Homestead native Tunie returns here from Broadway to produce

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Broadway producer

Tamara Tunie has been in town for a couple of days. The Homestead native, CMU '81, is a well-established actor on stage ("Oh, Kay!" and "Julius Caesar" on Broadway) and especially on TV, where she's played attorney Jessica Griffin on "As the World Turns" since 1987 and medical examiner Melinda Warner in more than 100 episodes of "Law & Order: SVU." But she's in town now as a producer -- the only active African-American producer on Broadway.

She's new at it: her first producer credit was on "Spring Awakening," which shows her ability to pick a winner. Now she's signed on as one of the leading, above-the-line producers on "Radio Golf," the final installment of August Wilson's 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle. Tuesday she had a meeting with the mayor to educate him about Wilson and "Radio Golf" (just in case he hasn't been reading everything I've written on the subject), and yesterday she and I took a tour of the Wilson sites on the Hill.

But mainly, she's been attending to her major goal, which is raising awareness and inviting participation. Her producing partner is Wendell Pierce (HBO's "The Wire"), who co-produced "Jitney" off-Broadway -- so he'll be a second African-American producer on Broadway. They agreed to raise a "considerable proportion" of the $2.1 million "Radio Golf" needs (which is low for a Broadway play).

"I'm passionate about Pittsburgh and theater," she says. "And August Wilson comprises both. ... My agenda is to bring as much African American support to the table as possible. ... I think Pittsburgh should be part of this landmark event." You can get involved in different ways -- be aware, talk it up, organize a theater group. You might even still be able to invest, perhaps for as little as $10,000.

Theater online

There's more about Tamara Tunie in my On Stage Journal, where you'll also find my response to the final installment of "Grease: You're the One That I Want." Plus, a Web-only review of "Riverdance."

Broadway ShowPlane

Don't dilly-dally! Featured on our May 2-6 Broadway trip are "The Pirate Queen," which combines the creators of "Riverdance," "Les Miz" and "Miss Saigon"; "Legally Blonde"; "Curtains," the new Kander & Ebb musical mystery starring David Hyde Pierce; and Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon." It's an attractive package of air, hotels, some meals, etc., with me along to argue with you about the plays we see. For more details, click here, or call Gulliver's Travels at 412-441-3131.

ATCA Awards

The American Theatre Critics Association has just given its 2006 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright to Ken LaZebnik for "Vestibular Sense," which uses humor and pathos to explore the life of an autistic adult. The play debuted last year at Minneapolis' Mixed Blood Theatre. Since 1993, the Osborn Award has recognized an author whose plays have not yet received a major production. It's named for TCG/American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn and carries a $1,000 cash prize, which LaZebnik will receive Saturday at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.

That same night will also see the announcement of the 2006 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Awards, given to plays that have not played in New York yet. Six remain in the running, including "Vestibular Sense" and Michael Hollinger's "Opus," the play about the string quartet that debuted jointly at City Theatre and Philadelphia's Arden Theatre. Other playwrights in the running for a first prize of $25,000 -- the largest national playwriting award -- and for two other prizes of $7,500 are Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Jeff Daniels (better known as an actor), Catherine Bush and Theresa Rebeck.

Pittsburgh Playwrights

The Collaborative March Staged Reading Series ends this week. I've been able to go to only two, the Mark Southers and Jeanne Drennen plays Monday, but if they're indicative of the level of writing and reading, it's been an amazing month. All readings are at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 542 Penn Ave., mezzanine level, around the corner from Heinz Hall; 8 p.m. unless noted; suggested donation $3-$5; info 412-288-0358.

Final Week

Today: (8 p.m.) Cory Tamler, "Not Eureka"; (9 p.m.) Tara Adelizzi, "Fueled." March 30: (7 p.m.) Rebecca Gorman, "South Star"; (8 p.m.) Michael McGovern, "Wake Up Screaming." March 31: Brendon Bates, "Pit Fall." April 1: (6 p.m.) Rage Stevenson, "The Only Good Artist Is A Dead Artist"; (7 p.m.) Dan Kirk, "Parlour Games of the Chimera Gemini."

The Call Board

Remember the Dramatists Guild Town Meeting at Pittsburgh Public Theater, open to playwrights and lovers of playwriting. Friday, 6-7 p.m., composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens, working at the Public on the world premiere of "The Glorious Ones," will discuss their careers with Greg Bossler, Guild director of publications. And Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon, will be the Town Hall Meeting, also open to the public.

The bottom line

Paid admissions at city's pro theaters for the week ending March 25:

LifeX3/Public (63%) .............. 3,034
Mezzulah/City (68%) .............. 1,292
Forb.BwaySVU/CLO (60%) ............. 944
M.Courage/PlayhseRep (31%) ......... 389


Post-Gazette theater editor Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666.


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