Museum traces path toward justice and freedom for African Americans
The largest institution dedicated to African American history and culture, the National Museum of African American History and Culture starts its story in the 1400s, when African peoples took part in transatlantic trade with countries on other continents. Displays and wall texts follow the money, and the gradual growth of the fiction that Africans were not equals and could themselves be traded as commodities.
Irma Thomas, Blind Boys of Alabama perform
The Preservation Hall Legacy Quintet wasted no time getting down to business Friday night at Berklee Performance Center as the first of three powerhouse acts in a concert presented by World Music/CRASHarts. The program also showcased another homegrown New Orleans icon, Irma Thomas, and a revered gospel group, the Blind Boys of Alabama. What these musicians have in common are African-American musical traditions rooted in their communities—its churches, celebrations, and clubs; fluency in this tradition’s many musical veins, including blues, soul, jazz, gospel and R&B; and decades of experience, awards and industry accolades.
Company to perform ‘Obsidian Tear’ and ‘Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius’
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence from the giant at its border, Russia, the program presents the North American premiere of Wayne McGregor’s “Obsidian Tear” and the world premiere of Jorma Elo’s “Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.”
At its best, viewing art is an absorbing experience. The work slows you down and draws you in and distractions fall away. The art of paying attention is the subject of a beguiling new exhibition, “Seeking Stillness,” and its companion show, “Mark Rothko: Reflection,” both on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston through July 1.
Black and white dominate the palette of Kara Walker, an artist whose room-size murals, sculptures, videos and works on paper focus on the still-corrosive legacy of slavery in American life.
The word “friend” comes up often in the dialogue between Jeremy and Teddy, the main characters in “A Guide for the Homesick,” on stage through November 4 in a world premier production by Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts. Yet friendship eludes these men, despite what they have in common: Both were raised in Boston and both are on the run from painful memories. Each believes he has betrayed a close friend in a time of dire need.
South End exhibit explores immigrant, refugee experience
Long a haven of thoughtful shows, the Samsøñ Gallery is now presenting its final exhibition after 14 years in Boston’s South End. On view through Nov. 11, the show, titled “Immigrancy,” offers a compelling sampling of works by more than 20 renowned and emerging artists who explore the experience of an outsider, newcomer, immigrant, asylum seeker or refugee.
The largest gathering of jugglers in the region, JuggleMIT offers a weekend of family-friendly events, including more than 30 workshops for all, from novices to pros, as well as two evening shows showcasing top local and international performers.
Utopias, dreams, losses, memories and hard truths all have a place in the carnival midway that is the Venice Biennale, which every two years for more than a century has turned its host city on the Adriatic into a showcase of both the state of contemporary art and the state of the world.
The fast-moving production delivers the simple plot with a touch of nuance and a bit of wisdom, along with a gleeful comic punch. A strong cast and terrific staging bring forth the story of two roommates locked in combat over turf.
Dance troupe closes each show with ‘Revelations’
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is an instrument of collective memory second to none. Over six decades, the dance company has been illuminating the African American experience and its ever-evolving heritage of music and dance, one of the greatest gifts of this country to the world.
The Alvin Ailey Dance Company turns 60 next year and its five shows last week, presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, gave ample proof that its legacy is alive and well. At its Friday night show at the Boch Center Wang Theatre, the company demonstrated the roof-raising power of its living tradition. With a four-part program, including one Boston premiere, the company put its emotional expressiveness and physical virtuosity on full display.
The fascinating exhibition on view through July 9 at the Museum of fine Arts Boston explores the artist through his life-long relationship with a collection of objects — mainly African, Islamic and Asian artifacts.
Massachusetts Senator makes stop at Old South Church as part of ten-day National tour to promote her 11th book.
“This Fight is Our Fight” is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 11th book, but not her first to include “fight” in the title. A rallying cry to restore policies that build opportunity for all, the book was released last week, and Warren spoke about it at Old South Church in Boston on Thursday night. Hosted by Harvard Book Store, the talk was a stop in a 10-day book tour that began in New York City and moved on to Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Glendale, California.
Last Wednesday’s RISE concert featured two musical guests of worldwide acclaim: Ysaye Barnwell, co-founder of the iconic African-American a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, and four-time Grammy Award-winning bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding.
Renowned vocalist Cassandra Wilson settled down with Harvard’s Ingrid Monson for a conversation on Wilson’s career and development as an artist.
In her brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Parks creates two characters that have been dealt a poor hand. She turns three-card monte into a metaphor for the struggle of Booth and his older brother, Lincoln, for power and self-esteem. It is a win-or-lose game that the men wage against each other and themselves.
Madeleine George’s beautifully written play combines droll humor and drama as it follows Brodie into new, uncharted terrain of the heart.
Four soup kitchen workers test, tempt and care for each other in a play that questions what it takes to lead a good life.
Tingle played Sanders Theatre Feb. 4
Stand-up comedy, social justice and politics mingled in a tasty brew last Friday night at Sanders Theatre in Harvard Square, where renowned Cambridge-born comic Jimmy Tingle presented his one-man show, “Humor for Humanity: Jimmy Tingle in the age of Trump.”
A scathing portrayal of the Helmers and their toxic compromises, the play premiered in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Dec. 21, 1879 and brought Ibsen international fame. Since its debut, the play has been published in 78 languages and remains on stage somewhere almost all the time. A new Huntington Theatre Company production of “A Doll’s House,” directed by Melia Bensussen with a script adapted by Bryony Lavery, is on stage through Feb. 5 at the Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre, on Huntington Avenue. Although staged by a much-awarded director and performed by an accomplished cast, the production takes a while to mine the full power of Ibsen’s drama.
Devilish sock puppet Tyrone taunts and tempts his five human companions into mayhem in the raucous, adult-only comedy. During this theater season, “Hand to God” is the most produced play in America.
Writing in quill pens crafted from bird’s wings, with inks ground from plants and minerals on parchments made from animal hides, scribes would then illuminate their pictures and lettering by breathing on stencils hand cuts from sheets of precious metal such as gold leaf. Ivory and gemstones also added glory, encrusting pages with shimmering, jewel-like embellishments.
The career-long aspiration of Marshall is to summon the traditions and techniques of the Old Masters and render the black figure with prominence in the canon of Western painting. His works rewrite both art history and social history.
Renowned contemporary artist Kara Walker is known for elegant, provocative murals that employ hand-cut stencils to render the persistent legacy of slavery. She casts her silhouetted figures in violent or sexual scenes that evoke unfinished business in the arenas of race, gender and identity. Walker spoke at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston last Thursday night, where one of her wall-sized installations is on display.
In the wake of our own bruising election, it seems worth noting that the word “political” means power in a public sphere. In her works, Salcedo counters the annihilating force of political violence, which often mutes its victims, by making loss visible and evoking empathy across time and place.
Saravejo-born artists and architectural historian Azra Aksamija explores Islam and its traditions coexisting in a multicultural society.
Often with humor, and almost always with beauty and style, Weems investigates and asserts power to those excluded from it on the home front, in the art world and in society at large.
Written by Seán O’Casey (1880-1964), a socialist and the first prominent Irish playwright to write about Dublin’s working-class people, “The Plough and the Stars” alternates between scenes of humor and anguish in its neighborhood-scale portrayal of the Easter Rising of 1916.
Wynton Marsalis plays Pulitzer prize celebration at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre
Introducing the event on Saturday night was Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and director of Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1997 his oratorio “Blood on the Fields,” about a slave’s journey to freedom, became the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Aretha Franklin wows crowd at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
Performing a career-spanning set of hits with power and joy, Aretha Franklin held her audience in thrall.
Renaissance Della Robbia sculptures on view at MFA through Dec. 4
“Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence” is the first major U.S. offering dedicated to the story of the Florentine family’s glazed terracotta sculptures and includes major loans from Italy never before shown here.
Guitarist/vocalist Taj Mahal captivates Lexington audience
Sunny and soulful, the music of Taj Mahal has aged well, like the man himself. Friday night, the singer-songwriter, now 74, brought his infectious, blues-rooted songs to the Cary Memorial Building in Lexington.
