Local News

Durham's new theater like no other

Posted October 10, 2008 5:01 p.m. EDT
Updated October 10, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT

— As crews work to put the finishing touches on the Durham Performing Arts Center, the theater's management is hoping the estimated $44 million facility will change entertainment throughout the Triangle.

The multi-use performance space, which seats up to 2,800 people, will be the largest performing arts center in both North Carolina and South Carolina when it opens Nov. 30 with a performance by legendary blues singer B.B. King.

And, according to its Web site, its unique design – with state-of-the-art sound and lighting and spacious seating – will allow patrons "to actually experience performances, not just attend them."

"A lot of research went into visiting the best performing arts centers all over the country," general manager Bob Klaus said.

Klaus says Chapel Hill architect Phil Szostak and his development team traveled across the United States to research the design "to make sure that the sight lines are good and that the sound is fantastic."

Viewing a performance, assistant marketing director Rachel Gragg says, will feel like being inside a Japanese lantern.

"So, when it lights up, you'll see the red and the illumination throughout the whole theater," she said.

And the seats are closer than most theaters.

"The farthest guest in the last row of the balcony will be just 135 feet from the center stage, and that's really special," Klaus said.

But he says the theater's mission is bigger than a single seat or view.

"It's going to be part of changing the entertainment landscape here in the Triangle," Klaus said.

The facility was designed to "wow" shows that sometimes skip this region.

"We took the biggest Broadway shows on tour and took their specifications and designed everything a little bit bigger and a little bit better."

And the design is already paying off. The center's Spring 2009 calendar is already booked with a slew of Broadway shows, including Rent, Fiddler on the Roof, Wicked and The Color Purple.

Comedians such as Bill Cosby and Lewis Black and musical performers like John Legend, Jim Brickman and Kenny Rogers are also on the calendar.