Short List: Sept. 21-27 | This Week's Top Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: Sept. 21-27

City Theatre’s puppet regime; Downtown’s fall Gallery Crawl; The Toxic Avenger sings; Penn Avenue Arts in Motion


Sat., Sept. 24 – Stage

“I don’t want to be bad,” says Jason. “Yes you do,” replies Tyrone. The fact that Tyrone is teen-age Jason’s very own orange hand puppet, with button eyes and a shock of maroon hair, only gooses this brief but pivotal exchange in Robert Askins’ dark comedy Hand to God. The uproarious 2011 play, which became an unlikely and critically acclaimed Broadway hit, makes its Pittsburgh premiere at City Theatre this week. It’s set in a puppet ministry in a Lutheran church in suburban Texas. Jason’s mom, recent widow Margery, is losing control of the class when Tyrone, who talks as saltily as an inmate on the yard, takes over timid Jason’s left hand, with sex and subverting authority on his cotton-batting mind.

Nick LaMedica, the boyish New York-based actor who plays Jason/Tyrone, has been working overtime to master what’s effectively two roles in one body, a simultaneous Jekyll and Hyde. “I usually play all these sweet nice guys. So it’s fun to be rude, and brash, and aggressive,” says LaMedica. Margery is played by Pittsburgh-based actor Lisa Velten Smith, who’s known for dramatic roles but says she’s drawn to characters who are “a little off balance.” (Still-grieving Margery gets hit on by Pastor Greg, and come on to by another teenager in her charge.) The production, directed by Tracy Brigden, also stars Maggie Carr, Michael Greer and Tim McGreever.

Yet for all its manic energy and undeniable laughs, Hand to God is no farce: Playwright Askins grew up in Texas, where his mother ran a Christian puppet ministry, and his father died when he was a teenager. Smith notes how the play emphasizes that both Margery and Jason are still processing the death of her husband. “I think it’s this really beautiful exploration of grief” and of what happens when you try to ignore it, she says. Bill O’Driscoll 5:30 and 9 p.m. Sat., Sept. 24. Continues through Oct. 16. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. $15-69. 412-431-2489 or

Thu., Sept. 22 – Film

Hosted by Pennsylvania Resources Council and Allegheny CleanWays, the nation’s biggest environmental film festival brings its national tour to Pittsburgh. Attempting to save the earth one short film at a time by showcasing films with an eco-friendly worldview, the second annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival takes place tonight at the Harris Theater, in partnership with the Re:NEW Festival. There’s a second screening on Sept. 24, at Dormont’s Hollywood Theater. Ian Flanagan 6:30 p.m. (809 Liberty Ave., Downtown). Also 6 p.m. Sat., Sept. 24 (1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont). $15. 412-488-7490 x105 or

click to enlarge Short List: Sept. 21-27
Photo courtesy of Archie Carpenter

Thu., Sept. 22 – Stage

There have been other rock musicals about superheroes, of course, but The Toxic Avenger is the only comedic rock musical about a mutant superhero born of New Jersey’s troubles with hazardous waste. The eponymous 1984 cult-favorite film was adapted for the stage in 2009; the show, by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, ended up with strong reviews and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. CLO Cabaret has the Pittsburgh-premiere production, with Evan Ruggiero (pictured) in the title role as nerd turned hero-monster. The first performance is tonight. Bill O’Driscoll 7:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. 237 Seventh St., Downtown. $42-59.75.

Thu., Sept. 22 – Jazz and Poetry

City of Asylum’s month of free evenings blending jazz and poetry continue with some especially notable guests. Tonight, readers include Kwame Dawes, the prolific poet, novelist and writer who grew up in Jamaica, and Tuhin Das, the Bangladeshi poet and activist who’s now a City of Asylum writer-in-residence; they’re joined by Pittsburgh’s Tony Campbell Quartet, for performances separately and together. Tomorrow, sets of jazz by local icons Roger Humphries and RH Factor alternate with jazz-poetry collaborations featuring Richard Blanco — whom you’ll recall as the 2012 presidential-inaugural poet — and Finnish poet Henriikka Tavi. The performances will be at the City of Asylum tent. BO 7:30 p.m. Blanco/Humphries program: 7:30 p.m. Fri., Sept. 23. 318 Sampsonia Way, North Side. Free with RSVP at

click to enlarge Short List: Sept. 21-27
Photo courtesy of Paul Gilmore/NBC

Fri., Sept. 23 – Exhibit

Before being donned for Broadway shows in 2017, Costumes of The Wiz Live! – from last year’s popular NBC adaptation of the 1975 musical The Wiz! – offers an exclusive opportunity to see the design work of Tony Award winner Paul Tazewell. Coordinated by FashionAFRICANA and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, this multimedia exhibition also features set pieces and drawings reinterpreting the soul/R&B-inspired version of Frank Baum’s tale. Starting today, the exhibit at the August Wilson Center opens to the public as part of the Trust’s fall Gallery Crawl. Ian Flanagan 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Exhibit continues through Nov. 30. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. 412-471-6070 or

