Most locals know that George Gershwin wrote his famous opera Porgy and Bess largely during a stay at Folly Beach in 1934, setting it in the fictitious Charleston slum of Catfish Row. There've been only a handful of full productions of P&G here in the opera's 70-year history -- one by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 1970 to celebrate the city's Tricentennial and another two in 1985 and the early '90s, again by the CSO. In fact, Porgy and Bess is rarely mounted anywhere these days, probably because of the controversial racial stereotypes many see in the poor, black characters. But two weeks ago, the Washington National Opera wrapped up a three-week revival of the opera at the Kennedy Center Opera House, staged by renowned American director Francesca Zambello. It was a resounding success. The company even staged a live outdoor telecast of the performance on the Washington Mall on Nov. 6, which thousands watched. "Washington National Opera has mounted a loving, sumptuous, and creative production of Gershwin's most ambitious work," gushed The Washington Post. "It should be seen and heard by anybody with an interest in our creative heritage." Shucks. It's hard not to feel a little bit proud. Hear a full performance of the WNO's November production of Porgy and Bess at --Patrick Sharbaugh


In 1960, at age 58, author John Steinbeck and his standard poodle Charley jumped into a camper and spent three months traveling the country, meeting friends, relatives, and strangers, and generally immersing themselves in the fabric of mid-20th century America. The following year Steinbeck published an account of his adventure in the book Travels With Charley: In Search of America, which was one of his greatest commercial successes.

About this time two years ago, Charleston resident Kelly Dougherty set off on her own journey -- an exact retracing of Steinbeck's 10,000-mile trip -- in a 1973 VW Campervan with her own best friend, a Carolina hound dog named, as it happens, Marley. This month, Dougherty publishes her account of the three-month trip, entitled Sleeping With Steinbeck, with Booksurge, the local self-publishing imprint recently acquired by Dougherty describes her book as an effort to discover and understand the differences between Steinbeck's America and her own, as well as a candid, personal effort to process her own life. She hopes to have the title stocked in local bookstores soon, but for the moment it's available online at Amazon. "It was a long trip." Dougherty says. "Marley now sleeps in the other room." --PS


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