Exhibit on scale features artists from some of world’s biggest urban centers
In Megacities Asia, supersized sculptures and wall-mounted installations suit the show’s theme: how artists living in some of the world’s biggest cities are responding to the ruptures and changes brought about as towering buildings replace human-scale communities and green space.
“The Woven Arc” features 36 contemporary and traditional works in a fascinating exhibition.
The paintings of Lawren Harris are on display through June 12 at MFA
The landscape paintings of Canadian artist Lawren Harris have captivated many, including comedian, actor, author and art collector Steven Martin. Martin guest curated “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” a riveting exhibition on view through June 12 in the Art of the Americas Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA).
Like a wind sweeping down a plain, an exuberant production of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” surges through the main stage of Trinity Reportory Company in Providence through June 5, lifting both the cast and audience aloft in its high spirits.
Boston holds its own version of Broadway’s Tony Awards on Monday May 23 at 7 pm, when the Boston Theater Critics Association hosts its annual celebration of Boston’s live theater scene.
'Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia' on display at Harvard Art Museums through Sept. 18
“Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia,” a compelling exhibition on display at the Harvard Art Museums exhibition through September 18, presents works of timeless immediacy by original inhabitants of Australia and their contemporary descendants.
The exhibit is on display through May 8 at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African-American Art in Harvard Square
In the sensational, jam-packed show, “Art of Jazz: Form/Performance/Notes,” the captivating forms of the instruments themselves are celebrated in an installation by pianist Jason Moran. Many of the visual works stir the same feelings as the music: The excitement of brass, the consolation of the blues, the joy of swing, the gravity and warmth of lyrical improvisation.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at Citi Shubert Theatre
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago came to town last weekend, back for the first time since 2009, to perform three shows at Citi Shubert Theatre.
Italian man of theater Dario Fo celebrated his 90th birthday on March 24, and in Boston as well as in major cities throughout the world, fans held theater festivals and academic symposia in his honor. Boston’s celebration of Fo’s birthday featured a Poet’s Theatre production of five stories from his mime masterpiece, “Mistero Buffo (Comic Mystery),” at Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre.
At the Emerson/Paramount Mainstage in Boston last week, ArtsEmerson presented “Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby,” a trilogy of three short plays by Samuel Beckett. This celebrated production envelops the audience into the same darkness that engulfs each play’s character, a lone woman performed by consummate actress and Beckett interpreter Lisa Dwan.
Dance troupe offers new and traditional works
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came to Boston last week, performing an array of traditional and new works in five shows at Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre.
Maly Drama Theatre presents Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’
The grave and beautiful production of Anton Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters,” by the Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg, Russia, suited the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, where ArtsEmerson hosted the company’s five performances last week.
Celebrating Fisk University’s 150th anniversary and the Fisk Jubilee Singers legacy in African-American music, Berklee College of Music presented a program of music and readings Sunday evening entitled “The Fisk Jubilee Singers at Symphony Hall: A Tribute by Berklee College of Music.”
Drama on stage through Feb. 7 at BU Theatre
Ayad Akhtar’s play “Disgraced” has had a strong run since its 2012 debut at American Theater Company in Chicago. A drama about a Wall Street lawyer who has rejected his Muslim heritage but then finds he cannot break free of his past, “Disgraced” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama and in 2014 premiered on Broadway. Among the 10 major theater companies staging the play this season are the Huntington Theatre Company and Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. Their joint production is on stage through February 7 at the BU Theatre.
A gem of a show is on stage at the Boston Center for the Arts through February 6: The SpeakEasy Stage Company production of the musical “Violet.”Composed by Jeanine Tesori with lyrics and book by Brian Crawley, “Violet” is inspired by the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” by North Carolina author Doris Betts (1932-2012).
Terrance Hayes turns life experiences into artwork
Page through any of the five poetry books by Terrance Hayes and it seems that when he puts a poem together, anything is possible.
The Millennium Gospel Choir performs its annual Christmas concert
Now in its ninth year, the annual Christmas concert of the New England Conservatory Millennium Gospel Choir at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston has become a cherished holiday tradition for both the audience and the choir. Friday night, at the first of two sold-out performances, the joy of the choir was apparent as they processed on stage. As they began to sing, their joy overflowed and enveloped the audience.