Deckle Edge Literary Festival Announces Dorothy Allison as Keynote Speaker

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In its 4th year as the grass roots answer to the SC Book Festival, Deckle Edge Literary Festival announces South Carolina author Dorothy Allison as the keynote speaker for the 2019 festival and the recipient of the second annual Deckle Edge Literary Festival Southern Truth Award. Allison will speak at the Booker T. Washington auditorium at the University of South Carolina on Friday, March 22nd at 7 pm in an engagement sponsored by the USC Women’s and Gender Studies Program. On Saturday, March 23rd at 10 am, Allison will address the Deckle Edge Literary Festival in a conversation with Bren McClain, author of One Good Momma Bone (2017, USC Press) at the Richland Library on Assembly Street in downtown Columbia, SC.

Allison is the author of Trash (1988), a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, the multi-award winning Bastard Out of Carolina (1992), Cavedweller (1998), which became a New York Times bestseller, and more. She has written for the Village Voice, Conditions, and New York Native and won several Lambda Awards. Bastard Out of Carolina was a finalist for the National Book Award, the winner of the Ferro Grumley Prize, was translated into more than a dozen languages and became a bestseller and award winning film directed by Anjelica Huston. Allison is a recent inductee into the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

A native of Greenville, SC, Allison’s writings frequently reference the class struggles and social alienation she experienced as a child growing up gay, impoverished, and the first child of a 15-year-old unwed mother in the conservative SC upstate. Bastard Out of Carolina also details the sexual abuse she endured throughout childhood at the hands of her step-father. The New York Times Book Review calls the book, “As close to flawless as a reader could ask for.”

Allison will be awarded the Deckle Edge Literary Festival Southern Truth Award on Friday evening, March 22nd. The Southern Truth award, whose first recipient in 2018 was Nikky Finny, is awarded to a Southern author whose body of work exemplifies the complexity of the South’s history, celebrates the gifts of the South’s diverse peoples, and enhances the narrative of the South by focusing on the progress we make and the continued work before us.

The 2019 Deckle Edge Literary Festival includes an exciting roster of authors, panels, and interviews including, among others, printmaker Boyd Sauders; Chieftess Queen Quet who is an elder of the Gullah/Geechee Nation; Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Kathleen Parker and more.

For more information please visit www.DeckleEdgeSC.org

 

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REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's Cost Of Living is An Acting Tour-De-Force With Diverse And Talented Cast

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

In his pre-show welcoming speech, Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, spoke briefly about a few of the production requirements listed in the contract for playwright Martnya Majok’s Cost Of Living. According to Henderson, the script and stage directions strongly suggest that actors with disabilities are to be cast in the roles of Jon (Bauer Westeren) and Ani (Kathy LaLima.) Trustus’ professional commitment to inclusivity is well-known, as is their mission to tackle new and innovative work, which made theirs the perfect stage upon which to present this 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In their bios, both Westeren and LaLima mention life with spina bifida and Multiple Sclerosis, respectively, and each expresses gratitude for the opportunity to perform onstage. Cost Of Living shows that the footlights are meant to shine on both of them, and will hopefully encourage more performers who, for whatever reason, think full-length shows are “not for them” to re-think that notion.

Director Paul Kaufmann delivers his traditional textured and subtly reinforced thematic consistency and “world-creating” to the production, with a solid eye for casting. The script involves two pairs of people, each pair in a unique relationship, with sufficient parallels to the companion story to allow them to come together at the end without seeming forced. There’s no deus ex machina involved, although one is gently teased before being revealed as a false hope

The two stories are straightforward and relatively simple in terms of plot, and are told through alternating scenes with only one or two jumps in time. We first meet Eddie (Eric Bultman), sitting alone in a bar. The first scene is an extended monologue, casting the audience member in the role of the sympathetic listener. In a riveting spotlight moment, Bultman immediately spellbinds the room with a tale of tragedy and hope. His sincerity never falters, whether he’s on the verge of tears or cracking up at one of his many one-liners, including “the shit that happens is not to be understood…that’s in the Bible.” This Biblical reference is explained through the mention of the many lonely nights Eddie has spent on the road as a long-distance truck driver. “Motels give you certain feelings,” Eddie muses, “and that’s why they’re all full of Bibles.” Though he’s often been tempted, Eddie has remained (mostly) faithful to his wife, who we now assume to be deceased. After a slightly cryptic discussion of said wife, Eddie reveals that he no longer consumes alcohol, having overcome a drinking problem, yet offers to buy his unseen companion a drink every time he “gets gloomy.” These moments of abrupt transition between contemplative malaise and forced jocularity give Bultman the chance to display his acting skills as well as an impressive storyteller’s ability to mesmerize the listener. Rich and full of character, his speaking voice does the heavy lifting in the opener, setting a tone that sustains through his work opposite his scene partners. (To avoid bouncing between the two plotlines, I’ll tell the stories in linear fashion.)

Following a mention of how his wife used to text him little notes every day, Eddie reveals that he has been recently receiving new daily texts, which obviously leaves him a bit confused. These mystery messages have drawn him to the bar, where he is awaiting his new correspondent, who fails to show. In a moment both hilarious and heartbreaking, Eddie asks the audience if “a ghost ever stood you up?”

In what we assume to be a flashback sequence, Eddie gets his wife, Ani, settled into an accessible apartment, and we find that their relationship is on the skids. Having shattered her spine in a car crash, Ani is full of rage and resentment toward Eddie, with substantial justification. (As always, I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum.) LaLima’s Ani may be unable to move most of her body, but she has lost none of what we can assume to have been a long-established spitfire personality full of wit and no-nonsense realism. As with Bultman’s bar scene, LaLima’s reaction to the new normal of her life takes her from depression to hilarity to arch sarcasm, always with a metaphorical (and occasionally literal) arched eyebrow. Eddie wishes to comfort her, subsequently offering to act as her caretaker. Though estranged, they are still technically married for insurance purposes, and Eddie reasons that he is the obvious person for the job. She finally consents, and the unspoken between them shouts volumes, allowing plot points to reveal themselves in their own good time. LaLima is both wounded and defiant, subtly driving home the fact that people with disabilities are far from helpless. In one of the show’s most touching scenes, she shares a cigarette with Eddie while he helps her take a bath. The very basics of human touch and the emotions it can evoke are beautifully illustrated with minimal dialogue. Any given moment of the production could have left a few audience members in tears, but this particular one, I suspect, had the entire space softly crying as a single unit. Not to be overly flowery, but in that few minutes, we in the seats experienced a collective emotional response. Joy, grief, and hope are component parts, but I’m not sure there is a single word to define the specific feeling we shared. Kudos to LaLima and Bultman for a story well-told, and for a scene of absolute magic.

In the other story, wealthy and cynical John is introduced as he interviews his potential new caretaker, Jess (Ellen Rodillo-Fowler.) Erudite and sophisticated, John is puzzled as to why a tough-talking, streetwise bartender with a degree from Princeton wants such a physically demanding and time-consuming job. Jess is visibly nervous, and Rodillo-Fowler adds several layers of discomfort which deftly inform the audience that she is a woman with secrets to keep and a desperate need for extra income. John is sardonic and somewhat suspicious, but eventually agrees to give Jess a chance. In a scene involving John’s first bath from Jess, Westeren and Rodillo-Fowler offer an alternate set of circumstances to the Eddie/Ani bathtub scene, playing Jess’ uncertainty with the situation and John’s dry responses for some well-timed comic relief. Each scene establishes a new intimacy between caregiver and caretaker, and begin to inspire introspection as to which character is in the power position at any given point. Rodillo-Fowler is well-known to Trustus audiences as a versatile and talented performer, and first-timer Westeren has no apparent difficulty in matching her dramatic and comedic capacities. Clearly at ease onstage and gifted with a stinging sense of delivery reminiscent of Hugh Laurie’s House, I hope and expect to see much more of Westeren in upcoming seasons at Trustus and elsewhere.

By the story’s end, each pair has suffered ups and downs, moments of closeness, a scene of great danger, and one so full of simultaneous sadness and happy anticipation it drew audible gasps at Saturday night’s performance. (Not going to spoil the surprise, but in a superb second-act twist, a misunderstanding leads to one hell of a reveal.)

Brandon McIver’s scenic design and projections are understated and functional, allowing for smooth transitions and more than one multi-use section of playing space. We know exactly where we are at all times, but the design never gets in the way of the story. Frank Kiraly’s lighting design works quite well alongside the set, sometimes using what appears to be but a single instrument to create a locale. One moment that particularly stands out is Rodillo-Fowler’s anxiety-filled phone call to her mother, who lives in the Philippines. (A special nod to Rodillo-Fowler’s ability to convey every emotion and meaning in Jess’ monologue, spoken entirely in Tagalog.) Kiraly has given her the simplest of top-lit streetlight motifs, and the effect is a keen visual representation of the isolation Jess feels. Sound Designer Patrick Michael Kelly embraces the subtlety of running/dripping water as a connecting concept, and allows it to reinforce the overall piece without ever intruding on the point of focus.

Cost Of Living continues its run Thursday through Saturday, with two performances on Saturday, and the show is selling out quickly. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this timely, contemplative, laugh riot/heartbreaker of an evening in the Trustus Side Door Theatre.


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

 

 

JAY Music Finalist Marina Alexandra hosts Southern Guitar Festival Competition

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Guitar Gala is an elegant evening that will feature wine tasting, delicious dining from Dupre Catering, comedy and superb performances by such popular musicians as  Ukrainian-born guitarist,  Marina Alexandra, Charleston based guitarist, Chris Teves, Tony Lee (drums),  nationally recognized soprano, Janet Hopkins, and award winning actress Martha Hearn Kelly from Trustus theater.

Janet Hopkins

Janet Hopkins

Renowned dramatic mezzo-soprano Janet Hopkins, a 16 year veteran of the New York Metropolitan Opera, continues to thrill audiences on her concert tour of symphonic stages across America. Recent performances include The Defiant Requiem (Verdi Requiem) at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC,  El Amor Brujo (South Carolina Philharmonic), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Bowling Green Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky) and Alexander Nevsky (West Shore Symphony Orchestra, MI).

Known for her innovative style and approach to bringing classical music to broader audiences, Miss Hopkins won critical acclaim from the New York Times and USA Today for the limited edition ARIA. A first-of-its-kind music and fine wine project, ARIA is the marriage of a world class wine personally blended by Miss Hopkins with Tulip Hill Winery and her recording of well known classical Italian love songs at historic Capitol Records in Hollywood. The boxed set was an immediate mainstream hit.

Miss Hopkins made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1991 – 1992 seasons. Since then, opera lovers have appreciated her diverse repertoire on the world’s greatest stage.

She debuted at The Met in The Ghost of Versailles, and has since returned many times over the years, pleasing audiences in Die Walküre, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier, Katya Kabanova, Elektra, Jenufa, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, War and Peace, Les Mamelles de Tiresias, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Khovanschina, Doktor Faustus,The Makropulos Case, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Bartered Bride, and Parsifal. Miss Hopkins has toured Japan three times with The Met in Der Rosenkavalier, Die Walküre, and Rigoletto. While in Japan the mezzo-soprano sang a series of solo recitals in Tokyo, garnering much critical acclaim.

Away from touring and performing, Miss Hopkins enjoys her position as a member of the voice faculty at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

 

Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra has established herself as a dynamic performer with a powerful stage presence. Finger Style Guitar Magazine described her as an “amazing player that commands the guitar with world-class technique and musicianship that is uncommon.” Marina Alexandra was listed by the Aaron Shearer Foundation as one of the most influential female classical guitarist in America.

She has received awards in several guitar competitions including the Music Teachers National Association State and Regional Competitions and semifinalist in the 6th annual Edwin H. and Leigh W. Schadt National String Competition for classical guitar. Marina has a concert career spanning the last fifteen years, taking her to Piccolo Spoleto Festival, National Public Radio, Allentown Radio, and hundreds of venues including colleges, guitar festivals and museums throughout USA.  She has released three albums   including; Timeless Enchantment (Baroque, Classical, Modern, and Latin-American music) , A Moment of Magic (modern music by Russian composer, Nikita Koshkin) and Americas from North to South (flute and guitar music). Her albums received high praises from such prestigious music magazines as Soundboard, Classical Guitar (UK) and American Record Guide.

Marina Alexandra was born in the Ukraine, where she began her guitar studies at the age of six. In 1996 she immigrated with her family to the United States, and in 1998 she was awarded an assistantship to earn her Master of Music degree at the University of South Carolina.  She has served on the faculties of Furman University, University of South Carolina- Aiken, SC, Wingate University, and Columbia College.  Her students have been awarded scholarships to attend music schools such as the Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and University of Southern California.  Under Marina’s direction, many students have also received top prizes in national guitar competitions.

Marina performs regularly on stages throughout the southeast United States. In addition to her concert solo career, Marina Alexandra participates in the group Duo de Vista (with flutist Teri Forscher-Milter).

