Stage Preview: 'Off Record VII' logs in with a computer-age spoof

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Hey, you with the inky fingers! You're our kind of people: Your computer is a necessity, but your newspaper is a friend.

We feel you, to borrow a phrase from those wacky, text-messaging, blogging kids who have invaded my space (.com). "Off the Record" feels you, too.

Now in its seventh year, "Off the Record VII" still spoofs the city of Pittsburgh and all that makes us unique. As always, this one-night-only musical extravaganza pokes fun at local politics, politicians and other newsmakers, but this year, it turns its guns on itself. Welcome to "Off the Record VII: Blogged to Death!" a satirical look at local media's attempt to stay afloat on the wave of technology.


'Off the Record VII: Blogged to Death!'
  • Where: Byham Theater.
  • When: 8 p.m. (reception in lobby starts at 6:30 p.m.), Thursday.
  • Tickets: $20, $40, $60; 412-456-6666.
  • More information: www.offtherecordpgh.com.

"Off the Record" even has a new address on the information superhighway, www.offtherecordpgh.com, where you can read tidbits about this year's show and see pictures from the first six.

Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild/CWA (mainly writers and artists at the Post-Gazette) and AFTRA (the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), "Off the Record" has raised $131,000 for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, with additional donations going to the two unions' scholarship funds, pediatric AIDS research, Hurricane Katrina victims and the Highmark Caring Place.

As always, the show draws on many talents, from Post-Gazette staffers to stars of local and sometimes national stage, screen and night life, such as "Off the Record" veterans Jeff Howell, Chuck Aber, Christine Laitta and Michael Fuller and newbies like Myrna Paris and Maria Beycoates-Bey.

The chief writers are Dan Kamin and the PG's Gary Rotstein, with such other PG writers as Sally Kalson, Mackenzie Carpenter and Samantha Bennett providing newsy/comic lyrics to familiar tunes. Theater critic Christopher Rawson produces, and Gregory Lehane directs.

Ken Rice of KDKA returns to unleash his audacious wit as emcee, and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato will take the stage to rebut. Plus, there are always a few surprises.

The show's mixed parentage is reflected in its new logo, a jester with a press pass in his cap, doing stand-up satire in front of a triangle symbolizing Pittsburgh.

How much do "Off the Record" actors know about blogging? Not that much, it turns out. Christiana Craig-Dukes shyly admits to blogging about the television show "Heroes." "But I don't do anything geeky like MySpace," she says.

"Off the Record" veterans David Flick and Christine Laitta are newspaper junkies through and through. Flick says he likes to read the paper on his back porch. "I defy you to relax with your computer like that," he says. Laitta likes to take the newspaper into the bathtub, another awkward place to bring the PC.

Second-timer cast member Dereck Walton is a little more computer savvy. He likes online news but doesn't post. "I'm 45. We don't care about blogging too much."

This year's representative from the political arena, City Council President Doug Shields, plays Pirates owner Bob Nutting. Shields reads online news, news blogs and multiple newspapers, too. Back in the day, he was an actor and even worked as a Pittsburgh Steelers mascot. A return to that life and the chance to spend time with actor buddies like Flick is part of the draw of "Off the Record."

"It's always a wonderful experience to be part of a theater company," Shields deadpans in the Capt. Bligh voice he brings to his role, "as opposed to in the company of a bunch of cutthroat political pirates."

Oops. Maybe that was supposed to be off the record.


Anna Rosenstein is a freelance writer. First Published September 25, 2007 4:00 AM


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