The Benefits of Benefits – will April fundraisers yield May donors?

AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT of financial planning for today’s arts and nonprofit organizations is The Benefit.

Wherein, the organization offers a unique, one time only, 100% guaranteed-never-before-seen, very special night of superlative entertainment (often with a very special superlative entertainer) in hopes of raising funds to supplement the year’s projected ticket revenue.

For an arts group — besides the anticipated fiscal reward — a major benefit of the benefit is that it offers a chance to try out something entirely new … a performance venturing beyond the company’s usual fare, perhaps even experimental in concept.

All through April, Pittsburgh theatres have been presenting benefits emphasizing the innovative and rare.

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PICT Classic Theatre kicked off Apr. 7 with its What Do I Wear? 2500 Years of Fashion in Theatre gala conceived by PICT artistic director Elizabeth Elias Huffman as a “theatrical fashion show extravaganza” spanning Western theatre history from ancient Greece and Rome through Shakespeare and Restoration up to Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams and Hair.

It was that and more as the revolving cavalcade of 16 actors (Clark Eileen Atkinson, Lisa Bansavage, Art DeConciliius, Mason Dowd, Patricia Fuchel, Erika Krenn, Arjun Kumar, Malcolm McGraw, Isaac Miller, Travis Miller, Cameron Nickel, Alexandra Plummer, Jocelyn Stoffel, Riley Tate, Ithica Tell and Nathan Wagner) portrayed 51 characters in 25 short play scenes.

In addition to classic costumes from theatre departments at Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University and Little Lake Theatre, the show featured custom-made attire by Pittsburgh designer Brian David Jones (the character Dormiant in A Man of Mode and the 3 Witches costume for Macbeth) and Prem Clothing’s Ife Orebiyi (a stunning coronation gown cloaking a 21st-century Eurydice).

At 7:00 p.m. Apr. 13, PICT offers a reprise performance of What Do I Wear? at Mon Valley YMCA, 101 Taylor Run Rd. in Monongahela. Tickets here.

Scenes from PICT Classic Theatre’s “What Do I Wear? 2500 Years of Fashion in Theatre” (photos by Heather Mull)

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Pittsburgh Public Theatre followed Apr. 8 with ALCHEMY: An Immersive Gala Experience, a 50th Anniversary celebration at O’Reilly Theater featuring a gold carpet welcome with aerialists, a solid gold dance party and a “Be Bold, Come Gold” lookbook by fashion designers Demeatria Boccella and Kiya Tomlin.

*  *  *

GUESTS ATTENDING Prime Stage Theatre’s Apr. 18 Dinner with the Queen of Crime will be greeted by a singular guest of honor — Dame Agatha Christie, the world’s best-selling fiction writer of all time.

To be sure, it will be Pittsburgh actress Rebecca Godlove portraying the acclaimed English author while cheerfully answering questions about Christie’s literary and personal affairs.

In addition to a three-course dinner with dessert, the evening includes mystery trivia and a silent auction, along with a preview of Prime Stage Theatre’s May 3-12 production of Witness for the Prosecution, one of Agatha Christie’s most memorable stage works.

“She loved writing for theatre,” says Godlove. “None of her wit or depth was lost between the page and the stage. There was so much more to her than murder and mystery, and she was able to use every scrap of experience from her own life and weave it into her stories.”

Dinner with the Queen of Crime, Apr. 18, 6:00 p.m. Revival on Lincoln, 318 Lincoln Ave. in Bellvue. Tickets here.

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Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park opens their Apr. 23-26 Week of Will with a world premiere one-act by Charles David “Stoney” Richards titled This Could Be True.

“It’s a play about a modern-day actor confined to an insane asylum believing he is a member of William Shakespeare’s company,” says Richards.

When the actor learns of Shakespeare’s death, he becomes further obsessed in getting his imagined fellow company members to publish Shakespeare’s plays “before they are scattered by the winds of time.” 

Joining Richards onstage are Aaron Crutchfield, Harper York and opera artist/WQED-FM program host Anna Singer, with live music by Matt Calvetti and direction by Jennifer Tober.

This Could Be True, Apr. 23-26, 7:00 p.m. each night, Union Trust Building, 501 Grant St. Pittsburgh. Tickets here.

*  *  *

HAVING MOUNTED PLAYS celebrating Willie Dixon, Joe Tex, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and other African American music history figures, it’s no surprise that New Horizon Theater’s May 4 gala will present The Manhattans Featuring Gerald Alston with Master of Ceremonies Chris Moore.

One of the superstar vocal groups from the era of classic Sixties/Seventies soul, The Manhattans consistently reached gold and platinum levels while notching 45 hits on the Billboard R&B Chart and 16 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 over a prolific 60-year recording career.

The Manhattans Featuring Gerald Alston, May 4, 7:30 p.m. O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh. Tickets here.

L.E. McCullough

L.E. McCullough is a Pittsburgh musician/writer/journalist who writes about Arts every chance he gets. Got some Arts to talk about? Contact him at

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