Marina is a major contributor to the guitar community on both the local and national levels. Mrs. Alexandra is the founding president of the Guitar Muse Society, which  hosts yearly concert and educational events in Columbia, SC.  Mrs. Alexandra is also the artistic and executive director of the Southern Guitar Festival and Competition, which attracts participants from all over the US and abroad. Mrs. Alexandra plays a major role in advocating for the arts, she was invited to be on the planning committee for Midlands Art Conservatory (SC) as well as grant approval  committee for the  South Arts non-profit organization, that represents nine Southeastern states.

REVIEW: Workshop’s Jake’s Women an overlooked gem in Neil Simon’s Oeuvre

 

“He said, I got tongue-tied by a teacher in Tallahassee

I got french-fried by a waitress in Idaho

I got way-laid by a widow in Wyoming

Oh Lord, he said, women gonna be the death of me but what a way to go.”

Dr. Hook – “What A Way To Go”

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by Frank Thompson

Hello, friends! Happy to be back in the saddle, following a nasty couple of weeks under the weather. (Drink your juice, get a flu shot, and dress warmly!) My first review of 2019 requires that I play “Full Disclosure” (see The Addams Family: The Musical for the reference.) I am a frequent director with Workshop Theatre, and serve as Vice-President of the Board of Trustees. I do my best to remain completely objective, but feel it only ethical to establish the relationship up-front. That said, let’s talk about the show.

Jake’s Women, the first official production in Workshop’s new “home” at Columbia College’s Cottingham Theatre kicks off a new era, a new venue, and a new optimism for all involved. Last season saw “guest appearances” at Cottingham, with a show-by-show arrangement. Without revealing anything classified, I can say that Workshop and Cottingham have come to a more substantial relationship. With a full-sized, legitimate theatre space, and the amenities and advantages that come with it, Workshop is poised to re-establish its position as one of Columbia’s premiere performing houses.  I say this in my capacity as a critic, not as Workshop “family,” but the venerable theatre group seems strongly poised to re-capture the glory days of Bull Street. Special props to Executive Director, Jeni Decamp McCaughn, for steering the ship through a few stormy years, yet holding a steady hand at the helm, with husband Dean McCaughan dedicating countless hours to helping his wife weather the storm, and a mostly-volunteer staff and crew devoting their talents to resurrect Workshop’s past identity. We’re straying into promotional territory, so I will shift my focus to the show, not the organization.

“With a full-sized, legitimate theatre space, and the amenities and advantages that come with it, Workshop is poised to re-establish its position as one of Columbia’s premiere performing houses.”

Jake’s Women tells the story of a widowed and remarried man, Jake, who is struggling with the devastating loss of a beloved spouse, attempting to re-build his life by dating and falling in love with Maggie, his second wife. Maggie is loving, pretty, and embrace’s Jake’s daughter with sincere affection. Throughout the performance, the all-female cast (minus Jake) remain far upstage, watching, ignoring, and occasionally reacting to his experiences. While hilarious, Jake’s Women jumps between reality, (possible) dreams, and manages to work in a couple of tear-jerking moments internal to the hilarity. The plot is somewhat meta-on-meta, and it takes a few minutes to understand the structure and symbolism of the ever-present women in his literal and figurative background.

Another confession: I am not a huge Neil Simon fan, with the exceptions of Barefoot In The Park and Murder By Death, a mid-70s TV film that BEGS for a stage adaptation. Director David Britt is, however, a Simon aficionado, and his love of the material shines through in every scene.

Without dropping spoilers, I can say that Jake encounters various women in his life, including his daughter, his shrink, his deceased ex-wife, and his potential new wife, should he and Maggie divorce. Through a series of flashbacks, we meet ex-wife Julie, who hasn’t let death remove her from the realm of the living.

If this sounds Quentin Tarantino-esque, that’s because it is. Realities and perspective frequently swap places, and, (again, no spoilers) and it takes a few minutes to understand the conceit. For anyone who knows Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Simon’s Jake’s Women provides a similar feeling of “eureka!” when the structure becomes obvious. Trust me, you’ll have a difficult time not shouting “ah-ha!” when things become clear.

“If this sounds Quentin Tarantino-esque, that’s because it is.”


Re the cast, Director Britt has assembled an A-plus group of performers. In the eponymous role, and as the sole male perspective, newcomer Damian Garrod displays a level of skill that will likely place him at the forefront of casting calls, should he continue in the Columbia theatre community. Jake is clueless and mildly chauvinist, but tries to be a genuinely nice guy, and Garrod nails the role. In my notes, I wrote “Young George Clooney,” “Jimmy Stewart,” “Joey Tribbiani,” (Friends) “Charlie Brown,” and “Mark Hamill in Star Wars.” Garrod channels these, and other actors/characters with seeming effortlessness , never allowing himself to slide into caricature, or shatter the illusion of his own interpretation of the world surrounding him.

As Maggie, Jake’s second wife, Lou Boeschen shines while demonstrating dramatic acting skills that I had never before seen, knowing Lou from “big, happy, musicals.” While she is certainly adept at roles in shows such as Anything Goes and The Marvelous Wonderettes, she also has the chops to believably portray a hopeful but world-weary Maggie. I was quite impressed with this new discovery from someone whose musical talent I have always admired.

The rest of the cast is uniformly strong, featuring Dee Renko as Jake’s funky-meets-hip sister, Karen, who truly wants the best for her brother. H. Loretta Brown provides a sympathetic gravitas as psychiatrist Edith, while Riley Campbell and Raelyn O’Briant share the role of Jake’s daughter, Molly, with Campbell taking the role as a young girl, and O’Briant picking up as the older Molly. As the deceased Julie, Jennifer Lucas O’Briant straddles the line between dream/hallucination and corporeal presence. Rounding out the cast is Melissa Frierson as Sheila, the new girlfriend we meet in act two. Each of the above presents a fully-developed, serious, yet entertaining character in Jake’s life. There’s not a weak link in this ensemble cast, which makes it a pleasure to enjoy.

The set, designed by director Britt, is minimalist without seeming skimpy, and fits the shifting times, perspectives, and realities of the story. Alexis Doktor’s Costume Design perfectly fits both the characters and period. Stage Manager Caleb Carson does an excellent job of keeping the show moving. Though Jake’s Women is almost two hours long, counting the interval, I was shocked when each act ended. Britt has clearly emphasized pace, which is always a good idea with Neil Simon. Dean McCaughan, as always, runs a tight sound/light board, and Columbia College’s Patrick Faulds delivers an effective and creative lighting design, which moves the show along while enhancing specific moments.

Jake’s Women is not the most well-known of Simon’s work, but it is one of the most engaging and entertaining shows I’ve seen in some time. The entire cast is onstage for the full evening, with the actors playing semi-detatched, yet still-aware figures in Jake’s psyche.

As for the drawbacks, they are few. A couple of actors need to project more, which shouldn’t  be difficult, and (as much as I love minimalism,) I’m ready to see the newly–rebranded Workshop bring us a fully-realized set. The script, while clever and enjoyable, is benignly surreal. Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction will enjoy a Tarantino-esque gradual reveal, which lets us know that various time periods and flashback sequences prevent approaching the work as a linear timeline. It takes a few moments to catch onto the conceit. If you’re confused at first, just give it a few minutes.

Jake’s Women is a bit of a mind-bender, and (quite honestly) not quite up there with Simon’s absolute best, but it’s a charming, enjoyable show, performed by a talented cast. There are, as the saying goes, worse ways to spend an evening. It didn’t change my life, but I laughed, I cried, and I had one hell of a good time. Jake’s Women runs Thursday-Sunday, so don’t miss your chance to see this hilarious, heart-warming, and occasionally tear-jerking “sleeper” show by the master of urban comedy.

On a final note, I couldn’t suppress a guffaw when the twenty-something “ghost” of Julie, misunderstanding the timeline, shouts at Jake with “EEEEW! You’re 48 and I SLEPT with you last night?”

I will be 49 in June. Ouch.

Make sure your weekend plans include Jake’s Women. It’s a lighthearted show that has moments of sincere pathos and seriousness, and a lesser-known work by a master of American comedy. You’ll be glad to have “discovered” it, and have a delightful time laughing at the mirror-image of life that Simon artfully crafts.

-FLT3

Jake’s Women continues its run Thursday-Sunday at Collingwood Theatre, Columbia College. Tickets can be reserved by ringing the Box Office on (803) 799. 6551, or by visiting WorkshopTheatre.com

New Beatles Ballet from Columbia City Ballet Means NEW Choreography, Music, and Dance Experience

by Hallie Hayes

Soloist Abby McDowell rehearses for Beatles - The Ballet (photo Ashley Concannon)

Soloist Abby McDowell rehearses for Beatles - The Ballet (photo Ashley Concannon)

In an original ballet conceived by Columbia City Ballet’s artistic director, William Starrett, one has the opportunity to relive, or to experience the ‘60s for the first time through the inspiration of one of the most famous bands of the century: The Beatles.

 

While the opportunity to experience the beautiful classics from Columbia City Ballet is often presented, Beatles The Ballet embraces a new experience, following The Beatles’ careers and impacting the audience through the social awareness that The Beatles presented decades ago.

 

The ballet features 40 classics from the band, all producing short form pieces which allows viewers to experience ballet and this prolific journey in a new way.  The Beatles create dialogue through their music- producing a cultural impact and still today, topics that they covered in the ‘60s make appearances in our conversations; this inspired Starrett.

 

Under the artistic direction of Starrett himself, 12 guest choreographers from all over the country have been brought in to help him with creating this production, including Sherry Horton, Carolina Lewis Jones, Racheal Leonard, James Atkinson and Jerry Opdenaker.   All 32 company members active with Columbia City Ballet will play a role in this production.  Starrett has also brought in two performers from Nashville, TN, who have toured internationally with a The Beatles impersonation group called Rain.

 

The Beatles, generations later, still play a substantial role on young listeners and Starrett acknowledges this, making this a show one for a wide-ranged audience.

 

The ‘60s loved The Beatles.  The ‘80s loved The Beatles.  Today, listeners love The Beatles.

 

In a recent interview with ABC News, Starrett explains the impact that putting the journey of this prolific band into a ballet can have: “Through the dance, the music can have more intensity and you can really see some of the lyrics.”

 

You’ve heard the lyrics.  You’ve sang the lyrics.  Come see the lyrics.  Come experience the lyrics.

 

Before the ballet, a ‘60s themed VIP reception will be held where Starrett will discuss the creation of the ballet.  Enjoy an open bar and travel back in time, as your best 60s attire is highly encouraged.

 

Beatles The Ballet will take place on Saturday, February 2nd at Kroger Center for the Arts with two performance: 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at www.krogercenterforthearts.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indie Grits Labs Offers Experienced Artists and Novices Alike a Chance to Explore a New Creative Medium

This Sunday, Indie Grits Labs (IGL) is offering a two-day workshop on creating your own zines, accurately called DIY Zine-Making.

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by Christina Xan

 

I was able to chat with Savannah Taylor, the Project Manager and Designer at Indie Grits Labs, who took the time to give me all the great details on the upcoming workshop. In addition to organizing this event, Taylor does the graphic design for the IGL festival & the Nick Mag, manages the social media, and makes sure things are running smoothly!

 

For those who don’t know, Indie Grits Labs is a non-profit organization directed by Seth Gadsen, that is dedicated to serving the Columbia community through media education, year around artist projects, and the Indie Grits festival. IGL is a part of the Columbia Film Society and a part of the same organization as the Nickelodeon Theatre.

 

“IGL’s main focus,” as Taylor said, “is on our education programs, festival happenings, and art projects year-round at our house at 1013 Duke Avenue.” Part of this focus is creating workshops, just like this one, that anyone and everyone can attend.

 

IGL facilitated a zine workshop last fall that was so successful, it prompted them to do it again this month. This year’s DIY Zine-Making is a two-day workshop that will take place on back to back Sundays: Sunday, February 3 and Sunday, February 10. Both workshops will be located at 1013 Duke Avenue from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

 

Taylor says that she and her partner, Irving Juarez, who is a local artist and designer, have been planning these events together for over a year. Juarez is an artist who works at Bluetile Skateshop in 5 Points and was a part of the Indie Grits Visiones Project back in 2017.

 

“[Juarez] created a zine documenting his childhood as an immigrant,” Taylor states, “I think that was the precedent for both of us realizing the power of print to share our personal stories and to bring communities together.”

 

Taylor says that she and Juarez pride themselves as a print and zine duo who both love print, design, and spreading the message that art is for everyone and should be accessible to all.

 

For Taylor, the goal of this workshop specifically is “to do more and engage with people of all ages to do something creative and [with] local artists who may want to stretch their creative muscles with new modes of art and storytelling.” 

 

What will the workshop entail, you may be wondering? According to Taylor, over the course of the two-day workshop, they are going to do several small exercises that can be an entry point for anyone interested in making a zine for the first time.

 

“Day 1 we are going to collaborate on a zine as a class to learn about zine production and how to print out your very own zine, analog style, using a photocopier and scanner,” Taylor continues, “We will also learn about the 8-page fold zine, and by the end of the class you will walk away with your very own!”

 

According to Taylor, it is really important to have events like this in Columbia because it’s necessary to engage with the local community and support the arts and education. “The arts should not be seen as exclusive or elitist,” Taylor elaborates, “and should be open to all who wish to learn!”

