Les Merry Chevaliers & Death Becomes Even the Maiden Kick Off Jasper's Happy Hour Concert Series Wednesday Night atTrustus

The Jasper Project

Happy Hour Series

 The Merry Chevaliers

The Merry Chevaliers

The Jasper Project is kicking off a new series of early evening fun on Wednesday with our first ever Happy Hour Concert featuring Les Merry Chevaliers and Death Becomes Even the Maiden.

The purpose of this series is to provide a mid-week time to listen to original local music, have a drink with friends, and still get home in time to put your kids to bed and not wreck your sleep schedule for the rest of the week. This is also an important fundraiser for Jasper Magazine.

We were thrilled when Alex Ruskell of the Merry Chevaliers volunteered their band to play and we are crazy appreciative of their generous contribution of time and time, as well as that of Heyward Sims and Death Becomes Even the Maiden, who will be opening for the Merry Chevaliers. (Blog post on DBETM coming up next.)

Come on out to Trustus on Wednesday night. Doors open at 6 for a cash bar, happy hour snacks, with music starting about 7.

Tickets are $10 at the door – or, join the Jasper Guild at any level and get in for free AND become eligible for the drawing of a pair of tickets to this year’s 2nd Act Film Festival coming up on November 7th.

Now, some words of wisdom from our featured musicians --

Jasper:  First of all, who are the Merry Chevaliers, what instruments do the band members play, and what are the members’ unique missions in the band?

 

LMC: Les Merry Chevaliers are France’s 14th favorite punk/pop band.  Les members are:

            Pierre Balz – rhythm guitar, glockenspiel, digeridoo – unique mission is to be fifth most handsome band member.

            Guillaume Guillotine – lead guitar -- unique mission is to be fourth most handsome band member.

            Garique Le Freaque – drums -- unique mission is to be third most handsome band member.

            Count De Monet – vocals -- unique mission is to be second most handsome band member.

            Menage O’Shea – Bass -- unique mission is to be most handsome band member.

 

Jasper:  Where did the concept of the Merry Chevaliers come from and how did you guys go about actualizing the idea into a musical group?

LMC: After a long night of drinking sweet claret and reading Rimbaud, the idea of dressing in French frippery and playing the dulcet tones of punk rock sprang fully formed from Pierre’s head like fair Athena in her gossamer robes.  While it is likely a violation of several sumptuary laws, the powdered wig hides Pierre’s bald spot.  The band formed when Pierre wrote some songs and asked his friends to sing along.  When they wouldn’t, he asked these guys.

 

Jasper:  How long have you been together?

LMC: We’ve been together for a year and a half, and have played shows in Columbia, Charlotte, Charleston, and Greenville.  We’ve also been featured on WUSC’s Columbia Beet, WXRY’s Unsigned, and Sirius XM’s Goldie’s Underground Garage.

 

Jasper: What kind of music do you play and why?

LMC: We play power pop punk – because we like it and think it’s fun for audiences to sing along and jump around to.

 

Jasper: What are your musical backgrounds and what do you guys do for day jobs?

LMC: Mssrs. La Freaque and O’shea have played in many other area bands.  The other three are rank amateurs.  For day jobs, we are all men of leisure.

 

Jasper: What do you want people to experience from your concerts?

LMC: Life can feel pretty dark sometimes – we’d just like people to have a little break to have some fun, dance, and laugh.

 

Jasper: What’s next for the Merry Chevaliers after the Jasper Happy Hour concert? 

LMC: We are working on our follow-up to 2017’s Never Mind the Baguettes, Here’s Les Merry Chevaliers! The current working title is Plus Grands Succes Volume Trois, and it will feature the world-wide mega hits “Faster than the Speed of Sexy,” “I Ruined Coitus for You,” “Sex Sommelier,” and “I’d Punch King Kong in the Balls for You.”

 

Jasper:  What did we not ask that you’d like our readers to know?

LMC: As part of David Hasselhoff’s divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname “Hoff” and the catchphrase “Don’t Hassle the Hoff.”

 

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If you or your band would like to participate in Jasper’s Happy Hour Concert Series - a fundraiser for Jasper Magazine - hit up Cindi Boiter or Kyle Petersen.

Better Late Than Never Review - Shakespeare in Love from USC

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. I am behind my time.

