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Duke University Arts

Mar 26, 2015

Arts Internships Summer 2015

More than 60 arts organizations in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill offer opportunities for internships!  

Arts classes open the door to learning about the arts, they expand your creativity and give you a chance to engage and immerse in the study of a particular art form, however, it is also important to develop real-world, practical skills to compliment your arts education.

Here you will find a list of more than 60 arts organizations located in Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill that can help you do just thatl  We provide this list so that you can investigate the different types of nternship opportunities available.  Experiences can vary from working in a gallery, shadowing a graphic designer, assisting with presenting performances, to marketing and publicizing events, or working on all aspects of producting an arts festival.  A variety of settings are available and all are located within the Triangle.

An internship in an arts organization will provide invaluable knowledge that will go a long way in helping you build your career in the arts.


Arts Administration Internships - Duke Performances seeks ambitious, highly-motivated, organized, and detail-oriented individuals at the undergraduate or graduate level with an interest in arts administration. Internship is a paid position. Contact Eric Oberstein to learn about nternship opportunities.

Mar 20, 2015

Duke Flags Lowered: Saxophonist, Composer Paul Jeffrey Dies

Durham, NC - Saxophonist and composer Paul Jeffrey, director of Jazz Studies and professor of the practice of music at Duke University, died on Friday following a lengthy illness at age 81.

Jeffrey earned a bachelor of science degree in music education at Ithaca College before moving to New York City, where he began a lifelong friendship with Sonny Rollins. An acclaimed tenor saxophonist, Jeffrey worked closely with Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and other jazz legends before coming to Duke in 1983, where he served as director of Jazz Studies until his retirement in 2003.

Read more here in the Duke Today.

Mar 8, 2015

Nathaniel Mackey, Poet and Teacher

Poet, novelist, and critic Nathaniel Mackey is Duke University’s Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing. He joined Duke’s faculty in 2010, moving from California, where he grew up and then, after his studies and his first few faculty positions, spent over 30 years as a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mackey’s poetry has gathered considerable acclaim, most recently earning him two prestigious awards—the 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2015 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, where he joined a list of twentieth-century poetic luminaries including Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, and W.S. Merwin.

On Monday, March 23, at 5:00 p.m., there will be a reading by Prof. Mackey in the Nasher Museum Auditorium, presented by the Office of the University President and the English Department.

He told an interviewer from the Duke Chronicle that he tries “to stress to [his] students that writing is not a sprint, it’s a long-distance run” and that has certainly been true in his case. His ongoing series of epistolary novels, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, now encompasses four volumes: Bedouin Hornbook (1988), Djbot Baghostus's Run (1993), Atet A. D. (2001), and Bass Cathedral (2008). It follows the sometimes fantastical career of a fictional avant-garde jazz ensemble and is grounded in Mackey’s intimate knowledge of the music—he is a long-time host of jazz radio shows and has collaborated with a number of jazz musicians in live performance and recording.

The Bollinger Prize committee noted similar qualities in his poetry.

Nathaniel Mackey’s decades-long serial work — ‘Songs of the Andoumboulou’ and ‘Mu’ — constitutes one of the most important poetic achievements of our time. ‘Outer Pradesh’ — jazz-inflected, outward-riding, passionately smart, open, and wise — beautifully continues this ongoing project.


The book’s epigraph is Jean Toomer’s assertion of modernist open-endedness and generic not-belonging: ‘There is no end to ‘out.’’ Mackey applies this endlessly outward-going passage to an ecstatic, exilic experience, as a group of travelers — a ‘philosophical posse’ — makes its way across an Indian province. What they and we encounter on this journey is a pre-history embodied by ‘old-time people’ whose songs must be heard. Together we find ourselves within an improvised social continuum that grows larger, stranger, more remote, and more consoling at every turn. Memory becomes a site of social commentary and collective vision. Mackey’s epic of fugitivity forms a stunning meditation on being.

Surprisingly, given his prominence as a poet and novelist, his appointment at Duke is the first time he has been hired as a creative writer. He has had a parallel career as a scholar and literary critic, focussing on modern and postmodern literature in the U.S. and the Caribbean. His teaching portfolio at Duke reflects that background—in addition to his poetry workshops it includes seminars in topics such as African American experimental writing and the work of William Carlos Williams.

