42 concerts, plays, and arts events you shouldn’t miss in New England

Globe critics’ picks from all around the region — including some free events — to mark on your calendar for spring and summer.

Klaus Vedfelt

Jacob’s Pillow opens this year with the Royal Danish Ballet.


By Karen Campbell

Boston Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet

Boston Ballet reprises its acclaimed production at the Opera House. As classic story ballets go, this one hits all the right spots. It’s a terrific blend of lushly memorable music by Prokofiev (performed live!), John Cranko’s sweepingly romantic choreography, and a storyline that follows two star-crossed lovers through first meeting, familial clashes, tempestuous consummation, and ultimate tragedy.

> March 15-April 8, 539 Washington Street, Boston, 617-695-6955,

Company Wayne McGregor

We’ve had a taste of the brainy acclaimed British choreographer’s artistic imagination through two Boston Ballet programs, but this Celebrity Series presentation at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre marks the Boston debut of McGregor’s own distinctive troupe. The collaborative Atomos features XOX, a wearable technology that maps the dancers’ biometrics.

> May 4-5, 265 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-482-6661,

The Yard


Founded 45 years ago, the esteemed organization is both incubator and presenter, giving Martha’s Vineyard residents and visitors a glimpse at some top-notch dance innovators. Highlights of the upcoming summer season include performances by Caleb Teicher and Company, Doug Elkins Choreography, Etc., and the Montreal-based contemporary ice dancing company Le Patin Libre.

> May 20-September 1, various locations on the Vineyard, 508-645-9662,

FREE! / 10th Annual Dance for World Community

Billed as Greater Boston’s largest dance event, this indoor/outdoor celebration in Harvard Square is arguably its most inclusive as well. Dance artists of all stripes offer both performances and introductory-level classes for everyone — that means YOU! The festival also features information booths about social and environmental issues.

> June 9, Massachusetts Avenue between Bow Street and Putnam Avenue, Cambridge. 617-354-7467,

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

This is summer’s undisputed mecca for dance lovers. Nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, the festival offers both crowd-pleasing favorites and cutting-edge artistry. Highlights this coming season include the return after more than a decade of the Royal Danish Ballet, a world premiere by high-stepping b-girl Ephrat Asherie, the US debut of the Madrid-based Compania Sharon Fridman, and Stars of American Ballet.

> June 20-August 26, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, 413-243-0745,

Bates Dance Festival

Anna Lee Campbell

From Nora Chipaumire’s Portrait of Myself as My Father, which will be included at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine.

This spunky little Maine festival has a brand-new executive director, Shoshona Currier, who plans a “new and exciting direction” for the 36-year-old organization. The performances are well worth the trip north, as highlights this coming season include Erica Mott’s international multidisciplinary collaboration Mycelial: Street Parliament, Sean Dorsey Dance, Rennie Harris Puremovement, and Nora Chipaumire.

> June 22-August 5, 305 College Street, Lewiston, Maine, 207-786-6381,

By Malcolm Gay

Celia Paul

As the former lover and muse of the acclaimed British painter Lucian Freud, contemporary artist Celia Paul has had to struggle to break free of this weighty association. But her distinct, haunting portraits of her closest relations — she painted her mother for years — have a weight all their own: Deeply intimate, they explore the sitters’ subtle shifts over time. The Yale Center for British Art worked with Pulitzer Prize–winning critic Hilton Als to organize this exhibition, the first of three he’ll curate for it.

> April 3-August 12, 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 877-274-8278,

Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900


Sure, you’ve heard of Impressionist painters Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, but what about Anna Ancher, Kitty Kielland, or Louise Breslau? These relatively obscure painters are a focus of this traveling exhibition that visits the Clark, shining a light on oft-overlooked works by female artists who painted in a variety of styles in Paris during the Impressionist Era. The show boasts its share of household names, but its real strength comes from its breadth, which reveals a rich world of feminine creativity whose members flourished alongside their better-known male contemporaries.

> June 9-September 3, 225 South Street, Williamstown, 413-458-2303,

Casanova’s Europe: Art, Pleasure, and Power in the 18th Century

He is the man behind the noun: Giacomo Casanova, the consummate 18th-century playboy known in his day as a Renaissance man who traveled in Europe’s most rarefied circles. Bringing together more than 250 objects — including paintings by Canaletto, William Hogarth, Jean-Honore Fragonard, and others — this Museum of Fine Arts exhibition takes a chronological look at Casanova’s life, charting his amorous peregrinations by the visual pleasures he might have beheld.

> July 8-October 8, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617-267-9300,

Empresses of China’s Forbidden City

Before it was overthrown during the Xinhai revolution and replaced by the Republic of China, the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) vastly expanded the imperial realm, tripling its population and territorial size. The Peabody Essex Museum worked with the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries and Beijing’s Palace Museum to bring together nearly 150 objects to explore the role the empire’s most powerful women played in its art, religion, and politics.

> August 18-February 10, 2019, 161 Essex Street, Salem, 978-745-9500,

FREE! / Winslow Homer and the Camera: Photography and the Art of Painting

The early proliferation of photography is often seen as a John Henry moment for 19th-century painters (as in the folk story where a steel-driving man battles the machine meant to replace him). In this exhibition, however, curators at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art explore how Homer — far from seeing photography as merely a competitor — reacted to the new visual medium, using it instead to augment his broader artistic interests.

> June 23-October 28, 9400 College Station, Brunswick, Maine, 207-725-3275,

We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85

Jonathan Dorado

Jae Jarrell, Ebony Family, circa 1968, from the ICA’s upcoming “We Wanted a Revolution” exhibition.

Perhaps the season’s most timely show will be at the Institute of Contemporary Art. “We Wanted a Revolution” is one of the first museum exhibitions (its Brooklyn Museum curators would say the first) to focus on black women artists active between 1965 and 1985. The show features a variety of works — film, sculpture, paintings, and others — that grapple with the cultural, political, and social issues of the day faced by feminists of color.

> June 27-September 30, 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, 617-478-3100,

By Michael Andor Brodeur

The Breeders

Some bands take a breather, come back, and drop a brick; the Breeders would rather throw one. All Nerve, the veteran indie rockers’ long-awaited new album after 10 years out of the studio, is all Breeders — bristling with the band’s signature scratchy guitars and clobbering drums, and brimming with that Deal-sister special sauce you can’t get anywhere else. And there’s never been a Breeders show that wasn’t worth the wait.

Marisa Gesualdi

The Breeders are slated to perform at the House of Blues on May 4.

> May 4, 15 Lansdowne Street, Boston,

Boston Calling

You might not be able to get into Harvard, but you can definitely still get into Boston Calling, which isn’t all that different. For one thing, it’s at Harvard. For another, it’s an advanced three-day immersion course in essential music, comedy, and visual art, with a lineup including Eminem, Jack White, St. Vincent, Paramore, Khalid, Belly, Pussy Riot, and dozens more. Oh, and Natalie Portman will be there. See? Wicked similar.

> May 25-27, Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston,

The Decemberists

If you miss the Decemberists at Boston Calling, you have another chance to catch the enduring Portland (the other Portland) indie-rock mainstays when they roll into North Adams for a special appearance at Mass MoCA. On its new album I’ll Be Your Girl, the band kicks its slightly preening indie-pop habits to the curb in favor of pulsing, and surprisingly uplifting, electro-pop. (A perfect chaser for that terrifying Liz Glynn installation!)

> June 15, Massachusetts MoCA, North Adams,

Foo Fighters

It wouldn’t be summer in the city without a trip to Fenway Park, and you don’t even need to care about the Sox (you monster!). The busy summer concert season at the park includes Zac Brown Band (June 14 and 15), Luke Bryan (July 5), Billy Joel (August 10), Journey & Def Leppard (August 11), and Pearl Jam (September 2 and 4); but for pure beer-hoisting rock ’n’ roll, it’ll be hard to beat Foo Fighters’ two-day at bat as part of their Concrete and Gold Tour.

> July 21 and 22, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston,

FREE! / Lowell Folk Festival

The other big New England folk festival is a free-for-all in just about every sense. The 32nd installment of the beloved three-day fest will continue to explode your notions of “folk,” reaching around the world for one of the most reliably exciting bills of live blues, jazz, soul, bluegrass, world music, and (yes) folk to hit the region. Street performers, folk crafts, food, and family activities make this one a perfect weekend for the whole crew.

> July 27-29, Downtown Lowell,

Newport Jazz Festival

If you couldn’t get tickets to the chronically sold-out Newport Folk Festival, fret not — the trusty Newport Jazz Festival fills the same gorgeous seaside setting with some of the most musically adventurous acts going. This year’s lineup is topped by Andra Day, Living Colour, and Charles Lloyd (rolling with an all-star gang of friends including Lucinda Williams and Jason Moran), but the deeper you dig, the more treasures you’ll discover.

> August 3-5, Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island,

By Amy Sutherland

FREE! / Newburyport Literary Festival

This annual seaside event marks the start of the literary festival season. A long list of writers will appear, including New England heavyweights Steve Yarbrough, Jessica Keener, and Stephen McCauley. Ann Hood, this year’s festival honoree and the author of novels including 2016’s The Book That Matters Most, kicks things off at the Firehouse Center for the Arts on Friday, April 27.

> April 27-28, various locations around Newburyport, (978) 465-1257,

The Mount

The lovely Berkshires mansion where Edith Wharton wrote The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome bustles in the summer. Starting May 12, The Mount opens daily and offers a range of tours. In July, the schedule fills with lectures and readings, such as Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, discussing her memoir, My Life with Bob, on July 27. At the regular Wednesdays with Wharton, professional actors read her short stories.

> Starting May 12, Plunkett Street at the corner of Route 7, Lenox, 413-551-5111,

Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

Held amid the flower beds at the Hill-Stead Museum, this summer-long series of readings and book signings by leading poets might inspire you to pen your own odes. Circle July 11 on your calendar for the reading by Tracy K. Smith, the United States poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner. Guests can bring their own chairs and picnic.

> May 27-August 5, 35 Mountain Road, Farmington, Connecticut, 860-677-4787,

Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center

The center, on Pearl Street not far from the pier, is primarily a school, but during the season opens its doors for public events with the writers and artists who flock here to teach. They help transform this tourist town into a literary hub. Some of this year’s highlights include readings by author and New Yorker writer Masha Gessen on July 22 and poet Ross Gay on August 5.

> June 10-August 24, 24 Pearl Street, Provincetown, 508-487-9960,

Nantucket Book Festival

The schedule is as rich as the location is picturesque, with A-list writers Diane Ackerman (The Zookeeper’s Wife), Dava Sobel (The Glass Universe), Min Jin Lee (Pachinko), Imbolo Mbue (Behold the Dreamers), and Nantucket’s own best-selling scribe, Nathaniel Philbrick, who will read from his newly reissued memoir, Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor, an Island and the Voyage that Brought a Family Together. Many of the events during the weekend festival are free.

> June 15-17, various locations on Nantucket, 508-919-6230,

Rockport Public Library book sale

Summer is book sale season in Maine as libraries across the state hold their annual fund-raisers. The Rockport Public Library holds one of the biggest, with some 30,000 novels, cookbooks, garden books, histories, children’s books, biographies, and collectible books atop hundreds of tables. On Saturday, the library grills up free hot dogs. And on Sunday, any remaining books are yours for the taking. Bring a box and stock up for beach reading and beyond.

> July 12-15, Rockport, Maine, 207-236-3642,

By Zoe Madonna

Monadnock Music Festival

Monadnock Music sends its string quartet and piano trio out to the towns of southern New Hampshire to give by-donation chamber concerts, and rarely does either perform a piece more than once. Events at the organization’s headquarters, the Peterborough Town House, feature larger ensembles, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Harvard Summer Chorus.

> June 10-August 12, various locations around New Hampshire, 603-852-4345,

Rockport Chamber Music Festival

Canadian violinist/violist Barry Shiffman helms his first Rockport festival as artistic director, with the theme of “r:EVOLUTION.” No splashy soloists this opening night; try Tchaikovsky paired with Osvaldo Golijov, this year’s composer-in-residence. Festival guests include the storied Emerson String Quartet, the meteorically ascending bass-baritone Davone Tines, and Boston’s own A Far Cry. Visitors to the town may find themselves in the midst of one of 13 free pop-up concerts, so even if you’re not looking for music in Rockport, the music may find you.

