Conservatory of Performing Arts presents ‘Good Grief’

Written By Rosalie Anthony, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
The cast of “Good Grief” on stage in the Pittsburgh Playhouse for the opening scene. The cast in alphabetical order by last name: Ivan Bracy Jr., Elise Dorsey, Alex Fetzko, Tim Judah, Mia Sterbini and Pierre Mballa.

The lights dim, a hush falls over the audience, the show is about to begin. The main character, Nkechi, also known as N, is featured on stage. There are markings on the floor that indicate something spiritual and magical is about to happen. She is soon joined by five deities. The deities have decorative, elaborate headpieces individualizing the character they symbolize.

These past two weekends, Oct. 18 through 27, Point Park’s Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA) Theatre Company presented the play “Good Grief” written by Point Park’s own 2010 alumni Ngozi Anyanwu and directed by guest Reginald L. Douglas. The cast even got to FaceTime the playwright a couple of times. 

“We’re all very close to each other,” Elise Dorsey, senior musical theatre major and main character N, said about the small seven-person cast. “It’s very nice. It’s very refreshing.” 

Before the show began, Steven Breese, Dean of COPA and the Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, welcomed the audience warmly. Additionally, according to a link posted on the Point Park alumni Facebook page, the play received first place for the Inaugural Humanitas/CTG Playwriting Prize winning $5,000 towards its production. 

“It’s about a girl overcoming grief,” Dorsey said, explaining the synopsis. “It’s all about her life and how she decides to look back on her path to propel her forward… pushing through grief and remembering her almost lover, almost boyfriend, almost husband’s death.”

A symbolic visual aspect was the markings on the floor of a blue African bird in the fetal position. They symbolize that in order to move forward in your future, you must look back.

“It was really good,” Johnathan Degelman, freshman elementary education major said. “The main actress, she was really good. She had a lot of expression.”   

Photo by Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer
Elise Dorsey (bottom) and Ivan Bracy Jr. (top) performing as Nkechi and MJ in “Good Grief” at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

The majority of the show could not have been possible without a whole team backstage. An important person who made this whole production possible is senior stage management major Emily Weingart.

“I ran the auditions, callbacks and then facilitated getting the cast list out,” Weingart said. “I help facilitate costume fittings, make sure people are where they need to be constantly. Kind of just whatever the director needs I’m doing it, and my team, we’re doing it.” 

Freshman musical theatre major Katerina Damm was a member of that team backstage and worked in the wardrobe department. The people on crew are called anywhere from 15-30 minutes before the rest of the cast to get everything set up for the show. During the show, they assist with costume changes to keep everything flowing and organized. After the show, wardrobe stays behind to launder and freshen up the costume pieces. Their dress code consists of black pants, black shoes, black socks and the black Playhouse polo shirts. No jewelry is allowed in an attempt to prevent distraction if caught by the light. 

“We interact with the cast regularly and are each assigned a cast member that we are primarily responsible for checking and assisting,” Damm said. “Working with the cast has been a phenomenal experience as we get the chance to see them actively working in their element.”

The whole team, including Dorsey, commented that working with one another was a positive and encouraging environment. 

“Overall, my biggest takeaway is the power that positivity brings to a workspace,” Damm said. “As our director pointed out – as crew, we have the opportunity to observe seasoned students in a professional environment and learn things about the industry from these observations.”