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Short List: July 30 - August 6 

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SPOTLIGHT: Wed., Aug. 6 — Comedy

Comedian Myq Kaplan has opened shows by saying, "I'm glad that you guys seem like you're my demographic, which is people who know the word 'demographic.'" The one-liner acknowledged the often nerdily cerebral style of a guy who jokes, "My girlfriend said she wanted me to dominate her. So I said, 'Let's play Scrabble.'" But in truth, this vegan who studied graduate-level linguistics at Boston University — and whose new album is titled Small, Dork and Handsome — has proved plenty accessible. In 2010, Kaplan was a finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing, and he's toured nationally and guested on The Late Show With David Letterman and The Tonight Show. He's confident he's finding his audience, or vice versa. "My aim is certainly to do what I want to do, to say the things I want to say that are interesting and funny to me," Kaplan, 35, told CP by phone from Denver. Three days into an Eastern U.S. tour with comic/rapper Zach Sherwin (from YouTube's Epic Rap Battles of History), Kaplan plays Arcade Comedy Theater. It's his first Pittsburgh date in several years. "I've had people come up to my shows and say, 'I didn't understand all of the things you said, but I loved it,'" he says. "Nobody has ever heard that joke about the word 'demographic' and walked out." Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Wed., Aug. 6. 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $5-10. www.arcadecomedytheater.com

Thu., July 31 — Festival

The annual Black Family Reunion seeks to strengthen the African-American community, but its organizer, the Community Empowerment Association, blends a lot of recreation and entertainment into its mission. The four-day festival begins with tonight's Artists Block Party in Homewood, with live singers, hip-hop artists, poets and more. On Aug. 1 comes the Peace in the Hood Basketball Tournament, in Mellon Park. Aug. 2 brings workshops and panel talks on activism, education and entrepreneurship, plus a performance of Kim El's fine one-woman coming-of-age play Straightening Combs. And on Sunday, in Schenley Park, the Reunion concludes with a free concert headlined by old-school R&B masters Con Funk Shun and singer Howard Hewett. Bill O'Driscoll Artists Block Party: 5 p.m. (CEA Cultural Center, 7120 Kelly St., Homewood; free). Festival continues through Sun., Aug. 3. Times and venues vary. www.ceapittsburgh.org

Thu., July 31 — Words and Music

The Alphabet City Summer Festival continues with an evening of live music and poetry. Actress, poet and Cup-A-Jo Productions founder Joanna Lowe opens with a set of spoken-word pieces. She's followed by singer and multi-instrumentalist David Dickinson. The evening concludes with a performance by Sarah Fina, 24, a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Lawrenceville who's active on the open-mic scene. The Alphabet City series of performances under a tent is presented by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. BO 6 p.m. 318 Sampsonia Way, North Side. Free. Reservations recommended at www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org.

click to enlarge The Takeaway: Made With Love, at 937 Gallery

Fri., Aug. 1 — Art

Sure, the colors are odd, the gestures are stilted and the execution's patchy — but who are you to say the thrift-store paintings in The Takeaway: Made With Love are "bad"? Tonight, in fact, lucky patrons at 937 Gallery will head home with some of the roughly 100 amateur artworks (also including hand-knitted afghans, handmade ceramics and more) carefully thrifted by curator Robert Raczka. "I have a genuine appreciation for amateur art at its unselfconscious best," says Raczka, also an art critic and CP contributor. During the three-week exhibit, visitors have entered a free lottery to win; Raczka is randomly selecting the winners, who can claim their prizes at tonight's closing reception. BO 5:30-9 p.m. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. www.trustarts.org

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial, Pittsburgh Glass Center

Fri., Aug. 1 — Art

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial continues with a new exhibit at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Idea Furnace features new work by seven local artists, who have no experience with glass, but who for the past six months have collaborated with the Glass Center's in-house artists. The goal is experimental glass art from an outsider's perspective. Participating artists include Toby Fraley (pictured), Will Schlough, Bob Beckman and Vanessa German. Dan Willis Opening reception: 6 p.m. Exhibit continues through Oct. 26. 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship. Free. 412-365-2145 or www.pittsburghbiennial.org

click to enlarge New Academy Press, Investigations in Terraforming, at Irma Freeman Center for Imagination
  • Art by New Academy Press

Fri., Aug. 1 — Art

Working as printmaking collaborative New Academy Press, Michael Burch and Justin George turn out "prints and sculptures that are both art objects and fictitious historical artifacts." Their work, which draws on "the natural world and the people who study it for inspiration," is the focus of Investigations in Terraforming, which opens with tonight's reception at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination. The exhibit is part of the monthly gallery crawl Unblurred, incorporating more than a dozen venues along Penn Avenue. Also check out Visions, new paintings by Lauren Toohey and Linzy Miggantz, at Most Wanted Fine Art. BO Unblurred: 6-11 p.m 4100-5400 Penn Ave., Bloomfield/Garfield/Friendship. Free. www.pennavenue.org

click to enlarge Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra at First Niagara Presents First Fridays at the Frick

Fri., Aug. 1 — Music

Pittsburgh has fewer ties to the Old Country than it once did. But Jerry Grcevich is a living link. Growing up in Turtle Creek, he studied tamburitza, or Croatian string music, with his father and uncle; for three decades now, he's been internationally known as a master player and composer. But tonight, it's the sounds of the prim, brac, taburitza cello, bugarija and tamburitza bass under the stars, as Grcevich leads the five-piece Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra at First Niagara Presents First Fridays at the Frick. The series encourages picnicking while you listen on the lawn of the Frick Art & Historical Center. BO 7 p.m. 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. $5 donation suggested. 412-371-0600 or www.TheFrickPittsburgh.org

Fri., Aug. 1 — Stage

Jean-Paul Sartre's claustrophobic landmark play No Exit depicts an afterlife in which three characters are locked into a single room for eternity as punishment. And what better way to stage this high-water mark of modernist theatrical misery and restraint than by staging it inside a giant inflatable plastic bubble? bubble:PGH and the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama are doing exactly that with a four-show run on Flagstaff Hill, in Schenley Park, starting tonight. DW 9 p.m. Continues through Aug. 9. Oakland. $10. www.bubblepgh.com

Sat., Aug. 2 — Words

Pittsburgh-based mystery writer Nancy Martin speaks at Mystery Lovers Book Shop today about the latest installment in her Blackbird Sisters series, A Little Night Murder. The series follows three Philadelphia sisters, amateur sleuths who solve aristocratic murders, after one of them becomes the assistant to a newspaper's society columnist. Martin has written more than 40 novels, won a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine, and co-founded a statewide organization called PennWriters. Reservations are requested for today's book launch, which includes cheesecake and a string quartet. DW 3 p.m. 514 Allegheny River Blvd. Free. 412-828-4877 or www.mysterylovers.com

click to enlarge Canadian painter Thomas Frontini
  • Art by Thomas Frontini

Sat., Aug. 2 — Art

Canadian painter Thomas Frontini combines pastel-colored minimalism and elegant depictions of architecture with the impossible spaces of surrealism to produce his own unusual take on the landscape. Active since 1990, Frontini has displayed his artwork in galleries around the world. Now, Pittsburgh receives his work for the first time; his exhibit Once Again Calm opens tonight at the Gallery 4. The opening reception includes complimentary cocktails and refreshments. DW 7 p.m. Exhibit continues through Aug. 30. 206 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside. Free. 412-363-5050 or www.thegallery4.us

click to enlarge Rex Theater was originally a vaudeville house, Boston Babydolls
  • Photo courtesy of Rich Jarvis

Sun., Aug. 3 — Burlesque

Local history buffs might know that the century-old Rex Theater was originally a vaudeville house. That makes it the natural choice for a nationally renowned neo-burlesque act like the Boston Babydolls, whose Madame Burlesque tour stops there tonight. Performances include: Miss Mina Murray doing a Sally Rand-inspired fan dance; Brigitte Bisoux's (pictured) tap-dancing balloon-pop routine; and a solo show by local performer Lita D'Vargas. The event is 21 and over, and tickets can also be purchased at the neighboring Culture Shop. DW 8 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15. 412-381-6811 or www.bostonbabydolls.com

Tue., Aug. 5 — Screen

Film fans know that the original Godzilla was a reaction to Japan's fears about nuclear war and atomic energy. But Japanese filmmakers also confronted those issues on a more human scale. One contemporary of the humongous reptile was Akira Kurosawa's I Live in Fear (1955) — not one of the director's samurai epics, but a poignant domestic drama about an elderly industrialist who wants to move his entire family to Brazil to protect them from nuclear fallout. Toshiro Mifune stars. The Pittsburgh Filmmakers screening is co-sponsored by the group Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace; a Skype talk follows with peace activists in Japan. BO 6 p.m. Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $7-8. www.pittsburgharts.org

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