2023-24 Is a Season of Change for Vermont's Performing Arts | Performing Arts | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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2023-24 Is a Season of Change for Vermont's Performing Arts 

Published September 13, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated September 20, 2023 at 10:01 a.m.

click to enlarge Momix - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Momix

Kurt Thoma had been on the job for all of three months when calamity struck. In April, he was installed as executive director of the Barre Opera House, taking over from longtime director Dan Casey. Casey had helmed the theater for almost two decades, including keeping it afloat through a pandemic that crippled the performing arts worldwide. When he handed the reins to Thoma, the opera house seemed on solid footing after years of uncertainty.

Then, in July, historic rains slammed Vermont, causing catastrophic flooding around the state. Barre was especially hard hit. Fortunately, the historic 1899 opera house, which occupies the second and third floors of Barre City Hall, was spared significant damage. But just steps away, much of the Granite City's downtown was not so lucky.

"If you looked out the window, there was a lake covering Main Street," Thoma recalled.

While the opera house itself was OK, the community it serves was devastated. Thoma scrambled to find ways to help in the aftermath. He distributed cases of water left over from last season to volunteers shoveling muck. He loaned an industrial fan to a nearby business. Still, he said, those gestures felt like little more than "moral support." What, he wondered, could the performing arts center do to make a real difference in the face of such tragedy?

Days later, he received a call from Lost Nation Theater lighting designer Samuel Biondolillo. The theater company in neighboring Montpelier was mere days away from mounting its production of The Addams Family when the floodwaters rose. Lost Nation's home theater, Montpelier City Hall Auditorium, was badly damaged, Biondolillo explained, leaving the musical's future in doubt.

"Before he could even get the question out, I said, 'Sam, the answer is yes. Please use our theater,'" Thoma said.

The opera house charged Lost Nation the "bare minimum" to rent the space — essentially basic operating costs, according to Thoma. Just over a week later, more than 1,000 people attended two performances of the musical in Barre.

"What was so heartwarming for me was to see the love and the energy from the audience to be able to come and see their friends or families," Thoma said, "or just to see a show in the midst of the mud and muck still covering most of downtown."

Another Montpelier arts organization whose usual stage was flooded, Capital City Concerts, used the Barre Opera House last week and may again in October.

"I'm glad that we have been able, as a performing arts center, to support folks in the community by doing what we do," Thoma said.

While Barre's story is a particularly dramatic example, performing arts organizations around the state are back to doing what they do, finally emerging in earnest from the long shadow of the pandemic. There's a celebratory air about Vermont theaters this fall, as evidenced by the Flynn's first few September shows. Last week kicked off with the star-studded Hug Your Farmer flood-relief benefit, a Main Stage concert by Broadway legend Audra McDonald and an expanded version of the Burlington theater's Playing Fields show, which toured high schools around the state.

It's also a transitional time for many local performing arts venues. Thoma is not the only factory-fresh director. In February, Chloe Powell took over as the head of the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph — which, coincidentally, Thoma ran in the early 2000s. Powell replaces Karen Dillon, who is staying on in a newly created position, development director.

In Stowe, Seth Soloway was announced last week as the new head of Spruce Peak Arts. He comes from Nashville, where he was the associate dean for presenting and external relations at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music. Prior to that, he was the artistic director of the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts.

Face-lifts extend beyond personnel at several area theaters. This summer, Middlebury's Town Hall Theater unveiled plans for an ambitious $7.5 million, 7,000-square-foot expansion with a goal of transforming the theater into a regional performing arts center. Construction is expected to begin this fall.

Farther south, Rutland's Paramount Theatre is in the midst of its own multimillion-dollar expansion, due to be completed in 2024. And just over the border in New Hampshire, the Lebanon Opera House is closed for renovations through December in advance of its centennial next year.

Of course, the changes patrons care most about can be found onstage. At the Flynn, executive director Jay Wahl, hired in 2021, and new programming director Matt Rogers are putting their imprint on the marquee. The number of shows at the state's largest theater is approaching pre-pandemic levels, at least on the Main Stage. Its black-box Flynn Space is reawakening, too, after several years of dormancy.

