Best of Culture: August

This month’s finest exhibits, dance, theater, lectures and more.

Photo by Rich Sofranko

By Karen Dacko

International Choreography Competition/Jazz Dance World Festival
Aug. 1-4

Jazz Dance World Congress, established in 1990 by late jazz-dance meister Gus Giordano and Northwestern University, is an international educational event, offering master classes and public performances (including a choreography competition and a main-stage festival). Imported programming features 10 troupes, including Mexico’s Cuerpo Etéreo Danza Contemporánea and Japan’s Masashi Action Machine — plus companies from Chicago, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia. Three local troupes — August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and students from Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Co. — will also perform.

(Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown; 412/456-6666,

Pillow Project
Aug. 11 & 31

This month’s “Second Saturday” event showcases ( ) — an evening-length minimalist jazz work about interpersonal connections. “Fifth Friday,” a new Pillow Project initiative, offers works by the troupe and informal opportunities for audience participation.

(The Space Upstairs, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze; 412/225-9269,

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Aug. 16

Recently promoted principal dancer Christine Schwaner and soloist Amanda Cochrane — along with new apprentices Corey Bourbonniere, JoAnna Schmidt and Casey Taylor — perform in Ballet Under the Stars, PBT’s annual outdoor showcase featuring Dwight Rhoden’s “Chromatic” and “Napoli Variations” by August Bournonville.

(Hartwood Acres Amphitheater, Middle Road, Allison Park, 412/767-9200; PBT: 412/281-0360,

By Mike May

“Humor in Craft”
July 20-Oct. 27

Funny thing — art doesn’t often have a sense of humor. Art is Serious stuff. That’s why a show like “Humor in Craft” is refreshing — especially during the summer. Guest curator Brigitte Martin, artist and author of the new book Humor in Craft, has assembled a fun group of 33 artists from around the globe to tackle this theme in a world-premiere exhibit at Society for Contemporary Craft. Of course, being funny requires talent and creativity — sometimes in greater abundance than when the goal is to create Serious art. The humor here can range from laugh-out-loud funny to more subtle wit, employing irony, sarcasm and political shadings. And let’s not forget that some of the most Serious things in life can be expressed in jest.

(2100 Smallman St., Strip District; 412/261-7003,

“American Idols”
Aug. 3-Nov. 10

It’s election time — and what better way to salute the season than with heads of state: busts of all our American presidents, from Washington to Obama. But don’t expect a staid, civics-class look at our leaders. In “American Idols,” glass sculptor John Moran offers an offbeat whimsical interpretation: Consider Abraham Lincoln as a hipster or Rutherford B. Hayes as a lumberjack.

(Pittsburgh Glass Center, 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship; 412/365-2145,

By Kristofer Collins

Carolyne Whelan
Aug. 19

Whelan, who will speak at the Carnegie Library Main Branch event, is the author of recently published The Glossary of Tania Aebi, a poem cycle concerning the first American woman to circumnavigate the globe. In the past, I’ve referred to Whelan’s poetry in these pages as “spare, even austere, with nary a word wasted. The terminology of sailing frames defines Aebi’s world, providing a structure to safely move her across the water and into her own self. The experience of a young woman at sea becomes a metaphor for the insignificance we can sometimes feel in our less-dramatic lives on dry land.”

(4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 2pm; free;

Reading Room in Market Square
Aug. 28

Now in its third season, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Reading Room in Market Square offers a generous sampling of CLP programs for downtown workers and visitors. Spend your lunch hour getting your bookworm on! Librarians will be on hand to help steer you toward your new favorite book. Special book discussions are also on the lunchtime menu. And I’m sure if you ask nicely, the librarians will throw some french fries on top.

(Market Square, downtown; 11am-2pm; free;

By Robert Isenberg

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre
Aug. 2-25

Nikolai Ivanov is kind of a jerk. He’s manipulative, he owes money and he’s ambivalent about his wife’s tuberculosis. Ivanov, a four-act drama, is a difficult pill to swallow — but like all of Chekhov’s works, the play is a heartfelt tale of choices and regret, made all the more splendid in this Tom Stoppard adaptation. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre presents this lesser-known masterpiece by the great Russian master. But that’s not all for PICT: Every other year, Pittsburgh’s premier classical company shows its mettle with a month-long festival. This year, “A Celebration of the Life and Theatre of Anton Chekhov” lasts five weeks, from July 19 to Aug. 26. Catch “Funny Chekhov”, a series of Chekhovian comedies, and “After Chekhov”, with Russo-inspired plays by Brian Friel — but be sure to check the PICT site for all the details.

(Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, University of Pittsburgh, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/624-7529,

Comtra Theatre
Aug. 17-Sept. 1

Elle Woods is just your prototypical sorority girl, until her boyfriend dumps her. Why would Warner move on? Because he wants a “more serious” girlfriend. So Elle struts her way into Harvard Law, with unexpected results. Based on the satirical novel by Amanda Brown — and 2001 film — Legally Blonde is a romp through Valley Girl and law-school cultures. Comtra presents this high-energy musical, featuring such pop hits as “Omigod, You Guys.”

(20540 Route 19 North, Cranberry Township; 724/591-8727,

No Name Players
Aug. 3-18

Greg is a bored underachiever — and so is his girlfriend Steph. But then he describes her to friends as “regular” — not beautiful or even cute. In Neil LaBute’s super-realistic morality tale, Greg tries to understand why his sweetie might not be thrilled by that description. No Name Players presents Reasons to be Pretty, a complex relationship drama with a young powerhouse cast.

(Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning, Oakland;

Bricolage Theater
Aug. 1-Sept. 1

What exactly is an “immersive urban adventure?” How about a “refitnessing center?” Like a lot of Bricolage’s projects, you may not have any idea what you’re watching until the house lights dim. Strata is a collaboration with Riley Harmon, a multimedia artist whose innovative work has involved billboards, film, drum kits and video games. Don’t ask. Don’t guess. Just see what happens.

(Mystery venue revealed when purchasing tickets;

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