Pitt’s Kuntu Theatre Presents Rob Penny’s Clean Drums

Issue Date: 
January 26, 2009


The University of Pittsburgh’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre will present Clean Drums through Feb. 7, as Kuntu continues its season of plays by the late Rob Penny, Kuntu’s playwright-in-residence for many years and a Pitt professor of Africana studies. Penny passed away in 2003.

All performances are in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall. They run Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. and a matinee at 1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5.

Clean Drums will feature a cast that includes some of Pittsburgh’s finest jazz musicians. Vernell Lillie, a Pitt professor emeritus of Africana studies and Kuntu’s founder and producing artistic director, will direct.

Penny once wrote about Clean Drums: “It’s biographical mainly because I wrote about [Pittsburgh drummer]Joe Harris. The glue that holds it all together is the spirit of the music and the male and female musicians who give the music its force and meaning. Color, sensibilities, and sounds flow from the conflictual consciousness of the younger musicians, who represent what they call ‘free form’ playing, and the older musician, Joe Harris, who represents the classical jazz tradition of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, and Sara Vaughn.”

A drummer who began performing in his early teens, Harris played with the likes of bebop master Dizzy Gillespie as well as Pittsburgh jazz legends Billy Eckstine and Erroll Garner. In the 1950s, he was a member of the house band at the Apollo Theater. He performed internationally for many years before returning to his native Pittsburgh in the 1990s.

Admission is $20 for adults; $14 for Pitt staff and faculty; $13 for senior citizens, students, and children ages 4-18; and $5 for all Pitt students with a valid ID. There are Dollar Nights for Pitt students Jan. 22 and 23. Groups of 10 or more receive 25 percent off the single ticket price. For more information, call 412-624-7298.