The Chief: Bridging Theater & Sports in Pittsburgh

You know what is the worst way to start the new year? Being sick. Yuck. (I'm so over having the flu.) You know what is a pretty good way to start 2013? Seeing The Chief at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Until Saturday only, the Public welcomes back Tom Atkins as Art Rooney Sr. in this one man show sensation for it's tenth season.

The Chief runs from January 3-12 at PPT.
The Chief, which was written by Rob Zellers and Gene Collier and directed by Ted Pappas, is set in Art Rooney Sr's office in the old Three Rivers Stadium in 1976. As always, the set design is flawless and inviting, which creates sort of an unspoken second character, since with this one man show you are bound to be looking around the set at all the pictures on the wall, not just the actor. While Atkins does a tremendous job talking at length about Rooney's experiences in Pittsburgh, the people he knew and eventually the creation of the Steelers and their first winning season, you need to go into this show knowing a guy is going to just stand on stage and talk at the audience. You also need to know that if you're not a fan of the Steelers or Pittsburgh in general, you probably will not like anything about this show.

Me hanging out with Mr. Rooney after a game in 2011.
However, if you are a Steelers fan or just like this town in general, than The Chief will more than likely entertain you in some way. Atkins does a great job of using the entire stage, by looking at different members of the audience and facing in new directions really uses the space of the Public's thrust stage properly and keeps this show interesting. This performance is what I would imagine listening to your grandpa tell  stories of his friends "back in the day" would be like. The script gives little insights, mostly unknown to me, of Rooney and his memories of the old steel town of Pittsburgh. Though some of the places he mentions actually still are the same, for those of you who are in the younger segment of the crowd, you won't be totally lost.

Overall, after a not so exciting season, seeing The Chief might help Steelers fans remember what our team has fought through before to become the great franchise they are now. Thanks to this "Rooney-approved" show, the great delivery from Atkins, this story line of the former football greats (like Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris) will certainly lift some leftover woes from this past season and give some hope for the next, naturally giving Steelers fans another reason to believe in this team, as Art Rooney Sr. would have always wanted us to.

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