SPARK by Tom Arvetis. Pitt Theatre Arts, streams March 12 – 21.
Starting in the late 1800s, when American cities teemed with immigrants, social reformers opened “settlement houses” in poor neighborhoods, offering resources that ranged from literacy and vocational classes to cultural activities and basic health care. Many of these places, like the Irene Kaufmann Settlement in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and Jane Addams’ famous Hull House in Chicago, are now gone. But one that lives on is Northwestern Settlement, founded in 1891 in Chicago’s West Town area. Current programs include an acclaimed theater company for youth, run by Artistic Director Tom Arvetis—and here in Pittsburgh, Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts is presenting an online version of his play Spark. Arvetis wrote the play with input from Chicago middle school students and families. Inspired by the Greek myth of Prometheus and humans’ first use of fire—and also by video games—it’s a futuristic fantasy about a young girl living in a sequestered realm, who learns about empowerment and possibilities she hadn’t imagined. Spark is TYA (theater for young audiences) but grownups can enjoy it too. Pitt Theatre Arts streams the play on Vimeo March 12 through 21. (M.V.)