AUGUST WILSON AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER ANNOUNCES FALL 2021 LINE-UP
Featuring Signature Festivals: Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival featuring Chaka Khan Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival featuring Mavis Staples We Want the Funk Festival featuring Steve Arrington, and Ladies of SKYY, hosted by comedian Ralph Harris
World Premiere of CIRCLES, a multi-faceted dance and visual arts work by STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos co-presented by AWAACC and Kelly Strayhorn Theater
Performance from the world-renown Philadelphia Dance Company
Other season highlights include:
return of the TRUTHSayers Speaker Series with White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and Dr. Moogega Cooper, AWCommunity Days, Lit Fridays, and expanded visual arts programs featuring works by Derrick Adams and Danny Simmons
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) announced today its fall 2021 season line-up, featuring a broad-range in-person and virtual music, dance, and visual arts programming and festivals, including the world premiere of CIRCLES, a multi-faceted, multi-part project focused on personal and collective expressions of Blackness and self-reclamation. Situated in August Wilson’s hometown of Pittsburgh and dedicated to championing current and future innovators in arts and culture, the nonprofit AWAACC is focused exclusively on the African American experience and the arts of the African diaspora. Additional season highlights include renowned Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO); the homegrown festivals in jazz, the blues, and funk; the TRUTHSayers speaker series with White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and Dr. Moogega Cooper, and Lit Fridays, the Center’s literary-focused salon.
“The August Wilson African American Cultural Center has long been committed to offering progams that advance the legacy of our namesake, August Wilson. From our jazz, blues, and funk festivals to the work of PHILADANCO! and STAYCEE PEARL dance project and Soy Sos, we continue to provide a platform for Black artists to tell their stories, much like Wilson did through his writings,” said Janis Burley Wilson, President and CEO of August Wilson African American Cultural Center. “As we continue to respond to ongoing health concerns, the Center is dedicated to welcoming audiences back safely, ensuring that the work of these important artists can be enjoyed by all, and I’m incredibly grateful to the Allegheny Regional Asset District, UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the rest of our incredible sponsors and partners for their ongoing support.”
On Friday, October 1, the fourth annual Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival returns to the Center, featuring a roster of award-winning musicians including gospel and R&B great Mavis Staples, Blues Hall of Fame guitarist and vocalist Robert Cray, R&B/sacred steel/funk/jam band Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Go-Go legends Rare Essence, reggae icons Third World, and more, celebrating the blues and honoring the musical roots that continue to inspire today’s generations of artists. Tickets are available now at blues.aacc-awc.org. The Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival is presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The season continues with the world premiere of CIRCLES, a multi-faceted, multi-part project by STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos, whose work celebrates and explores the full range of Blackness and culture through dynamic dance-centered performances and experiences and builds on the Center’s commitment to Black innovators. Featuring snapshots of popular culture through choreographer Staycee Pearl’s lens as a Black woman, CIRCLES is co-presented by AWAACC and Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Opening on Saturday, October 9 and on view through October 31, the Center will feature CIRCLES: reclamation, a visual arts exhibition in the Center’s Gallery 1839, including Black visual artists Staycee Pearl, Bekezela Mguni, Kitoko Chargois, and sarah huny young with works drawing from their shared explorations of Blackness. The project will continue with CIRCLES: going in, a full-length dance performance celebrating #BlackGirlMagic. Using a live original score created by Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl in collaboration with a diverse roster of club artists, the work is a colorful, unapologetic, and daring path to self-reclamation. Performances take place at the Center Thursday, October 28 through Saturday, October 30.
PHILADANCO, internationally known for its innovation, creativity, and preservation of predominantly African American traditions in dance, with a long legacy of building bridges across cultural divides through its work, makes its AWAACC premiere on Saturday, November 13. Performing signature pieces from the renowned company’s repertoire, including Super 8!, choreographed by Ray Mercer, and Enemy Behind the Gates, choreographed by Christopher Huggins with music by Steve Reich, the performance celebrates the dance company’s 50th anniversary season and 60th anniversary as a dance school.
