th and 22nd at 10 a.m. Tickets for public performances are available by calling ProArts Tickets at 412-394-3353, or through the PICT website at To schedule students into a matinee performance, contact PICT Education Director Michele McClendon at 412-561-6000 x208, or email

King Lear Fact Sheet

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Directed by James J. Christy

The Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland

Cast: Karen Baum, Simon Bradbury, David Cabot, Matt DeCaro, Jarrod DiGiorgi, Kevin Koch, Randy Kovitz, Dakin Matthews, Christopher Maxwell, Larry John Meyers, Maurice Redwood, Helena Ruoti, Mark Staley, Paul Todaro, Evan Walker, Robin Walsh, Dereck Walton, and David Whalen.

Design Team: Nicholas Crano (Sound), David Gordon (Scenic), Andrew David Ostrowski (Lighting), and Pei-Chi Su (Costumes)

Dates and Times:

First Week: Thursday – Friday, April 10 - 11, Previews, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 12, Opening Night, 8 p.m. (followed by reception)

Sunday, April 13, 2 p.m. (followed by a talk-back with actors)

Second Week: Tuesday, April 15, 7 p.m.

Wednesday – Saturday, April 16 -- 19, 8 p.m.

· Artistically Speaking -- Wednesday, April 16 (sponsored by UPMC)

· Behind the Scenes -- Thursday, April 17 at 7 p.m.

Third Week: Wednesday – Friday, April 23 - 25, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 26, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

· Saturday, April 26, 2 p.m. – Audio descriptive performance

· Saturday, April 26, 8 p.m. – Shakespeare’s (Belated) Birthday Party

(a post-show celebration)

Student Matinees for School Groups: April 9, 15 & 22 – 10 a.m.

To schedule student matinees, call Michele McClendon at 412-561-6000 x208 or email

Ticket Prices:

Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday Nights and Matinees: $41 Adults, $37 Seniors

Friday and Saturday Nights: $45 Adults, $40 Seniors

Opening Night: $47 adults, $42 Seniors

Previews: $33 (all seats, no senior discounts)

Student Tickets: $17 (All Performances)

For Tickets call ProArts at (412) 394-3353 or visit

Visit PICT online at

The Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre was founded in 1996 to diversify the region’s theatrical offerings by providing Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania audiences with high-quality, text-driven, affordable productions of classical theatre and the works of classical and contemporary Irish playwrights and to significantly improve employment opportunities for local talent in all facets of theatrical presentation and production. PICT is a Small Professional Theatre (SPT) affiliated with Actors’ Equity Association, and a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance. PICT is Professional Theatre in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh and PICT productions at the Charity Randall and Henry Heymann Theatres are presented in cooperation with the University of Pittsburgh – Department of Theatre Arts.

Melissa Hill Grande

Marketing Director

Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre

PO Box 23607

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

412-561-6000, x203

Visit our website:!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Episode 56, 1 Year Anniversary Positively Pittsburgh Live; Pittsburgh Authors

Episode 56, 1 Year Anniversary Positively Pittsburgh Live; Pittsburgh Authors

The line up of Pittsburgh Authors was diverse and nothing short of brilliant. It’s amazing when you get a group of creative people together who have not previously talked how recurring themes emerge. And that is the most I am going to say about that because I don’t want to spoil the show for you.

Check out this line-up:

• Nancy Stampahar; "Peace, Love, Lemonade, a recipe to make your life sweeter;"
• Gina Mazza Hillier; “Everything Matters, Nothing Matters;” “Romancing the Future;” co-author, “Cosmic Kids”
• John Brewer: “African Americans in Pittsburgh;” also “Pittsburgh Jazz”
• Diane Fletcher and Weston Lyon: “Creating Space 39 Strategies To Help You Make Time for What's Important;”
• Weston Lyon: “Fit in Fifteen;” “Use it to Lose It”
• Joyce Faulkner, For Shrieking Out Loud;“In the Shadow of Suribachi;" "Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors"
• Lisa L. Spahr: “WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion;”

Guest bios:

John M. Brewer, Jr., is a historian and consultant for the Pittsburgh Courier archive project, a consultant for the Carnegie Museum of Art's Charles Teenie Harris photograph project and the curator and founder of the Trolley Station Oral History Center and author of the Black American Series African Americans in Pittsburgh. John also owns one of the largest banquet ballroom facilities in Pittsburgh, the Coliseum. John is one of the foremost authorities in the country on African American History and a much sought after researcher and speaker. John’s unique brand of historical story telling has added much to the history of African American Culture in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Joyce Faulkner I writes history, historical fiction and humor. Her blogs are: and She is a speaker and consultant for folks who want to write and publish books. In particular, she works with the veteran community – although she has helped all sorts of people write their stories and publish them. She evaluates books that people have written and gives them advice on how to prepare their writing for publication. She ghostwrites for those who have a story but do not wish to write it themselves.

Diana Fletcher Author, Speaker, & TotalHealth Coach
Diana is the author of Creating Space. She’s also the publisher of a monthly newsletter called TotalHealth. Diana is an energized, yet down-to-earth speaker for businesses, organizations, and associations on how to reach TotalHealth. Diana is a recognized authority on fitness & nutrition. Using her experience and knowledge, she helps clients find time to exercise and eat right. Diana works with individuals, as well as entire families (at once).

Gina Mazza Hillier is a journalist, editor, co-author of two nonfiction books and a founding partner of Epiphany Works, LLC. To learn more about Gina and her upcoming book events and media appearances, visit:, and Everything Matters, Nothing Matters is for the woman who finds herself overworked, under-inspired and lost amid the demands of spouse, house, kids and kin, and/or long hours at an unfulfilling job – with zero time for herself. Its 7-step plan encourages readers to step back, get real and joyfully reclaim who they are.

Weston Lyon Author, Speaker, & KING of the Functional Fitness Jungle Weston is the author of the internationally recognized book USE IT TO LOSE IT. Weston is a passionate, dynamic speaker who is a master at bringing the audience to life and getting them involved. He speaks to companies, organizations, and associations across the country on…Weston personally coaches a select group of clients in the picturesque town of Sewickley, PA. As one of the leading authorities on functional fitness, Weston helps his clients become stronger, more flexible, and full of energy.

Lisa L. Spahr, Author and Life Coach Lisa Spahr is a master’s level psychologist and sole proprietor of Spahr Consulting, a life coaching business based in Pittsburgh. She has an extensive background working in law and psychiatry and the military and policing domains with respect to human performance and optimization. Before finishing her book she could be found on a military base wearing a gas mask, firing an M-16 and leading a squad of soldiers through a simulated village; or flying over L.A. with the L.A.P.D. during a gang takeover; interviewing psychopaths in prison; or teaching our front-line officers how to stop a suicide bombers.

Nancy Stampahar is an organizational development consultant, trainer and keynote speaker who earned her degree in human resource management and created her own business, Silver Lining Solutions®, after she decided to make lemonade. Nancy delivers a new, clever twist to the "When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade" metaphor. From her real-life personal and professional stories and examples, Nancy Stampahar explores the power of choice with a practical, how-to approach to empower people to live happy and fulfilling lives.

Despite the echo in audio which my sound engineer, Greg Matthis, is trying hard to alleviate with editing, this is a great talk cast. ( By the way, this is the first time that I have ever had this kind of audio challenge on Talk Shoe. Someone called in on the call using VOIP microphone and did not have their volume turned down. It was not a guest but a listener.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

EPISODE45 -UPMC Heart, Lung and Esphogeal Institute, Chief Cardiac Surgeon

Cardiac Surgeon, Kenton J. Zehr, M.D. Specialist in Cardiac Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques

“A passion for innovation lies at the heart of UPMC’s success. Through such innovation, UPMC has already launched a portfolio of new businesses in information technology, biosecurity, and biomedicine — all nurtured from its core service lines. UPMC’s unique strategy of combining clinical and research excellence with business-like discipline translates into excellent patient care for western Pennsylvanians and the promise of new jobs, new businesses, and a new biotechnology-based economy for the region.”

Experts at the Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery Institute (HLESI) at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are dedicated to caring for patients with diseases and disorders of the heart, lungs, and esophagus by using the latest diagnostic, surgical, and medical techniques available. HLESI surgeons are at the forefront of developing new minimally invasive surgical techniques and they share their expertise with surgeons from across the nation and around the world through special training conferences, which utilize UPMC’s state-of-the-art laparoscopic operating rooms.

