Posted by: Anya Martin | September 15, 2008

Is Pittsburgh Hungry for the Festival of Firsts?

Over the past two years, Paul Organisak has been traveling the globe savoring tastes from the markets of Scandinavia to Barcelona and Tokyo, all in search of the freshest and the best.  Paul is the curator or head chef for the Pittsburgh Festival of Firsts and he has created a ravishing menu of artistic performances from around the world, a real feast for the imagination you could say.  “Everything in the festival is fresh, or hasn’t even been created yet,” says Organisak.

Everything has been made to order especially for the city of Pittsburgh. Paul keeps his hometown in mind while sampling performances from all over the world.  “I’m always thinking about a Pittsburgh audience,” he says, “I take that very seriously. And this is all the very best of what I’ve seen.”  So how does he know where to look to find the very best?  “I use colleagues all around the world.”  He has his own system of professionals and friends who help serve as international Zagat raters for the performing arts.

He even packed up and headed to Karmiel Israel, a sister city of Pittsburgh (but you knew that already of course) for a 3 day festival of 24 hour dancing, mostly consisting of teenagers dancing to hip hop on tennis courts amidst seas of traditional Israeli line dancing — all because a Russian colleague said “Paul, you must see this company.  You must. ” Who must Paul see? Ballet Maribor, the Slovenian dance company who will be performing a version of Romeo and Juliet to the music of Radio Head, entitled Radio and Juliet as a part of opening weekend for the Festival.

So-Russian Colleague, Hip Hop in Karmiel Israel, Slovenian Ballet Dancers, Shakespearian Classic Play and the music of Radio Head all goes into planning just the first course of the Festival.  To say that you should taste some surprising and complex influences in just the first bite is only the beginning.

Unfortunately, not every show is a sweet success and Festival bound.  Paul endures many a rotten show in search of the perfect season.  Recently his stomach churned while watching a cigar smoking performance artist hang a thrashing lobster from a microphone wire until it gasped and died.  “We had just come from dinner and I had just had tuna at dinner. The seafood thing, it bothered me.”  (Yeah, can’t blame him there.)

So we should be incredibly thankful to Paul.  Not only has he suffered through the bland and the tasteless, but he has returned to Pittsburgh with the greatest fruits of his labors.  He has chosen the ripest and freshest performance artists, musicians, dancers and theatre artists from around the world and brought them all back to Pittsburgh.  It’s like an international 8 course meal.  Let’s hope Pittsburgh’s hungry for innovative and relevant new art.  I know I am, and the Festival menu looks incredibly fulfilling.


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