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Short List: December 12 - 18 

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SPOTLIGHT: Thu., Dec. 20 — Comedy

Comedy is now his job, and Aaron Kleiber is OK with that. In December 2008, the aspiring actor did his first open mic. Within two years, the former Steel Valley High School class clown was being featured at the Pittsburgh Improv. Today, Kleiber, 31, practices his high-energy standup "six nights a week" at home and on the road, opening for the likes of Jim Breuer and Josh Blue. This year, Pittsburgh Magazine named him Best Local Comedian. Not bad for a former youth pastor once best known for cult-favorite 2005 Star Wars mockumentary A Great Disturbance, in which Kleiber played a geek provacateur who went around telling fanboys that The Phantom Menace ruled. "There were people that did not like us," Kleiber recalls. "Some kid hit me in the head with a light saber." Kleiber also does TV commercials (Pittsburgh Power, Highmark) and film work, and hosts a couple of comedy open-mics himself. "I'm still a drinking, swearing comedian," says Kleiber, though he adds that with two small children, his material involves more marriage-and-kids than before. Next Thursday, at the Improv, Kleiber marks a milestone by taping a gig for his first DVD/CD release. It's a business move. "I knew I could sell more CDs and DVDs than I could T-shirts," he notes. "And they're easier to travel with." Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 20. 166 E. Bridge St., The Waterfront, West Homestead. $15. 412-462-5233 or pittsburgh.improv.com

Thu., Dec. 13 — Words

By speaking at Phipps Conservatory, David Sobel practices what he preaches. The writer and faculty member of Antioch University New England was a pioneer in the 1990s movement advocating "place-based education." Sobel focuses on teaching students through their immediate environments, particularly through nature. He appears tonight for the Conservatory's monthly Inspire Speakers Series, a collaboration with the Green Building Alliance. Refreshments are provided and access to the Winter Light Garden is included after the talk. Catherine Sylvain 5:30-8:30 p.m. Schenley Drive, Oakland. $25-45. 412-441-4442 or www.phipps.conservatory.org

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Thu., Dec. 13 — Stage

Feel like you're improvising your way through the holidays? Wünderstudies is doing it on purpose. Every month since June 2011, at Steel City Improv Theater, the troupe has been making up comedic stage musicals on the spot — tunes, lyrics, storylines and all. But tonight, these six singers, a guitarist and keyboardist take their show on the road to ModernFormations Gallery for Wünderstudies: An Improvised Christmas Musical. Yup: It might well be your suggested title that the gang seizes upon to turn into an hour-long show. Expect laughter, tears, perhaps even a reminder of the season's true meaning. Just don't expect to sing along (at least on the verses). Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $5. www.wunderstudies.com

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Fri., Dec. 14 — Outdoors

Fern Hollow Nature Center's annual Sewickley Owl Prowl series is so popular that they only tell the location to those who call and register. Tonight is the first of three walks, seeking Eastern screech owls, barred owls and large great horned owls. While smart-phone apps exist that can imitate owl calls, prowl leader and environmental-education director April Claus will use her voice to coax out the nocturnal birds. Prowlers are advised to dress warmly and bring their own transport. CS 6:30-8:30 p.m. 1901 Glen Mitchell Road, Sewickley. $7. 412-741-7536 or www.fhnc.org

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Fri., Dec. 14 — Screen

Before those Internets came along, people mostly got their news from TV. And before TV (and right alongside that antiquated medium known as newsprint), citizens scoped the wider world through movie newsreels. These current-event roundups, screened in theaters before feature films, survive today mostly in archives like the University of South Carolina's Fox Movietone New Collection. Tonight, USC curator Greg Wilsbacher visits The Andy Warhol Museum to unspool an hour's worth of 35 mm Movietone sound footage dating from 1928-42, drawn from the collection's 2,000-plus hours of content. The Fit to Print program covers everything from Big History to "The World's Youngest Acrobat." BO 8 p.m. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $10. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org

