The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's third Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts will open with a 40-foot-tall rubber duck in the Allegheny River.
The Trust announced its lineup Monday for the festival that runs Sept. 27-Oct. 26. It opens with Florentijn Hofman's "The Rubber Duck" -- which also is 35 feet long and 30 feet wide.
The duck will be launched at the West End Bridge about 6:30 p.m., where it will travel toward The Point and under the Fort Duquesne Bridge. The Roberto Clemente Bridge will be shut down for a party to celebrate the beginning of the festival.
Mr. Hofman's duck has been to several countries including Japan, Australia and Brazil. While it usually brings smiles wherever it goes, vandals stabbed the duck 42 times in Belgium. Following a mysterious deflation in Hong Kong, it was rumored to have been purposely damaged, but organizers said the duck had been deflated for a scheduled body check.
The idea of the duck first came to Mr. Hofman in 2001 when he was looking at Dutch landscapes from the old masters and felt something was missing.
"I thought of an air balloon or something yellow, like a big giant rubber duck," he said via a Skype call during Monday's press conference. "It's a great concept of having a huge rubber duck in our global bathtub."
Because of its size, the duck is constructed from scratch in the city that it's visiting. "It will actually be fabricated here and built by the artist and a team that the artist has assembled to his specifications," said Kevin McMahon, Trust president and CEO.
Each Festival of Firsts brings international artists to Pittsburgh for a U.S. premiere of their work. This year's festival will feature artists and companies from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and more. For the first time, two works by U.S. artists, Robin Frohardt and Christopher McElroen with T. Ryder Smith, also will be featured.
"We think the Cultural Trust's Festival of Firsts will have a really profound impact in creating further awareness of Pittsburgh as a true international city," Mr. McMahon said.
The timing of the festival also overlaps with the Carnegie International in Oakland, a triennial exhibition of contemporary global art that runs Oct. 5-March 16 and will bring 35 artists and groups from around the world to Pittsburgh.
For the Festival of Firsts, Paul Organisak, vice president of programming, looks for diversity, quality and balance when selecting artists and companies.
"Much of the work that you will see in the festival is what I would call uncategorizable," he said. "These are artists who are breaking boundaries and crossing boundaries in the arts and performing arts in particular. Sometimes we're lost for words when we start to try to describe some of these artists."
On Sept. 28, the first of seven performing arts pieces to be presented will be Marie Chouinard's "Gymnopedies" at Byham Theater.
This will be followed by "Kiss and Cry," a film about a woman looking back at five great loves in her life. The film is made live with technicians and performers creating the action, which is captured onto a large screen for audiences. All of the props are miniatures and the stars are choreographed hands and fingers that move gracefully across the screen.
"Measure Back," which will run for 20-30 people at a time, is an interactive show that looks at the construction and implementation of war. It seeks to find the path between the citizen as spectator and citizen as participant, said creator Mr. McElroen via Skype.
"The piece, which simultaneously takes place kind of on stage, on television, on the audiences' cell phones, uses elements of epic theater, cue card dialogue, instructions from torture manuals, Hollywood films, YouTube videos, kind of all in an attempt to find ways to measure back to the origins of war," he said.
One piece that might have audiences laughing is "The Pigeoning," about an obsessive compulsive man and his encounters with pigeons in a world where cleanliness, safety and control reign. It incorporates bunraku-style puppetry.
On the visual arts side, Murray Horne, curator of Wood Street Galleries, announced that there will be two works, "Hive" and "Granular Synthesis." Although Kurt Hentschlager's "Zee" also will be presented, it is not part of the festival and is meant to provide context for the other two shows.
Shows and artwork will be presented in various venues, including New Hazlett Theater, Bricolage and Cabaret at Theater Square. All visual arts shows will be free. Information, www.trustarts.org or 412-456-6666.
Schedule of events
Events are presented by Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, unless otherwise indicated.
• "Zee," Sept. 26-Oct. 27, 943 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• "Hive," Sept. 27-Dec. 31, Wood Street Galleries, Downtown.
• "Granular Synthesis," Sept. 27-Oct. 20, SPACE, Downtown.
• Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Sept. 28, presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council, Byham Theater, Downtown.
• "Kiss & Cry," Oct. 2-4, New Hazlett Theater, North Side.
• "The Pigeoning," Oct. 9-12, Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• "It's Dark Outside," Oct. 9-12, Trust Arts Education Center, 807 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• Zimmermann & De Perrot, Oct. 18-19, Pittsburgh Dance Council, Byham Theater.
• "Measure Back," Oct. 22-26, Baum Building, Downtown.
• "The God That Comes," Oct 24-26, Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown.
Kitoko Chargois: email@example.com or 412-263-1088.