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Short List: Week of April 8 - 15 

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Young Jean Lee has called theater "our most backward art form," and she's spent her still-emerging career making it more adventurous. In 2007, Pittsburgh saw Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, the Korean-born, American-raised Lee's revenge on ethnic-identity plays. Songs' collage of skits and bizarre musical numbers includes a monologue in which a girl compares her Asian-American parents to "retarded monkeys." Now Lee's back with another show about identity politics. In developing The Shipment, Lee asked the cast of five black performers what they wanted to say about black identity. She calls The Shipment's first half a "minstrel show," with dancing, singing, racially charged standup comedy and skits, all playing with black stereotypes. Except that "everything the actors do, you really have no idea what the hell they're doing," says Lee, by phone from New York. At one point, three actors stand in a row, motionless, singing a Modest Mouse song. Then there's dancing -- to a tune by '90s alt-rockers Semisonic. "The audience starts to get really paranoid and uncomfortable," says Lee. Is it offensive? Should they laugh? Act II is a naturalistic comedy, with the same actors in a living room. "In the beginning, people think it's like a trick." It both isn't and is. "Lee is a facetious provocateur," wrote New Yorker critic Hilton Als of The Shipment. "[Sh]e does whatever she can to get under our skin -- with laughs and with raw, brutal talk that at times feels gratuitous, and is meant to." The Shipment has toured nationally and in Europe. Lee says audience reactions have changed since the premiere, in October 2008. "Obama being president has really opened the discussion," she says. On April 10, The Shipment plays the New Hazlett Theater as part of the Andy Warhol Museum's Off the Wall series. The cast includes Amelia Workman, Prentice Onayemi, Douglas Scott Streater, Aundre Chin and Ike Ufomadu. Says Lee: "This is by far my most entertaining and least confusing show." Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Sat., April 10. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $10-20. 412-237-8300 or www.ticketweb.com

 

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Friday, April 9 -- Hip Hop

The hip-hop group The BNVz began as The Beats N' Verbz, a band of college friends at Pitt, but has evolved into a tight unit surrounding MC MH the Verb (Marcus Harris). Smart lyrics and posi vibes emanate from its music; it's fitting the group opens tonight for Jedi Mind Tricks at Diesel. The show doubles as official release party for The BNVz new EP -- and is part of a veritable whistlestop tour of local venues that the group is blazing through this spring. Amuck performs as well. Andy Mulkerin 7 p.m. 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. All ages. $15-18. 412-431-8800 

 

Fri., April 9 -- Dance

This weekend's Dance With Me program, from Point Park University's Conservatory Dance Company, offers musical, as well as choreographic, twists. Five works by faculty include Doug Bentz's new "Allegro Gypsioso," a group piece inspired by Gypsy culture and performed to live music by local quartet Gipsy Stringz. And Judith Liefer's modern-dance work "9min" keeps its dancers in the dark about the music they'll move to until tonight. Other works, by Peter Merz, Nicolas Petrov and Ron Tassone, expore ballet with tango; classic ballet; and swing. The first of four perfomances is tonight. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Also 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., April 10, and 2 p.m. Sun., April 11. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. $18-20. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com

 

Fri., April 9 -- Rock

"Got nothing but the whole wide world to gain -- nothin'!" sings Jakob Dylan on his new release, Women & Country. Some might say he's already got it: an acclaimed folk-rock discography (even a couple of hits) with his longtime band The Wallflowers; peerless musical legacy in the family; and a solo career that recently included the Rick Rubin treatment. Plus, ask anyone you like -- dude's a babe. Dylan and Three Legs (featuring Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, among others) perform tonight at the Carnegie Library Music Hall. Sounds like you stand to gain something, too. Aaron Jentzen 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.). 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. $30. 412-368-5225 or www.librarymusichall.com

 

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Fri., April 9 -- Stage

Paul Gertner saw his first magic show at age 10. He became an international sleight-of-hand superstar, befriended Johnny Carson, mentored David Copperfield and, like any good Pittsburgh boy, appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. In Paul Gertner: Ten Fingers, Gertner tells his magical journey with touching theatrics and spellbinding sleight-of-hand. Anna Reilly 8 p.m. Also 2 and 8 p.m. Sat. April 10. Grey Box Theater, 3595 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $20 (no children under 10). 412-784-1115 or www.PaulGertnerMagic.com

 

