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Playhouse gathering favorite memories from Oakland site

Written By Nicole Pampena, Co-News Editor

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Point Park’s conservatory is asking its alumni, staff, current students and the public to submit their favorite memory of the Oakland Pittsburgh Playhouse ahead of its closure in June 2018.

According to the Playhouse’s website, the project is an “opportunity to reminisce through its 85 years and submit a memory for consideration to be posted on the Share Your Pittsburgh Playhouse Memories Page.”

“I think it’s a little sad because of all the old history in the Playhouse,” sophomore acting major Allison Svagdis said. “It’s very eccentric, [but] I think the new Playhouse opening shows Point Park’s reputation is growing.”

The idea for this project sparked during a planning meeting for a final event at the Oakland facility, according to the Producing Director at the Playhouse Kim Martin.

“It was kind of the brainchild of Mariann Geyer and Barb Villanova,” Martin said. “We asked, ‘what’s a great way for people to remember the Playhouse?’”

The answer was creating a space for submissions for Point Park community members to share their “fondest, silliest, or most sentimental” memories, according to the Memories page of the Playhouse’s website.

Senior musical theatre major Kevin Gilmond said being in a conservatory show allowed him to meet Svagdis, his girlfriend. He shared this experience on the Memories page of the Playhouse’s website:

“While performing in The Who’s ‘Tommy’ I met my girlfriend while she was on crew,” Gilmond said. “We’ve been together for a year now and I have the Playhouse to thank for that.”

“Every time Zeva called ‘hold,’ it was tradition for the freshmen to do pushups,” Svagdis said. “I think I did it the first two times then stopped. I guess he thought it was cute.”

According to Gilmond, Svagdis “stood out from the crowd.”

“She was the first girl to say ‘this is stupid,’” Gilmond said. “It piqued my interest. She’s also extremely beautiful.”

Memories of the Playhouse in Oakland date back to 1934 where its formation came from combining three different buildings, none of which were designed for the performing arts: the Rauh Theater used to be a German social club and the Rockwell Theater was once the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Martin, who graduated from Point Park in 1987, credits her four years at the Playhouse as “some of the best years of her life.”

“To see it matter as much to students as it mattered to me…it’s amazing,” Martin said.

Despite memories among students and alumni, the facility is beginning to show its age leaving its occupants ready to usher in a new era for the conservatory.

“The building is in such bad shape, when it rains outside, it rains inside,” Martin said. “I’m very nostalgic about it, and we’ve done great work there, but we’re all dreaming of a new Playhouse where it doesn’t rain on stage.”

The new Playhouse on Forbes Avenue will cater to conservatory students where three academic theatre spaces, a large scene shop, sound stage, prop shop, costume shop and café will become fundamental to the learning environment. The new facility will also showcase “100 percent of production in the making,” where large windows will showcase the students working.

The Playhouse will host a Lights Out Celebration June 18 as a final sendoff for the site. More information on the event will become available at a later date.

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