Compiled by Bill Marx
In the age of COVID-19, Arts Fuse critics have come up with a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music — mostly available by streaming — for the coming weeks. More offerings will be added as they come in.
One of the area’s most popular and best curated festivals is online again this year with a marvelous selection of features, documentaries, and short films. Films have various lengths of access and can occasionally ‘sell-out’ – so check the schedule and order in advance.
The opening film is Questlove’s celebrated documentary Summer of Soul on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. It closes with How It Ends, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones comedy about an asteroid that is scheduled to obliterate Earth. Arts Fuse preview of the fest’s documentaries.
A GOOD MAN
Through May 3
Portrait of a Lady on Fire star Noémie Merlant turns in another remarkable performance as Benjamin, a woman transitioning to a man. While living on an island off the coast of Brittany, he and his partner (played by French chanteuse and actress Soko) decide to have a baby. With great empathy the film explores a trans man’s desire to have children and raise a family. Discussion by Zoom on May 3 at 7:30 p.m.
May 4 through 10
A Cuban teenager, the primary caretaker for his beloved grandmother, develops his first crush during the summer of 1994. The year plays an important role in the story: it was when the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to a shortage of food, supplies, and electricity forcing some Cubans to make the perilous journey to the US by boat. Set in the director’s rural hometown of Gibara and loosely based on his experiences, the film is not only a coming-of-age story, but also a memory of a time in the not-so-distant past that is still quite relevant today. Q&A with the movie’s producer, Marcela Esquivel Jiménez, and a recorded message from Cuban director Armando Capo (who has no internet because of restrictions in Cuba) on May 10 at 7:30 p.m.
REELABILITIES FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON
May 6 – 13
EL ESPECIAL / THE SPECIAL
Streaming Thursday May 6 at midnight through May 13 at midnight
Chuo, a charming young man with Down syndrome, must navigate the challenges of early adulthood as he seeks to build a life of independence distanced from his troubled father. Long separated by an ocean of silence and shame, will the two men be able to build a common future?
SHARED STORIES: The Boston Latino International, Roxbury International, and Boston Asian American Film Festivals
On Demand: May 19 – 23
The documentary Nailed It chronicles the genesis and legacy of a 40 year old institution: the Vietnamese nail salon and its influence on an $8 billion-dollar American industry. For mixed-race Vietnamese filmmaker Adele Pham, the film became personal because it made her confront her cultural conflicts. She finds her place in the Vietnamese community as she examines the inner workings of a niche trade used by many but fully known to only a few. The film will premiere on May 19 at 7 p.m. and the screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Pham.
JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
Streaming May 6 at midnight through May 13 at midnight
“Maricarmen Graue, 52, is a cello player; she plays with a rock band as well as in a chamber orchestra. She is also a music teacher, a writer and a marathon runner. She lives alone and is completely blind. She copes with her condition by having a biting sense of humor and being fiercely self-demanding.”
KINO POLSKA: NEW POLISH CINEMA
through May 6
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) brings together the best new works from Poland in a series that highlights a new generation of boundary-pushing filmmakers. This year’s virtual lineup includes a surreal animated feature, a vision of dystopian blood feuds, a poignant drama about a Vietnamese-Polish family, and the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission, Never Gonna Snow Again. Agnieszka Holland’s Mr. Jones will also be streamed (Arts Fuse review). Tickets and information
MAŁNI—TOWARDS THE OCEAN, TOWARDS THE SHORE
May 7 through 13
The Docyard Series presents experimental filmmaker Sky Hopinka’s first feature film, which melds an inquiry into the Chinookan death myth with the stories of two members of the Chinook nation as they describe their relationship to life and death, framed by observational scenes from their lives and their families.The film is buoyed by a deep commitment to conveying the value of individual narratives and is shot drawing on a fluid blend of innovative and more accessible documentary techniques. There is a Q&A with Hopinka on May 12 at 7 p.m., hosted by Cass Gardiner on both Zoom and Facebook Live.
Live screen viewing returns! To celebrate its reopening, Coolidge Corner Theatre’s programming over the first three Thursdays through Sundays will spotlight big screen favorites. such as Vertigo, Top Hat, 2001: A Space Odyssey (in 35 mm) along with 4k restoration screenings of Do The Right Thing and Akira. There will be twenty-one selections in all.
Roy Andersson’s (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence) latest film is a reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendor and banality. We wander through a dreamlike vision, gently guided by our Scheherazade-esque narrator. Inconsequential moments take on the significance of huge historical events: a couple floats over a war-torn Cologne; on the way to a birthday party, a father stops to tie his daughter’s shoelaces in the pouring rain; teenage girls dance outside a cafe; a defeated army marches to a prisoner-of-war camp. Arts Fuse review
Fuse critic Peter Walsh thinks the documentary covers a lot of dark and tragic territory, but it remains entertaining throughout, no doubt more than anything else from its skill in capturing the fierce, tender, acidic, brilliant, and ultimately inextinguishable energy of its subject, artist David Wojnarowicz, a determinedly “outsider” artist who was among the most furiously outspoken victims of the AIDS epidemic. Chris McKim’s film is largely composed of materials from the late subject’s archives, woven into a collage whole that is equal parts biography, vintage agitprop, and objet d’art. Arts Fuse review
Under the Brattlite/Brattle is showing World Cinema, Cult Cinema, one-offs, documentaries and classics: Viewing is getting more complicated than ever but all purchases will go to the theater. Check the above links. Below are current recommendations.
