Coming Attractions: January 14 through 30 — What Will Light Your Fire

Our expert critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.


Belmont World Film’s 21st Family Festival

January 14: West Newton Cinema

1:45 p.m. Coco Farm (Canada): A 12-year-old boy has an idea to make “big” money: starting an egg farming business with the help of his cousin. Age 8+
3 p.m. OkThanksBye (Netherlands) Two 12-year-old girls at a boarding school for the deaf set off on an unexpected road trip from Rotterdam to Paris. Followed by a discussion with ASL interpretation. Age 10+

January 15: Brattle Theatre, Cambridge
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Shorts Program, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Martin’s Big Words: Narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan
Coretta Scott: A tribute to Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights movement
Rosa: A dramatization of Nikki Giovanni’s poem
I Am Ruby Bridges: The story of the first African-American child to integrate an all-white elementary school
Show Way: Jacqueline Woodson’s look at eight generations of quilt making

January 21: Regent Theatre, Arlington

1 p.m. Book Shorts Program: Films Based on books by Mo Willems. Age 3-8
2:15 p.m. International Tales for Young Hearts Shorts Program. “A collection of exquisitely animated films from Europe about nature, caring, friendship, and more that will warm everyone’s hearts.” Age 5-12
3:30 p.m. Totem: The New England premiere of a feature film about the daughter of Senegalese asylum seekers who was born and raised in The Netherlands. When she sees her mother and brother get arrested, she sets off in search of her father through Rotterdam in the middle of winter, hoping to avoid deportation. Followed by a discussion led by Ghanaian-American filmmaker Menefese Kudumu-Clavell.

This is a three-day celebration of international culture for children ages three though 12 and their families. The festival includes films from around the world — many making their US or New England premieres. Films are in English and multiple languages. This year one entry will be in sign language. Subtitles for films in languages other than English will be read aloud through headphones for children who have difficulty reading. Many of the selections are based on classic and contemporary children’s books to help reinforce an interest in reading and literature. Film and Workshop Schedule

In the Whale: Michael Packard on his lobstering boat. He made headlines in 2021, claiming to have been swallowed and spat out by a humpback whale. Photo: David Abel

In the Whale
January 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Somerville Theatre

Directed by Pulitzer prize-winning Boston Globe reporter David Abel, the documentary tells the story of the last-remaining commercial lobster diver on Cape Cod. Two years ago he claimed he had been swallowed by a humpback whale and lived to tell the tale. He was thrust into the limelight for awhile, but depression set in, which he overcame with the love and support of his family. This year’s Best New England Film at the Mystic Film Festival. A discussion with the director will follow the screening.

Forbidden Planet
January 22 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and the Coolidge co-present a new series: Shakespeare Reimagined. In this film, inspired by the Bard’s The Tempest, a spacecraft travels to the distant planet Altair IV to discover the fate of a group of scientists sent decades earlier. When Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew arrive, they discover only Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), who was born on the remote planet. Soon, Adams begins to uncover the mystery of what happened on Altair IV, and why Morbius and Altaira are the sole survivors. A post-film discussion will follow with Northeastern professor of media Nathan Blake and actress Nora Eschenheimer (Miranda in CSC’s The Tempest, 2022).

Nanook in action in a scene from Nanook of the North.

Nanook of the North
January 28 at 8 p.m.
Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA

Local indie-folk heroes Parsonsfield was commissioned to score this silent film classic, which will receive its world premiere at a performance during a screening at Mass MoCA. Folk Alley has called Parsonsfield’s music “the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas.”  The quarterly roots music journal No Depression enthuses “five-part harmonies one minute … bluegrass on steroids the next, and then [they will] rock you over the head with unbearably cool and raucous Celtic rhythms.”

Pick of the Week

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Amazon Prime, Apple TV, AMC

Footage shown in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.

Well worth seeing on Martin Luther King Day as well as a rev up for Black History Month. Göran Hugo Olsson’s Black Power Mixtape is an illuminating political document edited from footage discovered in the cellar of a Swedish Television station, where it sat unseen for 30 years. Combining music, rare 16mm footage, and contemporary audio interviews from leading Black artists, activists, musicians, and scholars, the film examines the evolution of the Black Power Movement from the Civil Rights era through the movement’s dissolution as drugs began to erode black communities in the ’70s. We hear from Angela Davis past and present, Harry Belafonte, Questlove, Stokely Carmichael, and many more. This raw and powerful film “humanizes a durable and uniquely American emancipation struggle, inviting audiences of diverse generations to reconsider the global influence of the Black Power movement.” (Film Comment) Arts Fuse review

— Tim Jackson

Roots and World Music

Fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin will be performing at Club Passim this week. Photo: Bandcamp

Maura Shawn Scanlin
January 18
Club Passim, Cambridge

Fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin is an invaluable part of the local Celtic and classical scenes. She is half of the group Rakish and a member of the Rasa String Quartet. Last spring she released a stellar recording under her own name that deftly mixed her own compositions with traditional tunes. She’s finally found time to mount a national tour to celebrate that album. She’s joined by Conor Hearn on guitar, Adam Hendey on bouzouki, and Julian Pinelli on fiddle.

Carlton Livingston
January 18
Rockwood Music Hall, Boston

Reggae trends come and go, but some songs never go out of fashion. One of these is Carlton Livingston’s early ’80s ganja-smuggling anthem “100 Weight of Collie Weed,” an early example of a reggae classic that was spawned in Brooklyn, not Kingston or London. Always a top-tier live performer, Livingston will be expertly backed by Boston’s Dub Apocalypse.

Bobby Rush and Mizz Lowe performing together. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Bobby Rush
January 18
Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River
January 19
Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, Portsmouth
January 20
Bull Run, Shirley

Turning 90 hasn’t slowed past ArtsFuse interview subject Bobby Rush down. Now universally regarded as one of the living greats — in the chitlin’ circuit and traditional blues categories — Rush has been a frequent visitor to New England with his one-man acoustic show. But word is that he’ll have his full band and dancers with him for this trek. And expect lots of new material: Rush has a new record of originals, All My Love for You, and his longtime dancer Mizz Lowe also has one called Classy Woman.

Matt & Shannon Heaton
January 24
The Burren, Somerville

Partners in music and life, Matt & Shannon Heaton are a Boston-based duo with a global reputation for finding new inspirations in traditional Celtic tunes. They’re celebrating the release of their sixth record, Whirring Wings, which comes with a detailed liner notes package that is as delightful as the music.

— Noah Schaffer


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.

Installation view of the exhibition Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth. Digital photograph courtesy of MIT

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only sounds that tremble through us in the Hayden Gallery at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, through March 3.

Given how grievously Boston’s theaters are overlooking events in the contemporary world, particularly in the Middle East, this multichannel sound and video installation suggests possibilities, for stage artists, of how the ongoing turmoil might be dramatized. This is a new site-specific iteration of Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahm’s May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing), a multipart project that brings together “fragments of communal song and dance in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, which the artists collected from videos posted on social media over the past decade, with new filmic performances created by the artists with dancers and musicians who responded to specific gestures, music, or texts from the archive. In looking at ephemeral performances in politically marginalized parts of the world and asking what it means to archive sound and gesture through embodiment, the artists reveal performance to be both a critical space of resilience and an ever-evolving repository of memory.”

Lucy Godínez (Ana) in the A.R.T. world premiere of Real Women Have Curves: The Musical. Photo: Nile Hawver/Maggie Hall

Real Women Have Curves: The Musical Music & lyrics by Joy Huerta & Benjamin Velez. Book by Lisa Loomer. Additional Material by Nell Benjamin. Based on the play by Josefina López, and HBO’s Real Women Have Curves, screenplay by Josefina López & George LaVoo. Music supervision by Nadia DiGiallonardo. Directed & choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, through January 21.

“Summer 1987, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. After eighteen years under the roof of her immigrant parents, Ana is ready to spread her wings. Her dreams of college and a career in New York City are bursting at the seams, but her family’s expectations would keep her home, working at their garment factory. Is it worth sacrificing the dreams of her family, who have sacrificed everything for her?” Based on the play by Josefina López that inspired the iconic hit film, this empowering world premiere “explores life’s unexpected curves.” Arts Fuse review

Cast members in the Apollinaire Theatre Company production of the Lunch Bunch: (l to r) Laura Hubbard, Alex Leondedis, Parker Jennings, Cristhian Mancinas-García, Michael (Shifty) Celestin, Paola Ferrer, and Julia Hertzberg. Photo: Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Lunch Bunch by Sarah Einspanier. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by Apollinaire Theatre Company at the Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, through January 21.

“A tart, heartsick comedy,” according to the New Yorker. “In a city not unlike New York, in a public defenders office not unlike The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Practice, amidst the distinct fear/feeling that things are falling apart/going to shit more than usual, 7 public defenders seek meaning, belonging, and some semblance of order via their frenzied quest for the perfect Lunch (Bunch).”

La Broa’ (Broad Street) by Orlando Hernández, inspired by Latino History of Rhode Island: Nuestras Raíces, oral histories collected by Marta V. Martínez. Directed by Tatyana-Marie Carlo. Staged by Trinity Rep at the Dowling Theater, 201 Washington St., Providence, January 18 through February 18.

An intriguing world premiere of what is a true theatrical rarity in these parts — a play that reflects the local community and has not been blessed with blurbs from the New York Times. “Doña Rosa’s Market on La Broa’ (Providence’s Broad Street) is where Rhode Islanders of ‘la comunidad Latina’ have gathered for decades. It is there that they share their stories — from the experience of recent immigration to those of Americans whose threads stretch much further back. This drama draws from the true tales of Latina/Latino Rhode Islanders who have made this place their home, as documented by Marta V. Martínez in the oral history Nuestras Raíces (Our Roots).”

Actress, novelist, and dramatist Alice Childress. Photo: Wiki Common

Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Staged by the Lyric Stage at 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, January 17 through February 4.

This is a neglected (but critically admired) script by a Black playwright that has become popular on mainstream stages over the past decade or so. Actress Alice Childress wrote the drama in 1955 — it was her first. The play, which satirizes racism and sexism on Broadway, was produced Off-Broadway. It won an Obie Award for Best Original Play, making Childress the first Black woman to be awarded the honor. I am glad to see the Lyric Stage mount a production — though note that it took a well-received Broadway production to make it happen.

“It’s 1955, and after enduring indignities and lost opportunities, Wiletta Mayer, a seasoned Black actress, is finally making her Broadway debut. Written by a white playwright, her star vehicle is the allegedly progressive ‘Chaos in Belleville,’ which turns out to be anything but. Leading a cast of both younger and experienced actors, Wiletta challenges not only the soft racism of her white director but also the veiled prejudice that limits her aspirations and success.”

Hir by Taylor Mac. Directed by Brien Lang. Staged by the Wilbury Theatre Group at the WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, Providence, January 18 through February 4.

This is a genuinely subversive domestic comedy. In 2018 I saw a good production of it at Shakespeare and Company. “Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from the wars to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mom. Liberated from an oppressive marriage, with Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling as her ally, she’s on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy. But annihilating the past doesn’t always free you from it.”

Northside Hollow, written and directed by Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers. Staged by Harbor Theatre Company at the BCA Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, through January 20.

“Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a scrappy first responder. Cape Cod’s Harbor Stage Company remounts their critically-acclaimed world premiere.”

Jim Ortlieb as Man, a performer seeking an audience in Stand Up If You Are Here Tonight. Photo: Michael Brosilow

Stand Up If You Are Here Tonight, written and directed by John Kolvenbach. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Maso Studio in The Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, January 20 through March 3.

“You’ve tried everything. Yoga. Acupuncture. Therapy. You floated in salt water in the pitch black dark. You juiced, you cleansed, you journaled, you cut, you volunteered. You ate only RINDS for three days and nights. You reached out, you looked within. You have tried. And yet here you are.” 

Thus begins John Kolvenbach’s script, which deals with “a man desperate for connection, bent by isolation, and deeply in love with the audience itself. ” Jim Ortlieb plays The Man.

Liv At Sea, written and directed by Robert Knopf. Staged by Liv At Sea productions at the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Black Box Theater, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, January 24 through 28.

Liv At Sea had its world premiere this year as part of Harbor Stage Company’s 2023 Season in Wellfleet. The script “centers around Liv, a young woman at a crossroads. She’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.” This is billed as a “love story about open hearts, broken promises, and the choice of a lifetime.”

A scene from Plexus Polaire’s Moby Dick. Photo: Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Moby Dick, an adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel for the stage. Directed by Yngvild Aspeli. ArtsEmerson is presenting the Plexus Polaire staging at the Emerson Paramount Center, Robert J. Orchard Stage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, January 23 through 28.

A Norwegian theater company takes on a great American novel in a production that features seven actors, 50 puppets, video projections, a drowned orchestra, and a life-sized whale.

The Interrobangers by M. Sloth Levine. Directed by Josh Glenni-Kayden. Staged by Company One in partnership with the Boston Public Library and The Theater Offensive at the Boston Public Library, Central Branch, Rabb Hall, Boston, January 26 through February 24.

“Something’s lurking deep in the woods of Foggy Bluffs. And as usual, it’s up to four groovy teens and a dog to get to the bottom of it. But in order to solve the mystery, the old friends must delve into their chilling past and uncover their town’s darkest secrets.”

“M Sloth Levine’s script puts a new spin on a classic tale via a queer coming-of-age story about exploring identity, creating community, and finding that men in masks are the scariest monsters of all. And they might have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for these meddling kids!”

A Case for the Existence of God by Samuel D. Hunter. Directed by Melinda Lopez. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage at the Roberts Studio Theatre, 529 Tremont Street, Boston, January 26 through February 17.

A Boston premiere of a two-hander by Samuel D. Hunter, who gave us The Whale. “Inside a cubicle in a bank in Twin Falls, Idaho, Keith, a mortgage broker, and Ryan, a yogurt plant worker, unexpectedly choose to bring one another into their fragile worlds. Ryan, who is white and divorced, wants to buy a plot of land that his family used to own in the hopes of making a better life for his daughter. Keith, who is Black, gay, and also single, is looking to adopt his foster daughter Willa before her relatives can steal her away.” Cast includes De’lon Grant and Jessie Hinton.

Dancers in The Click’s Edge of Aquarius. Photo: Nicole Marie Photography

Edge of Aquarius, written and performed by Alexandria Nunweiler with The Click. Music and soundscore by Benjamin Cuba. Staged at the Black Box Theater at The Foundry, 101 Rogers Street, Cambridge, January 18 through 21.

“Years in the making,” this dance/theater piece “explores the rituals, controversies and anxieties that plague modern birthdays. Inspired by personal stories and the odd history of birthdays, this piece takes a microscope to aging and the way we celebrate and commemorate milestones. Cake is involved.

Nunweiler hopes the piece makes audiences contemplate the connections that bind humans across time and cultures. But she says there’s also plenty of room for fun, inspired by a fascinating fact, known as The Birthday Paradox, which she discovered while doing research. ‘Apparently, if at least 23 people are in a room together, there’s a 50 percent chance that two of them will have the same birthday,’ Nunweiler says. ‘We’re definitely going to have some fun with that!'”

Machine Learning by Francisco Mendoza. Directed by Gabriel Vega Weissman. A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production produced in partnership with Teatro Chelsea at Central Square Theatre, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, January 25 through February 25.

The plot: “Artificial Intelligence is here. There’s no turning back. “Arnold” (named after the Terminator) is a nursing application created by wunderkind computer scientist Jorge to provide personalized treatment to Gabriel, his estranged and ailing father. As Arnold’s learning increases and Gabriel’s health deteriorates, Jorge must confront his responsibility as a son and accountability as a creator. Full disclosure: This play description is 100% human content.” But is the script 100% human content? I am waiting for the first AI play to be produced. It might offer some healthy competition.

— Bill Marx

Popular Music

Kate Redgate and Todd Hearon
January 20 (show at 9)
The Porch, Medford

The Porch Southern Fare and Juke Joint’s menu will include a double serving of alt-country and Americana when Kate Redgate and Todd Hearon set up camp on Saturday.

Redgate will have in tow the seven new songs that comprise last year’s Light Under the Door, six of which were co-written with her guitarist and producer, Jon Nolan. Her website says of the album, “Some of these songs are beautiful, but don’t call ’em pretty” and declares it “a manifesto on trust and grit.”

A New Englander by way of Texas and North Carolina, Hearon holds a PhD from Boston College and has been shaping young minds as an English teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy for more than 20 years. He has won multiple recognitions for his poetry, playwriting, and fiction, and has recently found the time, energy, and inspiration to compose and record two albums, Border Radio (2021) and Yodelady (2023).

The Salt Collective and Sneakers
January 22 (doors at 5:30, show at 7:30)
City Winery, Boston

Fans of classic power pop are sure to salivate at the idea of members of The dB’s, Sneakers, and Let’s Active all appearing on the same stage on the same night. Those who appreciate a few dashes of a more modern take on the genre will be thrilled to know that Matthew Caws of Nada Surf is also part of The Salt Collective’s touring band and that Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Sweet — along with Richard Lloyd, Susan Cowsill, Pat Sansone (Wilco), dB’s Peter Holsapple and Will Rigby, etc. — appear on the group’s 2023 album, Life. Click here for my longer Arts Fuse preview of The Salt Collective’s January 22 show at City Winery.

The Bones of J.R. Jones with Billy Keane
January 28 (doors at 7, show at 8)
Brighton Music Hall, Allston

Jonathon Linaberry is, in essence, a folk artist. However, he operates on several different levels within that musical realm, including punk, roots, and indie, sometimes acoustically, sometimes electrically. Linaberry’s latest offering is last October’s Slow Lightning, of which he said, “It’s about a power you can’t control, a force that’s bigger than you and follows its own path no matter how badly you want to mold or direct it.” Find out exactly what he means — or at least get a notion — at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday, January 28, a show that Berkshires resident Billy Keane will open.

Juliana Hatfield
January 29 (doors at 5:30, show at 7:30)
City Winery, Boston

Since 2018, longtime Boston music scene denizen Juliana Hatfield has kept things interesting by alternating between covers albums — Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018, click for my interview with Hatfield) and Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police (2019) — and original material — Weird (2019, click for my review) and Blood (2021, click for my interview). Last November, she maintained the pattern with the release of Juliana Hatfield Sings ELO, which she will select from at City Winery on Monday, January 29.

— Blake Maddux

Classical Music

Nostalgic Quietude
Presented by Now Musique
January 19 at 7:30 p.m.
First Church, Boston

Cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer presents a recital featuring music by Hilary Tann, Léon Mouravieff, Ralf Gawlick, Ernest Bloch, Pablo Casals, and J.S. Bach.

