For its 2015–2016 season, Carolina Performing Arts has announced a slate of performances that draw on old and new traditions alike. There are fantastic American roots acts like bluesman Buddy Guy, as well as a night featuring bluegrass legends Del McCoury and David Grisman, saluting the songs of Woody Guthrie. But the rest of the lineup, announced earlier this evening, digs into deeper territory, pushing against conventions or preconceived notions about what collegiate performing arts programming should be. Indeed, rebellion is a major artery running through this season’s programming.
“There are many ideas that we are focused on for this next season,” CPA executive director Emil Kang says. “A number of performances we’re bringing represent artists and characters who were defiant in the face of tradition, in the face of conflict.”
Among these rebels, Kang says, are Cuban hip-hop artist Danay Suárez, a modern reinterpretation of Sophocles’ classic Antigone, and a butoh performance titled Umusuna, Memories Before History. Butoh is a style of contemporary Japanese dance theatre born out of the horrors of World War II. It relies on neither Japanese nor Western traditions; instead, it was created as a new form of expression to reconcile tragedy.
Last year, CPA presented challenging yet beautiful works by Taylor Mac and Gabriel Kahane, both of which bent the lines between music and theater. Shows like these were difficult to explain succinctly—a drag show about WWI and a music-based stage performance that’s not a musical?—but immensely rewarding. To that end, Kang says he hopes to continue pushing audiences beyond what they might expect.
“What we’re trying to figure out how to do is create more of a balance across all these forms so that there is a way for people to find comfort in their discomfort,” he says. “This only works if people actually go beyond their own comfort zones, and many people don’t. So all they see in our series is what they already like. That’s not necessarily for me to judge, but that’s something we think about all the time.”
Those who kept tabs on previous CPA lineups will notice some familiar faces, though they’ll be up to new tricks, too. Composer, songwriter and pianist Gabriel Kahane returns with pianist Timo Andres, as does banjo player Abigail Washburn with an as-of-yet-unannounced coterie of friends. Shara Worden returns with the opera You We Us All, which she wrote with Andrew Ondrejcak. And, of course, there are the perennial favorites: The Nutcracker, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the Martha Graham Dance Company.
You can view the entire schedule here.