Eric Lavender is one of very few men in the world who can show up for work each day in a pirate costume and expect to keep his job. The licensed guide and professional storyteller, who has been featured on networks such as the Travel Channel and SCETV, also has an unconventional coworker—Captain Bob, a chatty blue and gold macaw who perches on his arm. Sometimes aided by other guides in pirate and colonial garb, he introduces visitors to lesser-known aspects of Charleston's more than 300-year history on walking tours to National Historic Landmark buildings.
During his signature pirate tour, Eric divulges stories of buccaneer revelry and crimes, such as Blackbeard's harbor blockade, or unveils local spooky legends and pieces of Gullah lore on his ghost and pirate tour. Eric also leads custom walking tours and teaches children about pirate lore and city history through his educational programs. And, on pub tours, guides show visitors to some of the city's historic taverns, where they reveal which colonial musicians got their start at open-mic nights.
It started small: in 1931, Lieutenant Commander Charles Russell Price directed a series of one-act plays at the Charleston Navy Yard. It was an unexpected success, and a year later, his band of amateur theater-makers were officially calling themselves The Footlight Players. The ensemble began performing at various spaces around town, and as their popularity grew, they became a local institution.
Today, The Footlight Players uphold Price's vision by staging seasonal works ranging from comic musicals to dramatic plays. And while the company now has a permanent home in a historic cotton warehouse, their scrappy, let's-put-on-a-show attitude hasn't changed?local volunteers are always welcome to audition, lend an extra hand, or shake cottonseeds out of the stage curtains.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or cha-cha. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
The Charleston Ballet Theatre celebrates 25 years of diverse dancing and professional choreography with an inventive take on holiday classic The Nutcracker. Set in 1860s South Carolina, the Ballet Theatre's lavishly costumed pirouetters prance to Tchaikovsky’s immutable score among familiar Lowcountry landmarks and replicas of the area's native sugar-plum bushes. Appearing on stage to aid young Clara and her sentient legume-opener in their struggle against rodent oppressors is a troupe of adorable canines from the Charleston Animal Society, giving the production its alternative title, "The Muttcracker." Unlike the dancers, the puppies are available for adoption after the show.
2011 marks Family Circle Cup's 11th year at the award-winning Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, and its 39th consecutive year on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour. Family Circle's "Game, Set, Rock! Tennis. Amplified." event treats ears to a buffet of pulse-pumping music as eyes feast upon an evening's worth of singles and mixed-doubles matches by four tennis titans. Watch eight-time Family Circle Cup singles champion Chris Evert pair up with Todd Martin to take on four-time singles champion Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe. All the athletes will be wearing microphones so that attendees can hear every grunt, gasp, and witty one liner that emanates from players' vocal chords. Groupon buyers may also choose to attend the Family Circle Cup finale, the final round of play during the tournament wherein the 2011 Family Circle Cup winner will be crowned.
Jazz Artists of Charleston's Jazz Series summons renowned local musicians to the stage to share in the rich American tradition of jazz music. JAC's fourth annual Jazz Series will take place this May and June during Spoleto Festival season and will groove through jazz styles including modern, bebop, funk, and extra jazzy. Performances take place upstairs in the Gallery Room at McCrady's Restaurant, where staffers serve up libations and farm-fresh cuisine including beef, flounder, and duck. Each Jazz Series set comprises approximately 75 minutes of toe-tapping tunes and people calling other people cats. The special May 31 Holy City Homecomin' show is an annual tradition that changes each year and has become a popular part of JAC's annual programming.