Icelandic director Grimur Hakonarson’s film revolves around the middle-aged Inga, who operates a dairy farm along with her spouse Reynir. They work without rest to keep up a farm that has been in his family for generations. When Reynir dies, she discovers they’re deep in debt to the local agricultural co-op, which was supposed to be pledged to support them. Infuriated, Inga fights against mounting pushback, which becomes increasingly hostile. This is another of Hakonarson’s serio-comedies, an adroit look at an underdog’s triumph.
Justino is an Indigenous widower in Brazil where he works long shifts as a security guard. From time to time he returns to his family in the Amazon. His daughter decides to study medicine and her decision disrupts what had been a very predictable life. In response, he comes down with a mysterious fever. Documentary filmmaker and visual artist Maya Da-Rin has come up with a film that challenges conventional expectations. She workshopped this production with nonprofessional actors and makes use of innovative storytelling techniques. She patiently and effortlessly weaves themes of family and so-called civilization into a blend of documentary style realism and mysticism. Indigenous actor Regis Myrupu is astounding and heartbreaking. Evoking the archetypal and the quotidian, the director’s feeling for her subject is in every compelling shot. This is a masterful tale of the significance of unheralded lives. Not to be missed.
This is a beautiful restoration of the radical 1972 antiwar film featuring, among others, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. (The title is short for Free (or Fuck) The Army.) Francine Parker’s documentary captures the two actors on a live tour of the Pacific Rim in 1971 along with other stars in a vaudeville style show. These counterculture skits, songs — which made serious political points — subverted the traditional army entertainment provided by the likes of Bob Hope and the USO. In order to undermine the tour, the Army went as far as to promote the shows via erroneous start times. In 2009, the LA Times wrote: “Denied permission to perform on U.S. bases, they set up shop in nearby coffeehouses and other venues.” Arts Fuse review
FUSE REVIEWS — LOCAL THEATERS AND STREAMING
BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee.
Ezra Haber Glenn writes that this new adaptation of the pivotal modernist novel is sure to spark criticism from Döblin and Fassbinder loyalists, as well as those who might feel the film, while beautiful, is not politically progressive enough. Nonetheless, director Burhan Qurbani strikes the right chords: balancing between textual fidelity and contemporary relevance. Arts Fuse review.
IN THE EARTH screening at AMC Boston and other New England cinemas.
For Peg Aloi, director Ben Wheatley’s latest exercise in folk horror becomes quite harrowing and trippy, which is to say, he is back on form. Arts Fuse review.
VIOLATION now streaming on Shudder.
This no-holds-barred film doesn’t use extreme violence to revel in a revenge fantasy, but to expose the genre’s militantly feminist appeal — “kill your rapist” — as a self-destructive endeavor that offers no catharsis whatsoever. Fuse review
SHIVA BABY now available on VoD and playing at Kendall Square Cinema.
Though it’s classified as a comedy, the film utilizes many of the stylistic trademarks found throughout the horror genre to merge painfully humorous discomfort with suffocatingly atmospheric terror. For our critic Nicole Veneto, “you don’t have to be Jewish to find Shiva Baby riotously funny, anxiety-inducing, or relatable.” Arts Fuse review
— Tim Jackson
May 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Ken Schaphorst, longtime chairman of the Jazz Studies Department at New England Conservatory, presents a wide-ranging concert of his music in a performance recorded in April at NEC’s Jordan Hall. Schaphorst, with a substantial discography under his belt, has an original touch with the broad palette made available by large ensembles. He’ll lead the NEC Jazz Orchestra in a program of his pieces “Charlie Parker’s Tuxedo,” “Omega Man,” “Sleepwalkers,” “Blues Almighty,” and “Mbira,” as well as his arrangements of Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” and Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence.” If the production values (and music) of an NEC show presented by Maria Schneider back in March is any indication, this show should be as rewarding as “streaming” jazz can be. This one-time-only stream is free.
May 7 at 7:30 p.m.
The Boiler House Jazz Series continues at the Waltham, Mass., Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, helmed by Ken Field, musical director of latter-day New Orleans second-line outfit the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. Field’s more experimental side comes out in his loop-created new CD, Transmitter, and this week, playing reeds and electronics, he joins the RSE’s tubist, David Harris, in a “wide-ranging electro-acoustic performance of composed and improvised music, including works from the repertoire of Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, plus reenvisioned treatments of material by J.S. Bach, Charlie Parker, and others.” The suggested donation is $20, but “any amount will be accepted.”