Guest: Renowned Mayo Clinic Cardiac Surgeon, Kenton J. Zehr, M.D.
Specialist in Cardiac Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques

Kenton J. Zehr, M.D., an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon, is the chief of the division of cardiac surgery and professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and associate director of the Heart, Lung and Esophageal Surgery Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

Dr. Zehr specializes in mitral and aortic valve repair, aortic root reconstruction, thoracic aneurysm surgery and left ventricular assist device therapy for advanced heart failure. His research interests include development of cardiac surgical devices to improve minimally invasive techniques, and he has co-developed techniques for sutureless anastomoses and percutaneous mitral valve repair.
Prior to joining UPMC, Dr. Zehr was a cardiovascular surgeon on faculty at the Mayo Clinic and an associate professor at the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn.

New Minimally Invasive Surgical Approaches Towards Valvular Application

Show notes from host

Minimally invasive espophogeal and heart surgery

Heart, Lund and Esophageal Surgery Institute started by Dr. Lukatich
James D. Luketich, M.D., is professor of surgery and chief of the division of thoracic & foregut surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also is co--director of the Mark Ravitch/Leon C. Hirsch Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Lung Cancer Center.

Prior to joining UPMC in 1995, he was a senior instructor in surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He has held academic appointments and positions at Cornell University Medical College and the University of Pennsylvania.
Subspecialty clinics: UPMC goal to be ultimate source for non bread and butter sugeries such as Aortic surgery and Anurism surgery

Aortic Surgeon: Dr. Thomas Gleason

Dr. Gleason specializes in the repair of thoracic aortic diseases including aneurysms, dissections, traumatic injuries and heritable disorders such as bicuspid aortic valve and Marfan syndrome. His surgical expertise spans thoracic aortic reconstructions, endovascular stent-grafting, valve-sparing root replacement, aortic and mitral valve repair, off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery andsurgery for atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Michael Siegenthaler—and Dr. Robert Komos: Endo Vascular stinting anurisms—two day rather than two week stay for surgeries

UPMC has begun a study using an investigational cardiac device, the VentrAssist™ Left Ventricular Assist System (LVAD) to see whether it can be used safely and effectively in patients with end-stage heart failure.
Mar Fans Syndrome—Thoracic, aortic disease, normally risky surgery but elective surgery brings mortality rate down

Arythmic surgery such as Wolf Parkinson White and Atrial fibrulation: UPMC has developed maze procedure rather than oblation, cuts blockages from filling chambers, eradicates fibrulations so that patients can get off blood thinners

Director for Cardiac research Kamuran Kadipasaoglu

Dr. Kadipasaoglu specializes in the development of artificial cardiac prostheses and methods of mechanical cardiac support. In addition to continuing his research, he will teach and advise bioengineering students at the University of Pittsburgh and oversee cardiac research at HLESI.bionic engineer,

Dr. Giovani Speziali—tip of the heart surgery on beating heart
Still use heart lung machine but do not stop heart during surgery , useful in mitral valve prolapse, developed way to attach gortex cords while heart is still beating

Benefits: decreased morbidity

Additional information at:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pittsburgh Theaters Collaborations


Pittsburgh Theaters ‘Shake’ Things Up with Spring Collaboration

Pittsburgh – Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company, The University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theater, Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre and Bricolage are gearing up to present Pittsburgh with four unique Shakespeare productions. The theatres are collaborating to offer the “Spring into Shakespeare” promotion, allowing them to promote one another’s productions and offer cross-promotional discounts.

“Spring into Shakespeare” kicks off with Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company’s unique adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Set in 1849 Alta California, directed by Penelope Miller Lindblom, this production of Romeo and Juliet takes this classic, tragic love story and sets it in a time of perverse greed and violence. Romeo and Juliet runs April 3-13, 2008 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Tickets are $18 -$20 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 412-621-4445 or online at Patrons who bring a ticket stub from one of the other “Spring into Shakespeare” productions receive $5 off the full ticket price.

Next up, The University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre presents William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline April 9–13 and 17–19 in the Cathedral of Learning’s Studio Theatre. This lively and accessible production of the Bard’s rarely performed masterpiece harkens back to Elizabethan playhouses, engaging the audience with humor, swordplay, and live music. Under the direction of Chaya Gordon, and performed by an ensemble cast, Cymbeline is a swashbuckling tale of forbidden love, treachery, and divine intervention. Tickets are $7 for students and $10 for the general public, and can be purchased by calling the box office at 412-624-7529 or online at

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre presents King Lear, directed by Barrymore Award-winner James J. Christy, at The Charity Randall Theatre at the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland. King Lear is the classic story about the division of his kingdom amongst his daughters based on their public declaration of love for their father. After terrible suffering, Lear realizes that the daughter he has disinherited was the only one who truly loved him. Featuring Dakin Matthews as Lear and Simon Bradbury as the Fool, King Lear runs April 9-26, 2008. Tickets are available by calling ProArts at 412-394-3353 or online at, Patrons who bring a ticket stub from one of the other “Spring into Shakespeare” productions receive $5 off the full ticket price.

