Arts Roundup: Diane Paulus, The Guitar Circle, The Chemical Brothers

The Big News: Diane Paulus’s Award

As if being ranked #23 in Boston magazine’s 50 Most Powerful list weren’t grand enough, the American Repertory Theater‘s artistic director, Diane Paulus, has just been named the recipient of the Drama League’s 2012 Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. She’ll receive it on May 18 at the Marriott Marquis in New York. The news came on Friday, but in case you hadn’t heard, this is a big deal. Since 1916, the Drama League has been one of the most important associations in theater, its award ceremonies are the oldest for theater in the country, and it’s giving its most important one to Paulus. How much thought has to go into the winner and how he or she has transformed American theater? Well, try this on: You can only win this thing once in your life. She joins previous winners like legendary film director Mike Nichols, who made his name introducing Neil Simon plays on Broadway; George C. Wolfe, who premiered Jelly’s Last Jam, Angels in America, and Topdog/Underdog; and Susan Stroman, who launched the Broadway juggernaut version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers. No small company here, and Paulus wins for her huge Central Park revival of Hair, but also for Porgy and Bess and all her other innovative work she’s doing right here in Cambridge. Congratulations, and it’s just further proof she’s raising Boston’s bar as a national theater city.

The Intriguing Event: The Guitar Circle New England

For those entranced with all things six-string, a curious musical event is shaping up near Harvard Square. Prog rock and classical music obsessives both revere composition, technique, and the sheer majesty that comes with intricate filigrees of sound. Well, look no further than the Guitar Circle New England and its weekly performance series, called Inside Out, starting tomorrow, Thursday, March 29th, at the Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church. First off, these guys are trained not only in classical but also by King Crimson rock legend Robert Fripp — and if you’re not familiar with Fripp, then you’re missing out on some of the most tricky, visceral approaches to the instrument in any genre. You can’t play his music without being seriously nimble and quick-thinking. But even if you don’t care about that, the set-up itself is fascinating: The audience sits in a circle surrounded by the seven guitarists who are amped up with a quadraphonic sound system. Each performance lasts about 40 minutes and they’ll be changing the music week to week. In addition to King Crimson, they’re also promising music by Bach, Bartok, and Glass, and a glance at their blog suggests that there may be some Frank Zappa in there as well. And hey, it’s free! Check the Guitar Circle New England and Inside Out every Thursday (except for April 5th) from March 29th to May 10th, at the Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church, 1555 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge.

The Can’t-Miss Film: Don’t Think, by The Chemical Brothers

Rock concert films are probably one of the most hit-or-miss genres in arts, so it may surprise that one of the very best ever created (and I know that’s a big statement) comes from an electronic act, and it’s showing at the Brattle on Tuesday, April 3. What doesn’t get enough attention (at least in the States) is that some of the best, most invigorating and memorable live shows come from those huge UK and European electronic acts like Underworld, Orbital, and Daft Punk. Despite being knob twiddlers, their music has major punch live and the sound and light extravaganza fills stadiums and makes Pink Floyd look like a junior high A.V. club. The Chemical Brothers, famous to most for the booming Nineties hit “Block Rockin’ Beats,” have long been one of these massive acts and their new concert film, Don’t Think, has been blowing up all over the world — and with good reason. Hits and deep cuts are tweaked, megamixed, and blasted at 50,000 Japanese fans at last year’s Fuji Rock Festival. Director Adam Smith seamlessly melds the big screen visuals, sprawling panoramas, and you-are-there bouncing amid the fans into one psychedelic thrill ride. I just watched the thing at home last night — the DVD/CD just came out Tuesday — and I can’t wait to fry my synapses rewatching it on the big screen. In short, it’s 90 minutes of holy f–king s–t.