Short List: Week of December 30 - January 6 | Featured Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Short List: Week of December 30 - January 6 


As with the Three Rivers Arts Festival, when somebody says "First Night," you largely know what's in store. Still, the 2011 edition of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's annual Downtown New Year's Eve party has some intriguing new wrinkles amidst its 50 venues and 125 events and activities. And it's not just that the crowd-pleasing, horn-driven groovemeisters Tower of Power are headlining the outdoor mainstage. On the more experimental side of things, First Night hosts what might be the local premiere of The Neo-Futurists. The Chicago-based troupe of writer-performers -- "a pretty ragtag collective," says member Megan Mercier -- is best known for Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a rapid-fire performance of 30 original plays in 60 minutes. The pieces range from monologues and sketch-like works to performance-artier pieces. Funny, provocative or poetic, the plays might cover anything from politics and personal experiences to "some social convention that really irritates us," says Mercier, one of the five-member company that hits Pittsburgh for two all-ages-appropriate shows at the O'Reilly Theater. But what else is new at First Night -- aside from the fact that the usual crowd of 35,000 or so will be swollen by tourists here for the next day's Winter Classic hockey game at Heinz Field? Well, a night of jazz at the Trust Arts Education Center includes three sets by saxophonist Tia Fuller (known for her work with Beyoncé), for one thing. And locally based master of physical theater Dan Kamin visits the August Wilson Center with a one-man show called A Cheap Evening of Expensive Theater. But while there's plenty more -- street performers, a parade, fireworks, hands-on art projects and other kid stuff -- rest assured that First Night remains a great opportunity to catch up (at a nice price) with many local favorites. Among the other performers: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Squonk Opera, dance troupe Attack Theatre and the Pittsburgh Gospel All City Choir. And a reminder: While most shows are first-come-first-served, some are vouchered, which means you need a special free pass, available for a glimpse of your First Night Button at the Box Office at Theater Square (655 Penn Ave.). Bill O'Driscoll 6 p.m.-midnight Fri., Dec. 31. Downtown. $8 ($10 at the door). 412-456-6666; complete schedule at


Thu., Dec. 30 -- Comedy

In his film roles and stand-up comedy, Harland Williams is that lovable if sarcastic lunk ... who just might go bonkers on you at any moment. With his deceptively easygoing manner and knack for bonding with an audience, Williams is a touring comedy-club favorite. The Pittsburgh Improv thinks so: It's booked him for six shows including two on New Year's Eve. Those Dec. 31 shows are special events (a $65 dinner special and a $50 countdown show), but you can catch him at regular price starting tonight. BO 8 p.m. 166 E. Bridge St., West Homestead. $20-65. 412-462-5233 or


Thu., Dec. 30 -- Rock

It's an odd mix of synthetic beats and live instrumentation, oldies samples and hip-hop lyricism, that keeps Raw Blow going. The band fronted by the charismatic T. Glitter (also of The Dirty Faces) makes music that's original, witty (in form and content) and eminently danceable. Its new single, "Purple Haze" (b/w "Bawlin'") -- on purple vinyl, no less -- drops tonight at Shadow Lounge; Daryl Fleming & the Public Domain open. Andy Mulkerin 9 p.m. 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. $5. 412-363-8277 or


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Fri., Dec. 31-- Film

Some big names took credit for ending the Cold War, but Disco and Atomic War looks back at unsung heroes who worked the frontlines in Estonia. David Hasselhoff, soft-core star Emanuelle and even the made-up J.R. Ewing: These wondrous avatars of forbidden Western entertainment, beamed in from nearby Finnish television stations, inspired youth trapped behind the Iron Curtain to herald MacGyver over Moscow. Jaak Kilmi's new documentary, playing at the Oaks Theater, depicts the destructive power of trashy entertainment -- just like they warned us! -- and how this mind-rot we take for granted became a force for liberation. Al Hoff 7:30 p.m. nightly. Also, Sun., Jan. 2, and Tue., Jan. 4. 310 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont. $8. 412-828-6322 or