The phenomenal singer and songwriter Cécile McLorin Salvant (multi-Grammy winner as well as a MacArthur “genius” fellow) is offering “At Home,” recorded in her Brooklyn loft, with her brilliant long-time piano accompanist, Sullivan Fortner (who alone is worth seeing), through May 31. All proceeds will benefit GHESKIO, a public health organization serving patients in Haiti.
May 15 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston
LIVE AND IN PERSON!
The Boston club scene is oh-so-gradually opening up for live performances — in this case, City Winery, which tonight brings in the great guitarist John Scofield for two sets of a solo guitar (no band), in an extremely socially distanced setting, in tables of two and four. Scofield’s tribute to his longtime pal, bassist and composer Steve Swallow, Swallow Tales (ECM), was one of the best jazz albums of 2020. The programs from Scofield’s past solo guitar shows have been typically eclectic: standards (Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Burke/Van Heusen, Harry Warren), blue chip jazz (Monk, Mingus, Miles Davis, Carla Bley); country (Hank Williams et al. and trad); pop (Buddy Holly, Dylan, Beatles); and the unclassifiable New Orleans standard “Junco Partner”; plus an original or two.
May 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Mandorla Music has revived its Dot Jazz series (usually taking place live, at various locations in Ashmont/Dorchester) with this streamed performance (recorded at Cambridge’s Q Division studios) of the Cat Trio, with the terrific pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Austin McMahon. They’ll be playing originals by all three, drawing on “a wide range of influences: classical piano repertoire, Monk, Afro-Cuban sounds, singer-songwriter and rock music lineages, and beyond.”
— Jon Garelick
Boston Dance Alliance Gala 2021
May 2 at 5:30 p.m. (ET)
This year’s Boston Dance Alliance Gala honors Rozann Kraus (dancer, teacher, and administrator) and scientist Dr. Larry Pratt (who has worked with dancers for years as a collaborator, educator, and philanthropist). Come celebrate Kraus and Pratt’s impressive contributions to the Greater Boston dance community through this virtual livestreamed social event, including performances by Jean Appolon of Jean Appolon Expressions and Jessie Jeanne Stinnett of Boston Dance Theater.
FilmFest by Rogue Dancer: About FACE
Viewable now through May 9
Rogue Dancer has just launched its latest online screendance film festival, About FACE. This month’s festival explores the phrase “about face” in multiple ways, from doing a complete 180 to the longing we feel to see each other’s faces when masked. Enjoy a variety of new films exploring this theme.
Return to Live
May 6-8 at 8 p.m.
WaterFire Arts Center
A live and live-streamed production
Island Moving Company (IMC) presents a production that offers limited capacity live viewing as well as viewing via live-stream. Join the company in Providence for world premieres from guest choreographer Colin Connor, former artistic director of the José Limón Dance Company, and Danielle Genest, IMC’s Associate Artistic Director, as well as Mark Harootian’s recent work, Steady Grip, and repertory favorites by IMC Artistic Director Miki Ohlsen.
Past, Present, Future
May 9-11 at 8 p.m. EST
Online and TV viewings
Inspired by current events, the inaugural Past, Present, Future screendance festival is a collaboration between ALL ARTS, filmmakers, and choreographers who were prompted to consider what the past, present, and future mean to them. The festival will present as a series of three films, featuring new works by choreographers Kyle Abraham of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, Pam Tanowitz of Pam Tanowitz Dance, the artists of Kinetic Light, and filmmakers Dehanza Rogers, Liz Sargent, and Katherine Helen Fisher. A new film debuts each of the three nights. All films will be available nationwide on the ALL ARTS app and website, and on the ALL ARTS broadcast channel in the New York metro area.
May 14 & 15 at 8 p.m. EST
Abilities Dance presents a new take on the classic Firebird ballet, with a new score composed by Andrew Choe, and movement inspired by the dancers’ individual identities. This work highlights both disabled and nondisabled artists, while providing audio descriptions, captions, and ASL interpretations through a narrative form that complements the music.
The Time Traveler’s Lens
Viewable remotely or in person (see website)
Luminarium Dance Company launches a groundbreaking new production using 360-degree videography and interdisciplinary choreography to present an extended reality (XR) immersive performance that illuminates the history of the colonnade at Princeton Battlefield State Park (Princeton, NJ). This site-specific performance comprises five 360-degree dance films; they are viewable as augmented reality (AR) across the battlefield grounds on visitors’ personal mobile devices or as a virtual reality (VR) experience outside of the grounds. As the time traveler, you control the lens as you explore the layers of past identities presented by this historic site, which include ties to the American Revolution (1777), Thomas Ustick Walter, famed architect of the US Capitol (1835), the Delaware & Raritan Canal (1901), as well as other glimpses into the colonnade’s rich and storied past.
