By Dottie Ashley

Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our ultimate response to life. — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Although Charleston’s annual season of arts festivals is winding down, the 2015 Piccolo Spoleto Festival continues to stage several of its more intriguing events, through June 7.

Designed as a companion piece to the Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo was founded by the Charleston City Office of Cultural Affairs in 1979. By presenting local, regional and some nationally known performances at lower ticket prices and offering a number of free events, along with the addition of entertainment for children, Piccolo has successfully augmented the larger international festival.

‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’

On an April evening in 1994, at the Cort Theatre on Broadway, I witnessed a one-woman play that was like nothing like I had ever seen staged before, nor have I seen since.

Set shortly after the devastating 1992 riots which rocked Los Angeles, “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” starred the actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who wrote her riveting stage work after spending nine moths conducting more than 200 interviews with citizens living in L.A. during the riots.

On a bare stage for nearly two hours, Smith, accompanied only by photos and videos of the riot scenes flashed on a backdrop, portrayed 52 different characters, speaking, verbatim, the words of citizens from a vast range of social, racial and economic classes — from a beat-up truck driver and a black teenage gang member to such luminaries as actor Charlton Heston and opera singer Jesse Norman.

Charleston’s Threshold Repertory Theatre has performed “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” throughout the Piccolo Festival, in its small unprepossessing theater at 84 ½ Society St.

Threshold’s artistic director, Brendan Kelly explained, “I decided to stage ‘Twilight,’ long before the situation in Ferguson exploded. However, as issues of race and violence continued to escalate, locally and nationally, I seriously considered replacing this play.”

Yet, when Kelly, who had performed in “Twilight” in an academic setting while earning his B.F.A. from The Theatre University in Chicago, began to consider his “amazing racially diverse cast, totally willing to tell this important, timely story, that this dedication to bringing to light a major societal problem, was, within itself, making a statement that needed to be seen and heard.”

Although originally a one-woman show, “Twilight” was also designed by Deavere for an ensemble cast. “Having one actor required to portray several different characters is definitely a challenge,” said Kelly.

The director emphasized that he has trimmed the show considerably, from two hours with intermission, to one hour with no intermission.

Cast members, including Kelly, are Kristen Saven, Adam Miles, Kimi Hugli, Chris Harvey, Paul O’Brien and Giselle Kousenec, with Mike Kordek as technical director, set and lighting designer and sound designer. Performances are at 7 p.m. June 5 and 3 p.m., June 6 at Threshold Repertory Theatre.

Upright Citizens Brigade TourCo

Beware if you climb the stairs at the never-predictable Theatre 99 to catch a performance of Piccolo’s true taste of nationally known talent, the Upright Citizens Brigade TourCo. You just might end up as part of the perennially dizzying comedic madness, as I did five years ago.

Unwinding after covering sometimes two Spoleto Festival and/or Piccolo Festival performances a day for 16 days, I decided to go to the final performance of Citizens Brigade, sans pen and notebook. So when the actors called for a female volunteer to come on stage and allow the entire contents of her purse to be poured out on the floor and then picked over and described in detail, while the purse’s owner, detained in a chair on stage, was questioned as to why she carried these objects around with her, I wildly waved my hand in the air.

What followed was humiliating, yet hilarious and typical of some of the best improv comedians from the Brigade Theatres in New York City and Los Angeles. The UCB, founded by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, has been home to some of the biggest stars today, from TV’s “Saturday Night Live,” to “Bridesmaids,” to “The Hangover.”

Only those 18 or older may attend. Performances are on June 4 at 9 p.m.; June 5 at 10:30 p.m.; and June 6 at 7:30 p.m., all at 280 Meeting St., above the Bicycle Shoppe.

‘The Last Five Years’

The Footlight Players, Charleston’s oldest continually performing theater, is staging Jason Robert Brown musical, “The Last Five Years,” which tells of two New Yorkers, Cathy and her boyfriend Jamie, both in their 20s, who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.

The musical’s unconventional storyline has Cathy tell her story backward, while Jamie relates his chronologically

To learn their fate, go see the show, directed by Robin Burke with musical direction by Leah Megli, at 8 p.m. June 4-6 at the theater at 20 Queen St. For tickets to all plays, go online to; call, toll free, 1 (866) 811-4111 or visit the Piccolo Spoleto box office at the Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St.

Ashley’s picks for the upcoming weeks

As we go to press, the Charleston Artist Collective continues to stage an exhibition of the visual talents of 16 local artists and will do so through June 14 at the Preservation Society of Charleston shop at 147 King. Illustrating the theme, “Local Color,” participants will include Anne Darby Parker, Shannon Brown and Ann Keane, among others. A percentage of proceeds from the Artist Collective sales will be donated to the Preservation Society. Founded in 1920, the society is recognized as the oldest community-based historic preservation organization in America.

The Charleston Artist Collective, founded by Allison Williamson, is a web-based platform created to give local artists an opportunity to broaden their potential and also to provide art collectors access to original, affordable art, while contributing to area nonprofit organizations. At present, the collective has donated more than $65,000 to Charleston nonprofits.

The Preservation Society shop is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and from noon to 4 p.m. the second Sunday of each month. For information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 722-4630.

Dottie Ashley is the arts columnist for the Charleston Mercury and the only newspaper journalist to win the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award, which she received in 2003, for her statewide coverage of the arts. She is also winner of the American Dance Festival fellowship at Duke University and of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Critics Fellowship in Connecticut.

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