March in Pittsburgh is a study in contrasts. The month that contains the first day of spring can also deliver the season’s last epic snowstorm. Whether it’s out like a lion or a lamb, there are plenty of terrific happenings to head to this month—from glass art to salsa dancing. So winter blues, we officially show you the door via our top 9 Pittsburgh events not to miss in March. For more details, check out our events section each week.
1. How I Learned What I Learned, March 5 – April 5, Pittsburgh Public Theater
Pittsburgh has been abuzz about a brand new documentary co-produced by WQED that celebrates the life and work of renowned playwright and Pittsburgh native August Wilson. If you missed its national PBS premiere on February 20, catch the premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s of How I Learned What I Learned. Wilson’s one-man play about coming of age in Pittsburgh—his final life’s work—stars stage, film and TV actor Eugene Lee. Part of PPT’s 40th anniversary Season of Legends, the work is co-conceived and directed by Todd Kreidler, author of the Broadway musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me.
Audiences will be transported to Pittsburgh’s Hill District during the pivotal year of 1965. Wilson shares his experiences dropping out of school at age 15 to write poetry, supporting himself by cutting grass and working at local landmarks Klein’s and Kroger’s and even dishing about his girlfriend Snookie. From a near duel at Downtown’s iconic Oyster House and the Christmas pageant in Sister Mary Eldephonse’s seventh grade class to hearing John Coltrane at the Crawford Grill, Wilson shares his insights, passion and outrage while documenting the neighborhood and its people. Born in 1945 in the Hill District, Wilson went on to become the first African American writer to have two plays running simultaneously on Broadway and one of seven American playwrights to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Don’t miss PPT’s free panel discussion, The Making of a Playwright: August Wilson and Black Horizon Theatre, on March 16 at 7 p.m., which will be moderated by Larry Glasco and Chris Rawson. Purchase tickets.
2. ABC@PGC, March 6 – June 7, Pittsburgh Glass Center
Sometimes you step up to an artwork that is so visceral you just want to reach out and touch it. But then you remember the rules. Forget “do not touch” and head to PGC in Garfield for an immersive new exhibition that invites viewers to not only touch, but also to wear, artworks. Inviting visitors of all ages to actively encounter art, ABC@PGC playfully explores the more creative and exuberant side of the alphabet. Featuring colorful glass sculptures juxtaposed with an illuminated word building component that attendees can rearrange and wear like apparel, the enticing exhibit challenges assumptions about how art can be experienced in a gallery setting. Created by Seattle artists Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert, ABC boasts a primary color palette reminiscent of children’s play equipment, along with brilliantly hued blown glass assemblages, wall panels and mirrored objects, that will have you thinking more about what it means to actually look at something.
ABC will be augmented by free literacy-related activities offered in collaboration with local arts and tech organizations. Don’t miss the opening reception on March 6, where you can meet the artists, play word games and watch glassblowing demos. A Family Day with hands-on activities, storytelling, letter and word games and make-and-take glass projects is set for March 8.
3. History Uncorked: We Can Do It!, March 6, Heinz History Center
Dig out those shapely shoulder-padded frocks, statement jewels and wedge heels (and double-breasted suits for the dudes) and head to the Heinz History Center for Uncorked. Celebrating the Center’s upcoming exhibition, We Can Do It! WWII, which opens on April 25, this year’s benefit bash takes a cue from 1940s-inspired décor and fashion. Whether you’re more Rosie the Riveter or Joan Crawford, prepare to enjoy “The War Years” at one of Pittsburgh’s premier party spots for the young professional set. With five hours of ’40s-themed fun, revelers will enjoy music by DJ Mad Maxx, Wreck Loose and Zig Daniels, food and libations from 25 local purveyors and a signature silent auction.
Ready to get uncorked? Learn 1940s dance moves with Arthur Murray Dance Studio, relax with a Massage Envy session and snap a ’40s keepsake in the Shutterbooth. Added bonus: All History Center exhibitions will be open throughout the event. Uncorked is expected to draw 1,500-plus, so don’t delay in getting tickets.
4. Quat’z Arts Q Ball, March 7, Energy Innovation Center
Since we can’t hop on a plane to Paris and travel in a time machine back to 1929, we suggest the next best thing: The Quat’z Arts Q Ball.
