We’re 18 months into a pandemic that changed our world in every area imaginable—disrupting the daily routines of our lives and upending our assumptions about our institutions. Nearly two years have passed since we published our last arts guide in February 2020 (which quickly became obsolete). When brainstorming about this issue early this summer, we were hopeful it would be a celebration of “a return to normal”— to the live shows, plays, dance performances, film screenings, art galleries, openings, and special events that make the city pop. Now, with the release of this special issue in sight, we know there’s no way to talk about what’s to come without talking about what the collective “we” have been through in these past 18 months. You don’t need us to tell you that it’s been a dispiriting year and a half crammed inside our homes, separated from our real and chosen families, freezing or sweltering through outdoor hangs. And unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet; people are still getting sick, here and across the world.
Truth be told, we don’t have an unblemished or triumphant return to normalcy to share with you. But we do have glimpses of what the future might look like. We have a better understanding of what makes it safer to gather (namely vaccines and masks), and, thankfully, we do have arts venues and organizations across the D.C. region planning a fall season full of concerts, lectures, performances, and exhibitions. These venues are hoping to bring us back together in the safest ways possible, but we can’t ignore the reality that the coronavirus situation is a bit too unpredictable to list everything that’s currently on the 2021-2022 calendar. This isn’t our traditional full-length arts guide. Instead, our critics and arts team have curated a list of what we think is interesting and exciting for fall, and we hope you will find it interesting too. Consider it a preview of the season to come—and of what the future might hold in a hypothetical post-pandemic world. —Emma Sarappo and Sarah Marloff