Coming Attractions: April 23 Through May 9 — What Will Light Your Fire

As the age of Covid-19 more or less wanes, Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.


Farewell Mr. Haffmann
April 24, 7:30 p.m.
Majestic 7 Cinema, 81 Arsenal Yards Blvd Tenant 100, Watertown

A top cast of Daniel Auteuil, Gilles Lellouche, and the lesser-known but pitch perfect Sara Giraudeau head up this film set in 1941 in occupied Paris. All the members of the Jewish community are instructed to come forward and identify themselves to the authorities. Master jeweler Joseph Haffmann, fearing the worst, arranges for his family to flee the city. He offers his employee François Mercier the opportunity to take over his store until the conflict subsides. But his own attempts to escape are thwarted, and Haffmann is forced to seek his assistant’s protection in the store’s basement.

A highly recommended film with a wonderful score and a set design that presents some unique twists and turns. A post-film discussion with Matthew Creighton from the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies. Belmont World Film presentation.

A scene from The Pod Generation, screening at this year’s IFFB.

Independent Film Festival of Boston
April 26 – May 1
Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Coolidge Corner Theatre

IFFB returns for its 20th year with seven days of films, a roundup that includes 50 features and documentaries, a number of thematic short film programs, a Saturday Student Shorts Showcase, a MassArt 150th Anniversary screening of short films, and a Sunday panel on Expanding Audience: Accessibility as Creative Practice. This year’s opening film is Love to Love You, Donna Summer by Emmy-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Summer’s daughter, Brooklyn Sudano. It closes at the Coolidge Corner Theatre with Past Lives, Celine Song’s debut feature, a take on modern romance.

Boston premieres at the Brattle Theatre include Paul Schrader’s Master Gardner with Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver on Thursday and Penny Lane’s Confessions of a Good Samaritan on Friday. There are two Boston music documentaries: screening on Saturday, The Dogmatics: A Dogumentary considers the titular band, while on Friday, Beautiful Was the Fight explores the experiences of women in the Boston rock scene. There will be lots going on, including events with filmmakers in attendance. Schedule by day.  Tickets and descriptions by date

Chile ’76
May 1, 7:30 p.m.
Majestic 7 Cinema, 81 Arsenal Yards Blvd Tenant 100, Watertown

In 1976, a bourgeois housewife heads to her beach house on the coast of Chile to supervise its renovation, only to be interrupted by a request from the priest at the church where she does charity work: to take care of a young revolutionary — a man he is secretly giving asylum to — who has just been hurt. The woman steps into unexplored territories, away from the quiet life she is used to living. A Belmont World Film presentation. Online viewing opportunities available: Tickets

Strange Maynard!
May 6, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Fine Arts Theater Place 19 Summer Street, Maynard

This is the first year for this one-day, five-hour underground short festival. There are 33 films in the lineup. Selections will explore many definitions of horror. The first half of the program will be dedicated to strange or funny films. The second half will feature more intense horror  films (which also can be very funny). “This festival is unrated and not family friendly. There will be an informal after party in the outdoor beer garden at Amory Brewery in Maynard, weather permitting.”  Complete Program.  Tickets and T-Shirts here!

A scene from Hong Sangsoo’s film Introduction. Photo: Jeonwonsa Film Co. Prod.

Still Life with Hong Sangsoo
Through May 14
Harvard Film Archives, Cambridge

The HFA presents the last seven films of Hong Sangsoo, the brilliant and prolific Korean director who has produced an average of one film per year for the past 26 years. “Hong’s films are always suggesting this possibility for a different world. It sometimes flickers into being through the presence of chance or coincidence; at other times, through the extraction of the unexpected from the ordinary. In all of his work, there is the constant need to keep meaning from becoming reducible to allegory or metaphor, to maintain the potential for ambiguity. In this sense, the films are truly radical, making the world anew time and time again.” (Dennis Zhou, the Nation) Arts Fuse review

Pick of the Week

Abby Ryder Fortson in a scene from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Playing widely at AMC, Showcase, and Majestic Cinemas

The film adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic young adult book is surprisingly effective. It will appeal beyond its target audience: adolescent young women. This smartly written script by Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen) and Judy Blume doesn’t shy away from zeroing in on the humor posed by social pressures, physical changes, and adolescent anxieties.

The titular 12-year-old Margaret Simon is played perfectly by Abby Ryder Fortson, and she is supported by a fine cast, including Rachel McAdams and Bennie Safdie as her parents and Kathy Bates as her outspoken grandma, Silvia. When the family moves from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs in the summer of 1970, Margaret quickly finds new friends and  challenges, including an assigned research paper on religion. Margaret has regular communications with whomever she perceives God to be. The film avoids clichés like mean girls and contentious parents and teachers, finding joy and comedy in the familiar challenges of everyday life.

— Tim Jackson


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters; requirements often include proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 rapid test. Also, companies are requiring masks at indoor performances.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (Part 1: Millennium Approaches) by Tony Kushner. Directed by Eric Tucker. Staged by Central Square Theatre, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, April 20 through May 28.

Bedlam artistic director Eric Tucker brings his “signature, pared-down approach” to the first part of Tony Kushner’s much-lauded comedy-drama epic. Some very fine local talent in the cast, including Debra Wise, Nael Nacer, and Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Tucker will tackle the role of Roy Cohn.

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and the cast in a performance of one of the Plays for the Plague Year. Photo: Joan Marcus

Plays for the Plague Year, a revival of a theatrical concert written by and featuring Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Niegel Smith. Staged by The Public Theater at Joe’s Pub, 25 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place), New York, NY, through April 30.

Boston’s theaters have pretty much put the Covid years into the rear view mirror, aside from having to grapple — at times awkwardly — with what rules to set for mask-wearing. So I wanted to salute this reminder, at New York’s Public Theater, of recent history and what lessons it has for us going forward. This production is a remount of a show whose initial run was truncated due to Covid-19 cases.

