Supper Table Spotlight: Filmmaker Betsy Newman honors Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our film artists: Emmy Award-winning Betsy Newman

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There’s so much to celebrate about filmmaker and producer Betsy Newman and what she has brought and continues to bring to South Carolina’s cultural landscape. So much so that we’re doing a profile of Betsy in the fall issue of Jasper magazine, coming out later in August.

Here, Betsy talks about her work honoring Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, founder of Vorhees College in Denmark, SC.

My Supper Table subject is Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, the woman who founded Voorhees College. I’m thrilled to have learned about her – she was one of those people who blaze brightly for a short time and contribute an enormous amount. From the time she boarded a train by herself at the age of 16 to go to the Tuskegee Institute, to her death at the age of 34, she had built and rebuilt several schools for black students. Though two of her schools were destroyed by arsonists, she was undeterred by the racist violence of the Jim Crow era. She raised funds from wealthy white philanthropists and named her successful school for her most generous supporter, Ralph Voorhees. It’s fun to work on a short video about Wright, and inspiring to be part of the Supper Table cohort. I love hearing about the approaches that the other women are taking to their films, and the ways in which the visual and literary artists are treating the same subject matter.

To learn more about Jasper’s Supper Table project please visit our Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table and for a comprehensive look at what the SC Arts Commission calls a “Who’s Who of SC Female Artists” please visit http://www.scartshub.com/whos-who-of-female-scartists-headline-new-project/.

To be a part of this project and have your contribution celebrated in the accompanying book, Setting the Supper Table, please consider making a minimum $50 donation and dedication to the SC Women who rock your world at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper Table Spotlight: B. A. Hohman Honors Julia Peterkin

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our visual artists: local painter and muralist B.A. Hohman.

B.A. Hohman

B.A. Hohman

A visual artist who views art as her grounding force, B.A. Hohman promotes the creativity found in each of us through her work. Hohman graduated cum laude from Ohio University with a Studio Art degree, focusing on painting, and she has received an Art Education certification from Roberts Wesleyan in Churchville, NY.

Though Hohman has worked in many fields, from retail to being a public art teacher, she has always been a working artist often focusing on murals and trompe l’oiel paintings.

For the Supper Table, Hohman was tasked with creating an art piece representative of prolific author, Julia Peterkin, who wrote about life in the Jim Crow South and worked to preserve the Gullah language. Peterkin, a white woman, lived from 1880-1961, and in that time, she wrote a plethora of novels, one of which would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize. As Hohman recalls The Paris Exposition that helped launch the Art Deco style had taken place just four years prior to Peterkin’s first dive into writing. This inspired Hohman as she created her place setting.    

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Hohman’s place setting starts with a place-mat made of vintage black velvet bordered by hand tatted lace, which was handed down to her from her great aunts. She chose to add this lace trim completely by hand, which she feels reflects Peterkin’s social status. She made the copper flatware from pieces she’d saved and repurposed, and she then added the mug and copper colored charger. For Hohman, these pieces represent Julia’s flaming red hair and indefatigable spirit.

Since the focus and center of Peterkin’s writing and goals was her own depiction of the Gullah customs, language and beliefs, Hohman embellished the center of the plate with woodcut styled representations of images both from Peterkin’s books and from the artist’s own imagination. The plate is bordered with an aforementioned Art Deco design. Hohman states that her overall attempt was to “convey the conundrum that was Julia Peterkin.”

On what makes Peterkin so inspiring, Hohman says, “the title of one of Julia’s biographies is, A Devil and a Good Woman. I found this fitting. She was a force to be reckoned with, yet she managed to expand the consciousness of her audience by humanizing and preserving for posterity, the Gullah way of life.”

All in all, Hohman views art as a necessity of life. In her work both on the Supper Table and in general, she asks the question: what would we know of our world were it not for the depictions, be they visual, spoken, written or musical?

Hohman contributes to gallery showings, restaurant displays and the occasional public mural, but you can currently view her work at her Facebook page: Art & Murals by B.A.

To see Hohman’s work on Julia Peterkin, join us at one of our Supper Table events this September. Information on tickets and other premiums is available on our Kickstarter page. Donating not only grants you access to early showings and sponsorship opportunities, but it also goes straight to supporting our artists, like B.A.

Check it out at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

Christina Xan

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We're Setting the Supper Table & You'll Be Able to Feed Your Soul There Soon - A Message from Cindi

 

The Supper Table – Honored Subjects

Mary McLeod Bethune Alice Childress

Septima Clark Matilda Evans

Althea Gibson Angelina and Sarah Grimke

Eartha Kitt Sarah Leverette

Julia Peterkin Eliza Pinckney

Modjeska Monteith Simkins Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

It’s all coming together.

More than 10 year ago I started having this dream of using Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist arts installation, The Dinner Party, as a model for an arts project that would honor some of the amazing women from South Carolina history whose work in the arts, sciences, education, business, athletics, and human rights literally — and usually without a lot of fanfare — changed the course of human history. I realized that 2019 would be the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s project and, about 4 years ago, decided to try to make this fantasy a reality using the structure of the Jasper Project to do so. It was terrifying. I appreciate so dearly all the people I spoke to who, when I told them how terrified I was said, “yes, you’re supposed to be” because there are any number of times I might have chickened out had they not.

But with the support and advice of people who are smarter and more experienced than I am, especially my board of directors at the Jasper Project, I jumped in. Central Carolina Community Foundation was kind enough to invest in us with a Connected Communities Grant funding almost two thirds of the project. Friend and arts patron Bill Schmidt stepped up as soon as I told him about the plans and committed to sponsoring not just a place-setting (he chose the Grimke Sisters) but also a third of the table itself. But more importantly, he gave me his faith and he shared the project with others.

THANKS, BILL SCHMIDT!

THANKS, BILL SCHMIDT!

So, I was off!

The first thing I needed to do was to gather together the first two groups of artists — the visual and literary artists — as well as to find a woman to build the actual table for the Supper Table. I can’t remember who recommended the amazing Jordan Morris to me but, whoever it was, thank you.

Jordan is the Maker Coordinator at Richland Library and has been a maker most of her life. Grade school consisted of macaroni ornaments and sugar cube igloos, but it wasn’t until she met an inspiring high school teacher that her creative mind was ignited and took flight. That journey continued on through college at the University of South Carolina where she earned a BFA in sculpture. She continued with ceramic work and expanded into woodworking and computer numerical control production. Jordan’s professional journey led her to an art museum, tech startup, and teaching, but nothing felt quite like home until landing at Richland Library as the Maker Coordinator in February 2016.

Jordan rose to the challenge of creating the table for the Supper Table magnificently, integrating a Southern aesthetic into her design all the way down to the wood she chose. I couldn’t be happier with her finished product.

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On January 20th of this year we brought together the 25 literary and visual artists who would inaugurate the Supper Table project with their work on place-settings and essays honoring the 12 women at the Supper Table. Over the next few weeks we will be posting daily blogs featuring these artists and the gifts they have brought and are bringing to the project.

While the essays and place-settings are complete there is still much work to be done before we premiere the project on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and move the next day to Harbison Theatre at MTC for our first installation.

The film artists are all at work now under the direction of Mahkia Greene, and Vicky Saye Henderson is casting the actors who will portray out 12 honored women in the theatrical productions.

Kathryn Van Aernum has taken all the photos for the book and the poster and is working on those now.

We still need to frame the 12 portraits Kirkland Smith created which will accompany the installation and we are working on our walls to display the 120 tiles created for our Array of Remarkable SC Women by Brenda Oliver, Bohumila Augustinova, and Diane Hare and embellished by local women and girls.

Lee Ann Kornegay is working on a long-form film that won’t even be ready to view until spring 2020.

I’m editing constantly with the help of assistant project director Christina Xan, who will also be sharing some blogs with you.

So, please stay tuned as we roll out as much information and celebration as we can through summer’s end and into the fall.

The Supper Table will be touring in 2020 and we’d love to talk to you about bringing the installation, along with the book, films, portraits, and tiles your way.

But most importantly, we really need your help raising funds to put some change in the pockets of these artists who are honoring these amazing 12 women from SC. You can sponsor a place-setting, a tile, a film, or the portrait collection or you can share this info and link with someone with the resources to do so.

Here’s the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

Thanks for helping us along.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

Fall Lines Volume VI Announces Winners - Kimberly Driggers and Derek Berry!

Jasper is delighted to announce the winners in this year’s competitive Fall Lines categories.

Congratulations to Kimberly Driggers whose poem, IMAGINE THE SOUND OF WAVES, is the winner of the Saluda River Prize for Poetry and to Derek Berry whose prose piece, SASQUATCH, is the winner of the Broad River Prize for Prose.

Both literary artists will be published in Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Volume VI which launches on Sunday, August 18th from 2 - 3:30 with a reading and awards ceremony at Richland Library. The event if free and open to the public.

Fall Lines is sponsored by the Jasper Project in partnership with Richland Library and One Columbia for Arts and Culture. The two winning authors will each receive a check for $250 sponsored by the Richland Library Friends & Foundation.

