Visitors: Updated: 04/18/07 Return to Festival Institute page
My appreciation to those many who helped in this scholarly effort is noted below in the dissertation text, which is not organized as a web page and must be read by scrolling to the end, where endnotes are located.
The dissertation text version below is a basic case study of Charleston and Chattanooga in separate chapters with an overview chapter and a conclusions chapter; as the first published form, it does not make clear enough the conceptual framework that can include other festivals and related cultural activities as a book version offers. We recommend to the general reader the book version, The Idea of Festival, which includes web links and will become a CD-ROM book, for other than readers from either Chattanooga or Charleston who may prefer the more focused local chapters of the 1990 study.
In addition to this Emory University 1990 dissertation, Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power, the new version, The Idea of Festival, has been completely revised, somewhat like moving furniture around the house for the best feel and fit as new insights and experiences overlay older perspectives. New material since 1990 has been and is being added, and graphics and links, such as to various festivals mentioned, are being added; most of these will yield the festival of the current year. The revised book is now separated into several conceptual chapters instead of the initial Charleston, SC and Chattanooga, TN chapter comparisons. More visuals and formatting will be added but you are invited to participate in this process and send any comments and suggestions to: sidhetzler [@] splittree.org. We welcome corrections and additions to the material presented here and will present dissenting opinions and factual material.
note to our readers: We welcome and need financial contributions from our
readers during this period of public accessibility before a CD and printed
version is available for sale. We ask you not to copy and print or reprint
this material without permission; it is copyrighted but it also is not fair to
use the material without fair compensation. However, much of the original
material was and is publicly available as an Emory University dissertation, and
I feel it is in the public interest to continue to leave the research open to
the public. Please ask for permission before printing any other than small
excerpts for personal reading and distribution or scholarly or media quotation
under the "fair use" rule.
However, the personal financial cost to me was high in the effort to get a Chattanooga town festival underway, starting from my 1980 visits to Charleston and Salzburg; the time and effort during the early stages of its formation before the Lyndhurst Foundation grant in 1981; the 1985-90 years of academic study and first-hand festival research; the continued festival research and editing expenses during 1999; and the computer technology and audio/video/photographic expenses. Grants and personal donations will be welcomed for the continued effort to broaden this book and update information from the various festivals mentioned as well as those yet to be included, such as the Lake Eden Arts Festival and my own Split Tree festivals in 1994 and Split Tree's evolution since that time to a "participatory arts center."
Tax-deductible checks can be sent to: Southern Pitch, Inc., %Split Tree Electronic Press, 597 West Cove Road, Chickamauga, Georgia 30707; a letter will be given to those needing it for IRS documentation. The creator of Southern Pitch, a non-profit organization that nurtures arts and artists and is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is Sorrel Hays, whose 1981 ideas for Chattanooga's festival were innovative and valued highly. We appreciate her and Southern Pitch's support for many years of learning about the arts, starting with her piano recitals in the late 1960s in Chattanooga before her move to New York and fame as a composer and performer. It was her impromptu piano playing of Mozart and Schubert in a local motel lounge, following her formal Chattanooga "Cotton Ball" recital, to the delight of the bar crowd that convinced me so-called classical music can be enjoyed away from formal concert halls by all levels of audiences.
Checks as regular donations can be made out to "Split Tree Electronic Press" and mailed to Split Tree Electronic Press, Attn: Sid Hetzler, 597 West Cove Road, Chickamauga, Georgia 30707. Tel: 706/539-2485; fax: 770/216-1596; email: sid [@] splittree.org.
Alternatively, readers can make a credit card donation in any amount at the Split Tree Web Store via the PayPal secure payment on-line process.
With permission, a list of donors will be published in the "After Thoughts" section at the book's end.
Idea of Festival:
After Thoughts--Summer 2485
Sid Hetzler June 9, 2001 Email: sid [@] splittree.org Return to Split Tree Index Page
Split Tree Electronic Press page
Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power
In presenting this dissertation as a partial fulfillment of the requirements for an
advanced degree from Emory University, I agree that the Library of the University shall
make it available for inspection and circulation in accordance with its regulations
governing materials of this type. I agree that permission to copy from, or to publish,
this dissertation may be granted by the professor under whose direction it was written,
or, in his/her absence, by the Dean of the Graduate School, when such copying or
publication is solely for scholarly purposes and does not involve potential financial
gain. It is understood that any copying from, or publication of, this dissertation which
involves potential financial gain will not be allowed without written permission.
NOTICE TO BORROWERS
Unpublished theses deposited in the Emory University Library must be used only in accordance with the stipulations prescribed by the author in the preceding statement.
The author of this dissertation is:
Sidney N. Hetzler, Jr.
597 West Cove Road
Kensington, Georgia 3O7O7
The director of this dissertation is:
Timothy J. Reiss
New York University
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Department of Comparative Literature
19 University Place, 4th Floor
New York, New York 1OOO3
Users of this dissertation not regularly enrolled as students at Emory University are required to attest acceptance of the preceding stipulations by signing below. Libraries borrowing this dissertation for the use of their patrons are required to see that each user records here the information requested.
Name of User Address Date Type of use
(Examination only or copying)
TWO TOWN FESTIVALS:
SIGNS OF A THEATER OF POWER
Sidney N. Hetzler, Jr.
Adviser: Timothy J. Reiss
Department of Comparative Literature
New York University
Approved for the Department:
Dean of the Graduate School
TWO TOWN FESTIVALS:
SIGNS OF A THEATER OF POWER
Sidney N. Hetzler, Jr.
B.A., Vanderbilt University, 1962
M.S., Boston University, 1973
Adviser: Timothy J. Reiss
Department of Comparative Literature
New York University
A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School
of Emory University in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts
Dedicated to Albert J. Sullivan
TWO TOWN FESTIVALS:
SIGNS OF A THEATER OF POWER
Sidney N. Hetzler, Jr.
B.A., Vanderbilt University, 1962
M.S., Boston University, 1973
Adviser: Timothy J. Reiss
Department of Comparative Literature
New York University
An Abstract of
A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School
of Emory University in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts
This semiotic analysis compares the discursive practice of two contemporary town festivals in Charleston, South Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, as theatrical expressions of a dominant order's power.
It argues the aesthetic, political, and social desirability of festivals of "difference" as opposed to those of "sameness"--"arts" as opposed to "heritage", "serious" as opposed to "bread-and-circus"--and indicates the potentially destructive effect of a festival of sameness.
These and other claims are derived from an analysis of three key categories: the festival's relationship to empty town spaces (its place), its purposes (its ideal), and the presence or absence of an artistic director (its force). These three elements provide the study's conceptual design and suggest, in their interdependence, several conclusions about the nature, function, and meaning of these two festivals.
Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival were selected
for comparative analysis because Chattanooga's festival sponsors deliberately rejected
Charleston's "arts" model of festival for a "heritage" form. The
significance of this decision, how and why this change of direction happened, and its
meanings are the basic issues explored.
Chapter I constructs the interpretive frame of two basic festival forms and outlines an analytical approach. Chapter II describes key elements in the founding of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, South Carolina, during 1975-77, based primarily on the recollections of its first board chairman. Chapter III analyzes the founding of the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during 198O-82, through the story of the creation of a citizen's group that was established to sponsor the festival. Chapter IV analyzes a third model of festival, the Chautauqua Institution at Jamestown, New York, in relation to a comparison of key elements of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Riverbend, and proposes several conclusions about the nature, function, and meaning of the forms of festival discussed.
Subject and Scope 5
General Thesis 7
TIME AND PLACE OF DIFFERENCES:
THE IDEA OF A FESTIVAL THEATER
Stories of Origin 21
Art Power and the Element of the Artistic Director 25
The Element of the Empty Space 28
The Element of Purpose 31
Functions Mode of Analysis 36
Perspectives and Semantic Framing 45
Implications of Festivals Viewed As a "Place of the Different" 49
SPOLETO FESTIVAL U.S.A.:
WHERE FOOTLIGHTS CAST NO SHADOWS
Menotti's New Theater 58
Functions of a "Serious" Festival 61
Three Basic Elements: Artistic Director, Empty
Space, Purposes 67
Artistic Director: Why Menotti? 69
The Empty City Space: Why Charleston? 81
The Element of Purpose: Menotti's Festival Idea 91
Difference and Sameness 100
CHATTANOOGA'S RIVERBEND FESTIVAL:
FROM A THEATER OF DIFFERENCE TO A THEATER OF SAMENESS
The Struggle to Fill the City's Empty Festival Space 106
Absence of an Artistic Director 113
The Element of Purpose: Festival Planning Seminars 118
Functions of the Riverbend Festival: Embedded Meanings in Two Stories of Origin 123
Analysis of Riverbend Objectives 128
Riverbend: Meanings and Messages 136
TWO TOWNS, TWO FESTIVALS, MULTIPLE MEANINGS OF "FESTIVAL"
An "Arts" Festival-Creature Encounters its "Heritage" Habitat 152
Menotti's Logocracy 156
Primary Function of a Festival: Chautauqua--Forum for Conflicting Views 157
Comparative Categories 168
Restatement of Claims: Intent, Function, Effect 179
Four Conclusions: Festivals' Shaping of "Reality," Openness, Conflict, Play 185
Toward a Semiotic of Festival 190
GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY 205
Spoleto Festival U.S.A. Materials 217
Nothing is absolutely dead: every meaning
will have its homecoming festival.
M. M. Bakhtin
"Methodology for the Human Sciences," Speech Genres & Other Late Essays
Chautauqua is a place, an ideal, and a force.
John Heyl Vincent, founder;
Chautauqua Institution, Jamestown, New York,
188Os, quoted on a postcard picturing the audience
in a traveling Chautauqua lyceum tent.
Art, then, is an increase of life, a sort of
competition of surprises that stimulates our
consciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent.
The Poetics of Space
Conflicting artistic dreams, competing images of "desirable" community social order, and opposing political and economic discourses underlie the stories of the origins of the two town festivals chosen for this analysis. One began in its American version in 1977 in Charleston, South Carolina; and the other, inspired by the Charleston model, started in 1982 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Each festival might not have emerged from its host community. Each, with small influences, could have evolved very differently from its present form. Today, they represent greatly differing examples of the cultural practice of "town festival."
In the stories connected with their creation can be found a key to their original intended meanings, meanings that on the surface are as contradictory as the few published accounts of how they came to be. Here is one reporter's 1984 version of the Chattanooga festival's origin:
One of the key figures in the development of the Riverbend Festival is an urban planner from New York who conceived a precursor to the festival as "shock therapy" for Chattanooga.
Gianni Longo, president of the Institute for Environmental Action in New York City, came to town about five years ago at the request of the Lyndhurst Foundation. His task was to assess the quality of life in Chattanooga and suggest ways to improve it.
After discovering the city was "polarized" along economic and racial lines, Longo set as a goal "getting a lot of people together in a friendly manner."
The urban expert was also interested in getting the people together downtown. "People in Chattanooga thought of downtown as a place to go to the bank, to park their car," Longo said.... "But they didn't think of it as a place to take their kids, or take a walk. They thought it was too dangerous."
What was needed to change that perception was "shock therapy" of a sort, Longo said. "It had to be something of such magnitude that, despite their doubts about mingling in a crowd, people could not resist."
The irresistible event was Five Nights in Chattanooga: five concerts by musical artists, offered free of charge, at night, in the heart of downtown.
Thousands of people jammed the vacant lot across from Miller Park and spilled over into the streets.... "We had everything--bluegrass, blues, pop, country-western," Longo said.
...Five Nights proved that a strong enough attraction would draw people downtown in the evening and led to the formation of Friends of the Festival [emphasis mine], the primary support organization for the Riverbend Festival.(1)
Here is another reporter's 1984 version of the same festival's origin:
Sid Hetzler, food broker by trade, music lover at heart, traveled to Charleston, S.C., in 198O for the world-renowned Spoleto Festival. He returned to Chattanooga convinced that the city could support a festival of its own.
Hetzler envisioned a showcase for local talent, emphasizing classical music, opera and other fine arts; a festival that would draw people downtown and introduce a broad cross-section of the public to the arts.
Several of Hetzler's friends responded enthusiastically to his idea. A small group started meeting irregularly, planting the seeds for what would become Friends of the Festival [emphasis mine].
Four years later, Friends of the Festival has mushroomed into a 3O-member committee. The fruit of its labors, the Riverbend Festival, is now entering its third year. It has developed into an annual extravaganza with Formula I boat racing, big-name entertainers--such as this year's star, Crystal Gayle--and a budget of $6OO,OOO.
Some critics of the festival--including Hetzler, who is no longer involved--claim it has grown too big too quickly, abandoning the original fine-arts spirit and endangering its own solvency.
The festival has had its share of organizational and financial blunders. But supporters insist problems are to be expected with any fledgling project. They point to what they see as a bright future for the Riverbend. And even critics such as Hetzler and some other early Friends members concede that success for the festival is crucial to the city's positive self-image.
Jack Murrah, associate of the Lyndhurst Foundation, the festival's chief backer during its first three years, agrees. It is "very, very important (that the festival succeed), in large measure because it has become the big event it is. It is (the city's) annual image-making set of activities that people have decided to get behind [emphasis mine]."(2)
These are not, as may appear, stories of two separate festivals; they are manifestations of the complexity of a process that created one town's "festival theater." Both articles were printed on the same page, on the same day, in the same newspaper, although the second was featured as the primary analysis of the festival's origin.
Can both versions be "true?" Is the "meaning" of what a cultural practice is and does dependent on who is doing the "reporting?" Or is such a practice's meaning dependent on unnamed, anonymous "people" who have the power, money, and will to "get behind" and to dominate the community's "image-making set of activities," as is implied above by a foundation spokesperson. Do these stories of origin represent a festival world of "logodaedaly" in which multiple truths struggle but live happily side-by-side as a theatrical mirroring of pluralistic beliefs of "democratic" societies? Or do they signify a Darwinian theater of power in which only the "strongest" homogeneous festival forms survive by destroying threatening heterogeneous practices of festival?
Such questions and related enigmas suggested this semiotic comparison of the discursive practice of two town festivals and their "signs of power."(3) It is not an ethnography of two festivals nor a historical monograph of the founding of two urban festivals, although such studies would be valuable. This analysis is a selective semiotic construct of the written and remembered stories of two intensely creative moments in the life of these two communities, moments that resulted in two very different town arts festivals. Its purpose is to reveal repetitive key signifiers, or their absence, which point toward the more important meanings embedded in these untold stories. The initial approach, general methodology, and concluding interpretations are drawn primarily from readings in the disciplines of semiotic and drama theory. Insights from literary criticism, urban history, symbolic anthropology, and mass communication theory also are employed as appropriate.
Austria's Salzburg Festival, Menotti's Italian Spoleto Festival, Canada's Stratford
Festival, Scotland's Edinburgh Festival, and New York State's Chautauqua Institution are
regarded by arts critics generally as representative of the most successful contemporary
examples of the town festival genre. This study will not discuss these other festivals,
except for a brief concluding discussion of the alternative model of the unique Chautauqua
Institution. They are cited to provide a reference for what are generally regarded as
examples of the most highly developed form of the contemporary town festival. As such,
these international town arts festivals function as a contextual frame for broader
discussion of the signification and communication functions of these powerful cultural
entities. Eventually an extension of this analysis is expected to take the form of a
semiotic of festival, that is, as an interpretive construct of the relational web of signs
and sign clusters designated "festival" historically and in contemporary life.
Subject and Scope
Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival are of academic interest in part because of their extreme differences. They are also useful for study because Chattanooga's festival sponsors in 1981 deliberately rejected Charleston's "arts" model of festival for a "heritage" form, a decision that led to official support for what can be termed a festival of "sameness" rather than a festival of "difference."(4) The meaning of this characterization, how and why this change of direction happened, and its general implications are the basic issues this analysis explores.
Several interpretations are derived from an analysis of three key "semiotic"(5) categories for each festival: the festival's relationship to empty town spaces (its place), the stated purposes or objectives (its ideal), the role of an artistic director (its force). Each of these three functions, which are regarded as primary elements of festivals, compress a wide variety of empirical data from each festival. They provide the conceptual design that organizes the study and suggest, in their interrelationships, several conclusions about the nature, function, and meaning of these two festivals.
Documentary materials from the oral interviews of those associated with Spoleto Festival U.S.A. are included in Appendix A, "Spoleto Materials." Collectively they, along with excerpts from documents quoted in Chapter II and the endnotes to that chapter, compose the body of materials described in Chapter I as "stories of origin."
The analysis is divided generally into four parts: analytical perspective, selective theoretical history, comparison of key signifiers, and reflection on implications of the study. Its emphasis is on interpreting the thematic organization of available materials from Chattanooga and Charleston. No complete historical treatments of these two festivals exist, and what is to be discussed here is the period of their founding and not their entire histories.(6)
Chapter I constructs the interpretive frame that explains why these two festivals were
selected as examples of two basic festival forms and how they are viewed. Chapter II
describes key elements in the founding of Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in 1975-77,
based on interviews from 1986 to 1989 with several individuals involved (primary source
records at the festival office were not yet open to the public). Of these materials, the
principal source is the transcribed oral history of Spoleto Festival U.S.A.'s first board
chairman, Theodore S. Stern. Chapter III discusses the founding of Chattanooga's Riverbend
Festival in 198O-82 through the story of the creation of the non-profit group, Friends of
the Festival, Inc., which was established to sponsor the festival. My experience as first
president of this organization provides the primary source materials for these events.
Chapter IV addresses several implications generated by these two forms of town festivals,
briefly discusses an alternative model (the Chautauqua Institution), and proposes several
tentative views about the nature, function, and meaning of "festival."
The principal contention is that most "serious" festivals function as a special type of theatrical time and space where the "different" is presented intentionally and where "new" artistic and other imaginative productions often are introduced. Allowing in each case for several commercial and programming exceptions, this statement is much more descriptive of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston and several other festivals examined during the 198Os in North America and Europe than it is of the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga.
Although this statement implies that a "serious" festival is "better" or more "successful" than other forms, such as a "commercial" or "heritage" festival, that would be a conclusion beyond the intentions of this argument or the evidence presented. However, that a "serious" festival (see Chapter I, Tyrone Guthrie's definition) has greater affective power seems to be the case. Such judgmental language is impossible to avoid if the aesthetic and political implications of the festival theater are carefully considered in light of its intended use as an instrument of social persuasion. The problem of differing definitions of terms, such as festival, serious, difference, sameness, and new, is addressed in its various manifestations throughout the study as a semantic concern, as well as a significant discursive reality. For this study, the terms "different" and "new" are used interchangeably in opposition to "same" and "old." The final chapter offers linguistic alternatives to such categorical oppositions, which the festival form itself tends to reject.
Questions of the social, aesthetic, political, religious, and economic desirability of the different and the new could be viewed as matters of personal taste and values. Arguing that Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival lacks "avant garde" operas, ballets, and plays, for example, and therefore offers little different or new may offend its blue grass, blues, and rock music lovers, who can point out with pride that traditional Louisiana Zydeco music apparently was heard for the first time in the city at the festival. The festival's sponsors could also rebut the charge of "sameness" by pointing out that the local symphony plays, normally with a popular entertainer, one night at each festival, and that in 1985 a composition for guitar and orchestra premiered at the festival. However, this practice was abandoned after that year. Increasingly, such Riverbend festival "differences" appear to be a tribute to the illusory theater, masking the "sameness" of biological homogeneity and artistic rigidity through an extreme commerciality that perpetuates existing political, religious, social, and economic monolithic structures.
Such issues raise far deeper philosophical concerns about the nature of the societies in which we not only survive but also enjoy and, as Faulkner suggested in accepting the Nobel prize, "endure." In sailing through such treacherous waters of subjectivity, it is my intention to be a "loving critic" rather than a "critical lover" of these two festivals, which have grown to be important local institutions as well as representative forms of contemporary festival practice and social order. That Charleston's particular expression of itself through its festival has generated international notice from the arts community suggests that such a festival of "differences" possesses important functions absent in festivals lacking such critical attention. This requires an effort to identify the key functions required for a festival to attract such critical notice from the interpretive community.
If several key elements of these two festivals are identified, and if their basic social and political functioning appears reasonably clear, then the limited aims of this dissertation will have been realized. Detailed ethnographies and full histories of both festivals and their complex relationship with their communities and larger world would be valuable in confirming, modifying, or rejecting the conclusions proposed here.
It should be admitted in this context that I do have an "ax to grind," the creation of a "sharpened instrument" of thought that pleads the political, social, aesthetic, economic, and pleasurable desirability of festivals of "difference" as opposed to those of "sameness"--"arts" as opposed to "heritage"--"serious" as opposed to "bread-and-circus." This should not be construed to mean that I regard "heritage" festivals as undesirable, but rather that these "political" theaters tend to exclude aesthetic sources of the vitality associated with the new and different ideas that drive social change and sustain the learned respect for differences that represents "civilized" behavior. This would not be a "serious" dissertation if it argued no point of view, advanced no vision, ignored the realities of personal experience, or merely represented without interpretation. And it would not be a fair document if it did not respect the differences and opinions of others equally sincere in their intentions. Yet the destructive power of the opposing "sameness" philosophy, when carried to extremes, is in actuality the general political reality reflected in Lyotard's admonition in The Postmodern Condition to, in effect, "honor the differences":
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have given us as much terror as we can take. We have paid high enough price for the nostalgia of the whole and the one....The answer is: Let us wage a war on totality; let us be witnesses to the unpresentable; let us activate the differences and save the honor of the name.(7)
Increasingly, during the course of the past four years of formal academic study, T. S. Eliot's observation in "The Four Quartets" that we return "to the place where we started/And know it for the first time" has been given a personal relevance that suggests caution in attempting to interpret any event in which one was personally involved. The document advocating a "celebration of togetherness," written with a friend one spring afternoon in 1981, which some have said was the first burst of energy that led directly to Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival, is a "starting point" I returned to for this study and truly began to "know for the first time." Self and non-self were not easily separated. One sense of my subjective problem in studying this particular festival, its genesis, and its intended and unintended meanings was suggested by Milan Kundera in Laughable Loves:
Man passes through the present with his eyes blindfolded. He is permitted merely to sense and guess at what he is actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can he glance at the past and find out what he has experienced and what meaning it had.(8)
My "glance" (Chapter III) back to 198O-81, a period that led to Chattanooga's renewal of a town festival in 1982 and that also generated significant debate about the nature of festival, can be viewed as demonstrating the actual public and private participation process by which a new space was made for a festival intended to be different from any in the city's recent experience. This collective community "composition" period resembles the anthropological description of "liminal" time and space. Yet Riverbend soon departed from its original objectives, and the imaginative outpouring of local creative energy that might have been has been forgotten by many of us who were involved at the time. Most records of such "questioning" periods of civic ferment, which also apparently occurred in Charleston, can be lost to future scholars because it appears the institutions that emerge from this "in-between zone" become dominant and tend to repress knowledge of other forms that might have emerged and possibly would have threatened the present dominant entity. It is my hope that the "questioning" attitude that produced Riverbend will continue and that this study will contribute to that "festival spirit" of inquiry.
One example of such continuing curiosity about the possibility of a special festival "spirit" led to my participation in a type of festival predicted from the analysis but not experienced or noticed in the literature. I was exposed to a new kind of festival when several members of the Chattahoochee Country Dancers (New England contra dancing) group in Atlanta, after hearing of the ideas presented here, said they thought the bi-annual Black Mountain traditional music and dance festival was very different from the examples I had mentioned. This festival, located at a church camp and lake near the Black Mountain community some ten miles west of Ashville, North Carolina, was in its eleventh year in May 1989. Although some of its features are characteristic of any festival, its apparent lack of political, commercial, or religious purpose suggests there could be a festival based on the play principle as described by J. Huizinga's work on the play element in culture and J. Pieper's theory of festival. It represents a festival theater in which various types of folk group dancing and even modern couples swing dancing are its primary purpose, as opposed to civic image building, increasing tourism, or riverfront development. However, attendance is almost completely white, which suggests the hidden racist effect of traditional "heritage" festivals. More information is needed to explore this alternative festival form; however, conversations with one of Black Mountain's founders, the popular contra dance caller Fred Park, make it clear that large numbers of participants are discouraged in that the festival is no longer advertised and, to prevent overcrowded dance floors, attendance is now limited. Park is one of the festival's sources of artistic energy, probably the equivalent of Charleston's Menotti; his choreography, or "calling," is regarded as a special event, much as Menotti's directing of an opera is of unusual interest. Park's views on the festival and my participation in it strongly suggest that no purpose other than "play" or "pleasure" explains the growing popularity of this alternative to what is termed in this study a political or propagandistic festival theater.
The Black Mountain Festival of Traditional Music and Dance announced "The Black Mountain New World Festival" to follow its customary weekend program for May 1990. It advertised a celebration of "contemporary culture as influenced by global communication" with "contemporary music, all kinds of dance, new games, group art, environmentally sound technology, and surprises." The emergence of a festival of "differences" from a successful festival of "sameness" is suggested by this development, one that could also occur in similar heritage festivals such as Chattanooga's Riverbend. It should be recognized that the uncertainty of social effects in this and similar "heritage" festivals precludes simplistic conclusions about such complex cultural practices.
My curiosity about festivals started with a visit to Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. Festival in 198O, after reading a newspaper article about its effects on the city. That visit led to a visit to the 198O Salzburg Festival. During the 198Os, I was able to return to Charleston's evolving festival and experience the power of that city's and its festival's artistic magic. Soon after I began graduate study at Emory University in January of 1985, Dr. Edna Bay, Associate Dean of Emory's Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, suggested that in view of my experience in Chattanooga, I might consider the study of festivals. In the summer of 1985, while a student in Emory's British Studies program at University College, Oxford, I visited several British festivals and began the formal research for this study. In 1986 I visited Chicago's Ravinia Festival and other Chicago urban festivals. In 1987 I visited the festivals of Stratford, Ontario; the Chautauqua Institution at Jamestown, New York, and Artpark, at Niagara Falls, New York. I attended all but one of Chattanooga's Riverbend festivals. Without the assistance of the leaders and busy staff members of these festivals, this work could not have been written. I thank them all for giving me precious moments during their busiest time for answering questions, for admission to festival events, and for their encouragement in exploring the art of the festival.
A 1985 Emory University seminar, "Toward an Archeology of Modern European Theater," offered by Professor Timothy J. Reiss (now chair of comparative literature at New York University), provided my first exposure to various semiotic and drama theories that offered a conceptual language suitable for beginning an analysis of festivals. Professor Reiss' tolerance for my limited understanding of these vast fields of knowledge--and his endless patience with my curiosity about semiotics as a possible extension of my background in communication studies--provided the personal and scholarly leadership needed to pursue the topic of festivals to the end of the beginning that this dissertation represents. To him and the other two readers of this work, Robert Detweiler of Emory University's Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, and Robert Segrest of the University of Florida's Department of Architecture, I wish to express my appreciation for their assistance, patience, and understanding during the slow genesis and development of these ideas. The counsel of Professor Monica Rector, a good friend and colleague in semiotics, and was extremely helpful in the early formulation of the study and in suggesting an earlier title for it, "Writing Festival; Writing on Festival," which suggests the postmodernist character of a larger work yet to be written.
I especially thank my parents, Doris and Neal Hetzler, for making it possible for me to take time away from business and farm activities for this research.
Several business associates, particularly William Krause, David N. Brooks, Jr., and Grant Tuttle of McKee Baking Company's purchasing department, were especially tolerant of those occasions when I was not present to conduct business as usual; their support generated the income without which this work would not have been written.
The editorial assistance and encouragement of Dorothy DuBose in particular as well as Tanya Augsburg and Charles Sills of Emory University's Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts in reviewing both the substance and style of drafts of this work was much needed and appreciated.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the stimulation, help, and encouragement of professors, colleagues, festival lovers, musicians, friends, and relatives who contributed directly or indirectly to this work. They include: Edna G. Bay, Fred Berringer, Paul Bouissac, Daniel Bowles, Reneé Brachfeld, John Bugge, David Darling, Catherine Eagar, Dorinda Evans, Elizabeth Farr, John Farr, Jean-Claude Gardin, Doris (Sorrel) Hays, Joan E. Hetzler, Morris C. Hetzler, William R. Hetzler, Bernard Holland, Deanne Irvine, J. Nelson Irvine, Art Jennings, J. Kenneth Kansas, Gianni Longo, John T. Lupton, Vernon Magnuson, Gian Carlo Menotti, Linda Metcalf, Denis Mickiewicz, Carol Miles, Sharon Mills, Deaderick Montague, Will Montague, Jack Murrah, Charlotte Muse, Fred Park, W. A. Bryan Patten, Z. Cartter Patten, Robert A. Paul, David Rawle, Monica Rector, Nigel Redden, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Arthur Rivituso, Eloise Robbins, Frank M. (Mickey) Robbins, III, Dalton Roberts, Sally Robinson, Samuel Robinson, Charles A. Rose, Thomas Sebeok, Toby Simon, Bruce Storey, Albert J. Sullivan, Allen Tullos, Charles S. Wadsworth, and Dana F. White.
Special appreciation is due to Dr. Theodore S. Stern, Spoleto Festival U.S.A.'s first board chairman, for granting permission to reproduce the transcript of his complete story of the founding of Charleston's festival, and also to him and to Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., for hosting the Chattanooga Friends of the Festival group's visit to Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in 1981.
TIME AND PLACE OF DIFFERENCES:
THE IDEA OF A FESTIVAL THEATER
Stories of Origin
The basic desire "to festival" is not unlike the social impulse that for uncertain motives makes one ask, "What if we had a party?" Such a fragile impulse may be killed by such thoughts as: "What if nobody came?" "How do we pay for it?" "What if it rains?" "Where will they park?" Only a strong purpose can overcome such reasonable anxieties. The simple urge to overcome isolation, alienation, and simple loneliness may drive the urge to have a party, to "festival."
For example, Gian Carlo Menotti, founder of the Spoleto festivals, seems to have drawn upon his festivals as a source of renewed personal artistic energy. His actions could be interpreted as a way of justifying his own existence as an artist, as well as a political step toward proving the value of artists in general. He has said that he felt his creative life was at an end in his forties, when he turned to the work of bringing life to the village of Spoleto, Italy, using "art" to show the power of art.(9) One of Menotti's reasons for intervening in the affairs of the small Italian village was that he wanted to prove art was not only an after-dinner mint but that it could be the main meal itself, not the soup but the main course.(10) Menotti's anecdote illustrates what might be called a "creation myth" or a "story of origin" that emerges over time as a simple story told over and over in the festival programs and in the news media.
In the few complete histories of the international arts festivals, such as Gallup's recent Salzburg Festival,(11) a recurring issue is the public questioning of the original idea of the festival. Festival officials and critics frequently ask whether previous, current, and future programming is "true" to the original idea. In Salzburg's case the original idea was to stage a medieval play in front of the scenic town's beautiful cathedral. Today's musical emphasis on Mozart evolved later, although late nineteenth-century festival efforts there did include Mozart. The shape and character of that "idea" remains the core of one of the world's great art and music festivals. It suggests that such stories of origin, which in this case emphasize the town's physical beauty as a theater, can provide an access point for understanding the multiple meanings of these unique social institutions in other times and places.
Similar "creation myths" are found in stories of the origin of other festivals, whose actual founding events have been obscured by time, publicity agents, or new masters. "Who cares about the `truth?'" a cynic might ask. "Leave sleeping dogs alone," an investor in property adjacent to a festival once said privately during an interview for this study. A practical reply is that some important lesson might be learned by taking a closer look at why and how new social entities emerged from the chaotic "soup" of times past, a lesson or two that might have value when similar choices again will exist. An equally practical reply is that such stories of origin are interesting and pleasurable in themselves as an art form and need no other justification for their telling.
For a critic, the importance of the "text" of a creation myth, and its expression in the festival itself and its brochures, is that it "functions" as a steering device for continuing the festival in the direction its various shapers intended. "Why a festival in Charleston?" The actual answers vary widely. "Well, Mr. Menotti wanted a nice place to have a festival." "Menotti said our city was an art form in itself." "A friend of Menotti's persuaded him to come here." "The National Endowment said to spend tax money on artists in America, not on going to Italy." "Maestro Menotti wanted to show that artists are valuable to society and should be given better treatment." "Art should not be an after dinner mint but the main meal." (This last statement was the reason most frequently mentioned in the 1986-88 Charleston interviews). It is apparently not recorded anywhere, not even in an informal history, that one powerful local citizen did his best to keep the festival out of Charleston.(12) Possibly this incident is one reason that, after eleven years, no official Spoleto Festival U.S.A. history exists.
A deeper probe of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. reveals several complicated stories: a mayor who assumed responsibility for the festival when it appeared doomed; Menotti as a famous artist fighting inexperienced if well-meaning local control of artistic performances; Frances Edmunds, a strong architectural preservationist, who became a strong supporter of Spoleto Festival U.S.A.'s changes. It would have been more probable that some of those Charlestonians most involved, such as the mayor and a college president and a preservationist who had the most to fear from the coming of a new, "foreign," thing, would have been intimidated successfully by the powerful opposition's predictable warnings of harmful effects for the historic community.
From this perspective the presence of a Menotti, an experienced composer and festival artistic director who was and remains the principal designer of the festival, suggests a study of the festival's "story of origin" as a starting point in understanding not only what happened and why, but also what the meanings of this series of events signify. The examples of the written and recollected "stories of origin" from the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals provide the critical "textual" foundation on which to build more fully developed interpretations of these festivals and their multiple meanings.
Official "stories of origin" of a festival, and possibly those of similar social structures, can be contradictory in the written and recalled record. The participants often have differing recollections of these emotional times. The records of Charleston's and Chattanooga's festival productions suggest that several "true histories" of these mythic moments can co-exist without any reconciliation possible. The questions that emerge from this perspective have far-reaching public implications that merit careful consideration.
Of the three elements chosen for analysis, one principal concern is the use and abuse
of "art power," as Charleston's mayor (see Chapter II) has termed his belief in
the positive effects of art and artists.
Art Power and the Element
of the Artistic Director
Why would anyone fear Menotti's festival or resist giving power to an artistic director at a festival's inception? One explanation can be found in The Illusion of Power, where Stephen Orgel describes a subtle artistic problem of audience participation in the court masque of James I of England:
The climactic moment of the masque was nearly always the same: the fiction opened outward to include the whole court, as masquers descended from pageant car or stage and took partners from the audience. What the noble spectator watched, he ultimately became. The greatest problems in such a form are posed by protocol. Masquers are not actors; a lady or gentleman participating in a masque remains a lady or a gentleman, and is not released from the obligation of observing all the complex rules of behavior at court....But playing a part, becoming an actor or actress, constitutes an impersonation, a lie, a denial of the true self. Prynne's work on The Scourge of Players in 1633 spoke for many in viewing the woman actors as notorious whores. Now for speaking roles professionals had to be used and this meant that the form, composite by nature, was in addition divided between players and masquers, actors and dancers.(13)
The masque form developed for James I and his queen rapidly separated into two sections:
The first, called the antimasque, was performed by professionals, and presented a world of disorder or vice, everything that the ideal world of the second, the courtly main masque, was to overcome and to supercede.(14)
The parallel between the festival and the "fringe" festivals that often evolved suggests the "antimasque" character of the fringe, which the main festival must dominate.
Orgel also notes in this discussion of the masque that Renaissance festivals were the province of the greatest artists of the age. He points out that the age believed in the "power" emphasis of art to persuade, transform, preserve, and masques could no more be dismissed as flattery than could portraits. Shakespeare's The Tempest, he argues, illustrates the use of art to create belief, a process that appears to be a similarity between that age and the current age of carefully staged political television spectacle. The action of Prospero's masque within the play is cited to show that it is Prospero's unique vision and quality of mind that have been controlling--steering--the play:
In an obvious way that power is the power of imagination, but only if we take all the terms of the phrase literally. Imagination here is real power: to rule, to control and order the world, to change or subdue other men, to create; and the source of the power is imagination, the ability to make images, to project the workings of the mind outward in a physical active form, to actualize ideas, to conceive actions. The mind for Prospero, then, is an active and ongoing faculty (not, that is, a contemplative one) and the relation between his art and his power is made very clear by the play.(15)
In the most literal sense, then, it is "making believe" that "makes belief," the artist "acting upon the world, not within it" in a discourse of hidden power. It is a true tribute to the idea that "making believe makes belief," that "art power" does translate into real power.
From this perspective, it seems clear why business executives in Charleston and
Chattanooga and even ancient Athens(16) would fear the
coming of a Prospero before their plans were fixed. That their festival's stories of
origin leave out this part of the story is not surprising; what is surprising is the
extraordinary fact not of critical acclaim of the Charleston festival but that it ever was
born. The Chattanooga festival of, to be brief, "sameness" was predictable; the
Charleston festival of, for a short label, "differences" was unexpected and
unlikely in such a tradition-conscious city. One can speculate that the composer and
impresario in Menotti was not unaware of the inherent tensions involved in bringing an
avant garde festival to such a community. More likely it was the expectant civic
leadership that was unaware of the onslaught of the "new" about to launch itself
from their city. As can be seen from recollections of a leading banker's reaction after
visiting the Spoleto, Italy, festival (see Chapter II), some local civic leaders
apparently viewed this "new thing" more as a "beast slouching toward
`Charlestontown' to be born," to paraphrase a line from Yeats' "The Second
Coming," where traditional practices would "fall apart" and the
"center would not hold." It was to mean the opening of new spaces where the
artist would hold center stage.
The Element of the Empty Space
If the category of artistic director as a primary source of artistic imagination emerges as a basic festival function, regardless of whether such a person is in fact present or absent, then the element of the surrounding physical environmental frame that attracts artistic interest requires examination. It appears that the festival's ideological and physical space itself functions as a type of "liminal time and space," that is, a social practice existing as a "gap" or "overlap" among the network of formal institutions and social structures.(17) This has the effect of making a festival a background framing device, no more noticeable than a proscenium arch in traditional stage design, yet no less powerful in shaping the relations of elements within the frame, requiring only a "director" as Peter Brook has implied in the first word, "I," of the beginning pages of his discussion in The Empty Space:
I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.(18)
The opening and closing statements of any work of art or criticism cannot be taken casually and, as a successful director, Brook should be taken literally in this observation. Brook's "empty space" term has been cited by many. A significant use of the idea, which will be explored further in the final chapter, is found in its development as a key concept by Nggi wa Thiong'o's Decolonizing the Mind:
Drama in pre-colonial Kenya...could take place anywhere--wherever there was an `empty space,' to borrow the phrase from Peter Brook. `The empty space,' among the people, was part of that tradition....Both the missionaries and the colonial administration used the school system to destroy the concept of the `empty space' among the people by trying to capture and confine it in government- supervised urban community halls, schoolhalls, churchbuildings, and in actual theatre buildings with the proscenium stage. Between 1952 and 1962 the `empty space' was even confined behind barbed wire in prisons and detention camps where the political detainees and prisoners were encouraged to produce slavishly pro-colonial and anti-Mau Mau propaganda plays.(19)
That the space must first be "empty" to serve as a bare stage seems an obvious point. "Any empty space," Brook said, not "any empty theater." Therefore, we will have to admit even a barren desert as a possible stage. It need not be filled with props--rocks, trees, boxes, rubble, or even dead bodies--to do its work as a bare stage. However, it becomes a bare stage, a theater or "place for seeing" in the Greek sense, only when the "I," the "imagining, creative I," chooses to "name" the empty space a bare stage so that one person can view another on it. It follows then that the creative mind of this artistic practice, any "artistic director," requires only that a space be "unfilled" to have the potential of a theatrical space, a "bare stage" that can be filled with some "meaning."
That we as artists and spectators alike respond not only to the "stage scenery" but also to the physical and symbolic environmental context around us has been noted by no less a master of political drama than Winston Churchill, who is quoted on a poster in the office of the Spoleto U.S.A assistant director, Carmen Kovens, as saying, "We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us." The function of "contextual empty space" will be a key issue in this effort to understand better what these two festivals are and what they do. One could paraphrase Churchill's statement for this study as: "We shape our festivals and thereafter they shape us." Just as we forget to notice our buildings, we forget to notice our festivals and similar shaping contexts, not as environments that actually determine our beliefs but as powerful theatrical arenas that unobtrusively shape our ideas about what objects are like and unlike, about what, for example, colors of persons belong together or are kept separate.
We may say provisionally that Aristotle was correct in noting that festive effects produced by the mise-en-scène put one at the mercy of the technicians, especially at an outdoor festival, but that, on the other hand, the setting design can be a highly artistic element for some directors skilled in this medium. Menotti's town festivals, from this perspective, can be regarded, in the view of the Spoleto festival general manager in 1986, as a seventeen-day performance work on the city stage, which would go far in explaining why this modern Prospero sought an American city that was "an art work in itself." The empty space was as important as its performances, all mise-en-scène with form and content inseparable.
"Festivals," then, can be classified as a form of "meaning-making"
theater in bounded spaces. The emphasis is on the visual frame and the special character
of the space, which apparently define the type of festival just as the shape of the stage
has defined various types of theater as open air, in-the-round, proscenium arch, and
The Element of Purpose
The physical nature of the festival theater, although an important element in circumscribing its particular empty space, appears to be only one primary form of classification. The intentions of its creators form another classification category. From this view the theater has been labeled one of "cruelty," absurdity," "essence," "alienation," and so on, generally based on the dramatist's apparent intention. A close examination of the written record from the creative process followed by the Charleston and Chattanooga festival organizers reveals a misunderstanding, often a source of tension, about the subtle differences of goals, methods, and ends--or, in other terms, intentions, functions, and effects.
Brook's view of the "deadly, holy, rough, immediate" theater is grounded on the effect, not just on audience response but on active participation. He says near his conclusion:
...we can see that without an audience there is no goal, no sense. What is an audience? In the French language amongst the different terms for those who watch, for public, for spectator, one word stands out, is different in quality from the rest. `Assistance'--I watch a play: `j' assiste à une pièce. To assist--the word is simple: it is the key.(20)
From this perspective Brook's "empty space" has not only the three primary elements of director, stage, and actor but also a fourth, an audience of "watchers," or, in his precise sense, "assisters." For the festival "without an audience there is no goal, no sense."
