Take a break from the stress of making lists and untangling lights to experience Pittsburgh’s creative side. From an old-school radio play Downtown to a high-energy hootenanny on the Northside, there are a wealth of cultural happenings spanning the next 30 days.

To make sure you don’t miss a beat, here are the top 8 events not to miss in December, the first in our new monthly series. For more details, check out our events section each week.

Great Expectations_800

Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons

1. PICT Classic Theatre’s Great Expectations: December 3 – 20, Stephen Foster Memorial

Kick off the holidays with a timeless moral tale that begins on Christmas morning. Follow along with young Pip in this classic coming-of-age adventure story, as the kindhearted orphan unexpectedly receives a sizable fortune from a wealthy benefactor. Setting off for bustling London to begin his new life as a gentleman, Pip encounters a cast of quintessential Dickensian characters, some with questionable motives, such as Miss Havisham, Estella, Herbert Pocket and Mr. Jaggers. A masterpiece of Victorian literature, Great Expectations takes theater-goers on a timeless journey of self exploration, love, revenge and social commentary—all brought to life via Dickens’ vivid storytelling, scenery and characters.

Adapted by the celebrated Irish dramatist Hugh Leonard and directed by Alan Stanford, PICT’s production of this holiday-time favorite features a large and versatile cast of young, emerging and seasoned actors alike. The conclusion of Pip’s journey has been debated for more than a century, and you’ll just have to wait and see which ending PICT chooses, as Dickens famously re-wrote the final pages of Great Expectations to make it more pleasing to readers. Purchase tickets.


The Joy of Cookies Tour

2. Lawrenceville Joy of Cookies Tour: December 4 – 7

What are the holidays without homemade sugar cookies, gingerbread men and snickerdoodles? Baking from scratch and shopping local join forces to craft an unbeatable recipe for fun during the 15th annual Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour. Equal parts cookie crawl and buy local movement, the free, family-friendly event showcases Lawrenceville’s thriving Butler Street business district with 35 participating stops (look for the gingerbread cookie signs!).

Cookie Tourists will sample each shopkeeper’s favorite holiday treat, pick up recipes and explore the many diverse businesses that line Lawrenceville, from art galleries and gift emporiums, to coffeehouses and salons. Shops will also offer special discounts, prizes and gift cards. Looking for a lift? Hop on the Molly’s Trolley, which will circulate on Dec. 6th. Most participating shops are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the tour. Download an event map.


Bricolage Production Company

3. Midnight Radio It’s A Wonderful Life: December 4 – 20, Bricolage Production Company

Quick, can you finish this oft-quoted line: every time a bell rings . . . If you’re seeing visions of George, Mary and Zuzu dancing in your head, then you’re in for a treat at Bricolage Production Company‘s next installment of Midnight Radio. Closing out its sixth season of the popular series, Bricolage brings Frank Capra’s classic 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life, to its intimate Downtown stage. No you cannot tune into it on your radio dial, nor it does not start at midnight.

A timeless holiday tale that’s become a holiday television tradition, Midnight Radio, It’s a Wonderful Life transforms the cinematic classic into a theatrical live radio broadcast featuring five actors performing the voices of dozens of characters. Brought to life in front of a studio audience, the heartwarming show will feature live radio-style shenanigans, comedic commercials, musical guests, and Foley sound effects. Directed by Alex Tobey and written by Joe Landry, the radio play stars Brett Goodnack, Andrea Weinzierl, Wali Jamal, Jason McCune and Elena Alexandratos. Watch, and listen, as everyone’s favorite everyman George Bailey faces local robber baron and relentless curmudgeon Henry Potter, ultimately learning that “no man is a failure who has friends.” Arrive at 7:30 p.m. to enjoy Bricolage’s “Happy Half-Hour” featuring beer, wine, eggnog and zany activities in the lobby. Purchase tickets.


Attack Theatre, photo by Brian Cohen

4. Attack Theatre’s Winter Festival: December 5 and 6, Pittsburgh Opera Building

Get unwrapped this holiday season at Attack Theatre‘s Winter Festival. Staying home for the holidays, the homegrown company presents a double header of holiday dance: the festive family favorite, Holiday Unwrapped, along with the premiere of Holiday Hijinks and Revue for the 21 and over crowd.

Back for it’s fifth year, Holiday Unwrapped showcases rambunctious physicality and theatrical wit of dancers Kaitlin Dann, Dane Toney, Liz Chang and Matt Pardo. Experience a playful world where socks morph into ice skates, empty packages become record players, and a dinner table has a life of its own. Let the frenetic season take you on a fantastical journey, and remember, it’s better to dance with the box on your head than to worry about what’s inside! Set to the sounds of classical, jazz and klezmer music, the family-friendly production features clever and energetic dance, interactive games, movement adventures, light snacks and a warm inviting atmosphere.  Ready to get your game on? Between shows on Dec. 6th, join in the fun at Game Day featuring interactive play for all ages.