Judges for this year’s contests included Judy Goldman (prose) and DeLana Dameron.

~~~

Additional authors whose work will appear in the 2019 volume of Fall Lines include:

Teresa Haskew

Ellen Malphrus

Loli Molena Munoz

Libby Bernardin

Len Lawson

Susan Craig

Lawrence Rhu

Worthy Evans

Curtis Derrick

Terri McCord

Al Black

Ruth Nicholson

Heather Dearmon

Randy Spencer

Tim Conroy

Suzanne Kamata

Frances Pearce

Bo Petersen

Jon Tuttle

Kathleen Warthen

Kristine Hartvigsen

Gil Allen

Andrew Clark

Kevin Oliver

Yvette Murray

Ed Madden

Ray McManus

Nathalie Anderson

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REVIEW - Heathers at Trustus Theatre by Frank Thompson

Here she is with two small problems

And the best part of the blame

Wishes she could call him heartache

But it's not a boy's name…

-From the song “Appetite” by Prefab Sprout (1985)

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

While the music and lyrics for Heathers: The Musical are all original, created for the stage version by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, I couldn’t get the above Prefab Sprout song out of my head when pondering how to address the production from a critical standpoint. For those unfamiliar with the Daniel Waters film upon which the stage adaptation is based, the story centers around Veronica, a seventeen-year-old high school student who develops a darkly romantic relationship with a charismatic nihilist, J.D., whose moral relativism is softened by a genuine concern for the underdog. Coming from a dysfunctional, single-parent home, J.D. is cynical beyond his years, and quite capable of handling himself in just about any situation. Veronica comes from a different world, with an almost-stereotypical loving-but-clueless “Mom and Dad” straight out of central casting.

Veronica’s life isn’t a horror story, but she suffers all the usual travails of a cute-but-nerdy young woman navigating the world of geeks, jocks, outcasts, and the rest of the archetypes that exist in high school to this day. In a funhouse-mirror version of the Pygmalion myth, Veronica finds herself thrust into the world of the uber-cool girls who rule the school’s social scene. Her malevolent new mentors, each named Heather, decide to make a sport of transforming Veronica into one of their own, yet maintain social dominance over her. After utilizing Veronica’s skill at imitation handwriting, the Heathers enjoy unlimited hall passes and excuse letters, and decide to play a cruel trick on a nerdy girl who happens to be Veronica’s best friend. The joke goes terribly wrong, resulting in the breaking up of a party and Veronica’s expulsion from the group by ringleader Heather Chandler. While attempting to make amends, Veronica (with J.D. at her side) accidentally poisons Heather Chandler, having just dismissed J.D.’s suggestion that they do exactly that. A hastily-forged suicide note covers their tracks, but their victim’s ghost remains prominent in Veronica’s psyche. After several comparably dark experiences, Veronica wants nothing more than to return to her previously-normal life, but J.D. has the conflicting goal of essentially murdering the entire student body. Without spoiling the denoument for those seeing the show for the first time, I will simply say that the final few minutes will not only have you on the edge of your seat, but also leave you pondering the concepts of right and wrong in this particular situation. This is by no means meant to suggest that Heathers: The Musical is without lighthearted moments, but even the hilarity is grounded in a macabre reality that never completely releases the audience from a feeling of impending disaster.

The cast is comprised of an outstanding brio of Trustus regulars, familiar faces from other venues, and a few first-timers, all of whom come together to create a believable and cohesive ensemble. Katie Leitner’s Veronica is immediately relatable and sympathetic, falling (as did most of us) somewhere around the middle of the school’s social spectrum. Presenting her as a latter-day Carrie, minus the pig’s blood, would have not only been overdone, but would also have somewhat absolved Veronica for her actions. Leitner displays her strength at creating three-dimensional characters by making Veronica a normal kid caught up in a disturbingly abnormal set of circumstances. As with her recent portrayal of Daisy Fay in Trustus’ The Great Gatsby, Leitner succeeds in being likeable but flawed. As her figurative reverse-mirror image, Michael Hazin provides a level of sync with J.D. that brings to mind a well-choreographed ballroom dance. Hazin offers a darker reflection of Leitner’s image, with J.D. flying (for the most part) under the social radar, as opposed to swimming midstream. Each character has the potential to survive through relative social invisibility, but neither their respective personalities nor the situations that arise allow either to embrace that option. Both Leitner and Hazin are in fine voice, and only a small suspension of disbelief is required, but their clearly trained and experienced vocal work almost cracks the façade of their being teenagers. Both are youthful twentysomethings in real life, and are physically believable as high school students, so this is hardly a negative point, but when they sing, it’s obvious that these are well-taught professionals.

Clearly reveling in every malignant power move and verbal smackdown, Brittany Hammock deliciously chews the scenery as Heather Chandler. Her alpha-of-all-alphas interpretation of the role is spot-on, taking command of the triad in everything from physical presence to the occasional “putting in place” of the other two Heathers. Interestingly, once she becomes a ghost, Hammock asserts her new quasi-immortality through a slightly softened approach to Veronica. Sometimes a whisper is more frightening than a shout, and Hammock utilizes both between her corporeal and ghostly forms. Though not physically connected to the world of the living, Heather Chandler becomes even more of a puppeteer after her death, as we see her leisurely chip away at Veronica’s sanity. Her eponymous cohorts, Heather McNamara (Rachael Mitchum) and Heather Duke (Jazmine Rivera) initially appear to be Heather Chandler clones with slightly less authority, but after her death, they begin to reveal more depth of character. Mitchum, while never coming across as deferential, is somehow the most humane of the three, heaping slightly less attitude and intimidation on her fellow students. It’s a subtle choice, but Mitchum makes it work well in setting up a moment of high drama in the second act. Rivera’s Heather Duke, by contrast, brings out the fangs and claws when Heather Chandler’s death leaves an opening for the group’s leader. Though not mentioned in the script, the performances of all three Heathers suggest a variety of control mechanisms employed pre-mortem by Heather Chandler. Combining Hammock’s dead/undead personae, one could easily see her slightly softening to control Heather McNamara, while displaying a more fierce approach to managing Heather Duke. Kudos to all three for creating a depth and texture that enhances the story while remaining faithful to the playwrights’ dialogue.

As “bad boy” football stars, Kurt and Ram, Paul Smith and Josh Kern are less defined by the script, yet never allow themselves to slide into caricature. At first they appear to be nothing more than bullying jocks, but a set-up midnight encounter with Veronica displays their more vile and predatory natures. Jordan Harper’s ever-put-upon Martha adopts a similar style, introducing herself as a stereotypical nerdy girl, then revealing herself to be much more emotionally textured in a second-act spotlight number that showcases her impressive vocal range. The rest of the cast fills in the remaining students and adults orbiting the main story, and there truly isn’t a weak link in the bunch. A particular standout is Cassidy Spencer, whose work I’ve not seen before, but look forward to seeing in future productions. As an ensemble member, Spencer may have had two or three lines, but most of her acting was done through face and body language, which she presented most memorably. (In reviewing my notes, I referenced her several times as “girl in denim skirt,” each time with a comment on her commitment to the scene, her character, and the reality established by the principal players.)

On the technical side, Heathers: The Musical is mostly successful. Sam Hetler’s set is streamlined, yet totally evocative of a neon-hued, white-tiled 1980s, Amy Brower Lown’s costume design is scrupulously faithful to the period and gives a respectful nod to the film, while maintaining an originality and freshness of vision, and Lighting Designer Frank Kiraly brings his customary skill at creating multiple settings with different combinations of shading and color. Choreographer Grayson Anthony and Musical Director Randy Moore keep the movements (both physical and musical) brisk and sharp, and Stage Manager Brandi Smith nicely corrals all of the elements into a cohesive and smooth production. My only real complaint is that the vocals, even in ensemble numbers, were a bit difficult to hear over the band. In talking with Moore and several cast members following the performance, I found out that there were several mic and sound issues the night I was there, and I feel confident that those small issues have since been ironed out. One other small issue is entirely script-related, as I had the same reaction when reviewing another production of the show earlier this year. The adults are double/triple cast, often with little or no time for costume or wig changes, which can lead to a bit of confusion as to which is whom at any given moment. Matthew DeGuire, Jonathan Monk, and Lisa Baker turn in delightful performances as the multiple grown-ups, but I do wish the script made it easier for them to change back and forth more easily.

Director Dewey Scott-Wiley has, as usual, assembled a winning cast and created a world which is both believable and captivating. I frequently find myself using the word “thoughtful” to describe her work, and Heathers: The Musical is no exception. In her Director’s Notes, Scott-Wiley observes that in today’s more violent society, things like murdering your classmates aren’t as outrageous as they were thirty years ago, and this level of directorial awareness is part of what makes the show work. By immersing the audience in an era-specific set of mores, she succeeds in getting stylized-yet-believable work from her cast while essentially giving the audience permission to laugh at things that would strike too close to home in today’s world.

Heathers: The Musical runs through 27 July, and tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org, or by calling the Box Office at (803) 254.9732. They’re likely to go quickly, so don’t delay in making your reservations.

-FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.

 

REVIEW: Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret - an Entertaining Concert with Potential for Growth

by Frank Thompson

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   (As always, I open with the disclaimer that I am a frequent director and a member of the Board of Trustees for Workshop Theatre.)

   The Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret, running through Sunday at Workshop’s new home at Cottingham Theatre on the Columbia College campus, bills itself as “celebrating the women of Broadway,” and there’s certainly no shortage of celebrated talent onstage. Featuring several well-established Midlands-area chanteuses alongside a few new faces/voices, last Saturday evening’s performance brought the audience to its feet more than once with multiple show-stopping bravura turns by some of the best female vocalists in town.  The acoustics at Cottingham are nice and hot, and while live mics are utilized, I doubt if even half the cast needs any amplification. These ladies know how to project and sell a song, and if you’re looking for a showcase of outstanding music plucked from Broadway hits from the 1950s to today, you’ll find it at The Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret.

   Following a full-cast rendition of  “I’m A Woman” from Smokey Joe’s CaféRegina Skeeter sets the bar high with “Home,” one of the lesser-known but most vocally powerful ballads in The Wiz. (This was my first time seeing Skeeter perform, and she delivers strength as well as a sense of dreamy wonderment to her turn in the spotlight.)  Columbia legend Valdina Hall absolutely soars with Sondheim’s  “Send In The Clowns,” and Robin Gottlieb’s signature number, Cabaret, quite literally had the crowd shouting for an encore. The second act rocks open with Katrina Blanding  delivering  Dreamgirls  “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” with her usual powerhouse voice and innate storyteller’s gift for conveying a song’s emotional foundation. On Jason Robert Brown’s  “I Can Do Better Than That,”  Emily Northrop engages the audience from intro to post-applause, demonstrating  not only impressive vocals but also an understanding of  true cabaret technique, and Mandy Applegate Bloom’s  “She Used To Be Mine” from Waitress brings down the house in classic eleven-o’clock-number style.

   The rest of the cast offers solid work across the board, and there truly isn’t a weak link, though those mentioned above are particular standouts. While watching the performance, I began to realize that I was missing the sense of an overall emotional arc, framing piece, or central theme to segue the audience from each number to the next. Some of the performers simply took the mic and started singing, others utilized a few lines of dialogue, and a few (see above) took a moment to connect with the audience. If this sounds nit-picky, it’s because The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret is of such high quality, I truly hope it comes together as a more thematically cohesive piece. Who are these women? Are they the actual people we see onstage? If so, great! I would suggest having each song tied to the singer's life experience, allowing a glimpse of the real-life woman known to many only as her onstage personae.  (Gottlieb and Northrop are particularly skilled at bonding with the audience, as is Emily Clelland, who relates a personal experience that motivated her as a performer, followed by an enthusiastic song-and-dance rendition of  “If They Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity.)  A few of the pieces, while quite splendidly performed, seemed randomly inserted. Kathy Seppamaki’s  “Christmas Lullaby” (Songs For A New World) is one of the best-sung ballads in a show full of A-list talent, but feels somewhat out of place between two comedic bits, and without context . Lou Boeschen’s  “On The Steps Of The Palace” (Into The Woods) is lovely, and dovetails nicely into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  “Stepsisters Lament,” yet nothing is said about the Cinderella myth. This would have been a perfect opportunity to comment on any number of themes relevant to modern womanhood. Once I realized that I was seeing a sort of hybrid concert/cabaret, I just sat back and enjoyed the music, all the while thinking how interesting it is to watch the artistic process unfold. With a stronger sense of identity and a commitment to one specific reality/style, The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret could easily tour as a professional show. The talent is there, the music is solid and representative of classic and contemporary Broadway, and the basic structure is in place. All it needs is a more defined sense of identity and an answer for “why is each song in its particular spot?”

   The set is simple and sleek, designed by Patrick Faulds to provide tiered seating for the cast, who stay onstage the entire show. As usual, Dean McCaughan’s steady hand keeps sound well-balanced and smooth, though I was disappointed to see that the production utilizes pre-recorded music tracks instead of live accompaniment. For future gigs, I would suggest a single pianist who could also serve as a narrative voice, presenter, and general point of connection between the singers and their audience.

   The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret is well worth your time and money exactly “as is,” and I strongly recommend you see it now. With a little scripting revision and specific motivation behind each number, it could have a significant future, and you’ll want to catch this act from the very start of its evolution.

   There are only three performances left, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling (803) 799.6551 or visiting Workshoptheatre.com

-FLT3

Jasper's Artisan Fairway Central to West Columbia Kinetic Derby Day by Christina Xan

The Jasper Project Brings Bigger and Better Artisan Fairway to 2019’s Kinetic Derby Day

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

The City of West Columbia is bringing back Kinetic Derby Day for a 2nd year this Saturday. This event is a combination of both derby car racing and kinetic sculptures to represent the creativity in STEM and to give people of all ages a chance to learn and create. The kinetic sculptures will be shown in a parade that kicks off the event, and the racing, hosted by GoCo Events, will happen throughout the day.

 

The event’s goal to inspire creative problem solving and creative thinkers is perhaps most inventively seen with The Jasper Project’s Artisan Fairway, which is even bigger and better than last year.

 

Barry Wheeler, who is president of the Board of Directors here at Jasper, has been planning and organizing the fairway for over 6 months, ensuring he developed a variety of different musicians, poets, and visual artists. With the help of Grayson Goodman and Mark Plessinger, Wheeler was able to create these experiences, allowing people to witness art being made, make art themselves, and purchase from local artists.

 

During the entirety of Derby Day (11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.), there will be performances on the JAM Room Stage, where 5 different musicians will showcase their work: Saluda River Academy for The Arts, Boomtown Waifs, John the Revelator, Midimarc, and Husband. These performances are not meant to form one loud concert but instead to create a small, relaxed environment where the musicians can share their craft and create a sense of community for everyone. Wheeler hoped that this would “develop an environment that cultivates interesting happenings.”

 

Around the corner, in the courtyard behind Ed’s Editions, Columbia’s Poet Laureate, Ed Madden, and Bert Easter have organized 4 hours of jazz & poetry readings from local poets. Starting at noon, Mark Rapp will kick off with 45 minutes of jazz, while Madden, Ethan Fogus, Loli Molina, and Monifa Lemons Jackson will all be reading poetry for 20 minutes each.

 

Beyond these readings & performances, State Street itself will be lined with tents, two of which will be two visual arts tents. In the first, five local artists will be doing live paintings: Michael Krajewski, Lucas Sams, Corey “Roc Bottom” Davis, Shelby Leblanc, and Thomas Washington. People will be able to come and watch the artists in their process and see how 5 different artists approach their art in unique ways. Additionally, there will be a silent auction as it develops, and at the end of the day, 5 people will go home with original works of art.

 

In the second visual art tent, people who have been inspired by the live paintings can do live paintings of their own. People will be encouraged to draw “Roboto” in whatever form it means to them. All drawings will be uploaded to the Derby Day social media, and a vote will be held after the festival for the best art piece.

 

Additionally, there will be 21 tents set up with completely different artistic encounters. Wheeler’s goal for the 21 tents was to provide not only very different artists but artists who take away the stigma that art is pretentious. In fact, several of the tents will be actually teaching art or providing hands on art experiences. For example, Yarnbombers of Columbia, who will also be doing an installation piece on State Street, will be teaching knitting in their tent. Directly next to them, the Columbia Art Center will be doing clay turning demos for adults and children who want to learn how to hand turn clay.

 

In addition to just seeing art, Wheeler has also brought much more chances to purchase art pieces. The Jasper Project, The Crafty Cottage, Laura Garner Hine, Pat Harris, Mary Mac Cuellar, and Katie Chandler will all be selling art that they have created or curated, with again, a goal of providing a variety of styles. The Jasper Project’s tent, for example, will have Derby Day themed prints by Michael Krajewski.

 

Again, Wheeler wanted to reinforce his message that art is vast. An example of this, he placed Crafty Cottage and Hine’s tents are side by side, to show a contrast between crafting and what is deemed “fine art,” so that people can see the creativity, hard work, passion, and talent that goes into creating these different classifications of art. Continuing with the theme of contrast, Pat Harris and Richland Library both do very different kinds of art with wood, the latter doing woodworking and the former working with a lathe, and they both will be showing their work in their respective tents.

 

These are only some of the opportunities. There will be bike shows & repairs, found footage video screenings, virtual reality demos, 3D printing, face painting, henna, balloon art, and more. Every tent you enter will allow you to either learn more about what the community is doing, create your very own art no matter what skill level you are at, or support the artists of Columbia.

 

Lastly, there are tents for our local youth who need help in their school or personal lives. The Midlands Middle College will be there offering opportunities for high school kids to get college credit, while LRADAC will be there with programming to help those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

 

According to Wheeler, this event is most important because of how it can inspire children: “The festival promotes STEM, specifically women in STEM. If little girls see women already succeeding in STEM, they will already know what they can do. They don’t have to create place. It’s already there.”

 

While this article contains plenty of information, it can only provide a preview. To get the complete run down of events, check out the Jasper Kinetic Derby Day page. Here, you can see the locations of all the tents and performances as well as detailed background information about all our artists.

 

Come out Saturday at 11:00 a.m. to experience and create art. The event is completely free and jam packed with awesome events. We’ll see you there!

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

Friends of Ed Congratulate the Academy of American Poets Fellow

Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina - photo by Lester Boykin    Ed Madden  was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include  Ark  (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016),  Nest  (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and  Prodigal: Variations  (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. Madden, who will receive $50,000, plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.

Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina - photo by Lester Boykin

Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. Madden, who will receive $50,000, plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.

Yesterday was a great day for one of the Jasper Project’s own – our Ed Madden, Columbia city poet laureate, Jasper Magazine founding poetry editor, and hard core Friend of Jasper, learned that he has been awarded one of only 13 of the first ever major fellowships from the Academy of American Poets. The fellowship, which is accompanied by a $50,000 honorarium, will allow Ed to launch, “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive story map of the city.

At Jasper, we were thrilled, proud, and absolutely giddy with the news of this award – but we were not surprised.

It wasn’t long ago that this writer told Ed I expected a MacArthur Genius grant to come his way soon – Ed would probably argue that this is better.

According to an announcement from poets.org, “These thirteen poets who serve as poets laureate of states, cities, and counties across the U.S. will receive a combined $1,050,000 in recognition of their literary merit and to support civic programs, which will take place over the next twelve months. 

 These new fellowships are made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and, in total, are believed to be the largest awards provided to poets in the U.S. at any one time by a charitable organization. They are also in keeping with this spring’s national poetry programming theme of Poetry & Democracy offered by the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 organizations working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.”

I’ve had the pleasure of being a Friend of Ed and a frequent partner in projects for a long time. Having witnessed his enthusiasm and dedication to a project in action, I am fortunate to know well that when Ed Madden sets his mind to accomplishing something it is best to consider it done. As a friend, colleague, administrator, boss, activist, and fellow instigator, Ed Madden is an exemplary example of the best of humankind. He is kind, sensitive, strong, and good – and he is also very talented.

Congratulations from all of us at Jasper as well as from a few of the Friends of Ed below.

 

Ed Madden won’t be satisfied until parking tickets have verses, bus rides are lyrical, haikus magically appear after rainstorms, poems are typewritten at the Statehouse, and everyone in the city of Columbia is a poetic element. Thank you, Ed Madden, for engaging our ordinary lives with poetry. Columbia is in its best form with you as our poet laureate – Tim Conroy

  

Ed Madden is magic. When you’re around him you really understand the value of art and how it improves our world to interact with it. Fact is we live in a world that doesn’t really honor the importance of art. But when you’re around Ed you’re reminded of the necessity of art and the responsibility of the artist. You see it when you help him distribute poetry parking tickets. Maybe you see it when you talk with to him about making poem stencils for his rain poetry project. Or when you watch him create an environment where grade school students come alive with poetic insight. Whatever it is, Ed does the dreaming and physical labor necessary to make it possible. And if you’re lucky enough to go with him, then you get to see something better than magic. You get to see Ed Madden. – Ethan Fogus

 

I could not be more proud of my friend, and cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. We’re better poets, writers, teachers, and patrons because of Ed Madden, and this recognition is way overdue. I hope he buys a motorcycle! That would be badass. – Ray McManus

 

Congratulations to the gifted poet and community-minded Ed Madden who wants our state to participate in bringing poetry to our corner of the world. Good on ya’, Ed. – Libby Bernardin

 

The Fellowship is a well-deserved recognition of the work that Ed has done as Poet Laureate to amplify the voices of citizens through the expression of poetry. He continues to develop projects that treat poetry as public art, both to tell the stories of Columbians and to add creative expression to our daily lives. By honoring Ed's work, the Academy of American Poets is affirming the importance of the arts in Columbia. – Lee Snelgrove

 

Ed’s an inspiring leader - the kind that fights for you, helps you find your own voice, challenges you to do more, uses that big university money for good, and all the while making the world better with his poetry. I’m so happy that even more folks will know how lucky this city is to have him. Congrats, Ed! – Meeghan Kane

 

Ed Madden, educator, poet, mentor, friend and Columbia's first poet laureate. A better choice for poet laureate is not possible. Ed welcomes in the entire family of poetry and expertly weaves town and gown into whole cloth. – Al Black

Ed, you deserve this. You constantly keep Columbia engaged with poetry. You are treasure. We are blessed to have you. Congratulations! — Jennifer Bartell Boykin

For more on Ed’s big honor check out:

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/stanza/announcing-recipients-academy-american-poets-laureate-fellowships

https://www.free-times.com/arts/ed-madden-named-an-academy-of-american-poets-laureate-fellow/article_8294e210-6690-11e9-85b7-ab374eac2741.html

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman - PREVIEW by Hallie Hayes

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Hale’s Debut Play Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. Showcases the Life of Writer, Aphra Behn, and Her Role on Women

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. is a 75-minute production by playwright Mariah Anzaldo Hale that pays homage to the little-known legend, Aphra Behn. Behn was a playwright, poet, novelist and spy for King Charles II during the Anglo-Dutch war. This play examines the captivating life that Behn led through dialog, movement, and music.  She was the first woman to make a living as a professional writer in Restoration London during this time-period, trailing a path for women through her scandalous and exhilarating life.  

 

Through the creation of this debut play, Hale combines her love for women’s history and theatre. Hale is a writer, historian and costume designer who has obtained a career in costume design for both theater and film, where her designs can be found on and off Broadway and in VOGUE magazine. Hale decided to do extensive research on Aphra Behn after receiving a journal from her daughter with Behn’s photo on it, resulting in Hale’s desire to create her own project as a costume designer.  Not only was her play created to tell the story of a trailblazer’s vivacity but also to educate the audience on the roles of women, both past and present.

 

Specifically, Hale’s goal with this series was to provide a “femme-adventure play which not only takes us on [Behn’s] many exploits but also examines women’s roles then and now,” she continues to explain the play’s significance, “and challenges how she’s been written out of history by ‘learned’ men [who’ve] taken credit for her philosophies, ideas and innovations.”

 

In order to bring this goal to life, Hale collaborated with UofSC Theater and Dance as well as Full Circle Productions. When director Robert Richmond heard of Hale’s Aphra Behn series, he invited Hale to expand her work into a play using the grant Full Circle won for the Incubator Program at Harbison Theater.

 

Executive Director of Harbison Theater, Kristin Cobb shares that “the Incubator Program has been in place at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for over 5 years now.  The idea behind the initiative is to give local artists a professional venue to launch new work, with the potential to eventually tour,”

 

Cobb continues to explain the Incubator Program in regard to Aphra Behn: “This has been a wonderful collaborative effort with Robert Richmond and the UofSC Theatre Department as well.  It is part of our mission here at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College to support local artists, and to showcase their work on our wonderful stage.”

 

Other Full Circle member, Linsday Rae Taylor, was brought on to direct the play. Taylor is a third-year MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina who has directed productions such as UofSC’s The Wolves, Sense and Sensibility and Trustus Theatre’s Hir, among others.

 

For Taylor, this play was special to her from the moment she read the script: “If you open a theatre history book and look up Aphra Behn, who was essentially the first female playwright, you will only find two or three sentences about her.  We know very little about her, as she was kept hidden while the men of her time are documented and celebrated.  This is an opportunity to learn about an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.  We hope that, if you come see the play, it may prompt you to find out more about her.”

 

While directing the play, Taylor points out that one of her biggest challenges related to the development of this production is fitting an entire existence with so many details into a tightly focused narrative, where discovering a main focus is important to fit into their chosen time-span of 75 minutes.

 

“Developing a play takes a lot of time.  Most plays take years to realize before going into performance, so this process feels truncated in that regard,” Taylor explains overcoming the challenges, “Aphra Behn lived such an interesting life, so it has been challenging trying to edit and discover how to focus the story.”

 

Of course, there is no play without actors, and this one is cast with undergrad and MFA acting students. Third-year MFA student Leslie Valdez is playing the role of Behn, and others include Susan Swavely, Reilly Lucas, Sean Ardo, Luliia Khamidullina, William Hollerung and Full Circles Production member, Katrina Blanding.

 

While getting all these elements together was challenging, it was worth it for Hale and Taylor. One of the most important parts of this play for the women is that it is particularly relevant to today’s culture. As Hale states, “[Behn] was a fascinating woman 100 years ahead of her time, and we should all know who she was and what she’s done for us”

 

For Taylor, it is their “aim for audiences to witness ‘flashes’ of events in Aphra Behn’s life and understand her in a new way.  She was fighting the same battles that women are fighting today,” she continues to passionately describe the importance of the show, “we hope that it will ignite a feminist fire in both women and men, and that it will inspire us all to uncover more women’s stories that have been shrouded by history.”

 

In the end, with a ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ theme, Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman is essential to our culture.  It is important to the voices that today’s feminism have created for each of us individually.

 

“I want us to leave the theater with more questions than answers,” Hale states on the end desire of her Aphra Behn series, “It’s funny.  It’s sexy.  It means something.”

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. premiered on April 13th at Harbison Theater.

Following the premiere, you can then view the play at Uof SC’s Center for Performance Experiment every night at 8:00 p.m. from the 21st – 28th of April. Tickets are only $10 and are available at www.theatre.sc.edu.

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

 

 

Columbia Museum of Art Curator Will South Reflects on the Loss and Future of Art

We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

-Will South

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

Art is not forever. Paper fades to yellow then brown and turns to dust. Rust never sleeps, and corrodes sculpture. Canvas and panels swell and shrink, paint cracks and falls away. Objects are stolen, bombed, and buried beneath the ocean.

