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Short List: February 19 - 26 

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FREE EVENT: Fri., Feb. 21 — Art

Five months after becoming North America's first host of a giant rubber duck, Pittsburgh gets the same privilege for a very different sort of public art. "Congregation," a large-scale, interactive video and sound installation, will animate nights in Market Square for three weeks starting Fri., Feb. 21. "Congregation," created by British media artists Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler (collectively known as KMA), involves a raised projector that casts on the pavement spots and strips of light whose movements are, through a motion-sensor, influenced by human interaction. A thermal-imaging camera positioned overhead conveys participants' movements onto a big screen, so audiences can see the abstract patterns they're making. The show's 25-minute cycles, each one unique, are set to music by contemporary composer Peter Broderick. "We have played with the idea that this is the world's first pedestrian ballet," says Monkman from the U.K. via Skype. "Congregation" premiered in Shanghai, in 2010, and toured the U.K. It hits Pittsburgh courtesy of the Market Square Public Art Program, a new initiative of the city's Public Art department and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. And yes, Monkman knows all about the rubber duck. "I think it's kind of brave programming for Pittsburgh to chose us next," he says. By contrast, he adds, "Congregation" is "not a spectacle, it's an experience." Bill O'Driscoll Dusk, Fri., Feb. 21. Continues dusk-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., and dusk-midnight Fri. and Sat., through March 16. Market Square, Downtown. www.marketsquarepublicart.com

click to enlarge Kamran Shirdel's short documentaries at Carnegie Museum of Art

Thu., Feb. 20 — Screen

Since the 1960s, Kamran Shirdel's short documentaries about Iran have been controversial enough to be banned by the Iranian government. "Tehran is the Capital of Iran" (1966-79) used a slum to contrast "reality and cynical government spin." This week, Shirdel makes his first American appearance, at the Carnegie Museum of Art. See him speak with Carnegie International co-curator Tina Kukielski after tonight's screening of his work. Another screening, at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, follows at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Angela Suico 7 p.m. (with 5:30 p.m. happy hour). (4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland). Also 7 p.m. Fri., Feb. 21 (477 Melwood Ave., Oakland). $10 ($15 for both screenings). 412-622-3131 or www.c13.cmoa.org

Thu., Feb. 20 —Stage

Lately, standouts in any profession get labeled "rock stars." So Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers went ahead and just gave the treatment to a pre-Civil War U.S. president. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson imagines our seventh commander-in-chief as a contemporary rocker. The founder of the Democratic Party sings numbers like "Populism, Yea, Yea," forces Indians off the land and consolidates presidential power. Called "invigorating" and "ornery," this critically acclaimed, irony-laced rock musical gets its first major local production at Point Park's Conservatory Theatre Company. The opening performance is tonight. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Continues through March 2. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. $8-20. 412-392-8000 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com


Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project visited the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

Fri., Feb. 21 — Dance

The last time Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project visited the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, a dancer's injury forced the company to alter its program and present a work-in-progress showing of Beautiful Struggle. This weekend, the contemporary dance company based in Columbus, Ohio, and Burkina Faso returns with the completed version of this thought-provoking dance-theater work. Beautiful Struggle "reflects on questions of belonging ... visibility and invisibility, which are themes often revisited when delving into the slippery territories of race, gender and privilege," says choreographer/director Esther Baker-Tarpaga. Set to an eclectic soundscape including West African rhythms played live, the 45-minute production combines highly physical postmodern, hip-hop and traditional West African dance styles with bold costuming and props such as a wooden table that stands in for a slave ship and a slave-auction block. Woven throughout are spoken-word recordings of anti-racism activist Tim Wise. Says Baker-Tarpaga: "I would like audiences to think about the struggle of living in a country that was founded upon slavery and how this resonates in contemporary times." Steve Sucato 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 21, and 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 22. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $15-25. 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org


