Local News

Durham opens performing arts center

Posted November 30, 2008 6:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2008 9:43 a.m. EST

— The $48 million Durham Performing Arts Center opened Sunday night with a performance by legendary blues singer B.B. King.

The multi-use performance space, which seats up to 2,800 people, is the largest performing arts center in both North Carolina and South Carolina

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."

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."

Musical performers like John Legend, Jim Brickman and Kenny Rogers are also on the calendar. With such big-name acts scheduled, season ticket sales have exceeded expectations, DPAC officials said.

"I think it’s significant. It shows that Durham is trying to advance culturally,” concert-goer Doug DeBank said.

North Carolina native Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos opened Sunday for B.B. King.

We are “very fortunate to get this gig. To open for B.B. in general is an honor, especially with this crew, but to open this new venue, that's very special,” Melton said.

DPAC officials said that with the way the center was designed there isn't a bad seat in the house.

"All the seats have a great sight-line to the stage so we think that no matter where you choose to sit, you'll have a great view,” assistant marketing director Rachel Gragg said.

Because of its size, DPAC has also been able to schedule famous comedians like Robin Williams, Bill Cosby and Lewis Black.

Officials hope the venue will help sets the stage for a new nightlife in downtown Durham.

‘It's not the gritty Durham anymore. We’ve come a long ways,” Barbara DeBank said.

"I think it is all starting to finally come together. I'm sure there are some challenges ahead, but something like this pretty much sets the bar pretty high from here on out,” Melton said.

The box office is at Vivian and Blackwell streets, and patrons can park in a temporary lot on Vivian or in a new parking deck adjacent to the DPAC.