Your Guide to Arts in Boston for Fall 2018

From Hamilton to Childish Gambino to the Boston Book Festival, here are the arts events you need to check out.

Photos via Liza Voll (Schoenberg, Varber of Seville); Getty (Gambino); Courtesy photo (Shlesinger); Grant Stinnett, Courtesy of Boston Dance Theater (Dancer); Benjamen Purvis (composite illustration)


Fine Arts

Jason Moran

Is it still jazz if it doesn’t make a sound? Jason Moran, a Houston-born pianist, composer, and visual artist, might say yes. In his first exhibition at the ICA, he’s bringing music-centric creations—often the result of collaborations with other artists—that radiate jazz, reflecting and reimagining its culture. With everything from charcoal drawings to mixed-media vignettes based on real-life venues, such as New York’s now-defunct Savoy Ballroom and Slugs’ Saloon, the works are the products of years of combining his musical talent with sculptural composition.

Moran’s pieces take cues from the notion of a jazz set, in which musicians riff off one another to create unique musical performances. Whether on stage or on display, as a New England Conservatory instructor since 2010, Moran’s got the chops to push the boundaries of performance and visual art to the limit—creating an experience that audiences won’t likely forget.—C.Z.

September 19–January 21, 2019, ICA Boston, 617-478-3100,


Childish Gambino with Rae Sremmurd

A Grammy, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy, oh my! The multitalented Donald Glover, a.k.a. Atlanta creator and rapper Childish Gambino, will carry his “Summertime Magic” into autumn, with duo Rae Sremmurd of “Black Beatles” fame as support. You won’t want to miss out; the “This Is America” artist’s next album is rumored to be his last as Childish Gambino.

September 12, TD Garden, 800-745-3000,


Borromeo String Quartet

Looking for the cutting edge of classical music? Meet the Borromeo String Quartet. After making their reputation with fresh approaches to the genre, the ensemble-in-residence for the Gardner Museum (among other places) is kicking off a can’t-miss two-year series of German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s six quartets, starting this month. True to form, they’re also adding a dash of modern to the premiere, with pieces from American composers Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Leonard Bernstein (a Lawrence native).

September 15–16, Calderwood Hall, 617-566-1401,


Iliza Shlesinger

Break out the body glitter, Boston—outrageous Emerson alum Iliza Shlesinger is back in town. Now with four Netflix specials to her name, the most recent being this summer’s Elder Millennial, the youngest Last Comic Standing winner heads to the Wilbur for a night of self-deprecation and too-real reflections on life as a thirtysomething. (Prepare to get your sparkle fish on.)

September 22, Wilbur Theatre, 617-248-9700,


Lantern Festival

Ready to light up the sky? Chinatown heads into full-blown party mode for the fifth annual Lantern Festival, which celebrates the mid-autumn harvest with colorful lanterns, festivities, and a whole lot of mooncakes (traditional pastries with a sweet-and-dense filling). Steeped in culture and history, this all-day event guarantees fun for the whole family.

September 22, Chinatown,


Photo by Joan Marcus



Hamilton is finally, finally coming to town. Whether you’ve managed to snag a ticket or not, read our interview with Austin Scott about how he landed the title role.

September 18­–November 18, Boston Opera House

Fine Arts

“Common Threads, Weaving Stories Across Time”

You never know where a thread might lead until you pull it. That’s the idea that the new Gardner exhibition “Common Threads” explores. It starts with elaborate 16th-century Flemish textiles before unraveling into creative pieces from playwrights as well as digital and textile artists—including a station where artist Lee Mingwei will darn your old shirts. It’s all tied together by a deceptively complex question: How does the art of yesterday influence art today?

October 4–January 13, 2019, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 617-566-1401,


BSO Season Opener

We’re not full of hot air: For the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s much-anticipated season opener, renowned Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu makes his BSO debut with a wind-section showcase, Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments.” Also on Lintu’s program is a deep dive into the repertoire with Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra,” which the BSO premiered in 1944.

October 11–13, Symphony Hall, 888-266-1200,


The Barber of Seville

Long before Lloyd Dobler hoisted his boom box in Say Anything or Jake Ryan leaned against his Porsche in Sixteen Candles, Gioachino Rossini was setting rom-com standards with The Barber of Seville. His 19th-century opera still captivates audiences with its web of “borrowed” identities and heartfelt serenades: Root for the conniving Count Almaviva as he pursues his true love, Rosina, in the Boston Lyric Opera’s take on this classic.

