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Short List: March 13 - 19 

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Fri., March 15 — Dance

Was modern-dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis a racist? St. Denis (1880–1968) introduced Eastern culture into Western dance. For her famous "Oriental" dances of the early 1900s, she donned makeup to change the color of her skin a la Al Jolson, and costumed herself based on museum photographs. In his latest dance work, Ruth Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Santa Monica-based dancer/choreographer Lionel Popkin uses St. Denis' career to explore the appropriation and misappropriation of other cultures into Western dance and how we perceive the confluence of those cultures on stage. "I became interested in what the markers are that let us know what we are seeing is a cultural exchange," says Popkin, who is of South Asian descent. "Is it the costumes, the music or something else?" The hour-long multimedia trio set to an original score for accordion and violin by Pittsburgh native Guy Klucevsek (played live) neither celebrates nor bashes St. Denis, says Popkin. The former Trisha Brown Dance Company dancer references his cultural heritage in his nationally and internationally seen works. He sees St. Denis' approach to Asian cultures in her works as being a product of her times. While not a fan of her approach, he is respectful of St. Denis' extraordinary career. Steve Sucato 8 p.m. Fri., March 15, and 8 p.m. Sat., March 16. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $15-35. 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org

Thu., March 14 — Event

Pi Day, that mythical holiday from grade-school math, undergoes a grown-up transformation in The Carnegie Science Center's No Kids Night. The 21-and-up event marking (approximately) 3.14 includes access to all Science Center exhibits, from SeaScape to the Miniature Railroad and Village and Roboworld, as well as hands-on science demonstrations. And because it's held in conjunction with the neighboring Rivers Casino, there's also a cash bar, slots, a prize wheel, live music and more. Jeff Ihaza 6 p.m. North Side. $10-15. 412-237-3400 or www.CarnegieScienceCenter.org

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Thu., March 14 — Words

Cleveland-born, Pittsburgh-based author Aubrey Hirsch's work has appeared in literary journals like American Short Fiction and Rumpus. Her new short-story collection is Why We Never Talk About Sugar. In these 16 stories — the second offering from local outfit Braddock Avenue Books — Hirsch enters the souls of lonely women, broken men, dutiful daughters, military recruits and more. At tonight's book launch, she reads selections from her work at East End Book Exhange. JI 7 p.m. 4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Free. www.eastendbookexchange.com

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Fri., March 15 — Art

Animator Bill Plympton, known for his music videos, Oscar-nominated shorts and feature films like 2008's Angels and Idiots, visits The Toonseum for the March 15 opening of The Art of Bill Plympton. The exhibit highlights his next feature, Cheatin', his first foray into digital coloration (though he still hand-draws every frame). Later that night, he'll screen some of his short works at Point Park University, and on Saturday hold an animation workshop. At CP's request, the New York-based Plympton annotated one of his frames (above). Bill O'Driscoll Fri., March 15: 6 p.m. opening reception (945 Liberty Ave., Downtown) and 8 p.m. screening (GRW Theater, 414 Wood St., Downtown); $10 (screening only: $5). Workshop: 3:30 p.m. Sat., March 16 (GRW Theater; $15-25, includes free Plympton drawing). www.toonseum.org

Sat., March 16 — Art

Americans have never been big on living small, but two artists think they've found an upside to the down economy. Austerity and Self-Sustainability is the title of the new site-specific exhibition at Fe Gallery by local mixed-media artist John Eastman and Donovan Widmer, a University of North Dakota professor and internationally exhibited artist who incorporates metalworking into his found-materials assemblages. The idea is that "minimalist living" can actually be healthier and more enjoyable. And you already know it's cheaper. The opening reception is tonight. BO 7 p.m. 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Free. www.fegallery.org

Sat., March 16— Opera

World-class talents headline Pittsburgh Opera's new Madama Butterfly. American tenor Bryan Hymel, making his Pittsburgh Opera debut as American naval officer Pinkerton, is already booked to sing the role next season at the Met. And the tragic Cio-Cio San is sung by Italian soprano Maria Luigia Borsi, who's drawn raves in the part at the Royal Danish Opera and elsewhere. Puccini's 1904 classic is directed by Crystal Manich, with Jean-Luc Tingaud conducting. It's sung in the original Italian, with lyrics above the stage. The first of four performances at the Benedum Center is tonight. BO 8 p.m. Continues through Sun., March 24. 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $10-195.75. 412-456-6666 or www.pittsburghopera.org

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Sat., March 16 — Comedy

With Pittsburgh's comedy scene newly burgeoning, one group marks its second anniversary with shows this weekend and next. Ayne Terceira, Keara Kelly, Beth Fogle, Tamara Siegert and Molly Bain are the ladies of The Blue Stocking Babes, billed as "Pittsburgh's first all-girl long-form improv troupe," with modes from zany to serious. The group plays late-night tonight at the brand-new Arcade Comedy Theater, with improv colleagues Player One and headliner Aaron Kleiber. Next Friday, the Babes occupy their regular venue, Shadyside's Steel City Improv Theater. BO 10 p.m. (811 Liberty Ave., Downtown; $5-10; www.arcadecomedytheater.com). SCIT: 9 p.m. Fri., March 22 (Shadyside; $5; www.steelcityimprov.com)

Mon., March 18 — Words

Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife, speaks at Carnegie Music Hall tonight as part of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures's Literary Evenings series. The Paris Wife tells the heartbreaking tale of Hemingway's relationship with his first wife, Hadley Richardson. McLain's novel topped several best-of lists in 2011, including NPR and The Chicago Tribune. Tonight's lecture also marks Pittsburgh's recent selection as fourth most literate city in the U.S., and will feature raffles and prizes. JI 7:30 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $15-25. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org

Tue., March 19 — Words

Noted record-collector and folklorist Ian Nagoski visits to tell us what we can learn from old 78s. The Widow's Joy: Pride, Genius, Grief & Lies from International 78 RPM Recordings is the title of today's free talk by the Baltimore-based Nagoski, who specializes in non-English-language recordings from the early 20th century. The lecture, at Carnegie Mellon University, encompasses musicians famous and obscure, those classified as both "classical" and "folk," and all with illuminating stories to tell and rare sounds on offer. BO 4:30 p.m. Giant Eagle Auditorium, CMU campus, Oakland. Free. www.cmu.edu/cas

Wed., March 20 — Stage

Hard to pass up an opportunity to tell you that The Guerrilla Girls are in town. This anonymous group of feminist performers has spent decades battling sexism in the art world, all while wearing gorilla masks. Tonight, in conversation with Carnegie Museum of Art director Lynn Zelevansky, the Girls provocatively ask, What Are Museums For? And on Thursday, they lead a tour of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Empowering Women exhibition. BO 7 p.m. ($10-15). Exhibit tour: 4 p.m. Thu., March 21. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 412-661-3131 or www.cmoa.org

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL O'SHEA.
  • Photo courtesy of Michael O'Shea.

Thu., March 21 — Music

Juan De Marcos & The Afro- Cuban All Stars have been in the vanguard of making Afro-Cuban music popular worldwide. This multi-generational big band — 11 pieces, including brass, percussion, piano and vocalists — performs a variety of Latin dance music, from mambo, cha cha and rumba to son montuno, timba, guajira and bolero. They're led by De Marcos, known for his decades of work with the Buena Vista Social Club and other luminaries. Tonight's performance is part of Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents Series in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. JI 7:30 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave. Downtown. $23. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

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