The little festival that could

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The Big Festival’s opening premieres monopolized most of this Spoleto Buzz blogger’s attention and energy over the Memorial Day weekend, but I’ve not forgotten that there’s an entirely separate festival going on in Charleston right now. If the dissonant warbling in Faustus, the Last Night or nigh on three hours of Marxian, Teutonic spectacle in Mahagonny ain’t your thing (you cultureless toad, you), it’s a sure bet that something in the vast Piccolo program will be more to your tastes.

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You might start with Theatre 99’s Piccolo Fringe. We’re hearing the Caeti and Bills show is a must-see. They’ve got three more shows: tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. (Incidentally, the Lowbrow’s not trying to sell tickets for anyone here, just passing along the word on the street.) The Harvard Sailing Team and Fowler Family Radio Hour are also getting big ups in exit polls. Speaking for my own part, their Improv Smackdowns will put a smile on your face so big it hurts.

Among Piccolo’s straight theatre offerings, the loudest shouts are going up for Pure Theatre’s Cloud Tectonics and Closer, at CofC’s Theatre 220. On the far side of the water, the Village Playhouse’s production of Urinetown is kicking up some dust.

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I’m also going out on a limb and suggesting you catch one of Charleston Ballet Theatre’s noontime Brown Bag and Ballet sets. Their evening-time Broadway series can skid into Velveeta territory, but the lunch series offers top modern and classical moves from some of the world’s best, and the CBT troupe is pretty remarkable (you’ve seen several of them in Cabaret Kiki). Bring a lunch or grab one there.

The top visual arts hit seems to be Fletcher Crossman’s larger-then-life, cave paintings-themed Illuminations from the Shadows at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, whose windows are all covered with canvas for the show. Bring a torch. You’ll also do yourself a favor by checking out the Rodin sculpture exhibit at the Gibbes Museum.

Most of Piccolo’s music offerings are one-off gigs, so it’s tough to provide a chatter-quotient on anything. For that, you’re best directed to the City Paper’s Buzz-O-Meter in last week’s paper or online. But based on past appearances and inside info, top bets still to come include the New Music Collective’s Katrina Ballads tomorrow (check out the podcast), Chamber Music Charleston’s concert on June 4, Transtrand Spelmanslag (say that fast three times) on June 1, and the St. Petersburg String Quartet at Mepkin Abbey on June 2, and the Charleston Academy of Music’s Spotlight Concert at Ashley Hall on June 5. There’s also a truckload of great roots, blues, jazz, and unclassifiable music still to come.

There’s no reason to go wanting just because you can’t afford a seat at the Big Festival (as long as you avoid using Ticketmaster).

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