-          Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Much like Bob Cratchit, I must apologize profusely to the cast and crew of USC’s outstanding production of Shakespeare In Love. After seeing last Sunday’s matinee, I planned to have a review ready within a couple of days. A series of storms, both literal and figurative, got in my way this week, and I’m afraid my review will serve more of an archival purpose than a promotional one. Nonetheless, the show deserves the accolades I have been carrying around in my head for six days, so here goes:

~~~

Based upon the Tom Stoppard film of the same title, Lee Hall’s Shakespeare In Love retains “about 90%” of Stoppard’s film dialogue, according to Kevin Bush, Marketing Director for USC’s Department of Theatre and Dance. The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is wisely heeded by Hall, who still manages to bring a freshness and slight opening-up of the film to his stage adaptation. Also impressive is the Elizabethan-meets-Techno music by composer Paddy Cunneen, which underscores (pun intended) the timelessness of not only Shakespeare’s works, but also the message that tumultuous love affairs existed well before gossip tabloids and tell-all books. Having live musicians onstage, augmenting the recorded bits was an excellent choice, and the overall aesthetic was that of an Elizabethan love story that could just as easily happen today.

Staying faithful to the movie’s plot, the play, a young William Shakespeare is having difficulty finishing his “comedy” of Romeo and Juliet. With opening night creeping ever closer, Shakespeare’s anxiety and frustration put production of the show into increasing unlikeliness, until he finds his muse in Viola, a young woman of the upper classes who disguises herself as “Thomas Kent,” and manages to land the role of Romeo (ironically, opposite a boy in female dress as Juliet, given the era’s ban on women performing onstage.) A romance quickly blossoms, despite Viola’s engagement to a nobleman whom she neither loves nor understands, and who  seeks her dowry to prop up his estate in the Colonies. As in the film, mistaken identities, double-and-triple layers of deception, and Shakespeare’s Cyrano-esque courtship of Viola (with his friend, Kit Marlowe, supplying romantic dialogue from a nearby hiding place,) propel the plot. As one might presume, chaos obviously ensues, but to paraphrase the title of another of The Bard’s works, all’s well that (almost) ends well, and though Viola does, indeed, depart for The New World, the ensuing heartbreak prompts Shakespeare to reconceptualize Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy, overcoming his writer’s block, and finishing what eventually becomes one of his most celebrated and oft-performed plays.

As Shakespeare, John Romanski is less the dashing Bard of legend, and much more an ordinary young artist, struggling to find fame and love. Bravo to Romanski for taking a role that could have been played as a whinier version of Charlie Brown mooning over The Little Red-Haired Girl, and embracing the joy and enthusiasm he has for his writing and performing troupe. Though not a doppelganger, Romanski’s look definitely offers a reasonable approximation of what Shakespeare may have looked like as a young man. I particularly enjoyed Romanski’s layering of emotions and reactions to the series of successes and failures his character faces. To say that his fortunes swing like a pendulum is an understatement, yet Romanski never makes his transitions from happiness to despair to fear to ecstasy jarring or overly sudden. He plays the subtlety of Shakespeare as expertly as the bombast, and never allows himself to veer into a parody or exaggerated comic version of the role.

Olivia Hensley’s Viola is another “perfect fit” for her role, with her pluck and determination paired with softness and genuine care for the playwright with whom she finds herself falling in love. Hensley’s look is gently beautiful, with the flowing hair and stylish dresses of an Elizabethan lady of means and stature, which makes her successful disguise as a boy even more impressive. As with Romanski, she never falls victim to caricature, but does change her voice and bodily movement to create both an elegant ingénue and a male commoner who is honestly believable. Her final letter to Shakespeare is a mini tour-de-force, and Hensley is spot-on with her delivery, mixing resignation, sadness, and “smiling against tears” into a brio of emotions that provide one of the show’s most touching moments.

Wessex, the “designated baddie” of the show, is brought to life by William Hollerung, who combines a scheming con man’s superficial charm with a few moments of genuine menace. You don’t like him very much, but you can almost feel sympathy for him, despite the atrocities he commits against Viola, and his overall pomposity and conniving. I would stop short of describing him as a comedic villain, but there is a sprinkling of bumbling humour underpinning his rogueish misdeeds, and Hollerung plays the laugh moments (an especially funny bit involving rotating clothing racks brought the house down Sunday afternoon) perfectly straight, which makes them even funnier. As the most ill-intentioned character in the show, he is ironically dressed in all white, reinforcing his outer layer of respectability. (Nice choice, Costume Designer Molly Morgan.)

The rest of the cast is uniformly solid, which speaks volumes of Director Andrew Schwartz’s skills at casting and direction, as well as the quality of education USC Theatre students are receiving. This was a good play, period; not just a “good college show.” I would personally place it in competition with most professional shows I have seen. The cast was well-rehearsed, the timing and delivery were impeccable across the board, and was over long before I wanted it to end.

Scenic Designer Nate Terracio’s set is semi-minimalist, with a few flourishes of grandeur, which perfectly reflects the events and encounters Shakespeare experiences throughout. I’m not sure whether or not that was the motivating force behind his design concept, but it was most effective in tying together the physical locations and the mindset of the protagonist.

Again, I offer my mea maxima culpa for my tardiness to all involved with this most enjoyable production. Yours faithfully promises to be Johnny-on-the-Spot with getting his job done next time. Bravi, Shakespeare In Love company! You truly created a work of which you can be quite proud.

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

 

REVIEW - Trustus's Silence! The Musical is a Hilarious Respite from a Weary World

“A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”

-WillyWonka - Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

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Members of the Silence! cast Sam McWhite, Mike Morales, Kayla Machado, Latrell Brennan, and Abigail McNeely

 When one thinks of The Silence Of The Lambs, words like “hilarious” and “side-splittingly funny” don’t generally come to mind. The classic film, starring Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins, sent chills up the spines of movie-goers worldwide, but other than one or two cheeky asides from Hopkins, the movie was a straight-up crime drama/thriller without much comic relief. Such is definitely NOT the case with Trustus Theatre’s season-opener, Silence! The Musical, which serves up an affectionate but irreverent parody of the original.

The plot of the musical follows that of the film fairly closely, but takes advantage of every opportunity to play the situations and characters for laughs. Inside jokes abound, and sassy references to other pop culture staples can be found…if you know where to look. I am going to try and see the show again, as I was so busy laughing and scribbling down notes, I’m sure I missed a few things here and there. Director Jonathan Monk clearly had great fun in using his own celebrated sense of  humour to enhance an already outrageous comedy. Kudos  are also due to Monk for his superb casting, which made the show damn near perfect. (My only caveat is that the script is quite vulgar in spots, which I find delightful, but if sexual slang and twisted characters aren’t your thing, beware.)

