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Short List: February 19 - 25

For the Tree to Drop at PICT; the Frick's "Masterworks of Early Photography"; new public art in Market Square; Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

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SPOTLIGHT: Thu., Feb. 19 — Stage

In the antebellum South, a slave keeps running away. His owner has him hanged, and leaves the body displayed. The slave's sister, Estella, wants to bury her brother. For the Tree to Drop began as local playwright Lissa Brennan adapting Antigone, then became its own work. The debut production is PICT Classic's season-opener, and also the premiere of the troupe's Downtown Series. The play has 11 performances starting Feb. 19 at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Trust Arts Education Center. PICT artistic director Alan Stanford directs a skilled cast that includes Siovhan Christensen, as Estella, alongside David Whalen, Karen Baum, Linda Haston and Justin Lonesome. Brennan herself is familiar as an actor on local stages, including PICT's, and founded Dog & Pony Show Theatricals. While she's also an experienced playwright, Tree (its title drawn from the song "Strange Fruit") marks the first time a full-length play of hers has been produced by a company not her own. The play was developed through a 2013 staged reading at Bricolage Productions. Brennan (also a frequent contributor to CP's visual-art coverage) says that to her, Tree is a play about status and power — specifically, "resistance in the face of power, the powerless refusing to be controlled by the powerful." Bill O'Driscoll Thu., Feb. 19-28. Trust Arts Education Center, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $40-48. 412-561-6000 or www.picttheatre.org

Jennifer Wen Ma Market Square Public Art Program

Thu., Feb. 19 — Art

"Our forest is in progress, getting painted with Chinese ink," Jennifer Wen Ma wrote last week, on her Facebook page, about her new public artwork in Market Square. The Chinese-born, U.S.-based artist's work has been exhibited from Taipei to the Guggenheim, and she was chief designer of the visual and special effects at the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The new work, a commission, is the second art installation in the Market Square Public Art Program, a project of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the city's Public Art Division. (The first was last year's interactive sound-and-projected light installation Congregation.) Wen Ma's "forest," an installation, formally opens today. Bill O'Driscoll Downtown. Free. www.downtownpittsburgh.com

Thu., Feb. 19 — Art

There's a new gallery in Shadyside, but better come quick: This pop-up venture showcasing work by Carnegie Mellon University masters-of-fine-art students is opening new shows weekly only for another month. Tonight, Gallery 808 features sculpture and installation by Moses Williams; cross-disciplinary work by Ada Scarlett-Hopper; and Tucker Marder's "panoply of fragile global-warming jokes on ice." Each week, a reception is followed by a Q&A led by a guest critic; this week, that's New York City-based artist Tyler McPhee. The next new show at Gallery 808 opens Feb. 26. BO Reception: 5 p.m. Q&A: 6:30-9:30 p.m. 808 Ivy St., Shadyside. Free. RSVP at www.facebook.com/CMUSchoolofARt.

Impressionist to Modernist: Masterworks of Early Photography Frick Art & Historical Center
  • Art by Gertrude Käsebier

Sat., Feb. 21 — Art

In its exhibition opening today, Impressionist to Modernist: Masterworks of Early Photography, the Frick Art & Historical Center displays more than 70 works from an international group of artists. Ranging from the 1880s through the 1930s, the show captures the progression from painterly, impressionist work to Modernist photography. The touring show, organized by art2art Circulating Exhibition, features artwork from Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and, most prominently, Alfred Stieglitz, husband of Georgia O'Keefe. Zacchiaus McKee 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Exhibit continues through April 19. 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. Free. 412-371-0600 or www.thefrickpittsburgh.org

Sat., Feb. 21 — Music

In 1634, Rome's Villa Borghese played host to a now-legendary recital by trumpeter Girolamo Fantini and organist Girolamo Frescobaldi, two of the first great virtuosi. Tonight, Pittsburgh hosts trumpet and harpsichord duo Gabriel's Voice, paying homage to Fantini and Frescobaldi through a selection of works by the Italian instrumentalists. The Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh presents the program Dawn of Virtuosity, with trumpeter Kris Kwapis, and harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. The duo, which formed in 2013, plays tonight in Oakland. ZM 8 p.m. Synod Hall, 125 N. Craig St., Oakland. $10-35. 412-361-2048 or www.rbsp.org

