Duke Arts’ Opening Week: Big Names & Great Performances

Semester begins with exceptional artists and colorful performances

Duke Arts Opening Week includes Birdmen puppets, a Badu tribute, Terence Blanchard and the movie Zola.

This program includes a free concert by Dawn Landes at American Tobacco Campus, and concerts at Duke by jazz musician Terence Blanchard, neo-soul singer José James, and the world-renowned Emerson String Quartet in one of the final events of their farewell tour. Special experiences include twice-daily showcases of Slumberland, a live-action virtual reality experience from Sweden; a free screening of the film Zola,” followed by a Q&A with renowned playwright Jeremy O. Harris; and pop-up appearances throughout the week of Close Act Theatre’s giant roaming puppets, Birdmen.

Let’s Get This Arts Block Party Started!

In addition to public events, Duke Arts Opening Week also includes the undergrad-only Duke Arts Block Party from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. The event will include an appearance from Duke alumnus Ken Jeong along with several student and professional performances, food trucks, arts activities and more at the Rubenstein Arts Center.

Here’s the lineup of performances:

Slumberland: “Why We Can’t Sleep”

A live virtual reality performance where audiences, using an Oculus VR headset, will engage live with a performer based in Malmö, Sweden. In these alternate realms, audiences bear witness to the stories of Earth’s sleepless youth while freely wandering through strangers’ bedrooms, catching talking stars as they fall from the heavens, and exploring new dimensions of empathy that can only exist outside of physical space.

3 p.m. & 6 p.m September 6-10. 128 Murthy Agora Room, Rubenstein Arts Center.

Dawn Landes

This talented American singer-songwriter, musician and producer has five full-length albums and five EPs under her belt. From touring with roots music band Hem and Sufjan Stevens to producing and engineering music in New York City, her unique blend of musical talent and production expertise has landed her nationwide acclaim and partnerships with giants of American roots music.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6. American Tobacco Campus lawn. Free

Close-Act Theatre: Birdmen

The luminous and majestic Birdmen from Close-Act Theatre in the Netherlands will roam public spaces and visit audiences before they enter the theater for Opening Week events. Operated by mysterious men in stilts, these massive puppets fill passersby with wonder as they move throughout a crowd.

6:50 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7. West Campus in front of Duke Chapel.

7:20 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8. East Campus in front of Baldwin Auditorium.

Terence Blanchard with E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet

Seven-time Grammy winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Terence Blanchard has been a leader figure in jazz for many decades, even before he gained new audiences through his acclaimed compositions for movies and operas. Blanchard’s newest release, Absence, is a grooving, exploratory tribute to the inimitable Wayne Shorter, a saxophonist and composer that profoundly influenced Blanchard’s career. Absence features the trumpeter with his band the E–Collective, as well as the Turtle Island Quartet led by violinist David Balakrishnan.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7. Page Auditorium

Emerson String Quartet
Emerson String Quartet

Emerson String Quartet

The Chamber Arts Series opens with a final visit from the Emerson String Quartet, a group that has been at the forefront of chamber music-making across the globe for the best part of a half century. With more than 30 acclaimed recordings, nine Grammy awards, three Gramophone awards and an Avery Fisher Prize to their name, this year the American quartet bids adieu to the concert stage. On their farewell tour, the Emersons will bring a range of classic quartets, opening with Mendelssohn’s passionate “String Quartet No. 2,” a work significantly influenced by the late string quartets of another featured composer on the program: Beethoven.

8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 8. Baldwin Auditorium.

“Zola,” with Q&A with Screenwriter Jeremy O. Harris

The author of the acclaimed “Slave Play,” which received 12 Tony nominations, Harris turned to film in 2021 when he cowrote “Zola,” based on a true story – originally shared via Twitter – about the shocking and unexpected adventures of Zola, a waitress from Detroit who travels with a customer for a party weekend in Miami.

1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. Griffith Film Theater, Bryan Center. Free.

José James Sings Badu

Celebrated New York-based singer José James comes to Duke Arts with “On & On,” a project dedicated to the undeniable vibe and penetrating songwriting of Erykah Badu. Considering Badu’s distinctive songs as some of the standards of his time, James delivers creatively reimagined Badu covers with effortless cool.

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. Reynolds Industries Theater, Bryan Center.

Duke staff and faculty can purchase discounted tickets to 2023024 Duke Arts Presents performances. Photos courtesy of Duke Arts Presents.

August 29, 2023

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