With so many venues in Pittsburgh showcasing touring national acts, it’s easy to forget the depth and breadth of the local scene. Liz Berlin and Mike Speranzo, owners of Mr. Smalls Theatre, hope to change that with their new venue, the Funhouse, which held a slew of kickoff events beginning on April 15.
“The need for the new space was recognized over the last 10 years, 15 years. We realized that it was hard to include local, original artists into the mix because of the way national campaigns and national touring artists want to handle their business,” Speranzo says. “They use their opening slots to their advantage and sometimes helping Pittsburgh locals is not in their best interest.”
Utilizing the space formerly occupied by Mr. Smalls Skatepark, the Funhouse, situated adjacent to the theater, will serve as an intimate alternative to the theater and will host local, regional and national acts. Shows will be booked simultaneously at the two venues, so that artists performing at the Funhouse can be discovered by patrons of the larger venue. “The Theater guests are allowed to go into the Funhouse any time that they want and it’s in the local artists’ benefit that they do so,” Speranzo says. “What we try to do is book an act in the Funhouse that would be like genres, so we can help them get in front of audiences that might not already know about them.”
The Funhouse booking will be built around weekly open-stage, artist-showcase events. On Monday nights, the long-running AcoustiCafe event (formerly held at Club Café) will provide an open stage for artists to network and perform in a casual, low-stakes environment. On Thursday nights, the Funhouse will host Centrifuge: a Cross-Genre EDM Showcase Night, which is billed as an open stage for local and regional DJs and producers.
Without the success of Mr. Smalls Theatre, the Funhouse wouldn’t exist. Berlin and Speranzo view it as an investment in the community. “Because we have Smalls the theater, it gives us the opportunity to allow the bands to get paid a little bit more,” Sperzano says. “[T]he patronage that people give to Smalls Theater allows us to have this opportunity for our local community.”
Visit www.mrsmalls.com for more information and a full schedule.