Craving outdoor performances? Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is counting on it.

The performing arts organization and its esteemed school will join more than 20 regional arts organizations to present Open Air: A Series in Celebration of the Performing Arts.

Running May 18-31, the two-week festival will bring socially distanced crowds together with dance, music and theater staged live, outdoors and in-person at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park.

“I think the big message here is we’d like to believe that Pittsburgh is at the forefront of reigniting the arts and coming out with a pretty big bang that we’re back,” says Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Executive Director Harris Ferris. “I think there’s definitely a pent-up desire for the arts and to be outside and socialize.

“There will be opportunities to make connections,” Ferris adds, “and there is a way to do this during COVID-19.”

The Open Air lineup is a who’s who of artistic talent in Pittsburgh — everyone from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Kelly Strayhorn Theater and Pittsburgh Opera to Hill Dance Academy Theatre, Attack Theatre and DANA Movement Ensemble presented by Richard Parsakian.

All of the action will unfold on a large mobile stage complete with lighting and activity in the wings, thanks to gifts from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust, Jack Buncher Foundation and Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The stage debuted in September when Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre put on parking lot performances for patrons.

“There’s proof of concept,” Harris says. “That was the trial balloon. This is the real thing.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will stage eight performances during the festival. The ensemble’s 30 dancers, all of whom will perform, will put on excerpts from “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and more.

“I would call this a celebration of all of these wonderful arts organizations coming together,” PBT Artistic Director Susan Jaffe tells NEXTpittsburgh. “I cannot wait for Pittsburghers to sit on the lawn on Flagstaff Hill and watch the arts for two weeks.

“Every stage has its challenges. Every theatre has its challenges, and one is always adapting,” she adds. “[Open Air] brings us closer to the community without it being too formal.”

Josiah Kauffman and Erin Casale. Photo by Kelly Perkovich.

The festival will be free, but premium seating will be available for select performances. Registration opened this week for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre subscribers who donated the cost of their ticket and will open on April 7 to the public.

“BNY Mellon is thrilled to help bring live performing arts back to the community in new and innovative ways through Open Air,” says Kenya Boswell, president of the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “We believe that access to the beauty and inspiration of a diverse array of artists will move us collectively forward.”

See the full program, a list of performing organizations and more information here.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Open Air by the numbers:

$800,000: Cost of the Stageline mobile stage (supported by four foundations and an in-kind donation from Stageline)

66,000: Weight in pounds the mobile stage can hold

30: PBT company dancers performing during Open Air

15: Different works PBT will present during Open Air

3: PBT premieres debuting during Open Air

2: Dance showcases during Open Air, including “Open Window” curated by PBT and Staycee Pearl

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music magazines PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He has been contributing to NEXTpittsburgh since January 2020. He lives in Greenfield.