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Short List: December 26 - 31 

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

MAIN EVENT: Mon., Dec. 31 — Festival

Regardless of whether it actually feels like winter yet, on New Year's Eve Downtown again makes way for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh. The festival — the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's biggest one-day event  — floods the streets, galleries and stages with everything from rock bands to puppet shows and 30-minute dance lessons. The alcohol-free, family-friendly event features more than 100 events and activities in 45 venues, including: live blues, jazz and singer-songwriters; dance and theater performances; visual art exhbits; hands-on craft-making; magicians, storytellers and puppet shows; and food trucks. Among the highlights: regional R&B favorites House of Soul; standup comedy by David Michael and Mike Wysocki; and the Fire and Ice Plaza — that's ice-carving alongside fire performers, all set to music. American Idol's Adam Brock and his band perform. The annual Resolution Sculpture is by artists David Bernabo and Lindsay Clark. The big First Night Parade — grand-marshaled by Curt Woottan and Chris Preksta, of "Pittsburgh Dad," and featuring art cars, a bicycle armada, giant puppets and marching bands — rolls down Penn Avenue at 8 p.m. And at the main stage, you can count down till midnight to the funky sounds of New Orleans' Dirty Dozen Brass Band. It's all yours for the price of a First Night Button (with free vouchers required for some indoor events). Bill O'Driscoll 6 p.m.-midnight, Mon., Dec. 31. Downtown. Button: $8-10. www.FirstNightPgh.org

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Thu., Dec. 27 — Exhibit

Pittsburgh's role in the anti-slavery movement is highlighted in From Slavery to Freedom. The long-term exhibition at the Heinz History Center, which opened this month, spans 250 years of African-American history in Western Pennsylvania. It is the result of four years of research by the Center. An immersive reconstruction of a slave ship opens the exhibit. The show includes the 1861 painting "Slaves Waiting for Sale," by Eyre Crow; details Pittsburgh's abolitionists and civil-rights activists; and ends in present-day Western Pennsylvania. Visit during the Center's extended holiday hours, which continues through Jan. 6. Catherine Sylvain 10 a.m. -8 p.m. 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. $10-15. 412-454-6000 or www.heinzhistorycenter.org

Fri., Dec. 28 — Comedy

Mike Travers is in the spotlight since KDKA TV turned his musical YouTube homage "I Love You Pittsburgh" into a promo. The song celebrates stuff like parking chairs and Kennywood. But Travers, an acoustic-guitar-wielding comic, gets a little ruder on stage. "My girlfriend has low self-esteem," he sings in the voice of a sympathy-challenged dude. "I told her she's stupid for feeling that way / She'd be better off if she lost some weight / or cut that stringy hair." Tonight, Travers headlines a Holiday Comedy Show at Club Café. Also appearing are Jeff Konkle and comedy magician Lee Terbosic. Bill O'Driscoll 7 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $10 (21 and over). 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

Fri., Dec. 28 — Observance

Grounded in traditional African customs, Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one. So tonight and tomorrow at Kwanzaa on Penn, celebrate umoja (unity), ujamaa (cooperative economics) and kuumba (creativity) either instead of or alongside other seasonal festivities. Tonight, this Penn Avenue Arts Initiative rendering of the international holiday features a candle-lighting ceremony, catered community dinner and performances (by Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Temujin the Storyteller and more), all hosted by performer Kim "Dr. Goddess" Ellis; the evening concludes with a screening of the Maya Angelou-narrated Kwanzaa documentary The Black Candle. On Saturday, neighborhood art galleries lead kids' crafting activities all afternoon. BO 5-9 p.m. Crafting: 1-6 p.m. Sat., Dec. 29. Dance Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship. Free. 412-441-6147

Fri., Dec. 28 — Screen

Peter S. Beagle is best known for his fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, which was adapted into a 1982 animated movie. The award-winning writer himself appears this weekend for Q&As at three screenings of The Last Unicorn in The Hollywood Theater. A percentage of sales benefits the cinema. Beagle graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1959. He also wrote the screenplay of the 1978 animated film version of The Lord of the Rings. Book-signings follow the screenings. Catherine Sylvain 7 p.m. Also 2 p.m. Sat., Dec. 29, and 5 p.m. Sun., Dec. 30.1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont. $5-7. 412-563-0368 or www.thehollywooddormont.com

