Lives of the Performers, Part II: A Portrait of Jason

Hilton Als

Thursday, May 26, 7 - 8:30 pm
Calderwood Hall

Due to an illness impacting the cast, this event has been cancelled. We apologize for the inconvenience for our audience.

On December 3, 1966, director Shirley Clarke invited a small crew to her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. What came of the night was Portrait of Jason, a groundbreaking work of cinema verité that is now known as one of the seminal documentaries on the LGBTQIA+ experience and the most influential films in cinema. Captured over a single evening, the portrayal of a gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer Jason Holliday interrogated race, class and sexuality in ways that were and still are ahead of its time. Now Hilton Als, renowned theatre critic for The New Yorker and the Gardner’s Visiting Curator for the Performing Arts, has adapted the film into a stage drama that captures the intimacy, vulnerability and rawness of the original film while probing power and the price of storytelling itself. Join us for a creative exploration of the life, loves, and work of a man who, in this candid and raw film, brilliantly navigated between truth and performance. As in Als' other work, the author and director means to celebrate and emphasize Isabella Gardner's commitment to the art of performance, and curation as spectacle.

Hilton Als.

Hilton Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1996, a theatre critic in 2002, and chief theatre critic in 2013. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for The Talk of the Town. Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. His first book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. His most recent book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the Lambda Literary Award in 2014, discusses various narratives of race and gender. He won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2017.


In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2016, he received Lambda Literary’s Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature. 


In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on “Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated “Self-Consciousness” at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and published “Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis.” In 2015, he collaborated with the artist Celia Paul to create “Desdemona for Celia by Hilton,” an exhibition for the Metropolitan Opera’s Gallery Met. “Alice Neel, Uptown,” which Als curated in 2017, was selected by three of Artforum’s critics as one of the ten best shows of the year. ;


Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City. 


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Visiting Curator of the Performing Arts helps the Museum provide a dynamic, engaging artistic incubator for new and contemporary expressions through dance, music, theater, and spoken word, and builds on Isabella's desire to host multi-disciplinary cultural experiences. With a one-year tenure spanning 2021-2022, Hilton Als is the third person to serve in this role. Past Visiting Curators of the Performing Arts include musician and impresario George Steel and vocalist and performance artist Helga Davis.


While the City of Boston’s vaccination and mask mandates are lifted for general museum visits, the Gardner maintains its proof of vaccination and mask requirements for free and ticketed events in Calderwood Hall. Please visit the Know Before You Go web page for additional information, including accepted forms of documentation. Please contact the Box Office at 617 278 5156 for further assistance.


Tickets are required and include Museum admission. Choose from two seating sections. 


Adults $45, seniors $40, members $35, students & children ages 7-17 $20 (children under 7 not admitted).


Adults $40, seniors $35, members $30,students & children ages 7-17 $20 (children under 7 not admitted).


Online: Click the TICKETS button

By phone: Call the box office at 617 278 5156, Wednesday–Monday, 10 am–4 pm; Thursday until 6 pm; CLOSED TUESDAY

For sold-out performances, standby tickets may be available in the lobby no earlier than one hour before the performance begins. We cannot guarantee the availability of standby tickets for sold-out performances.


  • Seating in Calderwood Hall is open within each seating level.
  • To request accessible or wheelchair seating please call the box office at 617 278 5156.
  • Sating begins 45 minutes before performance time. Once the performance begins, seating is not guaranteed.
  • No refunds or exchanges will be made.
  • Programs are subject to change.

The Visiting Curator of Performing Arts is supported by the Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified Initiative and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.