• featured
  • 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 […]

  • featured
  • 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 […]

  • featured
  • 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 […]

  • Theater
  • 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 […]

  • Theater
  • The Night of the Iguana

    Tennessee Williams (photo: Yousuf Karsh) It is an artistic exercise of a particular kind to comb through the books and plays of the past and to find those that achieve resonance—or a fresh reading—for contemporary audiences. American Repertory Theater has taken that tack in past seasons (a production of Paradise Lost, written by Clifford Odets […]

  • Politics
  • Bring on the Counter-Narratives

    Fingersmith, at A.R.T. (Photo: A.R.T.) Counter-narratives become much needed palliatives when the storyline of daily life becomes poisonous. Watching the transition to a new regime of power in Washington is like a flashback to the most addled aspects of the 1950’s. As Thomas Friedman recently wrote in the New York Times, “There is actually something […]

  • History
  • Guided by Stars

    The Starry Plough flag, at the Irish National Museum, Collins Barracks We are going through a period in our history that feels like a Rubicon crossing. Decisions made now will have ramifications that will be long, deep and unperceived from our current viewing spot. Brexit was one of those ramifying decisions, and the U.S. presidential […]

  • Politics
  • Doing Time: Anna Deavere Smith

    Most of us have a list of artists, writers and musicians who have touched us so consistently that we are ever ready to reach out to each new work that emerges. Once ensconced in my personal hall of fame, my list of carefully chosen creatives are my personal canonicals. I show up for everything they […]