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Open Thread - Blog

Archive for March, 2009


Pecha Kucha Night is a “high-energy showcase that started in Japan in 2003 and now occurs in over 110 locations globally.” Add Pittsburgh to the list and Open Thread to its proud participants!

In short (because that’s the style of Pecha Kucha, which means “chatter” in Japanese), each presenter uses 20 slides in 20 seconds to share her/his project, idea, or musings. Then the presenter must, in the website’s words, “sit the hell down.” The result is a fast-paced taste of what’s creative and exciting in Pittsburgh.

This Friday, April 3rd, AIA and AIGA (No, righteous populace, not AIG.) of Pittsburgh will hold their Pecha Kucha Night at 8pm in the Third Floor Gallery downtown. Tickets are $10 at the door. 

Open Thread co-director Scott Andrew and I will share why we started Open Thread, what it’s done so far, and where we’re taking it in 2009 and 2010. 

Our fellow presenters include Steelerbaby, Teresa Foley, Open Thread featured artist Laura Miller, and representatives from the Pittsburgh Signs Project.


March 29th, 2009
Adam Atkinson


Reading Period for Open Thread’s Tri-State Chapbook Contest Starts Wednesday, April 1st

Open Thread and Encyclopedia Destructica are collaborating on a new project, the first annual Tri-State Chapbook Contest, supported in part by a Seed Award from The Sprout Fund.

Three winning chapbook manuscripts – one from Ohio, one from Pennsylvania, and one from West Virginia – will be selected in June and produced by Encyclopedia Destructica for release in July. Guidelines for submissions can be found here.

The first round of reading begins on April 1st and concludes at midnight on June 1st, 2009 (the latest possible submission date). At that point, Open Thread will announce finalists and send them to guest judges (TBA). We can’t wait to start reading your poetry and prose!

March 29th, 2009
Adam Atkinson



img_05021The Open Thread Regional Review, Vol. 1, long previewed on our website, is finally hitting Pittsburgh this Thursday, April 2nd at INBOX/OUTBOX! It will sell for $15 at the event (way cheaper than online), and Encyclopedia Destructica’s Coatlicue 2 will sell for $10.

The event kicks off at 7pm at Encyclopedia Destructica Studios in Lawrenceville (address below) with readings by Coatlicue 2 contributors Mallory Monroe, Nick Rogers, and Wayne Wise – and Open Thread Regional Review contributor Lizzie Harris.

More Regional Review contributors read at 8pm: Alayna Frankenberry, Tom Laskow, Sally Wen Mao, Ben Pelhan, and Nicola Pioppi.

Throughout the night, selected artists from the Regional Review will display their work, including Danielle Brannigan, Elin Lennox, Michael McParlane, Jack Meade, Michael Pisano, and James Storch. Also, a silent auction featuring local businesses will raise money for the Tri-State Chapbook Contest, Open Thread’s new collaboration with Encyclopedia Destructica.



After the event, SPOILERS will host an after party at New Amsterdam in Lawrenceville, featuring DJs Lauren G and Nikkels, as well as video by Michael Mallis, Tom McConnell, Michael McParlane, and Michael Pisano. Thanks to SPOILERS, 10% of the bar benefits the Tri-State Chapbook Contest.

March 29th, 2009
Paul Cunningham

jan-beattyPittsburgh poet and Prosody radio host, Jan Beatty, will be heading to Slippery Rock University on April 22 for the release of the fourth edition of the literary publication, SLAB. She’ll be making an appearance as the evening’s keynote reader, providing the public with a taste of her ever-reaching craft. The event will begin at 7:30 PM at the University’s Russell Wright Alumni House.

Beatty’s poetry has appeared in Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Court Green, as well as anthologies published by Oxford University Press and University of Iowa Press. In 1994, her first book of poetry, Mad River, was honored with the Agnes Lynch Starret Poetry Prize of the University of Pittsburgh Press. 2008 marked the debut of her latest book, Red Sugar, which declared the ignored complications involving the interior and exterior thoughts of a woman’s body.

In addition to the book-launch, student sound/audio projects will also be showcased. The evening itself will contain a variety of odd and thought-provoking highlights, as well as the announcement of the recipients of the annual Elizabeth R. Curry Prize in Poetry.

Editor’s Note: The contributor is the Sound/Audio Editor, as well as a poetry and creative nonfiction reader, for SLAB.