Fri., Feb. 21 — Carnival

Sensory overload is part and parcel of Mardis Gras. Experience all the sights and sounds when Cavo Restaurant Lounge Nightclub rings in the holiday with the Brazilian Carnival Masquerade Ball 2014. Local samba group Timbeleza provides Brazilian beats, DJ Juan Diego spins Brazilian, carnival and world music, and the Pittsburgh Samba Group entertains with its dancing. Be sure to check out the aerial silk samba performance, too. The festivities are presented by DJ Juan Diego Inc., Luciana Brussi Constantino and Marcela Anita. AS 7 p.m. 1920 Smallman St., Strip District. $15. 412-980-7653 or www.cavopgh.com

Sat. Feb. 22 — Comedy

In spite of the serious-sounding name, Arguments and Grievances, a live comedy series and podcast based in Chicago, is no town-hall debate. Instead of discussing how to improve public transit, comedians go toe-to-toe on topics like "Hugs vs. Drugs" and "Dr. Dre vs. Dr. Seuss." When the show stops by Corner Café, Chicago's Sam Norton and Kevin White will debate Pittsburgh's John Dick Winters and Shannon Norman on The Moon vs. The Sun, and Carmen Sandiego vs. Waldo, respectively. Tonight's show is presented by Race to the Coffin Comedy. AS 8 p.m. 2500 S. 18th St., South Side Slopes. $5. 412-610-2052 or racetothecoffin@gmail.com.

Sun., Feb. 23 — Words

You might know Daniel Beaty from his one-man show Through the Night, performed at City Theatre in 2012, or his YouTube-hit spoken-word piece "Knock, Knock." In either case, you know about his difficult childhood in Dayton, Ohio, in a home damaged by drug addiction and incarceration. The poet, writer and performer is in town to discuss personal empowerment, his own rise to success and his new book, Transforming Pain to Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential (Berkley). Tonight's the book-release (including a short performance by Beaty) at City Theatre, which last year staged Beaty's Breath & Imagination. BO 6 p.m. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. Free; registration required at 412-431-2489 or www.citytheatrecompany.org.

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Sun., Feb. 23 — Dance

Attack Theatre's new program is an evening of new and reimagined work. "A Tiny Droplet of a Portrait" is the premiere of a duet choreographed by Attack's Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza to music composed by Dave Eggars and performed by Chatham Baroque. Live music also keys "The Soldier's Tale," the classic about a soldier's deal with the devil. Attack presents its new version of this old company favorite (often performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) with all five of the troupe's dancers, and Stravinsky's score performed live by PSO members (or, on March 1, musicians from Carnegie Mellon's School of Music). BO 7:30 p.m. Also Wed., Feb. 26; Thu., Feb. 27; and March 1. George R. White Studio (Pittsburgh Opera), 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District. Reservation required; $35 suggested donation. 888-718-4253 or www.attacktheatre.com

click to enlarge Alton Brown Live

Sun., Feb. 23 — Talk

Alton Brown is an author, TV personality and chef extraordinaire. But he also seems to be a humble charmer. Reflecting on Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour, he says, "I feel we've come up with some pretty amazing food demos, and the multi-media segments are solid ... but I do have to say I'm a bit nervous about the singing parts." A few lucky audience members will assist Brown onstage when his show stops by the Benedum Center, courtesy of the Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents Series. AS 8 p.m. 803 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $32.25-127.25 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

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Tue., Feb. 25 — Stage

Porgy and Bess, 2012's Tony-winner for best musical revival, tells the story of a man with a crippled leg and a woman with a bad reputation. Tonight, the touring production of the Gershwins' classic hits the Benedum Center for eight performances in six days. Nathaniel Stampley and Alicia Mall Horton star, belting hits like "Summertime," and accompanied by a 23-piece orchestra. The show is part of the PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh series, presented by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Symphony. AS 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sun. March 2. 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $20-68. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

Wed., Feb. 26 — Screen

It gets more attention than it used to, but Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1977) remains an underappreciated masterpiece of American cinema. This quiet, episodic portrait of a Watts slaughterhouse worker and his family and neighborhood, shot in grainy black-and-white, pulses with life and understated emotion. Long undistributed because of the expense of obtaining music rights, the film's lately resurfaced in a restored print, which screens tonight as part of the discount-priced Essential Cinema series at the Melwood Screening Room. BO 8 p.m. 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $2. 412-682-4111 or www.pittsburgharts.org

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