Short List: Dec. 7 - 14 | Featured Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: Dec. 7 - 14

Nathan James’ one-man Growing Pains; Midnight Radio tells A Christmas Story; Second Saturdays finale; Phat Man Dee and Liz Berlin’s Social Justice Disco

Nathan James moved to New York City in 2012. Today, the Pittsburgh-native actor and Pitt grad is getting roles like that of Billy Crystal’s drinking buddy in the in-production comedy film We Are Unsatisfied. James is also teaching — screenwriting at HBO, acting at Princeton University — and writing: his monologue “Superiority Fantasy” recently made headlines in Portland, Ore. The monologue is part of Hands Up: 7 Playwrights 7 Testaments, a touring set of one-acts written in response to police shootings of black men. A July 2016 performance by African-American actor Alonzo Chadwick led to an unexpected dialogue between Chadwick and veteran Portland Police Capt. Michael Crebs. Crebs told news site Oregon Live that James’ play had helped him understand why African-Americans fear police. “It really touched my heart,” Crebs said.

That’s a hard act to follow. But James will try on Dec. 8 and 9 when he returns to Pittsburgh with a revamped version of Growing Pains, his potent one-man show about coming of age in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, as part of the hip-hop generation. It debuted 10 years ago, at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, and he performed it here again in 2013, at the August Wilson Center, site of this week’s performances. The 75-minute blend of poetry, monologue and multimedia has “changed from being a bunch of different [characters] to being a story,” says James, reached by phone. He plays characters including a man who gave him unhealthy advice about recovering from heartbreak, and a gangster rapper named Venom. Another scene links the 1995 KKK rally here to James’ great-great uncle Terry, who fled slavery in North Carolina. James has performed Growing Pains at venues including New York’s United Solo Theatre Festival. Now he’s bringing it back somewhere he doesn’t have to define the Strip District, or explicate Steelers fandom. “It’s a very, very Pittburgh show,” he says. “This place made me who I am”

— Bill O’Driscoll

8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 8, and 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 9. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $20.

Image from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft
Image from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft

Thu., Dec. 7 – Talk

Debórah Dwork speaks on “Raising Their Voices: Children’s Resistance through Diary Writing and Song” tonight at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. The lecture, co-presented by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and Pitt’s Jewish Studies program, focuses on children’s voices and creativity as a form of resistance during the Holocaust. Dwork teaches Holocaust history at Clark University and is a scholar-in-residence at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. Amanda Reed 7 p.m. 650 Schenley Drive, Oakland. $18 (free for students; $36 includes private reception). 412-681-8000 or

Photo courtesy of Handerson Gomes

Thu., Dec. 7 – Stage

You knew it was coming: Midnight Radio, the Bricolage Production Company series that performs old-school radio plays live, follows its holiday stagings of It’s A Wonderful Life (2014) and Yinz’r Scrooged (2015) with A Christmas Story. Philip Grecian’s comedy is based on the beloved 1983 film about 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, his family, and his longing for a certain air rifle. The voice-and-sound-effects cast, including Tony Bingham, Tami Dixon and Monteze Freeland, is augmented by live music from Cello Fury. The first performance is tonight. Bill O’Driscoll 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $25-35.

Photo courtesy of Steven Pascoe

Thu., Dec. 7 – Stage

Celebrate the holiday season with a little laughter. Tonight at Carnegie Stage is the Pittsburgh premiere of The Carols, an original musical comedy by Jennifer Childs and Pittsburgh’s Monica Stephenson. It’s December 1944, and three singing sisters, an out-of-work comic, a pianist and a curmudgeonly landlady gather at the VFW to stage the annual performance of A Christmas Carol, which must go on without the men. AR 8 p.m. Continues through Sun., Dec. 17. 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. $5-30. 724-873-3576 or

Photo courtesy of Steven Pascoe

Fri., Dec. 8 - Con

The Sangawa Project, the region’s premiere Japanese pop-culture event for adults, returns today for its seventh year at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center in Green Tree. Presented by the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society, the three-day convention lets fans 18 and older enjoy cosplay, a costume battle, a gaming room, panel talks and more. Special guests include Colleen Clinkenbeard, a voice actor and director known for animes like Kid Gohan, and Robert McCollum, who voices Reiner in Attack on Titan. AR 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Continues through Sun., Dec. 10. 500 Mansfield Ave., Green Tree. $40.