Lifting its moniker from the “Four Arts Ball,” an annual Parisian ball held from 1892 to 1966 from the École des Beaux-Arts, this year’s Q Ball will showcase Quantum’s innovative work in theater and Pittsburgh’s creative talent. Locating its night of Dadaist debauchery at the cool new space of the Energy Innovation Center (with its stunning views), the fête magnifique promises to “riff on the famous surrealist parties of 20th-century Paris celebrating the arts of painting, sculpture, architecture and printmaking.”
VIPers will be treated to a reception catered by E2, entertainment by C Street Brass and collaborative work by a team of visual and theater artists. Dance party attendees will arrive fashionably late for merrymaking with DJ Nate da Phat Barber, drinks and desserts. At Q Ball’s signature auction, guests can vie for everything from getaways to Napa Valley and NYC to dinner for 12 in Fred Steinberg’s Peter Berndtson’s Modernist masterpiece in Ligonier. Now go get started on that la mode surréaliste. Purchase tickets.
5. Mix it Up: UpPrize Networking Event, March 24, AlphaLab Gear
NEXTpittsburgh is pumped to present Mix It Up! An UpPrize Networking Event on Tuesday, March 24 at AlphaLab Gear starting at 5:30 p.m. UpPrize is the new and very cool social innovation challenge sponsored by BNY Mellon, The Forbes Funds and BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The idea is to connect Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs and innovators—the people who can compete for up to $1 million in prizes—with the region’s nonprofits and the people they serve.
Join us on March 24 for this Pittsburgh social event bringing together local leaders who are driving innovation with social impact. Everyone is welcome, from nonprofits, startups, innovators and investors to makers, designers, inventors and more. In addition to NEXTpittsburgh, UpPrize is partnering with Mayor Peduto, AlphaLab Gear, Fygment, Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and a host of excellent local establishments for this interactive and informal networking event with local food, drink and fun.
If you’re interested in joining the UpPrize competition, we encourage you to attend and bring your team! Once you get there, we’ll help connect you to others in the room with some painless (honest) and simple networking exercises. We’ll be aided by a great selection of local craft beer, good wine, lots of delicious food, a signature drink from Wigle Whiskey and a special guest appearance by Mayor Bill Peduto. Hey, if he’s going to be there, so should you.
6. Corningworks’ At Once There Was a House, March 25 – 29, New Hazlett Theater
While professional female dancers often join companies at age 16 and are semi-retired by their early 30s, that same statistic thankfully does not apply to the locally produced Glue Factory Project. Kicking off its fifth anniversary season and seventh installment of the unique project, Corningworks presents a world premiere production specifically created for renowned performers over the age of 40.
Provocatively asking, “whatever happened to Dick & Jane?,” At Once There Was a House features a star-studded cast of local luminaries, including Jackie Dempsey of Squonk Opera, Michele de la Reza of Attack Theatre and critically acclaimed actor John Gresh. Joining them will be former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal dancer Tamar Rochelle Tolentino and Yoav Kaddar, who has danced with Pilobolus and Paul Taylor. Turning the concept of the perfect 1950s family on its head, this “zany theatrical ride” is directed by company founder Beth Corning.
Audiences will experience multidisciplinary vignettes that range from the witty and profound to the comical and unsettling. Full-length dancetheater productions created to explore complex themes and timeless subjects, Glue Factory productions highlight process, risk-taking and the mastery of seasoned artists who possess a mature grasp of nuance and depth. Special events include a moderated talk back on March 26, a birthday bash on March 27 and a pay-what-you can matinee on March 29. Purchase tickets.
7. Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, March 26 – 29, The Cultural District and neighboring locations
Pittsburgh is home to countless festivals spanning everything from music to comics to beer. A new first is coming to town, when the inaugural Pittsburgh Humanities Festival brings world renowned academics, artists and intellectual innovators for 20-plus interviews, conversations and performances exploring the human condition. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Carnegie Mellon’s Humanities Center have teamed up to launch the annual forum for focusing on topics ranging from art, literature and music to science policy and politics.
It’s smart stuff that matters, as they say.
