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Short List: Jan 18-24

The Royale at City Theatre; Downtown’s winter Gallery Crawl; Pittsburgh Opera’s Richard the Lionheart; Confidential Musical Theater Project

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SPOTLIGHT: Sat., Jan. 21 – Stage

“A lot of boxing stories are about how people box. I wanted to tell a story about why they box,” says Marco Ramirez of his 2015 play The Royale. “One of the reasons that the play has had this wonderful life is because it’s not really about the mechanics of boxing. We all know what it’s like to fight for something we believe in.” 

The Royale, which opens Jan. 21 at City Theatre, centers on Jay Jackson, an African-American boxer who pursues the heavyweight championship in the early 20th century despite the realities of Jim Crow — and the possible repercussions from beating a white athlete. Jay’s story was inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, who won the championship in 1910. 

Ramirez, an accomplished playwright whose writing and producing credits for TV include Orange Is the New Black and Daredevil, didn’t initially intend to write a play about race. “I knew I wanted to write a play about boxing,” he says by phone. “I didn’t know exactly what time period I was going to land in. I realized that what really interested me was the percussive elements, the bare-bones theater elements. It made the most sense when I was looking at stuff from the Jack Johnson era.” 

Those percussive elements helped earn the show acclaim during its run at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater. Instead of traditional fight choreography, actors simulate pugilism with body percussion. Ramirez says he wrote the play with that element in mind. “Boxing is so based on improvisation that you’ll always be able to tell when it’s fake. I wanted to approach it from that dance element.”

That’s an element that can’t be reproduced on screen. “I always wanted it to be a play that could only be experienced in the flesh. A theater experience should feel like going to see a band live — you should get something out of it that you couldn’t get listening at home.”

— Amani Newton

Sat., Jan. 21-Feb. 12. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. $15-59. 412-431-2489 or www.citytheatrecompany.org

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Thu., Jan. 19 – Screen

In recent years, state governments have been hacking away at abortion rights, imposing legal restrictions on providers not faced by other medical professionals. Dawn Porter’s new feature-length documentary Trapped follows clinic workers and lawyers who are fighting to keep abortion safe and legal for American women. Tonight’s free screening at Chatham University, part of the Just Films series, is followed by a panel discussion featuring health-care providers and other experts. Bill O’Driscoll 6:30 p.m. Eddy Theater, Chatham campus, Shadyside. Free. www.justfilmspgh.org

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Thu., Jan. 19 – Words

Suzanne Rivecca appeared on the scene with Death Is Not an Option, a 2010 story collection that won multiple awards and honors, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rome Prize in Literature. Her latest fiction project draws on her decade of experience working with people in homelessness and poverty in San Francisco. Rivecca visits Alphabet City for a free reading tonight. BO 8 p.m. 40 W. North Ave., North Side. Free. 412-323-0278 or www.alphabetcity.org

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE PITTSBURGH CULTURAL TRUST
  • Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Fri., Jan. 20 – Art

Winter — which of course you have barely noticed anyway — is officially one-third over. Celebrate with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s quarterly Gallery Crawl. The free event includes art exhibits, live music and more at about 20 Downtown venues. Wood Street Galleries, for instance, opens Permutations of Light, featuring the U.S. debuts of two artists: Canada’s David Spriggs and Amsterdam-based Matthijs Munnik, both with light-based installations (pictured). Shaw Galleries has A Monk’s Numiosum, with surrealist paintings by Latrobe-based Benedictine monk Father Robert Keffer. Future Tenant opens For, Fore, Four, an exhibit exploring ordered systems. And the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s gallery presents Parallel Mutation, curated by comics artist Juan José Fernández, featuring original art and more by 12 local comics makers. Elsewhere, at the Trust Arts Education Center, attractions include improv music and comedy from Looking Deep Productions. Also, also check out the craft vendors at the Winter Night Market (925 Liberty Ave.), and live music at the Backstage Bar. Later on, a special edition of the Crawl After Dark includes two ticketed events: the Pittsburgh debut of Portland, Ore.-based soul singer and composer Jarrod Lawson (9 p.m., at the August Wilson Center, $25) and Comedy Royale, an improv contest with audience judging at Arcade Comedy Theater (10 p.m., $7-12). BO 5:30-10 p.m. Downtown. Free. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

