Earlier this morning, Carolina Performing Arts announced its 2021-2022 performing season. It will be the first led by Alison Friedman, who was appointed executive and artistic director of CPA in April, and who began her tenure during one of the most challenging years ever in the performing arts—and one of the most fraught institutional years at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well. 

Friedman’s eyes, though, are trained on the future. 

“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 wellbeing of our colleagues and collaborators so we can sustainably expand all that we do,” she said in the press release. 

In late August, Carolina Performing Arts announced Southern Futures at Carolina Performing Arts, an initiative that will “produce new works, collaborations, and research on social justice, racial equity, and the American South.” GRAMMY and MacArthur Award-winning musician—and longtime CPA collaborator Rhiannon Giddens—will begin a three-year research residency as part of the initiative. 

The program is part of a larger umbrella initiative, Southern Futures, which is facilitated by a $1 million grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, and is in partnership with The College of Arts & Sciences, University Libraries, Carolina Performing Arts, and The Center for the Study of the American South. 

The Carolina Performing Arts season features the return of “The Spark with Tift Merritt,” a virtual program launched during 2020, as well as s 600 HIGHWAYMEN, which INDY Week critic Byron Woods reviewed in March of 2021, describing the interactive phone-call theater as a “necessary practice in intimacy, in a world where intimacy itself seems to harder and harder to find.”

Other season highlights include the return of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; violinist Joshua Bell with pianist Peter Dugan; and the Martha Graham Dance Company. New productions include the North American premiere of electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s installation, “Atmospheric Memory,” and “Voices of the Mississippi,” a program based around the archival material of Bill Ferris, retired senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South.

“Our campus is wrestling with long-held beliefs and overturning assumptions that are shaking us to our core,” said Jacqueline Lawton, the new co-director of Southern Futures at UNC-Chapel Hill and associate professor of dramatic art. “Southern Futures works to disrupt stereotypes of the American South and create a bold, new, radically inclusive vision for who we are and who we can be. In doing so, we will be better equipped to face the truths of our past and the consequences of our actions and inactions, however painful, and bring about much-needed change for our future.”

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