PICT postpones ‘Saint Joan’; will move from Pitt theatres

By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PICT Classic Theatre has postponed its September production of “Saint Joan,” replacing it with the two-character play “Educating Rita” as part of a planned restructuring that was forced into action sooner than expected. The current season, the company’s 20th, was planned in August 2014, when the company expected it would be able to stay in the University of Pittsburgh’s Stephen Foster Memorial theaters until 2017. A few months ago, PICT head Alan Stanford got word that Pitt’s theater department would be expanding and needed the space by next year.

Caroline Nicolian, Justin Lonesome, Jonathan Visser and Daina Michelle Griffith. Photo by Robin Rombach/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Caroline Nicolian, Justin Lonesome, Jonathan Visser and Daina Michelle Griffith. Photo by Robin Rombach/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This already was an on-the-move year for PICT, which added a two-show Downtown Series, including a sold-out run of “Jacques Brel.” The company also lost its office and shop in Dormont and started the year by moving into higher-rent space on the South Side in January.

“In as gentle a way as possible, I’m trying to make the adjustments we need to make a little earlier than expected, and to compensate for the fact that we had a much more expensive shift into the year,” said Mr. Stanford, while expressing his gratitude for the long-standing relationship with Pitt.

He emphasized that he is not canceling but postponing “Saint Joan” — which now will kick off the 2016-17 season — and adding shows to the current mainstage season to bring PICT into a fall-spring schedule. Following planned productions at Pitt’s Charity Randall Theatre of “The Tempest” and “Oliver Twist,” PICT will mount Mr. Stanford’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” which recently finished sold out runs in Dublin and at the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Mr. Stanford has a connection to Willy Russell’s “Educating Rita,” which was adapted into a film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. He was in the movie, credited as Bistro Manager. “Blink and you’ll miss me,” he said, adding that Martin Giles and Karen Baum will star in “Educating Rita,” which runs Sept. 3-19 at the Charity Randall Theatre.

Mr. Stanford also said he has met with the “Saint Joan” cast, which included Ms. Baum in the role of St. Joan, and all will be offered their roles when PICT brings it to the stage.

As PICT looks for a new, permanent home and landing on financially stable ground, it became necessary to postpone “Saint Joan” while the company also announced a fundraising initiative to raise $66,000, in honor of Mr. Stanford’s 66th birthday. “The idea was someone else’s — I wouldn’t have chosen to reveal that,” Mr. Stanford said, laughing. The number is beyond PICT’s normal fundraising, and Mr. Stanford has donated a portion of his salary to the campaign, which is nearly halfway toward its goal, PICT announced.

“I spend so much of my time telling people that they should donate to PICT, and now I am proving just how serious I am. I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” Mr. Stanford said.

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