December: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

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


Through Dec. 4/ Patrick Marber’s Three Days in the Country is an adapted version of Ivan Turgenev’s tale “A Month in the Country.” The story intermingles humor and unrequited love, allowing members of the audience to watch a scene unfold over time without feeling as if they’ve been sitting for, well, three days. The play follows a web of “she’s married to him, but flirting with another him, but then falls in love with yet another him, whom all of her friends have also taken an interest in.” This lust map requires a large ensemble of actors — more than a dozen, including Nike Doukas, Leo Marks, Larry John Meyers, Sam Tsoutsouvas, Helena Ruoti and David Whalen — to play the love-struck middle-agers. Directed by Kinetic Theatre Producing Artistic Director Andrew Paul, the troupe winds down the year with this American premiere — and a lesson or two about love. (New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side; 888/718-4253,

Through Dec. 11/ Quantum Theater presents The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, a chamber opera composed by Michael Nyman and based on the book by neurologist Oliver Sacks. The book/play follows one of Sacks’ case studies, in which a man suffered from “mental blindness” or “visual agnosia” but would see shapes and colors as he heard music. The production features an eight-piece orchestra with a string ensemble including harp and piano. Quantum has paired again with visuals guru Joe Seamans to let the audience see what the patient sees via video projection. (200 N. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412/362-1713,

Dec. 1-18/ Fans of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol, will want to check out Little Lake Theatre Company’s adaptation. In the original (and in most re-tellings), Ebenezer Scrooge is urged by three spirits to change his curmudgeonly ways during a journey through his past, present and future. This adaptation, however, has Scrooge reliving his tough lesson each year in a “Groundhog Day”-esque comedy. (Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, North Strabane Township; 724/745-6300,

Peter Paul Rubens, “Portrait of Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess of Condé,” c. 1610. Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center.

Through May 14/ This holiday season is not only a festive one — but it’s also an especially appropriate time to head your one-horse open sleigh to Frick Art & Historical Center. During this time of gift-giving, the current exhibition, “The Frick Collects: From Rubens to Monet,” reminds us of the cultural legacy bequeathed us by the Henry Clay Frick family. The show tells the story of the Frick through the lens of its collection. Once upon a time, a young Henry Frick (1849–1919) decided to upgrade his bachelor pad at the Monongahela House, Downtown, with several purchases, including a landscape by local painter George Hetzel (look for it in the show). As Frick’s fortunes rose — and did they ever! — so did his taste and collecting acumen, inspired by the 19th-century passion for collecting. His daughter, Helen Clay Frick, continued her father’s legacy, expanding and enriching it with her love of 18th-century French art and Italian Renaissance painting. She also created and gave us what is today’s Frick Art & Historical Center. Since Miss Frick’s death in 1984, the museum has added to the collection, even venturing into contemporary art — how about Cindy Sherman’s campy Sèvres porcelain soup tureen? Looking for a true Christmas touch? Visit the 15th-century Nativity painting by Giovanni di Paolo in the permanent collection. More seasonal attractions add sparkle: the annual “Clayton Holiday Tour: A Family Christmas” runs through Jan. 8, and “Winter Fridays at the Frick,” featuring entertainment, drinks, gallery talks, carolers and more, runs through Jan. 6. (7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze; 412/371-0600,

Francesco Guardi (1712–1793), “View on the Grand Canal at San Geremia, Venice,” 1760–1765. Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center

Through Dec. 26/ The gift of giving is explored in another way at “Being Good.” This photography show organized by local photographer Brian Cohen acknowledges “three transformational artists and thinkers based in Pittsburgh who share their humanness and employ their art to improve the lives of people living in distressed neighborhoods:” Vanessa German (photographed by Lynn Johnson), Randy Gilson (photographed by Cohen) and Bill Strickland (photographed by Scott Goldsmith). (American Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-8010,

Through Jan. 22/ Walt Whitman said, “I sing the body electric.” Andy Warhol might have exchanged “sing” with “paint.” “Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body” — an ironic title — illuminates the Pittsburgh native’s reflection on the human form. You’ll see his Pop art influence in topics inspired by commercial advertising, and subjects include Christ and his Apostles at the Last Supper as well as bodybuilders. (The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Shore; 412/237-8300,

Through Jan. 22/ Literary allusions to the colorful plant bougainvillea — named for French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville — can be found in the writing of authors such as Thomas Pynchon, Stephen King and Anne Rice. Its depiction in art is also somewhat rare, but that’s been rectified in “Bougainvillea: A Botanic Permutation.” With drawings and watercolors, Don Dugal uses bougainvillea to explore color theory, psychology and symphonic music. (709 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412/456-6666,

photo by Rich Sofranko

Dec. 2-27/ Marie and her Nutcracker Prince voyage to the Land of Enchantment in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 15th-anniversary production of Terrence Orr’s Pittsburgh-themed iteration of The Nutcracker. Set in the early 20th century, the two-act classical ballet, accompanied by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s charming score, sweeps from the grandeur of a Shadyside estate to a Kennywood-like amusement park where the young travelers meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her subjects. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666,

Dec. 2-11/ Award-winning New York-based choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie contributes a new work to Ballet Off-Center, an evening of experimental premieres performed by Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company. Works by Jason McDole, a Point Park assistant professor, Morgantown Ballet Company’s Daniel Karasik and Alexandra Damiani of New York’s Peridance Capezio Center complete the program. (Rockwell Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland; 412/392-8000,

Dec. 9-10/ slowdanger’s Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight pursue their interest in the ephemeral with memory 5, the newest installment of their episodic memory series that employs movement, sculptural objects and sounds to generate an evocative environment. For this chapter, the performers, including Ru Emmons, transit through a landscape of ruins and decay, accessing and evaluating their surroundings while determining how and where to proceed. (Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown;,

Dec. 29-30/ If aerialists, acrobats and contortionists are your cup of eggnog, Cirque Dreams Holidaze offers a family entertainment extravaganza boasting 20 circus acts, 30 international artists and more than 300 costumes. Dance and holiday music highlight the winter-themed production, along with performances by toy-soldier wirewalkers, a flexible treetop angel, gymnastic gingerbread men and rope-jumping reindeer. (Benedum Center, 237 Seventh St., Downtown; 412/456-6666,


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