Dwight Currie’s salt-and-pepper hair juts in several directions. Cheek in hand, he props his elbow on the desk and tries to get comfortable.
For the past two years, Currie has spent his days cataloging countless lists of information in preparation for Ringling’s first International Arts Festival, which opens Oct. 7, when more than 250 scheduled tasks will take place over five days.
Today, he’s hoping to pull together film rights for a WEDU documentary and also coordinate the various airport pickups of 40 artists who will arrive as early as Sept. 27, from countries such as France, England, Israel and Spain. He doesn’t have a strong opinion about whether the flower bouquet for the performances of post-modern showgirl Meow Meow is 2- or 4-feet tall, but he cast his vote anyway — 3 feet.
“My typical day is trying to make sure nobody changes anything,” says Currie, whose blue-green eyes race up and down as he turns through two bulging red binders containing program notes. “Once you start changing one thing, it starts to snowball and you can’t get your arms around it.”
The intensity of the festival unnerves Currie. On one hand, he’s a natural go-getter who likes to make things happen. But on the other hand, he doesn’t relish the exposure. He’d rather sneak up to the last row of the balcony, sit quietly and enjoy the show.
He pulls out his ongoing to-do list for the festival, now less than two weeks away, and notes paragraphs of bold black-and-red text prepared in order of prioritization. His time-management and organizational skills are impeccable.
Currie’s eyes break away from his notes, scan the room and fix on the ringing phone. He lets the call go to voicemail, but immediately begins obsessing about the little red light and checks the message. It’s much easier to take care of things before anyone can start to fuss, he says.
“I’m a selective perfectionist,” he says. “I try to prioritize everything, and on Fridays at exactly 3 p.m., I make next week’s list.”
If he doesn’t type out the lists, he’ll doodle. Currie pulls out several pieces of paper as proof and points to scribbled patterns of blue ink, which conjure up memories of a book from his childhood about a frog and toad.
“The frog absolutely has to have his list,” Currie says. “But the wind blows the list away while he’s walking with the toad. The frog says, ‘What am I going to do? It’s blown my list away.’ The toad tells him to run and catch the list. Then the frog says, ‘Chasing after the list was not on my list of things to do today!’”
Before he moved to Florida six years ago, Currie owned and operated a bookstore for 15 years in Vermont.
“Seventy percent of the weight I moved down here was books,” Currie said. “My house is a library. I always have a box of books in the back of my car.”
Currie lives exactly 18 miles from the Ringling Museum in Nokomis. On the drive to and from work, he often plays a game similar to “I Spy.”
One mile from his house is Oscar Scherer State Park; two miles is Tervis Tumbler; three miles is Bay Street. On the fourth mile, he passes the “You are leaving Osprey” sign.
“Every mile I have to think of one thing good that happened that day — unless I stop at Gecko’s,” he jokes.
Currie and Ringling’s production coordinator, Aaron Muhl, won Gecko’s summer trivia championship in August.
He owes the win partly to his love of reading — he reads almost every book twice.
“I love to read,” Currie says. “Usually, my favorite book is the one I just finished reading. If you want a recommendation, try Colum McCann’s ‘Let the Great World Spin.’ He’s a remarkable writer.”
Currie starts to check his new e-mails and then begins to fuss with his museum cell phone. Texting does not impress him, nor do blogs.
“I do like to clean, which would lead people to think I have a tidy house,” he says. “But when all else fails, I like to clean. It’s kind of like making a list. When everything is a little chaotic and you can’t get it under control, there’s something about mowing the grass and trimming the hedges. You can look at it and say, ‘Done!’”
While the Baryshnikov Arts Center and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art gear up for the Ringling International Arts Festival, set to open Oct. 7, Dwight Currie has started to put the final touches in place.
“I’ve personally found it very gratifying to bring together this exhibition,” Currie says. “Performing arts and visual arts aren’t necessarily a match made in heaven, so this festival has a whole different set of needs. I always say to the art curators, ‘The art doesn’t talk back, doesn’t need a hotel room, doesn’t need a dressing room or fruit-and-cheese platters — performers do.’ There’s a kind of conservation, if you will, with performers.”
The festival will celebrate opening night with a special concert featuring renowned Florida State University Symphony Orchestra conductor, Robert Spano, and pianist Pedja Muzievic. The entertainment continues with performances in music, theater and dance, including the U.S. premieres of Peter Brook’s “Love is My Sin,” María Pagés’ “Flamenco y Poesía” and a world premiere by choreographer Aszure Barton.
The festival will also feature three major art exhibitions: “Louise Fishman Among the Old Masters,” “Venice in the Age of Canaletto” and “Path to the Paradise: The World of Buddhism.”
Between stage performances, strolling through the garden and touring the museum, patrons can enjoy free performances in the Festival Café, artists talks, jazz concerts, an Asian Cultural FunFest for families and more.
All performances are offered at multiple times over five days. With the exception of opening night, single ticket prices range from $10 to $30 for each one-hour mainstage performance in theater, music and dance.
Single tickets and subscription packages can be purchased through the Historic Asolo Theater box office, online at www.ringlingartsfestival.org or by calling 800-664-4278.
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