There's no shortage of art, theater or classical music currently crowding the streets of Charleston. But every weekday afternoon, in air-conditioned comfort in the back of the Charleston County Public Library, people are gathering to enjoy a mass art form so widely available that it seems out of place during the Spoleto festivities.
They're watching movies. Meryl Streep movies, to be precise.
The free American Film Series has been a part of Piccolo Spoleto since the festival began 31 years ago and is organized by the library's program coordinator, Sara Breibart.
"She's just so wonderful," Breibart said of Streep. "And she's done so many movies. Frankly, I just thought people would be interested in coming to see them."
The festival has been running since May 28, showing a different film from Streep's career every weekday at 1 p.m. and will continue through Friday.
Upcoming films include "A Cry in the Dark," "Postcards From the Edge" and "Adaptation." With a selection ranging from 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer" to 2008's "Doubt," the 10 films cover three decades, nine Oscar nominations and numerous accents.
This year, as she has every year for the 29 years she's arranged the festival, Breibart enlisted the help of her friend Peter Mailloux, an English professor at The Citadel.
"(Breibart) has an extraordinary ability to always get her way," said Mailloux. "With this she calls me and says 'help' and I suggest various things she may want to do. Once she had me help with a lecture on jazz, and she got [local jazz saxophonist] Lonnie Hamilton to come play for free, just by asking."
For much of its span, the series has focused on literary themes, such as films based on novels or cinematic Shakespeare adaptations. But last year, Breibart and Mailloux opted to spotlight Paul Newman in response to the actor's death.
That festival's success led to the decision to focus this year on Streep. The choice has appealed a small but loyal audience.
"(Streep is) absolutely one of our most divine actresses," said Ann Brown, an opera lover who discovered the film series through an opera event organized by Breibart. "The movies are (also) a great way to get out of the heat."
The series covers many of the critical heights of Streep's career, but some films were chosen for more particular reasons.
Mailloux picked one comparatively obscure entry, 1999's mostly forgotten "Music of the Heart," because Streep learned to play the violin for the role.
"That seems even more impressive to me than Robert De Niro putting on a hundred pounds for 'Raging Bull,' " said Mailloux.
In the midst of a festival with an abundance of classical music, those who want to can now hear Bach's "Concerto in D Minor" as performed by Streep, accompanied in the film by legendary musicians Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman.
The 89 year-old Breibart has been arranging the American Film Series ever since she left her job at the County Council office and started working at the library, six months before she was slated for retirement.
That was 29 years ago. Since then the American Film Series has continued to be a unique experience within the Piccolo Spoleto festival, one that will continue as long as it has its program coordinator pushing for it.
"I'm sort of hoping Sara retires, so I can get out of the movie-suggesting business," Mailloux said in a joking tone. "But I don't really see that happening."
Jason Berger is a Goldring Arts Journalism Program writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.