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.
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.
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.
Five-footed lines of iambic pentameter sweep audiences away to Cleopatra’s Egyptian court, where a tragedy of love and lust decides the fates of Rome and Egypt. Actors from the College of Charleston Theatre Department weave threads of passion, power, and lamb's wool into their depictions of handsome Roman general Mark Antony and the beautiful Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Having neglected his soldierly duties to conduct an affair with Cleopatra, Antony faces the scorn of his triumvir Octavius Caesar and the increasing threat of a rebellion back home. The fates of two empires rest in the balance of his torn convictions, as his indecision sends Cleopatra into a jealous rage and Caesar into a frenzy of salad making. Shakespeare’s linguistic swordsmanship sharpens the poignancy of the play’s five acts, which slither along to a deadly conclusion.
Inside Threshold Repertory Theatre's intimate venue, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!) delivers an uproarious, backhanded interpretation of conventional holiday traditions. Since making its debut in 2003, the side-splitting Yuletide onslaught has spurred a nationwide following, garnering praise from the Los Angeles Times as a "winking assault on virtually every secular seasonal classic since Charles Dickens." As Christmas icons such as Frosty, Rudolph, and Ayn Rand enter the show's crosshairs, versatile cast members tickle funny bones with a blitz on worldwide Christmas customs, seasonal carols, and pop-culture mainstays. An original score backs the performance, adding an extra dose of originality and white-bearded quarter notes to a whirlwind of topical amusement.
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.