Fri., Dec. 31 -- Party

The allure of the forbidden is invoked tonight at Shadow Lounge. Blind Tiger is your alternate-universe New Year's party recalling the speakeasy, that illicit but often sophisticated joint from the era when booze was banned. Performers include Phat Man Dee singing jazz; burlesque artist Foxy Moxy; and the escape artist, slackline dancer and juggler who make up the troupe Some Kind of Circus. Oh, and you gotta dress up, in costume or vintage finery. (No jeans or other casual wear allowed.) In return, organizers even promise a cigarette girl and "Prohibition-era intoxicants." Meanwhile, the odds of revenuers messing up the fun are, thankfully, quite limited. BO 9 p.m.-2 a.m. 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. $30-40. 412-363-8277 or


Sun., Jan. 2 -- Outdoors

The outdoors may get nasty this time of year, but the team at Venture Outdoors can help you keep from becoming a couch potato. Today the group hosts a Lite Day Trek at Jennings Environmental Center. Trip leader Mike Kuzar will show you around the trails and teach you a thing or two about your surroundings. And maybe the walk (at a slow pace, and less than five miles total) will be the first step toward keeping those fitness-related resolutions. There's good news for Fido, too: On this trek, dogs are welcome. AM 1 p.m. 2951 Prospect Road, Slippery Rock. $5-8. Advance registration required: 412-255-0564 or


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Sun., Jan. 2 -- Rock

Perhaps the turning of the calendar year has you feeling nostalgic. Perhaps you're thinking about where you were at the beginning of the past decade -- and perhaps the answer is: Listening to emo! If so, a jaunt to Garfield Artworks tonight might be good for you. It's there that Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) brings its brand of late-'90s, early-'00s emo (think Hot Water Music, I Hate Myself, Get Up Kids). The Michigan-based three-piece was formed around guitarist-singer Keith Latinen (it was originally his solo project) and remains a bit fluid: One member can't make it on tour, and the band lacks a bassist, so it's toting some hired guns for the trip that brings it to Pittsburgh. Tonight's show also features labelmate Annabel and locals In the Wake of Giants and His Day Has Come. AM 7 p.m. 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. All ages. $6. 412-361-2262


Mon., Jan. 3 -- Service Industry

Tending bar on New Year's Eve sounds like a huge hassle -- though likely a lucrative one. Tonight's a chance for the city's bartenders (and anyone else, actually) to whoop it up at the Bartender's Ball. Dance to the live funk-rock of The Boogie Hustlers and tunes from DJs Strobe and Nugget. The party also includes complimentary appetizers and liquor tastings from 8-10 p.m. -- just make sure you tip those bartenders. Aaron Jentzen 8 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Drive, North Side. $19.50 ($25 day of show). 412-229-LIVE or


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Tue., Jan. 4 -- Comedy

Faster than a speeding punchline, as silly as Monty Python, and with satiric spice flavoring its comedic candy, The Reduced Shakespeare Company wasn't content with abridging the works of their namesake or Hollywood, or even American history. Now the guys who brought you The Bible: The Compete Word of God (abridged) take on a really sacred topic. The Complete World of Sports (abridged) showcases the internationally known three-man troupe's physical comedy and verbal agility as they send up and take down an ESPN-style program that covers every sport ever played anywhere, from prehistory through competitive eating (not forgetting curling). "If you're a sports fan, you'll like this show," they promise. "If you're not a sport fan, you'll love this show!" The cast includes RSC veterans Reed Martin, Matt Rippy and Austin Tichenor. Pittsburgh Public Theater hosts the eight performances, starting tonight. BO 8 p.m. Shows continue through Sun., Jan. 9. O'Reilly Theater, 650 Penn Ave., Downtown. $15.75-$60.75. 412-316-1600 or


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Wed., Jan. 5 -- Stage

The 2004 stage musical Mary Poppins blends P.L. Travers' original Poppins tales with the classic 1964 Disney film, supplementing the memorable songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman with a few new tunes and some plot changes. The show, co-produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, was a hit overseas and on Broadway. Last year, the magical flying nanny took her advice about spoonfuls of sugar on a U.S. tour; now PNC Broadway Across America brings the show to the Benedum Center. Caroline Sheen, star of the original U.K. tour, dons that fetching frock coat to sing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and more for 24 shows in 19 days starting tonight. BO 7:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 23. 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $22-128. 412-456-6666 or online at


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