Short List: Nov 9-16 | This Week's Top Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: Nov 9-16

PigPen Theatre Co. returns home; D.L. Hughley; philosopher Slavoj Žižek; touring The Color Purple revival

Short List: Nov 9-16
Photo courtesy of Jenny Anderson

SPOTLIGHT: Sat., Nov. 11 - Stage

PigPen Theatre Co. was formed 10 years ago by seven Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama students who blended traditional theater with shadow puppetry, physical puppetry and live music. While yet students, they twice played FringeNYC (winning awards both times), and after graduation they moved together to New York. In 2012, with help from FringeNYC festival administrator Britt Lafield, their play The Old Man and the Old Moon debuted off Broadway. The “new musical folktale” (which grew out of a sophomore-year production at CMU) also had critically acclaimed productions in cities including Chicago, Boston and San Diego. The Boston Herald called PigPen “a phenomenon”; wrote the New York Times, “Their versatility is delightful to watch. Their hard work seems effortless.”

Old Man tells the fable-like story, set in ancient times, of the fellow who keeps the moon filled with light, and who goes on an epic quest to find his missing wife. The performers — Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Custis Gillen, Ryan Melia, Matt Nuernberg, Arya Shahi and Dan Weschler — play multiple roles, work the puppets, and contribute vocals and instrumentation in a neo-Americana style on accordion, guitar, banjo, violin and upright piano. PigPen is also, in fact, a working band, with national tours and two albums (including the recent Whole Sun) to its credit. The band has gigged in Pittsburgh, but City Theatre’s production — co-directed by PigPen and longtime collaborator Stuart Carden — will be the theater troupe’s first real production in the town where it was born. “I feel like there’ll be a little pressure, about old teachers showing up,” quips Nuernberg, reached by phone last week after rehearsal. 

While it’s kid-friendly, Old Man is not “children’s theater,” but its highly theatrical approach (including live sound effects) is designed to engage the audience in a world that’s largely imagined. “It’s a very inspiring show,” says Nuernberg. “The reason is, you are doing as much of the work as we are.”

— Bill O’Driscoll

Nov. 11-Dec. 3. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. $15-61. 412-431-2489 or

Short List: Nov 9-16
Photo courtesy of John Altdorfer

Thu., Nov. 9 – Stage

Catherine tells Heathcliff where to shove it, and Elizabeth Bennett gives Mr. Darcy a piece of her mind in You on the Moors Now, a 2015 play making its local premiere at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. As directed by Sheila McKenna for Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company, Jaclyn Backhaus’ work re-imagines beloved characters from novels by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Louisa May Alcott as contemporary feminists who reject the men in their lives in order to find their true identity. Amanda Reed 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 3. 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. $10-24. 412-392-8000 or

Thu., Nov. 9 – Stage

The Humans, Stephen Karam’s 2016 Tony-winner for Best Play, makes its local premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater. The acclaimed comedic drama follows Brigid and Richard, a young unmarried couple in New York’s Chinatown, as they host her Catholic family from Scranton, Pa., for Thanksgiving. (Karam hails from Scranton.) But the couple and mom, dad, grandma Momo and Brigid’s older sister are in for an unexpectedly eerie holiday. Arash Mokhtar (pictured) and Valeri Mudek head the cast, directed by longtime Public favorite Pamela Berlin. The first performance is tonight. Bill O’Driscoll 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 10. 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. $15.75-58. 412-316-1600 or

Short List: Nov 9-16
Photo courtesy of Shannon McCollum

Fri., Nov. 10 – Comedy

D.L. Hughley brings his comedy from screen to stage at the Pittsburgh Improv. Ranked alongside the top contemporary comedians, Hughley gained famed as the original host of BET’s 1992 standup comedy show ComicView, and currently hosts his own late-night talk show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, on CNN. He is also the author of two humor books: I Want You to Shut the F*ck Up and Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years. The first of his five shows here is tonight. AR 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Continues through Sun., Nov. 12. 166 E. Bridge St., West Homestead. $35-60. 412-462-5233 or

Fri., Nov. 10 – Stage

Los Angeles-based musician, actor, poet and educator Dahlak Brathwaite takes the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater stage this weekend with Spiritrials, a personal story turned hip-hop drama. Accompanied by DJ Dion Decibels, Brathwaite chronicles the journey of a nameless narrator facing criminalization and stigmatization in a broken justice system. Brathwaite has performed on the Tavis Smiley radio show and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. AR 8 p.m. Also 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Pay what you want. 412-363-3000 or

