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Ligonier native's play to premiere in Pittsburgh

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By Jewels Phraner
Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

Playwright Ryan George clearly remembers words of praise he received from Ligonier Valley High School English teacher Marie Ankney about a science -fiction piece he wrote as a freshman.

What he wrote back then was “kid's stuff, nonsense,” said George, but he clearly remembers Ankney telling him he should look into pursuing a career in writing.

George's play, “ristretto stiletto” will likely debut in March at the New Hazlett Theater in Pittsburgh's North Side.

Ankney, who has retired from teaching, said she wasn't surprised to hear of George's success.

“He was a good student. He wrote science fiction pieces, which I don't like, but he was a good writer and very imaginative,” she said, recalling the boy she taught more than two decades ago.

“I thought he might do something that involved writing,” Ankney said.

George, 36, who now lives in Johnstown, said his play tells the story of a Pittsburgh corporate man who's yearning to break into the art scene of New York's Greenwich Village.

The play “compares the post-World War II artistic culture of Greenwich Village — an artistic age of Bohemia in New York — to now, when it is very difficult to survive as an artist,” George said.

He described the play, the majority of which was written between 2007 and 2008, as a “New York, eccentric, dark comedy.”

“I think it will provide two things for the audience that are essential to human life, and those two things are laughter and thought,” he said.

This will be George's third full-length production. It is being produced by GOTHAM On Stage, a nonprofit production company headquartered in Johnstown.

The company, which started in 2010, was created specifically to fund George's play, said producer Eileen Graham.

Graham said she became involved in the production company after hearing about George's idea and reading his play.

“I believe in not only the production, but I believe in Ryan's work as an artist,” she said. “I know people will love the play.”

Graham, GOTHAM On Stage and others are working to raise money to go toward the production of the play.

Graham said they've raised about 40 percent of their goal through investors, individual contributions through online fundraising website and local events. More events are planned for this winter.

The production company's mission statement says it will endeavor to bring other “socially irreverent material into focus.”

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Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

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