Broadway theater in New York City is the pinnacle of success for stage actors who dream of making it big—and there’s no doubt that seeing one of those big city productions is an unforgettable experience. The closest thing to that around here is the traveling Broadway shows at the Peace Center, and those shows are worth seeing if you can get tickets.
Those actors and actresses decided to pursue acting for a living, which is a choice that comes with a lot of sacrifice—there’s no question about that. But there are talented people who stayed in their own communities, too, making different choices but not losing their talent.
For every famous actor or singer who says they got their start singing in their church choir or doing school theater, there are a hundred more who still sing and act beautifully while being teachers and car salesmen and nurses and stay-at-home moms by day. And a lot of those people are acting in plays and musicals right here in the Upstate, giving some really remarkable performances.
I went to see Fun Home put on by the Proud Mary Theatre Company last weekend, which performs in a small space in the West Main Artists’ Co-op in Spartanburg—and in front of a crowd of 50 people or so, the cast performed their lines and songs with every bit as much emotion and nuance as they would have in front of a packed house at a larger theater. Dean, our executive director, took his daughter to see M*A*S*H at the Abbeville Opera House, and they were pulled into the characters’ story as much as they would have been with a traveling Broadway show. My husband, who never thought he would enjoy a musical play, now is the one to suggest that we go see the latest offering at the Spartanburg Little Theatre. And there are lots of other theaters in towns all over our ten counties putting on great shows.
Supporting local theater keeps the arts alive in your community. It’s an affordable evening out. You may see someone you know in a production and get to see a different side of a neighbor or co-worker. You might even be inspired to join the cast or crew yourself! There are a lot of plays listed on our calendar, so why not go check one out this weekend?
Roper Mountain Science Center is a great place to visit no matter when you go, but if you go now through July 12th, there’s a treat in store for you—the Butterfly Adventure, now in its 4th year.
As you enter the natural rainforest habitat area, which is now covered in netting, you’ll receive a “magic wand”—a cotton swab dipped in red Gatorade—to attract the butterflies. There are hundreds of butterflies of several species native to our region, along with plants that are brought in specially for the species of butterflies to feed on, rest on, lay eggs on, and do what butterflies do.
Zebra Longwing butterfly
After you leave the netted area (making sure you’re not taking any butterflies with you on your clothes), you’ll enter the Rainforest Classroom, which right now is full of glass tanks and netted enclosures where all manner of caterpillars, cocoons, and moths and butterflies are in various stages of metamorphosis—all presided over by Anne Howell, the “butterfly lady,” who breeds a lot of the butterflies for the exhibit and is happy to pass along her knowledge to visitors young and old.
Anne Howell, the “Butterfly Lady”
The exhibit is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., closed only on the 4th of July. Admission is: $8 for teens and adults (ages 13-59); $7 for children (ages 4-12) and for senior citizens (age 60 and over). Free for children age 3 and under, Roper Mountain Science Center members, and school district employees.
Want even more butterfly adventure? Three special Monday Butterfly Bonanza parent/child events will take place on June 17th, June 24th, and July 8th, from 10:00-11:00 a.m. The Butterfly Bonanza ticket ($40 for a parent and one child) includes a special butterfly-themed craft and sweet treat.
And, of course, year-round, the butterfly garden outside of Harrison Hall contains plants that attract butterflies and bees. In 2002, it was certified as a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat.
While you’re there, you’ll want to explore the rest of the Harrison Hall of Natural Science, the nature trails, living history farm, and much more.
Nearly 150 years ago, long before the term “edutainment” came into use, an adult educational/entertainment movement was born on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York State (Wikipedia). They became so popular that “daughter Chautauquas” sprang up in other locations, spreading the movement to other areas of the country in the early part of the 20th century. Common elements of those early assemblies were lectures, religious themes, and music—and they were seen as a more wholesome form of entertainment than the vaudeville performances that were popular at the same time.
After the Great Depression the two world wars, the Chautauqua movement faded away as radio and TV became household entertainment, but it was revived in the 1970s.
