After seven years, Pittsburgh Public Theater's artistic director, Edward Gilbert, says goodbye to the regional company June 1 by adapting and directing The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov's rueful end-of-an-era play.
Gilbert, 63, the company's fourth artistic director, announced his resignation last year and anticipates independent directing gigs. Ted Pappas will succeed him in the fall. Cherry Orchard begins previews June 1, opens June 9 and continues to July 2.
Chekhov is a personal favorite of Gilbert's. The cast of Cherry Orchard includes 10 Pittsburgh Public vets, including Brian Dykstra, Joel Friedman, Heather Goldenhersh, Gillian Jacobs, Deborah Kipp, Harry O'Toole, Doug Rees, Jack Ryland, Roger Sergabi and Sam Tsoutsouvas. Mark Boyett, Lisa Levy, Sam Nicotero, Joan Rosenfels, Don Salvo and Cathy Vonderau round out the cast.
During Gilbert's era, the company moved to new digs in the cultural center downtown (in fall 1999) and offered several world premiere productions, including King Hedley II (a co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre) and King O' the Moon (a co-production with Buffalo Studio Arena), Michael Cristofer's Amazing Grace, and the Equity premiere of Pittsburgh native August Wilson's Jitney, according to Public press rep Tim Colbert.
Austrian-born and raised and educated (in law) in England, Gilbert began his theatre career as an assistant director for the Royal Shakespeare Company and moved to Canada where he was artistic director of Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg (1967-70 and 1973-76) and CenterStage in Toronto (1979 85). He directed works at the Shaw Festival in Ontario, American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Huntington Stage in Boston and elsewhere. His exposure to international works in Canada and abroad carried over to Pittsburgh, where he introduced local audiences to Arcadia, The Steward of Christendom, The Weir and other British or European works. New or lesser-known American writers and works found a home at the Public under Gilbert: Terry Johnson's Hysteria, Keith Reddin's All the Rage, Marion McClinton's Police Boys, and Christopher Durang's racy Betty's Summer Vacation proved that he was not afraid to take artistic risks.
In terms of the theatre's financial growth, in the era of Gilbert and managing director Stephen Klein, a $12.8 million endowment goal has been set, and more than $8 million is already in the coffers. There was no endowment when Gilbert joined the resident theatre in 1993.
Designers for The Cherry Orchard are Mark Negin (set and costume), Dennis Parichy (lighting), James Capenos (sound).
Tickets are $15-$40. Pittsburgh Public performs in the O'Reilly Theatre, 621 Penn Ave., in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. For information, call (412) 316-1600 or try the web site at www.ppt.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones