Winter Guide 2014 | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Winter Guide 2014

A selection of local happenings that should provide entertainment, edification and exercise this season

Look out, it's winter! And it's been challenging for man and monsters alike. We've learned new words like "polar vortex" and how to rock a scarf wrapped around our heads. But there's plenty more to learn — and do — locally. Below, we've compiled a selection of local happenings through March that should provide entertainment, edification and exercise.


click to enlarge "Singularity," by Brian Gonnella, at Westmoreland Museum of American Art
"Singularity," by Brian Gonnella, at Westmoreland Museum of American Art

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art has temporarily moved to new digs while the old space is being expanded. The museum is hosting month-long Pop-Up Exhibits throughout the winter. January features the work of Laurie Trok, with Sam Thorp and Brian Gonnella getting the space in February. Greensburg. 724-837-1500 or

In Dwellings, Pittsburgh-based Ryder Henry makes little worlds from what you throw away. His intricate buildings, neighborhoods and spaceships — all constructed from cardboard and other packaging — are inspired by everything from Victoriana to futuristic fantasies. Through Jan. 25. The Gallery 4, Shadyside. 412-363-5050 or

Check out tomorrow's future visual and literary artists at Art. Write. Now., a nationally touring exhibition that offers original work by winning 6th-through-12th -grade students from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Andy Warhol was one such winner in 1945, and now this exhibit will be held in the museum named for him. Feb. 5-March 2. The Andy Warhol Museum, North Side. 412-237-8300 or

One of Pittsburgh's favorite artists gets a huge solo show at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Robert Qualters: A Life is a retrospective of his paintings, prints and drawings, plus photos of some of his many public murals and site-specific installations. Feb. 7-April 20. Shadyside. 412-361-0873 or

Contrasting styles define the new two-person show Halfway to Somewhere at Pittsburgh Glass Center. Granite Calimpong, of Seattle, and Brent Rogers, of Chicago, both did six-week PGC residencies this year. But where Calimpong's work is formally simple and clean, Rogers uses imagery, lamination and more. Feb. 7-April 20. Friendship. 412-365-2145 or

Toby Atticus Fraley builds robots up to 5 feet tall out of vintage Thermoses, picnic coolers and other found objects; some of them even move a little, or light up, and they're all charming. Fraley's new exhibit at SPACE Gallery, The Secret Life of Robots, imagines robot life behind the scenes, at home. Feb. 21-April 27. Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

click to enlarge "Rockland Lake," by Maurice Brazil Prendergast, from Odyssey at Frick Art & Historical Center. - COURTESY OF THE WARNER FOUNDATION ON DISPLAY AT THE WESTERVELT WARNER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Courtesy of the Warner Foundation on display at the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art
"Rockland Lake," by Maurice Brazil Prendergast, from Odyssey at Frick Art & Historical Center.

The works in this exhibition, An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting, span much this nation's history — from the 18th century through the arrival of the 20th. Included are paintings from the American Impressionist movement, as well as the popular Hudson River School. Starts March 1. Frick Art & Historical Center, Point Breeze. 412-371-0600 or

Race is a provocative subject, and that's not a bad thing if it fosters discussion and illumination. RACE: Are We So Different? is a nationally touring exhibition that explores the experience of living with race in America, using interactive multimedia components, photographs, iconic objects and historical artifacts. Starts March 29. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Oakland. 412-622-3131 or


It's the 30th iteration of Wrestlemania this year, and not just any Lycra-clad bruiser can go. At the WWE Royal Rumble, see more than two dozen pro wrestlers compete for a spot at the Big Dance. This is a pay-per-view event, so you know there will be plenty of action — and likely, controversy. Sat., Jan. 21. Consol Energy Center, Uptown.

If it's too cold or wet to play outside, let the gang at the NFL Play 60 Training Camp show the kids how to get an hour's worth of exercise indoors. The event kicks off at the Heinz History Center with football-themed activities including: 40-yard dash, healthy-food demos and a touchdown-dance contest. Feb. 1. Strip District.

When the days are dark and gloomy, the prescription might be some controlled destruction. No country on Earth rivals America for monster trucks, and at Monster Jam, you can watch these 12-foot-tall, 10,000-pound behemoths drive over and through all kinds of obstacles. Feb. 14-16. Consol Energy Center,

Kids might not totally get the joke in The Teacher From the Black Lagoon's amusing title, but there will be plenty for them to latch on to in this hour-long musical revue. In this Theatreworks USA production, characters learn to be courageous when confronting scary things. Feb. 16-23. Various venues.

ART: stock art of campfire

Beat the winter cold, and be the star of future campfires. On this Venture Outdoors hike for kids 8-18, learn how to build a fire — from collecting wood to lighting it and, most importantly, extinguishing it properly. This is just one of many themed hikes Venture Outdoors leads during the season; see website for full list. March 1. Riverview Park.


If you've flirted with the idea of writing a memoir, let Joseph Bathanti help you get started. The Italian American Collection Scholar-in-Residence leads Where You Live: Writing About Yourself and Your Family, a workshop designed to get participants thinking about their identities vis-à-vis their ethnic heritage and memories. Jan. 25. Heinz History Center, Strip District.

click to enlarge Hilton Als at Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series
Hilton Als at Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series

Though best known as a longtime theater critic at The New Yorker — and a slashingly insightful one at that — Hilton Als is also an accomplished author and culture critic at large. His latest book is the provocative essay collection White Girls. Als gives a free talk courtesy of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. Jan. 27. Oakland. 412-624-6506 or

click to enlarge Sonia Sotomayor at Carnegie Music Hall - PHOTO COURTESY OF ELENA SEIBERT
Photo courtesy of Elena Seibert
Sonia Sotomayor at Carnegie Music Hall

Sonia Sotomayor's remarkable journey has taken her from the tough streets of the Bronx to the U.S. Supreme Court; she even presided over the New Year's Eve ball-drop in Times Square last month. She attends the Pittsburgh Arts & Lecture Series to discuss her recent memoir, My Beloved World, with University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Feb. 4. Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland.

Walter Mosley's calling card might be his dozen Easy Rawlins mysteries, like Devil in a Blue Dress. But Mosley has another 30 titles to his credit, including science fiction, and he's among our more politically outspoken writers. On the heels of the latest Rawlins book, Little Green, Mosley speaks at the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. Feb. 6. Frick Fine Arts Center, Oakland. 412-624-6506 or

Colum McCann has explored everything from New York's homeless population to Roma culture in Europe. The Ireland-born, New York-based author's 2013 novel TransAtlantic was inspired by the first trans-Atlantic flight, but ranges widely throughout history. Hear the critically hailed author at Monday Night Lectures. March 10. Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland. 412-622-8866 or


Pittsburgh Public Theater comes out singing (and laughing) with Stephen Sondheim's classic Company. "Side by Side by Side" and "The Ladies Who Lunch" are among the tunes in this groundbreaking, Manhattan-set musical comedy about a single guy, his married pals and his girlfriends. There's an 11-piece orchestra, and the lead is played by Pittsburgh native Jim Stanek. Jan. 23-Feb. 23. Downtown. 412-316-1600 or

click to enlarge Come Out Laughing at Cruze Bar
Come Out Laughing at Cruze Bar

Jason Dudey describes the Come Out Laughing comedy tour as "gay, gay-friendly and who-cares-who-you-are-or-who's-in-your-bed." At the national tour's stop at Cruze Bar, Dudey is joined by LOGO favorite Dana Goldberg and Ian Harvie, the transgender comedian featured in the concert film Ian Harvie Superhero. Jan. 24. Strip District.

Quantum Theatre takes it Downtown — specifically, to the historic, classically styled former Union National Bank — for Madagascar. It's the local premiere for work by acclaimed American playwright J.T. Rogers; the award-winning 2004 play is about three storytellers and the nature of memory. The top-shelf cast includes Helena Ruoti, Larry John Meyers and Melinda Helfrich. Jan. 30-Feb. 16. 412-362-1713 or

click to enlarge Compagnie Käfig at Byham Theater
Compagnie Käfig at Byham Theater

The New York Times calls Compagnie Käfig "one of the most innovative troupes on the experimental dance scene." The internationally touring, all-male group from Brazil starts with hip-hop dance and blends in samba and capoeira. Pittsburgh Dance Council presents performances of original works set to a score of samba and bossa nova. Feb. 1. Byham Theater, Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

Though a few productions in its 10-year history have had materially rich stagings, barebones productions revisits its namesake roots with A Steady Rain. The local premiere of Keith Huff's drama about two Chicago cops, lifelong friends whose profession threatens to tear them apart, stars David Whalen and Patrick Jordan. Feb. 13- March 2. New Hazlett Theater, North Side.

In time for Black History Month, New Horizon Theater stages Do Lord Remember Me at the Union Project. James de Jongh's play is a collage of song, movement and storytelling drawn from interviews with ex-slaves recorded in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers Project. Feb. 15-March 2. Highland Park.

If Andrew Jackson had been a misbehaving rock star, U.S. history would be a lot more like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the 2008 rock musical by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman that critics have called "sublimely raucous" and "invigorating." Point Park's Conservatory Theatre Co. has a new production. Feb. 21-March 2. Pittsburgh Playhouse, Oakland. 412-392-8000 or

Willa Cather's 1905 short story "Paul's Case" concerns a Pittsburgh boy who flees the grim Iron City for the glamour of New York; things go poorly. Paul's Case is now an opera by Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat. Pittsburgh Opera performs the local premiere in its George R. White Studio. Feb. 22-March 2. Strip District. 412-281-0912 or

The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's terrific artist-residency program presents another promising production, as internationally acclaimed choreographer Sidra Bell offers the world premiere of her latest work. Sidra Bell Dance New York performs garment at the theater. March 7 and 8. East Liberty. 412-363-3000 or


It was an interesting year for Pixies: The band went through a couple of bass players, losing Kim Deal and then firing her replacement. Now the band that changed college rock plays with Paz Lenchantin, once of A Perfect Circle; you can judge for yourself when they play live. Jan. 25. Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. 800-745-3000 or

One of last year's biggest breakout records came from Phosphorescent, the project of Matthew Houck; it's not a new band, but 2013's dreamy, persistent Muchacho put it on the map for many people. Jan. 31. Mr. Small's Theatre, Millvale. 412-821-4447 or

In the depths of winter, there's nothing like local music to warm your heart — and nothing like a crowded bar to warm the rest of you. Find both at Snow Ball, an annual all-locals show from the folks who bring you RANT Lawrenceville each summer. The Armadillos, Chrome Moses, The Cheats and many more play. Feb. 1. Cattivo, Lawrenceville. 412-687-2157

Local hip hop has benefited lately from some growing organizational support, and one factor is R.A.R.E. Nation, a music-and-art group that aims to promote local artists and educate young people. The group's Pittsburgh Sound show presents an all-Pittsburgh hip-hop bill featuring Palermo Stone, Beedie and many more. Feb. 1. Mr. Small's Theatre, Millvale. 412-821-4447 or

click to enlarge Quilt at Brillobox - PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLISON PHARMAKIS
Photo courtesy of Allison Pharmakis
Quilt at Brillobox

Somewhere between hip and hippie there's Quilt, the three-piece psych-pop group from Boston. Two years after the band's self-titled record, it releases its follow-up LP, Held in Splendor, in late January, and comes to town just after. Feb. 4. Brillobox, Bloomfield. 412-621-4900 or

Twenty-plus years after their initial success and the tragedy it brought (the band's original guitarist killed himself after being fired), Gin Blossoms have managed to persist — and bring in plenty of nostalgic Gen-Xers. Here's the secret: The songs were, and continue to be, really good. Feb. 4. Jergel's, Warrendale. 724-799-8333 or

click to enlarge Julianna Barwick at The Andy Warhol Museum - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHAWN BRACKBILL
Photo courtesy of Shawn Brackbill
Julianna Barwick at The Andy Warhol Museum

The beautiful and haunting soundscapes Julianna Barwick creates often evoke a beautiful barren tundra, which is about what Pittsburgh will probably be in February, when she stops here. Last year's Nepenthe is an aural tranquilizer; enjoy responsibly. Feb. 8. The Andy Warhol Museum, North Side. 412-237-8300 or

click to enlarge Yuna at Altar Bar
Yuna at Altar Bar

Malaysian pop singer Yuna made a splash in the United States in 2012 with her self-titled debut album and its Pharrell Williams-produced lead track, "Live Your Life." The music on 2013's Nocturnal is both personal and danceable. Feb. 12. Altar Bar, Strip District. 412-206-9719

Sometimes a double bill really packs a punch: Son Lux, the onetime Clevelander whose skills as a composer and producer keep him in demand both artistically and commercially, would be enough on his own. But adding San Fermin, the chamber-pop project of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, put this show over the top. Feb. 18. The Andy Warhol Museum, North Side. 412-237-8300 or

Hopsin keeps it pretty positive — except when it comes to other rappers. The MC, whose most recent is last year's Knock Madness, aims to be a role model, dissing drugs and alcohol, and often other rappers, including Tyler, the Creator and Soulja Boy. Feb. 20. Altar Bar, Strip District. 412-206-9719

click to enlarge Nicole Atkins at Club Café - PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER TZAI
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Tzai
Nicole Atkins at Club Café

If you grew to love Nicole Atkins as a crooner, you might be in for a surprise: The first single off the New Jersey native's new album, "Girl, You Look Amazing," is a candy-sweet dance-pop track that might have her poised for a mainstream breakthrough. Feb. 21. Club Café, South Side. 412-431-4950 or

It's been quite some time since Cibo Matto made an appearance in Pittsburgh — the '90s indie darling didn't make it here on its 2011 reunion tour. But never fear: The band that made you love an insane song about making a birthday cake is back. March 7. Club Café, South Side. 412-431-4950 or


Beautiful things can happen when a whirring chainsaw hits a big block of ice. See for yourself at the 23rd Annual Ligonier Ice Festival. These works of art exist only at freezing temperatures, so enjoy this while you can. Jan. 25 and 26. Diamond area, Ligonier.

Do your part for the economy, and buy a new car! Or at least drop a couple bucks on a ticket to the Pittsburgh International Auto Show, where you can marvel at this year's models. Cars have never been shinier, safer or more equipped with high-tech gadgets. Feb. 14-17. David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

He's the funny, smart guy in Food Network's sea of perky chatterers, and now Alton Brown is taking his act on the road. In a live performance that is equal parts comedy, food experimentation, multimedia lecture and live music, you'll laugh, learn and maybe even get picked to be Brown's "culinary assistant." Feb. 23. Benedum Center, Downtown.

A reliable sign of impending spring is the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show. This multi-day event will re-fire your home-improvement spirit as you: peruse aisles stocked with fences, tiles and windows; check out the latest in green tech for the home; and price out your dream BBQ grill and multi-headed shower. March 7-16. David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

At Berkeley at Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival
At Berkeley at Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival

At the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival, you can check out new foreign films, hear from visiting directors and join discussions at post-screening meet-ups. This year's fest, Faces of Work, will screen docs about ship dismantling and Poland's Lech Walesa, as well as Frederick Wiseman's new film about college education, At Berkeley. March 20 through April 5. Various locations.

Spring must be near! JFilm, formerly known as the Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival, returns for its 20th year, with a week's worth narrative and documentary films from around the world that highlight the Jewish experience. March 27-April 6.

The upside of all the snow we've been getting? You can use a snowball from now to buy your way into the Carnegie Science Center on June 21. Well, one snowball and whatever you choose to pay. (Snowballs will be deposited in the river.) Put one in your freezer bank, and dream of Days of Sunny Science.

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