 

By registering, in addition to getting your very own zine, you can learn something new and support IGL in continuing their education program and in supporting the very artists that are facilitating these workshops and making them a reality.

 

This workshop isn’t the end to Taylor and IGL’s plans, though. “We are also hoping in the future to do some zine showcases to further support the arts community, and we might be planning a zine fair to happen during Indie Grits 2019 this March.”

 

Overall, this experience is a unique one that is close to Taylor, Juarez, and the others at IGL’s hearts. “I hope that participants are proud of their final zine creation and walk away feeling that they have the knowledge and tools to keep creating zines after the workshop is over,” Taylor concludes.

 

Tickets are only $35 for Nickelodeon Theatre members and $50 for General Admission. Tickets are available on IGL’s website, or in person at the Nickelodeon Theatre box office (1607 Main Street). This registration price includes 10 free prints of the zine you make, so you can share with your family and friends! 

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

REVIEW: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -- Trustus' New Production Proves That What Makes Us Different Only Makes Us Stronger by Christina Xan

“Chandler’s portrayal of Christopher is remarkable, his embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks.”

Last Friday night, Trustus Theatre opened The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, their interpretation of the 2015 Tony Award winning Broadway play.

 

The original play itself is an interpretation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 book, making this performance, essentially, an interpretation of an interpretation – and a good one at that.

 

For those who don’t know, the play surrounds a 15-year-old boy named Christopher, who although not directly stated, is implied to have Asperger’s, a syndrome that previously fell on the autism spectrum and now is under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The play opens on Christopher cradling the body of his neighbor, Mrs. Shears’, murdered dog. While Mrs. Shears blames Christopher for the death of her dog and calls the police on him, Christopher asserts that he did not kill the dog and that he is telling the truth because he “cannot tell a lie.”

 

Once being released from police custody, Christopher makes it his mission to find the dog, Wellington’s, true killer, despite strict orders from his father not to. The majority of the play, then, follows the path Christopher travels to discover who killed Wellington and the fallout from what else he discovers along the way (all while trying to ace maths on the way to being an astronaut! Phew!). Any mention of the play’s further details might spoil it for those who have not seen it, so I will end my little summary here, but know that this is a play full of important ideas like understanding what family really means, why people make the decisions they do, and how we become the people we are today.

 

The play is told in two acts and is told in mostly present time with some flashbacks. However, the play is technically told through stories Christopher is writing about the experiences we are seeing. His teacher, Siobhan (played by the wonderful Libby Hawkins), has encouraged Christopher to write his experience in a book and to even turn it into a play. The play we see, thus, is not only what is happening to Christopher as he and Siobhan read from his book, but in the end, is the play itself, even breaking the 4th wall at times. All these transitions are done fairly smoothly, but one wants to make sure to pay close attention to not miss important details! 

 

I, myself, have never seen the original Broadway play. Though I knew the plot generally beforehand, I knew nothing about the set up or staging of the original play and thus cannot speak to how faithfully this was interpreted. However, I genuinely enjoyed the staging of this play and felt as if all creative decisions made by the director, Chad Henderson, and the cast brought the story to life in such a way that I couldn’t imagine it any differently. (Full disclosure - Chad Henderson is the son-in-law of the executive director of the Jasper Project.)

 

The set design and costuming were minimal, which fit the tone of the play. The lighting, which paralleled the design in its simplicity yet also was complex enough to fit the rapidly changing emotions presented in every scene, was done by the fabulous Baxter Engle, who came back from NYC just to do this design. The show itself follows a plot with twists and turns and a plethora of emotions, so the clean set literally and figuratively set the stage for these emotions to be felt without becoming muddled with distractions.

 

The stage, which appeared completely flat, was actually comprised in areas of many “boxes” that could be pulled out of the stage at ease and slipped back in just as quickly. These boxes, though always appearing the same, easily became briefcases, suitcases, chairs, rooms, trains and more with just a switch of the imagination. The fluency with which the characters switched scenes and the poise with which they held themselves filled in any missing spots.

 

A screen behind the characters acted as a literal window into Christopher’s mind and would show us answers to mathematical problems, letters he read, and more, both giving us insight into the plot of the play and into the mind of an autistic individual. Additionally, characters dressed in black, who acted as voices in some scenes, also acted as elements of Christopher’s mind, being choreographed to move around him and appear, say, threatening or even to become stage props themselves, picking up and propelling Christopher into “space” in one scene.

 

While the staging was innovative and the production sound, genuinely, the acting is the highlight of this play. Every character fills their role stunningly well. I wish I could speak to the passion and truth of every player in this wonderful team. Scott Pattison perfectly embodies the caring but lost dad whose few bad decisions snowball out of control. Raia Jane Hirsch’s flashback scenes in the first act make us feel the tension of having to decide between the elusive freedom the world offers and the simultaneously bright but restrictive path of motherhood. (Full disclosure - Hirsch is a member of the board of directors for the Jasper Project.)

 

However, the star of the show truly is Beck-Ryan Chandler. Chandler, who plays Christopher, is the first autistic person to perform the role in the entire Southeast, and he delivers a truly remarkable performance. His embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident throughout, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks. As you sit in the audience, you feel scared when Christopher feels scared, confused when he is confused, and happy when he is happy.

 

It fills me with pride to see Trustus has taken the strides to find an autistic actor to fill an autistic role. Too often in our society, whether on a small stage or the big screen, roles are given to actors based on ease of finding them or based on money and rarely on the representation they call for. We live in a society where roles are whitewashed, where cisgender individuals take roles of the LGBTQ+ community and where talented actors and actresses like Christopher are overlooked for people who have no idea what having autism is like. This coupled with the fact that mental illness and syndromes like autism are terribly stigmatized and awfully misunderstood, makes this exploration of a teenager with autism navigating his everyday life so, so important. I am so thrilled to say this has happened in our city and should be seen for this if nothing else.

 

In the end, this show will put you on a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, fumed, gasped, and cried – definitely cried. The people in this show are doing such important work in our community and in our world, and fortunately, it’s also just a damn good show – clever, interesting, well-done, and endlessly important.

 

Christopher asks us in the last line of the play, “Does that mean I can do anything?” to which there is no response. This lack of a response, this empty space is for us to decide, yes, that not only can he do anything, but this is the possibility for all of us. We are all capable of facing our fears and using our unique strengths to launch ourselves (pet rat included or not) into the stars.

 

Catch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time until February 9th at Trustus Theatre: https://trustus.org/event/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time/

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

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And the Winners Are ...

Life beats down and crushes the soul

and art reminds you that you have one.” Stella Adler

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The Jasper Project, guests, and guests of honor celebrated an intimate evening of art and joy last night at Columbia’s historic Seibels House and Garden during the Jasper Artist of the Year Salon Celebration. With presentations of poetry and song, and even a rousing group sing-along led by theatre artist Darion McCloud, attendees were able to mingle, chat about processes, projects and possibilities for collaboration, and enjoy food from Chef Joe Turkaly and a bar provided by Muddy Ford Press. All our attending JAY finalists shared their work with those in attendance. Art called some of our finalists away, (we missed you Tim, Michael and Christine). but it was a beautiful night.

Congratulations, once again, to all our finalists:

Music - Marina AlexandrA~ Marcum Core ~ Zach Seibert

Theater - Michael Hazin ~ Christine Hellman ~ Darion McCloud

Visual Arts - Trahern Cook ~ Flavia Lovatelli ~ Andy White

Literary Arts - Libby Bernadine ~ Tim Conroy ~ Monifa Lemons

And the winners are …

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Visual Arts - Trahern Cook

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Visual Arts - Trahern Cook

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Literary Arts - Monifa Lemons

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Literary Arts - Monifa Lemons

Many thanks go out to folks and organizations who made the evening a success ~

Historic Columbia, Michael Krajewski, Bohumila Augustinova, Barry Wheeler, Ashley Hayes, Easter Antiques at Red Lion Antique Mall, Muddy Ford Press, 2nd Act Film Festival, Ed Madden, Trahern Cook, Joe Turkaly, Bob Jolley, Annie Boiter-Jolley, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, the editorial staff of Jasper Magazine, the board of directors of the Jasper Project, Kristine Hartvigsen & all who chose to spend their evening with us.

Jasper Project Executive Director Cindi Boiter and Denise Gadson Receive the Richland Library Friends and Foundation’s 2018 Awards

By: Christina Xan

The Jasper Project is happy to share that the Richland Library Friends and Foundation is honoring two South Carolina women and their dedication to our community.

The Richland Library Friends and Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support Richland Library by raising awareness and financial support. Each year they recognize individuals who have supported literacy in Columbia.

This year, the two awards will acknowledge the achievements of women in Richland County who have contributed to our literary community and local libraries in their own unique ways. First, receiving the Lucy Hampton Bostick Award, is our own Cindi Boiter, and second, receiving the Ethel Bolden Minority Scholarship, is Denise Gadson.

According to the Richland Library, “the Lucy Hampton Bostick Award offers a custom, hand-blown glass award and cash honorarium while recognizing a South Carolina author, someone who has written a significant literary work on South Carolina, or someone in the Midlands who has significantly advanced the interest in books or libraries.” This award is named after a long-time head librarian in Richland County and former Richland Library director (1928-1968) who is “credited with fostering interest in Southern literature and history, improving cultural life in Columbia, and promoting library appreciation throughout the state.”

Cindi Boiter has been chosen to receive the award this year as a fierce advocate of the literary arts. Boiter was a freelance writer for 20 years and has published a book of award-winning stories. After teaching Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina for a number of years, she went on to become the founder of The Jasper Project and Jasper Magazine, of which she is the Editor-in-Chief.

Likewise, the Ethel Bolden Minority Scholarship provides $3,500 in financial support for students from “underrepresented ethnic and racial groups, who are working toward the completion of a Master of Library and Information Science degree at the University of South Carolina.” This scholarship was created in 2010 and named after Bolden to recognize her years of service to the Richland County community and its libraries.

Denise Gadson has been chosen for this award this year for her continual passion for reading and for helping others, both children and adults, on their journey towards gaining that same passion as well. Gadson is the author of children’s book Penelope's World Famous Cookies and is currently seeking to further her education along in order to continue aiding others in their quest for knowledge.

The Richland Library Friends and Foundation has plans to formally recognize these wonderful women during a reception in 2019 (date TBA).

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

Announcing the 2018 Jasper Artist of the Year Finalists -- TIME TO VOTE!

We asked. You answered. Which members of the greater Columbia area arts community are finishing up particularly good years? Who has had that shining good year of success or accomplishment or growth? Who is a different artist today than they were in July 2017?

And based on your nominations and the material you provided we asked a panel of experts to narrow down the contenders to just three in each discipline.

Now, the ball is back in your court.

Check out the following 12 JAY finalists in Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, & Literary Arts and cast your votes for who you think should take home the awardS.

Then join us at the Historic Seibels House on Friday, January 18th for the Jasper Artists of the Year Awards Ceremony and Celebration.

Let’s get started.

~ MUSIC ~

Marina Alexander -  Over the last 15 months Marina Alexandra has been invited to perform concerts at: the Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC, Furman University, the Public Library (at Sandhills), the National Flute Convention (DC), Ohio International Guitar Festival, Tuesday Concert Series (Augusta, GA), University of South Carolina (Linguistic Department, Russian program), Midtown Theater, North Charleston, SC. Marina founded a unique group called the Maritone Duo consisting of herself on classical guitar and Tony Lee on drums, and she has released 3 videos with the Maritone Duo. She was accepted to a prestigious Ivy League program sponsored by University of Pennsylvania, the Executive Program in Arts and Culture, and was invited to conduct a multi-day artists residency at East Point Academy and Irmo High School. She was invited to judge the SC All State Guitar Competition; she continues to direct the Southern Guitar Festival (since 2012). Marina Alexandra was listed by the Aaron Shearer Foundation as one of the most influential female classical guitarists in America.

Marina Alexander - Over the last 15 months Marina Alexandra has been invited to perform concerts at: the Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC, Furman University, the Public Library (at Sandhills), the National Flute Convention (DC), Ohio International Guitar Festival, Tuesday Concert Series (Augusta, GA), University of South Carolina (Linguistic Department, Russian program), Midtown Theater, North Charleston, SC. Marina founded a unique group called the Maritone Duo consisting of herself on classical guitar and Tony Lee on drums, and she has released 3 videos with the Maritone Duo. She was accepted to a prestigious Ivy League program sponsored by University of Pennsylvania, the Executive Program in Arts and Culture, and was invited to conduct a multi-day artists residency at East Point Academy and Irmo High School. She was invited to judge the SC All State Guitar Competition; she continues to direct the Southern Guitar Festival (since 2012). Marina Alexandra was listed by the Aaron Shearer Foundation as one of the most influential female classical guitarists in America.