As Clarice Starling, Kayla C. Machado is the only character to do a full-out imitation of her film counterpart. In her early-90s bobbed hairdo and makeup, she bears a striking resemblance to Jodie Foster, but the verisimilitude doesn’t stop there. Without ever breaking character, Machado delivers a brilliant rendition of Foster’s distinct dialect, complete with pronouncing her “s” sounds with “sh.” For example, she consistently refers to herself as “Agent Shtarling,” which simply got funnier as the show progressed. I will admit to having feared at first that the convention would get old, much like an SNL skit that runs several minutes too long, but I was wrong. To use another subversive pop culture example, it’s like a running gag on Family Guy that’s funny at first…then it starts to get old…but then it crosses over into hilarious, and you laugh until it’s over. Machado is, ironically, given the number of insinuations about Starling’s (and Foster’s) sexuality, the “straight man,” yet she gets some of the biggest laughs of the evening. One of her finest moments is when she gives a lengthy, incomprehensible, monologue about her detective work, only to be met with a response of “I have no clue what the fu*k you just said” from Robin Gottlieb (more on her in a minute,) and Machado manages to keep a perfectly straight face. (To her credit, Machado and a couple of the other actors did have one “Harvey Korman Experience,” when they all cracked up at some uproariously crude witticism. Rather than being a distraction, this was a positively golden moment when the actors simply couldn’t contain their hilarity, which strengthened the already-solid connection with the audience. Harvey would have been proud. ;-)

 Machado and Morales with Robin Gottlieb

Machado and Morales with Robin Gottlieb

As Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hunter Boyle is at the peak of his game. I attended the show with my friend, local actor Bill Arvay, who declared Boyle’s performance “the best thing I’ve ever seen him do.” While this may have been a bit hyperbolic, given Boyle’s rich resume of memorable characters, I understood the sentiment. Boyle’s Lecter isn’t quite as menacing as Hopkins’, which illustrates the understanding Boyle and Monk had of the character as he fits into this somewhat Bizzaro-World spoof. Boyle is less genius cannibal, and more smartass intellectual, and it works. One of the many tips of the hat to other theatrical works is his prison suit number, 24601. (Les Mis fans, admit it, you were mentally singing it once you noticed the number.) Boyle is still the “Hannibal The Cannibal” from the movie, but he deftly takes the lighter script to heart.  Straight lines are played for laughs, and Boyle had to hold for laughter for at least thirty seconds when Lecter corrected S(h)tarling on the famous “Fava beans and a nice Chianti” line.

Patrick Dodds, whose considerable talent seems to grow and develop with each role he undertakes, manages to create a frightening Buffalo Bill who still fits in with the MAD Magazine atmosphere of zaniness. While making the part  his own, Dodds winks at the character with a few straight-from-the-film bits. Fans of the movie will remember the odd tic of a laugh Buffalo Bill tries to suppress when asking Starling about a missing woman she is seeking. “Was she like, a big, fat, person?” isn’t a funny line per se, but when Dodds adds the brief snicker to his query, the result is a cascade of knowing laughter from the audience. While Dodds is younger and a bit more manic than his screen counterpart, he is a perfect fit (see what I did there?) for the demented lunatic of the stage adaptation.

Dressed in all black, with white floppy ears, the other five actors play “everyone else,” including a flock of lambs, establishing individual characters by adding a jacket, hat, or comparably simple garment. Costume Designer Amy Brower Lown succeeds in maintaining  a specific, cohesive, style without ever compromising the ersatz reality of the script. Lown’s concept is brilliantly supported by LaTrell Brennan, Robin Gottlieb, Abigail McNeely, Samuel McWhite, and Mike Morales, who transition seamlessly from character to character.

As Ardelia, Starling’s roommate and is-she-or-isn’t-she girlfriend, Brennan not only develops a three-dimensional character, but also displays great facility at  delivering a punchline, often remaining perfectly serious during her funniest moments. Gottlieb brings her customary stage presence and overall panache to playing a series of all-male characters. (Another inside joke is set up when Gottlieb appears as Starling’s deceased father, prompting Starling to plead “Papa, can you hear me?” with Yentyl–like wistfulness.) In an uncredited cameo as mental patient Miggs, Gottlieb hilariously re-creates the (in)famous moment when Miggs masturbates and flings the resulting *ahem* substance at Starling, substituting a can of Silly String at a decidedly seminal moment in the show.

Working double duty as Buffalo Bill’s victim, Catherine, and her US Senator mother, McNeely demonstrates an almost chameleon-like ability to morph into completely different appearances. I honestly didn’t realize the roles were done by the same person until well over halfway through.

McWhite’s primary alter-ego of Lecter’s keeper, Dr. Chilton, is less pathetic than the film Chilton, interpreted more as a fast-talking pickup artist than a socially awkward nerd. While we can easily imagine the movie incarnation moping in depression after failing to seduce Starling, McWhite’s Chilton has probably had more successes than failures with women, and displays a delightful “your loss, baby” attitude, likely moving on to his next potential lover.

Morales was the most difficult actor to track, as he, like McNeely, apparently has the ability to shape-shift. I suspect it was he who played the geeky entomologist who also fails to woo Starling with his offer of “cheeseburgers and the amusing house wine.” ( This line is pretty much a throwaway in the movie, but takes on great hilarity when placed in the world of Silence!) Morales also has a most amusing death scene as the ill-fated Officer Pembry. As with the rest of the show, what was frightening and/or grotesque on the silver screen becomes fodder for hilarity onstage.

Sam Hetler’s scenic design is both functional and visually intriguing, creating a unit set that serves as over a dozen locations. Hetler’s work is showing up with growing frequency on Columbia stages, and he never fails to deliver a professional-quality set with a few unexpected flairs. Marc Hurst’s lighting design reinforces Hetler’s fun-house set with dramatic changes in intensity and color, never letting the audience forget that this is a bizarre alternate reality. Particularly impressive were his use of lighting Buffalo Bill’s lair from beneath the playing surface (blending perfectly with Hetler’s dungeon-wall motif,) and a sudden full-stage switch to fuzzy black-and-green to simulate the view from a pair of night-vision goggles. Hurst also helps create locales with projected establishing texts such as “Baltimore Nuthouse” and “Mr. Belvedere, Ohio,” among others.

 Machado and Hunter Boyle

Machado and Hunter Boyle

Musical Director Randy Moore lives up to his customary professionalism, making piano, keyboard, and drums sound like a full orchestra. Bravo to Trustus and Moore for utilizing live musicians in a time when far too many theatres are opting for “canned” pre-recorded orchestration. The freshness and obvious communication among the four instrumentalists added another layer of connection to the show, as well as the audience.

Lest there be any doubt, I found Silence! To be a laugh-a-minute roller coaster ride of naughty satire, and left with my sides aching from constant guffawing.  It’s definitely for grown-ups, and never blinks or shies away from that fact, so be prepared. Never before have I seen a dancing vagina ballet, bubble-wrap bulletproof vests, the “Manamana” song used as a diversionary tactic, an imitation of Jodie Foster reciting “she sells seashells by the seashore,” or Hunter Boyle in a fabulous hat and caftan ensemble. (Okay, that last one was a lie.)

Silence! runs through 3 November, and tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org, or by ringing the box office on (803) 254.9732. Word is spreading, and tickets are likely to be going fast, so reserve your seats soon for this delightfully macabre, oft-profane, “egregiously misrespectful” piece of  theatre that maintains Trustus’ commitment to professional and well-produced art.

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

 Patrick Dodds as Buffalo Bill - all photos courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Patrick Dodds as Buffalo Bill - all photos courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Introducing the Roster of 2nd Act Film Festival 2018 Filmmakers

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 Hugo Guzman is a veteran of the French Foreign Legion. His is the owner/operator of Titan Throw Multimedia.

Hugo Guzman is a veteran of the French Foreign Legion. His is the owner/operator of Titan Throw Multimedia.

 Katly Hong is an animator and illustrator who is most fascinated by human relationships and vulnerability

Katly Hong is an animator and illustrator who is most fascinated by human relationships and vulnerability

 Daljit Kalsi (left) is a journalist and filmmaker from Greenville, SC whose films have been featured in festivals across the globe. His 2017 film, BOUND, won Best Overall at the Tryon International Film Festival and is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

Daljit Kalsi (left) is a journalist and filmmaker from Greenville, SC whose films have been featured in festivals across the globe. His 2017 film, BOUND, won Best Overall at the Tryon International Film Festival and is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

 Caroline Mobley is a Marketing Assistant with Historic Columbia by day and cinematographer by night. A native of South Carolina, she uses her understanding of Southern culture, paired with a passion for film, to create strong visuals and meaningful stories. While 2nd Act is her maiden voyage as a professional writer/director she has had films in Indie Grits and Campus MovieFest.

Caroline Mobley is a Marketing Assistant with Historic Columbia by day and cinematographer by night. A native of South Carolina, she uses her understanding of Southern culture, paired with a passion for film, to create strong visuals and meaningful stories. While 2nd Act is her maiden voyage as a professional writer/director she has had films in Indie Grits and Campus MovieFest.

 A South Carolina native, Ian O’Briant has studied a cross section of visual and performative arts. In an academic career spanning a decade and a half, fizzling and dying somewhere around the second year of his first year of grad school, he was the director, cinematographer, editor, writer, and boom mic operator for numerous student films. He has worked in media and journalism for 10 years.

A South Carolina native, Ian O’Briant has studied a cross section of visual and performative arts. In an academic career spanning a decade and a half, fizzling and dying somewhere around the second year of his first year of grad school, he was the director, cinematographer, editor, writer, and boom mic operator for numerous student films. He has worked in media and journalism for 10 years.

 Tia Pennix graduated from USC with a degree in Journalism, but acting has always been her passion. Eventually, Tia merged the skills she learned from journalism, with her passion for acting, and began filmmaking. This is Tia’s first time entering a festival.

Tia Pennix graduated from USC with a degree in Journalism, but acting has always been her passion. Eventually, Tia merged the skills she learned from journalism, with her passion for acting, and began filmmaking. This is Tia’s first time entering a festival.

 Johnny Sizemore is the C.E.O. of Showtime Productions, a national production company specializing Theatre and Film and the C.E.O. of JMS Media Group, a full-service photography and videography entity servicing the Upstate and abroad.

Johnny Sizemore is the C.E.O. of Showtime Productions, a national production company specializing Theatre and Film and the C.E.O. of JMS Media Group, a full-service photography and videography entity servicing the Upstate and abroad.

 Zack Spencer grew up in Columbia, SC and is currently a junior at USC where he is the Executive Producer of 1080C, USC's short film organization. His goal is to become a cinematographer and writer, and to share his perspectives with the world through narrative storytelling.

Zack Spencer grew up in Columbia, SC and is currently a junior at USC where he is the Executive Producer of 1080C, USC's short film organization. His goal is to become a cinematographer and writer, and to share his perspectives with the world through narrative storytelling.

 Barry Wheeler is an IT professional and a Columbia, SC artist, concentrating his work in digital media. He is a graduate of the South Carolina Honors College (BS, Chemistry) and the University of South Carolina (MA, Media Arts). His background in science and computers motivates his practice, which explores the relationships between technology, digital process, information design, and art. Barry’s work has been featured at various exhibitions and shows around the state.

Barry Wheeler is an IT professional and a Columbia, SC artist, concentrating his work in digital media. He is a graduate of the South Carolina Honors College (BS, Chemistry) and the University of South Carolina (MA, Media Arts). His background in science and computers motivates his practice, which explores the relationships between technology, digital process, information design, and art. Barry’s work has been featured at various exhibitions and shows around the state.

 Quaviondre Williams, Timothy Boualapha, and Bridgette James have combined their talents under the name B. T. Williams. Based in Columbia, SC the individuals are college students who recognize that when they work together, they can push each other to new heights of creativity.

Quaviondre Williams, Timothy Boualapha, and Bridgette James have combined their talents under the name B. T. Williams. Based in Columbia, SC the individuals are college students who recognize that when they work together, they can push each other to new heights of creativity.

2nd Act Film Festival 2018

Wednesday, November 7th at 7 pm

VIP/Filmmaker Reception at 6 pm

Trustus Theatre

Karl Larsen's Untethered, Opening Friday at Frame of Mind, Challenges Preconceptions and Invites Discourse

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 “I was looking at the art and I realized that I was Untethered,” Columbia-based artist, Karl L. Larsen, describes the title of his upcoming exhibition, “… it’s a free for all in there.  Untethered means to literally separate myself mentally and physically from the things that I think are plaguing society.”

 

Local artist, Karl L. Larsen, dives into his inner being and views the world through a fresh perspective in his upcoming show, Untethered, opening October 5th at Frame of Mind, with a reception from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  With topics that are meant to be mind-boggling and controversial, this show will offer not only originality, but opportunity for discussion on topics that deserving of discourse.

 

The 33-year-old Columbia native will be showcasing art that posits a question that is faced in everyday society but is often avoided: Why do we believe what do believe?  A question that revolves around this broad idea of thinking for oneself.

 

Larsen shows his art through new eyes, by creating in a manner that involves him “taking off the lenses,” and showcasing pieces that dwell in his own thoughts, leaving breadcrumbs behind for the viewer to pick up, and make what they will from; hopefully exploring their own views.

 

“Over the last year or so, I’ve been going through a transition, and I like to use the, you know, ‘taking off the lenses’ that I’ve been wearing my entire life … I finally got brave enough to take those off and detach from things, and to step outside of my boundaries,” Larsen explains on the idea behind this intriguing collection, “…  So, a lot of these are mixed up in some very interesting conspiracies with politics, and amongst other things, but once I took these glasses off, I began looking at everything with fresh eyes … it gave me inspiration but it allowed me to create in this undisciplined, just go at it; no rules.”

 

