Festivals are not just for summer anymore. March has an epic event for every Pittsburgher—from foodies and knitters, to outdoor explorers and virtual reality enthusiasts. So strap on a pair of VR goggles and blast off into spring at our top 11 events not to miss in Pittsburgh this March.
1. Wild & Scenic Film Festival at Chatham University: March 9, 6 p.m.
Of the many niche film festivals in rotation all over the world, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival is one that eco-minded cinephiles should have on their radar. Showcasing 13 award-winning, short documentaries—such as Plastico and Nature Rx—the country’s premier environmental and adventure film festival explores everything from the elusive wolverine population in Utah to the impact of the U.S./Mexico border wall to the burgeoning fair trade clothing movement. Take a 60-day backpacking trip with adventure photographer Ace Kvale and his dog Genghis Khan, discover how Jim Cochran invented the organic strawberry industry and watch in awe as Wasfia Nazreen becomes the first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits. Showcasing breathtaking ecosystems, films tackle issues like climate change, species extinction, environmental justice, and conservation. The event also serves as a call to action for residents, who can sign up on-site to volunteer with Pennsylvania Resources Council and Allegheny CleanWays. Buy tickets.
2. BUS: Bricolage’s Annual Fundraiser at the August Wilson Center: March 11, 6:30 p.m.
What if you had to produce an original 10-minute play in 24 hours—and it had to be based on a 90-minute Port Authority bus ride?! Find out how Pittsburgh’s top directors, playwrights and performers are embracing this formidable challenge at Bricolage’s 12th annual BUS. One of the local theater scene’s most anticipated happenings, the fiercely imaginative—and friendly—smackdown embodies the spirit of risk-taking and innovation that underscores the company’s mission. This year’s brave B.U.S. riders include 40 award-winning performers, seasoned playwrights, and local stars on the rise. From writer Gab Cody and director Patrick Jordan, to performer Wali Jamal—this team is bringing their A-game. The guerrilla theater adventure kicks off when six courageous playwrights get their creative juices flowing during a Friday night bus ride. Equal parts benefit bash, performance art and reality theater, B.U.S. also includes a Friday night VIP reception and live actor exhibition. Witness the artful and arduous results during the grand finale of plays and celebrate cutting-edge theater with a post-show toast. Buy tickets.
3. HUMP! Film Festival at Spirit: March 10 & 11, 7 & 9:15 p.m.
He has 288,000 Twitter followers, founded the award-winning It Gets Better Project, and slings advice via a wildly popular, syndicated sex column. But did you know that the oft-provocative writer, media pundit and LGBT activist Dan Savage is also the brainchild behind a festival dedicated to erotic home movies, amateur sex cinema, and DIY porn? What hatched as an eccentric idea in 2005—basically Savage asked people to send him “homemade dirty movies” and they did, in droves—is now an internationally touring festival 12 years in the making. With provocative titles like Sock Puppet and Boat Daddy, this year’s lusty lineup of 22 new films will showcase all body types, ages, colors, sexualities, genders, and fetishes under the sun. Equal parts hot and hilarious, HUMP has a way of simultaneously easing people out of their comfort zones while uniting viewers in an unapologetic celebration of sexual diversity, positivity and expression. HUMP is on a mission to redefine the genre, and you’re invited to come along for the ride. Buy tickets.
4. Virtual Reality Museum & Third Thursday at Carnegie Museum of Art: March 16, 7—11 p.m.
Strap on some VR goggles and morph into an imaginary future. No, you’ve not been cast as an extra in a science fiction flick: all of this and more await at Carnegie Museum of Art. The night blasts off with a free presentation on “The Virtual Reality Museum.” Be the first to see exciting new virtual reality and photographic technologies being created for CMOA by leading new media artists. Afterward, trek further into the outer limits at the Third Thursday party. Attend the launch of Styles and Customs of the 2020s, a virtual reality experience created by NYC-based art collectives Scatter x DIS. Watch firsthand as historic preservation expert Chad Keller uses laser scanning to create 3-D models of the Hall of Architecture, and take a tour of the new exhibition of fantastical fashions by Dutch design sensation, Iris van Herpen. Lori Hepner will teach you how to draw with light, and DJ duo Tracksploitation will help you get your groove on. Buy tickets.
