This week, Jared Bowen finds the South in Salem with “Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings” at the Peabody Essex Museum and reviews “The Black Clown” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

“Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings,” on view at the Peabody Essex Museum through September 23

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings
"The Turn" by Sally Mann
Courtesy of the artist and the Peabody Essex Museum

The first comprehensive retrospective of photographer Sally Mann is on view at the Peabody Essex Museum. “Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings” presents 115 photographs encompassing 40 years of the artist’s work. Organized into sections addressing family, mortality, and the Southern landscape, Mann uses her photographs to interrogate the history and memory of her native land, the American South. “It is the soil that has nurtured her,” says curator Sarah Kennel, “it is where she has raised her own kids. And yet she also recognizes that this very same land is a land of violence and trauma. And so how do you come to terms with acknowledging that ugliness, that kind of scar, within the very thing that you love so much?”

“The Black Clown,” presented by the American Repertory Theater through September 23

The Black Clown
The cast of “The Black Clown”
Maggie Hall, courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

The American Repertory Theater presents the world premiere of “The Black Clown.” Based on the 1931 Langston Hughes poem of the same name, this piece of musical theater fuses vaudeville, jazz, and spiritual elements into a choreographed chronology of the black experience in America. “The Black Clown is precisely why we have and need theater,” says Jared. “It honors Hughes’ poem by filling the air around us with song and sight that plunges into the soul. It’s the kind of piece that returns you to the world you entered just 70 minutes before, if not a changed person, then certainly a vastly more enlightened one.”

“Kiss of the Spider Woman,” presented by Lyric Stage Company through October 7

Kiss of the Spider Woman
Eddy Cavazos and Taavon Gamble star in "Kiss of the Spider Woman"
Mark Howard, courtesy of Lyric Stage Company

A Kander and Ebb musical gets new life at the Lyric Stage. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” tells the story of two cellmates in a Latin American jail. Valentin is an Argentinian revolutionary who refuses to give up the names of his comrades, while Molina is a homosexual imprisoned for deviant behavior. Despite their fraught confinement, the two prisoners form an unlikely bond as Molina recounts his fantasies about a mysterious 1940s movie character who can kill with a kiss.

The fall arts season is upon us! What shows are you most excited for? Tell Jared about it on Facebook or Twitter