Today Chautauqua is associated with living history—performances given in character of historical figures, with an interactive element in which the audience can pose questions to a living, breathing person. Greenville Chautauqua’s website describes it this way: “More than history. More than a performance. More than a story. We are Chautauqua, a nonprofit, experiential oral tradition that brings history to life through interactive theater and compelling discussion aimed at stimulating critical thinking.”
Chautauqua in the Upstate
The Greenville Chautauqua has been bringing history to life since 1999, expanding its programming to Asheville in 2000 and Spartanburg in 2009. The June festival includes events in all three cities, as well as Travelers Rest, Pelzer, and Brevard (NC).
This year’s theme is “It’s Revolutionary,” but it’s not all about the Revolutionary war—using an expansive definition, the festival features Alexander Hamilton (and some of his women), Andrew Jackson, Jackie Kennedy, and Malcolm X.
Click here for the full schedule, and go meet some of the most interesting characters in history.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, why not make this the summer you start on that goal? Upstate International offers more than 30 classes in 13 languages, from beginner to advanced, so you’re sure to find something that fits your interest and skill level.
Whether you are planning a trip to Italy, want to converse with your son’s Japanese girlfriend, work for a German company, or just want to challenge yourself with a new skill, these classes will help you meet that goal. Learning a language is great for brain development, but it’s also a great way to connect with people who speak another language. “There’s nothing more valuable or precious than speaking to someone in their language,” says Program Manager Christine Hofbauer.
Regular classes ($65 for 8 weeks) meet once a week for an hour, and intensive classes ($265) meet twice a week for 90-minute lessons. The classes are only open to members (which requires a $50 fee), but, says Hofbauer, the membership fees help keep the costs down.
All classes are taught by native speakers of the language who volunteer because they want to share their language and culture with others. In the first class session, the teachers find out what the learning goals of the students are and tailor the curriculum around those goals. With class sizes capped at 15 students, that kind of individual attention is possible. “The classes are very informal,” Hofbauer says. “There’s no homework, no testing—but it’s a really high-quality learning experience.”
The language class offerings started 20 years ago with English conversation clubs for immigrants who wanted to immerse themselves in the language and culture of their new home. From there, the offerings have expanded to include not only the popular languages like French, Spanish, and German, but also Thai, Greek, Hebrew, and American Sign Language (taught by a couple made up of a deaf husband and a hearing wife). There is even a Spanish for kids, taught at the YMCA.
If this is something you’ve been wanting to do, check out their summer course offerings and sign up for a class that will expand your world!
It’s going to be a hot one this weekend, and splashing around in some cool water is just the ticket for beating the heat. Outside of your local pool, here are some natural and man-made options to cool off over the long weekend. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
A great place for the whole family, Shipwreck Cove opens for the season on May 25th. It has a splash pad and wading pool area for small children, as well as a lazy river and larger pool with water slides for bigger kids and adults. Plenty of deck area with chairs and umbrellas, restrooms, and a concession stand make it a great place to spend the day!
Swimming Area at Lake Placid in Paris Mountain State Park
The designated swimming area is the only place in the park where swimming is allowed, and use of the swimming area is included in the price of park admission. There are also pedal boats and kayaks for rent to enjoy the lake without being in it (no private boats are allowed on the lake).
This is a beautiful spot that’s sunny on one side of the river and shady on the other, where visitors can wade and splash or swim while enjoying the scenic property that was donated to the Spartanburg Area Conservancy.
Campbell’s Covered Bridge (Landrum)
The only remaining covered bridge in South Carolina is here in the Upstate—and as a bonus, there’s a picnic area next to a creek that’s just right for wading and splashing around.
School’s going to be out soon, and it’s time to find things for the kids to do all summer! Far from the one-size-fits-all camps of yesteryear, there are camps for all kinds of interests for kids these days, from cooking to sports to art and much more.
For Greenville County, Kidding Around Greenville has put together a really nice, comprehensive guide to summer camps, broken out by category, area, month, and other groupings, with great descriptions and links.