Lotus Plays First of Two Nights at Mr. Smalls; Kinetic Staging ‘An Octoroon’; Pittsburgh Auto Show (Fri., 2/15/19)

1) Lotus loves playing shows in Pittsburgh, oftentimes back-to-back. The jam band performed January 30 and 31, 2016 at Stage AE, and then it played a single show there on January 31, 2017. Although Pigeons Playing Ping Pong helped Pittsburghers usher in 2019, Lotus is back, this time with two shows again, and this time at Mr. Smalls. Lotus, originally from Indiana, is known for incorporating electronic elements into its music. On 2016’s Eat the Light, the group tried something new: vocals, with a different guest musician on every track. In concert, the band uses elaborate lighting and occasionally performs themed shows. One 2009 concert saw David Bowie costumes. The band plays covers as well as originals during themed shows. 2018’s Frames Per Second is Lotus’s latest album. El Ten Eleven opens. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Both nights are now sold out. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

It takes a special black man to wear whiteface. Actor Ananias J. Dixon shows how, in Kinetic’s black comedy ‘An Octoroon.’ (photo courtesy of the artist)

What is actor Ananias J. Dixon up to?  Unusual doings abound in Kinetic’s dark comedy ‘An Octoroon.’ (photo courtesy of the artist)

2) Once upon a time—this is true—a man named Dion Boucicault was heralded as the greatest playwright of the 1800s. He was an Irishman of half-French (or at least part-French) ancestry; thus the name—although he may have been actually the son of his Irish mother’s Irish boarder. Boucicault wrote steamy, crowd-pleasing melodramas. His 1859 potboiler The Octoroon—popular among anti-slavery folks in America—was about a white Southern plantation owner in love with an octoroon (one-eighth African) woman, while a snarly villain plotted to seize the plantation and have the woman as his slave. Fast-forward to Brooklyn in 2014. African-American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins premieres his play An Octoroon, a wild work of meta-theater. An Octoroon re-runs the plot of The Octoroon, turning it into an over-the-top but self-interrogating dark comedy that features both playwrights, Boucicault and Jacobs-Jenkins, as characters, fighting over the script. Controversially, actors in blackface, whiteface, and red face (for a Native American character) are used. An Octoroon has been hailed as an important statement on race, though it’s hard to say what the statement is, which may be intentional. Pittsburgh’s Kinetic Theatre performs An Octoroon with a cast including Ananias J. Dixon, Martin Giles, and others. 7:30 p.m. Performances continue through February 24. At the New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. (MV)

3) The Pittsburgh International Auto Show begins today at the David Lawrence Convention Center. Whether you’re looking for a hot rod, family sedan, or green machine, this is an opportunity to try your “fave” on for size. Experience vehicles from all the major auto companies. Additionally enjoy classic, custom, and concept car displays. There will also be music and local celebrities. 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Continues through Monday. 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd., Downtown.

4) The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) is celebrating Black History Month with the Pittsburgh premiere of American composer Donald McCullough’s Let My People Go! A Spiritual Journey Along the Underground Railroad. This concert of African American spirituals is presented in collaboration with Ebenezer Baptist Church (one of the city’s oldest African American churches and located near what was an underground railroad stop), where the concert will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. MCP, at 110 years old, is the city’s oldest continually performing arts organization. It is composed of 100-plus singers. 2001 Wylie Ave., Hill District.

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Rick Handler

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