And then there is fire, the universally feared and ever-present threat to the survival of objects. Buildings can and do burn to the ground, and all that is inside may be destroyed completely. The number of paintings, drawings, books, furnishings, inventions and—most importantly—people that have perished in flames is incalculable.

The burning of Notre Dame in Paris is the latest, and one of the greatest, reminders of the fragility of all things. Even the largest, most impressive monuments need protection. We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

The burning of Notre Dame raises other issues injurious to our global cultural life. In the wake of the fire, some have mourned “the loss of a thousand years of history.” Not so. We know as much today about the history of Notre Dame as we did before the fire. History is judgement, and is made by people—it answers the question: how did we get from A to B? Those judgments are with us (and subject to ongoing revision). Many have already declared that Notre Dame “witnessed so many seminal events” and observed such historical luminaries as Napoleon and Joan of Arc. Actually, the stone and glass that made Notre Dame witnessed nothing. Our tendency to anthropomorphize everything on earth only serves to keep us thinking that everything is about us. Notre Dame is an object, not a living thing.

Why is it so special then? Because not all objects are equal. Size varies, weight varies, colors, texture and so on. When something is made, it functions (most often) to serve a purpose: we use forks to eat, shoes to protect our feet, bowling balls to entertain. A massive Gothic cathedral such as Notre Dame was made to express in a grand holistic manner the faith and world-view of a civilization. Arguably, this was a more ambitious purpose, if less perfunctory.

Study a fork, and you quickly get the point: it’s necessary to eat and a fork helps. Shoes, however fetishized in the modern world, help us navigate the environment by preventing cuts and blisters. Bowling balls are part of a very broad narrative of how important it is to have leisure time—play is not frivolous. It is part of forming a balanced personality.

Now, study Notre Dame, and the entirety of a complex belief system unfolds, as does the economic and social fabric of Europe in the Middle Ages. For Notre Dame to have been built eight hundred years ago remains an astonishing feat—what social force could have been so powerful as to propel its construction?

One answer that must be considered is status. Whichever city had the largest cathedral could claim preeminence. This status would attract kings and pilgrims alike, driving the local economy and serving to consolidate the power of that city. To build the tallest cathedral (one sign of its superiority) was no small task, it required all available resources and over one hundred years to build. Cities competed for this status, as they do today.

And, study of Notre Dame inevitably leads to the centrality of faith in human history. Status exists across the animal kingdom, thus the top dog and the queen bee. But it is the human species that has experienced a profound and relentless belief in a non-material world beyond the one we directly encounter each day. Faith, perhaps more so than status or economics, has driven creativity to its most glorious heights, whether in the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal, or in Milton’s Paradise Lost. To understand ourselves as a species, we need to access the most complete expressions of our desires. Which are not forks, shoes or, however useful, bowling balls.

We need Notre Dame. Though it is an object, it is one that arose from magnificent forces, and one that can be a factor in transformative experiences. Meaning, an individual standing inside that incredible architecture may experience the most exalted of human ambitions, as opposed to the most ordinary. It is in us to feel that magnificence, that exaltation. Notre Dame, a work of art as well as a house of worship, enables those precious experiences, whatever one’s beliefs.

Notre Dame can be rebuilt, and must be. Not to preserve history, that is not its function. Nor to be an ongoing witness, that’s a physical impossibility. We need to experience it. That experience—to see and smell and hear an object designed and built to touch the miraculous—can become part of us.

In a world of endless needs, where children starve and veterans go homeless, perhaps this year we can stretch just a little bit more and contribute to the rebuilding of one of our priceless treasures, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a testament to our search for the transcendent. — Will South

How to Help —

 Please visit the Friends of the Notre Dame de Paris to make a financial donation.

http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/friends/donate/

Visit Jasper’s specially created Facebook “event” to share your own thoughts about the Notre Dame fire and preserving/protecting/rebuilding the places that create our cultural landscape — at https://www.facebook.com/events/2071745049605312/

Jasper Project Announces Names of Women Honored for the Supper Table's Array of Remarkable SC Women

Become a part of the Jasper Project’s most ambitious multi-disciplinary project thus far in one of two ways:

Women and girls are invited to join Jasper on one of six occasions to paint tiles honoring an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Support the Supper Table by sponsoring a tile ($100), educational panel ($300), place-setting ($1000), or table segment ($3000)

(see below)

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The Supper Table – An Array of Remarkable SC Women, Categorized by Contribution

 

Activists & Politicians

These women spent/have spent their lives fiercely advocating for what they believe in either through the work they do or by working in government positions.

 

  • Bambie Gaddist, M.D. (September 21, 1955 – present) HIV/AIDS activist; Executive Director of The South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council.

  • Bernice Robinson (February 7, 1914 – September 3, 1994) activist in the Civil Rights Movement and education proponent who helped establish adult Citizenship Schools in South Carolina; first African American woman to run for a political office in the state.

  • Candy Waites (February 21, 1943 – present) former president of the League of Women Voters of Columbia; served on Richland County Council for twelve years; former State Representative for House District 75 

  • Elizabeth Hawley Gasque Van Exern (February 26, 1186 – November 2, 1989) Congresswoman elected into the House of Representatives on September 13, 1938; first woman elected into Congress for the state of South Carolina.

  • Gertrude Sanford Legendre (March 29, 1902 – March 8, 2000) American socialite who served with the American spy agency, Office of Strategic Services, during WWII; owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina; known as a noted explorer, big-game hunter and environmentalist.

  • Gilda Cobb-Hunter (November 5, 1952 – present) Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 66 in Orangeburg County; first African American woman to be elected into the State House for this county.

  • Harriet Hancock (Unknown) Co-founder of the South Carolina Pride Movement and longtime activist. The Harriet Hancock LGBT Center is named after her, offering a supportive meeting space for those of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Harriet Keyserling (Unknown – December 10, 2010) First woman to represent Beaufort in the South Carolina Legislature; an advocate for Women’s rights who advocated for the arts and environment.

  • Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 – June 4, 2008) Disability rights activist who was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease; American author and attorney who was named Person of the Year by New Mobility.

  •  Irene Dillard Elliott (August 7, 1892 – April 5, 1978) The first Dean of Women at the University of South Carolina; involved in many civic, educational and cultural organizations.

  •  Jane Edna Harris Hunter (December 13, 1882 – January 13, 1971) African American social worker and founder of the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland, formally known as the Working Girls Association.

  •  Janie Glymph Goree (Unknown – January 2009) Political activist who was elected the first African American female Mayor in South Carolina.

  • Jean Toal (August 11, 1943 – present) First woman and Roman Catholic to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

  • Keller Barron (Unknown – present) Actively involved in the League of Women Voters where she has served as local and state League president, Barron advocates women’s rights, voters’ rights, improved race relations and education reform.

  • Linda Ketner (May 12, 1950 – present) philanthropist who was a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s 1st congressional districts; activist for the LGBTQ community, women, and affordable housing.

  • Malissa Burnette (Unknown – present) Certified specialist in employment law; has a history of fighting for cases that involve discrimination, civil and constitutional rights, sexual harassment, breach of contract, non-compete agreements, wage claims, and academic tenure and promotions issues.

  • Marian Wright Edelman (June 6, 1939 – present) President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; activist for children’s rights.

  • Marjorie Hammock (January 24, 1936 – Present) Licensed clinical social worker in Columbia, South Carolina; former President of both the SC Chapter NASW and the Columbia Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers; social justice advocate.

  • Nancy Barton (Unknown - present) Founder and Executive Director of Sistercare, an organization who provides services and advocates for domestic violence survivors and their children.

  • Nancy Stevenson (June 8, 1928 – May 31, 2001) American politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1979 – 1983; first woman to be elected to the South Carolina statewide office.

  • Nekki Shutt (Unknown – present) attorney and activist from Columbia, South Carolina; honored as Lawyer of the Year for 2019.

  • Nikki Haley (January 20, 1972 – present) The first female governor for South Carolina who went on to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations; governor who took down the Confederate Flag at the State House.

  • Reshma Kahn (Unknown – present) Founder and Executive Director of the Shifa Free Clinic; passionate about serving the uninsured at the same level of the insured.

  • Ruth Ann Butler (Unknown – present) Civil rights icon and founder of the Greenville Cultural Exchange; worked to preserve the history of African American stories. 

  • Sarah Mae Flemming (June 28, 1933 – June 16, 1993) African American woman expelled from a bus in Columbia, SC, for refusing to give her seat up, several months before Rosa Parks. Her lawsuit played a massive role in the Parks case months later.

  • Susan Dunn (Unknown – present) Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Carolina; a fierce advocate for the advancement of women in the practice of law.

  • Tamika Gadsden (Unknown – present) State leader of the South Carolina Chapter of the Women's March and longtime women’s rights advocate.

  • Tootsie Holland – (Unknown – Unknown) women’s rights activist; former Regional Director of NOW (National Organization of Women).

  • Vivian Anderson (Unknown – Present) Founder of Every Black Girl, an organization supporting justice for African American girls; recognized by Essence for being one of the 100 woke women of 2018.

 

Actors

These women were/are actors on either the stage or screen with many of them being recognized for their talent with nominations and awards.