March 25th, 2009
Erin Goldberger

swan_logo_color_rgbIn honor of March being Women’s History Month, SWAN Day has been created as a new international holiday that celebrates women artists. The No Name Players will be hosting Pittsburgh’s SWAN Day Event on March 27 & 28 at 7:30 PM at the Grey Box Theatre in Lawrenceville. SWAN Day is a grassroots effort that is being coordinated by The Fund for Women Artists.

The evening will consist of short plays, poetry, dance, music and film by local women artists. They will be showcasing paintings and photography by women artists as well. It promises to be a truly inspiring night! Open Thread can personally vouch for poets Molly Prosser and Michelle Stoner, who’ve both appeared in our Poetsburgh reading series with Weave Magazine.

Reservations are encouraged and can be placed via email: or call 412.207.7111.

Tickets are $15, payable by cash at the door.


Producing Artistic Director of the No Name Players, Tressa Glover, gave Open Thread a sneak peak into the SWAN Event.

OT Blog: What can we expect from this year’s SWAN event? Who is performing?

Tressa Glover: Well, the Celebration of Women Artists is a collection of short plays, music, poetry, dance, film and visual art by local women artists. There are over 35 artists involved in the event.


“Accessories,” by Carol Mullen, Directed by Joanna Lowe, Featuring Jaime Slavinsky and Rachel Shaw

“Dry Cleaning the Soul,” by Tammy Ryan, Directed by Don DiGiulio, Featuring Tawnya Hall and Eric Anderson

“Stockholm,” by Jeanne Drennan, Directed by Tami Dixon, Featuring Laura Lee Brautigam, Don DiGiulio and April Kitchen

“Pieces,” by Vanessa German, Featuring Tressa Glover and Vanessa German


Vanessa German, Maggie Glover, Molly Prosser, Michelle Stoner, Arlene Weiner


Kaitlin Dann and Gretchen LaBorwit, Nandini Mandal


Cecile Desandre-Navarre, Julie Mink

Visual Art and Photography:

Sally Bozzuto, Allison Hoge, Lauren Zurchin


Joy Ike (Saturday March 28th only), the young women from Act One Theatre School’s Professional Training Program

OT: How did you/Pittsburgh become involved with the SWAN events that happen all over the country?

TG: I first read about SWAN Day last year on and loved the idea. Don and I (We’re married, by the way!) were living in Chicago at the time and working as actors. In June of last year we moved back to Pittsburgh, and I knew once we began producing shows again that No Name Players would somehow take part in the SWAN celebration of 2009. From the beginning planning stages, we knew we wanted to take part in SWAN Day by celebrating local women artists. We wanted to make sure that the extremely talented female artists here in Pittsburgh received recognition and that Pittsburgh itself was rightfully included in this worldwide celebration—and not only artists in the theatre, which is our comfort zone and the field with which we’re most familiar, but also artists from other disciplines: visual art, poetry, dance, film and music. 

We wanted to create the most eclectic group of women artists possible, providing for them a safe venue in which they can foster their diverse creative sensibilities and exhibit their extraordinary talents.

This broad mix of artists and disciplines will, we think (and hope!), attract an equally broad demographic of audience members. We feel that the program we’ve assembled will appeal to women (and men) of all ages and backgrounds. We know that people within the thriving arts community here in Pittsburgh will be extremely interested in this type of event. We also hope to attract an audience that spans the multiple disciplines that we will have on display to encourage an environment of mutual appreciation of art in its many forms.

OT: Can you tell me more about the No Name Players?

TG: No Name Players’ tenure here in Pittsburgh began in August of 2004 with our critically acclaimed Pittsburgh premiere production of “Big Love,” by Charles Mee, which earned us a spot as one of the Top Ten Plays of 2004 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Subsequent productions have included the American premiere of “This Hotel,” by Alex Poch-Goldin, and most recently our crowd-pleasing production of “Wonder of the World,” by David Lindsay-Abaire, in December of last year.

No Name Players is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to presenting unique and challenging theatrical productions by both new and established playwrights with an emphasis on the collaborative nature of theatre through ensemble. We focus on works that appeal to our own uniquely eclectic creative sensibilities. We work together as a group, where no individual is greater than the whole. Actors, directors, playwrights, designers and stage personnel play equally important roles in achieving our artistic vision. There is no fear in exploring a vast array of styles and genres. There are no boundaries that will not be pushed. There is no limit to what we can achieve.




