Short List: June 18 - 25 | Featured Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: June 18 - 25

Microscopic Opera takes the Mercy Train; Conflict Kitchen does Juneteenth; Radiohead classical mashup at the PSO; and Pittsburgh's first SermonSLAM


SPOTLIGHT: Fri., June 19 — Opera

Between 1854 and 1929, the Children's Aid Society created by social reformer Charles Loring Brace shipped some 250,000 impoverished children from New York City to prospective homes elsewhere in the U.S. The "orphan train" (so-called although most of the kids weren't technically orphans, and many didn't go by rail) delivered some children to comfort and happiness, others to the dark side of foster care. It's a history made for opera, and Los Angeles-based playwright Julie Tosh and Pittsburgh-based composer Douglas Levine oblige with Mercy Train, an hour-long chamber opera commissioned by Microscopic Opera Company. Tosh's libretto alternates between 1925, when two young African-American sisters are left on a mercy train by their mother, and the present day, where two young girls who've skipped school are taking the subway to Coney Island. Levine, an accomplished composer for the stage, says his music for the show ranges from a "quasi-Americana style" to funky modern pop. It'll be played by a seven-piece band including a string quartet, conducted by Roger Zahab. The lead roles are played by two classically trained but pop-savvy adult performers, Pittsburgh favorite Anqwenique Wingfield and Emily Burns, who's currently based in Germany. (Both are pictured.) Mercy Train, directed by Kellee Van Aken, gets four performances this weekend at the New Hazlett Theater. Bill O'Driscoll Fri., June 19-Sun., June 22. 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $15-35.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Crocker

Thu., June 18 — Stage

The late Mike McAlary was a two-fisted New York City newspaper columnist with a checkered legacy. For instance, he exposed the torture by police of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, but — in columns that got him sued for libel — he also wrongly claimed that a rape victim had fabricated the crime. Lucky Guy, a 2013 play by Nora Ephron, tells McAlary's story. The Broadway production starred Tom Hanks. Little Lake Theater Company's local premiere opens tonight. It's directed by Jena Oberg and stars Greg Caridi as McAlary. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Continues through July 3. 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg. $12-20. 724-745-6300 or

Fri., June 19 — Food

Conflict Kitchen turns its spotlight from international conflict to the domestic kind. Today and tomorrow, the Schenley Plaza take-out kiosk is taken over by representatives of the African-American community to mark the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth. While past menus have highlighted cuisines from countries with which the U.S. is in conflict — Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran — Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Organizers hope that the event will encourage conversation about America's internal racial conflict. Seven chefs — both African-American and black chefs from Pittsburgh — will present a menu of traditional and contemporary soul food, struggle plates, and Afro-Caribbean cuisine. An informal discussion about Juneteenth and current African-American struggles takes place on Saturday at noon. Ashley Murray 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., June 19, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., June 20. Schenley Plaza, Oakland.

Photo courtesy of Renee Rosensteel

Fri., June 19 — Dancing

Pack comfortable shoes before you leave for work today, because Dancing in the Square is a perfect way to kick off the weekend. Each installment of this weekly free dance event, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and national charity USA Dance, has a different instructor, music and style. Today's event features instructors from Absolute Ballroom, in Larimer, as well as special guests Bill Fords and the Detroit Urban Dancers. Dancers of all ages are welcome. Joseph Peiser 5-7 p.m. Market Square, Downtown. Free. 412-566-4190 or

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Glass Center

Fri., June 19 — Art

An animal-shaped bottle (a pig?) from the third or fourth century CE. A mold-blown flask from the first century CE (pictured). A 1,700-year-old bowl. These are three of the ancient glass pieces selected from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's collection by 17 glass artists as the inspiration for new work and a show at Pittsburgh Glass Center. Out of the Archives and Into the Gallery, an exploration of history and historic artistic technique, opens with a reception tonight. BO 6-9 p.m. Exhibit continues through Sept. 13. 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship. Free. 412-365-2145 or

