Though most famous for his Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy, the Pulitzer-laden novelist John Updike was also a master of the short story. The longtime Ipswich resident was one of the wittiest and most trenchant observers of suburbia, and now, four years after his death, the Library of America is releasing a fulsome two-volume set of his collected short stories. Compiled by Melrose editor Christopher Carduff, the 186 stories on more than 1,900 pages begin with something written while Updike was a Harvard senior, and transition to elegiac tales of aging New Englanders taking stock of their lives while the world moves past them. Think of it as a luminous fictional history of middle-class America over the past half-century. John Updike: The Collected Stories, Library of America, $75, out 9/12.
The American Repertory Theater ended last season with a flourish, winning multiple Tony Awards for its production of Pippin, so what do they do for an encore? Bring in the stars to light up a new play by Robert Schenkkan, called All the Way, about Lyndon Johnson’s tumultuous first year as president after the Kennedy assassination. Bryan Cranston, of TV’s Breaking Bad, stars as the brash LBJ as he navigates the Civil Rights Act and begins getting tangled in Vietnam. Michael McKean, best known for comedies like This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, lends his reptilian charm in a dramatic turn as J. Edgar Hoover. 9/13–10/12. All the Way, American Repertory Theater, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-8300, amrep.org.
When Opera Boston was felled by money woes almost two years ago, classical music fans mourned the loss of its cutting-edge take on one of the most tradition-bound arts. Thankfully, a new company is born in Odyssey Opera, founded by Opera Boston’s artistic director, Gil Rose, who is best known for his Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Following its predecessor’s policy of staging lesser-known works by major composers (as well as new works by contemporary ones), Odyssey Opera will premiere at Jordan Hall with a concert performance of Wagner’s early epic Rienzi, about the rise and fall of the firebrand Renaissance Italian leader Cola di Rienzi. 9/15. Odyssey Opera, Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, 617-585-1260, odysseyopera.org.
Our home state is the birthplace not only of America, but also of handcrafted American tables, chairs, and wardrobes. In an unprecedented partnership, our top cultural institutions will this month begin staging the “Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture” exhibition. Highlighting the year-and-a-half-long event are seven shows of work from the 17th century to the 21st at institutions such as the Peabody Essex Museum, Fuller Craft Museum, Historic Deerfield, and Old Sturbridge Village. Demonstrations, workshops, and tours will be organized by the North Bennet Street School and Historic New England, while the MFA will host special gallery tours through the vast holdings in the Art of the Americas Wing. Starts 9/17. “Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture,” fourcenturies.org.
The Life Is Good Festival is that rare thing: a kid- and adult-friendly outdoor-rock extravaganza. In addition to a stellar lineup headlined by the Roots, Jack Johnson, Daryl Hall & John Oates, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the two-day event at Canton’s Prowse Farm will also feature sack races and a tug of war; a funky playground and huge construction trucks for kids to explore; and plenty of arts and crafts activities. Of course, the biggest crowds will be packed in for the Yo Gabba Gabba! shows both days. 9/21–9/22. Life Is Good Festival, Prowse Farm, 5 Blue Hill River Rd., Canton, lifeisgood.com/festival.
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