I know we are in the midst of some difficult times, but what is going on at the Wickliffe House? Cars and couches parked on the lawn? Did I hear pianist Steven Williams playing the theme to Sanford and Son?
No, but “Lizbeth! This is a big one!”
On an electric baby grand in the center of the yard. Williams played “It Had To Be You.” Tall drinks of water stretched their legs on the sleek black sofas, sipping gimlets. And the spotlight was on … three vintage automobiles from Merrill Benfield’s “Garage Mahal.”
“He owns 12 Rolls-Royces,” Benfield’s friend Sam Baker said.
“No, that’s not true,” Benfield said. “I own 15.”
At least that’s what I think he said. There were a lot of numbers being thrown around.
“This is a ’48 Cadillac, that’s a ’41 Packard 120, and that’s a ‘51 Rolls-Royce Silver Dollar, although the body was built in ’44. It can outrun the mafia.”
As he pointed out which Gatsby-mobile landed him in jail for going 136 in a 35, another wide-eyed partygoer approached the star of the night.
“I loved you in the play today,” she said to Benfield — an East Bay antique dealer and interior designer — “and I loved you in The Constant Wife, too!”
To be fair, the Gate Theatre has played Spoleto so often they might be mistaken for locals.
Jade Yourell was here in ’07 for The Constant Wife and plays ingénue Daphne in Present Laughter. She and fellow lovely red-haired lass Niamh O’Flaherty (company manager, pronounced “Neve”) were enjoying some cookies from the new Macaroon Boutique on John Street. They’re staying on Folly, where apparently the Dubliners are going through sunscreen by the tubful.
“We use [sun protection] factor 70, sometimes 100,” O’Flaherty says.
I believe SPF 100 actually turns your skin a whiter shade of pale. If you stand near someone who wears SPF 100, you should wear sunscreen yourself, even at night.
Following another long day of shows and after parties, a handful of weary “Spoleto Gliterrati” and myself trekked over to La Fourchette for a new, tres Parisian, after, after party. Pazzo Tomato is really more the emergence of an underground festival, a spin-off set late in the night for performers who are in need of some entertainment before they call it a day.
The doors opened après minuit. Three women stood in the narrow sidewalk ushering guests in out of the throngs of college students wandering King Street. Dressed in black and white stripped stockings, metallic cocktail dresses, and piles of long pearls, the members of the Marvelosa troupe enchanted and baffled the bar hoppers who paraded outside. Inside, beaucoup du vin flowed, and although served in red solo cups, it was still the best wine served at any other after party I can recall.
The show began around 12:30 a.m. with the emergence of Nicole Renaud. The classically trained soprano — although some have dubbed her neo soprano for her high and light, ethereal voice — floated out from behind the bar accompanied by her trademark licordian. The instrument is a clear plastic encased accordion that is illuminated from the inside, and was constructed by British artist/engineer Paul Etienne Lincoln. Renaud’s dress was also glowing, quite literally. A stark white, layered hoop skirt emitted a neon lavender light, causing her to appear oddly angelic — if angels exist in a neo-modern type sci-fi world. Renaud sang a few poems put to music, and then followed with a few tracks off her new album, Coleurs.
Following an intermission for more wine, Theatre Marvelosa began, and continued with their act, Zee Hat. Whether it was sheer exhaustion, or the several glasses of wine, the experience seemed entirely otherworldly. The performances without a doubt had the most European, particularly French sensibility.
Three more are set for the remainder of the festival — June 3-5. The general public is welcomed, and Spoleto artists are encouraged (although we didn't spot any Saturday night). The first 10 Spoleto artists gain free admission. Tickets are $25 at the door and $20 in advance.
Spoleto Scene hosted a sold-out kick-off party Wednesday night, drawing a well-dressed crowd. It the night was any indication, we're going to have to do some serious shopping before showing our faces at one of these stylish shindigs. Check out Maggie's write-up from the event here. If you're interested in becoming a party of Spoleto Scene, it's a good idea. Targeted at 20- and 30-somethings, the group offers discounts to shows, invites to parties, and the chance to socialize with like-minded arts lovers. Solo memberships start at $100 and go up to $499 for an exclusive couple membership. See more here.