click to enlarge Short List: Sept. 21-27
Art by Martha Rial

Fri., Sept. 23 – Art

Two new photography exhibits are among the highlights of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s fall Gallery Crawl. At 937 Liberty Gallery is In Uganda, a School to Call Home, Pittsburgh-based Pulitzer-winner Martha Rial’s exhibit documenting the efforts of two Ugandans to empower children living in extreme poverty. Closer to home are the images in OpticVoices, an exhibit at the August Wilson Center, curated by Emmy-winning, Pittsburgh-based broadcast producer Emmai Alaquiva, depicting scenes from the Black Lives Matter movement here. Also opening tonight in the Wilson Center is From MLK to March: Civil Rights in Comics and Cartoons, a ToonSeum-organized exhibit spotlighting comics and editorial cartoons from the Civil Rights era, as well as a new graphic novel about famed activist and U.S. Congressman John Lewis. Elsewhere, the free Crawl’s lineup of performances and exhibits in some two dozen Downtown venues includes data.matrix, a new show at Wood Street Galleries by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda; the start of weekend-long pop-up artist market CSA PGH Small Mall, at SPACE Gallery; and several exhibits from the ongoing Re:NEW Festival for art incorporating creative reuse and transformation. Post-Crawl, ticketed CrawlAfterDark happenings include a live audiovisual performance by Ikeda; a screening of John Waters’ 1970 cult classic Multiple Maniacs; and improv at Arcade Comedy Theater. BO 5:30-10 p.m. Free. (CrawlAfterDark begins at 10 p.m.) Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

Fri., Sept. 23 – Music

Resonance Works begins its first season with a program entitled RE: Rediscover, Renew, Reinvent. The program blends the talents of the Resonance Chamber Orchestra with those of baroque flutist Stephen Schultz, pianist Uliana Kozhevnikova and the “rock-star cellists” of the group Cello Fury. Works include compositions by Vivaldi, Stravinsky and Pittsburgh-native composer Nancy Galbraith, whose two pieces were written especially for Schultz’s renowned abilities. There are two performances, tonight and tomorrow, both at Shadyside’s Third Presbyterian Church. IF 8 p.m. Also 3 p.m. Sat., Sept. 25. 5701 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. $15-35. 412-501-3330 or

Sat., Sept. 24 – Art

Grassroots arts festival Penn Ave Arts in Motion celebrates its fifth year. This free community day, organized by Most Wanted Fine Art gallery, includes live music and dance, a puppet show, arts and crafts activities, food and more. The “more” is highlighted by the Pittsburgh Art Car Festival, with proud owners gathering on the corner of Winebiddle and Penn to show off their tricked-out, painted over and otherwise inventively decorated rides of all shapes and sizes. Other participants include Assemble space for arts and tech, and the Carnegie Library of East Liberty. BO Noon-5 p.m. Garfield. Free.

click to enlarge Short List: Sept. 21-27
Photo courtesy of Venture Outdoors

Mon., Sept. 26 – Outdoors

Before the season’s slowly growing chill intervenes, Kayak Pittsburgh has one last opportunity this year to learn how to paddle on Pittsburgh’s rivers. The Beginner Paddle program — for those 12 and older, no experience required — is easy to participate in. All equipment and instructions are provided. Taking place tonight at its North Side location, beneath the Clemente Bridge, the program is perfect for anyone looking to extend the summer fun a little longer and get a picturesque perspective of the Pittsburgh skyline. IF 6 p.m. North Side. $22-29. 412-255-0564 or

Thu., Sept. 29 – Stage

Lesbian desire, transgender experience and more are all fair game in Drama Queens!, a two-day feminist performance-art event at Carnegie Mellon University. The program, organized through CMU’s Center for the Arts in Society, features six visiting artists whose disciplines range from writing to theater and comedy. Tonight’s stage showcase includes three artists with connections to the lively 1980s New York scene — Holly Hughes, Deb Margolin and Carmelita Tropicana —  alongside three contemporary artists: comedian Erin Markey, internationally known comic and performer Desiree Burch (pictured), and Becca Blackwell, a trans actor and performer. Tonight’s show, at the Rauh Studio Theater, is followed tomorrow by a panel discussion. BO 6:30 pm. Purnell Center, CMU campus, Oakland. Panel discussion: noon, Fri., Sept. 30. Free with ticket, available at Purnell Center box office starting Sept. 26.