Festivals can be defined provisionally as an essentially theatrical genre of artistic multi-functional structures composed of context, text, and subtext--"artistic" in terms of the medium and effect if not necessarily in terms of a more "political or social" intention. Most traditional literary, semiotic, and structural analyses of artistic works have focused on these three dimensions as separate entities, with the written text receiving emphasis as the primary meaning-making code. However, less attention has been given to the problem posed by the possibility that "contexts," such as the court itself, can be the product of the artistic imagination as much as "texts," such as the actual masques, and their underlying structural subcodes, or "subtexts," such as Prospero's masque. What is most noticeable is that the festival "operates," or "functions," whether consciously intended or not by its creators and administrators, as a "container of signifiers" from which any traditional "unity of action" is often absent at the programming "textual" level but appears upon careful examination to be present at the contextual level. Within this frame, as will be described in Chapters II and III, the founders' intentions shape a signifying practice with a clear "unity of action," where the essential structural logic springs from the range of textual differences.
The logic of seemingly incompatible features can be noted in complaints about a festival. A recent history, for example, has reported two seemingly "inappropriate" elements in Austria's "elitist" Salzburg Festival, one a "carnival atmosphere" and the other an "anti-festival protest":
In past decades many critics decried Salzburg snobbishness; now they moan about the city's carnival atmosphere brought about by the advent of mass tourism....Most of these tourists will never set foot in a concert--anywhere--but they make life uncomfortable for those who will, and destroy the intimacy and charm which are Salzburg's trump cards....
In Salzburg this protest [in 1971] against the older generation took the form of the creation of an anti-Festival, Die Szene de Jugend, which as its title implies, was aimed at the youth of Salzburg who loved art and despised the bourgeoisie who paid a fortune for their tickets. The anti-Festival took to the streets, put on outdoor plays, operas, dances and poetic recitations...As time went on, the anger of the locals subsided, the Szene became more organized--and inevitably less shocking--and the city began to grant it small subsidies. Ironically, it is now advertised in the brochure of the Festival which it was created to mock.(21)
The idea of an "anti-festival," a term some Austrian sources dispute,(22) emerging within this "elitist" summer music festival and then becoming advertised in the main festival's brochure makes less aesthetic sense when the festival is seen as a collection of discrete performances than when a larger contextual aesthetic logic is assumed in which the contextual "trump cards" of "charm and intimacy" are juxtaposed within a "carnivalesque" atmosphere.
The possibility of isolating three levels of context, text, and subtext can lead to a new "textual" interpretation of the many meanings created by emerging, conflicting "voices" within encrusted performance categories and traditions. The extent of the presence or absence of these voices of "difference" appears to be the key code determining when a social practice becomes a "festival."
Even the word "festival" itself has powerful meaning. This is seen in its many commercial appropriations for shopping malls, newspaper advertising sections, a used car lot's "festival of values," and even by extremist "festivals of racial, ethnic, and religious heritage." Of deeper interest for this study are the specific elements of the festival theatrical practice that possess such "borrowing" power. Commercial users may not appreciate the significance of the idea of encouragement of "differences" that provides the foundation of their commercial exploitation of the practice.
As with any powerful technology, we can wish at times that its nature were a better kept secret; the evidence is clear that Nazi propagandists understood the belief-making power of art and festive spectacle as a form of political theater--a frightenly effective modern "theater of power" when its purpose is revealed:
Without in any way restricting the artistic concept, we may refer to stage and screen as effective instruments of nationalist education. In so doing, we transcend the colorless concept of the "moral institution," which permits extremely free interpretations of esthetics and substance, and depend entirely on the objective to be achieved [emphasis mine], because the concepts and principles of ethics are open to argument as long as these ethics are concealed within the folds of a meaningless creation of such concepts. The problem is clearly defined, however, as soon as we designate as good everything which serves the interest of the nation and as harmful everything that is detrimental to that interest [emphasis mine].
Dramatic art within its various forms grew out of political needs as in the Greek City State (Polis) or out of devotional needs as in the case of the Greek tragedy, and finally it developed through the desire of the masses for entertainment (comedy). Today, the devotional need of the masses is no longer satisfied by the theater but finds expression in the great devotional mass demonstrations of revolutionary National-Socialism which dominates the picture of our day....
It is certain that under present conditions the theater will continue to depend on financial support and government subsidies. This fact alone opens the way for complete control and planned direction, thereby eliminating the need for actual censorship....
Such achievements place the artist above the politician....He is endowed with the power of awakening, quickening, and actually forming those profound forces which constitute the nation's soul, whereas the calculating politician is merely left to act as guide and leader.(23)
Images from actual footage of Nazi "devotional mass demonstrations" in Triumph
of the Will reach most persons at some deep "emotional" level. Only by
questioning the "purpose" of such "demonstrations of unity and
sameness" can their true functioning be revealed for critical inquiry. It is of more
than passing interest to note that the word "festival" does not appear in this
early Nazi document. It was not until the late 193Os that the Nazis appropriated the
Salzburg Festival and paraded its "openness" before the world, a dramatic story
told in the Sound of Music film and in Gallup's A History of the Salzburg
Functions Mode of Analysis
What is a festival? One method of defining a complex cultural practice such as festival is to search for equivalent terms that describe its purpose and effects, which is a method of classification by the external qualities of a signifying practice. Standard dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of the word "festival" and related terms include both descriptive and active elements. Used as an adjective, "festival" means joyous, mirthful, gay. Used as a noun, "festival" signifies celebration, entertainment, or series of performances of a certain kind, often held periodically, such as a "Bach" festival. The related term "festivity" includes those same qualities as well as merriment or things done in celebration. A "celebration" is an action to praise, extol, commemorate, glorify, or honor. It is also an action to observe a holiday or an anniversary with festivities or to have a convivial good time. The sense of deliberately constructed meaning signified by celebration is not the same as the more diverse set of phenomena signified by festival.
"Carnival" is a term closely associated with "festival" in the sense of a revelry or time of revelry, festivity, merry-making, or an entertainment with side shows, rides, or games; it can be an activity usually operated as a commercial enterprise by social or charitable organizations. The Latin term, "carnem levare," means "to remove meat," which is associated with the period of feasting and fasting just before the beginning of the Lenten season, of which Mardi Gras is the last day.
Another related activity, "fair," is a gathering of people held at regular intervals for barter and sale of goods. A fair also can be a festival or carnival where there is entertainment and things are sold, such as a bazaar for charity. A fair can be an exhibition, often competitive, of manufactured products with various amusement facilities and educational displays.
"Exposition" normally describes a large public fair or show, often
international in scope; its related meaning in literature and music suggests information
or meaning brought out that was not previously present.
A simplifying commonality is not easily perceived. "People closely gathered together for a brief time in a small space with a specific goal of new experience" is a working definition that comes near to abstracting all but one element of these various standard definitions of such social practices. The exception is a purpose that seemingly is no purpose at all: play--joy, mirth, revelry, merry-making, entertainment. However, is this "purpose" possibly a hidden "effect" masked by the language of acceptable intentions? A broader defining mode is required to address such a semiotic problem in which knowledge of what is knowable is grounded in the limitation of language itself.
The question remains, therefore, how does one define a festival (and similar signifying practices) in addition to labeling its apparent aims or effects? Is there a definition process less dependent on subjective views and desires? To ask, "What is a festival?" generates as many responses as there are festivals themselves. Neither fair nor carnival, neither jamboree nor jubilee, the diversity of "festival" defies easy classification and definition by the tools of familiar language. One is tempted to reply that we cannot know what any thing "is" through our existing, subjective linguistic filters. However, "functional" linguistic filters suitable for a particular object and signifying practice can be derived from a sampling of thoughts from those closest to the practice. This is an approach derived from Vladimir Propp's advice in Morphology of the Folktale to extract classification from the material itself.(24)
Following this method, Vincent's late nineteenth-century "functions" characterization of the influential Chautauqua Institution, one of the oldest American summer arts festivals, provides an initial interpretive classification. Through this "template," festivals can be viewed as unique places waiting for a set of ideals expressed through the force of the artists and participants.(25) A sense of the thought represented by these three "functions" categories--place, ideal, force--and their interrelationships can be gleaned from a few samples of the written and recorded words of a few visionaries involved in the creation and evolution of Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. As an always incomplete archaeology of past civilizations can be constructed from pot fragments, so a partial archaeology of festivals can be constructed from bits and pieces of fragmentary evidence we find in various statements made about this festival: "...an example and inspiration." "...breeding ground for undesirables." "...reflects the culture of the times." "...$35O million dollars to this area." "...a long drawn-out Robert Wilson piece--a twenty-four-hour, seventeen-day piece." "...joy and pleasure." "...musicians and actors...feed off each other's inspirations." "...convince hardnosed businessmen that there is some financial benefit." "...for the joy of it." "...a social and political message." "...not very sympathetic to [bringing] art to the people." (From Spoleto Festival U.S.A. interviews, 1986).
Economic and aesthetic purposes and effects, underlying social and political functions--all are mixed in this sampling of comments made from 1958 to 1988 in interviews and written statements about Gian Carlo Menotti's Italian, American, and Australian Spoleto festivals. This selection of seemingly contradictory statements suggests that it is futile to search for a unity, or single overall theme, in the inherently plural textual structures of festivals. Even the idea of a textual "unitary theme" seems problematic. Unlike a carnival's historic relationship to the Catholic church's Lenten season, festivals often lack a defining "opposition" such as is found in Bakhtin's "official/unofficial" carnival dichotomy. However, one key to defining a festival by its social functions is found in Bakhtin's view of a festival's "absence of footlights:"
The absence of clearly established footlights is characteristic of all popular-festive forms. The utopian truth is enacted in life itself. For a short time this truth becomes to a certain extent a real existing force.(26)
This suggests the possibility of a theater veiled with multiple scrims that can be drawn to reveal the puppeteer at work. A study of the world of Menotti, as one of the more successful festival "puppeteers," offers the potential for valuable insight into the backstage arena of one of these city operas where footlights cast no shadows.
A "functions" mode of revealing a festival's "nature" and possible "meanings" can be derived from the social, political, economic, and religious signification and communication functions performed. In addition to key phrases from festival creators and managers, a broader sense of "festival" compiled from standard reference works can suggest functional categories. One function is that of a ritual celebration, or reenactment during certain periods or times that anticipate events or seasons (agricultural, religious, or socio-cultural), that give meaning and cohesiveness to an individual within a community. These days or periods generally originated in religious celebrations, and there are ritual commemorations that usually include sacred community meals.
In this sense, the festival can be understood as a social device functioning to make certain meanings "sacred," therefore "untouchable," or "magical." The time-space in which the festival is situated is "bounded" in this sense and temporarily placed off-limits from more secular purposes. Admission into this marked space is governed by various devices, and a wide range of social behavior is temporarily allowed. A festival's potential range of "functions" becomes determined by the particularities of its space, and the purposes and power of the individuals who control the uses of the marked space.
For example, following the original objectives, the Chattanooga Riverbend Festival has made its site, the Ross's Landing public park at the riverfront where the city began, a "special" place. It has been "consecrated" by several hundred thousand "festivallers" for seven years. Now that Chattanooga's commercial developers have claimed the festival's surrounding riverpark area for a privately operated complex with a hotel, offices, and an aquarium, its public availability for the festival is uncertain. This economic development became the primary goal of the festival's financial backers, a driving impulse that lay in part behind the economic exploitation of the original Riverbend Festival idea.
Several conflicting views of this use of the "art" of the festival can be defended. One could argue that this one festival was successful and that it reached its goal of making its location more meaningful to purchasers and thereby more valuable to its private investors. Or one could argue that selfish entrepreneurs captured a valuable public property and "deconsecrated" the people's park. Other interpretations can be advanced and defended. However, neither stated objectives nor arguable effects adequately probe the depths of the festival's multiple dimensions. For example, the deliberate intention of tying the festival to development of the water frontage(27) could have had a significance--a "textual" implication--much deeper than mere reward to private investors.
Overarching any specific "function" is the contextual "logic" of any complex signifying practice such as a festival. Logic in this sense is the system of principles underlying any art or science, rather than the more precise meaning of a science of correct reasoning. In this sense, the kindred entities of festival, carnival, and fair are a "logos," in the Greek sense of a combined form of word, speech, and discourse. The festival logos, then, provides "logodaedaly," a playing with "signs"--symbols or objects in close spatial and temporal proximity--functioning as a theater to transform meanings. This provides the festival forms's contextual logic of diversity, difference, chaos, disorder, inversion, nonsense. In all this the space exists for free play, for randomness, for unexpected outcomes. The festival provides a model of logic for accepting the arbitrariness of life; we learn to tolerate as normal the great range of diversity contained within its time and space.
"Function," then, is meant to signify that specific and particular action observed in an activity that connects it to its physical and imaginative environment. The special logical context of an action's function defines the activity, enabling identification not only by its purposes or effects alone. For instance, a tractor's steering wheel has the function of controlling the direction of the machine; within this mechanical structure's contextual logic, the steering wheel must be connected to at least one wheel. The machine's logic requires this "function" if any change in direction is possible.
Similarly, a festival's artistic director, general manager, or board chairperson controls its direction. This person (or persons) must be connected to those performance activities that point the festival in its particular direction. The evidence from the festivals examined is that the artistic director provides "precision" steering. The absence of either precise function, steering wheel or artistic director--both customarily present according to the current practice and logic of both structures--would invite attention to what, if any, alternative devices for direction setting are functioning. Awareness and naming of the "functioning" level of such features within a structure's logic makes possible a representation of the broader contextual logic in which various key devices or elements operate.
A deeper understanding of a festival's meaning and meaning-making process, then, comes from a semiotic representation of three interdependent qualities: intent, function, and effect. This critique of Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival and Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. applies this idea and its practical application. It is this idea of examining unnoticed functions that enables the observer to peer beyond idealistic or misleading intentions as well as accidental, random effect and to draw tentative conclusions about the signifying discourse of festivals.
This approach gives rise, for example, to the possibility mentioned above that festivals act as powerful integrating or segregating media, or as media that perform both these and other functions. Yet festival designers may have had no such idea in mind, and may even deny that festivals integrate or segregate disparate elements of a community, that festivals portray the desirability of social differences, or that they reinforce ethnic samenesses. As communication media, it may be that certain festivals speed up a surfacing of "new art," that is, "representations of new ways of seeing," even when planners are convinced the event is nothing more than a giant urban block party, as one Riverbend president claimed.(28)
A decoding of these patterns of functions can portray a "reality" formerly
"out of sight" in which both the modern as well as the Renaissance festival can
be seen, in British historian Roy Strong's metaphor, as a "theater of power."(29) Although the similarity of functions of fifteenth- and
twentieth century forms of festival practice is uncertain, Strong's analysis points to a
theater that combines various practices of power (economic, political, artistic, special
interest). This possible parallel suggests it is especially important to question the
nature of the interpretive "template" or "grid" or "contextual
logic" through which this theater imposes its power. The "functions
template" is one such grid that directs one's attention to "offstage"
forces, activities, and aims.
Perspectives and Semantic Framing
Various semiotic and structural analysis constructs provide the primary perspectives for development of a critical inquiry of festival practice. Eco, in particular, has offered a workable explanation of the mechanism of context as one of the multiple structural levels of festivals in terms of "overcoding, undercoding, and extracoding" operations:
Overcoded...entities float--so to speak--among the codes, on the threshold between convention and innovation. It is by a slow and prudent process that a society admits them to the ranks of the rules upon which it bases its own very raison d'être. Frequently a society does not recognize overcoded rules that in fact allow the social exchange of signs. A typical example is provided by the narrative rules, as outlined by Propp...the plot laws introduced by Propp were an abductive proposal that brought to light the existence of an overcoded language. These laws are now universally accepted as the items of a recognized narrative subcode.(30)
If festivals can be viewed as overcoded entities on the threshold between convention and innovation, an unrecognized rule-making operation simultaneously indexical, iconic, and symbolic that allows the social exchange of signs, then it is reasonable to ask whether potential "laws" of an accepted, recognized narrative subcode for festivals can be identified. As Eco has argued above, "Frequently a society does not recognize overcoded rules that in fact allow the social exchange of signs." Eco could have been speaking of festivals as "overcoded rules," "entities [that] float--so to speak--among the codes, on the threshold between convention and innovation. It is by a slow and prudent process that a society admits them to the ranks of the rules upon which it bases its own very raison d'être." This would lend support for a form of "Brechtian" theater that functions
as a political and social act whose goal seems both to place in question--or to counteract--the other form of theater [the Artaudian "metaphysical" theater], and to oppose and change actual social reality. From being an analysis of codes of action, indeed, it becomes an effort to produce real social praxis, and within a history for which the human individual as an authentic participant in the social collectivity will itself be responsible.(31)
The Nazi view of art and theater can be viewed in light of this perspective on the importance of "goals" and "purposes." The question, it seems, is not "whether" art forms have a purpose but rather "what" that purpose is. In a final note to his chapter on the theory of codes, Eco also points to what is a basic contention regarding festivals as meaning-making artistic contexts, or "circumstances":
But there is one aspect which is more interesting from the semiotic point of view, according to which the circumstance can become an intentional element of communication. If the circumstance helps one to single out the subcodes by means of which the messages are disambiguated this means that, rather than change messages or control their production, one can change their content by acting on the circumstances in which the message will be received. This is a `revolutionary' aspect of a semiotic endeavor. In an era in which mass communication often appears as the manifestation of a domination which makes sure of social control by planning the sending of messages, it remains possible (as in an ideal semiotic `guerilla warfare') to change the circumstances in the light of which the addressees will choose their own ways of interpretation. In opposition to a strategy of coding, which strives to render messages redundant in order to secure interpretation according to pre-established plans, one can trace a tactic of decoding where the message as expression form does not change but the addressee rediscovers his freedom of decoding.(32)
In summary, the festival theater can be seen as a deliberate framing device in which not only context, or "circumstance," but also texts and subtexts are in artistic free play, where participating spectators are "addressees" in potential opposition to "senders" (sponsors and performers) in a dramatic "semiotic guerilla war" in the time and space of the festival. A view of "homo ludens," "humans at play," as yet has no place in this general construction of what appears to be little more than a Darwinian "theater of power." However, a space must be reserved in the concluding remarks for evidence that a festival's "multi-functionality" also can be a time and space for no other purpose but play, pleasure, romance, "jouissance."
For no other reason than the several millions of dollars that have been spent on the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals since their beginning, this issue could be regarded as worthy of careful study. Also, the shape, form, and evolution of the "empty" urban theater deserves thoughtful attention as, in Menotti's phrase, an "art form in itself." However, beyond the economic and physical environment is the interplay of the force of one or several individuals' festival vision with the forces of resistance and reaction. This process, in Charleston and Chattanooga at least, was a behind-the-scenes, winner-take-all struggle for dominance.
In such an extreme set of oppositions lies the interest and value of comparing
Charleston's and Chattanooga's tale of two festivals. Possibly the narrative reflects a
larger "tale of two cities" and how other forgotten or
repressed festival stories were still-born or aborted. That story, however, would require
social science and economic methodology not yet developed, and would need not only an
enormous budget but also a nonexistent, yet emerging conviction, that the
"festival" is important enough to justify significant public and private
Implications of Festivals Viewed
As a "Place of the Different"
In light of this introductory framing of the subject and several approaches to it, Strong's view of the "mirroring" function of a Renaissance festival takes on new significance:
Revamped medieval romance, the imagery of Sacred Empire, of Christianity and classical myth and history provided the absolutist monarch with an encyclopedia of universally understood symbols with which to promote his rule.(33)
"Promoting his rule" is a much more interventionist function of a festival theater than merely presenting "allegories" of the times. So also do contemporary festivals provide state, corporation, university, and church with an "encyclopedia of universally understood symbols" that compose the contemporary American city festival's "mise-en-scéne" and that actively "promote" the wishes and desires of civic "rulers." What the overall consequences of such an encyclopedia of symbolic signs, if it exists at all, might be is a matter that would require significant research resources and new methodology for the numerous festival materials and studies available for review. The power of the new technological "theaters" of public media in contemporary society is such that the potential new insights into the imagistic nature of human communication processes may justify the costs.
The well-documented history of forms of theater from Aristotle to Shakespeare to Artaud to Brecht to Tyrone Guthrie is evidence of the importance of the physical element in the dramatic meaning-making process. Salzburg opened in 192O with an outdoor performance of Hofmannsthal's Everyman morality play on a temporary stage in front of the main cathedral. Like Menotti, the director saw the town as potential theater.
If a society believes that such "make believe" literally makes belief, then a theoretical door is ajar through which can be glimpsed the possibility of new insights into the nature and function of the creative and communication processes by which the "social exchange of signs" occurs in festivals and related genres. If no sign exists out of context, then attention must be focused on the actual mechanisms of the sign-context relationship and the possibility of a shift from a one-way, ethnocentric sender/receiver communication model to a helical, multi-dimensional, contextual reception model. Attempts at construction of a "semiotic of festival," an "overall picture" of festivals, as Strong suggested, should produce syntheses that will increase understanding of basic aspects of the "stupendous development" of festivals and of their resurgence in shaping as well as in mirroring their eras as truly unusually powerful "signs of the times." Or, as one drama scholar has worded the issue of the "nature and function" of a "festival theater" so precisely:
The [Brechtian theater]...goes toward a social realism and a socio-political practice. It proceeds from an analysis of social (and other) "codes" as found in positivism and capitalism, toward their setting into crisis. This eventually leads to a theatre as a political and social act whose goal seems both to place into question--or to counteract--the other form of theatre, and to oppose and change actual social reality.(34)
The evidence that follows suggests that the modern arts festival, exemplified by Spoleto Festival U.S.A., has evolved into just such a Brechtian theater with political, social, environmental, economic, and theological implications so powerful that Eco's term of an emerging "guerilla semiotic warfare" is no understatement. The written and recollected intentions of the founders of the two festivals in Charleston and Chattanooga leave little doubt that both festivals were a "socio-political...effort to oppose and change actual social reality." In the Riverbend case, however, the initial emergence of a Brechtian theater was suppressed by the use of a more dominant form of the very same ideological practice that its founders intended to "place into question." If these views appear paradoxical, they represent the actual events described in the following two chapters. They suggest that a broader semiotic perspective is required for extended analysis of their meanings and implications.
This new but very old social theater could be called "Menottian," the reasons for which should be clear in the following chapter. Maestro Gian Carlo Menotti's festivals appear to be a new genre of theatrical practice incorporating the Aristotelian "illusory" stage, the Artaudian "metaphysical, imagistic" dramatic event, and the Brechtian arena of "political and social action." That this metaphor has the plurality of a three-ring circus is understandable in view of the differences contained within the festival theater. It is possible that festival is the general historical class of which theater is a sub-genre; however, little festival theory exists to support this claim and thus drama theory must suffice for this initial study. The possibility that the festival is a primary class of social practice is suggested by noting that in my newspaper clipping files on festivals there is a Festival of Circuses, but to date no circus of festivals has come to my attention.
The Spoleto Festival U.S.A. had a small circus during 1986 and 1988, a circus enjoyed by children and at the same time by attentive adults. It was a delightful parody of the nineteenth-century "political" circuses that told immigrants how lucky they were to be Americans. In 1986 everyone laughed with the children when four horses balked at coming through the tent door all at once and lost their riders; only later did the audience learn that this was not part of the script. Planned or random, it worked, an expression of what Charles Wadsworth termed "art as organized surprise," where even the mishaps appear to be part of the "play."
Too much in too small a space, or the inverse, often is a source of the tension that provokes laughter. I suspect Maestro Menotti has not attempted to articulate fully and publicly in his Italian, American, and Australian festival communities his vision of a new festival theater form of civic opera, in which all these small "worlds" are a living theater that has so much artistic diversity in so many small spaces, or so much commercial sameness in one relatively small space, as evolved in Chattanooga.
As the next chapter on Menotti's festival in Charleston with its forerunner in Spoleto, Italy, describes, Menotti and his brilliant associates have left some signs along the trail for others to decode in learning how his festivals create so much pleasure for those who prepare and make the "pilgrimage" Tyrone Guthrie recommended in 1953 for those coming to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.(35)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL U.S.A.:
WHERE FOOTLIGHTS CAST NO SHADOWS
Menotti's New Theater
The development of Menotti's three festivals in Italy, America, and Australia is a cultural story of major importance.(36) Menotti's plan to create a festival different from Salzburg and Edinburgh evolved from his strategy of viewing "art as the main course." (All quoted comments on Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in this and other chapters are from the 1986 and 1988 interviews unless otherwise indicated.)(37)
That art was not merely an "after-dinner mint" for entertainment and escape from the day's chores was the "new" idea Menotti brought to America from its 1958 beginning in a small Italian village of the same name. "Differences" are not received with eagerness by entrenched interests in many communities; "differences" with the emotional intensity of the performing arts, particularly when challenging the supremacy of capitalist values, can generate equally intense responses from love to hate. It appears from the record in both Charleston and Chattanooga and from the histories of Salzburg and Stratford that when a major festival is proposed, powerful political and economic forces quickly rise in reaction to fears of restructuring the very identity of the community.
This happened in both Charleston and Chattanooga with dramatically different consequences. In Chattanooga, the "powerful private citizen" character in the drama probably won because there was no "powerful public figure" or "college president with resources" to come to "rescue the stranger's new and different idea." Many communities have successfully driven off the "stranger" and "bearer of new ideas," as Menotti could be portrayed. This view suggests the special, albeit improbable, nature of "traditional" Charleston, its visionary mayor, college president, and "preservationist," and its strong municipal governmental political structure as being more willing and able to provide an "empty space" than was Chattanooga.
Charleston presented a hospitable, receptive theatrical stage for Menotti to present a seventeen-day, real-life opera where the "city itself is an art form," as the maestro was quoted on numerous occasions (Appendix A) in explaining why he picked Charleston from a list of Southern cities proposed by his staff and the National Endowment for the Arts. This aesthetic marriage of Menotti and Charleston, artist and town theater, resulted in an unusual performance event, according to general manager Nigel Redden in a l986 interview:
I feel that the Spoleto Festival is not like other festivals. It is not like the American Dance Festival, which I worked for, or the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. I have put on some festivals myself--one called New Music America and another called New Dance USA. I think this is more like a long drawn-out Robert Wilson piece--a twenty-four-hour, seventeen-day piece.
Wilson's work has been termed a "theater of visions,"(38) part opera and part architecture, sometimes lasting a day or more, such as his epic, as yet unproduced in its totality, twelve-hour the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down. In other words, Redden envisioned a Menotti operatic production enacted throughout much of the city itself. If this is a "Menottian" theater, it is one with few if any contemporary parallels in its intended multiplicity of directors, bare stages, actors, and audiences. Menotti's response to the city as an art form is so self-conscious, so deliberate, it is surprising that there is no evidence of a Robert Wilson work in the Spoleto festivals to date.(39) Possibly, however, a Wilsonian idea is present in Menotti's town theater. That such a complex idea could not be readily transferred elsewhere without such a creative director, no matter how spectacular the site or wealthy the patron, seems an obvious conclusion.
Looking at the design and boundaries of the "emptiness," one gains a perspective similar to that of seeing "negative space" in the visual arts field. As was suggested in the preceding discussion, both an ideological and physical time and space apparently must exist or be created, as a precondition, before other elements of the festival theater emerge. This pattern appears in the genesis and evolution of Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. It also emerges in the 1986 and 1988 Charleston interviews. For example, the manager of the Melbourne Spoleto festival, Colin Sturm, noted that both Spoleto, Italy, and Charleston were stagnant, "empty" spaces that Menotti's artists brought to "life." Charleston Mayor Riley has termed this "art power."(40)
Yet the power of art has its limitations when the framing is inappropriate. Menotti
said at a press conference at Spoleto 1988 that he felt the Melbourne festival was a
failure and he did not feel needed there. Mayor Riley quickly responded to this comment by
assuring Menotti and the assembled press corps the maestro was very much needed in
Charleston, a sign of public support signifying "public receptiveness" more than
courteous display of official hospitality. If the Australian festival (the first was in
1986) did not go well for Menotti, it may be that the sheer size of Melbourne prohibited
opening up the space for his type of festival. From the perspective of the importance of a
festival's physical setting, assuming the necessity for an "empty space" in the
host community offers practical reasons for exploring the success or failure of some
festivals. The lack of ideological "empty space" offers another strategy for
examining the deficiencies of flawed festivals.
Functions of a "Serious" Festival
The festival's general triadic framework has been presented: a place, an ideal, a force. Yet a festival is difficult to represent, as noted earlier, by its visible features. A specific central idea, a vivid framing device, is needed that places a festival's complexity in a new perspective, a frame that provides insight into the basic nature, function, and meanings of practices such as Menotti's Spoleto festivals.
One such dominant image is available from Stratford's first artistic director, Tyrone Guthrie. To what did he attribute the festival's success? His reflections about the first 1953 Stratford, Ontario, festival came soon after directing the internationally acclaimed productions of Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well under the new tent with its unusual thrust stage. This was "a new kind of theatre...built for the new manner of production which was practised there...," Robertson Davies wrote in the preface to Renown at Stratford.(41) Guthrie addressed the issue of the value of a festival itself:
In conclusion I want to urge the advantage of the Theatre Festival over just having a theatre which works week in, week out, year after year....
This is where the Festival comes in. It makes attendance at the play something of a Pilgrimage. The wise Pilgrim will not be in too much of a hurry. Masterpieces demand respect. One must give to them at least the same attention as to a serious business conference. One must be prepared to do some homework beforehand, some meditation afterwards.
A Festival should offer, as Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Stratford, England, do, opportunities to absorb great works of art in an appropriate atmosphere, with other people of similar taste bent on the same errand. For this reason small, countrified towns, where life is comparatively calm, make the best Festival Cities.(42)
The festival itself can become a community's "powerful, dominating imagistic template" for an entire year, much like Bakhtin's argument that in a festival form "the utopian truth is enacted in life itself" and "for a short time this truth becomes to a certain extent a real existing force."(43)
A "serious" festival functions as much more than a device for the development of increased tourism, new business, or civic image enhancement (although often these are its mixed blessings). Guthrie's idea of a festival "functioning"--whether intended or unintended--to make attendance at an arts event a "serious" experience akin to a "pilgrimage" with "some homework beforehand, some meditation afterwards" points toward a deeper significance of the potential nature and function of the festival theater, one with theological overtones of belief-making power. And his sensitivity to the value of a suitable festival city as a sort of great cathedral, one where a festival could be the "peak of the year," explains Menotti's strong preference for Charleston's eighteenth-century shell over other Southeastern American cities. Here the "urban" space was less filled, more open for the "new," yet "comparatively calm."
In considering why Menotti's festival found a home in Charleston, the importance of the "empty" urban "contextual" frame cannot be overemphasized. In the essay, "Center-City, Empty Center," in Empire of Signs, Roland Barthes saw Tokyo as offering the opposite of the typical Western city:
...in accord with the very movement of Western metaphysics, for which every center is
the site of truth, the center of our cities is always full: a marked
site, it is here that the values of civilization are gathered and condensed: spirituality
(churches), power (offices), money (banks), merchandise (department stores), language
(agoras: cafés and promenades) [emphasis mine]: to go downtown or to the
center-city is to encounter the social "truth," to participate in the proud
plentitude of "reality."(44)
Guthrie and Barthes agree with the notion of the essential character of the physical city. Guthrie's "too busy" is Barthes' "always full," a city of presences, not absences where there is "room" for the new and different to co-exist with the old and the same.
Meaning in the Western city, functioning as an ideogram, is condensed at the center, where, predictably, there is little space for the new, for renewed meaning. Yet festival "pilgrims" seek the sacred "festival space," a place and time for "some homework beforehand, some meditation afterwards." Significantly, Barthes groups language with "agoras," from the Athenian chief marketplace or public square, and "cafés and promenades." That one downtown center site holds the "social truth" became the central idea of Chattanooga's festival, entirely the opposite of the ideogram of Charleston's multiple "realities" and "truths" that emerge from its many indoor and outdoor "empty spaces." One may ask, then, where and how are, in Barthes' words, "the values of Western civilization gathered and condensed?" Some possible answers to this significant matter are found in the stories of the creation of the Chattanooga and Charleston festivals (a third ideogram is found in the example of the Chautauqua Institution, discussed in Chapter IV).
It is from this perspective of the festival as "ideogram," a "writing" that directly represents a set of ideas and relationships, that Christopher Hunt's provocative suggestion of an arts festival functioning as a "disguised" religious festival urging us to "artistic devotion" strikes close to the heart of the nature and function of any "serious" festival. Like Northrop Frye's sense of the Christian Bible in The Great Code,(45) these festivals can function as a community's imagistic "great code," even as an international "great code," similar to what Roy Strong described as a Renaissance "encyclopedia of universally understood symbols."(46) Like the great religious documents, to which festivals are related historically as a visible expression of beliefs, the best are few in number and exist in very special places. These festivals are "special" as much for their place as for their programming, as Christopher Hunt has pointed out in his programming notes:
It is no accident that the great arts festivals of the world--Salzburg, Edinburgh, Aix-en-Provence, Dubrovnik, Prague--all happen in cities with historic charm, a kind of architectonic intimacy that creates a context in which the `willing suspension of disbelief' can most easily happen.
An initial concept of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. "ideogram" is needed, one evolving from the general premises described previously, but one more directly focused on one primary function of a successful festival theater such as Spoleto Festival U.S.A. It is this: "Menotti's festival theater can be viewed as a cathedral for the making of belief, a "church" in itself where various "fringe" festivals spring up as carnival opposition." This idea of a festival "church" was offered by an experienced festival artistic director and arts critic, Christopher Hunt, in introductory comments for the 1981 Spoleto Festival U.S.A. Official Souvenir Program:
Spoleto U.S.A. is rather different. The variety and range of these programs reflect not just one art form but a spectrum of artistic experience. It also happens in a place peculiarly suited to the creation of a special atmosphere, a place to which visitors come for days or a week at a time and not just for the evening; a place where the residents feel a certain pride in the occasion....Charleston is such a place, and it is in the combination of environment, identity of audience purpose, and varied programming that its special claim to distinction lies.
...it is the context that needs remarking--and the significant fact that the selection of programs is unified, and not the polyglot recipe of many impresarios....Not that everyone wants or needs feel obliged to have their horizons expanded: a truly festive atmosphere allows one to choose between the simplest level of pleasurable response to any event, and the most profound. Art need not only be about Ultimate Truths, nor should we be too earnestly devoted to it. The religious origin of festivals--whether the Dionysian feasts of ancient Greece or the medieval church festivals of Europe--does sometimes seem to have made a disguised come-back in those who urge us to artistic devotion.(47)
Is Spoleto Charleston the "context" for a "disguised" religious festival urging us to "artistic devotion"? A tentative answer would have to be, "yes, but more...." The significance of context was noted in a recent collection of essays on the festival:
Folklorists and anthropologists have been increasingly aware of the importance of context in the events they investigate, both the immediate performative context, and the abstract context of the worldview, with its set of norms and values that ultimately affect all social phenomena in a culture.(48)
This broader contextual perspective depends on gaining a clear understanding of a
festival's beginning, its "story of origin," even if the memories and a few
documents of its founders and opponents and later key leaders are the only presently
reliable available sources of what happened and why.
Three Basic Elements: Artistic Director,
Empty Space, Purposes
An initial set of categories devised for Spoleto Festival U.S.A. constructs a basis for contrast with the Chattanooga festival. The following table briefly summarizes several key features of the 198O Festival, which were described in the May 198O Chattanooga Times newspaper article in which Spoleto U.S.A. first came to the author's attention.
NAME: Spoleto Festival U.S.A. (198O)
TYPE: annual multi-arts festival with parallel city-sponsored Piccolo Festival
MODEL: Spoleto Festival, Spoleto, Italy
PURPOSE: avant garde showcase of new art, principally performance works
RESULTS: city turned into cultural mecca, setting for premier works, worldwide acclaim, $25 million into economy, model of town arts festival, expanded local cultural horizons, turned city into art form itself, tell the world about Charleston's beauty and ambience
PROGRAMMING: debut of an Arthur Miller play The American Clock, Bellini's opera Sonnambula, film, dance, choral, jazz, country, jazz, chamber music, folk music, art exhibitions, crafts
LOCATION AND THEATERS: Galliard city auditorium, 17th century Dock St. Theater, many other downtown locations, some outside at College of Charleston, Middleton Place plantation
BUDGET: $1.6 million in 198O
INCOME SOURCES: ticket admissions, public and private donations
DURATION: seventeen days
TIME: late May through early June
SPONSOR: National Endowment for the Arts, City of Charleston, Festival of Two Worlds Foundation in New York City, foundations, corporations, individual donors
MANAGEMENT: local board headed by College of Charleston president
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Gian Carlo Menotti
WORKERS: paid staff, volunteers
AUDIENCE: 1OO,OOO visitors
AUDIENCE ACCESS: traditional ticketed events; free public activities
RELATED EVENTS: finale at Middleton Plantation
FOOD: restaurants, booths at plantation
REACTION: worldwide critical acclaim
PROFIT: none, guarantors covered substantial deficit(49)
Following Propp's approach, the selection of three of these categories--the human force
of the artistic director, the empty space of the place, and the purpose of the idea--was
derived largely from their repetitive appearance in the transcribed interviews. These
"stories" are beginning points for selective exploration of these two festivals.
In their briefest form, these categories can be posed as simple questions: Why Menotti?
Why Charleston? Why a festival?
Artistic Director: Why Menotti?
The value of Menotti's contribution as artistic director of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. was emphasized in all interviews in 1986 and 1988. As artistic director, Maestro Gian Carlo Menotti generated and commissioned original performing and visual art works. Yet it was his often repeated conception of "seeing the city as an art form in itself" and literally using empty city structures for the birth of new art that proved most innovative. During the 1988 Spoleto festival, for example, a parking garage near the Dock Street Theater was emptied during the festival to become an art gallery; an empty real estate office became a nightspot; a vacant store became a restaurant.
At the very beginning in 1958 in Italy, Menotti first planned his chamber music concerts in a very old church in Spoleto, a small village in the Umbrian Province near where Hannibal crossed the Alps, one largely left out of the process and effects of industrialization. Charles Wadsworth, chamber music host and pianist since 1959 for the Italian festival, and since 1977 for the Charleston festival, pointed out:
Menotti said in 1958 there might not be a very large audience, but that the attendance was not as important as providing an environment in which the musicians enjoyed playing and felt as free as possible to perform and to create the best possible music that was in them. These chamber music concerts proved to be one of the most delightful parts of the entire concept of Spoleto in Italy and Charleston. Now the chamber events sell out quickest of all the festival activities and remain an integral part of the unique Menotti vision. Menotti also made it clear that the emphasis was to be on young, new, unknown artists who would be given the opportunity to perform before a critical audience and that it was important that these talented musicians feel the festival was as much for them as for the audience.(50)
This continuing emphasis on the value of the artist and the festival as an educational and enjoyable experience for young and unknown performers is one key to the critical success of Charleston's festival. In this educational role, a qualified, effective artistic director was the primary source of energy and vision in the Charleston and Salzburg festivals, which, like other serious town arts festivals, are as much summer schools for artists as summer diversions for audiences. These had evolved out of the imagination of successful artists like Menotti and Reinhardt. Chattanooga was not allowed to have someone in such a position at the outset of its creative process for reasons that will be made clear in the next chapter. It seems, therefore, that the absence or presence of an artistic director is a key to gaining entrance into a broader consideration of what a festival is and does in its home community and in the wider environment.
Understanding the functions and individual views of the artistic director (or directors) is the primary key to understanding the nature and function of a festival. Asked what he would advise someone starting a festival, Theodore S. Stern, the first board chairman, cited Menotti's special role:
I have been asked about starting a festival many, many times. It comes down to this. You need a Menotti, who's so unusual. He's the only person I know who knows all the arts....He knows music. Menotti directs, he's a director, producer--he's a genius, and that's why we have a problem in trying to decide what happens after Menotti....Menotti--every orchestra knows him, the theater people know him, the dance people, the opera people, the music people.
What makes the festival so successful? In three words, Gian Carlo Menotti. His ability,
number one, to direct, his knowledge of all of the arts--he always gets the visual artists
to do the poster....The only poster ever done by Henry Moore, the sculptor in England, was
made for Spoleto U.S.A., because of his friendship with Menotti.(51)
Charles Wadsworth, who began with Menotti in 1959 in Italy, recalled Menotti's early contribution in bringing the force of "art power" to the small village of Spoleto:
Menotti, as he set out to present a festival, and for me what made it the most exciting festival that I know about, set out to produce a festival which he was very well aware would not be a sure fire hit. He said if I'm going to be like Edinburgh or Salzburg where all I do is bring in great guest artists, well known orchestras presenting repertoires that they know are going to be successful, this is not something I'm at all interested in. I feel that the festival must be a creative festival, that it must be willing to take chances, it must be willing to accept the fact of failure, and out of this kind of experimentation you're going to get things which are much more exciting in the long run....
Gian Carlo from the very beginning was taking chances on artists who were
unknown....But there was an overall artistic view of what was necessary to give a special
profile to the festival. That came from Gian Carlo and his imagination, his faith in
brilliant young people, and in the creative arts. The Spoleto Festival as we know it would
not have been what we know unless there had been specifically Gian Carlo.
The "overall" artistic view bringing a "special profile" was that of extreme diversity of programming that would bring thousands of appreciative arts lovers to the small village. An obvious question was whether arts festival, or any "serious" festival, could be produced without an artistic director. "Not successfully," said Wadsworth:
It could be carried off maybe as a financially successful venture by a businessman but
to me the festival should be much more than that. It should have some very strong artistic
point of view that you're trying to get across. I think you need a creative mind to do
that....I would have no interest whatsoever in taking part in a festival which was run by
a businessman with just a slight speaking acquaintance with the arts. Those people are the
kind we want on the board of directors, who can say, "You're the artist....We have to
raise the money....We will tell you how much we can raise and how much you have to spend.
You can dream and tell us how much you'd like." Then you meet somewhere in the
Finding the "middle" ground, he suggested, was the heart of the problem.(52)
Gian Carlo throughout the years has been a tough one for business managers to deal with because he has dreamed very big at times with budgets that go way, way out of range....It depends on what your aims are....Art is organized surprises....There's a young man named Joshua Bell...he came here last year at 17, and he's going to set the world on fire. He'll be playing today [at the Dock Street Theater] a huge piece, which is a very unusual work by Chausonne, a concerto for violin, piano, and string quartet; he's never played it [publicly] until this morning....Now that sort of electricity communicates itself. So, that's what the festival means to me.
