Union, DIA boost 2004-05 arts programming

Although summer will not technically begin until June 22, plans for arts and culture events at the University for the coming academic year are swiftly being realized. Duke University Union and Duke Institute of the Arts, two of the largest arts programming bodies on campus, are looking forward to a landmark year of more--and cheaper--performances.

"This year, we'll have more speakers, one extra Broadway at Duke show and On Stage wants to do a couple more events," said graduate student Douglas Dumont, vice president of the Union. "We're increasing quantity and quality on campus."

The Union is looking to improve on its already extensive events programming, which last year brought performers such as Ludacris to Cameron Indoor Stadium and comedian John Leguizamo to Page Auditorium. So far, the Union has confirmed appearances by comedian Lewis Black and American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen, as well as authors Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, Amy Tan and Sarah Vowell. Broadway at Duke performances will include Rent, Bring in da Noise Bring in da Funk, Contact, Grease, The Full Monty and the world premiere of Little Women.

The 2004-05 school year is particularly important to the Union as the group marks its 50th Anniversary. To celebrate its longevity, the Union plans to invite its alumni back in April and to unveil 50 additional programming events over the course of the year, geared toward reflecting the 50-year history of the Union.

"As a member of the student body, you should be excited," Dumont said. "We do want to celebrate with our alumni, but why not make it an exciting year for everyone?"

DIA, which has been promoting professional performances on campus for 18 years, will be making its first improvement for the upcoming school year with a name change. Effective July 1, DIA will formally be re-named Duke Performances. The decision to switch names grew from a desire to give the group more visibility.

"[Changing our name] is a way of clarifying the principal activity of our office--to bring professional performance activities to campus," said Kathy Silbiger, program director for DIA. "We wanted to make it sound more dynamic. Some people thought it connoted more of a research institute, which it is not."

After adopting this new moniker, Duke Performances will work together with the Union to co-sponsor choreographer Nicholas Lechter's dance company at Duke.

While no other cooperative projects between the Union and Duke Performances are currently in the works, the two groups will be sharing a $50,000 arts fund to subsidize the cost of event tickets for students in the upcoming year. As part of a series of strategic initiatives by the Office of the Provost designed to improve the status of arts and culture activities at the University, the funds will subsidize all but $5 of each ticket sold to students in an effort to bolster student attendance at professional arts events.

"We learned that such a subsidy... is provided at some schools, and it seemed a good idea to us as we are trying to strengthen the available opportunities for student engagement with the arts, broadly understood," Provost Peter Lange said.

Up to $20,000 will be used to subsidize Union event tickets, and another $20,000 will go toward Duke Performances. Theater Previews, an organization that brings professional theater performances to Duke, will receive up to $5,000 and another $5,000 is allotted for all other professional events this year.

Currently, a paltry number of students attend cultural performances at Duke. An average of fewer than 90 students went to each DIA event over the course of the past two school years, and the number of students attending Broadway at Duke is in decline. Officials hope for a reversal of such trends in student attendance with the implementation of the subsidy.

"Having this subsidy will help reduce the loss of revenue from selling low-priced tickets to students and encourage us to target more events toward students, while still serving our loyal audiences and the surrounding community that depends on us for adventurous programming," Silbiger said.


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