LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spoleto: A Few Art-Filled Days in Charleston

We just returned from Charleston where we spent the last three days at the Spoleto Festival, www.spoletousa.org. In that short time we saw an opera, two chamber music programs, one piano concerto, two plays, and more. It was a wonderful experience.

The opera, Faustus, The Last Night, was interesting. The French composer, Pascal Dusapin, put a contemporary twist on the old story: Faustus was not redeemed but rather condemned to spend eternity in nothingness. The singers were gifted, the set marvelous, but the overall effect of the music and mood was strange and bleak. We knew the truth—the alternative to eternal damnation—but how many in the audience did not? I prayed that God would use the questions raised by Faustus to bring people who do not yet know the truth closer to Himself.

We attended two programs of chamber music at the historic Dock Street Theater. The funny and charming Charles Wadsworth, an artistic director of Spoleto, emceed and performed two pieces with other musicians. Each ensemble was fabulous—it was hard to choose a favorite. The musicians included: Courtenay Budd, soprano; Chee-Yun, violin; Andres Diaz (cello); Wendy Chen, piano; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Todd Palmer, clarinet; Catrin Finch, harp; and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

We also enjoyed Intermezzo I, in which pianist Andrew Von Oeyen, who looks like Brad Pitt, conducted members of the Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Kurt Weill’s Kleine Dreigroschenmusik and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

We saw a comedy called The Constant Wife by Somerset Maugham, produced by the Gate Theatre in Dublin. We laughed throughout the whole piece. Set in London in 1930, the beautiful, charming, intelligent, and witty Constance puts her husband in his place after he has an affair with her close friend. The play is actually a sad commentary on the state of marriage in upper class London then (and some might argue, anywhere now). But the dialogue is so witty and well-done that we laughed and laughed. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Before that, we sat in on “Conversations With…”, an on-stage interview conducted by Martha Teichner, Emmy award-winning CBS News correspondent. She spoke with the director of The Constant Wife and the producer of the Gate Theater. We learned a lot about the history of Irish theater as well as about the play. For example the costume designer for The Constant Wife was a couturier with several designers in Paris, which explains why the costumes were so gorgeous that I wanted them all.

We also saw Thomas Ward’s play, Keeping Watch, for the second time. It’s a funny, poignant, and surprising Southern drama. Ward won CiTA’s 2006 National Playwriting Competition for Keeping Watch. We saw the world premiere last year at Tom Key’s Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta. This production, with its cast comprised of College of Charleston alumni, was good too.

After I bought appropriate footwear, we enjoyed walking through the streets of historic Charleston, browsing through the outdoor market with its basket weavers and other vendors, and eating fresh seafood. At Magnolia’s, a white tablecloth kind of place, I ate every bit of my shrimp and grits, after sharing the fried green tomatoes appetizer. At Poogan’s Porch, a more casual café, I had a yummy Shrimp PoBoy, finally abandoning the bread all together to concentrate on the shrimp covered with Cajun remoulade.

Yesterday morning, just before we left town, we walked across the street from our hotel, the historic Francis Marion on King Street, to the Spoleto artist market. We wandered through the park, stopping to look at booths filled mostly with lowcountry landscapes and other regional art. We came upon Elaine Berlin, whose art was chosen for the festival poster. Her work is abstract and filled with color and vibrancy. It drew us both. To celebrate our wonderful time at Spoleto, we bought a small piece of Elaine’s for a certain small piece of wall in our home that’s not already covered with something.

We’re already planning our trip to Spoleto next year. Although I don’t think it could top my first experience my husband, a veteran attender, says it can. I believe him.


Joseph McBee said...

Sounds wonderful! I may have to make plans for Shawna and I to attend next year.

LeAnne Benfield Martin said...

It is wonderful. Even if you only have a few days like we did, it's worth it. A gorgeous city, wonderful art, warm weather, great food...What could be better!



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