Playhouse hosts gala with performances, cocktails and alumni

Written By Sarah Gibson, Co-News Editor

Donors dressed in black tie and formal attire funneled into the new Pittsburgh Playhouse on Thursday to attend a gala held in honor of the opening.

The gala was held for those who donated money towards the efforts to build the Playhouse. A cocktail bar was offered during the beginning of the night alongside live music that was played from the Highmark Theatre, the smaller of the two theatres offered in the Playhouse. President Hennigan, who was in attendance, described what the experience was like to finally see the playhouse finished.

“It’s a dream come true for a lot of people,” Hennigan said.

The Pittsburgh Playhouse cost $60 million dollars to build and construction took a total of 28 months, according to a press kit made available at the gala. While 90,411 square feet of new ground was laid for construction, plenty of repurpose work was done during construction, including three former Forbes Avenue facades that were removed, replaced and then showcased at the Playhouse.

Following the cocktail bar, a performance was offered in the PNC Theatre, which offers an asymmetrical design and 550 seats. Students from the conservatory of performing arts put on a show with plenty of singing, dancing and intricate costumes. Songs performed included “Dancing Queen,” “Footloose” and “Seasons of Love.” The performance also featured some Point Park alumni including Tony nominated actor Tony Yazbeck and Oscar award winning actress Shirley Jones.

Point Park Alumni, both new and old, noted differences in the Playhouse and the facilities that were available to Point Park students in the past.

Celina Pompeani, a 2014 graduate, is a KDKA television anchor and is also the in-arena host for the Pittsburgh Penguins. She said the rate that Point Park is evolving is impressive.

“Even four years ago, it’s amazing to see what additions that they have added. I can’t believe this Playhouse,” Celina said. “I’m so proud of Point Park and excited for all of the theater kids to enjoy this. I mean, you’re not going to find anything like this anywhere around the city or even throughout the region.”

Her father, Bob Pompeani, a Point Park grad of 1982 and the sports director at KDKA, explained that the contrast from his days at the university to now are stark. The street he once remembered as possessing only a “lonely bar” and a sporting goods shop, had transformed into an impressive piece of architecture and academia.

“Night and day. That’s all I need to say. Night and day,” Bob said. “I think Paul Hennigan and everyone here has done a wonderful job. I never thought this Forbes Avenue stretch down here would become what it has become…now all of a sudden you walk in and it’s like a Hollywood theatre.”

The Playhouse, while offering many facilities for theater-related majors, also offers plenty of facilities for students in the cinema department including a soundstage rising up three floors with a fifteen foot high catwalk and a 24 foot high ceiling. George “Fritz” Kiersch, assistant vice president of academic affairs and previous director of the cinema department, expressed that the Playhouse could hold great use for the cinema

“I think it brings a facility that will enable them to be more engaged in the entire process or all of the processes of cinema,” Keirsch said. “It’s just a fantastic opportunity. A great change for their education.”

The Pittsburgh Playhouse is the fifth addition to something called the “Academic Village initiative,” the purpose of which is to improve the educational experience for students while simultaneously improving the long-term makeover of Downtown Pittsburgh. Other additions include Village Park, Boulevard Apartments and the Center for Media Innovation.

The Playhouse officially opened its doors on Oct. 11 with a ribbon cutting ceremony for trustees and civic and community leaders.