Spoleto Festival, USA

Ranger Crew (2002), Special Projects Crew (2003)

Apprentice Electrician

For the past two summers, I have been priviledged to be a part of the production department of the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. This unique, international arts festival takes over the city of Charleston for six weeks each summer, featuring performances in dance, opera, music, and theatre in venues all across the city. The Special Projects crew is the backbone of the festival, providing technical support for 26 venues and extra manpower to house crews when needed. The Rangers were a branch of the Special Projects team that handled the productions in the Robinson, Sottile, and Memminger theatres during the 2002 season. They also helped out the main branch of Special Projects on some of their larger projects. Below are some pictures of the various productions and interesting challenges these crews participated in.

The rusted drop-ceiling lathe which forms the interior roof of the Memminger

The remains of the orginal projection booth which had to be demolished to make way for the air conditioning system

Memminger's dimmer room (located off stage left) partway into the installation process

Memminger's stage as the riggging begins to be set into place

The major project of the 2002 Season was to restore the Memminger Auditorium to performance conditions. The building had been built in the 1940s as a combination gym and auditorium for Memminger High School. It was condemned after Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989 and abandoned to the city's pigeons. Restoration work began in 2000, but plenty remained for the Robinson-Sottile-Memminger crew to tackle. As contractors worked to restore power and air conditioning to the building, the crew dead hung lighting truss and draperies, ran miles of lighting cable FOH and overstage, and created a workable performance space in the former gynasitorium. The Memminger hosted Steven Reich's Three Tales and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra performance of Wagner and Beyond (pictured left), as well as functioning as orchestral rehearsal space during the 2002 season.

Besides restoring the Memminger Auditorium, the Ranger crew was also responsible for the productions in the Robinson and Sottile theatres. Pictured above is the load-in of Ping Chong's Obon, a retelling of Japanese legends through puppetry.

The Special Projects crew is responsible for the annual balloon drop off of Charleston city hall during Spoleto's opening ceremonies. Approximately 1600 balloons are hauled to the roof over the side of the building and then released from four nets and three air cannons to signal the beginning of the festival.

Special Projects is also responsible for the Wachovia Jazz Series, which takes place at several outdoor venues across the Charleston area. Pictured here are the load-ins at Ion, a small park in a wealthy residental neighborhood (above) and at the Cistern, a small park in the center of the College of Charleston's campus (right and below).

The Ex-Hall during the changeover from the Gala to Quarry

The cable run for Quarry

Special Projects' major task for the 2003 season was the Gaillard Auditorium's Exhibition Hall, which hosted the Opening Gala and Meredith Monk's Quarry, as well as being the rain site for the Soiree dinner. The Ex-Hall has no native technical equipment, so all six lighting trusses had to be hung from chain motors installed in the drop ceiling. The lighting cable run filled a small balcony. Construction-grade scaffolding was also installed for audience seating for Quarry, and modified to meet the city fire marshall's requirements, which included installing exit signs and stringing cage lights through the scaffolding for houselights.

All of the technical support for Spoleto's Production department is housed at the scene shop, an enormous warehouse complex. Special Projects is responsible for the organization and distribution of its inventory to the various venues across the city.


Created by Cathy Bowren, cbowren@hotmail.com, May 2002. Last Update August 2003.