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Short List: Week of May 12 - 19 

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Cirque du Soleil visits Pittsburgh often, but its latest stop is the newest show the internationally famed troupe has staged here since 2005. Totem premiered last year, and in the U.S. just in March. If the Montreal-based Cirque is known for its extravaganzas of acrobatics, clowning, fantastical sets, lights and live music, Totem's storyline sounds a bit more schematic than most: Totem traces "a journey into the evolution of mankind," from its amphibious origins to the desire to fly. But while senior artistic director Sylvie Galarneau tells CP that the show's imagery is less surreal than in productions like Quidam, Totem is no textbook. And that's the least you could say about 52 performers from 19 countries portraying frog-people and monkeys in acts from dual trapeze and a roller-skating number to a perch act (with an acrobat atop a pole) -- all under a big top in the Strip District. The "totem" concept draws on indigenous cultures' belief in animal spirits that protect and guide. The show, written and directed by signature Cirque creative force Robert LePage, is not even chronological. "That would be too easy!" says Galarneau. "We're not trying to underline and make it like it's a history book. ... You have to connect the dots." Bill O'Driscoll Thu., May 12-29. 20th and Allegheny Valley Railroad, Strip District. $28.50-250. 800-450-1480 or www.cirquedusoleil.com/totem

 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF NOAH GREENBERG
  • Photo courtesy of Noah Greenberg

Thu., May 12 – Words

"How to Overthrow a Dictator: Lessons from Around the World" sounds like an instruction book for Libyans; it's actually a World Affairs Council-sponsored discussion Downtown with Pulitzer-winning journalist Tina Rosenberg. Rosenberg has written for The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic. She traveled extensively in Latin America and post-Soviet Europe and draws connections between their revolutions and current events in the Middle East and Africa. Come explore what makes a revolution succeed or fail. Lucy Steigerwald 6 p.m. Bricolage Theater, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $20. 412-281-1259 or www.worldpittsburgh.org

 

Thu., May 12 -- Words

Fleeting Pages, the pop-up bookstore at the old East Liberty Borders, complements its indie-press showcase with events like tonight's Bookstore Clerks Who Write About It. Local scribe Karen Lillis (late of New York's famed St. Mark's Bookshop) gathers clerks and store-owners past and present to read about life in the business. Guests, offering writings by themselves and others, include Kris Collins (of Caliban Bookshop). And on Mon., May 16, Fleeting Pages screens Vernon Lott's feature-length 2010 documentary Bad Writing, free. Bill O'Driscoll 7 p.m. Fleeting Pages continues through June 4. 5986 Penn Circle South, East Liberty. www.fleetingpages.com

 

Thu. May 12 -- Music

The Pittsburgh Song Collaborative wants to get Pittsburghers excited about classical music. Tonight it's partnering with the Carnegie Museum of Art for "Illuminations: Music, Poetry and Art." PSC members match works by artists, poets and classical composers including Van Gogh, Baudelaire and Schubert. Each piece begins with a brief talk, then the music-and-poetry combinations are performed (alongside the visual artworks) by local sopranos, altos and pianists. LS 7:30 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $10-15. 412-396-4355 or www.pghsong.org

 

click to enlarge IMAGE COURTESY OF FERHAT ZGR
  • Image courtesy of Ferhat zgr

Fri., May 13 -- Art

Pittsburgh famously keeps its neighborhoods distinct. A neighborhood can be integral to someone's childhood, ethnic identity or relationship to space. Tonight is the Mattress Factory's opening reception for Neighbo(u)rhood. Pittsburgh artists, including Diane Samuels, join contributors from Turkey, Ireland and New York City to explore the meaning of neighborhoods and boundaries through video, installations and events. LS 6 p.m. Exhibit continues through Aug. 21. 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side, $10. 412-231-3169 or www.mattress.org

 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CARLY M. MCCOY
  • Photo courtesy of Carly M. McCoy

