Outside the Box, the popular free performing arts celebration founded by philanthropist Ted Cutler, will return to Boston Common for the third time this summer. Among the offerings unveiled during a press conference with Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Monday morning were two headlining concert attractions: alt-rock band Smash Mouth on July 14 and Daughtry on July 15. New this year is OTB Interactive, an innovation-focused initiative meant to bring Boston’s business and technology communities into the creative mix.
“Outside the Box shows us how performing arts can bring a community together, breaking down barriers and inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds,” Mayor Walsh said in a press statement. “Outside the Box will provide Boston’s residents and visitors with opportunities to enjoy our city’s rich culture, while also showcasing Boston’s thriving startup scene, providing another resource for entrepreneurs in Boston. Programs like Outside the Box are a cornerstone of our commitment to creating an inclusive, innovative cultural environment.”
The new initiative will include an Innovation Village showcasing the creative technology sprouting in Boston businesses and presentation of OTB Interactive Awards, as well as an off-grounds speaking summit and networking events. In addition to Capital One, the festival’s principal sponsor, OTB Interactive will also be supported by General Electric, WeWork, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
“Since starting Outside the Box, my hope continues to be that we can inspire people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures with our broad range of offerings,” Cutler said in a press statement. “By introducing an innovation section to Outside the Box this year, we’re bringing together all of what makes our city great in one event.”
Georgia Lyman, the festival’s artistic director, also stressed that this year’s event will make accessibility a significant priority. Enjoyment for all was taken into account in designing the festival grounds. “The concept of universal design is key,” Lyman said in a telephone interview. “If you design it to help one person, then it becomes more accessible for everyone.”
The festival, she explained, had always offered wheelchair accessibility and assisted-listening devices. But Lyman said that those resources weren’t being utilized fully. “This year we want to implement them more and market them better,” she said. “All of our volunteers will also be put through an accessibility training program to make sure that they can help anyone get around.”
As for performances, this year’s event marks the first time Outside the Box has implemented an interdisciplinary open call, as opposed to calls limited to theatrical presenters in 2013 and 2015. Lyman worked with expert panels to find acts in music, dance, theater, and other performance disciplines.
“We tried to come up with the weirdest, coolest, and most unexpected acts,” she said. “The nice thing is a lot of these people are new — this year we worked really hard to get an entirely new roster. There will still be some old faces, of course, but we’re excited to showcase some fresher talent.”
Lyman mentioned that the lineup, which will be fully unveiled in the coming weeks, will include Soft Cactus, a Massachusetts R&B/rock/fusion band, and a performance by Operahub of “El Gato con Botas,” a bilingual operatic of “Puss in Boots” composed by Xavier Montsalvatge and suited for children.
“I’m glad that people are already getting excited about this,” Lyman said about mounting anticipation for the festival, “because I’m certainly excited.”
John Paul Stapleton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnP_Stapleton.