A small group of clearly excited Duke officials greeted the media this morning. The occasion: the unveiling of a shimmering, newly renovated Baldwin Auditorium. As Duke Performances director Aaron Greenwald noted in preliminary remarks, the 685-seat facility is designed exclusively for acoustic music and as such, it will fill a niche in the area's acoustic music spaces.
Greenwald pointed out that Raleigh's Meymandi Concert Hall, the Triangle's premier recital venue, is more than twice the size of Baldwin.
Although the exterior of the building, which was completed in 1927, looks the same, the interior was gutted. Now, $15 million worth of renovations later, the auditorium is ready to become a world-class concert venue, according to Vice Provost for the Arts Scott A. Lindroth.
Lindroth believes the renovated Baldwin will become an artistic and cultural destination for not only the Duke community, but the Durham community as well. The Duke Endowment of Charlotte funded the renovation as part of a multi-building proposal that included Page Auditorium and others on campus.
While enhanced aesthetic appeal was a contributing factor to Baldwin’s renovation, the primary reason for the work was a much-needed improvement of sound quality. Ray Walker, the staff architect for the project, said renovations have been in the works since 2007. The school called in an architectural firm and a Connecticut-based group of acousticians to take on the project.
An acoustical shell of curved wooden panels, subtle modifications to the dome ceiling, acoustic draperies and a slew of other contemporary methods of controlling sound reverberation are part of the new design.
Most of the original architecture has remained intact throughout the remodel, and the new additions essentially create a more contemporary theater within the existing auditorium.
Greenwald said Duke Performances and the Department of Music will share the space and lists new chamber arts and vocal ensemble series as part of its upcoming performance season.
Duke's Department of Music will host an inaugural gala concert Sept. 14. Information here.
The first event by Duke Performances in the space will take place Sept. 21 and feature the Ciompi Quartet with the Kruger Brothers. Information here.
A few photos are below.
DSI Comedy Theater’s founder, owner and executive producer Zach Ward returns to Carrboro and DSI this month. Last week, the theater announced his return, following a two-year stint at ImprovBoston in Cambridge, Mass.
In a telephone interview, Ward says that returning to North Carolina was always part of his plan when he decided to go to Boston in 2011 and cites raising his 1-year-old son as a key reason for making the move back to his hometown.
“When I left, I knew what I wanted to accomplish in five years, but it only took me two,” Ward says. He also credits his team with the success of the company.
During his time as managing director of the nonprofit ImprovBoston, the company grew from a $600,000 company to one with a budget of more than one million dollars, he says. In addition to its revenue, ImprovBoston’s programming grew.
Ward now plans to initiate some new programs at DSI, similar to that of ImprovBoston, to give back to the local community.
DSI plans to work with the town of Chapel Hill to bring improv into schools. The Boston improv company worked with children and held improv-based, anti-bullying workshops—something Ward hopes to bring to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.
“That’s probably the thing that’s most exciting to me. I was able to see what a theater in a nonprofit space does to give back, and it made me really proud of what DSI is already doing.”
Editor's note: The original version of this story quoted Ward as saying it only took "about" two years to achieve his goal. In fact, Ward said, "It only took me two." One further clarification: To more fully represent Ward's assessment of his success in Boston, a sentence was added to reflect the contributions of his co-workers.
The “interim” tag is gone. Sarah Schroth is now officially in place as the director of Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art.
After a committee comprising academic heavyweights and museum board members conducted an international search throughout the spring, the decision was made to promote from within.
“I’m actually happy that they did an international search because it makes everybody feel like the right decision was made,” Schroth said.
An expert in 17th-century Spanish art, Schroth is also a knight-commander in the Order of Isabel la Católica. King Juan Carlos I of Spain bestowed that honor upon her after she organized the award-winning 2008 exhibition, El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
She takes over an institution with a lot of forward momentum at the moment. Through exhibitions such as The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl (2010-2011) and the current Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, the Nasher has established a reputation as one of the premiere venues for contemporary art in the Southeast.
Duke University, meanwhile, has made a cross-disciplinary commitment to the humanities in recent years, even establishing its first MFA program two years ago in Experimental Documentary Arts. As a teaching institution, the Nasher has become one of the campus’ biggest classrooms.
