Rendering of new City Theatre expansion courtesy of R3A.

Last Friday, civic and cultural leaders gathered on Bingham Street in the South Side for a groundbreaking ceremony for City Theatre Company‘s new Philip Chosky Production Center.

The production center is only the latest phase of a broader, multi-million dollar effort to modernize and expand City Theatre, which has been bringing the toast of contemporary theater to Pittsburgh for 44 seasons and counting.

Named for the local philanthropist whose charitable foundation still supports the company, the Chosky Production Center will be located just down the street from the organization’s main theater, and will provide ample space for more elaborate sets, props and costumes for a rotating series of plays.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Managing Director James McNeel said that currently all props and scenery must be designed to be moved through a doorway and up a flight of stairs to reach the main stage, a process that costs the production crew much time and energy.

“By moving scenery, props and painting into one space, we will save time constructing, troubleshooting and finishing our designs in advance of loading into the theaters,” says McNeel. “We also look forward to re-purposing our current scene shop into a multi-purpose room that can be used for events and other activities.”

The building, which formerly housed the historic Walter Long Manufacturing Co., has been owned by City Theatre since 2004. But it’s mainly been used for storage and spillover parking. In addition to redeveloping the building, the project also includes designs for a new public space on Bingham Street.

“This space will replace part of the structure that is to be demolished and will truly help beautify the street, as well as connect our cultural campus,” says McNeel.

A rendering by R3A. Courtesy of City Theatre.

The studio and outer facade were designed by R3A, while the actual construction will be handled by Massaro Corporation. Theatre staff say they hope to have the center finished by mid-2019.

Groundbreaking ceremony attendees included Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Since 1975, City Theatre and its troupe of actors have moved their headquarters around the city several times before settling in the historic Bingham United Methodist Church in the South Side Flats in 1991.

In addition to producing a regular schedule of new and commissioned work, City Theatre also conducts a variety of community education programs for students and underserved communities around the city.

The theater is currently running a production of “Pipeline” by MacArthur award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau until Nov. 18. The play was produced in partnership with the 1Hood Media community group.

Local sponsors include Wigle Whiskey, The Allegheny Foundation and The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.