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Short List: July 27 - August 2

Pittsburgh VegFest returns; Werner Herzog’s new tech doc at the Regent Square; comic Sandra Valls; OpenStreets expands to the North Side

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FREE: Sat., July 30 — Festival

Last year’s inaugural Pittsburgh VegFest went pretty well. “The turnout was just absolutely amazing,” says Leila Sleiman, who along with co-founder Natalie Fristick welcomed more than 4,000 visitors to Allegheny Commons Park East for a day of nibbling and info-gathering centered on veganism and a plant-based lifestyle. Sleiman and Fristick, of the group Justice for Animals, approach veganism from an animal-rights angle, but you don’t have to: The environmental and health benefits of eating more plants and fewer animal products are well documented. And in fact, VegFest 2016 is expanding its offerings for a crowd that organizers expect to double in size from last year’s. Along Cedar Avenue starting at East Ohio Street, on the North Side, look for 75 vendors including both animal-welfare groups and, of course, top vegan eateries like Double Wide Grill, Franktuary and B52. (Picknicking is encouraged.) Free amusements for kids include a bouncy castle and arts-and-crafts activities. Also new is a full day’s lineup of mainstage performers, including speakers on food justice and animal welfare. Local bands include The Beagle Brothers, Grand Piano and, in a rare acoustic set, hometown punk heros Anti-Flag. Sleiman also touts the VegFest goodie bag, filled with giveaway items and coupons, and available to the first 250 visitors. Bill O’Driscoll 11 a.m.-5 p.m. North Side. Free. www.pittsburghvegfest.org

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Thu., July 28 – Word

As animal names go, “hellbender” is a pretty good one. So if Mark Spitzer’s book-length poem about North America’s largest salamander (which can grow to more than 2 feet long) is titled Glurk! (Anaphora Literary Press) instead, it’s for reasons you’ll have to learn for yourself when the Arkansas-based author reads at East End Book Exchange. Tonight’s reading, backed by music made on the custom-made stringed instrument called The Electric Hellbender, also includes words from New York-based poet Lea Graham and local luminaries Che Elias, Karen Lillis, John Thomas Menesini and Don Wentworth. Bill O’Driscoll 7 p.m. 4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Free. 412-224-2847

Thu., July 28 — Comedy

Ever want to try your hand at standup? Pittsburgh Comedy Festival partners with Arcade Comedy Theater to find one final comedian to complete its performance lineup for this August. Tonight is the first round of competition for up to 15 contestants who’ll do five-minute sets for a surprise panel of judges. Audiences can also vote for their three favorites. Only 10 comics from the first two rounds (round two is Thu., Aug. 4) will go on to the Aug. 11 finals, where the winner will receive a festival slot and a performer’s pass for the entire weekend. Tyler Dague 8 p.m. 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $10. 412-339-0608 or www.arcadecomedytheater.com

Fri., July 29 — Artmaking

With films like Fantastic Mr. Fox, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie keeping stop-motion animation active, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh introduces the medium to a whole new generation. Today, the museum’s ever-changing hands-on-creation station, the MAKESHOP, will have teaching artists on hand to help kids create short films out of individual photos using the app iMotion HD. All the movies will follow the MAKESHOP’s July theme of carnivals. TD 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 10 Children's Way, Allegheny Center. $14-16. 412-322-5058 or www.pittsburghkids.org

Fri., July 29 — Conference

Confluence, Pittsburgh’s longest-running literary conference, returns to celebrate all things science fiction, fantasy and horror. Parsec, a nonprofit devoted to promoting such genres in all media, hosts the expanding, weekend-long conference in a new location, the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. Award-winning novelist Saladin Ahmed; J.D. Barker, bestselling author of Forsaken; and Klingon language expert Lawrence M. Schoen highlight this year’s list of speakers. There are also art exhibits, musical performances, writing workshops, poetry readings and science programming. TD 3-11 p.m. Also 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., July 30, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun., July 31. 1160 Thorn Run Road, Coraopolis. $22-40 ($55 for all three days). www.parsec-sff.org/confluence

Fri., July 29 – Art

Ethno Mythologies is the name of the new show at Gallery Christine Frechard. In the heart of Squirrel Hill, the show combines selected works from a local collection of African art with new works on slate by Pittsburgh-based artist Jennifer Nagle-Myers, recently an award-winner at the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual, at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The opening reception is tonight. BO 5-8 p.m. (free). Exhibit continues through Aug. 29. 5871 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-421-8888 or www.christinefrechardgallery.com

