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Interactive Series Inspired By August Wilson, Rennie Harris, Jazz Greats, And More Come To Pittsburgh This Fall

Featuring Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival with Ron Carter Foursight, Samara Joy, a special tribute to Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds and more!

Interactive Series Inspired By August Wilson, Rennie Harris, Jazz Greats, And More Come To Pittsburgh This Fall

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) announced today its Fall 2022 season lineup, featuring a broad-range of in-person events and visual arts programming, including the previously announced week of blues and jazz concerts beginning today (September 14) with the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival and Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF) starting on September 16.

Additional season highlights include the debut of an immersive theater series, Beyond the Red Door, inspired by August Wilson's world; a performance by Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo; OBIE award-winning playwright and actor Roger Guenveur Smith's one-man show Frederick Douglass Now; the Pittsburgh premiere of Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater Company's Rennie Harris LIFTED! A GOSPEL HOUSE MUSICAL; the premiere of a new music series, Uhuru Jazz Sessions; and premieres from B.U.I.L.D. artists-in-residents DEMASKUS Theater Collective with a staged reading of Chains to Gains at Hazelwood Green and Emmai Alaquiva's interactive, mixed-media exhibition OPTICVOICES: Mama's Boys.

"This season, the Center continues to support the cultivation and presentation of cultural experiences that advance the mission and preserve the legacy of our namesake, August Wilson," said AWAACC CEO & President Janis Burley Wilson. "We're excited to bring Pittsburgh's community together through an extensive array of programs that showcase Black creativity, from the premiere of DEMASKUS' Chains to Gains to the brand-new Beyond the Red Door interactive theater series, and theatrical and dance offerings from Roger Guenveur Smith to Rennie Harris."

Situated in the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright's hometown of Pittsburgh, AWAACC is dedicated to championing innovators in arts and culture focused on the African American experience and the arts of the African diaspora. This season, AWAACC launches two performance-based initiatives that celebrate Pittsburgh's historical ties to Wilson and jazz. Beyond the Red Door, an interactive theater series drawing from the process, practice, and themes from Wilson's works, debuts at Pittsburgh's RADical Days on Saturday, September 24. As part of its commitment to uplifting artists, the Center continues to invite talented contemporary jazz artists to participate in the Uhuru Jazz Series, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Named for the Swahili word that translates to "freedom," it pays homage to jazz as the embodiment of freedom: improvisation, discovery, liberation, and promise with performances from Tia Fuller, Regina Carter, Vanisha Gould, and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Opening Saturday, October 22, and on view through January 2023 in the Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery, AWAACC presents Emmai Alaquiva's interdisciplinary exhibition, OPTICVOICES: Mama's Boys, centering the stories of healing and trauma endured by mothers who've experienced the loss of a child through systemic violence, aiming to cement their legacy in history. AWAACC's galleries will present a sound-based exhibition by Pittsburgh-based composer and audiovisual artist Ricardo Iamuuri Robinson, called Radio Gulf, which explores the social gaps by dissecting the game of golf, opening Thursday, September 8 in the Victoria Gallery.

Hosted by AWAACC Literary Curator Jessica Lanay, Lit Fridays returns this fall on the last Friday of every month, starting with photographer Mel D. Cole, who will discuss his book American Protest, a coffee table book chronicling the protests following George Floyd's death. Hip Hop Camp workshops in art and DJing will be available in October and November, and participants in the DJ workshops will have an opportunity to perform their work during AWCommunity Day this December. The Center is also pleased to share the return of Virtual Story Time, a monthly literary program that will take place over Zoom, with additional details soon to be announced.

All events take place at AWAACC (908 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA) unless otherwise noted.

Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival

September 14-15, 2022

Highmark Stadium, 510 W. Station Square Drive, Pittsburgh, PA

The fifth annual Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival celebrates the blues and honors the musical roots that continue to inspire today's generation of artists, especially those who recognize the artists who came before them and have had significant influence on their music. This year's lineup will include performances from an array of award-winning musicians, including Grammy Award-winning funk and reggae band Steel Pulse; award-winning singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster and blues powerhouse Shemekia Copeland; blues, funk and R&B singer and guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington; multi-Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Fantastic Negrito; and more. The Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival is presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival

September 16, 2022 | 8pm EST

Ron Carter Foursight & A Taste of Jazz event at AWAACC

September 17-18, 2022 | 12pm to 11pm EST

Highmark Stadium

The 12th Annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF) kicks off Friday, September 16, with a performance from the Ron Carter Foursight, followed by A Taste of Jazz, an evening offering delicious bites by local Pittsburgh chefs and performances from local jazz musicians, followed by two days filled with jazz and funk performances from funk hybrid group Average White Band to vocal sensation Vanisha Gould, with the Stanley Clarke Trio, saxophonist Melissa Aldana, and many more. For additional details and a complete festival lineup, click here.