Schroth understands the moment and sees opportunities to build upon the resonance between the Nasher’s national reputation and Duke’s academic transformation.
“I would like the Nasher to be even more concretely integrated into the undergraduate humanities education here at Duke,” she explains. “It’s one of my missions to think about serving the undergraduates the best way we can and contributing to Duke’s commitment to cross-discipline collaboration, which is what makes Duke so special.”
“The whole transformation through the arts here at Duke is very exciting and the Nasher has to be a keystone in that, and we will.”
One facet of that transformation will be a focus on photography in the Nasher’s future. Schroth points to the 2009 exhibition Beyond Beauty, which drew upon photography and film in the Duke Special Collections Library, as the beginning of an initiative at the museum. Gathering photographs from some of North Carolina’s most prominent collectors, this year’s Light Sensitive exhibition, which Schroth co-curated with art history and visual studies professor Patricia Leighten, expanded that initiative.
“There’s room for the Nasher to participate in the overall Duke story of collecting and exhibiting photography,” Schroth says. “We have the Center for Documentary Studies doing it and we have the library doing it. So, you know, what can the Nasher do?”
“I think Light Sensitive was a good answer to ‘What can the Nasher do?’—bring in some really exciting non-documentary work and give it a good curatorial infrastructure.”
That attention to infrastructure will help Schroth in selecting her curatorial successor, her next task as director.
“I wanted to scream,” Byrne recalls when she received news of the agreement at the end of last week. “[My agent] was excited, everyone was so excited, and so pleased by the deal, which was considerable.”
Crown signed what Byrne characterized as a six-figure deal for the North American publication rights in a pre-emptive contract for the book, buying it before it went to auction with other publishers. As a result, she now joins a group whose roster of writers is capped by the likes of Rachel Maddow, Martha Stewart, George W. Bush and Michelle and Barack Obama.
The Girl in the Road, some 98,000 words long in manuscript form, traces the harrowing twin journeys of two women forced to flee their homes in different times in the near future. The first, Meena, is a Brahmin-caste student whose odyssey takes her from the coastal city of Mumbai toward Djibouti across a futuristic but treacherous bridge that spans the Arabian Sea. The second, Mariama, escapes from slavery as a small child in Mauritania, joining a caravan heading across Saharan Africa toward Ethiopia.
The novel took five years to write, Byrne says, and was completed during a research trip to Belize at the end of last year. Its purchase came three weeks after she acquired representation with the Frances Goldin Literary Agency, a New York firm specializing in literary fiction and politically oriented nonfiction. Its clients include Barbara Kingsolver, Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Allison and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The development follows Byrne’s successes as a playwright on local stages over the last two years. After she appeared in productions of Fistful of Love and REDGHOST with Durham’s Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, artistic director Jay O’Berski directed Byrne’s dark comedy Nightwork for Manbites Dog Theater in 2011. Last April, Little Green Pig commissioned and produced What Every Girl Should Know, a speculative historical drama inspired by the work of Margaret Sanger. The company has commissioned a new work for their 2013—14 season. A subsequent drama, The Pentaeon, was selected for the 2012 Collider New Play Project, a collaboration between Fermilab and Fox Valley Repertory Theater in Illinois.
Byrne is currently at work on her second novel.
One change is taking place at the top. Early this week, CAM parted ways with Elysia Borowy-Reeder, the museum's executive director of the last two years. The change has been announced internally but an official announcement is expected soon.
[UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: Here it is.]
Kate Shafer, who has served as gallery and exhibitions manager since the institution’s opening, is now interim director.
“There was a desire on the part of the Contemporary Art Foundation and the advisory board to seek a new direction for the philosophy and the leadership of CAM,” says Marvin Malecha, ex-officio of the museum’s advisory board.
Borowy-Reeder, who is traveling, referred questions to Malecha.
“I think there are some people here who were looking for maybe more of an out-of-the-box thought process relative to how we go forward with CAM, rather than a traditional director’s role as we’d been in," Malecha said.
"We’re looking to take a new turn after two years of finally getting the museum into place after years of aspiration. This is really a chance to go off in a new direction.”