SWAN Day Poster

March 25th, 2009
Michael Varrati


The discreet charm of wandering blindly into a pub or bar that you have previously had zero experience with is that upon entering, you have no expectations. True, you’ll form an opinion soon, but for a brief few moments, the clientele, the atmosphere…it’s all alien to you, and for that moment, you truly get to discover a new culture, some foreign location that was as easy to enter as just walking off the street.

With this in mind, the same can be said about the bands that play such establishments, as local bands often do. If you just so happen to be in a bar where a band is setting up, and you haven’t heard them on MySpace or had them recommended to you by a friend, then basically you have no idea what to expect, which I believe, sometimes is the best way to experience music.

I mention this sense of blind discovery and seeming alien experience, because that’s exactly how I encountered Big with Seed Big with Seed. It was March 13, the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, and I had not really made any plans to review a band that night, as I had visiting friends to entertain, but it just so happens that a band found me, so to speak.

l_79bac835a2255ea0bb84b88ec1175370Wandering into the Spice Café in Oakland (a cozy little joint situated directly underneath India Garden, a delicious restaurant for those so inclined), the band had not yet begun, but were setting up as we ordered our first round of drinks. I had a sense they’d be cool, as the guy who I eventually learned was their lead vocalist (Adam Rossi) was wearing a Hunter S. Thompson t-shirt, and I believe someone who digs the good gonzo doctor can’t be all bad, but I still had no idea what to expect.

Shortly thereafter, the band kicked into their first number, which was a twangy, country inspired deal that I have to admit did little for me, and I was beginning to fear Hunter S. Thompson or not, that I was going to be disappointed. But, if any band should not be judged by their opening number, it is Big with Seed. Once the band got rolling, they kicked out an impressive set of cross-genre tunes, and I’d be amiss if I didn’t take a moment to point out that their guitarist, Scott Delledonne, plays some of the grooviest southern fried blues licks I have heard in an intimate setting in ages.

On their webpage, Big with Seed identifies itself as a “Rock & Soul” band, and I could not agree more. With solid instrumentation and vocals, the band manages to maneuver quite skillfully between blues, the aforementioned southern rock, light funk, and the occasional out and out jam. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, and while their covers of some modern blues rockers such as the Black Crowes’ “Hard To Handle” (originally recorded by Ottis Redding) did not fall flat, the band was at their best when they were cutting loose doing their own music and their own thing. I particularly enjoy their honky-tonk inspired “Desire and Destiny”, which you can hear if you zip on over to their MySpace page, as well as a few other tracks.


Based on my research, this Pittsburgh based band is currently unsigned, but have a few feathers in their cap, including steady local airplay on stations like WDVE, among others, and their track “Need to be Freed” was included on a 2005 Emerging Artist collection that was produced by Hometown Records and Overthrown Records.

While their style may not suit everyone’s tastes, to be sure, if you can check yourself at the door and appreciate a night of good old-fashioned bar music and a groovy jam, then Big with Seed are worth checking out, especially if you just happened to wander in off the street. 

March 20th, 2009
Erin Goldberger

04_thelondoneye_09_gruber_web_000March 18 – June 27, 2009

With a retrospective exhibition featuring over 50 photographs, the Silver Eye Center for Photography pays tribute to one of Pittsburgh’s most prolific artists, Aaronel deRoy Gruber. Gruber recently turned 90, but she is still heavily active in the art community and creating fine art photography. Her tireless effort and inspiring images that range from picturesque panoramas of landscapes to industrial views of steel mills can be found in museum and corporate art collections throughout the country.

The opening reception for Gruber’s show will be Saturday, March 20th from 3-5PM.

Gruber is well known for utilizing unique techniques such as infrared photography, and many of her prints are chemically toned and hand-painted. The infrared film and digital filters (sensitive to infrared radiation) produce an ethereal quality often identifiable by foliage that appears white and rose-hued skies.

07-floridagatehouse_32_gruber_l_0001The Analytical Eye: Photographs by Aaronel deRoy Gruber is an exhibition of photographs selected from the artist’s collection, Photo Forum Gallery and The Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition Co-Curators are Linda Benedict-Jones, Curator of Photography at The Carnegie Museum of Art, and Graham Shearing, Arts Writer and Critic. Graham Shearing explains, “We have re-shuffled the pack and dealt the cards differently for this retrospective. And now we can view this particular artistic life as a panorama itself, strikingly consistent and incisive…an essentially analytical eye.”

