Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – The Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts is back and expanding its scope, adding premieres from the United States — including some from right here at home — for six weeks in the fall.
Festival curator Karla Boos, the head of Quantum Theatre, has been working with a Pittsburgh Cultural Trust team led by producer Scott Shiller to broaden the experience from previous incarnations in 2004, ’08 and ’13.
“It became immediately apparent to me that America belonged in the festival because our work is international — Pittsburgh’s work is international,” Ms. Boos said. “Where once upon a time, in the origin of the festival, it was more like you were peeking behind a curtain to some distant land.”
From the start, she and Mr. Shiller were on the same page about how to proceed. The result is a festival that is double the length at six weeks (Sept. 21-Nov. 11) and triple the attractions — 30 companies and artists representing more than 20 countries, bringing works to Pittsburgh for regional, national and world premieres.
Before her artistic explorations began, Ms. Boos got to know the Trust team of programmers by inviting them to dinner.
“I plunged into a relationship with these marvelous people,” she said, “and I realized some things about them —– that Randal Miller, as young as he is, is really a fantastic international voice for the future in dance programming, and he had things he was so excited about, and it was right for him to pursue. I came to understand that Sarah Aziz [Three Rivers Arts Festival and First Night] is so much more sophisticated in her understanding of what I would call urban, place-based art.” Pam Komar’s experience with young audiences also has been an important ingredient, “because we know other countries have concentrated their innovation on children’s programming,” Ms. Boos said.
For Mr. Shiller, whose background is in commercial Broadway, music and dance, the Festival of Firsts was another expression of his interests and part of the attraction of coming to Pittsburgh…