Arts in New England

Can’t-miss events

Five must-sees each in visual arts, music, theater, film, literature, and dance.

From left: Filmmaker Nathaniel Hansen, dancer Mariah Steele, and actor Hampton Fluker.
Joel Benjamin
From left: Filmmaker Nathaniel Hansen, dancer Mariah Steele, and actor Hampton Fluker.



The Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence offers an exhibit of nearly 80 documents, including to-dos and grocery lists, elevated above their usually humble circumstances by virtue of their makers. The show, through June 16, includes Picasso’s itemized picks for his historic 1913 Armory show. 401-454-6500,

>NH: “Poster-Mania! Leisure, Romance and Adventure in 1890s America”


Bold, artful, and witty posters from a golden age of production, which was triggered in 1893 when Harper’s magazine used color posters to advertise its latest issue. A flood of competing poster designs ensued. On view May 24 to September 2 at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. 603-669-6144,

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>MA: “In Conversation: Modern African American Art”

A survey of paintings, sculpture, and photographs by 43 leading African-American artists at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum, June 1 through September 2. The show will bring important work to light and traverse a great deal of sociopolitical terrain. 978-745-9500,

>ME: Colby College Museum of Art

Marking its acclaimed museum’s bicentennial, Colby College will be opening a new 26,000-square-foot addition, the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, and offer a raft of exciting new shows, including works from the Lunder Collection, consisting of more than 500 recently donated pieces. From July 13 through June 8, 2014. 207-859-5600,


>MA: “John Singer Sargent Watercolors”

More than 90 of Sargent’s beloved watercolors in a show that combines the superb Sargent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibit opened at the latter to strong reviews, and it shows in Boston October 13 to January 20, 2014. 617-267-9300, mfa.orgSebastian Smee


>MA: Rockport Chamber Music Festival

Rockport’s gleaming new Shalin Liu Performance Center, with its stage windows overlooking Sandy Bay, has boosted the regional profile and the artistic ambitions of this inviting chamber music destination. This year’s program casts a wide net, starting on June 7 with pianists Peter Serkin and David Deveau joining A Far Cry for two double concertos by Bach. Through July 14. 978-546-7391,

>CT: Norfolk Chamber Music Festival


The picturesque Stoeckel estate in Norfolk is the site of another venerable New England festival, run by the Yale School of Music and known for its burnished roster of string quartets. In 2013, the Emerson, Brentano, and Keller quartets are all on the schedule, but the summer’s most high-profile concert will be the July 6 appearance of the Tokyo String Quartet, its final performance before the storied group retires. June 22 through August 17. 203-432-1966,

>MA: Tanglewood

This season in Lenox, the Boston Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to the bicentennials of Wagner (with Act 3 of “Die Walkure,” July 20) and Verdi (with his Requiem, July 27). Chamber music fans typically seek out the deluxe recitals offered in the smaller Ozawa Hall, and those with appetites for 20th- and 21st-century music can follow the more adventurous programming of the BSO’s Tanglewood Music Center. 617-266-1200,

>VT: Marlboro Music

Over the years, Marlboro Music has preserved the standards, idealism, and traditions of the European emigres who founded this cradle of chamber music. The verdant grounds and modest concert hall retain the feel of an artists’ retreat, as signaled by the festival’s famous road sign: “Musicians at Play.” Since groups don’t perform until they’re ready, weekly concert programs are never announced far in advance. Even so, with Marlboro, it’s safe to just choose a weekend and go. July 13 through August 11. 215-569-4690,

>NH: Monadnock Music

Monadnock presents music in churches and meetinghouses throughout southwestern New Hampshire. Artistic director Gil Rose, who recently refreshed the programming, offers contemporary opera (Ned Rorem’s Our Town on August 11), a handsome sampler of 20th-century classics, and plenty of traditional fare. The all-Mozart opening night concert on July 14 will feature male soprano Michael Maniaci. Through August 25. 800-868-9613,– Jeremy Eichler


>ME: Wittenberg

Though you wouldn’t know it from the Yale Repertory Theatre’s recent Hamlet, starring 45-year-old Paul Giamatti, Shakespeare’s script makes clear that the dithering Dane is a university student in Wittenberg. Playwright David Davalos crafted a comedy that depicts an undergraduate Hamlet caught in a contest of wills between Doctor Faustus (the voice of reason) and Martin Luther (the voice of faith). Tuesday through May 19 at Maine’s Portland Stage Company. 207-774-0465,

>RI: The Beauty Queen of Leenane

If you haven’t yet discovered Pawtucket’s Gamm Theatre, one of the true gems of New England, here is a perfect opportunity. Under artistic director Tony Estrella, the Gamm is at its best with edgy material, and it doesn’t get much more edgy than Martin McDonagh’s 1996 study of thwarted lives in Ireland. The balance of power shifts between a middle-aged woman, reaching for love, and her manipulative mother. Shows this Thursday through June 2. 401-723-4266,

>VT: The Scene

Theresa Rebeck created Smash,but don’t hold that against her. In this comedy from the talented playwright, a social-climbing young woman from Ohio creates massive, destabilizing complications in the lives and relationships of Charlie, an out-of-work actor; his wife, Stella, the producer of a morning TV talk show; and Lewis, their friend. Playing June 19 through July 7 at the Dorset Theatre Festival. 802-867-2223,

>MA: The Bridges of Madison County

Don’t roll your eyes. This world-premiere musical version of the sudsy novel just might work. At the helm will be Bartlett Sher, a Tony Award-winning director for the 2008 revival of South Pacific. Penning the script is Marsha Norman, a Pulitzer Prize winner for ’night, Mother. Jason Robert Brown, who won a Tony Award for his score for Parade, is writing the music and lyrics. August 1 through 18 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. 413-597-3400,

>MA: Waiting for Godot

At ArtsEmerson two years ago, Conor Lovett delivered a spellbinding solo performance of Herman Melville’s word-choked Moby-Dick, directed by his wife, Judy Hegarty Lovett. Between October 31 and November 10, the duo and their company, the Gare St Lazare Players Ireland, will return to the Paramount Center Mainstage as they tackle Samuel Beckett’s considerably sparer classic. 617-824-8400, – Don Aucoin


>MA: Balagan

It may sound like a brand of analgesic, but Balagan — Yiddish for “disorder” — is, in fact, the name of one of the oldest and most provocative avant-garde film series around. A typical program at the Brattle Theatre might include the NC-17-rated claymation of Bruce Bickford or a collection of experimental shorts under the rubric “Flesh.” 617-876-6837,

>MA: Science on Screen

You say it’s only a movie; they say it’s a treasure trove of scientific knowledge. Such is the premise of this Coolidge Corner Theatre series, in which scientific authorities discuss unlikely films in terms of their disciplines. Take the sleep specialist tackling The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie or the audio physiologist onThis Is Spinal Tap(OK, so sometimes it is only a movie). On May 20, MIT Media Lab alum Thad Starner discusses augmented reality and Terminator 2. 617-734-2500,

>ME: Maine International Film Festival

Pound for pound, this Waterville-based festival might be the best-curated film event in New England. Come July 12 through 21, that means 100 of the best new independent, international, and locally produced films screened at several area venues, plus visiting filmmakers from 50 countries, and Mid-Life Achievement Award winners such as Terrence Malick. If it gets to be too much, take a day trip to Belgrade Lakes. 207-861-8138,

>VT: Vermont International Film Festival

As might be expected from crunchy Burlington, the VIFF has focused on films about environmental and human rights issues since it started in 1985. The schedule for the 2013 version, October 11 through 20, is still being finalized, but 2012’s offerings included not just provocative docs like Oscar-nominated The Invisible War, but also non-classifiable films like All In from Argentina, which involves a vasectomy and rock ’n’ roll rabbis. 802-660–2600,

>RI: Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival

Any event that visits key locations from H.P. Lovecraft’s life and oeuvre has a good chance of scaring your pants off. In addition to a walking tour of the Providence-born horrormeister’s haunts, this festival (October 17 through 20) will feature new works from Spain, Thailand, and elsewhere, proving that dread and disgust are screamingly good in any language. 401-861-4445, – Peter Keough


>NH: Celebrate the Independents

Concord’s beloved Gibson’s Bookstore always offers home-run book groups, including one on The Art of Fielding, on May 6. Programming at Portsmouth’s RiverRun Bookstore is similarly out of this world: The Epic Nerdpurr Book Group discusses Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles on May 26. RiverRun, 603-431-2100,; Gibsons, 603-224-0562,

>CT: Authors’ Luncheon

What’s better than lunch with one accomplished female writer? How about lunch with five? On May 19, Bank Square Books of Mystic hosts “fabulous women authors from around New England,” including Randy Susan Meyers (The Comfort of Lies) and Massachusetts Book Award winner Dawn Tripp (Game of Secrets). 860-536-3795,

>MA: Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival

Now in its third year, this free festival, August 3 and 4, always offers a star-studded lineup of writers. So far, the 2013 slate includes New Englander Richard Russo, as well as Jamaica Kincaid, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Tayari Jones. William Styron’s widow, Rose, a poet and full-time Vineyard resident, will be reading and speaking. 202-645-9484,  

>VT: Burlington Book Festival

One more reason to visit Lake Champlain in early September: this free festival offering a spectrum of activities, from “An Afternoon With Jane Austen” to seminars on writerly concerns, such as self-publishing. Poetry, memoir, and nonfiction readings run throughout the event, September 20 through 22. The leaf-peeping ain’t bad, either. 

