A clutch of Spoleto’s final dress rehearsals are filling stages this week at the Sottile, the Dock Street, Emmett Robinson, and the Gaillard. Tonight it’s Faustus; tomorrow it’s L’ile de Merlin. Following that, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny gets into costume, and on Thursday The Constant Wife has a midday run before the preview performance that evening. Sadly, none of them are open to the public, unless you’re willing to dress up like a union hand and do some heavy lifting. Us press types, however, are given the opportunity to show up and take pictures, and snippets of video if we must, but we’re sworn to secrecy and watched like dogs in a butcher shop.

Elsewhere, a frenzy of last-minute Piccolo rehearsals are making their mad most of empty performance halls across the peninsula, less buttoned up but every bit as frenetic. At Theatre 99, the American, the CofC’s Theatre 220 and Chapel Theatre, Charleston Ballet Theatre, Pure Theatre, Charleston Music Hall, Footlight Theatre, Buxton’s East Bay Theatre, clubs, church sanctuaries, and virtually any indoors space downtown that can be made to appear a stage for the span of two and a half weeks, the final touches are being put on scores of different shows, directors are wringing their actors’ hearts like sponges, and musicians are coaxing facsimiles of perfection out of their instruments one final time before the moment when it’s for real. It all may look calm from the outside. But within every one of these places, the festival is already in full, roaring swing.

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