  •  Andie McDowell (April 21, 1958 – present) Golden Globe nominated actor and model; known for roles in Groundhog Day, Green Card, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

  • Anna Camp (September 27, 1982 – present) actor, known for her roles in TV Series True Blood, Mad Men, and the Pitch Perfect movies.

  • Danielle Brooks (September 17, 1989 – Present) actor and singer; known for her role as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on Orange Is the New Black; received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in the 2015 Broadway production of The Color Purple.

  • Lauren Hutton (November 17, 1943 – present) American actress and model who signed, at the time, the biggest contract in the history of the modeling industry with makeup brand Revlon (1973).

  • Mabel King (December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999) American film, stage and TV actress whose roles include Mabel “Mama” Thomas on the ABC hit show, What’s Happening!! and Evillene the Witch on the stage musical, The Wiz.

  • Mary Louise Parker (August 2, 1964 – present) American actor and writer who has received both a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award for roles that she has played; known for her roles in the TV series Weeds and the movie Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Monique Coleman (November 13, 1980 – present) Actor and producer who is known for her roles in the hit movie franchise, High School Musical.

  • Nina Mae McKinney (June 12, 1912 – May 3, 1967) American actor who got her start on Broadway; one of the first African American film stars in the United States.

  • Viola Davis (August 11, 1965 – Present) American actor and the first African American actor to have won an Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award; known for her role on the show How to Get Away with Murder.

  • Virginia Capers (September 22, 1925 – May 6, 2004) Broadway and stage actor; won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in Raisin.

 

Artists

These women were/are artists of any medium or contributed greatly to the arts in South Carolina.

 

  • Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (July 14, 1876 – February 3, 1958) watercolorist, painter, and printmaker; one of the leading figures of the Charleston Renaissance

  • Anita Pollitzer (October 31, 1894 – July 3, 1975) photographer, charcoal artist, and suffragette who was a member of the National Woman’s Party and was instrumental in the passage of the 19th amendment.

  • Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntington (March 10, 1876 – October 4, 1973) American sculptor who both created the first public monument by a woman in New York City and created the city’s first monument dedicated to a historical woman

  • Betsy Teter (unknown – present) co-founded the Hub City Writers Project in 1995, opened Hub City Bookshop; winner of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts

  • Elaine Nichols (Unknown – Present) Supervisory Curator of Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; curator of the Black Fashion Museum collection.

  • Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (December 21, 1883 – April 17, 1979) Known as the “best-known woman artist of South Carolina of the twentieth century,” Verner was an artist, author lecturer, and preservationist who was one leader of the Charleston Renaissance; helped found the Southern States Art League.

  • Gail M. Morrison – (Unknown - Present) educator and philanthropist; longtime patron of the arts in Columbia; her and her deceased husband were major benefactors of the Philharmonic, City Ballet, CMA and others; former director of the Commission on Higher Education

  • Georgette Seabrooke (August 2, 1916 – December 27, 2011) Best known for her mural, Recreation in Harlem, displayed at Harlem Hospital in New York City; South Carolina native known as a muralist, artist, illustrator, art therapist and non-profit chief executive and educator

  • Georgia Harris (July 29, 1905 - January 30, 1997) One of the Catawba tribe’s former master potters; award-winning nurse who received the National Heritage Fellowship Award.

  • Helen Hill (May 9, 1970 – January 4, 2007) American filmmaker, artist, writer and social activist; known as one of the most well-regarded experimental animators of her generation after the release of her final film, The Florestine Collection.

  • Kitty Black-Perkins (Unknown) Chief Designers of Fashions and Doll Concepts for Mattel’s Barbie, where her “Black Barbie” was the first doll of color to take the name Barbie (1979-1980).

  • Lily Strickland (January 28, 1884 – June 6, 1958) Composer, painter and writer who published 395 works including sacred music and children’s songs.

  • Mary Jackson (February 3, 1945 – Present) African American fiber artist who received the MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2008 for “pushing the tradition in stunning new directions” with her sweetgrass basket weaving.

  • Suzy McCormick Shealy (Unknown – present) American artist; was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 2017; served on the Board of Trustees of the Walker Foundation at the School for the Deaf and Blind

 

Athletes

These women were not only athletes but often broke boundaries for women and people of color in their fields.

  •  Alice Coachman (November 9, 1923 – July 14, 2014) track and field athlete, first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal

  • Dawn Staley (May 4, 1970 – present) Hall of Fame basketball player and coach; three-time Olympic gold medalist

  • Jackie Frazier-Lyde (December 2, 1961 – present) American lawyer and former professional boxer; born the daughter of former Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier.

  • Katrina McClain Johnson (September 19, 1965 – present) Retired American basketball player who has played for many USA teams and three Olympic teams; inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

  • Louise Smith (July 31, 1916 – April 15, 2006) Known as the “first lady of racing,” Smith was a NASCAR racer who became the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

  • Lucille Ellerbe Godbold (May 31, 1900 – April 5, 1981) American athlete who competed in the 1922 Women’s World Games; the 1st woman in South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

  • Mamie Peanut Johnson (September 27, 1935 – December 18, 2017) Professional female baseball player who was the first female pitcher and one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues.

 Businesswomen & Executives

These women spent/have spent their lives either founding their own businesses or working their way to the top of their respective businesses, breaking the glass ceiling both gender and race wise.

  • Darla Moore (August 1, 1954 – present) investor and philanthropist; has been mentioned in Forbes Fortune, Working Woman, Worth, Wall Street Journal, and CNN; school of business at USC is named after her.

  • Debra L. Lee, Esq. (August 8, 1954 – present) businesswoman; currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET; named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment”

  • Kathy Riley (Unknown – present) Executive Director and Founder of the Columbia Women’s Shelter.

  • Kay Thigpen (Unknown – present) Co-founder and Managing Director of Columbia, South Carolina’s Trustus Theatre.

  • Laura Bragg (October 9, 1881 – May 16, 1978) First woman to run a publicly funded art museum, the Charleston Museum, in 1920. 

  • Marva Smalls (Unknown – Present) Entertainment executive; Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Nickelodeon Networks.

  • Sylvia Woods (February 2, 1926 – July 19, 2012) American restaurateur who founded the restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem, New York City. She is known as the “Queen of Soul Food.”

  

Educators

These women spent/have spent their lives educating/mentoring groups &/or the community to better understand both the history and current societal structures of South Carolina.

  • Augusta Baker (April 1, 1911 – February 23, 1998) African-American librarian and storyteller, renowned for her contributions to children’s literature

  • Barbara Williams Jenkins (August 17, 1934 – present) educator who greatly contributed to the library profession on a local, regional and national level; first African American President of the South Carolina Library Association

  • Brooke Bauer (unknown – present) – first Catawba Indian to receive a PhD; professor of History at USC – Lancaster

  • Charlotta Spears Bass (February 14, 1874 - April 12, 1969) educator, newspaper publisher-editor, and civil rights activist; first African-American woman to own and operate a newspaper in the US; first African-American woman nominated for Vice President.

  • Cynthia Graham Hurd (Mid-1900s – June 17, 2015) librarian who fought for literacy for all; housing rights activist; victim of Charleston AME church shooting

  • Dr. Wil Lou Gray (August 29, 1883 – March 10, 1984) Influential educator focusing on adult literacy who was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame; only female of 34 nominations for the South Carolina Man of the Hall Century Award.

  • Lucy Hampton Bostick (November 6, 1898 – July 8, 1968) Devoted librarian and citizen who contributed to the development of the library system in Richland County & South Carolina; served as Secretary of the SC State Library Board for almost 40 years.

  • Martha Schofield (1839 – 1916) Abolitionist and Educator who opened Scofield’s School in 1870 in an effort to teach her students to become “themselves” while still teaching them basic skills such as reading, writing and math. 

  • Millicent Brown (Unknown – present) Claflin professor; one of the first African American children to integrate South Carolina schools with the case Millicent Brown vs. SC School District 20 (1963).

  • Rev. Sharonda Coleman- Singleton (Unknown – June 17, 2015) Speech-language pathologist for Goose Creek High; track and field coach who brought many athletes to the state tournament; victim of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston who is honored by many.

  • Victoria Eslinger (Unknown – Present) litigator; mentor at the USC School of Law; winner of the 2012 Bissell Award, 2009 Advocate of the Year, and a Compleat Lawyer Platinum Award.

 

Scientists & Medical Professionals

These women were/are scientists, astronauts, nurses, and doctors, who spent/have spent their lives saving the lives of others and making scientific breakthroughs.

 

  • Catherine Coleman (December 14, 1960 – present) –American chemist, former United States Air Force officer, and retired NASA astronaut

  • Hilla Sheriff (1903 – September 10, 1988) South Carolina physician who became one of the most respected medical officials during the twentieth century; held positions such as Health Officer in Spartanburg County and the Director of the Board of Health’s Division of Maternal and Child Health in Columbia.

  • Juanita Redmond Hipps (July 1, 1912 – February 25, 1979) Known as one of the Angels of Bataan during the early months of war; a nurse for the United States Army Nurse Corps and the author of bestselling book, I Served on Bataan, which spoke on her experiences in the Philippines.

  • Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris (Unknown – present) Commissioned in the New York Air National Guard in April 1963; held the positions of chief nurse, nurse administrator, flight nurse instructor and flight nurse examiner; first female in history to have a Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Chapter named in her honor

  • Maude Callen (November 8, 1898 – January 23, 1990) Nurse and midwife whose work was brought to national attention through the photo, “Nurse Midwife,” by W. Eugene Smith when it was published in Life in 1951.

 

