The easiest way to get into the Triangle’s bustling theater, dance, comedy, and reading scenes is to know which venues and presenters bring the good stuff on a regular basis. Follow our city-by-city guide, and you’ll be filling your calendar like a local in plenty of time to get to will-call.
If you’re in the mood for a Broadway hit, head for the big glass ship of the Durham Performing Arts Center, a world-class auditorium that brings a fleet of world-class shows year-round (Hamilton’s coming this November).
Throughout the academic year, Duke Performances smatters its musical offerings at Duke University with challenging, global modern theater and dance.
Beyond film, the historic Carolina Theatre programs an eclectic variety of performing arts in its Fletcher Hall, with a strong showing for touring comedians.
The city’s scrappy independent theater scene (keep an eye out for shows from Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, Bartlett Theater, Bulldog Ensemble Theater, and Black Ops Theatre Co.) performs year-round at any space it can find—increasingly, at The Fruit, a postindustrial space where a lot of the area’s most interesting performing arts have found a home.
On the more polished end, Duke’s new Rubenstein Arts Center boasts a state-of-the-art black-box theater.
In contrast to the institutional American Dance Festival, Durham Independent Dance Artists spreads grassroots modern dance through unusual sites downtown, as well as in venues like the Living Arts Collective, PSI Theatre, and 21c Museum Hotel.
And if you’re just in the mood for a good story, The Regulator Bookshop is the place to hear local and touring authors share.
Though Chapel Hill lacks a major performing arts center like DPAC, it makes up for it with institutions that thrive in more intimate halls. Like Duke Performances, Carolina Performing Arts brings new commissions and canonical favorites from titans of theater and dance to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, both in auditoriums like Memorial Hall and to the university’s own new performance space and theater, CURRENT.
The university also takes pride in PlayMakers Repertory Company, the Triangle’s top professional theater. Chapel Hill sports the regionís only professional ballet company, Carolina Ballet, which frequently performs original works by its director, Robert Weiss. And Paperhand Puppet Intervention creates annual pageants outdoors at Forest Theatre that are the highlight of every summer for giant-puppet lovers and families.
Flyleaf Books hosts an energetic program of readings and events. Meanwhile, The ArtsCenter in nearby Carrboro is a busy outlet for local and national talent in all fields.
Though it’s carved up into smaller halls rather than being monolithic like DPAC, the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts is the place to go in Raleigh for big musicals from Theatre Raleigh, top comedians, and much more. And while it’s not as prolific as Duke Performances or Carolina Performing Arts—this is an engineering school, after all—NC State LIVE still brings top-notch shows to State’s campus.
Raleigh also has the Triangle’s longest-running and largest independent and community theater scene, many with their own venues, including Theatre in the Park, Burning Coal Theatre Company, Sonorous Road, and Raleigh Little Theatre.
It’s a city where you can yuk it up at Goodnights Comedy Club or get highbrow at the scrappy, adventurous North Carolina Opera.
Quail Ridge Books is the Triangle’s best-loved independent bookshop among locals and touring authors alike.
But don’t let this bounty in the capital cause you to forget about Cary, where you have to visit the beautiful outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre and the storied Cary Theater to make sure you catch everything the Triangle has to offer.