Bill O'Driscoll

Arts & Culture Reporter

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Most recently, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat.

Photo courtesy of Violoncheloops

Among the many things remade by digital technology, don’t forget the one-person band.

Courtesy of the artist

When people think of Appalachia, they might be more likely to think of West Virginia or Kentucky than of Hawley, a tiny town in northeastern Pennsylvania.

But Appalachia is an extensive region known as much for its natural beauty as for the poverty of many of its people, and its legacy of extractive industries.

Felicia Cooper was upset when natural-gas companies starting tearing up the land in her hometown to build new pipelines.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Whenever she picks up a mic, Melanie Carter performs as Blak Rapp Madusa. But to call that handle her “stage name” is to sell it a bit short.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

This fall will be a good time to be an arts patron in Pittsburgh. 

Kristi Jan Hoover

Nomad Motel is a new play that might challenge your concept of homelessness, and especially of homeless kids.

Courtesy of City of Play

For runners, exploring the city is usually the byproduct of a footrace, not its purpose.

Then there's City Spree.

Photo by Handerson Gomes / Courtesy of Bricolage Productions

For years, arts organizations have offered “sensory-friendly” versions of their concerts, plays and recitals, primarily to benefit audiences on the autism spectrum. These productions are generally the same event, but with sound and lighting modified to avoid aggravating audiences unusually sensitive to such stimuli.

Seth Weing / AP

Eight medical schools, including the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, have been approved by the state to do clinical research on medical marijuana, Gov. Tom Wolf announced this week.

The move is an important one, advocates say, because of how federal drug laws have hindered research into the medical benefits of cannabis over the years.

The state’s Department of Health chose the schools as Certified Research Centers in a competitive process, said J.J. Abbott, a spokesperson for the governor.

Buzzy Prentiss

"Concentration camps for prostitutes."

That was the phrase Scott Stern heard a history professor utter in 2011, when Stern was a freshman at Yale University. The professor was lecturing about how difficult it was to treat sexually transmitted infections in the era of World War I, and the lengths to which the government went to prevent their spread.

Courtesy of Bill Shannon

Maybe you know how Bill Shannon feels: addicted to your newsfeed, feeling constantly pressured to keep up, all day long.

“You wake up in the morning and you check your Twitter feed and then you look at your Facebook and your Instagram, and you're literally like feeling crushed, you know,” he said.

Folk tales and fairy tales are conventionally viewed as repositories of traditional culture. But they can also be dark, anarchic, and downright weird, full of violence, shape-shifting and magic.

Carmen Gentile

Carmen Gentile backed into conflict journalism. The New Kensington native and graduate of Shadyside Academy left Temple University with dreams of writing his way around the world. A job at an English-language newspaper in Cairo, Egypt, led to a stint covering the 2004 military coup in Haiti; the year after that, Gentile was reporting on the war in Afghanistan.

Jae Ruberto

If you’ve ever visited the Pittonkatonk May Day Brass BBQ Potluck Picnic, the fifth annual incarnation will be broadly familiar: Bands playing outdoors for free in Schenley Park, with plenty of food and a family-friendly atmosphere. It remains volunteer-run (though musicians are paid), and free of corporate advertising and of anything for sale – all rarities for a long-running music festival.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Mattress Factory Museum was never meant to be a museum, says Barbara Luderowski. She should know; the artist and designer launched the venture herself in 1977, in a literal former mattress factory on Pittsburgh’s North Side. It began as a multi-story community center that hosted a dance studio, art exhibits, theater performances, film screenings and more, including a vegetarian co-op café where you could get dinner for $2.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The burden of history got about 800 pounds lighter on Thursday as the City of Pittsburgh removed a statue critics had called racist for decades.

Screenshot / Contextual Camouflage

Even as Jason McKoy struggled with mental illness, he understood that the disease was invisible, and that he shouldn’t talk about it. He called this phenomenon “contextual camouflage.”

“I felt like I was camouflaging my true feelings,” he said. “That’s what a lot of people with mental-health disorders have to do. … We have to walk around camouflaging.”

Courtesy of Art All Night

Venues capable of displaying 1,000 works of art for less than 24 hours aren’t easy to come by. 

Garret Jones

As far as comics artists go, Ed Piskor might not seem like a superhero kind of guy.

Photo by Jon Rubin

Alisha Wormsley didn’t intend her work of billboard art to be about gentrification. But her message reading “There Are Black People in the Future,” posted in big letters atop a building in the center of East Liberty, has become just that.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

An acclaimed British photographer will guide some local students to document their own communities as part of this year’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

In all of the U.S., there are only a few dozen sets of instruments that qualify as gamelan ensembles – the collections of gongs and other tuned percussion instruments needed to play this form of music indigenous to Indonesia.

One such gamelan resides at the University of Pittsburgh, whose University Gamelan group marks its 20th anniversary this week with a pair of concerts. Guest performers include composer Ismet Ruchimat, vocalist Masyuning, and musician Idra Ridwan.

Photo courtesy of Mark Simpson Photography

Over its 24 years, adventuresome dance troupe Attack Theatre has staged productions in some unusual places: outdoor plazas, old industrial spaces, a gallery at the Carnegie Museum of Art. But its latest venue is probably a first: a former Office Depot at The Waterfront shopping complex in Homestead.

420 Games

Pro-pot events used to be limited to rock concerts, but in the wake of legal medical marijuana, that is changing. Pittsburgh becomes the first city in the eastern U.S. this week to host the 420 Games, an event blending athletics with marijuana advocacy.

Photo by Jon Rubin

That work of billboard art in East Liberty that was taken down last week can go back up, according to a statement issued this morning by the landlord of the building the billboard stands on.

Courtesy of the artist

Karl Marx is considered one of the most important social philosophers of the past two centuries, and among the most controversial -- even hundreds of years after his birth. 

Photo by Jon Rubin

The removal of a message from a billboard art project in East Liberty has sparked outrage – and inspired a community meeting to address issues surrounding free speech and public art.

*Updated at 6:02 p.m. Thursday, April 5

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Later this spring, the end of an era in Pittsburgh theater arrives with the shuttering of the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.

Courtesy of the author

In Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection of short stories, a young frontier wife who can’t abide daylight gets lost, perhaps fatally, in a mysterious cavern. A steelworker in 19th-century Pittsburgh is injured terribly in an industrial accident, but develops a strange power. A present-day fisherman encounters a mermaid. An in-vitro septuplet narrates the tragic fates of her siblings.

The wide-ranging premises are among those captured in Sachdeva's nine stories in  All the Names They Used For God, released in February through Spiegel & Grau.

Joan Marcus

The record-smashing Broadway musical Hamilton will make its Pittsburgh premiere in January 2019 courtesy of a nationally touring production.

If you don’t like poetry, maybe you’ve been reading it wrong.

So says Don Bialostosky. In his new book, the University of Pittsburgh literature professor contends that the reason more people don’t read poetry for fun is they were taught that reading poetry is work: analyzing metaphors and symbols, for example.

Bialostosky titled his book "How to Play A Poem," and he uses the verb “play” because, he says, we shouldn’t try interpreting poetry before we simply enjoy it.

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