Superstar countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo will perform at Jordan Hall. Photo: Celebrity Series

Anthony Roth Costanzo in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
January 19 at 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston

The superstar countertenor returns to town for an all-encompassing recital that ranges from Vivaldi to Barbra Streisand. Pianist Bryan Wagorn accompanies.

Renaissance Portraits
Presented by Blue Heron
January 20 at 3 p.m.
First Church in Cambridge

Blue Heron’s first concert of 2024 showcases Italian-themed works by Renaissance masters including Johannes Ciconia, Guillaume Du Fay, Gilles Binchois, Antoine Busnoys, and Heinrich Isaac.

French pianist Hélène Grimaud will perform at Jordan Hall. Photo: Celebrity Series

Hélène Grimaud in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
January 20 at 8 p.m. and 21 at 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston (Saturday) and Meadow Hall, Groton (Sunday)

French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her belated Boston recital debut playing works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach (arr. Busoni).

Angela Hewitt in recital
Presented by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
January 21 at 1:30 p.m.
Calderwood Hall, Boston

The Canadian pianist presents an afternoon of selections from the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier alongside pieces by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Barber, and Shostakovich.

Kristine Opolais performing with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony in 2018. Photo: Robert Torres

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
January 25 and 27, 7 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston

Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1934 opera that offended Stalin — and went on to shape the rest of the composer’s career. Kristine Opolais sings the title role.

Street Stories
Presented by A Far Cry
January 26 at 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston

The Criers’ first concert of the year features Boccherini’s whimsical “Night Music of the Streets of Madrid” plus Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and excerpts from Kareem Roustom’s Clorinda Agonistes. Also on tap is Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Souvenir de Florence.

— Jonathan Blumhofer

Altered Worlds
Presented by Salem State University in the Callan Studio Theatre at Salem State University
January 26 at 7:30 p.m.

In this intriguingly eclectic program, guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan will perform his arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Prelude in C Major, BWV 846 along with Vineet Shende’s Carnatic Prelude N. 1, After J.S. Bach, a re-imagining of the same piece as if Bach were from South India. Also in the lineup: Keigo Fujii’s monumental Legend of Hagoromo, which explores mystical transformation through the 13th century myth, and John Cage’s serene In A Landscape, as arranged by Larget-Caplan. (This is one of the first arrangements for guitar of Cage’s music to be approved by the estate.) The evening will conclude with a theatrical performance of Heretic, the American premiere of a micro-opera for guitarist by composer Richard Cameron-Wolfe, who will be in attendance. Inspired by Arthur Machen’s 1907 novel The Hill of Dreams, this realization is a multi-media event in collaboration with Salem State University theatre faculty member Jerry Johnson and Larget-Caplan.

— Bill Marx

Visual Arts

Joe Wardwell, If You Got the Money Honey, 2021. Photo: courtesy of the ICA

The idea that a written message could be art began to take hold with the Conceptual Art movement of the late 1960s and ’70s. Wordplay, an exhibition opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art on January 30, features works mostly from the ICA permanent collection, many of them recent acquisitions, in which text plays a center-stage role. The ICA selection includes examples by the prolific and well-known “text artist” Jenny Holtzer, whose deadpan signs and inscriptions often have an ironic or political bent, along with pieces, many not previously seen in public, by Glenn Ligon, Joe Wardwell, Kentura Davis, and others.

The Colby Museum of Art at Colby College features play as a conceptual frame in its Playscape: Contemporary Art from the Colby Museum’s College, which opens January 17. “Games and Art have elements in common,” says the museum of this show, “both depend on rituals, practices, and rules, whether passed down through generations or made up on the spot.”

It is part of Boston art world lore that twice, in 1941 and 1942, Pablo Picasso’s huge monochrome painting Guernica hung in the Fogg Art Museum’s cavernous Warburg Hall (demolished in a later renovation). Commissioned for the 1937 Paris International Exposition, the work famously depicted the horrors of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica, in northern Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Spanish Civil War. It soon became a powerful symbol, not only of the fall of the Spanish Republic to the Spanish fascists, but of all efforts to end war.

Seated students with Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Warburg Hall, Fogg Museum, 1941. Photo: Harvard Art Museums Archives

Picasso: War, Combat, and Revolution, opening at the Harvard Art Museums on January 20, explores Guernica’s themes, along with Picasso’s representations of war, death, the combat of good and evil, political and artistic revolution, and the long rule of Spain’s fascist dictator, Francisco Franco. Organized to accompany a Harvard course on World’s Fairs, the exhibition includes Picasso prints and drawings from Harvard’s collections.

Wolf Vostell, Coca Cola 2, 1964.  Photo: Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Born in Germany in 1932, Wolf Vostell was a member of Fluxus, an international community of radical artists, composers, and poets who created performance events, conceptual art, and video art in the 1960s and ‘70s, considered by some the most radical art movement of the 20th century. Wolf Vostell: De-coll/age Is Your Life opens at the Harvard Art Museums on January 20. The exhibition explores the artist’s concept of de-coll/age as a destructive art process designed to jolt his audience from complacency by dismantling the numbing influences of mass media and consumerism. The horrors of World War II, nuclear warfare, Cold War aggression, Nazi genocide, and environmental and technological disaster were all elements of Vostell’s art. The prints, films, performance documentation, and sculptures in the show are largely from the most important archive of the artist’s work in the Americas at Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum. Works by Vostell’s Fluxus collaborators, including Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, and Gerhard Richter, continue the show’s theme of destructive methods as a means to transforming art.

The Ukrainian photojournalist Maksym (“Maks”) Levin began covering the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea and the Donbas to, he told a friend, “become famous.” But he soon found himself identifying so much with the soldiers he photographed that he considered enlisting. “It turns out I’m a sentimental person,” he explained. He wanted “to show other people there’s a war happening and it’s real.”

In March 2022, on the 18th day of a new invasion, when Russian troops were within fifteen miles of the Ukrainian capital, Levin set out with a Ukrainian soldier to recover a camera drone he had lost in a pine forest north of the city. Ukrainian police later found Levin’s body, shot in the head and chest, near the burned out remains of his car, apparently tortured and executed by Russian soldiers. Maks Levin: The Final Photographs, opening at the Wadsworth Atheneum on January 25, documents the photographer’s work at the beginning of the Russian war and the final days of his life.

Loie Hollowell, Point of Entry (blue green mounds over yellow sky), 2017. Photo: Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Loie Hollowell: Space Between, A Survey of Ten Years, opening at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT, on January 21, is the artist’s first museum survey and first museum appearance on the East Coast. The exhibition includes paintings which hover gently between the abstract and the figural, works on paper, and new works that incorporate plaster casts of pregnant breasts and bellies.

And I’m Feeling Good: Relaxation and Resistance, opens at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum on January 20. Images from the Hood collections, many of them recent acquisitions, explore the lives of African Americans in joyful moments, including family, play, sexuality, and dance — hard-won interludes of self-care and resistance. Artists on view include Gordon Parks, Garry Winogrand, James Van Der Zee, and Kwame Brathwaite, among others.

The Mead Museum at Amherst College describes its exhibition Like a Slow Walk with Trees as a “meditation on land and labor by Alicia Grullon” and “a call to consider notions of land and labor as interconnected systems through various mediums.” Grullon’s activist-centered work combines photographs with texts and research on a variety of land-based industries. The show opens on January 26.

— Peter Walsh


Dave Bryant’s “Third Thursday”
January 18 at 8 p.m.
Harvard-Epworth Church, Cambridge

This edition of keyboardist harmolodic maestro Dave Bryant’s residency will feature “a reunion of one half of Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet, with Allan Chase and Tom Hall” (a much beloved ensemble that grew up alongside, if not as a part of, Boston’s indie rock scene of the ’80s and ’90s), with bassist Rick McLaughlin (Either/Orchestra) and out-there drummer-adventurer Matt Crane.

Bassist Kit Demos in action. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Stephen Haynes
January 19 at 7 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

Stephen Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn) is the name above the title, but bassist Kit Demos is credited with convening the second performance of this “cooperative quartet” in the This Music series of avant-garde exploration. The other players are the equally trusty Pandelis Karayorgis on piano and “vintage keyboards” and drummer/percussionist Eric Rosenthal. The music is described as “deeply grounded in the relational, with a strong and engaging collective voice. Expect spontaneous offerings of groove and melody throughout.”

Adam Nussbaum: “The Leadbelly Project”
January 20 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

The album is called Leadbelly Reimagined, and if you wondered what instrumental versions of “Relax Your Mind,” “Rock Island Line,” “When I Was a Cowboy,” “Governor Pat Neff”, and other works associated with by this seminal American singer and songwriter sound like, well here it is. (Shorthand: Think Bill Frisell and early Jimmy Giuffre, with a bit of something else.) Helping out drummer Nussbaum are guitarists Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley and reed player Ohad Talmor.

The Fred Woodard Collective. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Fred Woodard Collective
January 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Peabody Hall, All Saints Church, Dorchester, MA

An early inspiration for guitarist Fred Woodward was Grant Green — his funky articulation of tensile single-note lines and affection for American soul and R&B. Celebrating the release of his new album, Indigo, via this Mandorla Music/Dot Jazz event, Woodard is joined by his violinist son, Freed Woodard III, bassist Melvin Graham, and drummer Matthew Williams.

Cassandre McKinley
January 21 at 4 p.m.
Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA

The versatile singer Cassandre McKinley fronts a deep-jazz trio in Rockport: pianist Tim Ray, bassit Bob Nieske, and drummer Dave Mattacks.

Yoron Israel
January 26 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Yoron Israel, as well as being department chair and professor of percussion at Berklee, has been the Boston area’s go-to drummer for decades. He and his quintet High Standards (saxophonist Ian Buss, guitarist David Gilmore, pianist Laszlo Gardony, and bassist Avery Sharpe, a longtime member of McCoy Tyner’s band, among many other gigs) perform with featured vocalist Lori Williams.

Dave Stryker will be bringing his organ-trio thing to Scullers Jazz Club. Photo: Chris Drukker

Dave Stryker
January 27 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

The adept post-bop guitarist Dave Stryker does the organ-trio thing with Hammond B-3 man Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter, with a “special guest to be announced.” Stryker is celebrating his latest album, Groove Street, which features Bob Mintzer, so the smart money would be on a saxophonist as that special guest.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
January 28 at 5 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston

Wynton Marsalis and crew throw down their annual Celebrity Series concert at Symphony Hall with a Max Roach centennial tribute. Expect JLCO co-music-director and drummer Obed Calvaire to get some feature solo time as well as a word on the choice of material. The band will include guest vocalist Shenel Johns, so we hope than means they’ll visit some of Roach’s profound work with Abbey Lincoln from the 1960 album We Insist! (Freedom Now Suite) and elsewhere.

— Jon Garelick

Author Events

Ashley Dawson at Harvard Book Store
Environmentalism from Below: How Global People’s Movements Are Leading the Fight for Our Planet
January 16 at 7 p.m.

Environmentalism from Below takes readers inside the popular struggles for environmental liberation in the Global South. These communities — among the most vulnerable to but also least responsible for the climate crisis — have long been at the forefront of the fight to protect imperiled worlds. Today, as the world’s forests burn and our oceans acidify, grassroots movements are tenaciously defending the environmental commons and forging just and sustainable ways of living on Earth.

“Scholar and activist Ashley Dawson constructs a gripping narrative of these movements of climate insurgents, from international solidarity organizations like La Via Campesina and Shack Dwellers International to local struggles in South Africa, Colombia, India, Nigeria, and beyond. Taking up the four critical challenges we face in a warming world — food, urban sustainability, energy transition, and conservation — Dawson shows how the unruly power of environmentalism from below is charting an alternative path forward, from challenging industrial agriculture through fights for food sovereignty and agroecology to resisting extractivism using mass nonviolent protest and sabotage.”

Third Thursdays Poetry: Tatiana Johnson-Boria & Porsha Olayiwola – brookline booksmith
January 18 at 7 p.m.

“Tatiana Johnson-Boria (she/her) is an educator and expert facilitator who uses her writing practice to dismantle racism, reckon with trauma, and to cultivate healing. She’s an award-winning writer who has received distinguished fellowships from Tin House, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, The MacDowell Residency, and others. Tatiana completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College and teaches at Emerson College, GrubStreet, Catapult, and others. Find her work in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and Pleiades, among others.

Porsha Olayiwola is a native of Chicago who writes, lives, and loves in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the founder of the Roxbury Poetry Festival. Olayiwola is Brown University’s 2019 Heimark Artist-In-Residence as well as the 2021 Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She is a 2020 poet laureate fellow with the Academy of American poets. Olayiwola earned her MFA in poetry from Emerson College and is the author of i shimmer sometimes, too. Olayiwola is the current Poet Laureate for the city of Boston. Her work can be found in or forthcoming from TriQuarterly Magazine, Black Warrior Review, the Boston Globe, Essence Magazine, Redivider, the Academy of American Poets, Netflix, Wildness Press, the Museum of Fine Arts and elsewhere.”

Nell Greenfieldboyce will read from her debut book at the Harvard Book Store. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Nell Greenfieldboyce at Harvard Book Store
Transient and Strange: Notes on the Science of Life
January 18 at 7 p.m.

“In her career as a science reporter, Nell Greenfieldboyce has reported from inside a space shuttle, the bottom of a coal mine, and the control room of a particle collider; she’s presented news on the color of dinosaur eggs, ice worms that live on mountaintop glaciers, and signs of life on Venus. In this, her debut book, she delivers a wholly original collection of powerful, emotionally raw, and unforgettable personal essays that probe the places where science touches our lives most intimately.”

Katherine Vaz in conversation with Elizabeth Graver – Porter Square Books
Above the Salt
January 25 at 7 p.m.