— Merli V Guerra
Dream Boston Plays, a new series of short audio plays (15 in number at the moment) produced by the Huntington Theatre Company. Each drama is set at a specific local landmark with 1-3 characters, and is about 6 minutes in length. All the productions are available on the Huntington’s website, as well as on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
The first four entries were By the Rude Bridge by Melinda Lopez; Overture by Kate Snodgrass; McKim by Brenda Withers; and The 54th in ’22 by Kirsten Greenidge. “Conceived and commissioned by the Huntington artistic department, the company asked Huntington Playwriting Fellow alumni Greenidge, Snodgrass, Withers, and Lopez to imagine their favorite locations, landmarks, and friends in a future Boston, when people can once again meet and thrive in the city — a vision of a future Boston that is somewhere between dream and reality.” Arts Fuse review of Episodes 1 through 5.
Seven additional titles were added to the lineup in July, which included works by local artists John Oluwole ADEkoje, Miranda ADEkoje, J. Sebastián Alberdi, Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Elle Borders, Patrick Gabridge, and John Kuntz. The local landmarks that serve as settings for this round of audio plays include Franklin Park, Harvard’s Memorial Church, the Harvard Art Museums, the Old State House, the Fenway nightclub Machine, Harrison Avenue, and Malcolm X Boulevard.
The new quartet includes works by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, Huntington Playwriting Fellows Masha Obolensky and Jacqui Parker, and writer and actor Kadahj Bennett. The settings for this round include Dorchester Heights in South Boston, Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club on Massachusetts Avenue in the South End, Nantasket Beach, and the Minuteman Trail in Concord.
“These four plays think about the future from different vantage points than the previous Dream Boston plays,” says Charles Haugland, The Huntington’s Director of New Work, “amid the vaccine rollout, the return to in-person school, a rapid housing market, and the return to places in our city we haven’t been in a long time.”
“In an innovative collaboration devised to meet the challenges posed by the global health pandemic, the 2020 season will be the first-ever complete theatre season released by Audible, the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling. The WTF Season on Audible is being produced in an audio-only format safe to elevate, entertain, and transform audiences from the comfort of their homes.” Here is what is currently up and ready for earplay.
A Streetcar Named Desire: “Following his 2019 production of A Raisin in the Sun, Tony Award nominee Robert O’Hara returns to WTF to direct this Tennessee Williams masterpiece. With Emmy, Grammy, and six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as Blanche DuBois alongside Carla Gugino as Stella. Haunted by her past, Blanche seeks refuge with Stella and Stanley (Ariel Shafir) in New Orleans, where she wrestles with the nature of her sister’s husband, her sister’s denial, and her own unraveling mind.”
Photograph 51: “In 1951, chemist Rosalind Franklin (Anna Chlumsky) works relentlessly in her King’s College London lab, closing in on a major discovery that could unlock the mysteries of the DNA molecule. Undermined by her colleague Maurice Wilkins (Omar Metwally), she struggles to compete with rival team Watson and Crick (David Corenswet and Aasif Mandvi) as pressure intensifies to produce results. The script is by Anna Ziegler; Susan Stroman directs.”
Animals by Stacy Osei-Kuffour. Directed by Obie Award winner Whitney White: “Lydia (Aja Naomi King) and Henry (Jason Butler Harner)’s dinner guests (Madeline Brewer and William Jackson Harper) are about to arrive when Henry’s spontaneous marriage proposal threatens to burn the evening to a crisp. Wine bottles and years of unspoken tensions are uncorked, and, before the evening is through, Lydia must confront her long-held fears and feelings if she’s going to commit to a future with Henry. World premiere of a comedy that marches into the muddy intersection of romantic entanglement, identity, pride, and survival.”
Chonburi International Hotel & Butterfly Club by Shakina Nayfack. Directed by Laura Savia. The world premiere of a play that centers on a vibrant, international group of transgender women who band together at a hotel in Thailand to confront the challenges and joys of gender confirmation surgery. Despite the group’s warm welcome, Kina (Nayfack) prepares for her life-altering operation all alone. But a caring nurse (Ivory Aquino), a wise couple (Kate Bornstein and Annie Golden), and a karaoke-loving bellhop (Telly Leung) may be exactly who she needs to ignite her truest sense of self.”
Paradise Blue by Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. “It’s 1949 in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood, and there’s no better place to hear or play jazz than Paradise Club. Blue (Blair Underwood), club owner and trumpeter, can wail like no other, but as forces outside the club conspire to irreparably change life inside and outside Paradise’s walls, he must decide whether to stay or sell. Beholden to his girlfriend (Kristolyn Lloyd) and fellow bandmates (André Holland and Keith Randolph Smith), Blue faces an uncertain future as he reckons with his troubled past. When Silver (Simone Missick), a smooth and mysterious newcomer from Louisiana, steps onto the scene, everyone in Paradise must choose how to survive.”
Wish You Were Here by Sanaz Toossi. Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch.”Nazanin (Marjan Neshat) and her friends are on the brink of adulthood. As they prepare for a wedding, outside their living room the Iranian Revolution simmers and threatens to alter the course of their lives. Set over the course of 14 years, this timely play (receiving its world premiere) shines a light on the daring potential of friendship amid the relentless aftershocks of political upheaval.”
Row, Book by Daniel Goldstein. Music and lyrics by Dawn Landes. Directed by Tyne Rafaeli. Inspired by the nonfiction work A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure. “Tori (Grace McLean) aims to be the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. As a child, she raised her younger brother Lamar (John McGinty), defending him against discrimination and neighborhood bullies. Now, with nothing but her body and a hand-built boat, she squares off with her own tormentor: the ocean. The world premiere of a musical that interrogates and reveals the resilience, fear, and ambition inside one individual undeterred by the odds.
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare. Directed by Robert Falls. Staged by the Goodman Theatre, streaming through May 9.
An encore performance of a well received 2013 production: “His city caught in a moral free-fall, the Duke of Vienna hands over power to Lord Angelo, who enforces long-dormant codes of chastity with zealous fervor. When a pious young nun pleads for the life of her condemned brother, Angelo’s response reveals a web of desire, deception and hypocrisy that infects every corner of society. Robert Falls’s daring production takes us into the heart of Shakespeare’s dark comedy, in which virtue and vice collide — and lust and the law are inextricably entwined.”
Play On! Othello By William Shakespeare. Translated by Mfoniso Udofia, Directed by Christopher V. Edwards. An Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production of a version of the Bard’s tragedy commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Streaming through May 9. Free.
“Othello, a Venetian soldier, has risen to new heights as the general of the Venetian army and recent husband to Desdemona, the daughter of a powerful statesperson. When Othello chooses to promote Cassio instead of Iago as his chief lieutenant, Iago is furious and begins to weave a complex web of revenge. Iago leads Othello to believe that Desdemona is unfaithful, triggering his jealousy (“the green-eyed monster”) and causing him to question his worthiness. Iago’s manipulation and Othello’s jealousy have terrible consequences for all. What role does race play in this story? Who do we trust and why? How are we vulnerable to those we trust the most?” Arts Fuse review
The Conjurors’ Club, a live interactive multi-magician virtual experience created by Vinny DePonto and Geoff Kanick. Streamed by the American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, MA, through May 16.
“For the first time in 100 years, the secretive magic society The Conjurors’ Club pulls back the curtain for an interactive experience that redefines the face of modern magic. Take a front-row seat and immerse yourself in the arcane and mysterious with three different magicians. Physical distance can’t keep the amazing mind-reading, reality-bending illusions, and extraordinary transformations from reaching through the screen and directly into your home.”
Leonora, la maga y la maestra, staged by Double Edge Theatre. A PEAK HD/ALL ARTS broadcast and online premiere event. Recorded at Montclair State University in October 2020. Free — the performance will remain on the All Arts website for the next 3 years.
Along with the Double Edge performance, there is a livestreamed conversation available for viewing between DE Artistic Director Stacy Klein and renowned Surrealist scholar Dr. Susan L. Aberth. The chat includes visual references to Carrington’s artwork as well as the troupe’s staging of Leonora, la maga y la maestra. Aberth’s books Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art (Lund Humphries)” and the recently published The Tarot of Leonora Carrington (Fulgur Press) have been profound influences on Double Edge’s work inspired by the world of Leonora Carrington.
Hype Man: A Break Beat Play by Idris Goodwin. (Original stage production directed by Shawn LaCount.) Film directed by John Oluwole ADEkoje and Shawn LaCount. Director of Photography, John Oluwole ADEkoje. Cinematography by John Oluwole ADEkoje and The Loop Lab. This is a digital reimagining of the Company One production, presented by the American Repertory Theatre, streaming via Virtual Oberon through May 6.
A film version of the play by poet and playwright Idris Goodwin about “a rapper, a beat-maker, and a hype man on the verge of making it big when the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager shakes the interracial hip-hop trio to the core and forces them to navigate issues of friendship, race, and protest.” Arts Fuse review of the 2018 stage production.
Boston Theater Marathon XXIII: Special Zoom Edition, streaming will begin on April 1 and will continue each day (with the exception of Sundays) through May 28. Readings will start at 12 noon ET, and each play will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
For a second year, the BTM will be presented on Zoom for eight weeks. A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the arts are struggling for survival and the assistance provided by the BTM’s beneficiary — the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund — is needed more than ever. The event will feature 50 10-minute plays written by New England playwrights and presented by New England theatre companies.
Audiences will be encouraged to donate to participating theater companies and/or to the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF), which provides financial relief to Boston-area theater artists in need. Last year’s Boston Theater Marathon XXII: Special Zoom Edition helped raise more than $56,000 for the charity.
Mud Season Mystery: The Lodger by Brenda Withers. Directed by Jess Chayes. A Northern Stage production that will be performed live on Zoom through May 2. Check theater site for times.