...I took a part about four or five summers ago in Miami in the International Contemporary Arts Festival. It was run by a man who has a great head for business and a wonderful man in the world of opera....But it was a struggle. The prices were too high for people in Miami to pay. There wasn't the basis for cultural interest. So it was a matter of the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong people.
The new, the different, the risky, the experimental, the failure, the creative, the unsafe, the chancy, the unknown, the special, the unordinary, the young, the big dream, the surprises, the electricity--all of Wadsworth's key words point to his experience with a successful festival that is, to paraphrase him, "a matter of the right place at the right time with the right people."
If, as Wadsworth suggested, art is "organized surprise," the administrative director who does much of the "organizing" could be expected to have a special insight into the practical workings of Menotti's "seventeen-day performance work." Although not involved directly in Spoleto Festival U.S.A. until early 1986, General Manger Nigel Redden viewed the role of the artistic director as providing an "aesthetic" focus that makes the arts function "as a means rather than an end":
The real strength of this festival is for better or worse people have agreed that Gian
Carlo Menotti is the artistic director, that it has an artistic focus, and that he should
be in charge of this thing....He makes compromises, he does things that he doesn't want to
do, but he's enough of a realist and enough of an artist to keep the whole thing going.
Redden focused on the reliance on a "single mind," a potentially dangerous political pattern if participatory processes are valued. Modern consensus management methods and jazz or chamber music follow a mode in which the "steering" function is less visible and more broadly shared.
It is the coherence question, that the artistic director, that is, a single mind, can give the festival a coherence that it might not have otherwise....Not necessarily that an artistic director has to be involved in every aspect of what's going on....I think that a festival, in order to be significant, has to have some idea. Usually the easiest way to embody that idea is through the artistic director. And it should be an artistic idea, not an extraneous idea....
I think a festival that has an artistic sense has an opportunity to be better than the other because it's serving. I mean there's a kind of integrity that comes with that which can't come with something that has nonartistic motives but nonetheless achieves them through the arts. I mean the arts become a means rather than an end.
One inevitable issue of the "single mind" leadership model was the dilemma of the festival's direction after Gian Carlo Menotti is no longer connected with it. Redden predicted:
...I think we'll be a very different festival. Because I think that this is more malleable than most organizations. It really can be very different from one year to the next. There are few things that are fixed about it, except that we've going to stay in Charleston. We're going to be a summer festival. We're probably not going to be over seventeen days long. We're going to be high arts, whatever that means, and that can mean jazz or circuses or a lot of other things. But it means the arts.
I don't know what it would be like after Gian Carlo. I think Gian Carlo sees festivals
as a...I think he's an impresario, that's what he feels his role in life is...I think he's
an extraordinary impresario. He's been an extraordinarily successful composer, but I think
he could have been a...lot more so if he hadn't done these festivals.
Redden's suggestion that Menotti could have been an even more successful composer "if he hadn't done these festivals" is offset by the possibility that the festivals have become major aesthetic compositions, Wilsonian performance works that are new dramas in renewed "town" theaters. Redden's emphasis on the value of a "single mind" in producing artistic coherence suggests the uniqueness of the Spoleto festivals in that they are not primarily the work of the volunteer, untrained civic committees that shape so many commercial town festivals. That is not to say that the volunteer spirit is not vital to such events but rather to emphasize that its spirit receives a powerful impetus from the vision of an artist such as Menotti.
General manager Colin Sturm, anticipating the opening of his first Spoleto festival in Melbourne in September 1986, emphasized the special economic value of an artistic director who is skilled in the art of entertainment:
You've got two types of festivals. One which is a carnival, summer festival out in the open, marching girls, sports, swimming, stores selling things in the street...That can be done reasonably cheaply.
But when you start about a festival that means the use of venues, halls, theaters, bringing people in from out-of-state, entertainments, and so on, you're then getting into the entertainment business. The entertainment business is a very expensive and very specialized, and, if it's going to work well, almost needing a genius at business. You were saying that you hadn't had an artistic director [at Riverbend]. The whole point of having an artistic director is to have somebody who is essentially uninterested in the financial end of things, who is looking purely at what is going to work in a general entertainment sense. And you then have...someone who is a business manager. Now without the combination of the two I think you run a risk.
...Because unless you can sell the tickets, you are not going to have a festival that will last very long. So you have to look at your market place.
As a "market place," an "agora," the buying and selling of ideas is a basic function of a festival, where all sorts of "ideograms" can compete for attention and customers. Overlapping programming, reworked masterpieces, new labels, unknown products --all are part of the festival as a marketplace of the new as well as a storehouse of the old. Although this "marketplace" aspect is not a primary emphasis of this study, it cannot be ignored if the basic, multiple functions of a festival are to be revealed.
The special power of the artistic director to shape the festival's aesthetic form and institutionalize its pattern drew the attention of public relations director David Rawle, the long-time "salesperson" for Menotti's Charleston "venue":
I think Spoleto would continue to thrive without Menotti because part of his genius is
that he has been able to institutionalize Spoleto. It is now larger than any individual by
his own admission. I think it is a great tribute to him that he has been able to create
that kind of institution.
Whether Menotti has been able to institutionalize his festivals is one of the more important questions that his vision of festival leaves unanswered. The maestro said at a 1988 press conference that he was satisfied with the present mixture of art forms, particularly with the avant garde programming, which he felt had become better accepted by audiences in recent years.
Rawle suggested that Menotti's festival ideal of primary emphasis on an "art" of juxtaposed programming and venues created a unique urban environment:
I think that he felt that art was, in his words, considered too often as an after dinner mint and that it ought to be the main meal, the main course. One way of making it be so was to create a festival in which an entire community could be immersed. It is difficult during the festival to pick up a newspaper, talk to an individual, visit a shop, or watch television or listen to radio without having a sense of Spoleto's presence. This is a joyous celebration of the arts and the festival form provides it.
Menotti's special function as artistic director is seen in the image Rawle evoked of bringing an entire community to an "arts feast" for a "joyous celebration of the arts" as an ultimate end. The festival's forms itself provide a complete "immersion," a term suggesting the religious overtones of a serious festival noted by Tyrone Guthrie and Christopher Hunt. As a "market place," an "agora for artists and audiences," what is the "festival form" but a "theater of differences" with, as Bakhtin said, "an absence of clearly established footlights"? The multi-colored lights of the Christmas tree are "festive," someone observed.(53) If all the lights were one color, red perhaps, the response would be possibly "interesting" or "pretty" but probably not "festive." The "fest" most often appears as the root word of social, religious, or pleasurable activities that mark a time and space of differences from the routine of ordinary life.
Tension springs from Menotti's idea of differences, contrasts, oppositions, inversions, pluralities, diversities, assortments, miscellanies, varieties, medleys, divergences, variances. Unlike the effect of modes of analysis that compress meaning and relationships to fewer and fewer symbols, the effect of what is "festive" and alive is the expansion to multiplicity, even to seemingly meaningless diversity. It is this illusion of uniqueness that endows any festival with its appearance of endless variety of forms and content. Yet the tension of unlike entities in proximity, as in musical dissonance, creates interest and gives pain mixed with pleasure to the eye and ear. It is the function of an artistic director to mingle and blend the elements at hand without fearing or rejecting contradiction, inconsistencies, the comfort of sameness, the familiar, and the nonthreatening.
In summary, the comments from Spoleto Festival U.S.A. officials quoted above and in other materials suggest the crucial contribution of an artistic director in shaping a festival.
open or closed to the new;
what the city as an art form said to Menotti;
creation of free environment for players;
play for each other as well as even small audiences;
young, new, unknown artists performing before a critical audience;
artistic director has a message;
menotti knows all arts and all artists in all fields;
high failure risk events;
artistic director gives overall artistic view to give special profile to festival, also faith in brilliant young people and in creative arts;
artistic director should have strong artistic point of view that he is trying to get across;
need creative mind more than businessman mind;
art is organized surprise;
agreement to have an artistic director is a strength;
an artistic director provides focus and serves as a common court of last resort;
single mind of artistic director gives festival coherence because the festival idea is embodied in one person's mind;
artistic festival has integrity because it is serving, doesn't have nonartistic motives but achieves them anyway through the arts; keeping arts end rather than means;
Menotti is impresario and composer; people like having an artistic vision even if they disagree;
a festival can be summer carnival or theatrical entertainment;
an artistic director looks at what works purely in entertainment sense and puts personal stamp on festival;
artistic director selects artistic package;
Menotti wanted to make art the main course rather than after dinner mint;
created a festival that immersed entire community;
festival form provides joyous celebration of the arts that none can avoid during festival time.
"Menotti," and his "message" and "vision," is mentioned frequently; the value of the individual contribution cannot be diminished. The artistic director is performing the essential function of the "I" in Brooks' study of the theatrically created "empty space." Regardless of the particular goals, it is the existence of this function that endows the festival with its potential "integrity" as an end in itself, something other than a summer carnival alone, valuable though this may be for certain community needs. Paradoxically, the artistic "integrity" mentioned by Redden may produce significant economic benefits that greatly exceed productions of a more commercial, narrow aim.
That this is not the normal businessman's view of the ends and means of art is noted by Constance Hardinge in "The Artistic Director" from the National Association of Regional Ballet handbook for new ballet board members:
Basically our boards should be responsible for all legal and organizational activities,
for fund raising, ticket sales and public relations. We [artistic directors] are
responsible for everything else....Opinion and advice should always be sought from those
who are knowledgeable, but the final word must always be the artistic director's. In
this area there is often a lack of clarity and problems arise [emphasis
mine]....In the constant daily crises we face it isn't easy to remember our real
purpose. We are the link that holds illusion and reality together for future generations
Artists and their "artistic directors," as "links holding illusion and reality together for future generations," apparently provide a function (analogous to a form of cultural DNA) not often experienced by the ordinary arts patron or board member. That influential Charlestonians, after an intense struggle, welcomed the contributions of Menotti, that they shared their civic power to such an extent with him, is in retrospect an extraordinary historical event.
If Charleston's festival can be considered the American prototype of a new
"Menottian" theater, one in which all the spatially proximate visible world is
literally a stage with all the "men and women merely players," then
Shakespeare's modest use of the term "merely" can be placed in a more ironic
context. These dramatic productions, born out of a sensitive artist's response to an
"empty space," evolve into powerful meaning-making devices that none can avoid
during their run nor completely escape before and after. Like Christmas and the Fourth of
July, and other great cultural festive rituals, the reach of their symbolism cannot be
blocked from awareness without deliberate social isolation. It is in the interplay of the
"I" as artistic director, the "bare stage" of the empty urban form,
and serious, purposeful ideas that these festive "theaters of power" are shaped
into a "place for aesthetic play."
The Empty City Space: Why Charleston?
If the discussion of the function of the artistic director could be expressed at its simplest form as a question of "Why Menotti?," then the category of the function of the festival's theatrical space could be framed at its most elemental level as "Why Charleston?" Some uncertainty about who did what when, where, why, and how exists about the answers to this question. However, underlying these disputed facts is the unquestioned dramatic reality that this traditional South Carolina city and its improbable avant garde arts festival have been engaged in a special, intricate relationship since Menotti first saw it in 1976 and decided to look no further on the list prepared for him of other Southern cities. Redden suggested one important difference in Menotti's festivals by focusing on the central "artistic" idea behind the festival:
I think what distinguishes this festival from other festivals, or rather from some other festivals that were started by cities, is that it started with an artistic idea rather than a cultural development idea or even with a place idea. It was very much about artists and it happened to be Charleston rather than, "Let's take Charleston and try to figure out what we can do to make something exciting happen in Charleston."
It is clear enough that Charlestonians did not decide to have a festival and find an artistic director and staff to produce it. What is less clear from the record is the weight given to the three types of festivals--artistic, cultural development, and
place--mentioned by Redden. Menotti had constructed a utopian community in Spoleto, Italy, where the artist ruled for a few summer weeks, an inversion in this larger sense with aspects of a Bakhtinian carnival reversal of official/unofficial. Menotti needed a special city for an American production of his artistic utopia. From his statements in the various Spoleto brochures and the recollections of those involved in the American festival, the signs point toward a more complex relationship than that "it happened to be Charleston." The city's particular character was very important, as Redden explained:
I think one of the other very key things about the city is that it happens to be architecturally beautiful; that is, that this is a place that is an appropriate setting for a festival that celebrates those areas of human imagination that are concerned with beauty and with some of the intangibles of the human spirit. That is why it was started here [emphasis mine].
Charleston was a city of American cultural firsts: first opera, first ballet, first play performed.(54) It was an old world city in the new world. It was a narrow peninsula on the Atlantic seacoast. Like Spoleto, Italy, it had been left out of much of the South's industrialization. Its downtown had been preserved in a state resembling the original eighteenth-century seaport town. Destroyed as a viable urban center by the Civil War, it no longer was a city of firsts of any kind nationally or regionally. Its civic leaders admitted its economy was stagnant, dominated by the huge U.S. Navy base.
It was, in short, an urban "empty space" waiting for a Menotti to call it a "bare stage," to fill it with performers, and to invite an audience to observe--much as he had done as a child growing up in Italy.(55) Other Southern festival possibilities, such as Winston-Salem, had some of the qualities he sought for his festival music-theater. Yet none except Charleston had the look and feel of the old European town in the "uncivilized" American South, the juxtaposition of old world and new world architecture. Even a Chattanooga, if it had made the initial list, would have had more pure dramatic scenery with its "mountains looking at each other" at the river's entrance from the Tennessee River canyon. But it lacked the dramatic, contrasting of the "old": Charleston's European town houses, empty theaters, narrow streets, and setting on a small ocean point.
Charleston worked perfectly as a large-scale thrust stage, for want of a more precise term. It captured its creator, actors, and audiences for a magical seventeen days in late spring--"cruise ship magic," as Redden remembered from his youth at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. From the discussion of Menotti's purposes that follow in the next section, it becomes evident that the festival idea depended on the nature of a place as much as it depended on what Redden termed an "artistic idea." It seems that, in Redden's sense, Menotti's Charleston festival originated as an intricate, intertwined artistic idea, place idea, and cultural development idea. The complexity of this interplay is illustrated by comments of Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. in the opening of his official welcoming statement to the 1978 second festival program:
In 1941, Charleston's noted artist and author, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, wrote, in Mellowed by Time, that Charleston "is the one colonial city in America with a living record which tells us, more vividly than all the books and all the old prints in museums can ever tell, what the New World inherited from the civilization of the ages. We started again, not to destroy the old law, but to fulfill it. Here the land is speaking--put your ear to the ground and listen" [emphasis mine].
Here, more so than any other colonial city, we live amidst a living record of the New World's inheritance from the old world. Our architecture, our townscape, our art, which form the setting and backdrop of the Spoleto Festival, are themselves a "festival of two worlds."(56)
Riley's and Verner's aesthetic response to a "theatrical" location was not a new idea invented by Charleston's publicity agents. Salzburg evoked a similar reaction. "Every square, every street here seems to have been expressly created as the setting for a play," wrote the festival's founder and artistic director, Max Reinhardt.(57) The theatrical city spaces described by Reinhardt apparently were strongly felt by Menotti when he saw Charleston. There is little disagreement that Charleston, to Menotti the impresario, had the theatrical form of a Salzburg and appeared one of those special works of urban art.
The 1986 and 1988 interviews brought out the importance of Charleston's beckoning theatrical space. An excerpt from Stern's recollections in 1988 particularly demonstrates a pre-existing desire to have any proposed festival match the city's beauty:
I think the fact that Charleston itself is so unique, that I wanted to see a festival here to match it, not just another festival. And this could contribute to the well-being of our community....I think it can be an educational and a cultural center....To make this thing an artistic success, a social success, and a financial success, certain elements were essential. And Charleston fitted in beautifully.... Charleston was the cultural center of colonial times. And we are just returning it to its former peak condition.
It was the Charlestonians' pride of "place," repeatedly expressed both from those dedicated to bringing in Menotti's festival and those equally dedicated to preventing it, that arouses more than superficial interest in the physical environment that excited Menotti and the many contributors to his dream of a chimerical summer village for artists and art lovers. Could his Italian creation take root in an American location? One answer to the question of "Why Charleston?" is found in Stern's understanding of Menotti's reasons for selecting the isolated Italian village of Spoleto, which followed the maestro's idea of finding a place suitable for presenting young American artists to European audiences:
From that point on [before 1958] he had to find a place to have this festival. It wasn't the cities, because, he says, and he said this is true of Charleston as well, that the city must be an art form in itself, that people should walk around the city as well as enjoy the festival and they tie in together; they're in concert and in harmony [emphasis mine]. He chose a small town in Umbrian Province, Spoleto, which historians tell us was where Hannibal crossed the Alps and the big battle was at Spoleto. Here is an old, old town that was bypassed by the twentieth century. It has its original Etruscan walls, original forum, theaters, opera houses. It was the seat of culture of the Umbrian Province. It was destitute, economically completely depressed; people were leaving; there was no industry. The culture which could be presented was nonexistent. So he selected this really depressed area, yes [replying to a question], like a theater that had been empty for many years.
After nearly 2O years of artistic success with the town arts festival in Spoleto, which became a prospering village, Menotti and American cultural leaders decided that a similar effort should be attempted in this country. Although the official story of federal sponsorship of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. is undocumented, the basic reasons given by Stern focus on the need for an appropriate "home" for the festival:
The United States National Endowment of the Arts in Washington approached Menotti...and suggested that he establish a Spoleto Festival in the United States...Menotti was placed in charge of trying to develop a plan to present the festival in the United States. The general feeling of the bureaucracy in Washington was that no festival existed in the Southeastern United States, and that this festival should be in the Southeastern part of the United States. Menotti was asked to select a city where this festival could find a home...[emphasis mine].
He decided to come to Charleston first, and I remember that visit extremely well. It was before the Italian festival in 1975, because Frances [Edmunds] knew they were going to come here when she went over there. And I think first of all Menotti said, "I fell in love with it at first sight." He said, "Charleston is an artistic form in itself, and that is what I would like." But he was further impressed with, number one, the College [of Charleston] because if we could have the festival prior to the Italian festival we would need dormitory space for over 6OO artists and technicians....
Without the College, there would have been no festival, because of the housing situation and the logistic support. Menotti loved the idea of the College, he thought the festival should be near an educational institution, he loved the idea of the historic part of Charleston, and he loved the idea that the Mayor was so enthusiastic and the community for which he spoke... [emphasis mine].
Then, Mrs. Rufus Barkley, I'll call her Nella for short, became extremely interested and she headed up a committee to encourage people like the National Endowment, Priscilla Morgan, and Christopher Keene to select Charleston as a place for the festival. She had various committees, of which I was chairman of what you might call a logistics committee. She had a fundraising committee and because of his great influence and political power as well as economic power, Hugh Lane was elected chairman of this committee to try and get the festival here.
It is in the context of "finding a home" place that the full transcript of Stern's "story of origin," which reflects his privileged perspective on Menotti's choice of Charleston and on the events of the festival's origin, becomes the central narrative connecting the three primary categories of this analysis, where the combining of the three elements of place, idea, and force find their material expression in the city's physical reality.
It is a story more complex than Redden's view of what might have been the origin of a festival of "place": "Let's take Charleston and try to figure out what we can do to make something exciting happen in Charleston." It is an account of the combining of the three elements, where no one causal factor, such as "place," can be isolated from others. The story as told by Stern has all the public drama of his wife's description of waiting for the black or white smoke to signal the election of a new Pope. His narration of how he and Charleston's new mayor overcame one influential town leader's sincere effort to stop the festival, following a visit to the Italian production, is the key to understanding the necessity for an ideological "empty space" to combine with physical "empty spaces":
In 1976, Hugh Lane, Nella Barkley, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Stevenson went to Spoleto to see really what it was all about. A matter of record is that when Hugh Lane returned to Charleston, he said he would have nothing more to do with it. He did not want to expose the citizens of Charleston to people dancing without clothes and felt that the people who would come to Charleston would be depraved, queers--I think he used those words--and he offered to return all the money that people had donated to this effort. And he did. I think he returned something like a hundred thousand dollars to people because he had misled them.
In addition, Hugh Lane said that the festival was not economically feasible and would never be a success. This is part of a letter that he put in writing, which he subsequently has regretted but not denied. He was chairman of the board of the C&S bank. But he was the head of everything here, head of the United Way. You know, he was number one citizen, and he went all over the state to generate these contributions. He does speak to me now, but he'll never admit the festival has done any good.
Mayor Joseph Riley and Stern combined their personal influence and the resources of municipal government and the College of Charleston to overcome powerful private resistance that ordinarily would have stopped at once any such major civic initiative:
It was at this time [late summer 1976] that Nella Barkley and Hugh Lane went to a Festival Foundation board meeting in New York, which Frances Edmunds attended. I can only give hearsay information, but I do know that prior to the meeting Mrs. Barkley wrote a letter to the board saying that she would assume the responsibilities of general manager for $2O,OOO a year, but she wanted full authority, full responsibility for the operation of the festival. That letter was copied to the chairman of the Festival Foundation, who at that time was Ernest Hillman, and Menotti. Frances Edmunds advised me that she had never been more embarrassed at a meeting because they just raked Nella over the coals and showed no respect for Hugh Lane. Menotti was particularly obnoxious, and said that he was not going to give up any authority, that she wasn't worth the $2O,OOO she was asking. They left, bitter--this was in August 1976....
Nella and Hugh Lane returned to Charleston. Nella wrote a letter resigning and Hugh Lane reiterated his position that he was not going to subject Charlestonians to be a breeding place for undesirables. Now this withdrawal by Nella and Hugh Lane would have been catastrophic had not the Mayor called Menotti and other members of the board of the Festival Foundation and asked them to meet in Charleston...[emphasis mine].
I recall the meeting extremely well because it was held in the President's house at the College of Charleston in September of 1976. The Mayor had asked if it could be held in the President's house at the College. At that meeting, which was a very vitriolic meeting, in which Mr. Lane walked out with Mrs. Barkley, the Mayor stated that he was convinced that the Spoleto Festival would do a great deal for Charleston, that he disagreed but appreciated the views of the dissidents. He turned to me and he said, "Will you take over?" I said I would never say no to him and I've never turned down a challenge....
...My wife was sitting outside the dinning room where we had our meeting. She looked out of the window and saw all these TV cameras and reporters outside the house; she stuck her head out and said, "Are you waiting for white smoke or black smoke?" But it was all over the press. They caught Hugh Lane and Nella Barkley leaving and naturally they were waiting to see what was going to happen. The Mayor came out and said that I had agreed to be the chairman and to take over and there was going to be a Spoleto.
The basic question was, "Will there be a festival in Charleston?" And I must say, it was the unanimous view of both the members of the Festival Foundation board and the few Charlestonians who were there that we should have it, and that we should have it next year in 1977. That gave us nine months to prepare for it....
I don't know what the records will show. If you ask me, and I leave myself out of it, the responsibility for initially setting up Spoleto fell on the Mayor and the College, on both of our willingnesses to never say never and it couldn't be done.
Repeatedly, the powerful "gravitational field" of the physical city itself
surfaced in this, in other interviews, in program statements, and in press reports. The
determination of Mayor Riley to bring the world of "high" performing arts to his
town against the explicit wishes of a powerful business leader, the combination of city
and college resources, the ambience available to Menotti at the city's coastal resorts,
the fact of the college's availability at the right time with a generous president willing
to do far more than his share, wealthy donors who shared the dream with Menotti, the
international Spoleto festival board's willingness to come to Charleston for dialogue with
festival supporters, the facilitating role of the National Endowment for the Arts, and
Walter Anderson's personal encouragement--all reflect an extraordinary response to
"absence." It is a response much like Brook's view of the seductive "empty
space" that he has only to call a "bare stage" to begin the making of
"theater." That all these elements, not any one of them, happened to combine at
the same time was the key that unlocked the magical space and produced Menotti's new
theater in America.
The Element of Purpose: Menotti's Festival Idea
If Charleston's dreamers started with an image of a festival as no more than a civic fundraiser, they soon found out, as Stern made clear, that Menotti had something else in mind that would introduce more diversity to their city than anyone could have imagined in their wildest civic dreaming. The unusual nature of this particular festival idea was noted by Stern:
Previously "festival" to me meant just trying to fundraise. When you talk Spoleto, they say you know that's a different kind of festival. Number one, it's an international festival; number two, we are not rushing to get Pavarotti, Domingo, or other luminaries--but Menotti has had the ability to select young people who are going to be the Pavarotti's and the Domingo's. People know that they can expect something unusual, different....
...And it's different; they don't know what opera is going to be shown but they know
it's going to be different. He's very careful about who directs them, produces them, the
designer. Dance, no one knows what's going to be there but they know it's going to be
different. And that they most probably will never see it again.
The power of the festival imagined by Menotti demonstrated its gravitational field over arts critics, corporate executives, and performers. Charles Wadsworth, immersed in both festivals from their beginnings, focused on Menotti's original idea from the 1958 beginning in Italy:
When he invited me in 1959 to start a series of chamber music concerts in this delicious little seventeenth century theater, which seats about 3OO to 35O--same as this theater [Dock Street Theater, Charleston]--he said, "I want these concerts to be different. I want you to be sure that you only bring brilliant, gifted young talents to play here. And I want you to be sure to find some way that the concerts are informal in nature." He said to me, "Perhaps there won't be anybody there but myself and a few of the artists working for the festival, but I want to do it anyway. It'll be something in the middle of the day, one hour."
And it was true the first few days....The third summer we were already getting extraordinary acclaim from everyone and we were fighting them off....Along the way I developed what I think has been an important factor in my end of things in chamber concerts, which made them very different from concerts that went on anywhere else in the world. I communicated with the people verbally to try to get them into an even more relaxed mood than they might be ordinarily. You have a very important factor in summer festivals particularly in that people are free from work pressures, daily pressures. They're obviously somewhere to have a good time.
I wanted to add to that further by getting the people so relaxed that they could open themselves to the performers and to the music and that in turn would create a special feeling among the performers, that they would be able to give in a very free way and enjoy the act of performing.
Wadsworth's humorous hosting for the noonday concerts is part of the legend of the Spoletos, a radical contrast from the normal framing expected for chamber music. He was proud of this contribution to bringing "music" to festival audiences:
I don't care whether it's avant garde or early Baroque or the obvious romantics, I think music and the arts must communicate to people on a gut level. It is not an intellectual pursuit, the enjoyment of chamber music, which is considered by many an elitist form. If the people are uninhibited in their listening, then they are going to be able to take the message that the composer intended. The composer is not really interested in how appreciative people are of the devices they have used in getting their feelings down on paper. So this created a special atmosphere in a festival situation, which already gives you one hand up.
For me, it was an incredible opportunity to find artists who I thought were great and then I started combining things into very unusual ways with instruments, voice, percussion, and all sorts of things that would create stimulation in the listener.
Wadsworth explained the special purpose Menotti had in mind, which led directly to the "combining" function of the Spoleto festivals, bringing to mind Brook's earlier quoted remark about the role of the audience as "artists" assisting in the performance, in the "birth" of meaning:
The festival is unique and different from almost all other festivals because from the very beginning Gian Carlo wanted all of the arts to be represented so that the musicians and the actors could all feed off each other's inspirations and it would bring a certain excitement to my work. One summer [in Spoleto] he had an extraordinary series of poetry readings, so you had Ferlingetti from the West Coast there, and Kerouac, and Ezra Pound on the same afternoon reading from his works. For me to have Ezra Pound coming in my concert--it can't help but create electricity, or to see Visconte there in the box. We all found we were exciting each other by what we did.
Wadsworth focused on the sameness/difference issue in pointing out the success of the tradition of single discipline festivals, suggesting the aesthetic backdrop against which the Spoleto festivals differentiate themselves:
The ones in this country which are the most successful are the ones which usually lean towards one discipline, rather than all the disciplines, as the Marlborough Festival is only chamber music....Tanglewood is a great festival but it's all orchestral stuff and it is repertoire they have been playing in the regular year; but it's a beautiful place to sit on the lawn and listen to the music. The place is terribly important in terms of summer festivals [emphasis mine].
In this country there are not other festivals like Spoleto, which really sets it apart....the Edinburgh Festival or some of the Salzburg Festival [is] more the kind of festival we are doing here. At Salzburg you have Karajan, who is an extraordinarily strong personality who has been guiding that one for a number of years. That is usually the case.
As a "place, an ideal, and a force," Spoleto Festival U.S.A. unquestionably is an exceptional success as a town festival, possibly a new form of festival that evolved in its habitat to meet the changing needs of a new era. Wadsworth stressed the high risk of failure associated with Menotti's idea of festival:
The idea of Gian Carlo to have an orchestra made up of young students or people who have just graduated--these hundred people have been called from student bodies all over the country, that to me is one of the exciting things about this festival. There is not that kind of chance taking in other places.
Colin Sturm's managerial perspective balanced the necessity of blending the aesthetic and economic ingredients involved in producing Menotti's unique vision of an artist's utopia. Sturm stressed knowing the "purpose" of a festival:
To start from the beginning you've got to make an assessment of the purposes of a festival. A festival has two important foundation stones. They're part of the total structure. Without them both being effective you haven't got a festival that will work. The first part of a festival structure is whether the community wants it. If it's not bubbling up from the community, it's going to automatically fail. You cannot impose something of this sort onto a community from above.
Spoleto was started by an idea from Gian Carlo Menotti, which came from his friend, the American composer Sam Barber, who said, when they were both young men, that art should not be just the froth on the top of the main soup, that it should have a concrete, measurable effect in a community. To test that as a premise, they both looked for a town in Italy and in the States--they were looking in both places, but they found quickest a town in Italy which was absolutely on its beam ends.
Its population consisted of very elderly and very young people. All the young, middle age groups had to leave because there was no work, no money. Unemployment was something like 6O percent. So they thought that if they were going to prove their premise, then the festival would have to do things that in a commercial sense were good.
So when they suggested this to the city fathers, they grabbed at the chance to try anything. Therefore, my first point was that the community wanted it, what community that was there. The end result is that Spoleto is a thriving little city as a direct input of the festival. It brings lots of tourism into the place. There's been a great deal of building and regeneration of the medieval buildings has been carried out with public money from taxes that the money has generated. So there has been a measurable effect. The improvement in beneficial life style through the arts is enormous.
[The other approach] is the sort of festival which is an area grouping of people who are going to put their hands into their own pockets, do a great deal of voluntary work themselves, and probably have a ball. But it'll stay at that particular level. In Australia, we think of this as the Scout All complex, you know. The Boy Scouts are a nice worthwhile community activity; the parents of the kids get together once a month or whatever--you've got an activity which brings the community together for that particular purpose.
The critical role of the local governmental structure, and its particular leadership, was, Sturm felt, much more important in creating the political environment in which a festival could flourish. Although Charleston Mayor Riley's key political role has not been stressed in this analysis, it seems the only indispensable factor that explains why Menotti was given the power to shape a festival. Without Riley, Charleston would not have had a festival, or at least, as Stern's story makes clear, probably not with someone like Menotti in charge of the "imagination department."(58)
Finally, what is the basic purpose of Spoleto U.S.A. as seen by current management? Nigel Redden called attention to the basic "artistic" aim, where the "mix" was important; "differences" suffice for the idea that Menotti transported from Italy to America.
The thing that I think is crucial about the history of this festival is that it started from an artistic idea, which was basically to give Italian audiences a sense of what American artists were doing....He also wanted to create a kind of sort of artist's colony, that it very much was about artists, artists working together and artists seeing each other's work--that was very much an aspect of the festival. I think it left from that pretty quickly, that is, it became much more a festival about performances, a festival about doing specific events but always the mix was important....
There are advantages to the festival in Italy. Spoleto is a more compact town; it's also got a center, which this town doesn't have. There isn't a place as a tourist that you would go to; in Italy there definitely is.....There's magic in Spoleto--the cruise ship magic--that I think festivals bring [emphasis mine]. All these people descend on a place that is beautiful for a specific period of time and they all have these wonderful magical experiences together. And, they fall in love and they have affairs and they have fights and they meet people who become bosom buddies for two weeks and who they never see again. On a human level that's very important; it's extracting you from your daily life.... Artists [are] the key to the whole thing.
Redden saw a complex relationship between economic development and arts, between the confusion of the ends and means of art.(59)
This is an arts festival and the arts come first in this festival. Not Charleston, not economic development, not even paying the bills, although obviously you have to pay the bills to keep going. But if the only reason we are keeping going is to pay the bills, then frankly we would all quit. There would be nothing here. All these things are very fragile; I mean this exists only in the mind. I mean this is a conceptual piece....in a way it's a performance art work....So our integrity in terms of artists has to be the founding supposition. Without that precondition, there's no point in talking about the other things.
He noted, as Tyrone Guthrie had pointed out, that a big city and a "serious" arts festival are incompatible, leading to a "cultural tourism" activity in which "art" is used to entice the tourists and generate money-making events:
The LA Olympic Arts Festival was very influential in the way people are thinking of festivals in this country. It's not our way of thinking of festivals; it is a big city way and I think it's the antithesis of what this festival is....Cultural tourism is a big issue right now and obviously cultural tourism is something that's gone on in Europe forever. People, Americans, have gone to Europe for cultural reasons and people have visited America for geographic reasons.
Spoleto Festival U.S.A.'s prime constituency, Redden said, is the larger arts community of critics and audiences, the argument being that if this "higher" goal is reached then the Charleston community will be pleased. Yet Redden intended to protect the festival's contextual "intimacy" from mass media demands:
I think it's extremely important that we do things that have a kind of intimacy and scale that is human; because I don't think two million has anything to do with the human scale at all. And I don't think it's a question of being elite or exclusive. I think its a question of doing something that is worthwhile. The kind of things we're doing are not things that should be looked at in five minute doses in between flipping channels, having dinner, having telephone calls. That's not what we should be doing because these are serious things that do need to be given serious attention that you can give when you are in the theater [emphasis mine].
In Redden's portrayal of the idea and purposes of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and the Italian festival is found the heart of Menotti's theater festival of differences. It adds to the city's cultural treasures, to its citizens' knowledge and storehouse of images, to its place as a primary destination for critic and tourist alike, to a home for a "serious" encounter with the creations of artistic professionals in many fields.
Stern saw the main idea of the festival he helped create with the prevailing Aristotelian view of the theater as a "mirror of the times":
A festival reflects the culture of the times, particularly a comprehensive festival such as Spoleto. It reflects all of the different art forms in existence at that time. We have modern dance, classical dance, opera, chamber music, theater, mime--all the existing art forms.
Behind these forms are purposive, forceful individuals such as Menotti, Mayor Riley, and Stern himself. Stern quickly accepted the idea of a festival of "diversity," as he put it, combined with a city that was an "art form in itself"--an empty space ready to be called a bare stage--and the show opened in May 1977. Stern recalled that extraordinary event:
The first festival was one of the most successful festivals. We had the Zulu Dancers, which had appeared at Spoleto, Italy, before, and they were a tremendous hit. We had a dance gala, which featured Alicia Alonzo and Gudenov. The Zulu dancers and the finale at Middleton Gardens, with fireworks, stand out in my mind as most memorable. At the finale we had the orchestra at the finger lakes. We had the 1812 Overture, and we had the Citadel cadets re-enact the final shelling of Moscow actually firing their cannon, which was followed by a magnificent fireworks display....
We had at the opening ceremonies a major speaker with the governor and the mayor always attending and some extraordinary event, surprising the audience. One of these was the Flying Wallenders, a circus tightrope group, and we had them go from City Hall over a tightrope to the Federal Building. We always have puppets, brass quintets, and also singing stars like Esther Hines singing the Star Spangled Banner.
We didn't know what would happen. We had the leading citizen of Charleston say it could never succeed. But Mayor Riley was just elected to his fourth term. His opposition ran against it costs from the local area.
The interplay of "place, ideal, and force" created an unusual combination of effects, said David Rawle, who stressed the idea of diversity and differences in the festival's presentations:
The special economic significance of Spoleto to Charleston is it has in its nine years contributed about $35O million dollars spending directly and indirectly to this area. Secondly, it has attracted companies that wanted to move here because of the quality of life that Spoleto has helped catalyze. Thirdly, it has helped boost the economic vitality of the other arts organizations. Politically, it has opened up people's minds to a wide variety of ideas and cultural influences because it is so international in its presentation. Aesthetically, it is the perfect complement to Charleston because Charleston itself is an art form.
Whether these effects were planned from Spoleto U.S.A.'s inception or merely random but
probable consequences from small changes is not knowable. Few Charlestonians would
disagree that Menotti's avant garde festival of all the arts and the city's parallel
Piccolo Festival have boosted the economy and the arts. That the festival has opened minds
to broader ideas is an issue that would produce more debate within the community, judging
from Mayor Riley's 1987 political opposition and its use of the festival as a major
Difference and Sameness
Spoleto Festival U.S.A. is a very complex idea. Its multiple mirroring function of Menotti the person, Charleston the place, and Spoleto the idea was touched upon by David Rawle in explaining why this particular festival was different from others:
It is a reflection of the artistic direction of its founder and it is a reflection of the Charleston community. And it is celebrating the beauty of its own historic city while also reaching out into new directions....The greatest challenge is to stand up from others and to differentiate yourself. That requires a focus and a discipline to hold that focus.
Menotti, Riley, Stern, and many Charlestonians triumphed and successfully met that challenge. They did and do in fact allow Charleston to become for a few weeks each year a "breeding ground" for diversity, difference, and the succession from the old to the new. The sexual metaphor seems especially suitable for the festival as a "birth place of the new," and for thinking about festivals lacking such "breeding grounds" of diversity.
CHATTANOOGA'S RIVERBEND FESTIVAL:
FROM A THEATER OF DIFFERENCE TO A THEATER OF SAMENESS
Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival(60)
was created out of the interplay of the same three elements as Charleston's Spoleto
Festival U.S.A.: an empty space, specific purposes, and an artistic force. Early in the
beginning stages, however, the artistic director was removed from the organizing group's
agenda. The aesthetic and ideological consequences of the lack of the force of an artistic
director, such as Gian Carlo Menotti, is the focus of this analysis of the Riverbend
The Struggle to Fill the City's Empty Festival Space
It is doubtful anyone can present a "story of origin" agreeable to all parties involved in the founding of events such as Charleston's or Chattanooga's town festivals. Various persons in Chattanooga were struggling to fill the city's "empty" urban spaces with a festival in the early 198Os.(61) Several concerned citizens observed that something was missing in the city; others sensed the empty space and were working at their own versions of what to put in this felt absence, or "bare stage." Just as Charleston and Spoleto, Italy, were economically depressed and had been apparently "empty" or little used in relation to past periods, so this ideological, political, aesthetic, social, and even physical space in Chattanooga was unfilled, analogous to an empty file folder with nothing in it but a heading whose "reality" was at that period no more than the "category" itself.(62)
Several community groups responded to the absence of a town festival.(63) One effort was a 1978 Allied Arts Fund document, indicating the prevailing "fund-raising" festival idea, although the project was never realized. Another was the Riverbend organizing group's response in 198O to information brought from Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and the Salzburg Festival, which indicated a growing curiosity about the general effects of town festivals. A third was the Lyndhurst Foundation's interest in community development strategies, such as a City Fair, and the foundation's 1981 "Five Nights in Chattanooga" summer concerts. Finally, a reaction of the business community to some missing ingredient in civic life was the Chamber of Commerce's 1981 renewal of a small downtown arts festival.(64)
Eventually, the collective group process of bounding the empty space was a formal plan submitted in November 1981 to the Lyndhurst Foundation for administrative funding. For most who were involved in the festival's founding events, this was the key document that synthesized and defined the "empty space" of the "festival theater."(65) With the new festival group's proposed staffing and volunteer plan, budget, and action timetable, the first phase of the process of creating, or defining and bounding, the empty festival space, the "unfilled" theatrical space, was completed. These first documents were in effect a series of scripts and revisions for the social drama that would become the Riverbend Festival.
As one musician, Doris Hays, had suggested in her proposal, "A festival is a creature which needs to fit its habitat." The new "festival creature" responded to its habitat, its "empty space," strongly enough to be repeated; and it has become community ritual. If it had not been repeated, if it had become an occasional pageant, it would have been no more than a one-time theatrical production, such as "Five Nights in Chattanooga," which some believe, as noted in the Preface, was the first Riverbend festival.
That the festival became ritual suggests it met a continuing need to "infuse" a temporary "empty" civic space with its energy. Yet what became the Riverbend Festival seems to have been a "masked" theatrical structure, a "masque" with social intent, one resembling the popular festive-form "absent clearly established footlights," in Bakhtin's sense. Apparently if the intent is to have a repetitive, nonpermanent temporal and spatial structure, often it is called a "festival," possibly because of a message those in control desire to be transmitted or reinforced. This interpretation, using most of the key sources from that period (excepting the foundation documents, which were not requested for this exploratory analysis), reinforces the interdependence of place, ideal, and force in creating the nature, functions, and meaning of a festival. These three crucial elements in the Charleston festival's analysis appeared to be as fundamental as the red, yellow, and blue that are the primary colors of the visible spectrum. They were:
Purpose: avant garde showcase of new art, principally performance works
Theaters/stages: Galliard city auditorium, seventeenth- century Dock St. Theater, many other downtown locations, some out-of-doors at the College of Charleston, concluding at nearby Middleton Plantation
Artistic director: composer Gian Carlo Menotti
The difference from Chattanooga in purpose, in locations, in the perceived value of an artistic director--all suggest that the initial presence or absence of these particular elements carry the encoded potential for the social construction that could evolve if those energies remained joined to enable the essential imaginative free play associated with "festival." The first Chattanooga festival proposal on May 5, 1981, included statements about the city as well as ideas for a festival. It expressed the basic "empty space" of the community. It is the central (but repressed) document that probably would have led to a "festival of differences" had it not been for the foundation's intervention in pursuit of its private agenda for community change. The following excerpts from the complete document (author's Riverbend materials) illustrate the relationship of the three elements that even at that time seemed central to the emergence of any significant festival:
[Empty Space]: One of Chattanooga's principal problems is its sociality. Unlike the citizens of many other picturesque cities, Chattanoogans begin a mass exodus from downtown at 3:3O every afternoon. By 6 p.m. the center of the city is virtually deserted. Why? Because very little is happening of interest. The resulting loss of retail and tax dollars is considerable. But beyond the loss in dollars is a loss in community spirit and pride and the loss of a cohesive urban life style and shared interest. By one definition a city is a focus of shared interests and common concerns. A deserted city center is a tangible sign of a citizenry alienated from its city. In short, the potential inherent in Chattanooga's new physical improvements may never take hold if the city remains a social desert. Some have described the Chattanooga community as divided, dispirited, and lacking in broadbased social vitality. We think there is some truth to this view. A key missing ingredient is a set of community activities which physically pull people of different stations in life together....