“On March 13, 2020, as theaters shut their doors and so many of us went into lockdown, Suzan-Lori Parks picked up her pen and her guitar and set out to write a play every day. What emerged is a breathtaking anthology of plays and songs that chronicle our collective experience and the hope and perseverance that occurred throughout that troubling year. Performed in the intimate music venue Joe’s Pub, Plays for the Plague Year is a theatrical concert featuring the music and plays of Suzan-Lori Parks. At once, both a personal story of one family’s daily lives, as well as a sweeping account of all we faced as a city, a nation, and a global community.”

Dance Nation by Claire Barron. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Choreography by Audrey Johnson. Staged by the Apollinaire Theatre at the Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, through May 14.

“Somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plots to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at Nationals in Tampa Bay.” This is a play about “ambition, growing up, and yearning to embrace our bodies and our souls.

DeLanna Studi in And So We Walked. Photo: Arts Emerson

And So We Walked, written and performed by DeLanna Studi. Presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, April 26 through 30.

“Cherokee actress, artist, and activist DeLanna Studi’s one-woman show reckons with one of the darkest corners of American history. In Studi’s story, a contemporary Cherokee woman and her father embark on an unforgettable 900-mile journey along the Trail of Tears, retracing the same path her great-great grandparents took in the 1830s during the forced relocation of 17,000 Cherokee people. Studi’s recounting of the trip draws on first-person interviews, historical research, and the artist’s personal experiences to paint a portrait of conflict, contradictions, and survival.” Arts Fuse review

Sister Act, Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater. Book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with additional materials by Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Leigh Barrett. Musical direction by David F. Coleman and choreography by Dan Sullivan. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, through May 14.

For those who enjoy this kind of jovial fantasy, the Lyric Stage’s publicity proclamation pretty well sums it up: “Sister Act, based on the beloved hit movie, will have audiences relishing ‘heavenly’ voices and jubilant performances. Featuring a choir of cheeky, lovable nuns led by the fabulous, unforgettable, (and sequin loving!) Deloris Van Cartier, toes will be tapping and spirits will be lifted at this celebration of friendship, the joy of music, and the importance of togetherness.” Love those toes a-tapping.

the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson. Directed by Tamilla Woodard. Staged by Yale Rep at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT, April 28 – May 20.

“1992. Janice lives with her family in an Ohio suburb — a world away from her childhood in ’60s Kansas, where her activist parents fought to integrate public pools and taught Black children how to swim. When she is asked to return and speak at a ceremony honoring her father, she must decide whether she is ready to reckon with her political inheritance and a past she has tried to forget.”

Boston Playwrights’ Theatre presents Boston Theater Marathon XXV. At the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, on May 7.

This dramatic endurance test “features 50 ten-minute plays written by 50 New England playwrights and presented by 50 New England theater companies. Inspired by the iconic Boston Marathon, the event provides a unique showcase and connecting point for New England artists and audiences, and is an impressive demonstration of the depth and breadth of what is possible in a ten-minute script.”

The Prom. Book and lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Book by Bob Martin. Music by Matthew Sklar. Directed by Paul Daigneault, with help from music director Paul S. Katz and choreographer Taavon Gamble. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage at the Roberts Studio Theatre, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, May 5 through June 10.

This musical, which won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, “tells the story of Emma, an Indiana teen who makes headlines when she announces she wants to take her girlfriend Alyssa to their high school prom.  But just when it seems like she might persuade the hesitant PTA to agree, four bumbling Broadway has-beens in search of a cause barge into town to put a spotlight on the issue — and themselves. As the worlds of Broadway and Main Street hilariously collide, the courage of one girl reminds us all how the power of love can bring people together.” This is a Boston premiere.

Playwright and performer Taylor Mac. Photo: Little Fang.

Joy and Pandemic by Taylor Mac. Directed by Loretta Greco. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood/BCA, 527 Tremont St. Boston, through May 21.

The world premiere of a play from an award-winning, iconoclastic dramatist that “questions how our passions regarding family, art, and war impact the very meaning of our lives. As Joy finds her Philadelphia children’s art school at risk in a burgeoning public health crisis, she hopes to keep her dream of the school alive. When her unyielding faith runs up against another mother’s beliefs, an afternoon in the early 20th century transforms the world for both of their daughters for decades to come.” I have written on Mac’s plays Hir and Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus.

The House of Ramon Iglesia by José Rivera. Directed by Arthur Gomez. Staged by Moonbox Productions at the Mosesian Center for the Arts at 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, through April 30.

A domestic drama: “It’s 1983, and the Iglesia family is caught between two worlds. Aging and ailing, parents Ramón and Dolores are eager to leave their rickety house in New Jersey and return to their native Puerto Rico — but their three sons, all raised in America, are deeply divided on whether or not to go. ”

Side Man by Warren Leight. Directed by Russell R. Greene. Staged by Theater UnCorked at the BCA Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St, Boston, May 3 – 7.

A revival of “a Tony Award winning play about a fractured family and the men who played to the left and right of the big band spotlight amid the declining era of New York City’s Jazz scene.”

Obscurum per Obscurius, created by Greg Kowalski. Lighting by Greg Kowalski. Quadraphonic Sound Design by Dave Seidel. Voice by Dei Xhrist. Ampenforcer: Gabon Kabuki Flaps. A Machine 5 production at The Wire Factory, 171 Lincoln St, Lowell, May 5, 6, and 13. Tickets

Given how depressingly conventional theater has become in the Boston-area, this non-narrative piece sounds enticingly challenging. “‘Obscurum per Obscurius’ — (explaining) the obscure by means of the more obscure” – is the expression alchemists used to describe their work. For this piece, light is blocked in the venue so as to achieve complete blackout conditions. Please be aware of this as there will be prolonged periods in total darkness.” This group has staged Crave by Sarah Kane, Play by Samuel Beckett, and Sacred Emily by Gertrude Stein.

A scene from ITA-ensemble’s production of Kings of War featuring Aus Greidanus jr. & Hans Kesting. Photo: Jan Versweyveld

Kings of War, an adaptation by Ivo van Hove of Shakespeare’s Henry V, Henry VI, and Richard III. Directed by van Hove. Staged by the Dutch ITA-ensemble. A streamed performance, with subtitles in English, will be available on April 28 and May 5.

A marathon (270 minutes, incl. intermission) “performance about power, ambition, leadership and responsibility; a performance in which leaders are confronted with the ultimate decision about the life and death of thousands of citizens and in which they rule from a sense of empathy and justice or are led by an unbridled lust for power. The original texts were retranslated by Rob Klinkenberg and then thoroughly adapted: the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, and the Rose Wars between the houses of Lancaster and York for the English throne, which are emphatically present as a historical context in the original pieces, were referred to the background in the adaptation in order to accommodate a varied portrait of successive kings.” Yes, van Hove can be insanely self-indulgent, but this effort has impressed many critics over the years and is worth a look.

— Bill Marx

Classical Music

Bass-baritone Davóne Tines. Photo: Nikolai Schukoff

Davóne Tines in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
April 26, 8 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Cambridge

Bass-baritone Davóne Tines makes his Celebrity Series debut with a program of religious-themed works by Bach, Caroline Shaw, Tyshawn Sorey, Moses Hogan, Margaret Bonds, and Julius Eastman.

Presented by Radius Ensemble
April 29, 8 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Cambridge

Radius Ensemble closes its season with a trio of selections, two of which boast local connections: Harvard professor Chaya Czernowin’s fardanceCLOSE and Longy Composition Department chair Alexandra DuBois’s Night Songs. The program culminates in Johannes Brahms’s String Sextet in G major.

This Love Unbound
Presented by Emmanuel Music
April 29 at 8 p.m. and 30 at 3 p.m.
Arts at the Armory, Somerville

Emmanuel Music’s season-finale juxtaposes three landmark vocal works by Benjamin Britten — the Serenade, Phaedra, and Les Illuminations — with a pair of instrumental pieces: John Harbison’s For Violin Alone and Caroline Shaw’s Limestone and Felt.

Falling Out of Time
Presented by Celebrity Series and Boston Symphony Orchestra
April 30, 2 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston

The Celebrity Series and BSO join together for a presentation of Osvaldo Golijov’s haunting meditation on grief and loss.

The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in rehearsal. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Presented by Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
May 3 at 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston

The BPYO closes its season with Gustav Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 2. They’re joined by soprano Maria Brea, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, and Chorus Pro Music. Benjamin Zander conducts.

Britten & Shostakovich
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
May 4 at 7:30 p.m., 5 at 1:30 p.m., and 6 at 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston

This isn’t quite the end of the BSO’s years-long Shostakovich cycle (the cello concertos and Lady Macbeth come next season), but this weekend marks the conclusion of the survey of symphonies with the orchestra’s first performance of No. 13 (Babi Yar) since 2021. Filling out the program, Augustin Hadelich is the soloist in Benjamin Britten’s smoldering, underrated Violin Concerto. Andris Nelsons conducts.

Presented by Boston Lyric Opera
May 4 & 6 at 7:30 p.m. and 7 at 3 p.m.
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston

BLO delivers the New England premiere of a new opera by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels that tells the true story of a 19th-century Islamic scholar who was captured in West Africa and sold into slavery in South Carolina. Jamez McCorkle sings the title role.

People in Between
Presented by New England Philharmonic
May 7 at 3 p.m.
Tsai Performance Center, Boston

The NEP concludes their season with a pair of New England premieres — Adeliia Faizullina’s Bolghar and Thomas de Hartmann’s Violin Concerto — set alongside Shostakovich’s mammoth Leningrad Symphony (No. 7).

The White Raven
Presented by Coro Allegro
May 7 at 3 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge

Coro Allegro marks Daniel Pinkham’s centennial with a performance of The White Raven, which he originally wrote for the ensemble’s fifth anniversary. Also on the docket is Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass and Diane White-Clayton’s Many Mansions.

— Jonathan Blumhofer


Ink in Motion
April 29 & 30
The Foundry
Cambridge, MA

Alive Dance Collective brings a fun and interactive program that pays homage to literature and children’s books to The Foundry this week. This performance features music by Ben Cuba, Christian DeKantel, and Graham Peck. Some of the choreography will be inspired by local children’s author Toni Buzzeo’s latest release, Eat Your Superpowers! Guest artists detritus dance and Monkeyhouse will be part of the event, while audiences are invited to engage with the performers through games on Saturday night and literary-inspired movement on Sunday afternoon. A livestream will be available for the 2 p.m. show on Sunday.

Revelations. Choreographer: Alvin Ailey. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
May 4 – 7
Boch Center Wang Theatre
Boston, MA

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater makes its annual Boston appearance, presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston. The company performs an evening of both seminal repertory pieces (including Alvin Ailey’s Revelations) and new material that examines social movements and choreographic traditions. This is a performance that “seeks to unite and empower through the art of dance.”

Syntropy Disrupted
May 6 & 7
Gloucester, MA

Founded in 1987, Exit Dance Theatre brings its signature style of choreography and theater to the stage in three new works by choreographers Fontaine Dubus, Stephen Haley, Sarah George, Edward Speck, and Erin Staffiere. Inspired by traditional Italian songs and the essays of philosopher Simone Weil, these promise to be dances that captivate as they explore issues of love and mortality.

May 6 at 8 p.m. & May 7 at 7 p.m.
The Dance Complex
Cambridge, MA

Click members Angelina Benitez and Alexandria Nunweiler present two new works in this eponymous concert. CLICK invites audiences to become involved in dances committed to “the silly, the sad, and the weird.” Benitez’s My Guide to Feeling It All features live music and explores the bittersweet risks of emotional openness. Nunweiler’s Edge of Aquarius uses the lens of a birthday party to process themes of aging and coming-of-age.

— Merli V. Guerra

Visual Arts

April 28 marks the post-pandemic return of the Museum of Fine Arts’ previously long-running annual and perennially popular Art in Bloom festival, during which the galleries are briefly invaded by thousands of hothouse flowers. This year, professional floral designers and talented volunteers are creating arrangements interpreting 45 works of art from the collection, a welcome diversion from the city’s often late-arriving spring. Plan early this time — parking lots will fill quickly, galleries will be crowded, and, like the New England spring, this, too, will fade all too soon and will close with the weekend.

Jimmy Guzman, founder of JNG Event Consulting. Photo: Ben Flythe

In conjunction with Art in Bloom, the MFA is offering Jimmy Guzman: Cherishing Moments of Being with Flowers on April 30, 1 to 3 p.m. Guzman, founder of JNG Event Consulting, will share stories and images from flower bedecked events while constructing a large ceremonial arch and arranging a spring tablescape. Tickets required. A series of Guzman master classes is unfortunately already sold out.

Across the Charles at Harvard University, April 29 is the date for the University’s annual arts festival, ARTS FIRST. Admission to the Harvard Art Museums will be free and the museums will offer a “Performance Fair” from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. in the Calderwood Courtyard on Quincy Street and in the nearby Adolphus Busch Hall, former home of the Busch-Reisinger Museum.

Out in Western Massachusetts, April 27 is the date for the last in a series of Open Studios at North Adams’ MASS MoCA. The event, which is free of charge and open to all from 5 to 7 p.m. in Buildings 13 and 34, allows visitors to meet the museum’s current group of artists-in-residence in their on-site working spaces and chat over drinks and snacks.

A scene from Saat Hindustani (Seven Indians) screening at the Clark Art Institute.

On the same evening, down the road in bucolic Williamstown, the Clark Art Institute will present another installment in its Introduced by an Artist series. Filmmaker Suneil Sanzgiri welcomes Saat Hindustani (Seven Indians), directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. The 1969 film is one of the few media treatments of the liberation of the Indian enclave of Goa from Portuguese colonialism. The narrative follows seven friends from across the subcontinent: once united by the fight to liberate Goa, they return to the scene years later. The free event takes place on April 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Clark’s auditorium.

On May 5, the Portland Museum of Art opens the exhibition Elizabeth Columba: Mythologies. Columba herself, known for her work in portraiture addressing both the presence and absence of the Black figure in the history of academic painting, will appear in an Opening Talk along with curators Monique Long and Shalini Le Gall to discuss the work in the show, which includes Cendrillion, Columba’s first video, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. Free of charge, registration required.

From May 6 to 28, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford celebrates The 50th Annual Hartford Youth Renaissance with a display of PreK-12th grade student art work, created as part of a half-century collaboration between the Wadsworth and the Hartford Public Schools.

Lyle Ashton Harris’s Oracle, 2020 [detail]. Photo: David Castillo

Finally, on April 27, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University will present “Desire at the Margins: Queer Black Representation, Intimacy, and Violence” with artist Lyle Ashton Harris. The talk will explore themes in Harris’s current exhibition at the Rose, Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love, including the intertwining of intimacy, violence, hyper-sexualization, and neglect in the queer Black community. The program is presented at 7 p.m. on Zoom webinar free of charge, though registration (via the museum’s website) is required.

— Peter Walsh


L-R: Tom Rainey, Angelica Sanchez, Tony Malaby. Courtesy of the artists

April 23 at 3:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The trio of saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Angelica Sanchez, and drummer Tom Rainey is a kind of free-jazz supergroup, all with distinguished achievements solo and as part of other ensembles. In the mid-aughts, they released two now hard-to-find albums, Barbès: Alive in Brooklyn, Vol. 1 and 2. Last year came Huapango, from the French RogueArt label. Here are concise statements of free improvisation in a variety of moods and textures (Sanchez augments piano with Wurlitzer electric piano for a distinct Sun Ra vibe) with the formal integrity of written compositions, from raucous blowing to quiet intimacy. As Malaby puts it about his relationship with his bandmates, “There’s no leading, no following. We’re in the moment together. They even know when I’m going to take a breath — I can feel it.”

Bruce Gertz Quintet
April 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The esteemed bassist, composer, and educator Bruce Gertz brings a sterling quintet to the Lilypad, with Phil Grenadier on trumpet and flugelhorn, guitarist Tim Miller, tenor saxophonist Rick DiMuzio, and drummer Austin McMahon.

L-R: Mark Walker, Tim Ray, and John Lockwood. Courtesy of the artists

Tim Ray Trio
April 28 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

The superb Boston pianist Tim Ray celebrates his new trio CD, Fire & Rain, with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker.

Myanna and Cassandra McKinley
April 28 at 8 p.m.
Boston Harbor Distillery, Boston

Saxophonist Myanna matches all manner of jazz-funk and Latin grooves with inventive writing, so this lineup with the Ken Clark Organ trio and the adept singer Cassandra McKinley — easily at home with standards and her own brand of “jazzsoul” — is promising.

Mark Harvey at Aardvark’s 50th Season Opener on October 1, 2022, at MIT’s mainstage, Kresge Auditorium. Photo: Danny Goldfield

April 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Church of the Covenant, Boston

The Boston-based progressive big band Aardvark began its 50th-anniversary season with a magnificent show at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium in October. They continue the season where it all began for them, at the Church of the Covenant (in December 1973), with this show, entitled, “Celebrating the Duke, Trane, and Mary Lou.” The program includes Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” featuring Aardvark vocalist Grace Hughes; “Chinoiserie,” from the suite The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse; and Aardvark founder and musical director Mark  Harvey’s piece “Soul on Soul” (for Mary Lou Williams), “a mix of light funk and hard swing, paying joyful homage to MLW, whom Duke Ellington called ‘soul on soul.’ ” Harvey’s “The Seeker” (1994, for John Coltrane), “evokes Trane’s quest for enlightenment and peace through Afro-jazz rhythmic foundations and soaring modal melodies and harmonies.” The concert will also premiere Harvey’s new “Prayer for Ukraine,” “a meditative plea for peace and humanity amid the violence and brutality of an unjust war.”

At the Movies: Grace Kelly with Strings
April 29 at 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston

A former alto saxophone wunderkind, who sold out her first show at Scullers at 13, Grace Kelly, now 30 — with a multiple accomplishments behind her, including a John Lennon Songwriting Contest “Song of the Year” award — is forging ahead with a new challenge: inspired by Charlie Parker’s “with Strings” recordings and her love of movies, she’s performing with string orchestra in anticipation of her own CD release (set for August). The program will include “reimagined versions of her favorite movie music (a Disney medley, Pirates of the CaribbeanMission Impossible, and more) as well as songs by legendary film composers John Williams and Ennio Morricone, and contemporary artists like Billie Eilish (No Time to Die).”

The late Eric Jackson, longtime host of WGBH’s Eric in the Evening on 89.7 FM. Photo: GBH

Peace: The Concert for Eric Jackson
April 30 at 4 p.m.
GBH Studios, Boston

The in-person seats for this memorial to beloved Boston jazz radio announcer Eric Jackson, who died in September 2022, have already been filled, but the event will be livestreamed on YouTube. The concert will feature the “house band” trio of guitarist John Stein with bassist Ron Mahdi and drummer Mike Connors, and “guest musicians” including flutist Fernando Brandão, sopranino saxophonist Lihi Haruvi, bassist John Lockwood, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and pianists Laszlo Gardony, Yoko Miwa, and Tim Ray. A featured piece will be a performance of Jackson’s theme song, “Peace,” by Horace Silver, in a new arrangement by Manuel Kauffman. Musicians interested in participating in an opening second line event organized by JazzBoston are encouraged to register here.

Saxophonist Joe Lovano makes two Boston-area appearances this week. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Joe Lovano Meets Berklee World Strings
May 2 at 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston

Two masters, saxophonist Lovano and pianist Kenny Werner, join forces in a trio (with drummer Yoron Israel), “accompanied by the 24-piece Berklee World Strings directed by Eugene Friesen. The concert will feature new arrangements of Lovano’s original music by Werner and Eugene Friesen and four classic pieces from Stan Getz’s 1961 album, Focus, by Eddie Sauter.”

Tony Malaby’s “Firebath”
May 2 at 8 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge
May 4 at 8 p.m.
Mayday, Providence

Saxophonist, composer, and Berklee faculty member Tony Malaby’s wonderful free-jazz large ensemble Firebath continues its residency at the Lilypad in Cambridge on May 2 and then hits the road for a show in Providence on May 4. The Cambridge lineup: drummers Nat Magavuro, Curt Newton, and “special guest Michael Larocca; bassists Akiva Jacobs, Max Ridley, and Brittany Karlson; violinists Zoe Rose dePaz and Angela Varo Moreno; violist Amelia Hollander Ames; saxophonists Malaby and Charlie Kohlhase; pianist and poet Tatiana Castro Mejía; and guest singer Ayako Kando. The same core band will play Providence, with special guests Brendan Carniaux (sax); Jeff Platz (guitar), Max Goldman (drums), and Matt Crane (congas).

Olson Pingray Quartet
May 4 at 7 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The wife and husband team of baritone saxophonist Kathy Olson and trombonist Randy Pingrey lead this “chord-less quartet” in a mix of original compositions and arrangements of jazz standards. Their album Low Contrast drew favorable comparisons to Gerry Mulligan’s work with Bob Brookmeyer. Joining Olson and Pingrey are electric bassist Fernando Huergo and drummer Austin McMahon.

Club d’Elf
May 4 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston

The “Moroccan-trance-dub-jazz” ensemble Club d’Elf, anchored by bandleader Mike Rivard, on Moroccan sintir and bass, oud player Brahim Fribgane, and drummer Dean Johnston, continues its barnstorming celebration of its 25th anniversary with this show at City Winery, also featuring Johnston’s bandmate in Neighbor, guitarist Lyle Brewer.

Kenny Barron Trio with (l-r) Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Johnathan Blake, and Kenny Barron will perform in Rockport this week. Photo: courtesy of the artists

Kenny Barron Trio
May 5 at 8 p.m.
Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA

One of the great living masters of jazz piano, Kenny Barron, and his trio with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake, play the jewel-box Shalin Liu Performance Center as part of the Rockport Music concert series.

Chilean tenor saxophonist and Berklee faculty member Patricia Zárate Pérez and her quintet will perform in Boston this week. Photo: courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

Patricia Zárate Pérez
May 6 at 3 p.m.
Arlington Street Church, Boston

The Chilean tenor saxophonist and Berklee faculty member Patricia Zárate Pérez and her quintet will perform selections from their debut album, Violetas. The band includes singer Carolina Pérez, pianist Zahili Gonzalez, bassist Ciara Moser, and drummer Betram Lehmann. The album brings together “Chilean folksongs and other traditional influences, jazz improvisation, and Latin rhythms in a set that draws inspiration from all over the Americas.” This free show is part of the Celebrity Series of Boston’s concerts highlighting Latina Bandleaders, presented in collaboration with Ágora Cultural Architects. The show will also be available as a streaming performance premiering May 18 at 4 p.m.