Fri., May 13 -- Art

Eric Singer calls himself "a post-media experiential artist, musician, engineer and programmer." Come see just what the locally based founder of LEMUR: League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots means at Living in the Future, opening tonight at Space Gallery. There's something called GuitarBot and also LEMURtron -- an interactive installation with some 15 robotic musical instruments plus video projection and a motion-tracking camera that work together to play the instruments. BO 6-9 p.m. Exhibit continues through June 26. 818 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. 412-325-7723 or www.spacepittsburgh.org

 

Fri., May 13 -- Comedy

Friday the 13th -- perfect night to launch a monthly comedy series. Creators of the new Shadow Lounge Comedy Night include comic Davon Magwood, who hosts. Tonight's performers include Dan Jenniches, Jarett Damien Laudadio and Howard Lester. And the cover's a mere three bucks. BO 7-10 p.m. 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. 412-363-8277

 

Fri., May 13 -- Music

Joan Tower concludes her tenure as Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Composer of the Year with the world premiere of Stroke. This PSO-commissioned piece, which Tower describes as percussion-heavy, with a musical heartbeat that waxes and wanes, is dedicated to her brother, a stroke victim. The program tonight and tomorrow also includes a Mozart piano concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. The conductor is Manfred Honeck, and the featured soloist French pianist is Hélène Grimaud. BO 8 p.m. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. $20-93. 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org

 

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Fri., May 13 -- Comedy

George Lopez is a TV star, once headlining an eponymous sitcom that ran six seasons and now hosting Lopez Tonight, on TBS; he's even co-hosted the Emmys. He's also a standup comedian, and staunch defender of Latino culture from such commercial dilution as McDonald's knockoffs. "A burrito will always be a burrito. It can't be a wrap," he notes, "and a real one makes you fart while you're chewing." Lopez does the standup thing tonight at the Benedum Center. BO 8 p.m. 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $49.50-59.50. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org

 

Fri., May 13 -- Burlesque

Burlesque is a tease and a wink -- but is that all it is? Sticky Buns Burlesque says the artform also accommodates social commentary while staying sexy and funny. The troupe, based in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., headlines tonight's Friday the 13th Masquerade Ball. Sticky Buns features costumer and performer Marla "Meringue" Parker, a 2006 Pittsburgh CAPA grad. Guesting are chanteuse Phat Man Dee and Pittsburgh's own Bridge City Bombshells. BO 9 p.m. Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15 ($2 off if you wear a costume). 21 and over. 412-381-6811 

 

click to enlarge ART BY WENDY OSHER
  • Art by Wendy Osher

Sat., May 14 -- Art

Spring rains notwithstanding, the world has a fresh-water crisis: It's growing scarce and dirty. Too Shallow for Diving: The 21st Century Is Treading Water, a group show at the American Jewish Museum, chimes in with contributors including Prudence Gill, Roger Laib, Maritza Mosquera, Wendy Osher and U.K.-based artists Tim Collins and Reiko Goto. At tonight's opening reception, curator Carolyn Speranza speaks (at 7:30 p.m.) and Vanessa German performs (8 p.m.). The multi-genre exhibit's 10-week run also includes talks and workshops by environmental groups and activists. BO 7-9 p.m. Exhibit continues through July 28. Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-521-8011 or www.jccpgh.org

 

click to enlarge IMAGES BY RICHARD CROSSLEY
  • Images by Richard Crossley

Mon., May 16 -- Book

Brit Richard Crossley's goal is pretty grand: to revolutionize bird identification. How? By publishing field guides with an entirely new take on bird photography. The Crossley ID Guide examines each bird from multiple perspectives: A page might show a digitally cobbled-together scene featuring Crossley's photos of the same bird perched and in flight, a male version, a female version, a juvenile and so on. The technique displays a bird's many variation and habits. Crossley lectures tonight at the National Aviary. Andy Mulkerin 7:30 p.m. 700 Arch St., North Side. Free. 412-323-7235 or www.aviary.org

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