Marcum Core -  Over the past 15 months Marcum Core has realized the following accomplishments and more. In May, Marcum was featured in  Jasper  Magazine. He has released or performed the following: July 12 -  Prolific Vol 1  (Instrumental Album), July 27 -  Vol 2  (Instrumental Album) hosted in August - First Annual Pigeon Party @ The War Mouth (Curated Playlist), September 1 - Featured Artist on WUSC “The Columbia Beet,” September 3 -  Prolific Vol 3  (Instrumental Album) September 26, Oct 5 - FatRat Da Czar released his latest album  ETHX  completely produced by Marcum. October 15 - Bandcamp Exclusive release  Dawgone Shame  (Instrumental Album). In Oct 27, he played for the Seuss Slam and served as the host and background music production for the readers. In November he opened for EZ Shakes and King Vulture (Live Beat Set).

Marcum Core - Over the past 15 months Marcum Core has realized the following accomplishments and more. In May, Marcum was featured in Jasper Magazine. He has released or performed the following: July 12 - Prolific Vol 1 (Instrumental Album), July 27 - Vol 2 (Instrumental Album) hosted in August - First Annual Pigeon Party @ The War Mouth (Curated Playlist), September 1 - Featured Artist on WUSC “The Columbia Beet,” September 3 - Prolific Vol 3 (Instrumental Album) September 26, Oct 5 - FatRat Da Czar released his latest album ETHX completely produced by Marcum. October 15 - Bandcamp Exclusive release Dawgone Shame (Instrumental Album). In Oct 27, he played for the Seuss Slam and served as the host and background music production for the readers. In November he opened for EZ Shakes and King Vulture (Live Beat Set).

Zach Seibert -  Among Zach Seibert’s accomplishments over the past 15 months we include that he formed E.Z. Shakes as a duo the summer of 2017 and released a self-titled EP in August 2017 then went on to expand to a full band and play their debut show with Boo Hag in December 2017. Zach recorded a full-length album in March 2018 at Fidelitorium Recordings in Kernersville, NC, He submitted a video to NPR Tiny Desk competition of the title track "The Wolf" in April 2018 and had the full-length album release of  The Wolf  album in July 2018. He performed in a number of local and regional shows and festivals, both solo and with the band, such as the Jam Room Music Festival September 2018 and he recorded a follow up 7” inch EP titled "Eyes on fire" in the fall of 2018. Zach was also featured on the Kendallprojects podcast in October 2018.

Zach Seibert - Among Zach Seibert’s accomplishments over the past 15 months we include that he formed E.Z. Shakes as a duo the summer of 2017 and released a self-titled EP in August 2017 then went on to expand to a full band and play their debut show with Boo Hag in December 2017. Zach recorded a full-length album in March 2018 at Fidelitorium Recordings in Kernersville, NC, He submitted a video to NPR Tiny Desk competition of the title track "The Wolf" in April 2018 and had the full-length album release of The Wolf album in July 2018. He performed in a number of local and regional shows and festivals, both solo and with the band, such as the Jam Room Music Festival September 2018 and he recorded a follow up 7” inch EP titled "Eyes on fire" in the fall of 2018. Zach was also featured on the Kendallprojects podcast in October 2018.

~THEATRE ~

Michael Hazin -  Michael Hazin has been busy performing in  Rock of Ages  in July 2017, in the title role in  Evil Dead The Musical  in October 2017, the  Love is Love  Cabaret; The Restoration’s  Constance ; The Lexington Festival of the Arts, and as a member of The Mothers for their 2017-2018 season. He is currently rehearsing for  Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Michael Hazin - Michael Hazin has been busy performing in Rock of Ages in July 2017, in the title role in Evil Dead The Musical in October 2017, the Love is Love Cabaret; The Restoration’s Constance; The Lexington Festival of the Arts, and as a member of The Mothers for their 2017-2018 season. He is currently rehearsing for Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Christine Hellman -  Christine Hellman served as a Resident Acting Coach for Workshop Theatre from the Summer 2017 to present. She played Barbara in  Barbecue  at Trustus Theatre, Juliet in  Romeo and Juliet  at Columbia Children’s Theatre in the fall of 2017, Jan in  Speech and Debate  at the Lab Theatre at University of South Carolina in the fall of 2017, as well as multiple roles in  String of Pearls  at Workshop Theatre in the fall of 2017. In  Misery Is Optional – Recollections of Recovery , Christine served as the co-playwright, actor, and winner of the Harbison incubator grant (Feb 2018), which was given a special run at Trustus (September 2018) and at TedX Columbia (October 2018). Christine put together  Girls Out Loud  (in collaboration with Ilene Fins), an acting workshop and all-female exploration of Shakespeare about finding our voice in this world through classic text. Christine also became the Intimacy Liaison, Compliance Coordinator in October 2018 at Trustus Theatre, working with the cast, crew, and director of every show at Trustus Theatre to help ensure and facilitate consent in moments of intimacy during rehearsals and performances, implementing (with Chad Henderson) the Chicago Theatre Standards as compliance coordinator.

Christine Hellman - Christine Hellman served as a Resident Acting Coach for Workshop Theatre from the Summer 2017 to present. She played Barbara in Barbecue at Trustus Theatre, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at Columbia Children’s Theatre in the fall of 2017, Jan in Speech and Debate at the Lab Theatre at University of South Carolina in the fall of 2017, as well as multiple roles in String of Pearls at Workshop Theatre in the fall of 2017. In Misery Is Optional – Recollections of Recovery, Christine served as the co-playwright, actor, and winner of the Harbison incubator grant (Feb 2018), which was given a special run at Trustus (September 2018) and at TedX Columbia (October 2018). Christine put together Girls Out Loud (in collaboration with Ilene Fins), an acting workshop and all-female exploration of Shakespeare about finding our voice in this world through classic text. Christine also became the Intimacy Liaison, Compliance Coordinator in October 2018 at Trustus Theatre, working with the cast, crew, and director of every show at Trustus Theatre to help ensure and facilitate consent in moments of intimacy during rehearsals and performances, implementing (with Chad Henderson) the Chicago Theatre Standards as compliance coordinator.

Darion McCloud -  Darion McCloud played MacDuff in SC Shakespeare Company’s production of  MacBeth  in Finlay Park in October 2018. And he co-wrote, directed, acted in, and designed a one man show,  Fireflies: A Dave the Potter Story  - with an education grant provided by the SC Arts Commission. In  The Gift That Ran Away/Carnival of Animals , Darion wrote, directed, acted in and partnered with the SC Philharmonic and Richland School District One an original theatrical companion piece written by Darion to help introduce kids to orchestra instruments (think  Peter and the Wolf  meets Mr. Rogers). Darion co-wrote and directed an NiA production for families at Edventure called  WHATCHAMACALLIT!!!  and he directed a staged reading of  The Drama of King Shotaway  by playwright/USC professor Marvin MacCallister in February 2018. As a storyteller and performance artist, Darion performed in Augusta Baker’s Storytelling Festival as well as in Storyfest, participating as individual teller (over twenty years) and also directing and acting in NiA’s reader’s theatre performance based on children’s literature, as well as in Pigskin Poets, through a partnership with Richland Library, where he is also the creator and emcee of an annual event bringing together the USC Football team, families, storytelling , and children’s literature. He performed in NiA’s  HOLLA!!!@The Eclipse,  Newberry Opera House in August 2017, directed NiA’s production of  A Song For Coretta  by Pearl Cleage, Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, as well as Storytelling in many locales throughout the state including Colleton, Columbia, Camden, and more. Darion was awarded the Andrew Billingsley Community Leadership Award by the University of South Carolina African American Studies Program and Institute for Families in Society in November 2018. He emceed the March for Our Lives event at the Statehouse, March 2018, became an Indie Grits Fellow in 2018, co-wrote and directed community theatre project for Indie Grits Festival addressing gentrification, called  DISSONANCE  in April 2018. Storyfest-directing and acting in NiA’s reader’s theatre based on children’s literature through a State Library partnership, participated in the Read to Succeed in partnership with SC Governor’s School, Williamsburg County School District, and SC Arts Commission. He was also one of five theatre educators using children’s literature and theatre practices to address (Summer Slide) literacy as part of a new arts education initiative. In the All American City competition City Project, he co-wrote with musician and USC professor David Cutler and directed 13 city employees in an original theatre piece in Denver, Colorado. Darion served in school residencies in the following institutions: Allendale Elementary-Allendale/Fairfax Forest Hills Elementary-Walterboro, Camden Elementary-Camden, Doby’s Mill-Kershaw, Forest Heights-Columbia, and Gadsden Elementary-Gadsden.

Darion McCloud - Darion McCloud played MacDuff in SC Shakespeare Company’s production of MacBeth in Finlay Park in October 2018. And he co-wrote, directed, acted in, and designed a one man show, Fireflies: A Dave the Potter Story - with an education grant provided by the SC Arts Commission. In The Gift That Ran Away/Carnival of Animals, Darion wrote, directed, acted in and partnered with the SC Philharmonic and Richland School District One an original theatrical companion piece written by Darion to help introduce kids to orchestra instruments (think Peter and the Wolf meets Mr. Rogers). Darion co-wrote and directed an NiA production for families at Edventure called WHATCHAMACALLIT!!! and he directed a staged reading of The Drama of King Shotaway by playwright/USC professor Marvin MacCallister in February 2018. As a storyteller and performance artist, Darion performed in Augusta Baker’s Storytelling Festival as well as in Storyfest, participating as individual teller (over twenty years) and also directing and acting in NiA’s reader’s theatre performance based on children’s literature, as well as in Pigskin Poets, through a partnership with Richland Library, where he is also the creator and emcee of an annual event bringing together the USC Football team, families, storytelling , and children’s literature. He performed in NiA’s HOLLA!!!@The Eclipse, Newberry Opera House in August 2017, directed NiA’s production of A Song For Coretta by Pearl Cleage, Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, as well as Storytelling in many locales throughout the state including Colleton, Columbia, Camden, and more. Darion was awarded the Andrew Billingsley Community Leadership Award by the University of South Carolina African American Studies Program and Institute for Families in Society in November 2018. He emceed the March for Our Lives event at the Statehouse, March 2018, became an Indie Grits Fellow in 2018, co-wrote and directed community theatre project for Indie Grits Festival addressing gentrification, called DISSONANCE in April 2018. Storyfest-directing and acting in NiA’s reader’s theatre based on children’s literature through a State Library partnership, participated in the Read to Succeed in partnership with SC Governor’s School, Williamsburg County School District, and SC Arts Commission. He was also one of five theatre educators using children’s literature and theatre practices to address (Summer Slide) literacy as part of a new arts education initiative. In the All American City competition City Project, he co-wrote with musician and USC professor David Cutler and directed 13 city employees in an original theatre piece in Denver, Colorado. Darion served in school residencies in the following institutions: Allendale Elementary-Allendale/Fairfax Forest Hills Elementary-Walterboro, Camden Elementary-Camden, Doby’s Mill-Kershaw, Forest Heights-Columbia, and Gadsden Elementary-Gadsden.

~ VISUAL ARTS ~

Trahern Cook -  Trahern Cook is a plein air artist who has become a part of the Columbia area arts events landscape by setting up his easel, popping on his porkpie hat, and painting the life of the city. Trahern had this to say about his work over the past 15 months: “I have the privilege of getting up every day and painting. I paint in my hometown and all over the United States. Connecting with people where they are and sharing their stories through my paintings is what speaks to my soul right now. My paintings are experiential and relational. I endeavor to find and share sanctuary with as many of my fellow citizens as possible. In the last year the easel has been my old wooden vessel that's carried me to many different sanctuaries, but all tell a uniting story. That most of us are all looking for the same thing; love, friendship, family, and a place to chill for a bit to mend the soul. When I can share that through my work, there's no greater fulfillment.”

Trahern Cook - Trahern Cook is a plein air artist who has become a part of the Columbia area arts events landscape by setting up his easel, popping on his porkpie hat, and painting the life of the city. Trahern had this to say about his work over the past 15 months: “I have the privilege of getting up every day and painting. I paint in my hometown and all over the United States. Connecting with people where they are and sharing their stories through my paintings is what speaks to my soul right now. My paintings are experiential and relational. I endeavor to find and share sanctuary with as many of my fellow citizens as possible. In the last year the easel has been my old wooden vessel that's carried me to many different sanctuaries, but all tell a uniting story. That most of us are all looking for the same thing; love, friendship, family, and a place to chill for a bit to mend the soul. When I can share that through my work, there's no greater fulfillment.”

Flavia Lovatelli -  In addition to being a member of the Operation Bedroll Steering Committee for Columbia’s Homeless project, which organizes and teaches the community to create plarn (plastic yarn) out of recycled shopping bags and crotchet bedrolls, Flavia is the founder of Art Ecologie Group which organizes the yearly ecoFAB Trash Couture. Since last July her work as been accepted into Time for Art Gala - COR Awards at the Columbia Museum of Art, Craft Hilton Head 2018 at the Art League Gallery in Hilton Head Island, SC, Inspirations - Webster Arts Center in Webster Groves, MO, The Winter Show Exhibition - GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro NC, the 30th Anniversary Juried Show - South Carolina State Museum, and was the main attraction at the Deja Vu Show for the 30th anniversary Gala fundraiser for Anderson Art Center. Her Re-Current show exhibited for the month of November in Anderson, SC, and showed at Guinan Gallery at The Art Institute of Charlotte, NC, at an Art Residency - Midlands Arts Conservatoy, at an exhibition at Tapp’s Art Center, at Recycle 2018 Art Exhibition - BWAC Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. At ArtFields 2018 she showed “The Great Barrier” in Lake City, SC and later at the Motor Supply Company Bistro. She also had the ReInvented Solo Show at the Bullpen Gallery at the Gaston City Museum of Art, Denver NC. She also showed “Free for All” at the Hart Witzen Gallery in Charlotte, NC. “The Great Barrier” was the culmination of a three-month Residency at Tapp’s Art Center. An installation made entirely of recycled plastic and paper depicting the Great Barrier Reef that is dying due to pollution and global warming, the piece offers a message to invoke the help of our community in becoming more conscientious in curbing our wasteful living. She also participated in Figure Out 2017, a Planned Parenthood Fundraiser at Tapp's Art Center and LookOut 2017 for AOA - National Outdoor Advertisers Convention, New Orleans LA. Flavia was commissioned 15 garments made with recycled billboard vinyl of their top clients.

