Every Friday, we highlight three great shows from local performing artists that you can see this coming weekend.

Justin Tornow and COMPANY 
Friday, May 9th at 6PM at the The Plaza @ 140 West Franklin

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Maybe you’re walking down the street, on your way home from work. And suddenly there’s dancing.

We’re used to seeing dance on television, or on a stage, or on a dance floor, but tonight the dance comes to the streets. The Plaza at 140 West Franklin Street is opening up every Friday night this spring for a different performing artist. You can bring your family and hear a jazz musician or watch artists sketch on the streets. This week, local choreographer Justin Tornow creates a dance specially for the plaza, weaving her dancers into the landscape. She’ll be helped by the year-old sculpture called “Exhale,” a wave of metal, mist and colored light that seems purpose-built to dance around.

Best of all, the dance on the plaza is only the beginning of a night full of art. The monthly Art Walk spreads out across Chapel Hill and Carrboro, with local galleries throwing their doors open to visitors. You can walk in to see spellbinding local art, and even enjoy refreshments and entertainment. On this night, our town feels like a true artistic hub, with the art spilling out onto the streets.


Life Is A Dream
Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th at 8PM and Sunday, May 11th at 2PM at Deep Dish Theater


Everyone knows Hamlet – chances are you read it (or avoided reading it) in high school. But if you grew up in a Spanish-speaking country, your Hamlet was a different play entirely: Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 1635 drama Life Is A Dream. With its own existence-pondering hero, this play emerged as one of the greatest works of the Golden Age of Spanish art and culture, a cultural flowering that matches anything going on at the same time in Italy or England.

But if this sounds too “important” and “cultured,” it’s also a rollicking potboiler. With a mysterious prophecy, a beautiful princess, a hero locked in a tower, and a woman in disguise, it’s more action thriller than boring schoolwork. Deep Dish Theater’s production also benefits from a beautiful contemporary translation by the Cuban-American writer Nilo Cruz, so it won’t feel like you’re stuck in 1635. Thanks to a terrific local cast, Life Is A Dream will envelop you fully in the world of the greatest play you’ve never heard of. Unless you’re Spanish, of course.


Gem Of The Ocean
Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th at 8PM and Sunday, May 11th at 3PM at the ArtsCenter


August Wilson wanted the world to know where he came from. And not just him – he wanted to lay out something like a complete picture of the African-American experience in America. But to achieve that ambitious goal, he started with himself. He grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the son of a cleaning woman from North Carolina. So he spent twenty years writing a ten-play cycle, each one set in a different decade of the 20th century and all but one set in his beloved Hill District. What emerged by the time he finished is a loving portrait of a people, their language and their way of life; it’s also an enduring piece of American art.

Over the next two weekends, the ArtsCenter presents the first play in that cycle, Gem Of The Ocean. It’s 1904, and the characters are still struggling with the entanglements of slavery. They come to the house of Aunt Ester, a memory-keeper and sin-absolver to her community who’s nearly 300 years old. Drifters and seekers all, they’re looking for a connection to their past that will let them turn to their future. Aunt Ester is one of Wilson’s most indelible creations, a figure that links the plays and anchors this one. By turns spiritual, funny, painful and alive, Gem Of The Ocean takes its audience along on a searing journey.

For more on these and other great activities, visit our full event calendar, or click here to sign up for our newsletter and get “Ten Things To Do In Chapelboro This Weekend” delivered every Thursday to your email inbox.