August: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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



Through Aug. 6/ You’re guaranteed to leave the theater with songs stuck in your head after watching “Mamma Mia!” presented by Pittsburgh CLO. You’ll follow Sophie on the eve of her wedding attempting to determine which of her mother’s three former suitors is her real father. Meanwhile, her mother has the girls back together in her platform shoe-wearing, disco-loving band belting out such classics as the title song, “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me.” One of Broadway’s longest-running shows, it makes for a perfect evening of simple summer fun. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666,

Aug. 10-26/ The British monarchy holds a certain amount of allure — and mystery — for us common Americans. Go behind the curtain of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign in “The Audience” by Peter Morgan (who also created the Netflix series “The Crown”). Morgan imagined (with quite a bit of historical research) what went on behind the closed doors of weekly meetings between the monarch and the numerous prime ministers from her 65-year reign. Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and more recent PMs make appearances as they discuss the state of affairs — and scandals — of Great Britain. (Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, North Strabane Township; 724/745-6300,

Aug. 25-26/ The Second City is known as a launching pad for famous comics: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert are just a few of the group’s alums. This month, get your chance to see the up-and-comers at “The Second City Summer Blockbuster” at Pittsburgh Public Theater. It’ll be a memorable evening of sketch comedy and improv (and one recommended for mature audiences). (O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/316-1600,

Kerry James Marshall, “Untitled (Gallery),” 2016, Acrylic on PVC panel | Photo Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, London

THROUGH DEC. 31/ Hindsight is said to be 20/20, but foresight can be more visionary. Be an eyewitness to that idea at “20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art,” a collaborative exhibit that showcases highlights from two collections.

“20/20” actually refers to a mixing and merging of pieces from 20 artists from each museum. It’s the creative duet of CMOA curator Eric Crosby and his friend and colleague Amanda Hunt, a former Studio Museum curator now working at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The pair harnesses the power of art to focus on social and political currents during a troubled and divided time in our nation’s history. Like a puzzle, the “pieces” have been put together to create a singular vision: a portrait, of sorts, of America in our time. That puzzle-portrait comprises six themes, each fortified with representative works of art, photography and other media arching over the course of a century.

Among them, “A More Perfect Union” looks at our democracy and national identity, and “Working Thought” focuses on the economy and labor, including slavery. “Documenting Black Life” is dedicated to the work of two late African-American photographers: Pittsburgh’s Charles “Teenie” Harris and Harlem-based James VanDerZee. Among other important names here: Horace Pippin, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jasper Johns, Glenn Ligon, Louise Nevelson, Melvin Edwards, Gordon Parks, Lorraine O’Grady, Edgar Arceneaux, Howardena Pindell, Kara Walker, Thaddeus Mosley and Kerry James Marshall, whose “Untitled (Gallery)” is a recent CMOA acquisition. (Heinz Galleries, Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131,

THROUGH SEPT. 17/ Art history boasts many movements, but this show reflects on one that involves movement itself. “The Art of Movement: Alexander Calder, George Rickey and Tim Prentice,” organized by The Westmoreland Museum of American Art Chief Curator Barbara L. Jones, explores three dynamos of kinetic art, either in its actual or virtual expression. Prentice — last, but not least, in the show’s trio — was commissioned for the site-specific piece “Windframe,” a recent eye- and breeze-catching addition to the museum’s façade. More than 50 sculptures and works on paper are on view to tell the story of this movement, which gained momentum in 1955 at a show in Paris called, appropriately, “Le Mouvement.” (The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg; 724/837-1500,

Aug17_Datebook_Exhibits_WEB THROUGH SEPT. 10/ In his 92 years, spanning two centuries, Irving Penn (1917-2009) focused his lens over a broad spectrum ranging from the glamorous to the gritty. He’s known for his fashion photography, showcased in magazines like Vogue, and his portraits of celebrities that included Martha Graham, Pablo Picasso, Truman Capote, Georgia O’Keeffe and Igor Stravinsky. His career also included advertising photography, social-realist observations, still lifes and nudes. In later years, he found inspiration in found objects such as a crushed paper cup. “Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty,” organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, presents more than 140 of the photographs of this master, renowned for his lighting, attention to details and composition. (The Frick Pittsburgh, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600,

THROUGH SEPT. 4/ Pick your poison, as they say. And at this show, there’s plenty to choose from. “The Power of Poison” at Carnegie Museum of Natural History puts us up close and personal in myriad ways with the nasty things — plant, animal and more — that can make us ill, miserable or worse in what’s billed, ironically, as a “family-friendly” experience. This blockbuster event, organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, explores poison and its power in myriad ways. We enter through a make-believe Colombian forest where poisonous flora and fauna lurk. There are critters to see — a poisonous frog and tarantula — interactive opportunities and displays that branch out throughout the museum, even into the “Dinosaurs in Their Time” exhibit. Poison is showcased not only in nature but also in culture in areas like literature (think “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”). On a positive note, we also learn how venom and other toxins are being used to develop new medical treatments to improve and save lives. (Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3131,

photo by kelly perkovich

 Aug. 20/ For this year’s annual “Ballet Under the Stars” event, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre offers standards from the classical repertory as well as selected works choreographed and performed by company members. The new ballets, which premiered on the “Millennial Movement” program in May, were developed in part during PBT’s second-year residency affiliation with Seton Hill University in Greensburg. The workshop provided students with insights into the creative process and afforded the five participating choreographers opportunities to hone their craft and produce ballets with an enduring shelf life.. (Hartwood Acres Parks Amphitheater, 4070 Middle Road, Allison Park;

Aug. 2/ Direct from the Dollhouse Dance Factory, “Bring It!” Lifetime’s popular reality competition dance series, takes to the road following its fourth broadcast season. The award-winning Dancing Dolls, a Mississippi-based troupe of teenage performers led by choreographer “Miss D” Williams, are famed for hip hop, jazz dance, acrobatic and majorette skills. The touring production offers high-energy ensemble numbers, audience interaction and insights into the TV series.. (Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/392-4900,

Aug. 12/ Egyptian hieroglyphs and runway modeling poses gave rise to “vogue,” a linear dance genre originating in the 1980s and popularized in Harlem’s black and Latino LGBT community. Since entering the mainstream a decade later, the form has evolved into several styles, including one embracing spins, dips and the “Leiomy Lolly,” a signature hair flip associated with Leiomy “The Wonder Woman of Vogue” Maldonado. This internationally recognized dancer/choreographer, who has worked with Willow Smith and in music videos, conducts an afternoon dance workshop and artist lunch and offers an evening performance and post-show discussion.. The presentation is in partnership with local LGBTQ Organization True T Entertainment as part of its 3rd annual #Blackout Weekend, celebrating Queers of Color. (Kelly Strayhorn Theater Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship; 412/363-3000,

Categories: Things To Do