Wahl highlighted the range of programming, not the volume, to Seven Days. Alongside big-ticket headliners such as Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt who cater to the Flynn's older, bread-and-butter demographic, the playbill this year includes kids' favorites Blippi and Wild Kratts, a provocative retelling of The Odyssey aimed at high schoolers, and a millennial-friendly screening of Napoleon Dynamite attended by the film's stars.

To Wahl, the guiding question is "How do we make sure that, in every stage of life, the Flynn has a place for you?"

To piggyback on that sentiment: Whatever your age or inclination, Vermont likely has a stage for you. The 2023-24 performing arts season is loaded with shows all over the state to suit virtually every taste, from sophisticated chamber music to rambunctious rock and roll, elegant dance to gut-busting comedy, and highbrow theater to experimental fare that will leave you scratching your head (in a good way).

In the following pages, you'll find highlights from the upcoming season in a range of disciplines. But they come with a caveat: This is just a sampling of the entertainment on tap in the months ahead. It's meant as a starting point to help you find the performances that will move you. It's up to you to get out there and experience the many splendors of the performing arts in Vermont.

Places, everyone. It's showtime!

— Dan Bolles

MOMIX: Alice

Tuesday, October 24, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $19-59.
click to enlarge Momix - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Momix

Moses Pendleton grew up on a Lyndonville dairy farm and would spend time in the summer showing his family's Holsteins at the Caledonia County Fair. If that sounds like an unusual backstory for a world-renowned dancer and choreographer, it is. But since Pendleton graduated from Dartmouth College in 1971, his career has only grown curiouser and curiouser.

Pendleton is the founder and artistic director of MOMIX, a Connecticut-based company whose dazzling productions blend an array of disciplines, from dance to gymnastics to mime, into mind-bending feasts for the senses. To witness any MOMIX performance is to slip down a rabbit hole as disorienting as it is delightful. So it's only natural that Pendleton's latest work is inspired by a disorienting and delightful staple of fantastical literature, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

MOMIX's Alice is less a retelling of Carroll's surrealist classic than it is a reinvention. In the same way Alice shrinks and grows as she navigates Wonderland, Pendleton's dancers expand and contract with the help of props, ropes and even other dancers. Also inspired by Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic 1967 hit "White Rabbit," the show offers a kaleidoscopic fusion of dance, lights, music, costumes and projections.

As Broadway World reviewer Cindy Sibilsky wrote of the production, "Like a hallucination or fever dream, it's a feat of artistic achievement that almost seems unreal, but that's what makes its excellence all the more astonishing."

Or as Grace Slick sang, "Feed your head."


Also try...

  • Richard Move & MoveOpolis! Herstory of the Universe@Dartmouth, Friday September 15, 4 p.m.; and Saturday, September 16, and Sunday, September 17, 2 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth Outing Club House, Hanover, N.H., $18-30.
  • World Ballet Series: Cinderella, Saturday, September 23, 7 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $55-89.
  • INSPIRIT Dance: What We Ask of Flesh, Thursday, November 9, and Friday, November 10, 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, November 11, 2 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center Dance Theatre, Middlebury College, $5-25.

Brandee Younger Trio

Friday, December 1, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury College, $5-25.
click to enlarge Brandee Younger - COURTESY OF ERIN O'BRIEN
  • Courtesy Of Erin O'brien
  • Brandee Younger

Some folks believe that when you die and go to Heaven, angels herald your arrival in the clouds with harps. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? But you don't need to move on to the afterlife to enjoy an otherworldly harp serenade. Harpist Brandee Younger is revolutionizing the instrument right here on Earth.

Strumming in the footsteps of jazz harp trailblazers Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, Younger weaves together elements of classical music, soul, funk and jazz. "No harpist thus far has been more capable of combining all of the modern harp traditions — from Salzedo, through Dorothy Ashby, through Alice Coltrane — with such strength, grace and commitment," saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, son of Alice and John Coltrane, told the New York Times.