With art that explores a multitude of different media and style, the artist hopes that his work will create dialog through the vision that he has created from his own ideas; a vision that isn’t corrupted by the media.  With only two pieces that come from a personal side of Larsen’s life, each opposing piece contains different content that is embodied with a rabbit hole of possibilities for each individual to explore, asking questions such as, why do you look at the world the way that you do?  

 

“I do kind of want to have those discussions with people who want to talk about this kind of stuff and they are curious,” the artist says, “and when you take those glasses off a beautiful world emerges.”

 

Larsen has been creating art for 5 years now, however, his show Untethered isn’t about creating beauty from his external view - it is about creating work from an internal perspective.

 

The artist debates the idea that society is consumed with what we are getting from the media and believing everything we are told without taking in our own perspectives, which is what one needs: to be challenged and to have their mind stimulated.

 

“It’s really about thinking for yourself, and even though this stuff is strange and it may be a little offensive to people, I think they need it,” Larsen continues his exploration into the creation of his work, “Artist have to tell the truth, because nobody else is telling the truth.”

 

Through this collection, Larsen is not only providing a new perspective on the strange things in the world around us, but he is opening opportunities to learn more about the things that are really processing in the viewer’s own mind.  “So, the fun thing about it is that, not only can you gain a new perspective on things, you learn more about yourself,” Larsen explains.

 

 The artist Karl Larsen

The artist Karl Larsen

Along with this thought driven collection, Larsen will also display fashion that he designed via individuals at the event and his popular painted couch, which has circulated Columbia, at opening night.

 

One should come into this show with an open-mind, expecting the unexpected and be willing to dive into their own ideology through the ideas of another.  Larsen has no intention of this show portraying what his previous show offered, but instead is providing a whole new chapter of work.

 

“I want to always test myself … and as long as I stay like that, every time that I show is going to be wildly different then the last,” Larsen describes on what to expect, “And I think that’s what artist have to do in order to challenge themselves.”

 

Untethered will be displayed for two months, closing on November 30th.  To view more of Larsen’s work, you can purchase tickets to an event that he will be featured at, Collectively Supported Art, on November 9th (tickets available at the opening reception of Untethered) or find him painting at the West Columbia Fall Back Fest on November 2nd.

 

Columbia is lucky to have an artist who breaks boundaries and challenges not only himself, but his audience; one who explores controversies through a new, clear perspective.

 

“… that’s what art should do. Art should bring people together. It should be challenging people,” says Larsen, “Artist have to tell the truth about themselves because if they don’t - or what they’re trying to portray - then what are they doing?”

 

-Hallie Hayes

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REVIEW -- OnStage Production's Hairspray is a Jewel Worth the Trip

“…your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.”

-Obi-Wan Kenobi,
“Star Wars: A New Hope”

 Tracy sends a cheerful "Good Morning, Baltimore!" to her hometown.

Tracy sends a cheerful "Good Morning, Baltimore!" to her hometown.

Okay, I will freely admit that the first couple of times I attended a show at OnStage Productions, my eyes concealed a perfect gem, literally at my feet. When one arrives at The Old Mill in Lexington, it looks like someone converted a couple of ancient warehouses into an upscale brewpub, added a small shop or two, then called it a day. While these establishments do exist, there’s also something quite special just a few feet underground.

Housed in a renovated downstairs area, OnStage has created  the look, feel, and atmosphere of a cozy, hip, Off-Broadway house. The space is a bit cramped, and has a slightly “rough at the edges” feel, as I firmly believe all good playhouses should. Be prepared to sit close to your seatmates, but that’s all part of the aura and style OnStage has created in building what could easily be a 100-seat, upstairs, Greenwich Village theatre. Just set your personal space requirements to “NYC mode,” and you’ll have a blast.

 

Speaking of blasts, Director Robert Harrelson truly blew us away with Saturday night’s performance of Hairspray, The Musical, which continues its run this Thursday-Sunday. With a cast full of talent, and some most innovative staging, Harrelson makes the show work like a well-oiled machine. The set, though simple in design, effectively creates the show’s various locales through a quartet of four-sided columns, outstanding use of lighting to suggest a specific space, and a never-ending flow of kinetic energy from the cast, who all move things around just in time to be perfectly in place for the next scene. The action of the play never wanes, nor does the seemingly boundless energy of the cast. One of the highest compliments I can give a musical is that it “never stops moving,” which perfectly describes this version of Hairspray.

 

And of the performance, itself? Well, it had me singing along with half the score, and laughing uproariously, often at the most inappropriate jokes and one-liners. Again, I must sing Harrelson’s praises for DOING THE SHOW AS WRITTEN. Hairspray, the John Waters film which gave rise to the musical, was subversive as hell, made fun of cultural stereotypes, and embraced the taboo with mischievous glee. The musical has toned down a bit of Waters’ signature vulgarity, but keeps its norm-shattering and cheeky storyline intact. Harrelson has not altered the script in any way, nor has he “bleeped out” a single potentially-controversial line. This is Hairspray as it was written to be played, not a sanitized-for-grandma production. (Incidentally, I saw several grandma-types laughing and enjoying the show right along with me.) Bravo for Harrelson for his faithfulness to the work, and the ensuing quality that comes with that integrity.


 Charity Gilbert, Laiyah Smith, and Jamila Wicker raise the roof as "The Dynamites."

Charity Gilbert, Laiyah Smith, and Jamila Wicker raise the roof as "The Dynamites."

The cast has some double-casting, with about half the roles being played at all performances, with others alternating between two actors. My friends and I saw “Cast A,” and they delivered a fast-paced, turbo-charged, roller coaster of a ride that I’m sure is matched in quality by “Cast B.”

Leading the cast as Edna Turnbladt is Bradley Watts (who shares the role with Jeffrey Sigley.) Watts is great fun to watch, and throws himself enthusiastically into the part. There’s a definite nod to Harvey Fierstein’s Edna, but Watts makes the role his own, not only vocally, but also through the creation of a slightly softer, somewhat less acerbic Edna than we’ve seen from other productions. Without ever losing the comedy or the no-nonsense personality, Watts gives us an Edna that retains her strength, but never at the cost of her femininity. Her rapport with husband Wilbur, played in both casts by Theodore Reynolds, is spot-on, and the two clearly trust each other as scene partners, creating a snapshot of the trust and affection between Edna and Wilbur. Reynolds is appropriately goofy without ever resorting to mugging for the audience, and makes Wilbur the lovable doofus with great success.

As Tracy Turnbladt, Whitney McDonald shines in a role she is clearly delighted to be playing. Her talent is undeniable, and she’s clearly confident in the character choices she has made. A “plus-sized” social warrior and crusader for justice, McDonald’s Tracy is also quite lovely. (Think Nigella Lawson meets a Designing Women-era Delta Burke, with a dash of Adele thrown in,) and serves as a perfect example of how beauty not only comes from within, but also that outer beauty can take many forms. McDonald allows Tracy a sweetness that never compromises her commitment to equality and progress. As for her vocals, one word. Wow! Harrelson has clearly followed the old theatrical adage of “cast the best singers first,” and McDonald can deliver on a ballad or belt the paint off the back wall, without ever losing pitch or sincerity. (Tracy is played on alternate nights by Katie Edelson.)

As foils for the Turnbladt women, we meet Velma and Amber Von Tussle, a former pageant star, and her beauty-queen daughter, Lisa Baker and Zanna Mills, respectively, who share the roles with Leslie Dellinger and JoJo Wallace. Baker brings down the house with her “Miss Baltimore Crabs” number, and Mills, who demonstrated her skill at playing sweet and innocent as Mary Ann in last season’s Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, shows that she can play “mean girl” Amber with equal aplomb. Mills also makes her debut as a choreographer in this production, and the result is a series of well-rehearsed, toe-tapping, fun choreography that almost pulls the audience members into the aisles to boogie down.

As David LaTorre performs with both casts, I can quite literally say that there isn’t a weak (L)ink in the show. (Thanks, folks, I’ll be playing here all week.) In what could easily be a standard, Richie Cunningham-esque boyfriend role, LaTorre find’s Link’s humanity in every sense of the word. Neither Superboy nor “bad boy,” Link finds himself at several personal and ethical crossroads, and LaTorre conveys well his sense of conflict, as well as his desire to do what is right, even if it costs him. Ara-Viktoria Goins is a somewhat sexier Motormouth Maybelle than devotees of Hairspray may be used to, but it works brilliantly with the character’s believe-in-yourself philosophy. Goins, like McDonald, has a huge voice that can shake the rafters, as well as purr seductively, as she demonstrates in her performance of “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful.”


 Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

Much of the social statements in Hairspray center around the budding romance between Seaweed Stubbs (Joshua Wright) and Penny Pingleton (Camryn Harsey, alternating with Kari Tilghman.) Seaweed is black, Penny is white, and it’s 1962, so there’s plenty of era-based controversy over their relationship. While never preachy or heavy-handed, their story strikes at the core message of the play, which is that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. Both performers approach the material with a light touch, but their message of social justice, equality, and the strength of unity comes through loud and clear. Wright and Harsey both bring strong voices and considerable stage presence to their roles.

Debra Leopard and Mark DiNovo, as usual, turn in memorable, fully-realized, enjoyable characters. While Leopard is a hoot as Penny’s religious-fanatic mother (and also shines in a smaller role as the High School principal,) DiNovo had me doubled over with laughter every time he took the stage. His two “bonus” roles in “Good Morning, Baltimore” and “The Big Doll House” are absolute side-splitters, and his lame-clad Mr. Spritzer is a delight. Linda Lawton Brochin serves up a couple of hilarious cameos, and Karlton Timmerman’s Corny Collins hits all the right notes as a smarmy-but-charming dance show host, and manages to show off a very nice singing voice, as well.

Were there a few negatives? Yes, but none that marred the experience. The musicians (yes, Hairspray utilizes live musicians, which I strongly support) could be a bit overpowering at times, but to be fair, we were seated fairly close to them. A couple of the soloists had to struggle with a note that was too high or too low, and I occasionally missed a lyric or two. There was one small glitch during a scene change, but by the time I even noticed, it had been corrected.

OnStage Productions is a short, 20-minute drive from Downtown Columbia, and I strongly encourage everyone to make that drive. Hairspray is slick, polished, well-paced, and provides a subtle reminder of the importance of equality and acceptance in society.

 

Hairspray concludes its run this Thursday-Sunday. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.onstagesc.com

Frank Thompson is Theatre Editor for Jasper.

Next up for the Jasper Project?

Keith Tolen is our first featured artist in the

Tiny Gallery Series

Thursday, October 4th in

Studio #7 of Tapp’s Arts Center https://www.facebook.com/events/975033929365281/

Keith Tolen Opens Jasper's First Tiny Gallery Series this First Thursday at Tapp's

 Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

The Jasper Project is bringing a brand new project to light during First Thursday this month: The Tiny Gallery Series.

 

Jasper’s goal with this project is twofold – to support artists in our community and to encourage budding art collectors to start their collections. During upcoming First Thursdays, Jasper will be teaming up with local artists to display their work for sale at affordable prices in their studio at Tapp’s Art Center.

 

Kicking off the first series is local artist and South Carolina native, Keith Tolen. “I’m honored that I’m kicking this off; it’s hard to believe,” Tolen said with a chuckle as we chatted over coffee, “But I’m nervous too. I want to do this event justice.”

 

Tolen has been studying and working on his craft for decades now. An art education major in college, he worked in both retail and real estate before landing the job as an art teacher at Camden Middle School – a job he cared for and worked at for 30 years.

 

Beyond teaching, Tolen has been creating art since a young boy. He and his brothers used to draw together, and Tolen’s first love was film and photography. When he focused on painting in college, he became heavily influenced by the abstract expressionist styles of the 1970s, the art style that still influences him today. In his recent years, Tolen has tried to challenge himself by taking classes in different art styles, such as still life. All of these influences come together for his Tiny Gallery Series where there is one thing in particular to expect: eggs.

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Tolen said that the form of the egg is key for painting. It is between shapes, not circle or oval, pointed at the top, and plays with light and shadow in simple yet complex ways. He is using eggs in these paintings as a “balance of the simplicity of the egg and the chaos of abstract expressionism.”  

 

“I hope these eggs take on a personality and travel from canvas to canvas, taking on the identity of its surroundings while still maintaining its own integrity,” Tolen says, “I love color, and the challenge with these paintings was to have backgrounds rich with color but for the eggs to be the draw, to be very neutral.”

 

This will be the third time Tolen has shown his egg paintings this year, the first two times both to a positive critical reception. When asked about past accolades in his career, however, Tolen told a powerful story about a young girl in his first 6th grade class who took her passion for origami and taught an entire class of 50 students her art, holding their attention on a Friday far after the bell had rang.

 

“I could sell a painting for a million dollars,” Tolen said, “But it wouldn’t compare to the moment that girl stood in front of her peers and captivated them with her art.”

 

From this comes the importance of an event like the Tiny Gallery Series. Like what that girl did for her class, “Art inspires us; it educates us.” Tolen said.

 

When asked about his goal for his paintings in particular Tolen said, “There’s two things I want people to say. Either ‘I can do that’ or ‘I appreciate that.’ I want people to see my paintings and be inspired to go use their creativity and make something of their own, and if not to at least look at them and know they mean something special.”

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This event is, again, not just a chance to see art from local artists but to help the community of Columbia start their own art collections. “It’s important to have art in the home beyond just for exposure,” Tolen says, “Having original art on your walls builds bonds, connections, and it demystifies the idea that only certain people can experience art. Art is for everyone.”

Future artists participating in the Tiny Gallery Series include Olga Yukhno, Bonnie Goldberg, Dave Robbins, and more.

To see Tolen’s work, stop by Tapp’s Art Center in Studio #7 starting at 6:00 p.m. this Thursday, October 4th, and be sure take a piece of his passion home for yourself.

—Christina Xan

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

Rosewood Art and Music Festival: The Celebration of SC Art and Artist Through a One-Day Festival

 

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By: Jasper Intern Hallie Hayes

David Britt, the event director for the Rosewood Art and Music Festival (RAMF), describes this art festival as “a one-day, micro-urban festival that was conceived as a way to showcase South Carolina’s talented emerging artists and to help elevate the cultural scene in Columbia.”  The festival celebrates the arts locally in Columbia, SC, and it is an event that any who take pride in SCs local arts, along with simple fun, must experience.

RAMF is an annual fun-for-all festival that takes place in the Rosewood area of the city. Now in its eighth year, the festival will held this Saturday, September 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Parking will be available at Rosewood Baptist Church any time after 12:00 p.m. and admission to the festival free.

Not only does this event support SC art, but it supports the artists who create the magic we have the opportunity to experience, as well.

“Every art purchase made will help support a hard-working, independent SC artist,” Britt explains, “and helps them continue to develop their craft.”

The visual artists showing at RAMF are assembled by Alexandra White, also known as “Abstract Alexandra.” White makes the event a pleasant experience for those involved, making sure that they are met with proper expectations.

“She is the one who curates all of the artists and does a ton of work to make our festival a professional experience for all involved,” the event director says on White. “Her vision and eye for talent have been crucial to elevating the festival’s growth and making the event a great venue for our SC artists to get some of the recognition that they are very deserving of.”

The festival has hosted poets at the event in the past, but this year it will be hosting its first poetry competition where cash prizes will be awarded. The poets entered into the competition have been organized by Stephanie Suell. 

“Stephanie Suell has done a great job organizing the poets this year,” Britt states.  Attendees of the festival will have the opportunity to hear this year’s poets read their poetry in between band sets.

As seen in the title of the festival, music is also a large part of the event.  RAMF will showcase different artist and genres throughout Saturday, giving each band their own set time located on one of two stages.

“We have a completely new line up of music artist this year with some of Columbia’s best up and coming bands,” Britt says on this year’s lineup.

 You can find the lineup of musicians and poets for the day below.

The Rosewood Art and Music Festival works hard to make this event a pleasant experience for all attendees, and to simply celebrate the gifted artists that Columbia is lucky to call members of the community, all free of charge.

“I would want people to know that we have been working hard to produce a great event,” Britt explains,” the artists have been working hard to produce great art and I think anyone who attends will be glad they did.”

Find the lineup for this year’s Rosewood Art and Music Festival below:

CALLIOPE STAGE

12:00 - 1:00 pm - Slim Pickens
1:00 pm - Poetry - Marie Grady
1:30 - 2:30 pm - Autocorrect
2:30 pm - Poetry - John Starino
3:00 - 4:00 pm - Daddy Lion
4:00 pm - Poetry - Patrice Pino
4:30 - 5:30 pm - The Dead Swells
5:30 pm - Poetry - Colette Jones
6:00 - 7:00 pm - Ashes of Old Ways

APOLLO STAGE

11:30 - 12:30 pm - Julia Beckham Duo
12:30 pm- Poetry - Alfonso Ross
1:00 - 2:00 pm - McKenzie Butler Band
2:00 pm - Poetry - William Hilliard, Jamez Tisdale
2:30 - 3:30 pm - The Runout
3:30 pm - Poetry - Tribal Raine
4:00 - 5:00 pm - Husband
5:00 pm - Poetry - Patricia Marvin
5:30 - 6:30 pm - Alien Carnival
6:30 pm - Poetry - Constance Johnson

SIX USC MFA Students Bring Ekphrasis to Stormwater Studio's Jan Swanson & Heather LaHaise Exhibit

Jasper welcomes

Dylan Nutter, Katarina Merlini, Trezlen Drake, Victoria Romero, Andrew Green, & Emily Davis

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This Thursday evening at the Jasper Project’s Fall 2018 Release Party, six MFAs from the University of South Carolina will be doing a special ekphrastic reading.

 

The event, which will take place at 6:00 p.m. at Stormwater Studios, will host several activities including live music, $10 refillable drinks, readings from the new issue of Fall Lines, as well as the ekphrasis.

 

What is ekphrasis? Ekphrasis is a work of literature such as fiction or poetry that stems from and/or is inspired by visual art. As the Poetry Foundation says, “Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.”

 

What you may know is last week Stormwater Studios launched its new exhibit, “Year of the Dog” featuring artists Jan Swanson and Heather LaHaise. What you probably don’t know is since the opening, six of USC’s MFA candidates have been working at the studio and choosing paintings that inspire them. All week they have been writing fiction and poetry based on the art of Swanson and LaHaise. This Thursday, they’ll read them for the first time.

 

Before then, though, you can meet the artists here and get an idea of the treat you’ll be in for Thursday.

 

Hope to see you there!

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Dylan Nutter

 

Dylan Nutter is a second-year poet in the M.F.A program at the University of South Carolina. He is the Poetry Editor for Yemassee Journal.  He holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from Salisbury University. A native of Maryland, his poetry gravitates towards the manipulation of sound and the exploration of the relationships between family, location, and identity

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Katarina Merlini

 

Katarina Merlini is a Samminarinese-American poet born and raised in Michigan. In her poetry, she explores the nature of heritage, inheritance, and Americana. She has earned distinction from both the University of Michigan as well as the University of South Carolina where she is pursuing a MFA in Poetry beginning Fall 2018.

 

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Trezlen Drake

 

Trezlen Drake is a second-year poetry MFA at the University of South Carolina. A native North Carolinian, she has been writing poetry since elementary school, but is learning skills to craft the kinds of poems she never would have dreamed of at 8 years old. Her writing style favors persona and confessional poems sprinkled with flavors of the South.

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Victoria Romero

 

Victoria Romero is a second-year MFA fiction candidate at the University of South Carolina who writes about the interconnections of societally separated people. She hails from New York and is also mysterious.

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Andrew Green

 

Andrew Green is a fiction writer from Baltimore, Maryland and is currently a second-year MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of South Carolina. His historical fiction examines characters on the margins during periods of technological and cultural change.

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Emily Davis

 