Flavia Lovatelli - In addition to being a member of the Operation Bedroll Steering Committee for Columbia’s Homeless project, which organizes and teaches the community to create plarn (plastic yarn) out of recycled shopping bags and crotchet bedrolls, Flavia is the founder of Art Ecologie Group which organizes the yearly ecoFAB Trash Couture. Since last July her work as been accepted into Time for Art Gala - COR Awards at the Columbia Museum of Art, Craft Hilton Head 2018 at the Art League Gallery in Hilton Head Island, SC, Inspirations - Webster Arts Center in Webster Groves, MO, The Winter Show Exhibition - GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro NC, the 30th Anniversary Juried Show - South Carolina State Museum, and was the main attraction at the Deja Vu Show for the 30th anniversary Gala fundraiser for Anderson Art Center. Her Re-Current show exhibited for the month of November in Anderson, SC, and showed at Guinan Gallery at The Art Institute of Charlotte, NC, at an Art Residency - Midlands Arts Conservatoy, at an exhibition at Tapp’s Art Center, at Recycle 2018 Art Exhibition - BWAC Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. At ArtFields 2018 she showed “The Great Barrier” in Lake City, SC and later at the Motor Supply Company Bistro. She also had the ReInvented Solo Show at the Bullpen Gallery at the Gaston City Museum of Art, Denver NC. She also showed “Free for All” at the Hart Witzen Gallery in Charlotte, NC. “The Great Barrier” was the culmination of a three-month Residency at Tapp’s Art Center. An installation made entirely of recycled plastic and paper depicting the Great Barrier Reef that is dying due to pollution and global warming, the piece offers a message to invoke the help of our community in becoming more conscientious in curbing our wasteful living. She also participated in Figure Out 2017, a Planned Parenthood Fundraiser at Tapp's Art Center and LookOut 2017 for AOA - National Outdoor Advertisers Convention, New Orleans LA. Flavia was commissioned 15 garments made with recycled billboard vinyl of their top clients.

Andy White -  Andy White says the list of his accomplishments over the past year or so doesn’t “capture how I've grown as an artist over the past year (thanks in part to the support and encouragement I receive from our local arts community). His sculpture “Call It In” was awarded First Place in the 3D category at the Rosewood Art and Music Festival (September 2017) and he contributed a piece ("Old Ben") to the Columbia Zoo's ZooFari fundraiser (September 2017). His sculpture (“The First Owl”) won first place in the professional sculpture division at the South Carolina State Fair (October 2017) and he was featured in a story by Rachel Haynie ( “Andy White: Ex-scrap-olator” ) in Columbia Living Magazine (November 2017). Andy was also featured in a story by Nic Jones (“Making Something from Nothing”) broadcasted on WLTX (March 2018). He produced a large seahorse sculpture (“Rocket Queen” ) for the first Kinetic Derby Day in West Columbia (April 2018) and built "The Rabbit Hole" for the Tapp's Invitational Mini-Golf Tournament (April 2018). He competed in ArtFields 2018 with his piece “Beauty and Grace” (May 2018) and was one of the featured artists at the 2018 Theoretical Archaeology Group conference at the University of Florida (May 2018). He had three pieces at the 2018 ecoFAB/Re-Current shows at Tapp’s (June 2018) and his sculpture (“My Father’s Hammer”) won first place in the professional sculpture division at the South Carolina State Fair (October 2018).

Andy White - Andy White says the list of his accomplishments over the past year or so doesn’t “capture how I've grown as an artist over the past year (thanks in part to the support and encouragement I receive from our local arts community). His sculpture “Call It In” was awarded First Place in the 3D category at the Rosewood Art and Music Festival (September 2017) and he contributed a piece ("Old Ben") to the Columbia Zoo's ZooFari fundraiser (September 2017). His sculpture (“The First Owl”) won first place in the professional sculpture division at the South Carolina State Fair (October 2017) and he was featured in a story by Rachel Haynie ( “Andy White: Ex-scrap-olator” ) in Columbia Living Magazine (November 2017). Andy was also featured in a story by Nic Jones (“Making Something from Nothing”) broadcasted on WLTX (March 2018). He produced a large seahorse sculpture (“Rocket Queen” ) for the first Kinetic Derby Day in West Columbia (April 2018) and built "The Rabbit Hole" for the Tapp's Invitational Mini-Golf Tournament (April 2018). He competed in ArtFields 2018 with his piece “Beauty and Grace” (May 2018) and was one of the featured artists at the 2018 Theoretical Archaeology Group conference at the University of Florida (May 2018). He had three pieces at the 2018 ecoFAB/Re-Current shows at Tapp’s (June 2018) and his sculpture (“My Father’s Hammer”) won first place in the professional sculpture division at the South Carolina State Fair (October 2018).

~ LITERARY ARTS ~

Libby Bernadin -  For several years Libby has worked with Susan L. Meyers and Linda Ketron on the Tea & Poetry series, which Susan turned over to Libby prior to her death. From January to April of 2018, she, along with her co-facilitator, Cliff Saunders, invited poets and organized the monthly readings. Libby will continue with this endeavor through 2020. She is a life member of the Board of Governors of the SC Academy of Authors and a member of the Poetry Society of SC and the NC Poetry Society. In the last year she judged grades 3-6 poem entries for the SC State Library. In March of 2018 she presented a workshop for students attending the Montessori School at Pawleys Island. While she now lives in Georgetown, she has an apartment in Columbia and spends time frequently here. Bernadin is retired from teaching at the University of South Carolina-Columbia but continues to present workshops at the Waccamaw Library. Poems accepted from July 2017 to July 2018 include  2018 Poetry Society of South Carolina Yearbook : “Habitat, Home, Harbor,”  2017 Poetry Society Yearbook : 2nd Place in The Gertrude Munzenmaier Prize, not published in Yearbook, “Black-eyed Susan” --  Free State ; “Grief Works It’s Way” in the Summer Issue, 2018 of  Anthology: Archive SC Poetry Since 2005 (Published in 2018 ); Transmigration” (First published in Pinesong, nominated for a Pushcart Prize); “After your funeral” (First published in Kakalak) -  South Carolina Voices: Poetry and Prose (2018);  and “Transmigration” - The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics (ed. Diana Lockward, 2018, Poem accepted in Summer)- book:  STONES RIPE FOR SOWING  (Press 53, 2018).

Libby Bernadin - For several years Libby has worked with Susan L. Meyers and Linda Ketron on the Tea & Poetry series, which Susan turned over to Libby prior to her death. From January to April of 2018, she, along with her co-facilitator, Cliff Saunders, invited poets and organized the monthly readings. Libby will continue with this endeavor through 2020. She is a life member of the Board of Governors of the SC Academy of Authors and a member of the Poetry Society of SC and the NC Poetry Society. In the last year she judged grades 3-6 poem entries for the SC State Library. In March of 2018 she presented a workshop for students attending the Montessori School at Pawleys Island. While she now lives in Georgetown, she has an apartment in Columbia and spends time frequently here. Bernadin is retired from teaching at the University of South Carolina-Columbia but continues to present workshops at the Waccamaw Library. Poems accepted from July 2017 to July 2018 include 2018 Poetry Society of South Carolina Yearbook: “Habitat, Home, Harbor,” 2017 Poetry Society Yearbook: 2nd Place in The Gertrude Munzenmaier Prize, not published in Yearbook, “Black-eyed Susan” -- Free State; “Grief Works It’s Way” in the Summer Issue, 2018 of Anthology: Archive SC Poetry Since 2005 (Published in 2018); Transmigration” (First published in Pinesong, nominated for a Pushcart Prize); “After your funeral” (First published in Kakalak) - South Carolina Voices: Poetry and Prose (2018); and “Transmigration” - The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics (ed. Diana Lockward, 2018, Poem accepted in Summer)- book: STONES RIPE FOR SOWING (Press 53, 2018).

Tim Conroy -  Tim’s recent literary accomplishments include his first collection of poetry,  Theologies of Terrain , being published by Muddy Ford Press and edited by Ed Madden as part of the Laureate Series late in the summer 2017. Tim wrote the introduction for  Blue Mountain Review  Issue 10 and, in that issue, his poem “Assurances” was republished. Tim’s poems “Last Call” and “Water Aerobics” were also published in  Blue Mountain Review  Issue 11, and his essay “The Great Yes” was included in  Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy,  published by UGA Press. Tim’s narrative poem “Home Fires” was published in  Fall Lines Volume V  and his poem “Columbia: A Convergence” was published in the most recent iteration of  Poetry on The Comet: Two Cities . Tim wrote and read 11 original poems responding to the permanent collection of the Columbia Museum of Art for their Write Around Series arranged by the Poet in Residence at the CMA, Ray McManus, this fall. He performed at The Local and gave a presentation on conviction to students at University of South Carolina-Beaufort for Professor Ellen Malphrus' class in October 2018. He participated in the Pat Conroy Literary Center Educational Outreach Series and Pat Conroy's Great Love of Poetry Presentation at the Irmo Library Branch in Columbia, SC, as well as the Kick-Start Poetry Month Annual Series at the Hilton Head Library. Other events include the Poetry of Andrew Clark, Tim Conroy, Kacy Jones, Susan Madison, Bill Newby, Meryl Newell, Elizabeth Robin, Guitar and original songs by Denny Baer; the March Forth on March Fourth Series; Pat Conroy Literary Center With Nikky Finney, Tim Conroy, Anthony Grooms, J. Drew Lanham, and Cassandra King Conroy; Deckle Edge Literary Festival on “Editor and Poet: A Presentation by Ed Madden and Tim Conroy”; The Moveable Feast Event at the Burry Book Store in Hartsville, S.C.; the Fall Lines Volume 5 release and reading; at the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in a Poetry Reading with Tim Conroy, Kate Daniels, Ray McManus, and Daniel Cross Turner, and Adam Vines in Beaufort; a Cool Beans Poetry Reading as the featured Poet with featured singer-songwriter Lang Owen; in Bones of the Spirit with poets Michael Murray and Nicola Waldron. Tim was interviewed by Clifford Brooks and the story was published in the Blue Mountain Review; by Emily Chavez in the  Daily Gamecock ; on Henry McCarthy’s radio show, Poets and Writers, at the 2017 Pat Conroy Literary Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina and again a year later. He enjoyed A Public Conversation with Cassandra King about Pat Conroy and by Margaret Evans, editor for the Low Country Weekly and on  Walter Edgar’s Journal  which originally aired on 1/12/17.

Tim Conroy - Tim’s recent literary accomplishments include his first collection of poetry, Theologies of Terrain, being published by Muddy Ford Press and edited by Ed Madden as part of the Laureate Series late in the summer 2017. Tim wrote the introduction for Blue Mountain Review Issue 10 and, in that issue, his poem “Assurances” was republished. Tim’s poems “Last Call” and “Water Aerobics” were also published in Blue Mountain Review Issue 11, and his essay “The Great Yes” was included in Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy, published by UGA Press. Tim’s narrative poem “Home Fires” was published in Fall Lines Volume V and his poem “Columbia: A Convergence” was published in the most recent iteration of Poetry on The Comet: Two Cities. Tim wrote and read 11 original poems responding to the permanent collection of the Columbia Museum of Art for their Write Around Series arranged by the Poet in Residence at the CMA, Ray McManus, this fall. He performed at The Local and gave a presentation on conviction to students at University of South Carolina-Beaufort for Professor Ellen Malphrus' class in October 2018. He participated in the Pat Conroy Literary Center Educational Outreach Series and Pat Conroy's Great Love of Poetry Presentation at the Irmo Library Branch in Columbia, SC, as well as the Kick-Start Poetry Month Annual Series at the Hilton Head Library. Other events include the Poetry of Andrew Clark, Tim Conroy, Kacy Jones, Susan Madison, Bill Newby, Meryl Newell, Elizabeth Robin, Guitar and original songs by Denny Baer; the March Forth on March Fourth Series; Pat Conroy Literary Center With Nikky Finney, Tim Conroy, Anthony Grooms, J. Drew Lanham, and Cassandra King Conroy; Deckle Edge Literary Festival on “Editor and Poet: A Presentation by Ed Madden and Tim Conroy”; The Moveable Feast Event at the Burry Book Store in Hartsville, S.C.; the Fall Lines Volume 5 release and reading; at the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in a Poetry Reading with Tim Conroy, Kate Daniels, Ray McManus, and Daniel Cross Turner, and Adam Vines in Beaufort; a Cool Beans Poetry Reading as the featured Poet with featured singer-songwriter Lang Owen; in Bones of the Spirit with poets Michael Murray and Nicola Waldron. Tim was interviewed by Clifford Brooks and the story was published in the Blue Mountain Review; by Emily Chavez in the Daily Gamecock; on Henry McCarthy’s radio show, Poets and Writers, at the 2017 Pat Conroy Literary Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina and again a year later. He enjoyed A Public Conversation with Cassandra King about Pat Conroy and by Margaret Evans, editor for the Low Country Weekly and on Walter Edgar’s Journal which originally aired on 1/12/17.

Monifa Lemons -  Among Monifa’s many activities and contributions this past year we will find her work at Girltrek Storyteller, Poety vs Hip Hop Feature, a feature in  Jasper  Magazine, a feature on ETV classroom, and Typewriter Poetry at the Statehouse. Monifa opened for MC Lyte at the Love, Peace and Hip Hop festival and she served on a panel and did a reading at Deckle Edge Literary Festival. She was the Coordinator and Host of The Watering Hole Winter Retreat, the Curator of Poetry Performances and Reader at the Brian Stevenson event at Township Auditorium, the Facilitator at Writer's Well Poetry Retreat for Teen Girls, a Judge for State Library Poetry Contest for teens, an Art Therapist SC Department of Corrections, and she published in  Sinister Wisdom .

Monifa Lemons - Among Monifa’s many activities and contributions this past year we will find her work at Girltrek Storyteller, Poety vs Hip Hop Feature, a feature in Jasper Magazine, a feature on ETV classroom, and Typewriter Poetry at the Statehouse. Monifa opened for MC Lyte at the Love, Peace and Hip Hop festival and she served on a panel and did a reading at Deckle Edge Literary Festival. She was the Coordinator and Host of The Watering Hole Winter Retreat, the Curator of Poetry Performances and Reader at the Brian Stevenson event at Township Auditorium, the Facilitator at Writer's Well Poetry Retreat for Teen Girls, a Judge for State Library Poetry Contest for teens, an Art Therapist SC Department of Corrections, and she published in Sinister Wisdom.

NOW IT’S ALL UP TO YOU —

GO TO

http://jasperproject.org/2018-jasper-artists-of-the-year

AND VOTE YOUR GUT!

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Ginny Merett Wins Jasper's Time for Art Best in Show Award

Congratulations

Ginny Merett!

Corsage by Ginny Merett

Corsage by Ginny Merett

Jasper congratulates artist Ginny Merett on winning The Jasper Project Time for Art Best in Show Award on Saturday night, December 8th, at the Time for Art Gala, presented by COR at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Merett’s work, Corsage, was unanimously chosen by the judges from the works by 14 artists who had been selected by the Jasper Project to be honored at the event. The judges remarked on the painting’s “unique attention to detail and dedication to the artist’s innovative aesthetic” as well as her “vivid choice of color palette.” Jasper will explore more of Merett’s work in the spring issue of Jasper Magazine.

