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Short List: Week of March 17 - 24

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Thu., March 17 -- Art

Photographer Robert Raczka has some questions about lawns like the one he owns. What's a lawn for? What makes a lawn a lawn? Must they all look like golf courses? Are there ways to have a good lawn that don't require environmentally damaging watering regimes, toxic doses of herbicide and weekly power-mowing? Robert Raczka: Yard Works explores these ideas through imagery and text at the Chatham University Art Gallery starting with tonight's reception. Bill O'Driscoll 5-7 p.m. Exhibit continues through April 8. Woodland Hall, Chatham campus, Squirrel Hill. Free. 412-365-1560 or www.robertraczka.com

 

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Thu., March 17 -- Puppets

Puppets for kids, puppets for adults; fancy puppets and puppets made from scraps -- for years, the Black Sheep Puppet Festival put Pittsburgh on the national map, puppetwise. In 2008, the fest went the way of all felt. But now, Black Sheep organizers Tom Sarver and Mike Cuccaro and new collaborator Flora Shepherd begin anew with The Puppet Happening. A fall festival is planned, but tonight and March 19 the Pup Hap launches with cabaret-style performances at Garfield's Glass Lofts. Included: "Punchinello vs. the Schmoovaggios," Sarver's comedic "semi-traditional" hand-puppet outing (Shih tzus are involved); Shepherd's dark fairy tale "In the Night"; and puppeteer Zach Dorn's "Real Live Puppets!," a series of short works in the mode of Victorian toy theater. BO 8 p.m. Also 8 p.m. Sat., March 19. 5485 Penn Ave. (third floor), Garfield. Suggested donation: $10. www.puppethappening.com


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Thu., March 17 -- Comedy

The very funny Tommy Davidson is in town. The In Living Colour veteran -- a guy with the range to do Tupac, Prince, Obama and Elton John -- has more recently popped up on MadTV and in films including Black Dynamite. He's currently developing a new TV variety show ... and, as usual, doing standup comedy, like this week's four-day, six-show stop at Pittsburgh Improv. BO 8 p.m. Continues through Sun., March 21. 166 E. Bridge St., The Waterfront, West Homestead. $20. 412-462-5233 or www.improv.com

 

Sat., March 19 -- Gardening

She co-wrote the book Grow Organic. She co-hosts (with Grow Organic co-author Doug Oster) the weekly KDKA radio show The Organic Gardeners. And today, with spring planting season upon us, Jessica Walliser visits Fern Hollow Nature Center to offer "Six Steps to a Pest-Free Garden." Learn to keep the aphids and other hungry critters away with integrated pest management and natural-care gardening, all while boosting plants' immune systems. Post-talk, meet local experts in gardening and pollination from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Penn State and Burgh Bees. BO 10 a.m. 1901 Glen Mitchell Road, Sewickley Heights. $20. Reservations required at 412-741-6136 or fhnc@verizon.net

 

Sat., March 19 -- Music

Latin America was always as big a melting pot as the old U.S. of A. To wit: Renaissance and Baroque of Pittsburgh presents Salsa Baroque: Music of Latin America and Spain of the 17th and 18th Century, played by Ensemble Caprice. The Canadian group performs the music of Spain, Bolivia and Mexico on baroque cellos, guitar, recorders, percussion and traverso flutes. At Oakland's Synod Hall, a pre-concert chat by the musicians starts at 7 p.m., with a Q&A to follow the performance. Lucy Steigerwald 8 p.m. 125 N. Craig St., Oakland. $10-$35. 412-361-2048 or www.rbsp.org

 

Mon., March 21 -- Law

Laws these days seem to get made mostly by corporations (or at least their employees in government). But it needn't be so. Two distinguished law professors visit to suggest an alternative, as the University of Pittsburgh law school's Lawyering for Social Change lecture series hosts Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres. Guinier might be best known for President Clinton's infamous 1993 withdrawal of his nomination of her to head the federal Civil Rights Division. But Guinier, now a professor at Harvard Law School, has continued to work for social justice. She and Torres (of the University of Texas law school) have written the forthcoming book Changing the Wind: Demosprudence of Law and Social Movements (Oxford University Press). It proposes democracy-enhancing jurisprudence -- lawmaking as a collaborative enterprise between judges, legislators and citizens. Their lecture of the same title is tonight. BO 6 p.m. Teplitz Memorial Courtroom, Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. www.law.pitt.edu

 

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Mon., March 21 -- Words

What do animals mean to humans? To get an idea, you can read novelist and modern-day fabulist Yann Martel's latest, Beatrice and Virgil. Tonight, you can also see Martel at the Drue Heinz Lecture Series. Nine years after the publication of Life of Pi, his bestselling story of a young man shipwrecked and stuck in a lifeboat with a tiger, Martel came back with a tale of a novelist who gets entangled with a creepy taxidermist and his stuffed creatures. LS 7:30 p.m. Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $10-25. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org

 

Tues., March 22 -- Words

Even if you don't attend the University of Pittsburgh, you can still take advantage of the knowledge of its well-traveled and well-studied guests. For instance, there's the lecture series Perspectives on Conflict, organized by Global Solutions Pittsburgh and the Pitt Global Studies Center. Today's talk is by visiting Contemporary International Issues professor Moataz F. Herzawi and concerns Sudan. Herzawi, who was an observer for the Sudanese elections, will discuss the country's possible future. The series' April lecture considers Cambodia. LS 4 p.m. 230 South Bouquet St., Oakland. Free. 412-648-5085 or global@pitt.edu

 

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Tues., March 22 -- Art

Carnegie Mellon University's artists' lecture series continues with Amy Franceschini, a multi-medium designer who explores the conflict between man and nature, social change and technology with work from computer games to installations. Franceschini founded the international artist collective Future Farmers and she co-founded Free Soil, a mix of artists, gardeners, activists and researchers who explore new ideas on using spaces. Her solo and collaborative works have been featured in venues including New York's Museum of Modern Art. LS 5 p.m. McConomy Auditorium, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. 412-268-2409 or artscool@andrew.cmu.edu


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Tue., March 22 -- Words

In 1995, at age 23, Kemba Smith Pradia -- a first-time, nonviolent drug offender -- was sentenced to 24-and-a-half years in prison. Ironically, Pradia, who'd grown up privileged, got involved in the drug trade in college; with NAACP lawyers' help, her sentence was commuted, in 2000. Now Smith works to warn people of the dangers of both drug abuse and the War on Drugs, with its harsh mandatory minimum sentencing and disproportionate impact on minorities. Pradia visits Pittsburgh to speak tonight at Carlow University. BO 7 p.m. Kresge Theatre, Grace Library, Carlow campus, Oakland. Free. 412-578-6021 or www.carlow.edu

 

Thu., March 24 -- Museums

The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are free Thurday evenings through March, starting at 3:30 p.m. (Thank a donation from the Buncher Family Foundation.) New and ongoing shows include Natural History's Explore Evolution and Gigapixel Imaging for Science, the latter featuring super-detailed large-scale photographs of landscapes and wildlife. In the art wing, see new shows by playful Icelandic video and performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson and Andrey Avinoff: In Pursuit of Beauty, featuring the lavish visions of the late former director of the Natural History Museum itself. BO Free times: 3:30-8 p.m. Also Thu., March 31. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 412-622-3131 or www.carnegiemuseums.org

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