“What an incredible day to open up a festival in the most beautiful city in the world,” said the Rev. Greg Surratt, the founding pastor of Seacoast Church who gave the ceremony’s invocation Friday on the steps of City Hall.
The festival runs for the next 17 days, features theater pieces, musical acts and dance performances across the Holy City.
Additionally, Piccolo Spoleto Festival will feature many more local performances, cultural events, poetry readings, craft shows and film screenings.
“It’s a smorgasbord of a broad range of events, some of which will be challenging, all of which will be entertaining, and all of which will be of the very highest quality,” said William Medich, chair of the Spoleto Festival USA board. “And every year, that’s what brings the world to Charleston. That’s what brings patrons from 50 states and around the world to Charleston for 17 glorious days.”
Henry Naylor, a playwright returning to Spoleto for a second year to showcase his play Borders, said in an ever-changing, challenging world, people need the arts more than ever, as society is in danger of falling apart.
“We appear to be losing the ability to discuss and debate,” he said. “We assert and assert, and if anybody challenges us, we take it as a personal affront.”
Instead, arts festivals like Spoleto, Naylor said, give people the opportunity to hear perspectives from all over the world in a single place.
“For the next 17 days, we will all hear perspectives from all over the world,” he said. “We will hear souls speak. True art will challenge us, provoke us. We may not agree with everything each says, but it may help us understand each other better.”
Mayor John Tecklenburg echoed the importance of the arts in his remarks, and said he hopes the city can harness Spoleto’s energy for the entire year, not just a two-week span.
“While Spoleto Festival USA arrives each spring and provokes us to reflect on the quality of our homes in these moments, it’s important that we harness this enthusiasm, this energy, this excellence and keep the spirit alive all year,” he said.
Naylor, originally from Great Britain, joked that he and other British theater-makers were attending Spoleto in return for Americans allowing Meghan Markle to marry Prince Harry last week.
“So please fawn over us regally, roll out the red carpet and curtsey every time you see one of us,” he said.