5 ways to navigate Spoleto festival

May 17, 2014 

  • If you go

    Spoleto USA opens Friday and runs through June 8 in venues in Charleston. For tickets and detailed schedules, visit spoletousa.org.

The international arts festival, Spoleto Festival USA, begins Friday in Charleston and runs through June 8.

Here a five random observations about the festival:

1. Planning is key. Spoleto offers a wide variety of performances, from opera to jazz, dance to theatrical plays, comedy and conversations with the artists. Find what you are most interested in and then check the schedule and the venues.

Depending on the timing, you may be able to see three or four performances in a single day. An example: Saturday, May 31: 10 a.m.: start out with a leisurely walk through the city’s gardens in “Behind the Garden Gate” then head over to the Emmett Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston to see the 2 p.m. American premiere of Ravi Jain’s “A Brimful of Asha.” Jain shares the stage with his mother in a funny, heartwarming piece about family and love. There’s a half-hour break between Jain’s performance and “Kat’A Kabanova” at 4 p.m. around the corner at the Sottile Theatre. “Kat’A Kabanova” has been called one of the great operas of the 20th century and tells the story of Kat’A, a woman who finds herself trapped in a marriage with a weak husband and tyrannical mother-in-law who seeks solace in the arms of another man. Take a break for dinner then end the evening at 9 p.m. with the North American premiere of the Aca Seca Trio. This Argentinian group (Juan Quintero on acoustic guitar, Andres Beeuwsaert on piano and Mariano Cantero on percussion) performs popular music from South America.

2. Enjoy a conversation. The festival offers you a chance to gain insight into the creative minds behind some of the productions in the “Conversations With” series hosted by CBS correspondent Martha Teichner. Held in the Main Reading Room at the Charleston Library Society, Teichner interviews Garry Hynes, director of “Kat’A Kabanova” on May 24; “Facing Goya” director Ong Keng Sen, conductor John Kennedy and composer Michael Nyman on May 25; Michelle Dorrance, artistic director of Dorrance Dance, on June 2; and director/choreographer/dancer Gregory Maqoma with Vuyani Dance Theatre on June 6. These events are free, but you must reserve a seat online.

3. Something old and something new. Among the Spoleto favorites returning this year are performance artist Laurie Anderson, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Dublin’s Gate Theatre in a production of “My Cousin Rachel,” and Brazilian mandolinist Danilo Brito. Debuting this year are Australian acrobatic ensemble Gravity & Other Myths, Finnish aerialist Ilona Jantti, jazz vocalist Charnee Wade and the tap dance troupe Dorrance Dance. Also, check out performances by Lucinda Williams, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn and the festival finale featuring local favorites Shovels & Rope.

4. Galliard Auditorium is in the process of renovation so dance and musical performances have moved to the Sottile Theatre, Emmett Robinson Theatre and TD Arena at College of Charleston. This actually makes walking between performance venues a little easier, especially if you’ve booked a hotel room along King or Meeting streets.

5. Speaking of hotels ... Spoleto does offer hotel and ticket packages. Just follow the instructions at spoletousa.org to book a room and buy performance tickets at a discount.

Tickets and a full calendar of events are available at spoletousa.org or call for tickets (843) 579-3100.

From Staff Reports

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