Mixing business and pleasure: Couples negotiate the festivals
Every night for the past three weeks, husbands and wives have walked through downtown Charleston hand in hand. Men in jackets, women in heels, dressed to the nines. Because during the Spoleto Festival, every night is date night.
In a romantic town like Charleston, with music, theater and art in the air, couples are everywhere. You spot them sipping wine at Cistern Yard, snuggling close at the opera, singing along with performers at the Gaillard.
You also see them on stage.
Mike Daisey’s one-man shows are directed by his wife, Jean-Michele Gregory.
Geoff Nuttall and Livia Sohn have been married more than 10 years, and they continue to play their violins together, now with two young children in tow.
For some, art is what brought them together. For others, art grew from a human connection.
Tara Helen O’Connor and Daniel Phillips have been married 14 years. She is a flutist, he plays the violin. Together, they perform (with Nuttall and Sohn) at the Spoleto Festival Chamber Music concerts.
“The first year, she came as a student to where I was faculty,” said Phillips, recounting when they met. “She had the same music as me to play, exactly in tandem. And she was sitting behind me. And everything she did with the music was exactly the same as what I did. So I turn around, and say, ‘Who are you?’?”
Chamber music creates an intimate setting in which every musician feeds off the other. For O’Connor, her deep connection with Phillips gives her special musical insight.
“I know what’s going to happen before it happens,” she said, “I can tell when something is going wrong, or when something is fun, or that I’m going to burst out laughing. I can see it coming a mile away.”
Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey have been creating work together since 2005. Wednesday night they offered their innovative, contemporary dance piece, “A Crack in Everything,” at Spoleto.
“We met at this arts festival called Bumbershoot, in Seattle,” Scofield said. “I was there because I actually had a boyfriend at the time, who was a musician. I was sitting at this table in the front of the art show, and this force walked in the room. It was Juniper.
“He came and sat down and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Zoe Scofield’ — which I never do — and we just ended up talking all day long, and spent a whole day together. I was definitely smitten.”
Their collaboration, zoe | juniper, evolved naturally, a culmination of their shared artistic vernacular. In working together, they acknowledge that it’s not always smooth sailing.
“Sometimes, because of the relationship, there can be some curtness and impatience, because you take certain things for granted,” Scofield said. “It’s a balance between celebrating and deepening this intimate relationship and exploiting it inside of the creative process.”
Judy and Thomas Heath had been best friends for a long time. Then one day he kissed her, and they’ve been together ever since. This year, their play, “Perfectly Normel People,” was chosen from among 100 entries to premier on the opening night of Piccolo Spoleto.
“We complement each other as writers,” Judy Heath said. “Thomas has the male voice, I have the female voice. We grew up around a lot of diverse cultures and interesting families. So it just rolls out of us.”
Writing the play, however, was the easy part. At Piccolo, they were handling everything themselves — costume making, directing, producing and acting — an undertaking that left them with little time for themselves, and lots of exhaustion.
But Thomas Heath said they have a secret for making it work:
“One of the things we decided on when we got married was that neither of us needed to be right. It wasn’t important to us,” he said.
“We try to work as a team,” Judy Heath said.
“And we do laugh a lot. I think if you don’t laugh a lot at these things, you’re just going to cry.”
Aasimah Navlakhi is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.