ARTS
2:44 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Weekend Arts Preview: An Inspiring Orchestra and a Mythical Giant

Members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra
Members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra
Credit Jared Bowen / WGBH

What’s the haps with the Boston arts scene this week? Jared Bowen has all the information you need, from introducing you to an orchestra with an inspiring story to scouting out a theater’s next season.

Afghan Youth Orchestra

From 1996 to 2001, when Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, music was banned in the country — you couldn’t play or listen to music, and Taliban leaders even destroyed musical instruments and books. But over the past few years, through the efforts of organizations like the Afghan National Institute of Music, which was founded in 2010, music has begun to reemerge in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Youth Orchestra, which is part of the Afghan National Institute of Music, has played a central role in that reemergence. 140 students, ranging in age from 10 to 21, gather to play music. The songs are both traditional and Western — one teacher said that all the students know the themes to “Love Story” and “The Godfather.” The students can study music free of charge, and all are welcome. Many of the school’s students are orphans, and a third are girls, something that would have been unheard of under Taliban rule.

Ahmed Sarmast, the founder of the Afghan National Institute of Music, worked hard to get the Youth Orchestra up and running — he relied on sponsorships from international partners like the World Bank to help him recruit teachers and secure instruments. Just a few years leader, he led the Orchestra on its first international tour. The students played in esteemed venues like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center — and they had a three-day residency at The New England Conservatory in Boston.

Sarmast hopes that music will become more than a passion and an art form for his students — he believes that it can be an agent for change.

“Music is not just an entertainment, music is not just a type of art,” he explains. “But music is a powerful force for bringing about social changes, it’s a powerful force to bring about economic changes in Afghanistan, and it’s a powerful force for assisting the people in Afghanistan to get rid of the traumas of war.”

The cast of Jack the Giant Slayer
The cast of Jack the Giant Slayer
Credit Warner Bros.

Jack the Giant Slayer

In theaters March 1.

It’s the first of the spring blockbusters, and it’s a great one. Jack the Giant Slayer is a fun film that the whole family can enjoy. It’s a retelling of the age-old “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale, although not too much has changed — Jack still climbs up the beanstalk to rescue the princess and battle the giants.

It’s a simple story, but one with a great cast. Nicholas Hoult, the star of films like “About A Boy” and “A Single Man” plays Jack, and Ewan McGregor of “Big Fish” and “Men Who Stare at Goats” plays the princess’ guardian. The incredibly even production also owes its success to director Bryan Singer, the man behind the “X-Men” films.

It’s a sweet, romantic film that doesn’t make too much of itself and reminds us of storytelling’s basic premise: there’s good, there’s evil, and only one side can prevail.

The New Repertory Theatre

It’s time for theaters to announce their upcoming seasons, and the New Repertory Theatre is leading the way. The company’s season will feature a diverse range of productions, from “The Elephant Man” and “Rancho Mirage,” to “Camelot,” “Imagining Madoff,” “The Whipping Man,” and “On the Verge.”

The new season will mark artistic director Jim Petosa’s second with the company. Petosa has truly revitalized and expanded the New Repertory Theatre during his tenure. He said he planned the season around three words: dreams, dares, and discovery — and he wasn’t afraid to include controversial choices like “Imagining Madoff” in the process.