The elephant in the room is a giant duck. That would be the 35-foot-long and 30-foot-wide rubber duck that will emerge on the Ohio River to herald the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's third Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.
But First things first.
Cultural Trust programming vice president Paul Organisak, who chose the seven U.S. premieres for the festival, hopes the events will move their audiences to "a wide range of emotion, reaction and excitement." The idea is to offer Pittsburghers a range of experiences and events related to the arts that are unlike anything they've seen before.
"As I experienced each of them during various stages of their development, I am struck by how each artist is in some way redefining what we mean by 'contemporary' in today's culture," said Mr. Organisak.
This year two of the seven programs are making world premieres: "The Pigeoning," a dark comedic program by Robin Frohardt that examines a man's obsession with cleanliness, safety and control through the use of a combination of bunraku puppetry, music and video; and Christopher McElroen and T. Ryder Smith's "Measure Back," which uses audience participation to probe how war is built and performed from the time it is conceived through consensus to action.
The other five works, performed by artists or arts companies from other countries, have appeared in other nations but are making their first United States appearances in the Festival of Firsts.
"That's why we name it the Festival of Firsts: they're all U.S. premieres," said Mr. Organisak. "A big part of my job is traveling all around the country and internationally. I watch artists [performing new things]."
He chose very different performance arts. "It's hard to make a comparison of them to each other," he said. "That's what makes it special. They're all truly unique events. ...
"There are two dance presentations, four theater presentations and one music presentation and then, of course, 'The Rubber Duck.' "
Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's The Rubber Duck Project is a four-story visual piece that looks like the tiny yellow duck bath toy makes its first U.S. appearance in the rivers here. For its maiden voyage at about 6 p.m. Friday, it will float down the Ohio River from the West End Bridge. It will then circle the Point and head down the Allegheny River to a Rubber Duck Bridge Party taking place on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Starting Saturday, the duck will be moored at the north face, off the tip of Point State Park, where it will stay through Oct. 20. The duck, which travels with the assistance of two pontoons, has been on display in several other nations, including Japan, Australia and Brazil.
In addition to the duck and the seven premiering works of theater, dance and music, the festival will show three visual works of art by Austrian Kurt Hentschlager, who works in Chicago and is considered one of the leading artists in new media art over a period of 20 years. The visual arts were chosen by Murray Horne, curator of the Cultural Trust's Wood Street Galleries.
Mr. Hentschlager's work is installation art, which includes both audio and visual elements.
"We're showing an early work of his career, something from his middle time and one of his newest pieces ... so people will have an overview of his career," Mr. Horne said.
The three visual arts opening Friday are "Zee" (2008), "Hive" (2011) and two works ("Model 5" and "Pol") called "Granular Synthesis" that Mr. Hentschlager created with fellow Austrian artist Ulf Langheinrich in the 1990s. "Zee " is at 943 Liberty Ave. through Oct. 27. "Hive" is at Wood Street Galleries, above the T Station at Wood Street and Sixth Avenue, through Dec. 31 and "Granular Synthesis" is at SPACE, 812 Liberty Ave. through Oct. 20.
Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts
When: Friday through Oct. 26.
• Compagnie Marie Chouinard: Dances are "Gymnopedies," set to music by Erik Satie, and "Henri Michaux: Mouvements," inspired by Michaux's poetry. 8 p.m. Saturday, Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown.
• Michele Anne De Mey & Jaco Van Dormael, "Kiss & Cry": In a blend of film, dance, text and theater, a woman near life's end recounting her greatest loves. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday at New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side.
• Robin Frohardt, "The Pigeoning": The dark, comedic work of bunraku puppetry, music and video is about man's obsession with cleanliness, safety and control. 7 p.m. Oct. 9, 10 and 12 at Bricolage, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• Perth Theatre Company, "It's Dark Outside": An epic about redemption and dementia is created by puppetry, mask, animation, live performance and original music. 9 p.m. Oct. 9, 10 and 12 at Peirce Studio, 805-807 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• Zimmermann & de Perrot, "Hans Was Heiro": The Swiss directors give a marriage of theater, circus and dance on a stage design with a horizontal axis. 8 p.m. Oct. 18 and 2 p.m. Oct. 19 at Byham Theater.
• Christopher McElroen and T. Ryder Smith, "Measure Back": It uses audience participation to probe how war is constructed and performed. 8 p.m. Oct. 22-26, Baum Building, fifth floor, 818 Liberty Ave., Downtown.
• 2b theater company, "The God That Comes": Hawksley Workman re-creates the story of Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine. He intoxicates a one-man cabaret, pop and glam-rock hybrid. 8 p.m. Oct. 24-26, Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown.
Tickets: $25 for all performances at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown; 412-456-6666 or trustarts.org.
Three visual works of art by Kurt Hentschlager, an Austrian artist who works in Chicago, were chosen by Murray Horne, curator of the Cultural Trust's Wood Street Galleries. You can see them all during the Trust's Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District Friday (trustarts.org).
• "Hive" at Wood Street Galleries: Gallery visitors confront a swirling mass of amorphous figures; Friday through Dec. 31.
• "Granular Synthesis" at SPACE: audiovisual installations by Mr. Hentschlager and fellow Austrian Ulf Langheinrich; Friday through Oct. 20.
• "Zee" at 943 Gallery: audiovisual journey; Friday through Oct. 27 (entry restricted to age 18 and older due to intense strobe effects).
Pohla Smith: email@example.com; 412-263-1228. First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM