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The Crimson and Gold Connection: The 2023-2024 Performance Schedule at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

The interior of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts
The interior of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

On Oct. 14 the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts and Olive Street Presents welcome 'Damn Tall Buildings'

For Olive Street Presents ticket information click here.

For Annie and Stomp ticket information at the Bicknell Center.


FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO: This is the Crimson and Gold connection on 89.9 KRPS. I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro.

Recently, the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburgh State released a 2023-2024 performance schedule.

Joining me this week is the interim director of the Bicknell, Shawna Witherspoon, to talk about those performances.

Thank you for your time. How are you?


FRED: First, though, there were numerous changes made across many departments this summer.

You were previously the Client Services Coordinator here at their Bicknell. You're a familiar face, maybe behind the scenes person.

Now you're the Interim Director.

So, what's that transition been like?

SHAWNA: So, we've had a lot of things happening, which is fantastic, and I think lots of changes are happening across everything. So, we are still glad just to be here and keep providing arts and fun for the community and the campus.

FRED: And at the Bicknell, maybe some people are surprised that you run on three or four full-time staff.

SHAWNA: Yes, right now we have 3 full-time staff and one part-time. And then of course all of our students would not be able to do it without our student employees. They truly are the heart of what we do here.

FRED: How many students is that?

SHAWNA: And I think right now, we. Got 12-14, but we're currently hiring, and stuff looks good for this coming semester, so hopefully we'll be able to get a bunch hired on and get them trained and make the events great.

FRED: Yeah, that's the thing about the Bicknell, we have these performances here and it's you have many more performances than just the three we're going to talk about, but the Performing Arts Center is overwhelmingly operated by students.

Getting that hands-on work experience.

SHAWNA: Yes, very much so. They're the ones that run the lights for these events.

They work the soundboard, mute, non mute, all the mics for us and they do our lighting design for our events and different things.

And managed to run from one event to the next and just jump in with whatever we need and tackle that. Everything from welcoming guests in the lobby to and, you know, managing backstage operations and things as well and our full-time staff, Shelby White and John Eastman, in the back of house areas and they're fantastic with teaching our students how to do that and what they're doing and training.

FRED: I'd like to highlight also that your Pitt State grad.

People who are familiar with that and you joined the staff here as a gallery assisting yourself in 2018, so that must be quite a feeling to go for an assistant to the Interim Director.

SHAWNA: Yes, yes, it has been a crazy ride and I have loved every bit of it, and I think that I'm just so thankful to have the opportunity to be here and help continue what we're doing here and work with. The students make a difference.

FRED: So what can you tell us about this upcoming season of performances here at the Bicknell now?

I just want to say we're going to focus on three, but many other local and Pittsburg State and community events happen at the Bicknell year-round. We're just going to talk about some 3 ticketed events.

SHAWNA: Yes. So, we do have lots of things happening, but as far as we're going to talk about today and we have a partnership with all of Olive St. Presents and their concert is going to be one of the first ones that we're going to have.

And we are going to have Damn Tall Buildings is the name of the group that they're bringing in.

It's going to be a little different than the standard concerts.

Normally concerts that we do with Olive St. and presents are in the Miller Theater.

This time we're going to branch out a little bit, and do something a little different. We're going to put them in the lobby, Aladdin, the new Food service provider here on campus is going to have some beverages for purchase and we'll have some tables set up maybe a little bit more of a social setting.

And so, you can come out and listen to some great music and still socialize with your friends.

So, it'll be a little different than your standard concert where you come in and sit down, but it should be a lot of fun. And so, we're looking forward to that, and tickets are sold through all of Olive St. Presents on their website.

FRED: And we'll have a link to both the Bicknell and Olive St. Presents so you can buy tickets at our website.

SHAWNA: Yep. And you can also buy them on the night of the event as well.

FRED: And I've come to an event here in the lobby at the Bicknell for Retro Cocktail Hour, and it was a great situation because you didn't have to feel so formal.

SHAWNA: It gives you a little bit more flexibility. And so that's, what we're shooting for something similar to that, so.

If you attended the Retro Cocktail Hour it seemed to be a great atmosphere. People seem to have a lot of fun, and so we're looking for that interaction with our patrons and, you know, with the musicians and stuff as well and make things a little bit more relaxed and for a few concerts out of the year, so this is a great opportunity for that.

FRED: And when is that concert with Olive St.? October 14th?

SHAWNA: Yes, that is correct. October 14th. That's 7:00 p.m..

Our second show will be part of our best of Broadway national touring Broadway show.

Annie will be in on November 7th. And so right before the Thanksgiving break.

We're all very excited to bring Annie in, and it should be a great show.

So there again, we hire a lot of extra hands and students, and student organizations step up and help us be able to work these shows and when they come in like this, they travel in big trucks and you know we have to go from our regular staff to, you know, over 70 for that single day.

They are quite the production.

FRED: And then the final performance of the 2023-2024 performance is Stomp and it's on Valentine's Day next year.

SHAWNA: Yes, it is Valentine's Day. It will be fantastic. It will be a great opportunity; I believe Stomp may have been here the first year that the building opened.

Yes, we are coming up on our ten-year anniversary and so it's been a long time since we've had Stomp.

And we have the opportunity to bring it back this coming spring and we are all very excited.

Students are extremely excited. I think it's going to be a fantastic show and again a big national touring show. So I am very, very excited to have the opportunity to have that.

FRED: So I know we've talked about only these three performances, but what kind of work goes on behind the scenes, the kind of planning because I know that you're also planning for probably next season.

SHAWNA: So, about this time, we start getting some phone calls working with the agents, we see what's being booked with another venue like in the larger cities and of in our region and then we're able to, they'll contact us and say hey, we're going to be here or here and that's, close enough for their tour buses or whatever to make a stop and so.

We're starting to plan, again, we'll probably be fairly limited.

We're still trying to build that programming endowment and as we're coming up on 10 years, you know there will probably be a little bit more that we'd like to do some different acts and things that we'd like to bring in for that 10-year celebration. But we are planning on shows that will be happening.

So, stay tuned for that.

FRED: Shawna Witherspoon, Interim Director of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Thank you for your time.

SHAWNA: Thank you so much.

Since 2017 Fred Fletcher-Fierro has driven up Highway 171 through thunderstorms, downpours, snow, and ice storms to host KRPS’s Morning Edition. He’s also a daily reporter for the station, covering city government, elections, public safety, arts, entertainment, culture, sports and more. Fred has also spearheaded and overseen a sea change in programming for KRPS from a legacy classical station to one that airs a balance of classical, news, jazz, and cultural programming that better reflects the diverse audience of the Four States. For over two months in the fall of 2022 he worked remotely with NPR staff to relaunch to an NPR style news and information website.

In the fall of 2023 Fred was promoted to Interim General Manager and was appointed GM in Feburary of 2024.