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Yelp's Under the Big Top at the Children's Museum

Nearly every museum in town has a set of evening hours every once in a while where you can peruse exhibits with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in hand. But the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh isn't one of them, for obvious reasons. That's why it's so exciting to see the folks at Yelp taking over the Children's Museum for Yelp's Under the Big Top, a night full of carnival weirdness, like aerial acts, sideshows, and festival games that cater specifically to the over-21 crowd.  

On site will be a handful of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants and food vendors, including Alla Famiglia, Girasole, Pastitsio, Piper’s Pub, and Betsy’s Ice Cream, along with a host of local alcohol provided by Roundabout Brewery, Penn Brewery, Wigle Whiskey, and more. The museum will even have its famous MAKESHOP open for attendees, allowing adults to clown around on the digital green screen, or design and screen special posters. While the event is free, with a suggested $5 donation (a $20 donation will get you a tote bag), space is limited so don’t hesitate to RSVP to the event as early as possible. For more information, visit Yelp’s event page here. (10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Square, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh)

Actress and activist Laverne Cox speaks at Pitt

March 30, 7 p.m.
Actress and LGBTQ activist Laverne Cox will kick off the University of Pittsburgh's Pride Week with a talk at Alumni Hall at 7 p.m. on March 30. Cox's lecture, titled "Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood,” has been presented at events all over the country, and she was recently named to Out Magazine's Out 100, Huffington Post's top 50 transgender icons, named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, and featured on the cover of Time, the first transgender person to do so.

Cox is most famous for her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix comedy Orange is the New Black, but she has become the most public face of the transgender movement. She used that influence to become the first trans woman of color to produce her own television show titled TRANS Form Me on VH1, which was nominated for a GLAAD Media award. Cox has also produced the documentary Free CeCe, which focuses on CeCe McDonald, a trans, African-American woman who suffered a violent, racist, misogynistic, and transphobic attack and also served time in a Minnesota men’s prison. For more information on Laverne Cox’s talk, visit the University of Pittsburgh’s master calendar here. (4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland, Alumni Hall)

Obvious three year anniversary party at Hot Mass

In the Pop Filter Section, time and time again we've written about how healthy and vital the city's underground electronic music scene is. From the folks at VIA, Detour, and Humanaut, there is no shortage of excellent, cutting-edge shows going on around town. Over the past three years, the crew behind Obvious Productions has been just as important at stimulating the local music scene and putting on an eclectic bill of shows all over town, such as recently with Opus One and Mr.Owl to bring alternative hip-hop legends Cannibal Ox to town on the heels of their highly anticipated sophomore release.

That’s why the celebration of Obvious’ three-year anniversary party, hosted in conjunction with the late-night dance party Hot Mass, is so special to every club head in town: they routinely book/nurture the national/local acts that are helping nudge Pittsburgh into the conversation as one of the most vibrant cities in the country for electronic music. And the third anniversary party is no different, as Berlin/NYC psychedelic electronic maestro Machinedrum makes his widely heralded first Pittsburgh appearance. He dropped the final volume in his sprawling Vapor City project Vapor City Archive to national acclaim last fall, and now he’s sharing the bill with an excellent local roster of acts including Normaling, James Gyre, and Mr. Owl. For more information on the show, visit the Facebook event page here. (1139 Penn Ave., Downtown, Hot Mass)

'Aspie Seeks Love' Pittsburgh premiere

Early on in the locally produced documentary Aspie Seeks Love, primary subject David Matthews, a Pittsburgh-based artist and writer who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 41, tools around a now-defunct Lawrenceville antique store. The documentary focuses on Matthews’ pursuit to find love; he spent most of his adult life without romance, posting endearingly idiosyncratic and hilarious personal fliers and having little luck. But, quite honestly, the film could have just followed him around for a few weeks and I would have been satisfied.

He casually picks up a box for a strange, Mrs. Potatohead playset, worn around the edges from an unspecified past. 

“‘You’ll enjoy her as she scoots along in her car and shopping trailer,’” Matthews reads from the box aloud, casually adding, “So, we have capitalist and sexual propaganda all rolled into one.” 

You get the feeling that this is a sentiment Matthews would have shared even if there weren’t a camera situated a foot from his face, and it’s a telling moment as to why he proves to be such a compelling subject for a documentary: He is unequivocally himself. And as we follow Matthews through the trials and tribulations of his dating life, a social experience that can be extremely difficult for individuals who are on the autism spectrum, and watch him work with concerted effort to control his condition, his grace, humor, intelligence, and soul are the things that keep viewers engaged. 

“I fell in love with Dave’s sense of humor, and it made me, as someone who has never made a feature documentary, go for it,” said Director Julie Sokolow, who chose David as the subject for her first full-length documentary feature after he saw her earlier work and suggested she should make a film about his quest to find love. 

“Dave can only be himself 100 percent of the time. He’s said to me before, ‘This is me, I have no facades,’” said Sokolow. “He is who he is, and he made other people in the film feel very comfortable because his sincerity is practically contagious.“

Sokolow, who graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, combined her fascination with research case studies that focused on one person and the narrative flexibility found in documentaries to make Aspie Seeks Love. The film sits firmly in the tradition of documentary character portraits like the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens and Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, but Sokolow’s camera is more tender and open without sacrificing the chaotic weirdness of real life.

As Matthews goes about his life, working on his writing, meeting with an autism support group, and even works through “scripting” exercises with an autism counselor, the resulting intimacy Sokolow and Matthews achieve is arresting. And when Matthews’ dates are filmed with women who, most likely, aren’t used to being on camera constantly, you can’t help but be pulled into the natural ebb and flow of conversation that appears unaltered from observation, rooting for Matthews to make the connection that has eluded him for so long. 

It’s a testament to the relationship between Sokolow and Matthews that Aspie Seeks Love has connected so well with audiences on the festival circuit over the last year as well, selected for festivals in Ireland and Australia, and taking top prizes at California’s Cinequest Film Festival and the Omaha Film Festival. And as the Pittsburgh premiere of the film on March 26 at the Regent Square Theater approaches, the homecoming has a bit of a victory lap feel to it.

For Sokolow, Aspie Seeks Love was as strong as the collaborative process with Matthews allowed it to be.

"I feel like all the collaboration that happens when profiling other people, there’s something in them that makes me feel like, by observing them, I can learn something about human nature," said Sokolow. "I want to understand life better as I make my films, it’s my own little weird quest." (1305 South Braddock Ave., Regent Square, Regent Square Theater)
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