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Spring Arts Preview

40+ arts events around New England (some free!) you won’t want to miss

The best festivals, events, shows, and happenings in the region starting this spring, as selected by the Globe’s critics and reviewers.

Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group's acclaimed "POWER" is among the performances scheduled for the Bates Dance Festival.Christopher P. Duggan


By Karen Campbell

1. Lyon Opera Ballet

The acclaimed French company’s Trois Grandes Fugues is a heady program for music as well as dance lovers. Three accomplished choreographers — Lucinda Childs, Maguy Marin, and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker — set dance to different versions of the same titanic score, Beethoven’s Große Fuge. While the program encourages a deeper relationship with the musical masterpiece at each hearing, it also showcases the stunning artistic originality of each choreographer.

March 27-29, Boch Center Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont Street, Boston, 866-348-9738,

2. Diavolo | Architecture in Motion

Bodies climb and slide, catapult through the air, and cavort around a variety of imaginatively designed architectural structures — the 25-year-old Los Angeles based Diavolo is almost circus-like in its marriage of dance and gymnastics. Led by artistic director Jacques Heim, the troupe’s dancers, designers, choreographers, and engineers create kinetic works that explore our relationship to the spaces we inhabit.

April 24, Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, 401-421-2787,


3. The Yard

No better reason for dance lovers to head for the Vineyard than The Yard’s summer-long flurry of activity. As the organization nears the half-century mark, highlights of the season include Caleb Teicher & Company with Conrad Tao, Raphael Xavier, and a rare area performance of Lucky Plush Productions, the Chicago-based company known for its hybrid dance theater that combines context and humor with riveting expressive movement.

June 2-August 29, various locations on Martha’s Vineyard, 508-645-9662,

4. FREE! / Dance for World Community Festival

This annual dance celebration and block party traditionally brings together nearly 100 companies that offer performances and mini-classes spread over one indoor and four outdoor stages. Wear your dancing shoes — with styles ranging from ballet to hip-hop to international dance, there will be something for everyone. The social action focus this year is climate change and climate justice.


June 20, Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-354-7467,

5. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

This internationally renowned festival offers world-class dance from around the globe. Don’t-miss engagements include: Dorrance Dance’s “tap takeover,” with performances all over the grounds; the world premiere of Liz Lerman’s evening-length Wicked Bodies, exploring the portrayal of witches throughout history; and the US debut of Canary Islands company LAVA Compañía de Danza.

June 24-August 30, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, 413-243-0745,

6. Bates Dance Festival

David Dorfman Dance will be performing at Bates Dance Festival. Maria Baranova

Spread over three weeks, this intrepid little festival at Bates College offers a diverse slate of performances. Highlights include postmodern experimenter David Dorfman’s A(Way) Out of My Body, with live music; Jennifer Archibald/Arch Dance’s Hushed, examining the history of silencing women’s voices; and Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group’s acclaimed POWER, which imagines what black Shaker worship could look like.

July 17-August 8, 305 College Street, Lewiston, Maine, 207-786-6381,



By Murray Whyte

7. “Monet and Boston” and “Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation”

"Hollywood Africans" by Jean-Michel Basquiat will be on display at the MFA.From the Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts has put together quite the guest list for its 150th birthday celebration: Monet and Basquiat were both artists of explosive originality and inexhaustible creative fire. By the end of their respective careers, each had transformed the art world forever. Now this pair of once-in-a-generation artists will spend the summer down the hall from each other.

April 5-August 2 (Basquiat), April 18-August 23 (Monet); 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617-267-9300,


8. FREE! / Firelei Báez

A rendering of Firelei Báez’s installation that will be on display at the ICA’s Watershed in May.Rendering by Nate Garner

Firelei Báez’s piece reimagines the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Watershed space as Sans-Souci, the royal palace of Haiti. The palace was built by Henri Christophe, the country’s only king post-independence. Báez, who grew up across the border in the Dominican Republic, uses her re-creation of the now-ruined palace to comment on the false idealism of formative revolutions — including here on our shores.

May 22-September 7, 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, 617-478-3100,

9. Blane de St. Croix: How To Move a Landscape

The Boston-bred Blane de St. Croix started sculpting this massive, disheveled landscape depicting a sheet of melting ice last year, but really, it’s a life’s pursuit. He has traveled with climate scientists and even been a research fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. It’s an urgent and necessary work — and in classic Mass MoCA fashion, very, very big.