Younger is a burgeoning star beyond the jazz world, having collaborated with the likes of Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill and John Legend. In 2022, she became the first Black woman to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Instrumental Composition category. She capped off the year with an NAACP Image Award nomination.

On her latest album, Brand New Life, Younger pushes her provocative approach even further while honoring her forebears, Ashby in particular. In reinterpreting her idol's songs, Younger traces the lineage of hip-hop through Ashby's groundbreaking post-bop work in the 1960s — rappers GZA, Mac Miller and Pete Rock have all sampled her work. The result is an album that places Younger at the vanguard not only of her instrument but of modern jazz itself.

"Many post-bop jazz records look to standards for inspiration," Pitchfork's Matthew Ismael Ruiz wrote of the album, "but few breathe such life into the legacy they inherit."


Also try...

  • Kavita Shah & Cape Verdean Blues, Friday, September 22, 7:30 p.m., University of Vermont Lane Series, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, $6.50-34.
  • Jake Shimabukuro, Friday, October 6, 7 p.m., Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Stowe, $45-55.
  • Time for Three, Sunday, December 10, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Fuller Hall, St. Johnsbury Academy, $16-56.

Flip Fabrique: Blizzard

Wednesday, April 17, 7 p.m., KCP Presents, Alumni Gym, Vermont State University-Lyndon, Lyndonville, $16-56.
click to enlarge Flip Fabrique - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Flip Fabrique

A woman spins 12 Hula-Hoops around her body. Five people backflip in perfect unison. Two intertwined performers tumble from the sky, just one of them secured by aerial silks.

This is Flip Fabrique, a Québec-based circus troupe that tours the world telling stories through death-defying stunts. Its show Blizzard is a "love letter to Canadian winter," cofounder Bruno Gagnon said, that evokes the nostalgia of a snow day when school is canceled.

In the show's signature act, a performer bounces his back off a trampoline and hurtles toward a vertical wall that he appears to walk on. Such stunts "don't seem humanly possible," a New York Times reviewer wrote in 2015.

Gagnon started Flip Fabrique in 2011 with a group of friends after a five-year stint as an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil. The main difference between the two circus companies? "The budget," Gagnon said with a laugh. He added that Flip Fabrique takes a more poetic approach to circus performance. For example, its show Muse subverts gender roles through the story of a football player who wants to learn trapeze and become a drag queen.

Social commentary might not usually accompany acrobatics. But as a Fest magazine reviewer wrote, the show manages "to say more with breathtaking stunts and visual poetry than words ever could."

— Hannah Feuer

Also try...

  • Champions of Magic, Friday, December 1, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $45-65.
  • Stomp, Tuesday, May 28, and Wednesday, May 29, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $35-55.

Rachel Mars: Your Sexts Are Shit:Older Better Letters

Thursday, February 29, and Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.,Wright Theatre, Middlebury College, $5-25.
click to enlarge Rachel Mars - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Rachel Mars

Award-winning UK playwright Rachel Mars thinks your sexts could use some work. They're short, impersonal and utterly lacking in literary merit. For example...

"I want to fuck you rabid," followed by "Rachel! I meant Rachel!"

"Wow, congratulations on your penis."

These are the real-life romantic sonnets of the modern era, taken from Mars' one-woman show Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters. But improvement is possible, and any aspiring writer ought to learn from the greats. Mars might recommend the writing of James Joyce, though probably not his novel Ulysses. In a lesser-known yet equally imaginative piece of writing, Joyce calls his future wife, Nora Barnacle, a "dirty little fuck bird."

The historical equivalent of a sext, of course, is a raunchy love letter. In her show, Mars intersperses long-dead artists' stirring dirty talk with far less eloquent messages from dating apps. The contrast informs Mars' social commentary on how people express themselves and "a meditation on the construction of the queer female body," according to her website.

Mars draws from the sexually explicit writings of a wide range of famous artists and historical figures, including painters Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, poets Charles Bukowski and Radclyffe Hall, and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

"Oh my ass burns like fire!" Mozart wrote to his cousin Marianne.

