PICT’s ‘Educating Rita’ and the Pittsburgh New Works Festival Open; Niger’s Tal National Performs at Thunderbird (Thurs., 9/3/15)

Rita Poster w words1) PICT Classic Theatre specializes in plays by Irish and English playwrights, typically ones that were written or are set in the pre-Internet era (i.e., before the 1990s). That’s a lot of theater to choose from, and past productions have ranged from the works of Samuel Beckett to social comedies, light and dark. PICT’s latest offering in this back-to-school time of year is Willy Russell’s back-to-school comedy Educating Rita. The title’s Rita is a hairdresser who wants to expand her horizons by acquiring culture. She enrolls in a university literature course taught by an alcoholic professor who’s become cynical about the very academic life to which Rita aspires. A hit when it opened in London in 1980, Educating Rita was made into a 1983 movie with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. PICT has Martin Giles as the professor and Karen Baum as Rita. 8 p.m. preview performance. Runs through September 19. Charity Randall Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (MV)

2) Why are some people big fans of one-act festivals? Because going to one, as opposed to seeing a full-length play, is like reading short stories versus reading a novel. You get a cross-section of stories in different styles and moods, which (a) is fun in itself, and (b) helps assure that you’ll see something you really like. The Pittsburgh New Works Festival, now in its 25th year, is one of the oldest and largest of its kind. During September, a total of 12 new one-acts are presented in four rotating evenings of three plays each; see the Festival website for schedules and details. This year’s entries come from playwrights living across the United States and beyond—there’s even one by an American expat in Barcelona—and the pieces range from high comedy to introspective drama. 8 p.m. Continues through September 27. Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. (MV)


3) In the West African nation of Niger, Tal National are already well-established stars of the music scene. They’ve been developing a more international following since their 2013 album, Kaani, was signed by FatCat Records for a worldwide release. They’re now touring in support of this year’s follow-up album, Zoy Zoy. Tal National may be a guitar band, but this is not guitar music as you know it.  Their hypnotic, energetic, and bass-driven sound draws from the band’s diverse ethnic makeup and has made them Niger’s most popular band. Since forming in 2000, they’ve developed their loyal home following with extensive touring and marathon five-hour performances. The band performs live with six musicians but has 16 members, who may switch places mid-song during performances—The New York Times described them as “more like a sports team than a band. The band’s own website says audiences will be in for “some invigorating grooves, tight performances and some freaking out!” With Mathew Tembo. 8 p.m. Thunderbird Cafe, 4023 Butler St, Lawrenceville. (HM)

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Rick Handler

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