HomeArts & LitNewbies Guide to Spoleto Fest

Newbies Guide to Spoleto Fest

Three tips from a pro, plus our list of don’t miss events to enhance your festival experience. 

For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Approaching its 38th season, the festival is something Charlestonians look forward to each year, but for first-time goers all that culture — and more than 150 performances to choose from — can be daunting.

We asked the festival’s Marketing Manager Jessie Bagley for her top 3 tips on getting the most out of Spoleto and also offer up our own must-see events this year. If you’re in the city this Sunday, stop by the festival’s information tent at Second Sunday on King Street from 1-5 p.m. and also get special ticket savings at the Charleston Visitor Center box office at 375 Meeting St. from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Spoleto starts May 23 and runs through June 8, so it’s right around the corner.

Festival Tips 

spoletoposter1. Start with just one chamber music performance. These twice-daily afternoon concerts at the historic Dock Street Theatre are a wonderful introduction to the festival, and even people who are resistant to classical music will greatly enjoy these performances. Director of Chamber Music Geoff Nuttall has such wonderful stage presence that he’s been called the “Jon Stewart of Chamber Music” by The New York Times.

2. Look through the program and start with the genre that most interests you. For instance, if you really enjoy dance, then just start with the dance programs. After you choose one (or four … ) of those, then move on to another genre.

3. Make decisions based on venue. So many people just want to know what is in the Cistern Yard since it’s such a beautiful outdoor space. We get those questions about all of the venues. Each one is so unique and beautiful — and very representational of Charleston.

Don’t Miss For 2014

My Cousin Rachel – Dublin’s consummate Gate Theatre pairs their signature sophistication with Hitchcockian suspense in Daphne du Maurier’s melodrama, running May 22-June 8 at Dock Street Theatre.

Rene Marie’s Tribute to Eartha Kitt – Perhaps no singer has a greater kinship with the legendary Eartha Kitt than René Marie. Ever a risk-taker, Marie chose to pay tribute to Kitt for her tenth and newest album, I Wanna Be Evil. With her ensemble doubled in size to add brass and winds, she interprets Kitt’s repertoire from the well-known “Santa Baby” to the little-known gem “Oh, John” on May 26 at TD Arena at College of Charleston.

A Brimful of Asha – Award-winning actor, director and producer Ravi Jain shares the stage with his real-life mother in this story of family, arranged marriage and the quest for the perfect bride May 29-June 1 at Emmett Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston.

Kat Edmonson – No matter what your favorite genre of music is, Kat Edmonson possesses the universal appeal that belongs to those musicians who bring about insouciant contentment. Hers is the perfect soundtrack to herald the summer. Listen May 29 at College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard.

Dorrance Dance – Making their festival debut, this company challenges the traditional notions of tap in two programs: “Delta to Dusk,” created for Spoleto audiences and exploring a range of musical styles from blues to bluegrass to pop and rock through tap dance, and “SOUNDspace,” which focuses on the embodiment of music made by movement. Experience it June 1-6 at Memminger Auditorium.

Lucinda Williams – Another festival debut with a recording career of nearly four decades, this Louisiana-born songstress is a musical force that hasn’t slowed down since her first album, Ramblin‘, debuted in the late ’70s. She continues to tour the world, appearing at Spoleto June 4 at TD Arena at College of Charleston.

Festival Finale Featuring Shovels & Rope – This Charleston-grown group is the perfect way to wrap up the 2014 festival. Giving voice to their hometown and blending the folklore, sass and heart we associate with the Lowcountry, this band also offers something distinctly modern. The result is irresistible. See them June 8 at Middleton Place.

To see the full schedule, click here, and to purchase tickets, click here

Photo courtesy of Shovels & Rope. 

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