>MA: Boston Book Festival

Now in its fifth year, the free festival returns October 17 to 19 bigger and better than ever. Events range from “Writer Idol,” during which actors read the first page of submitted writers’ works to a panel of agents, to the secrets of advice columnists. And with its “One City, One Story” program, the festival aims to launch a city-wide book group. 617-945-9552,  – Jenna Blum


>VT: Momix

Moses Pendleton’s Connecticut-based troupe of remarkable dancer/illusionists ( has been wowing audiences around the world for more than three decades. Using movement, puppetry, lighting, and all manner of eye-popping, mind-bending costumes and props, the company creates works that puzzle, provoke, tease, and charm. The troupe’s next New England performances, Thursday and Friday, are student matinees that bring the acclaimed “Botanica” to the Flynn Center for Performing Arts in Burlington. 802-863-5966,

>MA: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

On June 15 in Becket, the season-opening gala of this internationally acclaimed festival launches more than 300 free and ticketed events, running through August 25. Highlights include world premieres by choreographers such as New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan and hot young tapper Michelle Dorrance, the US debut of Israeli company L-E-V, and an encore engagement by hip-hop troupe Compagnie Kafig. 413-243-0745,

>MA: Everett

For nearly 30 years, this company and school ( has anchored the Providence dance scene with imagination and innovation. The ongoing “Friday Night Live” series of interactive dance/theater improvisations are a hoot for all ages. And check out the latest professional full-evening show July 5 and 6, when the Yard Arts Festival (508-645-9662) on Martha’s Vineyard presents “Brain Storm,” which combines dance, science, and personal narrative. 401-831-9479,

>ME: Bates Dance Festival

This dynamite little festival at Bates College in Lewiston lures an intriguing mix of contemporary performers. It opens with the world premiere of a work by Nejla Yatkin/NY2Dance, based on a Romeo and Juliet-style allegory from Middle Eastern lore set to music by Persian composer Shamou. Other highlights include Doug Varone and Dancers, Bebe Miller Company, and the always intriguing Bridgman|Packer Dance. From July 12 to August 10. 207-786-6381,

>MA: “Night of Stars”

This Boston Ballet season opener, September 21, is traditionally one of the most exciting productions of the year, showcasing stars and talented up-and-comers alike. In honor of the company’s 50th anniversary, this one-night-only performance is free on Boston Common. 617-695-6955, – Karen Campbell


>MA: Together Festival

This celebration, running May 12 through 19, reaches its tentacles throughout Boston and Cambridge in a celebration of tunes, technology, and talent with panel discussions during the day and performances at night. The international stew of a lineup includes electronic dance music, hip-hop, rock, and more, with appearances scheduled from more than three dozen artists, including Biz Markie.

>ME: Stone Mountain Arts Center

A small sampling of artists scheduled to appear at this intimate Brownfield venue, operated by singer-songwriter Carol Noonan, reveals styles from country to reggae to R & B. One thing all the acts have in common, however, is quality. Upcoming performances include Aaron Neville on May 26, Mavis Staples on July 13, and Lori McKenna on August 16. 207-935-7292,

>MA: Solid Sound Festival

Wilco returns to the Berkshires June 21 through 23 for another installment of its eclectic music, comedy, and arts fiesta. In addition to the Chicago rockers themselves, the North Adams festival will feature performances by Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, Os Mutantes, Medeski Martin & Wood, and more. Folks like John Hodgman and Reggie Watts are tasked with bringing the funny.

>RI: Newport Jazz Festival

This annual celebration of jazz in Newport, August 2 through 4, can feel like one-stop shopping for both classic names and young upstarts making noise on the scene. The lineup features no shortage of bold-faced names, including Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding, Terence Blanchard, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. 800-745-3000,

>VT: Grand Point North Festival

This jubilant, all-genre Burlington celebration, tentatively on September 14 and 15, is top-lined and curated by Green Mountain native Grace Potter and her band. The lineup is not yet available, but previous installments have boasted blues legend Taj Mahal, contemporary Americana heroes the Avett Brothers, and Potter’s duet buddy, country superstar Kenny Chesney. 888-512-7469, – Sarah Rodman

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Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version gave the incorrect date for a Terminator 2 screening and discussion at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The event will take place May 20.