“A lodger arrives at a ramshackle London boarding house as news of a murderer sweeps through town. He fits the description — but is he guilty? And can we trust our instincts? Grab your friends and join Ronnie, an obsessive mystery fan and your host, as Ronnie leads you on a journey through this tantalizing tale and your own expectations.” This adaptation “uses suspenseful storytelling to engage the audience in a live, interactive, communal experience guaranteed to entertain and provoke.”
TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever by James Ijames. Directed by Pascale Florestal. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage, streaming through May 13.
The script is “a wildly irreverent and whip-smart satire that dissects a sordid slice of American history — the story of President Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings — with the goal of reimagining the future. When Sally, a young Black college student, is faced with unwanted advances from TJ, her college’s white Dean of Students, she sets out, amidst a swirl of marching bands, beauty pageants, and bubbly tour guides, to dismantle the legacies that bind us all. Note: the SpeakEasy production was filmed live on the Wimberly Stage in the Calderwood Pavilion in observance of all AEA protocols but without an audience.
chekhovOS /an experimental game/ Inspired by The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Conceived & Directed by Igor Golyak
Produced by Golyak & Sara Stackhouse. Co-presented by Boston Fig & Snowrunner Productions. This production of the workshop will be followed by a live talkback with members of the cast & creative team. Moderated by Tom Abernathy, Studio Narrative Director at ArenaNet, on May 16 at 8 p.m. ET.
This is an ambitious “work-in-progress created during the pandemic, a way for artists to work through the themes of the play, the encroaching virus, and a moment of change in the world around us. The project was developed in the new and emerging genre of virtual theater at Arlekin’s (zero-G) from a small but mighty group of collaborators, helmed by Golyak. This international team of designers and technical engineers collaborated with Golyak both virtually and onsite in Arlekin’s new Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Performance Lab in Needham, MA for several months to create the functionality and online environment for this project.”
A Woman of the World by Rebecca Gilman. Directed by Courtney Sale. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre via video on demand only, May 15 through 30.
Denise Cormier stars in the New England premiere of this one-person play about the life of Mabel Loomis Todd – best known for introducing poet Emily Dickinson to America in 1890. Todd regales us with tales of her sensational life, especially her 13 years with the Dickinson family. We are given “the whole, unadulterated truth about the desires, dreams, and sometimes heartbreaking disappointments of a free spirit, who was way ahead of her time.”
Black Beans Project written and performed by Melinda Lopez and Joel Perez. Directed by Jaime Castañeda. A virtual staging by the Huntington Theatre Company available for on-demand streaming from May 11 through 30.
The healing setup: “a sister and brother (played by creators Lopez and Perez) meet virtually to share a secret family recipe that forces them to reveal secrets of their own. They share memories and make plans, transforming their pandemic panic to renewal.” This is a “comedy about family, food, and finding the strength to move on” and “invites audiences to open a bottle of wine, chop some garlic, and savor the possibility of connecting with family after a long time apart.”
Sejanus, His Fall by Ben Jonson. Adapted and directed by Nathan Winkelstein. An online benefit reading by Red Bull Theater on May 17 at 7:30 EDT, available for streaming until May 21, 7 p.m. EDT.
Be still my heart! A staged reading of one of Ben Jonson’s two magnificent Roman tragedies. Red Bull Theater’s summary is not bad: “First performed in 1603, the start of the Jacobean era, Ben Jonson’s tragedy of epic proportions is an incisive portrayal of political cronyism, sycophancy, and power. Tiberius is the Emperor of Rome. Sejanus is his right-hand man. But — in a society where books are burnt, “knowledge is made a capital offense,” and free men have become “the prey of greedy vultures and spies” — factions are forming behind each of these charismatic leaders. Jonson’s linguistically rich play has startling significance today in its exploration of treason and totalitarian tyranny. Sejanus sets his sight on Emperorship. No one can stop him. His fall is inevitable.”
Here is mine: “Sejanus buffs to murderous perfection Jonson’s steely vision of roiling authoritarian corruption: the tyrannical Roman emperor Tiberius lures his ambitious second-in-command, Sejanus, into a homicidal trap in order to replace him with a less threatening sycophant. The few citizens longing for freedom comment with ineffectual despair on the show trial of absolute command and the decadent fashions of the court.”
For some reason Sejanus failed, terribly, when it was first produced. I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s fine 2005 production — it was terrific, a lacerating, darkly comic vision of big and small bullies going at one another, as they do today in the halls of power. Daringly, Jonson doesn’t have Tiberius bother to appear in Act Five to watch the kill: he dispatches Sejanus via a letter to his servile electoral henchmen. Today, it would be a tweet.
