Some people say that you can’t go back, but Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham never quite left. He made the New York break, but returned in 2001 after his father was diagnosed with Altzheimer’s disease. Singular memories of his father/son relationship are playing out in Abraham’s latest piece, “The Radio Show,” set to debut at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater this weekend.
His life in New York — he still spends considerable time there — is on the upswing. Abraham’s company, Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M.) is starting its fifth year and his solo work is in demand. This summer he will debut a company commission for the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Life is good there. But Pittsburgh’s impact on him is boldly resurfacing in this upcoming premiere. Abraham wistfully remarks how, as a teenager, he wouldn’t talk to his father as he drove him to school until he had a bottle of Snapple from a store one block from Schenley High School. Now his father has aphasia, which renders him unable to talk.
But there has been a surprise development. “Dad is a still a fun guy,” Abraham explains. “The second music comes on he dances (and this is a man who never danced at parties).” In the past they had also listened to AM860, the sister station to WAMO, the popular urban radio station that went off the air last year. “The Shirelles, the Vulvettes — I wanted to bring those memories to the work as well.”
So “The Radio Show” will have both an AM side and an FM side, drawing parallels between human and social contexts. It will provide commentary on the function of an urban station that offers opportunities for people to call and express their opinions like the much lamented loss of WAMO. And it will stay true to his family.
It’s a lot of territory to cover. “I’m just trying to come up with a balance of all those things,” Abraham offers. “I want to let it be its own voice.”
For more information, check Listings.