Other honored artists selected by The Jasper Project include Kathryn Van Aernum, Michael Krakewski, Olga Yukhno, Sharon Collings Licata, Pat Gilmartin, Flavia Lovatelli, Sean Rayford, Lucas Sams, Thomas Washington, Herman Keith, Keith Tolen, Jan Swanson, and Cedric Umoja. Through an arrangement with the Jasper Project COR purchased a piece of art from each of these artists at an artist-stated fair market rate then auctioned the art pieces for a volunteer hour currency at the Saturday night gala.

~~~~

Artist Statement, Ginny Merett: I never forget a face. There are no two alike. I’m inspired by the faces in my grandmother’s 1920s photo albums, faces of strong women and ordinary faces in the crowd. Using collage techniques, I create new faces and personalities that focus on eye-to-eye contact, and the connection between the viewer and my work. Collage is tactile. I get to feel every piece of paper in several ways. Tear. Cut. Glue. Embellish. I plan and gather my color palette from found papers just like a painter gathers paint. I glue papers as varied as maps, sheet music and pages from old textbooks to fill in all areas. Once the glue has dried, I outline each shape to show emphasis and unity. I’m reserved yet my art is loud and gaudy and complex. This is my alter ego. My art is me on the inside.

 

Artist Bio: 1954) Art has sustained award-winning artist Ginny Merett throughout her life and is the cause for her every success. She studied Art Education at the University of Georgia and earned two masters degrees from The University of South Carolina. She devoted 30+ years to teaching art to children of all ages while developing her style in painting murals, creating watercolor paintings, and drawing portraits in graphite. Currently, Ginny uses collage techniques to create portraits and figurative works of art. Her influences include David Hockney’s 'joiners,' Hannah Hoch’s timeless collages, and the beautiful execution of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. Ginny is a member of FigurativeArtists.org, Trenholm Artist Guild and South Carolina Artists. She lives in Lexington, SC with her two dogs, Bingo and Jack.

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre Provides a Hauntingly Delightful Ride with Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol

 

“Marley was dead to begin with…”
Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”

L to R — Richard Edward III, Kevin Bush, Krista Forster, Jeff Driggers

L to R — Richard Edward III, Kevin Bush, Krista Forster, Jeff Driggers

These six words are well-known by just about anyone who has ever read or seen a production of Dickens’ now-immortal (pun intended) holiday classic. The undeniability of Marley’s having left the realm of the living is also the first point established in Tom Mula’s Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, running through 22 December at Trustus Theatre. As a huge Dickens fan, as well as a Christmas nut, I eagerly anticipated seeing this production, and was not at all disappointed. Time, finances, and practicality usually prevent me from seeing local shows more than once, but I’m going to do my best to catch this gem again before it closes. Like its inspirational predecessor, this is a story with many layers and subtleties beneath the deceptively simple plot, and the combination of acting and directorial skill lives up to Trustus’ long-cemented reputation for professional and artfully crafted work. For those familiar with the BBC series, Dickensian, this script takes a similar approach to the world(s) created by Dickens well over a century ago, and turns perspective on its ear, giving us a glimpse of how certain events came to be, and an intriguing semi-prequel as seen from the viewpoint of a secondary character. (On a side note, if you haven’t seen Dickensian, look for it online. By coincidence, the plot centers around the murder of Jacob Marley, and characters from multiple Dickens novels are interwoven throughout.)

…but, I digress. I’m here to discuss what’s being presented onstage at Trustus, so let’s get to it. As Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol opens, a recently-deceased Marley has arrived in a posthumous waiting room, where he encounters a sort of eternal book-keeper who has tallied up Marley’s good deeds and his sins, with the latter taking up the lion’s share of the ledger. As he is assigned, as Dickens described them, “the chains he forged in life,” Marley realizes that each condemned soul experiences his or her own personal Hell, where a manifestation of one’s particular sins serve as the tools of eternal torture. Marley’s punishment for his heartless greed and miserliness arrive in the traditional form of literal chains, bearing heavy cash boxes and other tools of his ruthless pursuit of wealth as a money-lender. With assistance from a damnation-borne, yet playfully charming sprite called Bogle, he is offered a single chance for escape from his fate; to redeem his partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, whose avarice and cruelty exceeded even Marley’s. (In a cheeky aside, Marley refers to Scrooge as the only man in the world worse than himself.) At first he is reluctant, but a shot at a reprieve is too tempting to resist, so Marley sets out, with Bogle in tow, on what seems an impossible mission. From here, the story takes on a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-esque quality, with familiar scenes and experiences seen through Marley’s eyes. His backstory is provided, and we discover that his childhood was as traumatic and depressing as Scrooge’s, with the two first meeting as teenage employees of Mr. Fezziwig, whom they eventually betray and drive out of business, taking over the firm for themselves. As the show progresses, we realize that Marley was actually all three of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-To-Come, taking on different forms, but all the while witnessing Scrooge’s life choices and literally watching him turn into the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” of A Christmas Carol. Throughout the long night’s journeys, Marley softens on Scrooge, whom he actually despised in real life, and gradually replaces hatred with pity. To avoid a significant spoiler, I will simply say that Marley’s animus was well-placed, as we learn in his death scene, which makes his journey toward compassion all the more effective.

The script makes ample use of Dickens’ dialogue, and tosses in a few subtle references that die-hard fans of the original will enjoy. (“Easter eggs” in a story of Christmas, if you will.) Here I will give away one plot point that is not only clever, but completely changes the context of one of Scrooge’s lines in A Christmas Carol. Another apprentice at Fezziwig’s, Dick Wilkins, is seen cruelly bullying Marley, and it is Scrooge who comes to his defense, eventually leading to Wilkins’ fall into disgrace and penury. While taking Marley’s part in matters, Scrooge explains that he, too, has been bullied by Wilkins, and suggests that the two of them can bring an end to his cruelty as well as his situation. Devotees of the original will recall Scrooge seeing his tormentor in the Christmas Past flashback, and shouting ““Dick Wilkins, to be sure! Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!” (As he was yet to have been reformed, Scrooge’s seemingly affectionate comment takes on a sinister tone when Wilkins’ true nature is revealed in this version.)

The rest of the show follows along fairly closely to the events of the original, with Marley growing more human as he watches Scrooge grow into the ogre he knew in life. It’s certainly no secret that Scrooge eventually repents and changes his ways, so we can assume that Marley manages to escape his torment.

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As for the performances, there isn’t a weak link (pun once again intended) in the show. Kevin Bush, well-known to Columbia audiences, steps outside his usual wheelhouse of lovable and/or sympathetic characters to portray Marley as an absolute scoundrel and hard-edged “bad guy,” retaining a definite gruffness even as his humanity blossoms. Having always been impressed with Bush’s talent, my respect and admiration for his versatility cannot be understated. This is a role unlike any I have ever seen him tackle, and he succeeds as only a true master of his craft can. (He’s also a very nice guy in real life, which made it even more darkly delightful to watch him channel a hateful old bastard like Marley.)

All the other characters are played by three actors who match Bush’s skill and stage presence. Krista Forster’s Bogle manages to be otherworldly, cute, menacing, and fun simultaneously. Her physicality and use of the playing space often suggested the movements of a spider, yet her vocal and facial expressions maintained an undercurrent of saucy friendliness. Bogle is sassy, playful, and hilarious at times, yet always clearly in command of the situation, as well as Marley’s trip through his memories. Forster approaches it subtly, but leaves no doubt that Bogle is in charge and fully at ease, which provides a nice contrast to Marley’s initially stern (but eventually pointless) resistance to his task. Richard Edward III delivers an appropriately nasty and duplicitous Scrooge who is somehow even more tyrannical than Dickens’ character, yet never crosses over the line to caricature. While definitely making the character his own, Edward embodies his role with several Spirits of Scrooge Past (that was the third one, so I promise, no more puns.) Hints of George C. Scott’s interpretation are there, as well as a dash of Albert Finney’s and a moment or two of Kelsey Grammer’s, all connected by the fresh work of Edwards, who obviously did his research and then added his own vision. Jeff Driggers’ Bob Cratchit is as endearing as one would expect, but Driggers somehow makes him more three-dimensional than the too-kindly-to-be-true Cratchit often seen in A Christmas Carol. This Cratchit comes across as more of a decent fellow who has accepted the fact that he must take whatever his employer dishes out, as opposed to a simpering innocent. One of the things that has always perplexed me about Cratchit is his loyalty to Scrooge. Even in 1840s London, demeaning, low-paying jobs were not impossible to find, so why did Cratchit work for the worst employer in the city? Driggers artfully justifies this by adding a slight resignation to his fate, leaving the audience with the impression that while he could likely do better, it just isn’t worth the risk of missing even a few day’s pay, and he has decided to just make the best of his lot. Without giving away which plays whom, which would ruin the fun, I must emphasize that Forster, Edward, and Driggers all bring the same artistry to each of their additional roles.

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On the technical side, Curtis Smoak’s lighting dovetails perfectly with Sam Hetler’s set, which is somewhat minimalist, but definitely evocative of the early Victorian era. As we follow Marley and Bogle, we visit a myriad of locales, which Smoak and Hetler manage to believably create. Costume Designer Jean Lomasto has, as usual, done outstanding work in dressing her actors in period style while maintaining the script’s eccentric nature, and Christine Hellman’s Hair Design deftly supports all of the above. This is a production crew that has obviously communicated well and brought the same sensibilities to each of their creations.

Director Patrick Michael Kelly has cast his show well, assembled a highly-skilled production team, and paced the show briskly, yet allows the actors to take the time they require in the moments where the audience needs to ponder and process what’s happening onstage. The smoothness of the production’s flow, and the undercurrent of suspense in what is, even in forced perspective, a well-known story are testimonials to Kelly’s vision and commitment to treating Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol as the fresh, new(ish) piece that it is.

There are quite a few dark moments, even more so than in the original story, so this may not be the show for pre-teens who still enjoy Frosty and Rudolph, but should delight both Dickens aficionados and those encountering Marley, Scrooge, and the Spirits for the first time. Tickets are sure to sell quickly, so don’t delay in making your reservations for this splendid addition to the holiday canon. (And yes, there’s always wine and popcorn.)

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Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER, and can be reached at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

Artist, Christopher Lane's Exhibition Resist Division Opens December 7 at Frame of Mind

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“Collectively, what I’m trying to say is we throw away 2/3 of what we produce because we’re in such a hurry to produce it,” local artist Christopher Lane passionately speaks on his upcoming art exhibition, “I would like to take 1/3 and give it to the people … there shouldn’t be any reason why anybody is hungry in this country.  There should be no reason why some kids not getting an education.”

 

50-year-old, full-time artist, Christopher Lane, relinquishes a collection of work that reflects on the individual and delivers a message that contains the true form of who we are as a whole, as a community: we are one.  Lane’s exhibition, “Resist Division,” opening Friday December 7, 2018 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Frame of Mind and lasting through January 28, 2019, expresses the desire to accept one another as one in the same and to reach a point of complete equality rather than the cruel reality that we often face: division.

 

“I don’t know if it’s because my family is so diverse.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve made every mistake and I need a break sometimes.  You know, you can throw Winston Churchill in there, ‘divided we fall,’” the artist describes his ideas behind this collection of work, “So, I think it’s just, we’re better together.  We’re all the same, basically.”

 

Lane is aware that we are separated by aspects such as beliefs, race, and geography; however, through his collection, “Resist Division,” he takes notice that we are separated by our unique individuality but we should not be divided.  We all have the same basic rights and we all have needs and desires.  The things that separate us should not also divide us.

 

“ … I went back through Arlington, you know, I went through all the monuments and if you look at all the tombstones it’s like, men and women in there.  And it’s every religion, people that don’t believe in religion, gay people, straight people, whatever,” the artist softly laughs as he describes the monuments he saw coming back from a DC trip, “It’s like, they’re all on there and to me, you know, you’re an American.”

 

Lane studied art at New Mexico University and minored in photography.  He began painting as a child, where he found the trade therapeutic.

 

“I have dyslexia … so, I guess I would paint to kind of escape,” Lane speaks on painting at a young age.

 

Though he began painting at a young age, this collection shows the passion and desire he has developed to create a world where we decide not to let our physical appearances or personal mentalities separate us.  Where we accept the truth, and come together as one.

 

 The artist often paints dreams that he has had, but he gets much of his inspiration from simply watching the news and seeing what’s going on globally.  Though he doesn’t always understand it, he studies it and learns from it, until he can create artwork to represent his discovery.  Here is what Lane passionately describes when asked about the process of creating this collection:

 

“… watching this,” Lane eagerly points to the news running on the TV screen, “… everything’s the same basically… I watch this and it’s like the run off and I’ll see something and I don’t understand it, and I’ll dig into it.  Normally, my first opinion on something when I first see it and I’m really passionate- I’m completely wrong, you know?  And then, if I look at it for a while, then start maybe taking it aside, I realize, ‘well, I understand where they’re coming from and, well, this is what I think,’ and then we talk and then that person goes, ‘well, I didn’t know that was that.’  And when I try to paint, it’s all of that.’  He continues to eagerly express his ideas, “And I don’t know if I’m smart enough to do it …  I don’t know if I can change anybody but I can at least speak and send a message, and maybe it will make the other person think.”

 

As the veteran and current artist describes one of his paintings found in his “Resist Division” exhibition, you can see the fire within him to really send a message and to bring the division that has become our society to one:

 

“That one was like a year ago and they were kind of questioning what a real American is,” Lane points at a painting hanging on his studio wall, “ ... but I was just like, well, what is that?  You know, it’s like, I’m Norwegian.  I’m all Norwegian except for Iroquois Indian, and that’s what that painting is.  You know, am I good enough for you?  Do I qualify?  And it just really made me mad.”

 

 

Lane’s work isn’t just a lovely painting for you to admire.  It is a striking collection of paintings that send a passionate message that not only needs to be heard, but understood.  That is Lanes desire with this exhibition: to share his thoughts through his craft, to share the one truth and to bring a divided world together.

 

“Resist Division,” is an exhibition that all should come together for.  It is a collection that will make you think, make you question and make you reflect.  Reflect not only on the division of our society, but on the constant rush that we seem to live in.  How did things end up this way?  How can we resist division? 

 

 As best said by Christopher Lane, ask yourself this: “What led us here?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Frank Thompson

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There are good kids, there are bad kids…and then there are the Herdman kids. Between community theatre and school productions, most of us are at least passingly familiar with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which has long been a holiday staple for young theatre-goers and their parents. It’s a simple tale about a church Christmas pageant which finds itself with a family of uncontrollable hellions in the cast, the less-than-enthusiastic reception they get from the parish, and the travails of a young boy named Charlie Bradley, who despairs at the invasion of the “horrible Herdman” kids into the one place he has always felt safe from them. Along the way, Charlie and his family deal with all the usual Yuletide hustle and bustle, exacerbated greatly by Charlie’s mother, Grace, being roped into directing the show when the original director suffers a broken leg. (I guess she took the traditional “good luck” wish for theatre people a bit too seriously.) It’s a charming little play, which Columbia Children’s Theatre has taken to a new level of engagement and fun by presenting the relatively-new musical version. Director Jerry Stevenson has assembled a tight, well-rehearsed production that retains the sweet simplicity of the original, while adding a glossy layer of professionalism and energy to what could have all too easily been simply another staging of a holiday chestnut. Having directed the non-musical version myself, I can say without hesitation that the revised musical version is livelier and the characters are more developed and three-dimensional. Stevenson and Musical Director Paul Lindley II have obviously cast thoughtfully, with an eye for acting and an ear for singing, complimented by Lisa Sendler’s energetic and creative choreography. Housed in their new location, (still at Richland Mall, but in a much bigger space downstairs, next door to Barnes & Noble) CCT has more room than before to create an impressive set, complete with hinged flats and moving pieces. Kudos to Scenic Artists Jim Litzinger (who serves double duty as Sound Technician,) Sallie Best, Dawn Cone, Gresham Poole, and Alex Walton, whose design combines a dollhouse’s functionality with a Transformers-style “coolness” factor. The perennial CCT duo of Litzinger and Stevenson both wear multiple hats, as Stevenson, along with Donna Harvey, have assembled a delightful costume plot in which a soupcon of each character is reflected in his or her clothing. The expression “a well-oiled machine” may be cliché, but it describes this production perfectly. From the seasoned pros in the cast to the first-timers, there is never a moment of hesitation or uncertainty, yet the audience is led quite successfully to believe that the events of the show are taking place for the first time, with believable moments of surprise and legitimate responses to the events surrounding them.

Much of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’s success can likely be attributed to CCT’s education program, which is quite clearly providing quality instruction to the next generation of stage performers. To put it simply, these guys (cast and production team) know what they’re doing, and do it well.

In what is pretty much an ensemble piece, it is difficult to single out specific actors and moments as standouts, but there are a few. Many of the roles are double-cast, but I strongly suspect the cast I enjoyed at last Saturday’s 2:00pm performance is indicative of the other cast’s aplomb. In both casts, the role of kindly but frazzled Reverend Hopkins is played by CCT regular, Lee O. Smith, who brings his customary goofy jollity to the role while managing to work in several moments of pastoral sincerity. Jordan Harper is hilariously shrill and shrewish as the injured Helen Armstrong, who manages to assert/insert herself into the proceedings, leaving gentle, non-confrontational Grace to try and direct around Helen’s many suggestions and unwanted “advice.” (I especially enjoyed Stage Manager Mary Miles’uncredited silent role as Helen’s nurse. Having seen Miles as the pretty young ingénue in multiple productions around town, it was a hoot to watch her channel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s scowling Nurse Ratchet.) Despite her character’s passive demeanor, Grace (Courtney Reasoner) gets the opportunity to show off not only her celebrated singing voice, but also a set of acting chops that one seldom finds in younger actors. Along with Henry Melkomian’s Charlie, Sara Jackson’s Beth, and (again, a double-duty pro) Paul Lindley II’s Bob, Grace helps to create a family unit quite reminiscent of the Parkers in A Christmas Story (minus the leg lamp and turkey-snatching Bumpus hounds.) This wink to the film is quite subtle, as are several other in-joke homages to other shows. (I couldn’t suppress a guffaw at Smith’s most frantic moment, when his voice rose two octaves while he ran and flailed his arms in what had to have been a tribute to Kermit the Frog.) Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is referenced, and when all the kids join together to stop the Herdmans from stealing Charlie’s lunch, the steady echo of “take mine!” conjured images of The Hunger Games “I volunteer!” protectiveness. (BTW, the “This Is A Peanut-Free Zone” sign was a nice touch of verisimilitude which immediately established the grade-school lunchroom.)

