‘We need to change our story’: A look into ArtsEmerson’s 2022-23 season

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Photo: Courtesy of ArtsEmerson

The Robert J. Orchard Stage, one of ArtsEmerson’s venues

By Sophia Pargas, Living Arts Editor

ArtsEmerson will display seven in-person and two virtual performances this upcoming academic year, all of which seek to elevate minority voices and emphasize the diversity of Boston artists.  

“As we enter our 12th season, we are so excited to uplift an incredible lineup of performers and productions that spark important conversations and inspire us to build a better world together,” David C Howse, ArtsEmerson’s Executive Director, said in a press release. “We believe in artists who boldly celebrate our differences, reflect the vital diversity of our city, and deepen our connection to each other.” 

The season’s lineup is heavily influenced by the theme of “re-storying,” an ideology explained by Ronee Penoi, ArtsEmerson’s Director of Artistic Programming. 

“If we want to change our world, we need to change our story,” she wrote. “Re-storying is the act of rewriting our shared history, mythology, and values so that it is fully truthful, representing all people—especially those whose voices have been silenced by those who fear losing power and privilege.” 

By allowing communities to retell their own stories, ArtsEmerson hopes to send audiences away with more awareness and introspection into the artists and themselves. 

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“Only when our history is [retold] can we understand who we are and where we are going,” Ponei wrote. “I’m excited for audiences to experience these incredible works; each production asks a unique question about our understanding of ourselves and each other.” 

The first of the nine productions to run will be “Drumfolk,” by Step Afrika!, playing from Oct. 5 to Oct. 16. This performance explores the time period in which Africans were banned from using drums—and the human spirit which exploded in its wake. 

From Oct. 26 to Oct. 30, Bill Irwin takes to the stage and allows his audience to witness firsthand the relationship between a performer and playwright Samuel Beckett’s works. The performance, “On Beckett,” incorporates passages from Beckett’s most famous works by incorporating drama and humor. 

ArtsEmerson’s first virtual event of the season, “Theatre for One: We Are Here (Nairobi Edition),” will showcase six micro-plays on ancestry and civilization by female performers all across the world. The event, directed by Christine Jones and Octopus Theatricals, will take place from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6, and Nov. 17 to Nov. 20. 

Director Wang Chong’s “Made in China 2.0” will run from Feb. 1 to Feb. 12, offering the audience a unique pop culture and drama experience. Through his experience directing theater in China and around the world, Wang challenges the audience to redefine their existing stereotypes of China. 

From Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, audiences will experience a new take on an old tale: “Frankenstein.” This performance merges the classic storyline with a biographical account of its author Mary Shelley’s life through the use of hand puppets, projectors, and live actors. 

“Cointelshow: A Patriot Act,” a virtual political satire performance, will take place on March 8 to March 12. The event will chronicle COINTELPRO, an FBI counterintelligence program that disrupted the efforts of groups such as the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King and Fred Hampton.

“Shadows Cast,” a dance, circus, and cinema performance directed by Raphaëlle Boitel that explores the unspoken truths of family will run from March 30 to April 2. 

On April 26 to April 30, Cherokee actress DeLanna Studi will perform her one-woman show “And So We Walked.” The show reflects on the “darkest corners of American history,” specifically the Cherokee experience during the Trail of Tears. 

The final show, “Nehanda,” will take place from May 17 to May 23. This “genre-bending musical performance” follows the Shona legend of Nehanda, a powerful spirit who inhabits only women. 

In addition to these events, ArtsEmerson will continue its commitment to film and engagement programming through continued partnerships with the Boston Asian American Film Festival, Boston Latino International Film Festival, Roxbury International Film Festival, and Wicked Queer: the Boston LGBTQ+ Film Festival. 

The organization will also continue its Bright Lights Film Series and Play Reading Book Club, and is bringing back its Welcome to Boston Cast Parties. Additional public dialogue and civic engagement events will be announced at a later date. ArtsEmerson hopes to amplify the diverse voices of communities in Boston.