Bricolage rounds out the event with their production of Troilus and Cressida, directed by Jeffrey Carpenter, on July 27th and 28th at 8 p.m. It is the seventh year of the siege of Troy by Agamemnon and his Greeks. The conflict is at a stalemate and dissension is growing in both camps. By turns shocking, uproarious, and impassioned, Troilus and Cressida is a bitterly satirical, thoroughly modern exploration of politics, brutality, vanity, double standards, and doomed love played out against the background of a senseless war which no one seems to know how to bring to an end. The performance is free to the public. More information can be obtained through the organization’s website at or by calling 412-381-6999.

# # #

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Episode 51, African American Leaders in Pittsburgh

Historic Black leaders in Pittsburgh
Feb 2008

Show Notes by John Brewer, Author of African Americans in Pittsburgh


Until now, we all have embraced the concept of leadership based on standards which does not include the black perspective. Those cast as “black leaders” were often selected by the dominant media .Stories that come from this source is often tainted with ‘truths which are misleading, incorrect or demeaning to those who know the reality. More often than not, key facts are simply overlooked by influential reporting sources. Therefore, the idea of understanding who were the ‘ black leaders’ in Pittsburgh or elsewhere requires deep research before the real network of influence can be bought to the public for consideration. Once these ‘ new facts’ have been exposed the educational and institutional program required to change ‘ public opinion’ is so extensive the public never receives or believes what has been posed .Therefore, we must rely on documentaries, public media programs ( particularly black history month) the internet and great shows like your program to air both controversial and new views on Black Leadership to unveil the pertinent facts about who is doing what in Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

It seems very complicated whenever you hear the term” Black Leadership” However, I feel only four reasons exist throughout our two hundred and fifty plus year history in Pittsburgh which Black leaders have emerged to change or eliminate. They are:

• American Slavery
• Disenfranchisement of blacks after black reconstruction
• Extreme Jim Crow cases
• Exclusion from assimilation ( based on constitution and amendments)

1843 Mystery Newspaper published in downtown Pittsburgh on Hand street ( near Liberty and Penn Avenue by Martin Delaney must be considered as the most vital link in the Underground Railroad. The newspaper defined for the railroad exact locations, names and directions for the conductors engaged in the most significant movement from Slavery. Delaney also provided medical treatment for Pittsburghers inflicted with cholera and other blood related diseases. In 1845 the Mystery Newspaper was the one and only paper which covered the Great Fire of 1845 in Pittsburgh.

Delaney’s leadership role assisted in the formation of secret societies who physically helped runaway slaves, freedmen and other abolitionist move an entire people from bondage.

1910 Pittsburgh Courier under the leadership of statesmen, lawyer and publisher Robert L. Vann from 1910 to 1940)

• Provided Blacks and white world wide with a historic examination and perspective on Jim Crow, politics, education, the ‘ tan GI’, and achievements in all facets of life in America by black Americans. Men like
Ira F. lewis, his right hand man, Cum Posey Sir, Vashon, etc were the true knights of justice and equality. They also influenced changing the minds of millions of blacks who were in the Republican Party to the Democratic Party (in 1933).

• Mrs. Jessie Vann ( 1940 until demise) continued the world wide influence
of the Pittsburgh Courier. She literally enhanced the readership of the paper. Under her leadership the Pittsburgh Courier became the largest black owned paper in the world boasting 21 editions and a National edition which was viewed worldwide.

• Greater Pittsburgh Improvement League ( 1949) under the leadership of Manford Sales became Pittsburgh’s strong protest arm using the boycott methods to confront racial discrimination in hiring and accommodating integrated swimming pools, theaters. They confronted A&P (Atlantic and Pacific New owned food chain and boycotted until blacks were given employment opportunities beyond the traditional ‘low end temporary jobs’. The league only existed for 10 years ( 1949 to 1959) under Mr. Sale’s leadership, but the formula for success was soon duplicated by the local NAACP.

