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Short List: August 29 - September 4

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When the Steel City Derby Demons formed, in 2006, contemporary roller-derby was still maturing. Players wore outrageous costumes and had jokey pseudonyms; out on the track, they camped it up. It's much different now, says veteran Betsy Wack: The Demons and other Women's Flat Track Derby Assocation squads train hard and skate hard during their nine-month season, sans pro-wrestling-style clowning. "People take it really seriously," says Wack, 32, who skates pivot (think "quarterback") for Steel Hurtin', the Demons' travel squad that's shortly bound for eastern regionals, in Vermont. Fans of the new roller-derby include photographer Rob Larson, who a year ago began shooting a series on the Demons eschewing the usual sexed-up images of derby women. "They're very proud, they're very sport-oriented," he says. Most of the three dozen images in Derby, new at 709 Penn Gallery, are paired studio portraits of Demons, one set "clean" and the other depicting mock-ups of real injuries they're suffered in action. (Pictured is Helen Fire.) "I actually had a tooth knocked out a couple of years back," says Wack, by day a manager at a software startup. "Black eyes, bruises, bleeding from the nose — those all happen." Adds Demon Kati Fishbein (currently sidelined with a torn ACL): "[Larson] makes icons out of us as athletes, which I really love." Bill O'Driscoll Opening reception: 6-8 p.m. Fri., Aug. 31. Exhibit continues through Oct. 31. 709 Penn Ave., Downtown. Free. www.trustarts.org

Wed., Sept. 5 — Words

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN BUSTA
  • Photo courtesy of Dan Busta

You might know him as the creator of Found magazine, that showcase for the lost or discarded. (Think letters, photos, shopping lists.) Or maybe you've heard his contributions to public radio's This American Life. But Davy Rothbart is gaining fame as a writer, too. Following his critically acclaimed 2005 short-story collection, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, Rothbart has just published My Heart is An Idiot (Farrar Straus Giroux). This package of memoiristic essays covers everything from Rothbart's romantic travails to his friendship with a convicted killer; pre-publication fans of the book include everyone from Elizabeth Gilbert ("This book is fucking great!") and Dave Eggers to Kid Rock. On Sept. 5, as part of a massive — really, kind of unheard-of — 75-city book tour, Rothbart and his brother, musician Peter Rothbart, visit Dormont's Hollywood Theater. The trip doubles as Found's 10th Anniversary Tour, and the evening includes Davy's storytelling and Peter's original songs based on Found notes. You can even bring your own finds to share. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Wed., Sept. 5. 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont. $7. 412-563-0368

 

Fri., Aug. 31 — Stage

An up-and-coming young stage troupe is back with another adventuresome offering. Following its 2011 production of William Finn's A New Brain, the BALD theatre company returns with the Pittsburgh premiere of The Burnt Part Boys. Hailed by some critics as a reinvigoration of the musical drama, the show, by Chris Miller, Nathan Tysen and Mariana Elder, is set in 1962, when five teen-agers embark on a journey to confront the decade-earlier deaths of their coal-miner fathers. The score draws on both bluegrass and pop; the director is Justin Zeno, the musical director Nancy Gordon Galluzzo. Two weekends of performances begin tonight, at Grey Box Theatre. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Show continues through Sept. 8. 3595 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $20. www.baldtheatre.org

Fri., Aug. 31 — Dancing

The perennial popularity of swing dance is largely due to how much fun it is to watch. But tonight, Pittsburgh Dance Center offers a chance to learn how to do it yourself — or to practice what you already know, to a live big band. The Blue Moon Swingtacular begins with lessons in fox trot and East Coast swing. Then welcome Pittsburgh Big Band Legends, a 17-piece complete with vocalists and conductor. The group boasts that it plays every type of swing, from East Coast and West Coast to cha cha, fox trot and jitterbug. Pittsburgh Big Band Legends is sure to turn up again, but a blue moon's as good an excuse to swing as any. BO 8:15 p.m. (dance lessons) and 9 p.m.-midnight (live music). 4765 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $10. 412-681-0111 or www.pittsburghdancecenter.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF CASSIE KAY RUSNAK
  • Photo courtesy of Cassie Kay Rusnak

