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Short List: July 20 - 28

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Among the panelists who'll speak after the July 25 screening of The Last Mountain, perhaps the most newsworthy just now is Michael Hendryx. The West Virginia University professor co-authored a recent study documenting greatly elevated birth-defect rates in central Appalachian counties where there's mountaintop-removal coal-mining -- some 63 percent higher in 1996-2003 than in nearby areas without that type of mining. Reached by phone, Hendryx tells City Paper that his study is unusual in documenting MTR-related health effects in newborns, rather than adults. MTR is the leveling of mountains for the coal inside; even more than conventional mining, it flattens forests, pollutes air and water, and devastates communities. MTR has accelerated in recent years -- 500 Appalachian mountains are gone -- and it's the subject of The Last Mountain. Bill Haney's 2011 film follows everyone from citizen activists like Maria Gunnoe to Climate Ground Zero tree-sitters and national figures like Bobby Kennedy as they fight to save Coal River Mountain, the last in its southern West Virginia watershed, from mining by Massey Energy. The nationally screened film plays July 22-28 at the Harris Theater. On July 25, a discussion with producers Eric Grunebaum and Clara Bingham features Hendryx; Larry Schweigert, the Pittsburgh native who heads the National Wildlife Federation; Wheeling Jesuit University researcher Ben Stout; and Lisa Graves-Marcucci, of the Environmental Integrity Project. Bill O'Driscoll 7:30 p.m. (discussion follows). Harris Theater, 809 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $8. 412-681-5449

 

Thu., July 21 -- Film

While most people spend only a few seconds with a painting or sculpture, we'll sit watching a film for two hours or more. So the Carnegie Museum of Art's second annual Two-Minute Film Festival should flatter your attention span. Playing off the concurrent Pittsburgh Biennial, the theme is "The Labor Party." Exploring ideas of work, industry and labor in this time of high unemployment (and underemployment) ought to prove fruitful. The 35 films, to be screened in the outdoor Sculpture Garden, were chosen from among 60 submitted. The evening includes drinks, food and voting for a Viewer's Choice award. Bill O'Driscoll 7:30 p.m. (films at 9:30 p.m.). 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $10 (includes museum entrance and two drink tickets). 412-622-3131

Thu., July 21 -- Stage

A new theater company debuts tonight with an acclaimed new-to-Pittsburgh play. Organic Theater Pittsburgh stages Dead Man's Cell Phone, Sarah Ruhl's dark comedy about what happens to a young woman who heeds a stranger's ringtone, then gets in even deeper after learning he is dead. The New York Times called the 2007 play "beguiling," while the Washington Post said "smartly entertaining." (Better be, as Ruhl once earned a MacArthur "genius" grant.) Ricardo Vila-Roger directs for Organic; the cast includes Jaime Slavinsky, Adam Kukic and Michael E. Moats. BO 8 p.m. Show continues through Sun., July 31. 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $12. www.organictheaterpgh.org

 

Thu., July 21 -- Stage

Midnight Radio is Bricolage Productions' high-energy, old-school radio-style show that's not at midnight (usually) and not on the radio. Instead, it's right in front of your eyes, with live actors and crazy sound-effects devices smacking, spinning and splintering away. This season's second episode is Cowboys & Aliens, a comedic space-time mashup (complete with parody ads and fake breaking news). This week and next, Midnight Radio draws on Bricolage's Jeff Carpenter, Tami Dixon and other local talents to perhaps give, in light of those famed alien probes, new meaning to the term "cowpoke." BO 9 p.m. Show continues through July 30. 937 Penn Ave., Downtown. $15-25. 412

 

Sat., July 23 -- Outdoors

To prepare for the coming zombie apocalypse, one must have the simple techniques for keeping on the right path, no matter where one finds oneself. Today, Jennings Environmental Education Center hosts "Finding Your Way," a workshop that will teach participants to properly use a topographic map, compass and simple hiking GPS while walking through a beautiful nature preserve. The workshop is free, but requires pre-registration, and participants must be age 16 or older. Brendan Sullivan 9 a.m.-noon. 2951 Prospect Road, Slippery Rock. Free. 724-794-6011

Art by Isabelle Garbanis
  • Art by Isabelle Garbanis

Sat., July 23

The repetitiveness of daily commutes makes the little changes stand out. Isabelle Garbani's new exhibit at Box Heart Gallery, in Bloomfield, confronts the commute directly. 24 Hours in the Subway consists of two dozen pastel-on-paper images inspired by Garbani's local station, in Brooklyn. The pieces are simple, lightly colored and all similar, but the aggregation of monotony makes for a show that's much more than the sum of its parts. The opening reception, this evening, is complemented by tomorrow's workshop Knitting with Plastic Bags, in which Garbani teaches beginners and experts alike how to turn trash into knitwear. BS 5 p.m. (Exhibit continues through Aug. 13.) Knitting workshop: 1-3 p.m. Sun., July 24 (registration required). 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Free. 412-687-8858 or www.boxheart.org

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Sat., July 23 -- Comedy

Comedian J. Russ performs his show I Swear I'm Lying tonight at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. Russ, a Pittsburgh native, did his first performance at the University of Pittsburgh; after sets on Last Comic Standing and headlining gigs at Pittsburgh's Improv, he is quickly becoming a hometown favorite. Russ is less interested in punchlines than a good story; growing up he was the family funnyman, and his conversational style continues to win him fans. BS 8 p.m. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $20. www.jrussthecomic.com


Mon., July 25 -- Stage

The Church of gorgeousTaps and the Reality Show -- a self-described "secular theatrical event that mimics the structure of a Lutheran mass" -- holds an open casting call at Future Tenant tonight and tomorrow for participants in its next installment, "Karaoke Communion." The show itself, July 30 at Future Tenant, looks to focus on the strange intersections of pop poetry and sacred music, while "congregation" members belt parodic hymns and pops songs in the style of master wordsmith Weird Al Yankovic. BS 7-9 p.m. Also 7-9 p.m. Tue., July 26. 819 Penn Ave., Downtown. www.futuretenant.org

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Wed., July 27 -- Words

Stephen King thinks Meg Gardiner is the best thriller-writer you've never heard of. Judge for yourself tonight, when Gardiner comes to Mystery Lovers Bookshop for a book-club dinner celebrating the release of her latest novel, The Nightmare Thief. Set in San Francisco, the novel is Gardiner's fourth in the series starring Jo Beckett, intrepid forensic psychiatrist, who here finds herself wrapped up in a rich kid's birthday present gone wrong. BS 6:30 p.m. 514 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont. $23. 412-361-3581 or www.mysterylovers.com

 

Thu., July 28 -- Comedy 

The audience for late-night laughs Downtown continues building, says the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Every Thursday this summer, the Trust's Pittsburgh Improv Jam takes over the Cabaret at Theater Square for long-form improvisational comedy. The show, now in its second season, features performers from such local troupes as Friday Night Improvs, Hustlebot and Steel City Improv Theater, not to mention a show-ending open set for newcomers. If you miss 'em tonight -- or just want more -- the Pittsburgh Improv All*Stars (featuring some of the same troupes and performers) do their thing at the Cabaret on Sat., July 30. BO 10 p.m. 655 Penn Ave., Downtown. $3. 21-and-over only. www.pgharts.org

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