Performance celebrates new home for McDuffie Center

Violinist Robert McDuffie, a Macon native who lives in New York City, has nurtured an international career as a classical musician but continues to look after his hometown.

In February, McDuffie will mark the move of his McDuffie Center for Strings, a special institute within Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, into a new home in Macon, a landmark antebellum structure called the Bell House.

The columned mansion achieved fame when it appeared on the cover of the debut album by fellow Maconites the Allman Brothers. While the Bell House was in peeling disrepair for that photo shoot, it has returned to sparkling glory, courtesy of a $1.5 million grant from Atlanta’s Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

To celebrate the reopening of the Bell House, McDuffie and actress Anna Deavere Smith are presenting a special program, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” combining McDuffie’s music with a Smith’s portrayal of several Civil Rights-era heroes. Part of the program includes Smith’s reading from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 1963 letter when he was incarcerated in Alabama.

Smith is known for her television roles as national security adviser Nancy McNally in “The West Wing” and as hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus in Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie.”

The free performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Macon’s Beulahland Bible Church. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. at the 2,000-seat church at 1010 Newburg Ave. Info: 478-301-2886, departments.mercer.edu/mcduffie.

Founded in 2006, the McDuffiie Center is limited to just 26 students. Some of them have done very well: Sophomore SiHao He, from Shanghai, China, was awarded the grand prize in the Third Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition in Hachioji, Japan, in 2013.

VISUAL ART

‘Small Treasures’ in Alabama

Often overlooked by art museums and scholars, but remarkable in their own right, small-scale paintings by masters of the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age will be celebrated in the Birmingham Museum of Art exhibition opening Jan. 30, “Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Their Contemporaries.”

Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art, the exhibit gathers 40 oils, most no more than 10 inches high, by 28 artists who lived and worked in what is today the Netherlands and Belgium during the 17th century.

Through April 26. $12, $10 seniors, $5 students. 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd., Birmingham. 205-254-2565, www.artsbma.org.

THEATER

Internet dating drama wins prize

“Lillian Likes It,” a play by Conyers resident Joshua Mikel, has been selected as winner of the 2015 Essential Theatre Playwriting Contest, the only competition exclusively dedicated to the work of Georgia playwrights, now in its 16th year. It will receive a full production during the Essential Theatre Play Festival, and Mikel gets a $600 cash prize.

“We liked ‘Lillian Likes It’ because it’s a funny, theatrical look at the world of Internet dating,” Essential artistic director Peter Hardy said, “but also because it goes deeper, taking off in unexpected directions and dealing with such timeless issues as the mystery of how we can ever get to truly know another person.”

Joining “Lillian” in the fest, July 24 through Aug. 23 at West End Performing Arts Center, will be Natalia Naman’s “The Old Ship of Zion,” receiving its premiere professional staging, about members of a small, struggling African-American church in Columbus; and the Bare Essentials Reading Series, featuring readings of new works by Georgia playwrights. Details: www.essentialtheatre.com.

BRIEFLY

News from Capitol City Opera, Burnaway, more

  • Capitol City Opera Company has announced its main stage productions for 2015: Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio,” March 27-29 at Oglethorpe University’s Conant Performing Arts Center; and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” (fall performance dates to be announced). The annual July On the Light Side fundraiser will be “The Songs of George and Ira Gershwin” (details to be announced). For more on Capitol City, including Dinner and a Diva programs at restaurants on the third Tuesday and Thursday each month: www.ccityopera.org.
  • Burnaway.org, the Atlanta-based visual arts site, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from New York’s Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Spread over two years, the grant was given in support of programs including Burnaway’s Critics-in-Residence Program, writing workshops for artists and high school art writing intensives.
  • Deadra Moore, long-time executive director of the Suzi Bass Awards, Atlanta’s version of the Tonys, has stepped down to resume her acting career. Heidi Blackwell has been named interim executive director of the 10-year-old organization while its board conducts a search. Info on the position: http://bit.ly/SuziED2015.
  • The Alabama Symphony Orchestra has selected Venezuelan-born conductor Carlos Izcaray as music director. The Berlin-based maestro, who signed a four-year contract calling for up to 20 weeks per season, will move to Birmingham to assume his new role. Izcaray (pronounced eez-ca-RYE), who begins his tenure in September, next conducts the orchestra on Feb. 13-14. www.alabamasymphony.org.

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