Art by Aaron Coleman

Fri., Dec. 8 – Art

Artists Image Resources opens one of its biggest shows of the year. PRINTWORK is a national juried exhibition featuring nearly 50 artists from two dozen states, including local talents Matthew Diclemente, Kellie Hames and Stephanie Taylor. There’s also a featured solo exhibition of works by Aaron S. Coleman, an Arizona-based artist whose work addresses such issues as police brutality, racial discrimination and global warming. The juror is West Virginia University art professor and nationally exhibited artist Joseph Lupo. The reception is tonight. BO Reception: 6-8 p.m. (free). Exhibit continues through Feb. 4. 518 Foreland St., North Side. 412-321-8664 or

Fri., Dec. 8 – Comedy

Stewart Huff brings his socially conscious comedy to Pittsburgh at Plate & Bowl restaurant. Huff, who has toured nationally for over 20 years, is known for highlighting society’s shortfalls with snark and a sarcastic Southern drawl. He has performed at the Orlando Fringe Comedy Festival and the Aspen Comedy Festival, and has been featured on NPR and HBO. Also performing tonight are comedians Krish Mohan and Pittsburgh-based Zach Funk. AR 7 p.m. 5409 Bryant St., Highland Park. $8-$10. 412-404-7573 or (“plate & bowl”).

Photo courtesy of Carton/Fuyuki Shimazu

Fri., Dec. 8 – Comedy

Sean Conroy, a founding member of esteemed Upright Citizens Brigade house team The Swarm, brings his acerbic comedy tonight to Steel City Improv Theater. His new standup show, The World’s Smallest Giant, covers everything from fistfights to “Showtime”-era Lakers forward Kurt Rambis. Conroy is also a regular in UCB’s flagship ASSSSCAT show and is head writer for Adult Swim’s Mr. Pickles. Jordan Moore and local favorite Anne Casper open. AR 8 p.m. 5950 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. $10. 412-404-2695 or

Photo courtesy of Carton/Fuyuki Shimazu

Sat., Dec. 9 – Crafts

Join Carton Wallet today at the Ace Hotel for a workshop on producing pen cases, wallets and business-card cases from corrugated cardboard found and salvaged in Pittsburgh. Carton, an online retailer based in Japan, was founded in 2009 by Fuyuki Shimazu, who creates the brightly colored creations with cardboard sourced from more than 20 countries. AR 11 a.m. 120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty. Free with RSVP. 412-361-3300 or

Art by Joe Wos

Sat., Dec. 9 – Games

Nationally syndicated Pittsburgh-based cartoonist Joe Wos is touring regionally with his new book for puzzle-lovers of all ages, Myths and Monsters. The book’s 50 colorful, solvable mazes incorporate such playful elements as Bigfoot’s feet, the Cyclops’ eye, and the kraken’s tentacles. Wos, whose hand-drawn mazes have received international attention, signs and sketches in copies of his books today, at the Monroeville Mall Barnes & Noble, and Sunday, at Heinz History Center. Sunday’s event includes the relaunch of his 2015 picture book The Three Little Pigsburghers, as told in Pittsburghese. BO Noon-2 p.m (Monroeville Mall; Also 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun., Dec. 10 (1212 Smallman St., Strip District; Free

Sat., Dec. 9  - Words

After five years, Versify is ending its run as a showcase for local poetry talent. But organizer and poet Robert Walicki wants to go out with a rising inflection. The Versify Grand Finale Reading features Krista Cox, John Fantin, Brianne Griffith, RB Mertz and Adriana Ramirez reading for one last time at White Whale Bookstore. BO 7 p.m. 4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Free. (“versify finale”)

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Aryeh Wayne

Sat., Dec. 9 - Dance

For a decade, The Pillow Project has presented Second Saturdays, a monthly all-night “jazz happening” combining multimedia with improvised music and movement in the intimate, lounge-style confines of the loft-like Space Upstairs. Tonight, Pillow Project co-conspirators Pearlann Porter and John Lambert wrap the series with one last event, featuring resident musician PJ Roduta, guest drummer Dave Throckmorton and resident movement artists. So visit tonight — there’s also a food truck and free hot cider — but fear not, jazz-happening fans: Porter promises a new series, titled Sessions, come spring. BO 8 p.m.-2 a.m. 214 N. Lexington Ave., Point Breeze. $10 suggested donation. www.thespaceupstairs.orgSat., Dec. 9

Thu., Dec. 14 – Music

Grooves with a purpose sound as local vocalists Liz Berlin (of Rusted Root) and Phat Man Dee present Shine the Light with Social Justice Disco. It’s the premiere performance of the project linked to Social Justice Disco: Songs to Fight Fascists By, their forthcoming album of protest music you can dance to. Tonight’s concert blends jazz, rock, gospel, poetry, dance, hip hop, and disco, with special guests including Pastor Deryck Tines and the Lemington Gospel Chorale, poet Christina Springer, and burlesque performer Lita D’Vargas. Original tunes like “Fourth Reich Arising” join covers including “I Will Survive” and “Ball of Confusion.” The show, at the Jewish Community Center’s Katz Theater, spotlights the JCC’s new Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement. BO 7 p.m. 5738 Darlington Ave., Squirrel Hill. $10-25 (13 and older).

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