• Thousands of black youth around Pittsburgh certainly remember when public supported swimming pools were off limits to Tan hot bodies. July 14, 1951 two black youth James Jordan Jr. and Alexander J. Allen took the historic plunge in the all white pool at Highland Park. This single act, like Rosa Parks selecting not to give up her seat in the front of the bus became the starting point for Civil rights challenges in Pittsburgh.

• Black churches like Bethel, Ebenezer, Wesley, Six Mount Zion and Bethesda produced outstanding Black leaders who traveled beyond the pulpit to lead by example our Civil rights movement and to provide a safe and productive haven for our youth in Pittsburgh. Names like Reverend Dr. Leroy Patrick, Reverend Cayes, Reverend Elmer Williams were in the forefront of the progressive movement to correct the social and economic systems that discriminated against blacks in Pittsburgh.

• Pittsburgh’s historic discrimination cases that involved a well trained team of Black attorney’s as far back as the early nineteen hundreds with Robert L. Vann to Homer S Brown( later to become Pittsburgh’s first black judge) Attorney Wendell Freeland, Attorney Barton who worked with the Urban League, Henry Smith ( who filed suit against the city in the Highland Park swim conflict) Judge William Hastings ( from the Virgin Islands) who worked with Pittsburgh politicians to change Republican party influence over black to the democratic party. Attorney Warren Watson and Paul Jones were also played key roles in many cases, as well as Attorney Richard Jones. Lower court cases were handled by powerbrokers like “
• Pappy Williams, Hill vote power broker, and Harry Fitzgerald who was an alderman.

• Dr. C Delores Tucker was an iconic educator and leader known nationally. She served as chair for the National Political Congress of Black Women. Dr Tucker was also director of Pennsylvania State Education. Her passion and tireless efforts in education and Civil rights cannot be measured with a single glance.

• The name Vernell Lillie and black culture in Pittsburgh are one in the same. Dr. Lillie’s contribution and leadership role continues as we speak today. She and counterpart Robb Penny organized and launched a successful presence of black play writers, poets, actors and of course the nationally known Kuntu Dancers enjoyed by all Pittsburghers.

• Internationally known play writer August Wilson probably needs no introduction. His words and images revolutionized how we all have come to learn and enjoy the black experience regardless of our background and experiences. John Edgar Wideman, still another Pittsburgh writer, has put Pittsburgh’s Homewood Community on the center stage of many of his award winning books. The works of both men have extended the Pittsburgh Harlem renaissance well beyond the forties or early fifties.

• In politics well known former State representative and Democratic Party whip K. Leroy Iris deserves special mention for his strong presence during the civil right era in Pittsburgh. His voice in Harrisburg brought state funds to Pittsburgh to assist the rebuilding efforts required after the 1968 riots.

• Hundred of black and white people in Pittsburgh were treated for Tuberculosis by Dr. William Roderick Brown; a pioneer in TB research in Pittsburgh Dr. Brown in 1959 became director of Allegheny County Health department. He and his wife Rachel Lillian Brown popularized the East seal to arouse interest and funds to fight this dreaded disease.

• Sports icon Willie Stargell from the world series winning Pittsburgh Pirates; not only captured the hearts of Pittsburgh pirate sports fans but he led the fight to rid black America’s selectively dangerous disease called sickle cell anemia.

Countless thousands of men and women of color whose names have been barely mentioned were the real players in Pittsburgh Black Leadership circles. A small quiet group of white Pittsburghers also played a role to bring about ‘ social and economic change’ in a city whose roots were never sealed in segregation.

They remember when next door neighbors were people of color. They played on the same baseball fields, sat in the same schools and took the same trolley cars to downtown, Oakland or West view park. Yes, in deed they heard stories about off limit swimming pools, hotels, restaurants and other joints. Many who enforced these crazy policies had migrated from the south. They felt compelled to ‘ ride along’ until black leadership provided by local and national figures compelled them to react. In the early sixties many did indeed react in a positive manner by joining the civil rights and freedom fighters in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Some were students from ministerial schools, Presbyterian churches and Synagogues. Others were willing to open themselves to the new wave of thought created by black Pittsburghers who were given new opportunities to join a once segregated work force in the main stream of Pittsburgh.
Future changes in community living patterns will change as transportation to the work place increases in price. We will go back to the future. Black communities that were once a part of larger white communities that were reversed after the 68 riots will once again reverse simulating what Pittsburgh looked like 100 years ago. People will stay attracted to good schools, central entertainment, affordable housing and central services paid by their taxes. Petty differences of color and religion will become only a small snicker at the dinner table. America’s Pittsburgh will change…………….

