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  • A Timely Romeo and Juliet

    Cast of “Romeo and Juliet,” at the Huntington Theater (Photo: Huntington Theater) “Theater is the essential art form of democracy,” claims Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater in New York. A new idea that power should stem from the consent of the governed—flowing from below to above—was born in Athens in the 6th […]

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  • Endlings

    Celine Song (Photo: Courtesy of the artist) A few years ago I was rhapsodizing with a friend about how much I love powerful storytelling, the kind that takes you so fully into another reality. Was the topic W. G. Sebald, George R. R. Martin, Rachel Cusk? I can’t remember what launched me, but the response […]

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  • The Many Faces of Othello

    Ira Aldridge playing Othello in the 19th century, from a painting by James Northcote Humans have a built-in pattern detection facility that is a key method for making sense of things. Making sense is, after all, an essential survival skill. Barraged daily by a firehose of sensory data, we have to employ some means of […]

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  • Bad and Better, Both

    Henrik Ibsen Humans are not particularly good at assessing large patterns. We can make smaller calls, like noticing that our train is late or determining that an apple is particularly delicious. But assessing transportation infrastructure efficiency or the overall quality of food production? It is like the difference between weather and climate: there is that […]

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  • Storytelling in Dark Times

    Richard III, now on the Boston Common (All photos: Commonwealth Shakespeare Company) Storytelling fascinates me. It is considered primal to the human condition. My guess is that you, like me, are soothed—and intrigued—when you hear the words, “Let me tell you a story.” Because I am not a particularly good storyteller—my preferred form of personal […]

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  • Self-Preservation During Dark Times

    Opening scene from “Romeo and Juliet,” Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Boston MA What is the point of making beautiful things, or of cherishing the beauty of the past, when ugliness runs rampant? Those who work in the realm of the arts have been asking themselves that question in recent weeks. The election of Donald Trump, and […]

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  • Arrabal

    Arrabal, at American Repertory Theater (Photo: A.R.T.) Every country has its dark chapters. But once it becomes possible to assemble a narrative, the way those stories are told matters immensely to the ongoing health of a nation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (now called The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation) used a […]