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Short List: Week of April 30 - May 7 

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Local troupes have staged many fine versions of August Wilson's works. But for artistic quality plus dedication, the crown lately might go to little Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. Working on a shoestring in an unassuming Downtown loft, artistic director Mark Clayton Southers and crew continue their mission to stage each play in Wilson's century-spanning "Pittsburgh cycle" in the order written. And there's every reason to think Seven Guitars will hit all the right notes -- just like Fences, The Piano Lesson, last year's brilliant Two Trains Running and others before it. The 1995 play is set in a Hill District backyard in summer 1948, where a group of friends gathers to play cards and mourn the death of Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, a promising young bluesman. Like all of Wilson's work, it's full of storytelling, music, humor, conflicts subtle and passionate, and a matchless feel for the social and cultural fabric of one African-American community. As Wilson himself wrote: "I happen to think that the contents of my mother's life -- her myths, her superstitions, her prayers, the contents of her pantry, the smell of her kitchen, the song that escaped from her sometimes parched lips, her thoughtful repose and pregnant laugher -- are all worthy of art. Hence, Seven Guitars." Floyd is played by Montae Russell, widely known as paramedic Dwight Zadro on TV's ER, but also a veteran of Wilson on Broadway and at Pittsburgh Public (Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean). The cast also features top-notch locals including Jonathan Berry, Terri Bridget and Wali Jamal; Southers directs. Wilson's plays, gloriously, defy summation; Pittsburgh Playwrights typically captures his epic blues masterfully. Bill O'Driscoll Thu., April 30 through Sun., May 24. 542 Penn Ave., Downtown. $17.50-25. 412-394-3353 or www.pittsburghplaywrights.com

 

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Thu., April 30 -- Talk

Carnegie Mellon University has long been a target for activists protesting the military-industrial complex, due to its defense contracting and development of instruments that automate warfare, like the Predator drone. So it's in the belly of the beast that P.W. Singer lectures tonight at CMU's McConomy Auditorium. Singer's scathing book Wired for War takes on the downsides to a military dominated by automatons, arguing that war will become more prevalent, and that our enemies will take to sending drones onto our turf -- a frightening prospect. Andy Mulkerin 7 p.m. University Center, CMU campus, Oakland. Free. 412-268-2000 or www.activitiesboard.org

 

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Fri., May 1 -- Art

Latin America is a continent, not a single culture. Starting this week at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 14 artists explore its variety in Beyond Shared Language: Contemporary Art and the Latin American Experience. Issues of cultural identity, ethnicity, religion and visual language are engaged in works ranging from Miguel Luciano's platinum-plated plantains to Tamara Kostianovsky's "meat" made of used clothing. Tonight's opening reception is followed by the Sat., May 2, art-and-music-themed Latino Fest (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and a Cinco de Mayo party on Tue., May 5. BO Opening: 5:30-8 p.m. Show continues through Aug. 29. 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. 412-261-7003 or www.contemporarycraft.org

"Wish I knew what you were looking for," the song goes, but if it's more from Australian band The Church, you're in luck. The band won't be in town until June 27, but Steve Kilby, the man behind songs such as "Under the Milky Way," is here tonight. He's opening "Art, Man + Technology," his multimedia art exhibit at the Pittsburgh Technology Council's 15-Minute Gallery. Tonight's opening reception (5:30-7:30 p.m., $5) includes a Q&A. Aaron Jentzen Show continues through May 31. 2000 Technology Drive, Oakland. 412-687-2700 or www.15minutesgallery.org

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This month's installment of Unblurred, the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's first-Friday culture stroll, brings some tasty new treats to Garfield. Check out Scott Roller's shots of Americana along fabled Route 66 at the Image Box, at 4933 Penn Ave. Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, at 5427 Penn Ave., features tree photos by Joey Kennedy, and CMU architecture students' visions of the apocalypse liven up Edge Studio (5411 Penn Ave.). A little further up Penn, at 5941, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's spring mixer (7 p.m., $5) features singers Joy Ike and Sonji. Melissa Meinzer Galleries open 6-11 p.m. Free unless otherwise noted. Details: www.pennavenuearts.org/unblurred

 

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Friday May 1 -- Irish Folk

Matt Heaton hails originally from Squirrel Hill, but the guitarist, whose specialty is Irish-style folk, has lived elsewhere for years -- Chicago, and now Boston. He and his wife make up the duo Matt & Shannon Heaton. Touring since the early part of the decade, Matt primarily plays guitar and the lute-like bouzouki, while Shannon provides stirring vocals and flute. Tonight at Club Café, they release their latest album, Lover's Well, a collection of traditional and original love-related tunes. With Callan. AM 7 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $10. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

 

Sat., May 2 -- Opera

Grammy nominee Vivica Genaux returns to the Pittsburgh Opera in one of her signature roles as the heroine Isabella in The Italian Girl in Algiers. Rossini's comedy finds the Amelia Earhart-style aviatrix Isabella crashing on the Algerian coast while trying to rescue her beloved Lindoro. An elaborate set, bold costumes and Genaux's expertise bring the story to life. William Burden returns as Lindoro, and Pittsburgh Opera's own Antony Walker conducts. Jessica Dailey 8 p.m. Also 7 p.m. Tue., May 5; 8 p.m. Fri., May 8; and 2 p.m. Sun., May 10. Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $16-140.50. 412-456-6666 or www.pittsburghopera.org

 

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Sat., May 2 -- Rock

It was 2007 when we last got an album from Race the Ghost, the local indie-rock band characterized by exquisite guitar sounds and pleasant vocals. Its newest album, My First Crown, features the excellent production quality of its earlier releases, but with more clearly developed ideas and refined songwriting. The band, which might appeal to fans of slowcore or Coldplay-style rock, releases the album tonight at Altar Bar. The group will be filming, and suggests (but doesn't require) that fans dress up in Catholic school-style garb (the members went to North Catholic together). The Central Plains open. AM 8:30 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. $8. 412-263-2877 or www.altarbarpittsburgh.com

Mixing analog and electronic, danceability and looping, the silly and the serious, Los Angeles' El Ten Eleven is a unique beast. At times, the band verges on soundtrack-like post-rock, reverberating with delay; at others it's more like IDM. The duo -- Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty -- play on a double-necked bass, acoustic drums and all manner of electronics: drum machines, looping stations and effects pedals. They appear tonight at Hard Rock Café with Crystal Planet. AM 10 p.m. 230 W. Station Square Drive, Station Square. $8. 412-323-1919

 

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Sat., May 2 -- Singer-Songwriter

Eric Himan's songs are often direct in message, but hardly humorless -- "Bartender," for example, chronicles his unrequited affection for seemingly an entire profession. Lately he's switched up his acoustic strum for a crisp pop-rock sound, with echoes of John Mayer and perhaps Gin Blossoms. The sometime Pittsburgher, now based in Tulsa, Okla., will return June 14 to headline Pittsburgh Pride, but tonight you can catch him at Club Café, with his backing band The Adams and guest Jimmy Lynch. AJ 10 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $7. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

 

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Sat., May 2 -- Variety

Forget No Child Left Behind; Susannah "The Goddess" Perlman says her alma mater, Peabody High, is "the school that was left behind." She recalls the terror of performing in the choir and as a cheerleader: "A lot of booing. It didn't matter what you did." But now she's remembering French lessons taught with a Pittsburgh accent in Perlman's Reunion Show. Perlman, who tours with her Good Jewish Girls Gone Bad revue, story-tells, sings and summons those weirdly multi-subcultural '80s tonight at CLO Cabaret with help from Belly Beauties (who belly-dance to heavy metal); Uke Skywalker and Tuba Fett (think "Like A Prayer" on uke 'n' tuba); and, possibly, a hip-hop crew. BO 10:30 p.m. 655 Penn Ave., Downtown. $5. 412-325-6769

 

Mon., May 4 -- Raunch

You may know Mickey Avalon as "that dude that got what you need" from last year's mind-boggling Boost Mobile commercial. Coming from a troubled family and having experienced the typical Hollywood downfall before starting his music career, Avalon raps in a humorous (and mostly crude) way about drugs and sexuality. The party performer is in town tonight with Malibu's Shwayze, the hip-hop and rock 'n' roll fusion buzz duo featuring Cisco Adler. Lydia Heyliger 8 p.m. Diesel, 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. $24 ($27 day of show). 412-431-8800 or www.dieselpgh.com

 

Thu., May 7 -- Comedy

Some love him, others love to hate him. But if you're seeing Dane Cook tonight, expect to be surrounded by thousands of the former. The stand-up comic, known for his highly animated style and drawn-out tales of hilarity, visits on his "ISolated INcident – Global Thermo Comedy Tour." (An album of the same title drops May 19.) Local fans will likely worship him when he takes the Mellon Arena stage, but they'd be wise to keep one of Cook's jokes in mind: "I say 'God bless you' when someone sneezes. I never say 'Bless you,'" he quips. "Do you want to know why? Because I'm not the Lord!" Chris Young 7 p.m. Uptown. $31.50-105.00. 800-745-3000

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