ArtsEmerson releases its plans and expectations for the 2021/2022 season


Jakob Menendez

People walk on Washington Street near Paramount Theater.

By Mariyam Quaisar, Managing Editor

ArtsEmerson announced a series of in-person and virtual events for its 2021-22 season — marking the return of live events after a year of pandemic-altered entertainment. 

The organization will feature eight live events through the season— five in-person and three virtual. There will also be a roster of on-demand virtual offerings as well as numerous live and virtual gatherings.

ArtsEmerson will be partnering with Boston Asian American Film Festival, Boston Latino International Film Festival, and Roxbury International Film Festival to screen narrative and documentary work, as well as “Projecting Connections: Chinese American Experiences Film Series” and the college’s Bright Lights Film Series.

The ‘21-’22 season will also include ArtsEmerson Public Dialogue events to engage in discussions about issues that address the concerns and challenges of the contemporary moment. 

ArtsEmerson’s ‘20-’21 season, “Year of Experimentation,” focused on developing a digital venue to accommodate the pandemic as they brought more than 100 virtual events to audiences. As Boston re-emerges from the pandemic, the organization hopes to return to the Cutler Majestic Theater and the Paramount Center.

“We will continue to monitor news and data coming from trusted local, state and national public health agencies to enact a plan that prioritizes gathering in a manner that ensures the well-being of audiences, artists and staff,” said David Howse, ArtsEmerson’s executive director, in the press release announcing the schedule. 

The ‘21-’22 season will kick off with a special performance from Oct. 5 to Oct. 17 by The 7 Fingers titled “Out of Order,” available to stream on-demand. The company created a live performance embracing social distancing which never made it on stage, but instead turned into a cinematographic work. 

On Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, ArtsEmerson will hold a performance in a theater for the first time after 20 months. The organization will host the world premiere of “Iphigenia,” a contemporary opera. 

Following the premiere of “Iphigenia,” theatre maker Thaddeus Phillips will return to the ArtsEmerson stage from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21 with a run of his digital piece titled “Zoo Motel,” which premiered virtually in Sept. 2020. 

From Dec. 7-12, Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour will virtually showcase his play, “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” which requires no director, no set, and a different actor for each performance. The script is given to the actors for the first time right before they perform. 

From Feb. 17-20, audiences will experience in-person contemporary music theater with Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s stage adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s fiction novel “Parable of the Sower,” a production about climate change and social inequality. 

From Mar. 12-27, the Boston-born troupe, Sleeping Weazel, will be onstage for a two-week world premiere engagement of “Everyday Life and Other Odds and Ends,” a multimedia theatre/dance piece touching on the role of Parkinson’s disease in family life. 

From April 13-24, Travis Alabanza, one of the UK’s prominent trans voices, will perform a stage adaptation of their book “Burgerz,” about the time someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur—leading to their obsession with burgers. 

A two-week run of The Theatre Centre’s “Sea Sick,” a solo play written and performed by Alanna Mitchel about facing demons and finding hope, will bring an end to the season from May 11-22. 

ArtsEmerson’s Artistic Engagement team is currently working with several international artists, including Guillermo Calderón and Wang Chong, to give audiences virtual access to experience their work. 

On occasion, ArtsEmerson will also bring performance captures to the Bright Family Screening Room in the Paramount Center, including the planned presentation of the controversial film “Adam,” a true story about a young trans man who is exiled and embarks on a remarkable journey. The film garnered backlash from transgender students at the college who criticized it for what they saw as homophobic and transphobic content. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 5 p.m., the organization will be hosting a virtual preview event for the ‘21-’22 season. To reserve free admission, sign up on the ArtsEmerson website. 

Howse said he hopes to expand the organization’s vision in regards to their programming, reach, and accessibility. 

“As last year was about adapting and experimenting, I’ve been speaking about this season as a ‘bridge year,’ a year of ArtsEmerson which may not look like what everyone has known,” Howse said in the press release.