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Fri., Jan. 20 – Dance

A hit at the 2015 Edinburgh festival, Igor and Moreno’s Idiot-Syncrasy weaves together modern dance, performance art, and traditional Sardinian and Basque folk songs into one high-energy performance. The Guardian promises that “around 30 minutes into the show, everyone is loving Igor and Moreno, and some of the audience are cheering them along. But different tensions and nuances also filter into the material.” Back home, the U.K.-based troupe’s show was nominated for the National Dance Awards; tonight and tomorrow, it’s part of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s World Stage Series. Amani Newton 7 p.m. Also 7 p.m. Sat., Jan. 21. KST Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship. Admission is pay-what-makes-you-happy. 412-363-3000 or www.kelly-strayhorn.org

Fri., jan. 20 - Comedy

Seventeen local comics — nearly two for each amendment in the Bill of Rights — will turn out tonight for What a Joke, at Lawrenceville’s Unplanned Comedy Theater. It’s Pittsburgh’s iteration of this week’s 25-city national comedy fundraiser for the ACLU. (If you have to ask why the ACLU can use a fundraiser, you probably don’t know what’s up in D.C. this weekend.) Talent joining host Mike Sasson includes Ed Bailey, Norlex Belma, Samantha Bentley, Ian Insect, Terry Jones, Molly Sharrow, Alex Stypula, John Dick Winters and Mike Wysocki. The event is BYOB, with adult content, but under-21s are welcome — because they need civil liberties, too. BO 8 p.m. 5601 Butler St., Lawrenceville (second floor). $15. www.whatajokefest.com

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Sat., Jan. 21 – Exhibit

They don’t fly much, but the butterflies in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s collection have long comprised one of its most popular exhibits. Starting today, a new show teaches about butterflies in a more interactive way. Amazing Butterflies includes everything from a “butterfly zipline” (to simulate flight) and a giant caterpillar entry tunnel to a giant maze and games about nectar and lifecycles. The show’s up till spring — just in time to see real butterflies. BO 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Exhibit continues through April 23. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $11.95-19.95 (free for kids under 2). 412-622-3131 or www.carnegiemnh.org

Sat., Jan. 21 - Stage

The Confidential Musical Theater Project only has one rule: “Don’t stop – no matter what.” The Project, which operates in 14 cities, has a Pittsburgh iteration. Tonight, watch as some gutsy actors and musicians, with scant preparation, stage a mystery musical. Individual cast members get the script for a rarely performed musical ahead of time, but must keep it secret; only an hour before show time do they meet the rest of the cast. There are no auditions, and roles are assigned without regard to age, race, body type, gender or Actors’ Equity status. Tonight’s show will be performed with live musical accompaniment at the Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center. AN 7:30 p.m. 1000 Madison Ave., North Side. $25. 412-322-2224 or eventbrite.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID BACHMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo courtesy of David Bachman Photography

Sat., Jan. 21 – Opera

Pittsburgh Opera general director Christopher Hahn expands the company’s repertoire with another baroque work, Handel’s Richard the Lionheart. The difficulty in offering an authentic performance of this kind is high; Hahn is presenting the experience as it may have been enjoyed when first performed in the 1720s. The Chatham Baroque ensemble accompanies the orchestra with a harpsichordist, and the role of King Richard, originally written for a castrato, will be performed by mezzo-soprano Leah de Guyl. Crystal Manich provides the stage direction; there are four performances at CAPA Theater starting with tonight’s. AN 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 29. 111 Ninth St., Downtown. $51-61. 412-281-0912 or www.pittsburghopera.org

ART BY PAVI
  • Art by PAVI

Mon., Jan. 23 – Art

It’s not every day there’s an art show in a bar. OK, it’s almost no day. But tonight, classic neighborhood joint Gene’s Place, in Oakland, hosts Beer and Cheap Art 2017, a one-man show by the locally based artist Patrick Courtenay, a.k.a. PAVI. Sales of his outsider-style work will go to fund development of his latest project, a labor-trading app. BO 6-11:30 p.m. 3616 Louisa St., Oakland. Free. 412-682-2158

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOAN MARCUS
  • Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

Tue., Jan. 24 - Stage

That rare “rock musical” that actually sounds like it could have been a rock ’n’ roll album (think glam Bowie) returns. The nationally touring version of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which won a Tony as best musical revival, hits the Benedum Center tonight and tomorrow. Broadway’s Euan Morton stars as the transgender East German rock singer adrift in the U.S.A., singing “Sugar Daddy” and “Origin of Love.” BO 7:30 p.m. Also 7:30 p.m. Wed., Jan. 25. 237 Seventh Ave., Downtown. $26-71. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org



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