Friday Fiver: Philip Macchia

philip macchiaPhilip Macchia has seen the light. Millions of them, in fact. The Director of Parks for the City of Charleston, Macchia oversees the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park, which is routinely honored as one of the top light festivals in the nation. Macchia’s first Festival was in 1991, its second year. Since that time, he has seen it grow to millions of lights over the three-mile path, and surge to being a top family holiday destination for myriad hands-on holiday fun. We sat down with him for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Q: What is one light exhibit that has been retired that was the most memorable?

A: We’ve retired a couple of good ones over the years and hope one day they may return…two displays that would be good to return are “the best friend of Charleston (train) and Santa on a surf board.  We also retired the Partridge in a pear tree … I can only think of about 4-5 displays (Santa on a bench)  that we’ve retired in 26 years.

Palm20Trees1200Q: What is one behind-the-scenes fact most visitors would be surprised by?

A: The one thing that most people don’t really comprehend… we work on the show almost year round with building new, repairing old, replacing panels, breakers, fighting ants, wasp etc, tree trimming, mowing sites, planting new trees (not every year) and brainstorming new stuff to fit our script each year.  It’s more work than people realize and an army to make it work.

Q: The Festival is routinely recognized in regional and national publications as one of the top holiday attractions in the country. How do you make it fresh and new each year?

A: We do discuss it year round.  It works to keep it fresh and continuous.  This way we are not doing things at the last minute, we are constantly planning, thinking and implementing and trying to make it better each year.

Q: For a first time Festival attendee, what is the best advice you can give them so they can get the most out of the experience?

A: Go more than once!  Go on a “slow night” and take your time, look and experience all the aspects of the show.  Go on a “busy” night and feel the crowd excitement.  Being around kids also brings a certain excitement when you see their eyes light with the beauty of the show.

Q: What are your top three go-to Christmas songs?

A: Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Joy to the World

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Season of Support

During this (unusually warm) Holiday season, we’ve seen so many great art events! From plays and parades to stand-up and Santa, Charleston really has had an art-packed month! We are so lucky to live in this amazing area, and want to express our gratitude to all of the artists/supporters of the arts that make the Lowcountry so special.

As you finish up your last ten usable-days of shopping and Holiday event-attending (by using!) we suggest using our Arts Matter Card! Not only is it a one-of-a-kind stocking stuffer, but it’s a great way for YOU to get discounts to last-minute gift ideas! Use it to get 20% off goods and services at DanceFX, 10% off Halsey publications, or the tax paid for on art purchased at Corrigan gallery.

When you give someone the gift of an Arts Matter Card, they can use it year-round to get discounts to events like the Symphony’s production of ‘The Godfather,’ buy one-get-one-free to the International Film Festival, or $5 off opening weekend tickets at The Village Repertory! We’re adding discounts all the time, so this is truly the gift that keeps on giving. And remember-100% of every purchase of a $36 Arts Matter Card goes directly into our Art Fund, where artists in the community can apply for individual grants in 2016.

Choose from one of our four custom designs! HAPPY HOLIDAYS from The Alliance!

Friday Fiver: Nichole Myles

nichole mylesIf you’ve got a child 10 or under in your life and haven’t been to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, you are missing out. If you have a child 10 or under in your life and have been to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, you are probably ready to plan your next visit. The CML brings hands-on, interactive learning experience for kids in an exciting and vibrant setting. We sat down with Nichole Myles, who took over as the Executive Director for CML in July, for this week’s Friday Fiver.

What would most surprise a first-time visitor to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry?

There are so many wonderful surprises at CML but I think one of the most remarkable new additions is the Odeith mural in our lobby.  This large-scale original painting was custom created for us by mural artist Odeith this October and utilizes his signature 3D anamorphic art technique. Visitors are encouraged to ‘step inside the painting’ by actually standing on the painted floor. When a photo is snapped from an opposing corner, it looks like the participant is actually in a 3D environment, holding a giant Rubik’s cube!

You recently launched a program called Museums for All, in which a family on public assistance can be admitted to the museum for $1. Why is it important to make sure the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is accessible to everyone in the community?

The Children’s Museum has a mission of reaching all children and providing them with opportunities that inspire curiosity and spark imagination. We firmly believe that children are capable, creative and full of promise and that each of them should have access to the valuable play-based experiences we offer. To that end, we have joined the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums in offering $1 admission for up to 6 people for any family that receives SNAP/TANF benefits when they present their card at the CML desk. This program breaks down barriers of cost AND time by being in place every day that the museum is open. We are very proud of our free admission programs such as PNC Play Days and Fam Jam but the Museums for All program is unique in that it allows year-round access during any of our open hours. This program brings unrestricted opportunities for PLAY to the entire community and we couldn’t be more excited about it!

The arts are a major component of the CML, with lots of hands-on learning experiences for children. What is one of your favorite arts components of the CML?