A selection from Outer Pradesh by Nathaniel Mackey

As with the old-time people, the
  word their one rescue, words
would be our rescue we’d been
     told. Believing so braced us,
 of the book’s advantage, book of
    the word’s leverage, lift…
beit words were our one rescue
 they were those Night Choir
sang. No way could we be free
     of apprehension… But in the
        known as fretless his and her
  heads flew, Nunca and Anuncio
     thumbing the book of not, not
that what would be would have to
  with them, not that they were there
they were     

I sat down to talk with him a few weeks after he had read at Salon, a very successful evening of poetry sponsored by Duke's literary magazine, The Archive, so that was the first topic of conversation. We also discussed his approach to teaching poetry and the place of poetry in the academy, among other things. What follows is an edited transcript.

-Robert Zimmerman

It was great to hear you at the poetry salon a few weeks ago. How did you feel about the event?

As I said that night, it's been really nice for me to see that happen here. This is my fifth year, and I think that was the third time it's been held. It's one of the few occasions where faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates who are interested in poetry have a chance to get together and talk to one another, hear one another's work. I was very happy with what I heard, the range of poetry from everybody, and I think the inclusion of the music was a real asset.

It's a really important event and I hope that it becomes a yearly event, something that we expect and look forward to. But it really depends on student initiative. I don't think it should be done top down.

I'd like to hear about the courses you teach. Are they mostly poetry and creative writing?

I teach a range of courses. I have a PhD in English and American Literature, so I was trained as a literary critic/scholar. For all the years I've been teaching, this is actually the first time I was hired as a creative writer.

One of my areas of specialty is modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. I also teach courses in African American and Caribbean literature. I'm a modernist, a contemporarianist. Some would say a post-modernist. I teach a lot of literature that comes out of that zone.

Including in your writing classes?

When I teach writing workshops I include reading as a part of that. Poets, writers, need to read. But the workshops are undergraduate classes, and one of the things undergraduate writers need is an audience. They need to be heard and they need to hear what people have to say about their work. Primarily, they need to hear from their peers. They're not necessarily taking the class because they want to get my feedback. Although, they can't avoid it [laughs].

But in my workshops, I aim to create an environment in which that kind of interaction between students can take place. I have them bring in work on a regular basis, and part of the assignment for the rest of the class is to read it and come prepared with comments. Usually in a workshop a student will bring in work for discussion four or five or even six times a semester, depending on the size of the class.

After we've had some initial discussion, I invite the student whose work we're discussing to talk about what he or she had in mind, and we talk about whether the poem delivers that or not. But then sometimes we also have to ask, how important is what you had in mind?

One thing I say to them over and over again—they probably get tired of hearing me say it—is that as the writer you're the first reader of the poem. Sometimes you have to look at what you've written as though someone else wrote it, because it may be telling you something that you didn't know was there.

The material can take its own direction.

Yeah. I tell them that the aim of the workshop is to make them more conscious writers, for them to think about what they do, to be aware of what they do, to be aware of what decisions they make, of what the words are doing, what the line breaks are doing, what the sounds are doing. Even what the orthography is doing, what the look of the poem on the page is doing.

At the same time, we can’t forget that the unconscious has an important role to play in the process. Sometimes there are these intuitive cues that pop up, that can lead you to a poem that may not be quite the one you thought you were writing, but it can be a better poem.

Who are the students that take these workshops? I guess you can count on some English majors. Are there other majors that show up a lot?

Yeah, when I taught at UC Santa Cruz and previous places the writing workshops were made up mostly of English and literature majors. But that's not the case here. In a workshop, half or more of the students are not English majors.

Last Spring we had a couple of math/science majors in the class and they were doing a lot with that as subject matter. And we had classes where the two of them would start talking with each other about linear equations and all that stuff and, you know, we just had to surrender, let them talk [laughs].

But I find it interesting and exciting to hear students bringing in material from their classes that are not particularly literary, bringing it into their poems. I remember having a fellow who was really into geology a few years ago and you'd get a lot of geology in his poems, which was great, because we learned something about geology. But it also, then, raised the question of how you deal with information in your work, especially information you can't expect the average reader (whatever that mythical beast looks like) to know. How much work do you have to do for that reader? Different people do it different ways.