The third annual We Want the Funk Festival returns to the Center December 10 and 11, celebrating the rhythm-driven musical genre that evolved from the R&B, soul, and jazz scenes of the 1960s and that continues to influence today’s artists. Hosted by actor, writer, and comedian Ralph Harris, the line-up includes American funk band Cameo, widely considered one of the most popular funk/soul bands of its era; Ladies of SKYY, the original female vocalists of the hit R&B/Funk band SKYY; and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, drummer, and former member of the funk group Slave, Steve Arrington; with additional details to be announced.
In addition to CIRCLES: reclamation, AWAACC continues to expand its visual arts programs with two exhibitions opening on October 15, 2021 and on view through January 2, 2022. Danny Simmons: Poems and Paintings, in The Benter Foundation Gallery, is created in response to the American racial landscape both today and in the past. Featuring works made during the pandemic alongside works and ideas from other eras, the exhibition also includes a new poem, To Be Made Beautiful, written in tandem with this body of work. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary opens in the Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery, drawing inspiration from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a Black American road-trippers reference book from the Jim Crow Era, which identified restaurants, hotels, state parks, beauty parlors, nightclubs, and other businesses that were nondiscriminatory and welcoming.
TRUTHSayers Speaker Series, an ongoing program bringing today’s preeminent speakers and artists to the Center to reflect on current events and share unique and thought-provoking material in hopes of inspiring racial awareness and understanding, returns on Sunday, November 14. Featuring Dr. Moogega Cooper, the trailblazing engineer of the famed Mars Rover “Perseverance” Mission for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will bring her expertise on planetary protection to the Center. Yamiche Alcindor, a White House correspondent for PBS Newshour, moderator of Washington Week, and frequent contributor to NBC and MSNBC, will join the Center on Tuesday, December 14. She has covered the impact of President Trump’s policies on the working-class, immigration, and breaking news coming out of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, the legacy of President Obama, and how police killings affect communities and children. Sponsored by PNC Charitable Trust.
AWAACC will also continue its popular monthly Lit Fridays program, led by AWAACC Literary Curator Jessica Lanay. On Friday, October 29, Lit Fridays will premiere the digital works from the winners of the For August: One Act Play Competition. Created in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Festival of Books, the competition extends the Center’s commitment to promoting community literacy and highlighting BIPOC theater performers and writers. On Friday, November 19, poet and editor Matt Broaddus will join AWAACC curator Jessica Lanay, award-winning poetry, art, and short fiction writer to discuss her role with the Center as well as her work in the literary world. The 2021 Lit Fridays line-up concludes on December 17 with Crystal Joseph, author and therapist, who will discuss how to promote positive mental health for Black women during the holidays.
The free, family-friendly AWCommunity Days return Saturday, October 9, as part of RADical Days, and on Saturday, December 4, will feature local vendors, artisans, performers and community building programs at the Center. Guests will enjoy dance, music, theater, and more, with additional details to be announced. The quarterly AWCommunity Days are sponsored by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan.
AWAACC’s season officially launches with one of its signature programs on Friday, September 17 with the previously announced 11th annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, presented by Citizens Bank, featuring the legendary Chaka Khan at the Benedum Center, preeminent jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves; Grammy-winning instrumentalist, composer, and producer Marcus Miller, and many others performing throughout the weekend at the Highmark Stadium. For additional details, the complete festival lineup, and health protocols, please visit pittsburghjazzfest.org.
Throughout the season work will continue on August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. The exhibition, which will be free of charge for admission, will explore Pittsburgh where Wilson was born and raised, and which had a profound impact on shaping his worldview and inspiring his unprecedented 10-play American Century Cycle. August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape expands the non-profit organization’s mission to offer programs and resources that advance Wilson’s legacy and reflect the universal issues of identity that the playwright tackled. Support for August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape provided by Hillman Foundation and Henry L. Hillman Foundation. To learn more about the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, its year-round activities, and August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, please visit https://aacc-awc.org/.
TICKET INFO & HEALTH PROTOCOLS:
Tickets to the Highmark Blues & Heritage and TRUTHSayers events are on sale now at https://aacc-awc.org/events/.
All free programming is made possible with generous support for Allegheny Regional Asset District.
For events with more than 150 attendess all guests must be fully vaccinated to attend. Guests under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult that meets the venue’s vaccination requirements, and all guests are required to wear masks indoors. For more information on health and safety protocols, please visit https://aacc-awc.org/covid-19-policies/.