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Photo Credit: Adam DeTour

When it comes to the performing arts, Bostonians are spoiled. A world-class orchestra playing in one of only three acoustically perfect concert halls in the world. An equally excellent ballet. Then there are the New England and Boston conservatories, the A.R.T. and the Huntington, free Shakespeare on the Common, the Celebrity Series and pre-Broadway runs at the Shubert, the Colonial, the Cutler Majestic…  

When it comes to theater, music and dance, the options are dizzying. 

But sometimes it seems like the same arts organizations steal all the thunder. And while we’ve sung the praises of smaller companies like the Gold Dust Orphans, Urbanity Dance and Guerilla Opera, there are lots we’ve overlooked.

Here, then, is a collection of stellar organizations that may have slipped under your radar.

 

 

 

 

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Shawn Lacount

Cofounder/Artistic Director

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Chase

1. Company One

A theater company in residence at the Boston Center for the Arts, Company One came into being 15 years ago, when six Clark University grads went camping off the coast of Portland, Maine. Since then, it’s delivered some of the city’s most reliably wonderful performances, including the powerful Brother/Sister trilogy and a lost Tennessee Williams play staged in a room at the Ames Hotel. Its goal is to foster social change, build community, broaden arts participation and eliminate prejudice, sexism, homophobia, classism and other social divides. It’s a lofty mission, but based on Company One’s track record, it’s the little theater company that could. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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David Dower

Director of Artistic Programs

Photo Credit: Mike Ritter

2. ArtsEmerson’s Film Series 

Anyone who’s been to Downtown Crossing has seen the way Emerson College has transformed several blocks of urban blight, but what they might not know is that within the Paramount Center is a screening room to rival any commercial movie house, showing films you won’t find anywhere else. Earlier this month, an obscure Orson Welles movie and an early Guillermo del Toro horror flick were playing, as well as such family-friendly fare as A Bug’s Life. The intriguing programming also included a simultaneous run of the 1950s sci-fi classic The Fly, starring Vincent Price, along with David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake, starring Jeff Goldblum. It’s nirvana for film buffs.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Courtney Lewis

Music Director

Photo Credit: Eric Antoniou

3. Discovery Ensemble 

Founded by charismatic University of Cambridge grad Courtney Lewis (associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and a Dudamel fellow with the L.A. Philharmonic), this chamber orchestra consists of young musicians who play seamlessly (in part because many of them studied together). With performances at Harvard’s Sanders Theater and NEC’s Jordan Hall, the orchestra has wowed audiences and become the darlings of WGBH, where the group has recorded. A recent concert featured soloist Josh Weilerstein (formerly the group’s concertmaster and now an assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic) playing an Astor Piazzolla piece better than any recording you can find on iTunes. The level of musicianship is nothing short of astonishing.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ryan turner

Music and Artistic Director

4. Emmanuel and Trinity Church    

For free, world-class classical music in magnificent settings, a lot of people overlook the obvious: churches. On Newbury Street, the neo-gothic Emmanuel Church has been hosting Bach’s cantatas—sacred music composed for specific dates on the Christian calendar—in the correct liturgical context, in the order Bach wrote them, on Sundays from Sept. through May since 1970. It’s one of the few churches in the world that does, and at such a level of excellence that famed opera director Peter Sellars cites it as formative to his musical education. Meanwhile, inside H.H. Richardson’s Copley Square masterpiece, Trinity Church offers Friday organ concerts by some of the world’s best soloists, on two of the only organs in Boston that have been meticulously maintained and updated since the original was installed by Hilborne Roosevelt in 1876. Both options are enough to make an agnostic question his judgment. 

 

 

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Spiro Veloudos

Producing Artistic Director

5. The Lyric Stage Company


Boston is a smart town, so not surprisingly, there are a lot of talented local playwrights, directors, actors and designers. The Lyric is there to foster them. Founded in 1974, it was housed for a time in a 100-seat theater over a hardware store on Charles Street and settled in its current home at the YWCA in 1990. After some lackluster programming, the visionary Spiro Veloudos took over, and 18 Elliot Norton awards later, he’s proven that championing local talent results in consistently excellent theater. The Curse of the Bambino was its biggest homerun to date (pun intended). Even now that the curse has been lifted, the Lyric still consistently hits ’em out of the ballpark with productions like 2008’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, 2009’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone (which earned high praise from The New York Times) and last year’s The Temperamentals.

