For a mobile acting group that has performed in nearly every forum but a traditional theater over the last 19 years, you’d think Quantum Theatre would have set up shop in every Pittsburgh neighborhood by now.
But that’s far from the case. In fact, until now this band of itinerant thespians has never staged a production in District 1.
On Thursday, July 30, Quantum will stage its debut of 36 Views at the park on the northern tip of Washington’s Landing. To celebrate Quantum’s District 1 debut, director Karla Boos is teaming up with city councilwoman Darlene Harris to offer an exclusive District 1 community night. District 1 residents will receive a $5 discount, and Harris will host a pre-show party beginning at 6:30 p.m..
The play, written by Naomi Iizuka and first performed at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2001, involves the nexus of characters surrounding the discovery of an ancient Japanese pillow book, the contents of which detail the life of a royal courtesan.
The antiquity could be worth millions, but only, of course, if it’s authentic.
The uncertainty of this fact weaves throughout the plot, connecting the lives of a shrewd art dealer, his assistant, a journalist, two professors and a mysterious art restorer.
“The play asks the audience to ask what makes something real, something valuable. It’s a bang-up good mystery, good romance,” said Boos, founder and director of Quantum.
Beside being Quantum’s first foray in the district, Boos is fairly certain this is the first time 36 Views has ever been performed outdoors.
“I love that island. I love working outdoors … I thought this would work outdoors because the pillow book is full of all these images of nature,” said Boos, who has staged other outdoor productions in Mellon Park in Point Breeze and The Mattress Factory’s garden in the Central Northside.
Since most performances begin at 8 p.m., the first act will begin in light and the second, in darkness. Boos said this feature complements the themes of perception and authenticity in the play.
Images of the pillow book are projected onto large white canvases that flank the stage, which is itself a tiered set of stone retaining walls that back up to a grove of trees.
Another feature that lends 36 Views its relative novelty is the many first-time cast members. In fact only Shammen McCune, who plays the art restorer, has appeared in a Quantum production before (in this spring’s production of Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca).
Matt Gray, who plays the art dealer Darius Wheeler, is a recent acquisition of Carnegie Mellon’s drama department. Boos was only familiar with Gray’s directing work at CMU before asking him to try out for 36 Views, but she attested to his successful career acting abroad in London, Canada and Asia. This will be Gray’s first performance in Pittsburgh.
Cast members Rebecca Hirota, who plays Japanese literature professor Setsuko Hearn, and Jason Martin, Wheeler’s assistant, hail from New York and are also new to Quantum.
Tressa Glover, who plays the journalist, is a Pittsburgh native but hasn’t appeared in a Quantum production before.
With the discount, tickets will be $23 for the District 1 performance, with a limited number of $16 tickets for students. Normal ticket prices will be $28 to $32, except the opening night performance on the 31st. Tickets can be purchased from Pro Arts Tickets at (412) 394-3353 or www.quantumtheatre.com.