That’s a tough question! I get such joy out of watching the children in each of our 9 arts exhibit explore, create and discover. Still, I think seeing the children engage in dramatic play, storytelling and puppets in the castle is always a highlight!  Their imaginations really seem to come to life in that space.

Prior to moving to Charleston, you spent time in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Maine. What has been the biggest adjustment living in the Lowcountry?

Short sleeves on the first day of December! Honestly, I am really enjoying the Lowcountry but probably the biggest adjustment has to be the distance from my family and friends.

What is your favorite way to unwind on a day off?

I tend to have a bit of wanderlust…so exploring all Charleston has to offer with my kids is a great way to spend any free time. We love downtown and the beach best at the moment. I have a degree in music and really enjoy live music – I’m hoping to get back to more playing/performing again someday.  I also enjoy creative arts/crafts activities, which are especially fun this time of year.

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Miracle on 34th Street!

Last Friday, The Footlight Player’s Theatre opened their production of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ to glowing reviews and a sold-out show. We got a sneak-peak at this classic Holiday tale during the dress rehearsal, and were absolutely blown away by the amazing cast of kids from one to ninety-two! Check out some of our exclusive photos from the rehearsal.










Check out this family-friendly, sure-to-please performance at The Footlight Players Theatre between now and December 20th!



Friday Fiver: Mary Gould

Mary Gould headshot 6Mary Gould is the founder and producer of South of Broadway Theatre Company, located in North Charleston. In addition to producing fantastic shows year-round, SOBTC also has a youth component that is sending kids to the Broadway to the north. Now in its 11th year, “Summer in NYC” is a four-week theater immersion program done in connection with The Juilliard School. During their residency, students receive hands-on training and direction from world-class theater experts. Auditions of the 2016 Summer in NYC are Dec. 5, Jan. 9, Jan. 10 and Feb. 9. For more information on Summer in NYC, visit: To learn more about South of Broadway, visit

We sat down with Mary for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Summer in NYC is an intensive month-long engagement, focusing on at least four basic categories: Classical Vocal, Musical Theatre, Theatre, and Dance. Additionally, special curricula has been done for Musical Theatre Coaching, Sound and Lighting Design and Instruments (Piano, Viola, Violin). How has Summer in NYC changed since the first one 11 years ago?

We started off offering  the best teachers and performing artists as mentors available in NYC, and we are still doing that.  A long list of those names is available on our website:  If anything, we are even more intense now than when the program started.  It is a relentless schedule that rivals college level courses.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone considering a career in theater?

Get your training from the best people in the business.  Find a way to afford the best.  You get what you pay for.

South of Broadway produces a broad range of shows. What is one show that you haven’t done that you would most like to produce?

There are too many shows to name that I would like to produce, and most are well beyond the production values of our modest black box venue.  Talk to me in a few years :-)

What is your all-time favorite Broadway show?

“Black and Blue” a song and dance variety show that was on Broadway in 1989.  As an ‘opera chick’ schooled in the classics, this piece rocked my world.

If you could wave a magic wand and have one thing happen immediately in Charleston, what would it be?

Charleston has the reputation as a “Great Arts Town.” That being the case, I would like to see the evidence of more respect for the local Performing Arts organizations in terms of a dramatic increase in press coverage and reviews and also improved Theatre Etiquette for Live performances. The near disintegration of press reviews puts all the performing arts organizations at a disadvantage when writing grants for funders who request them. It also makes for an awkward answer to patrons who ask  “why wasn’t your show reviewed” to respond that most things ARE NOT reviewed anymore.  As for  “Theatre Etiquette”  — Live artists know when your cell phone goes off. Live artists know when you get up in the middle of an act and go to the bathroom. Live artists know when you come in late or leave early. Live artists know when you’re texting. We are not a movie house. We are LIVE. Quality is of performance and enjoyment and respect for fellow patrons suffers when theatre etiquette is no longer observed.

Start your shopping here!

acrylic_doublewall_tumblerWe’re getting excited about The Holidays, y’all! We’ve created our own 12 Days of Christmas (or Chanukah or Festivus or any other December-related Holiday) to showcase our just-in-time for the season Arts Matter store! Be on the lookout for each day’s deals and give the gift of art this Holiday Season! DAY 1: Today only our supremely popular acrylic tumblers are 20% off!

Karpeles Museum to Get Charles Dickens’ Manuscripts

Resident storyteller of Timrod Library in Summerville, Tim Lowry, has added an additional performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to the library’s extra busy holiday schedule. The holiday classic has become a staple for Lowry, just as it is for many of us! Make sure to book your tickets for the December 16th 2:00PM show in advance since his regular shows often completely sell out. Admission is $18 ($15 for Timrod members) and you can reserve your tickets by calling Timrod Library at 843-871-4600.

This added performance is extra special during this season in Charleston because it has recently been announced that in January our very own Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, located on Spring Street, will be receiving original Charles Dickens manuscripts!