by John Stoehr
The question has come up in several conversations. Why isn't Spoleto using the Sottile Theatre? That was the venue for last year's wildly popular Monkey: Journey to the West. Yet the Sottile in 2009 is dark. I have a call out to Spoleto, but I'll speculate in the meantime. And I'd guess one of these is the answer I'll get from a festival spokesperson.
First, scale. The biggest show of the year is Louise at the Gaillard. The opera requires an enormous cast (40 named characters in all), an enormous set (with a replica of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur looming in the background), and therefore an enormous space to do it in. The Gaillard, at 2,700 seats, is the largest. And historically, Spoleto has staged one of two operas at the city-owned auditorium. The economy has hit the festival hard as it has every other art organization in the country. 2009 is the year of downsized scale.
Which leads to quantity. Spoleto usually does two operas. This year, just one. The festival usually does one big theater production, too. If there were two operas, like last year, you might see one at the Gaillard and one at the Memminger. The big theater show, Monkey, as I said, was at the Sottile. With just one opera, organizers put Don John at the Memminger (the newly renovated venue probably handles tech better anyway).
And lastly, cost. The Memminger is run according to a public-private partnership between the city and the festival. In effect, they can do what needs to be done in that venue. Ditto for the Dock Street Theatre when it opens early next year. The Gaillard is run by the city and the city has every reason to strike deals with the festival. The Sottile, on the other hand, is owned by the College of Charleston. With students out for the summer, the incentive doesn't seem to be there for CofC to strike a deal. That is, it'd have every reason to charge Spoleto the full cost of renting the venue.
I could be wrong. I'm waiting for that call. -JS
(Photo courtesy of the College of Charleston)