An empty theater, an arts community packed with talent and families looking for a fresh way to spend time together this summer.
To Kelly-Strayhorn Theater executive director Janera Solomon, these are inspirations behind the East Liberty venue's summer season.
"We have a beautiful space in the middle of a really cool neighborhood," she says. "Isn't it better to have it open with exciting programming than not?"
For the fifth summer, the theater will open its doors for a lineup of family-friendly entertainment called East Liberty LIVE! This month's first offering will be 8 p.m. Friday at the nearby Alloy Studios in Friendship and will feature the Murphy/Smith Dance Collective, a product of resident artists Jamie Erin Murphy and Renee Danielle Smith. In a work called "Sound Project," dancers will explore people's relationship with noise.
The season also will include dance works from Stein | Holum Projects (July 12) and the return of Sidra Bell Dance New York (Aug. 9), both starting at 8 p.m. at Alloy Studios. Next month, patrons will be invited to get their groove on at the Let's Move! family dance party at the Kelly-Strayhorn, where 720 Music, Clothing and Cafe in Lawrenceville and the Citiparks roving art cart will treat guests to music, food, face painting and other activities.
Theater staff also will salute Pittsburgh-born dance legend Gene Kelly at its annual ice cream social, celebrating his 101st birthday. At the party, guests will screen his 1952 film "Singin' in the Rain."
"The summer program is about being social," Ms. Solomon says. "It's about getting together with friends and seeing something fun and interesting."
She is beefing up the season's diversity this summer with more music events, such as the Harlem Quartet, Brooklyn Rider, SOUNDWAVES Steelband Ensemble and Gospel Xplosion, a concert devoted to gospel music and dance. Some of the music programs will be produced with the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society.
These types of partnerships with other arts groups and local businesses are on the rise, Ms. Solomon says.
"People are really happy to see that there is activity in the theater throughout the summer."
For those who want to try something new, KST is holding dance classes at its Alloy venue in styles such as ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop. Some are taught by members of the Pittsburgh dance community and visiting artists from other parts of the country.
"The idea is to get people moving, doing something fun and doing it with folks who have studied dance or are professional dancers," Ms. Solmon says.
For regular KST patrons and newcomers alike, the summer series is a chance to learn about the breadth of the theater's programming.
"Sample it," Ms. Solomon says. "Get a little taste of what we have to offer."
East Liberty LIVE! summer series highlights
Murphy/Smith Dance Collective, 8 p.m. Friday•
Master class with Suli Holum, 10 a.m. July 10•
Beats n Eats, noon July 10 at Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Ave.
Harlem Quartet, 7:30 p.m. July 11
Stein | Holum Projects, 8 p.m. July 12•
Brooklyn Rider, 7:30 p.m. July 18
SOUNDWAVES open house, 6 p.m. Aug. 2•
Let's Move! family dance party, 11 a.m. Aug. 3
Master class with Sidra Bell, 10 a.m. Aug. 7•
Sidra Bell Dance New York, 8 p.m. Aug. 9•
Gospel Xplosion concert, 2 p.m. Aug. 10
Beats n Eats, noon Aug. 14 at Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Ave.
Gene Kelly birthday bash, 7 p.m. Aug. 23.
• Denotes events held at the Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave. Unless otherwise noted, all others will be held at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. For a full event and dance class schedule, including ticket prices, visit www.kelly-strayhorn.org or call 412-363-3000.
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.