What does “new direction” mean, exactly? The museum’s two governing bodies—the 14-member advisory board and the 16-member Contemporary Art Foundation—will kick around answers during a half-day retreat next week. They’ll also decide what kind of search CAM will make for a new director, or whether they’ll simply reorganize the existing staff.
In other very recent changes, Marjorie Hodges has taken on the role of director of the Contemporary Art Foundation. Her commute won’t change, however—Hodges leaves the Flanders Gallery, directly across West Street from CAM.
Gab Smith also comes on board as director of advancement and membership engagement.
North Carolina Theatre’s Nerds: A New Musical Comedy, running from Jan. 18 to Feb. 2 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, is the story of Bill Gates (Stanley Bahorek) and Steve Jobs (Darren Ritchie), the two men most celebrated for the rise of personal computing.
“We thought it would be fun to watch nerds singing,” says co-writer Jordan Allen-Dutton. “In any type of musical you have to believe that someone at anytime can burst into song. And in order to do that, you need characters who are really over-the-top, bigger-than-life characters. And these two guys fit that model.”
Allen-Duton, along with writing partner Erik Weiner and composer Hal Goldberg, have crafted the story of how two lowly nerds rose to the highest levels of wealth and success. The heart of the show, however, is Gates and Jobs’s personal rivalry. In real life, their companies, Microsoft and Apple, were fierce competitors for decades, and the play makes this competition personal: Gates the insecure geek, Jobs the brash stoner, both trying to overcome the social limitations of being a “nerd.”
The celebration of nerds in all their forms is a major theme of the show. Producer Carl Levin notes that nerds have transformed from being social outcasts to leaders of the world. “They’ve evolved. I think now being a nerd is cool.”
Covering the years 1975 to the present, the show also uses the music as a way of exploring history and the characters. “We define Jobs as a rock star in a lot of ways,” says Goldberg, “so that comes through musically. Whereas Gates, he starts off in more of a traditional musical theater way, which is nerdy.”
At rehearsal, it takes no time at all to fix the LED screens. Such technology, of course, is possible thanks to the show’s real-life subjects. “I think the show is really a celebration of American ingenuity and innovation,” says Allen-Dutton.
“Over those 30 years that the show focuses on, we went from seeing a computer that was the size of a city block to a computer in everyone’s pockets at all times. And that was a lightning speed transformation.”
The NC Theatre production is the very first time Nerds is being performed for an audience. After being given a chance to workshop and premiere in Raleigh, Levin hopes to bring the show to New York and, eventually, the world.
“People in Europe and Japan, they really know Bill Gates and they know about Steve Jobs.”
It surely can't hurt the show's chances, then, that nerds are a universal subject.
It used to be that fans of station WCHL 1360’s progressive talk lineup were resigned to turning off their favorite station with a sigh at nighttime—particularly if they lived outside of the station’s main broadcast area.
And Raleigh? Forget about it. You had a hard enough time listening during the day if you live there. Making matters worse, the FCC required the station to turn down the signal at night. Well, that’s not a problem anymore.
When listeners wake up on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 28, they’ll find a more powerful antidote to all that Limbaugh/Hannity/Dumas crap on Triangle radio. And they’ll find it on the FM dial.
WCHL, which has enjoyed its modest home on AM radio since 1953, will now simulcast on 97.9 FM. The station recently purchased a translator station from Liberty University in Virginia—that's right, the university founded by the late Jerry Falwell. (Oh! The irony!)
To celebrate this victory for radio sanity, WCHL is holding a Food Truck Rodeo at VilCom Center on Weaver Dairy Road on Aug. 30, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
To find out more about the station’s daily lineup of progressive talkers (Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann, mainly), go to chapelboro.com.
(Correction: The Thom Hartmann Program is no longer on WCHL's daily schedule. It has been replaced by local news.)
This afternoon, the company sent an email to members of the area theater community confirming that the company had ceased operations, effective immediately: "Following the unanimous adoption of a resolution by REP's Board of Directors, the company has filed for bankruptcy." The email was signed by C. Glen Matthews, the company's artistic director.
According to documents filed yesterday in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, REP has $224,507.77 in unsecured debts.
