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Short List: Week of May 6 - 13

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With Denzel Washington starring in a Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences, the late playwright is back in the national news. Hereabouts, meanwhile, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Co. revisits the very first installment of what became Wilson's epic, career-defining project. Jitney, Wilson's drama about life in a gypsy-cab station in the Hill District circa 1977, was written in 1979 -- before any of his other Century Cycle plays, each chronicling a decade of the African-American experience. Though the Pittsburgh-born playwright had already left town, Jitney premiered here, in 1982, shortly before Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and the Pulitzer-winning Fences put Wilson's fine-grained explorations of everyday life on the theatrical map. Wilson would extensively rewrite Jitney; it didn't premiere in New York until 2000. But its reputation has grown, and if any troupe can do it justice it's Playwrights, which has emerged as the top local interpreter of Wilson's work. Director Mark Clayton Southers has assembled a veritable all-star local cast. The lead part of Becker goes to Sala Udin (pictured, in foreground) -- who, before he served on Pittsburgh's City Council, was an actor and friend of Wilson's who originated this role of a man in conflict with a son who's just completed a long stretch in prison. The cast includes Joshua Elijah Reese, Wali Jamal, Kevin Brown and Jonathan Berry. Udin, for his part, calls Jitney his favorite play by Wilson. Bill O'Driscoll Sat., May 8-May 30. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Co., 542 Penn Ave., Downtown. $22.50-27.50. 412-394-3353 or www.pghplaywrights.com

 

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Fri., May 7 -- Art

Akira is the pinnacle of anime sci-fi. Painstaking animation tells the dark, thrilling story of motorcycling cyberpunks caught in dystopian Neo-Tokyo. Katsuhiro Ôtomo's 1988 film is a visual spectacular, with even the slightest elements radiating astounding detail. The Toonseum honors this cult classic with The Art of AKIRA, the largest exhibit of Akira art ever publicly displayed. The show officially opens tonight with a VIP party and Akira art auction. Anna Reilly 7-10 p.m. ($25). Continues through July 18. 945 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-232-0199 or www.toonseum.org

 

Fri., May 7 -- Party

Running away to join the circus has never been such a feasible life choice. The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts hosts Vaudeville Circus, a high-energy dance party/circus extravaganza benefitting local LGBT awareness group The Delta Foundation. Guests can get their freak on to DJ Strobe, play the raffles, enjoy wacky circus surprises and indulge in the cash bar, all beneath the PCA's extravagantly decorated big-top. AR 7-11 p.m. 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. 18 and over. $10 donation. 412-361-0455 or www.pittsburgharts.org

 

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Fri., May 7 -- Rock

Murder By Death's Adam Turla has a gruff, mature voice well suited to singing about hard times and whiskey -- both themes he returns to now and again. But far from a straight old-time down-on-his-luck country artist, Turla leads a band that mixes country, rock and chamber pop (yes, there's a prominently featured cello). It makes for a somewhat theatrical take on Americana; the band's new album, Good Morning, Magpie, though not a concept album, has something of a narrative flow to it. The band appears tonight at Mr. Small's Theatre along with Ha Ha Tonka and Linfinity. Andy Mulkerin 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $13-15. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

 

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Sat., May 8 -- Amusement

It's that time of year again, and -- dare we say it? -- Kennywood's open! Time to pile in the car, pack some sunscreen and follow the yellow arrows to Pittsburgh's beloved amusement park. Enjoy vintage games, rollercoasters and attractions, and experience brand-new rides like the Sky Rocket, a coaster that shoots riders from zero to 50 mph in three seconds flat. (I'd hold off on the Potato Patch fries until afterward.) The gates are open weekends-only till May 20, when the park begins daily hours for the season. AR 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. West Mifflin. $9.99-35.99. 412-461-0500 or www.kennywood.com

 

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Sat., May 8 -- Rock

Crazy but true: Not every dude rock singer in the early '90s sounded like they were goin' hungray. Grant-Lee Philips, then of the band Grant Lee Buffalo, wasn't too alternative to sing pretty; in 1995 (and the wake of "Mockingbird"), he was voted best male vocalist in Rolling Stone. Since the group disbanded, in 1999, Philips has pursued a solo career; his latest album is Little Moon, released last year on Yep Roc. Philips plays Club Café tonight with Winterpills, a show presented by WYEP 91.3 FM. Aaron Jentzen 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $18. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

 

