Piccolo Spoleto Festival 2019 kicks off in one month — that leaves you four weeks to decide what cool dance productions, live music, and local art exhibits you’re going to check out. Fondly referred to as Spoleto Festival’s little sister, Piccolo is a booming arts giant in its own right, churning out great local arts events across the area over a three week period.
As Mayor John Tecklenburg (who frequently appears at Piccolo events on his instrument of choice, the piano) says in his opening to this year’s festival program: “The arts resound throughout Charleston year-round, but Piccolo Spoleto’s performances and exhibitions afford special license for the arts to be your guide as you discover landmark houses of worship, historic parks and celebrated public spaces, as well as lesser known performance venues off the beaten path.”
When we chatted with Scott Watson, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, about this year’s festival, he told us that the program is looking as robust as ever (the festival normally boasts over 500 events), and let us in on a few things he’s looking forward to.
First, there are the pop-ups at breweries. “It’s a reflection of what’s going on in Charleston,” says Watson. You won’t see these pop-ups listed in this year’s Piccolo schedule — not yet at least. Stay tuned for the details on those as the festival approaches.
Watson says that he’s excited in particular about one event, the Charleston Dance Showcase, taking place on Sun. May 26 at the Charleston Music Hall. The description for the event is nonspecific right now as details are worked out.
“Since there hasn’t been a platform for dance, we’re asking artists to help guide the effort and create enthusiasm,” Watson says, discussing the showcase, which will feature local companies like Ballet Evolution, Annex Dance Company, and others.
What else we’re looking forward to during Piccolo Spoleto 2019:
Speaking of dance, Marcus Amaker presents Coming to Monuments on Sun. May 26 in the Charleston Museum courtyard at 1 p.m.
Described as “an interactive demonstration with excerpts from ‘Coming to Monuments,’ [which] unpacks the history of Confederate monuments and their conflicted legacy.” Coming to Monuments, an Amaker poem, explores our relationships with Confederate memorials (please see: Marion Square’s towering Calhoun.)
[content-1] As always, the Charleston Music Hall is teaming up with Piccolo to present events like Grass in the Hall, Women + Springsteen, PechaKucha 34, and more. We’re particularly stoked for PK — not only does the speaker lineup look great, but the emcees are probably some of the most fun guys in town, Graft Wine Shop’s Femi Oyediran and Miles White.
Piccolo Fringe brings the laughs again this year, bringing all the funny Theatre 99 has to offer. We’ll see returning acts like Delirium, a.k.a. New York storyteller Martin Dockery, who returns with a “hilarious, harrowing, and ridiculous true story about love and death. And monarch butterflies.” What’s not to like? Check out Dockery from May 30-June 5 at Theatre 99.
Fringe brings plenty of local favorites too, like Nameless Numberhead, Mary Kay Has a Posse, and new this year, Theatre 99’s own Greg Tavares and his solo show, I am The Horrible Thing. [content-5] This 2019 theater lineup is impressive too, with several shows that catch our eye.
Nomad theater company 5th Wall Productions presents Too Much Memory, premiering on May 29. The show is described as catapulting the ancient tragedy of Antigone into the present day.
There’s also PURE Theatre’s Apprentice Company’s The Why, which follows Robert, a teenager guilty of killing three classmates. The play was written in 2003, but obviously remains relevant today.
Starting Fri. May 31 you can see The Bluest Eye at Queen Street Playhouse, presented by Art Forms and Theatre Concepts. The story of 11-year-old Pecola follows a young girl’s struggle to fit in: “With rich language and bold vision, this powerful story explores the crippling toll that a legacy of racism has taken on a community, a family, and an innocent girl.”
Piccolo’s musical offerings are abundant — from young artist performances to harbor cruises to recital series.
We’re intrigued by this year’s Notes for Nourishment series, which takes place over a period of 14 days. Internationally renowned professional musicians head into town including: Israeli vocalist and Klezmer clarinetist Asaf Ophir and his group Levona; Latin American harp soloist and tango specialist Anna Maria Medieta; and Chinese guzheng master Winnie Wong.
[image-2] There are several cool citywide exhibitions taking place during Piccolo:
The Halsey Institute’s Cry Joy Park, featuring work from Jennifer Wen Ma, opens on May 17 and will be on display through July 6, so you have plenty of time to check it out. The show is described as “an investigation into the construct of a utopia, inspired by the history of Charleston: a cultural and artistic capital of the South, and an exemplar of its opulence and beauty.”
The Cannon Streets Art Center features Contagion, an interactive exhibition from artist Karen Jayne. Contagion invites attendees to fill in the blank of this statement: ” ___ is contagious or ____ is not contagious.” From that the artist hopes to achieve “a collaborative installation where the comments become part of the changing exhibit.”
As always, the festival features the Piccolo Spoleto juried art exhibition at the City Gallery, the outdoor art exhibition in Marion Square, and the Piccolo Spoleto crafts exhibition in Wragg Square.
Festival favorites in the literary category return with events like Piccolo Fiction, presented by Blue Bicycle Books and featuring local writers including Charleston Magazine‘s Jennifer Choi; novelist Tupelo Hassman; award-winning author Jonathan Rabb; and CofC grad student Emma Stough.
You can catch the Sundown Poetry Series throughout the festival, held in the Dock Street Theatre courtyard and highlighting poets like Marilyn Nelson, Cecilia Woloch, and Len Lawson.
The festival’s traditions — generally fun, free, family-friendly events — return with favorites including the Sunset Serenade at the Custom House on Piccolo’s opening night; Family Day at Marion Square; the Memorial Day Concert in Marion Square on Mon. May 27; and of course, the Piccolo Spoleto Finale, held each year in Hampton Park.
Details for the finale, as well as Piccolo pop-ups in local parks will be released closer to the festival.
Peruse all of the this year’s offerings and snag tickets to your fave events online at piccolospoleto.com.