Diving In

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The realization that the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto festivals are only three weeks away may not fill your chests with a knot of adrenaline and dread. It does mine. Unless, like me, you'll be throwing yourself into the fray of both festivals feet first — all 17 days of Piccolo and Spoleto, with their hundreds of performances, battalions of artists and tech types, and the countless associated soirées and shindigs that tie it all together with a sticky confection of champagne, canapés, and chit-chat — there's no reason it would set your nerves afire and your gut to churning. But I'm popping Rolaids like they're breath mints, I'm breaking in a new pair of cross-trainers, and each typing finger is getting its own little Pilates treatment and deep-tissue massage. Because the trial approaches.

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As I've done the last three years, I'll be abandoning the air-conditioned comfort of the City Paper office for three weeks of daily reporting from inside the thumping heart of the beast itself. I'll be covering the crush of both festivals here on the City Paper's SpoletoBuzz Blog, which as of today is live and awaiting your clicks and comments. Even though both festivals are still weeks away, there's plenty of stuff coming together — or not coming together, as the case may be. So I'm throwing open the doors to the site a little earlier than last year. For now, I'll be logging reports on a semi-regular basis. But the comments section of this blog is oiled and ready for action, so feel free to begin making yourself heard there.

Once the festivals kick into gear, I'll be hitting as many of the major events and performances as possible, both in Piccolo and the big festival. If you're doing the math right now, you're coming to the conclusion that there's no way any single human being could possibly get to every event in both festivals, and you're of course right. I'll be limiting myself to the bulk of Spoleto and as much of Piccolo as possible, with lots of nosing around the city in between the two. I won't be writing reviews of these events — the City Paper has a separate team of reviewers for that. No, my chief objective will be, within the limits of time, space, and physiology, to provide an overview of a city in thrall to a pair of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world. There's so much more happening in Charleston during Spoleto than merely the stuff on stage. I'm hoping to capture some of that. Of course I'll also be experiencing and commenting on many of the actual performances — and probably disagreeing with our critics as often as not — so it's a good place to get a second opinion about a show you've seen or may be seeing.

A new addition to my coverage this year will be a series of podcasts — downloadable interviews I'll record with Spoleto and Piccolo artists before and during the festival. As often as possible, I'll be sitting down with various festival participants — many of the actors and comedians from Theatre 99's Piccolo Fringe, for example — at Rebellion Road Studios in West Ashley and letting the conversation wander where it will. Then, through the infinite wizardry of the internet, we'll make those conversations available as free podcasts available through services like iTunes or as streaming audio here from the blog itself. Between the blog and the podcasts, I can pretty much guarantee an informal, irreverent, entertaining approach to the festivals that's like nothing you'll experience elsewhere.

In the meantime, the training regimen of preparing for the coming adventure continues, and the countdown begins. I hope you'll be joining me. But bring your own antacids

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