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JONATHAN OLEYER, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY
  • Photo by Jonathan Oleyer, courtesy of the National Audubon Society

Sat., Dec. 29 — Outdoors

The National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count is the world's longest-running citizen-science survey. For 113 years volunteers nationwide have helped compile data for conservationists measuring trends in bird populations. This is the first year Fern Hollow Nature Center has been involved. Environmental educator Stacey Widenhofer will compile the data for Franklin Park and needs volunteer birders to help monitor the area for the day. The count starts early in the morning for the owling portion and continues into the afternoon, with a potluck lunch at the Nature Center. RSVP via email, or phone for exact times. CS 1901 Glen Mitchell Road, Sewickley. Free. 412-741-7536 or stacey.fhnc@verizon.net

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Sat., Dec. 29 — Music

A mostly local all-star lineup performs a night of jazz at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. A Gershwinter Night celebrates the music of George and Ira Gershwin. The band features local luminaries Roger Humphries on drums; Dwayne Dolphin on bass; Alton Merrell on piano; and Sean Jones on trumpet. The special guest rounding out the Sean Jones International All-Star Quintet is Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri, director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival. (You might not have known there was a Red Sea Jazz Festival.) The program features selections from the Gershwins' landmark opera Porgy and Bess. There are performances tonight and tomorrow. BO 8 p.m. Also 8 p.m. Sun., Dec. 30. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $25-45. 412-258-2700 or www.augustwilsoncenter.org

Mon., Dec. 31 — Party

The pressure to enjoy New Year's Eve is already pretty scary, so you might as well ramp it up by attending New Year's Undead Eve. The party at Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South is organized by Horror Realm, Pittsburgh's modern horror convention, and marks the group's fifth anniversary. The dress code is "ghoulish semi formal attire." More traditional aspects include a DJ, cash bar, door prizes and a raffle in aid of Scares that Care, a nonprofit benefiting sick children. Admission covers snacks and a champagne toast at midnight. CS 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 164 Fort Couch Road, Bethel Park. $25 or $45 for couples. 412-215-6317 or www.horrorrealmcon.com 

Tue., Jan. 1 — Festival

It's a celebration of slop, goo and muck. Carnegie Science Center's annual MessFest lets kids get hands-on with slimy oobleck; pack raw eggs so they don't crack in the Egg Drop; finger-paint; create "Mars soil"; and more. There are live theater programs, too, including "Plant Pop Extreme." MessFest is included in general admission; clean-up's on you. BO 10 a.m.-5 p.m. North Side. $11.95-17.95. 412-237-3400 or www.carnegiesciencecenter.org

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Tue., Jan. 1 — Stage

If you are going to observe "Flashdance Day," as Mayor Ravenstahl has decreed today, it will probably be by watching the PNC Broadway Across America world premiere of Flashdance — The Musical at Heinz Hall. The 1983 film about a Pittsburgh welder and bar dancer with professional-dance aspirations has been adapted as a stage musical. It includes 16 original songs (by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary) as well as the films' ubiquitous hits "Gloria," "Maniac," "I Love Rock n' Roll" and, of course, "Flashdance — What a Feeling." Jersey Boys choreographer Sergio Trujillo directs and choreographs the show, which plays eight performances in Pittsburgh before embarking on a national tour. A Broadway version is also planned CS 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sun., Jan. 6. 600 Penn., Ave., Downtown. $20-65. 412-392-4900 or www.trustarts.org

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Thu., Jan. 3 — Stage

Remember when Pittsburgh Public Theater said its 2011 run of The Chief would be the last? Yeah, we didn't believe it, either. This one-man show featuring Tom Atkins' portrayal of Steelers patriarch Art Rooney is the best-selling production in the Public's long history. The charming play, written by Rob Zellers and Gene Collier, premiered in 2003, and was revived five times. Now it's back by popular demand. The Chief depicts the garrulous, cigar-puffing Rooney in his office in 1976, shortly after the Steelers' second Super Bowl. He regales the audience with tales of his life and times, from growing up feisty and Irish on the city's North Side in the early 20th century to being Mean Joe Greene's boss. Ted Pappas directs; the first of 12 performances is tonight. BO 8 p.m. Show continues through Jan. 12. 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. $15.75-65. 412-316-1600 or www.ppt.org

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