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New Rankine Play a Highlight of Challenging ArtsEmerson 2017–2018 Season

The 7 Fingers' Reversible will open ArtsEmerson's 2017-2018 season September 6-24. Photo/Cimon Parent

Starting next September, ArtsEmerson will bring 13 productions from eight countries to its downtown stages, including the world premiere of a new play from award-winning poet and this semester’s Fresh Sound Artist-in-Residence Claudia Rankine.

The 2017–2018 lineup, dedicated to Emerson Trustee Emeritus and ArtsEmerson supporter Ted Cutler '51 LHD '07 (1930-2017), includes shows from as far away as Kuwait and Cambodia, and from right here in the United States. The productions examine the plight of women in the Arab Spring, the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, racism in the U.S., and coming of age as a “trans-queer-punk” adolescent.

There will be circus performances, stop-motion animation, shadow puppetry, monologues, multimedia music and dance, and audience participation.

“[T]his new season covers a diversity of stories that will invite city-wide conversations across our differences,” ArtsEmerson Co-Artistic Director P. Carl said in a statement. “Even after the curtain comes down, we plan to talk with our audience about culture and beauty and politics and the possibility for deeper human connection as the result of the power of art.”

Sometime in early 2018 (exact dates are still to be determined), Rankine’s The White Card—commissioned and produced by ArtsEmerson in association with American Repertory Theater of Cambridge and The Broad Stage of Santa Monica, California—will have its world premiere.

The White Card unpacks the insidious ways in which racism manifests itself in everyday situations, asking the question, “Can American society progress if whiteness stays invisible?” A black artist, Charlotte Cummings, arrives at the loft of a white power couple in the New York art world, hoping to sell her new work. When the couple’s activist son joins them for dinner, tensions arise, truths are interrogated, and the idea of intent becomes paramount.

“This world premiere will offer Boston an opportunity to go deep into the divide around race to create dialogue that seeks both to provoke and to heal,” Carl said.

The season opens September 6–25 with the U.S. premiere of Reversible from The 7 Fingers, the Canadian circus troupe who brought the wildly popular Cuisine & Confessions to Emerson last summer. In this latest show, eight performers use a mix of theater, illusion, dance, music, and acrobatics to travel back in time and space to honor former generations.

Other 2017–2018 ArtsEmerson productions are:

Gardens Speak, an interactive piece from Syria, will run November 12-19, 2017. Photo/Jesse Hunniford

HOME by Geoff Sobelle (September 27–October 1)—HOME is a house party that allows everyone who ever lived there to transcend time and share space. Using dance, music, engineering, and inventive audience interaction, the production explores the relationship between “house” and “home” and invites the audience to think twice about the physical and emotional bonds that connect us. (United States)

Kiss by Guillermo Calderón (October 26–November 19)—When a theater troupe discovers and decides to perform what they think is a Syrian soap opera, they come to realize just how much they got wrong. Told in a layered, self-referential style, Kiss is a brilliant play-within-a-play that shows how misunderstanding cultural cues can reveal blind spots. (Chile)

The State of Siege by Albert Camus (November 9–11)—Staged by avant-garde French director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and produced by Théâtre de la Ville of Paris, The Stage of Siege weaves a tale of paranoia, endurance, and political struggle, resulting in a dizzying modern metaphor. The play asks, What role can art play in the face of peril? Faced with imminent danger, can the human spirit remain focused on the beauty of life? (France)

Gardens Speak by Tania El Khoury (November 12–19)—Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protesters who took to the streets during the early periods of the uprising against the Ba’athist government in 2011. In Gardens Speak, Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury reconstructs the oral histories of 10 ordinary people and transforms statistics into universal, human stories via a stunning, full-body interactive experience. Audience members are assigned a name (only 10 are admitted at one time), guided to a grave, and told to dig through soil to access oral histories of forgotten citizens. (Syria)

Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia by Rithy Panh and Him Sophy (December 19–20)—An extraordinary composition fusing music, film, voice, and movement, Bangsokol is the first major symphonic work that addresses the trauma that occurred in Cambodia in the late 1970s. It’s also the first collaboration between Oscar-nominated director Rithy Panh and composer Him Sophy, both survivors of the Khmer Rouge. (Cambodia)

In the Eruptive Mode by Sulayman Al-Bassam (January 24–28)—In the Eruptive Mode presents six monologues of ordinary women caught in the violence and chaos of the Arab Spring. Writer/director Sulayman Al-Bassam, who brought his satire The Speaker’s Progress to ArtsEmerson in 2011, returns with a work that is raw, brutally satirical, and entirely original. (Kuwait)

Clyde Petersen's Torrey Pines, featuring stop motion animation, will run February 14-17, 2018. Photo/Clyde Petersen

Torrey Pines by Clyde Petersen (February 14–17)—Award-winning filmmaker Clyde Petersen’s adolescent years unfolded in a series of baffling and hallucinated events, and with Torrey Pines, Petersen brings the audience along for the heartbreaking and funny cross-country ride with stop-motion animation film set to the score of a live rock band on stage. The production tells a trans-queer-punk coming-of-age story, rich with ’90s pop culture references and a vivid score performed by Seattle band Your Heart Breaks. (United States)

Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema (February 28–March 4)—Ada/Ava uses techniques from the early age of cinema—shadow puppetry, live-action silhouette, overhead projection—to tell an emotionally complex gothic story. Twin sisters on the New England coast tend to a lighthouse and each other, until Ava suddenly dies. Ada embarks on a journey to move beyond her grief and discover herself with the arrival of a traveling carnival. (United States)

Hamlet/Saint Joan by William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw (March 7–25)—He is a dark, enigmatic prince obsessed with seeking revenge for his father’s death. She is a steadfast rebel who challenged the powers of the Church to restore France to greatness. Iconic figures from two dramatic classics are brought vividly to life in two riveting, unexpectedly funny, stripped-down stagings by four actors from Bedlam, the acclaimed New York theater company, directed by Eric Tucker. (United States)

The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence by Step Afrika! (May 3–6)—Dance company Step Afrika! returns to Boston with The Migration, a multimedia powerhouse production that chronicles and celebrates the journeys of the brave men and women who left the South searching for better opportunities for African Americans. In 2011, the dance company was granted exclusive access to painter Jacob Lawrence’s groundbreaking series about The Great Migration of 1.6 million people from the South to the North in the 1920s. Here they transform it into a textured, interdisciplinary movement piece. (United States)

Cold Blood by Michèle Anne de Mey and Jaco Van Dormael (May 30–June 3)—With cinematic techniques, miniature sets, dancing hands, and a poetic voiceover, Cold Blood cycles through a series of different lives (and deaths) in a hypnotic dreamlike state. (Belgium)

For more information about any ArtsEmerson show, or to order tickets, visit

In May 2018, come see Step Afrika! in The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence. Photo/William Perrigan







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