"Never shying away from the tongue-in-cheek humour of big brains getting their rocks off, Mars raises a toast to the human libido, elevating the carnal alongside the cerebral," a reviewer wrote in Fest magazine. "In her hands, intimate human connection seems such a wondrous thing."

Please, phones away — no sexting during the show.

— H.F.

Also try...

  • The Wait Wait Stand-Up Tour, Friday, December 1, 8 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $41-109.25.
  • M'Balia Singley: Turn, Friday, December 1, and Saturday, December 2, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Space, Burlington, $30.
  • Sara Schaefer: Going Up, Friday, January 26, and Saturday, January 27, 7 and 9 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $20.

Robert Mirabal

Saturday, October 14, 7 p.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, $10-45.
click to enlarge Robert Mirabal - COURTESY OF JIM HOLBROOK
  • Courtesy Of Jim Holbrook
  • Robert Mirabal

Robert Mirabal's music pulls inspiration from an unusual medley of genres. He fuses traditional Native American flute melodies, drumming and chanting with contemporary rock, folk, hip-hop, African and techno music. The resulting sound, as New York City's Village Voice described it, is an "intoxicating swirl."

Mirabal's unconventional combination has found mainstream success. Major record labels have represented the Pueblo musician, who has two Grammy nominations under his belt and was twice named the Native American Music Awards' Artist of the Year. In a breakout moment for the artist, Mirabal's concert video Music From a Painted Cave was featured in a 2001 PBS special.

Popular recognition has never stopped Mirabal from experimenting. He composed his 1995 album Land for Japanese dance duo Eiko and Koma, whose slow-moving style earned both of them MacArthur "Genius" grants.

Even with contemporary influences, Mirabal's work draws heavily from his Indigenous roots. Growing up on tribal land in Taos Pueblo, N.M., Mirabal learned to play clarinet, saxophone, piano and drums at the Pueblo Indian School. But he found his musical calling in flute at age 18, when he bought the instrument with a modest loan from his grandmother.

"My music is infused with all the ceremonial music that I've heard all my life," Mirabal said in an interview with the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M. "What I create comes out of my body and soul, in a desire to take care of the spirits of the earth."


Also try...

  • Mali Obomsawin, Friday, September 29, 7 p.m., Flynn Space, Burlington, $25.
  • Ablaye Cissoko & Cyrille Brotto, Friday, October 6, 7:30 p.m., University of Vermont Lane Series, UVM Recital Hall, Burlington, $6.50-39.50.
  • Small Island Big Song, Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m., Wilson Hall, Middlebury College, $5-25.

Henry Rollins: Good to See You 2023

Saturday, September 23, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $30-40.
click to enlarge Henry Rollins - COURTESY OF ROSS HALFIN
  • Courtesy Of Ross Halfin
  • Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins has been a lot of things to a lot of people. Whether as a front man for punk legends Black Flag and the Rollins Band, an actor, a poet and motivational speaker, an author, or a host of his own TV show, Rollins is a modern Renaissance man.

In his sixties, he shows no signs of slowing down. The famously garrulous Rollins still prowls the stage on his spoken word tours, his tattoo-covered arms gesticulating wildly as he unleashes words at a million miles an hour. Yes, his hair has gone gray, and he refers to himself as a "dried-up old lizard" in his stage show. But as he covers everything from the death of his parents to the state of modern music to what he did during the pandemic — spoiler alert, it involves developing a competitive need to win eBay auctions — the waves of energy exploding from him show an artist every bit as vital as he was in his Black Flag days.

Despite the occasional foray back into the studio to record Christmas songs with William Shatner, Rollins has essentially retired from music. "At this point, I wouldn't go back on stage with a band for anything," he told the Guardian in an interview in March. "I didn't want to become a human jukebox playing old songs, so I filled the space the band took with films and TV and now my shows, my radio show and writing."

— Chris Farnsworth

Also try...

