Spoleto lineup, Cookie Washington, Charleston Arts Coalition, Theatre /verv/ 


Spoleto announces 2009 Line-up

The 2009 Spoleto Festival USA schedule was announced last weekend.

The stand-out thus far is a "punk cabaret operetta" called Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century. It's a collaboration between director Jay Scheib and the World/Inferno Friendship Society, whose New Yorker frontman Jack Terricloth leads a nine-piece band in front of an array of videos. The other opera is Gustave Charpentier's Louise, about a young French girl's desire for freedom.

The Kneehigh Theatre of Cornwall (that's in the UK) return to perform an American premiere. Called Don John, it puts a new spin on Mozart's great opera. Nineteen performances are scheduled. Meanwhile, Basil Twist, the American puppeteer, comes back after a four-year absence to produce Dogugaeshi, a stage story inspired by Japanese stagecraft. A Dutch troupe called Kassys puts on a show called Good Cop Bad Cop, which delves into the psychology of group dynamics, while multimedia artist Shon Dale-Jones impersonates an "emerging Welsh multimedia artist" named Hugh Hughes in Story of a Rabbit.

In dance, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns. Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet makes its festival debut. Experimental choreographer Hiroaki Umeda mixes movement with sound and video technology. And the incomparable Soledad Barrio stomps her heels with Noche Flamenca.

Other highlights: Charles Wadsworth concludes his 30-plus-year run as Spoleto's director of chamber music. Beverly "Guitar" Watkins plays her unique brand of the blues. Mandolinist Chris Thile brings his new folk and string band, the Punch Brothers. Jazz vocalists Tierney Sutton and Rene Marie perform in the Wachovia Jazz Series, as do Hawaiian ukulele-player Jake Shimabukuro and gypsy violinist Florin Niculescu.

The 33rd annual festival is May 22- June 7. Tickets are $10-$130. For more information, call (843) 579-3100, or go to www.spoletousa.org.

Cookie Goes to Washington

The only thing more exciting than this was having a baby. That's what Cookie Washington said when she announced that she and three others from the Lowcountry were chosen to make art quilts for a gallery exhibit to coincide with the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

"It's for that tall thin black man who dresses well," Washington says.

Joining her are Peggy Hartwell, Catherine Lamkin, and Marlene O'Bryant Seabrook. All were tapped for Quilts for Obama: Celebrating the Inauguration of our 44th President. The show will take place at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The opening reception is Jan. 11, and it runs through the end of the month. The curator is Roland Freeman, founder of The Group for Cultural Documentation and a long-time advocate for African-American quilters.

"I had to miss a lot of great sex to get this done," Washington says. "I have hope that this country and this new administration will take the country in the right direction. I'm so pleased to be able to share my artistic vision with America."

CAC gets organized

It's been six months since we heard from the Charleston Arts Coalition (CAC), the ambitious group of artists and patrons not to be confused with the nascent discussions taking place over at the Coastal Community Foundation.

That discussion has to do with Charleston's Big Three performing arts groups struggling amid this economic crisis. George Stevens, the foundation's president, is talking about the need for an "arts council" to help with the business side of the arts — for the most part, marketing, promotion, and development.

This Charleston Arts Coalition, however, is different. Over the summer, it attempted to make the case for a "unified center for the arts." The argument was confusing, and after a few public forums, it quickly receded from the spotlight.

Away from the glare of public scrutiny, the Coalition had time to get organized. After dozens of closed-door meetings, it has emerged with a discernible structure, a firm purpose, a clear set of objectives, and a new website (www.charlestonartscoalition.com) to articulate it all.

The CAC is a membership-based service organization, something Charleston has needed for a long time. Its goals are modest and simple: to create a comprehensive cultural calendar, to conduct a membership drive, to establish a series of creative arts round-table discussions, and to look for a venue for the arts.

Return of Theatre /verv/

After two years of dormancy, Theatre /verv/ has found a new home in North Charleston. Renamed Theatre RE/verv/, the company announced it will stage a four-show season at South of Broadway Theatre beginning in fall 2009.

Re/verv/'s goal is "to offer an innovative mix of live performance with affordable prices." Theatre /verv/'s first show was Trainspotting in 2005. It continued to offer exciting works for theater at various Charleston bars and venues, but ceased operations because it could not find a permanent residence.

Founder J.C. Conway and partner Andra Watkins relaunched /verv/ after seeing what had been done to South of Broadway Theatre. They had not seen it since Mary Gould, director of the nonprofit organization that runs the venue, refurbished it in 2002. They realized it would be ideal for small theater.

"After a few phone calls, e-mails, and meetings, we decided to do it," he says.

Plays under consideration for the 2009-2010 season, Conway says, include: Steve Martin's Wasp, Jane Martin's Criminal Hearts, and David Hare's Blue Room. Casting for eight actors will take place at South of Broadway on Jan. 17 and 18.

"We want people to have fun," he says. "We'll be getting a feel for the audience, so we'll offer lighter stuff until it's right to offer something more challenging."

Redux gets new director

The Redux Contemporary Art Center has hired a young curator from Boston to be its next director. Karen Myers accepted an offer last month and starts Jan. 15.

She previously curated Boston Young Contemporaries, a yearly exhibition of 90 artists and 400 works of art. Members of the jury included acclaimed artist Kiki Smith and Roger White, co-editor of Paper Monument, a journal on contemporary art. Myers also curated shows in East Lansing, Mich., and other Boston venues.

Myers, 24, is originally from Grand Rapids. She did undergraduate work at Michigan State University and completed Boston University's MFA in Art program last spring. Her academic training is in education, fine art, and graphic design.

Redux chose Myers for her enthusiasm, education, expertise, and wide network of contacts throughout the art world, says Kyle LeGette, Redux's development director. While curating the 2007 exhibit in Boston, Myers invited artists from around the country. Those contacts, LeGette says, are an asset to Redux.

Myers was also an advisor for the 2008 exhibit, says Holly Veselka, one of the production coordinators at Boston Young Contemporaries. Veselka says Myers is a good choice for leading a grassroots arts center like Redux. She is well-organized and driven as well as sweet and easy-going, "but she's not afraid to tell people what she thinks," Veselka says. "She just does it in a way that people don't get upset."


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