Star Member Spotlight: The Atwoods

December 20, 2023 by Jordan Hewitt Beard

Photo of Bev and Bob Atwood smiling

One of the best things about the Carolina Theatre is that there is always an opportunity to get to know new people who quickly become friends. Many people at the theater have been fortunate to meet Bev and Bob Atwood at a show, in the Star Lounge, or just by a casual conversation in the lobby. The Atwoods have been members at the theater since the 1990s (Bev’s estimate!) and have some fascinating stories and touching memories to share from over the years. We hope you will have the chance to have a conversation with them the next time you see them at a show!

CTD: How long have you lived in Durham and what do you like best about being here?

BA: We have lived in Durham for 40 years and especially appreciate Durham’s inclusive nature and colorful mix of citizens and ethnicities. 

CTD: Have you both always been interested in the arts and what inspired your passion?

BA: I (Bev) was involved in music and theater growing up.  I had to shelve my passion after my freshman year of college to pursue my (quite demanding) major. After completing college and becoming financially able, I was able to start supporting the arts and attending various types of performances (even though I did not resume performing). Bob often joins me in attending art events and is also a strong supporter of the arts (including the Carolina Theatre!).  

CTD: When did you become members at the theater and why did you decide to join?

BA: We can’t recall when we became members- maybe when memberships became available (mid 90’s? I recall going to the theater for several years to drop off a donation check before there was a development office (remember when we used to write checks?..) One year, a theater management intern and I walked up one of the stairways to the very top floor, which is an attic that had a couple of rescued desks scattered about. That was the early “development office”! 

We joined the theater because we believed it was (and still is) important to support arts as part of Durham’s culture. Up until the last decade or so, Durham was poised to re-awaken. Now look how that phoenix has risen!  And all along, the Carolina Theatre (and the Durham Arts Council) has been at the center of Durham’s vibrant revival! 

Photo of the Carolina Theatre's false ceiling prior to renovation
The theater’s false ceiling prior to the renovations.

CTD: What are some of the best little-known historic anecdotes about the theater?

BA: When we moved to Durham in 1983, the theater was used only for showing “art house” movies. It had become fairly run down by then. Our recollection is that a false ceiling had been installed at some point, which hid the balconies and made you feel like you were walking into a cave. The “institutional green” wall color made it even less inviting. 

An anecdote that we heard was that the high windows on the mezzanine level (that overlook the plaza) were painted black during World War II to cover up any light that might be emitted at night from within. 

Although we have never encountered it, supposedly there is a ghost that lurks about, especially in the second balcony and higher. 

CTD: What are some of your favorite moments of being at the theater?

BA: Where do we start? Our favorite aspect of attending shows at the theater is the magic of the performances. We love being greeted by the great staff who have been with the theater for years and are committed to ensuring that patrons have a good experience! And of course, there is beautiful Fletcher Hall. And the Star Lounge! And the popcorn! 

Since the Carolina Theatre offers a wide variety of performers and types of performances, we enjoy scoping out the audience to see how it is comprised. Does it represent the ethnic and gender diversity of Durham and the performers? What kind of “buzz” is there in the audience as it anticipates the show to start? Where have patrons traveled from to see the performance (sometimes it is several hours drive!)? 

Some of our favorite performers have been Chris Botti, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Stanley Clarke, Fourplay, Al Jarreau, Jon Batiste, The Mavericks, and Shemekia Copeland. To name a few. Haha! 

Jon Batiste plays the piano on stage with a bass player in the background.
Jon Batiste’s performance in Fletcher Hall in 2014

CTD: If you could see any artist perform at the theater, who would it be and why?

BA: We aren’t able to keep this to just one artist! But here are a few of our top picks: 

  • Charley Crockett – He appeals across audience types while sticking to his country roots. 
  • Samara Joy – Wow!  What a voice! And she is just at the beginning of her professional journey! 
  • Jon Batiste – He has continued to evolve since last performing at the theater (pre-Colbert) and has much to offer through his talent and positive persona. 
  • Shemekia Copeland – It has been years since she graced the Fletcher Hall stage with her incredible voice and special approach to the blues.   
  • Laufey – She captures several musical genres (bossa, jazz, pop) while appealing across generations. 

CTD: What are some of your other hobbies and interests?

BA: We really enjoy spending time with family and friends and attending the variety of performance offerings in our area (symphony, chamber music, ballet, plays….we love it all). 

Getting distracted by fun!