Behind the scenes at the press luncheon

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The first thing I noticed as I approached the Spoleto press luncheon on Saturday was the Rolls Royce parked in front. Yes, it was that kind of place with those kinds of people. But this is Spoleto and a little affluence never hurt anyone. And besides, the shrimp tea sandwiches, chilled white wine, and melon balls were on the house.

And it was a nice house in Mt. Pleasant, owned by the gregarious Beth Murphy, that overlooks the water. A look at the kitchen told you all you needed to know about the inhabitants — an array of high-quality iron pots hung from a rack in the ceiling. There's so much weight dangling from that rack, Beth Murphy later informed me, that she had the ceiling reinforced with steel. "I didn't want it crashing down on anyone's head."

Cast members from Louise attended, including the opera's lead, Stefania Dovhan. I chatted with her briefly, mostly patter about how the show was going and if there were many changes between rehearsal and performance. Of course, there are many changes, she said; that is the nature of art. "Once you begin, there is no going back." Her Ukrainian accent seemed to give even these commonsensical words a kind of sage heft. She later shared singing words with the resident bird, a gray feathered creature that to my eyes looked like a parrot.

Given the state of contemporary media, press luncheons are starting to feel quaint. There were just four print journalists present. No one from other media that I know of. And two of the print people were freelancers. Perhaps more than a tight economy accounted for a rather lean brunch of sandwiches and cookies. It's not hard to envision a Spoleto without a press event in the future.

Even so, at least there was some press there.

Last year's press gathering was held outside on a concrete patio at the South Carolina Aquarium. I was the only press attending. Others may have known what I discovered after getting there — that the sun beat down so hard that the silverware was literally too hot to handle. Pats of butter resting on lavishly set tables were melting like ice in fire. Guests were huddled under the shade of the awning. Despite the heat, the food was terrific. A chef was even present to make eggs to order. The poor bastard must have been scrambled by the end.

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