“John Alves, son of a famous Presbyterian martyr on the Portuguese island of Madeira, spends his childhood in jail and in poverty. When he meets Mary Freitas — though the adopted daughter of a master botanist, her true lineage is the subject of dangerous rumor — a spark kindles a lasting bond. But soon their families must confront the rising blood tide of warfare between Catholics and Protestants. Fleeing with only what they can carry, John and Mary are separated and arrive at different times and places in a rapidly growing and changing mid-nineteenth-century Illinois.”

Dr. Uché Blackstock will read from her book Legacy at The Brattle Theatre. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Dr. Uché Blackstock at The Brattle Theatre – presented by Harvard Book Store
Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine 
January 25 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $34 with book, $10 without

“Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, it never occurred to Uché Blackstock and her twin sister, Oni, that they would be anything but physicians. In the 1980s, their mother headed an organization of Black women physicians, and for years the girls watched these fiercely intelligent women in white coats tend to their patients and neighbors, host community health fairs, cure ills, and save lives.

What Dr. Uché Blackstock did not understand as a child—or learn about at Harvard Medical School, where she and her sister had followed in their mother’s footsteps, making them the first Black mother-daughter legacies from the school — were the profound and long-standing systemic inequities that mean just 2 percent of all U.S. physicians today are Black women; the racist practices and policies that ensure Black Americans have far worse health outcomes than any other group in the country; and the flawed system that endangers the well-being of communities like theirs. As an ER physician, and later as a professor in academic medicine, Dr. Blackstock became profoundly aware of the systemic barriers that Black patients and physicians continue to face.”

Chris Molanphy – brookline booksmith
Old Town Road
January 26 at 7 p.m.

“In Old Town Road, Chris Molanphy considers Lil Nas X’s debut single as pop artifact, chart phenomenon, and cultural watershed. ‘Old Town Road’ was more than a massive hit, with the most weeks at No. 1 in Billboard Hot 100 history. It is also a prism through which to track the evolution of popular music consumption and the ways race influences how the music industry categorizes songs and artists. By both lionizing and satirizing genre tropes — it’s a country song built from an alternative rock sample, a hip-hop song in which nobody raps, a comical song that transcends novelty, and a queer anthem — Lil Nas X troubles the very idea of genre. Ultimately, Molanphy shows how ‘Old Town Road’ channeled decades of Americana to point the way toward our cultural future.”

Be The Change: Claryce Evans, John Gruenstein, Alain Jehlen, and Robert Wald – Porter Square Books
January 28 at 3 p.m.

“This month’s guests comprise an informal group of people who meet regularly to discuss books related to economic inequality. They vary from professional to novice and get together to share what they know, what they are learning, as well as confusions, questions, and ideas for decreasing economic inequality in the U.S. The group is particularly interested in the connections between economic inequality and other social issues.

“For this gathering, the group will discuss The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth, and The Case for a Maximum Wage by Sam Pizzigati.”

Ilyon Woo in conversation with Anna Kuchment – Porter Square Books
Master Slave Husband Wife
January 30 at 7 p.m.

“With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story — one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all — one that challenges us even now.”

Jill McCorkle at Harvard Book Store
Old Crimes: Stories
January 30 at 7 p.m.

“Jill McCorkle, author of the New York Times bestselling Life After Life and the widely acclaimed Hieroglyphics, brings us a breathtaking collection of stories that offers an intimate look at the moments when a person’s life changes forever.

Old Crimes delves into the lives of characters who hold their secrets and misdeeds close, even as the past continues to reverberate over time and across generations. And despite the characters’ yearnings for connection, they can’t seem to tell the whole truth. In ‘Low Tones,’ a woman uses her hearing impairment as a way to guard herself from her husband’s commentary. In ‘Lineman,’ a telephone lineman strains to connect to his family even as he feels pushed aside in a digital world. In ‘Confessional,’ a young couple buys a confessional booth for fun, only to discover the cost of honesty.”

— Matt Hanson

Poet John Mulrooney — poetry editor of The Arts Fuse.

Tongo Eisen-Martin and John Mulrooney
Poetry Reading at the Plough and Stars, Cambridge
January 27 at 3 p.m.

John Mulrooney is a poet, filmmaker, and musician. He is the author of Spooky Action from Dos Madres Press and regularly records and performs with a number of musical groups in the greater Boston area. For a decade, he was the principal organizer of the Boston Poetry Marathon and serves as poetry editor for the Arts Fuse and Boog City. He teaches at Bridgewater State University.

Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet, movement worker, and educator. His curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, “We Charge Genocide Again,” has been used to educate and organize nationwide. His books include Heaven Is All Goodbyes, Blood On The Fog. He co-founded Black Freighter Press to publish revolutionary works. He is San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.

The Mahoots will open and close the reading with short sets of rock influenced by traditional South Asian Music and Bollywood.

— Bill Marx

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