Folks grumble about the cold winter: "Sure, it's great if you're a polar bear!" Well, yes, it is -- look how much fun our local polar bears are having getting their chill on at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
So, take a tip from them: Shrug into something warm and fuzzy, and get out there. Below we've compiled a selection of local happenings that should provide entertainment, edification, exercise and laughs.
And we might add that most of these activities are indoors, a place humans are much better suited for than polar bears.
What's Valentine's Day about if not exotic lingerie? You won't find finer ambassadors of lace, sequins, feathers and chiffon than "burlesque's royal family," The Pontani Sisters. These naughty-but-classy tease-queens highlight Burlesque-A-Pades. Feb. 11. Rex Theater, South Side. 412-381-6811 or www.rextheater.com
Vampires stalk the stage at the Byham, as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents Dracula, a co-production with the Houston Ballet. The performance promises "mesmerizing stage magic" and -- you don't see this often -- "flying undead." Feb. 11-13. Byham Theater, Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org
For those who like their dramas mordantly funny, Point Park's The REP offers a Pittsburgh premiere from bad-boy Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. The Lonesome West depicts murderous doings in a small western Irish town, and is part of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy. Feb. 11-27. Studio Theater, Oakland. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com
It's the dance of sexy-time, that foot-stomping, eye-gazing, dipping and snapping tango. The Argentine stage show Tango Fire traces the history of this difficult-to-perform, gorgeous-to-watch, colorful dance of courtship. Feb. 12. Byham Theater, Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org
Hair: the most popular hippie musical ever! While the material may be dated -- the hair-length wars are over, as is Vietnam -- many of the tunes are timeless, including "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In" and "Easy to Be Hard." Feb. 15-20. Heinz Hall, Downtown. 412-392-4900 or www.pgharts.org
The Warhol's Off the Wall series, in conjunction with the August Wilson Center, presents acclaimed choreographer and performer Nora Chipaumire, with Thomas Mapfumo/The Blacks Unlimited, in lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi. It's a dance-music-performance work that explores the lives of exiled Zimbabweans. March 8. August Wilson Center, Downtown. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org
ART AND EXHIBITS
Europe may have the Old Masters, but when it comes to landscape paintings, the New World has some great unspoiled vistas. Seascapes, mountains and tree-shrouded red barns are among American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum. Jan. 30-April 24. Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg. 724-837-1500 or www.wmuseumaa.org
Paul Thek: Diver, a Retrospective will be the first major American museum exhibition of the influential and idiosyncratic artist. Thek, who died in 1988, became known for his sculpture and installations in the 1960s and '70s. Feb. 5-May 1. Carnegie Museum of Art, Oakland. 412-622-3131 or www.cmoa.org
How did we get here -- upright, free-thinking and with opposable thumbs? The Explore Evolution exhibit showcases seven research projects that have helped us understand how various species -- including us -- developed over time. Feb. 5-July 24. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Oakland. 412-622-3131 or www.carnegiemnh.org
The Pittsburgh Courier is based right here in Pittsburgh, but do you know how influential this African-American newspaper was? A new exhibit, America's Best Weekly: A Century of the Pittsburgh Courier, lays it out in black and white. Starts Feb. 11. Heinz History Center, Strip District. 412-454-6000 or www.heinzhistorycenter.org
CMU grad and video artist (slash-curator-slash-e-book-author-slash-Honda-Civic-driver) Jesse Hulcher explores the Internet in what is surely this season's most amusingly titled exhibition, Straight out of CompUSA. Feb. 25-May 11. Space Gallery, Downtown. www.spacepittsburgh.org
This isn't the first time Ted Leo has played solo in Pittsburgh, but it's been quite a while since the head Pharmacist appeared with just a guitar in hand, as he does tonight. Jan. 26. Andy Warhol Museum, North Side. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org
Seminal U.K. post-punk band Gang of Four has reconstituted (again), and is touring behind a new LP, Content. Wear your uniform -- you know they love it. Feb. 10. Club Cafe, South Side. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
Adorable noise-rock weirdos Deerhoof have a new album, Deerhoof vs. Evil, coming out in late January, and it's bound to include squeaky vocals, absurd lyrics, crunchy guitars and syncopated rhythms. Feb. 12. Altar Bar, Strip District. 412-263-2877 or www.altarbarpittsburgh.com
Tchaikovsky fans will freak: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents a two-week festival dedicated to the Russian composer, including film, poetry, theater and solo piano works, plus two weekends of PSO concerts. Feb. 12-20. Heinz Hall (Downtown) and other locations. 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org
The name "Dr. Dog" makes one think of a boring jam band -- but this up-and-coming Philly outfit plays concise, jangly, melodic rock. Who knew? Feb. 17. Mr. Smalls Theater, Millvale. 800-468-3401 or www.mrsmalls.com
The cross-genre vocal stylings of The Manhattan Transfer have been winning over listeners since the 1970s. The two-man, two-woman quartet, who recently released The Chick Corea Songbook, plays tonight. Feb. 18. Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side. 412-322-0800 or www.mcgjazz.org
Dumpstaphunk is the longtime band of Ivan Neville, jazz-rock collaborator extraordinaire and son of Aaron Neville. The cacophonous New Orleans-based band tours tirelessly, and ends up in Pittsburgh tonight. Feb. 24. Rex Theater, South Side. 412-381-6811 or www.rextheater.com
Sometimes earnest, sometimes silly, singer-songwriter Dan Bern has built a 15-year career on a lot of personal, and a little bit of political -- and a good number of sports references. March 3. Thunderbird Café, Lawrenceville. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net