On the other hand, some of the students are English or literature majors, they've read a lot of the canonical figures and the not-so-canonical figures. They've been taking workshops since high school and they want to continue to do it as part of their curriculum. And I hear complaints from some of those students, the humanities-oriented types, that they haven't found quite the environment that they expected to make that kind of interest thrive.

Hopefully things like the salon will improve the situation.

Yes, but I think having more students who declare those interests catch the eye of the admissions office would be good, too.

I imagine those folks get a lot of input from all sides! But for what it's worth, I do hear a lot of conversations about building a culture of arts and humanities on campus, both in Scott Lindroth's office [(the Vice Provost for the Arts)] and through my work with Humanities Writ Large.

I would think that a fair number of students must come to your workshops because of their interest in rap and hip-hop.

Yeah, a lot of the students come via hip-hop and its influence on the slam scene and spoken word. I always feel there's a place for that in my classes. Often students who come out of that background are coming to the workshop because they want to get more of the literary bent, to see in what ways that can influence the spoken word work and in what ways the spoken word can influence the literary work.

Usually in a class there's a range of styles and idioms and senses of poetry that are represented by the students. Pretty much in every class, spoken word is represented.

So how do you navigate between all their different interests and yours?

I try to keep an open environment where different stylistic and thematic perspectives can coexist, I'm certainly not trying to get them to write like me. My orientation invariably comes up—you have to be yourself—but pedagogically you try to not let that be a heavy weight in the room.

For students who want a closer one-on-one relationship with regard to a particular poem, or just throughout the semester, I have office hours. And I have students who come in, and we sit down, and go through their poem word by word. That's what poetry is made of, word choices, and we'll talk about why this word isn't really working, why it's not doing what you want it to do, and I'll suggest some things, or I'll say, "I can't think of anything that you might replace that word with, so let's just brainstorm right now. You start."

There's a sense out there that it's bad when art settles into the university. This comes up a lot with jazz. There's this idea that jazz musicians are supposed to learn their craft hanging out in nightclubs, that something important gets lost if it's taught in a classroom.

If you academicize it you're going to suck the life out of it. The same kind of argument goes on with writing.

Do you have an answer to that?

My answer is that it’s just another track. If you're out on the road or you're having a hard time of it or whatever, that doesn't make you an artist. Every artist has the challenge of making art out of his or her experiences, his or her environment—to produce art that has a pulse is always a challenge. Being in an academic environment just presents a different kind of challenge.

Years ago I remember someone talking about my generation of poets being the first generation to go to graduate school. We arrived at that cusp. I certainly experienced some anxieties about it. So many of the poets and writers that I read and got inspired by were anti-academic. Many of them ended up in academia. Those doors opened up and we dealt with it.

But I keep reading that poetry is dead, just like jazz. Is there any truth to that or is it just endless noise?

It's endless noise. That's the motivation. Poetry is always going to be around because it's just so close to what we are as a species—Homo sapiens, the language makers and the language users. Going back to our cave times, poetry has been a kind of levitator. I don't see it going away. It gets reborn in new forms like spoken word, among young folks, and it takes on new life that way.

Feb 27, 2015

Jon-Sesrie Goff Hits the Ground Running in Duke's MFAEDA

Gullah-Geechee landscape
Examining documents
Records of Goff family ownership

The Goff family land in South Carolina
(video stills by John-Sesrie Goff)

This past fall, Jon-Sesrie Goff moved from Philadelphia to Durham to enroll in Duke’s Master of Fine Arts In Experimental and Documentary Arts (MFAEDA) program. In the ten years since he graduated from The New School, his work ranged broadly through both marketing and media production. Most recently, he was a camera operator for two feature documentaries—“Evolution of a Criminal,” a double award winner at the 2014 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and “Out in the Night.” Both will be shown on PBS this year. He also taught filmmaking classes at Villanova and Westchester University.