By the way, Red Bull Theater — or any others who relish staging revelatory but neglected Elizabethan/Jacobean dramas — Jonson’s other Roman play, Catiline, has yet to receive a professional staging in hundreds of years (at least from what I can tell). I wrote about the script on its 400th birthday in 2011. Believe me, with judicious cutting — particularly Cicero’s interminable speech, which was greeted at its premiere with catcalls — this would be “a powerful script filled with insights into realpolitik conveyed through rich poetry.” Jonson “proffers a brilliant, seriocomic meditation on political gangsterism.” No one, not even Shakespeare, wrote about the sadistic brutality of politics with such mordant flair.
— Bill Marx
Walking Plays, an audio play series, Lyric Stage Company of Boston
According to Lyric Stage’s artistic director Courtney O’Connor, this new audio series was created as a way to bring “a form of live theatre” to a public that hasn’t been able to experience it since theaters closed because of the Covid pandemic.
“The Walking Plays provide a way for audiences to explore both the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of Boston and the joy of theatre beyond the Lyric Stage doors. This series will commission six 10- to 15-minute plays exploring private moments we experience in public. Listeners will be able to use maps provided by the Lyric Stage to walk along with the plays or to listen to them from their own homes. Together, the plays will form a loop beginning in Copley Square, winding through the city, and ending at a special location in the Back Bay. The plays will be available for free on the Lyric Stage’s website.
“The Walking Plays will include ‘Easter eggs’ throughout the walk, which will add another level of enjoyment for listeners. Executive director Matt Chapuran said, ‘It’s a great chance for people who are unfamiliar with the city of Boston to learn more about what makes it so special. Or a chance to fall in love with the city all over again.’
“The series premiered with the release of On Paying Attention by David Valdes, a Cuban-American playwright interested in stories of personal identity, especially global majority and LGBTQ experiences. He teaches playwriting at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, as well as English at Tufts University.
Next to premiere is Monster in the Sky by Ginger Lazarus. “Lazarus is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose works have been featured in her native Boston area, around the country, and across the pond in London. She holds a master’s degree in playwriting from Boston University and currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston.”
“The remaining four plays will be released in two batches later in the winter and spring.”
— Evelyn Rosenthal
Roots and World Music
The prospects of hearing live music in person this summer grew considerably brighter this week, as Gov. Baker announced the lifting of the ban on indoor singing, expanded outdoor event capacities, and a target of a complete reopening by August 1. The news resulted in a flurry of summer and fall event announcements from venues like the Regent in Arlington, Indian Ranch in Webster, and the Sinclair in Cambridge.
Still, the return of live music will be happening gradually, especially given that Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are all delaying lifting many of the restrictions by varying periods of time.
The Porch in Medford remains the busiest venue, with acoustic blues man Big Jon Short on May 7, honky tonker Stan Martin on May 8, and ongoing residencies that include the B-3 Kings. Boston’s City Winery has comedians and the instrumental sounds of guitarist John Scofield, who performs solo on May 15.
In the world of virtual concerts, the Celebrity Series has Boston’s mariachi queen Veronica Robles and her all-female ensemble to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on May 5. And the Charles River Museum continues its eye-opening duet series of Boiler House Jazz with the pairing of saxophonist Ken Field and tuba player David Harris on May 7.
— Noah Schaffer
The Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover turns 90 this year. It was founded by alumnus Thomas Cochran May 17, 1931 on the campus of Philips Andover Academy in order “to enrich permanently the lives of the students” (all boys in those days). As part of the celebrations, the museum will open its exhibition “Learning to Look: The Addison at 90,” on nearly the same day, May 8, nine decades later. The show will celebrate how the Addison has become, somewhat unexpectedly, one of the premier collections of American art in the entire world. Selections on view will range from well known favorites to “hidden gems, and feature such artists as Thomas Eakins, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Donald Judd, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.” The Addison is currently open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
For the past 16 years, the Museum of Fine Arts has worked with community organizations in Boston to introduce young people, ages 6 to 12, to the MFA’s resources and collections and to encourage them to make art of their own. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has been the Community Arts Initiative’s first socially distant project, “Patterns of Greatness.” Organizers met virtually with students, to help them create art that used visual patterns to explore their life experiences and “capacity for greatness.” The project used themes such as favorite music, texture, and a mural as inspiration and backdrop to developing pieces that will on view in the exhibition “Community Arts Initiative: Patterns of Greatness.” It opens at the museum on May 8.
The New Britain Museum of American Art extends its year-long series of exhibitions celebrating American women artists with “NEW/NOW: Jennifer Wen Ma,” which opens May 13. Born in Beijing, Ma has, in recent years, focused on “immersive” and “participatory” installations exploring themes of the human condition. Her exhibition at NBMAA, “An Inward Sea,” has been influenced by the events of the COVID-19 year of 2020. A vast cut-paper sea in black tipped in gold suggests traditional Chinese landscape painting. A moon floats above the waves. The moon serves as a stage for portraits of New Britain residents along with audio recordings of their diverse experience of the pandemic, including both isolation and community.
The Clark Art Institute is the sole venue for the exhibition “Claude & Francois-Xavier Lalanne: Nature Transformed” and the first American art museum exhibition of the husband and wife sculptors in more than forty years. The show opens on May 8.
