On Aug. 31, Carolina Performing Arts announced its 2021-22 season, offering audiences exciting ways to engage with the arts, both in person and online. Highlighting the new “Southern Futures at Carolina Performing Arts” initiative, this season’s programming features arts experiences co-created with local communities and focused on racial equity, social justice and the American South.
“This season, we will focus both on what we do — delivering impactful creative experiences to our growing communities in-person and online, ensuring the arts drive vital conversations and spark joy — as well as on how we do it — prioritizing the health and well-being of our colleagues and collaborators so we can sustainably expand all that we do,” noted Executive and Artistic Director Alison Friedman. The new season marks Friedman’s first in the role. “Our entire sector is asking, ‘What’s next?’ CPA is at an exciting moment in its evolution, poised to lead the way into a new era for our industry.”
The 2021-22 performance season kicks off with the return of “The Spark with Tift Merritt.” The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and UNC-Chapel Hill alumna takes livestream viewers behind the scenes as she talks with artists about the creative process:
- Acclaimed musician, composer and artistic leader Rhiannon Giddens is Merritt’s first guest on “The Spark” this season, on Sept. 23. In spring 2022, Giddens begins a three-year residency with Southern Futures at CPA.
- Culture Mill founders Tommy Noonan and Murielle Elizéon join Merritt on Oct. 21 to discuss their work this season, including the design of Southern Futures at CPA artist residencies, which will engage local participants and guest artists in restorative justice practices.
- On Nov. 4, Merritt will interview Toshi Reagon, a Brooklyn-based artist who has led the way for community co-creation at CPA through her Andrew W. Mellon Discovery Through Iterative Learning and Creative Futures fellowship residencies and her commitment to cultivating local partnerships.
This season also marks the return of Obie Award-winning theater artists 600 HIGHWAYMEN, led by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, who will lead CPA’s first in-person arts experiences since 2020 — Parts Two and Three of their performance series, “A Thousand Ways.” The first chapter of this series premiered over the phone during CPA’s 2021 pandemic-altered virtual spring season.
Patrons can engage with a unique, immersive art environment by manipulating interactive artworks based in light, sound and colossal projections during Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s installation, “Atmospheric Memory,” presented Dec. 2-17. CPA welcomes back patrons to Memorial Hall for the North American premiere of this installation, which will transform the lobby and stage at Memorial Hall, guiding patrons through the tangible, the ethereal and that which nature creates and what humans produce.
Programming throughout the 2021-22 season affirms CPA’s commitment to social justice and amplifies the current social and cultural moment as the nation wrestles with issues of equity, diversity and inclusion:
- “Primer for an Impossible Conversation,” an online performance examining race, privilege and vulnerability through a sometimes humorous, sometimes fraught conversation between David Neumann and Marcella Murray, featuring Tei Blow as an artificial intelligence interviewer.
- “What Problem?,” a stunning work from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, exploring the tension between belonging to a community and feelings of isolation during these divisive political times, performed in part by local community members.
- “Voices of Mississippi,” featuring William “Bill” Ferris, Cedric Burnside, Shardé Thomas and Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, celebrates music, art and storytelling traditions of the people of Mississippi. The program features live musical performances integrated with film, audio recordings and rare photographs captured by host Ferris, Carolina professor emeritus of history and retired senior associate director of Carolina’s Center for the Study of the American South.
- “Discourse,” a community-centered social change initiative and new musical work premiering at CPA. Created by Flutronix — artists Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull — during their two-year residency at Carolina Performing Arts, “Discourse” features present-day narratives and histories, with voices sourced from local community gatherings and archival recordings, combined with an expanded ensemble of acoustic and electronic instruments, in a piece that responds to the fear, uncertainty and frustration dividing the United States.
This season features returning artists and ensembles, including the revolutionary Alvin Ailey® American Dance Theater; world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell with pianist Peter Dugan; and modern dance leaders Martha Graham Dance Company.
Audiences can enjoy an enchanting evening of Mozart and more from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Mitsuko Uchida; “Delhi to Damascus,” transcendent music from Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble; and Grammy-nominated artist, composer and producer Theo Croker’s CPA debut when he headlines the 2022 Carolina Jazz Festival this spring.
Reinforcing its commitment to the creation of new work, CPA has commissioned Culture Mill’s “Eclipse” and Flutronix’s “Discourse” and co-commissioned Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Atmospheric Memory,” Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s “What Problem?” and Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, A Dance Company’s “Mercy,” featuring live music by Meshell Ndegeocello.
Single tickets for the general public are available starting Sept. 15. Ticket sales for current donors begin on Sept. 9. Carolina students are eligible for $10 tickets to most performances on a first-come, first-served basis. Current employees of UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC Hospital System receive a 15% Carolina faculty/staff discount on tickets to CPA performances. For student, staff and faculty discounts, ONYEN authentication is required online, and Carolina ID is required at the box office.
For full performance listings, health and safety information, pricing and venue information, visit carolinaperformingarts.org.