Pittsburgh’s Classic Theater on the move


By Mark Pesto / Staff Writer

Pitt’s Theatre Arts department is expanding, forcing a Pittsburgh theatre company to leave its longtime home on Pitt’s campus.

The Stephen Foster Memorial, which Pitt owns and is located on Forbes Avenue across from Schenley Plaza, has hosted PICT Classic Theatre for the past decade, but Pitt has recently informed the company that it will not renew the company’s lease, which expires in December, according to PICT’s artistic and executive director, Alan Stanford.

Annmarie Duggan, chair of Pitt’s Theatre Arts department, said the department simply needs more space. To accommodate the expanding department, Pitt must remove the building’s current tenants.

“We’re just doing more shows,” Duggan said. “This year, we’re doing five shows. We’ve always done four…Our classes are expanding, and we use the theatres as classrooms.”

Stanford, however, said PICT saw Pitt’s decision coming.

“We’ve expected for some time that there would be a move. We were hoping it would be a little later,” Stanford said.

Still, Stanford said PICT and the University are parting on good terms.

“I have great respect for what the [Theatre Arts] department is trying to do. We always knew we were a tenant, and we knew our lease was coming up,” Stanford said.

Duggan agreed that the transition was amicable.

“It’s a positive parting, and I hope it will continue to be a positive relationship, as we are art partners in the city of Pittsburgh,” Duggan said.

Despite the upcoming move, Stanford hopes to maintain PICT’s professional relationship with Pitt’s Theatre Arts department. He said that the list of PICT’s top actors and actresses includes Pitt alumni such as Dylan Marquis Meyers, who graduated in 2014.

According to Meyers, PICT’s presence on Pitt’s campus helped him get started as a professional actor.

“I think that partnership really opened that avenue for me,” Meyers said. “Knowing there was a professional theatre company [on campus] was sort of an in.”

Meyers starred as Pip in PICT’s recent production of Great Expectations. Other recent PICT productions in which he appeared include “Macbeth” and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.”

Despite the upcoming move, PICT’s schedule of plays won’t change much. Stanford said that PICT will finish out its current season at the Stephen Foster Memorial, then shift from its current May-December schedule to a more traditional fall-spring season.

PICT has also postponed its planned production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” until 2016, replacing its Sept. 2015spot in the schedule with the smaller-scale “Educating Rita.” The other shows in PICT’s last season at Pitt will go on as planned.

“As a kind of recognition or celebration of our time at the University, I’m putting on ‘Educating Rita.’ It’s all about the importance of education,” Stanford said. “It’s a wonderfully funny play, but its message is that, no matter who you are or what your background is, you’re not only entitled to an education, but you’ll also benefit from an education.”

PICT has two or three options for a future venue, but Stanford couldn’t share specifics because negotiations are still in progress.

The Stephen Foster Memorial houses two performance spaces: the 478-seat Charity Randall Theatre and the 153-seat Henry Heymann Theatre.

“We’ve done some of our best work there,” Stanford said, praising both the Randall Theatre’s huge stage and the Heymann Theatre’s more intimate studio setting.”

According to Meyers, although the Stephen Foster Memorial is a great venue, the upcoming move is necessary for both PICT and Pitt because both groups are growing and expanding.

“The relationship was valuable and it helped people like me, but when Pitt Theatre is stepping up its game, doing more productions and bigger productions…for Pitt to have that space can only help,” Meyers said.