Sumeida's Song Pittsburgh Opera
  • Photo courtesy of David Bachman

Sat., Feb. 21 — Opera

Traditional and modern values collide in Sumeida's Song, a Pittsburgh-premiere production by Pittsburgh Opera. The 2013 work by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz (based on Tawfiq al-Hakim's play Song of Death) is set in a peasant village in Upper Egypt. The cast of Pittsburgh Opera resident artists includes Laurel Semerdjian as Asakir, the matriarch desperate for her educated son to avenge his father's long-ago murder. The four performances at Opera headquarters, in the Strip District, are sung in English. The first show is tonight. BO 8 p.m. Show continues through March 1. 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District. $40.  412-281-0912 or www.pittsburghopera.org

Sat., Feb. 21 — Music

Steeltown Jazz Storytellers is a new series celebrating Pittsburgh's rich jazz heritage with music, discussion, films and socializing. The series runs on the third Saturday of every month through June at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy's second-floor ballroom. Tonight's program includes a screening of the video "Billy Strayhorn — Steel City Grooves," followed by a panel discussion with top local musicians Roger Humphries, Dwayne Dolphin, Tony Campbell and more, led by jazz DJ Bob Studebaker. Then comes two hours of live music, plus food and drinks available for purchase. BO 8 p.m. 422 Foreland St., North Side. $35-60. info@steeltownjazz.com

Andrea Davis Pinkney Hill House Kaufmann Center
  • Photo courtesy of Christine Simmons

Sun., Feb. 22 — Words

"As I watched the struggles in Darfur and Sudan unfold, I felt compelled to present the horrific side of war to young readers in a way that they could understand," New York Times bestselling author Andrea Davis Pinkney says about her children's book The Red Pencil. The book follows a refugee girl who is given a red pencil, which allows her to express her grief. In a Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Kids and Teens event, Pinkney visits the Hill House Kaufmann Center to read from and sign copies of her book today. ZM 2:30 p.m. 1835 Centre Ave., Hill District. $5-10; free for children under 3. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org

Tricia Rose Fighting Racism in a Color-Blind Era
  • Photo courtesy of Richard Howard Photography

Mon., Feb. 23 — Talk

With her 1994 book Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, Tricia Rose pioneered the study of hip hop as a cultural phenomenon. In her 2008 book The Hip Hop Wars, she argued that hip hop's influence on society was bigger than ever. Rose, a professor of Africana studies at Brown University, speaks today as part of the University of Pittsburgh's Black History Month programming. Her free lecture is slyly titled "Fighting Racism in a Color-Blind Era." BO 5:30 p.m. Alumni Hall (seventh floor), 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Free. www.news.pitt.edu

Tue., Feb. 24 — Talk

Since the third century BCE, handscrolls have been a way of writing text and mounting artwork in China. New York-based, Chinese-born artist Yun-Fei Ji uses the scroll to address social change. As part of Carnegie Mellon School of Art's lecture series, Ji visits this evening to speak about his practice and the state of art today. Famously incorporating themes of mass displacement and environmental cataclysm, his works have been exhibited across the U.S. and Europe. ZM 5 p.m. Kresge Theater, CMU campus, Oakland. Free. 412-268-2409 or www.cmu.edu/art

Tue., Feb. 24 — Drag

TV's long-running RuPaul's Drag Race brings its live show, Battle of the Seasons, to the Byham Theater. The stars from the small screen bring local flavor, with Pittsburgh-based Sharon Needles and formerly Pittsburgh-based Alaska 5000 joining a line-up including BenDeLaCreme, Courtney Act and Ivy Winters, plus special guest Cary NoKey. Tickets went fast for this evening of circus tricks, lip-syncs, musical numbers and more. But at press time, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust web site said that limited-view seats remain, and that more tickets might become available. BO 8 p.m. 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $30-75. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

Silk Road Ensemble Heinz Hall
  • Photo courtesy of Jennifer Taylor

Wed., Feb. 25 — Music

Yo-Yo Ma's 75 albums have garnered him 15 Grammys and world acclaim as one of the best cellists of all time. Tonight, the Silk Road Ensemble, a music collective Ma founded, makes its Heinz Hall debut. The group blends instrumentation and vocal styles from Eastern and Western traditions. Over the years, it has performed pieces ranging from traditional Chinese music to popular large-orchestra compositions by Strauss. With performers and composers from more than 20 countries, the ensemble uses instruments including a Chinese short-neck lute and a Japanese bamboo flute. The show is presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which is not part of this performance. ZM 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. $55-150. 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org

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