May 23-March 2021, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111,

10. FREE! Ground/work

The hilly acres of the Clark Art Institute’s campus come alive in summer, this summer more than most, as the grounds become art for the Clark’s first-ever outdoor exhibition. Commissioned sculptures by six contemporary artists from four continents aim to blend nature and art in a way that changes with the seasons, and are on display through spring of next year.

June 27-April 30, 2021; 225 South Street, Williamstown, 413-458-2303,

11. Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer & Frederic Remington


Both of these beloved American artists were rugged outdoorsmen, and both tilt, perhaps dangerously, toward Americana (especially Remington with his cowboys and Indians). Their works built up an idea of the nation, and this exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art displays the scant space between archetype and cliché in our national myths.

July 1-September 27, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine, 207-775-6148,



By Jeremy Eichler

12. Handel and Haydn Society

This treasured Boston group, founded more than two centuries ago, has weathered countless changes in fashion. These days it uses period instruments and performance styles to deliver fleet and vibrant accounts of classic works. Programs worth catching this spring: Bach’s immortal St. Matthew Passion (conducted by artistic director Harry Christophers) and Vivaldi’s ever-popular The Four Seasons (with violinist Aisslinn Nosky).

April 3 and 5 (Bach), May 1 and 3 (Vivaldi); Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, 617-266-3605,

13. Rockport Chamber Music Festival

With its beautiful venue above Sandy Bay, Rockport is the first important summer festival out of the gate each year, filling mid-June to mid-July with performances framed by stunning views of the sea. Look out this time around for appearances by the formidable Miró Quartet, as well as a new collaboration between the Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry and the superb Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh.

June 12-July 12, Shalin Liu Performance Center, 37 Main Street, Rockport, 978-546-7391,


14. Tanglewood Music Festival

The bucolic summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra will be bustling soon, thanks to the Tanglewood Learning Institute, which opened last year and hosts a wide range of talks, films, master classes, and performances. That’s on top of the symphonic staples at the Koussevitzky Music Shed, and the more eclectic fare just down the path at Seiji Ozawa Hall. This summer’s highlights include an Isaac Stern tribute, a concert performance of Act III of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and, for new music fans, the five-day Festival of Contemporary Music.

June 19-August 30, 297 West Street, Lenox, 888-266-1200,

15. Yellow Barn

Scottish composer James MacMillan will be in residence at Yellow Barn this summer.Philip Gatward

This intimate chamber music festival in southern Vermont punches far above its weight, thanks to the inspired programming of artistic director Seth Knopp, who has a knack for combining old and newer music in freshly combustible ways. This year’s composer in-residence will be the accomplished Scottish composer James MacMillan. Expect energetic young artists, a cozy wood-beamed performance venue, and ice cream with freshly picked blueberries at intermission.

July 10-August 8, 49 Main Street, Putney, Vermont, 802-387-6637,

16. Marlboro Music Festival

Founded in 1951, this legendary chamber music festival and retreat in southern Vermont melds a purist’s sensibility and a relaxed, rustic vibe. Look elsewhere for sleek amenities. Look here for artist-driven music-making of the very highest eloquence. Most programs are not announced in advance, but with Marlboro, it’s safe to just pick a weekend and go.

July 18-August 16, 2472 South Road, Marlboro, Vermont, 215-569-4690 (before June 22);

17. FREE! / Boston Landmarks Orchestra

Skip the weekend traffic on the Pike, pack a picnic, and head for the Esplanade. That’s where Christopher Wilkins leads a weekly free performance most Wednesday nights during the height of summer. These alfresco programs are usually family-friendly and smartly thematic, and they typically involve collaborations with other community-based organizations from across the city’s many neighborhoods, which gives the entire operation a feeling of urban rootedness and relevance.

July 22-September 2, DCR Hatch Memorial Shell at the Esplanade, 617-987-2000,



By Ty Burr

18. Independent Film Festival Boston

The Boston film festival to attend if you have to pick only one. Directors/programmers Brian Tamm and Nancy Campbell head a crack team of movie lovers who scour Sundance, South by Southwest, and more for the best of their fests, then add New England directors for local spice. The little festival that could turns 18 this year — old enough to vote. Maybe it should.

April 22-29, Somerville, Brattle, and Coolidge Corner Theatres;

19. White River Indie Films

This delightful film festival and community jamboree on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River has been expanding in depth and commitment since its founding in 2004, and this year adds a couple of extra days. It offers socially conscious documentaries and features, parties and panels, and often draws Hollywood drop-ins.

May 6-10, 5 South Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont,

20. Roxbury International Film Festival

The largest New England film festival celebrating people and moviemakers of color has been around 22 years under the indefatigable leadership of Lisa Simmons. The event, which gives out prizes, brings in truly independent directors and movies that often struggle for mainstream distribution — although last year the acclaimed documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am opened the event.

June 17-27, various venues around Roxbury,

21. FREE! / Sunset Cinema at the Museum of Fine Arts

For the fourth year running, the MFA’s Huntington Avenue lawn turns into an open-air screening room throughout the summer, with art projects and lawn games preceding the movies. Last year the highlights were Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 2017, it was Cool Hand Luke. No failure to communicate here.

Various dates starting June 17, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617-267-9300,

22. NewportFILM

Every Thursday from mid-June through early September, some of the year’s best and most engaging documentaries screen in outdoor spaces throughout Newport and the rest of Aquidneck Island. And by “outdoor spaces,” we mean the expansive lawns of Gilded Age mansions such as The Breakers, Rough Point, Rosecliff, and The Elms. The films are preceded by live music and followed with Q&As with filmmakers such as Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles — how appropriate).

June 18-September 3, various locations in Middletown, Newport, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island; 401-649-2784,

23. Woods Hole Film Festival

Heading into its 29th year — it’s one of New England’s longest-running film festivals — this event turns the tiny seaside town into a movie mecca, with more than 150 features and shorts plus panels on a variety of subjects, including women in film, film and science, and social justice. Over the years, it’s become a fest as much for filmmakers as for audiences. And you thought Woods Hole was just for catching a ferry to somewhere else.

July 25-August 1, 89 Water Street, Woods Hole, 508-495-3456,



By Michael Andor Brodeur

24. Boston Calling

Dave Grohl will be at Boston Calling with Foo Fighters.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This year’s event features Lollapalooza-esque headliners Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with heavy hitters Run the Jewels, Brittany Howard, and Dinosaur Jr., and up-and-comers such as Koffee, Noname, and LP. Plus DJs and comedians galore, pop-ups from 30 of Boston’s tastiest eateries, life-size games, art installations, and a 100-foot Ferris wheel.

May 22-24, 65 North Harvard Street, Allston, 888-512-7469,

25. Concerts at Fenway Park

The Red Sox won’t be the only ones swinging for the fences at Fenway, as the bands of summer include Guns N’ Roses and Smashing Pumpkins at the heart of the order (July 21). A Green Day to Fall Out Boy to Weezer triple play is August 27, and for softball fans, James Taylor takes the mound for the season opener June 21, followed by Maroon 5.

Various dates, 4 Jersey Street, Boston,

26. FREE! / Lowell Folk Festival

Some fests are expensive, some stuck on one sound. But Lowell Folk Fest reliably combines folk, blues, jazz, and global sounds into a family-friendly cultural free-for-all — with the emphasis on free. Among this year’s performers will be Memphis soul singer Don Bryant, blues master Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy, and the Puerto Rican bomba y plena of Los Pleneros de la 21.

July 24-26, downtown Lowell,

27. Bang on a Can LOUD Weekend

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art tends to turn up the volume even in relative silence. But new music mainstay Bang on a Can takes things to another level with LOUD Weekend — a contemporary classical event that roars like a rock fest. The eclectic lineup of contemporary electronic, experimental, and minimal music (including Kronos Quartet, Nathalie Joachim, and the Orchestra of Original Instruments) will leave your ears ringing.

July 31-August 2, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111,

28. Newport Jazz Festival

ELEW performing at the Newport Jazz Festival last year. Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Even if jazz isn’t your primary jam (but especially if it is), the Newport Jazz Festival reliably serves up an unbeatable mix of genre-bending, genre-blending talent with a little something for everyone. This year’s lineup is major: Wynton Marsalis, Angélique Kidjo, Norah Jones, Jimmy Cliff, Diana Krall, Khruangbin, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Nate Smith + KINFOLK, and Hiromi, just to name a few.

August 7-9, Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, Rhode Island,

29. Kenny Chesney

New England’s more country than it sometimes lets on — Kenny Chesney’s Chillaxification tour had to add a second date at Gillette Stadium to meet local demand. Nobody’s going to mosey when Knoxville’s chief export is joined by Florida Georgia Line, Old Dominion, and Michael Franti & Spearhead.

August 28-29, One Patriot Place, Foxborough,



By Don Aucoin

30. Fabulation or, the Re-Education of Undine

This reversal-of-fortune comedy by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage centers on a high-flying Black owner of a boutique PR firm in Manhattan, who discovers she is pregnant and her husband has run off with her money. She has to move back in with her estranged family in a Brooklyn housing project, and learns a few lessons about the forces underlying racial and economic inequity.

April 3-May 3, Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, 617-585-5678,

31. Mary Jane

The title character of this 2017 Amy Herzog play is a single mother in Queens, who tries to sustain her dogged optimism while caring for her 2-year-old son who has cerebral palsy. The part will be played by Marianna Bassham, known for exploring the depths of wrenching roles such as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and Hedda in Hedda Gabler.

April 23-May 17, Gamm Theatre, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, Rhode Island, 401-723-4266,

32. Sabina

Jackson Gay directs this world premiere musical about the life of Sabina Spielrein, Carl Jung’s patient turned romantic interest; their relationship contributed to the rift between Jung and a disapproving Sigmund Freud. Spielrein then became a pioneering female psychoanalyst before dying in Russia at the hands of the Nazis.

May 5-24, Portland Stage, 25 Forest Avenue, Portland, Maine, 207-774-0465,

33. South Pacific

The third of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s five big musicals, South Pacific’s anti-bias message was bold for 1949 and still needs to be heard today. So, of course, do such immortal tunes as “Some Enchanted Evening,’’ “Younger Than Springtime,’’ and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.” Director Julianne Boyd specializes in restoring a little giddyap to musical warhorses.

June 24-July 18, Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union Street, Pittsfield, 413-236-8888,

34. Thirst

Boston-based playwright Ronán Noone has taken a second crack at his 2015 play The Second Girl, which brings to life a minor character in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Noone has dramatically revamped the show, creating a different beginning, middle, and end for his heroine.

July 16-August 1, Dorset Theatre Festival, 104 Cheney Road, Dorset, Vermont, 802-867-2223,

35. FREE! / The Tempest

Magical fable about the transformative power of art? Allegory of European colonization? Shakespeare’s farewell from the stage? Whatever the interpretation, it’s usually worth seeing a production of The Tempest, in which a shipwreck deposits a boatload of passengers on an island inhabited by the sorcerer Prospero (formerly the Duke of Milan, unjustly deposed), his daughter Miranda, the airy spirit Ariel, and the brooding Caliban.

July 22-August 9, Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common, 617-426-0863,



By Amy Sutherland

36. FREE! / Newburyport Literary Festival

This edition of the annual seaside festival spotlights award-winning poet X.J. Kennedy, who at 90 has published more than 20 collections of poetry. Some 70 other writers will read from their books, including New Englanders Andre Dubus III, Jenna Blum, Christopher Castellani, and Ken Liu.

April 24-25, various locations around Newburyport; 978-465-1257,

37. FREE! / The World’s Largest Poem

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Berkshires mansion, hosts a roster of literary events all summer, but none is quite as original as the World’s Largest Poem. This is an ode fit to be walked through — the poem will be read sequentially, three to five lines at a time, by 100 people spread over hundreds of yards. Come stroll through this massive reading. Register to attend.

May 3, Plunkett Street at Route 7, Lenox, 413-551-5111,

38. Nantucket Book Festival

This festival never lacks for A-list authors, and this year’s lineup includes National Book Award winner Sarah Broom, former US ambassador to the United Nations (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Samantha Power, and Pulitzer winning novelist Richard Russo. Readings and other events are held around the island’s historic center and most are free.

June 18-21, various locations on Nantucket, 508-919-6230,

39. FREE! / Books in Boothbay

Dozens of Maine authors gather each summer at this one-day fair along the coast to sell, sign, and discuss their books. You’ll find all genres, from thrillers to children’s picture books, represented at this market of local literature. This year’s lineup has not been announced but past attendees have included Tess Gerritsen, Paul Doiron, and Gerry Boyle.

July 11, Boothbay Railway Village, 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, Maine,

40. Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

US poet laureate Joy Harjo kicks off this one-of-a-kind series of alfresco readings. Poets read amid the lush flowerbeds that surround the historic Hill-Stead Museum and are paired with live music. You provide blankets, chairs, and a picnic (you can also purchase food and wine). There are five events in all.

Select dates June 17-August 9; 35 Mountain Road, Farmington, Connecticut, 860-677-4787,


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