She will pursue new artistic and business endeavors, beginning with the creation of a 501c3 not-for-profit musical initiative Cabaret Pittsburgh, Inc., which has its roots in the cabaret arm of PICT.
In 2006, she plans to bring major cabaret stars — including Mary Cleere Haran, Ann Hampton Callaway, and more — to Pittsburgh's downtown cultural district. Riso hopes the company will grow to include master classes, workshops and readings of new musicals.
Cabaret Pittsburgh, Inc. bills itself as "an intimate musical experience." The group's not-for-profit status is pending. Fundraising and programming activities have begun, and Richard E. Rauh has made a lead gift to the organization to secure the 2006 artistic talent.
The 2006 Cabaret Pittsburgh season begins with New York City cabaret artist Mary Cleere Haran May 5, continuing with newcomer singer-pianist Tony DeSare July 14 and singer-songwriter Craig Carnelia (Is There Life After High School?, Sweet Smell of Success) on Sept. 8.
The season closes with Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister Liz Callaway performing their show Relative Harmony Nov. 10. The artists will play the second floor symphony room of the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM, and the room has been downsized to accommodate 70 people per show. (The goal was "to insure an intimate musical experience for all attendees.")
The concept for Cabaret Pittsburgh, Inc. began in 2004 when Riso started a cabaret series for local up-and-coming musical talent under the umbrella of Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre (PICT). She and her husband, Tony Richards, hosted the series and presented over 20 talents to over 700 attendees in a transformed coffeehouse La Prima Espresso.
In 2005, Riso established a new series presenting nationally renowned artists in the symphony room of Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel to sold-out crowds. The series marked the return of Pittsburgh native Joyce Breach, and welcomed Broadway's Robert Cuccioli and singer-actress-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway.
Riso has overseen the management of PICT from its inception to its recent annual budget mark of $1 million. She has managed the company's growth from two employees to a staff of eight, from three shows annually to an average of six shows, and has seen annual attendance grow to exceed 20,000.
With her departure, new managing director Lori Monnier has joined the company to lead PICT into its next decade.
Cabaret Pittsburgh tickets will be $45 and admission includes entertainment, hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine.
Riso, a trained singer and experienced manager-producer, will program the cabaret and serve as the organization's president while her husband, Tony Richards, will serve as an advisor.
She will work between Pittsburgh and New York City "developing contacts to assist her in the evolution of the new company."
Future Cabaret Pittsburgh, Inc. activities may include musical theatre and songwriting workshops, master classes, a professional development series, new musical development and production, small-scale touring, and concert-versions/readings of musicals. (Riso is also a songwriter, working on a new musical.)
A website will go live later this winter. For more information, call (412) 402-0360.