  • Paula Poundstone, Saturday, September 16, 7:30 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $35-45; and Friday, April 5, 8 p.m., Barre Opera House, $28-46.
  • David Nihill: We My People, Friday, September 29, and Saturday, September 30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $30.
  • David Sedaris, Saturday, April 20, 7 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $30-50.

Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils

Friday, October 13, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, $27-32.
click to enlarge Samirah Evans - COURTESY OF JEFFERY STARRATT
  • Courtesy Of Jeffery Starratt
  • Samirah Evans

For more than a decade, Samirah Evans was one of New Orleans' most sought-after blues and jazz singers. Starting in 1990, she was a regular performer at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for 15 years. Her debut album, Give Me a Moment, was lauded by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as one of the top releases of 2002.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Evans moved north and settled in her husband's hometown of Brattleboro. She wasted no time forming a band and performing as Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils. In 2007 she released My Little Bodhisattva, followed by Hot Club: Live at the Vermont Jazz Center two years later.

When not belting out songs onstage, Evans is a teacher, passing on her love for the art. A faculty member at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, Evans also teaches at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where she founded the "Ladies in Jazz" series to encourage collaborations between female singers and musicians.

"She makes each song her own by probing its essence and then imbuing it with her own, authentic, heartfelt personality," Vermont Jazz Center director Eugene Uman wrote about Evans.

For Evans, who spent a decade programming jazz music at WWOZ 90.7 FM in New Orleans, it's all about keeping the tradition alive. "As I further developed this skill [as a storyteller], it became apparent that I had the ability to take my audience along," she said in an interview with the Vermont Arts Council in 2020. One of her chief goals as a musician, she added, is to "serve those who want to participate in carrying on the music."

— C.F.

Also try...

  • Moira Smiley & the Rhizome Quartet, Saturday, September 16, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, $27-32.
  • Session Americana, Sunday, October 15, 7 p.m., Highland Center for the Arts, Greensboro, $22.

Night of Noir: Hangover Square and Theremin Noir

Friday, October 20, 6 p.m., Lane Series, University of Vermont Recital Hall, Burlington, $61.50.
click to enlarge Night of Noir: Hangover Square and Theremin Noir - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Night of Noir: Hangover Square and Theremin Noir

Bernard Herrmann soundtracked some of the greatest noir films of all time. He notably composed scores for the Alfred Hitchcock films Psycho, Vertigo and Marnie, as well as the theremin-heavy music from the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

A much more obscure piece of Herrmann's work takes center stage at the University of Vermont Recital Hall in a collaboration of the Lane Series and the Vermont International Film Festival: a screening of the film Hangover Square. The 1945 film noir, directed by John Brahm and adapted from the Patrick Hamilton novel of the same name, features some of Herrmann's best work — it inspired composer Stephen Sondheim after he saw it in the theater as a 16-year-old. Herrmann was also a giant influence on Sir George Martin. The Beatles producer often included musical homages to the composer, such as on the score for the song "Eleanor Rigby."

After the film screening, Theremin Noir take the stage. Featuring Rob Schwimmer on the theremin and Haken Continuum synthesizer, Uri Caine on piano, and Sara Caswell on violin, the quartet performs Herrmann's music — a vast catalog that runs the gamut from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane to the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.

It's a one-night study of a composer who "knew how lovely the dark should be," film critic David Thomson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. "He was at his best in rites of dismay, dark dreams, introspection, and the gloomy romance of loneliness."

— C.F.

Also try...

  • Johnny Gandelsman: This Is America: Part I, Tuesday, September 26, 7:30 p.m., Hopkins Center for the Arts, Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., $18-30.
  • Le Consort, Thursday, February 22, 7:30 p.m., Mahaney Arts Center, Middlebury College, $5-25.
  • VSO: The Hollywood Sound, Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $8.35-59.

The Price Is Right Live

Tuesday, September 26, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $39-229.
click to enlarge The Price Is Right Live - COURTESY OF ADAM GRIMM
  • Courtesy Of Adam Grimm
  • The Price Is Right Live

Generations of daytime TV viewers have tuned in to watch "The Price Is Right" and dreamed of sitting in the studio audience and hearing host Bob Barker call their name and shout, "Come on down!"