Fri., Aug. 31 — Art

Cookouts, parades and late-summer vacations aside, it's hard to find stuff going on over Labor Day weekend. The ever-inventive Pillow Project steps into the breach with Fifth Fridays. Not to be confused with the Project's Second Saturdays series, Fifth Fridays is an art happening with a hands-on element. Tonight, Pillow Project collaborators Mike Cooper, Geoffrey P. Morgan and Caroline Record preview Stained Sheets, their installation work employing new technology to translate heat into light and color. (You can even try it for yourself.) Pillow Project, meanwhile, offers a first glimpse of Luminography, its own improvised projection method. BO 9 p.m.-midnight. 214 Lexington Ave., Point Breeze. Free. 412-225-9269 or www.pillowproject.org

Fri., Aug. 31 — Outdoors

Tonight there's a blue moon — merely the rare (but still regular-moon-colored) second full moon in a calendar month. Mark it with a Venture Outdoors Blue Moon Paddle. In town, visit Kayak Pittsbugh for a guided evening run up the Allegheny to Washington's Landing, and check out the moon adorning the skyline. Meanwhile, if you want to see the stars (if not the moon) a little better, try the group's Moraine Blue Moon Paddle, along the shores of Moraine State Park's Lake Arthur, in Butler County. Both blue-moon paddles are for experienced paddlers only. BO Both trips: 8-10:30 p.m. $33. www.ventureoutdoors.org

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Sat., Sept. 1 — Stage

The Tempest, perhaps the Shakespeare play most concerned with magic, remains among his most popular. And it's this season's free offering from Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks. The troupe, led by artistic director Jennifer Tobin, has enlisted Alan Irvine (best known as a professional storyteller) to direct Shakespeare's fanciful comedy of an aged magician and exiled nobleman, his innocent daughter, shipwrecked scoundrels and various supernatural beings. The eight afternoon performances are spread over the first four weekends of September, in four different city parks. The first is today, in Frick Park's Blue Slide Playground. BO 2 p.m. (Beechwood Boulevard. at Nicholson, Squirrel Hill). Continues through Sept. 23 (various locations). Free. 412-404-8531 or www.pittsburghshakespeare.com

M. Callen at Awesome Books
  • M. Callen at Awesome Books

Sun., Sept. 2 — Words

Pittsburgh's Low Ghost Press ushers out summer with today's free reading featuring four of its favorite writers — graciously, only one of whom it actually publishes. That'd be Brooklynite John Grochalski, the poet behind collections including 2010's Glass City. Other readers at Awesome Books' Downtown location include Brooklyn poet Ally Malinenko; Philadelphia-based artist and poet M. Callen; and local haiku master Don Wentworth, who runs Pittsburgh's Lilliput Review and who earned national attention with his 2011 collection Past All Traps. BO 1 p.m. 929 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. 412-471-1899

Tue., Sept. 4 — Stage

In the early 1960s, no pop band was more popular than Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Four decades later, falsetto-driven hits like "Sherry," "Walk Like a Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" were incorporated into Jersey Boys, the wildly popular stage musical. Tonight, courtesy of PNC Broadway Across America, a new touring production begins a three-week stand at the Benedum Center. Brad Weinstock plays Frankie Valli, and Jason Kappus portrays Bob Gaudio — the Season who wrote most of the group's music. BO 7:30 p.m. Show continues through Sept. 23. 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $29-143. 412-456-4800 or www.trustarts.org

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Wed., Sept. 5 — Music

Classical Revolution Pittsburgh — the group on a mission to bring classical sounds outside the concert hall — opens its season tonight. A sextet featuring two violins, viola, cello, clarinet and double bass visits Bar Marco, to perform klezmer- and gypsy-inspired works by two contemporary composers. The program includes "Asha" and "Love Potion, Expired," by Russian-born composer and violist Ljova, and "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," by acclaimed Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov. The show is free, but donations are welcome, and a donation of $20 or more gets you a complimentary glass of wine. BO 8 p.m. 2216 Penn Ave., Strip District. www.classicalrevolutionpgh.org

Thu., Sept. 6 — Fashion

These fashion people — they'll make Pittsburgh stylish if it kills 'em. The latest effort is Fashion Night Out, at Century III Mall. Local designers, fashion editors, models and retailers are all welcome at this free showcase. Attractions include live entertainment, makeovers by professional stylists and, well, fashion shows. There are also giveaways for the first 200 visitors. Organizers Style & Steel and CitySTYLE are still seeking designers, vendors and volunteers. BO 6-9 p.m. West Mifflin. Free. 412-208-0249 or www.styleandsteel.net

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