The company has no real property, but its personal assets, including lighting equipment, costumes and props, were valued at $9,932.14.
According to a profit and loss statement for April 2012, REP's monthly expenses included $4,070 in rent and $3,523.65 in office and administrative expenses.
For the first four months of 2012, the company reported revenue of $31,734.78, with nearly 80 percent coming from grants and donations.
The two largest debts are owed to figures associated with the company's new performance space at 213 Fayetteville St., which opened in the summer of 2009.
The largest creditor is Alphin Design Build, the contractor hired to renovate the theater space, which is owed $110,000. The second-largest debt, $60,000, is owed to Jean Pauwels, the owner of the building. Raleigh Ensemble Players does not have equity in the building.
Also listed among more than 20 creditors is Vincent Whitehurst Architect, who is owed $2,489, according to the documents.
Whitehurst and Will Alphin are owners of Foundation, a popular bar located in the basement of 213 Fayetteville St. Whitehurst designed the Raleigh Ensemble Players space and Alphin served as the contractor. Pauwels, the building's owner, operates a business in the same building, a countertop materials supplier called Pyrolave.
Gary Williams, the company's managing director, is owed $10,000 for unpaid wages.
REP, the Triangle's oldest independent theater company, had performed in Artspace, located on East Davie Street, for 20 years prior to its move to Fayetteville Street. In 2011, it was recognized by the Independent Weekly with an Indie Arts award.
In a 2009 article in the Independent Weekly, company artistic director C. Glen Matthews cited a desire for the greater visibility that a permanent downtown home would bring them.
Pauwels, for his part, was looking for a tenant for the four-story building he was renovating.
"I wanted something I would enjoy having around, something more unusual, more fun than a clothing store or fast food," Pauwels told the Indy in 2009. "Some artistic activity in the building would be good for Fayetteville Street, good for everyone. It would make downtown more lively."
But in the same article, the company acknowledged difficulties in paying its contractor.
At the end of March, $100,000 in debt to its contractor, company management asked the builder to stop further work. "We didn't want to get in over our heads more than we already were," said Williams.
Calls to Alphin, Williams and REP board members Betsy Henderson and Don Davis were not immediately returned.
The city’s proposed 2011—12 budget cuts funding to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission (CORAC) from $4.50 per capita down to $4. CORAC, which represents 35 arts groups and programs, already has funding that is far below the national average. Representatives for the arts community didn’t take up too much time when Mayor Charles Meeker opened up the floor to people who wanted to speak on the budget.
CORAC chairwoman Laura Raynor, along with Capital Bank CEO Grant Yarber and local artist Sandra Dubose-Gibson, stepped to the microphone and spoke briefly on how the budget should not be gutted.
“This is the fabric of our lives,” Dubose-Gibson told the council. “It’s something that we all depend on at the end of the week, to be able to have that outlet of expression and to go to the symphony and the plays and all of that kind of stuff. So, it’s not something that we can afford to take away from.”
After a few minutes of case-pleading, the members left the meeting. Downstairs, other Raleigh artists and creative types explained how the $4.50 has helped the community.
“A number of our arts organizations—newer arts organizations—have opened, and have been able to be funded by that,” said Karen Galvin, violinist for the North Carolina Symphony and board member of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild.
“And the arts organizations that are here have flourished and have provided jobs. And those jobs and the arts that are happening in Raleigh are causing other businesses to be able to form and thrive.”
A decision will be made by the beginning of July whether or not to cut back funding. Until then, continued activism is on the agenda for the Raleigh arts community, including talking to council members individually as well as informing local arts supporters of the situation, so they can also write to council members.
“We have a great, great story to tell,” Raynor said, “and we have got to keep this rally going.”
Leiby was much beloved in the literary community. (Here is an in memoriam page, which paints a picture of a fierce and honest firebrand.) Before taking over the Southern Review, she edited the Florida Review at the University of Central Florida.
The Independent's review of Leiby's strong debut collection concluded, "Some of the pieces in Downriver [...] feel like sketches for a novel, one that would shine a hard, bright light on a coal-dark place. Here's hoping she writes it." It's with regret that we have to report she'll never have the chance.