Sat., April 10 -- Food

Start soaking your beans and smoking your chipotles: This is your chance to raise money for youth arts programs at the Braddock Carnegie Library and get props for your killer chili recipe. The Fourth Annual Braddock Carnegie Arts Program Chili Cook-Off is today at the Braddock Elks Lodge, and you don't have to bring chili to enjoy -- everyone's welcome to taste the good stuff for a good cause. Help keep the library's educational programs going for another year. AM 1 p.m. 424 Library St., Braddock. $10 ($5 children); $10 to enter contest. 412-351-5356 

 

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Sat., April 10 -- Rock

When a band's promotional material lists reference points as diverse as Wrens, Swervedriver and Les Savy Fav, it piques one's interest. So it is with Dayton's 8-Bit Revival: The four-piece, grounded in the indie and emo of a decade ago, does have its stylistic swings. Shades of Dinosaur Jr. and even Small Brown Bike rear up in the band's latest album, You've Been Believed, though the record leans mostly toward Midwest emo and Dischord rock. The band appears tonight at Gooski's along with Summer Lungs, Los Monster Trucks and Father Flamethrower. AM 9 p.m. 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. Free. 412-681-1658

 

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Sat., April 10 -- Stage

Fred Garbo's Inflatable Theater Co. might be for kids, but the magic and imagery in Garbo's dynamic dance concert is universally fascinating. Bright, abstract shapes expand, implode, dance, bounce and evolve with the help of Garbo, his partner Daielma Santos and much hot air. The results can be silly, curious and evocative -- and always unexpected. Inflatable Theater Co. visits the Byham Theater via Pittsburgh International Children's Theater. AR 2 p.m. Also 11 a.m.  Sun., April 11. 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $9.50-11 (children under 2 free). 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org 

 

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Sat., April 10 -- Comedy

Baron Vaughn imagines the guy who designed the KKK's Web site: "I hate black people so much that I'm going to learn Macromedia Flash!" Vaughn joins fellow hilarious up-and-coming New York comic Victor Varnado for tonight's Gab Bonesso Comedy Show, at Downtown's Bricolage Theatre space. On the bill with Bonesso and those two Comedy Central favorites is Joshua Grosvent, a writer for SNL's Weekend Update. John McIntire hosts. BO 8 p.m. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $15. 412-381-6999

 

Sun., April 11 -- Words

The Father Ryan Arts Center, in McKees Rocks, continues its Sunday-night poetry series. Reading tonight at the Pittsburgh Poetry Series: Collective Voices is one of Pittsburgh's better-known poets. In collections like Wind in a Box and Hip Logic, Terrance Hayes has built a national reputation for poems beautiful, playful and thematically rich. His new one is Lighthead (Penguin). Already, the Carnegie Mellon associate professor has readings booked in New York, but you can catch him here tonight. The monthly series continues in May with Toi Derricotte. BO 7 p.m. 420 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks. $20. 412-298-7373 

 

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Mon., April 12 -- Music

Vieux Farka Touré represents a younger generation of West African musicians; while he collaborates with traditional Malian musicians, like his famous father (Ali) and Toumani Diabate, Vieux takes a more rock-oriented tack, combining electric guitars and Western drumbeats with classic West African chord progressions and polyrhythms. The guitarist appears tonight at the Rex Theater in support of his new album, Fondo, released by San Francisco's Six Degrees label. Maps & Atlases, Ignaz Schick and Keenan Lawler all open. AM 7 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15.50-20. 412-381-6811 or rextheater.com

 

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Wed., April 14 -- Folk

You almost need to be able to see in the dark to find your way through Chris Pureka's brand-new album, entitled How I Learned to See in the Dark. The New England singer-songwriter's haunted, stormy compositions are rendered in a lovelorn voice atop webs of finger-picked guitar. As The New York Times' Jon Pareles writes, "her voice can be a desolate whisper or a bitter accusation." Pureka plays an early show at Club Café tonight, with Xylos. AJ 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $10. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

 

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Wed., April 14 -- Rock

There's something about the combination of a taut, no-nonsense rhythm section, droning, reverbed-out guitars and paired male and female vocals -- something classic while still energetic. One such band is Cincinnati's Wussy, whose self-titled album was released last year to critical acclaim; on a related, complementary note is Louisville, Ky.'s The Fervor. Both bands play the Smiling Moose tonight (where The Fervor put on an entrancing show not long ago) with locals The Red Western and Joel Walter. You have plenty of time to finish your taxes -- come see this. AJ 8 p.m. 1306 E. Carson St., South Side. $5. 412-431-4668 or www.smiling-moose.com

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