Piccolo Spoleto Festival is the municipal counterpart to the nonprofit Spoleto Festival USA. It might have the word "piccolo" in its title, which means "small" in Italian, but in some ways its even more expansive than the acclaimed international event.
Piccolo Spoleto was designed "to make the arts available to every citizen and every visitor in our community," Mayor Joe Riley has said. This is Piccolo's 36th year, and many of its offerings are well-established favorites now: the Piccolo Fringe comedy series, the Mepkin Abbey concerts, the Spotlight Concert Series, the sand-sculpting competition, the finale at Hampton Park and more.
But some new and lesser-known things are on tap, too.
Seed & Feed Marching Abominable: The 40-year-old volunteer musical organization, with its baton twirlers, dancers, colorful costumes and zany antics, will star in the free Family Day Parade at noon-12:30 p.m. May 24 at Marion Square.
Piccolo Fiction Open: This long-running free event will feature three prominent writers reading their "short short" stories in the courtyard of Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St. from 5-7 p.m. May 31. Each story will begin with "I ducked into the alley..." The 2014 writers are George Singleton, Sandy Lang and Jonathan Bohr Heinen.
Jazz at the Charleston Music Hall: the Charleston Jazz Orchestra Chamber Ensemble will offer "East of Ellington," a program of classics by one of the greatest bandleaders of all time, at 8 p.m. May 30. General admission is $25; students pay $11. That gig is followed by "Swing! Swing! Swing! Basie Edition," featuring the full 19-piece big band in its Piccolo Spoleto debut. The CJO will offer two sets of the Basie show, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Reserved tickets are $40; general admission tickets are $30; students pay $11. The Music Hall is at 37 John St.
THEATRE SERIES: Piccolo's theater offerings include "Speak of Me As I Am," a musical one-man drama starring K.B. Solomon that pays tribute to the legendary Paul Robeson. Solomon, a trained basso profondo, has won acclaim channeling the sounds and the personality of this remarkable historical figure. The show is 7:30 p.m. May 26 and 28 at Pure Theatre, 477 King St. Tickets are available online or at the box office.
The 2014 Piccolo Spoleto Festival is the first organized under the auspices of Scott Watson, the city's new director of the Office of Cultural Affairs. The festival includes about 500 events, fewer than last year's 700 but still ambitious and wide-reaching in its scope.
What follows are additional highlights from the extensive offerings. For more information, including a full schedule, and to buy tickets, visit piccolospoleto.com, call 866-811-4111 or go to the box office at the Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St.
A PDF version of the festival brochure also is available at postandcourier.com/spoleto.