December: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

photo by ryan reason

Nov. 30-Dec. 17/ It’s the summer of love and Kenneth and Sandra are indeed in love — with each other, with drugs and with their carefree life. But after marriage and kids, the former flower children must grow up and face how much their choices have influenced their own children’s successes — and struggles. “Love, Love, Love,” (an ode to the Beatles “All You Need Is Love”) at Kinetic Theatre should prove to be a telling, and oftentimes funny, tale of modern life that will intrigue viewers from all generations. (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, 937 Liberty Ave., third floor (elevator-accessible) Downtown; 888/71.TICKETS,

Dec. 6-10/ Life is too important to be taken seriously, so join PICT Classic Theatre as often as possible this month as it presents a series of shows with a focus on Oscar Wilde. “PICT: Wilde at the Frick,” kicks off with the U.S. premiere of “In the Company of Oscar Wilde,” which tells the author’s life story through his own words and writings. Next, the family-friendly “Oscar Wilde Fairy Tales” will feature two of the fairy tales, “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant,” Wilde wrote for his sons. Finally, “The Trial of Oscar Wilde” is the story of Wilde’s final cross-examination, re-created by his grandson. It follows the court case between Wilde and the Marquess of Queensberry, who accused Wilde of cohorting with male prostitutes; the outcome ultimately sent Wilde into bankruptcy and exile. (The Frick Pittsburgh, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/561-6000,

Dec. 8-17/ What’s the greatest gift you’ll give — or receive — this holiday? How far would you go to give that perfect gift to the one you love? Pittsburgh Playhouse Conservatory Theatre Company presents “The Gift of the Magi,” adapted from the O. Henry short story. Since its publication in the early 1900s, “The Gift of the Magi” has become a classic, heartwarming tale, a perfect picture of the best of ourselves. (Rauh Theatre, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000,

photo courtesy mattress factory

THROUGH JULY 29/ There’s (at least) one installation at the Mattress Factory’s anniversary show “New Installations: 40th Year” that will grow on you. Meg Webster’s “Solar Grow Room” is a garden of botanical delights: Flowers team up with sage, thyme, basil and other tesserae to create a luminous mosaic arranged in rows of boxes. Manmade elements include LED grow lights, a solar-powered electrical system, plywood, steel and Mylar. Webster infuses concern for the environment and its human-related devastation (notably declining bee populations) into her art. Although there’s a warning implied in “Solar Grow Room,” there’s also optimism. The plants will be nurtured and encouraged to flourish. While most art is static, Webster’s installation, like nature, is dynamic. Come spring, these plants move outside, and they will be replaced by nectar plants. Ultimately, those bee magnets are destined for greener pastures, too. Considering the MF milestone, Webster’s installation might be viewed symbolically. It parallels the birth, continuity and ongoing renewal of an amazing museum dedicated to installation art, which has attracted international attention. Curators for “New Installations” are MF founder, president and co-director Barbara Luderowski and longtime co-director Michael Olijnyk. Creative exploration blooms in diverse ways in the other installations by two local artists, Vanessa German and David Pohl, and New York-based David Ellis and Allan Wexler. Don’t miss a special exhibition focusing on the late transgender artist Greer Lankton, whose parents donated an archive of thousands of paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, journals, newspaper clippings and more, on display for the first time. It complements Lankton’s immersive installation, “It’s all about ME, Not You,” part of the museum’s permanent collection. (Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side; 412/231-3169,

THROUGH DEC. 31/ For more installation art, head to Wood Street Galleries. It’s not exactly a visit from St. Nick, but this import from Holland will add some edgy sparkle to your holiday season this year. Dutch art collective Macular presents four kinetic installations showcasing light — more specifically: how interference affects patterns of light and movement. It’s an immersive experience, affirming the group’s “research into the applications of technology and science within art and their perpetual quest to probe the limits of human perception.” (Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown; 412/471-5605,

THROUGH DEC. 28/ “Out of Many: Stories of Migration” marks the first version of a two-part major show launched by The Documentary Works, a collaborative group of professional photographers focusing on social and environmental issues, in collaboration with several local organizations. Through this expository exhibition, curated by Brian Cohen and Laura Domencic, five photographers and two writers address and explore this objective: “Working with the premise that we all come from somewhere, the group explores the central roles that immigration and migration have played, and continue to play, in the formation of our identity and culture, and in sustaining our economy.” Stay tuned for Part 2, which includes new photographs along with objects from the museum’s collection and opens at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in January. (American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-8010,

photo by robert kormos

Dec. 1-3/ Attack Theatre premieres “In Defense of Gravity,” a contemporary dance-theater production inspired by prolific local poet/artist Jimmy Cvetic, a retired Allegheny County detective who works with at-risk youth. For this production, the athletic contemporary dance troupe known for multimedia and interdisciplinary collaborations explores the edginess and humor found in Cvetic’s works with guest artists Patrick Jordan and Anqwenique. (George R. White Studio, 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District; 412/281-3305,


Dec. 1-27/ Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” (2002), choreographed by Artistic Director Terrence Orr to P.I. Tchaikovsky’s charming score, takes audiences on a sweeping tour of early 20th-century Pittsburgh. Accented by local landmarks, logos and personalities, the show recounts E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale of magic, monstrous mice and the midnight travels of Marie Stahlbaum and her enchanted prince. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666,

Dec. 9/ The Second Saturdays at The Space Upstairs series takes its final bow, concluding a decade of improvisational jazz-fueled happenings that showcased post-jazz method dance, experimental works and extemporaneous collaborations by guests and resident artists. Music by resident musician PJ Roduta and performances by local and special guest movement artists highlight the finale. (The Space Upstairs, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze; 412/225-9269,

Dec. 15-16/ New York’s Michiyaya Dance, a women’s contemporary dance-theater troupe, and local duo slowdanger conclude a six-month, bi-city collaboration of workshops and presentations with the local premiere of “fôr,” an experimental and interdisciplinary dance performance focusing on aspects of identity. (Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s Dance Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship; 412/363-3000,

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