Ever wanted to say, “I knew her when”?
The Stelle di Domani series, part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, is dedicated to introducing Charleston to “the stars of tomorrow.” The theater series celebrates students at the College of Charleston, both past and present, by allowing them to showcase their talent in any of the seven performances being presented at the Chapel Theater and Theater 220 this year.
“If you were to go to any of our local theater companies, you would see productions that are heavily populated with either C of C (College of Charleston) alumni or current C of C students or current C of C faculty,” said Todd McNerney, chair of the college’s Department of Theater and Dance. “This is a chance to see these current students in their home department, in their home spaces, before they become well-known in our community.”
McNerney introduced the Domani series to the festival in 2005, the year he was made chairman of the department after a decade of serving as the Piccolo theater series coordinator. Alumni and students were reaching out to him for ways to perform during Piccolo, he said, and he realized that using its own theater spaces during the festival would be better for the college than leasing them to other companies.
The mini festival within a festival has seven productions designed to show off students’ artistic chops. “Under the Lights” is a series of 10 plays, each 10 minutes long and each written, directed, produced and performed entirely by students (some of whom were Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Award finalists). The series also promotes works that students had put on throughout the year, including “God of Carnage” and “The Women of Lockerbie” this year.
“It shows people around here that theater and arts are alive in Charleston. It’s not just a one-time-a-year thing,” said Peter Spearmen, a junior at the college. “The arts are very much alive and present in the community, and you don’t have to wait until the summer to see them.”
However, Domani isn’t just about promoting current students. A big element of the series is bringing back alumni who have started to make a name for themselves. This year, among the three alumni pieces are “The Pink Collar Comedy Tour,” which features Kaytlin Bailey, and the play “Last Train to Nibroc,” written by Arlene Hutton (whose real name is Beth Lincks, a visiting College of Charleston professor).
“These alumni get the opportunity and the platform to present their work as part of this major arts festival, in many ways a mini-version of an Edinburgh,” McNerney said, referring to the sprawling arts festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. “It becomes a resource or laboratory to help people make work, try it new, under an umbrella that doesn’t have the kinds of financial risks that they might have even in their home cities.”
McNerney hopes that in addition to using the Domani series as a launching pad for pieces, the alumni will make connections and teach current students about the harsh reality of being a professional actor.
“When undergraduates can see that alumni can go and be successful in what they love, ... they can make those connections and you can network with them,” said Brenna McNamara, a recent graduate who is sticking around to perform in “The Women of Lockerbie” and direct one of the “Under the Lights” pieces. “It’s another way to get out to the real world while still being in the comfort of home and the College of Charleston.”
So bring your autograph book, at least while the current students are still here.
Josh Austin is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.