The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival would like to thank its sponsors, including Citizens, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Advanced Auto Parts, P&W Motors, Xfinity, Allegheny County Airport Authority, AARP, River's Casino, and the Libation sponsor, Bacardi. Partners include JazzCorner, Downbeat Magazine, JazzTimes Magazine, Flyspace Productions, Adda Coffee, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and others. A special thank you to the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival and Highlight Blues and Heritage Festival special media sponsor, The Comcast Corporation.

Uhuru Jazz Sessions

Performance times vary.

Named for the Swahili word that translates to "freedom," Uhuru Jazz Sessions pay homage to jazz as the embodiment of freedom: improvisation, discovery, liberation, and promise. Supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Uhuru Jazz Sessions features monthly performances by:

  • Saxophonist, composer, and member of Beyoncé's all-female touring band, Tia Fuller, on November 12, 2022
  • Jazz violinist and Doris Duke Award winner Regina Carter on December 14, 2022
  • Jazz singer and songwriter Vanisha Gould on February 10, 2023
  • Vocalist Georgia Anne Muldrow on June 22, 2023

Beyond the Red Door

Performance times vary.

Beyond the Red Door, a new, year-long, theatrical event series, draws from the process, practice, and themes of the Center's namesake, August Wilson curated by AWAACC Theatre Curator, Stephanie Rolland. Hailing from Pittsburgh's Hill District, Wilson created one of the richest collections of plays in American history, reaching across the 400-year history of Black people in this country to give life to their stories using theater. From immersive theatrical experiences to artist workshops, musical performances, and food tastings, Beyond the Red Door will bring together local and national artists to offer exciting, new portals into Wilson's artistry.

  • September 24, 2022: "Step Into The American Century Cycle" (additional details below)
  • November 9, 2022: "Create and Sip" (additional details below)

"Step Into The American Century Cycle"

Saturday, September 24 | 12 to 4pm; 7 to 11pm EST

In the first event of its new Beyond the Red Door theatre series, "Step Into The American Century Cycle," participants will experience theatrical representations of venues influential in the lives of August Wilson's characters. Join us for vintage games, live music, food, and raffle prizes set in the first half of the 20th century. This event will feature activities for all ages from noon to 4:00pm and will be 21+ from 7:00pm to 11:00pm featuring signature cocktails. "Step Into the American Century Cycle" is a free event but registration is recommended. Please register here.

AWCommunity Days

Saturday, October 1; December 17 | 12pm to 4pm EST

Hazelwood Green, 2201 Lytle St.

AWAACC's quarterly, free, family-friendly AWCommunity Days, return on Saturday, October 1 at Hazelwood Green Plaza, with performances from the Flow Band, DJ KB, Demaskus Theatre Collective, and mindfulness with Quest the Yogi. On Saturday, December 17, AWCommunity Day will celebrate holiday unity with performances from AWAACC's Hip Hop DJ Camp alums. 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.

Chains to Gains
DEMASKUS Theater Collective

Saturday, October 1 | 12pm EST at AWCommunity Day

Hazelwood Green, 5501 Lytle St.

Chains to Gains (C2G) is a musical narrative that travels through history; from the African Slave Trade, through the Transatlantic journey, reaching new lands, into the Civil Rights and Jim Crow Era to the present day. The production is an academic and emotional musical journey through historic time periods, with songs and rhythms from the continent of Africa to the powerful soul stirring Gospel music of today. Audiences will traverse through pain and sorrow, emerge into triumph and victory, and celebrate with an ongoing hope for tomorrow.


Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater Company

Monday, October 16, 20222 | 8pm EST

This Gospel House masterpiece addresses, morality, spiritually and the community that Rennie Harris grew up in. Raised a Catholic, Rennie often attended his neighbors Baptist church which inspired his love for gospel music. This work is set to the brilliant and overwhelming sounds of a live choir whose soulful singing moves the audience to tears. Joshua, the lead character of LIFTED, loses his parents in a car accident and moves in with his uncle and aunt. Quickly, he finds himself in a precarious position when decides to run away and join a gang. Forced to make hard decisions by facing down his demons, he eventually returns to his family and the church.