The rain that forced the cancellation of Thursday night's performance of Noche Flamenca again reared its ugly head to abruptly end the Flamenca after-party on Saturday night. The party was a curiuos mish-mash of Spanish themes, party music classics and special guests.
The food, which has become a favorite focus of any good Spoleto party, was extremely plentiful. A long, 'S' shaped table was filled with frittatas, Spanish ham, and artisan cheeses. Possibly the most out-of-place element was a silver chaffing dish filled with meatballs. It was the first in a long line of inconsistencies that, while not in fitting with the party, per se, added a campy charm that made this Society Street fête one to remember.
The second undeniable surprise was the music. Walking down Anson Street en route to the party, my ears were perked by the familiar twang of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. Quite a far cry from the salsa/world beat/Latin fusion that might have been expected at such an after-party. The black and white tile dance floor lay sopping wet until around 11:30 p.m. when it was given a thorough drying. With the risk of slick slip-and-falls out of the way, the dance floor became an appealing option. The first brave soul to dance was Flamenca's own Soledad Barrio. The music may have reminded some of a wedding reception, but it proved its worth as it was embraced by the crowd that gladly danced to Michael Jackson and Donna Summer songs.
Many of Flamenca's performers were in attendance, as well as performers from a variety of other Spoleto shows. The most interesting guest, however, was a 6-foot-tall statue of Humphry Bogart that was stationed beside the bar. It was the strangest decorative accessory and received plenty of corny comments. ("We'll always have Paris.") Looking back on it, I still have no idea what it's purpose was, and maybe that's the point.
The entire party was subject to droplets of rain, but it was ended by a harsh downpour that commenced around 1 a.m. Most may have faulted the rain, but it added another element to the party. The crowding on the porch, the quick offering and accepting of rides home, and the squeals from the soaked made it a fitting, madcap end for such a haphazard affair. —Angela Hanyak
More photos at Charleston City Paper's flickr page.
Friday night’s White Party, which has become a raison d’être for Spoleto party-goers, was a party that refused to die. Many of the bars just a few blocks away on East Bay Street had closed their doors before the last guest left the venue. And what a venue is was. 80 East Bay Street was another take-your-breath-away South of Broad party location (and coincidentally another one that’s on the market.)
The home’s artisan kitchen was commandeered by a catering staff that sent out platter upon platter of chocolate confections. (Sin #1 at a White party.) Two bars at each end of the house served up cocktails to revelers, among them Spanish Vines wines. (Which of course leads to sin #2 at a White party, ordering a glass of tempranillo.) A fun topic of conversation was pondering the thought process of the few attendants who chose to not wear white. A couple of favorite answers: * “But I’m special." * “All my white’s at the dry cleaner.” * “I lost my virginity last month, so I don’t need to wear white anymore.”
(Needless to say, wearing a brown dress to a White party, yep, it’s sin #3.)
The crowd was youthful and energetic, whether taking advantage of the indoor air conditioning or lounging in the backyard amongst the tea light lanterns and large garden fountain. The most confounding thing was that the “dance floor” was set up in the room leading out to the back patio. As the DJ booth finally started to pack a punch around 12:30 a.m., the movements that it inspired were repeatedly interrupted by an endless flow of foot traffic.
One overheard comment was that the Spoleto SCENE may be in need of some fresh blood. From Monday’s Dogugaeshi Pre-Party to Thursday’s after-party at Shine, the faces in the crowd became increasingly familiar. While such an infusion might be nice, the current stable of SCENE members certainly doesn’t need any help with keeping a party going. The party flirted with 2:30 a.m. for some attendees. Some of us, however, didn’t have such endurance. Find more photos at City Paper's Flickr page.