The chosen would then test their knowledge of the price of various consumer items and, if they were lucky, go home with whatever was behind the big door, be it a color TV, a trip to Hawaii, a new car or, on one occasion, a live elephant. (Believe it or not, the pachyderm wasn't the show's most impractical prize. The submarine or the Ferris wheel are tied for that honor.)

Now, the onstage version of TV's longest-running game show in history is swinging through Burlington and giving Vermonters a chance to spin the Big Wheel and go for broke. Though Barker, the show's host of 37 years, won't be there — he died on August 26 at age 99 — the live, in-person event will have plenty of gifts and cash prizes to give away. Attendees who want a chance to be contestants should plan on getting to the theater early to sign up. After all, who couldn't use a new submarine?

— Ken Picard

Also try...

  • Game Grumps Live, Monday, October 9, 7 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $42.50-136.50.
  • Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, Tuesday, October 31, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $35-65.
  • Wheel of Fortune Live, Wednesday, November 15, 8 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $41-171.

Black Opry

Friday, February 9, 7:30 p.m., Barre Opera House, $35.
click to enlarge Frankie Station - COURTESY OF JOSHUA KISSI
  • Courtesy Of Joshua Kissi
  • Frankie Station

In 1981, Frankie Staton walked into the Captain's Table nightclub in Nashville and signed up for a midnight open-mic jam session. The Black singer-songwriter was looking to make it in a city famous for its white country singers. Ignored for hours, Staton was finally called to the stage at 2:30 a.m., where she performed Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter." She received a standing ovation and an invitation to return the following night — this time, with her name on the marquee.

"Despite playing an integral part in the origins of country music, Black artists have been pushed to the margins of the genre," notes the narrator in Joshua Kissi's 2022 documentary, For Love & Country, about country musicians of color. "A new crop of artists is seeking to change that and reclaim their place on the country music charts."

Staton, who's featured in the documentary, has long been at the forefront of that movement. After a 1997 New York Times story claimed that diversity didn't exist among country music performers and fans, Staton created the first Black Country Music Showcase. She's since joined Black Opry, a musical revue founded in 2021 to highlight African American artists in country, roots, blues and Americana music. Staton brings her unique and soulful blend of piano and musical storytelling to the Barre Opera House for a one-night-only performance.

— K.P.

Also try...

  • Amythyst Kiah, Saturday, September 30, 7 p.m., Catamount Arts and KCP Presents, Dibden Auditorium, Vermont State University, Johnson, $16-51.
  • Bab L' Bluz, Friday, October 13, 7 p.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, $10-45.
  • Rhonda Vincent, Thursday, January 11, 7 p.m., Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Stowe, $48-65.

Aparna Nancherla: Standup and Book Tour!

Wednesday, September 20, and Thursday, September 21, 7 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $25.
click to enlarge Aparna Nancherla - COURTESY OF SHAUGHN & JOHN
  • Courtesy Of Shaughn & John
  • Aparna Nancherla

Describing herself as modest and shy — a "scrunched-up napkin with recyclable dreams" — comedian and actor Aparna Nancherla wrote a book, Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself and Impostor Syndrome, about her modesty and shyness. She then scheduled a book tour that's also a standup routine about being, well, modest and shy.

The title of her memoir notwithstanding, there's little that is unreliable or fake about this established comedic force whom Vulture described as "hyperintelligent ... and [one] who bristles against the mainstream because she seems to be so much smarter than the rest of us."

Fans of late-night comedy and smart adult cartoons will undoubtedly recognize Nancherla's work, if not her name. She's appeared on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" on CBS, "Inside Amy Schumer" on Comedy Central and "The Great North" on Fox. She was a staff writer on NBC's "Late Night With Seth Meyers." And on the Netflix hit series "Bojack Horseman," she voiced the recurring role of the titular character's half sister, a chestnut mare with the longest name in television: Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack. In 2017, Rolling Stone included Nancherla in its annual list of "the 50 funniest people right now."

