Hip-hop dancers from DanceFX Charleston kicked off the Piccolo Spoleto Festival public announcement Wednesday morning in Washington Park with an energetic display that set a celebratory, urban tone.
The 35th annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival always has been meant “to make the arts available to every citizen and every visitor in our community,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. “It was born of an idea Gian Carlo Menotti had that a great arts festival is not something that happens within the walls of an auditorium, but a great arts festival happens throughout a community.”
This year, more than 700 events are planned; almost half are free and the rest are affordable, Riley said.
As usual, the festival includes a number of theater, music, literary and visual arts events. Several local theater companies will present selections from their seasonal offerings. The Stelle di Domani Series features students of the College of Charleston’s theater department. The Piccolo Fringe series offers improv and sketch comedy. Blues and jazz cruises will put patrons on the water, and both genres also will be available to landlubbers.
Local author Dorothea Benton Frank will discuss her latest book “Porch Lights” as part of the literary programming, hosted by the Charleston Library Society. Five other writers also are scheduled.
The annual World of Jewish Culture program will include music and film screenings. Eleven visual arts shows are scheduled. And lots of classical music is on tap, including an early music series, two concerts at Mepkin Abbey and a Spotlight Series that will offer a re-creation of an all-Brahms concert introduced to Charleston audiences in 1979, the year the festival began.
At the morning press conference, the festival poster by local artist Nathan Durfee was unveiled. It is titled “Piccolo Suono Bartholomeux” and displays the quirky, colorful charm Durfee has become known for. Some of Durfee’s work will be part of the exhibit at the City Gallery called “Tales Transposed: A Celebration of Imagination.”
Artistic Director Emeritus Ellen Dressler Moryl, who started the festival 35 years ago and now is producing the 17-day festival for the last time, called herself a facilitator whose job has demanded collaboration.
“From the beginning, my leadership has been always to catalyze the work of arts professionals,” she said.
Scott Watson took over the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs in January.
For more information about the festival, including a full schedule and to buy tickets, go to piccolospoleto.com, call 866-811-4111 or visit the box office at the Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St.