5. Ta-Nehisi Coates at University of Pittsburgh: March 20, 6:30 p.m.
He received the coveted MacArthur Genius Grant in 2015, was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2016, and is outspoken on Twitter, where he addresses current events and race relations while engaging with his 833,000-plus followers. Fans of the award-winning American author, journalist, and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates should mark their calendars now for his very special local appearance at the William Pitt Assembly Room. A highlight of the 17th annual Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, the free reading will also include a Q&A and book signing with Coates. Author of the award-winning books, The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me, Coates is a former writer for The Village Voiceand The Atlantic. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious accolades, such as the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism and the George Polk Award. Most recently, Coates wrote 11 issues of Marvel Comics’ Black Panther series, which became the first comic book to feature a black superhero when it debuted in the 1960s.
6. FUSE@PSO at Heinz Hall: March 22, 6:30 p.m.
Radiohead and Brahms. Beethoven and Coldplay. To some, these may seem like incongruous pairings, but in the mind of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Conductor Steve Hackman, they are fruitful fodder for his genre-bending concert series. Continually seeking out cutting-edge composers to mine, mashup and reinvent—and forging refreshing connections between historic and contemporary musical genres—Hackman is now tapping into he artistry of Tchaikovsky and Drake for the next edition of FUSE. The world premiere performance will weave Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with 12 Drake songs, including “We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling,” and will showcase rapper Jecorey “1200” Arthur and vocalists Malia Katherine Civetz, India Carney and Mario Jose. Arrive at 5 p.m. for a lively happy hour (in the tranquil garden, weather permitting) featuring cocktails, snacks, activities, and mingling with the musicians. The concert is open seating with drinks allowed. Buy tickets.
7. Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival: March 23—April 9
Focusing its lens on personal, cultural and global identity, CMU’s International Film Festival is using cinema to examine highly potent and topical issues. Curated around the theme of “Faces of Identity,” the 11th annual festival boasts up to 18 features, documentaries and shorts—including many making their Pittsburgh debut. Spanning 18 days and countries throughout the world—from Peru to Poland—films will spark engaging dialogues about issues such as race, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. Screenings are augmented by Q&A sessions, and receptions showcasing locally-produced ethnic cuisine. The world’s only international film festival run entirely by students from numerous universities, the event also seeks to celebrate Pittsburgh’s own ethnic heritage and dynamic culture. Don’t miss opening night on March 23 for the Pittsburgh premiere of With I, Daniel Blake directed by renowned English director Ken Loach—who is acclaimed for creating films such as Riff-Raff that tackle pressing social issues. Additional highlights include an epic biography about the pioneering, Nobel Prize–winning scientist Marie Curie, a powerful portrait of a young Chinese woman emigrating to Argentina, and a story about political and environmental turmoil in rural Peru. Buy tickets.
8. Farm to Table Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: March 24 & 25
It may seem like science fiction to see daffodils, insects and birds before March, but one thing is certain: spring is on the mind of Pittsburghers. The best place to kick off a season of gardening, CSAs and dining al fresco, find out where your food originates, and learn tips for a healthier lifestyle is at the 11th annual Farm to Table Conference. Cuisine and culture will converge around this year’s theme of “Growing Roots for Healthy Communities.” Inspired by the idea that food is “the great connector,” the conference will focus on cultural origins, diverse preparations and local ingredients. Attendees have a dizzying array of offerings to choose from, including cooking demos, gardening classes, wellness seminars, exhibits, tastings, lectures, and the popular “Friday Night Food Tasting” kickoff. New this year is the “Farm to Flask Mixology” event, where foodies will sample wine, beer, and spirits made in Western Pa. Attendees will learn about how cooking can build community, discover the health and economic benefits of eating local, and will have plenty of time for mingling with chefs, farmers, food purveyors, businesses owners, nutritionists, and advocacy groups. Register now.
