As a lover of the arts, I have had “theatre withdrawal” during the pandemic. I had accepted the grim reality that live shows would take an intermission for some time. My desire to find an activity outside the home and to stay safe caused a reoccurring dilemma just like the song lyrics, “should I stay or should I go.” City Theater's Drive-in Arts Festival put a kibosh to the conundrum and gave me the green light to go when they offered live performances in a safe social distancing drive-in theatre venue. Like many, I am tired of staring at a computer for work, school and entertainment. I applaud the creativity and collaboration of the arts community in adapting live shows to lift our spirits.
City Theater held true to its mission to provide “ideas that engage and challenge a diverse audience.” This Arts Festival included collaborations with the Pittsburgh arts community to provide a variety in the entertainment: the symphony (Pittsburgh Symphony), jazz (MCG Jazz), hip hop (August Wilson African American Center), magic (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/Liberty Magic) and more. According to City Theater's Artistic Director, Marc Masterson, “this festival drew from local talent for shows that unify and uplift the spirt.” I think that we could all use a little dose of that, especially now.
Entering the drive- in we were greeted by an array of people who directed our car with enthusiasm. I presumed that they were smiling under their masks. I brought my dinner to enjoy before the show but I forgot the popcorn. (There is something religious about popcorn at the drive-in.) Even without it, I had a smile plastered on my face because I was going to see live shows.
I have had limited exposure to rap/hip hop but Mars Jackson had me singing the catch phrases of his music. His sound was jazzy with a little R &B undertone combined with rap. The show started with a solo Jackson and DJ, later added a smooth vocalist, Cam Chambers, and ended with a full band crescendo. I wanted to jump out of my car and move to Heart Dance but opted for flashing my car lights and honking the horn (both encourage to show appreciation).
Jackson’s message was uplifting with lyrics like, “Be who you are” and “Keep my faith and hold my head high. Life’s a journey we shall survive. More Happy Days for you and I.” His show was a positive light.
Lee Terbosic is an expert on Harry Houdini and he even recreated Houdini's upside-down straight jacket escape in Pittsburgh in 2016. He performed his show “In Plain Slight” giving us a dose of card tricks, mind reading, humor and a little story telling. I never thought that I would experience a magic show at a drive- in but these are crazy times.
Wearing my mask I walked the parking lot and observed that the magic worked from various angles. More importantly, I saw families gathered together, heard car horns serenading in appreciation and people just having fun.
Both shows, although very different, sure did uplift my spirits. Next time I will be sure to bring the popcorn.
(City Theater’s Drive-in Arts Festival runs until September 27,2020. The festival will be followed by a production of Frankenstein from September 30 to October 16, 2020. For tickets and more information on shows go to citytheatrecompany.org)
A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken sprit dries the bones(Proverbs 12:22)