First Night Programming Announced

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The big news for the 20th annual iteration of this community New Year’s Eve festival Downtown is: ice labyrinth and Charles Bradley.

The ice labyrinth is a natural extension of the popular “fire-and-ice” exhibits at Katz Plaza; along with the other 150-some events at 50-some venues at First Night, people can’t seem to get enough of live ice-sculpting. Now, as announced this morning at a Pittsburgh Cultural Trust press event by First Night director Darcy Kucenic, they’ll get to wander through a 40-foot-square maze built from ice-block walls 5 feet high, all lit by LEDs. The labyrinth, by Ice Creations’ Rich Rubin, will sit right next to the Fire & Ice Plaza.

The musical headliner is old-school soul singer Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Bradley, who’s getting spins on WYEP, had been performing for years, most recently as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet, when he was “discovered” by a member of the Daptones. Now he’s got a couple albums under his belt, and performs live to growing acclaim.

The rest of the Dec. 31 festival is the familiar mix of family-friendly (and alcohol-free) stuff, including live music, dance, comedy, visual art and hands-on activities. Plus that big community parade down Penn Avenue, and (duh) midnight fireworks.

Highlights of shows by local artists include a performance by Attack Theatre, which actually had its public debut at the very first First Night (in 1994) and has appeared in 11 more since. Also look for new work by Bricolage Productions (an “immersive urban adventure”) and Miniature Curiosa (a video-enabled puppet-theater spectacle titled It Was the Coldest Winter Ever).

But really, there’s too much more to name — the vast majority of it indoors — and it’s all accessible for the price of an $8 First Night button ($10 at the door); children ages 5 and under are admitted free. A handful of events require free seating vouchers, available in advance.

For a complete schedule for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, and how to get buttons, see www.TrustArts.org/FirstNightPGH.

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