Artists, Real and Imaginary Await Those Who Travel Downtown

Article excerpt

There's no single, or, perhaps, even real answer to where artists get their ideas. That's one of the aspects of artists that can be fascinating, and not only to themselves.

Two performances on Saturday -- the shows "Rent" and "Alloy on Alloy" -- offer the opportunity to build a day around spending time with fictitious and real artists.

Noon

Most of the day will be spent Downtown and begins near 10th Street and Liberty Avenue.

Gather for lunch at the Tonic Bar and Grill. The menu has a definite Southwestern tinge.

Soups, including curry pumpkin, are $4.50. Appetizers include butternut squash flatbread served with caramelized onions, bacon, provolone and gorgonzola, $9.50, and chicken quesadilla, with apples, walnuts, goat cheese, provolone, honey nutmeg and sour cream, $10.50. If you like to eat lightly before a show, one of the appetizers or salads might be enough.

But for those who like to fill up before a show, Tonic offers more than a dozen sandwiches. Beef eaters will be drawn to the rib- eye wrap, with roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms and provolone, $13.50, or the gourmet burger served with caramelized onions, mushrooms, bacon and cheddar, $9.50. Other options include a chicken wrap with dill havarti, bacon, greens and honey mustard, $9.50, and Guinness-battered cod with Southwest sauce, $9.50.

Tonic's bar includes draft, malt, imported and domestic beers. There also are wines, 10 varieties of martinis and eight other mixed drinks. And, because this day's plan has no driving for six hours, no one has to be the designated driver.

Tonic Bar and Grill, 971 Liberty Ave. Hours: 11 a.m. Saturdays. Details: 412-456-0460

1:20 p.m.

After lunch, head toward the Benedum Center, Downtown, for the matinee show of "Rent."

Along the way, stop at 707 Penn Gallery at Maddock Place between Seventh and Eighth streets on Penn Avenue to see the "on this, the land" show featuring artworks by Michael Ninehouser. It's a small gallery so you won't feel rushed to make it to the 2 p.m. show.

Some people believe that the opera "La Boheme" drew upon composer Giacomo Puccini's experiences as an impoverished young artist living in Paris. There is no doubt that American composer Jonathan Larson was influenced by "La Boheme" and his own experiences in contemporary New York City when he wrote the book, lyrics and rock score for "Rent." Larson didn't live to see his show become one of Broadway's biggest hits, because he died shortly before it opened Off-Broadway

The show ran for 12 years on Broadway and won the 1996 Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Featured Actor.

"Rent" is for adult audiences, because it deals candidly with contemporary adult issues. …