Erik Friedlander’s The Throw
May 7 at 1:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander convenes his extraordinary quartet The Throw for this show, with pianist Uri Caine, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer/percussionist Ches Smith.

Kamasi Washington featuring Ami Taf Ra
May 9-11 at 7:30 p.m.
City Winery, Boston

Saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington, along with his ensemble featuring singer Ami Taf Ra, settles in for three big nights at City Winery

— Jon Garelick

Popular Music

Vapors of Morphine will perform at The Town and City Festival in Lowell. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

The Town and The City Festival
April 28 and 29
Downtown Lowell

Named after a Jack Kerouac novel, The Town and The City Festival pays its own novel respects to Lowell. Its fourth edition (and second year back from Covid postponements) features notables Buffalo Tom, Dalton & the Sheriffs, the John Doe Folk Trio, Ted Leo, and Rhett Miller. But its strength and vibe revolve around regional talents like NPR Tiny Desk Concert winner Alisa Amador, indie-rockers Pile and Future Teens, Vapors of Morphine, Robin Lane, O Positive’s Dave Herlihy, and hip-hop host D-Tension in the clubs, taverns, and galleries of the Mill City. Rockers-turned-writers Warren Zanes and Bill Janovitz both play and read from their latest books on Bruce Springsteen and Leon Russell. The vision of Lowell native Chris Porter, who’s booked music from Boston to Seattle’s Bumbershoot, the fest even offers a record show and water lanterns on a canal with music from a local Cambodian music ensemble. Full-festival passes and individual tickets are both available.

— Paul Robicheau

Robin Lane
May 6 (doors at 6, show at 7)
The Burren, Somerville

Robin Lane’s half-century-plus career has included a guest vocal on Neil Young’s 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, a marriage to Andy Summers before he joined forces with Sting and Stewart Copeland, and leading The Chartbusters, whose video for “When Things Go Wrong” was sandwiched between ones by Styx and Split Enz among the first dozen to air on MTV. (The lineup of The Chartbusters included drummer, band documentarian, and Arts Fuse scribe Tim Jackson, who wrote this 2019 remembrance of late Chartbusters guitarist Asa Brebner. And here is the interview that I did with Lane earlier that year.)

Last September, Lane released Dirt Road to Heaven, a collection of solo compositions, co-writes, and covers (one of which was written by Brebner, whose banjo playing appears on two tracks).

In his review for The Arts Fuse, Jason M. Rubin wrote, “Channeling equal parts Lucinda Williams and Levon Helm, the album features her rich, earthy voice supported by sparse instrumentation … Dirt Road to Heaven should be seen as a milestone in her long and continually evolving career.”

Describing it herself in an Arts Fuse interview with Jackson, who drums on one track, Lane said, “Musically, I did exactly what I wanted to do on these songs. Lyrically, too, though some of these songs are kind of weird.”

Lane will surely draw heavily from this still relatively fresh platter when she performs with her new band at The Burren on May 6.

Vance Gilbert
May 7 (doors at 6, show at 7)
Club Passim, Cambridge

Vance Gilbert’s 14th album, The Mother of Trouble, is unified the long-time Boston-based musician and Arlington resident’s “supple” guitar and his “milk-warm…honest and gently acrobatic” voice. (Both assessments are those of The Boston Globe.)

However, it is seasoned by the contributions of a parade of Boston-connected musicians that includes Grammy-winning country artist Lori McKenna, Berklee gospel music professor Dennis Montgomery III, Berklee mandolin instructor Joe K. Walsh, Berklee-trained violinist Wynter Pingel, Tufts jazz professor/pianist Fernando Michelin, trombonist Herb Gardner, producer Sam Margolis, and vocalists Amy Malkoff and Joey Dalton. Adding to the sonic variety are the Gilbert-cited influences of Curtis Mayfield (“The Mother of Trouble”), John Prine (“Simple Things”), and The Carpenters (his cover of “Close To You”), as well as the several very serious topics that the 11 originals address, including bullying (e.g., “Black Rochelle,” “Honeysuckle Fences”) and domestic violence (e.g., the title track, “Body In the Well”).

If none of this is enough to convince you to be at Club Passim on May 7 (two days after The Mother of Trouble’s release), perhaps this description from Richmond Magazine will seal the deal: “If Joni Mitchell and Richie Havens had a love child, with Rodney Dangerfield as the midwife, the results might be something close to the great Vance Gilbert.”

Annie DiRusso with Hannah Cole
May 7 (doors at 7, show at 8)
The Sinclair, Cambridge

NYC-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Annie DiRusso’s current tour in support of her debut EP God, I Hate This Place is optimistically dubbed “God, I Love This Tour.”

DiRusso is likely to be in a particularly celebratory mood at The Sinclair on May 7, as that is also the official street date of the EP, which follows the eight singles that she released between 2018 and 2021.

Among the five tracks on God, I Hate This Place are “Nauseous” and “Emerson,” both of which combine effortlessly beautiful but unpretentious vocals, fuzzy guitars, and foot-stomping beats.

At the risk of pigeonholing her, fans of punk and power pop are sure to rejoice in DiRusso’s distinctive, thoughtful, and contemporary take on both genres that these songs evince.

Singer Bella White. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Bella White with Rosie Porter
May 7 (show at 6)
The Porch Southern Fare and Juke Joint, Medford

Bella White, whose music was described as “sublime Appalachian heartbreak” by Rolling Stone, is a 22-year-old Calgary, AB native and child of a Virginia-born bluegrass musician.

After briefly living in Boston, White was based in Nashville when her debut album, 2020’s Just Like Leaving, was released, but relocated to Victoria, BC, in advance of Among Other Things (her second album for Rounder Records) dropped on April 21. Among her collaborators on her latest effort are producer Jonathan Wilson – whose credits include Billy Strings, Dawes, and Father John Misty – and Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek.

Catch her at The Porch before she makes the inevitable leap beyond such intimate confines.

