From outdoor dramas that have captivated families for generations to long-running classical music festivals with contemporary elements to an internationally-known dance festival and cutting edge museum exhibitions, summer is the perfect time to explore the arts across North Carolina. Artful Traveler David Potorti highlights some of this summer’s best offerings here.
The outdoor drama originated in North Carolina in 1937 with The Lost Colony, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green and chronicling the mysterious disappearance of the New World’s first British settlement on Roanoke Island in 1587. Today there are 13 outdoor dramas in North Carolina, more than in any other state, including Unto These Hills in Cherokee and Horn in the West in Boone.
The Institute of Outdoor Drama, based at UNC-Chapel Hill is the only national organization providing training, research and assistance to more than 100 constituent theater companies across the United States. Director Rob Fox talks about the appeal of outdoor dramas to generations of families and their role as a training ground for new actors in this video.
On Saturday, May 15 at 4 p.m. the Southern Appalachian Historical Association and the Institute of Outdoor Drama will present Stages of History at the Daniel Boone Ampitheatre in Boone. This annual event will bring together companies from eight outdoor dramas across the state to perform scenes from their productions and give audience members a taste of what they can experience this summer. Tickets are $15.00 for adults and $8.00 for children and students. To purchase tickets, visit their website and click on the May calendar or call (828) 264-2120.
With the theme of “What is Dance Theater?” the American Dance Festival, now in its 77th season, comes to the Durham Performing Arts Center and Duke University’s Reynolds Industries Theater from Thursday, June 10, through Saturday, July 24. Some of the highlights include the world premiere of an ADF-commissioned work by Rosie Herrera and her Miami-based company; the 10th anniversary of Shen Wei Dance Art’s founding at ADF in 2000, including an ADF-commissioned solo danced by the choreographer himself; and the world premiere of 2010 Scripps/ADF Award recipient Martha Clarke’s work inspired by the life of Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement. Clarke collaborated on the work with Pulitzer, Tony and Academy Award-winning writer Alfred Urhy, who penned Driving Miss Daisy.
Other companies appearing at ADF this summer include the African American Dance Ensemble, Monica Bill Barnes & Company and Kate Weare Company, Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak, North Carolina native Mark Dendy and Dendy Dancetheater, Canadian company RUBBERBANDance Group, Eiko & Koma, Pilobolus, Argentina-based Brenda Angiel Aerial Dance Company and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. For more information or to order tickets, click here or call (919) 684-6402.
Summer marks the return of two long-running music festivals to North Carolina. Founded in 1936, the Brevard Music Center gives students the opportunity to better understand and prepare themselves for the professional world of music. Each summer, the center welcomes more than 400 students, ages 14 and older, to the Blue Ridge Mountains to join 60 distinguished faculty artists and world-class visiting artists for an intensive seven-week program of study and performance. This year’s festival runs from Friday, June 25, though Sunday, August 8, and you can choose from more than 80 concerts showcasing its three orchestras and their repertoire of great orchestral masterworks.
Highlights include the opening night concert with conductor Keith Lockhart and mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade; JoAnn Falletta conducting The Planets and Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2; Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with conductor/violinist Andres Cardenes; Lockhart conducting Beethoven 5; and an all-Brahams season finale with conductor David Effron and violinist Gil Shaham. The festival also includes Grammy Award-winning bluegrass/country artist Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and an evening with Garrison Keillor as part of A Prairie Home Companion’s “Summer Love” tour featuring Sara Watkins, former fiddler with Nickel Creek. For more details or to order tickets, click here or call (888) 384-8682 or (828) 862-2105.
The 49th Eastern Music Festival, Saturday, June 26, through Saturday, July 31, is one of the country’s foremost training programs for aspiring young orchestral and piano students between the ages of 14 and 22. This summer it presents more than 100 concerts and music-related events on the campus of Guilford College in Greensboro and Triad venues including the UNC Greensboro School of Music, Triad Stage, Elon University, High Point University and many others.
Internationally-known artists, many of them Grammy Award winners, participate in the festival. Some of the featured performers and highlights include Maestro Gerard Schwarz, cellist Lynn Harrell, pianist Barry Douglas, the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Just Dance, the Greensboro debut of 22-year-old violinist Tianwa Yang, guest conductor Christopher Seaman, pianist William Wolfram and violinist Gil Shaham. The EMF Fringe series will also feature Americana, bluegrass, jazz, rock, blues, alt country and world music artists including Old Ceremony, Doc Severinsen & El Ritmo De La Vida, New Riders of the Purple Sage and others. For more information or to order tickets, click here or call (336) 272-0160 or
Museums across the state have notable exhibitions on display this summer. The North Carolina Fellowship Exhibition, featuring the work of 18 outstanding visual artists can be experienced at the Green Hill Center for NC Art in Greensboro Friday, June 4 through Sunday, August 22. Exhibiting artists received 2008–2009 North Carolina Arts Council fellowship awards which since 1980 have recognized the best contemporary artists in the state through a rigorous panel process. The 2008–2009 visual artist fellowship winners included Penland glass artist Pablo Soto, Greensboro clay artist Nikki Blair and Cary graphic artist Michael Klauke. For more information, visit their Web site. The Nasher Museum presents Color Balance: Paintings by Felrath Hines and Alma Thomas Sunday, June 6, through Sunday, September 5. The subtle oils of abstract painter Hines (1913-1993) will be juxtaposed with the exuberant acrylics of contemporary abstractionist Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978). For more information, visit their Web site or call (919) 684-5135.
The Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro features Big Shots: Andy Warhol Polaroids Sunday, June 6, through Sunday, September 19. The show features 300 Polaroids and 70 gelatin silver black-and-white prints featuring the models, actors, sports heroes and socialites who made up Warhol’s universe. The exhibition will be the focus of the Weatherspoon’s seventh annual Summer Solstice Party on Friday, June 18. For more information, visit their Web site or call (336) 334-5770.
The Asheville Art Museum features Hands in Harmony: Traditional Crafts and Music in Appalachia, Photographs by Tim Barnwell Friday, May 14, through Sunday, October 10. The exhibition includes 30 black-and-white photographic portraits of well-known and lesser-known Appalachian music and craft figures, capturing the beauty of handmade objects and their creators as well as the musical heritage carried on by the traditional musicians of the region. For more information, visit their Web site or call (828) 253-3227.