The 41-year-old Washington, D.C., native has a Wikipedia entry long enough to scroll, though in deference to her modesty, we'll keep it brief: She's hilarious, so catch one of her Burlington shows.

— K.P.

Also try...

  • Iliza Shlesinger, Sunday, October 15, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $42.5-182.50.
  • Brian Posehn, Thursday, October 26, 7 p.m.; and Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28, 7 and 9 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $30.
  • Langston Kerman, Thursday, November 9, 7 p.m.; and Friday, November 9, and Saturday, November 10, 7 and 9 p.m., Vermont Comedy Club, Burlington, $25.

Mavis Staples

Monday, October 30, 7:30 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $35-69.
click to enlarge Mavis Staples - COURTESY OF MYRIAM SANTOS
  • Courtesy Of Myriam Santos
  • Mavis Staples

She sang at John F. Kennedy's inauguration, at civil rights rallies featuring Martin Luther King Jr. and in the Obama White House. Mavis Staples, the Grammy Award-winning member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, "has been a gospel singer," New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote last year, "longer than Elizabeth II has worn the crown."

And the 84-year-old Staples, one of Rolling Stone's top 200 singers of all time, is still touring. "No one else does solidarity, reconciliation and mutual uplift with the soulful dignity of Mavis Staples," Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times.

She rose to fame with the Staples Singers. The family gospel group led by her father, Roebuck "Pops" Staples, racked up a string of Top 40 hits including "Respect Yourself," "Heavy Makes You Happy," "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" and "I'll Take You There," the last of which reached No. 1 in 1972.

In more recent years, she has collaborated with Prince, Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Nona Hendryx, Ry Cooder and David Byrne. She has recorded albums with producer Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. We Get By, released in 2019, is her first full-length collaboration with Grammy winner Ben Harper.

The last surviving member of the Staples Singers, Mavis Staples has asked God why she's still alive, she told Remnick. "The only reason I could see is to sing my songs," she said. "I'm going to sing every time I get on the stage — I'm gonna sing with all my heart and all I can put out."

— Mary Ann Lickteig

Also try...

  • Joanne Shaw Taylor, Thursday, November 16, 8 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $35-109.50.
  • Dionne Warwick featuring VSO String Ensemble, Friday, November 24, 7 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Rutland, $79-99.
  • Joan Osborne, Friday, December 15, 7 p.m., Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Stowe, $45-59.


Thursday, October 5, through Sunday, October 8, various times, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover, N.H., $18-30.
click to enlarge "Frogman" - COURTESY OF CURIOUS DIRECTIVE
  • Courtesy Of Curious Directive
  • "Frogman"

An English theater company that calls itself curious directive brings its coming-of-age, supernatural thriller Frogman to Dartmouth College.

Half virtual reality, half live theater, the production explores the fragility of childhood imagination as it weaves together time travel, scuba diving and a murder mystery. Set in a fictional coastal town in Queensland, Australia, Frogman tells the story of Meera, a coral reef scientist, who learns from detectives that her father is being charged for the murder of her childhood friend who disappeared in 1995. Recommended for audiences ages 12 and up, the show shifts between 1995 and the present, as the action takes viewers to childhood sleepovers with young Meera and her friends and on an underwater search-and-rescue mission in a theatrical experience the Independent called "touching and nostalgic."

"Theatre through the lens of science" is the motto of curious directive, a two-time winner of the Fringe First Award, which recognizes the best new writing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The company didn't set out to mix virtual reality with live theater when it created Frogman, artistic director Jack Lowe told Theatre Weekly. "The story just needed it. It sounds glib, but it's true."

— M.A.L.

Also try...

  • The Odyssey, Tuesday, October 17, 7 p.m., Flynn Main Stage, Burlington, $25-45.
  • No Strings Marionette Co.: The Hobbit, Saturday, November 25, 11 a.m., Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, free.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Scene Change | It's a season of transition in Vermont performing arts"

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