> June 15-July 15, Rockport, 978-546-7391,


Come celebrate the centennial of Lawrence-born and -bred Leonard Bernstein as the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops pepper their performances with his concert works, ballets, and Broadway favorites. BSO artistic partner Thomas Ades directs the annual Festival of Contemporary Music, and Ozawa Hall guests include the married piano duo of Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, the JACK Quartet with pianist Igor Levit, and the orchestral collective The Knights. Plus the usual BSO rehearsals, outdoor yoga, family concerts, popular artists, and long afternoons on the lawn with a blanket and picnic basket.

> June 15-September 2, Lenox, 617-266-1492,

FREE! / Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice

For sheer delight in modern music, it’s hard to beat SICPP (but please, call it “sick puppy”). This training program brings in mostly graduate-school-level musicians and singers to the New England Conservatory for intensive rehearsals and master classes. The rest of us get a week of free performances from an always adventurous repertoire. This year’s will feature a number of pieces by composer-in-residence Julian Anderson, a performance of the rarely seen Karlheinz Stockhausen musical-theatrical happening Originale, and, as always, the marathon “Iditarod” concert, which starts at 4 p.m. on the final day, and usually finishes well after midnight.

> June 17-June 23, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston,

Newport Music Festival

The 50th anniversary of the festival brings guests such as mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, composer Jake Heggie, 2017 Van Cliburn competition champion Yekwon Sunwoo, and adventurous wind quintet Imani Winds to Newport sites, including the gorgeous historic mansions. Set your alarms early for a “Sunrise Strings” concert at the Chinese Tea House, or stroll through a musical garden party with cocktail in hand.

> July 4-22, various locations around Newport, Rhode Island, 401-849-0700,

Marlboro Music Festival

AFP/Getty Images

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida will be at the Marlboro Music Festival, which starts July 14.

We don’t know what will be played at the mountaintop concerts of this year’s Marlboro Music Festival, and neither do the musicians. Pieces are performed when they are ready (some may have started being rehearsed last summer). You’ll just have to place yourself in the musicians’ hands — but they’re such capable hands! Renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida returns as artistic director, and Shulamit Ran attends as composer-in-residence.

> July 14-August 12, Marlboro, Vermont, 215-569-4690,

By Ty Burr

Independent Film Festival of Boston

Founded in 2003, Boston’s best film festival has its Sweet 16 party this year. It’s been known to feature the finest cherry-pickings from Sundance, Toronto, SxSW, and elsewhere, plus various premieres and local wonders uncovered by directors Brian Tamm and Nancy Campbell. Unspooling at the Coolidge Corner, Brattle, and Somerville theaters — ironically, everywhere but in Boston itself  —  this is nevertheless the city’s festival.


Somerville Theatre is one site that will host showings for the Independent Film Festival of Boston.

> April 25-May 2, locations in Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville,

White River Indie Festival

A mere two hours up the road from Boston, this little fest is a terrific community-centric movie party organized by Michael Beahan and filmmaker Nora Jacobson. Showcased this year are The Hanji Box (directed by Jacobson) and the documentary It’s Criminal. Among the independent features, shorts, and documentaries will be winners of the Fifth Annual 48-Hour Film Slam, and the new Freedom & Unity Youth Film Contest for young Vermonters.

> May 31-June 3, 74-76 Gates Street, White River Junction, Vermont,

Provincetown International Film Festival

Because P-Town attracts creative spirits and film industry mavens from both Boston and New York City, the lineup is studded with indies about to break out theatrically, not to mention stellar guests. Think John Waters (Pink Flamingos) introducing the modern dysfunctional-family classic Krisha.