Sat., Nov. 11 – Art

Smokestack Dada, we think you’ll agree, is a pretty good name for an art exhibition. And it’s the one attached to Robert Villamagna’s new show at Gallery on 43rd Street. The Wheeling, W.Va.-based artist makes whimsically wry collages and assemblages, often incorporating vintage metal children’s games and toys, product packaging, and commercial signage. “The flea market is my palette,” writes the former steel-mill worker. The exhibit’s opening reception is this afternoon. BO 3-6 p.m. (free). Exhibit continues through Dec. 31. 187 43rd St., Lawrenceville. 412-683-6488 or

Short List: Nov 9-16
Art by Dale Schmitt

Sat., Nov. 11 – Art

Moments and Souls celebrates its opening reception tonight at Percolate Art Space, Gallery and Create Laboratory. The exhibition features the works of Richard Burke and Dale Schmitt, photographers who met as teacher and student at the Ivy School of Professional Art. Although both take people as their subjects, Burke’s shots are decisive, while Schmitt’s are deliberate. Tonight, you can peruse the artwork, buy the artwork, take advantage of the light refreshments or chat with either artist. AR 6:30 p.m. (free). 317 S. Trenton Ave., Wilkinsburg. 412-477-4540 or (“moments and souls”)

Sat., Nov. 11 – Talk

Internationally famed Slovenian philosopher and social critic Slavoj Žižek and his colleague in philosophy Alenka Zupančič make a rare Pittsburgh appearance to ask,  Why Is Sexual Difference Relevant for Philosophy? The event, at Carnegie Lecture Hall, is part of the Carnegie Museums’ cross-disciplinary Nexus initiative; Carnegie Nexus senior manager Edith Doron says the philosophers, both known for their accessibility and engagement with popular culture, will address the surprisingly complicated question posed by the title of Zupančič’s new book, What Is Sex? Expect a lively talk about, as Doron puts it, a notion of a sexuality that doesn’t describe one’s identity, but disrupts it instead. BO 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $5-10. 412-622-3288 or

Sun., Nov. 12 – Talk

Mona Chalabi, a London-born, New York City-based data editor at The Guardian U.S., speaks today at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. Chalabi’s work in data visualization — placing numbers into a visual context — helps people find and analyze the data they need to make informed decisions about their lives. She has written for the BBC, National Geographic, Channel 4 and VICE, and was a news writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site. Chalabi is also one-half of the team that created the Emmy-nominated video series Vagina Dispatches. AR 4 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. 412-622-3114 or

Mon., Nov. 13 – Stage

One of the top literary talents Pittsburgh has produced returns for two events this week. John Edgar Wideman, who grew up in Homewood and whose outstanding works include Brothers and Keepers and The Homewood Trilogy, visits the Carnegie Library’s Homewood branch today for A Community Conversation with John Wideman, sponsored by the United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh. On Wednesday, Wideman (who’s now based in New York City) is back at the library for a free screening of In Black and White, a two-part film that examines the writer’s legacy alongside that of his contemporary, the late, Pulitzer-winning Pittsburgh-born playwright August Wilson. The event is hosted by the Heinz History Center’s African American Program. BO Community Conversation: 3-5 p.m. ( Film: 5:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 15 ( 7101 Hamilton Ave., Homewood

Short List: Nov 9-16
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy
Tue., Nov. 14 – Stage

That widely acclaimed, Tony-winning 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple is on the road in a touring version hitting the Benedum Center for eight performances. Alice Walker’s novel inspired the 2005 musical about love, suffering and sisterhood among a group of African-American women in the South in the first half of the 20th century. The show, with its book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis, opens tonight courtesy of PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh. BO 7:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19. 237 Seventh St., Downtown. $30-98.

Short List: Nov 9-16
Photo courtesy of Judith Vollmer

Tue., Nov. 14 - Words

Poets Maggie Anderson and Judith Vollmer read tonight at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium as part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. Anderson, who lives in North Carolina, has earned fellowships including two from the National Endowment for the Arts. She just released her fifth collection, Dear All. Pittsburgh-based Vollmer (pictured) has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her five books include The Apollonia Poems, winner of the Four Lakes Poetry Prize of the University of Wisconsin Press. AR 8:30 p.m. 650 Schenley Drive, Oakland. Free. 412-624-6508 or

Enjoy Wrestling at TacoMania
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Enjoy Wrestling at TacoMania

By Mars Johnson