As for the Herdman kids, (Sarah Krawczyk, Julian Deleon, Annie Varner, Baker Morrison, Cort Stevenson, and Will Varner) each has a spotlight moment or two, but function mostly as a group. At first, this bunch is more of a gang of scroungy street toughs than a set of siblings, yet by the end of the show they have become part of the church family, and seem destined for at least semi-respectability. This transformation always seemed a bit deus ex machina in the non-musical, but an added scene in this version shows us the Herdman home, which is a place of hunger and squalor, with a deceased father and an oft-absent mother who works multiple jobs to (barely) keep the family afloat. When the kids sing in awe over a charity basket of simple food, the audience gets not only an insight to their unhappy lives, but also an explanation for their bad behaviour. To use one of my favourite portmanteau words, the poor urchins are “hangry” most of the time, and have little adult attention or guidance. The gift of food touches their hearts while filling their tummies, which makes the motivation for their softening more understandable.

The score is eclectic and fun, and no matter what your musical tastes may be, you’ll love at least a couple of the songs, which vary in style throughout. (With numbers ranging from country to rock-n-roll to classic musical theatre, and beyond, there’s something for everyone, much in the style of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.) I particularly enjoyed the Doo-Wop 1950s-esque “Take The Job, Grace” and “The Telephone Call,” which could have easily been composed by Lerner and Loewe. Among the handful of adults in the cast are a trio of Church Ladies, who become a quartet when Harper gets the Christmas spirit and lends her outstanding voice to those of Carol Beis, Jill Peltzman, and Kristin Young for a spirited gospel number. Their harmonies are tight, and there’s clearly not a weak singer amongst them.

Stevenson has included several “total immersion” moments, with actors entering and exiting through the aisles, and at one point handing out mini candy canes to the real-life audience, which serves as the church’s congregation. (Having stopped for a coffee on my way to the show, I was especially pleased to receive a peppermint treat.)

With expanded chair-seating for grown-ups and a larger floor-seating area for the little ones, CCT has successfully grown without losing any of the informal warmth of the previous upstairs venue. Stevenson, as usual, greeted the audience with a warm welcoming speech before the show, which always kicks off CCT performances on a cheerful note and informs the audience of upcoming events. (If you have a school-aged daughter who would like to learn stage combat, a class called “Girls Fight” is being offered in the spring.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical may never sit alongside A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker as an immortal holiday classic, but if you’re looking for a fun, upbeat, joyful show for the whole family, head on down to Richland Mall for a sweet confection of a show put on by a dedicated and skilled group of artists. (Tell ‘em the Herdmans sent you.)

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER, and can be contacted at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

Highlighting the Jasper-Selected Artists Being Honored at Time for Art

When COR (Columbia Opportunity Resource) came to Jasper and asked us to help with their annual Time for Art project we were excited to say yes. Time for Art is a unique project in that bidders attending the swanky gala held this year on Saturday, December 8th at the Columbia Museum of Art bid for art not with dollars and cents, but with volunteer hours. Jasper likes the idea of valuing a person in terms of the time they have to offer over the money they have to spend. But we wanted to make sure that the artists whose work is being auctioned are not only paid a fair price for their art, but that the artists themselves are honored for the important contribution they make, not only to the Time for Art event, but also to the Midlands area everyday by practicing their art.

So Jasper agreed to select a panel of artists who we wanted to honor and introduce these artists to the folks at COR, who then purchased or will purchase their art to auction this weekend. In addition to choosing the artists, we also asked that COR treat the artists and their guests to free admission to the gala, that they recognize the artists at the gala and give them a round of applause, and that they allow judges for the Jasper Project to award a Jasper Project Best in Show award consisting of a feature article in the spring issue of Jasper Magazine.

Over the next few days leading up to the gala, Jasper will be highlighting the 14 artists we selected as Time for Art Honorees. Yesterday we highlighted Michael Krajewski, Olga Yukhno, Flavia Lovatelli, Sean Rayford — Here are today’s honorees:

Keith Tolen

Keith Tolen

Keith Tolen is a retired arts educator from Kershaw County who just closed a solo show at Harbison Theatre.

Lucas Sams

Lucas Sams

Lucas Sams studied art at Temple University, the University of SC, and the SC governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities, He lived for a while in Japan.

Kathryn Van Aernum

Kathryn Van Aernum

From Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kathryn Van Aernum is a photographer, painter, visual arts educator, and creativity coach.

Sharon Collings Licata

Sharon Collings Licata

Sharon Collings Licata is a Sculptor/Photographer & Instructor, Shamanic Practitioner, Sand a member of the faculty for SC Faculty for Foundation For Shamanic Studies.

When COR (Columbia Opportunity Resource) came to Jasper and asked us to help with their annual Time for Art project we were excited to say yes. Time for Art is a unique project in that bidders attending the swanky gala held this year on Saturday, December 8th at the Columbia Museum of Art bid for art not with dollars and cents, but with volunteer hours. Jasper likes the idea of valuing a person in terms of the time they have to offer over the money they have to spend. But we wanted to make sure that the artists whose work is being auctioned are not only paid a fair price for their art, but that the artists themselves are honored for the important contribution they make, not only to the Time for Art event, but also to the Midlands area everyday by practicing their art.

So Jasper agreed to select a panel of artists who we wanted to honor and introduce these artists to the folks at COR, who then purchased or will purchase their art to auction this weekend. In addition to choosing the artists, we also asked that COR treat the artists and their guests to free admission to the gala, that they recognize the artists at the gala and give them a round of applause, and that they allow judges for the Jasper Project to award a Jasper Project Best in Show award consisting of a feature article in the spring issue of Jasper Magazine.

Over the next few days leading up to the gala, Jasper will be highlighting the 14 artists we selected as Time for Art Honorees. Here are today’s honorees:

Michael Krajewski

Michael Krajewski

Michael Krajewski has been a part of the Columbia arts scene for almost a decade now, always advancing an avant garde aesthetic that keeps his patrons and fellow artists fascinated by his imaginative take on the world.

Flavia Lovatelli

Flavia Lovatelli

Flavia Lovatelli, originally from Northern Italy, is a sustainability artist and founder of the art Ecologie Group which brings us the annual EcoFab Trash Couture Fashion show. She is also a finalist for this year’s Jasper Artist of the Year in Visual Arts.

Sean Rayford

Sean Rayford

Sean is a photojournalist and art photographer who recently returned from Tijuana where he was covering the immigration clashes on the border. Sean is a former Jasper Artist of the Year in Visual Arts.

Olga Yukhno

Olga Yukhno

Olga Yukhno is a Russian transplant to Columbia where she practices ceramic arts. Olga is this month’s featured artist in Jasper’s Tiny Gallery Series and her work will be exhibited and for sale during First Thursday at Tapp’s Arts Center in Studio #7. She was also just named as the newest artist in residence at Tapp’s.

Chapin Theatre Company Scores Yuletide Points with "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

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“If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”

-          Charles M. Schulz

 

Ah! The Christmas season! A time for frantically shopping, decorating the house, attending holiday pageants and concerts, and generally working one’s self into a frenzy over creating the “perfect” Christmas experience. In our quest to achieve these goals, we often lose sight of the joy, warmth, and simple times that can bring us the greatest satisfaction. PEANUTS  creator, Charles Schulz, understood that the foibles and absurdities of human behaviour are universal, and that laughing at one’s own folly is not only good for the psyche, but also for the soul.

On 9 December, 1965, television viewers were introduced to the first animated special featuring Charlie Brown and the gang. A Charlie Brown Christmas was an immediate hit, and the cartoon has become a staple of “gather-the-family” holiday viewing. Though most of us will watch the TV special at least once this year, I encourage anyone who loves it (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) to check out Chapin Theatre Company’s live-action adaptation. The stage play is almost identical to the original, with maybe a few lines changed here and there, but very few. Purists will be pleased, and others (like yours truly) will feel the excitement of a scavenger hunt when catching the occasional rewrite or added dialogue.

The story is so well-known, it hardly bears repeating, but just in case, here’s the plot in a nutshell: Charlie Brown is depressed at his mid-December inability to find the Christmas spirit, so he turns to his friends, most of whom are caught up in the commercialism and benign greed that was, over 50 years ago, already beginning to overtake the holiday. After an unsuccessful visit with Lucy at her Psychiatric booth (“five cents, please,”) Charlie Brown finds hope when he is invited to direct the annual nativity play. Tasked with finding a tree, Charlie Brown and Linus set out for the market, where they come across a sad, droopy, little tree. Recognizing a fellow outcast, Charlie Brown brings his glorified pine branch back to rehearsal, where it is ridiculed by the rest of the cast. Linus speaks a few words from the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus, and then further lifts Charlie Brown’s spirits by bringing everyone together to decorate the tree, which miraculously becomes a vision of beauty. (And yes, they all sing “loo loo loo, loo loo loo loo loo” at the end.)

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Directors Meesh Hayes and Beth Strickland have created a beautiful homage to Schulz’s distinctive style, yet bring a few touches of their own to keep the story fresh. Kudos also to Costume Designer Tiffany Dinsmore for her nigh-upon-identical costumes that immediately evoke the cartoon, and Scenic Designer Bill Botts, who clearly went to great lengths to honour Schulz’s signature slightly wobbly line-drawing style, on everything from Snoopy’s doghouse to the 60’s “mod” holiday trees on display. This show and its spirit clearly aim to celebrate what inspired its creation.

An interesting side note: when auditions were held, all ages of children and adults were encouraged to audition, as Hayes and Strickland were open to a grown-up cast as well as a youthful one. In the end, the “teens and tweens” were chosen; a decision with which I heartily agree, having seen more than one fifty-something Linus dispensing wisdom to a Charlie Brown with slightly greying facial hair in various productions of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. This is not to suggest that adults can’t present an enjoyable evening with the PEANUTS kids, but seeing actors at or relatively near the characters’ ages added a specific twinkle of holiday cheer to the show.

The performances were uniformly solid, and I honestly bought into the show’s reality, essentially forgetting that these kids were born well after I graduated college. Audrey Thomas (Charlie Brown) and Michaela Grindstaff (Linus) make their trouser-role casting work beautifully, and while neither disguises the fact that they’re girls in real life, they embrace the characters with honesty and sincerity, making their actual genders immaterial. I saw Charlie Brown and Linus, period. They acted the roles as written, and succeeded. (I particularly loved the nod to the TV special, when Linus pronounces “…and they were so afraid” as “…and they were sore afraid.”) Lauren Bailey’s Lucy is just as cynical and hard-boiled as her comic strip counterpart, yet allows a touch of humanity to shine through. Juliana Mays (Sally) has only a few lines, but brings down the house when she asks Santa for money for Christmas, “preferably tens and twenties,” to be exact, and Skylar Raynor clearly has a blast in the role of Snoopy, with ever-faithful Woodstock (Ellee Burrows) in tow. The rest of the cast is talented, well-rehearsed, and maintain character(s) throughout.

By now you may be wondering “why go and see it if it’s the same as the cartoon?” To this I would answer that the stage play is professionally presented by an extremely talented group of young actors who deserve to be seen; a sentiment many seem to share, as a few upcoming performances have already sold out. It’s a bit of a drive out to the Firehouse Theatre (about half an hour from downtown Columbia,) but worth the trip.

On a personal note, I will add that the folks out at Chapin Community Theatre are welcoming, friendly, and proud of the work they’re doing. Before the show, I went to buy a hot chocolate, only to learn that credit/debit cards are not accepted. At the interval, a very kind lady asked if she could buy me a hot chocolate, apologizing for the lack of a credit card machine. That’s hospitality. That’s Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas runs through this weekend, but you’d better hurry if you want tickets, as they’re going fast. Perhaps that’s because it’s not only a good production, but one that allows adults (and even some kids) to laugh at the qualities they share with Charlie Brown and the rest of Schulz’s assemblage of mini-adults. Merry Christmas, Mr. Schulz. You got your wish.

To reserve tickets, you can ring CCT on 803. 240. 8544, or email ChapinTheatre@att.net. . I saw “Cast Snoopy,” which features a few double-cast roles with “Cast Woodstock,” so if you’re going to see a specific actor, you may want to double-check the schedule.

 

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER, and can be reached at FLT31230@yahoo.com

Olga Yukhno Featured in December's Tiny Gallery Series

Thursday Night December 6th

6 - 9 pm

Jasper Studio #7 at Tapp’s Arts Center

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The Jasper Project’s Tiny Gallery Series returns this Thursday night —always for First Thursdays — with an installation of 3D art from Olga Yukhno, who Hallie Hayes profiled earlier this fall. Yukhno is bringing a collection of both jewelry and objet d’art purposefully selected for exhibition based on their unique and innovative designs but also on the exciting holiday presents they will make for those on the discerning givers’ lists.

We caught up with Olga and asked her a few questions about this upcoming show.

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Jasper: From an earlier conversation with you we know that you are from Russia and have been in the states about 10 years. Can you specifically reflect on your time in Columbia and tell us how you've grown as an artist and who has influenced you the most in terms of your growth?

 

Olga: My time in Columbia has been challenging at times- it’s very hard to change countries, cultures and even art media. However, I’m tremendously grateful that I faced and was able to overcome such challenges as this process made me a better artist and, I hope, a better human being.

 

In the 10 years since I moved to Columbia, it has changed a lot. I feel that the last few years especially have been particularly good for the local art scene. I’m excited to not only witness this change but be an active part of it developing my work, helping other artists, connecting people and creating new opportunities!

 

I’ve been lucky to have quite a few people in my life who have influenced and supported me. Until this year I did all my work in community studios. Over the years I received so much encouragement from fellow artists who were working next to me! It has been a very humbling experience and I’m very grateful for all the friendships I made along the way.

 

Sheri Hood, the former owner of Our Hands Together Studio, has been one of the biggest supporters I’ve ever had and a wonderful friend through many trying and happy moments in my life. Her incredible kindness and wisdom have changed my life in many ways and served as a personal example for me.

 

My first Solo Exhibition and consequent gallery representation also happened in Columbia. Donna Green of Southern Pottery believed in me and gave me this opportunity that served as a powerful push in the development of my work. Since then I have been working with many other galleries throughout the Southeast but the first person who took a chance with my work will always have a special place in my heart.

 

I’ve been working at USC as the Gallery Director of McMaster Gallery since this summer and it has been an absolutely amazing experience of professional and personal growth. It’s been such a joy working alongside so many talented and dedicated people and being able to bring incredible art to Columbia.

 

And, of course, probably the most wonderful thing that I owe Columbia for is meeting my wonderful husband who is my biggest fan and supporter.

 

Jasper: What have you been up to since we last spoke earlier this year?

 

Olga: Life is getting more exciting every day! As I mentioned above, I’ve been enjoying curating exhibitions at McMaster Gallery. But I also work with other groups in Columbia to bring more opportunities to our city.

I have been working with Flavia Lovatelli to organize a series of EcoFab art exhibitions and fashion shows in Columbia and other parts of South Carolina. Just last week we celebrated the closing of EcoFab 2.0 at Anderson Arts Center and now we are getting ready for our biggest event yet - Charleston Fashion Week.

I also serve as a Gallery Coordinator for the Crooked Creek Art League and a Workshop Coordinator for Midlands Clay Arts Society. I’m a big believer in promoting and connecting people and creating new opportunities for artists. So I try to find ways to express this passion! My dream is for a bigger, more vibrant art community working together to help all the local talent really flourish!

 

Jasper: We're looking forward to hosting you as the third artist in our Tiny Gallery Series on Thursday, December 6th at the Jasper Studio (#7) in Tapp's Arts center. Can you talk a bit about what you'll be showing at this event? (would love to have some photos -- for the blog so no worries about hi res or anything)

 

Olga: First of all, I would like to thank the Jasper Project for this opportunity! I’m honored to have been selected and I know I’m in great company.

 

I will be showing some of my pieces from the Meditations Series. They are ceramic and mixed media Mandalas that symbolize peace, happiness and balance. They have brought a lot of joy and mindfulness in my life and I think these are the things we can all benefit from in the Holiday Season and the New Year. I will also have some jewelry. Personally, I love all jewelry related things- wearing, making, collecting- and I’m excited to share some of my favorite designs with the Jasper patrons!

 

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Jasper: How does the Tiny Gallery Series work for you as an artist -- is it beneficial to you at all, and how so?

 

Olga: The Tiny Gallery Series is a wonderful idea! I love the opportunity to have a mini Solo Show as a part of a larger event. What I’m mostly excited about is meeting new people who have never seen my work. I think Jasper is a perfect “cultural bridge” to connect supporters of visual art, literary work and a richer cultural life in Columbia. I’m very glad this project has been started and look forward to many more successful events!

 

Jasper: After the Tiny Gallery Series, what's next for you and your art?

 

Olga: My 2019 is shaping up to be very exciting! The Tiny Gallery Series is a perfect introduction for me into the TAPP’S community as I will be a Resident Artist there for 5 months with a Solo Show in May.

I’m also working on a collaborative project with the amazing Columbia based artists Susan Lenz and Flavia Lovatelli to create a joint exhibition in conjunction with the Deckle Edge Literary Festival. Our show Alternative Storytellers will focus on literary stories with unexpected, thought-provoking new endings.

I’m very honored to have been selected as a featured artist for the Southern Exposure Series in March. This will be a very unique experience for me of creating a body of work based on the music performed at the closing concert of the Series.

In addition to Columbia based events, I will have a Solo Show Beneath the Surface at the Francis Marion Gallery in Florence, SC from February 18 till March 18.

 

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