9. Pittsburgh Humanities Festival in the Cultural District: March 24—26
Where can you hear thought-provoking talks by pioneering Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, Black Panther activist and law professor Kathleen Cleaver, former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia—and many others—all within three days? Get enlightened at the second iteration of the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival. Setting up shop throughout the Cultural District, the event is convening leading scholars, artists, and intellectual innovators for a shared exploration of what it means to be human. A mix of engaging formats is offered—featured talks, readings, performances, and 24 intimate conversations and interviews. Charismatic presenters will examine humanity via the framework of art, literature, music, science, and politics, with session topics exploring everything from the history of birth control pill and queer performance art, to Bauhaus design and foreign affairs. Not to miss is an evening with writers Seena Vali and Matt Spina from the inimitable, award-winning satirical news publication, The Onion. New components include an All Access Pass, a lounge at Crazy Mocha coffeehouse, a partnership with White Whale Bookstore, and a YouTube-based “Have-A-Chat for Humanity” video contest that invited the public to suggest discussion topics. Buy tickets.
10. Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet & Creative Arts Festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: March 24—26
Move over Sixburgh, it’s time for Knittsburgh. The city’s fiber arts scene was thrust into the international spotlight in 2014 when some 1,847 area makers covered the Andy Warhol Bridge with the country’s largest yarn bomb project ever. From latch hook rugs and macramé to string art installations, the contemporary fiber arts genre is back with renewed gusto, creativity and innovation. This festival is your chance to dive in—whether you’re still wondering what “knit one, purl two” means or you’re eager to master new techniques. Choose from 90 classes and workshops, shop for hard-to-find fibers, and experiment with sewing, cutting and felting machines. Pop into the Creative Open Studio to sew a pillowcase for UPMC Cancer Center patients, watch instructional and DIY videos, and meet famed fiber artisan StevenBe—who’s been dubbed the “Rod Stewart of the knitting world.” A three-day extravaganza of all things stitched, knitted, felted, crocheted, loomed, and more, the festival also serves as the first stop for the 2017 SW PA Quilt Shop Hop. Buy tickets.
11. Bang on a Can All-Stars at Carnegie Lecture Hall: March 25, 8 p.m.
Sometimes live music can provide the perfect antidote to the din and dissonance of the world, especially in our 24-hour digital age. This can be said for the legendary Bang on a Can All-Stars, who will bathe audiences in their immersive, otherworldly sounds. Named “Ensemble of the Year” by Musical America, the electric chamber sextet is appearing in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2000. Their production is part of Carnegie Museums’ adventurous new Nexus project, which kicked off in January with a 12-event series dubbed Strange Times: Earth in the Age of the Human. For their take on the concept, Bang on a Can will perform its multimedia Field Recordings, which fuses music, film, found sounds, and obscure audio-visuals. Showcasing works by Julia Wolfe, Bill Morrison, Christian Marclay, Steve Reich, Gabriella Smith and others, the epic soundscape explores the concept of duality, while fluidly blurring boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music. Known for its dynamic and imaginative live performances, the ensemble features piano, guitar, percussion, bass, clarinet, saxophone, and cello. Expect to have your ears led into uncharted territories. Buy tickets.
Check out more terrific events every week in NEXTpittsburgh, including these and more coming up in March:
SUNSTAR Festival at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: March 3
Aaron Draplin lecture at The Hollywood Theater in Dormont: March 3
Art auction and fundraiser benefitting Girls Rock! Pittsburgh at Percolate: March 10
Reel Q presents Reel Stories: March 10
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Park on Tap fundraiser for Allegheny Commons: March 10
From Pittsburgh, With Love fundraiser at Pittsburgh Public Theater: March 10
Standup Sisters presents Border Crossings at La Roche College: March 14
Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Benedum Center: March 15 & 16
The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center’s Shake Your Booties Down Bourbon Street! gala at Stage AE: March 25
Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-in Tour at the Benedum Center: March 26
Public Source presents author J.D. Vance at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Lecture Hall: March 30
Opening reception for 2017 Solo & Collaborative Exhibits at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts: March 31
Looking for events for families and children? Check out our Top 10 family events in Pittsburgh this February feature story.
Looking for live music? Check out our 17 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in 2017 feature story.
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