Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mt. Lebanon Classic

If your idea of a lovely time is watching a movie that makes you laugh with 250 of your neighbors while you munch popcorn, eat M&Ms and enjoy a perfect 80 degree evening, nothing would have made you happier than the first-ever Last Saturday showing of Bringing Up Baby last night on Parse Way, next to the T Station, under the stars, in Mt. Lebanon.

There were cheers when Anne Kemmerer, head of the Denis Theatre Foundation, which spearheaded this event, thanked people for showing their support for the much beloved Denis Theatre. And what broad support is was. We saw families with kids who decided to spread a blanket rather than sit on the folding chairs provided by the Foundation, couples holding hands, adult children helping elderly parents to their seat, groups of teenagers enjoying a welcome change of pace and even a dog or two--exactly the same sort of audience (well, except for the dogs) we expect to see in the theater when the Denis reopens.

Rolliers Hardware was the primary sponsor for this free event (a tip of the hat to our favorite hardware store), Empire Music provided free muscial entertainment before the movie, and a number of restaurants on Washington Road stayed open to lure the crowds after the show. It was exactly the sort of summer night we hope the re-opening of the Denis will lead to. Even better, film critic Elaine Wertheim led a discussion of the movie at Bistro 19 for those interested in joining.

There are two more Last Saturday movies planned, each with special guest speakers--My Bread, My Sweet, which used Mt. Lebanon as one of its filming locations, on July 25, and Mad, Hot Ballroom on August 29. Join us on Parse Way if you can. Movies start at 9. It's great fun as well as a way to keep the momentum going for our Denis.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Neighborhood Theater Re-opens

A return for Dormont's Hollywood Theater! Read more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Mt. Lebanon Traditon

There are many things that make a community--its people, its businesses, its values and its traditions. Yesterday, I took part is a long-time Mt. Lebanon tradition, one that stretches back at least to my childhood and certainly much earlier: the Memorial Day parade.

We had perfect weather--sunny and warm--and the sidewalks along the cemetery and across the street were crowded by the time my daughter and I arrived at 11. My daughter's fifteen and her attendance was more of a gift for her nostalgic mother than a desire on her own part. Nonetheless, I enjoyed seeing her find a shady spot on the curb near the Public Safety Building and glance eagerly to where Washington road disappears over a rise, waiting for the first paraders.

We sat between the two places I knew my mother, who brought me to the parade every year until she passed away when I was eleven, had worked. Where the office building at the southeast corner of Washington Road and Shady Drive East stands was a house that held the offices of Stewart Brothers Real Estate in the 60s and 70s, and across from the Public Safety building in one of the one-storey buildings--I can't remember which one--was a builder or real estate broker's office in which the receptionist's desk, in full view of passers-by, sat under a huge, deep sea marlin mounted on the wall. Exotic places for me as a child.

The first paraders appear. Onlookers dart into final position. I feel a bit envious of the folks who live in the apartments that line this particular block. I can see them sitting on their balconies, enjoying the show. We watch firetrucks and politicians, Shriners and cub scouts. I'm a big kilt and bagpipe fan, and there were two sets of those. My favorite is the bands, though, and we see two--Keystone Oaks's and Mt. Lebanon's. I feel the vibrations from the drums in my heart, a sensation that unlocks such specific childhood memories I tear up automatically, though I hide the tears from my daughter. I can almost see my father in his trenchcoat across the street, holding his Brownie 8 movie camera and capturing both my sister and I jockeying for position on the curb and my cousins Mary and Donna marching, Mary for the Dormont Boosters and Donna in her Brownie troop. My father and sister are gone now, too, and Donna and Mary have stepped in as sisters in my life.

Almost as soon as it started, the parade is over. My daughter and I walk the length of Washington Road, past the Denis Theatre and the Municipal Building and the place where Horne's used to be, to our car. It has been a perfect hour, one more layer of memory for each of us.

Gwyn Cready

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Elkhart's doing it, too.

Yes, it's been forever. Starting a new job, the holidays, quitting the new job, turning in the latest book. These things take time. But I'm back, and I promise to be a more faithful poster.

We were driving home from Chicago last weekend and stopped in Elkhart, Indiana for a lunch at Culvers. If you haven't ever eaten at a Culvers, which line the interstates of the Midwest, I highly recommend it. The burgers there are called Butterburgers, and if that's not enough to pique your interest, I don't know what would be.

In any case, I happened to pick up the local paper there and what do I find on the front page? The headline, "Work to Restore the Jewel of Main Street Has Begun." And that Jewel? You got it. Their vintage neighborhood theatre. Elkhart is transforming the Elco Theatre into the Elco Performing Arts Center and is paying for it with a $10.5 million bond issue. Interestingly, the city decided to buy the space next to the theatre to convert it into an add-on flexible events space, for proms, weddings, reunions, etc. As Elco Theatre Executive Director Ellie Billey says, "Arts offer quality of life, not profit. The flex space will offer the profit."

The plans for the Denis include space that can be rented for parties and events. I can already taste the punch...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Three Rivers Film Festival opened last night and your faithful correspondent was there, at the Concept Art Gallery in Edgewood, sipping the wine, nibbling the warm artichoke heart dip and having a great time mingling with film buffs who had filed in to have a little fun before heading off to Regent Square Theatre next door to see Tamas, actor David Conrad's paean to his former prep school teacher, Tamas Szilagyi, a transplanted Hungarian who escaped the his homeland after the failed 1956 revolution, or My Tale of Two Cities, a documentary from another Pittsburgh native, Carl Kurlander, at the Melwood Screening Room.

In Conrad's documentary, which he kicked off with a brief talk, eighty-year-old Szilagyi returns to Budapest to see his hometown one last time, with Conrad at his side to prompt recollections of the revolution and Szilagyi's youth. It was a sweet and interesting story, lovingly crafted, and I think the self-deprecating Conrad has a future as a filmmaker in front of him.

I was personally gratified to meet Conrad before the screening, as he's an actor I've admired since seeing his Septimus Hodge in my favorite play, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, twelve years ago at Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Since then Conrad has gone on to star in "Relativity," "Roswell," and "Miss Match" on TV as well as the films, Men of Honor, Return to Paradise, and The Wedding Crashers, among others. For the last three years he's starred as Jim on "The Ghost Whisperer." And he was quite funny in pointing out that everyone attending his documentary last night was missing the death of his character on TV.

I used to think anyone playing Septimus Hodge would be great, since Stoppard is such a witty, creative writer--a genius from my point of view--and Hodge, the ideal romantic lead. Then, after seeing three different productions of Arcadia in the last ten years with Hodges so painful to watch I thought I might have to leave the theatre, I realized how truly exceptional Conrad had been in that role.

If you've never seen Arcadia, do it. It's the funniest, smartest play I ever seen and extraordinarily romantic.

So it was great to finally get to thank Conrad for his performance. The only thing that would have been better--and, yes, I'll come clean, I do have a crush on him--is if he had waltzed me off in a slow circle, as Hodge does with Thomasina, Arcadia's ingenue heroine, near the end of the play. But I suppose that those sorts of things only happen in romance novels : )

In any case, I was happy to be a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival. It's a great event, a Pittsburgh tradition and the place to be for anyone who cares about film. Find out more at


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Denis Foundation supporters attend the Three Rivers Film Festival Perimeter Party

Great party tonight at Molly Brannigans. More than a hundred of us were there for the Three Rivers Film Festival's perimeter party, a way to build awareness and excitement about the upcoming event. To be honest, I've never attended the Three Rivers Film Festival before, thought I am absolutely the kind of person who should have. I love film. I love documentaries. I love parties. I love being the coolest person in the room. And I love things that celebrate Pittsburgh.

We ("We" being Mt. Lebanon) were very lucky to have struck up a partnership with the great people at the Three Rivers Film Festival, something for which I must thank TRFF advisory board member, former Mt. Lebanonite, and all-round great person, Dawn Kosanovich.

The TRFF crew, led by Executive Director Andrew Swenson, set up screens at Molly Brannigan's showing clips from the movies in the festival, and Andrew gave a brief talk about why we should consider attending. There were drinks and appetizers and an information/gift bag for everyone who attended. In addition, the Denis Foundation had folks selling prints of the Denis and taking names for those who wanted to be on the mailing list.

TRFF only did three of these events--one in Edgewood, where the Regent Square Theatre is, one in Cleveland, who have their own film festival in March every year, and one in Mt. Lebanon.

This year for the first time, there will be a VIP kick-off party for festival. It's coupled with the premiere of Pittsburgh native David Conrad's documentary about Tamas Szilagyi, his teacher at Kiski School, whom he followed back to Szilagyi's native Hungary. A labor of love, the film, Tamas, ought to be great. I happen to be have fallen in love with David Conrad as an actor a little over ten years ago when I saw him at Pittsburgh Public Theatre in Tom Stoppard's incomparable Arcadia. I have high hopes I'll get to say hello to David at the party, which runs from 5:30 to 7:30 on November 7 at the Concept Art Gallery in Edgewood, followed by the film at 7:30 at the Regent Square Theatre next door.

Please consider attending the film festival. It's a great way to support cinema in Pittsburgh, and, who knows, the folks you meet there may be traipsing over to the Denis to help support our theatre when the restoration is complete. Find out more at

Speaking of the Regent Square Theater, my husband, daughter and I hit Breakfast at Tiffany's there on Sunday night. Believe it or not, none of us had ever seen it before. Audrey Hephburn is wonderful to watch--and the clothes! Sigh. It was a pleasure to sit with my family, eating freshly popped popcorn and drinking hot tea and watching a classic film, something I hope we'll be able to do in Mt. Lebanon very soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pittsburgh 250

It was my joy on Saturday to take my daughter and her friend to the fireworks celebrating Pittsburgh's 250th birthday downtown. There were thousands and thousands of people there--we did not dare venture into Point State Park--and, for the first time in my memory, the lower level of the Fort Pitt Bridge was closed to traffic and open to pedestrians, and the streets near the downtown Hilton, while not technically closed to cars, were filled with so many watchers that cars couldn't get through. It was exciting and a little weird, with so many rules overturned. I overheard two different people in the crowd mention the movie, "Cloverfield."

The fireworks were magnificent. I heard differing reports: that they were the largest fireworks display ever in the region, that they the largest fireworks display ever in North America. All I can tell you is they were the largest fireworks display I have ever seen. With fireworks exploding over the Mon, in front of the Point and over the Allegheny, it was a panorama of fireworks, thrilling for a fan like me, and, if that weren't enough, there were fireworks exploding from the top of several buildings downtown as well.

Best of all, we just hopped on the T at the Mt. Lebanon station and zipped both in and out of downtown. Ah, what a joy for Mt. Lebanon that we have such a convenience. That, like the Denis, is one of the jewels of our town.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The 3 Rivers Film Fesitval's South Hills Preview Party

You're Invited!

The Denis Theatre Foundation and Pittsburgh Filmmakers invite you to attend a special South Hills Preview Party celebrating the 27th Annual 3 Rivers Film Festival.

October 29, Wednesday
From 7 - 9pm

Molly Brannigan's
660 Washington Road
Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228


Free Admission * Cash Bar * Giveaways
Special Thanks to Molly Brannigan's for providing
complimentary hors d'oeuvres for all attendees

Three Rivers Film Festival

Clips from the Festival films will be shown to celebrate the renaissance of the Denis, the Pittsburgh Filmmakers organization and independent film in the Pittsburgh area. Admission is free, and there will be complimentary appetizers and a cash bar.

Denis Theatre Foundation Announcements!


* The foundation receives its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status...
* A theater cleanup day is scheduled for October 11th...
* The Foundation and Pittsburgh Filmmakers to host an event on October 29th...

Look in your e-mailbox for a newsletter in the near future, but in the meantime check out these hot Denis Theatre news flashes!

Theater Cleanup - October 11, 2008

Volunteers are needed on Saturday, October 11 to haul old theater materials, furnishings and debris to dumpsters in preparation for construction. There will be three shifts: 9-11 a.m., 1-3 p.m. and 3-5 p.m.. This work is dirty and can be heavy, so please wear old clothes and sturdy shoes. We will provide work gloves and any necessary tools. No experience is needed.

In order to accommodate all of the volunteers, we do require that you SIGN UP for this opportunity, and only sign up for one shift. Thanks for your understanding!

Sign up to volunteer at

Tax-Exempt Status

The Denis Theatre Foundation has been granted official 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. This means that all donations are completely exempt from Federal income taxes - retroactive to the date that we were incorporated in December of 2007. This important step will provide momentum and encouragement to donate to this fantastic community effort.

This also means that we now qualify for matching gift programs offered by many employers. Talk to your employer to see if they offer this option. It will make your donation to The Denis Theatre Foundation work twice as hard!