March 6th, 2009
Erin Goldberger


jessicgardocki1Photo by Erin Goldberger

Jessica Gardocki, originally from Hillsdale, NJ, is a freshmen art major at Carnegie Mellon University. Although she is young, Jessica already has come up with some pretty novel ideas and inspiring creations. I foresee Jessica moving forward successfully in the Pittsburgh art world and beyond. Find out more about Jessica by visiting her website:

OT Blog: I know you are heavily involved with painting… would you consider that your main medium of artwork?

Jessica Gardocki: I love to paint. For me, it is the ultimate zen experience, but I would never want to limit myself to one medium. I use whatever will work best for the piece and subject matter. Ha ha ha, as it turns out, most of my work is done in oil paint.

OT Blog: What interests me most about your work are the interesting social projects that you involve yourself in. Could you tell me about a few of them?

Jessica Gardocki: The Sex Addict project: This was mostly inspired by that children’s story where a Panda, unhappy with his identity, wears new animal skins to experience the jungle in a new light. I spent 2 weeks studying the thoughts and habits of an obsessive compulsive sexual addict. Then I forced myself to think these thoughts until they came naturally, and well, thoughts and actions are sometimes the same thing, uh. Next Step! I found an “in” with a local Sexaholics Anonymous group and after a long interview was allowed to attend a meeting, many meetings, and entered the mind of a sexaholic. I definitely had a biased assumption of, but they are all people, and they all work in the local Pittsburgh area–just with an interesting obsession. To display my emotional journey I photographed my performance piece into a little black book, parallel to the little white book we all receive at our first meeting.

jessica_g12Pittsburgh’s Nightmares:

After studying Freud and Kant’s view on the subconscious mind– I proposed a theory: all nightmares are reflective of past traumatic events that otherwise and our conscious could not deal with. So I placed clip boards all over Pittsburgh asking to hear nightmares, stories, symbols, anything! The reactions were interesting, and mostly proved my theory correctly. I made a head board out of a painting (done while blind folded to reflect the subconscious mind) and placed abstract representations of the dreams into an interactive pull out pillow.

jessica_g32OT Blog: I know that you also work with human and animal rights projects too?

Jessica Gardocki: Most of my work deals with civil rights and environmental sustainability, I spent most of my life demonstrating in NYC with Amnesty International, and it’s inevitable that my personal life will be in my artwork. I want my art to really make a difference, even if it’s just a smile or a burst of motivation, it will have served its purpose.

OT Blog: Who has most inspired you in your work so far?

Jessica Gardocki: Most of my work is inspired by Barbara Yeterian, a fellow artist, as well as my mentor and companion. She herself has done a series on the Armenian Genocide and taught me almost everything I know about art. She’s wonderful.

OT Blog: Who are some artists that have inspired you?

Jessica Gardocki: Barbara Yeterian, Oscar Kokoschka, Lucian Freud, and Frida

OT Blog: What do you think about the Pittsburgh art scene so far?

Jessica Gardocki: I’m still fresh to the Pittsburgh art scene, but so far, I really appreciate the many experiences and art galleries in the area. There is always a lecture to attend, or new exhibit displayed in the Carnegie!

jessica_g23OT Blog: What drew you to the CMU Art department?

Jessica Gardocki: When I was 17, I spoke to a CMU school of Art alumna, and she informed me that at CMU the main goal is to develop your own style, and you have the liberty and guidance to do so. She was right. The professors are great and I enjoy every single one of my classes, CMU has really allowed me to broaden my idea of what art can be–and how to make my art.

OT Blog: What are you currently working on now?

Jessica Gardocki: I’m studying the human figure and mostly creating oil paintings and drawings.


March 2nd, 2009
Scott Andrew

Open Thread Receives Sprout Funding

Open Thread is proud to announce that we are now supported in part by a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund. This support will enable us to foster new relationships with emerging regional artists through upcoming projects like our Tri-State Chapbook Contest, SPF (Pittsburgh’s small press festival), The Regional Review Vol.2, and events like Poetsburgh and Variety Variety Variety.

The Sprout Fund is a nonprofit organization supporting innovative ideas and grassroots community projects that are catalyzing change in Pittsburgh.

Founded in 2001, Sprout is designed to facilitate community-led solutions to regional challenges and supports efforts to create a thriving, progressive, and culturally diverse region. With strong working relationships to many community organizations and regional stakeholders, The Sprout Fund is one of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s leading agencies on issues related to civic engagement, talent attraction and retention, public art, and catalytic small-scale funding.

With ongoing local support and continued appreciation by the communities it serves, The Sprout Fund will continue to provide an entry point for young people to become involved and active in their communities and support projects that have the collective power to shape a new culture and vision for the region.

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