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Located near Duke University's East Campus and Durham School of the Arts, Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre Durham has a storied history rivaling that of many bastions of higher learning. This North Carolina fixture not only serves as a staging ground for all sorts of acts and plays, it's a monument to a bygone era. Indeed, it's the last of its kind -- the only remaining original theater still standing out of 13 such historic edifices in Durham.
Erected in 1926, the Theatre has presented stage shows, comedy acts and live music for almost a century. Fletcher Hall also featured prominently in the Civil Rights Movement. For decades, African Americans had to scale 97 steps to a segregated section if they wanted to attend the Theatre. Protests for equal treatment began outside the ticket office in 1961, and by 1963, Durham Mayor Wense Grabarek integrated the venue a full year before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. A permanent on-site exhibit testifies to the tumult of the time.
Shows at Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre Durham run the entertainment gamut, with everything from Gilbert and Sullivan's stage comedies and family-friendly plays to big-band standards and singer/songwriters to experimental performance art and charitable shows. With a public commitment to present over 60 engagements annually and usually topping out at over 100, the Theatre's board of trustees estimates that some 150,000 people cross the venue's threshold each and every year. However, the Theatre features more than just entertainment. It produces the Carolina Theatre Educational Program, a set of shows designed to complement school curricula. Some 15,000 children participate annually.
Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre Durham can seat 1,048 attendees. An ample floor level splays out into six sections, all providing excellent views of the stage. Two pairs of balconies repeat the six-section pattern and, although they are obviously further away from the action, their very verticality means that the proceedings will still engage audiences. But the Theatre doesn't merely make a large auditorium feel intimate. It also seats people in style. A restoration project brought the building back to its original Beaux Arts style -- all towering windows and delicate scrollwork with a warm, honeyed color scheme.
Given its hip arts scene and progressive university culture, visitors will find ample entertainment opportunities in Durham. Those longing for more stagecraft could always swing by the Durham Performing Arts Center. Fans of famous '80s-era films will want to watch The Durham Bulls strut their stuff, a team that's the most popular in minor league baseball thanks to the Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon hit, "Bull Durham." Children will love checking out the Museum of Life and Science, while adults should enjoy shopping at The Streets at Southpoint.
Originally dubbed the Durham Auditorium, the Carolina Theatre Durham was also a popular place for movies during World War II, but the construction of a new wing in 1992 moved cinema to another portion of the building.