The 41st Spoleto Festival USA, America’s premier performing arts extravaganza, takes place in Charleston from May 26 to June 11. Festival director Nigel Redden says, “On the heels of a successful 40th season, this year’s festival promises to build on that momentum with even more theater and dance performances than in previous years.”
More than 160 ticketed events will take place in 12 historic venues, including the intimate Woolfe Street Playhouse, the historic Dock Street Theatre and the recently renovated Gaillard Center.
Highlights include the festival’s capstone opera, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, to be staged at the Gaillard Center. The Dock Street Theatre will showcase the U.S. premiere of Vivaldi’s most popular 18th-century opera, Farnace, as well as the acclaimed production of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, Waiting for Godot, performed by the Irish theater company Druid.
Other noteworthy performances include New Yorkbased Gallim Dance’s WHALE, featuring radical physical language; Argentinean singer Sofia Rei’s eclectic music of the Americas; and Georgian playwright Rezo Gabriadze’s Ramona, a marionette drama about love. Additionally, the College of Charleston will host a variety of jazz and contemporary dance performances, including France’s ballet-meets-hip-hop duo Wang Ramirez.
A spectacular, festival finale will take place across the Ashley River at Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens. There, a lineup of local and regional bands will be headlined by The Revivalists—the high octane, seven-piece New Orleans band whose musicians are known for their instrumental virtuosity and charismatic vocals. Dazzling fireworks will follow the concert, and attendees will also be able to explore this former plantation’s expansive grounds and beautiful gardens. 843-579- 3100, spoletousa.org.
Recently, we visited two boutique hotels in Charleston that have a reputation for serving outstanding craft cocktails. On the roof of the Grand Bohemian Hotel, we discovered Élevé, a bar and restaurant with panoramic views and a tempting cocktail menu.
The Porch Side Paloma is a refreshing mix of tequila, St-Germain liqueur and light grapefruit-elderflower soda. Tequila—not the expected gin or vodka—gives this elderflower concoction a sultry overtone.
Next stop was the recently opened Dewberry Hotel, located across from Marion Square. The hotel’s lavish mid-century modern décor is a perfect match for its home in the repurposed 1960s-era L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building.
The cast of Mad Men could easily settle down for a drink in The Living Room, a sprawling lounge with a minimalist ‘60s vibe. From the small brass bar in the back, mixologist Rudy shakes up a Panic Button. This smooth, robust drink is a mix of bourbon, Averna (a Sicilian amaro), cherry brandy and lemon. It works well before dinner or after, with a cigar. Floating on top is the “panic button”—a large sphere of ice.
By the time you read this, the Dewberry’s rooftop bar will likely be open. Stay tuned! 843-724-4144, grandbohemiancharleston.com; 843-558-8000, dewberrycharleston.com.
WORTH A VISIT
If you’re off to Virginia this spring or summer, we suggest you pay a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, which opened during the Great Depression. Today, it’s the state’s flagship art museum. Over the years, the museum has assembled enormous collections of exceptional quality: classical and African art, paintings by European and American masters, such as Goya, Monet, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and many others. There’s also Indian and Himalayan art, fine English silver, art nouveau and art deco furniture, Fabergé jeweled objects and a large assemblage of contemporary art.
Current and upcoming exhibitions include the Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of jewelry and accessories by the famous French jewelry and decorative arts designer Jean Schlumberger (through June 18); the haute couture ensembles and ready-to-wear creations of fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent (May 6 to August 27); and Japanese woodblock prints by Kawase Hasui (through October 3). Also newsworthy is that, after an international tour, the museum’s renowned Fabergé collection returns this fall. Five new galleries have been prepared to showcase 280 Fabergé objects as well as other Russian decorative arts. 804-340-1405, vmfa.museum.
Folks who shy away from Southern cuisine for fear of ingesting too much butter and salt should consider Pawpaw Southern Plates. This new restaurant in downtown Charleston proves there’s more than one way to do Southern.
General manager and owner Jared Jones has transformed an old building on East Bay Street into a space that feels at once contemporary and rustic. A tawny palette of roughhewn wood and old brick offers a subdued background for the buzz of happy guests.
Jones brought chef Jared Rogers from San Francisco to design a “no borders” Southern cuisine—in other words, one that’s open to outside influences. Rogers’ roots are in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Floyd, Virginia, he worked under wellknown chef Richard Perry. In California, he was employed by lauded Bay Area chef Bruce Hill and rapidly ascended to the role of partner and executive chef at Picco, one of Hill’s restaurants.
Appetizers show off Pawpaw’s world-inspired flavor combinations. Truffle fries come with a romesco sauce. A row of dainty ahi tuna “bites”—flavored with South Carolina pears and benne seeds—rest on crispy rice cakes. Call it a Southern take on Hawaiian poke (a raw fish salad flavored with sesame and soy).
“Smoked” appears frequently as an adjective on the menu. It applies not only to ribs and steak but also to the pimento cheese that accompanies Rogers’ fluffy buttermilk biscuits. Handmade pastas are a specialty. Pesto orecchiette features Virginia ham, basil pesto and farm eggs. (Rogers calls this “green eggs and ham.”)
Jones, who has assembled an impressive list of wines from around the world, is especially excited about boutique wines from North Carolina. On the cocktail side, popular drinks include Country Lemonade (a secret family recipe) and the refreshing Garden Martini. The latter, flavored with lime, cucumber and basil, starts off cool but finishes hot, thanks to a sliver of jalapeño. Wondering about that lily pad-shaped “dollar green” that floats on top? It’s an inside joke for gardeners, says Jones: “Doesn’t every garden have a little dollar weed?” 843-297-4443, pawpawrestaurant.com.