 

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Lino Delgado

President/CoFounder

Photo Credit: Floorlords

6. The Floorlords and the Boston Tap Company

Featured performers under the umbrella of One Love Entertainment, these two crews give Boston its street cred in the urban dance world and are amazing to watch. For more than three decades, the Floorlords have pushed the boundaries of b-boying (aka break dancing). A family affair, cofounder and current president Lino Delgado has spawned a dynasty that includes his son and nephew, who’ve won world championships. They’ve shared a stage with big names in hip-hop and won countless awards (Mayor Menino proclaimed June 25 Floorlords Day in Boston). Meanwhile, Boston Tap Co. was founded by Sean Fielder, who starred in the Broadway musical Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk and performed for Hillary Clinton, Jay Leno and CNN. He formed Boston Tap Co. in 2007, and his group has appeared everywhere from the Topsfield Fair to Jacob’s Pillow. Its annual performance, called Rhythm in the Night, includes tap, spoken word and other dance forms. Any time you get the chance to see either, be prepared to have your eyes pop out of your head.     

 

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Sean Fielder

Founder/Director

Photo Credit: One Love Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. New Repertory Theatre

Quietly toiling away in Watertown at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, this group stages consistently strong performances in two spaces, a 340-seat and a spiffy black-box theater. In addition to mounting top-notch revivals of favorites like Speed-the-Plow, Ragtime and The Threepenny Opera, the theater is committed to presenting new, provocative and thought-provoking work. Since its inception in 1984, New Rep has produced 63 East Coast, New England, Boston or world premieres by playwrights like Athol Fugard. It’s earned them 22 Elliot Norton awards (at least one for every other year they’ve been around), as well as some breathless praise from critics. It might not be in the middle of the Theater District, but the tickets are cheaper, and you can actually find a parking space.

 

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Heidi Luerra

Founder/Executive Director

8. Raw: Natural Born Artists

The Boston chapter of a 54-city artists’ collaborative, the group seeks to showcase the finest new talent in a wildly eclectic array of media: film, fashion, dance, music, visual art, performance art, and even makeup and hairstyling. The organization provides the resources necessary to expose emerging talent, specifically artists within the first decade of their careers. Once a month, from February through October, it takes over space at a nightclub or other venue large enough to host a party that’s been described as “a circus of creativity.” Which means you might see fire dancers, belly dancers or someone suspended from the ceiling and twirling around while reciting poetry. The beauty lies in the unexpected. That, and the fact that admission is only $10, and there’s usually a full bar. 

 

 

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Merli v. Guerra

Cofounder/Artistic Director

Photo Credit: Julia Wagner

9. Luminarium Dance Company

Modern dance gets short shrift these days, often dismissed with the old stereotype of people in leotards making jerky movements to convey bitter alienation. Think again. Founded in 2010 by Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh Holman, the Cambridge-based (what did you expect?) company calls itself “a think tank, a museum, a gallery for contemporary dance and for contemporary ideas.”  If that sounds a bit nebulous, that’s only because it’s hard to pin down performances that might include movement set to music, video, lighting, drums or what-have-you. In the words of one critic: “Luminarium Dance Company presented six seemingly disjointed pieces and brought them together to create an exploration of the human experience unlike any other I have seen.” Just try and typecast that.

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Kimberleigh Holman

Cofounder/Artistic Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meg Taintor

Founder/Artistic Director

10. Whistler in the Dark Theatre

Now in its eighth season, this Boston-based ensemble has produced 21 full-length plays under the rubric of “unknowing the known.” The group’s aim is to present “highly theatrical and physically inventive plays that question and challenge our assumptions about the world in which we live and the rules we live by.” Their two current productions, now playing at the Charlestown Working Theater, are George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer, alongside Our Country’s Good, a play set in the penal colony of 18th-century Australia, in which the hero attempts to mount a production of The Recruiting Officer, despite the fact that he only has two scripts, a largely illiterate cast of convicts and a leading lady who’s headed for the gallows. If that’s not theatrical, we don’t know what is.