Rooney honored by Pittsburgh Public Theater

Football and the performing arts may not seem like a likely pair, but in Pittsburgh there is a strong bond between the two.

The Rooney family has always supported the performing arts, but the relationship grew even stronger in 2003 when "The Chief," a one-man play about Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr., debuted at the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

"I will never forget we went to the premiere of it and it bowled me over," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "I didn't know what to expect. I always say it was like my grandfather came back to life for a couple of hours.

"That really did create a relationship. I always appreciated the Public Theater and enjoyed it, but when they brought 'The Chief' there it created a relationship that continues to be very strong to this day."

The relationship is so strong that the Pittsburgh Public Theater honored Art Rooney II, one of their trustees, at "You Gotta Have Art," an evening of performances and fun.

"He has been so wonderful to this theater and also the community around us," said Gerri Weiss, Director of Development for the Pittsburgh Public Theater. "We don't honor someone every year. It has to be the right person at the right time, and Art is it.

"We are both about performance, whether it's on the field or stage. It's also about excellence, which makes it a great fit. Our city is fortunate to have both."

There was a video tribute to Rooney, which included notables as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former Steelers Hines Ward, Lynn Swann, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, and Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik answering questions about him.

Among the questions asked was what actor would play Rooney in a movie, with Ward and Bishop Zubik both answering George Clooney, while Goodell said Sylvester Stallone. Another question is what would make a good book title about Rooney's life, and Swann came up with "Sports and Serenity," while Bishop Zubik answered, "My Champions, My Family."

The event raised over $600,000 for the theater, allowing it to continue to operate and be a key part of Pittsburgh's performing arts.

"There is no question our cultural district is one of the jewels of the city," said Rooney. "I like to think the Public Theater is one of the key jewels of the area. They do a lot of great work. I have a tremendous amount of respect for (producing artistic director) Ted Pappas and his crew over there and what they do. It's great to have people with that much talent bringing their talent to our city and producing great shows. It's one of the great assets we have in the city, no question about it."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.