Short List: Jan. 11-17 | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: Jan. 11-17

Philosophical magic show Cerebral Sorcery; conductor Jukka-Pekka Seraste at the PSO; One Man Star Wars; Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities

SPOTLIGHT: Fri, Jan. 13 – Magic

Yes, it’s got card tricks, mind-reading, straitjackets, sleight-of-hand and audience participation. But David London and Francis Menotti promise that their Cerebral Sorcery is no ordinary magic show. Rather, it’s a theatrical magic production that’s also “a philosophical journey into the human mind, and the quest for understanding.”

London and Menotti premiered Cerebral Sorcery in 2001, to explore magic as philosophy — or, as London puts it, “the contemplation of mysteries, and the contemplation of things we don’t understand.” They’ve since gone on to successful solo careers. London, based in Baltimore, stages nationally touring theatrical magic shows that blend storytelling, comedy and surrealism. The Philadelphia-based Menotti performs regularly at Hollywood’s Magic Castle and in 2015 stumped Penn & Teller on their TV show Fool Us.

The Cerebral Sorcery revival, produced by Circus of Wonders, includes a four-city regional tour that stops at Downtown’s Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre space for eight shows from Jan. 13-21. The 80-minute show revolves around London and Menotti’s quest to unlock a mysterious box. Each in the series of “magical vignettes” about solving the puzzle corresponds to a separate lock on the box, and each explores some philosophical idea about how we understand reality. “We use magic in an allegorical sense” to tie the show together, says Menotti.

In short, Cerebral Sorcery promises all the razzle-dazzle of a traditional magic act, plus you go home bearing a parcel of existential conundrums (which is one reason it’s recommended for ages 16 and up). Says London, “The thinking part of the show is as important as the magic part of the show.”

London and Menotti are offering a limited number of $13 tickets for the symbolically notable Friday the 13th show. Top-shelf VIP tickets include a pre-performance close-up magic show. And you’ll save 50 percent on any general-admission or VIP ticket with the promo code “HALFOFF.”

— Bill O’Driscoll

Jan. 13-21. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $20-80.

click to enlarge Short List: Jan. 11-17
Photo courtesy of Felix Broede

Fri., Jan. 13 – Music

“I think Sibelius is a composer that you really have to have the feel for — and even if you have the feel, you have to work really hard to make it work with the orchestra,” says Jukka-Pekka Seraste. Seraste, of Finland, counts the Sebelius Medal among his multiple awards and other international acclaim as one of the leading conductors of his generation. Tonight and Sunday, he returns to Heinz Hall for the first time since 1999 to lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’ Fifth and Beethoven’s Seventh symphonies. Amani Newton 8 p.m. Also 2:30 p.m. Sun., Jan. 15. 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. $20-94. 412-392-4900 or

Fri., Jan. 13 – words

For the past 40 years, New York’s legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe has been dedicated to providing a stage for minority and underprivileged voices, whether poets, musicians, actors or writers. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 87th birthday, join Nuyorican poetry-program coordinator Mahogany L. Browne (pictured) and the cafe’s resident DJ, Jive Poetic, at the August Wilson Center for Poetry Unplugged, a night of poetry, music and social empowerment featuring nationally acclaimed artists Prentice Powell and Gabriela Garcia Medina. It’s presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. AN 8 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $15. 412-456-6666 or

Sat., Jan. 14 – Stage

Attention, Star Wars superfans: Tonight, join Charles Ross in tribute to the original trilogy as he performs all the characters, sings all the songs, and acts out all the special effects in a solo performance titled, fittingly, One-Man Star Wars. The New York Times declares that the show “ends up achieving something like the spirit of a religious revival.” Costumes are encouraged, but be advised the theater will not allow helmets or masks. The show, at the Byham Theater, is presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. AN 7 p.m. 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $25-50. 412-456-6666 or

Sat., Jan. 14 – Art

Quilt-like patterns mix with graffiti style and the silhouettes of soldiers, horses and villagers from Latin history, in the artwork of Crystal Latimer. “Yo soy Latina,” says Latimer, a locally based artist who explores hybrid identity and whose work has been shown internationally and at local galleries, the Three Rivers Arts Festival and Pittsburgh International Airport. R|EVOLVE, a new show of her paintings, drawings, collage and ceramic tile at The Gallery 4, opens tonight with a reception. BO 7-11 p.m. (free). Exhibit continues through Feb. 25. 206 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside. 412-363-5050 or

