The Quantum Theatre has a thing for unusual spaces. For 30 years, the independent theater company has been taking over churches, restaurants, stables, and other unconventional spots around Pittsburgh, transforming them into one-of-a-kind sets for their productions. This time around they are headed to East Liberty and are busy transforming the gym of the new Maverick Hotel (formerly the Ace Hotel) for their show Chimerica, running from November 27 to December 19. Community is an important aspect of the Quantum ethos, and as such, they will be holding a free community night showing for the neighborhood on November 24 at 8 pm.
Ahead of the show, we caught up with Jalina McClarin, community engagement manager for the theater, to learn more.
To start, can you tell us a little about Quantum Theatre and its mission?
We’re an experimental theater company. Our eclectic shows reflect that experimentation in many ways, but one of the most visible is that we are constantly moving around the city transforming different non-theater spaces into homes for our productions. We’ve produced shows at venues including the Carrie Blast Furnaces, an empty pool in the Braddock Carnegie Library, and just recently, at the ice rink at Schenley Park. We’re celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year and for all that time we’ve been focused on our mission to produce intimate and sophisticated site-specific theatre with professional artists from many disciplines, locally and internationally, to explore universal themes of truth, beauty, and human relationships.
What can guests expect from the play Chimerica?
Chimerica is a fast-moving mystery and political thriller. Its story follows a fictional photojournalist on the search for truth about the very real events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. It’s a nuanced piece that digs into the relationship between the US and China and, censorship and corruption in journalism, with plenty to say about both countries. Especially against the backdrop of current events, it’s a play that feels very timely. With many artists on this project having personal ties to the events in Tiananmen Square and to China more generally, guests will find a nuanced perspective in this show.
Why did Quantum decide to put on the play in The Maverick Hotel in East Liberty?
We’ve been connected to East Liberty for many years and love highlighting spaces that are undergoing exciting transformations like The Maverick. Our administrative offices are in East Liberty, and we’ve produced a number of shows in the community over the years at venues including The Kirkwood Building (Mnemonic), East Liberty Presbyterian Church (Ainadamar) The Hart Building (John Gabriel Borkman), 200 N. Highland Ave (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), and even the ballroom of this same former YMCA back in 2010 (Maria de Buenos Aires). This time we’re in the gym, so it’s a whole new area for our creative teams to transform. Notably, award-winning costume designer and CMU professor Susan Tsu will lead art direction and Carolina Loyola-Garcia will create projection design for the expansive space.
Community is an important aspect of Quantum’s mission. How did your organization come to the decision to host community nights? What is special about these evenings?
Community nights are a special opportunity to acknowledge and embrace the communities that so kindly host us. A free ticket and a warm, friendly evening, is one small way we can say thank you.
Community Nights have been part of our practice for over a decade at this point—they are Quantum’s way of bringing everyone together. We want the people living close to our sites, who will see us fluttering around their neighborhood for two months, to be invited and included, and we also want populations whose focus or identity are relevant to our plays to feel welcomed as well. At Chimerica, we’re particularly excited by the great engagement we’ve had from both neighborhood and AAPI-focused organizations.
Anything else you’d like to share about the play, Quantum, or East Liberty?
We care a lot about being good guests wherever we go, meeting new audiences who might join us in traveling around the city and encouraging our current patrons to journey beyond our venue and support local businesses. During the pandemic we launched a new program we plan to continue with Chimerica called NearBuy. It’s a small business partnership program where patron spending at local businesses is matched to help fight food insecurity in collaboration with organizations like 412 Food Rescue. We hope that many of our East Liberty neighbors will check out Chimerica during its run from November 27 to December 19, and that when they do, they stop by one of our NearBuy partners for dinner or a drink.