John brewer

John M. Brewer, Jr., is a historian and consultant for the Pittsburgh Courier archive project, a consultant for the Carnegie Museum of Art's Charles Teenie Harris photograph project and the curator and founder of the Trolley Station Oral History Center and author of the Black American Series African Americans in Pittsburgh.

His book may be purchased:
Barnes & Noble; Borders, Dorsey's Records, John Heinz History Center
and the University of Pittsburgh Book Store .

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Episode 50 Historic Black Neighborhoods

Episode 50 Historic Black Neighborhoods

Black Community Formation and Development
Good Old days!
Show Notes by John Brewer

PP 7. African Americans in Pittsburgh( my first book)

• The first Africans accompanied military armies controlled by French, English and Colonial interest.
• British General John Forbes in 1758 aid effort to capture Fort Duquesne
1788, four African freedmen were among the 742 citizens who petitioned Pennsylvania legislature to create Allegheny County, with Pittsburgh as the principal city.

• Harsh fugitive slave laws which reversed racial progress forced families of freedmen to form critical links to the Underground Railroad system helping runaway slaves to seek a new life out of bondage. Way Stations and conductors with the help of abolitionist both influenced the negative attitude Pittsburgh whites (many from the south) had about the Slavery. They formed a strong link which became the heart of the Underground Railroad.

Urban Communities

• Arthursville (Called Little Hayti) before they became known as “The Hill” constituted the lower part of Wylie Avenue. Thirty five black families were freemen. They built shops, pool halls, grocery stores, Barber shops. Many of the early blacks were from the south or west. They were men who sought to establish recreational and necessities for the working class of blacks. ( 1907)

• Lower Fifth Avenue district was primarily occupied by Jewish merchants.
An Italian, German, Croatian Irish group of immigrants also settled in the Hill.

The “Hill” became the staging area for Pittsburgh’s Harlem Renaissance supported by Pittsburgh’s largest and best known clubs, theaters, and venues which launched a new movement called Bebop into the heart of modern Jazz. The world famous Pittsburgh Crawford’s Negro league team with the number one rated hitter Josh Gibson still has its place in sports history.

Black Business enterprise support came from exceptional investors like Gus Greenlee and Woogie Harris. Main stream funds were not available to new black business owners. Booker T. Washington’s famous quote of “put down your buckets where you are” inspired many to progress using limited resources with natural creativity.

• Herron Hill District by 1911 became a business center in the Hill. There were grocery stores, two dentist, seven doctors, two drug stores, one Undertaker (J.B. Davis) along with restaurants which were black owned and operated.

• Minesville (later called Sugartop or Schenley Heights) 5th ward escape from the lower Hill. Primarily a residential community in the Hill with middle and upper class blacks who were professional or independently well off.

• First public school for blacks on Miller street ( 1868)
• Formation of AME Bethel church, Mystery News paper, Pittsburgh Courier helped shape the strong base of the black community. Very strong messages send to the community to support black businesses within the community reassured growth and prosperity.

• Building a society within a society became the rule not the exception…

• Homewood Brushton community, similar to the Hill had a diverse community with Black living in Homewood Brushton with Italians and Irish people. Blacks were in much smaller numbers than the Hill however, they managed to receive an education in integrated schools decades before Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Homewood was both a residential and business community. Few blacks, however, owned a business in Homewood. The well build Tudor, Queen Ann brick structures had been originally build for the rich and powerful families like the Fricks, Mellons, and others during the late part of the 19th century.

• Well built hardwood floors, stain glass windows, two and one half story homes which frequently supported two families were dream homes to the new comers. There were three theaters, a large Chinese restaurant, clothing stores, Woolworths, Isaly’s, plumbing shops, cleaners, record shops which made this community almost self sufficient.

• East Liberty was a principal shopping area in Pittsburgh. Major stores like Sears and Roebuck, Jewelers, Post Office, Train station, schools, huge churches of every denomination along with four theaters, a skating rink, restaurants, Farmers market, dozens of medical doctors, dentist, law firms, YMCA, packed in broad streets from boundary to boundary. Parking was free. The residential side to East Liberty, like the Hill, was diverse consisting of Blacks, Jews, Italians, Greeks etc...

