What with Spoleto Festival USA stacking premieres on top of each other like pancakes last Friday and again this past Thursday – which together saw seven big productions opening at almost exactly the same time – it’s been difficult this year to make it to opening night gigs for everything. But that strategy goes a long way toward giving the impression that the city is completely in thrall to the festival on those evenings, which is how organizers like it. It’ll happen again on Wednesday of the coming week, when jazz guitarist Marcus Tardelli and da da camera’s A Beautiful View take over the Simons Center at the same moment Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco hustles onto the stage at the Gaillard for her first Spoleto performance this year.
In any event, that strategy means I missed the premieres ASzURe & Artists’ dance program at the Emmett Robinson on Thursday, as well as the fireworks that followed the curtain call for Bill T. Jones’ kickoff at Sottile the same evening, when the choreographer had a testy exchange with an audience member who booed the work. I’ll be seeing Aszure Barton’s work tomorrow afternoon, but I was at the Sottile last night for Jones’ Blind Date, anticipating riot disbursement teams and flashmobs. In fact, the politically-charged work was received quite enthusiastically and without any objections, shouted or otherwise. (Though Jones, a tall, imposing black man with a physique like a Michaelangelo statue and a baritone that rattles windows, also doesn’t look like the sort of person you’d want to face off against on a stage.)
Pity the poor guy who bought two tickets to the dance performance thinking it would be a great way to spend a first date. Instead of sexual chemistry, he got a disjointed polemic on the evils of war, an uncaring God, the crimes committed in the name of religion, and the dumbing-down of public discourse. Not the sort of stuff that results in a lucky night. But Jones’ work was unquestionably powerful, if a little overly didactic, and a talkback session after the performance had at least 100 people sticking around for what proved an fascinating conversation on the work and current world affairs. See Eliza Ingle’s full review of Blind Date here.
City Paper scenester Ida Becker was at last night’s Spoleto Soiree, and from the sound of her report, Spoleto finally figured out the secret to a great party: cash money. The past several years had festival organizers repeatedly slashing the budget for the Soiree, while still insisting on calling it the year’s hippest, hottest social event for young professionals. Let’s just say last year’s looping Powerpoint slide presentation of deep-dish pizza, Mike Ditka, and Oprah Winfry did not a Chicago theme make. So it’s a relief to see that party back in top form.
Monologuist Mike Daisey opened his Monopoly! at the Emmett Robinson last night, and CP editor Stephanie Barna raves on it. I’ll be seeing it tonight, so look for my own thoughts tomorrow. Everyone continues to wax ecstatic about Thursday evening’s Festival Concert, where the SFO drove itself to the brink with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. (Incidentally, see some insider commentary on that work from Spoleto Festival Orchestra bass player Matt Heller here.) Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven gets mixed reviews from CP music critic T. Ballard Lesemann, though critics are uniting in praise of Piccolo’s Spoltlight Concert Series.
Egads, look at the time. I’ve got to get out of here. And you have exactly one hour and 35 minutes to get a ticket for the sole remaining performance of We Used to Go Out.