‘First Voice’ features variety of premieres at AWC

It’s been said that you reap what you sow. Just under a year ago, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture announced its inaugural Fellows Program class. Later this month, Pittsburgh will enjoy the first fruits borne during “First Voice: A Pittsburgh International Black Arts Festival” in the heart of the Cultural District.

The heart of “One Voice” are the fellowships that communicate through a variety of mediums, and are augmented by the internationally-acclaimed Rennie Harris Puremovement dance troupe and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.


“We are excited about the second First Voice Festival and showcasing the work of the inaugural class of AWC fellows,” said Shay Wafer, the center’s vice president of programs. “The festival idea—First Voice and others—is one that we hope to expand upon in the upcoming years and using the structure to provide an artistic platform for local artists and to generate regional and national visitors to the city.”

The six fellows represent word, music, movement and art, and this first crop is made up of greater Pittsburgh residents.

First Voice opens May 20 with “Root,” a spoken word opera invented by Vanessa German who has been known to express herself through a variety of art forms.

The next Fellow is Internet sensation and lyrical warrior Jasiri X, who follows May 22 to inform through a gumbo of commentary, news and observations that make up the brew known as “This Week with Jasiri X,” that has become a signature of a youngster who wants to wake up a generation seemingly lost in the streets.

The voices of youth is also captured by filmmaker Chris Levy, who will debut the continuation of his groundbreaking documentary series, “East of Liberty: In Unlivable Times” which reveals another side of America’s Most Livable City.

May 22 concludes with another debut—“Limitless,” a collection of original compositions by jazz piano phenom Bret Williams, who performs with his ensemble, Smooth Jazz, featuring George Heid III, Dwayne Dolphin, Anton DeFade, Evan Hetrick, Tim Smith and Isaiah Smith.

Another festival first features the premiere performance of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, led by Wilson Fellow and founding artistic director Greer Reed-Jones. Its first program showcases Pittsburgh multicultural dance community through original choreography.

First Voice festival patrons will be afforded a look at New Works by visual artist Anire Mosley as he revisits the medium of drawing, perhaps the oldest existing art form that dates back to prehistoric times.

All festival activities will be held at the AWC. Individual performance tickets are available as well as a festival pass that covers all events for $54 for adults, $38 for children and are available through ProArts Tickets Box Office at Theatre Square or by calling 412-456-6666.

(For more information on specific performances, call the August Wilson Center at 412-258-2700.)

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