> June 13-17, various locations in Provincetown,

Nantucket Film Festival

If Provincetown is a glitzy affair, Nantucket is deceptively bucolic — a pair of ragged boat shoes worn by a Hollywood power broker. The emphasis is on screenwriting, with contests for first-timers and a star-studded staged reading, one-on-one public interviews with famous writers and actors, comedy roundtables with famous stand-ups, morning coffees, afternoon teas. It’s very chill — and all business.

> June 20-25, various locations on Nantucket,

Woods Hole Film Festival

Even more deceptively rustic than Nantucket, the Woods Hole fest has been around since 1991 — making it the oldest of Cape Cod’s film festivals — and under Judy Laster’s indefatigable directorship programs 100-plus films a year. It’s a great stop for filmmakers, with panels on indie survival strategies, and the nearby Oceanographic Institution has been known to bring in lecturers and a sideline in scientific features and documentaries.

> July 28-August 4, 72 Water Street, Woods Hole, 508-495-3456,

FREE! / Sunday night film night at Christopher Columbus Park

The summer months bring a number of free outdoor film series to the Boston area, but most of them regurgitate the latest and/or most popular kiddie flicks. Last year, Christopher Columbus Park, off the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, showed Hoosiers, Hairspray, Woman in Gold, and Moonstruck. No idea what’s on tap for 2018, but it’ll be better than another screening of The Secret Life of Pets.

> July 22-August 26, between the Greenway and Boston Harbor, 781-639-6002,

By Don Aucoin

Wig Out!

Company One Theatre

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Wig Out!” will be staged at the Oberon starting April 27.

Long before his screenplay for Moonlight won him an Oscar last year, Tarell Alvin McCraney was known for plays characterized by an arrestingly original voice and a close-up focus on marginalized communities, like The Brother/Sister Plays, his trilogy exploring family and sexuality in a Louisiana bayou community. McCraney’s Wig Out! adds gender to the mix, as black and Latino drag performers are challenged to a competition by a rival “house.’’

> April 27-May 13, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, 617-547-8300,

Jagged Little Pill

A new stage musical, possibly Broadway bound, is inspired by Alanis Morissette’s celebrated 1995 album. Slated to feature such songs as “Ironic,’’ “You Oughta Know,’’ and “Hand in my Pocket,’’ the musical’s storyline follows what is described as a family that faces uncomfortable truths. A world premiere, it is directed by Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), with a book by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno.

> May 5-June 30, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-547-8300,


Works like Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and All My Sons, plus his refusal to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee, gave playwright Arthur Miller a sterling reputation for moral and ethical uprightness (the critic Kenneth Tynan described him as “Lincoln in horn rims’’). But Bernard Weinraub’s Fall examines a less flattering aspect of Miller: his near-disavowal of a son with Down syndrome. A world premiere directed by Peter DuBois.

> May 18-June 16, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-266-0800,

The Royal Family of Broadway

Barrington Stage Company is where composer-lyricist William Finn and librettist Rachel Sheinkin collaborated on an endearing little piece of magic called The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Now the pair have adapted the 1927 George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber comedy about a Barrymore-inspired clan of thespians jolted when one of them decides to marry a non-theater person. A world premiere, it’s directed by Tony winner John Rando and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse.

> June 7-July 7, 30 Union Street, Pittsfield, 413-236-8888,

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Boston’s most storied theatrical venue, the Colonial Theatre, will reopen after nearly three years with this world premiere, Broadway-bound adaptation of the Baz Luhrmann movie about a doomed romance in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris. Directed by Alex Timbers, with a libretto by John Logan (a Tony winner for Red) and music consisting of pop hits, Moulin Rouge! The Musical carries with it the hope of returning the Colonial to its former status as a pre-Broadway tryout venue.

> June 27-August 5, 106 Boylston Street, Boston, 888-616-0272,

FREE! / Richard III

As history, this drama is notoriously inaccurate, its portrait of the last Plantagenet king as an irredeemable villain amounting to a justification for the succession of the Tudors — one of whom, Queen Elizabeth, was on the throne when Shakespeare wrote it. But as a tour through the psychological heart of darkness, guided by the ruthless monarch himself, Richard III seldom fails to fascinate. Directed by Steven Maler.

> July 18-August 5, Boston Common, 617-426-0863,

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