Sat., Dec. 15 — Words

If nothing else, the phrase "radical bookstore" might interest children in reading. The Big Idea Bookstore is one, and today hosts local artist and children's author Paula Weiner. She will read from Fred Eats a Pea, her fact-based story of a dog adopted by a family of vegans, illustrated by Pittsburgh artist Tiffany Whitfield. Weiner intends the book to encourage children ages 8 and under to try new things, much like her real-life dog Fred did. Fred himself may make an appearance to sign "pawtographs." CS 1 p.m. 4812 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Free. 412-687-4323 or www.thebigideapgh.org

Sat., Dec. 15 — Stage

A delightful slice of golden-age Hollywood gets a Pittsburgh makeover, and a live-radio-style production. Local writer, consultant and arts advocate Chuck Lanigan has adapted the 1934 comic-mystery classic The Thin Man (itself taken from a Dashiell Hammett novella) for the stage. Now, Nick and Nora Charles banter wittily and unravel a mystery encompassing lowlifes and high society right here in Pittsburgh (and during Christmas). The cast includes actor Mark Tierno; in true radio-drama fashion, there's also live music and even a couple of commercials. Tonight and tomorrow's performances of The Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh take place, appropriately enough, in the turn-of-the-century environs of the Carnegie Library of Homestead, whose cause the show benefits. BO 7:30 p.m. Also 2 p.m. Sun., Dec. 16. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. $10. 421-353-3756 or www.alcstudies.org

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Sat., Dec. 15 — Dance

Tonight at ModernFormations Gallery local musicians and dancers perform original Middle Eastern and Indian fusion compositions for an evening of Tabla & Dance. The tabla (Indian hand drum) will be played by Michael Dodin while punk-guitarist-turned-luthier Tom Moran will play the acoustic oud and electric sitar. They accompany bellydancing by ElectroBelly Dance Troupe director Amethyst and Bhangra dance by Anjali Soi. Wine and drinks will be provided. CS 8 p.m. 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $20. 412-362-0274 or www.modernformations.com

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Sat., Dec. 15 — Burlesque

For Angie Pontani, burlesque is for life, not just for the holidays. She won Miss Exotic World in 2008, performed at Sting's birthday party, and founded dance trio The World Famous Pontani Sisters. Tonight the New Yorker headlines a touring show that returns to Pittsburgh in a holiday-themed incarnation. Burlesque-A-Pades: Holiday Inn at the Rex Theater is hosted by comedy sideshow magician Albert Cadabra, and features additional burlesque performers The Maine Attraction, Helen Pontani, Bella Sin and hula-hoop artist Miss Saturn. CS 9 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15. 412-381-6811 or www.rextheater.com

Sun., Dec. 16 — Outdoors

At last, it's wintry enough that ice-skating feels plausibly seasonal. Which reminds us that Schenley Skating Rink is one of your more affordable outdoor winter-sports options, Downtown-skyline view included. Today is Citipark's Skate With Santa, the rink's annual kid-magnet, with refreshments. If that's not your style, the rink's also open into the evening tonight. Indeed, the ice is yours seven days a week, including adults-only skates 9:30-11:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Other attractions include skating lessons for kids and thrice-weekly discount sessions for college students. BO Skate with Santa: 1:30-3:30 p.m. Regular skate: 4-6:30 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Rink open daily; hours vary. Overlook Drive, Schenley Park, Oakland. $3-4 (skate rental: $2.50). 412-422-6523 or www.citiparks.net

Sun., Dec. 16 — Screen

The artists' collective known as Everything is Terrible — which brought you compendiums of found VHS clips in programs like DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez! — have turned their loving eyes and editing decks to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Treasures from the video age in tonight's hour-long Cataclysmic Transformation program include "fist fights over toys for tots, erotic Santas, Nazi elves" and lots of outer-space themes from misguided Yuletide cinema. Tonight, as part of a 30-city U.S. tour, EIT members will be on hand to convert the Melwood Screening Room into a winter wonderland for the occasion. See a review in this issue's film section. BO 8 p.m. 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $10. 412-681-5449 or www.pghfilmmakers.org

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