Image courtesy of the Heinz History Center

Sat., June 20 — Food

It's hard to believe that at one time Pittsburgh was considered the Western frontier, especially given its lack of tumbleweeds. But today and on the third Saturday of every month this summer, Fort Pitt Museum harkens to that time culinarily with its Living History: Cooking program. Re-enactors will use seasonal ingredients to prepare foods common to the diets of 18th-century Pittsburghers. Don't expect Primanti's; this demonstration will feature a bread pudding made with raisins and lemon. Living History programs are included with museum admission. JP 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Point State Park, Downtown. $3-6. 412-281-9284 or

Sat., June 20 — Energy

Every day of summer might be a celebration in the sun, but today is a celebration of the sun. Find out how you can put solar power in your home at business-advocacy group Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania's second annual Allegheny Solarfest, at the Millvale Riverfront Park, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club. This free, completely solar-powered and family-friendly event features a rock-climbing wall, face painting, live music from local artists Ben Shannon and the Beagle Brothers, and more. JP 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 70 River Front Drive, Millvale. Free.

Sat., June 20 — Words

The Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee calls tonight's event Pittsburgh's first SermonSLAM, and we know what you're thinking. But this SermonSLAM (inspired by similar events in cities around the U.S.) is nondenominational, even nonspiritual, and sermons are limited to five minutes; the theme is "loving-kindness." The host is Alan Olifson, who hosts Pittsburgh's Moth StorySLAM, and the eight invited sermonizers at nonprofit service organization Repair the World: Pittsburgh's headquarters include local Moth favorite David Montgomery. "I think people are hungry for conversation," says PAJC's Karen Hochberg. "I'd like to take the stigma away from a sermon." BO 7 p.m. 6022 Broad St., East Liberty. Free, includes refreshments.

click to enlarge ART BY MOLLY JOHNSON
Art by Molly Johnson

Sat., June 20 — Art

Everyone's favorite mug is a "work of art," but these mugs are actual works of art. Sweetwater Center for the Arts hosts an opening reception for its summer exhibition, Sips, Shots and Gulps. The group show demonstrates how even the mundane act of drinking can be an uplifting experience. These handmade vessels showcase the wide variety of styles, techniques and firing methods used in contemporary ceramics. JP 7-9 p.m. Exhibit continues through Aug. 8. 200 Broad St., Sewickley. Free. 412-741-4405 or

Tue., June 23 — Rights

Amnesty International Pittsburgh Group 39 presents Write to Witness, an event spotlighting the value of writers, journalists, poets and bloggers as witnesses to the truth. City of Asylum's Alphabet City Tent hosts readings by local poets and local writer Sarah Shotland, about her work teaching writing in jails and prisons. There'll also be readings of work by writers at risk in China, the U.K. and Russia. Other guests include Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman and Yaghoub Yadali and Israel Centeno, the two writers-at-risk (respectively, from Iran and Venezuela) whom City of Asylum is currently sheltering. BO 7-9 p.m. 318 Sampsonia Way, North Side. Free. Register at

Wed., June 24 — Music

If you thought mashups were only for DJs, think again. Acclaimed conductor Steve Hackman leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's new FUSE@PSO series at Heinz Hall, and the first installment matches Brahms' First Symphony with Radiohead's OK Computer. Hackman has performed his unique blends of classical and pop with the likes of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and his residence in Pittsburgh is a must-see for any music-lover. Each show features a happy hour from 5 p.m. JP 6:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. $25. 412-392-4900 or

Photo courtesy of Gosta Peterson

Thu., June 25 — Talk

Before Naomi Campbell or Tyra Banks become household names, there was Naomi Sims. Sims, who grew up in Pittsburgh, was the first African-American model to grace the cover of the New York Times Fashions of the Times and have major spreads in American Vogue and Bazaar. Tonight, art historian Kilolo Luckett delivers her lecture "Naomi Sims: First Black Supermodel, Art Insider, and Beauty Icon," at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater. The free talk discusses the late Sims' life and a career that saw her work with Andy Warhol and establish successful cosmetics and wig companies. JP 6:30 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. 412-622-3131 or

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