• Northside development in Manchester, Fineview, Perrysville, was aided by the coalition African abolitionist made with Charles Avery and his educational institution as well as Joe Swisshelm. The Rooney family, from Northside, became the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first to give an African American a chance to play professional football ( 1938).

• South side communities like Beltzhoover, Allentown, Mount Oliver, were also residential communities with pockets of blacks in sections of the larger population of whites.
• Lincoln Larimer district of Pittsburgh is spread out over a very wide area. The Lincoln border ends at what was called Penn Hills on the east and East Liberty on the west. Many generations of black and Italian families were raised in this large section of Pittsburgh. There was fierce sports competition at the High school and semi- pro football level. Despite an early issue over segregation of swimming pools in both Paulson Pool and Highland Park the aggression transformed into respect and eventually faded the borderline (Larimer at Meadow streets. Kingsley Association, which formerly moved from the “Hill”, was a community based organization which promoted good health, sports, community service and culture helped to reduce ‘racial tensions’.

• Highland Park and Point Breeze. Two very similar communities in terms of prominence in Pittsburgh. Upper class homes with strong variances that keep property values up. Prominent blacks permitted to purchase the mid part of the 20th century. Very few public stores or businesses permitted. Homes typically, like North side Mexican War streets and Manchester, have high ceilings, decorative fireplaces( often functional) two and half to three stories with finished attic’s, game rooms and oak and cherry wood paneling, staircases etc..

• Bloomfield and Squirrel Hill supported one primary ethnic group for the majority of the 20th century. Bloomfield was Italian. Squirrel Hill was built with two houses over eighty years ago into an intensely Jewish Community complete with all shops, synagogues, businesses and schools committed to Jewish people.
• Lawrenceville, home of Steven Foster, known as ‘blue collar’ community has recently seen many blacks move into this district.
• Belmar Gardens (within Lincoln Larimer district) was the first black owned cooperative in the country.

Outside City limits of Pittsburgh before the 1920’s is where the majority of the black population in Western Pennsylvania migrated from. Places blacks lived at were in many cases rural farming regions, small towns and second class cities. They worked in the Coal mines, small manufacturing companies that supported the glass, coal and tobacco industry in Pittsburgh. Many were freedmen during the slavery era. Some had been purchased by area farmers to help work the land and build the roads and small cities. Many settled along the river cities during the long pilgrimage toward Canada. They settled as far north as Erie, Pennsylvania, as far south as Cumberland, Maryland, as far East as central Pa. Countless generations of blacks can trace roots back to:

Washington, Pa
Houston, Pa
Monessen, a
Mc Donald
McKeesport, Pa
Crestas Terrace
New Kensington
Bethel Park
Plum Twp
New Castle
Mercer, Pa.

Black communities have experienced many ups and downs as well as shocking movements which have forced many to leave their homes and lose business opportunities. However, they have managed to survive with the closing of what many would say are “Big Doors”. Every time one big door slams two equally large doors open.” Those who look beyond the obvious ills of the times are better prepared to meet future needs and fulfill the hopes of this society.

Every era is plagued by some social or political ill which threatens to reduce life as we know it today. Those who emerge from this generation will be stronger and wiser than the last generation. We now live in a world which has shrunk in size and dimension. Our neighbors can sit in a loft thousands of miles away and experience what we do everyday. They can look like us, act like us or show us how to live a stress free life if they chose. Race, like the black plague, Polio and even some forms of cancer will be extinct and not in the world wide program by the end of this century.

John brewer

Teen Has Techno Granny As First Guest on Australian Show

Many of you hear me speak about the international phenomenon teenager, the Techno Teen. His name is Ben Wilson from Sydney Australia and he is just 14 years old. He has developed into quite an interviewer with a unique youthful brand of questions.
You can read more about him at:

Saturday. March 1, 2008 I was his first guest on a new show, simply called The Guest Show. You may want to listen in, it’s kind of fun.

Techno Granny Guests, Episode 1 - The guest show.

Also if you are looking for comic relief, he and his father have a talk cast called, Two Guys and a Computer, very funny show about father-son interaction. - Father/son/2 guys and a computer ( My best one, I think!)** editorial comment-parthenesis by Ben Wilson