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 Crivello OMATSTony Award-winning actor Anthony Crivello in the role of Santiago in the Pittsburgh Playhouse production of The Old Man and the Sea

The Point
Spring 2019

Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse presented the world premiere stage adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea, based on the iconic novel by Ernest Hemingway and adapted for the stage by centenarian playwright A.E. Hotchner and Tim Hotchner, and directed by Pittsburgh Playhouse Artistic Director Ronald Allan-Lindblom. The new play, which was presented by Highmark and staged in the Highmark Theatre in the new Playhouse in Downtown Pittsburgh from Feb. 1-17, 2019, was the first production produced by Point Park in collaboration with RWS Entertainment Group.

Artistic laboratory

The Old Man and the Sea is based on the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning 1952 short novel that tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with catching a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. One of Hemingway’s most famous works, the story has been adapted for the screen three times and has become one of the most taught novels in American high schools.

The cast featured Tony Award-winning actor and Broadway veteran Anthony Crivello as Santiago, David Cabot as Hemingway and Gabriel Florentino (COPA ’18) as Manolin. Simon Cummings, from Cello Fury, created and performed original music for the show.

“This is a grand experiment, the first time we are using the new Pittsburgh Playhouse as a true artistic laboratory,” said Lindblom. “It’s a brilliant piece of literature, an exciting and dangerous undertaking meant to engage Pittsburgh’s sophisticated theatre audiences and provide unparalleled opportunities for students across multiple majors to gain unique experience.”

The project included several interesting collaborations. Hotchner, who created the stage adaptation with his son, was Hemingway’s official biographer and Hemingway’s good friend until his death in 1961. The Hotchners worked closely with Lindblom and the University to refine the script for its stage debut.

Florentino, who less than a year ago was a senior musical theatre student who led tours of the new Playhouse for admitted COPA students, said he was thrilled to return to play the role of Manolin. "One of my goals in my life was to originate a role. I never thought it would be this soon and in the new Pittsburgh Playhouse,” he said. “It’s all an honor. Also, it’s such an interesting and rewarding perspective to come back to the place you trained, but this time as a professional. My heart is full of gratitude."

Fostering talent

In addition, RWS has had a longstanding relationship with Point Park. RWS CEO and founder Ryan Stana (COPA ’02) received a bachelor of fine arts in theatre arts from Point Park and serves as a current University Trustee. Stana has long been committed to fostering Point Park talent in the entertainment industry as well as within his own company. RWS includes several Point Park graduates, some of whom hold executive positions.

"As a state-of-the-art facility unsurpassed for a university setting, the new Playhouse will not only have a global impact on arts education, but also serves as a creative laboratory for creatives and talent,” said Stana. “Point Park has established itself as a competitive performing arts program among the best, and I am proud to continue working with students, faculty and artistic professionals in Pittsburgh.”

“Building our beautiful new Playhouse was just the first step for the University,” said Point Park President Paul Hennigan. “With the announcement of this relationship with RWS Entertainment Group, we are developing a new model where we will not only be able to bring cutting-edge productions to Pittsburgh for the theater-going community, we will provide our students with the opportunity to meet and work with professionals from all over the country, in every area of the entertainment creation process.”

“The new Pittsburgh Playhouse is a true gift to the entire University community as well as Pittsburgh’s theatre-going audiences,” Hennigan added. “We are giving our students and the entire community the opportunity to be part of cutting-edge theatrical experiences and exposure to artists and new work from all over the country.”

The Playhouse’s rich history as the theatrical home of such award-winning musical and theater greats as Shirley Jones and Rob Ashford makes it a perfect venue to launch an innovative model that will create and advance new works, while at the same time, offering Point Park students an opportunity to work on professional productions bound for national stages.

The brand-new Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University is a 90,411-square-foot theater complex that serves as an artistic laboratory for the prestigious Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA), comprised of professional, artist educators dedicated to an approach to training that enables students to pursue careers as professionals. COPA includes Departments of Theatre, Dance, and Cinema.

State of the art

The four-story, state-of-the-art facility, located at 350 Forbes Avenue, is home to the professional theatre company, The REP and student companies: Conservatory Theatre Company, Conservatory Dance Company and Playhouse Jr. The Pittsburgh Playhouse features the 550-seat PNC Theatre, in which the backstage and inner workings are visible from the street, resulting in an intentional glimpse into performing arts classes; the 200-seat Highmark Theatre; and the 99-seat Rauh Theatre.

The new Pittsburgh Playhouse is designed to be a learning laboratory for all Point Park students, providing experiential learning opportunities in producing, marketing, management, sales, ticketing and programming.  The Playhouse also collaborates with the University’s Rowland School of Business and Center for Media Innovation on events, lectures and related programming.  

The new Pittsburgh Playhouse’s inaugural 2018-19 season featured the award-winning musicals Cabaret and Sunday in the Park with George as well as the Broadway smash, History Boys. Full price season subscriber packages include a complimentary season parking pass at the PNC Garage, across the street from the Playhouse.

Photo by John Altdorfer
The Point is the magazine of Point Park University