October 22, 2022 - January 2023

The Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery

Opening reception on Saturday, October 22 from 6 to 9pm EST

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and artist Emmai Alaquiva developed OPTICVOICES: Mama's Boys, an interactive, mixed-media exhibit that orbits the healing of mothers who have lost their sons due to systemic violence and aims to fossilize their legacy. Captured through Alaquiva's galvanizing lens, the kindred journeys of mothers around the world are shared through artistic love letters in the form of photography, film, mixed media, and augmented reality. 

Soul Sessions

Thursday, October 27 | 8pm EST

AWAACC welcomes four-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo for Soul Sessions, an intimate concert series. Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today, a creative force with 14 albums to her name. As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk, and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.

Lit Fridays

Friday, September 30, October 28, November 18, December 16 | 6pm EST

Register for the Zoom Webinar at this link.

Lit Fridays is a literary-focused, virtual salon presented by AWAACC featuring conversations and guest performances on the last Friday* of each month at 6pm EST via Facebook Live and Zoom Webinar. All conversations are moderated by AWAACC Literary Curator, Jessica Lanay. This fall, Lit Fridays will be hosted by the following guests:

  • Mel D. Cole, self-taught award-winning photographer specializing in music
  • Suzanne Perrino from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  • Emmai Alaquiva, multimedia artist and AWACCC B.U.I.L.D Artist-in-Residence
  • Phillip B. Williams, award-winning poet, and author
  • Rowana Abbensetts (writer/editor) and Crystal Joseph (therapist), mental health professionals

Hip Hop Camp: ART and DJ

Saturday, October 8, November 5, November 12 | 11am EST

Virtual and In-Person

Registration information will be available at

  • Hip Hop Camp: Art will take place at AWAACC on Saturday, October 8 and Saturday, November 12.
  • Hip Hop Camp: DJ will take place virtually on Saturday, October 8 and Saturday, November 12.

Fredrick Douglass Now

Written and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith

November 5 | 7pm EST

Frederick Douglass Now is a one-man show written by actor, writer, and director, Roger Guenveur Smith. The concept of this play was initiated as a senior honors project in American Studies at Occidental College. At Yale University, Smith worked as a graduate assistant at The Frederick Douglass Papers. He has since continued to play Douglass to international acclaim, while constructing an unparalleled body of work for the stage and screen.

The Reading Series

Monday, November 7 | 5pm EST
Multipurpose Room

DEMASKUS Theater Collective presents The Reading Series, a one-night only featured theatrical reading with a live audience highlighting the work of Black & Brown playwrights within DEMASKUS Theater Collective and performed by the DEMASKUS Theater Collective members to celebrate the emerging talent from the page to the stage.

"Create and Sip"

November 9 | 6:30pm EST

"Create and Sip," the second event of Beyond the Red Door: a theatrical event series, will feature an evening of arts workshops rooted in August Wilson's creative process. Grab a glass of wine or craft beer alongside professional artists from multiple disciplines in a casual atmosphere. This is a ticketed event. Art supplies will be provided. Ideal for ages 21+.

We Want the Funk Festival

December 9-10

Tickets will be available at on October 3.

The fourth annual We Want the Funk Festival is a celebration and reunion of soul and funk music lovers. Headlining this year are Morris Day & The Time, Alexander O'Neal, Bar-Kays, and Con Funk Shun., More details to be announced.

Tickets to the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival are on sale now at Please check the website for additional on-sale information and programming updates.

Tickets for Ron Carter Foursight at the AWAACC on Friday, September 16 start at $55, and are available for purchase here. Tickets for A Taste of Jazz, starting at $47.25, are available for purchase here. One-day PIJF passes for Saturday or Sunday are available starting at $12 for children, and $45 for adults, and two-day PIJF passes are available starting at $85 for performances taking place at Highmark Stadium. For more details, and to purchase tickets, please follow this link.

Tickets, starting at $47.25, are on sale now for Frederick Douglass Now. For more details, and to purchase tickets, please follow this link. Please check the website for additional on-sale information and programming updates.

All free programming is made possible with generous support for Allegheny Regional Asset District.

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is a non-profit cultural organization located in Pittsburgh's cultural district that generates artistic, educational, and community initiatives that advance the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. One of the largest cultural centers in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the celebration of Black culture and the African diaspora, the non-profit organization welcomes more than 119,000 visitors locally and nationally. Through year-round programming across multiple genres, such as the annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Black Bottom Film Festival, AWCommunity Days, TRUTHSayers speaker series, and rotating art exhibits in its galleries, the Center provides a platform for established and emerging artists of color whose work reflects the universal issues of identity that Wilson tackled and which still resonate today.

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