Pittsburgh has had a trying year, and it's not over yet. There's been the reassessment crisis and the transit crisis, headline-grabbing trials (state Sen. Jane Orie, Rep. Bill DeWeese, Jerry Sandusky, Jordan Miles), a prolonged bomb scare at the University of Pittsburgh, even a drought -- and now (shudder), the national election.
But for the 12th year in a row, the one-night phenomenon that is Off the Record (OTR) takes all these events and makes gleeful satiric hay of them, as well as raising many thousands of dollars for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
- Where: Byham Theater, Downtown
- When: Thursday. Hors d'oeuvres and cash bar in lobby 6:30 p.m.; show 8 p.m.
- Tickets: $25-70. 412-456-6666 and pgharts.org
This year's show, "Reassess This!" will be at the Byham Thursday, and it pays homage to Pittsburgh's own August Wilson while making song and dance of our sore spots: city and county bureaucracy, entrenched politics, and racial and economic inequality. As usual, it's presented by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild/CWA and Pittsburgh SAG-AFTRA.
One of the show's high points is always the appearance of local notables as the "Pre-buttal" speakers. This year features Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Black Political Empowerment Project chairman Tim Stevens. KDKA anchor Ken Rice will emcee again, his ninth year in the show.
Gary Rotstein, longtime writer at the Post-Gazette, has also co-written and acted as general manager for OTR throughout its 12 years, but he said this year he drew from a slightly different inspiration: the plays of August Wilson.
"For some years, I've wanted to an August Wilson tribute/parody, like 'Jitney' [one of the plays of Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle]," he said, and from the beginning he hoped veteran actor and former city councilman Sala Udin would play the lead.
Mr. Udin agreed to appear in OTR and plays Drucker, a soon-to-retire county worker who handles property assessments and worries over his son Junior, recently released from jail.
Mr. Udin pointed out that in his case, "life imitates art imitating life." He grew up with Mr. Wilson on the Hill and was the playwright's inspiration for the lead character in "Jitney."
Mr. Rotstein stressed that while OTR frequently touches on weighty issues, the main goal is a funny evening, where 100 percent of the money raised goes to a good cause.
"We made $46,000 last year for the food bank," he said, adding that during its 11 years the show has raised almost $300,000 for the food bank. The show also contributes to one additional charity per year, and appropriately, he said, "this year, it's the August Wilson Center."
The show also helps support the two sponsoring unions' two college scholarships.
While OTR always features local actors and journalism professionals, some might be surprised to find KDKA anchor Jon Delano hamming it up as UPMC's Jeffrey Romoff. It's Mr. Delano's third year in the show.
OTR's tireless volunteers include Carnegie Mellon theater professor Gregory Lehane as director, actress Christine Laitta as assistant director, Post-Gazette senior theater critic Christopher Rawson as producer, and CLO Cabaret music director Deana Muro as music director. Performers include Garbie Dukes, Jeff Pollock, Brian Corey and Michael Moats.