Singers & Performers

These women were/are singers, dancers, models, or other performers who either helped the state in some way or represented SC as they performed around the world.

 

  • Ann Brodie (December 13, 1929 – March 9, 1999) internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer; founding director of Columbia City Ballet.

  • Bertha “Chippie” Hill (March 15, 1905 – May 7, 1950) blues and vaudeville performer who recorded with Louis Armstrong

  • Dorae Saunders (unknown – present) transgender woman of color from Columbia who was a finalist on season 3 of America’s Got Talent

  • Etta Jones (November 25, 1928 – October 16, 2001) American Jazz singer who received three Grammy nominations for her albums Don’t Go to Strangers, Save Your Love for Me, and My Buddy. Her album, Don’t Go to Strangers, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

  • Gwendolyn Bradley (Unknown – Present) American soprano born in Bishopville, South Carolina, who has performed on both opera and concert stages around the world.

  • Linda Martell (June 4, 1941 – present) Country and blues singer who was the first African American Woman to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Mariclare Miranda (Unknown – present) Prima ballerina for Columbia City Ballet since 1997; founder and principal instructor of the Columbia Conservatory of Dance.

  • Marlena Smalls (Unknown) Gospel Singer known for forming the Hallelujah Singers in 1990 in hopes to promote the Gullah heritage.

  • Maxine Brown (August 18, 1939 – present) American soul singer whose track “We’ll Cry Together” reached #10 in the Billboard R&B chart.

  • Melanie Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) American pop singer who was the lead singer of the band La Bouche from 1994-2001.

  • Ophelia Devore-Mitchell (August 12, 1921 – February 28, 2014) First African American model in the United States; helped establish the Grace Del Marco Agency, one of the first modeling agencies in America.

  • Sarah Reese – (Unknown - Present) instructor and opera singer who has traveled and performed throughout the world; praised by a plethora of sources such as The New York Times; won on the “Ted Mack” show.

 

Writers

These women are poets, novelists, essayists, journalists, playwrights, and more who were often inspired by their own lives in the works they wrote and frequently used their written works as a form of activism.

 

  • Annie Greene Nelson (December 5, 1902 – December 23, 1993) novelist and playwright; first African American woman from South Carolina to publish a novel

  • Betsy Cromer Byars (August 7, 1928 – present) author of children's books; won a Newbery Medal, a National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and an Edgar Award 

  • Beryl Dakers (Mid-1900s – present) Emmy nominated broadcast journalist; first black person on air reporting news for WIS radio; worked for ETV.

  • Blanche McCrary Boyd (1945 – present) novelist, essayist, and screenwriter; feminist & LGBTQ+ advocate  

  • Carrie Allen McCray (October 4, 1913 – July 25, 2008) novelist and poet;
    one of the founders and first board members of the South Carolina Writers Workshop

  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault (February 27, 1942 – present) journalist; former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio; Civil Rights Activist

  • Dori Sanders (June 8, 1934 – present) African-American novelist, food writer and farmer; winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award

  • Dorothy Allison (April 11, 1949 – present) best-selling author; nominated for the 1992 National Book Award for her novel Bastard Out of Carolina

  • Dot Jackson (August 10, 1932 – December 11, 2016) Novelist and longtime journalist for the Charlotte Observer.

  • Elizabeth Allston Pringle (May 29, 1845 – December 5, 1921) Female rice-plantation owner; author of the best-selling novel A Woman Rice Planter; wrote about her childhood and women during the Civil War.

  • Elizabeth Boatwright Coker (April 21, 1909 – September 1, 1993) Author of nine novels with plots revolving around the legends and family histories of South Carolina; inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1992 for her impact on South Carolina and American culture and history.

  • Essie Mae Washington-Williams (October 12, 1925 - February 4, 2013) Daughter of former Governor of South Carolina, Strom Thurmond; a teacher, author and writer known for her pro-racial segregation policies.

  • Grace Lumpkin (March 3, 1891 – March 23, 1980) American writer of proletarian literature with much of her work focusing on the Depression Era. Her first book, To Make My Bread, won the Gorky Prize in 1933.

  • Gwen Bristow (September 16, 1903 – August 17, 1980) American Author and Journalist known for her best-selling western romance, Jubilee Trail; inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

  • Helen von Kolnitz Hyer (December 30, 1896 – November 14, 1983) American Poet named the second South Carolina Poet Laureate from 1974-1983 by Governor John C. West.

  • Josephine Humphries (February 2, 1945 – present) Author who wrote many novels inspired by the landscape of Charleston, SC, and her own life in the South; recipient of the 1984 Hemingway Foundation/PEN award.

  • Mary Boykin Chestnut (March 31, 1823 – November 22, 1886) American author; known for her book published as her Civil War diary, which outlines the society and its struggles throughout this time.

  • Mary C. Simms Oliphant (January 6, 1891 – July 27, 1988) South Carolina historian; updated the 1860 history of South Carolina textbook, which was adopted by the State Board of Education.

  • Nikky Finney (August 26, 1957 – present) American poet who advocates for social justice and cultural preservation; inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2013.

  • Peggy Parish (July 14, 1927 – November 19, 1988) American author known for her children’s book series; published over 30 books in her lifetime.

  • Sheila R. Morris (Unknown - Present) author and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights; wrote Southern Perspective of the Queer Movement, a collection of the true stories of LGBTQ+ individuals in South Carolina. 

  • Sue Monk Kidd (August 12, 1948 – Present) American author whose work has debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List; best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which was turned into a fairly well-critiqued movie.

  • Vera Gomez (Unknown – present) Greenville based poet; founding member of the first Greenville Poetry Slam team that won the 1998 Southeast Regionals, bringing the first, all-women team to Nationals.

  • Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor (April 4, 1937 – September 3, 2016) Culinary anthropologist, food writer, and broadcaster on public media; produced two award-winning documentaries.

  • Virginia Mixson Geraty (1915 - 2004) American Author who published books in the Gullah Language; Gullah Scholar and defender of the language.

 

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

Participating Artists include:

Bohumila Augustinova – Columbia Art Center, Anastasia and Friends

Eileen Blyth – www.eileenblyth.com

Tonya Gregg – www.tonyagregg.com

Mana Hewitt – www.manahewitt.com

B. A. Hohman – www.facebook.com/bahohman

Heidi Darr-Hope www.darr-hope.com

Lori Isom

Flavia Lovatelli – www.flavia-lovatelli.com

Laurie Brownell McIntosh – www.lauriemcintoshart.com

Michaela Pilar Brown – www.michaelapilarbrown.com 

Renee Roullier –www.reneerouillier.com

Olga Yukhno 310art.com/olga-yukhno

 

Literary Artists

Jennifer Bartell – poet and educator - https://jenniferbartellpoet.com/

Carla Damron – social worker and author of The Stone Necklace - http://carladamron.com/

Joyce Rose Harris – poet, The Watering Hole

Kristine Hartvigsen – editor, author of To the Wren Nesting

Meeghan Kane – founder, editor UnSweetened

Monifa Lemons – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Eva Moore – editor, Free Times

Marjory Wentworth – SC poet laureate

Qiana Whitted – USC professor of English and African Studies, author of Comics and the US South

Candace Wiley – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Christina Xan – poet, adjunct English professor, USC 

Claudia Smith Brinson – The State, Columbia College

 

Additional Artists

Kirkland Smith – portraitist

Jordan Morris – table artist

Betsy Newman –filmmaker advisor

Mahkia Greene – filmmaker coordinator

Vicky Saye Henderson – theatre artist coordinator

Lee Ann Kornegay – long-form and short-form filmmaker

Brenda Oliver – ceramicist

Diane Hare  - ceramics assistant

Kathryn Van Aernum – photographer/graphic artist

Cindi Boiter – project director/editor

Christina Xan- assistant project director

Filmmakers (4/15/19)

Betsy Newman, Lee Ann Kornegay, Laura Kissel, Roni Nicole, Ebony Wilson, Tamara Finkbeiner, Josetra Robinson, Katly Hong

Public Invited to Participate in Supper Table Tile Painting for an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Supper Table 1x.png

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Great Gatsby Like No Other by William Arvay

gatsby.jpg

“As of January first, it’s the twenties again!” declared Chad Henderson as he introduced Trustus’ latest production, “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s roaring twenties novel, adapted for the stage in 2006 by Simon Levy.

Almost a century after it was written, “Gatsby” deals with America’s continuing modern struggles with wealth and class, war and our treatment of veterans, marital infidelity, white supremacy, business ethics, transparency and the eternally insoluble question of whether money can buy happiness, or, as The Beatles parsed it, can it buy love?

The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be a contender for the title of The Great American Novel, and it has been transformed into several memorable, lavish films over the ensuing decades, most recently by director Baz Luhrmann in 2013 starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, with Robert Redford in the title role.

To rise to the challenge of the greatness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” director Henderson began with the only stage adaptation authorized and granted exclusive rights by the Fitzgerald Estate.

But then he immediately upped the ante by enlisting the talents of trumpeter and composer Mark Rapp as musical director (for a non-musical!) who brought original jazz music with the 5 piece on-stage combo ColaJazz. Henderson also brought aboard a crew of dancers from Columbia City Ballet, choreographed by Stephanie Wilkins, to portray the frenzied flappers at Gatsby’s legendary decadent parties.

Working with technical director Richard Kiraly, Henderson designed a simplified high-tech set of large projection screens to portray orgiastic jazz age parties, great halls filled with marble statuary, the streets of 1920s New York, a hydroplane rocketing over the ocean waves, Gatsby’s swimming pool, and of course the iconic eyes-and-eyeglasses sign advertising the wares of an oculist, standing in for the eyes of a judgmental God. The scenery can change with breathtaking speed and realism. Sound effects blend seamlessly with the constantly shifting locales and even special effects. Costumed members of the ensemble add or subtract furniture pieces in character as the finishing touches to each scene.

Both sides of the stage are framed by open quadrangles lined in incandescent bulbs, suggesting both a theatre marquee and the open covers of a book, out of which the story leaps.