When he decided to return to school for graduate work, the focus on non-traditional storytelling in Duke’s MFAEDA caught his attention. The fact that computational media was built into the core curriculum—something he didn’t see in a lot of other programs—was a big draw. Another plus was something he did not find in the core curriculum at Duke but did find in other programs—courses like Introduction to Production, which, given his experience, didn’t seem like the best use of his time. The program at Duke allowed him to hit the ground running, so, as he says, “I'm making work now and not in my second year.”

One semester in, he has a major project underway, an exploration of the ways African American families in the North “have maintained relationships to communities and land in the Gullah-Geechee coastal region, from Hampstead, NC to St. Augustine, FL and the rituals and traditions that have been preserved there.” The ties date back to the twentieth century’s Great Migration northward of six million African Americans.

The idea emerged from the course Documenting Personal Narrative, taught by visiting professor Marco Williams. It’s rooted in Goff’s own history. His family owns land in South Carolina that has been passed down since Reconstruction. 

“It's just barren land, nothing's on there,” he says, “so I'm using that to see what stake I personally have in South Carolina considering that I was raised in the Northeast.”

Initially, Goff has taken a traditional documentary approach. “I conducted a couple of interviews of family members and did a visual treatment of the land as it exists now. And I spent some time researching old deeds and things like that.”

Those are just the first steps towards a “more experimental or non-traditional way of telling the story.” One possibility he’s considering is to drive down the coast, documenting it at fixed increments. The idea was an outgrowth of Bill Noland's course, The Ongoing Moment.

“That course and David Gatten’s Experiments in the Moving Image are helping me identify experimental treatments of this documentary work,” Goff says.

His subject is much larger than his family’s story. The U.S. is in the midst of a reverse migration. As “the concentrations of black communities shift from North to South for the first time in decades,” Goff writes, “I am interrogating what stake millennials have in this region’s preservation.”

Goff was also attracted to Duke’s MFAEDA because it’s based at a major research university instead of a specialized art school.

“Having a curriculum that's open enough to allow you to take classes in any department or any school on campus is really enriching if you're trying to tell a good solid story,” he says. “To be able to talk to anthropologists or scientists and get their perspective to inform your work is just as useful as talking to cinematographers and editors on how to technically complete it.”

Those resources, it turns out, extend beyond Duke’s campus. Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies coordinates the Lehman Brady Chair, a joint professorship hosted by Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. Marco Williams, this year’s occupant, played a key role in setting Goff’s project in motion. And MFAEDA program director Tom Rankin has helped Goff connect with other documentarians and researchers familiar with the Gullah-Geechee region. One is an American Studies graduate student Rankin is advising at UNC, whose more theoretical perspective complements Goff’s aesthetic, narrative approach.

Goff has found that the program’s broad intellectual resources attract a fascinating collection of students, and they’re doing work that’s “amazing and out of the box.”

“Our interests are widespread and diverse,” he says, “but we’re able to connect through this medium that we all share in common.”

Feb 27, 2015

Aaron Lazar, From Duke to Broadway

After a performance of Sting's musical The Last Ship in mid-November, a couple of exceptional Duke theater alums and a transformative faculty member talked about their connection to Duke. Aaron Lazar graduated in 1998 with a music degree. The Last Ship was his ninth appearance in a Broadway show. Nathaniel Hill is a 2012 graduate of the Theater Studies program. In his senior year he produced Ragtime, Duke's first Graduation with Distinction project in production. Standing next to them was a man who played a crucial role in both of their college careers—Emanuel "Manny" Azenberg, an eminent Broadway producer who doubled as a professor at Duke for many years.

This is Lazar's story, lightly edited.

I got a scholarship to sing in the opera department that was new. They had just brought Susan Dunn down from the Met to teach and create the opera program, and so I was very grateful for the scholarship. It required me to be a music major, so I was majoring in music and then minoring in pre-med.

My parents were going to be very happy because they'd have a nice Jewish doctor in the family, and then two things happened. One, I took Manny [Azenberg's] class. I'd never read a play before, and the first play we read was Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, which was absolutely a joke for me, I seriously didn't understand a word of it.

Manny's entire class hinges upon visceral essays in response to the play that you've just read. I couldn't write anything, I didn't understand anything that I read, so I made up some... crap, I'm sure. And I got to meet Tom Stoppard here, on stage, a couple of weeks ago, and tell him that story. He was very gracious.