Sat., Jan. 14 – Burlesque

They call Eliza Sidecar “the Picasso of the pasties,” and tonight the Cleveland-based performer and producer is the featured guest at Chilly Nights, Warm Delights, the new show from Pittsburgh’s own Smokin’ Betties Burlesque. At Club Café, Betties members including DemDare Eyes and Gigi Coudry will perform late-night alongside special guests including such award-winners as Boom Boom Bridgette and drag king Devon Orel. BO 10:30 p.m. 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $10.

click to enlarge Short List: Jan. 11-17
Photo courtesy of Shannon McCarren

Sun., Jan. 15 – Stage

Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh’s Hot Metal Musicals Incubator project gives writers and composers a chance to show their works in progress in public — and lets the public catch free readings of nascent works. Tonight, at Charles Gray Auditorium, a cast of 15 directed by Pittsburgh CLO’s Mark Fleischer performs The Storm, with book, music and lyrics by MTAP Executive Director Stephanie Riso. Shannon McCarren (pictured) sings the role of Vera, the wife of a wealthy estate-owner in 19th-century Russia, who joins the movement to free the serfs. BO 7:30 p.m. 130 CLO Academy Way, Downtown. Free; reservations encouraged at

Mon., Jan. 16 – Festivals

If you’ve got off work or school today — and even if you don’t — there are plenty of options to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Kids and families can start as early at 10 a.m., at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, with art activities honoring Pittsburgh’s landmark Freedom Corner; a chance to read a King speech aloud from a podium; and SLB Radio’s live, day-long webcast exploring civil rights. (Activities, which continue until 5 p.m., are free with museum admission.)
  • From noon-4 p.m., The Mattress Factory museum hosts its own Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Bash; admission is free for activities including making a self-portrait and reading with author and storyteller Sydelle Pearl; creating a birthday crown; dancing to music; and crafting clay birds as part of the 1000 Birds Project. Snacks are provided.

  • Also from noon-4 p.m., stop by the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater for the 8th Annual East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day, with performances and activities. KST’s Together, We Build Community program includes activities hosted by the likes of Assemble, Big Brothers Big Sisters, BOOM Concepts, New Voices Pittsburgh and Reading Is Fundamental Pittsburgh; performers are by groups including 1HOOD, the Alumni Theater Company and Hope Academy. (Tickets are required, but admission is pay-what-makes-you-happy.)

  • From 2-7 p.m., the Union Project holds its 15th annual King Day celebration. The program, part of the Union Project’s Creative Conversation series, features workshops designed to bridge racial, economic and cultural gaps among attendees. The free event concludes with a meal.

  • Evening brings more performances. If you missed the 7 p.m. Sat., Jan. 14, iteration of the Tenth Annual Let Freedom Sing Concert (at Ebenezer Baptist Church, in the Hill District), the program repeats at 7 p.m. tonight at the Byham Theater. Let Freedom Sing blends oratory by talents, including Vanessa German, with music by The Heritage Gospel Chorale of Pittsburgh and the MLK Festival Choir, a chorus comprised of local high school, community and church choirs from the city and suburbs; there’s also dance, by the Trevor C. Dance Collective and Reed Dance II. Let Freedom Sing concerts benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, with admission pegged at a donation of $1 or more.

  • Finally, at 9 p.m., the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern hosts the 29th annual MLK benefit concert for the North Side’s Duncan and Porter homeless shelter. The show features The Knauer Brothers, Qlitterati and Midnight Ensemble, plus a special tribute to the late, great local singer, bandleader and former MLK Day benefit-show stalwart Bobby Porter, by PhatManDee, Gena and Tommy Amoeba. Admission is a suggested donation of $5-10. BO Children’s Museum: 1 Children’s Way, North Side ( Mattress Factory: 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side ( Kelly-Strayhorn: 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty ( Union Project: 801 N. Negley Ave., Highland Park ( Let Freedom Sing: Duncan and Porter benefit: 4412 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield (412-682-8611).

click to enlarge Short List: Jan. 11-17
Art by Alice Raymond

Tue., Jan. 17 – Art

BoxHeart Gallery has selected its 2017 Artist of the Year: Alice Raymond, a French-born artist who translates words into geometric drawings on reclaimed textile. Raymond’s debut solo exhibition in Pittsburgh, titled Nowhere & Now Here, opens today in BoxHeart’s main gallery. The upstairs gallery features Thresholds, by Pittsburgh-based Heather Heitzenrater, whose paintings incorporate reflective Mylar. Both artists will attend a joint opening reception at 5 p.m. Sat., Jan. 21. BO 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. 412-687-8858 or