New and thought-provoking theater shows and art exhibitions mix the past, present and future. Earmark these highlights on your calendar.
Botticelli: Heroines & Heroes
Fifteenth-century artist Sandro Botticelli is best known for his reinterpretation of ancient myths into elegantly painted Renaissance parables. He took heroines and heroes engaged in lust, betrayal and other sins and turned them into role models of bravery and virtue. In this Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum exhibition, a work that the museum purchased in 1894, Botticelli’s “Story of Lucretia,” is reunited with its sister painting, “Virginia,” from the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, Italy. As a whole, the exhibition explores other depictions of women and men triumphing over challenges, and also includes contemporary responses by graphic novelist Karl Stevens, which grounds these ancient tales in our modern world.
February 14 to May 19Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston
This enigmatic exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, examines over 100 years of couture and ready-to-wear fashion that challenges sartorial gender norms. Boundary-pushing designers and celebrities have been blurring the lines between men’s and women’s attire for decades, and this show highlights statement makers from Jean Paul Gaultier to Marlene Dietrich to David Bowie. The multimedia display includes paintings, photographs, music, video and, of course, physical garments. It explores not only the fashion implications of gender nonconformity, but also the cultural and political shifts that result from a broader gender spectrum and a wave of self-acceptance.
March 21 to August 25Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston
Becoming Dr. Ruth
Generations know Dr. Ruth Westheimer as the famed sex therapist of the 1980s. But, before she doled out advice on her show “Sexually Speaking” and wrote over 40 books on intimacy, she was Karola Ruth Siegel, a young girl fleeing Nazi Germany and, then, a sniper in Jerusalem. Playwright Mark St. Germain’s “Becoming Dr. Ruth” is a poignant, one-woman show about the legend’s life, that explores the woman behind the entertaining late-night TV appearances and frank sexual advice.
April 27 to May 19.New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown
The Handmaid’s Tale
The story that gripped us first in Margaret Atwood’s book and then on-screen through Hulu now takes to the stage in Boston Lyric Opera’s musical adaptation. The alarmingly prescient plot about women oppressed by a futuristic government in Boston blends perfectly with the drama of the operatic tradition. Audiences follow the protagonist Offred, played by Jennifer Johnson Cano, as she desperately attempts to preserve her story and her personhood in the homogenous culture. This is the first performance of a new edition of the opera, created specifically for the BLO.
May 5 to May 12.Harvard University Ray Lavietes Pavilion, 65 North Harvard St., Allston
Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker
Photographer Olivia Parker has spent more than 40 years exploring the dynamics between knowledge, vision and the natural world. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in art history, Parker embarked on a self-taught photography journey. Her striking images utilize light and form to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is the first exhibition to display a comprehensive overview of the artist’s career, featuring more than 100 works, including her more recent pieces exploring memory loss.
July 13 to November 11.Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem