The sets have been struck, the dancers have flown home, the fireworks have fizzled. Spoleto’s done for another year. In the spirit of previous years’ “Most Boinkable Artist” awards, here are some categories to mark 2010’s hits and misses. No prizes are involved, but the performers below deserve all the bouquets and brickbats they get.
Cleverest Wordplay: Present Laughter
Noel Coward’s drawing room comedy was a success when it premiered in 1942. The Gate Theatre proved its staying power with their Spoleto version, which spanned the entire festival. Its lynchpin was Stephen Brennan’s performance as Garry Essendine, which was far subtler and more effective than Victor Garber’s portrayal in a recent Broadway revival. But even if Brennan hadn’t been so good, the dialogue would still have sparkled like fine champagne.
Runner up: Jack Tracey at the Sundown Poetry Series
On June 9, Isle of Palms poet Tracey read some self-penned work in the mobbed Dock Street Theatre Courtyard, regular venue for the Poetry Society’s Sundown readings. He respectfully asked that listeners did not applaud between poems. 40 minutes flew by with a cascade of witty, often snappy verses about maturity, relationships, and living in Charleston. This was clearly a man who loved to write, and one who deserves a large following.
Best Mascot: The dog in Flora
Considering that Flora, An Opera had so many comedic elements, it’s rather sad that the production’s biggest laugh came when the villainous Sir Thomas Testy took his dog for a mid-show walk. The fake canine was pulled across the stage like a small child’s toy, garnering a huge reaction.
Runner up: David Lee Nelson
We didn’t plan it this way, but the City Paper seemed to adopted CofC alumnus Nelson as its unofficial mascot — at least judging by the number of times he was name-dropped. The comedian even appeared on the cover of our final Spoleto issue. There was something about his Facebook-checking, soul baring show Status Update that captured the zeitgeist and made us want to give the recent divorcee a big hug.
Most adaptable space: Memminger Auditorium
Whether it was used for modern dance, a one-man play, or a freaky carnival, the Memminger delivered. From day to day it was transformed into a dance space flanked with lights (I Can See You in my Pupil), a sideshow with a man-sized catflap (Oyster) or a gig pit fit for a rock band (Die Roten Punkte). Hats off to the auditorium staff who made the changes so smoothly.
Best way to pass time between big shows: Intermezzi
I know that the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra is chock full of virtuosi and can be relied upon to deliver the classical goods in any concert. But I wasn’t expecting the intimate Intermezzi series to be so engaging, like a zesty blast of music to wake people from the stupor brought on by noon heat and heavy lunches. On June 4, Andriana Chuchman and Tyler Duncan from Flora performed snippets of operas like Le Nozze di Figaro, The Pearl Fishers, and The Barber of Seville, engaging the audience with their playful acting and powerful singing. June 7 featured solos and duets that made contemporary classical concerts accessible to even the dowdiest of attendees.
Best place for stalking the stars: King Street
It was a joy to see performers walking down King and window shopping as if they were nothing special. Caroline Fermin (Gallim Dance) was as cute in real life as she was on stage, and two Ballet Trockadero dancers were also spotted, out of their tutus and in everyday clothes (even if they wore daisy dukes).
Runners up: Vickery’s Bar & Grill, Kudu
In Vickery’s, Otto and Astrid Rot mingled with their fans after their first Roten Punkte show. In the Kudu coffee house, solo performers David Lee Nelson and Patrick Combs (Man 1, Bank 0) compared notes and beverages.
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