During their lifetimes, the artists, who only rarely collaborated on a single piece, often exhibited together as “Les Lahaina.” Both drew inspiration from the natural world, transforming the normal shapes of animals and plants into something new and strange, even creating works that mixed elements of flora and fauna in a single piece. The exhibition includes pieces from throughout the artists’ long careers (Francois-Xavier died in 2008, Claude in 2019) and is the first featuring the artists to appear in any museum since Claude’s death.
— Peter Walsh
Julianna Margulies: “Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life” | Brookline Booksmith
May 4 at 7:30 p.m.
$38, with copy of the memoir
“As an apple-cheeked bubbly child, Julianna was given the nickname “Sunshine Girl.” Shuttled back and forth between her divorced parents, often on different continents, she quickly learned how to be of value to her eccentric mother and absent father. Raised in unconventional ways in Paris, England, New York, and New Hampshire, Julianna found that her role among the surrounding turmoil and uncertainty was to comfort those around her, seeking organization among the disorder, making her way in the world as a young adult and eventually an award-winning actress.”
Virtual Event: Joel Christian Gill – Events – Harvard Book Store
Robert Smalls: Tales of the Talented Tenth, No 3
May 4 at 7 p.m.
Free with $5 suggested contribution
“Do you know the story of the slave who sailed himself to freedom? For the third book in the bestselling series, Joel Christian Gill brings Robert Smalls to life by telling the true story of the enslaved African who pulled off one of the most daring and largest heists of the Civil War. Come along for the adventure as Robert earns a job working for the C.S.S. Planter, escapes to freedom, goes on to become a first-generation Black politician, and makes history by writing and leading the passage of legislation that led to the United States’ first free and compulsory public school system.”
Richard Thompson with Randi Millman: Beeswing | brookline booksmith
May 5 at 7 p.m.
$38 tickets include copy of book w/ Signed bookplate
“In this moving and immersive memoir, Richard Thompson, international and longtime beloved music legend, recreates the spirit of the 1960s, where he found, and then lost, and then found his way again. Known for his brilliant songwriting, his extraordinary guitar playing, and his haunting voice, Thompson is considered one of the top twenty guitarists of all time, in the songwriting pantheon alongside Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Randy Newman. Now, in his long-awaited memoir, the British folk musician takes us back to the late 1960s, a period of great change and creativity — both for him and for the world at large.” Arts Fuse review and interview
Virtual Event: Lawrence Blum – Events – Harvard Book Store
Integrations: The Struggle for Racial Equality and Civic Renewal in Public Education
May 7 at 12 p.m.
Free with $5 suggested donation
Integrations focuses on multiple marginalized groups in American schooling: African Americans, Native Americans, Latinxs, and Asian Americans. The authors show that in order to grapple with integration in a meaningful way, we must think of integration in the plural, both in its multiple histories and in the many possible definitions of and courses of action for integration. Ultimately, the authors show, integration cannot guarantee educational equality and justice, but it is an essential component of civic education that prepares students for life in our multiracial democracy.
Virtual Event: Kate Darling – Events – Harvard Book Store
The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals about Our Future with Robots
May 11 at 7 p.m.
Free with $5 suggested donation
“There has been a lot of ink devoted to discussions of how robots will replace us and take our jobs. But MIT Media Lab researcher and technology policy expert Kate Darling argues just the opposite, and that treating robots with a bit of humanity, more like the way we treat animals, will actually serve us better. From a social, legal, and ethical perspective, she shows that our current ways of thinking don’t leave room for the robot technology that is soon to become part of our everyday routines. Robots are likely to supplement — rather than replace — our own skills and relationships. So if we consider our history of incorporating animals into our work, transportation, military, and even families, we actually have a solid basis for how to contend with this future.”
Jhumpa Lahiri with Yiyun Li | brookline booksmith
May 11 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $33- 24
“Whereabouts is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.”
Virtual: Rickie Lee Jones, Last Chance Texaco [Ticketed] | Porter Square Books
Last Chance Texaco
May 12 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $28 including copy of book
“This is the first ever no-holds-barred account of the life of two-time Grammy Award-winner Rickie Lee Jones in her own words. It is a tale of desperate chances and impossible triumphs, an adventure story of a girl who beat the odds and grew up to become one of the most legendary artists of her time, turning adversity and hopelessness into timeless music.” Arts Fuse review
John Green with Clint Smith: The Anthropocene Reviewed | brookline booksmith
The Anthropocene Reviewed
May 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $39 with signed copy of book
“The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale — from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.”
Tribute to Leonard Cohen with David Broza and Friends
May 25 at 8 p.m.
Free, with suggested contribution
The late, great Leonard Cohen will be given a proper tribute in an event sponsored by JARTS. The focus will be on paying homage to “the Israeli Leonard Cohen,” the poet & songwriter. Better reserve seats while you can!
— Matt Hanson