Performers from near and far visited in 2017

Cuba’s Malpaso Dance, an 11-member troupe, performed pieces from two new works at the Yard. —Nir Arieli

Theater, dance, and film lovers enjoyed a stellar season of entertainment in 2017. Island organizations brought exciting performers from all around the globe, and various venues hosted speakers, writers, poets, and more. Here are a few highlights.

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse kept it fun and funny this summer with its three-play lineup. Although humor played a big part in all three productions, each dealt with an issue — from gay marriage to censorship to class and race privilege.

Kicking off the 2017 season was a play with a topical political bent. “Dusty and the Big Bad World” was written by former PBS children’s show writer Cusi Cram, who based the comedy on a real-life controversy involving the U.S. Secretary of Education’s opposition to a depiction of a same-sex marriage in the kids’ show “Postcards from Buster.”

A new play by another television writer, Emmy winner Matt Hoverman, premiered at the Playhouse in August. “Who You See Here” takes a satirical look at 12-step groups, recovery and therapy, and celebrity worship with good-natured humor.

Rounding out the Playhouse season was a production of the Pulitzer prizewinning comedy/drama “Driving Miss Daisy,” by Alfred Uhry. As always, the playhouse imported Equity actors from New York for this sparkling production of the much-lauded play, which was later made into an Academy awardwinning film.

Once again, Wendy Taucher treated Islanders to a professionally cast comedic opera. This time around, the opera, dance, and music producer selected the comic opera “Don Pasquale” to work her magic on. With the addition of some humorous narration to help audiences bridge the language barrier, Ms. Taucher’s troupe showed off their virtuosity while the producer gave us another taste of her brilliance in adapting classic works for modern audiences.

The Yard had an exciting season, presenting no fewer than 17 different dance troupes and individuals to Vineyard audiences. From hip-hop to ballet, traditional Indian dance to African dance to tap and contemporary — the Yard pretty much had all bases covered. Some highlights of the 2017 season included the return of Cuban contemporary dance group Malpaso Dance, the presentation of three works of Lucinda Childs performed by the legendary choreographer’s granddaughter Ruth Childs, and a new work in progress by Camille A. Brown and Dancers. For the Yard’s benefit this year, guests were treated to the music of Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. The Grammy awardwinning bandleader has composed the music for the latest work by Malpaso Dance, and the Yard brought the ensemble along to accompany the troupe’s performances.

The Moth Mainstage returned to the Vineyard for the sixth year in a row. The live storytelling event, which, like all Moth Mainstage events was broadcast to audiences all over the world by NPR radio, featured five storytellers, including the Island’s own Cynthia Riggs. Ms. Riggs participated in the first Moth on the Vineyard event in 2012, recounting the story of a long-forgotten flirtation with a man who resurfaced in her life 60 years later. This time around, Ms. Riggs completed the love story, which included the reunion of the former co-workers, love, marriage and then, sadly, the passing of her new husband. The crowd cheered enthusiastically for Ms. Riggs, an author, poet, and well-known and loved Islander.

Featherstone’s Festival of Poetry this year included visits from two powerhouses of the poetry world; Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky were featured in separate readings in August. Collins, the former U.S. poet laureate, comes to the Island every other year to read a selection of his humorous poems to sold-out audiences. This time around, the audience got an additional treat when Carly Simon, a Collins fan, introduced her friend to the crowd. Acclaimed poet Robert Pinsky read his work accompanied by jazz saxophonist Stan Strickland for an exciting multidisciplinary evening.

Two Island organizations — the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and the Yard — are dedicated to bringing entertainment to Island audiences year-round, so keep an eye out for events in the new year from both. Among the offerings from the Yard are an evening of new works by Sandglass Theater, featuring puppetry, music, theater, and visual imagery, and a performance by French troupe Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, both in January. The playhouse will continue to present a variety of series, including the Poetry Cafe, Wicked Good Cabaret, Shakespeare for the Masses, and the newest off-season addition, Jenny’s Drama Salon. Check for upcoming events.