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Short List: December 29 - January 3

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New Years' Eve falls on a Saturday this year. And you know what that means: Two full days to recover from, um, staying up all the way till midnight. The annual Pittsburgh Cultural Trust festival of art, performance, activities and spectacles known as Highmark First Night Pittsburgh offers enough to keep you running at least until the clock strikes 12, and those fireworks hit again. The family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration draws 35,000 or more to the galleries, theaters, lobbies and sidewalks of the Cultural District. It's yours for the low price of a First Night Button, and it's anchored by the big stage at the end of Penn Avenue, where local-favorite headliners Rusted Root will count it down to midnight. But there's plenty of music before that, too, from the AcoustiCafe showcase (hosted by Joy Ike at the August Wilson Center) to shows elsewhere by Colonizing the Cosmos, Donora, Pittsburgh Gospel Ensemble and jazz luminaries Roger Humphries and Sean Jones. There's dance by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, kNOTDance and Texture Contemporary Ballet. And the Byham Theater has music and dance, as cello-rockers Cello Fury join singer-songwriter Bill Deasy and his band and Bodiography Contemporary Ballet for three 45-minute shows. (That's one of several "vouchered" events for which you need to get a free pass ahead of time at the Box Office at Theater Square.) Elsewhere, find improv comedy by the Amish Monkeys; strolling musicians -- on stilts (the Steel City Stilt Band); magic shows; fortune-tellers; art activities for kids; balloon artists; free dance lessons at Arthur Murray Downtown; and the ever-popular ice-sculpting station. New wrinkles include a "crowd-friendly mobile phone-driven interactive gaming experience" from Pittsburgh-based Evil Genius Designs. (This involves a jumbotron in the street.) And as always, there's the big 8 p.m. community parade down Penn, featuring puppets by Cheryl Cappezutti; Flock of Cycles bike-paraders; the Pittsburgh Fire Department Bagpipe Band; school kids; and more. Bill O'Driscoll 6 p.m.-midnight, Sat., Dec. 31. $8-10 (kids 5 and under free). Downtown. www.firstnightpgh.org


Thu., Dec. 29 -- Dance

If you like to relax after work with a little art, it can be hard to find it this time of year. Tonight's exception to the rule is offCENTER, the informal, free-of-charge Thursday-night performance showcase at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Tonight, offCENTER welcomes Pittsburgh-based contemporary-dance troupe The Pillow Project performing A Jazz Happening. It's an evening of improv dance, live music and other improvisational art. Bill O'Driscoll 5 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free (cash bar). 412-258-2700 or www.augustwilsoncenter.org

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Thu., Dec. 29 -- Comedy

Career stunt-bum turned standup comedian Steve-O -- real name: Stephen Glover -- gained exposure in the '00s on shows like MTV's Jackass and Wildboyz. The Barnum & Bailey clown-college graduate is known for jumping into circulating ceiling fans, snorting globs of wasabi up his nose and maiming his anatomy with a stapler. Recently sober, the London-born prankster continues his alacritous self-injury in a series of three performances, the first tonight at Pittsburgh Improv. The Entirely Too Much Information Tour showcases Steve-O setting fire to his bare head and dousing his eyes with lemon juice, among other talents. His Improv stand includes two special New Years' Eve-party shows. Amy Kuhre 8 p.m. Also Fri., Dec. 30, and Sat., Dec. 31. 166 E. Bridge St., The Waterfront, Homestead. $22; New Years' Eve: $35-60. 412-462-5233 or www.improv.com

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Fri., Dec. 30 -- Comedy

Cedric the Entertainer, a star of comedy stages, film and TV, makes a rare Pittsburgh appearance tonight at Soldiers & Sailors Hall. He made his name on shows like the Def Comedy Jam and quickly moved to movies, from Barbershop to Madagascar. But as documented by Spike Lee in The Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric still plies the standup trade. Tonight, his opening acts are JJ Williamson and Malik S in a show presented by Savoy Restaurant and WAMO 100. BO 8 p.m. 4141 Fifth Ave., Oakland. $48-58. 800-383-5760 or savoypgh.com

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Sat., Dec. 31 -- Party

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh offers a treat for those who can't stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve. Countdown to Noon! features live jazz from Joe DiFazio and Pittsburgh native Lee Robinson, and a performance from Detroit-based magician -- and last year's Countdown guest -- Jason Hudy. Robinson and DiFazio perform until noon, followed by two shows from Hudy. Joining the line-up is aerialist and dancer Amber Alberts. The event continues until 6 p.m., when festivities move Downtown for First Night, where the Children's Museum will host additional activities in the Family Tent, including more magic from Hudy. AK 11:30 a.m. 10 Children's Way, North Side. $10-12. 412-322-5058 or www.pittsburghkids.org

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Sat., Dec. 31 -- Comedy

 Ventriloquist and comedian Jeff Dunham brings his colorfully offensive puppet troupe back to Pittsburgh today for Jeff Dunham: Controlled Chaos Tour at the Consol Energy Center. Many of his characters scale the short fence between offensive and funny; "Achmed the Terrorist" and aged chauvinist "Walter" come to mind. Dunham is often credited with reviving ventriloquism in the mainstream, with Comedy Central specials Arguing With Myself and Spark of Insanity, plus the short-lived series The Jeff Dunham Show. The Dallas native initially built a following with extensive touring -- especially through Middle America -- where his dummies, most hand-made by Dunham, are wildly popular. AK 3 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Downtown. $47.50. 800-745-3000

 

Sun., Jan. 1 -- Outdoors

As a healthy start to the new year, the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania and Wissahickon Nature Club host a nature walk along North Park trails. This excursion for hikers of all skill levels highlights a diverse ecosystem, including man-made North Park Lake. After recent renovations, the lake continues to nurture trout and big-mouth bass, and is also home to flocks of Canada geese. Learn about local fauna during this open-ended, guided tour; and be sure to pack a lunch and bring appropriate footwear. AK Noon. Irwin Road, North Park. Free. 412-487-5549

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Sun., Jan. 1 -- Film

The Seventh Seal is one of those canonical films, parodied from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey to Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. The 1957 work that put Ingmar Bergman on the world-cinema map -- his 17th film as director -- follows a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the crusades who seeks to forestall death by besting the hooded one at chess. Set against a backdrop of 14th-century violence and misery, the knight's story is poignantly counterpointed by that of a troupe of traveling actors. Start the new year pondering man's relationship to God as the Regent Square Theater launches a series of black-and-white classics. BO 8 p.m. 1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood. $9. 412-681-5449 or www.pghfilmmakers.org

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Tue., Jan. 3 -- Art

Two exhibits at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art -- Loretto examine art as aesthetic statement and art as devotional tool. Old World Eyes: European Photography from the Permanent Collection explores some of the first abstract photographic renderings from European photographers like André Kertész and Édouard Boubat; each is remembered for pushing photography beyond portraiture during the early 20th century. Meanwhile, Tibetan Treasures: The Rezk Collection of Tibetan and Nepalese Art is on view at the museum for the first time in 15 years. Woodblock prints, bronze sculpture and thangkas -- elaborately painted and embroidered silk scrolls, often depicting deities and used for spiritual instruction -- are featured. AK 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tibetan Treasures continues through Jan. 27; Old World Eyes continues through May 12. 112 Franciscan Way, Loretto. Free. 814-472-3920 or www.sama-art.org

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