Each year, Spoleto Festival USA presents a rich tapestry of music, theater, opera, and dance in Charleston. Whether you’re a seasoned festivalgoer or a curious newcomer, our 2024 reading list will prime your artistic appetite and set the stage for an unforgettable Spoleto.

These are the captivating stories behind this season’s performances, that make up our 2024 Spoleto Festival Reading List:

Ahead of The Song of RomeThe Aeneid by Virgil
The Latin epic poem written by the Roman poet Virgil, The Aeneid follows Aeneas, Achilles’ mighty foe in the Iliad, beginning an incredible journey to fulfill his destiny as the founder of Rome. Fleeing the ashes of Troy, his voyage takes him through stormy seas, entangles him in a tragic love affair, and lures him into the world of the dead itself–all the way tormented by the vengeful Juno, Queen of the Gods. Ultimately, he reaches the promised land of Italy where, after bloody battles and with high hopes, he finds what will become the Roman empire.

Ahead of Sasha Velour The Big RevealThe Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag by Sasha Velour
This book is a quilt, piecing together memoir, history, and theory into a living portrait of an artist and an art. Within the pages of The Big Reveal, illustrated throughout with photos and original artwork, Sasha Velour illuminates drag as a unique form of expression with a rich history and a revolutionary spirit. Each chapter strips off a new layer, removing one tantalizing glove and then another, to reveal all the twists and turns in the life of a queen. As Sasha recalls her journey, from the woman who raised her to learning the craft of an artist, to success, disaster, and more, she also uncovers the history of queer life around the world that made it all possible.

Ahead of Lowcountry: South Carolina Music in the Gullah TraditionGullah Cultural Legacies: A Synopsis of Gullah Traditions, Customary Beliefs, Art forms and Speech on Hilton Head Island and vicinal Sea Islands in South Carolina and Georgia by Dr. Emory Campbell
This book contains significant cultural words and terms of the Gullah culture. It is an attempt to promote a better understanding of traditions and present-day practices in preventing permanent loss of memory of those terms that are truly Gullah. Most of the terms are currently used in the everyday vocabulary of Gullah speakers, while others have fallen into disuse but have been recalled for inclusion in the work. The content of this book is based entirely on the author’s experience growing up Gullah on Hilton Head Island in the mid-20th century before the Island was connected by a bridge to the mainland.

Ahead of Terri Lyne Carrington New Standards with Special Guest Dianne ReevesThree of a Kind – The Allen Carrington Spalding Trio by Terri Lyne Carrington
This non-fiction illustrated poem is about three women who became musical companions through their love of jazz. Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Esperanza Spalding toured the world, sharing their love for each other and their listeners, while igniting imaginations and challenging perceptions of gender roles in their beloved art form. This poem is written and illustrated to encourage young girls from all over to play instruments and dream big.

Ahead of Lightwire Theater’s The Ugly DucklingThe Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson
Written by the Danish Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling was published for the first time in 1843 and has been printed in fairy tale collections ever since. The story is about the troubles and sufferings of a young swan that got hatched from an egg in a duck’s nest. A primal story about bullying and about self-belief, the book can be seen as a metaphor for the hardships faced during the stages of growth when going from being a child to being an adolescent. It shows us that one must be accepting of differences, even if one doesn’t fit in with a group.

Ahead of Aoife O’DonovanWomen’s Suffrage and Politics by Carrie Chapmann Catt
This book addresses the question of why women in 26 other countries received the right to vote before American women were enfranchised. The authors blame the liquor lobby for the delay. Inspired by the letters of the author Carrie Chapman Catt, Aoife O’Donovan’s new album All My Friends ponders the nation’s evolution a century after winning the right to vote.

Ahead of Jason IsbellKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
In his first major acting gig, Jason Isbell portrays Bill Smith in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated Killers of the Flower Moon based on the book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.