It’s been a rough summer. Red tide. Hurricanes Florence and Michael. The Kavanaugh hearings. The midterm election cycle. The U.N.’s climate change report. My friends and family have divided into two camps: either by avoiding the news altogether or by being glued to their cell phones and social media, waiting for the next awful report or maybe some hope that this troubled era is coming to an end.

Susan Burns

Image: Lori Sax

Until a few weeks ago, I fell into the latter camp, with my iPhone never an arm’s length away while I worked, exercised, watched TV or sat down to a good dinner. My phone sends me proof of my screen time usage, with weekly alerts that show my hours (embarrassingly more than two hours a day) on newsfeeds, Facebook, messages and email. And that doesn’t count my time on my desktop at the office. “No wonder I feel anxious all the time,” I thought. One night after dinner, I finally told my husband, “Let’s turn off the news and find something uplifting.”

I landed on The Durrells in Corfu, a heart-warming series about a pretty, middle-aged British widow and her four self-absorbed children as they escape to the gorgeous Greek island of Corfu in 1935 to start a new life. The comedy-drama series is loosely based on the real Durrells. (Author Lawrence Durrell of The Alexandria Quartet and his youngest brother Gerald, a famous naturalist, are two of the children; the series is based on three autobiographical novels Gerald wrote about his family’s years in Corfu.) Every episode, of course, brings a new crisis—trying to find food, paying the rent, complicated romances, cultural misunderstandings, childbirth and death—but by the end of every 45 minutes the dysfunctional family comes together with love and humor in a sun-drenched setting in an old home on the Mediterranean Sea. My husband (who prefers darker fare than witty Anglophile comedies) and I binge-watched until we caught up to the third season. Every night we felt lighter and ready to see the better side of our collective character. Such is the power of the arts.

Fortunately, as I write this, our rich arts and cultural season is beginning. I went to the opening of Raisin, the musical version of A Raisin in the Sun, performed at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and was overwhelmed by the talent and inspired by the story. It had some of the same themes as The Durrells: a family facing a crisis with courage, love and hope.  Afterwards, I talked to acquaintances I haven’t seen for months and it was good to catch up on people’s lives instead of bending my head over a small screen reading about Armageddon. A few nights later, I met some good friends at the Van Wezel to see transgender British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard perform; he ended his two-hour performance with an uplifting message as well (is that a theme this year?) by asking the audience to work toward a better life for all people.

You’ll find plenty to inspire and transport you in our annual guide to the season’s best shows, compiled by our resident expert, executive editor and arts editor Kay Kipling. Kay is always my go-to source when I want to buy tickets, so I’m already planning my 2018-2019 calendar with her recommendations for performances, plays, lectures and exhibits. Hope may not be at the heart of everything I pick this season—and I can’t completely avoid my phone and current events—but the arts are my Corfu—beautiful, tragic, poignant and ultimately a tonic for the soul.

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