With festivals as engorged with artistic talent, and the mountain-sized egos that often accompany them, as Piccolo and Spoleto are, and given that the risk of booking an up-and-coming performer often means they’re ready to drop your contract at the drop of a Franklin for a better offer — it’s less often a question of if there will be changes to the program than when. Piccolo has in recent weeks suffered a number of changes to its schedule this year, some of relatively minor consequence
and some less so.
One of the first and most painful of Piccolo’s cancellations came
in mid-April, when National Endowment for the Arts director Dana Gioia had to pull out of a speaking engagement scheduled for May 28 at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Gioia was scheduled to present his well-honed lecture “Does Poetry Matter?” at the event, with some readings of his own award-winning work. I had the good fortune to hear Mr. Gioia read from his works at a College of Charleston visit a couple
years ago, and I also spoke with him during Spoleto 2004, where we compared notes on I Capuleti et i Montecci during intermission outside Sottile Theatre on a warm May evening. That’s a hard loss.
We’ve also learned that one of Piccolo’s jazz venues isn’t going to
be ADA compliant in time for the festival, so everything that was scheduled for the new Cellar Club on Calhoun Street has been shifted over to the Tonik Club (formerly Pluto Rocks) on Upper King. Affected performers includee Ann Caldwell, Big Bucket/New Power Trio, Leah Suarez, Vintage Velvet, and the inimitable Lady Chablis. A particularly big change concerns Theatre 99’s Piccolo Fringe, where Aziz Ansari (late of the last January’s Charleston Comedy Festival), Rob Heubel, and Paul Scheer were supposed to be giving us Human Giant. Talents like that trio are in high demand, however. Another offer came along (all we know is something about a television pilot and MTV), and they were forced to bail.
In this case, the fix may be at least as good, if not better than, the original. Filling the slots formerly occupied by Human Giant at the American Theatre are now two unmissable acts: Charlie Sanders’ (of Upright Citizens Brigade) one-man sketch and character show You’re Welcome for What You Are About To See and Saturday Night Live cast member Horatio Sanz with an improv gig called Horatio Sanz and the Kings of Improv. Not a bad pair of subs, if we do say so.