Featured speakers include Iranian writer and professor Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, who will discuss the role of fiction and democratic imagination in society, why we need humanities during times of crisis and more. Also headlining are Tony Award nominee Kathleen Chalfant and award-winning actress and singer Tonya Pinkins. The pair will perform Robert Myers’ play, Twilight Country, which explores the friendship that develops between a white female writer and the mother of a deceased black veteran when they read Dante’s Inferno together in the South in 1948.
Sure to be a festival hit is famed actor and outspoken supporter of human rights, George Takei, best known for starring as Hikaru Sulu in the hit TV show Star Trek. The subject of a new documentary, Takei is a refreshing voice today exploring worlds of technology, current events and pop culture. A VIP ticket will get you access to a pre-show meet & greet with the man himself.
The impressive lineup also features filmmakers John Sayles and Tony Buba, artist Vanessa German, Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis, Economist correspondent Sarah Thornton, poet Terrance Hayes, Mexican DJ Smurphy, author Frances Bartkowski, and many more. See a complete festival schedule and view all ticket options.
8. Farm to Table Conference, March 27 & March 28, David L. Lawrence Convention Center
As we eagerly await the first sighting of our perky yellow daffodils, thoughts often turn to spring gardening plans, CSAs, al fresco dining and new recipes for the warmer weeks ahead. If you want to learn more about where your food comes from and how you can make healthier food and lifestyle choices, don’t miss the ninth annual Farm to Table Conference. With its new theme of “Cook at Home,” Farm to Table is the ideal place to get into the fresh bountiful season of local growing, cooking and shopping. Attendees will enjoy hands-on cooking demos, gardening tips, food sampling and resources about nutrition, health and wellness. Featured speakers include experts, food writers, chefs and nutritionists from The Brazen Kitchen, Carnegie Library, Grow Pittsburgh, American HealthCare Group and many more.
New this year—and one we won’t miss—is a “Drink Local Happy Hour” on Friday March 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. The informal gathering of farm exhibitors and like-minded locavores will showcase the greener side of local wine, spirits and beer. Also new and exciting is Project Lunch Tray’s Junior Chef competition on Saturday, March 28, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Watch as local school students compete live while sharing their knowledge about food safety, policy, cooking techniques and nutrition. Organized by the Community Kitchen, the project inspires kids and budding chefs to reimagine what a cafeteria lunch can be.
9. Super Salsa Weekend, March 27 – 29, Cabaret at Theater Square and various locations
We can think of no better way to pre-game spring and bid adieu to March than with three days and nights packed with salsa dancing, performances, workshops, music and parties. Emceeing the festivities at Cabaret at Theater Square is the one and only salsa legend Izzy Sanabria. Dubbed “Mr. Salsa” for popularizing the term during the 1970s, Sanabria is an International Latin Music Hall of Famer, original member of The Fania All-Stars, and a pioneer in Latin fashion, media, music and dance.
Friday night’s lively lineup will feature salsa/bachata world champions Uriel Garcia and Vera Rowe as well as music by DJ Jeff Shirey. Saturday night’s event, also at Cabaret, will welcome NYC-based salsa act, Jose Fajardo Jr. y su Orquesta, led by the son of famed Cuban flautist, Jose Fajardo. The celebration wraps up on Sunday, March 29 with a closing dance and dinner at the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center in Homestead. The all-ages gathering will include a potluck dinner, salsa videos, meet & greet with dancers Uriel Garcia and Vera Rowe, social dancing and music by DJ Jeff Shirey.
Itching to try some moves? A range of workshops will be offered at the Wightman School Community Building in Squirrel Hill throughout the weekend. Topics include: salsa footwork and styling for men and women, salsa and bachata partnerwork, salsa history, performance techniques and more. Learn more and purchase tickets.
Because all good lists must come to an end, we give you these 5 very honorable mentions for March:
Culture Club: Adventure Bingo! with Harvard & Highland’s Alexi Morrissey, March 19, Carnegie Museum of Art
CMU International Film Festival: Faces of Work, March 19 – April 11, Carnegie Mellon University
Out of Hand, March 21, Society for Contemporary Craft
Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival, March 27, 28, 29, The Westin Convention Center
PIX: The Pittsburgh Indie Comix Exposition, March 28, 10 South 9th Street
Looking for family activities?
Check out our Top 10 Family Adventures this March in Pittsburgh feature.