As the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s new director of dance programming and special events, it may seem surprising that Randal Miller’s first major event is a concert by influential hip-hop duo EPMD.
“I can explain that,” Miller says with a chuckle. “My dance background is in breaking; breakdancing and hip hop is how I got into the arts. If it weren’t for hip hop I wouldn’t be doing this. So I took this opportunity … to focus on hip-hop culture.”
Miller has worked for the Trust in various positions over the last six years, and when he took on his new title in June, he was tasked with creating an event that would attract a younger crowd.
His answer was Multiple Choice, a series which basically allows attendees to choose their own Cultural District adventure. The inaugural event — happening Thursday at the August Wilson Center — includes three components : the EPMD concert; an after-party and open-style dance battle featuring DJ Selecta, Reason, EOS, Moemaw Naedon and Izzy; and food trucks. For $25 you get a concert ticket and access to the after-party. The after-party alone is $5, and the food trucks are there for all to enjoy.
Fittingly, Aug. 11 is hip hop’s nationally recognized birthday, marking the day in 1973 that Clive “Kool Herc
” Campbell threw his first party, a back-to-school jam in the South Bronx. And for hip-hop fans, this is an opportunity to relive a little history as genre vets Erick “E” Sermon and Parish “PMD” Smith celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut record, Strictly Business
The Multiple Choice series won’t just be about music — the next installment will feature a mask theater troupe from Portland, Ore., and Miller has plans for a diverse set of performance groups you’re unlikely to see anywhere else.
In addition to drawing more twenty- and thirtysomethings, Miller also hopes to bring new people to the Downtown arts scene. “I know anecdotally, as someone who falls in that [age group], a lot of people kind of write off the Cultural District,” he says. “The hope is that this will become an entry point. As you become more familiar with something, you feel more free to be adventurous.”