By MINDY LUCAS
It’s a warm, muggy August evening on the University of South Carolina Beaufort campus. Inside the university’s Center for the Arts though, where rehearsals for Spamalot are taking place, it is cool and comfortable – a welcome relief from the summer heat.
On stage, the cast is gathered around various music stands as music director Josh Wall, on piano, leads the group through several numbers.
“It never turns out the way I think it will,” said director Libby Ricardo. “It usually turns out better.”
Ricardo sits along with the production’s choreographer Christopher Crabb about halfway back, in the middle of the empty theater watching the group rehearse for what will be the center’s first locally produced, live show of the season.
Ripped from the classic film comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Spamalot retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The hilarious and award-winning production features a bevy of beautiful showgirls, cows, killer rabbits and French people.
Watching the rehearsal, it’s hard not to laugh.
Case in point: Dan Hodges, who plays Not Dead Fred, suddenly injects a bit of bass into his number, “He is Not Dead Yet.”
“Are you going to sing it down there?” Wall says as he stops playing.
“Uh no,” Hodges starts. Then with a wry little smile adds, “I’m just warming up. I’ve been on vacation.”
It’s all part of the fun of community theater, when things are still taking shape and being shaped.
In fact, while most theatergoers only know what they see when they walk through the center’s front doors on the night of a performance, there’s so much more that goes in to creating a successful lineup that will bring people out.
As Bonnie Hargrove, director for the center says, it takes constant year-round planning, networking, and good mix of shows and programs.
“There’s very much a pattern to what we do until we find that it doesn’t work,” she said. “But so far so good.”
As usual, this year’s season will feature a mix of locally produced and performed productions alongside travelling shows but will also include new live broadcasts from such heavyweight venues as the National Theatre in London and educational and literary programs as well.
The center also puts on a number of other programs and “extras” such as Met Opera Live broadcasts in HD, Monday Night Movie Night, art openings, children’s theater performances and summer camps.
It’s a mix that has served them well, Hargrove says, as they have found residents and visitors alike enjoy not only the diversity of the center’s programming but the sheer volume of things to do as well.
“We really feel like it’s Beaufort’s community center,” she said. “The community really comes together here for different things, whether it’s one of the kids programs, or whether it’s to listen to a lecture on the Opioid crisis … just about every week we have something going on that’s attracting different groups of people to the center.”
Spamalot opens Sept. 21 at the Center for the Arts. For tickets or more information, visit