Friday, September 19, 2008 helps prevent walk outs

Hey Gwyn! I with you on "Burn After Reading." It was one of the best films I've seen in a while! As for "The Women" and your story about having to walk out - I highly recommend, a website that gives you a composite score from a number of movies reviewers, critics from a variety of newspapers, magazines, and yes, even Rotten Tomatoes. I'm a numbers geek so I'm into this kinda stuff, whereas my wife would rather just go and take her chances. Metacritic isn't perfect because, let's face it, some critics just don't appreciate a good comedy like Burn After Reading. BAR only got a composite score of 62, which falls under the category "generally favorable reviews." The scoring system is usually good at telling you which movies, how should I say it, just suck. "The Women" got a score of 27, which is pretty freaking low.

Another cool thing about the site is that it lists the scores and reviews of the limited release / independent films that never seem to make it to the Pittsburgh market. We're hoping to change that when the Denis reopens!

Two Very Different Movies

Omigod, I haven't walked out of a movie since The Deer Hunter in high school (I have no stomach for violence), but I had to walk out The Women tonight. It made me sad. I love Meg Ryan, miss those bubbly, romantic movies of hers in the 80s and 90s. Watching the movie was such an odd experience--and don't even get me started on the TWENTY minutes of commercials I had to sit through at the Galleria before the movie began. Commercials! What happened to previews? Anyway, Meg looked great. She has such a luminescence on screen. But the script was DREADFUL. Absolutely horrible. I guess it's based on the movie of the same name from 1939, and it sure felt that way, with situations and reactions that just don't make sense in today's world. Ugh. We came home and watched Tivo, which is always filled with things we love.


Last week's movie was quite entertaining. We saw Burn After Reading, the latest Coen Brothers movie. It's a very absurd, comic turn on spying. Classic Coen Brothers. The ending was so funny, the audience burst into a spontaneous round of applause when the credits rolled. I can't remember ever being at comedy and having that happen. I know my co-blogger enjoyed the movie as well (which he saw from the vantage point of the upgraded seats at the Waterfront--I wonder if he had to see through twenty minutes of commercials including the seriously awful Axl Rose music video for the National Guard), so I hope he'll chime in, too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scary Movie

A neighbor of mine who wishes to remain anonymous shares a memory of a night at the Denis:

"There is not much I remember about that night at the Denis Theater. Other than the fact that I went to see a movie that I was assured was very scary. I cannot remember the day, I cannot remember the name of the movie, but I do remember the Denis Theater.

"I love a scary movie. In my mind, there is nothing better than sitting in a dark theater, scrunched down in your seat, eating popcorn, and being scared out of your wits. I grew up watching scary movies. You name, it monsters, horror, suspense. My mother loved scary movies, but she didn’t like watching them alone. From a young age, she would let me stay up late so we could watch scary movies together. One could say I was baptized in blood and gore, which in and of itself would have been a scary movie.

"But, back to the Denis Theater. There I sat, in the Denis, watching what really was not a scary movie. Despite claims of the movie being groundbreaking, based on a true story, terrifying…, it was not. It was, in my mind, boring. Although, I did stay through the end credits. When I got up, I realized I was alone in the theater, getting up to leave as a few late night patrons crept in. Should I warn them, tell them to sneak into another movie? No, maybe they would enjoy the movie.

"I left the Denis headed for the short walk home. That is the thing about a neighborhood theater, you can walk home. You can meet your friends there and then go for dessert afterwards. But, tonight, for some reason, I was alone…, and it was dark, and the wind was blowing just so that I felt the brief harbinger of fall upon my shoulders.

"A ten minute walk, after a not so scary movie, on a pleasant late summer evening. I began the quick walk home, straight down Cedar, regretting that I had not gone to see a different movie, disappointed that it had not been a scary movie at all. Without my ever present headphones, I listened to the cicadas and crickets, and footsteps? Did I hear footsteps? I looked over my shoulder, but no one was there. I shrugged it off. Simply an auditory hallucination or my own footsteps echoing off of the apartment building, and well, I was almost home, and the movie was not scary at all.

"Turning on to Baywood, not a person around. No joggers, no dog walkers, nobody. Just me, but if it was just me, why did I feel like someone was following me. This time, instead of a quick glance over my shoulder, I spun around, but there was not a soul around me.

"There is a spot on Baywood, if you live in Mt. Lebanon and walk, you will know the spot I mean. This one spot, near the intersection of Baywood and Mabrick, that feels at least five degrees colder than the rest of the street. Tonight, that spot is freezing. And suddenly, I start thinking that maybe that movie was scarier than I thought."