by Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant.
On Saturday March 5th, Pittsburgh’s best and brightest gathered at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for the 11th annual B.U.S. (Bricolage Urban Scrawl), a fundraiser for the Bricolage. The event was hosted by Jeffrey Carpenter, Artistic Director, and Tami Dixon, Producing Artistic Director of the aforementioned theater.
The B.U.S. is the culmination of a 24 hour project wherein playwrights ride a bus, and use the experience as a jumping off point to create art, six 10 minute plays. After all, a bricolage is a creation from a diverse range of available things. Think MacGyver but with theater.
The first piece, “Not So Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” by Kim El was the “bussiest” of bus stories. The story took place on 71A (or somewhere thereabouts). Cheryl El-Walker and Kelly Trumbull played too very different dancers, a stripper from the Strip (Cheerleaders) and a Point Park ballerina. The story reflected the Tale of the Two Cities (More K-Mos than Dickens), the black and white Pittsburgh, and those who are trapped in the crosshairs of gentrification. It was funny, compelling and one of the best of the evening, typifying an essential Pittsburgh bus story.
Ray Werner’s “Poster Boy,” was a tale wrought with foreboding. In it a young boy contacts an organization he reads about on a poster on the bus. Sundiata Rice, who plays the young boy, was particularly engaging “Poster Boy,” the youngest performer on stage all evening.
Leviticus Jelks’ short play “Doc’s New Idea” relied on the strength of its madcap leading lady, Ayne Terceira with strong performances by Jonathan Visser, Siovhan Christensen and Parag S. Gohel as the last surviving members of a famed group of miners. Heigh Ho! Hijinks ensued.
Mark Clayton Southers’ “Dog Shit” was ripped from today’s headlines. It was a story of a black man murdered on a bus after killing a dog that was attacking him, expertly directed by Bria Walker. It included lovely turns by Erika Cuenca, Sara Williams, Michael McBurney and Lissa Brennan.
Gayle Pazerski’s “If They Could See Me Now” seemed to have very little to do with Pittsburgh, Port Authority or any sort of buses, but it was a laugh riot. Linda Haston directed the piece with verve. Improv comedian John Feightner would have chewed the scenery, if there was any. There was even a special appearance by local drag diva, Bunny Bixler (Gloria Upson and Muriel Puce could not be reached for comment).
Gab Cody’s “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” capped off the evening with a hilarious ditty about strangers meeting. The cast included Brett Goodnack, Jason McCune, TaeAjah Cannon, Hazel Leroy with special appearances by Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon. You could call their appearance a ‘walk-on” but they did more “rolling on the floor”than walking. Lisa Ann Goldsmith directed.
Kudos to all the playwrights and performers, mounting ten minute plays in twenty four hours is a spectacular feat. Obviously, a few things could have been improved, but given the time and effort, it seems hypercritical to point at any flaws.
Comedy was king at the B.U.S., but the show had a delightful mix of genres, both serious and comedic. Plus, just like the mode of transportation from which it’s derived, if you didn’t get one, there was another one along a few minutes later.
Next year, you might want to hop on. It’s a wild ride.
(The Bricolage, 937 Liberty Avenue, First Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information on the theater, click here.