The show starts with a stunning and unexpected spotlight vocal solo by one of the cast members singing a modern hit ballad that has been interpolated into the script. During the course of the show, other cast members step up to the ColaJazz microphone to sing musical commentary upon the drama unfolding on stage. This reviewer will leave no further spoilers as to the singers’ identities or the choice of songs, so as to maximize the surprising spontaneity for the audience.

In every rendition of “Gatsby” my favorite character winds up being Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, and he is ably brought to life by Jared-Rogers Martin. Fitzgerald’s prose flows clearly and gently from his voice, and he brings the wide-eyed earnestness of a young man from Minnesota to the mansions of the corrupt, lustful, and fabulously wealthy Long Island elites.

Jason Stokes brings broad-shouldered good looks and a resonant baritone voice to the title role, and is at once confident and forlorn. His tender infatuation for Daisy Fay Buchanan, played by Katie Leitner with a spoiled sensuality and tortured despair, drives all events in this drama. Richard Edward III is Daisy’s abusive, adulterous lout of a husband, Tom Buchanan, who also abuses his mistress Myrtle Wilson, played expertly and with earthy emotion by Raia Jane Hirsch. Brandon Chinn gives us Myrtle’s cuckolded garage mechanic husband, George Wilson, with a homespun pathos that masks his deeper moral code. The plum role of professional golfer Jordan Baker, Daisy’s long-time sardonic girlfriend, who later becomes Nick’s tempting girlfriend is played with layered subtlety and empowered command by Brittany Hammock. She is Fitzgerald’s acknowledgement of the evolving role of women in the 20th century. Elizabeth Houck, LaTrell Brennan, Josh Kern and Frank Thompson complete the acting ensemble with memorable performances in multiple roles, particularly Thompson’s shadowy criminal version of Meyer Wolfsheim, Kern’s flawless butler, Houck’s gossipy socialite and Brennan’s crystal clear exposition.

What sets this performance apart from others you might see on the local stage is the addition of music and dance to the production. While not a musical, per se, Britanny Hammock and Katie Leitner’s bonus vocal numbers accompanied by Rapp and band are exquisite, haunting audience members into the night. And Stephanie Wilkins’ choreography, set specifically on City Ballet principal dancers Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Claire Rapp, along with Jordan Hawkins, Marian Morgan, and Katherine Brady, is a step above in terms of the professionalism typically brought to a local stage. Wilkins researched the dance styles of the period and incorporated elements of everything from the Foxtrot to the Black Bottom to the Lindy Hop in her choreography. The dancers blended well with the actors and created a large but well-managed multi-talented ensemble of performers.

(Full disclosure - Boiter-Jolley and Henderson are the daughter and son-in-law of Jasper editor Cindi Boiter.)

This is a “Gatsby” unlike any other you will see anywhere else, and it is here for only a brief time, ending April 27. The Sunday matinee audience honored the performance with a standing ovation. Waste no time reserving your tickets at www.trustus.org or call the box office at (803) 254-9732.

Trustus Theatre is located in Columbia’s Congaree Vista at 520 Lady Street.

 

 

REVIEW -- Workshop Theatre Raises the Bar with Other Desert Cities

“In a bold step outside of musicals and light comedies, Workshop has taken a chance with a more serious dramatic piece, and the payoff is a moving, thought-provoking, and occasionally unsettling production which closes on a hopeful note.”

Marshall Spann and Dell Goodrich

Marshall Spann and Dell Goodrich

As always, I will open by disclosing that I am a frequent director and member of the Board of Trustees for Workshop Theatre, which is of particular importance in the case of Other Desert Cities. Organizational affiliations aside, I strive for neutrality and objectivity with all of my reviews, and do my best to put on blinders concerning friendships and professional connections with cast members, performing companies, etc. That said, here’s my take on the production, which runs through Sunday afternoon at Columbia College’s Cottingham Theatre.

Wow.

Under the skilled guidance of Jefferey Schwalk, who makes his Columbia directorial debut, this finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama comes to glorious, heartbreaking, and oft-hilarious life through the work of a uniformly strong and experienced cast. While known for quality and high production values, Workshop has set a new standard for itself and its audiences with this distinguished and compelling drama/comedy which spends the first quarter of the show providing subtle exposition through a series of intelligent wisecracks and bitingly witty exchanges, gradually morphing into a dystopia of family secrets and suppressed resentments. Unless you were lucky enough to grow up in an extremely happy and conflict-free home, you’re likely to recognize at least some of the dysfunction, which makes Other Desert Cities relatable to almost everyone. (Seriously, while the script is brilliant, it could be mildly to moderately triggering to those with unresolved family-based emotional wounds. There’s no physical violence onstage, but as far too many of us know, words can sting much more than a slap to the face.)

The plot is a straightforward one, so I won’t risk creating spoilers with an in-depth synopsis, but the basics are that Brooke Wyeth (Dell Goodrich) is a writer from NYC, visiting her childhood home in California for the first time in six years. There she encounters her acerbic mother, Polly (Debra Kiser), who openly criticizes Brooke’s liberal politics and presumably humble lifestyle. Brooke’s father, Lyman (Bill Arvay), is a former B-list cowboy/detective film star who has made a name for himself as a GOP politico representing the “old guard Hollywood” brand of conservatism. Clearly based on the Reagans, Polly and Lyman both reference time spent with “Ron and Nancy,” and drop a few more right-wing names throughout the script, with Lyman presenting himself as the more reasonable and decent parent while Polly revels in her dragon-lady persona. Polly’s brother, Trip (Marshall Spann), and fresh-out-of-rehab aunt, Silda (Resi Talbot) complete the family circle, as the quintet attempt to spend a pleasant Christmas Eve together despite their differences. Looming over the holiday is the shadow of Henry, the deceased third Wyeth sibling. As with most families thrown together at the holiday season, age-old irritants quickly surface, and resentments are only somewhat tempered by the Yuletide spirit. While substance abuse doesn’t directly drive the plot, drugs and/or alcohol are frequently consumed, subtly contributing to the aura of desperation each character brings to the situation. Through the course of the show we discover more than a few hidden psychological scars, a couple of turnabout motivation revelations, and a second-act reveal that forces the audience to rethink prior assumptions about the entire family. If you’re looking for a morality tale with clearly-defined “good guys and bad guys,” you won’t find it here. Each of the Wyeths has secrets, and everyone shows the capacity for cruelty and kindness, often within the same sentence or two.

The performances are uniformly solid, with Goodrich’s Brooke as a particular standout. The events unfold from (presumably) her point of view, and Goodrich wrings pretty much every emotion out of her character as the story progresses. (Having seen and admired her work for years, I must say that this is one of her strongest roles to date.) Brooke is the adult child who never fit in with her family, which Goodrich clearly conveys without ever resorting to melodrama. Part of what makes Other Desert Cities so impressive is its commitment to stark realism, and the cast never flinches or sugar-coats the subject matter. Arvay’s commanding stage presence and imposing physique lend themselves perfectly to the ascot-sporting benevolent patriarch whose explosions are few and far between, but Vesuvius-like when they do occur. Kiser’s performance dovetails nicely with Arvay’s, bringing a constantly nagging but easily dismissed balance to the parental team. One can easily envision them having (perhaps unknowingly) having raised their children by the “good cop/bad cop” technique. As Silda, Talbot creates a sassy, aging peacenik with flower-child sensibilities. While battling her own demons, Silda serves as an advocate for Brooke, yet holds a few of her own cards out of sight. Having seen her in mostly musicals and comedies, I was most impressed with Talbot’s dramatic acting chops. As does Goodrich, she takes on a character that could easily drift into caricature, and portrays a three-dimensional human being whose life choices took her down a different path than the one her sister chose. Spann’s Trip, who exudes a friendly enough persona, is arguably the only glue binding Brooke to the rest of the clan. At times cynical, and at others genuinely hopeful, Spann artfully captures the spirit of a young man who has accepted his mundane yet lucrative life as the producer of a courtroom reality show. Given that Lyman’s film career was financially rewarding but undistinguished, it makes sense that Trip would see himself as having similarly “succeeded” in show business, and Spann subtly incorporates touches of Arvay’s aura of undeluded self-satisfaction. The script has each of them acknowledging that his work is anything but high art, yet neither approaches this admission with shame or resignation.

On the technical front, the unit set, designed by director Schwalk and Patrick Faulds, is fully realized and realistically furnished. Not only does the family room appear cared for and complete, it features various books, works of art, and bric-a-brac contributed by the cast (including a painting by the late Gerald Floyd, a Columbia theatre icon.) This touch of personalization will likely go unnoticed by most, but I suspect it provided an extra element of actor familiarity with the space, which added a layer of believability to the performances. Another nice touch is a series of framed movie posters depicting Lyman’s silver screen days. Costume Designer Alexis Docktor brings her well-established skill to the production, with an outstanding use of color, dressing Brooke in shades of grey and black, with the rest of the cast in bright pastels and primaries. Brooke is the only family member not living behind some manifestation of a façade, and freely admits to having been hospitalized for depression, while the others (at least initially) suppress and hide their respective dark experiences. Lighting and sound are ably handled by Dean McCaughan, who does a particularly nice job of side-lighting the small section of the outdoors glimpsed through the room’s French doors, and Stage Manager Jeff Morris keeps everything moving at a steady pace while coordinating a prop-heavy show.

Other Desert Cities is almost flawless, but I would be remiss not to mention the minor issue of occasionally having found the more intimate moments of conversation a bit difficult to hear. Cottingham Theatre’s acoustics are not ideal, and the actors perform without mics, so if you want to catch every word, I would suggest taking a seat somewhere around audience center or closer.

In a bold step outside of musicals and light comedies, Workshop has taken a chance with a more serious dramatic piece, and the payoff is a moving, thought-provoking, and occasionally unsettling production which closes on a hopeful note. It may not be “happily ever after,” but by the epilogue, it looks as if the Wyeth family may finally be at peace with itself.

Tickets for Other Desert Cities may be purchased online at Workshoptheatre.com, or by calling the box office at (803) 799-6551.

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.