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What to do in Pittsburgh this weekend: May 24-26

A performer in a crowd.
Jesse Mader
Burlesque performer Iris Adair in Pittsburgh's Storyville Lounge.

Check out the first annual Keystone Burlesque & Variety Festival, enjoy a tribute to Billie Holiday or see some awesome art at Chalkfest — here's what to do in Pittsburgh this weekend.

The Billie Holiday tribute “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” reimagines a 1959 performance by Holiday — among the last ever by a towering figure in American music. Holiday’s reminiscences complement a dozen songs, including “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit,” all in the appropriately intimate confines of the Greer Cabaret Theater. The Pittsburgh CLO production, which opened this week, stars Gabrielle Lee. It runs through June 30.

This weekend marks the unofficial start of paddle season here, as all three Kayak Pittsburgh locations open. The Sharpsburg rental location is open Fridays through Sundays. The Downtown pop-up, at Heinz Quay Boat Launch (right by Acrisure Stadium) is open Fridays through Sundays. And starting Saturday, the North Park outlet will be open Thursday through Mondays for most of the summer. Kayak Pittsburgh is a project of the nonprofit Venture Outdoors. More info is here.

Pittsburgh’s burlesque scene wants to take it to the next level. This weekend, local troupe Velvet Hearts hosts the first annual Keystone Burlesque & Variety Festival, a two-day showcase for talent from the state, the region and beyond. This celebration of the art of the striptease ranges from classic feathers-and-rhinestones to bellydance and anime, with a gender-inclusive roster of performers. Mainstage shows Fri., May 24, and Sat., May 25, are at the intimate new Inspired by Spirits space, in Allentown, with themed after-parties (think speakeasy and Rat Pack Vegas) at the even more intimate Storyville Lounge.

Visual Art
Fans of chalk murals, this is your weekend, as the Riverlife Chalk Fest returns for its third year. Starting Friday, some 25 artists from across the country will chalk up the pavement on the North Side’s Isabella Street and the Allegheny Landing. Viewing times begin Saturday and continue Sunday with an all-ages festival atmosphere. The free event is staged by Riverlife, which works to improve and activate Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

The new Carnegie Science Center exhibit “The Science Behind Pixar” uses characters from films like “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “Finding Nemo” to teach about the art and technology behind animation. The sprawling two-story exhibit includes more than 50 interactive displays. It opens Sat., May 25, and runs through Jan. 5.

The Carnegie Museum of Art’s 2024 Film Series continues with “Vivid Sunsets Over Glistening Oceans,” a program exploring how Western media exoticizes and racializes places like the tropics. The centerpiece is “Cane Fire,” Anthony Banua-Simon’s feature-length 2020 documentary about the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The program also includes “Tropicollage,” a new short by series curator Astria Suparak collaging footage from 30 years of science-fiction movies and TV shows. The screening, in the museum’s theater, begins at 2 p.m.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: