Coming Attractions: July 30 through August 14 — What Will Light Your Fire
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.
Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro
through August 13
Harvard Film Archives, Cambridge
This landmark series spotlights the films of one of cinema’s greatest artists, Yasujirō Ozu. From RogeretEbert.com: “He broke every rule there was and did it the subtlest way possible. Ozu’s films exercised the most discreet rebellion against cinematic norm. Widely considered the most Japanese of all film directors, his films feature no heroes or villains. We simply witness life in motion. When we arrive at a significant moment, Ozu cuts to ‘pillow shots’ or perfectly composed shots of landscapes, street signs, or inanimate objects. The idea was to give viewers room to breathe or provide them with the time to contemplate what they had just seen. It’s little things like ‘pillow shots’ that have allowed Ozu to create his own unique cinematic language.” The HFA home page for the series offers an eloquent analysis of Ozu’s contributions to the history of film.
Coolidge Corner Theater, Kendall Square and elsewhere
Director Greta Gerwig has created a surreal pink pop universe where Margo Robbie’s Barbie goes up against Ryan Gosling’s Ken (one of many so named) to thwart attempts to take over Barbie World. This audacious surreal fantasy is more than the sum of its dazzlingly plastic parts. Whimsical and cartoonish, the narrative serves up a forthright polemic on battling the patriarchy. The film has generated more publicity than any in recent memory, producing a slew of kitsch fashions and thought pieces on the significance of a doll that still sells an estimated 164 units every minute. (Arts Fuse review)
Coolidge Corner Theater, Somerville Theater, Kendall Square and elsewhere
The summer’s second blockbuster is a masterfully crafted film structured in three acts over three hours as it flashes between present, past, and future. The storyline covers Oppenheimer’s university days and early relationships, the building of the Los Alamos project, and the battle to save his reputation following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The film triumphs on every level — screenplay, cinematography, acting, and directing. The nearly all-British cast contains some American exceptions. Robert Downey puts in one of his best performances as Congressman Lewis Strauss. Three performers come by way of Boston. Matt Damon is the buttoned-up and efficient General Leslie Groves. Casey Affleck plays the oily military intelligence officer Boris Pash. Boston University alumnus Bennie Safdie is in the role of Edward Teller, the brilliant and dispassionate theoretical physicist known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” “Where’s Ben” signs have been seen at several screenings. The stunning score by Ludwig Göransson carries the story forward via waves of suspense and emotion. This film has Academy awards written all over it. (Fuse Review)
Coolidge Corner Theater, Kendall Square and elsewhere
The talented duo of Ben Platt and Noah Galvin, now engaged, met when Galvin took over the lead from Platt in the hit play Dear Evan Hansen. Along with their friends Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon, they developed the script for this film. Gordon stars; she and Lieberman direct. It is a mockumentary, so there will be inevitable comparisons to Waiting for Guffman. This cast parodies the performing arts, but they are genuinely talented. Theater Camp‘s sensibility reflects a genuine understanding of the passion and dedication required of young “theater geeks.” The acting, voice, movement, and self-awareness workshops are hysterical. Anyone who has spent time in high school or college drama classes or has attended acting workshops will enjoy the film’s delightful humor. (Waiting for Guffman will screen at the Coolidge Corner Theater on July 31st)
Chocolate Babies (1996)
July 28 at 7 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
An underground band of radical Black queer HIV+ activists and drag queens take to the streets of New York City to combat conservative politicians and government apathy towards AIDS. “A frenetic debut feature from writer/director Stephen Winter, Chocolate Babies unleashes a world of anarchic camp and unapologetic Black queer power in one of the hidden gems of New Queer Cinema, ripe for rediscovery and ready to be introduced to new audiences. Its zero-budget filmmaking and loosely structured story are held together by … jazzy, offbeat editing and the forceful voices of his mostly African-American characters, whose anger and wit are inseparable.” (The Advocate)
Woods Hole Film Festival
through August 5
The 32nd festival is back with a full roster of feature films. The gathering will emphasize the work of emerging as well as New England filmmakers. Panel discussions include “Crowdfunding to Build Independence” on August 1 at 12 p.m., and on August 2 at 2 p.m., “The Role of Film Critics in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Streaming.” Speakers for the latter will feature Boston critics Tim Miller, Allyson Johnson, Sarah G. Vincent, the Art Fuse’s Tim Jackson, and Tom Meek. (Editor’s Note: The Fuse‘s critical intelligence is all-natural.)
Among the festival’s selections there will be several films on the arts:
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project is a dreamy invocation of the poet’s life and legacy: “a collision of memories, moments in American history, live readings of her poetry, and impressions of space, Giovanni urges us to imagine a future where Black women lead” (dcdocfest).
In the Company of Rose features director James Lapine interviewing 86-year-old Rose Styron, poet, journalist, human rights activist, and widow of the famed author William Styron. Arts Fuse review
Other films with a cultural focus include The Artist and The Astronaut and Ron Carter: Arts in Many Forms.
Blues musician Willy Laws will perform at Grumpy’s Pub on Aug 3 at 10 p.m.
Picks of the Week
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988) on YouTube
Hanna Takes the Stairs (2007) on Amazon
Here are two films nicely compliment the Barbie/Greta Gerwig box phenomenon.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is a 46-minute experimental by Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven) cast entirely with Barbie Dolls. It is not for everybody; it inspired prolific Indie producer Christine Vachon of Killer Films to enter the business. Using miniature sets, the film employs narration, character voiceovers, public service announcements, and more to tell the story of Carpenter’s career from its beginning to her sad death from anorexia in 1983. Richard Carpenter tried to ban the film, not recognizing that it isn’t a parody: this is a surprisingly moving account told in a highly unconventional way. Haynes says it may be soon rereleased. Meanwhile, here is a serviceable YouTube Link.
Hanna Takes the Stairs was 24-year-old Greta Gerwig’s fourth film as an actress for director Joe Swanberg. Given its improvisational dialogue and wandering plot, the movie is a typical product of the Mumblecore school of filmmaking. Writing credits for this story of a post-college relationship went to Swanberg, Gerwig, and her co-star Kent Osborne. Also on hand are several actors who went on to build strong careers: Andrew Bujalski, Ry Russo-Young, Tipper Newton, and the ubiquitous Mark Duplass. Following a screening in 2007, I met Gerwig and told her she had an exceptional onscreen presence. She responded by saying “Thanks, but I’m really more of a writer and I’d like to direct.”
— Tim Jackson
Presented by Landmarks Orchestra
August 2, 7 p.m.
Hatch Shell, Boston
Christopher Wilkins leads Landmarks Orchestra in an evening of music written, mostly, by Americans: the “Three Dance Episodes” from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, the charming scherzo from George Whitefield Chadwick’s Symphony No. 2, and George Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The outlier — Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto — was at least penned on these shores. Tommy Mesa is the soloist in that one.
Presented by Tanglewood Music Center
August 5, 8 p.m.
Koussevitzky Shed, Lenox
John Williams and David Newman are back for the annual bash with the Boston Pops showcasing favorites (mostly by Williams) from the silver screen.
Mutter plays Williams
Presented by Tanglewood Music Center
August 11, 8 p.m.
Koussevitzky Shed, Lenox
Anne-Sophie Mutter returns to Tanglewood to reprise John Williams’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (which she takes on tour to Europe with the BSO later in the month). Andris Nelsons conducts additional works by Richard Strauss and Ravel.
Mozart and More
Presented by Landmarks Orchestra
August 12, 7 p.m.
Hatch Shell, Boston
Fabiola Méndez, Mariana Green-Hill, Zaira Meneses, and musicians and dancers from the Hyde Square Task Force join Landmarks for a concert of music by Mozart and contemporaries (Joseph Bologne and Rossini), plus works by Roberto Sierra and Joaquín Rodrigo.
Gidon Kremer in recital
Presented by Rockport Music
August 12, 7:30 p.m.
Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA
The great Latvian violinist makes his Rockport Chamber Music Festival debut with a program of pieces by Silvestrov, Gubaidulina, Loboda, Weinberg, Schnittke, Brahms, and Shostakovich. He’s joined by pianist Yulianna Avdeeva and violinist Madara Pētersone.
Ma plays Shostakovich
Presented by Tanglewood Music Center
August 13, 2:30 p.m.
Koussevitzky Shed, Lenox
Consider this a teaser for Yo-Yo Ma’s appearance with the BSO in Boston in October: here he assays Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 (in the fall he plays the Second, too). Music by Julia Adolphe and Stravinsky complete the afternoon.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Roots and World Music
Glen Washington, Roots Alley Collective, and Safiya
Elma Lewis Playhouse, Franklin Park
The Franklin Park Coalition’s free summer concert series hosts a Caribbean night with a perfect trio of artists. Husky voiced Jamaican reggae star Glen Washington has been churning out hits since the ’70s but remains seriously underrated. Also on the bill are two of Boston’s best: the foundation reggae of Roots Alley Collective and the versatile singer Safiya.
A Tribute to Skippy White
August 5, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Florian Hall, 55 Hallet Street, Boston
Boston’s legendary DJ and record store owner (and subject of a 2022 compilation which this writer worked on) is being feted by a large cast of soul and gospel singers, including the queen of Boston blues Toni Lynn Washington, ’70s funk artist and retired Boston judge Milton Wright, and gospel greats the Spiritual Encouragers and Harmonizing Stars of Boston.
Long before the current crop of female bluegrass stars reached stardom, bassist and singer Missy Raines was a trailblazing talent. She’s still out there with her excellent band Allegheny and a new single from an upcoming record. A festival headliner, Raines is making an intimate appearance in Cambridge as part of the ongoing Bluegrass Tuesdays which mixes live performances with plenty of jamming.
A Rhythm and Blues Royale: Eli Paperboy Reed vs. The Harlem Gospel Travelers
Payomet Performing Arts Center, Truro
The joyfully flamboyant Harlem Gospel Travelers have made a big mark on the roots music world with their two quartet-style releases on the soul-leaning Coalmine label. They haven’t been a regular presence in New England, but that’s changing. We hear they just tore up the Newport Folk Festival and now they’re coming to the Cape on a double bill with their mentor and producer Eli Paperboy Reed. Both acts will play on their own and then sing together.
— Noah Schaffer
August 2 at 7 p.m.
Parking Lot of 766 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
(Inclement weather location: BU Dance Theater, Boston)
Boston University’s REACH program celebrates its 33rd anniversary this year with its annual outdoor performance, free to the public. The event features eight teen apprentices, alongside college interns and professional dancers. The show will offer original choreography in a range of dance styles created by the dancers themselves. Note: Please follow @reachdancebu for announcements on performance location in case of inclement weather.
Feet Keep the Beat
August 4 at 8 p.m.
Arts at the Armory
The Center for Arts at the Armory presents a new festival in Boston that it hopes to make an annual tradition: “Feet Keep the Beat” will celebrate multicultural percussive dance. Enjoy a vibrant and rhythmic evening of Flamenco, Irish, Tap, Kathak, body percussion, and other styles of percussive dance from around the world.
Boston Tap Party
August 5 at 7 p.m.
Arts at the Armory
The Boston Tap Party returns this month with its annual celebration of all things tap. The program brings top artists from across the country to Greater Boston. They will be teaching youth classes, culminating with a Faculty Showcase performance. This year’s faculty include Ian Berg, Sydney Burtis, Ryan P. Casey, Thelma Goldberg, Luke Hickey, Khalid Hill, Jason Janas, Kelly Kaleta, Demi Remick, Aaron Tolson, and Dianne Walker.
August 6 at 4 p.m.
Head to Roslindale Square for a walking tour of Luminarium Dance’s current work, Common Circus. This roving performance utilizes dance, theater, comedy, spoken word, and sport as the performers guide audience members from site to site. This event takes access needs into account, providing a route that is clear for mobility devices and strollers. The proceedings will be paced with consideration for varied walking speeds. Please email Luminarium with access questions at email@example.com.
— Merli V. Guerra
COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Directed by Steven Maler. Staged by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at the Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common, through August 6. Free.
“Amid intense civil strife and a decaying social fabric — an insurrection takes hold. In Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, an unexpected prophecy sends Macbeth (Faran Tahir) on a fervent and murderous quest to become the new King of Scotland.” “W.H. Auden on Macbeth: Usually in a tragedy a good person is made to suffer through a flaw in his goodness. In Macbeth this pattern is reversed: it is a streak of goodness that causes pathos and suffering. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth attempt to be murderers without malice.” Arts Fuse review
“For the first time in Old North Church’s 300-year history, the historic site will host an original play.” The drama is “set in Boston’s oldest surviving church on April 18, 1775, the day before the Battle of Lexington & Concord and mere hours before the famous ‘two if by sea’ lantern signals. The story centers on the interaction between three fathers, who share a faith but are politically divided, as Boston sits on the brink of war, searching for information and answers as to the best path forward for both their families and the colonies.”
The Hidden Territories of the Bacchae: A Response to Euripides’ The Bacchae Conceived, directed, and designed by Stacy Klein. Co-created and adapted with Milena Davova, Jennifer Johnson, Travis Coe, and Carlos Uriona. At the Double Edge Theatre, 948 Conway Road, Ashfield, MA, through August 6.
A revision of last season’s 40th Anniversary Summer Spectacle. It was my favorite show of 2022. Here is what I wrote: George Bernard Shaw once opined that the critic’s revenge on actors and directors who dismissed their reviews is that the journalist’s descriptions of stage productions are all that history would remember. Critics had the final say — at least in the days before the arrival of videotape and film. What GBS didn’t see is that in some cases it might be the lambasted theater artists — if their artistic vision grows and expands over time — who can make a fair claim to having “the last word.”
40 years ago, in April 1982, I reviewed the Double Edge Theatre Company’s premiere production, Rites, a modernized version of Euripides’s The Bacchae. I panned it on WBUR, calling it a “shrill production [that] fulfills just about every nightmare or cliché anyone has ever had about bad feminist theater lusting for male blood.” I had a point: after all, a plastic boy doll was flushed down a toilet by a group of women crazed by their hatred of men. But time has proved that I reached for a tomahawk when a scalpel was called for. I was right and wrong about Rites. I missed what the Boston Globe stage critic John Engstrom saw in the production — that artistic director Stacy Klein, though confined to the claustrophobic environs of the ICA space, enlivened the proceedings with a nimble sense of ritual and choreography. And it turns out that, over the decades, Klein’s skillful manipulation of ceremony and movement, combined with music, visual iconography, and what could be described as spiritual chutzpah, has matured in impressive ways.
Ensconced in its current spacious home on a farm in Ashfield, the company went back to the future last summer and celebrated its 40th anniversary with a zesty production of a new version of The Bacchae. The staging was a marvelous bookend to the earlier production — it was a soulful act of aesthetic homage. Unlike Rites, which embraced revenge, madness, and destruction, this adaptation sent a cadre of vocalizing, acrobatic, and beneficent Bacchae scampering across green fields, doing acrobatics in the barn, and swimming in a pond. In terms of dramatic power, I wish the staging’s revisionism (see Euripides’s rip-roaring original) had not been so thorough — the tragedy’s murderous anarchy was pretty well banished. But the evening was a reminder that it has been a privilege to witness the birth of what turned out to be such an adventurous troupe, and to be in a position to appreciate just how far Klein and company have ventured, and not only artistically. They have become a vital part of the local community. Some artists show promise early on and never go beyond that. Dedicated to a vision of theater that embraces ecstasy and provocation — often via whizzbang spectacles whose resonances are simultaneously intellectual, political, and religious — Double Edge Theatre has persevered at premiering imaginative productions that create ‘a world elsewhere.’ There is not much more you can ask. Here’s to 40 more years ….”
View Boston, an observatory encompassing the top three floors of the Prudential Tower, Boston, just opened.
This permanent attraction certainly classifies as a spectacular theatrical experience. I was up there, and can testify to the gob-smacking views of the city from just about all angles. The lit-up diorama of Boston is also impressive, as is a swooping film tour of the city. What’s more, the computer wizardry — you can select your own itinerary (from possibilities projected on large screens) and email it to yourself or others — will spur discoveries. This is a first-of-its kind tourist setup, and it is well done, including a snug restaurant and bar. My major reservations: tickets are pricey (this is tailored for upscale families), the computer machinations will no doubt glitch, and it would be nice to see more art by local artists on display.
Fences by August Wilson. Directed by Christopher V. Edwards. Staged by Shakespeare & Company at the Tina Packer Playhouse, Lenox, through August 27.
One of August Wilson’s most produced plays. Set in the ’50s, the Arthur Miller-ish script is “the story of Troy Maxson — a working-class Black man struggling to provide for his family. His past includes the low of a prison sentence and the high of a promising career with the Negro Baseball League, but it’s Troy’s unrealized dream to play for Major League Baseball that fills his days with resentment and regret.” In 1987, the play won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
Love, Loss, & What I Wore by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. Directed by Paula Plum. Staged by the Hub Theatre Company of Boston at Club Cafe, 209 Columbus Ave, Boston, through August 5.
This comedy “attempts to answer the age-old question: how do I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? With odes to first bras, overstuffed purses, tyrannical dressing rooms and outfits that made our mothers cringe, Love, Loss & What I Wore is a love letter to the outfits that got us through life’s ups, downs and everything in between. Come reminisce with us and take a stroll down your own closet’s memory lane. Five of Boston’s best dressed actresses — Nettie Chickering, Barbara Douglas, Lauren Elias, Evelyn Holley, and June Kfoury — will bring these funny memoirs and intimate musings to the stage.”
Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Level 3, Sert Gallery, Harvard University, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, through September 3.
“The artist brings together performance, video, and text-based works — created both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic — that mark time, loss, desire, disappointment, and joy through playful musical gestures. The exhibition is co-organized with the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, where it will be on view September 8 to January 7, 2024.
“Through deceptively simple and incantatory ‘little ditties,’ Bassichis approaches urgent questions with critical curiosity, poetry and — crucially — pleasure. Performing solo as well as working collaboratively in duets and groups, Bassichis’s practice offers intimate encounters with learning, collectivity, and lineages of queer and Jewish radicalism. As noted by the artist, these ‘songs fall somewhere between adult lullabies and practical spells, and will not include concrete policy recommendations but maybe they should?'”
The Light by Loy A. Webb. Directed by Christina Franklin. Staged by the Chester Theatre Company at 15 Middlefield Road, Chester, MA, through August 6
“Rashad and Genesis have just gotten engaged. To celebrate, he wants to take her to a show by a local Chicago musician who’s made it big. When she refuses, revealing that the rapper assaulted a friend in college, the celebration is cut short. As their discussion grows into an argument, more secrets are exposed, and the past threatens to overshadow their future.”
Liv at Sea written and directed by Robert Knopf. Staged by Harbor Stage Company at 15 Kendrick Ave, Wellfleet, through August 5.
A world premiere production: “Liv’s doing just fine — a steady job, a solid partner, a typical life in the city. But when sparks fly during a chance encounter with a stranger, she’s left wondering how to feed a flame without burning everything else to the ground. A love story about open hearts, broken promises, and the choice of a lifetime.”
On Cedar Street, Book by Emily Mann. Music by Lucy Simon & Carmel Dean. Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. Adapted from the novel Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Directed by direction by Susan H. Schulman. Staged by the Berkshire Theatre Group on The Larry Vaber Stage, at The Unicorn Theatre, 6 East Street, Stockbridge, August 12 through September 2.
“This World Premiere musical tells the joyful and inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together in a search for happiness and family.
“In the small town of Holt, Colorado, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades. Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? When Addie tries to make a connection with her neighbor, the two begin sleeping in bed together platonically, with the innocent goal of alleviating their shared loneliness. As their relationship deepens, however, they each deal with grief and loss, and a real romance begins to blossom and a beautiful story of second chances unfolds.”
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at Chelsea Square (audience members will meet outside the Chelsea Theatre Works), 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA, August 4 through 19. “A FREE, on-your-feet, bilingual performance event!” Pre-show begins at 6:30; Hamlet begins at 8 p.m.
Bring your running shoes — Hamlet is quick on his feet. An umbrella might be wise as well, just in case. Armando Rivera plays the Prince of Denmark in a streamlined 90-minute version of Shakespeare’s tragedy that hits the streets.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Directed by Allyn Burrows. Staged by Shakespeare & Company at the New Spruce Theatre, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, August 1 through September 10.
Another outing for one of the Bard’s most produced scripts: an impressive cast includes Nigel Gore, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, and Sheila Bandyopadhyay. “The play that Bottom and company put on raises the problem of the metaphysical distinction between existence and essence.” — W.H. Auden on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Ding Dongs by Brenda Withers. Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw. Staged by Gloucester Stage at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, August 11 through 27.
“When sweet-faced strangers show up on a suburban doorstep, the tight-lipped homeowner finds their story suspicious: the house, they claim, was their childhood home and they’ve come in hopes of getting a quick peek. As they cheerily muscle their way across the threshold, it becomes clear the couple has no intention of leaving.” This “comedic thriller” by a Cape Cod dramatist sounds as if it has a touch — just a touch mind you — of the plot of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance.
Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker. Directed by Daniel Elihu Kramer. Staged by the Chester Theatre Company at 15 Middlefield Road, Chester, MA, August 10 through 20.
“Five very different people come together in a Vermont community center for an amateur acting class. They are there to learn about performing, but their games and exercises teach them more about themselves and each other than they do about theatre.” The cast includes Tara Franklin and Corinna May.
The Thin Place by Lucas Hnath. Directed by Jeff Zinn. Staged by Harbor Stage at 15 Kendrick Avenue, Wellfleet, August 10 through September 3.
“If you could speak to the dead, what would you say? What would you want them to say to you? In this hypnotic mystery, a disarming psychic leads a grieving client through a journey marked by conjuring, connection, and hope. An intimate drama about trust, truth, and how we treat each other– in this world and the next.” The cast includes D’Arcy Dersham, Stacy Fischer, Robert Kropf, and Brenda Withers.
— Bill Marx
The Williams College Museum of Art continues its summer series Construct Your Own Meaning: Young People, exploring the views of a specially selected group of 10- to 15-year-olds who have been learning this summer about the museum, its collections, what goes on behind the scenes, different careers in the arts, and about methods for interpreting artwork. Starting at 5 p.m. on August 3, these young Fellows will give a joint guided tour of the exhibition Remixing the Hall, followed by a reception featuring food they helped select.
Monochromatic painting, often called “grisaille,” from the French word for gray, had a vogue during the Renaissance, sometimes used to imitate sculpture or sculptural relief in two-dimensional paint and later appreciated, like black-and-white photography and film, for its own aesthetic values. Giotto, Jan van Eyck, Peter Brueghel the Elder, and Mantegna used the technique in frescoes and altarpieces. Even parts of the Sistine Chapel frescoes are in grisaille.
Metamorphosis and Malice, an exhibition opening at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, ME, on August 3, unites three of the only monochromatic paintings known by the important 16th-century Florentine painter known as Jacopo da Pontormo, after his birthplace in Pontorme, near Empoli, about 20 miles south of Florence,. As an orphaned apprentice, Pontormo was moved around from one Florence workshop to another, including those of Leonardo, Piero di Cosimo, and Andrea del Sarto, later working in and around the city under the patronage of the Medici.
Pontormo was an important and early “mannerist” painter, meaning that he didn’t conform to the classic standards set by the earlier generation of Florentine painters. His figures were expressively distorted, elongated, contorted, often with haunted expressions. They sometimes seemed weightless and the colors of Pontormo’s painting were bright, and in unconventional harmonies. The Bowdoin show includes related paintings, drawings, and prints, showing how Pontormo and his contemporaries used elements of the supernatural, metamorphosis, and malice in their representations of stories from the Bible and the rich mythological tales of the Roman poet Ovid.
The expatriate Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi is the subject of Arghavan Khosravi: Black Rain, opening August 3 at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham. The show ranges from the small-scale drawings Khosravi created on her arrival in the United States in 2015 to her recent monumental works, which join painting, three-dimensional construction, and assemblage. These often enigmatic pieces combine influences from the precise architectural forms and geometry and delicate, stylized flora and fauna of classical Persian miniature paintings with her personal experiences as a young woman under a repressive regime in Iran and as a Muslim immigrant to the United States.
The MothStory SLAM, with host comedian Bethany Van Delft, will be at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem on Thursday, August 3, from 7:30-9:30 p.m., in conjunction with the exhibition Gu Wenda: United Nations. The theme is HAIR. Come and listen or prepare a five-minute story about your life with hair: long, short, tangled, lost, braided, or shaved. Three teams of judges will select a winner to advance to the GrandSLAM Championship. Tickets are $15, $10 for members and Salem residents, doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Looking for a summer camp close to home and safe from wild summer weather? The Museum of Fine Arts is offering Travel the World and the Seven Seas all week from August 7-11, daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Offered for ages 6-8 (other age groups are sold out), the studio art classes will explore travel and seascapes in the galleries and in the studio. Fee is $653 or $555 for museum members plus a $20 supply fee. Bring your own lunch, picnic blanket, and smock.
— Peter Walsh
Bert Seager’s Heart of Hearing
August 2 at 6:30 p.m.
Pianist and composer Seager provides one of the regular delights of the month with this residency at the Lilypad for his band Heart of Hearing: saxophonist Rick DiMuzio, bassist Max Ridley, drummer Dor Herskovits, and the adventurous young singer Lili Shires. Standards and unusual pop selections get pushed and pulled in instrumentals as well as vocal features, along with an original or two, and, always, one Monk.
The commanding young saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin leads a jam session as part of the “New Standards Boston Takeover,” organized by Terri Lyne Carrington and the folks at Berklee’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. Expect a few tunes from New Standards, Vol. 1, Carrington’s Grammy-winning album (released in conjunction with a book of lead sheets) of pieces by women jazz composers as well as other jam-worthy material.
Newport Jazz Festival
Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.
The superbly overloaded Newport Jazz Festival (these days branded simply as “Newport Jazz”) brings in a slew of venerable stars and up-and-comers, from Kamasi Washington and Herbie Hancock to Dave Holland, Diana Krall, James Brandon Lewis, Lakecia Benjamin, Charles McPherson, Christian McBride, Julian Lage, Immanuel Wilkins, and on and on
August 8 at 7:30 p.m.
The opener at this month’s Point01 Percent will be writer Cisco Bradley, discussing his book The Williamsburg Avant-Garde: Experimental Music and Sound on the Brooklyn Waterfront, which chronicles the rise and fall of that Brooklyn scene, providing insight into how experimental-art ecosystems develop and dissipate, with some first-hand reporting on the effects of rezoning and gentrification. The discussion promises some object lessons on the fate of art in urban communities. Bradley will be followed by what should be an affirming performance from the quartet of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, guitarist Magdalena Obrego, bassist Brittany Karlson, and drummer Eric Rosenthal.
Billy Mintz Quartet with Tony Malaby
Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
The saxophonist, composer, and educator Tony Malaby has been tireless in organizing gigs that draw his talented pals from New York to join Malaby’s Berklee colleagues. Here he brings up the esteemed veteran drummer Billy Mintz and a quartet that includes Malaby (all heard to good effect on the 2017 release Ugly Beautiful). The other members of the band are the fine pianist Roberta Picket (also not heard often enough in Boston) and bassist Don Falzone. Two sets.
— Jon Garelick
Carmen Fields at the Harvard Book Store
Going Back to T-Town: The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band
August 1 at 7 p.m.
“There was a time when countless young people in the Midwest, South, and Southwest went to dances and stage shows to hear a territory band play. Territory bands traveled from town to town, performing jazz and swing music, and Tulsa-based musician Ernie Fields (1904–97) led one of the best. In Going Back to T-Town, Ernie’s daughter, Carmen Fields, tells a story of success, disappointment, and perseverance extending from the early jazz era to the 1960s. This is an enlightening account of how this talented musician and businessman navigated the hurdles of racial segregation during the Jim Crow era.”
Yepoka Yeebo with Tom Standage – Brookline Booksmith
August 4 at 6 p.m.
“The astounding, never-before-told story of how an audacious Ghanaian con artist pulled off one of the 20th century’s longest-running and most spectacular frauds. When Ghana won its independence from Britain in 1957, it instantly became a target for home-grown opportunists and rapacious Western interests determined to snatch any assets that colonialism hadn’t already stripped. A CIA-funded military junta ousted the new nation’s inspiring president, Kwame Nkrumah, then falsely accused him of hiding the country’s gold overseas.
“Into this big lie stepped one of history’s most charismatic scammers, a con man to rival the trickster god Anansi. Born into poverty in Ghana and trained in the United States, John Ackah Blay-Miezah declared himself custodian of an alleged Nkrumah trust fund worth billions. You, too, could claim a piece — if only you would “invest” in Blay-Miezah’s fictitious efforts to release the equally fictitious fund. Over the 1970s and ’80s, he and his accomplices — including Ghanaian state officials and Nixon’s former attorney general — scammed hundreds of millions of dollars out of thousands of believers. Blay-Miezah lived in luxury, deceiving Philadelphia lawyers, London financiers, and Seoul businessmen alike, all while eluding his FBI pursuers. American prosecutors called his scam ‘one of the most fascinating — and lucrative — in modern history.'”
Grown Up Book Fair at Trillium Brewing – Porter Square Books
August 6 from 12-4 p.m.
Trillium Brewing, 50 Thompson Pl, Boston
“Remember getting the book fair flyers at school? Seeing if the next book in your favorite series was coming out, comparing lists with your friends, checking off the books you want, and planning how you’ll totally convince your parents that yes, in fact, you definitely need all those books because don’t they want you to get into a good college or whatever? And then the thrill when the books arrive and you see a pencil set you absolutely need and stickers for your trapper keeper and one of those friendship necklaces? Think you would never get to experience that rush again?
Join us August 6 from 12-4 p.m. at Trillium Brewing’s Fort Point location for a Grown Up Book Fair, which will have everything you love about school book fairs, plus beer!”
Ann Patchett Book Signing – Harvard Book Store
Tom Lake: A Novel
August 7 at noon
Tickets are $31.88 including book
“Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome renowned author Ann Patchett for a signing of her novel Tom Lake. It will take place beginning at 12 p.m. on August 7. The signing will end at 1:30 p.m.. People who have registered should arrive between 11:45 a.m., when doors to the signing line open, and 1 p.m. to ensure their spot in line. This is a book signing only.”
Nisha Sharma in conversation with Namrata Patel – Porter Square Books
Tastes Like Shakkar
August 7 at 7 p.m.
“Bobbi Kaur is determined to plan a celebration to remember for her best friend’s wedding. But she has two problems that are getting in her way: 1. The egotistical, and irritatingly sexy, chef Benjamin “Bunty” Padda is supposed to help her with the menu since he’s the groom’s best friend, and 2. Someone is trying to sabotage the wedding. With aspirations of taking over her family’s event planning business, Bobbi knows that one misstep in managing the Kareena Mann and Prem Verma (#Vermann) party, along with the other weddings on her plate, will only give her uncle another reason not to promote her. That means Kareena’s big day and Bobbi’s future career are on the line.”
Lydia Kiesling at Harvard Book Store
Mobility: A Novel
August 9 at 7 p.m.
“Propulsive and thought-provoking, empathetic yet pointed, Mobility is a story about class, power, politics, and desire told through the life of one woman — her social milieu, her romances, her unarticulated wants. Through Bunny’s life choices, Lydia Kiesling masterfully explores American forms of complicity and inertia, moving between the local and the global, the personal and the political, and using fiction’s singular power to illuminate a life shaped by its context.”
Maya Binyam with Namwali Serpell – brookline booksmith
August 10 at 7 p.m.
“A man returns home to sub-Saharan Africa after twenty-six years in America. When he arrives, he finds that he doesn’t recognize the country or anyone in it. Thankfully, someone recognizes him, a man who calls him brother — setting him on a quest to find his real brother, who is dying. In Hangman, Maya Binyam tells the story of that search, and of the phantoms, guides, tricksters, bureaucrats, debtors, taxi drivers, relatives, riddles, and strangers that will lead to the truth.
“It is an uncommonly assured debut: an existential journey; a tragic farce; a slapstick tragedy; and a strange, and strangely honest, story of one man’s stubborn quest to find refuge — in this world and in the world that lies beyond it.”
Sally Wen Mao at Harvard Book Store
The Kingdom of Surfaces: Poems
August 10 at 7 p.m.
“Award-winning poet Sally Wen Mao examines art and history — especially the provenance of objects such as porcelain, silk, and pearls — to frame an important conversation on beauty, empire, commodification, and violence. In lyric poems and wide-ranging sequences, Mao interrogates gendered expressions such as the contemporary “leftover women,” which denotes unmarried women, and the historical “castle-toppler,” a term used to describe a concubine whose beauty ruins an emperor and his empire. These poems also explore the permeability of object and subject through the history of Chinese women in America, labor practices around the silk loom, and the ongoing violence against Asian people during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
— Matt Hanson