Jasper’s Spoleto Picks 2016




As South Carolina’s own international arts festival nears its 40th anniversary, Spoleto Festival USA brings as exciting a package of performing arts as ever this year, including opera, theatre, dance, and, as usual, an emphasis on music, be it choral, jazz, chamber, symphony, folk, or Americana. Spoleto Festival was founded in Charleston in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti as an American counterpart to the Festival of Two Worlds held annually in Spoleto, Italy. Two years later, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley founded the Piccolo Spoleto Festival as an outreach fringe festival to run concurrently with Spoleto, beginning the Friday after the official opening date for the larger festival—always the Thursday before Memorial Day—and ending three Sundays later. This year’s Spoleto Festival runs May 27th through June 12th.

Highlighting this year’s Spoleto festival is the newly re-conceived opera, Porgy and Bess, originally written in 1934 by George Gershwin with a libretto written by Ira Gershwin and Debose and Dorothy Heyward. Set in Charleston and based on Heyward’s novel, Porgy, this rendition of the classic will be realized by David Herskovitz as director, conducted by Stephan Asbury, with visual design by South Carolina artist Jonathan Green. Unfortunately, tickets to all the performances sold out almost immediately after going on sale.

Fear not, while Jasper cannot give you Porgy and Bess we can offer you our recommendations for what not to miss at this year’s Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals, along with previews and reviews via our blog What Jasper Said. Here are Jasper’s Picks for Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto 2016.

Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones



If you like the puppetry of Columbia-based artists Kimi Maeda and Lyon Hill, (and, who doesn’t?), Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema’s Ada/Ava is right up your alley. Using paper and projections to present the story, Ada/Ava tells the tale of a pair of twins who go through life together and are suddenly separated by death leaving the remaining twin to cope with her new solitariness, which she does via a traveling carnival and a mirror maze that comes to town.. Much in the same way that the term puppetry fails to fully represent either Maeda or Hill’s art, it underrepresents this performance as well. Ada/Ava plays at Emmett Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston May 27th-May 30th.

In Every Brilliant Thing, the 40-year-old Paines Plough theatre company presents a one-person show that, despite its origin in an adult man’s memory of coming up with a list of “every brilliant thing” to inspire his depressed mother as a boy, promises to leave the audience elated upon its end. Every Brilliant Thing comes to Spoleto after a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival and plays at the Woolfe Street Playhouse June 8th – 11th.

Applying Forces is more than dance, more than music, and more than a study of race and gender. Performed by five B-Boys to an original score by Waylon Dungan, aka WD4D, Applying Forces uses breakdancing, live beats, and hip hop to create a futuristic world of its own. The hour-long show is presented at the Memminger Auditorium on June 8th – 12th.

We can’t help it. We love Old Crow Medicine Show and the idea of gathering under the stars at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard to listen to some of their rollicking hits and raucous live show with several hundred of our closest friends just sounds like a great way to spend a Charleston evening. Join us On May 26th and 27th at 9 pm.

In fact, choosing Jasper’s Picks for Spoleto this year was no easy matter, particularly when it comes to theatrical performances. We’ll be taking in Golem, The Importance of Being Earnest (because – Oscar Wilde!), A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, plus dance by Bill T. Jones and the Arnie Zane Company, not to mention singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, Geoff Nuttall’s chamber music series, and more. Keep an eye on What Jasper Said for news and reviews.



Piccolo Spoleto

It’s no secret that Jasper has a special place in its heart for Columbia artists who share their talents with the larger world. And while our love of Soda City performers extends to those participating in Piccolo Spoleto it’s not the only reason we chose the following performances as our Piccolo Spoleto Picks.

If you were unlucky enough to miss The Brothers Size at Trustus Theatre last winter, we have good news. The story of three Black men, played by Baraki Lebby, Jabar Hankins, and Christopher Jackson, who profoundly draw on a dramatic mix of their history and social reality to cope with the constraints of freedom will be reprised at PURE Theatre at 477 King Street May 28th – 31st.

Columbia native Dean Poyner’s new play, together We Are Making a Poem in Honor of Life, is described as both “a shocking tragedy” and “an unspeakable mystery” dealing with a mother and father entangled in grief. It stars two more Columbia favorites, Alex Smith and Jennifer Moody Sanchez and is directed by Darion McCloud and, fresh off a New York City run, it comes to Gage Hall at 4 Archdale Street June 6th – 9th, and 11th.

For a special cocktail hour, join Columbia’s Nikky Finney on June 10th 1t 6:30 pm in the Dock Street Theatre Courtyard for her contribution to the Sundown Poetry Series. We hope to hear some of our favorites from Head Off & Split.

Catch even more Columbians throughout the run of the festivals. Vocalists Cody Lidge and John Andrew will be members of the cast of Porgy and Bess. Cedric Umoja, Krigga, and Roni Nicole Henderson will present Visual Alchemy: Afrofuturism at the 4th Wall Gallery. Finally, among others, Alicia Leeke, and Michel McNinch will be exhibiting their work at the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Festival on Marion Square.



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