The theatre, music and dance making this performance season so explosive.

What does it mean to be an American right now?

Long-simmering social unrest has slammed like a boulder into the lake of our national consciousness. Fomented by the November election, ideological clashes are rippling across the country, confronting us all with a crucial conversation about civil rights and social justice.

Like the nation, Seattle is caught in its own sociopolitical riptide, our professed progressivism regularly undermined by our civic actions—often talking the talk, rarely walking the walk.

Our arts community is listening. This season on Seattle stages could serve as a primer on American politics over the years, a roadmap to how we got where we are and, hopefully, a light to shine on where we’re going—good or bad.

Two classic plays deal with American race relations—one explores love in the Jim Crow South, the other family tension and social mobility in midcentury, white-flight Chicago. A ’60s musical is re-set around contemporary political prisoners, and a new musical riffs on one of our country’s greatest moral quandaries, the revelation of torture at Abu Ghraib. A new play set on both sides of the Pacific digs into identity, culture and belonging.

While artists wade into these murky, complex topics, arts organizations are taking on an equally critical question: Who has real, genuine access to the arts? Old and new performing arts companies alike are loosening the laces on the so-called “way things are done.” They’re shaking up dated performance models, welcoming in new styles of music, theatre or dance to broaden the definition of the art forms, eliminating the rules of etiquette that keep the uninitiated out.

We have a long way to go to achieve racial and gender parity in our arts community. Many minority groups remain grossly underrepresented on stage and behind the scenes. But this season is an invitation, an incubator for conversation and self-reflection. Dive in, absorb all you can, open yourself up.

Wedding Band

An interracial relationship in the Jim Crow South.


A Tale for the Time Being

Book-It adapts a novel brimming with culture and questioning.

A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry’s essential 1957 play wrestles with racial politics and family dynamics.

Bad Apples

A rock musical mines the moral complexities of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Man of La Mancha

Allison Narver combines epic political theatre and comic opera in a contemporary take on a classic story.


The Big Meal

New Century Theatre Company presents a family story stretching generations.


The Royale

ACT presents the Seattle premiere of Marco Ramirez’s hit play about a Black boxing champ in 1905 America.

More Picks in Theatre

Eight more great stage offerings this season.

Clear and Sweet

Ballet-inspired movement meets Southern Baptist choral singing.


28 Problems

Dayna Hanson’s newest work takes its inspiration from calculus and her sons.


 More Picks in Dance

Three more can’t-miss dance works.


Emerald City Music

A new series keeps chamber music young and casual.

Gamelan Pacifica

Local composer Jarrad Powell leads one of the world’s best ensembles of Indonesian percussion music.


Classical Progression

Seattle Symphony maintains an exacting degree of artistry, evolving the traditional symphony model and broadening its audience.

 More Picks in Music

Three more spectacular shows to check out this fall.