Sat., May 8 -- Dance

None of that "first Fridays" stuff for the Pillow Project. Pearlann Porter's multimedia-and-dance troupe is into the third season of its Second Saturdays shows. Tonight's amalgam of art, music and movement in the loungey confines of its Space Upstairs is titled Uncharted Syncopations, and features "entirely original experiments" by the Project's resident musician, PJ Roduta. Porter, by the way, was recently named one of "25 to Watch in 2010" by Dance Magazine, which said: "Porter's daring generates hip, installation-style happenings and socially conscious dance-theater." BO 8 p.m. 214 Lexington Ave. (above Construction Junction), Point Breeze. $8 suggested donation. www.pillowproject.org

 

Sat., May 8 -- Rock

It's been more than 25 years in business for Gang Green, the seminal Boston punk band that's all about drinking and skateboarding. The lineup has changed about a bazillion times, with singer Chris Doherty serving as the linchpin; the remainder of the current personnel weren't around for the early days, when the band's Sold Out EP was the first Taang! Records release. But no worries -- that doesn't make a Gang Green appearance at Belvedere's tonight any less fun and, y'know, beery. Oh Shit They're Going to Kill Us, Atomic Drops, Loafass and Rustbelt Homewreckers open. AM 9 p.m. 4016 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $10. 412-687-2555

 

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Mon., May 10 -- Rock

English art-rock band Porcupine Tree is one of the bigger names in current progressive-atmospheric-conceptual-riffy circles ... OK, it might take all day to really describe what this band is about, but it's safe to say that Porcupine Tree playing at Mr. Small's Theatre tonight is big news to fans of wide-screen, instrumentally skillful rock. Also performing is the more retro Bigelf. AJ 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.). 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. 21 and over. $25. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

 

Mon., May 10 -- Film

Cameras come in all shapes and sizes. But deadlines approach on two local contests seeking short films of very particular lengths. The long-running Film Kitchen seeks works of under five minutes on the theme "Fortune"; finalists screen June 8, for judges awarding cash prizes, as part of the Three Rivers Film Festival. The deadline is May 24 (guidelines at www.filmkitchenpgh.org). Meanwhile, the Carnegie Museum of Art takes seriously its theme "A Brief History of ...": Films for this contest (held in conjunction with the forthcoming Forum 65 exhibit) must be worthy of a Two-Minute Film Festival. The deadline's June 15 (www.cmoa.org/2minutefilms); the screening is July 15. Entry in both contests is free. BO 

 

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Tue., May 11 -- Puppets

Last fall was the first in years without an installment of the Black Sheep Puppet Festival -- an annual favorite at the currently inoperative Brew House -- but one Black Sheep favorite is making an appearance in town this spring. Philadelphia's Morgan Andrews -- known as the Shoddy Puppet Company -- performs a new show, Fables of Flight and Falling, tonight at ModernFormations Gallery. Andrews mixes cultural critique with theatric elements from diverse traditions. Pittsburgh's Flora Shepherd performs as well. AM 8 p.m. 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $5-10 suggested donation (no one turned away). 412-362-0274

 

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Wed., May 12 -- Words

There are many ways to reminisce. Diary, mixtape. Memento guy had those tattoos. For author Josh Wilker, baseball cards set the mind on "recall." Wilker's blog Cardboard Gods explores the intricacies of life while dishing on players depicted in each of his vintage baseball cards. The blog is now a book of the same name, which Wilker discusses and signs tonight at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. AR 7 p.m. 510 S. 27th Street, South Side. Free. 412-381-3600 or www.josephbeth.com 

 

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Wed., May 12 -- Stage

The 24th Pittsburgh International Children's Festival brings the world to Oakland. Some of the five-day fest is free, with Schenley Plaza the outdoor base for performances and a new musically themed interactive artwork by local artists. Meanwhile, ticketed indoor performances feature: Scotland's Puppet State Theatre Company (The Man Who Planted Trees); Kenya's Mapapa Acrobats; Quebec's Théâtre Bouches Découses (Bathtime); circus by Russia's Aga-Boom trio; and Italy's La Societa Della Civetta (Droplets). Last but not least, Pittsburgh's own Zany Umbrella Circus offers a new show about an Italian circus artist who hopes to teach tightrope-walking ... to an elephant. Performances of Beppe's Elephant and the other acts begin today. BO 9:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Continues through Sun., May 16. Schenley Plaza and various outdoor and indoor venues, Oakland. $8 (children under 2 free but require ticket; discounts available). 412-456-6666 or www.pghkids.org

 

Thu., May 13 -- Noise

On his live album deCOMPOSITION, Damian Catera creates noisy drones and eerie dark ambient textures by playing his guitar alongside a computer program that samples and manipulates the sounds in random ways, then feeds them back to Catera. Favoring an improvisational, interdisciplinary approach, Catera has toured and exhibited his work widely. He plays Garfield Artworks tonight with the equally mind-melting Sundogpeacehouse and Requiem. (The show is presented by CP contributor Manny Theiner.) AJ 8 p.m. 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $6. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

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