[Purposes]: Learning from the precedents set by Charleston, South Carolina's Spoleto Festival, and Austria's Salzburg music festival, we see no reason not to create Chattanooga's own "celebration of togetherness with diversity" through a quality of first-rate artistic expression that pulls the community together and attracts substantial regional and possibly national interest. In addition to this idea, the celebration could bring together, both traditional and innovative, opera, symphony, dance, theater, film, visual exhibits, regional arts (such as story telling, gospel singing, bluegrass music, etc.)....
We prefer "celebration" rather than "festival" because the former term suggests a specific theme while the latter is more general. A "celebration of togetherness" focuses directly on our main goal, which is to create widespread community participation and to bring diverse ethnic, social, religious, and economic groups together.
[Artistic Director]: Much will depend on the personality and vision of
the artistic director. The selection of this individual is the key factor in achieving
artistic and financial success. We suggest someone equal in stature to Gian Carlo Menotti,
artistic director of Spoleto Festival in Charleston....Rather than attempting to do the
work of the artistic director, which involves balancing appropriate programming,
availability of guest artists and groups, and budgetary realities, we are attaching a copy
of the Spoleto calendar as an example of what is working well now in Charleston and with
modification could work here.
This proposal represents many of the ideas reflected in Charleston's festival that were attempted in Chattanooga's first 1982 festival. It caught the idea of "difference," of juxtaposition of genres, of contrasting styles, of the role of the arts as an energy source--not only as an "after dinner mint."
However, there is no substitute for professional competence in the arts as in any field; pop singer Roberta Flack was "juxtaposed" to sing with the Chattanooga Symphony in 1982 but, it was explained later, the festival's business staff did not know or forgot to schedule joint rehearsals. Singer and symphony performed in sequence rather than together. This tragi-comic miscue now seems a symbol of that year's preceding and continuing ideological struggle between the "serious" performing arts and the "good time" entertainment arts, a dichotomy that some argued then and now should never have been necessary if the effort had qualified artistic direction from the beginning.
The May 5 proposal met with favorable reaction from the
foundation. The organizing group, now four in number, met with the executive director and the foundation's consultant. It was decided to submit a planning grant proposal for approximately $25,OOO. This would include retaining the consultant to research a variety of arts festivals, to provide travel funds for local officials to visit Charleston's upcoming Spoleto Festival U.S.A., to prepare an audiovisual presentation to communicate the festival idea (which was not accomplished), and to provide funds for other consultants and expenses to generate broadbased community understanding and support for a major arts festival.(66)
After this was resolved, it was agreed to organize a nonprofit corporation, Friends of the Festival, Inc. Although a small legal expense for incorporating was set aside in the planning grant, four individuals then took it upon themselves as volunteers to shepherd this fledgling idea through its early and tentative steps. The rapidly expanding group represented a mixture of liberal and conservative views, artists and non-artists, politicians and businessmen, blacks and whites, old and new families, city and country, etc. Over the following months, these intentional individual differences were reflected in the debates, and the basic aesthetic philosophy of the initial festivals.(67)
From the theoretical perspective of an empty theatrical space, it appears in the May 5 proposal and in the planning grant proposal that the organizers confused the political function, which was necessary to open up a new space, with a more artistic function of filling a defined theatrical space. Yet the entire Chattanooga "mise-en-scéne" itself was a powerful framing device. In this proposal and others as well, the Charleston and Salzburg view of the "city as a stage"--albeit a "bare stage"--became a dominant frame, suggesting the actual "emptiness" of the physical Chattanooga city was itself deeply felt by the festival "dreamers" and others.
What appears in retrospect to have been intended as a participatory process of
responding to an "empty space" was, not surprisingly to any but naive
"dreamers" and "believers," a political process that soon discovered
that the conceptual space was not a "bare stage." The May 5 proposal was written
and edited by the group with a reasonable degree of awareness of what the foundation's
goals were and of what its executive director had suggested be included. None of us had
any illusions about the power of this newly active foundation, or of its intention to
change the status quo in the city.(68)
Absence of an Artistic Director
A thematic, selective analysis that focuses attention on one or a few repeated concerns reflected in private documents, the available public record, and personal experience is valuable in illustrating the opening of ideological and physical space for such a new, different meaning and practice of "festival." From a chronological outline of recorded proposals and meetings leading up to the Riverbend Festival, and following it, one repetitive issue insists upon attention: the presence or absence of Guthrie's type of serious art and artists within a festival. This was a major issue in both the Charleston and Chattanooga productions. This is not a history and much must be left out of the study; however, the explanatory comments in the endnotes provide in part the context essential for understanding why certain steps were taken in 198O-81.
As noted previously, the need for an artistic director was included in the first document that outlined the philosophy and approach to a festival on May 5, 1981, when a $1,OOO,OOO "Celebration of Togetherness" festival was proposed to a local foundation.(69) The ideological struggle between "art for a few" and "art for the many" began at this point. Some of the authors of this proposal argued that a few artists could put together a first class festival while others argued that input from many people was needed if Chattanooga were to have a successful town arts festival. This crucial issue was not resolved as late as 1988, when a comprehensive evaluation of the Riverbend Festival was conducted.
On June 3O, the idea of beginning with an artistic director --a key symbol of aesthetic purposes--was actively resisted by the executive director of the foundation (by far the dominant foundation in the city, with assets of approximately one hundred million dollars at that time). The director specified in a letter to the initial four-person board of directors that "the hiring of an artistic director at this time would be a serious mistake." The letter said in part:
As Sidney's list indicated, the desire to hire an artistic director is a priority for Friends of the Festival. Yet the actual discussion on that point centered around the Foundation's willingness or encouragement in having you approach other foundations to secure funds to hire that individual; that seems like a good step to take at the proper time. What I failed to address yesterday is my very strong opinion that the hiring of an artistic director at this time would be a serious mistake. I believe that two things, at least, must precede such a move. First, the planning and feasibility study must be completed and its recommendations and implications must be studied thoroughly. Second, but occurring simultaneously, it is imperative that the Board of Friends of the Festival be expanded, broadened and rather dramatically diversified.
While it would appear that actions must begin now in order to ensure that a festival
take place in 1982, we greatly prefer that your actions proceed on a logical and orderly
basis which will ensure that a festival, once created, exists on an annual basis for a
number of years. To touch all of the necessary bases properly might--or might not--take
quite a while.(70)
The original idea of creating an artistic festival with a qualified artistic director, which was approved formally in November by seminar participants and consultants, had hit a solid barrier to its evolving "artistic" nature. To some in the group, "later" meant "too late." There seemed no alternative except to drop the search for an artistic director until funds as well as support were assured. It was as if the curtain fell before the play began. It seems logical that members of the group should have advised the foundation that the project was impossible without an artistic director's input at the very beginning of the creative process. But this was not done; it was a significant omission and error of judgement.(71)
Today the Riverbend Festival remains without an artistic director, except for the "blues" programing guidance of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga professor Russell Lindeman. It is under the management of the same business person, Bruce Storey, who produced the Lyndhurst "amenities" project in the summer of 1981, "Five Nights in Chattanooga." It now appears, even without taking into account private aspects of various individual actions, that what seemed to be at the time an inviting "bare stage" had a director, script, partial cast and scenery, and was more in need of an audience than creative participation.
Yet an actual civic "empty space" beckoned; enthusiasm was building; many agreed the city needed some celebration of itself. Almost any sound was better than the felt silence, almost any activity better than the obvious empty streets. The group accepted the constraints but continued the open process. The strength of this process and evidence of continued broad support for an artistic director is seen in the November 23, 1981 proposal's concluding paragraph:
An artistic advisor will be selected immediately upon approval of the grant request. The exact role of the artistic director will depend, in part, upon the individual selected, but the artistic advisor will be involved in all artistic decisions for the festival.
However, when the formal grant contract with a $6O,OOO check was awarded on December 2 for a "Chattanooga Festival," the foundation made doubly certain of its intentions regarding artistic direction:
[Description]: This grant is to be applied to the administrative costs of planning, organizing, and managing a Chattanooga Festival in 1982.
[Special Conditions]: This grant is conditioned upon the hiring of an experienced promoter whose track record in local concert promotions is approved by the Foundation.
The cover letter also stipulated:
Additionally, this grant is conditioned upon Friends of the Festival's employment as Project Director an individual whose experience, reputation and track record as a promoter of public events in Chattanooga is acceptable to the Foundation.(72)
The sponsoring foundation was determined not to fund an artistic position, which it "preferred" to be left to another foundation. It would fund only administrative costs of $6O,OOO.
The aesthetic issue became critical after the full board was created. The festival's attorney, J. Nelson Irvine, advised the new president and executive committee in a memorandum on March 11, 1982, of the threat to the new organization's tax status if its artistic "context" was modified by excessively commercial objectives:
I note reference to the statement by Sid Hetzler that the main thrust of the festival should be artistic rather than commercial. I think it is important for the members of the executive committee to understand that the tax exempt status of the organization is an organization to promote the arts. Thus, the purpose of the organization's activities is artistic. The commercial involvement is only incidental insofar as the accomplishment of promoting the arts in the community is concerned. I think this is something that has been understood all along, and I don't think it needs further discussion but I wanted to remind the members of the committee of this and the context in which this organization is operating.
No record of a reply to this legal advice was found.
The absence of an artistic director left the festival without its "force,"
driven only by its "empty space" and the power of its "idea"--two legs
of a three-legged stool, more than a little wobbly without the presence of an imaginative
artist. This absence led in curious directions; because arts knowledge was an essential
festival ingredient, many experts had to be consulted to help educate interested local
supporters about the idea.
The Element of Purpose: Festival Planning Seminars
Probably the festival founding process's most innovative activity were the July-August seminars arranged for the new festival board and prospective board members, persons who, regardless of their particular job titles, wealth, or beliefs, were thought by the four organizers to be receptive generally to new ideas.(73) Four seminars for the new Friends of the Festival group were held for approximately thirty interested persons. Festival experts from Baltimore, Boston, and New York spoke, and the process concluded with a goal-setting workshop and party. The seminars were open, and the group was encouraged when the county executive, the mayor, and several influential commissioners participated at the beginning and ending of the seminars.
All the seminar speakers stressed the importance of clarifying a festival's purposes. At the final session the group voted not to choose between a high arts and a popular festival, which was to prove a false opposition in theory and practice. The consultant's report, "The Making of the Festival," concluded that in America there were two types of festivals, "arts" and "urban":
1. Arts Festivals, a majority of which are strictly focused on music and created with the purpose of presenting unusual high-quality programs in an informal setting. They are usually designed to attract a broad local, national, and sometimes international audience;
2. Urban Festivals, which are created with broad grass-roots support and aimed at celebrating the ethnic, cultural and artistic heritage of the city.
These two forms are analyzed separately [emphasis mine].
Here was one source of the warring ideologies of "arts" and "heritage" distinctions. By forcing the issue into "separate" category status, the fundamental flaw in the emerging creative process developed into a "this or that" series of choices. That is to say, the group was being asked to choose a category that was the "same" in either respect, a practice that did not embrace the possibility of "different" and even contrasting programming in the same festival. Although this was not the original idea proposed on May 5, in our uncertainty it seemed logical at the time to be asked to select a festival that was "all of one kind" aimed at either special musical offerings or local heritage. Eventually the seminar participants voted that there was no need to exclude and to be one exclusive type of festival. They decided the festival should be both popular and elitist, at times expressing dislike for the terms themselves and their connotations.(74)
The consultant's report on festivals in America was not as extensive as the organizers had hoped, but it did outline much that was not available to us in any other source. Its most significant feature was the classification of the purposes of an "arts" as opposed to an "urban" festival. This language reflected, among other matters, the foundation director's attitude that inhibited our search for an artistic director:
At the onset of forming a new festival, the issue of an artistic director should be secondary to managerial and promotional aspects, unless one is readily available to the area. The artistic director can come later to the scene, once the festival has established itself [emphasis mine]. In the meantime, artistic decisions can be made by individuals drawn from the local community.(75)
This report confused most of the group, some of whom noted that it contradicted itself in several places, especially in its recommendations on artistic leadership, where the greatest need for direction and guidance was experienced. In the second section describing an "urban fair," which was the consultant's original idea, the report recommended:
There are three seats of power in the management of festivals, the artistic director, the chairman and board directors, and the executive director.
The artistic director of the music festival should be a natural choice, an individual
with ties into the community and with the expertise to cover such a position. In the
absence of a natural choice artistic advisors can be used. Selected from the community
and/or outside, the artistic advisors will help in the formulation of the program and in
the selection of the artists. The advisors should be invited in the early stages
of planning and should be selected to conform with the thematic requirements of the
festival [emphasis mine].
On the other hand, for an urban fair the report advised:
Artistic direction is not a requirement for the urban festival. The sponsors may, however, want to keep a distance from the process of selecting performers and artists to avoid recrimations. This is normally done through the creation of a number of art committees each devoted to a specific art form. Selection of programs can then be done through auditions and competitions.(76)
The impending emphasis on riverfront economic development, a natural evolution from this particular "empty space" that soon became nearly an exclusive focus (even the specific river-related name later adopted was suggested), was described in the study's emphasis on location as a theme:
A theme should be derived from the objective of the Urban Festival and should reflect the natural attributes, personality and reputation of the city itself. Geographical features could play a great role in Chattanooga. The Riverbend Festival could be a celebration of the history of the community through the role played by the river and could focus on the existing unexploited potential of the river, and its recreational value.(77)
Spoleto Festival U.S.A. was selected as "the best example of this new generation of [arts] festivals." In the arts section, under the "purpose" category, the report explained:
Economic and community considerations are today the two most important objectives set forth in the creation of new festivals.
In the past, music festivals have been implemented for the fulfillment of the aesthetic and musical needs of small groups of musicians determined to look for new musical challenges and the enlargement of their professional boundaries. It did not take long, however, for the people involved to discover their cultural and economic potential and the beneficial impact that festivals were having on the cities hosting them [emphasis mine].
Today, new festivals are designed and promoted to fully realize the economic potential and impact on the community. The Spoleto Festival is probably the best example of this new generation of festivals [emphasis mine]. Spoleto is strongly supported by the city leadership because of its boost to the tourism industry. Tourism is today Charleston's fastest growing industry....
Gian Carlo Menotti and the other festival founders recognized from the beginning the essential importance of involving the tourism industry in the planning and promotion of the festival. Articles about Spoleto talk as much about Charleston as the festival.
Applying the intent, function, and effect concepts discussed in Chapter I, one can see in this report's premises about "art" the relationship of the difference in intent and effect, and a sense of how quickly the creations of artists can be exploited and appropriated. Yet Menotti created a festival for the joy of it, as a brief utopia for artists, as a haven for old and new world differences--not as a commercial Disneyworld of the arts. That Spoleto was cited by the foundation's own consultant as the best example of an American festival is a powerful comment on what should have evolved in Chattanooga but was inhibited.
But did it make any difference whether Menotti created a festival for the joy of it or
solely to attract tourists? As Redden explained, in Charleston the original integrity of
the artistic idea was preserved and all else was a consequence of a "serious"
town arts festival, which can be an economic bonanza but as a by-product and not as a main
Functions of the Riverbend Festival:
Embedded Meanings in Two Stories of Origin
The idea of embedded meanings suggests the "hidden functions" of festivals, which can be illustrated with two stories of Riverbend's several "true" stories of origin. One such meaning can be seen in an analysis of the downtown entertainment event, "Five Nights in Chattanooga," mentioned at the beginning of the Preface. Another is shown in an analysis of a alternative festival proposal from Doris Hays, a musician and composer who grew up in Chattanooga and now lives in New York City but who has not lost interest in the welfare of her Southern hometown.
During the mid-1981 planning and research for a festival, the Lyndhurst Foundation directly sponsored through the city an event called "Five Nights in Chattanooga." This was a series of free downtown concerts sponsored by the city and funded by the foundation, apparently at Longo's suggestion as an "urban animation" project he had developed for other cities. The $1OO,OOO "musical gift to the city" drew an estimated several hundred thousand persons to the city's heart, a vacant parking lot, in the late afternoon and early evening over a period of five weeks. One stated purpose, according to the consultant's assistant, was to attract different types of people to each show and to persuade a diverse group to remain in or return to downtown to have a good time. Performers included blues singer B.B. King, Sarah Vaughn, Hank Williams Jr., a well-known bluegrass performer, and a rock group.
The public agenda of the concerts was to learn whether anyone would come in to the city at the end of the work day, when normally the central city is emptied by 6 p.m. The hidden agenda of "Five Nights in Chattanooga" was to see whether members of both "races"(78) could coexist in the same space and to what extent audiences would differ as the entertainers differed. Predictably, the "races" coexisted; predictably, too, audiences differed. In view of the city's past history, there was fear of racial violence. Also there was a desire to show other city leaders that this type activity was a positive model for festivals. No one knew what might happen when Chattanoogans of all categories of skin color, income groups, and ethnic and religious origin came together and were free to interact on a mass scale. In fact, the only fight reported or that I noticed was between two "black leather jacket" white men arguing about a woman accompanying one of them.
Five Nights was not presented as "carnival," but it had overtones of carnival in the popular sense, especially its "bread-and-circus" rationale. Its purpose, however, was completely that of the "power structure's" agenda for community change. The paranoia of certain leaders was not justified; this model of "festivalling" proved valuable in reducing fears of the "crowd." Yet it failed to show the extent and range of what the town arts festival can be and could accomplish. And it may have reinforced the arts "patron" system oriented to the donor's needs rather than to the desires of audiences and performers.
This "segregation by musical taste" approach continues in the Riverbend; each night is "sold" to a local corporation, which receives the advertising benefits from that evening and is named in the program. Five Nights had some positive effects in placing emphasis on the performing arts, and on the "music" form of "art" power to attract very large audiences and to create more community interaction in unused downtown space.
Yet this model may collapse of its own commercial weight as an advertising medium when the festival public park is converted into real estate projects, developments described in the August 1988 comprehensive study as having great impact on the festival's site. These real estate plans have become the primary goal of the festival. One local businessman, Jack McDonald, told me in 1986 he expected to make at least a million dollars from his investments in the riverfront area. With such an incentive he has been from the early years a strong supporter of the festival in organizing sales to employers of the inexpensive admission "pins." It "takes all kinds" to make a festival; however, it is doubtful the festival would have continued if McDonald had not developed our original idea of one pass for all events into the successful revenue source it has become.
The second story reveals the repression of an innovative artist's response to Chattanooga's empty but scenic spaces. At our request, the former Chattanoogan and internationally known musician Doris Hays(79) offered her idea for a particularly imaginative type of arts festival, "Southern Voices."
Hays' provocative, but to some frightening, proposal briefly opened another kind of empty space where "differences" not only coexist but thrive. Her October proposal, had it been followed, would have led to a very different festival theater in which the work of artists would have been celebrated. Copies of this proposal were read by several in the group, but her ideas generally evoked fear of something foreign to community experience. Some urged support for her approach as a part of a festival, but without success. Also, no one knew how to produce "Southern Voices" without passing some degree of control to the artist; all knew by then the foundation's opposition to that direction.
The proposal's poetic quality evoked powerful images of originality seen in Charleston and Salzburg, images now part of the forgotten meanings of the "Southern Voices Festival." Key excerpts from the proposal (author's Riverbend files) indicate the power of the physical environment and the idea evoked:
...A Festival is a creature which needs to fit its habitat. And, since it is a creature we make, I think of what kind of creature will be nurtured by the locals--be supported by citizens and in return, full grown, give pleasure to those who make and support it. My creature Festival then, is one which has characteristics of the local scene. It sings. And how! This Festival, then, should always have a chance to sing! Hymn sings, sacred harp sings, blues sings, country music sings, gospel sings, massed chorus sings, special avant garde performance events sings (my kind of singing), orchestra-chorus sings. One of the first and strongest reasons to call this festival "Southern Voices."
...This festival-creature goes to all parts of the city as I see it--to insurance companies and factories, to the courthouse lawn, to the river bridge, to the mountain parks, to the university campus, to the senior citizen center, and sings, too, with the people where they are. The creature not only sings, of course, it dances and rhymes and paints pretty pictures and makes marvelous, outlandish sculptures and reads outrageously wonderful poems. This festival is of the city and of the region, not laid on it from the outside. It has the accent of many voices of the region. It's not an adopted creature, but one born of the existing cultural institutions: a fifty-year-old orchestra, a vital opera company, and tons of singers, lots of fiddlers, and more composers, writers, performers of all kinds than the majority of the population would know except for the festival celebrating their existence.
...Star performers come and go. They are naturally a part of this festival but the underpinning for that which is already there needs spotlight, aid, support, and moral uplift. Past and present, the existing, and that new to be added to it, all are part of this creature. The past in the form of a living mountain tradition, such as sacred harp and fiddling. The present in the form of commissioned art works.
...I see an armada of pleasure boats floating down from Lake Chickamauga, down the Tennessee River to congregate around a steam boat at the wharf by the bridge....
The Chattanooga "habitat" was not ready for this meaning, and its local poet,
if not her prophetic vision of an armada of pleasure boats at the downtown bridges, was
rejected. The ideological nature of the empty space already had been fixed, one in which
artists were to be hired to move the city toward social and economic goals at its
riverfront. A comparison between this and the original May 5 proposal shows how the work
of the artist can be perceived as its own end, not as a means to an end external to the
Analysis of Riverbend Objectives
The information from consultants, trips, speakers, and other documents was summarized by a volunteer seminar member.(81) The most important elements in that report are its list of objectives, which can be seen in contrast to the purposes stated and implied by the Charleston and Salzburg models. Those original objectives, which were heatedly debated during the seminars and evaluation session, included the following:
1. show how arts projects can be self-supporting and add significant new arts events with minimum drain on existing business and charitable resources;
2. provide a varied series of high quality arts performances and activities in a festival setting;
3. serve as a cohesive force;
4. promote artistic activity and aesthetically pleasing events;
5. act to catalyze downtown and riverfront revitalization;
6. enhance benefits from tourism from the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair;
7. provide opportunities for various elements of the community to interact;
8. gain national publicity for the city and its fine arts support;
9. improve community self-image and help residents feel good about the city;
1O. provide opportunities for central city business economic development;
11. showcase local fine arts performers and groups.
The foundation consultant's extensive report had urged the group to select between two choices, an urban fair or a music festival. The group rejected this binary proposal and voted to combine these types into one festival. The following analysis of these objectives suggests that the "arts" were gradually moved off the city stage while leaders pretended otherwise.
These written aims provide a beginning point in searching for a dominant meaning expressed by a festival and in creating a semiotic of festival. Written objectives, if they exist, are one valuable source of intended, if not received, meanings. These formal words define the intended nature of the "empty space" of a festival theater within the chronological sequence of actions by which a festival space is defined ideologically and physically.
The meanings of Chattanooga's new festival theatrical space were bounded by these statements that were a result of cooperative group action. These "texts" are productive for study because they reflect not an individual but a group vision of an imagined destination, a desired future state, a fantasy not yet reality, a dream of images to come, a wish to be fulfilled, hopes, values, purpose, expectations, intended results; in short, "future." They "reflect" the collective intentions of the particular social group, often thought of as the founders of the original festival idea.
Simultaneously, goal statements are "refracting" powerful institutional and individual ideologies, sources of funding, public and private interests. Taken as a whole, they represent highly compressed meaning symbols of the entire community of interests, not only the thoughts of those few who actually drafted the text but also of the image of the intended audience of financial and political supporters. Goal texts can be traced in their evolution over a period of years or they can be arranged through various schematic categories to bring out underlying functions that generate critical insight.
In 1984 or 1985, the above goals were "re-coded" under three headings: (1) to draw the community together (3,7,9); (2) to present the arts (11,2,4); and (3) to promote economic development (1, 5, 1O, 8, 6). Only goal six, related to the Knoxville World's Fair was changed, although the central idea was retained, to read "To enhance tourism in Chattanooga." Using only key words, the new classification was:
Draw the community together
serve as cohesive force
increase community interaction
improve self-image; feel good about city
Present the arts
showcase local fine arts performers
provide high quality arts performance in festival setting
promote artistic activity
Promote economic development
demonstrate self-supporting arts projects
avoid draining local business and charitable
catalyze downtown and riverfront revitalization
promote central city business development
gain national publicity for city and its fine arts
In the comprehensive 1988 evaluation of Riverbend, these three primary categories were unchanged. An appendix briefly summarized the objectives as used by the study team:
To draw the community together by serving as a cohesive force for the
Chattanooga community, by providing opportunities for the various elements of the
community to interact, and by improving the city's self-image and helping residents to
feel good about the city;
To present the arts by providing a showcase for local fine arts performers and
groups, by providing a varied series of high quality arts performances and activities in a
Festival setting, and by promoting artistic activity and offering aesthetically pleasing
events; and finally,
To promote economic development by demonstrating ways in which arts projects can be self-supporting through innovative entrepreneurial efforts. And, as a result, to add significant new arts events for Chattanooga with a minimum drain on existing business and charitable resources; by acting as a catalyst for downtown and riverfront revitalization; by providing opportunities for economic development, particularly central city businesses; by achieving noteworthy national publicity for the city and its activities in support of the fine arts; and by enhancing tourism in Chattanooga.
These objectives have remained largely unchanged in their actual wording since they were taken from the 1981 "Making of the Festival" study and incorporated into the final proposal for the Lyndhurst Foundation.
However, the 1988 evaluation recommended several additions that would "fine tune" these objectives: increase minority participation (lack of black involvement has been a major problem from the first days of the festival seminars), recognize the volunteer role, provide new opportunities for local performing artists and institutions at the festival, program the renovated Tivoli Theater and the proposed Bessie Smith Hall, work with the RiverCity development company and program events on the river before, during, and after developments are completed, help RiverCity educate and excite residents about specific projects such as the Tennessee Aquarium, assist RiverCity in marketing Chattanooga, package the Bessie Smith Jazz Strut for national television, balance attendance levels during the ten days of the festival, improve the comfort level of crowds by improving the site appearance, and by becoming actively involved in the process of planning the new Riverpark.
These additions, in light of the views advanced in this study, reflect the structural flaws of what is essentially the "heritage" festival dominated by the RiverCity company and Lyndhurst Foundation. No mention is made of finding qualified artistic leadership at any point in the study. Only in contrast to a Spoleto Festival U.S.A. does the lack of such leadership become noticeable.
The festival's modified, three-part classification scheme resembles the first cut of a structural coding not unlike Propp's grid of functions in folktales. As with his folk tales, it is possible to arrange the categories so that elements in them illustrate other patterns, such as function, intent, and effect. Near the end of his analysis, Propp observed:
The constancy of functions endures, permitting us to also introduce into our system those elements which become grouped around the functions. How does one create this system? The best method is to make up tables.(82)
Propp's "table of functions" are the actions of a tale, separated from who acts. The table resembles the Riverbend Festival's unintended but apparently necessary "reductionism" from eleven categories to three. These three objectives further abstracted and classified the "purpose," or "intentions," of the festival and defined the ideological boundaries of the imagined festival space.
Although the words were unchanged, this 1984 or 1985 realignment, upon closer scrutiny, reveals significant differences. For example, references to "art" and "artists" appear just as often, five times. But the original text refers to these terms in the first two, and in three of the first four, objectives. The first list ended by eventually mentioning fine arts "performers."
In the second version "social" functions come first, arts second, and the economy last. Two of the arts projects now fall under "economic development" rather than "presenting the arts." It can be concluded that the arts have a lowered priority in the second goal statement. This repetitive "element"--role of arts and artists --"signifies" a changed view of the artist in the Riverbend Festival. Evidently that original "dream" was modified and the semiotic relationships of elements within the festival shifted positions. When the analysis moves from text to the context created by the objectives, several reasons for the changed function of the artist are suggested.
By 1988 it appears to have been recognized that local performing artists (no mention of visual artists) and institutions should be provided new opportunities at the festival. But there is no mention of the vital element--an artistic director or directors--that virtually every significant festival that respects the serious arts, which the Riverbend Festival objectives purport to do, includes.
The second list of objectives re-codes the "art" element, which was nearly one-half of the original eleven objectives. A defensible conclusion is that the festival's intended meaning has changed in this one aspect, the value of art and artists--not in simplistic terms of "art for art's sake" but in terms of the larger issue of the actual work of the artist in this community.
The separation of terms of purpose, function, and effect is one method of clarifying this re-coding of objectives and shifting of priorities. Language of purpose appears to be the concrete intellectual act that defines the particular character of any new empty space, a process observable within Chattanooga's well-documented making of its festival. Purposive terms describe the direction of a journey and not the mode of traveling or description of the expected destination. The following key terms were selected from both the original and revised list of objectives. Re-coded in the categorical grouping below, the terms reveal some underlying distinctions about the nature of this festival theater:
Intent (purpose) Function (how) Effect (result)
draw together cohesive force improve self-image
present arts elements interact feel good
economic growth performances showcase artists
festival setting artistic activity
catalyst self-supporting arts
central city publicity
One conclusion from the positioning of the revised three categories is that a higher
level of abstraction is needed to express the "purpose," or why the festival is
desired, suggesting the possibility of unconscious drives not easily articulated. Second,
the re-coded context modifies the original meanings, contradicting festival officials'
recurring statements that the objectives were not changed, only the sequence. Third, most
objectives reflect results, not process; to specify only effects is to risk unacceptable
methods of achieving them. Fourth, the functions describe the "theatrical space"
in which the journey is made without reference to intent or effect. Fifth, a chronological
view of these unfolding events reveals the festival's shifting dominant purposes through
repeated presence or absence of signifiers. Finally, if, as Bakhtin said, "every
meaning will have its homecoming festival," which is a highly visual expression of
the forms of meanings, then it is possible to ask: To what kind of home have the meanings
of this festival come? Were they welcomed? Were they rejected? Why?
Riverbend: Meanings and Messages
For this study, the remainder of the story is anti-climatic. The officers and new board members assumed office in February and planning proceeded. The festival was held in August 1982. It was preceded by in-home chamber music fundraising events and by three concerts at the local baseball stadium. These included three expensive entertainment groups--the Beachboys, the Commodores, and Rick Springfield--and festival officials expected adequate profits to finance the actual festival at the riverfront. Springfield alone cost $65,OOO. Even with the efforts of professional promoters, the Riverbend went into its first actual festival with a $1OO,OOO deficit. But the deficit bought an enthusiastic and excited community; the festival had been born and had taken its first step.
One indication of the general reaction to the Riverbend (and simultaneous Miller Park and Fort Wood festivals), even with its various difficulties and problems, came from an editorial by Pat Wilcox in the Chattanooga Times:
After a week of music and fun, the Riverbend Festival is over, and Chattanooga can
luxuriate in the afterglow of success. Sponsoring foundations and corporations,
particularly the Krystal Co., took a bet on Chattanooga--and won. But the volunteers who
spent countless hours planning and organizing the festival often worked against the odds
of disbelief. Surveying the crowds of festival-goers, one such organizer recalled many
requests for help turned down simply because "they didn't think this thing would ever
happen." But happen it did--and in a big way. Over the weekend the Downtown Arts
Festival and the Fort Wood neighborhood celebration added to the festive fair. Together,
the crowds they drew brought all downtown to life. Congratulations are in order for the
believers. They've made believers of a lot more folks--and that bodes well for next year.
"Next year" meant the festival would become ritual, repeating its magical time and space--and making more "believers"-- but believers in what ideas? The three festivals did not coincide again; such a "celebration of togetherness" was not desired by the various groups involved.
Like Gargantua, after its birth the Riverbend Festival grew, and grew, and grew, and appeared likely to outgrow its cradle. In 1987 nearly 1OO,OOO persons gathered "down by the riverside" to hear the "Chicago" jazz group perform, where most of the huge crowd could enjoy the performance only from giant loudspeakers and videoscreens. The few dozen who gathered to hear three visiting chamber musicians at the new Miller Park open-air pavilion at noon and sunset strained to hear over the traffic noise. Riverbend officials could not put the musicians in any one of several nearby acoustic space because of "politics," the chamber music committee had been told at its first and only meeting several months before.
By 1986, the Riverbend Festival was shifting almost exclusively toward support of riverfront development tasks, as the 1988 evaluation confirmed--away from the original objectives. A rigidity had settled on the programming. There were no more premier works, such as a 1985 commissioned work for fiddle and orchestra by New England composer Marie Rhines, played on the river barge. The physical nature of the empty space is a critical element in the art of the festival. Sarah Vaughn had noted in a 1981 newspaper interview during "Five Nights" that "music is not an outdoor sport," suggesting that a proper acoustic space like the Tivoli Theater would have been far more appropriate for such a subtle combination of fiddle and orchestra. A year earlier, Rhines had been sponsored by the Lyndhurst Foundation as an artist-in-residence at Baylor School, a private college preparatory high school in Chattanooga. Rhines' work expressed her scholarly interest in fiddling and in Apalachian folk tunes pased down from the area's British musical heritage. After the Riverbend premier, apparently neither Rhines nor any other composer was invited to prepare new compositions. Later that year, another composer from Chattanooga asked the foundation for production support of a new work that possibly could have premiered at the Riverbend Festival. The Lyndhurst Foundation representative responded that it no longer funded such grants to artists (it does have a program of individual artist grants, "Lyndhurst Fellows," but applications are not accepted).
This added to the signs that the Riverbend and its primary sponsor finally had turned away from any attempt to follow Spoleto Festival U.S.A.'s "serious" programming that introduces the new, different, and unknown to the community. It was a complete reversal from the limited multi-arts efforts of the 1982 through 1985 programs. It could be written in May 1986:
The community has not welcomed nor encouraged new ideas and ways of expressing them by its artists, whose existence seemingly serves to promote economic growth and attract new business. Our leaders talk of arts, not artists. The campaign slogan is a pitch for jobs, not joy. The pledge is for more of the same, not the new, the different, the stimulating. The "new" is not well received in Chattanooga, and it may be that the absence of community leaders, with a few exceptions, at these artistic events speaks eloquently....
It is Sunday's announcement of the Riverbend Festival schedule that makes this "fear of the new" so clear--the commercial artists, the motor boat races, the events that are fun and that sell pins but that say "more of the same" and "why bother" to some known or unknown artistic talent with a new, untested message or medium. Why does the Riverbend not merit a listing in the New York Times summer music festival section? What is nearly a million dollars buying for our town? It is an expensive summer "block party," to use one festival president's term. If a Rick Montague had the power six years ago to specify a "promoter" rather than an "artistic director" to shape the Riverbend Festival, then he also has the power to help foster a climate of innovation and support for the "new" sources of artistic energy without which communities stagnate and decline....(83)
The extreme range of favorable and unfavorable responses to these thoughts indicated that "negative" interpretations of a town festival can generate highly emotional reactions to what a Lyndhurst foundation official viewed as the city's "annual image-making set of activities" (see Preface, Slack article).
The 1988 comprehensive Riverbend evaluation, funded by the Lyndhurst Foundation, is outside the period of this study. From the perspective of an essential "empty space," the report noted that the economic development of the Riverfront Park where the festival is located would displace Riverbend for several years. Such self-destructive evolution of this commercial festival would be predictable, based on an idea of empty space that becomes filled and no longer functions as a theatrical empty space where the "new" can emerge, where the "different" has its first breath of life, where even conflicting "voices" can "sing" their songs and "play" their works. The $1OO,OOO study reinforced the idea that concluded the discussion of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and that is this work's thesis: difference embraces sameness but sameness rejects difference.
In summary, a broader context appropriate for a larger study would show the kind of urban "home" into which the evolving meanings of "festival" were invited in 1981, and would show specifically how the various civic forces underlying the festival bounded a newly constructed "empty space" in the organizers' collective thinking. A 1981 Allied Arts fund raising study contains detailed documentation of the thinking behind the move toward centralized control of the museum, symphony, opera, and other member organizations, an environment that opposed the idea of a festival at that time. The written corpus of material accessible for this study--that is, the contextual, ideological boundaries in which most debate and argument occurred--points toward the strong possibility that these meanings of "Riverbend" are a microcosm of meanings of the larger community and regional and national society. Although two different ideas of a festival had surfaced, one called fine arts or elitist and one called popular or social, in the final actual grant proposal the group had attempted to retain both elements. It is the Hays document that most vividly illustrates the difference in intended festival meanings, ranging from a social objective of "celebrating togetherness" to aesthetic aims of "celebrating the existence of local artists."
A broader conceptual framework is required to address these and similar issues. It rests on a Bakhtinian communication philosophy that fosters more multiple interpretations throughout the social communication process, where an idea of "differences" could "someday have its homecoming festival."
TWO TOWNS, TWO FESTIVALS, MULTIPLE MEANINGS OF "FESTIVAL"
An "Arts" Festival-Creature
Encounters its "Heritage" Habitat
Two contrasting ideas of festival frame the issues raised by the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals. These are found in the "difference" and "sameness" opposition, the "arts" and "heritage" purpose, the "open" and "closed" festival form. They can be seen in the following viewpoints generated by Chattanooga's experience with its festival:
Foundation President: Cities and towns are holding heritage
festivals--taking a new look, establishing community pride. The towns which "sell
out" and follow a foreign culture without struggling to incorporate and assimilate
that culture as a subset of its historical authenticity will become fractured,
Composer: A Festival is a creature which needs to fit its habitat....My creature Festival then, is one which has characteristics of the local scene....The creature not only sings, of course; it dances and rhymes and paints pretty pictures and makes marvelous, outlandish sculptures and reads outrageously wonderful poems....It has the accent of many voices of the region.(85)
These views seemingly agree on the importance of the local nature of a festival, but they diverge on the degree of diversity tolerated within its "habitat." "Subcultures" quickly can become ethnic, religious, or class minority groups erased from a city's "authentic" dominant history. "Outrageously wonderful poems," which could become outrageous "full frontal nudity" in Martha Clarke's Miracle of Love in one of Charleston's public theaters during the 1986 Spoleto U.S.A., could in a Chattanooga become a censored production, which has been a recurring practice in the community's publicly-owned theaters. Charleston easily could be the town apparently charged by the foundation director quoted above with "selling out" and "following a foreign culture." The central point is that it is not the particular city or even "foreign culture" that is in question but any cultural practice "different" from the prevailing preferences of those individuals who control a community's resources and direction of change. The effect is that the community remains on the "same" course until "new" information from a more powerful source alters its direction and perceptions.
If Menotti and the NEA served as such a change agent for Charleston, then Charleston's festival provided this "new" information to Chattanooga individuals and town officials. The record shows that Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. set both a strong positive and negative example for the founders and organizers of Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. Whether Charleston, as would be implied by the first view above, "sold out" to a "foreign culture" or successfully "assimilated" the Italian Spoleto festival is impossible to prove, if, in fact, that is the example the speaker had in mind. There is no evidence to indicate that Charleston has shown signs of becoming "fractured, schitzophrenic--rootless." However, if that actually is what happened, it seems a path associated with world fame and increasing urban wealth. If the term "schizophrenic" means "a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements" (Random House Dictionary, 2nd edition), then the view proposed earlier of the multi-functional dimensions of a festival of "diversity" as opposed to a single dimensional festival of "unity" is cast in bold relief.
In the foreword to Lyotard's Postmodern Condition, Frederic Jameson points out Gilles Deleuze's "influential celebration of schizophrenia" (in books like the Anti-Oedipus)." Later he also notes: "Lyotard's affiliations here would seem to be with the Anti-Oedipus of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who also warned us, at the end of that work, that the schizophrenic ethic they proposed was not at all a revolutionary one, but a way of surviving under capitalism, producing fresh desires within the structural limits of the capitalist mode of production as such."(86)
There should be little doubt that festivals, like world's fairs, function as "desire machines," as Robert Segrest has written about the Chicago world's fairs.(87) From this perspective, Montague's attack on the schizophrenic is predictable in that the "fractured" state of things would threaten "totality" and monological "historical authenticity." Such an environment obviously would reject Menotti's festival theater of differences and the avant garde. The result literally is monologue conquering dialogue, the great theme of diversity that concerned Bakhtin in all his works. That Charleston went against its "historical authenticity" makes its Spoleto Festival U.S.A. all the more improbable. The Riverbend example suggests "assimilation" of "subcultures" quickly becomes unintended "erasure of differences."
It is the issue of "sameness" versus "differences." To be specific, a claim is made for the positive value of the so-called "schizophrenic," coexisting, contradictory, incompatible elements in Hays' proposal. This idea was not tolerated by the ideological dominance of "historical authenticity" in the Chattanooga experience described. Neither idea should be carried to its logical extreme; it is the blend and balance that represents the artistry of both personal sanity and social progress, and in serious festivals where all these dynamics often are staged.
There are conflicting views about the influences behind Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival, but the available record indicates that when the city's leaders had the opportunity to benefit from the example of the National Endowment for the Arts' "gift" of an arts festival to the Southeast, and possibly to request similar support, an official of the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation, however well-intentioned, deliberately used his foundation's enormous power to block the appointment of an urgently needed artistic director at the outset of the creative process.
It is definite that what became the Riverbend Festival "celebrated" few local
artists and cultural organizations (a continuing criticism supported by the foundation's
extensive 1988 analysis(88) of the festival). It appears
the ideological divergences of the philosophies inherent in a "heritage" or
"arts" festival, to use the simplest oppositions, proved substantial, leading in
the first case to a festival of "sameness" and in the second case to a festival
of "differences." Although there are important exceptions to such a stark
opposition, the tale that is reflected in the Chattanooga story of "unity"
stands in great contrast to the stories of Charleston's diversity as told by Stern,
Wadsworth, Sturm, Redden, and Rawle. Their narratives reveal the considerably broader
range of imaginative expressions of a festival's "place, ideal, and force."
"Logodaedaly" gives a more precise sense of the idea for the complex cultural practice of "festival" contrasted in the examples of "difference" in Charleston and "sameness" in Chattanooga. The kindred entities of festival, carnival, and fair are a "logos," in the Greek sense of a combining form of discourse. The distinctive festival logos is "logodaedaly," a playing not only with words but also with other artificial and natural "signs." These can be any symbol or object, all "signs" in the Peircian sense, in close spatial and temporal proximity in which a public "festival" theater functions contextually to transform meanings. "Logodaedaly" expresses the festival's contextual logic of diversity, difference, juxtaposition, inversion, and opposition.
In the Oxford English Dictionary sense, a "logodaedalist" is an "inventor of words," or "signs," in the extended sense. From this view, Gian Carlo Menotti functions as a "logodaedalist" in the Spoleto festival productions. At festival time, he is head of a temporary state of "logocracy," or a "community or system of government in which words [signs] are the ruling powers" (OED). In Menotti's "logocracy" the space exists for free play, for randomness, for unexpected outcomes, from personal risk of exposure to the never-before-seen. Menotti's festival theater provides a model of "logodaedaly" where cultural and other differences are presented as "normal" within the wide range of diversity contained within the festival's time and space.
However, one other festival model provides a more fully developed expression of the
practice of "logodaedaly" than has been observed in Menotti's Spoleto festivals.
This is the Chautauqua Institution, founded in 1874 near Jamestown, New York.
Primary Function of a Festival:
Chautauqua--Forum for Conflicting Views
One primary function of a festival of differences is to provide a forum for expression of conflicting social practices and opinions. After its first festival, during which a local politician set up a booth in the festival river park area, the Riverbend board voted against this practice. Yet at Charleston the opening ceremonies of Spoleto are an important occasion for political speeches from national, state, and local officials. This deliberate staging creates the festival's political "work" function, which is illustrated by one aspect of the Chautauqua Institution's programming policies.
The philosophy of Chautauqua provides a well-known example of a festival that encodes the idea of "logodaedaly." Any medium of communication has at least five basic functions: entertainment, information, persuasion, education, and profit-making. The balance and dominance of any one or several of these determines the particular nature of the medium and the characteristics of the channel, which influences the type of information flowing through it. Chautauqua stands alone in examples of the festival genre in representing a mixture of all these elements from its earliest days in the 187Os, when education dominated, to modern times, when entertainment dominates. It is its mixture of purposes that makes it unique among festival spaces. Chautauqua's 1987 conference week on the American Constitution invited persons of widely varying political persuasions to lecture and participate in debates and discussions; another week was devoted to American and Soviet issues with Soviet citizens participating.
Chautauqua's history and programming focus attention on this festival's philosophy of persuasion and entertainment. Was it designed to persuade participants to hold specific beliefs? Was and is that a deliberate purpose, as it was in the case of Riverbend? The original reasons for the institution's central purpose emerging at Chautauqua in 1874 becomes an important marker of its continuing "spirit." Lewis Miller, who had the original idea as early as 1871, explained the basic purpose in his 1888 opening night address:
We are all one on these Grounds! No matter to what denomination you belong; no matter what creed, no matter to what political party of the country. You are welcome here, whether high or low. You can have a right to go anywhere you can get. And it is something like the sample-rooms, but not in a vulgar way. You know they go to this place, and they sample this and sample that a little, and then they take whatever they like, go home, and use what they want. And so here you are welcome to go about examining the various organizations and the various things introduced to you, taking such things as you want. Believe just what you want to, what you please about them and take them with you or leave them here as you like [emphasis mine]. And you are entirely welcome to all our good things at Chautauqua.(89)
"Believe just what you want to..."; this is not the spirit of a Riverbend, which offers such a narrow "sample" to its citizens. Chautauqua is closer to Spoleto in its ecumenical nature, but even Spoleto lacks such a deliberate, all-embracing dialogue.
The religious philosophy of Chautauqua is the key to decoding its meaning. On another occasion Miller explained the purposes and functions of the new activity:
The original scheme was a Christian education resort which should change...from an evangelism idea to Christian development, when all phases of modern civilization should be made to give recognition to true Bible development, that modern civilization was Christian civilization. That pleasure, science, and all friends of true culture should go side by side with true religion. To develop such a scheme and give it the strength to gain a place in the thoughts of the various phases of society, it requires the cooperation of the different denominations and educational interests.(90)
This was not an excluding fundamentalist doctrine but an embracing, accepting Christianity, "side by side" with pleasure, science, and culture. The shift in emphasis from "evangelism" to "development" meant acceptance and even encouragement of differences, of plurality of belief as opposed to adherence to a single "official" truth. Yet the Chautauqua "Experience," as many who visit there say, does not exclude rhetorical, persuasive religious doctrines that seek converts to their beliefs. The intent to persuade an audience not to believe in any one doctrine but to accept multiple "truths" is encoded in the idea of a festival of differences--"logodaedaly," a form of political tolerance beyond traditional liberal and conservative views. "Multilogue" suggests the sense of this idea.
The story of the six blind men touching and describing the elephant illustrates this point. The difference festival is an "elephant" in which some of the blind see a religious message, others see a political message, or others see nothing at all and simply enjoy the feel of the "creature." This theme of plurality, explored in Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition, is a central meaning of festivals that combine many diverse art forms and many opposing statements. This message contrasts with festivals that have a single theme, a single purpose, such as a "heritage" expression of a native culture.
Vincent's characterization of a Chautauqua lyceum as "a place, an ideal, a force" on a post card, which shows a large tent with open sides and a crowd of women in gowns and men in shirtsleeves, illustrates the many levels of interrelationships behind this particular festival's philosophy. These three concepts are interconnected in a multi-dimensional bond with the other triadic relationships discussed previously.
Vincent first viewed Chautauqua as a place, a necessary first category. Every festival has its place. As Bakhtin said, "Every meaning will someday have its homecoming festival." A festival requires its homecoming "place," a specific and material location or physical address that is a major part of the visible expression of the festival idea.(91)
Vincent's second quality was an "ideal." In what ways does a festival, particularly such a mature institution as Chautauqua, represent an ideal, or set of ideals? The ideal is expressed in the unattainable dream-vision. The purposes, goals, or intentions of the original dreamers always fall short of the visible reality. The ideal, then, is that which the festival expresses in its choices of artistic directors, programming, audience, place, and other physical devices. One such device, very similar in function if not in intent to the Riverbend Festival's practice, was present from Chautauqua's beginning:
The gate ticket, one of the unique aspects of Chautauqua, originated at the very first Assembly in 1874 when it was decided to charge an entry fee rather than take frequent collections at lectures, classes or services. This fee was referred to as a form of tuition, representing each person's share of the expense which is necessary in maintaining an educational program.
The gate ticket entitles the holder to hear concerts, lectures, other performances and services in the Amphitheater, numerous other religious services, recitals, arts exhibits and programs; to enjoy beach facilities, library privileges and agreeable fellowship with people of congenial tastes.
It is true that operas and theatre productions... require extra payment for which reserved seating is required...people from outside the gates who have purchased opera or play tickets and intend to come for these performances only, are not required to pay the usual evening gate fee....
The atmosphere of quiet enjoyment on the Grounds, one of its other unique characteristics, is almost completely the result of the gate-fence arrangement.
For the most part, the people one sees on the Grounds are those who have chosen to come for the specific enjoyment of the place, school or program. It is assumed that anyone with a gate ticket automatically becomes in his own way that special type of person known as a Chautauquan. Among these people the Chautauqua experiences strike up a strong bond winter or summer.
If there is any one characteristic that these Chautauquans have in common, it probably is the inquiring mind. All sides of public questions are open to discussion on the Chautauqua platform and tolerance of differing viewpoints is practiced as part of Chautauqua's tradition [emphasis mine].(92)
In this account can be seen the same spirit of acceptance for both difference and sameness apparently present from the moment Lewis Miller imagined such an "idea" and found such a "place." Such innovative social thinking was part of Miller's daily life; not only was he a successful businessman and inventor of farm machinery but he was also the father-in-law of Thomas Edison.
The third category is "force." A "force" is that which "connects" ideas in a "viewing" place--a theatrical space. Its physical devices, such as the "gate ticket" or "pin," can be both "connecting" and "separating" in their aesthetic, tension-creating functions if not in their aims. The devices of art are seldom calming and soothing and completely satisfying. It is in the alteration between tension and relaxation, between centripetal and centrifugal pulls, that much of the driving force in arts forms is situated. A force is an unseen agent, a mystery, something driving the ideas that created the Chautauqua communities, generally known as "assemblies," or gatherings of both like and unlike viewpoints. Binding these gatherings is a "force," which can be spiritual, an unseen presence; it also can be used in the sense of the "force of life." It is expressed as well in the festival ideal and its place, all three interconnected, intertwined elements.
One example of the abstract nature, yet tangible power of "force," in the sense Vincent probably intended, was noticed in 1987 while returning from Chautauqua through the state of West Virginia. Three crosses were standing on a small, steep hilltop. Two smaller crosses on either side of a large one were painted white; the center cross, left unpainted, was much taller. Three crosses on a hilltop: the place, the isolated hilltop; the ideal, a good teacher crucified and the two evil thieves gathered in common bond; the unseen force, that symbol's power in that space with no other artificial signs, framed and set off by the surrounding green mountain and other small hills. The force is those ideas associated with Christ's death.(93) These ideas were the Chautauqua Institution's primary reason for existence; that is, to teach Sunday School teachers more interesting ways of teaching. Underlying this motivation was a questioning of the old methods, a willingness to search for new means of envisioning ideas and teaching the old meanings, which, as Bakhtin said, are not "absolutely dead."(94)
This is a basic idea of a festival's force, that important things can happen when people of different views and persuasions choose to assemble together in their common as well as opposing interests. It is a force of making believe, found within the theater, that surges back and forth like an electrical arc, and literally carries the idea between audiences and artists. Within this metaphor of force is found the particular power of the festival medium for the exchange of information, a medium functionally different from the traditional church sanctuary, a semiotic device where also, as Peirce said, one person may catch another person's idea (see Preface, endnote five).
The festival's message primarily is its physical structure. In a traditional "one-to-many" Sunday School communication model, which Chautauqua's founders placed in question, there is no participation arrangement, no circular seating, and little chance to discuss, to react, to view other group members. The arrangement is that of the shepherd and sheep, leader and followers, the hierarchical "I know" of the teacher/minister who "knows" addressing those who "know not," the "one who sees" and "those who do not see." The festival form not only inverts this ordering of power relations but rather "scrambles" the meaning of traditional physical structures. Potentially the festival's material environment can provide in varying degrees helical and even random processes for social interaction. The Chautauqua amphitheater, open on three sides and essentially circular in its rows of seats, represents such a new ordering of power relations; the lyceum tent on the postcard replicates this pattern. This formal/informal, official/unofficial ordering of physical elements functions as opposing statements, which represent a functional "spatial code" juxtaposed within the meaning-making signification system.
Even in those festivals, such as Ravinia, Tanglewood, or Artpark (Lewiston, New York), where the "indoor" arrangement is similar to the church sanctuary in its order of relationships and hierarchy of those closer to the "one," an informal area surrounds this formal space. One common pattern of the indoor/outdoor venue is the use of space at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, where seats are sold inside the enclosed area while, picnickers on the grass surround the pavilion. This model of inside order versus outside disorder, of privately owned property in the form of reserved seats versus communal property, can be regarded as a semiotic model displaying the dominant group's desired order of relationships. One "pays" more for proximity to the "live" sound source, which is also broadcast over loudspeakers to the picnic grounds. The model represents a "correct" economic and social hierarchy, such as "in/out" institutional arrangements. Its visual ordering becomes the inherent power of the festival in making meaning. The folk, rock, and political festivals of the 196Os, such as Woodstock, had an entirely different spatial nature. It may be that analyses of a wide range of festivals will indicate not only the manner but also the extent to which major arts festivals represent their communities on a larger scale--and in the aggregate the nature of their societies in which they are born and nurtured. The extent to which participants receive embedded messages, or meanings, is extremely difficult to ascertain. However, where a record of negative or positive response to changes in long-standing festival practices exists, then inferences could be made of the degree of meaningful significance attributed by audiences.
Bakhtin's relationships of meaning, homecoming, and festival correspond to Vincent's three elements. "Every meaning," as Bakhtin put it, implying undiscovered meanings, will be expressed in its own festival as a "homecoming," implying a final destination, a relaxation of interpretation. Various meanings can be inferred from festivals by searching for particular signs, especially the repetition of these signs in their infinite forms and masks, that compose an index for their ideals and driving forces.
Festivals express various differences, as the director of "Artpark" suggested in noting that the difficulty [and the pleasure] of studying festivals is that no two are alike. The source of this difference is the form of difference itself encoded in the festival structure. New meanings, then, as Bakhtin's statement suggests, can emerge at some point through a festival format, or can be inhibited by a distorted form. This suggests an as yet uncertain understanding about how festivals might function as one of the devices that humans have invented to make meaning and to sustain and change beliefs, or to block new meanings.
The primary claim has been that "we believe that make- believe makes belief." In other words, the leaders of the festival believe there is a cause and effect relationship between the festival and their intentions. It is not necessary to provide "evidence" that the festival theater actually does make a belief of any kind. What is important is to establish that there is a expectation in the minds of the founders, the managers, the board, and those who participate in many ways that festivals will create beliefs of some kind in the minds of participants.
There is no certain way of proving that this happens, although opinion survey
techniques are readily available for approximating ranges of attitudes and beliefs. The
only thing that can be certain is intent: the verbal expression of a
belief in the power of this theater in the form of a "festival" and in the
political effect of the dramatic and performing arts subtexts that are contained. In this
sense, the performances, the programming, the number of events, the type of events have to
be looked at as subtexts to the overall text of the festival. Surrounding the festival is
its context--the community, the urban environment, the geographic environment in which it
is located. Context and subtext shift in their meaning; they vary from a literal spatial
geographic location to a set of symbolic relationships and signs and markers that define
the physical boundaries to the subtexts that are located in various enclosures or
containers and relate in some specific ways to the central ideas of the festival.
Comparative studies are needed to determine the obvious as well as subtle differences in the major arts festivals of the day and their functions performed. A table of such a comparison of the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals, based on many of the points presented in the preceding chapters, suggests a variety of potential conceptual categories, in addition to the three selected for consideration in this analysis. Very few similarities can be noticed (thrrough 1988):
Category Charleston Chattanooga
Sector influence: Public Private
Leadership: Strong mayor Weak mayor
City Hall role: Active Passive
Funding: More tax dollars Few tax dollars
Revenues: Seat tickets Outdoor, pins
Commercial ads: Low visibility High visibility
Primary goal: Energize city w/arts Cohesiveness
Origination: External Internal
Previous festivals: No information A few efforts
Resistance: Private, failed Private, failed
Defense of festival: Mayor, college pres. Foundation
Location: Multiple Primarily single
Crowds: None, last day 6,OOO Up to 1OO,OOO
Programming: Comprehensive, new, Popular, rock
classical, avant country, some
avant garde music classical music
Set formula: Yes in 1988 O in 1988
Artistic emphasis: Yes O
Artistic Director: Yes O
Federal funding: Yes O
State funding: Yes O
Primary funding: Tickets, grants Advertisements, pins, donations
Emphasis: New art work Fun, interaction
Tourism: High priority Low priority
International: Yes O
Popular music role: Balance offerings Attract crowds
Critics reaction: Extremely important Disregarded
Key effect desired: Aesthetic Social, Economic
Replace key person: Difficult O
Overall purpose: Artistic excellence Riverfront boost
Source of vision: Gian Carlo Menotti Conflicting
Est. 1988 budget: $4 million $1.6 million
Policy dominance: Board, artistic dir. Board, foundation
Arts dominance: Performing Performing
Other art forms: All Token of types
Chamber music: Major; sponsored Minor
Acoustic theaters: Yes No
History written: O O
Symbol of town: Yes Yes
Future changes: Artistic leadership New locations
Previous model: Spoleto, Italy Spoleto U.S.A.
Poster type: Different each year Basically same
Several categories merit special notice: posters, revenue devices, programs, and theatrical spaces. Although all the elements listed above are meaningful, these four possess a "defining" character by the extent to which they compress meanings and function simultaneously as iconic, indexical, and symbolic signs.
The "poster" category generated the greatest contrast of meanings between Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and the Riverbend Festival. Differences in the two cities' festival poster philosophy signifies a dramatic example of the meaning intended by difference and sameness in these two festivals. On the wall of the Riverbend office in 1988 were all the posters from the beginning--all a similar basic graphic design of stars and sweeping curves, somewhat modified each year but constant in their graphic symbolism of "sameness." It was not until 1989 that a new poster theme of mountain and river evolved.
Spoleto Festival U.S.A., on the other hand, has had a different artist each year, an artist of international reputation, create a poster. Most have been nonrepresentational, and no two are alike except that they are all different and unpredictable. An exhibition of works of the chosen artist is presented during each festival in Charleston's fine arts museum. No other element signifies the idea of diversity more vividly than this. It is not that the Riverbend posters are unattractive; rather that until 1989 they were predictable and unlikely to differ, a significant variation from the spirit of differences found in typical festival practice. It is highly probable, however, that with the graphic pattern now broken, a continuing variation of the mountain and river symbolism could evolve toward original art works that express the uniqueness of the Chattanooga topography as well as the focus on riverfront development.
A second key signifier is the "token for admission to the magical space," which, if it were a device in a folktale, might have been Propp's way of describing the Riverbend pin's function. The Riverbend office has all the pins, and the varieties of official pins, from their first use in the 1983 festival, mounted on an inner office wall. About one-half of the mounting board is filled, leaving room for many years of pins. The pins also are virtually the same, somewhat modified so they can not be used again, but lacking any sign of imaginative design.
This pin collection, like the poster collection, represents an idea of festival dramatically different from the Spoleto pin that "pilgrims" purchase in the Dock Street Theater lobby as a reminder of the Charleston festival experience. This 1988 pin has a metal treble clef signature sign over the Spoleto name; it is an interesting piece of "art."
The Riverbend pin is the most significant signifier in this very complex semiotic web. It is the device by which an increasingly important percentage of the budget is being exploited for psychological effect. When the organizers were discussing alternative methods for financing the festival, they were confronted with a short-term as well as a three-year deadline on funding assistance from the Lyndhurst Foundation. It did not seem fair to begin something with no more than slight hope of its continuation if no more grant money were available. They searched for an alternative to the model of the expensive, limited seating observed in the examples of Charleston and Salzburg.
While we were searching in 1981 for alternative revenue sources, it occurred to me that in an outdoor festival one has a basically unlimited commodity in that the same product, seats--places for viewing--can be sold again and again in varying densities during a festival of several days. With aggressive marketing, a ticket card for the entire period could be sold for perhaps $1O to a hundred thousand people. This could create a budget of a million dollars, and much innovative, original work in indoor and unique venues could be fostered without dependence on the unpredictable whims of wealthy patrons or advertising.
This idea was not accepted by the organizers the first year, although considerable private discussion was held concerning the concept and its implications. However, the second year the new board decided to sell plastic lapel pins for approximately $5 each. The remarkable nature of that choice is that these were not placed in every possible outlet for sale. The board, led by a former conservative politician and successful businessman,(95) decided to persuade local companies to buy quantities of these pins at a reduced rate. These employers, as a good will gesture, could in turn donate the pins to their employees or sell them at a reduced rate. According to the announcement in the May 24, 1986, Chattanooga Times: "Promoters, announcing the schedule for this year's riverfront festival has been finalized, said more than 3OO Chattanooga-area companies are expected to purchase admission pins for employees before corporate sales end May 29."
What Chattanooga had was a potentially free and open semiotic entity once again captured by the "patron" approach to the arts, as opposed to a "consumer" arts orientation. The Riverbend "pin" is a prime symbol of the "deep structure" Southern plantation mentality that retains control of the workforce. No more powerful signifier of the ordering of social relationships exists than the three-starred plastic pins that grateful employees wear to the ten-day festival.(96)
The donation of pins by employers to Chattanooga festival goers can be seen as an aesthetically repressive device in its effects if not in its intentions. If point-of-purchase pin containers, similar to the cardboard holders seen in supermarkets, were located in the many purchasing locations throughout the community and region, revenues could double or triple the festival's budget. Possibly the festival would not have required heavy commercial advertising, foundation funding, or even tax dollars. The additional income could extend Riverbend's time by several weeks or even months as in some summer-long festivals. It could generate several million dollars flowing through the community, a significant economic multiplier effect greater than those mentioned by Colin Sturm.
This is the effect that could create more work for artists, if the festival sponsors and leaders were interested in attaining that objective. Yet the solution of one problem often creates new problems; careful research in simultaneous scheduling should be conducted before such a policy is undertaken. Excessive attendance at some events would be one danger, as has occurred at one Riverbend Festival during the Pointer Sisters' appearance, which was attended by a crowd estimated at 5O,OOO in a fenced area much too small for safety. The area was enlarged after that episode.
Third, the cover of Riverbend's first program pictured the fantasy of local sculptor James Collins, an "air" sculpture called "Confetti Fingers." Its helium-filled slender balloon fingers swirled and gyrated hundreds of feet above the riverfront festival site--like an open hand welcoming everything in the universe--waiting to be cut loose at the final ceremonies. Fearing a flight safety hazard, the Federal Aviation Authority refused permission for it be cut from its moorings and let loose into the sky, and no amount of persuading would change their ruling. "Confetti Fingers," like later Riverbends, did not "fly," but, as often happened, the organizers turned another problem into an opportunity. The giant air sculpture was cut up into pieces for children to carry home as reminders of the first Riverbend.
After that theatrical chimera that was the first Riverbend, the spirit of aesthetic risk-taking diminished, although belief in the power of the festival to achieve commercial effects increased. Recent Riverbends have included little of that exciting first year--no experimental sculpture, new drama, original ballet, film festivals, juried arts exhibits, or related fringe activities. The last original musical composition apparently was in 1985.
Fourth, the spatial arrangement of "theatrical" spaces are semiotic "markers" that differentiate Charleston's and Chattanooga's festival philosophies. After its first year, Chattanooga's Riverbend expanded its activities to include motorboat races on the river (against strong objections by several of the original organizers). Any popular event, such as a triathlon and charity runs, could be included under the Riverbend sponsorship umbrella if it promoted riverfront development.
From the beginning, this focus on the riverfront took a peculiar course. The first year the symphony played several water theme compositions (such as Handel's "Water Music") for the tired spectators waiting on the final night to hear pop singer Roberta Flack. The orchestra, however, was located about 5O feet away from the nearest listener, on a barge tied to the riverpark bank, and the audience could not hear the mostly soft music because of a failed sound system. Another event proposed by horse lovers in 1983 was a three-day event: equitation, cross-country, and stadium jumping. This was rejected because there was no room for it at the river park site and because it would "diffuse" the riverfront focus. That was the same argument several leaders of the traditional arts establishment had used against having the festival when the idea first surfaced the previous spring.
Meaning through spatial arrangement, therefore, is communicated on a variety of levels
in these festivals and the multi-sensory models of relationships that they present to
participants. To participate with an audience of 1OO,OOO jammed and packed into the
relatively small space at the Riverfront Park is to feel the crowd, the diminishment of
the individual. To be in a small acoustic space, such as the Charleston's Dock Street
Theater or Chattanooga's Tivoli Theater lobby or Chattanooga Choo Choo convention theater
entrance hall, with a chamber quartet playing classical or jazz music, is to be in
intimate contact with the artists and other members of the audience. Such use of space is
a "world" of "difference."
Chattanooga's festival is young by the standards of significant town festivals. It grew out of the private leadership's belief in an organic "heritage" versus an imported "arts" festival in a narrow logic that concluded the city's town festival should be no more than what local people could create or buy. What happened from the original vision of the Riverbend Festival to its evolvement over seven years was that a formula of popular entertainers on each night, much like the Five Nights event, had been found successful in drawing massive crowds to the riverfront, where intense economic development was planned by investors. This created a commercial medium for advertisers and sponsors. It met the goals of commercial development for individual property owners while neglecting other aesthetic possibilities.
In contrast with Charleston and Salzburg, which certainly experienced increased property values, Chattanooga's festival practice represents an excessive subordination of arts and artists to the needs of industrial development. The international festival models that could have been expected, on a smaller scale, to open up Chattanooga to change, and to a climate in which new forms of art would be welcomed and encouraged, were lost in the "rush to the bank" in an overemphasis on the commercial objective originally set forth. The lack of an artistic director to offset these natural capitalistic tendencies to focus on financial growth, given the market-creating power of the festival medium, can be offered as one explanation. At a deeper structural level is an exploitative pattern of the way in which the arts and artists are regarded in this and probably other similar communities.
In Chattanooga, the work of the artist--instead of being respected as an end, a peak of human achievement, a pinnacle of success for civilization--is regarded as a means to the ends of the business structure. It is expected that the presence of a local ballet company, for example, will help bring a Japanese bulldozer manufacturer, such as Komatsu, to town. Apparently, it is not in the community leadership's consciousness or awareness that, if a Japanese bulldozer firm, or any other new business, opens a manufacturing plant in the city, then the added human and financial resources could contribute to more and better ballet. That is to say, Chattanooga's current leaders believe in ballet for bulldozers, not bulldozers for ballet; music for money, not money for music; art for work, not work for art. The present conception of the Riverbend Festival may very well be a necessary stage through which a town arts festival passes, although the example of Charleston suggests otherwise if visionary outside intervention occurs and if a broader view of art and artists is presented to the community by its public and private leaders.
A festival's function as a distorting mirror in times past, and now in modern towns and
cities, can be paramount if not consciously checked and guarded against. One justified
fear is that the current model of the arts that Riverbend now represents in relationship
to the community is unlikely to receive any further innovative direction or restructuring
without the presence of an influential and strong artistic director along with a board
more sensitive to broader aspects of a town arts festival. However, there continue to be
within the festival, depending on one's viewpoint, small signs of new growth, or tokenism,
such as the continuing chamber music series that receives modest funding (it lacked a
commercial sponsor in 1988). Such "seeds" from Charleston's festival of
differences remain within Chattanooga's festival, waiting for a nurturing environment.
Restatement of Claims: Intent, Function, Effect
This comparison of the origins of these two contemporary town festivals suggests their opposing central ideas, essential natures, and primary functions and meanings. It summarizes the broader basis of this study's two aims, the discovery of key elements and functions in the two festivals:
If several key elements of these two festivals are identified sufficiently, and if
their basic social and political functioning appears reasonably clear, then the limited
aims of this dissertation will have been realized.
The principal claim is that:
We shape our festivals; thereafter our festivals shape us. The festival provides a model for accepting differences in life; we learn to tolerate as normal the great range of diversity contained within a festival's time and space, where the new and different are made visible.
Neither ethnography nor history, the study was designed as a selective theoretical interpretation of the significance of embedded meanings in these festivals' untold stories of origin. These stories were used to search for the fundamental idea that emerged from each festival's multiple contexts, which were reflected indirectly in their "stories of origin."
The specific descriptions of the genesis of these two festivals pointed toward two specific types--a Spoleto "arts" form and a Riverbend "heritage" form. These two forms were claimed to represent examples, respectively, of "difference" and "sameness" in the discursive practice of festival. No claim was made about the application of this concept to other festivals, although the intent, functions, and effect methodology could be useful in an extended study of the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals as well as in the analysis of other festivals and similar cultural practices.
This view of difference and sameness was generated by inferences from three major categories of thought around which the Spoleto and Riverbend chapters were organized. These were the three elements mentioned in an earlier quotation from John Heyl Vincent, the Chautauqua Institution's founder: "Chautauqua is a place, an ideal, and a force." Equivalent terms suggested by the research for these categories were: empty space, purpose, and artistic director.
By separating various claims previously advanced into the categories of intent, function, and effect, a triadic template of the inseparable elements of the nature of "festival" can be viewed as functioning as an initial "semiotic template"(97) of this ancient cultural practice. These claims evolve from the materials reviewed in the Spoleto and Riverbend festival chapters and appendix. They also are reinforced by the additional material briefly presented in this concluding chapter. No doubt they will require modification in an extended study of other festivals (as is suggested by the Black Mountain Festival example mentioned briefly in the Preface).
1. The intentions of a festival's creators create an essentially theatrical genre of
artistic multi-functional structures composed of context, text, and subtext,
"artistic" in terms of the medium and effect if not always in terms of
2. Festivals are a form of "meaning-making" theater in a bounded space or
spaces, which define the type of festival just as the shape of the stage has defined
various types of theater.
3. The modern festival has evolved into a Brechtian theater that is a
"socio-political...effort to oppose and change actual social reality" (Reiss).
4. The founders' intentions shape a signifying practice with a clear "unity of
action," where the essential structural logic springs from the degree of the presence
or absence of textual differences.
1. The festival in general can be viewed as a special art form similar to the
traditional structures of the separate performance arts, such as opera, symphony, dance,
film, drama, and poetry, but operating with a distinctively different logic that embraces
and enhances these genres and also other forms.
2. The possibility of "merry-making," or humans-at-play (homo ludens,
Huizinga and Pieper), is a recurring pattern associated with festivals, suggesting that
"play," albeit "serious play," and "pleasure" as a broader
gratification of the "audience," may emerge as an overlooked function of a
festival; however, these two examples do not support such a thesis.
3. Festivals can be viewed as overcoded entities on the threshold between convention
and innovation, an unrecognized rule-making operation simultaneously indexical, iconic,
and symbolic that allows the social exchange of signs (Eco).
4. The more closed to differences, to variety in performances and activities, then the
less the event functions as a festival in the historic sense of the term and the less
likely the event is to be labeled a "festival."
5. The festival's ideological and physical space itself functions as a type of
"liminal time and space," that is, a social practice existing as an empty space,
or gap or overlap among the network of formal institutions and social structures.
6. The festival "operates," or, "functions," whether consciously
intended or not by its creators and administrators, as a "container of
signifiers" from which the traditional "unity of action," is often absent
at the programming "textual" level but appears upon careful examination to be
present in the contextual frame.
7. "Serious" festivals are a special type of theatrical time and space where
the "new and different" are made visible as during a "pilgrimage."
8. The presence or absence of voices of "difference" now appears to be the
key code determining when a social practice is named a "festival."
9. A festival's contextual framing function is its "open" rather than
"closed" structure, a characteristic that allows for a multiplicity of
signifiers and codes to co-exist.
10. The primary conclusion is: "We shape our festivals; thereafter they shape
us." The social theaters we imagine from empty spaces and design from bare festival
stages reflect our view of the proper order of things in a manner much like the
Renaissance festivals discussed by Strong and Orgel; the festival refracts this order
though its contextual frame.
1. The festival ordinarily is seen as a collection of discrete performances but, when a
larger contextual aesthetic logic is assumed in which the textual elements are juxtaposed,
this theater can lead to a new interpretation of social and political meanings.
2. At certain historical moments the artist is endowed with the power of awakening,
quickening, and actually forming forces which constitute the local and national identity
3. The festival theater can be seen as a deliberate framing device in which not only
context, or "circumstance," but also texts and subtexts are in artistic free
play where participating spectators are "addressees" in potential opposition to
"senders" (sponsors and performers) in a dramatic "semiotic guerilla
war" in the time and space of the festival (Eco).
4. A festival's "multi-functionality" can be a time and space for play with
no other purpose (Pieper).
5. A view of "homo ludens," "humans at play," (Huizinga) as yet has
no place in this general construction of a political theater that appears to generate its
effects from a Darwinian "theater of power."
6. Festivals, as places for openness, conflict, and play, represent unique art forms
that not only mirror their world but with little public notice shape its course.
7. Contemporary festivals appear to provide state, corporation, university, and church
with an "encyclopedia of universally understood symbols" that compose the
contemporary American city festival's "mise-en-scéne" and actively
"promote" civic "rulers" wishes and desires.
8. "Contexts" can be the product of the artistic imagination as much as "texts."
Neither laws nor causes, and readily classified in more than one category, these claims are patterns of association that suggest three aspects of a festival's basic nature:
1. A festival is the deliberate creation of an artistic text that works within its
physical and ideological context to contain contradictory, disparate, opposing, and even
warring elements--a primary source of the tension and excitement associated with the idea
2. A festival could be the general historical class of which theater is a sub-genre,
although no festival theory yet exists to support this claim.
3. The festival as a communication medium suggests the possibility of a conceptual
shift from a one-to-many, linear, ethnocentric sender/receiver communication model to a
many-to-many, helical, multi-dimensional, contextual reception/response model.
Four Conclusions: Festivals'
Shaping of "Reality," Openness, Conflict, Play
The concluding words of Roy Strong in Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 145O-165O frame the long-range research goal for those interested in the shaping process of societies:
Few subjects have suffered so much from the modern compartmentalisation of knowledge as festivals. It has fallen between so many stools, those of the historian of art, literature, ideas and political history....[Earlier studies] remain collections of particular events looked at in isolation and as an attempt to establish the subject as a coherent discipline may be said to be a failure. One emerges with no overall picture as to what this stupendous development was. Perhaps the study of festivals can never by its very nature be a coherent discipline without distortion. I opened this book with one modest objective: to make real to the reader Ménestrier's statement that such festivals were `Allegories de l'Estat des temps'. I close in the hope that he by now knows precisely what Ménestrier meant by that definition of what was a unique alliance of art and power in the creation of the modern State.(98)
Yet festivals function as more than an allegory of the times in their intended or unintended function of shaping of social reality. The social theaters we imagine from empty spaces and design from bare festival stages reflect our view of the proper order of things in a manner much like the Renaissance festivals discussed by Strong and Orgel. However, this relational view is "refracted," or modified by the festival medium itself as a type of distorting lens. The participants' unconscious and conscious interpretation of the public performance of the festival ritual can change the very social reality originally reflected through the evolving shape of the festival itself. The physical analogy of a double mirror is not adequate to explain this idea; another metaphor is needed.
Because a festival clearly is a component of the process of human communication, a model of this process is proposed as a tentative template through which to consider the basic arguments of this thesis. An open-ended helical (spiraling) model of the human communication process,(99) rather than the traditional closed circular schematic model, is suggested. Here the linear, functional positions of sender, encoder, channel, decoder, receiver are blurred to the extent that the receiver position is equal, if not primary. This helical "response" model places primary emphasis on the complex nature, often assumed in traditional communications textbook diagrams, of the surrounding context, both ideological and physical. This idea is summarized in the Churchill quote on the "shaping" interplay between buildings and the people in them. In actual practice there is no clear, marked beginning point of a festival as a linear model of information flow implies. It follows that studies of complex signifying practices have a higher probability of useful insight when focusing on definable moments of historical origination, such as the "stories of origin" reviewed previously.
That festivals have their undiscerned meanings and practical social-political as well as aesthetic significance is an underlying assumption. Bakhtin held a view of meanings as endlessly evolving:
At any moment in the development of the dialogue there are immense, boundless masses of forgotten contextual meanings, but at certain moments of the dialogue's subsequent development along the way they are recalled and invigorated in renewed form (in a new context). Nothing is absolutely dead: every meaning shall someday have its homecoming festival. The problem of great time.(100)
The import of Bakhtin's final provocative idea on the "forgotten contextual meanings" "at certain moments" "recalled and invigorated in renewed form (in a new context)" is found in the special social role given the festival. The festival has a unique communication function in the production of meaning, one that suggests more tourists or more businesses may be "effects" but that such "effects" do not in themselves explain the multiple "reality shaping" functions of a festival.
A second conclusion associated with a festival's contextual framing function is that a festival's basic nature is its "open" rather than "closed" structure, a characteristic that allows for a multiplicity of signifiers and codes to co-exist. This opposition implies that the more closed to differences, to variety in performances and activities, then the less the event functions as a festival in the historical sense of the term and the less likely the event is to be labeled a "festival." As noted earlier, in this sense the logic of festival contradicts the Aristotelian "unity of action" element of drama described in the Poetics. "Disunity of action" would be more characteristic of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches labeled "festival." This apparent lack of a clear oppositional dichotomy in many festivals is a conceptual problem that is not adequately explained by current theories(101) of ritual and performance ritual. A festival's logic apparently springs from sources other than the official/unofficial, upside-down world of carnival logic proposed by Bakhtin in his work on Rabelais. If carnival is the opposite of the official church world, for example, then it should possess the expected symbolic unity of action in its reversals of the church as a norm, functioning in effect to authenticate the church's authority and power to frame social discourse. Festivals appear to lack this logic of reversal, as can be seen from analysis of the Chattanooga and Charleston festivals, and, in effect, perform the semiotic iconic function of "church."
A third conclusion follows that a festival's basic nature appears to be the deliberate creation of an artistic text that works within its physical and ideological context to contain contradictory, disparate, opposing, and even warring elements--a primary source of the tension and excitement associated with the idea of festivals. Festivals, in Peircian terminology, derive their distinctive features in functioning as sign and sign systems that are simultaneously indexical, iconic, and symbolic, and that are also separately each of these functions, depending on the contextual social and physical environment and intended purpose. No one "sign-function"(102) dominates, as is usually the case in a given art form, possibly with the exception of opera. Therefore, the festival in general can be viewed as a special art form similar to the traditional structures of the separate performance arts, such as opera, symphony, dance, film, drama, and poetry, but operating with a distinctively different logic that embraces and enhances these genres and also other forms.
A fourth conclusion--rising from the problem of play versus work--is derived from the separation of intention, function, and effect in a festival's statements of purpose. Exploring the Charleston and Chattanooga festivals with these categories reveals a glimpse of the nature of the functions of festivals--in the sense of artistic "work" performed as "play." There is a subtle and important distinction between traditional and artistic forms of work and play. Vladimir Propp in his 1963 work Russkie Agrarnye Prazdniki [Russian Agrarian Festivals] traced these festivals to the "economic" factor, as Anatoly Liberman noted in his introduction to Propp's Theory and History of Folklore:
Propp's book is not a cheap piece of antireligious propaganda, but a thorough investigation of the festivals....Propp traced the festivals to the economic factor, namely the peasants' struggle for the increase of the land's fertility....True to his pattern of causal hypotheses, Propp rejected all other explanations and disregarded the merry-making itself. "Homo ludens" seems to have been alien to Propp.(103)
Although it is unproductive to search for "causal" patterns when addressing the complexity of a festival, it appears increasingly desirable to consider the possibility of "merry-making," or humans-at-play (homo ludens), as a recurring pattern associated with festivals.(104) Artistic and spectator/participant "play" may be a constant unnoticed festival "function." "Play," albeit "serious play," and "pleasure," as noted previously, as a broader gratification of the "audience," may emerge as an overlooked function of a festival.
As places for openness, conflict, and play, festivals represent unique art forms that
not only mirror their world but with little public notice shape its course. A broader
semantic frame is needed to explain this perspective.
Toward a Semiotic of Festival
What is the nature and function of a theater that is not an open arena, thrust stage, nor proscenium arch, but properly a "festival" theater, similar to but differing from traditional forms of theater? At one level, a festival theater frames an ideological struggle and makes visible key meanings of a dominant group's encoded values. However, a festival theater creates multiple contextual empty spaces unlike the traditional theater. This makes possible the emergence of many new meanings that can at times threaten a dominant community group's preferred meanings by modifying any traditional sign appearing within the festival's contextual space and time. Through this complex process a festival is used not only to reflect dominant values but also to shape and mold communities in the direction of powerful interests acting "behind the scene."
Unlike the normal closed and bounded corporate structure, a festival's necessarily open structure permits potentially contradictory statements to blend, creating the aesthetic pleasure and tension associated with a "festival" environment. Often here can be seen a logic of both biological and social difference rather than a logic of unity, wholeness, harmony, oneness, sameness. Diverse elements combine to make festival spaces an enduring and powerful theatrical medium of signification and communication, a persuasive medium that competing ideological interests predictably will seek to control and at times exploit.
What perspectives support this "spatial" view of a festival theatrical practice? First, the control of the use of a festival's space is a key element. Ideas about "space" and the "power" in control of that space grounded this study. Festivals had appeared as dense collections of signs--symbolic ritual, activities, and events that are visibly the opposite of empty space. Yet the analytical key was to look at both the presences and the absences in the festival's space.
Second, an unnoticed function of festivals is that they are a special type of theater that can combine all four types of Brook's theaters (deadly, holy, rough, immediate) into another kind of theater unlike traditional physical and ideological forms. The evidence that this can be another form of theater is described by Brook as occurring when, "Sometimes within a single moment, the four of them, Holy, Rough, Immediate and Deadly intertwine."(105) Such a festival theater houses paradox, contradiction, low and high taste, the dull and the exciting, in short, "heteroglossia," to use Bakhtin's term for that which is individual, different, unclassified.
Third, societies have a practical need for theatrical "empty spaces." How can one analyze such complexity in the human communication process? Just as the zero(106) was invented to hold a place where no numerical meaning had been assigned, the metaphor of empty space provides a functional element that reveals the social construct of "theater." The Riverbend festival organizers found in effect that a "dot" instead of a "circle" represented the concept of empty space when an "off-stage" director intervened to prohibit another artistic director. That the Riverbend Festival's artistic character was diminished, however, does not necessarily mean that the space for this meaning is blocked permanently. It means mainly that the community's artists and audiences may not be ready for a "Southern Voices Festival" until the elements of place, ideal, and force combine again at one creative moment in a spirit not of monologue but of dialogue.
The art of power, and its double, the power of art, is bound up in this continuous struggle on public and private "bare stages." The festival theater frames these empty spaces and makes visible the meanings of a powerful group's relational order of ideas and things. These shifting orders of meaning can be seen in comparative studies such as Strong's study of Renaissance festivals. The festival theater accelerates social sign production and transmission by holding a position open for new combinations of elements and possible meanings to be expressed and observed.
From a broad view, an analysis of festivals suggests their role in creating "open" societies that evolve, grow, and adapt. Such societies should possess a healthier character than those less open to discovery or rapid sharing of information. In this sense an unnoticed function of the festival as a unique medium of communication is that festivals are powerful accelerators of information flowing within the semiotic system. "Semiotic," in this sense, is the Peircian definition of a "sign":
...something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign. The sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object. It stands for that object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground of the representamen. "Idea" is here to be understood in a sort of Platonic sense, very familiar in everyday talk; I mean in that sense in which we say that one man catches another man's idea....(107)
This statement suggests the value of a festival in providing a rich tapestry of signs in which "one [person] catches another's idea" while providing a "ground" for the exchange and "catching" of ideas. A town arts festival, such as Charleston's Spoleto, is more diverse and open in its programming than a heritage festival. It creates more interpersonal connections by bringing persons with diverse interests together.(108)
This study's three primary festival categories--empty space, purpose, and artistic director--represent a beginning effort to create a semiotic of festival, not as a set of fixed scientific laws but rather as a visualization of the repetitive pattern of sign relationships present in the festival theater practice. In festivals are found many associations of many types of signs, as classified by Peirce and others; and thus festivals represent a rich corpus of material not unlike Propp's corpus of folktales but far broader in scope, complexity, and effect. Festivals, as ancient modes of meaning making, can be understood in an indirect manner from their purposes and functions and not from their measurable effects. These three categories can be separated in order to better understand the complexity of social sign processes that festivals represent.
