by Jon Santiago
With Spoleto Festival's opening weekend already setting a brisk pace, we bring you these comments from Nigel Redden, Spoleto USA's General Director, on this "extraordinarily beautiful place" to run a festival and why taking time to stroll around is an important part of the festival experience.
Since Redden also runs The Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, we asked him to draw a few comparisons between the two:
"While the two festivals are fundamentally different, they share some characteristics. They're both multi-disciplinary. We do share specific performances on occasion. But the festival in Charleston is much broader in terms of the range of its aesthetic. Because in some sense what we're doing is creating a context here for people who are visiting. People who don't know what happened [in the arts here] last month or last year, or the week after the festival ends. In New York, we're appealing to a local audience who do [have that context]."
On Spoleto USA's human scale:
"When Gian Carlo [Menotti] started the festival in Spoleto, Italy, it was going to be a site-specific festival, but it wasn't like Salzburg Festival where Mozart was going to dominate because it's his birthplace. It was going to be a [festival] where the human scale of works of art or performances would be emphasized because you could go from one theater to another.
Walking from one place to another, you would see performers in the cafe, meet other audience members. You'd have that sense of being part of relatively small group of people who were enjoying this moment when you could concentrate on the kind of human message that every work of art needs to convey in order to be — in any sense — successful.
I think that does happen in Charleston. This city is on a human scale. I walked to work today, which I actually rather love doing. There's something wonderful about peering into gardens and those glimpses that you have: the public/private interaction, looking into someone's private garden. Obviously those views are meant to exist, people know that they have a little hole in their garden gate and you can peer through. I think that that is very much part of the festival experience [for Spoleto's visiting audience]. If they're from here, I think we become so used to [having all this around us] that it's hard to remind oneself. I feel the beauty of the city all the time. Charleston is an extraordinarily beautiful place."
How the Spoleto experience is not limited to the venue:
"There are many ways a festival can be successful. A friend of mine ran a festival years ago that did a lot of things throughout the day but it was always in one building. One building, four different theaters. Once you exited the building you were in the parking lot. That isn't what happens in Charleston.
One of the ways in which this festival is different from many others is that the first performance we put on is at 11 o'clock and you can fill your day. If you fill your day you are made to go from place to place.
Here, you go to the Dock Street at 11 o'clock and perhaps you go to lunch. Then you're off to the Robinson and you see a monologue by somebody. Perhaps you go to Intermezzo at 5 o'clock and then you go to a performance at 8. People do that and see many more things than they would at any other time here. That is the true experience."
And all you need for that true Spoleto experience is to get out and stretch your legs. The festival is all around you.