The Cultural To-Do List: October 2016

Our guide to this month’s events.

when the sea turned to silver book

Photograph by Toan Trinh

When the Sea Turned to Silver

In this latest book by western Massachusetts–based author/illustrator Grace Lin, young Pinmei lives in a mountain village, cherishing the stories she hears every day from her grandmother. Villagers come from all over to hear the fables, too, but one day the old woman is kidnapped by the emperor’s soldiers. Now it’s up to Pinmei and her friend Yishan to create their own story as they embark on an odyssey to save the storyteller.

The novel is a companion to two earlier books by Lin, Starry River of the Sky and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which won the Newbery Honor award for children’s books in 2010. All three volumes feature breathtaking illustrations by Lin that look like evocative woodcuts or scrolls of mystical landscapes. As a result, When the Sea Turned to Silver not only reads like a fever dream of Chinese folktales dusted with Narnian fantasy, but looks like one, too.

Out October 4, Little, Brown, $19,

impelling forces jose mateo ballet theatre

Photograph courtesy José Mateo Ballet Theatre

“Impelling Forces”

For decades, the José Mateo Ballet Theatre has been performing innovative choreography in an intimate cabaret setting and teaching dance. This month it performs a trio of dances set to an intriguing collection of music—from Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 2 to works by Beethoven and classical-jazz composer Uri Caine.

October 14–30, Sanctuary Theatre, 617-354-7467,

Boston Book Festival

Our city’s annual cele bration of all things literary welcomes an astonishingly eclectic group of presenters, such as Oprah-approved novelist Colson Whitehead, starchitect Frank Gehry, and Northampton short-story writer Kelly Link, who was a Pulitzer fiction finalist this year.

October 15, Copley Square, 857-259-6999,

lunar attraction pem

Beth Hoeckel, Campground, 2013, from the series “Point of View,” found paper collage, courtesy of the artist

“Lunar Attraction”

The moon has inspired artists for centuries, and now it serves as the theme of this extended exhibition of contemporary work by Takashi Murakami, Vera Lutter, and Somerville’s own Scott Listfield, known for his images of astronauts in surreal circumstances. The opening day features arts and crafts, freeze-dried ice cream, and viewings of the moonrise through telescopes.

October 15–September 4, 2017, Peabody Essex Museum, 978-745-9500,


If their Best of Boston win was the first time you’d heard of this trio, tonight is your chance to see singer-guitarist Ellen Kempner’s passionate indie rock for yourself. Making this a lovely local twin bill is Margaret Glaspy, who may be a New Yorker now, but woodshedded here at Berklee and Club Passim.

October 16, The Sinclair, 617-547-5200,

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Rock-star space pundit Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Carl Sagan of our times, explaining all things astronomical in clear, pop-science terms—albeit with a more humorous, skeptical edge. Take this illustrated talk, titled “Delusions of Space Enthusiasts,” in which Tyson explains the wide gap between our expectations of space exploration and the earthly realities that impede it.

October 18, Symphony Hall, 888-266-1200,


ArtsEmerson features the latest work by local playwright and actress Melinda Lopez, who explores the nature of how elusive it is to be virtuous. Featuring a dying mother, a prodigal daughter, the Boston snowpocalypse, and Cuban-American slices of life, this world premiere promises to be darkly funny and profoundly moving.

October 27–November 20, Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, 617-824-8400,