A festival is its own "semiotic" in that it represents itself as a spatial code of meaningful relationships. It reflects the life process itself in a way that no linguistic, static model can adequately represent. No sign exists out of context, semiotic anthropologist Paul Bouissac has said.(109) Therefore, "context" is material and is what bounds "empty space," suggesting that contextual framing is inseparable from any particular sign. In our familiar experience, "theater" can signify any physical empty space (including television sets and computer monitors). Where a theater exists or is built, a potential empty space is opened. In it, any kind of meaning can be expressed in the same way the ancients made meaning. Arithmetical manipulations can be done without the zero; societies can subsist, for a time, without theater. But the zero greatly accelerates symbolic operations by holding a position open for new meanings derived from combinations of other elements. So too does a festival theater accelerate social symbolic operations by holding many positions open for new meanings to be seen.
Umberto Eco has called context or "circumstance" "a revolutionary aspect of semiotic endeavor."(110) This is the social exchange of signs in which "the circumstances can become an intentional element of communication." Eco views this as a tactic of decoding in opposition to a strategy of coding, generating a "semiotic guerilla warfare" that makes it possible "to change the circumstances in the light of which addressees will choose their own ways of interpretation." He says that such a shift would give the addressee "his freedom of decoding...in an era in which mass communication often appears as the manifestation of a domination which makes sure of social control by planning the sending of messages."(111)
In Peter Brook's "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage" opening statement is embedded the "manifestation of dominance" that Eco says is the strategy of coding that "strives to render messages redundant in order to secure interpretation according to pre-established plans." Or, to use a literary example cited by Eco, in which "sign" should be substituted for "words":
When Alice asks, `The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things,' Humpty Dumpty's answer is, `The question is who is to be the master.' Once this point of view is accepted, one might as well ask whether the communicative process is capable of subduing the circumstances in which it takes place.
The "master" of the festival sign, which has so many different meanings, is the unique space in which it is found. Eco's "circumstances" function in similar ways to Bakhtin's "homecoming festival" context and to Brook's theatrical empty space.
To reverse Alice's question: "What other important meanings exist that presently lack words? Words that now are forgotten? Words that are kept `off stage' by the puppeteer?" The festival theater, which in a unique way frames an empty space that continually makes room for lost or forgotten meanings, is one answer to Bakhtin's problem of "great time, an infinite and unfinished dialogue in which no meaning dies."(112) A reply to Humpty Dumpty is that contextual circumstances could be the master in a universe of so many different signs. The master could be neither the puppeteer nor the puppet but their natural theater "in which no meaning ever dies."
From Chattanooga's commercially oriented, downtown business development festivals in the 195Os, 196Os, and 197Os, from Charleston's theaters of power in the 198Os, from the international music festival at Salzburg, and from the peaceful grounds of Chautauqua, one can draw a basic conclusion about an overriding function of these festivals. That conclusion is that festivals of any type, in strong and weak ways, "combine" signifiers in new patterns under high density and compressed time conditions, a primary source of their emotive power. This may or may not be the intent of the planners, and it may not always be the effect of a given festival. Programming at the Riverbend that primarily attracts blacks is not performing its combining function; it has the unintended effect of racial segregation. From this suggested critical posture, informed judgment can begin to assess those cases where festivals group individuals by sameness (class, skin color, etc.) rather than bring them together for reasons other than their social and biological differences.
Societies apparently require devices that connect and bind their citizens into common images and understandings while at the same time protecting their right to differ and to hold divergent views. This seemingly contradictory concept resembles the problem of describing the behavior of light; two separate views are required, a theory of light as particle and as wave, to make sense of observed effects (or the contemporary idea of "wavicles," as Robert Detweiler pointed out in response to this either/or dichotomy). Festivals from primitive times to the Renaissance era through contemporary times have multiple and even seemingly contradictory effects. Quite probably it is the tension that grows out of these contradictory functions that creates the very special atmosphere of openness, of growth, of a degree of newness, of release from tension, that offers an opportunity for various messages to be amplified and framed more powerfully than more traditional mediums of communication permit.
Thomas A. Sebeok has discussed the extreme importance of the mental model that humans and animals have of their "real" world, an insight derived in part from the theories of meaning and modeling advocated by Jakob von Uexhull.(113) Sebeok has noted(114) that when an environment changes and a species' model of the environment does not change, because of denial of reality or other mental disorders or factors, then the species may vanish. It is not possible to understand the modeling functions of the festival without more detailed analysis and invention of new methods for observing and recording such complex entities. But it is possible to state from this functions perspective that with our unique human ability to imagine different realities and to envisage many possible worlds that the models we experience as our "context" do in fact influence and at times strongly shape our knowledge and our templates of reality.
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The unique problems of studying the origin of ritual, or the creation of a cultural practice, require explanation. Both Charleston's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival have multiple "true" stories whose meaning and significance are best detected by listening primarily to the unrehearsed voices of several of those key individuals involved at their genesis or others associated with their later stages. It appears that for these two festivals their "stories of origin" (or creation myths) can be better derived from transcribed oral history than from written notes or official records that might have been kept before their inception for two reasons. Their founders' "interpretations" of and "feelings" about events probably would not have been written down during these periods of rapid change. It is unlikely a researcher could read mine or the other Riverbend organizers' rough notes or chaotic files and know much of our versions of the festival's story of origin without talking with me or them. It is the combination of written records, recalled events, and conversations that reveal more of the full story of dimly remembered beginnings that may not have seemed worth preserving during their gestation and birth. In the early belief that much of the story of a festival's founding would be discovered by searching through yellowed letters, scribbled notes, news clippings, and various proposals, an effort was made in early 1988 to review the official Spoleto files for this study. The festival's first chairman, Dr. Theodore S. Stern, was very much interested and supportive in getting Spoleto's history on record. However, according to a telephone conversation with the courteous and supportive general manager, Nigel Redden, in early 1988, the Charleston Spoleto office decided not to open its files from the festival's beginning for my review until they could be "vetted." I had explained in a January 1988 letter to Dr. Stern, a former president of the College of Charleston: Carmen Kovens [associate director] was very helpful and was to discuss my request to review the early Spoleto files with Nigel Redden and let me know by Feb. 12  whether I can see these materials. We discussed some of the conditions for access to what might be sensitive documents, my own thinking being that the academic integrity essential for a credible historical record suggested that free access was the best policy. However, I have no interest in private, confidential personnel and financial matters, only information that bears on the struggle of ideas, philosophies, opinions--such as the Hugh Lane and Nella Barkley withdrawal. There should be no need, then, for anyone to check the early records prior to my study of them. At best, they would corroborate the sequence of events and the names of persons involved during the festival's beginning. Kovens, who sent a copy of the important Hugh Lane resignation letter, replied that while there was no basic objection to such a review, the staff would have to take the time to review the files and remove any confidential material. By this time the broader implications of the interview with Stern in January 1988, along with a conversation with college archivists, had shifted my thinking to the contribution that oral histories from those most involved in 1975-77 could make to the exploratory nature of this study. Increasingly, it was becoming apparent from the Chattanooga and Charleston cases that original intentions could be masked by later documents written for political, economic, or even personal purposes. There were other potential sources of information. The College of Charleston library archival staff had the papers of Stern, its former president, who also was the first festival board chairman. But looking through these few records with the archive staff, we discovered to their surprise and mine that little related to the Spoleto Festival. The archive director explained that several proposals had been made to move the festival records to the college library but to date the festival office had not responded. At his request, I agreed to mention this request to the festival office and did so, but no specific response was made to the library archivist's suggestion. It was clear that few of the important private records were available, or within reach, without exhaustive, expensive investigation. As the story of the festival's creation emerged from conversations with Stern and others at the festival office, as well as from a review of the few public and college library records, I felt that the scholarly task of a dissertation could be served better by taking the first step of relying on the transcribed thoughts of Stern, Wadsworth, and other knowledgeable past and present festival officials. Also, following standard journalistic practice, I felt that if I had reviewed the festival's confidential files under a general agreement not to disclose protected information, then professional ethics also would prevent using this same material if it were disclosed during the interviews. The need to protect sensitive financial and personnel records is understandable. Possibly a later study will use the available "vetted" materials to compile complete historical studies similar to those of Salzburg and Stratford. Whether "vetted" histories of powerful cultural institutions that not only mirror but also shape community life properly serve the public interest is an important matter but lies beyond the scope of this study. It is the case, however, that files I kept as an initiator of the Chattanooga festival are open to anyone and can be used as an indicator of the value of such primary source material. Certainly, however, in analyzing either festival, I would not include any material that would harm anyone as an individual. Nevertheless, where serious disagreements over purposes, policy, and methods exist, the general community welfare merits an accessible public record. The sunshine of public access is often the best guardian against personal and public error (especially when some of the errors were my own). To insure complete public access and scholarly availability, it is my hope to locate or establish a secure archival center for the festival materials gathered during the past ten years.
The following is a transcription of a conversation on February 5, 1988, with Dr. Theodore S. Stern, one of the founders and first board chairman of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. when it opened in 1977 in Charleston, South Carolina. The interview was taped by me at Dr. Stern's home, 16 Bull Street, in Charleston. Stern approved the transcript and authorized making it public. Afterward, it became apparent that little or none of this information was available from the programs and other materials from the festival press office, which had been gracious in lending special assistance and passes in 1986 and 1988. My questions and comments were not transcribed but are available on tapes. A copy of this transcript was sent to Dr. Stern soon after he approved it.
Remarks of Dr. Theodore S. Stern A festival reflects the culture of the times, particularly a comprehensive festival such as Spoleto. It reflects all of the different art forms in existence at that time. We have modern dance, classical dance, opera, chamber music, theater, mime--all the existing art forms. I think it's a matter of interest and history to record that the festival was founded by Gian Carlo Menotti, who was responsible for and the founder of the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. The reason for that festival is an interesting story. When Menotti was a student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, his family, who were influential and of affluence in Italy, said, "Oh, don't go to America because that is a wasteland of culture and you'll never *learn anything over there." His mother, who is the driving force for art in the family, discouraged him. But he set his mind on going to Curtis. When he arrived at Curtis Institute, he found that their conception of art and artists in America was completely wrong. He found greater artists in greater numbers and a greater interest on the part of the people than he had in Italy. He said that if I ever attain any prominence, I want to present these young American artists to the world leaders and the culture vultures of Europe. I want them to be able to show their talent to those people and have those people see how talented the Americans are. I guess history will record that from his experience at the Curtis and his desire to compose and his coming in contact with so many young people that he received financial support as well as encouragement from people like Toscanini, Mrs. Edward Bok, the McElheneys, people of Philadelphia who were at that time the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Astors of Pennsylvania. They were the core that provided him with the funds necessary to take American artists to Italy. From that point on he had to find a place to have this festival. It wasn't the cities because he says, and he said this is true of Charleston as well, that the city must be an art form in itself, that people should walk around the city as well as enjoy the festival, and they tie in together; they're in concert and in harmony. He chose a small town in Umbrian Province, Spoleto, which historians tell us was where Hannibal crossed the Alps and the big battle was at Spoleto. Here is an old, old town that was bypassed by the Twentieth century. It has its original Etruscan walls, original forum, theaters, opera houses; it was the seat of culture of the Umbrian Province. It was destitute, economically completely depressed; people were leaving; there was no industry. The culture which could be presented was nonexistent. So he selected this really depressed area, yes, like a theater that had been empty for many years. It's been the saving grace for Spoleto, Italy, and the Italian government; in fact, the festival in Italy is completely supported by the Italian government. Their budget exceeds the budget of the U.S. festival, and contributions are received from the federal government, the province, and the town of Spoleto, which is now thriving economically and culturally. That was the start. He called it the Festival of Two Worlds, trying to join the culture of Europe--not necessarily Europe--and the United States, the Festival dei Due Mondi. The United States National Endowment of the Arts in Washington approached Menotti--I believe this was when Nancy Hanks was the head of the National Endowment, and suggested that he establish a Spoleto Festival in the United States. At the behest of then the consultant, I believe, to the National Endowment, Walter Anderson, Menotti was placed in charge of trying to develop a plan to present the festival in the United States. The general feeling of the bureaucracy in Washington was that no festival existed in the Southeastern United States and that this festival should be in the Southeastern part of the United States. Menotti was asked to select a city where this festival could find a home. Walter Anderson prepared a list of several Southern cities, starting with Richmond, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta--all the way to Miami to Houston and New Orleans. Menotti's agent at the time was Priscilla Morgan, who was very closely associated with Menotti, either as his manager or agent, but I think she worked for Menotti to develop Spoleto, Italy. He asked her to visit these various communities and to pick out those he should look at. She asked the musical director, who was Christopher Keene at the time, to help her in this quest to find a suitable location. There seems to be some confusion over who actually was responsible for, not the selection of Charleston because Menotti was going to make the final decision, but as to how the Morgan/Keene team would be suitably introduced to the community and its citizens. Alison Harwood, who is a relatively recent newcomer to Charleston, claims that she knew Priscilla Morgan and she told her about Charleston. The fallacy in that one is that I don't think she knew Charleston too well herself. Countess Alicia Paolozzi, who was one of Menotti's initial sponsors in the festival in Italy and who owns two homes in Spoleto and one in Rome, she was a Spaulding of Boston, Massachusetts, recognized for their generosity to the arts, was another person who says she got Morgan and Keene interested in Charleston. However, subsequently, the Countess bought a plantation in Charleston, owns several condominiums in Charleston, and has been member of the board and generous donor of the Festival Foundation and Spoleto USA. She went to school with Frances Edmunds, who is from an old Charleston family and is recognized as the foremost preservationist in the area and perhaps in the United States, having been a member of the board of directors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has received numerous awards. She also feels that she was one of the people who was responsible, having visited the festival in Italy a year before anybody else in Charleston knew of the Spoleto Festival. Then, Mrs. Rufus Barkley, I'll call her Nella for short, became extremely interested and she headed up a committee to encourage people like the National Endowment, Priscilla Morgan, and Christopher Keene to select Charleston as a place for the festival. She had various committees, of which I was chairman of what you might call a logistics committee. She had a fundraising committee and because of his great influence and political power as well as economic power, Hugh Lane was elected chairman of this committee to try and get the festival here. Frances Edmunds had visited the festival in Spoleto, Italy, in 1975. In 1976, Hugh Lane, Nella Barkley, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Stevenson went to Spoleto to see really what it was all about. A matter of record is that when Hugh Lane returned to Charleston, he said he would have nothing more to do with it. He did not want to expose the citizens of Charleston to people dancing without clothes and felt that the people who would come to Charleston would be depraved, queers--I think he used those words--and he offered to return all the money that people had donated to this effort. And he did. I think he returned something like a hundred thousand dollars to people because he had misled them. In addition, Hugh Lane said that the festival was not economically feasible and would never be a success. This is part of a letter that he put in writing, which he subsequently has regretted but not denied. He was chairman of the board of the C&S bank. But he was the head of everything here, head of the United Way, you know, he was number one citizen, and he went all over the state to generate these contributions. He does speak to me now, but he'll never admit the festival has done any good. However, the largest contribution we receive from any bank has come from his bank, which he no longer heads, and I don't think banks give money away without getting something in return. It was at this time that Nella Barkley and Hugh Lane went to a Festival Foundation board meeting in New York, which Frances Edmunds attended. I can only give hearsay information, but I do know that prior to the meeting Mrs. Barkley wrote a letter to the board saying that she would assume the responsibilities of general manager for $2O,OOO a year, but she wanted full authority, full responsibility for the operation of the festival. That letter was copied to the chairman of the Festival Foundation, who at that time was Ernest Hillman, and Menotti. Frances Edmunds advised me that she had never been more embarrassed at a meeting because they just raked Nella over the coals and showed no respect for Hugh Lane and Menotti was particularly obnoxious, and said that he was not going to give up any authority, that she wasn't worth the $2O,OOO she was asking. They left, bitter--this was in September of 1976, maybe August. NEA must have come up with the idea in 1975; they came to visit in 1975, when I was president of the College of Charleston, and I took them around and showed them all the facilities of the College. They were particularly impressed with the fact that the College and community were working in concert and were enthusiastic about the festival. That was probably in the spring or early summer of '75. This ties in with Frances Edmunds' going over to Spoleto, the visit would have been before she went. I guess I've gotten ahead of myself with the administrative part, because they had selected Charleston. Going back to the time Christopher Keene and Priscilla Morgan came to Charleston, we gave them the red carpet treatment, this was in the spring of '75. I know that Christopher Keene stayed at the Barkley's home on Sullivan's Island. Priscilla Morgan was placed in a suite at the new Mills House Hotel. I think all in all we impressed them very favorably but they were also impressed with various other cities. They returned, and I guess you can get these details from Menotti, to Menotti and told him of the pros and cons of the various....[inaudible].... Now to revert back to that meeting. [Menotti was named] composer-in-residence and provided quarters, a house, on the campus, for him and his entourage. As a matter of interest, the first year of the festival, I personally moved with my family to my home on the Isle of Palms and let Menotti occupy the president's house at the College of Charleston. These perks were extremely important. College vehicles were at his disposal. I had seen that having this festival associated with the College of Charleston would be a tremendous advantage to the College; in fact, I think the festival was responsible for the development of our fine arts center. Menotti was equally impressed with the Dock Street Theater, Middleton Plantation, the closeness of the beaches, and I made arrangements for him to have a house during the festival at Seabrook Island, which his son occupied most of the time. He would go over on weekends, he loved tennis, and play tennis. He is very active during the festival, and has appointments every minute--I would say 18 hours a day, particularly when he directs an opera. Without the College, there would have been no festival, because of the housing situation and the logistic support. Menotti loved the idea of the College, he thought the festival should be near an educational institution, he loved the idea of the historic part of Charleston, and he loved the idea that the Mayor was so enthusiastic and the community that for which he spoke. Now to revert back to that meeting in New York, which was August of 1976. Nella and Hugh Lane returned to Charleston. Nella wrote a letter resigning and Hugh Lane reiterated his position that he was not going to subject Charlestonians to be a breeding place for undesirables. Now this withdrawal by Nella and Hugh Lane would have been catastrophic had not the Mayor called Menotti and other members of the board of the Festival Foundation and asked them to meet in Charleston. I recall the meeting extremely well because it was held in the President's house at the College of Charleston in September of 1976. The Mayor had asked if it could be held in the President's house at the College. At that meeting, which was a very vitriolic meeting, in which Mr. Lane walked out with Mrs. Barkley, the Mayor stated that he was convinced that the Spoleto Festival would do a great deal for Charleston, that he disagreed but appreciated the views of the dissidents. He turned to me and he said, "Will you take over?" I said I would never say no to him and I've never turned down a challenge. At that meeting was Frances Edmunds, who did not walk out, and Charles D. "Pug" Ravenel. He was a quarterback at Harvard football and was a presidential White House fellow and he ran for governor, except that he was disqualified since he hadn't lived here long enough, even though he was born here. The basic question was, "Will there be a festival in Charleston?" And I must say, it was the unanimous view of both the members of the Festival Foundation board and the few Charlestonians that were there that we should have it, and that we should have it next year in 1977. That gave us nine months to prepare for it. I sort of have a history. The College of Charleston, when I became president, had 432 enrolled. When I left 1O years later, we had 52OO enrolled. The College was bankrupt and I just like that sort of thing. Similarly the Navy Supply Center was just another supply department of a shipyard and I'd been there and it changed to the third largest supply center in the world. I retired from that job to become college president. Well, you can imagine the tasks that were required. Had I not had the resources of the College to help us, we never would have been able to get through that first year. I thought the most important thing that had to be done was to get a general manager. I was still president of the College, which was my primary responsibility. So we let it me known we were looking for a general manager and advertised it or something. But I remember we had a very good prospect; her name was Christine Reed. She had been assistant at the Marlboro Festival; she had been in charge of Casal's Festival in Puerto Rico. She was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was available. She was...anxious to leave. I went to New Orleans with someone, but I can't remember who I took, to interview her. Then, satisfied, I asked her to come to Charleston. By December of 1976, she was employed effective Jan. 1. With my wife's complete concurrence, she moved into our home until she could find a place of her own. I had a faculty member who was leaving in February, so she took over the apartment of that faculty member. Office space was catch as catch can. We moved the Spoleto office from pillar to post, whenever there was space available or we needed more space. Initially, she started next to my office, then we moved to a building on St. Phillips Street, which has subsequently been replaced by the fine arts center. Then we moved to Meminger School annex, which had been closed. And finally, to a building owned by the College and occupied by the State Employment Security Commission, which is currently the location of the Early Childhood Education Center. Then we moved to our present location in Marion Square, I think, when Jim Kearny became general manager. The first festival was one of the most successful festivals. We had the Zulu Dancers, which had appeared at Spoleto, Italy, before, and they were a tremendous hit. We had a dance gala, which featured Alicia Alonzo and Gudenov--I wish I could remember all that, I'll have to go and get that first program. The Zulu dancers and the finale at Middleton Gardens, with fireworks, stand out in my mind as most memorable. At the finale we had the orchestra at the finger lakes and we had the 1812 Overture, and we had the Citadel cadets re-enact the final shelling of Moscow actually firing their cannon, which was followed by a magnificent fireworks display. To make this thing a artistic success, a social success, and a financial success, certain elements were essential. And Charleston fitted in beautifully. Every opening for every event had a major social party given by a Charleston resident in their home. And these historic homes were open. Some of the parties had four or five hundred people; and most of these homes are beautiful and historic. We paid a great deal of attention to VIPs and contributors. We had at the opening ceremonies a major speaker with the governor and the mayor always attending and some extraordinary event, surprising the audience. One of these was the Flying Wallenders, a circus tightrope group, and we had them go from City Hall over a tightrope to the Federal Building. We always have had puppets, and brass quintets, also singing stars like Esther Hines singing the Star Spangled Banner. Now, what makes the festival so successful? In three words, Gian Carlo Menotti. His ability, number one, to direct, his knowledge of all of the arts--he always gets the visual artists to do the poster. This year we have a whole Larry Rivers exhibit, and he got Rivers to do the poster for the U.S. and Italy for 1988. The only poster ever done by Henry Moore, the sculptor in England, was made for Spoleto USA, because of his friendship with Menotti. So we have a Henry Moore poster, he's never done a poster. But we have some posters today that are invaluable. I'm the only one who has the first poster from Italy; this is the only one known to exist. Somebody sent this to me, though I have no idea who it is--isn't it something? Menotti says he doesn't have that first poster. When you start, you don't know what to keep. I'm throwing things out everyday. We didn't know what would happen. Hell, we had the leading citizen of Charleston say it could never succeed. But Mayor Riley was just elected to his fourth term, and his opposition ran against Spoleto in 1987, saying that money should be going for the homeless and so forth. But they forgot how much it brings in and how little it costs from the local area. Now who were our big supporters? And this is something that I think would help you a great deal. Our biggest support right from the beginning was the local newspaper, the Post-Courier, and its publisher, Peter Manigault. The name I'll give you is Frank Jarrell, the art critic, who can go their files, their morgue, and dig up all the old stories, which could be verifying all this that I'm telling you about the history. I remember that meeting that we had at the president's house, if you want the humor in it: My wife was sitting outside the dinning room where we had our meeting. She looked out of the window and saw all these TV cameras and reporters outside the house; she stuck her head out and said, "Are you waiting for white smoke or black smoke?" But it was all over the press. They caught Hugh Lane and Nella Barkley leaving and naturally they were waiting to see what was going to happen. The Mayor came out and said that I had agreed to be the chairman and to take over and there was going to be a Spoleto. Then the job was getting the money to finance it. After the newspaper, one of the big supporters was the Lila Wallace Foundation in New York, the Reader's Digest Foundation; Alice Tulley; all the local banks. I believe our budget for the first year was around $7OO,OOO. When you consider that earned income only provides 45 percent of your income, you realize how much money we had to raise. One thing Hugh Lane brought up in his letter is that he was afraid that Spoleto USA would be used to raise funds for Spoleto, Italy. Actually, Festival Foundation raised funds of its own for Spoleto Italy, which at that time was about $3OO,OOO. So what we had was the contributors to Spoleto Italy to contribute to Spoleto USA. As a matter of interest, the Festival Foundation contribution to Italy was not money; it was to send the American artists--the orchestra, the Westminster Choir, the chamber musicians--to Italy and to get them back and to pay their per diem. Contrary to what Mr. Lane had prognosticated, the contribution of Festival Foundation has been reduced to $1OO,OOO or less, with the major contributions coming to the U.S. The Wallace Foundation used to contribute to Italy; now it contributes to the U.S. Alice Tulley still gives $2O,OOO a year to Italy, but it doesn't come anywhere near supporting chamber music. She doesn't give anything here. After Christine Reed came, I had to help because she knew festivals but she didn't know people and I had to get a tremendous number of volunteers, fund raisers, hospitality committees. I had to arrange for the theaters, the Mayor was a tremendous help, you see. There was a crisis everyday, and I guess I'm alive today because I was able to shed those things. But I think I've always felt that for every problem there are solutions; the correct thing is to identify them. There's usually more than one solution, too; there's always a problem, one problem, but there are a lot of ways you can solve it. That's my philosophy. Menotti is very mercurial. I was very close with Menotti, and we still maintain a very close personal relationship. I just came from the christening of his grandson. His son married "Happy" Rockefellers' (Mrs. Nelson A.) daughter; the christening was at the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. There were a few of his old friends there, and very few new friends, but the whole Rockefeller family. We've never received any support from them. We have received support from the Ford Foundation. Right at the beginning the Ford Foundation was a big help. You know, an interesting thing I think is that I was the president at first and Menotti the chairman; then later on I became the chairman and he became the founder and chairman emeritus. Replacing me I had Jack Kessler, who developed Seabrook Island, and we used facilities at Seabrook a great deal. He always would provide housing for Menotti and some of the people who came with him, and for VIPs. Kiawah also was a strong supporter; they used to give us money but they also gave us a very big dinner for the board and for the VIPs the night before the opening of Spoleto. Subsequently Wild Dunes has taken it up; Wild Dunes gives our jazz gala. During those first months of 1977, were you to contact some of the board of the College, a lot of them felt I was spending too much time on Spoleto, but I could see the benefits of it for the College. And now I think they realize I was right. The festival had a great deal to do with the growth of the College. Certainly it was responsible for the development of the fine arts center. For example, we had the Guarneri Quartet down for Spoleto, and I talked them into coming back to give a concert at the College the following year for I think four concerts. I don't know what the records will show. If you ask me, and I leave myself out of it, the responsibility for initially setting up Spoleto fell on the Mayor and the College, on both of our willingnesses to never say never and it couldn't be done. We've never been able to bring the group opposed back in because of the tremendous animosity between Nella and Menotti. Menotti tried to make up to her once when they were on a plane, and she said, "Never, never talk to me again." I think it's bitterness because she had a chance and she's seen the success it's become. You get this thing going and then come back with the questions you'll develop. You might find some of my statements are not corroborated by others, or that there is a difference and I can tell you why and my impressions. I am very anxious to historically put this on record. I've told everybody how important it is. Let me tell you a little story to put some humor in this. People have asked me: "How did you get interested in the arts?" and I said, it's very, very simple. I got interested in the arts by ear. My mother would take me by the ear to Walter Damrosch's Young People's Symphony; she would take me by the ear to Ernest Schelling's music; she would take me by ear to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and we sat in a box by Gatti Cazaza; she would take me by ear to Schubert's Theater; she would take me by the ear to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I say I got interested in the arts by ear. Now that's a bit of humor but it's true. I think that's why today I feel so strongly that if we would expose the young people, just expose them to art, it'll show up later on. And if you expose them to the arts when they're tempted by drugs or alcohol or things like that, they'll have an outlet for their energies. They'll be interested in reading, in visual arts, in music. I drive up regularly to North Carolina to my farm and I always put on the public radio because I love to listen to the music. I appreciate also the fact that we all go through periods, like I went through the period with the jazz and that sort of stuff, but classical music always remains. I don't object to the people who like the rock music and all that sort of stuff, and the country music. In fact, we have had country music at the festival, we have jazz at the festival. About the beginning of the festival, it all depends on what your goals are in life. I've always told young people to never set material goals, because you can never achieve them, because you're always changing them. And if you can set your goal as helping others, you will be happier and you'll make other people happier. And the only way to be happy in this world is to have other people happy. And when I see the joy and the pleasure that people get from this festival, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've come close to achieving what I set out to do. Does that make sense? I tell my own children not to set material goals. Taking my life as a military person, I'm a devoted American; I love my country. I see its faults but I see its greatness too. And at the College I could see the opportunity to help young people. And in the festival, I see the opportunity to expose a large number of people to something which will be a joy to them and make their life worthwhile. Charleston was the cultural center of colonial times. And we're just returning it to its former peak condition. The first theater was in Charleston, the first opera in the U.S. was heard in Charleston--there were innumerable firsts, which I think it would be important to look at. I think it can be an educational and a cultural center; education and culture go together. I think the fact that Charleston itself is so unique, that I wanted to see a festival here to match it, not just another festival. And this could contribute to the well being of our community. And the more I saw of it...let me tell you about a story. I received about the second or third festival a letter from London, from a lady and her husband who had attended the Spoleto Festival and said, "We have just returned from Beirut, Salzburg, Edinburgh, and your festival is second to none. And I enclose herewith a copy of a review in the London Times." I was so touched by that letter that I wrote her back and told her it was unique to receive such a letter and invited her to let me know anytime she was in Charleston. She came here and she bought one of the most beautiful houses and restored it at a cost of $400,000. That woman is still a support of Spoleto, although her husband died. Her name is Denk and her house is located at 15 Meeting Street. Whether that letter would be up in the festival office, I don't know, I certainly don't have it anymore. You be surprised at the number of people who have come to Charleston as a result of Spoleto, and the number of industries that have made their headquarters here because of the festival. Let me give you an example. The chairman of the board of General Foods, we got them very enthusiastic about the festival, gave us $25,OOO, and General Foods was just bought out by Philip Morris. He's no longer chairman of the board but he just bought a plantation here in Charleston. Philip Morris gives us $25,OOO. And General Foods still gives us money. You know who one of our biggest supporters is right now...AT&T. Exxon used to be a very big contributor but they slowed down. We have got different people and groups that support us. Last year without even asking for it, Getty sent us a $15,OOO contribution. He had been here. We get Dupont, Amoco, General Dynamics. Dupont gives because Jefferson, who is chairman of the board, is a very good friend of Peter Manigault's and they have a plant here. General Dynamics used to give us very generously and used to sponsor the finale, but Roger Lewis, the former chairman of the board, was a personal friend of mine--he's now retired--but they had a plant here. Previously "festival" to me meant just trying to fundraise. When you talk Spoleto, they say you know that's a different kind of festival. Number one, it's an international festival; number two, we're not rushing to get Pavarotti, Domingo, or other luminaries--but Menotti has had the ability to select young people who are going to be the Pavarotti's and the Domingo's. People know that they can expect something unusual, different. The Spoleto orchestra--we have 9OO auditions, the biggest job of the musical director is to audition. He goes to Curtis, Julliard, Eastman, Bloomington, San Francisco, Dallas. For 9O places he auditions 12OO people. We have, I think, the greatest orchestra and they're all kids. It gives them an opportunity to expose themselves. Where did Yo Yo Ma get his start? Right here at the chamber music. Emanuel Ax? Here. Look at the international recognition. Menotti's ability to select these people, at least, young singers.... And it's different; they don't know what opera is going to be shown but they know it's going to be different. He's very careful about who directs them, produces them, the designer. Dance, no one knows what's going to be there but they know it's going to be different. And that they most probably will never see it again. The festival meant to me what it meant to Menotti, and I didn't know the extent of it, it meant an opportunity to expose young people, give them an opportunity to show their ability. That's what I thought it was, but I did not know the diversity. I've been asked about starting a festival many, many times. It comes down to this. You need a Menotti, who's so unusual. He's the only person I know who knows all the arts. I mean, you talk about Leonard Bernstein, what does he know about visual arts? He knows music. Menotti directs, he's a director, producer--he's a genius, and that's why we have a problem in trying to decide what happens after Menotti. We have a planning committee working on that right now. He wants to have an assistant that he can train, but we don't think that will work. I myself am interested, I like the idea myself, but speaking for the board, no. Take somebody like Jerome Robbins and the dance, Charlie Wadsworth and music, someone from California in theater, Beverly Sills in opera--get them as consultants, and have one overall name person to be, not the artistic director but coordinator. Not Kitty Carlyle, see, but somebody who is recognized for interest who could go to a painter, and say, I'd like you to do our poster. Menotti--every orchestra knows him, the theater people know him, the dance people, the opera people, the music people. Today I'm chairman emeritus of the festival. I think it's dangerous for anybody to be in place too long. I told them at the College I'd be there for ten years. I said to Spoleto, by God I'm getting out. Charlie Way is doing a tremendous job as chairman with Pug Ravenel as president but I don't know if Pug is the right person to be chairman. Keep in touch with me. I don't have any papers here, most are at the College of Charleston. If I find anything, I'll let you know. I have plenty of blanks about this beginning period; now Susan Sanders told me she has some papers at the College. From '75 to the first festival in '77, right, I think that's the story. No, the idea was not to duplicate the Italian festival, in fact, we've never been able to share productions, which I think is just pathetic. In fact, today I think the only way you can make it financially successful is to share production costs. The opera costs you three to four hundred thousand dollars. If you had Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, New York, all of them putting one production together and dividing the cost.... Cultural events are not publicly acceptable on television. You have Kennedy Center honors and look at their ratings, even when you honor big name people--Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope and Lena Horne. *** The following interviews with Spoleto Charleston officials were conducted in Charleston during the May 1986 festival. The complete responses are based on questions presented in writing to Charles E. Wadsworth, Colin Sturm, Nigel Redden, and David Rawle. None of these persons was requested to approve the transcriptions. Follow-up questions are included as appropriate. The complete list of questions was: 1. Who started the festival and why? 2. What is the role of the artistic director? 3. What would Spoleto have been without an artistic director? 4. What might Spoleto become in the future without Menotti? 5. Why is Menotti especially interested in creating festivals? 6. How do, or will, the Italian, American, and Australian festivals differ? be alike? 7. Which are the top arts festivals in the world and how does Spoleto compare with them? 8. What should be the areas of focus of a doctoral dissertation on arts festivals? other types of festivals? fairs? 9. What is the relationship among festivals, fairs, expositions? 1O. What is your opinion of Vancouver's Expo 86? 11. What are the main issues and trends facing festival artistic directors today? facing festival managers? 12. Do festivals have a special aesthetic significance? 13. Do festivals have a special economic significance? 14. Do festivals have a special political significance? 15. Is there a special relationship between a festival and its home community? 16. Can festivals be considered an art form? what type? 17. What scholarly work has been published on art festivals and other types of festivals? Who and where? Research centers? What research is needed? 18. What methods can be used to study arts festivals? 19. What is the historical significance of various festivals? 2O. Do contemporary festivals follow these patterns, or are they changing? How? 21. Overall, what statement are the three Spoleto's making to their local, regional, national and international audiences? 22. Finally, does Spoleto Charleston differ in any way from other festivals of its type and how? Charles Wadsworth, artistic director and host for the chamber series, was interviewed at the Dock Street Theater between the morning and afternoon chamber music programs on May 31, 1986. Q: Mr. Wadsworth, how do you see the nature of a festival after ten years of association with Charleston's Spoleto? A: This is not for broadcast? This is just for your personal use? [Yes, for the dissertation]. I think it would be more helpful to talk about the special nature of the Spoleto Festival apart from most of the other festivals that I've had any sort of intimate acquaintance with. To understand this festival it's best for us to go back to the early days of the festival in Italy, because the festival has developed in certain ways, it's changed in certain ways, as it moved to this country. It continues in Italy. The two festivals now have very much the same personality in both Spoleto, Italy, and in Charleston. But Menotti, as he set out to present a festival, and for me what made it the most exciting festival that I know about is that he set out to produce a festival which he was very well aware would not be a sure fire hit. He said if I'm going to be like Edinburgh or Salzburg where all I do is bring in great guest artists, well known orchestras presenting repertoire's that they know is going to be successful, this is not something I'm at all interested in. I feel that the festival must be a creative festival, that it must be willing to take chances, it must be willing to accept the fact of failure, and out of this kind of experimentation you're going to get things which are much more exciting in the long run. So a great many of the festivals throughout the world do this kind thing where it's a set program and you're bringing in well known quantities and you're playing it safe with the repertoire. Gian Carlo from the very beginning was taking chances on artists who were unknown. He was inviting young people such as--going back to 1958-59--Herbert Ross, who was then a choreographer and developed into one of the most important movie directors. He would bring in Roman Polanski, when he was virtually a kid to direct a performance of Lulu, which is an extremely grotesque work with a lot of sexual aberrations going on there. What, you know, better person--[laughs]--for Gian Carlo to have picked than Polanski, who's had his share of problems? But he got Zefirelli to do some of his first directing. He asked Jerome Robbins to create Ballet USA, which moved Robbins' career very dramatically. He had Luchino Visconte there directing opera, and got an aspect of that career going. And then he picked on a young man who was still in his twenties; he had gotten to know the talent of Thomas Shippers. Tommy was an unknown quantity in Europe; he had just gotten out of Curtis and he brought Tommy in to be the general music director, artistic director, and Gian Carlo functioned as the overall head of the festival. The theory was that artists such as Tommy could benefit from exposure to a wide European audience and that it could be have an international flavor, or that European artists working together with American artists to create new pieces. Many playwrights, for instance, wrote pieces for the festival. The "Indian Wants the Bronx" by Horowitz, which was a wonderful play, introduced Al Pachino to Italian audiences. He was an unknown actor at that point. Shelly Winters came over to do some first performances of some early Tennessee Williams plays. We did the first production of "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." Q: An unusual juxtaposing of the known and the known, the new and the old? A: Right. And you had an amazing group of young performers that he brought, hardly an international name among the lot. When he invited me in 1959 to start a series of chamber music concerts in this delicious little seventeenth century theater, which seats about 3OO to 35O--same as this theater--he said, "I want these concerts to be different. I want you to be sure that you only bring brilliant, gifted young talents to play here, or whatever. And I want you to be sure to find some way that the concerts are informal in nature." At that time, he said to me, "Perhaps there won't be anybody there but myself and a few of the artists working for the festival, but I want to do it anyway. It'll be something in the middle of the day, one hour. I want the concert to be short and perhaps we will eventually have some other people there. But that's not really important. It's really a present for the people of the festival." And it was true the first few days. We had 2O or 3O people in the audience and it started growing. By the end of the first summer we were getting some nice houses on weekends. The second summer was full on weekends. The third summer we were already getting extraordinary acclaim from everywhere and we were fighting them off. As time went on, it was almost impossible for people to get in. We would have near riots in the lobby. And I would have to come out and speak to the people to try to quite them. Along the way I developed what I think has been an important factor in my end of things in chamber concerts, which made them very different from concerts that went on anywhere else in the world. I communicated with the people verbally to try to get them into an even more relaxed mood than they might be ordinarily. You have a very important factor in summer festivals particularly in that people are free from work pressures, daily pressures. They're obviously somewhere to have a good time. They're not being locked into a subscription series in New York where they have to fight subways, etc., and they have to go out because they've spent a lot of money and they may rather stay at home and watch the tube or something. So you've got a captive audience, which wants to have a good time. That puts you in a festival situation immediately at an advantage over a normal winter series of concerts. Q: Is there a feeling of expectation, of release, a carnival atmosphere? A: Yes, there's an expectation that they're going to enjoy it. Yes, it is that kind of atmosphere. And I wanted to add to that further by getting the people so relaxed that they could open themselves to the performers and to the music and that in turn would create a special feeling among the performers, that they would be able to give in a very free way and enjoy the act of performing. Q: Doesn't this contrast with the normal framing we would expect of chamber music? A: Well, it does. I think I've been able to do something of this sort in our regular concerts in New York. I did it in Italy and in Charleston I do it. I have seen people who have no background, no sophistication whatever, come here, like during the first summer, and get hooked. One man, who was very simple--like my father--and on the hottest day would have a vest and a tie and a hat. He came up one day after a concert and said, "I've never heard anything like this before, but this means so much to me I wouldn't miss one of these for anything in the world." That's been my experience. I don't care whether it's avant garde or early Baroque or the obvious romantics, I think music and the arts must communicate to people on a gut level and it is not an intellectual pursuit--the enjoyment of chamber music, which is considered by many an elitist form. If the people are uninhibited in their listening, then they are going to be able to take the message that the composer intended. The composer is not really interested in how appreciative people are of the devices they've used in getting their feelings down on paper. So this created a special atmosphere in a festival situation, which already gives you one hand up. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to find artists who I thought were great and then I started combining things into very unusual ways with instruments, voice, percussion, and all sorts of things that would create stimulation in the listener. When I was able to start using these great young people, I brought people who performed for the very first time in Europe such as Morry Pariah, Shirley Verette, Jesse Norman --you should get a list of artist who have been presented in the chamber music; that's probably available somewhere. Q: It's been difficult to find archival material on festivals that would make this kind of research possible. A: We're a real example of that. What happens is that because of the condensation, the time frame, and the amount of work you have to do in that time frame, and everybody has busy lives during the winter, so it's all they can do to get things organized for the festival. And you are working on budgets, you have no money, and people are paid very little, you have the bare number of people who can run the festival. So to have what seems at the time extra people around to keep records.... When I got the job at Lincoln Center in 1969, I wanted to know, and I had already presented hundreds of programs, what had been played. The festivals don't keep these records either. Dozens went on to have great careers, but we don't keep track because it seems like one of those extra things at the time than the day to day work. It's too bad; it would be so helpful. Also, the mistakes that were made every summer--to find out what the mistakes have been and how to correct those mistakes so we don't continue making them. Q: What would you read to learn about festivals? Is there any professional or academic text on the subject? Suppose that in Chattanooga we wanted a book to tell us about festivals, since we had gotten excited about this one. What would we turn to? A: Except for a couple of people in administration in Spoleto, I'm the oldest living member. Tommy died. All the early people are gone. I'm the only other artist type who's still with it, and I can rely on memory. What we do have, and this you could have access to, are the big souvenir books, at least for the festival in general. That would give you some indication to what's happening in this country. I'm not sure whether they have here a file which has all the early annual books or not. Q: That's interesting because a British historian, Roy Strong, studied the official programs of Renaissance festivals, many of which were regarded as art works themselves and preserved. Inigo Jones and other artists of some reputation did them and they were thought important. It strikes me as unfortunate that with all our technology and know-how we're losing the visual record, video and audio tapes aren't being edited and kept. A: The 15th anniversary of the festival in Italy had a very complete book done of all the participants up to that point. I've got that book in New York. That's got some extremely valuable background showing some of the outstanding things that happened during the first years of the festival. The festival is unique and different from almost all other festivals because from the very beginning Gian Carlo wanted all of the arts to be represented so that the musicians and the actors could all feed off each other's inspirations and it would bring a certain excitement to my work. One summer he had an extraordinary series of poetry readings, so you had Ferlingetti from the West Coast there, and Kerouac, and Ezra Pound on the same afternoon reading from his works. For me to have Ezra Pound coming in my concert--it can't help but create a electricity, or to see Visconte there in the box. We all found we were exciting each other by what we did. I would go to all the opera rehearsals and the play rehearsals and make a point of being at all that. It gave me a feeling about how when a festival is one where things are being created specifically for the festival, really it makes it unique. Over the years, Spoleto now is a combination of the conventional festival that you have going on all around the world, where you do bring in certain shows and presentations which are already set, such as this year the National Spanish Ballet, which is an extraordinary thing. But that's a company which could be booked anywhere if the place had enough money. It's fun for the people in Charleston because they probably wouldn't have had a chance to see them. Q: Does that kind of programming round out Menotti's concept? A: It's become a way to do a festival and have it be large enough to appeal to all the various disciplines. But at the same time there's a trade off because in the early days you would have three or four different stage presentations, concerts, maybe the poetry readings every day, and a sculpture exhibition around town. We had a extraordinary sculpture exhibition which had works of David Smith, Calder, and Giacometti, and Every Alloway--and the whole town was a great piece by a great contemporary sculpture. But still you would not have anywhere near the activity that you have today, where you have four or five different presentation going on every day of the week. Q: It's almost as if you reach a critical mass of energy. A: Well, the only way to keep the ball rolling in the same way that it's been going since we started down here is to have a fair number of things brought in which are pre-made. The role of artistic director. That's an interesting [question] because in the early days there really was only Gian Carlo and Shippers. Gian Carlo was 25 years younger--we started in '58 and he's 75 this year [he was 47]. There was a tremendous amount of energy and he wasn't as busy directing opera all over the world, so that his main activities were the festival in Italy and composing. He and Tommy handled it very well and then they put me in charge of the concerts, which was just one small aspect of the festival. But there was an overall artistic view of what was necessary to give a special profile to the festival. That came from Gian Carlo and his imagination, his faith in brilliant young people, and in the creative arts. Q: His role as artistic director was special? A: It was. The Spoleto Festival as we know it would not have what we know unless there had been specifically Gian Carlo. Q: Can an arts festival be carried off specifically without an artistic director? A: Not successfully. It could be carried off in my mind maybe financially successful venture by a businessman but to me the festival should be much more than that. It should have some very strong artistic point of view that you're trying to get across. I think you need a creative mind to do that. I mean you could find the manager of a major orchestra who could decide this was a successful play on broadway, let's bring this, and this conductor I've heard was good, we'll have him--you can go down the line and you could put together a festival. You would have an entertaining festival. You could do it. Whether in the long run you would have the same kind of artistic satisfaction from having attended the festival, from having been involved in it, I would have no interest whatsoever in taking part in a festival which was run by a businessman with just a slight speaking acquaintance with the arts. Those people, that sort, are the kind we want on the board of directors, who can say, "You're the artist. You know what has to be done. We have to raise the money. We know that's what we have to do. We will tell you how much we can raise and how much you have to spend. You can dream and tell us how much you'd like." Then you meet somewhere in the middle. Q: This is where the dream and the reality come together? A: Right. Then you come together. Gian Carlo has been throughout the years has been a tough one for business managers to deal with because he has dreamed very big at times with budgets that go way, way out of range. A lot of people get upset. The business managers find they can't handle it, and they jump ship, and we get somebody else. I've seen them come and go and the Peter Principle...some of our fine business managers have gone on to great jobs with important roles at the Washington opera or head of CBS recording, you can go on and on, the arts endowment for dance. Those are three different former directors that come to mind. Q: But is the artistic director an important focus? A: It depends on what your aims are. I'm a musician, first of all. I can hear all the best because I live New York during the regular season. So I can see the point of view if you've got a pretty place, it's nice weather, and so forth, and a good place to listen to music or to see theater, then you could bring in attractions. For me that would have very little interest. I want something that is different from what I get in the normal, everyday life of concert and theater going. Q: If you were studying festivals, what would be the examples of success and failure? A: Well, that one in Miami was an example of a good healthy failure. He attempted to put on a festival which involved many different disciplines, all 2Oth century music, in the middle of the summer in Miami with halls as much as 2O or 3O miles apart. I went down to put together all the 2Oth century budget. He had a huge budget, and he wound up finally covering his deficits through contributions. But it was a struggle. The prices were too high for people in Miami to pay. There wasn't the basis cultural interest. So it was a matter of the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong people. The ones in this country which are the most successful are the ones which usually lean towards one discipline, rather than all the disciplines, as the Marlborough Festival is only chamber music--and you have gifted young people working with their elders who guide them through and they do wonderful things for a small but devoted audience. The Aspen Festival has an educational aim, which has been a very important part of that festival. But it's a glorious place to be in the summer time and they have wonderful distinguished performers. They have a little opera but mostly symphony orchestra and a few chamber concerts. So that festival is restricted. Tanglewood is a great festival but it's all orchestral stuff and its repertoire they've been playing in the regular year; but it's a beautiful place to sit on the lawn and listen to the music. Q: Does the nature and character of the festival shift according to place and setting? A: Yes, the place is terribly important in terms of summer festivals. Q: Are there other festivals like Spoleto? A: In this country there are not, which really sets it apart because most of the--well, what happens in a place like Tanglewood is that you'll have the Boston Symphony with its great guest artists. Then a couple miles away you have a great summer theater, which is not connected. But people in the area can enjoy various things and have some variety. Q: What worldwide would be equivalent to Spoleto? A: Go the Edinburgh Festival or some of the Salzburg Festival and you get then more the kind of festival we are doing here. There at Edinburgh you have, well I don't know the leadership there, but at Salzburg you have Karajan, who is an extraordinarily strong personality who has been guiding that one for a number of years. That's usually the case. Q: What advice would you have for someone writing a doctoral dissertation on the general topic of festivals? or the topic of festival in general? What might be there to discover? A: Since festivals are cropping up everywhere, since we got started at Marlborough there must be hundreds of chamber music festivals in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Euray, Colorado--all of these little burgs are developing special chamber festivals; Santa Barbara has one. It's very exciting and everybody is interested in doing it. But the know how is very limited. What you've doing could be tremendously valuable. I don't know of any other similar study in the 25 years or so I've been involved. If you could follow this last thing we've been talking about--why some festivals have succeeded and why some have failed--and get the factors together involving naivete on the part of local people regarding board structure, naivete in areas about what is necessary in terms of giving to the arts, that it is not a profit making venture, that serious classical music world is never going to make money. They look at Pavarotti and Sills and think that's where it's at, and that's not. The cost of putting on Menotti's opera "The Saint of Bleeker Street"--you can't imagine what it cost, it is a glorious production. There's an example of creativity at its highest with Gian Carlo directing that opera with its beautiful design and with all young singers you've never heard of singing so beautifully. The idea of Gian Carlo to have an orchestra made up of young students or people who have just graduated--these hundred people have been called from student bodies all over the country, that to me is one of the exciting things about this festival. There's not that kind of chance taking in other places. I hope you can see it because it would be very illuminating to see what Gian Carlo has done with people with very little experience. Q: What could I contribute in this study? A: You could contribute by collecting--I think it's incredible--and gathering information about the types that have gotten into this crazy world and how and why they have been successful, or why they have failed. Q: Almost as an art form itself? A: Yes. *** Nigel Redden, general manager of Charleston's Spoleto, was interviewed May 31, 1986, five months after he arrived from a position with the National Endowment for the Arts. Q: How was the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. started? A: The thing that I think is crucial about the history of this festival is that it started for an artistic idea, which was basically to give Italian audiences a sense of what American artists were doing. And that was the Festival of Two Worlds. You can't know the history of the Spoleto Festival without looking at the history of the Festival of Two Worlds. That was started because Gian Carlo Menotti was an Italian who was trained in America but was told by many Italians that America was a cultural wasteland. He wanted to show to Italians that it was not a cultural wasteland. He also wanted to create a kind of sort of artist's colony, that it very much was about artists, artists working together and artists seeing each other's work--that was very much an aspect of the festival. I think it left from that pretty quickly, that is, it became much more a festival about performances, a festival about doing specific events but always the mix was important. And the mix meant that someone who came to play in a play could also see an opera; someone who came to the opera could see a dance performance, and so on. When the festival came to America, it came as a transport but it came with that commitment to artists remaining, although obviously it was no longer a question of proving things to an Italian audience because it was an American audience. It continued to try to do some things that were of interest to a broad group of first rate artists. There also was some economic development, which was an issue here in Charleston. But I think was distinguishes this festival from other festivals, or rather from some other festivals that were started by cities, is that it started with an artistic idea rather than a cultural development idea or even with a place idea. It was very much about artists and it happened to be Charleston rather than, Let's take Charleston and try to figure out what we can do to make something exciting happen in Charleston. Q: What other types of festivals are there? And what other reasons, such as the place idea, lie behind festivals? A: Well, the place idea was imposed to some extent on the Festival of Two Worlds, on Gian Carlo Menotti, by the National Endowment for the Arts, which suggested he look to the South rather than to the Hudson River area, where he had initially thought of looking. That is, he had initially thought of looking to Caramoor or some of those places up the Hudson. But the people at the NEA said, Look, there's so many festivals around up there, there's so much arts activity going on outside of New York, that you shouldn't go there; there's no point in putting a festival there. You should go to someplace where there aren't things. And Charleston is sort of ideal in that it has an enormous cultural history. That is the first ballet company in America started here in 179O; the first ballet ever done in America was done here in 1734; the first opera ever done in America was done here; the first theater in America was here--I mean every city has the first something but this has a lot of cultural firsts. I think one of the other very key things about the city is that it happens to be architecturally beautiful; that is, that this is a place that is an appropriate setting for a festival that celebrates those areas of human imagination that are concerned with beauty and with some of the intangibles of the human spirit. So, that is why it was started here. That's my interpretation. There are other interpretations that are at least as valid, and probably more valid in that I was not involved in this, and others were involved. That is, I think the mayor would have a different tale; I think some of the board members would have a different tale; I think Gian Carlo might have a different tale. The real strength of this festival is for better or worse people have agreed that Gian Carlo Menotti is the artist director, that it has an artistic focus, and that he should be in charge of this thing. It doesn't mean that we don't make compromises, that we do everything that he wants. It doesn't mean that he's happy with everything that we do, by no means. But it does mean that there is a common...a court of last resort...he makes compromises, he does things that he doesn't want to do but he's enough of a realist and enough of an artist to keep the whole thing going. Q: What is the role of the artistic director? A: It is the coherence question, that the artistic director, that is, a single mind, can give the festival a coherence that it might not have otherwise. And I think that's very important. Not necessarily that an artistic director has to be involved in every aspect of what's going on. In some ways, an artistic director is very frustrated. I think that a festival, in order to be significant, has to have some idea. Usually the easiest way to embody that idea is through the artistic director. And it should be an artistic idea, not an extraneous idea. If it's economic development, than it becomes an economic festival. If it's to fill concert halls, then it becomes a booking festival. Which all can have their own place and can be good in their own ways. I think a festival that has an artistic sense has an opportunity to be better than the other because it's serving...I mean there's a kind of integrity that comes with that can't come with something that has nonartistic motives but none the less achieves them through the arts. I mean the arts become a means rather than end. That's my feeling about an artistic director. I don't think it would have happened without an artistic director here. There was talk early on about doing it without any association with the Festival of Two Worlds, without Gian Carlo Menotti, and frankly I don't think you'd be here, I don't think you'd have heard of it. There are 12O festivals in South Carolina; have you heard of any of them...maybe you have, I don't want to speak ill of the others, but I haven't heard of them until I came here. Q: What will happen after Gian Carlo is no longer connected with the festival? A: That's a difficult question. Gian Carlo's presence...someone has to be here, and it will be difficult for someone else. And I don't know in what way. I don't think Gian Carlo will be replaced. And I don't think there will be an attempt to replace him...qua him. I think there will be an attempt to have a new artistic director, or I think it should be an artistic director rather than an artistic directorette. I think we'll be a very different festival. I think it will be more different than the Met was in Bing and other and the new director, the stockbroker person. Because I think that this is more malleable than most organizations...it really can be very different from one year to the next. There are few things that are fixed about it, except that we've going to stay in Charleston. We're going to be a summer festival. We're probably not going to be over 17 days long. We're going to be high arts, whatever that means, and that can mean jazz or circuses or a lot of other things. But it means the arts. I don't know what it would be like after Gian Carlo. I think Gian Carlo sees festivals as a...I think he's an impresario, that's what he feels his role in life is...I think he's an extraordinary impresario. He's been an extraordinarily successful composer, but I think he could have been a hell of lot more so if he hadn't done these festivals. Q: Why has Menotti put his energy into festivals? A: I don't know. I'm sure he's been asked that. He doesn't plan to write a book. There are books about him and there probably will be more; I think there have been two biographies at this point, maybe three. Q: Would you say Menotti is regarded as the most knowledgeable person in the world on the subject of festivals? A: No, no...I wouldn't say he is regarded as that...and I'm not even sure he is that. I couldn't answer that. Q: How do the three Spoleto Festivals compare? A: The one coming up in Melbourne will be in a much larger city, so it's going to be quite different from the Charleston and Spoleto, Italy, festivals. I was brought up on the festival in Italy; I went there when I was 18 and stayed for 5 years...and really came of age in a lot of different ways as a human being...deciding what I was going to do with my life. It was a very emotional and significant time for me and I realize that more and more as I've been here. On the personal level, it's meant an enormous thing to me. So it's hard to take an objective look at the whole concept of these festivals because I feel I'm tied up in them very much personally, even though...I have to say I thought I'd grown away from them--I haven't. So this festival means a lot more to me than simply a job, a lot more. And its success means a lot more to me and it's importance means a lot more to me. There are advantages to the festival in Italy. Spoleto is a more compact town; it's also got a center, which this town doesn't have. There isn't a place as a tourist that you would go to; in Italy there definitely is. This town, however, has a kind of wealth that Spoleto doesn't have; it's got a kind of caring population, which Spoleto doesn't have. It's got a depth of community involvement that Spoleto never will have. I think the festival belongs much more to Charleston than it does to Spoleto, Italy. The Spoletini are a part of the festival and accept it and expect it, but expect it in they way they expect spring or expect summer. I mean, you don't make summer happen; it happens. Here, people make this festival happen and don't expect it to happen without a lot of effort of their part. In Spoleto, there's really no office during the off season...just one person who used to be the local English teacher who works out of her home and organizes housing and that's about it. Otherwise, the office is in Rome. It's a very different relationship with the community. There's magic in Spoleto--the cruise ship magic--that I think festivals bring. That is, all these people descend on a place that's beautiful for a specific period of time and they all have these wonderful magical experiences together. And, when they fall in love and when they have affairs and they have fights and they meet people who become lifelong friends and they meet people who are bosom buddies for two weeks and they never see again. On a human level that's very important; it's extracting you from your daily life. Spoleto, Italy, does it in a way that Charleston doesn't because there is so much community involvement here in Charleston. So there are a lot of people who have ties and continuity. In Spoleto there's very little of that. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both. There's something wonderful about going to a party for the Scottish Ballet in somebody's glorious house. Members of the board are taking people on boat trips. That adds to the magic for some people...adds to the magic for the board members. In Spoleto...I was 18, I was falling in love every two weeks. I can't compare the two. Q: What should be the focus of a doctoral dissertation of festivals? A: I don't know. I feel that the Spoleto Festival is not like other festivals. It's not like the American Dance Festival, which I worked for, or the Jacobs' Pillow Dance Festival. I've put on some festivals myself--one called New Music America and another called New Dance USA. I think this is more like a long drawn-out Robert Wilson piece--a 24-hour, 17-day piece. Q: A friend of mine, Carol Miles, has worked with him and has created several works of her own. How would an artist, in this case for example, looking for a place to do something new and different approach these kinds of festivals? A: Basically, in our case they would write to me, rather than Gian Carlo, although they'd write to both. Q: If a festival encourages the new and different to surface, how are artists encouraged to speak out? A: We approach a lot, half approach and half reaction...half active and half reactive. I think that's the way it's always been here. Gian Carlo is very much a part of the artists' community; the general manager is part of some kind of an artist community. Q: Issues and trends in festivals, fairs, carnivals? A: I used to be at the NEA and we'd talk about issues and trends all the time. But when you get here and you're basically trying to...today that woman on the phone was the senator's wife from Orangeville or some place. We have a bill up in the state senate for a line item for the festival and it's extremely important that those people feel that this festival is worthwhile and important and cares about them. The trend is obscured by those details. For example, the reason I was late was because I was having lunch with the people from the Scottish Ballet and they were miffed about the party last night because no one fussed over the chairman of the board...so I was having lunch with the chairman of the board and fussing over him. That's not long term trend, but it is the absolute reality on which one works. I think the long term trends in a way are misleading. We were talking about the Edinburgh Festival and the impact that the strike on Libya will have it and tourism generally. It's going to have a good deal of impact. Who could have predicted that five months ago? two months ago? Who can predict tomorrow? If the Savannah River nuclear reactor plant blows up, I mean I can tell you that we will have some things to worry about here. Whether Expo is going to change things operate...I mean, it's been successful...it'll be interesting to be have successful it is in terms of the arts. The LA Olympic Arts Festival was very influential in the way people are thinking of festivals in this country. It's not our way of thinking of festivals; it's a big city way and I think it's the antithesis of what this festival is. I mean, it's a very different concept and I think we can't...everyone is interested in the idea but I don't know why they're interested...cultural tourism is a big issue right now and obviously cultural tourism is something that's gone on in Europe forever. People, Americans, have gone to Europe for cultural reasons and people have visited America for geographic reasons. They wanted to go to the beach, they wanted to go to the mountains, they wanted to go to the Grand Canyon...they've wanted to visit relatives, visit the Washington monument. But they've not gone to cities because they wanted to see plays, except in New York. They went to Minneapolis when the Met toured there; there was always some cultural tourism but it's become issue and a big money maker in the recent past. So that's a new issue. Q: What is your background? A: ...I've felt the lack of education, that's been a problem, not that I feel there are tools I'm lacking but more because I wish I were more aware of the history of what...I mean, to some extent, there isn't a history because it's going on right now and that history is sort of immaterial. But nonetheless, I've been fascinated by creating an intellectual framework, an intellectual context, within which this thing exists. And I'm not sure there is an intellectual context, but I think it'll be fascinating to develop it, nonetheless. I've never been able read very much about this kind of thing; I just can't bring myself to do it. It's very...I don't know, I just can't bring myself to do it. Q: What would you be curious about in a book, a dissertation? A: I would be interested in fact and figures rather than the intellectual context, because I feel that context...well, I don't read art history books or about the history of contemporary art because I want to make it for myself. What I want to do is to discuss with others what this context is and, frankly, we're a terribly nonintellectual field. We are just decidedly anti-intellectual, I would say. There's a very strong anti-intellectual movement in the arts. I mean, "You do it, and, if you talk about it, then you can't do it." Which is quite a bit different from the European approach, which is much more intellectual, much more political, much more explicit approach. Q: Do you feel the Europeans see the political functions of their festivals? A: But I don't think Americans look at political functions at all, whether it is American socialization, whether in terms of blacks and whites or rich and poor or whether in terms of our own development as a sense of place, a sense of people, a sense of where we are in life. Certainly Charleston is a city that has a tremendous sense of its own history, but probably has not much a sense of the artistic, the performing arts elements of that history. One has a sense of the physical history of the place; people know the Blackwell House dates from 1821 or whenever; they don't know there was a series here in this building at one point. There's that kind of history. We very much live in the present. We feel suspicious of the past and feel that we invented ourselves yesterday. To some extent I think that the excitement of the contemporary arts, because we did invent a lot of things yesterday. Q: Any comment on this list of questions? A: These questions are very interesting in that they don't deal with any of the facts, figures, how to make it work, which is frankly the thing that all of us struggle with. I can tell you I don't wake up mornings thinking about the artistic vision, though I think it absolutely crucial that it be there. Q: That's intriguing, because it means that it must be very strong and it is not an issue...it's working. There's an acceptance of what this festival is. A: Yes, because the consensus is in individuals. That is what has galvanized this community. That is people trust a number of individuals associated with this festival and will take things on faith because of their trust in those individuals, things that they would not take on faith were those individuals not involved. What I mean is generally people think that what they see at the Spoleto Festival is better than they might think if they saw it out of the context of the Spoleto Festival. Or they're prepared to take some radical art in the context of the festival that they would not want to see elsewhere. I was giving a speech yesterday and was introduced by someone who said he was forced to go to a chamber music concert by his wife and that he expected to hate it but he loved it. I think he makes a point of going to things in the festival that he would not go to otherwise. That issue of trust is a very important one. I don't think the people buy into the artistic vision per se; they buy into the fact that there is an artistic vision. Even if they distrust their own taste or, say, I don't like this stuff, they still trust the idea that someone feels this is good...enough. Q: That leads to the possibility that the NEA might have had more than one reason for thinking this festival was good for the South, one being that there's not that much new art surfacing in the South... A: No, I think that was the primary reason... Q: And the effect of this... A: Well, frankly, I don't think the NEA thinks things through very thoroughly. Q: Who at the NEA would I talk with? A: Well, the key person is Walter Anderson, who's now retired. He was head of the music program. He's very charming and a nice man. I knew him when I was at the NEA for a few years. I don't think this country has policies, has politics in the arts. We don't think things through. I mean the glory of the garden, that wonderful English statement about decentralization, is now something that could be said here or certainly wouldn't get much attention if it were. Q: What are your personal plans for shaping the festival? A: There are on the one hand some vague, grandiose plans. But I feel the festival has the opportunity, is in position to be extremely important to various art forms; it can make statements; it can be a marvelous showcase; it can do work that is significant not necessarily to an audience in Charleston only but to a much larger arts world. I think that has to be the constituency at which we aim, that larger arts community, because if we aim at that, if we reach them, we will reach the audience here in Charleston with something that will be significant to them. If we only aimed to the audience in Charleston, we will do something that's of significance to very, very few people. Q: Do you see broadcasting festival events live on TV or radio? A: Although I'm eager to have our events put on television, I feel there's something about being in a theater that can't be duplicated anywhere. I think television is a very, very poor second. The exciting thing to me is that relatively few people can come to this. We reach a larger group than the population of Charleston, which is important; when I speak of a small group, I'm speaking of a group larger than our community. It is a large group in its own way but not measured in the millions. I think it's extremely important that we do things that have a kind of intimacy and scale that is human; because I don't think two million has anything to do with the human scale at all. And I don't think it's a question of being elite or exclusive. I think its a question of doing something that is worthwhile. The kind of things we're doing are not things that should be looked at in five minute doses in between flipping channels, having dinner, having telephone calls. That's not what we should be doing because these are serious things that do need to be given serious attention that you can give when you're in the theater. If you devote an hour and a half or three hours to go to a performance, you give it a very different kind of attention span than if you are watching a television set. I think that is something that is crucial for the performing arts, crucial for the arts generally. I think the television sort of demeans things and trivializes; nonetheless, if I can get on TV I'll be thrilled. Q: There seems to be a lack of archival material? A: Well, we don't throw anything away...look at my desk. My own feeling on that if given the choice between doing and archiving, there's no choice. Q: When I was in a position to attempt to explain Spoleto to a community, I found a lack of organized materials. It would have been helpful to have a history, video tapes, and so on, to get across the complexity and the full scale of activity going on. A: I agree it's very difficult to convey. But I don't think the concept is translatable. I don't think you could do a Spoleto in Chattanooga. I think you can do a Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga. I thought about setting up my own festival rather than doing this, in some city or other...I might do it yet. But I wouldn't want it to be a Spoleto Festival. I would want to do a different festival. Q: What type of festival would you do? A: I would prefer to do a festival more like this than like a lot of the others. *** Colin Sturm, the first managing director of Spoleto Melbourne, Australia, in September 1986, was interviewed in May during Charleston's Spoleto 86. To start from the beginning you've got to make an assessment of the purposes of a festival. The problem from what you have from what you've told me is that you're not going back to basic concepts. A festival has two important foundation stones. They're part of the total structure. Without them both being effective you haven't got a festival that will work. The first part of a festival structure is whether the community wants it. If it's not bubbling up from the community, it's going to automatically fail. You cannot impose something of this sort onto a community from above. It just doesn't work. If the community wants the festival, and the word festival covers a great number of types of activity, then they're going to help pay for it and they're not going to mind if public monies are put into it. A lot of the infighting that happens can be less intrusive; it will always be there because in a community there are always two sides to what's proposed. You need to set your goal in whatever paper you're thinking about of clearly defining the objectives of the festival. Q: You would agree that to ask why a festival started is a very important beginning? A: Yes, Spoleto was started by an idea from Gian Carlo Menotti, which came from his friend, the American composer Sam Barber, who said, when they were both young men, that art should not be just the froth on the top of the main soup, that it should have a concrete, measurable effect in a community. To test that as a premise, they both looked for a town in Italy and in the States--they were looking in both places, but they found quickest a town in Italy which was absolutely on its beam ends. Its population consisted of very elderly and very young people. All the young, middle age groups had to leave because there was no work, no money. Unemployment was something like 6O per cent. So they thought that if they were going to prove their premise, then the festival would have to do things that in a commercial sense were good. So when they suggested this to the city fathers, they grabbed at the chance to try anything. Therefore, my first point was that the community wanted it, what community there was there. The end result is that Spoleto is a thriving little city as a direct input of the festival. It brings lots of tourism into the place. There's been a great deal of building and regeneration of the medieval buildings has carried out with public money from taxes that the money has generated. So there has been a measurable effect. The improvement in beneficial life style through the arts is enormous. And in a smaller way, because its effects were not so obviously into grand statistics, which will give you into the country. So that in the USA, although I'm not sure which department it would be, in Australia and in Britain, these statistics are in the department of government that looks after budget, since they're a budget consideration. The multiplier effect in Keynesian economic terms that are available from the arts are surprisingly big. You'll find that the employment possibilities, which for a politician is a big thing, the creation of jobs is quite properly and should be an important vote getter, so that every politician is going to be interested in this. You'll find that there are statistical models everywhere. Local governments if they are at all forward looking will have in their forecasting budgetary processes statistical models of the various types of input that will effect in an improvement fashion their ability to generate income. Q: So, the primary question is whether the community wants a festival? This would seem to imply that they perceive the need, the benefits, the economics and is that known clearly. Wouldn't that be a key aspect? A: Yes, the community must want it. If they're not terribly interested, then you won't be able to get money given from private pockets, private in the sense of local people, whatever. And you won't be able to get the important support, which is public monies. No politician worth his salt is going to commit one dollar to a project that hasn't got community endorsement. Politicians are the same the world over; they're looking for votes, the ongoing supply of votes; the pork barrel concept in any language works. Therefore, it's very important for a festival to have a general conception of being good for the community. The second point that I'd make to you is that the festival has got to be able to raise the money to do the job. Now, a small festival like the Riverbend--I think you said the budget was nearly a million dollars--any community in general terms is going to need between $2 to $4 million dollars to make something happen that is going to be very much up front effective. Just the cost in the USA and Australia, which is going to be too broad a generalization but for this purpose it's enough, and you can't in fact have something that's going to be looked at by people who are not terribly committed unless it is very impactive. It can't be effective in those terms without sufficient money, which then goes the full circle back to there having to be enough people in the community who think it's worth having. So you see my point of that first pair of foundation stones. Local government, represented by the mayor of Charleston or in your case Chattanooga, both have the same sort of concerns and basically their concerns are the one's I've been talking about--votes and getting those votes in a way the community thinks is worth while. So that where local or state or national government has got clearly in this group mind that there is a benefit, a real benefit, then you're going to get some assistance. This really goes back to starting the thing off as we have done in Australia for some 15 or 2O years and that is when a festival is put forward to government as being considered for public funding, that there is a proper economic feasibility study done of the impact in all the terms of an economic study of benefits and costs. If there is a plus at the end of the balance sheet, that is, if it's going to put in something more than it takes out, then there's a chance that government might consider it. But if it doesn't come out, if it just comes out even say, then the benefits are not particularly apparent in feet on the ground, down earth principles and it then becomes the sort of festival which is an area grouping of people who are going to put their hands into their own pockets, do a great deal of voluntary work themselves, and probably have a ball. But it'll stay at that particular level. In Australia, we think of this of the Scout All [Boy Scouts] complex, you know. The Boy Scouts are a nice worthwhile community activity; the parents of the kids get together once a month or whatever--you've got an activity which brings the community together for that particular purpose. Q: You don't think that's a sufficient purpose for a festival? A: No, it's too specialized. You see, a general festival--you've got two types of festivals. One which is a carnival, summer festival out in the open, marching girls, sports, swimming, stores selling things in the street--this type of what comes into my mind under the general heading of carnival, which is a great idea. Once a year, usually in the summer time, sometimes a day or a weekend or a long holiday weekend--that's one type of activity. That can be done reasonably cheaply. But when you start about a festival that means the use of venues, halls, theaters, bring people in from out-of-state, entertainments, and so on, you're then getting into the entertainment business. The entertainment business is a very expensive and very specialized, and, if it's going to work well, almost needing a genius at business. You were saying you that you hadn't had an artistic director. The whole point of having an artistic director is to have somebody who is essentially uninterested in the financial end of things, who is looking purely at what is going to work in a general entertainment sense. And you then have, what I presume you've already got under that system, someone who is a business manager. Now without the combination of the two I think you run a risk. Festivals are not a subject studied in great depth in England or Australia because it's not going to be of much use to anybody. There are only about seven major festivals, which are fully blown in administrative terms, in the whole world. These would be the three in England--Wakesford, Edinburgh, and Chichester; there's a number of small ones in the States, one of which is Wolf Trap; there's this one with its three locations; there's a big one in Australia, apart from the one we're setting up, in Adlelaide, which is the capitol of South Australia. It's an international festival. Of the ones you've mentioned, Salzburg is a very specific festival; it's just an annual event with some specialized operas; it's not what I think of as a broadly based festival. There's one in Canada that I can't remember the name of. There's a marvelous one in France, Aix en Provence. On the fingers of two hands you can come up with all of the top ones, under ten I think. Of course, the study of those festivals and small ones has been matter of great interest to the economics division of government in that area, both local, state, and federal. Those statistics are probably published every year as part that entity's economic process. Q: A Salzburg study has used a seven to one economic multiplier. Do you agree with that ratio? A: I would think that in Keynesian economic terms would be very hard to support. It would treat with a pretty beady eye any multiplier that went much above 2.7 or 2.8. Because in the arts you get all sorts of muddying of the waters by people who are multiple attenders. Say you come here to Charleston to visit the festival. You're one person, but you might have ten activities. So that you as an audience unit are counted ten times. This is in feasibility study terms something that has to be watched very carefully. Similarly, the trickle down effect to the community in beneficial terms has the displacement factor. By proper statistical analysis, in Keynesian terms, I would imagine that a multiplier of seven, for instance, is double counting the audience number effect. It is also not taking into account properly the displacement effect. What happened is, if you visualize yourself as living here in Charleston, and you decide ten tickets, say at a $1OO value, then in your own pocket budget sense instead of spending that $1OO on other entertainment or other things, such as replacing a household item costing a hundred dollars, you put it into the entertainment thing. This displacement factor mitigates strongly against the overall beneficial effect. It's where the beneficial effect creates a true plus that you've got something that's measurably beneficial. Therefore, the multiplier effect that anyone comes up with in the arts that's more than the high two's, I'd be casting a pretty beady eye at it. Q: What got you interested in managing a festival in Australia? What in your background prepared you for festivals? And what will be the artistic nature of that Melbourne festival? A: Gian Carlo Menotti is our artistic director. He has a very definite opinion on what should be included in a festival. It's very wide ranging but it has its emphasis on opera, ballet, and music. It's not to say he's not interested in the other fine arts, literature, crafts, and so on, but this is his primary interest. Therefore the emphasis of what he puts together has got his personality stamped on it. So the sort of festival we'll have is really rather similar to here in Charleston. There are certain things that push it in one direction or another because there are local requirements. Because unless you can sell the tickets, you are not going to have a festival that will last very long. So you have to look at your market place. Q: What percentage of tickets will be local? A: The statistics in general terms, at least the English ones, show that 8O per cent of support for a festival is local. The way they define local varies but it ranges from 5O-1OO miles. The remainder comes from near but not very far away. Then you classify "far away" as far as you like. If there's going to be a special performance of an opera that I like, and it's going to have a cast that you're never going to see again, I would personally move heaven and earth to get to it. And other people of like mind would come from other parts of the world. But we would be some part of that 2O per cent of "other." *** David Rawle, public relations agent for the festival, was interviewed May 3O, 1986. The festival was started by Gian Carlo Menotti in Italy in 1958 and he always sought to have an Italian festival in American. It was called the Festival of Two Worlds in Italy, always sought a companion festival, looked for a site in America through the National Endowment for the Arts and others was directed to look into the Southeast, came to Charleston, was enormously impressed by it, and was received enthusiastically, and was started by him and the board of Spoleto, Festival dei du Mondi, the festival in Italy. The artistic director in the case of Spoleto, Gian Carlo Menotti, is also the founder. So it's really his baby. His role is like the gorilla; where does the gorilla sit? anywhere he wants. I think that each endeavor is a reflection of those who create it and those who help sponsor it and its locale and the interest of that locale. In the case of Spoleto it is a reflection of the artistic direction of its founder and it is a reflection of the Charleston community, which considers itself an art form, if you will, and is celebrating the beauty of its own historic city while also reaching out into new directions as the festival does. It's that sort of combination in the case of Charleston and Spoleto. The idea was to create a festival in which an entire community could be immersed. It's difficult during the festival to pick up a newspaper, talk to an individual, visit a shop, or watch television or listen to radio without having a sense of Spoleto's presence. That is a joyous celebration of the arts and the festival form provides that. Q: What is the relationship between festivals, fairs, expositions from your perspective? A: I think that each endeavor is a reflection of those who create it and those who help sponsor it and its locale and the interest of that locale. In the case of Spoleto it is a reflection of the artistic direction of its founder and it is a reflection of the Charleston community, which considers itself an art form, if you will, and is celebrating the beauty of its own historic city while also reaching out into new directions as the festival does. It's that sort of combination in the case of Charleston and Spoleto. Q: What are the main issues and trends facing festival artistic directors, managers, or public relations directors? A: The greatest challenge is to stand up from others and to differentiate yourselves. That requires a focus and the discipline to hold that focus. The special economic significance of Spoleto to Charleston is it has in its nine years contributed about $35O million dollars spending directly and indirectly to this area. Secondly, it has attracted companies that wanted to move here because of the quality of life that Spoleto has helped catalyze. Thirdly, it has helped boost the economic vitality of the other arts organizations. Politically, it has opened up people's minds to a wide variety of ideas and cultural influences because it is so international in its presentation. Aesthetically, it is the perfect complement to Charleston because Charleston itself is an art form. -end-
1. Carolyn Mitchell, Chattanooga Times, June 15, 1984.
2. Charles Slack, Chattanooga Times, June 15, 1984.
3. What perspectives support this view of a distinctive festival theater? "Look at the use of space," University of Toronto semiotician Paul Bouissac advised when asked in 1986 about analytical approaches to the study of festivals. Bouissac, author of Circus and Culture: A Semiotic Approach, recalled he had asked his professor, Claude Lévi-Strauss, a similar question about studying circuses. "First study one completely, then a few others, make a few tentative conclusions, then look at other circuses with these views," the influential French anthropologist and founder of structural analysis suggested.
From this conceptual starting point, ideas about "space" grounded the continuing questions, "What is a festival? What does it do?" Personal experience with the genesis of a town arts festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during the early 198Os provided the documents and memories to begin to carry out Lévi-Strauss' advice to "study one completely."
4. In Chattanooga, an extensive planning process, funded by an interested local foundation, generated documentation useful for analysis of the Riverbend Festival's birth and gestation.
5. Charles S. Peirce, "Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs," Ed Justus Buchler Philosophical Writings of Peirce, 194O. Dover Publications: New York: Rpt. 1955) 99. The sense of semiotics as the study of signs, intended here and throughout the study, is derived from Peirce's definition of a "sign": "something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign."
A more general definition of semiotics is the representation and processing of knowledge, a more abstracted model which suggests both human and natural communication and signification processes.
The idea of a triadic template, such as Vincent's "place, ideal, force," generally corresponds (although no precise correlation is claimed) to C. S. Peirce's categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness, as summarized by David Savan:
Place equals firstness: "Firstness might be called quality space, a space which is occupied by existing qualities. Because Firstness is without relation to physical space, time, or casual conditions, Peirce associates it with the ideas of freedom, novelty, and originality."
Ideal equals secondness: "The crucial idea here is that of brute and obstinate existence, related by opposition and contrast to some other second existence....When we say that experience presents us with hard facts, it is the Secondness of experience that we refer to. So too when we point to something, or refer to something without describing or classifying it, Secondness is prominent."
Force equals thirdness (three categories): "Mediation--whenever two things are connected by means of some third factor, thirdness is the category....Transformation--any principle, function, or law which translates one form into another is a third....Growth and Development--laws are subject themselves to change in accordance with what might be called meta-laws....Peirce understands evolution as just such a hierarchical order of laws....The leading principle of growth is the application of the categories to themselves."
Savan observes: "The categories are not, of course, names of individual things. They are classifications of three aspects of whatever can be known, and they occur always compounded together."
David Savan, An Introduction to C.S. Peirce's Semiotics, from monographs, working papers, and prepublications of the Toronto Semiotic Circle (Toronto: Toronto Semiotic Circle, Victoria University 1976 No.1) 6-9.
6. It was a request for a history of Charleston's festival that revealed the absence of such a record. As one of the founders of Chattanooga's festival, I had kept many of the notes, files, and papers that ordinarily would have been lost. These are available to other researchers. No doubt new documents will come to light as others involved in these historic moments in community life have different stories to tell. However, the evidence presented in this study is as full and complete as constraints of time, funds, and scholarly discourse permit.
7. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi, foreword by Fredric Jameson (1979; Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984) 81-82.
Possibly the most dramatic illustration of Lyotard's idea, as I have paraphrased it, is his willingness to "honor the differences" by including Marxist literary critic Jameson's generally opposing views as a foreword.
8. Milan Kundera, Laughable Loves (1969; Middlesex: Penguin, 1974) 5.
9. This comment was from remarks made by Menotti at a May 2O, 1988, press conference in Charleston at the opening of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A.
10. See interview excerpts that follow in Chapter II and Appendix A, especially Theodore S. Stern and David Rawle.
11. Steven Gallup, A History of the Salzburg Festival (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987).
Examples of other useful festival histories are:
John Pettigrew, and Jamie Portman, Foreword by Robertson Davies, Stratford: The First Thirty Years 2 Vols. (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1985).
Tom Patterson, founder of the Festival, and Allan Gould, First Stage: The Making of the Stratford Festival (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987).
Grace Lydiatt Shaw, Stratford Under Cover: Memories on Tape (Toronto: N.C. Press Limited, 1977).
Alistair Moffat, The Edinburgh Fringe (London: Johnston & Bacon, 1978).
John Julius Norwich, Fifty Years of Glyndebourne: An Illustrated History (London: Jonathan Cape, 1985).
Fannia Weingartner, ed., Ravinia: The Festival at its Half Century,(Ravinia: Ravinia Festival Association and Rand McNally & Company, 1985).
Alfreda L. Irwin, Three Taps of the Gavel: Pledge to the Future The Chautauqua Story (1970; Chautauqua: Chautauqua Institution, New York, 1987).
12. From Theodore S. Stern recollections, 1988 interview, Appendix A.
13. Stephen Orgel, The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance (Berkeley and London: U of California P, 1975) 39-40.
14. Orgel, The Illusion of Power, 40.
15. Orgel, The Illusion of Power, 47-48.
16. A.M. Nagler, A Source Book in Theatrical History (New York: Dover, 1952) 3. Plutarch recounts that Solon warned Thespis that his plays were lies that might find they way into the belief of the people: "If we honor and commend such play as this, we shall find it someday in our business."
17. The concept of "liminality" is that derived from the anthropological work of Victor Turner.
18. Peter Brook, The Empty Space (New York: Atheneum, 1984) 9.
19. Nggi wa Thiong'o, Decolonizing the Mind (Harrare: Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1987) 37-8.
20. Brook, The Empty Space 9.
21. Steven Gallup, A History of the Salzburg Festival (London: Weidenfeld and Niclolson, 1987) 175, 176-7.
22. Elizabeth Mortimer, "The Salzburg Festival," Austria Today (1979).
23. Eugen Hadamaovsky, "Propaganda and National Power," International Propaganda and Communications, introduction by Wilbur Schramm, trans. Alice Mavrogordato and Ilse DeWitt. (New York: Arno Press, 1972) 173-182. First published Oldenburg, Germany, 1933, as a master's thesis.
Hadamaovsky was a deputy to Goebbels and dedicated his work "To the master of Political propaganda Dr. Joseph Goebbels whose brilliant leadership transformed the discredited weapon of German politics into a creative art." This document also explains the strategy and tactics of discrediting "liberalism" in such detail that it could have been the "intellectual" basis of George Bush's 1988 campaign battle plan. The thesis deserves new consideration for its insights into the fascist mentality and its goals of unity and sameness and opposition to "differences."
24. Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale (Austin: U of Texas P, 1968 revised edition):
Since the tale [like the festival] is exceptionally diverse...the material...must be classified. The accuracy of all further study depends on the accuracy of classification....it must itself be the result of certain preliminary study. What we see, however, is precisely the reverse: the majority of researchers begin with classification, imposing it upon the material from without and not extracting it from the material itself. ....it is necessary to place the classification of tales on a new track. It must be transferred into formal, structural features. And, in order to do this, these features must be investigated. ....Not a single concrete fact can be explained without the study of these abstract bases. ....The historian, inexperienced in morphological problems, will not see a resemblance where one actually exists; he will omit coincidences which are important to him, but which he does not notice. [Emphasis mine]. And conversely, where a similarity is perceived, a specialist in morphology will be able to demonstrate that compared phenomena are completely heteronomous.
We see, then, that very much depends upon the study of forms....undertaken from the viewpoint of abstract, formal problems. Such crude, "uninteresting" work of this kind is a way to generalize "interesting" constructions. .
...This makes possible the study of the tale according to the functions of its dramatis personae. [2O]
Propp's work suggests the reasoning and process behind the selection of the three basic elements selected for this study "according to their functions:" place, ideal, force and their various equivalents used throughout the analysis.
25. The terms are from a quote on a postcard sold by the Chautauqua Institution in 1987. The quotation, "Chautauqua is a place, an ideal, and a force," was attributed to its founder, John Vincent Heyl.
26. Mikhail Bakhtin, "Popular-Festive Forms and Images in Rabelais," Rabelais and His World. Translated by Helene Iswolsky from Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable, Moscow, Khudozhestvennia literatura, 1965 from the 194O doctoral original. (Bloomington: Indiana, 1984) 265.
27. One deeper symbolic pattern could be the emergence of the species from the water; this festival becomes then an enactment of that ritual of passage as a return to a point of origin. However, this would be a pattern encoded at the "function" level, one derived from selective interpretation and not one necessarily expressed in explicit goals or observed effects. If this pattern should be found enacted in other festivals, that is, a recurrence of imagery, language, and water-related events, then possibly a significant function of a festival could be identified as a "connector to meanings of ancient, evolutionary beginnings." It cannot be suggested within this study that this actually is a function of a festival; the idea is to point out the potential value of searching for the unnoticed "work" or "function" of a festival.
28. Rufus Triplett, second president of the Friends of the Festival, Inc., quoted in a headline in the Chattanooga Times on or about June 1, 1986.
29. Roy Strong, Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press, 1984) xiii. Splendour at Court: Renaissance Spectacle and the Theatre of Power was used as Strong's 1973 title of the book was revised and expanded in 1984. It is in the sense of his term "theater of power" that the phrase was selected for the title of this work.
30. Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana UP 1976) 134.
31. Timothy J. Reiss, excerpt from unpublished course outline for Emory University 1985 summer session seminar, "Toward an Archaeology of the Modern European Theater."
32. Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, 15O.
33. Roy Strong, Art and Power, 172.
34. Reiss, "European Theater" course outline.
35. Tyrone Guthrie and Robertson Davies, Renown at Stratford: The First Thirty Years 2 Vols. (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1953) 32.
36. In view of the apparent scarcity of world-class examples, it appears a matter of fortunate chance that my visit to Charleston's Spoleto festival provided such a model of excellence . In actuality this was not a random encounter but more a courtship. The National Endowment for the Arts, one of the initiating sponsors of the festival, was as much interested in meeting a budding arts lover like me as I was in getting acquainted with the festival. The NEA intended that a model of a European festival of all the arts be created in the American South, where it was felt such a festival role model would be more unusual.
According to the 1986 interview with the festival's newly-appointed general manager, Nigel Redden, who had worked for the NEA:
The place idea was imposed to some extent on the Festival of Two Worlds, on Gian Carlo Menotti, by the National Endowment for the Arts, which suggested he look to the South rather than to the Hudson River area, where he had initially thought of looking. That is, he had initially thought of looking to Caramoor or some of those places up the Hudson. But the people at the NEA said: Look, there are so many festivals around up there, there's so much arts activity going on outside of New York, that you shouldn't go there; there's no point in putting a festival there. You should go to someplace where there aren't things. And Charleston is sort of ideal in that it has an enormous cultural history. That is, the first ballet company in America started here in 179O; the first opera ever done in America was done here; the first theater in America was here--I mean every city has the first something but this has a lot of cultural firsts.
37. A few elements of these differing "tales" unfold throughout the narrow limits of this study. Not all are present, especially Menotti's and Riley's stories because of their crowded schedules at festival time. Yet the main direction of their thinking is included in several key quotations from the transcribed interviews in 1986 and 1988. These "stories" reflect basic aspects of the early struggle faced by Riley and Menotti that might not have been revealed in their own words if they had been available for interviews in 1986 or 1988. No doubt other interpretations will emerge as the festival's archives are made public.
Redden was sensitive to this uncertainty about the analysis of the Spoleto Festival's origin and basic idea: "I think the mayor would have a different tale; I think some of the board members would have a different tale; I think Gian Carlo might have a different tale."
38. Carol E. Miles, "Robert Wilson: A Study of His Creative Process," master's thesis, Trinity U, San Antonio, Texas, 1984: "...Robert Wilson...opted for a radically different way of making theater. Through his longtime practice of splitting apart the elements of the theater--the text, non-verbal sound, decor and lighting--he has created a very personal style of presenting his ideas. His work is based on the visual and aural instead of the verbal. The dramatic value of spectacle by far outweighs the traditional literary dominance found in most Western theater. In his work there are no plots, no traditional characters that interact with each other, no thematic, political, or moral theses to sway the emotions or opinions of the audience, and no representational use of scenery, lighting, and sound. Yet it is theater....Wilson's personal perceptions have created a style that Stefan Brecht has called a theater of visions" [in Brecht's Theater of Visions: Robert Wilson 2-3].
39. Some of Robert Wilson's past associates have demonstrated some of his imagistic techniques. Carol Miles' choreography in the 1988 Charleston Spoleto production of Dvorak's Rusalka was a masterpiece of dramatic effect in the difficult ballroom scene. I am indebted to her for explaining Robert Wilson's concept of non-traditional theatrical forms. Her own directing and choreography, seen on videotape from several of her works in France in 1986-7, in her 1986 Hamlet for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, and in her The House of Bernard Alba at Theater Emory, Emory University, February 1989, were strong influences on the development of my own "imagistic" festival ideas. A Wilsonian-like "festival theater" staged throughout an entire city was proposed for Chattanooga's festival by Doris Hays, see Chapter III. Possibly one day soon financial support will be granted for Miles own similar proposed production, "City Opera," which is waiting for its own "empty space" and "force."
40. "What is new is art power--the power, as Charleston's energetic 38-year-old mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., puts it, `to revitalize a sagging downtown business district, to raise the cultural level of a very wide spectrum of the city's population and to boost civic pride.'" Charles Michener, Newsweek, May 28, 1981.
41. Guthrie, Tyrone, and Davies, Robertson. Renown at Stratford: A Record of the Shakespeare Festival in Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Ltd.: 1953, vii. Several of Davies' novels, especially in the Francis Cornish trilogy, use the Stratford Festival as a dramatic device. In the 1988 final book in the Cornish series, The Lyre of Orpheus, the Stratford Festival holds center stage for the restored Hoffman opera production where the action climaxes and many of the threads are woven together. One can see at the festival. The festival is where all the key institutional elements (foundation, university, artists, critics) are gathered for audience and performers alike to interact in one place at the same time.
The function of the festival in fiction and drama is a topic that could not be explored in this study, but it should be included in an expanded analysis of the art of festival. Other examples of the festival/fair/carnival in works of art includes: Brecht's carnival scene in Galileo, the looming presence of the 1939 New York World's Fair in Doctorow's World's Fair, the meeting place of high and low in Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, the rowdy mob scene Hogarth painted in Southwark Fair, and Schumann's disconnected cadences and tonal breaks in the Carnaval concerto.
42. Guthrie, Davies, Renown at Stratford, 31-32.
43. M. M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (1965; Bloomington: Indiana UP 1984) 265.
44. Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs, trans. Richard Howard (1970; New York: Hill and Wang, 1982) 3O-32. Barthes' caption under an overhead map reads: "The City is an ideogram: the Text continues." As such, the City can be a meaningful text like the festivals and angoras it contains.
45. Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (New York: Harcourt, 1982). Frye concludes his book with a point relevant to the matter of what is encoded in language code such as the Bible or a serious festival:
Yet perhaps it is only through the study of works of human imagination that we can make any real contact with the level of vision beyond faith. For such vision is, among other things, the quality in all serious religions that enables them to be associated with human products of culture and imagination, where the limit is the conceivable and not the actual. (231-232).
The ancient tie of church and festival remains beyond this study's limits, but further exploration of this central aspect of the festival seems indicated.
46. Strong, Roy. Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 145O-165O. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press, 1984. First published in 1974 at Splendour at Court: Renaissance Spectacle and the Theatre of Power, 172. The earlier title provided the idea for the dissertation's title as well as its central concept.
47. Christopher Hunt, "The Official Souvenir Program of Spoleto Festival U.S.A.: 1981" (Charleston: David L. Rawle Associates, 1981) 73.
48. Alessandro Falassi, ed., Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival (Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1987). From his introduction to Marianne Mesnil's essay, "Place and Time in the Carnivalesque Festival," 184. The importance of the urban environment as a functional element is stressed in this article.
49. Certainly no tabular reduction does justice to any work of imagination. However, this classification scheme provides a useful device for organizing the chaos of a festival into categories for interpretive comparison. In examining the wide array of festival categories on the template, it is clear that categories such as programming, results, management, or critical reaction in themselves merit extensive exploration. Any serious arts festival's programming would itself merit a separate monograph and critical probe, and in fact most available festival histories primarily provide this valuable documentation as chronological lists of performance events and their financing. However, questions of potential deeper significances and social meanings often remain unexplored by these individual festival histories, "collections of studies of particular events looked at in isolation," as Roy Strong observed.
50. Charles S. Wadsworth, interview tape recorded during chamber series break at Charleston's Dock Street Theater during the Spoleto Festival, May 1986.
51. The eleven Spoleto Festival U.S.A. posters form a unique representation of the evolution of this festival and its unpredictable offerings. Each poster differs widely.
52. Wadsworth had visited with the Riverbend organizers in late 1982, when his Lincoln Center chamber society was performing in Chattanooga. He offered several suggestions for associates who could be artistic directors for Riverbend. Now retired from the Lincoln Center organization, he represents a unique musical force in creating popular audiences for American chamber music, while retaining his "downhome" Newnan, Georgia, modesty and humor.
53. This observation was made by an Atlanta ceramic jewelry artist, Dorothy Kimball. She observed a string of colored lights on my 1989 makeshift Christmas "tree," a large palm plant. The comment triggered this idea of the "festive" nature of differences in a more general sense.
54. The festival's first general manager, Christine L. Reed, wrote in the first 1977 program: "There is abundant reason for the appropriateness of Charleston, South Carolina, as the site of Spoleto Festival U.S.A.--its pride in sustaining its own rich aesthetic heritage of architectural and botanical treasures, its long-time concern for the educational process (the College of Charleston is the oldest municipal college in the United States), the establishment of a repository of its life style (the Museum of Charleston is the oldest museum in the United States), the forming of the St. Cecelia society in 1762 as an outlet for the musically inclined, the first theatre in America built exclusively for theatrical purposes (the Dock Street Theater), and the first opera in this country ("Flora") was performed in Charleston in 1735."
55. John Gruen, Menotti (New York: Macmillan, 1978).
56. Joseph P., Riley, Jr., Mayor of Charleston, Statement in 1978 official Spoleto Festival U.S.A. program guide, 12.
57. Max Reinhardt, "Austria Today," (1979).
58. The emergence of Piccolo Spoleto two years after the first 1977 festival suggests that there were numerous needs that the main festival was not addressing. Piccolo, its several hundred events sponsored by the City of Charleston, probably could be moved to another time of year if it actually were meeting extremely different needs from the main festival. A difference greater than each festival's programming is the cost of both "high" and "low" art, more precisely expensive or free performances, which are highly innovative in the Piccolo offerings. The "big" and "little" festivals appear to be complementary, each drawing their magic and power from their differing purposes, a difference contained within Menotti's aesthetic philosophy.
59. Redden announced at the festival's 1988 news conference that the festival was in the "black," meaning that sufficient "unearned," or grant and donation revenues, had been raised to pay expenses. Considering the festival's early days of large deficits, it was a significant achievement.
60. For this analysis, the methodology used in the "functions" categories for Charleston's festival (Chapter II) can be continued. Although such a chart lacks descriptive power, these categories suggest the basic elements that appear in most festivals as well as the specific features of the Riverbend Festival in 1987:
Name: Riverbend Festival
Type: Popular entertainment
Model: Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Plum Nelly
Purpose: Bring community together, improve economy, present arts
Results: Large crowds, develop riverfront, build pride
Programming: Highlighted popular musical entertainers such as Willie Nelson, Sarah Vaughn with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, "Blood, Sweat & Tears," "Chicago," Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, the "Spinners," the "Judds," a classical chamber trio in residence, and about two dozen other performers
Budget: $1.3 million
Duration: Ten days
Location and theaters: Several acres of a downtown riverfront park plus a few other indoor and outdoor sites
Artistic Director: O
Management: Self-perpetuating board, a contracted local management staff
Workers: Hundreds of volunteers, part-time staff
Audience: As many as 1OO,OOO spectators gathered for the most popular concerts, such as "Chicago" in 1987; total estimated audience was 25O,OOO
Audience access: $8 plastic lapel pin for all events
Related events: Water skiing and hydroplane motorboat races on the Tennessee River; triathlon; downtown parade
Food: Some two dozen vendors offered food, drinks, and souvenirs
Reaction: City leaders have described the festival as the city's "signature piece." Featured in Southern Living magazine as key event
Profit: $75,OOO estimated
61. Of course, in 198O-81 none of us would have thought to articulate such general concepts of "sameness" or the idea of observing the "empty space" as I have employed the phrase, although the idea is present in what Robbins and I wrote on May 5. How could such a completely "foreign" idea of looking at "nothing" surface in the first place? It was not until November 1987, when I was searching for some entry point to writing a final academic essay about Riverbend's meanings, that the concept came to me while reading Peter Brook's The Empty Space, whose implications were discussed in Chapter I. The effect was analogous to that of looking at the surrounding contextual landscape in reverse video. The dark and the light spaces were reversed; in a moment of insight there was nothing, absence, empty space--symbolized by a zero signifying no meaning present--yet this "no thing" became a presence much like a blank space on a grid of elements.
62. Awareness of this "empty space," which of course was not completely empty, began with memory of remarks that I, as the city's public affairs director, wrote for the mayor's welcoming comments at the last Downtown Arts Festival in 1972. He had stressed the vitality that the arts bring to the city and, an always present theme, called attention to the unusual scenic beauty of mountains, river, and lakes that Chattanoogans should strive to "live up to" and match in our imaginative human works.
63. The sequence of influences, the process of opening a new definition of festival, and the larger context of the sources that influenced this one city's creation of a festival are revealed in part by much earlier efforts.
From 1898 into the early 19OOs, Chattanooga hosted an annual week-long May festival with concerts, parades, bicycle races, flower shows, citizens in carnival dress, and king and queen coronations. These were major events involving towns around the city. A midway carnival occupied downtown city streets. Regional events celebrated the Norwegian god Balfur's arrival in "Spring--the Festival of Nature," a provocative hint of nature's statement of a "festival of differences" when the plant kingdom is in full blossom and in full embrace and exchange of differences.
These festivals had several commonalities with the creation, purposes, and programming of the current Riverbend Festival, but it appears the only surviving element is the August debutante presentation, the Cottonball Gala. These festivals were unknown to all local Riverbend organizers until March 1988. Then, when several of us read copies of the Chattanooga News-Free Press articles that I had found at the public library, we were struck by the similarity of having had at that time a local man pick up from uncertain sources the idea of having a major town festival for many of the same reasons we had chosen in 1981. It would be trite to say that history repeats itself. But "empty space" theory predicts that the scenic mountain town would inspire imaginative dreaming of cultural artifacts to match those of its natural context. More extensive work in searching for such historic patterns is indicated.
In 1935, the second National Folk Festival was held in Chattanooga. This spring event was part of a national resurgence in gathering and performing "authentic" folk ballads and in restoring the "purity" of the "folk," mainly "white folk." In a study of the racist "White Top Folk Festival" of the 193Os in Virginia, Chattanooga's hosting of this event drew comment for its inclusion of black singers:
Sarah Gertrude Knott, who founded the National Folk Festival in 1934, presented a broad range of performers, including black, who shared the stage with whites. "[The] picture of our folk life today would not be complete," she said, "without the contributions of the Negro." At her second annual festival in 1935, held in Chattanooga, Tennessee--surely as race-conscious an area as south Virginia--Knott's mountain fiddlers and ballad singers shared the program with a thousand-voice black chorus singing spirituals."
(David E. Whisnant, All That is Native and Fine: the Politics of Culture in an American Region. Chapel Hill: UNC P, 1983, 244).
I am indebted to Allen Tullos of Emory University's Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts for mentioning this work late in the research for this study. The intentionally racist purposes of "White Top" merit comparison with similar German ideologies of the 193Os. White Top reflects an extreme example of racially exclusive programming and admission to the "white" top of the mountain. However, the image of a thousand-voice black chorus evokes the "sing" festival, "Southern Voices," proposed during the 1981 planning seminars by Doris Hays. When the formal research was underway, we were very negligent in not paying attention to the nature of past festivals in the city. Longo's previous research in a city newspaper insert had esaped notice.
During the 195Os and early 7Os, the city's Allied Arts Council sponsored an annual spring or fall weekend arts festival with primarily outside performing and visual arts. The last downtown spring arts festival held in 1972. According to a conversation with the festival's chairperson, Kathy Patten, the downtown retail merchants complained so much about the loss of business during the festival that it was discontinued. All the parking spaces were filled, the merchants complained.
The festival itself was primarily visual arts, including crafts, juried paintings, pottery, and a small amount of performing arts. A few clowns amused the crowd; dancers had a brief presentation, and the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra played. After that, for nearly a decade no central arts festival of any kind enlivened downtown Chattanooga.
64. The record of the struggle to fill the city's empty festival space is one local example of the power of a "philosophy of sameness" to suppress dissent, diversity, and, differences. Although it was proposed previously that a "theater of differences" could be termed "Menottian," no such specific term for a "theater of sameness" has presented itself. It must suffice to observe that propagandistic "mass spectacles," such as the Nazi fascist versions noted earlier, by their operative nature, cannot allow aesthetic "differences" that threaten values of "unity, oneness, sameness, similarities, harmony."
As Western societies have learned through two world wars, it is the tendency to evolve in the direction of totality--the "single controlling mind"--that the democratic concept of "plurality" and "diversity" is designed to guard against, not under certain conditions always successfully, as the history of Germany in the 193Os suggests. The intellectual bases for two opposing philosophies of human wellbeing, which lacks any simple resolution, seem indicated by this line of reasoning. From this perspective, the Riverbend Festival documents show an evolving ideological process to fill an absence with presence, emptiness with meaning, albeit a meaning that "functioned" to oppose "plurality" and "diversity."
65. In contrast to the formal plan, composer Doris Hays' alternative festival vision now appears as a valuable text that is the forgotten "script" of what a trained artist actually created in response to Chattanooga's empty space.
66. Gianni Longo, the foundation's community development consultant, had worked with other cities and was an editor of Learning from Baltimore, a series that drew lessons from experiences of various cities. Following a meeting for discussion and brain-storming, and preceding preparation of the planning grant, he met with me and explained his five-project community development concept, one item being a city fair. This was at a dinner meeting which the other three organizers could not attend. Longo said that his "approval of and recommendation of" the grant application was dependent on my taking the primary leadership position. Although I explained my other commitments, and argued that any of the other three organizers or others were better qualified for this project, Longo insisted.
I agreed to take that responsibility until artistic and administrative directors could be appointed under a new board. He accepted this stipulation, but when it developed that an artistic director would not be included in the early stages we had to devise new leadership arrangements. The other three organizers could not or would not take the full responsibility. We did not want to expand the board until new leadership was in place. After a few months of discussing the interest and qualifications of influential civic leaders, I was very pleased that we agreed on a popular local university music professor who would take my place and who also could serve in the combined role of president and artistic director. Dr. Walker Breland, who inspired us all by believing that Chattanooga could have just as fine an arts festival as Charleston, took office in early 1982. He and the new board, especially Mrs. Lee Parham, vice-president, performed herculean tasks in creating the first festival by mid-1982.
This partial solution resolved the functional, and by then obvious, need for the knowledge of an artistic director. The two festivals Parham and Breland created had an aesthetic quality lacking in the later commercialized productions. However, it now appears that the policies and decisions that led to this step demanded far too much of this combination artistic/leadership structure just as they did of the promotional firm contracted to manage the festival.
Breland was paid as artistic director the second year in addition to serving as president of Friends of the Festival, Inc. His scholarly analysis of that period would provide a very useful insight into the fundamental issues of art and power, power and art, associated with Chattanooga's new town festival. No doubt a collection of his and other related documents generated by the Lyndhurst Foundation's continuing interest and research grants would provide a valuable anthology for others interested in the creation of a town arts festival, or in the making of any kind of festival.
67. Those who signed the orginal grant application in May 1981 were Deanne Werner, Frank M. Robbins III, Nelson Irvine (attorney), and myself. It may be more than a coincidence that most of us--Mickey Robbins, Nelson Irvine, Lee Parham, Sam Robinson, and I, who were so active in providing the initial energy for the festival--were amateur musicians. Energized by the talents of versatile professional pianist and opera accompanist Deanne Werner (who later married Nelson Irvine), we would play and sing at our 198O-82 social gatherings as much as we would debate the festival we imagined for the town. Music was a basic love of the group and it was natural to combine music-making and festival "talk sessions" with anyone who wanted to "sit" in and "jam." This suggests a very close connection between the desire for a party and the desire for a festival.
What became the Riverbend Festival first surfaced in discussions at Sally and Sam Robinson's home in June or July 1980, before I visited Salzburg. After that stimulating trip in August, I hosted a dinner meeting at my home in September 1980, when materials from Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and the Salzburg Festival were reviewed by about one dozen persons interested in the idea of a town festival for Chattanooga. The strongest encouragement came from Robert Austin, artistic director of the Chattanooga Opera, and Lynn Grimsley, executive director of the city's Allied Arts Fund.
68. It was not until 1986 that some of the foundation director's private views were accidentally revealed to me in some of the old file notes of Robbins' initial telephone conversation with Montague in early April 1981. The foundation director's responses to Robbins' suggestions during the initial telephone inquiry, based on the actual notes of that conversation, were that the "idea of a festival was great" and that they "were interested in something similar and maybe could tie in."
He said he did not "want to put words in our mouths," but that "something should be submitted with no local sponsorship." "Aim high, go first class, do it right, be comprehensive" were the phrases used. The foundation director was concerned that the community spirit seemed to stop with contributions to the Allied Arts Fund and felt that Chattanooga now had mature arts organizations. He saw Spoleto as "a little of a rip-off" [emphasis mine].
He was intrigued with the "economics of amenities" and urged the group to focus on the economic benefits of a festival. He urged us to get wide ranging, diverse people who could start the ball rolling by the summer of 1982, if we could get the community's support. He was concerned with the fractured community and felt the need for a project to pull everybody together.
I still am puzzled by a leadership philosophy that would view Spoleto Festival U.S.A. as a "rip-off" when that was the primary model we proposed and visited; this seems less tolerance of differing views than secret political manipulation of the "actors on the stage." A healthy debate that included the foundation director and his associates would have been far more useful to the community than such behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
69. I will long remember that afternoon when Mickey Robbins and I enjoyed the spring sunshine and the limitless possibilities of "going first class" while sitting in his backyard to draft a proposal for the foundation. We alternated in taking notes as each of us put our "dreams" on paper. Freed of mundane financial concerns, we dreamed big, as all the Riverbend leaders have done since that time.
70. The June 30, 1981, letter from Deaderick C. Montague was addressed to Frank M. Robbins III, with copies to Nelson Irvine, Sidney Hetzler, and Gianni Longo; it is in the author's Riverbend archives.
71. Apparently the intense desire to have some kind of festival blinded me to the actual political situation. Hindsight suggests the imperative "board diversification" tone of language, for example--overruled the committee's independent judgment at this moment. Also, except in our few meetings, little continuing public "dialogue" was offered; our only regular contact was through Longo and, later, Storey.
This restriction against appointing an artistic director was received and passed around at one of our weekly Monday meetings at the Gazebo restaurant on Fountain Square. We interpreted this as meaning that any future grant would be withheld if we proceeded to search for an artistic director as outlined in the original proposal. The effect on the group was to inhibit including what seemed to be the primary source of energy and vision in the other festivals visited.
It was clear that major festivals, such as Spoleto, had evolved out of the imagination of a Menotti with bold visions in a receptive environment. I did not see how our festival could fully develop and mature without this kind of person, but we knew we were prohibited from going ahead in that direction. The effect was to move qualified artistic input into later stages of what was in fact a political as well as an aesthetic process in which the functions of artistic vision and local power were intertwined.
72. The foundation was generous in its funding concept if not in its aesthetic insights into the creation of arts festivals. An earlier paragraph in the Dec. 2 contract cover letter noted:
In addition, the Foundation agrees at this time to contribute an additional $7O,OOO in 1982 for the above-mentioned purposes if Friends of the Festival is able to obtain "up-front" money in an amount not less than $3OO,OOO in additional cash, credit, loan guarantees or as co-signatures on a note with which to book performers. In the event you are unable to attract support of this magnitude from the community prior to March 1, we ask that you refund to the Foundation all of the grant funds which have not yet been spent.
The refund request was not enforced. It was in this context of early deadlines and extreme pressure to find other funding sources that the festival's commercial side of its developing personality developed, which the lack of an artistic director also fostered. The same conditions led to the sale of admission pins and various sponsorships the following year. The implications of the Lyndhurst Foundation's funding policies are encoded in the Riverbend Festival (and throughout the community), and merit more extensive economic and public policy analysis than is possible here.
73. The idea in inviting participants was that you are who you present yourself to be. This was a departure from the usual Chattanooga way of classifying individuals by mountain or ridge altitude level, wealth, neighborhood, and job title. This practice has continued with subsequent appointments to the Riverbend board, excepting black representation. It brought many new persons to leadership positions in the city's performing arts. It was a step in creating a new arts structure in the city, which the foundation's executive director and our group agreed was needed.
We had little choice in creating Friends of the Festival because none of the Allied Arts organizations would accept the foundation grant. This was a destructive step that could have been avoided if there had been more dialogue of all interested parties at the outset. However, several persons in the traditional arts organizations strongly resisted an independent festival at that time.
74. This was an issue discussed in materials from Charleston and Salzburg. The extreme position of a "high art" orientation was expressed in a quotation from Menotti in a New York Times article on May 26, 1981, "I'm not very sympathetic to the tendency to bring art to the people." This is a seeming contradiction in view of his goal of creating a festival in 1958 "for the joy of it" and of making arts the "main course," but his comment can be taken within the context of Tyrone Guthrie's definition of a "serious" festival, in which artistic expression is goal, not means.
The original idea of juxtaposing artistic elements can be seen in the name of the concluding party for all seminar participants held at one of the member's (Sharon Mills) home. It was called "Bar-B-Q, Beer, Blue Jeans, and Bach" and featured a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga chamber trio and faculty pianist Arthur Rivituso. The spirit of the party led naturally to the spirit of the first Riverbend arts festival (which the Olan Mills company has supported consistently with funds and staff).
"High" and "low" art programming was not mutually exclusive at this beginning phase of the Riverbend Festival, which was funded by the Lyndhurst Foundation planning grant in part as a demonstration of use of the performing arts to generate funds for the festival. Several of these musicales were hosted but were discontinued due in part to lack of staff support.
75. Gianni Longo, The Making of the Festival, (New York: The Institute for Environmental Action, 1981) 22.
76. Longo, The Making of the Festival, 37-38.
77. Longo, The Making of The Festival, 33.
78. "Race" is a problematic, useless term but it reflects the reality of that period, and it remains an active mental category today. It is used reluctantly.
79. Hay is an extraordinarily successful avant garde composer and performer. A sample of her credentials can be seen in a review of the performances at Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in 1981. Allan Kozinn wrote in the Charleston News & Courier on May 3O, 1981: "Miss Hays was raised in Tennessee and moved to New York in 1969. There, she has made a considerable career as a pianist specializing in difficult music that uses "cluster" effects, often produced by taking elbows or full arms to the keyboard....She has also earned a reputation as a composer with a flair for multi-media musical and theatrical events, and at Thursday's [Piccolo Spoleto] concert she was featured as a composer, pianist, birdcall blower, synthesist, photographer and water pourer....For the most part, this concert was the first chunk of music I've heard here that was not only composed in the last half of the 2Oth century, but sounded like it....The Thursday concert, by the way, was well-attended, and it seemed that old and young alike enjoyed the strange variety of things they saw and heard."
A more recent review in the Village Voice (August 16, 1989) by Kyle Gann of Hays' folk opera-in-production, The Glass Woman, contrasted her work to Philip Glass's Fall of the House of Usher, presented July 14-16, 1989, at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center complex. "...the future of this one is worth keeping an ear out for. If musically conservative, The Glass Woman was 150 times as enjoyable as the Glass House heard two weeks earlier....Hays' fledgling work is a better bet even if the's a woman, even if they've never heard of her, than these assembly-line famous-name extravaganzas that seem to have no artistic impulse behind them whatsoever....Opera America, by investing time, resources, and faith in artists more serious than fashionable, is taking brave steps in that direction."
No other phrases so well capture the essence of the commercial Riverbend Festival that has evolved than "assembly-line famous-name extravaganzas that seem to have no artistic impulse behind them whatsoever."
80. Why did I insist that classical music performances were so desirable in our discussions of Chattanooga's festival? Hays had been my musical inspiration for many years, dating from an evening in 1967 when, after playing in the Memorial Auditorium her obligatory piano pieces as a scholarship winner at the city's Cottonball Gala for debutantes, she and I along with the Robbins went to the Admiral Benbow motel lounge for conversation. When the country music singer stopped for intermission, we persuaded Hays to play some of the Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven she had just played at the Cottonball.
The room was full of persons who probably would not have been assumed to be classical music lovers. They soon stopped talking and drinking and listened as Hays displayed her virtuosity and the lively, sensual power of the music in such intimate quarters. They applauded vigorously after each piece and asked her for more, remaining completely silent during each piece, which she had memorized. Finally, after some 3O minutes she gave the piano back to the now well-rested and obliging country singer. Hays returned to our table to a standing ovation from these "blue-collar" workers who, I've been told for years, will not attend classical concerts because they do not like the music. I have known that belief was nonsense since that night in 1967 in the smokey lounge of the Admiral Benbow.
Sometimes the artist must be brought to the audience. This is an effort not as cost efficient as bringing the audience to the artist in the concert hall for their amusement and edification. This journey to the theater also may not be as likely to bring the magical joy of long-dead improvisational composers such as Mozart and Bach to an appreciative audience who may even have booed if they had known this was "serious, high art."
Is it not a significant and similar semiotic statement of social "hierarchy" that the Riverbend expects its audiences to find it in its riverfront enclosure, rather than for its entertainers to reach out to all parts of the community and present some lively Mozart in the smokey lounges of the city pubs, bars, taverns, homes, churches, businesses? No doubt that would be more expensive, like branch banking. But it truly would be a "music of the masters" outreach.
This 1967 night appears to be for me the actual beginning of the Riverbend Festival's "ideal," the festival-creature that in many ways said I can, I can, I can--but would not move from its tents and mooring at the city's point of origin.
81. The "Proposal for Funding to Establish a Chattanooga Festival," by Bruce Storey of Variety Services, was submitted to the Lyndhurst Foundation, Chattanooga, Tennessee, by Friends of the Festival, Inc., November 23, 1981. It was approved by some two dozen participants in the process during the summer and autumn of 1981, and it represented the collective preferences of the group.
82. Propp, V. Morphology of the Folktale. Second Edition, revised and edited by Louis A. Wagner. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968, 87-88.
83. "What's New in the Arts." Sidney N. Hetzler, Jr. Chattanooga Times, May 19, 1986.
84. From remarks at a 1986 civic conference in Chattanooga by Deaderick C. Montague, president, Lyndhurst Foundation, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Deaderick C. Montague was the individual catalyst who made the Riverbend Festival possible so quickly after the idea surfaced in May 1980. Several of us had talked of approaching the Lyndhurst Foundation but it was not until Frank M. Robbins III called Montague in April 1981 that this contact was made. Without Montague's support, as much as several years probably would have passed before enough "believers" would have been found.
Our first proposal recommended him for president of the group. He declined because of his foundation position. By 1988 he had resigned from the foundation and was elected chairman of the foundation-sponsored Chattanooga Venture, a private, nonprofit volunteer group that aims at broad changes in the community, changes that my own set of experiences suggests should come from openly elected political leaders in existing governmental institutions rather than from closed private groups.
Whatever our political positions, there cannot be enough credit given to this thoughtful, dedicated civic worker for not only awarding a planning grant to our group but also for inspiring all of us to aspire to create "excellence" in our festival. Yet we learned that we had in 1981 and in later years different definitions of excellence, conflicting philosophies of community, and divergent approaches toward community change. Although I criticize Montague's philosophy in this study, I in no way criticize him personally.
My convictions about the sameness/difference issue spring indirectly from civil rights events in Boston and Chattanooga in 1968, about which I have written in a 1973 Boston University Master's thesis, "The Feedback Factor in the Communication Process." To my former instructors and later colleagues, Albert J. Sullivan and Otto Lerbinger, I acknowledge a debt that I am repaying in a small way by attempting to transmit portions of their communication philosophies in this work and in everyday living.
85. Excerpts from a 1981 proposal written at the request of festival organizers by New York composer and pianist Doris Hays.
86. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translation from the French by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Foreword by Fredric Jameson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984, xviii.
87. Segrest, Robert. "The Architecture of the Excluded Middle...." Paper presented at Emory University, April 9, 1986.
88. Riverbend Festival: A Comprehensive Evaluation. Prepared for Friends of the Festival, Inc., by Urban Initiatives, New York City, in association with Trahan, Burden & Charles of Baltimore, Maryland; Kaminsky & Company of New York and Nashville; and Tatge Productions of New York, 1988.
89. Alfreda L. Irwin. Three Taps of the Gavel: Pledge to the Future--The Chautauqua Story. Third edition. Chautauqua, N.Y.: Chautauqua Institution, 1987. (ix). From scrapbook II, Mrs. Adelaide L. Westcott, page 7. Lewis Miller's speech on opening night, 1888, The Chautauqua Institution library.
Chautauqua has an extensive library, and I am indebted to its librarian, Alfreda L. Irwin, for assistance in this research.
90. Irwin, Three Taps, 73.
91. It would be enlightening to make some comparison between names of festivals. In the two festivals studied, first was the place, then ideas, then tentative names, "Celebration of Togetherness" festival (function name), then Riverbend Festival (place name). Many of the Chattanooga group's names (one comic came up with "Hetzfest") came from a brainstorming session one evening and focused on the river, suggesting its power as a natural framing device . Chattanooga's festival name signifies a function different from the "foreignness" of Charleston's "Spoleto" name that seemed to alarm some in Chattanooga. However, for Charleston and Melbourne, "Spoleto" now signifies the idea, not the place. Chautauqua, the Indian name of the lake adjacent to the Assembly's site, now signifies an idea or spirit more than a location; the traveling Chautauqua lyceums expressed the mobile nature of these Assemblies. The "home" place remains the primary model of the "experience," although other assemblies, such as the one on Monteagle Mountain, Tennessee, express the concept in their gate, open-sided amphitheater, and architecture.
92. Irvin, Three Taps, 5-7.
93. Signifieds vary from their signifiers. One reader of this paragraph, who had grown up in New York City, thought it more likely that the Klu Klux Klan had erected these three crosses as a warning to blacks driving into the Southern states.
94. Bakhtin, M. M. Speech Genres & Other Late Essays. Translated, Vern W. McGee. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986, 17O.
95. Jack McDonald.
96. The Riverbend pin signifies more than a mere pass for cheap entertainment and a week of beer and wine drinking and motorboat racing. One of my pins is ceramic instead of plastic; it was given to me by a board member, Sam Robinson, who was one of the early "dreamers." Robinson has been active and valuable as legal council and political adviser since the festival's beginning; he has in fact kept parts of the original dream alive, although we have had long arguments about the particular parts, such as "cohesion," that he supported by ranking them uppermost during our small group session at the final seminar in 1981. He explained that only VIPs, staff, and board members are given the more costly pin, and that it was inexcusable that I had not been given one every year.
The gesture was appreciated, and when I used the "official" ceramic entrance pin in 1988, my experience of feeling set off from "ordinary" pin wearers was much like the first day of wearing the gold bars of an Air Force second lieutenant. Feeling like one of the in-group again, I ran into the new festival president, Margaret Culpepper, one afternoon on the crowded promenade and introduced myself, saying I was happy to see the festival had solved some of the location problems from its early years and that I had never imagined when I was the president of the organizing group that the city's river park would attract so many people. She said she was glad to meet me, but said that the only name she knew from the beginning was a Walker Breland who had been the first president. The shiny official pin lost some of its luster after that encounter; time quickly erases the tracks of pilgrims to its festivals, and I sense that regular festival devotionals are obligatory for the select.
97. See Preface endnote 5, for brief definition of C. S. Peirce's triadic theory of semiotics.
98. Strong, Art and Power, 172-173.
99. Frank E.X. Dance, ed., "Toward a Theory of Human Communication." Human Communication Theory. (New York: Holt, 1967) 295-296.
...the helix presents a rather fascinating variety of possibilities for representing pathologies of communication. If you take an helically coiled spring, such as the child's toy that tumbles down staircases by coiling in upon itself, and pull it full out in the vertical position, you can call to your imagination an entirely different kind of communication than that represented by compressing the spring as close as possible upon itself. If you extend the spring halfway and then compress just one side of the helix, you can envision a communication process open in one dimension but closed in another. At any and all times, the helix gives geometrical testimony to the concept that communication while moving forward is at the same moment coming back upon itself and being affected by its past behavior, for the coming curve of the helix is fundamentally affected by the curve from which it emerges. Yet, even though slowly, the helix can gradually free itself from lower-level distortions.
Dance comments in passing that this geometric form crops up as a descriptive device in a number of disciplines, such as a model of the DNA molecule--the key code of life.
100. 17 M.M. Bakhtin, "Methodology for the Human Sciences," Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: U of Texas P, 1986) 170.
101. 18 John J. MacAloon, ed., "Introduction: Cultural Performances, Culture Theory," Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of Cultural Performances (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1984).
Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: PAJ Publications, 1982).
102. Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1979) 134.
103. Vladimir Propp, Theory and History of Folklore, ed. and intro. Anatoly Liberman, trans. Ariadna Y. Martin et al. (1963; Leningrad: Leningrad U; Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984) xvii. With chapters on "Honoring the Dead, Ritual Meals, Greeting the Spring, Greeting Songs and Incantations, Plant Cults, Death and Laughter, Games and Entertainments," the agrarian festivals study contains no clear separation by intent, function, or effect categories. Propp's interest in rigorous classification and detection of deep structural functions (The Morphology of the Folktale, 1928), makes this study worthy of closer attention.
A translation of Propp's opening chapter, "The Commemoration of the Dead," is found in Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival, ed. and trans. Allesandro Falassi (Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1987) 233-241.
104. 21 See Josef Pieper, In Tune With the World: A Theory of Festivity, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (1963; New York: Harcourt, 1965) and J. Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture' (1944; New York: Roy Publishers, 195O).
105. 22 Brook, Peter. The Empty Space. (New York: Atheneum, 1984) 9.
106. 23 Mathematics could not have advanced without the invention of the concept of "zero" and a sign for it (Britannica, 1982). Not until the thirteenth century did Europeans adopt the idea of zero, based on Islamic algebra. Most ancient languages used "O" for the position after "9," although the "." was used in Arabic and Kashmir. A metaphor of empty space suggests some undetermined significance about the sign materiality of representing "nothing" or the unknown by a dot rather than a zero. A recent work on this problem, Signifying Nothing: the Semiotics of Zero, is valuable in relating the metaphor of empty space to more general sign theories of meaning.
107. 24 Charles S. Peirce, "Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs," Ed. Justus Buchler Philosophical Writings of Peirce, 194O; (New York: Rpt. 1955) 99.
108. 25 Some self-labeled "town arts festivals" actually function more as central city "urban fairs" when various specific "marketing" functions and effects are revealed. It should be noted in this context that Riverbend did not become a "city fair" as originally outlined by a foundation consultant.
109. 26 Paul Bouissac, lecture, "Semiotics of Performance" seminar, Northwestern University, 1986 International Summer Institute for Semiotic and Structural Analysis.
110. 27 Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, 15O.
111. 28 Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, 15O.
112. 29 Bakhtin, Speech Genres, 169.
113. 30 Martin Krampen, "Phytosemiotics," Frontiers in Semiotics, John Deely, Brooke Williams, Felicia E. Kruse ed, (Bloomington: Indiana UP 1986) 84. Jakob von Uxhull's primary work is "Bedeutungslehre", Bios, vol. 10 (Leipzig), Reprinted in Streifzuge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menshcen/Bedeutungslehre, by Jakob von Uxhull and Gerog Kriszat (Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer Vrlag, 1970).
"Umwelt" is the key term for the influence of "modeling" in the sense used here. Krampen explains:
There is a structural correspondence between each living being as an autonomous subject and its own "Umwelt". The term of "umwelt" is difficult to translate into English. It means the subject world of what is meaningful impingement for the living being in terms of its own information processing equipment, sign systems, and codes....The structure of connection between a living being and its "umwelt" is mediated by sign processes...(84).
One example is a walk through a town....Everything witnessed during a walk through a town is geared to human needs....Stairs accommodate ascending legs, bannisters the arms. Each object is given its form and its meaning by some function of human life...(85).
Jakob von Uxhull's approach to biology as a science of life is a holist one: The whole is not explained by the functioning of its parts, but the meaning of the parts is explained according to the plan of the whole, a principle that is not unlike the fundamental proposition of Gestalt theory (95).
114. 31 Thomas A. Sebeok, lecture, "Introduction to Semiotics" seminar, Northwestern University, 1986 International Summer Institute for the Study of Semiotics and Structuralism.