Reading Rocking Rainbow featuring Jessamyn Violet and Movie Club
May 9 (doors at 6, show at 7:30)
City Winery (Haymarket Lounge), Boston

“Dysfunction, drama, and coming-of-age confusion ensues in this ’90s Los Angeles tale” is how the press release describes Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar, the “YA LGBQTA+ novel” that Three Rooms Press published on April 18.

The author of said publication is Boston native and Emerson College graduate Jessamyn Violet. With the release of this book, the Venice Beach, California, resident added novelist to a résumé that already included poet, short story writer, screenwriter, actor, pianist, and drummer.

As a drummer, she and guitarist Vince Cuneo make up the instrumental duo Movie Club, who have released an LP and numerous EPs and singles – including this year’s “Requiem/Spinner” – since 2019.

At her May 9 visit to City Winery, Violet will read from her novel, discuss it with Berklee professor Susan Rogers, and perform a set of Movie Club music with Cuneo.

So as the tour flier says, “Come for the books, stay for the bands!”

— Blake Maddux

Roots and World Music

On the the great live bands –Fishbone. Photo: Facebook

Brighton Music Hall, Brighton
April 25

It’s baffling that one of the greatest live bands around still plays such small venues. But that’s been the case for Fishbone for years, despite the outsized influence they’ve had on punk, ska, and funk. This writer once made the mistake of asking Fishbone honcho Angelo Moore what it was like to be the opening act on a tour for a young, watered-down white reggae/funk band that probably wouldn’t exist if not for Fishbone . “How the f*** do you think it feels?” he replied. Fair point. Boston punks Rebuilder open this show.

The Boston Synagogue, Martha Road, Boston
April 26

Back in the day you could see Klezperanto’s innovative, rollicking mix of Jewish music with cumbias and surf at clubs like Johnny D’s. Alas, that venue is no more, and in this climate it is hard for clubs to be eclectic. Thankfully, there’s the Boston Festival of New Jewish Music, presenting clarinetist Irene Stahl and her all-star band — and for free.

Gipsy Kings: Featuring Tonino Baliardo
May 3
Boch Center Wang Theater, Boston

Perhaps second only to Bob Marley as the biggest world music crossover act of all time, the Gipsy Kings are still at it. Key original members Nicolas Reyes and Tonino Baliardo now each lead their own groups, though in an apparently cooperative manner (the two touring ensembles even share a website). Baliardo, the fleet-fingered lead guitarist, is bringing his version of the Gipsy Kings to Boston in support of a new record, Renaissance, which is full of flashy flamenco guitar and soulful singing.

Bunji Garlin on stage in 2009. Photo: Wiki Commons

Bunji Garlin
May 5
Oceanside, Revere

Garlin makes any short list of enduring soca stars. He’s on an upswing thanks to his recent Carnival tune “Hard Fete.” As with most Boston soca shows, an excited audience is guaranteed, but a live band is not.

Tony Trischka’s Earl Jam
May 6, Noon
City Winery, Boston

As We Speak: Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, & Zakir Hussain
May 6, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston

These three masters of bluegrass, Western classical, and Indian classical, Fleck, Meyer and Hussain, don’t perform together very often. But when they do, it’s pure magic. As of press time there seems to be three tickets left for their Celebrity Series concert. As it happens, Fleck’s mentor and frequent collaborator, Tony Trischka, is also in town. Even better, he’s playing a noontime brunch gig, so one can easily make it a full day of banjo legends. Trischka is touring with a phenomenal band  in a project that looks at the legacy of Earl Scruggs. The group includes Michael Daves on vocals and guitar, Alex Hargreaves on fiddle, and Jared Engel on bass.

— Noah Schaffer

Author Events

Julia Argy at Harvard Book Store
The One: A Novel
April 24 at 7 p.m.

“Emily didn’t join the cast of The One for fame or for a relationship. She simply didn’t have anything better to do. Newly fired from her dead-end job, it doesn’t take much convincing when she’s recruited as a last-minute contestant for the popular reality dating show. Emily has been performing her entire life — for her family and friends, former boyfriends, and coworkers. How different could it be playing herself in front of cameras?

But the moment Emily arrives, it becomes clear she’s been tapped to win it all. Emily’s producer Miranda sees her as the golden ticket: generically pretty, affable, and easily molded — all the qualities of a future Wife. Emily herself is less certain. It’s easy enough to fall in love under romantic lighting and perfectly crafted dates, but it’s harder to remember what’s real and what’s designed. And as Emily’s fascination with another contestant grows, both Emily and Miranda are forced to decide what it is they really want — and what they are willing to do to get it.

A brilliant send-up of our cultural mythology around romance, The One examines the reality of love and desire set against a world of ultimate artifice and manipulation.”

Katy Kelleher in conversation with Angelica Frey at Porter Square Books, Cambridge
The Ugly History of Beautiful Things
April 25 at 7 p.m.

Paris Review contributor Katy Kelleher explores our obsession with gorgeous things, unveiling the fraught histories of makeup, flowers, perfume, silk, and other beautiful objects.”

Simon Winchester at the Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge from Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic
April 25 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $37.25 with book, $6 without

“With the advent of the internet, any topic we want to know about is instantly available with the touch of a smartphone button. With so much knowledge at our fingertips, what is there left for our brains to do? At a time when we seem to be stripping all value from the idea of knowing things — no need for math, no need for map-reading, no need for memorization — are we risking our ability to think? As we empty our minds, will we one day be incapable of thoughtfulness?

“Addressing these questions, Simon Winchester explores how humans have attained, stored, and disseminated knowledge. Examining such disciplines as education, journalism, encyclopedia creation, museum curation, photography, and broadcasting, he looks at a whole range of knowledge diffusion — from the cuneiform writings of Babylon to the machine-made genius of artificial intelligence, by way of Gutenberg, Google, and Wikipedia to the huge Victorian assemblage of the Mundanaeum, the collection of everything ever known, currently stored in a damp basement in northern Belgium.”

