Anna Deavere Smith in Let Me Down Easy
(© T Charles Erickson)
Anna Deavere Smith in Let Me Down Easy
(© T Charles Erickson)
This autumn, more than most, is a season of change for the Boston theater scene. Both the Huntington Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre welcome new artistic directors: Peter DuBois and Diane Paulus, respectively. ART's season opener is a reprise of Anna Deavere Smith's solo tour de force, Let Me Down Easy (September 12-October 11), which dazzled at Long Wharf last winter. In exploring the outer limits -- and innate vulnerability -- of human physicality, Smith takes on two dozen personae, from world-class athletes to victims of sociopolitical oppression. DuBois's opening gambit for Huntington's main stage is the world premiere of Richard Nelson's How Shakespeare Won the West (September 5-October 5), about an itinerant 19th-century troupe delivering the Bard to culturally deprived panhandlers. Jonathan Moscone directs; local luminary Will LeBow and Mary Beth Fisher star.

Launching the "Huntington Presents" series at the Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, Adam Pascal Live (September 18-20) features the Rent and Aida alum singing Broadway, rock, and original compositions. The BCA will also host Larry Coen and Nancy Cassaro (the original Tina of Tony N' Tina's Wedding) performing Tennessee Williams' The Dog Enchanted by the Divine View (September 16). This one-night world premiere of a rough draft of The Rose Tattoo benefits -- and will be reprised at -- the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival later in the month.

Speakeasy Stage, the BCA's preeminent resident company, offers The Light in the Piazza (September 19-October 18), with Amelia Broome as the protective, conflicted mother.The Lyric Stage Company has assembled Boston's leading songstresses -- including Leigh Barrett, Jacqui Parker, and Kathy St. George -- for its revival of Follies (September 5-October 11). The Up You Mighty Race Company, newly annointed a BCA resident troupe, debuts Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter's In the Continuum (September 17-October 18), about an African-American teen in a group home in L.A. and a middle-class Zimbabwean newscaster who both discover, in the course of one weekend, that they're pregnant and infected with HIV.

Tour touchdowns this month include A Chorus Line at the Opera House (September 11-October 5) and Cirque de Soleil's Kooza at the Bayside Expo Center (September 5-October 5). The Cutler Majestic Theatre is the site of two notable events: the 2008 Boston Comedy Festival Finals (September 20) and Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops conducting Handel's Messiah Rocks (September 21), featuring LaChanze of The Color Purple and J. Robert Spencer of Jersey Boys; PBS will be filming for a later broadcast.

Along the fringes, the Nora Theatre Company brings Dario Fo's We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! to the new Central Square Theatre (September 4-27); 11:11 Theatre Company presents the Feydeau farce She's All Yours at the Factory Theatre (September 5-13); and the Boston Playwrights Theatre premieres The Boys of Winter, a Vietnam-era play (September 5-21).

The suburbs are busy with the cross-dressing musical Pageant at the Stoneham Theatre (September 11-October 5), with lyricist Bill Russell (Side Show) directing; Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Watertown's New Repertory Theatre (September 14-October 5), helmed by departing artistic director Rick Lombardo; The North Shore Music Theatre's Show Boat in the round (September 23-October 12); and the Hollywood heyday comedy Moonlight and Magnolias at the Foothills Theatre in Worcester (September 27-October 19).

The Berkshire Theatre Festival presents a cast of 123 in a production of Oliver! benefiting local theatre education initiatives (September 4-7), and Shakespeare & Co. presents a new take on the Oscar Wilde tale The Canterville Ghost (September 12-November 9), collaboratively developed by Irina Brook -- daughter of Peter -- and S&Co regular Michael Hammond.

The Cape Playhouse season winds to a rousing close with Miche Braden portraying Bessie Smith in the one-woman show The Devil's Music (September 1-13). The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre introduces David Johnston's The George Place (September 11-October 4), about an aging Virginia couple forced to put the family homestead on the market. The multifaceted Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival (September 25-28) will include live performances, tours, and conversations with actors. Luminaries on hand to offer insights during the weekend include Olympia Dukakis, Anne Wallach, and Eli Wallach.

Finally, James Lapine has chosen the Vineyard Playhouse, on Martha's Vineyard, as the launching pad for his new musical, Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing (September 18-October 4), loosely based on Elva Miller, a matron in her 50s who achieved dubious fame in the '60s as "the worst pop singer of all time."