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Susan Saccoccia

Stories by Susan

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Audra McDonald honored by MIT

Actress/singer took part in on-stage interview

“If something scares me, I have to do it,” says renowned actress and singer Audra McDonald in a short video that preceded her on-stage interview on Saturday at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has chosen McDonald as the recipient of its 2018 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts.

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Heaven on Earth

Gardner Museum displays restored Fra Angelico works

A small painting by Early Renaissance artist Fra Angelico, located in a quiet corner of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is reason enough for some visitors to frequent this palazzo on the Fenway. Viewers bask in the gilded radiance and serenity of the scene, which portrays the Virgin Mary as she is laid to rest and then welcomed by an angelic chorus into heaven.

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I’m With Her

Trio pleases with inventive strings and vocals

Folk music fandom is alive and well, judging by the enthusiastic audience at the sold-out concert Friday night in the 1,000-seat Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, where the Celebrity Series of Boston presented the three-woman ensemble I’m with Her.

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Interplay of music, dance center stage for Boston Ballet’s new season

Boston Ballet opened its spring season with “Parts in Suite,” a trio of works by living choreographers who are in the vanguard of advancing ballet as a 21st-century art form. On stage through April 7 at Boston Opera House, the program presents “Bach Cello Suites,” by resident choreographer Jorma Elo; “In Creases,” by Justin Peck of New York City Ballet; and “Pas/Parts 2018,” by world-renowned contemporary ballet pioneer William Forsythe.

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Bedlam presents pared-down version of Shaw’s ‘Saint Joan’

More relevant than ever in its searing satire of hypocrisy among power players in church and state, George Bernard Shaw’s 1924 masterpiece, “Saint Joan,” is on stage through March 25 at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston in repertory with another iconic play, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

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Bedlam makes use of space, performers for tragedy ‘Hamlet’

Bedlam, a New York theater company, begins its production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy “Hamlet” by plunging the theater into darkness.

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A sinuous ‘S’ from Circa

Australian performance troupe part of Celebrity Series

A white square covered the floor on an otherwise dark stage as Circa, a performance troupe from Brisbane, Australia, began the second of its three shows last weekend at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre in Boston, presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston.

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Violist’s career forever linked to MLK

One of only a few African-Americans to find success in classical music, violist Marcus Thompson has garnered critical acclaim since the start of his illustrious career. The South Bronx native earned the Juilliard School’s first-ever doctorate in viola performance, and in 1968, he performed in Carnegie Hall as winner of the prestigious Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Also in 1968, Thompson made his Boston debut, on April 4, with a recital at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

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Claudia Rankine examines race through multiple platforms

Poet and essayist Claudia Rankine has been examining, in a series of acclaimed books, how racial assumptions shape daily life. She also has extended her investigations beyond books to such public channels as readings and talks — and now, a play.

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Melinda Lopez bears witness in ‘Mala’

“Tu eres mala!” (“You are bad!”), curses an angry mother as her daughter dispatches her against her will to a hospital after a bad fall.

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‘Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility’

A kinetic, minimalist staging of a Jane Austen classic

Jane Austen’s 1811 novel “Sense and Sensibility,” was her first published book, and, like her other masterpieces to come, it portrays the quest for love, marriage and money. Mining the story’s timeless humor and insight is New York-based theater company Bedlam’s inventive production, “Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility,” on stage at the American Repertory Theater in Harvard Square through Jan. 14.

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Gospel choir thrills with Christmas concert

The New England Conservatory Millennium Gospel Choir performed its 11th annual Christmas concert at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston last weekend, with two sold-out shows on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

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With ‘Plunder,’ Tony Lewis deconstructs racial language, history

Visible from outside the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham as well as indoors, a wall-size mural inspired by “Between the World and Me” renders the word “plunder” in giant, curving strokes of Gregg shorthand, the stenographers’ tool that translates sounds into curving and bisecting lines. Both an abstract image to those who cannot read the stenographic script and also an exact rendering of the word, “Plunder” is the work of the acclaimed Chicago-based artist Tony Lewis.

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Artist Theaster Gates focuses on urban renewal in Chicago

Artist Theaster Gates expands his repertoire to encompass urban renewal, through an ongoing endeavor to rebuild blighted sections of the South Side community in his hometown, Chicago.

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Huntington Theatre Co. brings Molière’s ‘Tartuffe’ into 21st century

The Huntington Theatre Company is presenting an exuberant and stylish production of “Tartuffe,” a 17th-century farce by by Molière, one of France’s greatest dramatists. On stage through Dec. 10 at the Avenue of the Arts/Huntington Avenue Theatre in Boston, the production turns this tale of a wily con artist posing as a holy man into a buoyant contemporary comedy.

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Unfinished journey

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.

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Musical mastery on display at Berklee

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.

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Boston Ballet program reflects talents of Finland

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.”

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Artist’s works focus on legacy of slavery in American life

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.

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MFA exhibits invite viewers to slow down, pay attention

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.

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Friendship elusive in ‘A Guide for the Homesick’

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.

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‘Immigrancy:’ Samsøñ Gallery’s final show

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.

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Jugglers, acrobats to gather at MIT

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.

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The Venice Biennale art show on view through Nov. 26

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.

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Huntington Theatre production of 'Ripcord' on stage at Calderwood Pavilion through July 2

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.

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Alvin Ailey opens five-show run at Wang

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.

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Alvin Ailey puts on emotional show at Wang Theatre

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.

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‘Matisse in the Studio’ MFA exhibit focuses on artist’s ‘working library’ of artifacts

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.

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Warren explores plight of middle class in her new book ‘This Fight is Our Fight’

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.

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Isabella Stewart Gardner Rise Concert Series features Ysaye Barnwell and Esperanza Spalding

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.

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Cassandra Wilson is Harvard’s Jazz Master in Residence

Renowned vocalist Cassandra Wilson settled down with Harvard’s Ingrid Monson for a conversation on Wilson’s career and development as an artist.

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Suzan-Lori Parks’ play, ‘Topdog/Underdog,’ delivers tough truths

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.

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‘Precious Little’ combines drama and droll humor

Madeleine George’s beautifully written play combines droll humor and drama as it follows Brodie into new, uncharted terrain of the heart.

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‘Grand Concourse’ characters embody the human condition

Four soup kitchen workers test, tempt and care for each other in a play that questions what it takes to lead a good life.

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Jimmy Tingle pulled no punches on Trump during stand-up routine

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.”

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Ibsen’s classic ‘A Doll’s House’ on stage through Feb. 5

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.

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Raucous comedy ‘Hand to God’ on stage through Feb. 4

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.

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Italian renaissance books on display at Gardner Museum through January 16

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.

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A towering retrospective: Kerry James Marshall at the Met

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.

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Unfinished business: Kara Walker’s artwork deals with arenas of race, gender and identity

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.

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Works of Doris Salcedo on view at Harvard Art Museums

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.

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MFA exhibit invites visitors to linger, read and reflect

Saravejo-born artists and architectural historian Azra Aksamija explores Islam and its traditions coexisting in a multicultural society.

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The photos of Carrie Mae Weems are on display at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery through Jan. 7

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.

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‘The Plough and the Stars’ on stage at American Repertory Theater

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.

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‘A philosopher with a trumpet’

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.

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All hail the Queen

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.

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Hope, love & faith

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.

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Drawn into the groove

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.

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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.

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‘The Woven Arc’ on exhibit at Cooper Gallery through July 16

“The Woven Arc” features 36 contemporary and traditional works in a fascinating exhibition.