Julia Lee at Harvard Book Store
Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America
April 26 at 7 p.m.

“When Julia Lee was fifteen, her hometown went up in smoke during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The daughter of Korean immigrant store owners in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Julia was taught to be grateful for the privilege afforded to her. However, the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, following the murder of Latasha Harlins by a Korean shopkeeper, forced Julia to question her racial identity and complicity. She was neither Black nor white. So who was she?

“This question would follow Julia for years to come, resurfacing as she traded in her tumultuous childhood for the white upper echelon of elite academia. It was only when she began a PhD in English that she found answers―not in the Brontës or Austen, as Julia had planned, but rather in the brilliant prose of writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Their works gave Julia the vocabulary and, more important, the permission to critically examine her own tortured position as an Asian American, setting off a powerful journey of racial reckoning, atonement, and self-discovery that has shaped her adult life.” Lee will discuss her book with Henry Louis Gates Jr and Jamaica Kincaid.

Independent Bookstore Day 2023! – Porter Square Books
April 29

“Join Porter Square Books in an all day celebration of Independent Bookstore Day 2023! On April 29 the store will offer a variety of activities and events throughout the day at both store locations. 2023 will feature: Porter Square Books passport, stickers, the great bookseller bakeoff (Cambridge only), craft stations (Boston only)!”

Leigh Gilmore in conversation with Hillary Chute at Porter Square Books, Cambridge
The #MeToo Effect:What Happens When We Believe Women
April 30 at 3 p.m.

“Leigh Gilmore provides a new account of #MeToo that reveals how storytelling by survivors propelled the call for sexual justice beyond courts and high-profile cases. At a time when the cultural conversation was fixated on appeals to legal and bureaucratic systems, narrative activism — storytelling in the service of social change — elevated survivors as authorities. Their testimony fused credibility and accountability into the #MeToo effect: uniting millions of separate accounts into an existential demand for sexual justice and the right to be heard.

“Gilmore reframes #MeToo as a breakthrough moment within a longer history of feminist thought and activism. She analyzes the centrality of autobiographical storytelling in intersectional and antirape activism and traces how literary representations of sexual violence dating from antiquity intertwine with cultural notions of doubt, obligation, and agency. By focusing on the intersectional prehistory of #MeToo, Gilmore sheds light on how survivors have used narrative to frame sexual violence as an urgent problem requiring structural solutions in diverse global contexts. Considering the roles of literature and literary criticism in movements for social change, The #MeToo Effect demonstrates how ‘reading like a survivor’ provides resources for activism.”

Shubha Sunder with Grace Talusan at brookline booksmith
Boomtown Girl
May 3 at 7 p.m.

“Set entirely in the Bangalore region of South India, Boomtown Girl explores the ambitions, delusions, and struggles of people navigating a rapidly developing city. A rebellious teenager and her workaholic father confront their mutual distrust while dining at a newly opened Pizza Hut; a tailor nostalgic for his past glory in the employ of an Englishman grows obsessed with an American customer; a techie, his fiancée having broken off their engagement, takes a young, eager intern into his confidence. These stories trace Bangalore’s warp-speed transformation from a leafy backwater into India’s Silicon Valley — a place where Digital Age values clash with tradition, where British colonialism casts its strong shadow, and where visions are inspired and distorted by the forces of globalization.”

Virtual Event: Philip Zelikow – Harvard Book Store
Lessons from the Covid War: An Investigative Report
May 4 at 6 p.m.

“Our national leaders have drifted into treating the pandemic as though it were an unavoidable natural catastrophe, repeating a depressing cycle of panic followed by neglect. So a remarkable group of practitioners and scholars from many backgrounds came together determined to discover and learn lessons from this latest world war.

“Lessons from the Covid War is plainspoken and clear-sighted. It cuts through the enormous jumble of information to make some sense of it all and answer: What just happened to us, and why? And crucially, how, next time, could we do better? Because there will be a next time.”

In the Hour of War — Poetry from Ukraine at brookline booksmith
May 6 at 7 p.m.

“Ukraine may be the only country on earth that owes its existence, at least in part, to a poet. Ever since the appearance of Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar in 1840, poetry has played an outsized role in Ukrainian culture. In the Hour of War: Poetry from Ukraine begins: ‘Letters of the alphabet go to war’ and ends with ‘I am writing/ and all my people are writing,’ note the editors Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky. It includes poets whose work is known to thousands of people, who are translated into dozens of languages, as well as those who are relatively unknown in the West.

“These poems offer a startling look at the way language both affects and reflects the realities of war and extremity. The volume is sure to become the classic text marking not only one of the darkest periods in Ukrainian history, but also a significant moment in the universal struggle for democracy and human rights.”

Steven Wright at Porter Square Books, Boston
May 7 at 7 p.m.

“From the outside, Harold is an average seven-year-old third grader growing up in the 1960s. Bored by school. Crushing on a girl. Likes movies and baseball — especially the hometown Boston Red Sox. Enjoys spending time with his grandfather. But inside Harold’s mind, things are a lot more complex and unusual. His thoughts come to him as birds flying through a small rectangle in the middle of his brain. He visits an outdoor cafe on the moon and is invited aboard a spaceship by famed astronomer Carl Sagan. He envisions his own funeral procession and wonders if the driver of the hearse has even been born yet.

“Harold documents the meandering, surreal, often hilarious, and always thought-provoking stream-of-consciousness ruminations of the title character during a single day in class. Saturated with the witticisms and profundities for which Wright’s groundbreaking stand-up has long been venerated, this novel will change the way you perceive your daily existence. To quote one of its many memorable lines: ‘Everything doesn’t have to make sense. Just look at the world and your life.'”

— Matt Hanson

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