Fri., July 29 – Screen

From art-house classics like Aguirre, The Wrath of God to enthralling latter-day documentaries including Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, there’s no one quite like Werner Herzog. And his latest, which has its Pittsburgh premiere tonight at the Regent Square Theater, is sure to be provocative. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, tackles digital technology and its discontents, from the birth of the Internet and artificial intelligence to the future of what it means to be “human.” The one-night program, part of the national Science on Screen initiative, includes a post-film Q&A with robotics experts from Carnegie Mellon University, who are featured in the film. If you miss this premiere, don’t worry: Lo and Behold opens in theaters in August. BO 7:30 p.m. 1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood. $8. 412-681-5449 or www.pfpca.org

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Fri., July 29 – Comedy

Comic, actor, singer and self-proclaimed celesbian Sandra Valls is no stranger to high-profile gigs. She starred in two hit comedy specials on Showtime, The Latin Divas of Comedy and Pride: The Gay & Lesbian Comedy Slam, and on Logo TV’s Out Laugh Festival, to name a few credits. Valls’ Red, Hot & Herlarious Tour stops by Cruze Bar tonight for an evening of brash humor, presented by iLaugh Pittsburgh. Local comic Chi Chi Rivera hosts. TD 7:30 p.m. 1600 Smallman St., Strip District. $15-30. 412-471-1400 or www.cruzebar.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE MURIN
  • Photo courtesy of Steve Murin

Sat., July 30 – Music

Today’s Afro-American Music Institute Jazz Festival is a new venture from AAMI and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra. The day-long inaugural incarnation features the long-running, Homewood-based music school’s AAMI Youth Jazz Lab and AAMI Boys Choir, plus the PJO Youth Band. Headliners include keyboardist Howard Alexander III (pictured); keyboardist Theron Brown (the Akron, Ohio, resident who portrayed Herbie Hancock in the recent Miles Davis biopic); drummer James T. Johnson III; and the PJO Little Big Band. Food vendors are planned; Akil Esoon emcees. Donations will be accepted, with all proceeds benefiting AAMI. BO 2-8 p.m. 7131 Hamilton Ave., Homewood. www.afroamericanmusic.org

PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM SOUZER / BIKE PITTSBURGH
  • Photo courtesy of Tom Souzer / Bike Pittsburgh

Sun., July 31

For its final date of the year, OpenStreetsPGH tries a new route: Instead of Downtown-to-Lawrenceville, this iteration of the car-free-streets festival is Downtown-to-West End via the North Side. The bike-, kid- and dog-friendly route goes from Main and Wabash across the temporarily carless West End Bridge, traverses Western Avenue, and winds back to Market Square via the Clemente Bridge. At three activity hubs (one per neighborhood), check out one of a dozen free fitness classes, from yoga to boot camp. Along the way, find shops and restaurants, plus a Humane Society puppy carnival and roving, bike-powered musical performances by surreal art rockers Squonk Opera. For the car-dependent, there’ll be 10 intersections where you can cross the route. BO 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Free. www.openstreetspgh.org

Sun., July 31 — Screen

In the years between Lon Chaney’s great silent film Phantom of the Opera and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring stage musical, there was a rock-musical version: Phantom of the Paradise (1974), directed by Brian De Palma and starring songwriter Paul Williams. It’s an amusing slice of mostly forgotten mid-’70s trash and spectacle, and it screens tonight at Regent Square, as the theater wraps up a Sunday-night series of De Palma films. Phantom never achieved the cult status of its brethren Rocky Horror Picture Show, so why not show it some love now? Al Hoff 8 p.m. Sun., July 31. 1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood. $9. www.pghfilmmakers.org

Sun., July 31 – Stage

As long as we have so-called political leaders who are crass, venal and self-serving, someone somewhere will be performing Ubu The King. Tonight, Alfred Jarry’s pioneering 1896 satire about a grotesque monarchial usurper is performed by puppetry-focused Rough House Theater. In the nationally known Chicago troupe’s new take on a proto-absurdist classic, five performers wield 70 hand-crafted puppets to an original score. Tonight’s 21-and-over performance at Spirit Lounge is the sixth stop on the show’s barnstorming nine-city tour. BO 9 p.m. 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $10 suggested donation. www.spiritpgh.com


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