CMU and Pitt’s ‘Variety! Variety! Variety!’ event explores multitude of art forms


Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer

A student paints during “Variety, Variety, Variety!” at WQED Studio A.

By Shreya Singh, Senior Staff Writer

Silence blanketed the WQED Studio as a spotlight shone on a blindfolded girl. With a hammer in her hand, she repeatedly smashed a block of clay, screaming relentlessly. Finally, she took off her blindfold and stormed off the floor. 

More than 100 people gathered on Sunday evening to watch a variation of different art forms at “Variety! Variety! Variety!” — an event hosted by the School of Music at CMU in collaboration with Pitt’s department of studio arts. An interdisciplinary team of students from CMU and Pitt presented different art visuals, ranging from experimental music to wearable sculpture. 

The event was split into three acts with act one consisting of individual performances by different students across Pitt and CMU. Performances included interpretive dances as well as monologues. In Cara Rossetti’s monologue “Femme Fatale,” Rossetti called out the treatment of women in society. 

“The only thing sexier than a corpse is a woman who is not afraid to become one,” Rossetti, a senior mechanical engineering major at Pitt, said.

A student dressed as a cow performs during “Variety, Variety, Variety!” at WQED Studio A. (Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer)

Scott Andrew, a visiting lecturer at Pitt and adjunct professor at CMU, said the event focused on exploring the improvisation of art. 

“I’m really interested in the whole history of happenings and the complete absurdity of a multi-person stage event that involves a lot of moving bodies,” Andrew said. “My class focuses on wearable sculpture and story-telling, and it’s just kind of a mixture of those things. It’s about how we can improvisationally tell a story through movement and it’s about how we respond to experimental sound.”

Jesse Stiles, an associate professor at CMU and the director of Exploded Ensemble, said he felt excited for CMU and Pitt to collaborate on the event.

“The performance this evening was a collaboration with three different classes — Exploded Ensemble, Activated Anamorphs and Pitt’s Studio Arts course,” Stiles said. “That was actually something Scott and I were excited about. Not only was this a collaboration across CMU’s campus, but across multiple institutions.”

Stiles said the event included three parts in order to allow each element of the show to shine.

“This event is an interdisciplinary cabaret featuring performances in a huge variety of styles including lip sync, video, art, spoken word and dance,” Stiles said. “We presented it in three acts where the first act was our version of a variety show. The second act was a longer work and the third act was sort of our most intense performative section. By splitting it up, we allowed each act to shine in its own capacity.”

Andrew said he enjoyed seeing the students explore their own artistic capabilities and bringing them to life. 

“It can span comedy, lip sync, dance and vogue,” Andrew said. “I really like that the students explored a lot of different things this semester and we picked their highlights and made a big mash-up cabaret that showcased what they’re all capable of. I think it’s fun to show inter-institutional collaboration and to just highlight young performers.”

Holly Liu, a senior design major at CMU and a performer in the third act of the program, said the event gave the opportunity for students to showcase eccentric performances. Liu’s performance included an interpretive dance as a worm. 

“It’s kind of hard to drum up an audience for performances that are much more out there,” Liu said. “This kind of gives us the space to bring it all together and especially performances that might get swept under the rug if they’re trying to perform solo. I think for me, it’s a way for everyone to bring their creative juices together and have a good time.”

Liu said preparing for the event begins from the second the class starts at the beginning of the semester. 

“I took Activated Anamorphs,” Liu said. “It’s a performance art-based costuming class, so the first third of the semester is just us doing different types of costume work, like headdresses and shoes and so on. The last two-thirds of the semester is us preparing for this event and coming up with the concept, fabricating, practicing and figuring out what our characters are.”

Mallika Matharu, an audience member and a senior economics and statistics major at Pitt, said the performances were something she hasn’t yet experienced. 

“I thought the show was very interesting,” Matharu said. “I’m not super familiar with the type of avant-garde and interpretive art that was shown, but I still really enjoyed it. There were a lot of different types of media like the music choices, videos and live performances that made each act extremely unique in my opinion.” 

Liu said she doesn’t want people to take the art too seriously and to just enjoy the event without thinking too much about it. 

“Honestly, I just want people to have fun with it,” Liu said. “It was indulgent in the sense where you can make whatever you want and come up with any concept you want regardless of how out there it is. I just think I want people to celebrate the creativity that goes in and celebrate the process, the fun and the effort, and you don’t need to take it too seriously.”