The Adicts have held up the light-hearted, makeup-wearing end of punk rock since the band's formation in the mid-'70s in Ipswich, England. They're touring 30 years after issuing the first Adicts LP, Songs of Praise. March 16. Altar Bar, Strip District. 412-263-2877 or www.altarbarpittsburgh.com
"Burn Down the Mission," "Candle in the Wind," "Circle of Life"? Will rocker-turned-Vegas-fixture Elton John play your favorite song? Find out tonight when the piano-pounding crooner comes to town. March 23. Consol Energy Center, Downtown. 800-745-3000 or www.consolenergycenter.com
Sure, the Pirates are among the worst-performing teams in baseball. But the deeper the hole, the more glorious the comeback! PirateFest is the perfect time to keep hope alive -- before the season starts -- and pass on your tips to new manager Clint Hurdle. Jan. 28-30. David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. www.pirates.com
All that talk of gas at $5 a gallon shouldn't prevent you from window-shopping at the Pittsburgh International Auto Show for the fastest, shiniest, biggest new rides. Dream on, then mosey over to check out the new hybrids and electric vehicles. Vroooom. Feb. 10-13. David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. www.pittautoshow.com
Pre-Valentine's Day, learn the real nitty-gritty of coupling at this adults-only naughty dinner-and-cocktails party at the zoo, as an expert discusses how birds, bees, moose and everybody else on Noah's Ark get their mating on. Reservations -- ahem -- required. Feb. 12. Pittsburgh Zoo, Highland Park. 412-365-2544 or www.pittsburghzoo.org
Alex Pettyfer stars in I Am Number Four, a sci-fi-ish actioner about a teen with extraordinary powers on the run from folks who want to kill him. Filmed in Pittsburgh! Could he be hiding near you? Opens Feb. 18.
With staycations all the rage, why not spruce up your ... uh ... holiday home? Re-do the backyard, put in a whirlpool tub, or get one of those patio BBQ set-ups the size of a small kitchen. All your interior and exterior dreams come true at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show. March 4-13. David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. www.pghhome.com
There will be plenty of comic books and toys at the 22nd Steel City Con, but check out the line-up of TV stars making appearances: Batman! -- a.k.a Adam West; Mike Lookinland ("Bobby Brady"); Monkee Peter Tork; Yancy Butler from Witchblade; and Seinfield's "Soup Nazi." March 4-6. Monroeville Convention Center. www.steelcitycon.com
The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival returns for its fifth year, with films from China, Latin America, Africa and Europe. This year's theme is Faces of Migration, a timely issue in a world of increasingly fragmented borders. March 17-April 10. Various locations. www.cmu.edu
Spring must be near! The Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival returns for its 18th year, with a two-week slate of narrative and documentary films from around the world that highlight the Jewish experience. March 24-April 10. Various locations. www.jfilmpgh.org
You love Moraine State Park in the summer -- now dig it in the snowy season for the first annual Moraine Winterfest. A free family event with nature hikes, snow-shoe workshop, kids' crafts and a chili cook-off. Skaters and cross-country skiers should bring their gear, if ice conditions at the lake and snowfall cooperate. Sat., Jan. 22. 724-368-9185 or www.morainepreservationfund.org
It's prime time to take a stroll in Pittsburgh's newest park, Emerald View, which snakes along Mount Washington. With all those pesky leaves gone, you'll get the best views. Plus, you're still in the heart of the city and thus never far from a warm car, bus or tavern. Maps at www.mwcdc.org/projects.htm.
You need the extra calories when it's cold, so why not combine your walk with maple syrup, hot soup or merlot? Venture Outdoors organizes grub-themed hikes and many more activities every weekend. There's even one for you and your intrepid doggie. See www.ventureoutdoors.org for complete list and for reservations.
Make a snowball now, and save it in the freezer. Then, on the summer solstice, June 21, the Carnegie Science Center will accept the snowball, along with what you choose to pay, for admission. After being used as currency, snowballs can be launched into the Ohio River from the USS Requin submarine.www.carnegiesciencecenter.org
Last year's much-discussed and award-winning film Precious was adapted from Sapphire's 1997 novel Push. Tonight, the author and performance poet discusses this work -- a frank but uplifting tale of an abused teen-age girl in Harlem finding her voice -- and its issues of race, poverty and education. Feb. 7. Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org
Created as a tribute to the late autobiographical monologist, Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell weaves Gray's stories, letters and journal entries into an evening of smart and witty theater. Local actor David Conrad will join the four-person ensemble. Feb. 12. Andy Warhol Museum, North Side. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org
The New York Times suggested that Yann Martel's fable-like novel Life of Pi -- about a Hindu, Muslim and Christian adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger -- "could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life." The Canadian author, who won the Man Booker Prize for Pi, lectures tonight on dry land. March 21. Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org
Hold onto your funny hats! The Aussies of Circa -- four acrobatic clowns from Down Under -- perform 46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes. It's a kid-friendly, hour-long program, with 15 minutes set aside, presumably, for marveling. March 12-13. Byham Theater, Downtown. 412-456-6666 or www.pghkids.org
Need more circus? Check out Cirque Mechanics Boom Town, in which former Cirque du Soleil performers make a 19th-century Old West mining town their acrobatic playground. March 19. Hillman Center at Shadyside Academy, Fox Chapel. 412-968-3040 or www.thehillman.org
Ideally, this event would showcase jars of grape jelly making dazzling triple axels, but the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour features top-notch human figure skaters, including Olympic medalists Evan Lysacek and Sasha Cohen. March 26. Consol Energy Center, Downtown. 800-745-3000 or www.consolenergycenter.com