Anyway I took Manny's class. And then a drama professor at Duke, Jeff Storer, and Jody McAuliffe, cast me in Carousel. Carousel was a reintroduction to musical theater for me. I'd done some musicals in high school and said I wouldn't have time to do it in college because I'd have to get good grades and all that. And then, after Carousel, professors started pushing me, saying, you should try it, you should try it.

I kept my parents happy after, because the MCATs are good for three years. I went to graduate school for theater for two years at Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and then I had one year to get a job. I got a job six months in and then never wanted to take the test again and so, here we are.

Nathaniel Hill went from his senior production at Duke into the professional world, where, among other things, he served on the general management team for The Last Ship. This past fall he returned to campus during DEMAN (Duke Entertainment Media and Arts Network) weekend to share his experience with students coming along behind him. As he says in the video, DEMAN is "an amazing program that's been created to help students who don't necessarily want to be doctors and lawyers get their toes wet in the business, get that first internship and start meeting people, which is so important in our business."

It's worth quoting comments Azenberg made about his Duke class when he received the 2012 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Lazar, it turns out, had exactly the experience his professor intended him to have.

For 25 years Azenberg also taught a theatre course at Duke University, where he was famous for handing out in class plays with the covers and title pages ripped off, so that he could elicit an unbiased “visceral response” from the students. “It was a fun course and the kids were challenged,” he says. “If they didn’t understand the play, they would have to just say that, not that they hated it. By the end of the semester, hopefully, they actually had some confidence in their own opinion and also recognized that all the arts are subjective.”

Feb 20, 2015

The Perfect Detonator

The Perfect Detonator, the Duke University Department of Theater Studies fall MainStage play, finished a successful run this past November. The play, based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent, was adapted and directed by Duke theater professor Jody McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s work follows Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, as he reads Conrad’s story of an anarchist cell in nineteenth-century London plotting to bomb the Greenwich Observatory, a major symbol of science and industrialization at the time. As the play unfolds, Conrad’s fictional tale intersects with Kaczynski’s real-life bomb plots in the United States. "Like the Unabomber, Conrad saw industrial society as at odds with the human heart,” McAuliffe says.

As McAuliffe told the Duke Chronicle, the genesis of her project was an encounter with the work of filmmaker James Benning, who came to Duke in 2013 as part of the visiting artist lecture series Immersed in Every Sense 2.

“Benning had reconstructed Henry David Thoreau's and Ted Kaczynski's iconic cabins,” McAuliffe said. “He used these structures to reflect on utopian and dystopian versions of social isolation. Benning’s visit reignited my interest in the controversial figure of Kaczynski, particularly in his connection to Thoreau. I developed a plan to read the books that Kaczynski kept in his cabin and I started, fatefully, with Conrad’s 'The Secret Agent,' a most significant book for Kaczynski.”

McAuliffe pursued the natural connections between her production and the work and concerns of the broader academic community. Tim Nichols, an expert on counterterrorism and homeland security and Executive Director of Duke's Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellowship Program, was involved in the rehearsal process. After the opening-night performance he led a public discussion of domestic terrorism, joined by fellows from his “National Security Decision-Making” class. Two nights later, Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies Beth Holmgren presented “A Brief Intro to Joseph Conrad, a Man Between Empires.”

McAuliffe, who is Chair of Theater Studies and Professor of the Practice of Theater Studies and Slavic and Eurasian Studies, found collaborators in other arts departments, as well. William Noland, Professor of the Practice of Visual Art & Theater Studies, was the video designer, assisted by MFAEDA students Aaron Kutnick and Windrose Stanback. Noland was also responsible for bringing James Benning to campus. Emeritus Professor Frank Lentricchia was the dramaturg. The sound designer was composition graduate student Ben Daniels, and the choreography was created by Clay Taliaferro, an emeritus professor of dance.

In addition, McAuliffe brought in Roz Fulton-Dahlie from UNC School of the Arts for lighting design and local designer Sonya Drum for set design. The vocal coach was Duke theater studies alum Madeleine Lambert.



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