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Durham Performing Arts Center shines, designer says

Posted November 27, 2008

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— Before the curtain rises on the largest performing-arts center in the Carolinas, Durham's new theater is already fighting a plot twist: a tough economy.

But management says the new theater is a star strong enough to outshine a bleak economic outlook.

The $44 million Durham Performing Arts Center will open with a performance by legendary blues singer B.B. King Sunday night and an open house at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

"Surprisingly, tickets sales have been really good for us," said Rachel Gregg, DPAC's marketing director.

She attributed that success, in part, to the quality of performances, saying the quality of the theater is designed to draw acts that have commonly skipped the Triangle.

"I think that we are going to see things that have never been able to come here before," Gregg said.

Already, DPAC has landed the musical "Wicked" for the first time in this area and comedian Robin Williams, who has not performed here in 16 years.

"We just want to make sure that anything and everything is in this building that makes everyone feels welcome," Gregg said.

Architect Phil Szostak, of Chapel Hill, said he has worked since 2000 to make sure that DPAC is the kind of venue performers and audiences love.

"It's really the ultimate kind of goal of an architect to have that kind of work," Szostak said. "It's very different from designing a theater in Utah or someplace else, where I may see it once a year. This is something I'll see every day."

Like a proud father, he listed off DPAC's qualities – spacious seating for 2,800, no more than 135 feet from the stage; state-of-the-art sound and lighting.

Massive panes of glass will make audience members ferl like they are inside a Japanese lantern – and make the theater visible from outside.

"In this case, we actually wanted to tell a story about Durham," Szostak said. "Tell a story about Durham coming back alive and kind of lighting the night up again here with this entertainment district."


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