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Open Thread - Blog

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.

January 27th, 2009
Scott Andrew

Open Thread’s fundraiser Variety Variety Variety! returns to the brillobox – Saturday, the 31st!

The event kicks off at 9pm with the comedic stylings of Hustlebot, Pittsburgh’s best improv troupe. Check out their website and videos - they’re not to be missed. Mariage Blanc, a top local music act, follows at 10pm. Check out their music here - and their killer reviews here and here.

At 11pm, the dance party kicks off with the world premiere of Therm & Soul’s new music video, directed by Michael McParlane and Michael Pisano, both of whom are featured in the first volume of Open Thread Regional Review, Vol. 1! DJ Thermos (of Therm&Soul) will provide the beats for the dance party, and Tom McConnell will supply the video, including footage from Michael Mallis.

The dance party also serves as an after-party for the release of Encyclopedia Destructica’s “Flying Destructicate,” featuring Jon Brodsky.

The Typewriter Girls will emcee the evening, and artist-vendors Curious Machine and Isn’t That Something? will sell their wares from 9-11.

All this for $5. ($4 if you just come for the dance party.) See you there (if you’re 21)!

December 10th, 2008
Adam Atkinson

POETSBURGH is back! Open Thread’s series of emerging poets in iconic spaces returns this Friday, December 12th, at the University of Pittsburgh’s English Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning. We’re also thrilled to announce that Weave Magazine is now partnering with us on this reading series, and that their first edition will be for sale at the event!

Four local readers - Tom Laskow, Molly Prosser, Dan Shapiro, and Michelle Stoner - will read selections from their work. There is just a suggested donation of $5 at the door that will benefit upcoming events and projects by both organizations, and did we mention that the Cathedral will be decked out for the holidays? So come share your yuletide spirit with OT and Weave, then join the poets at the Union Grill afterwards! Doors open at 7pm!

December 10th, 2008
Adam Atkinson

Dear OT Members, Supporters, and Participants,

Open Thread has come a long way since we began holding events and reading your submissions in early 2007. Since then, we’ve held more fun-filled Variety fundraisers, established a new reading series - POETSBURGH - with Weave Magazine, and created the OT Blog. This month we’re launching the online preview of the Open Thread Regional Review, Vol. 1, which goes to print this January!

We may be wary of open displays of sentiment, but our success is due to you, dear reader. Maybe you’ve participated in our events or submitted your work online for our consideration. Perhaps you’ve simply done us the crucial service of paying the suggested donation at events. Whatever the case, when Vol. 1 goes to print, nearly 100 of your regional peers will have had their work featured by our publications, events, and blog.

Thank you.

To keep this regional arts goodness going, though, we need your continued support, and you don’t have to wait until our next event to deliver! Click here now to make an online donation! Open Thread is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of Open Thread may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

2009 has even more in store for you and Open Thread, including a second volume of the Regional Review, a new regional chapbook competition, more of the events you’ve come to know and love, and some super secret surprises for our registered members! You want to see it all happen, don’t you? Don’t you? Give today.

December 10th, 2008
Adam Atkinson

Hello, OT Blog readers! As you may have noticed, the "Artist of the Week" feature is going on a brief hiatus for the holidays, as we here at Open Thread gear up for Poetsburgh this Friday and a very special online launch this New Year’s Day! In the meantime, stay tuned to the blog for other features, including updates on Open Thread’s many up-and-coming happenings, including the return of Variety, Variety, Variety!

All the best this holiday season,
The Staff of Open Thread

November 24th, 2008
Adam Atkinson

About Michael Mallis

Michael Mallis (yes, as in “malice”) is another on our long list of artists who came to Pittsburgh for school and are still here. Fresh off his degree in Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon, Michael - who works primarily in video and animation - is already showing his work around the region.

If you attended either of the Three Rivers Film Festival’s short programs last Friday, you would have had the fortune of one of the following videos: The Pittsburgh Wing Ding Miracle, one of a small group of short films in Pittsburgh 250’s Pittsburgh Reframed, or Natural Selection: The Rise of the Proletariat, which was awarded third place in the short competition.

If you missed their screenings, don’t fret. Natural Selection is already up at his website, and Miracle will be added soon. If you’ve seen them, and you’re wondering what kind of mind is behind the absurd, at times demented, animation, just give his interview (below) a read.

Straight From the Artist’s Mouth!

OT Blog: You came to Pittsburgh from the Philadelphia area in 2004 to attend Carnegie Mellon, recently graduating with a degree in Fine Arts. What made you decide to stay?

Michael Mallis: I already had a huge following of harem and helpers here and it would have been too costly to transport them elsewhere.  I’m working on a plan now though to fit them all inside a caravan that I’ll take out west with me.  Mustn’t forget my love of free Wing Dings every Tuesday.

OT: What does Pittsburgh offer that a larger city like Philadelphia cannot?

MM: I have a better chance of becoming mayor here than in Philly. I only need to campaign for, what like, a few hundred thousand people. Compare that to reaching over a million homes if I were to run in Philly. Also it would be easier to sell the Stillers to Cleveland. I would get shot if I tried selling the Eagles to Dallas.

OT: Your work has been featured in several festivals, including Pittsburgh’s own Three Rivers Film Festival. Though your work could be described as experimental animation, it is often sandwiched between more standard fare. How do audiences react to your work? What is your intended audience?

MM: My biggest fans are the elderly. I feel it’s important to try to reach them as a key audience and let the support trickle down to younger generations. Pittsburgh is heavily populated in the old, so why not be maybe the only animator catering to their interests? I’ll have a monopoly on that market.

OT: As an animator, what sort of support (from institutions, other artists, etc.) have you found in the Pittsburgh area?

MM: The Church of Scientology here is very kind to me. They have helped me with all my spiritual needs and have even expressed an interest in my future fame and fortune.

OT: Though your work is concentrated mainly in media, you also make comics. How has that form influenced your own work, and where do you see those forms overlap?

MM: I would like to start making comics again, sorta like Kathy meets Dilbert because I don’t feel like my work is reaching the middle-aged office-crowd demographic, the kind who love their water cooler jokes. Or I could make Dil-Kathy-Peanut cartoons.

OT: What can OT Blog readers expect to hear from you in the coming months?

MM: Great things, very great things. I’ve already begun an animation on the life of L. Ron Hubbard, who is a personal hero of mine, and I hope I’ll be able to spread his message of pseudo-Hindu/Freudian self-help to the masses. Oh, and I just found out I won third place in the Three Rivers Film Festival Shorts Competition.

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