October 12–21, Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, 617-542-4912,


Boston Book Festival

Need a good book? Look no further. This October, join the thousands of other bibliophiles who will descend upon Copley Square to bask in the glow of literary luminaries such as Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Pollan, all while searching for the next great read. With exhibits from independent publishers and literary magazines, plenty of kid-friendly activities, sessions for writers, and satellite fests in Roxbury and East Boston, the festival offers something for the bookworm in everyone.

October 13, Copley Square,


Measure for Measure

If you’ve ever muttered that the Bard’s work would benefit from subtitles, this probably isn’t what you meant: London’s Cheek by Jowl and Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre have moved the setting of Measure for Measure to modern Russia, with actors speaking their native tongue to boot. Critics have hailed the production, full of gallows humor and government corruption, as a revelation, nyet to be missed.

October 24–28, Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, 617-824-8400,


Performance Art

The Bag Lady Manifesta

In this immersive, interdisciplinary performance, Taja Lindley dons costumes made of trash bags and uses burlesque, text, sound, and visuals to explore the discarding of marginalized lives. Under the direction of fellow artist/activist Tanisha Christie, Lindley’s Bag Lady reminds audiences that remembering is the responsibility of the living.

November 15, Oberon, 617-547-8300,

Holiday Theater

A Christmas Carol

Central Square Theater’s adaptation of Dickens’s beloved Christmas tale is the perfect way to kick off some holiday cheer. Split between Victorian and modern-day London, and complete with puppetry, live music, dancing, and storytelling, this rendition of A Christmas Carol feels more like an experience than a production.

November 23–December 30, Central Square Theater, 617-576-9278,


The Nutcracker

Here’s one story that never gets old. In Boston Ballet’s seasonal treat, twirling toy soldiers and spinning sugar plum fairies grace the stage of the Boston Opera House for one magical month. Malevolent mice aside, the Mikko Nissinen–choreographed production pairs Tchaikovsky’s beloved score with dreamlike set designs and stunning costumes, creating a fairy-tale experience that all ages can delight in.

November 29–December 30, Boston Opera House, 617-695-6955,


Boston Dance Theater

This holiday season, co-artistic directors Jessie Jeanne Stinnett and Itzik Galili bring Boston-based dancers to the ICA for a performance series of old favorites and new contemporary works. A troupe of risk-takers and equity warriors, cross-cultural ambassadors and interpersonal boundary-breakers, BDT is an artistic and social movement on and off the stage. These are moves you won’t want to miss.

November 30–December 1, ICA Boston, 617-478-3103,

Courtesy Celebrity Series of Boston


OK Go: The Live Video Tour

If you’ve watched one of OK Go’s music videos, chances are you have a few questions for the band. For example, how do you do a pushup in zero gravity? Or, do you ever get tired of wearing monochrome? This fall, you’ll finally have the chance to get some answers.

In their most meta move yet, the group takes audience members directly into the action in their new show by performing in front of their videos, and hosting Q & A’s throughout. “We wanted to be as transparent as possible instead of giving the rehearsed spiel you normally hear at rock concerts,” says lead singer Damian Kulash. “With this, we’re literally just like, ‘Who’s got a question?’ and that keeps us on our toes and keeps the action really honest.” So go ahead—ask away. —A.B.

November 2, Berklee Performance Center, 617-747-2261,


Courtesy photo

Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band

September 17, Wang Theatre, 800-982-2787,

Bill Burr

October 5, TD Garden, 800-745-3000,

Death Cab for Cutie

October 14­–15,Wang Theatre, 800-982-2787,

Elvis Costello & The Imposters

November 10, Wang Theatre, 800-982-2787,


Courtesy photo


Boston Film Festival

Last year, audiences got to hear American Satan star (and BU alum) Olivia Culpo talk about human sacrifice. What’ll happen this year?




Three years after his epic 2015 Boston Calling performance, Ireland’s indie-rock darling is back.

October 1, 888-693-2583,


Schoenberg in Hollywood

The world premiere of MIT Media Lab prof Tod Machover’s latest work, about a brilliant composer fleeing the Nazis and landing in 1930s L.A.—you’ve never seen opera like this.

November 14–18, 617-542-6772,



Shakespeare’s only son, dead at 11, speaking from beyond the grave? Yeah, you’ve got our attention.

September 20–October 7, 617-824-8400,