Bill O'Driscoll

Arts & Culture Reporter

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Most recently, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat.

Courtesy of the August Wilson Cultural Center

The August Wilson Cultural Center, long financially troubled, is now on solid footing and planning more growth. 

Stage magicians are familiar faces on TV, and not unknown on local stages. But this week, Pittsburgh gets its first theater focusing solely on magic.

Liberty Magic, an intimate venue focusing on close-up, sleight-of-hand magic, opens Wednesday. The Downtown space, run by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, will feature performers doing multi-week residencies, with six shows weekly.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.

Mark Clayton Southers owes much of the inspiration for his theater career to an unimpeachable source: August Wilson. It was listening to the Pittsburgh-born Pulitzer Prize winner lecture in South Africa in 1998 that led Southers – then a thirtysomething steel-mill worker and stage actor – to try his hand at writing.

Anastasia Higginbotham is making a career out of creating children’s books that explore tough topics. Her acclaimed series “Ordinary Terrible Things” includes titles like “Divorce Is The Worst.” “Death Is Stupid” and “Tell Me About Sex, Grandma.” Her latest might be the most ambitious yet.

Photo by Tyler Ross

It started with TV animal shows. Watching them left comedian Shane Mauss with a lot of questions. So he started emailing scientists.

Google Earth

The opportunities for playing – and hearing – live music Downtown are expanding.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation announced Wednesday that nine venues will add music or expand existing offerings.

Courtesy of David Bernabo and John Miller

When Americans talk politics these days, it’s almost impossible to avoid the subject of President Donald Trump. And that can be a problem.

Photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil debuted as a troupe here in 2002, with “Quidam,” and it has been visiting Pittsburgh about annually since. This week, though, Cirque is back with an older show never seen here before.

Photo by Jon Rubin

The phrase “There Are Black People In The Future” has a new future.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Criminal charges were dismissed Thursday against a Wilkinsburg woman whose confrontation with a North Versailles police officer went viral.

Bryan Conley / Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art

The Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection is vast. But one of the more obscure facets of that archive has been turned into one of the more popular attractions at the 57th Carnegie International.

Courtesy of Joy Ike

A decade ago, a twentysomething Pittsburgh resident named Joy Ike dedicated herself to music. She made a name on the local scene as a soulful singer-songwriter and keyboardist who blended pop, jazz and more. In 2014, she left to seek her fortune in a bigger town, Philadelphia.

Art by Ginger Brooks Takahashi

Being whom you want to be is one thing. Having others see you that way is another.

Courtesy John Fried

When he was a kid, recalls John Fried, he “read a lot of coming-of-age books.” Even then, he preferred the ones that reflected his own experience as a less-than-ideal child.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Some folks had already seen it, some of them multiple times. Some first-timers studied up by listening to the cast album. Almost everybody waited online for hours for tickets. But this week, all of them began convening downtown for the Pittsburgh-debut run of “Hamilton.”

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Everybody should have a few tools around the house – like a crescent wrench and a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Back in 1994, relatively few U.S. cities staged big public art-focused New Year’s Eve festivals; the best known among them was Boston. Pittsburgh joined the list that year with its very first First Night, and it’s become a tradition. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust event marks its 25th anniversary Tuesday.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

The Mattress Factory has settled with a group of current or former employees who said the art museum’s management retaliated against them for criticizing how it handled claims of workplace sexual misconduct.

Lee Paxton / Wikipedia Commons

A free workshop for aspiring writers – and book-binders – begins with the New Year.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

As poetry collections go, Tim Miller’s “Bone Antler Stone” might be unique for its book-cover blurbs alone: Three of the four encomiums are not from critics or other poets, but from archaeologists, including no less than Sir Barry Cunliffe, the famed University of Oxford emeritus archaeology professor and trustee of the British Museum.

Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The Don Tyson Prize is a big one, and for Pittsburgh-based artist Vanessa German, it came of the blue.

Photo by Seth Caplan

Some side-eye. A curt “gurrrl, please.” A sarcastically drawn-out “ohhh-kaay.” These are just a few manifestations of shade, that versatile conversational tool long used by African-American woman and gay men. Thanks in part to reality TV, shade has spread in the culture, and Rashaad Newsome has seen a disturbing outcome: White people who casually throw shade also stereotype black people who do the same as “ghetto.”

Photo by Joey Kennedy / Courtesy of the August Wilson Center

In October, the August Wilson Center hosted the North American premiere of “Flying Girls,” an acclaimed sculptural installation by Nigerian artist Peju Alatise. The work is already internationally known – it was featured at the prestigious 2017 Venice Biennale -- and it’s been a highlight of the local arts season.

Photo by Aislinn Weidele

It might seem merely serendipitous that both democracy as we know it and theater as we know it arose in roughly the same place and time: Athens, Greece, in the late 6th century BCE.

Photo by Joey Kennedy

The 14th annual Handmade Arcade on Saturday will look a lot like the past several ones, as Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest indie craft fair takes over a big chunk of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the day.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA News

Irma Freeman was born in 1903, in Germany. She died in 1994, in Pittsburgh, having established a name locally as a self-taught artist.

Photo by Alisa Garin / Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh is familiar with unusual venues for music and performance art. Over the years, it’s seen art rock in a junkyard, and theater both on a river barge and in an empty swimming pool.

Subsurface was likely a milestone, though. The Carnegie Mellon University event last year was probably the first ever around here held in the labyrinth-like setting of a limestone mine.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Bill of Rights Day was born in strife: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the order creating it on Dec. 15, 1941 – just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was Roosevelt’s way of marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Provided photo

Say “women aviators before World War II” and most people will respond “Amelia Earhart.” But Earhart was far from the only pioneer in this field. And a few of them, in fact, hailed from Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of

Billy Strayhorn wasn’t born in Pittsburgh. But he largely grew up here and got much of his musical training in Pittsburgh, too. On Saturday, the theater that bears his name honors his birthday with its 11th annual tribute concert.