Emily Davis is a MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of South Carolina. She teaches composition and is a reader for Yemassee, USC’s art and literary journal. She's interested in genre-mixing, bending, and breaking, superheroes, contemporary fiction, and narrative structure. She lives and dies by her three dogs.

by Christina Xan

Join Us

Thursday, September 27th at 6 pm

Stormwater Studios on Huger St. behind One Eared Cow Glass

Music by The Witness Marks and more

Buy a $10 souvenir Jasper Cup & drink beer/wine for free

Jasper Artists of the Year -- JAY 2018 Nominations are OPEN

Call for Nominations for

Jasper Artists of the Year 2018

are Now OPEN

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Individual Artists, 18 and older, working in the greater Columbia arts community are eligible for the title 

Jasper Artist of the Year

based upon their artistic accomplishments during the period from

July 31, 2017 through October 31, 2018.

Nominations MUST be sent to JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com with the subject heading “Artist of the Year” and MUST be accompanied by a numbered list of works or accomplishments produced or performed during the designated time period. (see checklist)

Upon closing of the nomination call, a panel of judges will select the top three candidates in each field, and the public will be invited to vote online for their top choices.

  • The category Dance includes:  performance, choreography, or direction of any form of dance including, but not limited to ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, ballroom, folk, or dance-based performance art.

  • The category Theatre includes: directing, acting, or set design in one or more local performances.

  • The category Music includes: conducting, directing, writing, or performing any style of music in one or more local concerts or recordings; both individuals and groups are eligible.

  • The category Visual Arts includes: the completion & presentation of a form of non-performing or non-literary arts, such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, print-making, mixed-media, etc.

  • The category Literary Arts includes: the completion, publication, and/or presentation of any form of prose, poetry, or non-fiction writing, as well as playwriting and the writing of executed screenplays.

Only individual artists may be considered for nomination. While arts groups, such as musical groups or arts troupes, are no longer eligible for consideration, individuals within those groups may be nominated. The purpose of the awards is to recognize artistic achievements accomplished within a calendar year. There is no fee to enter. Artists may nominate themselves. Artists should be made aware of their nomination before their official nomination and agree to participate in the competition.

Finalists will be announced by November 15, 2018 and voting will take place from November 15 through December 31, 2018.

Awards will be presented at the Jasper Artist of the Year Gala on

January 19th, 2019

at the historic Seibels House and Gardens in downtown Columbia.

——

Check list for nominating an artist for Jasper Artist of the Year:

1.    My nominee has agreed to be nominated

2.    I have included the nominee’s contact information (email and phone) in my nomination

3.    I have included a paragraph briefly explaining why I am making my nomination

4.    I have included a numbered list of accomplishments by my nominee

5.    All the accomplishments on my list will have occurred from July 31, 2017 through October 31, 2018

Send Nominations to

JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com

Failure to check off all five items will result in disqualification for your nominee.

Al Black's New Book of Poetry, Man with Two Shadows, Launches Saturday Night

Praise for Man with Two Shadows

“Black’s experiences are universal, and there is comfort in looking at this profound loss through his eyes.” - Marjory Wentworth, SC poet laureate

“Al Black has put together a gorgeous and heart-breaking collection that is a testament to the dutifulness and responsibility we feel to and for parents we find difficult to understand.” - Ed Madden, Columbia, SC poet laureate

“Al Black’s poetry is astonishing, defiantly original; scrubs our ears with dirty bathtub water; roars with love for a leather belted father and battle-proven mother.” - Tim Conroy, author of Theologies of Terrain

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When asked what inspired his earlier poetry, local poet, Al Black, answers, “Where you’re at. Sometimes you’re angry. Sometimes you’re happy. Sometimes you just see a situation and a metaphor goes through your head.”  This inspiration provides Columbia locals with a captivating voice to not only experience but to feel through Black’s stunning craft.

 

Local poet and supporter of the literary arts, Al Black, moved to Columbia, SC, nearly 10-years-ago.  Originally from Lafayette, IN, the father of 4 worked at The University of South Carolina in facilities management before retiring to become a full-time writer.

 

“My wife and I had four children and when the youngest one got old enough- my wife went back to school in her late 40s and got her PHD at 55 and wanted a career,” Black says, “So, I said, ‘I can work anywhere and I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s not further north,’ and so we ended up down here … I worked at The University of South Carolina for a while; I just left them. I’m 66, so I can be a full-time writer now and a trophy husband.”

 

Black attended college at Ball State, where he was an athlete who studied voice.   “I was one of those weirdos in college,” he says, “I was a voice major and an athlete.”   The poet not only played sports in college, but he would go on to coach college, high-school and semi-pro.

 

However, most Columbia locals know Black for his stunning craft of poetry and for the near 100 literary events that he hosts and co-hosts in a given year.  The poet crafted his first poem at the age of nine-years-old; however, he didn’t share his first poem until age 58, which resulted in the publication of his first book, I Only Left for Tea, published by Muddy Ford Press in 2015.

 

“I started really writing at eight or nine, but I never shared … I don’t know if I was afraid to share or if I just didn’t care to share,” Black explains,” When I came here, I didn’t see an event I liked, so I started what’s called Mind Gravy about eight and a half years ago.  I wanted to make sure I stirred it up as far as style, race, culture … about a month or two in, I shared a poem … I read it in a gallery and Cindi [Boiter] and her husband [Bob Jolley] heard me and said oh, they’d like to publish me and I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ but I eventually agreed to it.  And it’s gone from there.” Cindi Boiter and Bob Jolley are the publishers at Muddy Ford Press, a boutique publishing house just outside of Columbia.

 

Black’s first book was edited by Ed Madden and published by Muddy Ford Press. Madden is the Columbia city poet laureate as well as a professor of English at USC and the director of the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Since then, Black has co-edited a poetry anthology, titled Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, with fellow poet Len Lawson, where several of his poems were published along with those of a number of local writers. Black and Lawson founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative, and the anthology originated from the initiative.

 Poet Al Black (photo by Forrest Clonts for Jasper Magazine)

Poet Al Black (photo by Forrest Clonts for Jasper Magazine)

Black has been very involved in issues of race and reconciliation.  This is work that the poet has always been passionate about, even while working at Perdue University in Indiana. “… I worked at a private business but mostly I worked at Perdue.  I was trained as a diversity trainer, and so, it’s been work that I’ve always been passionate about.  And, I believe whatever you do should reflect your values,” the former Indiana NAACP Vice President explains.

 

Today, most wait in anticipation for the poet’s newest publication, a collection of poems entitled Man with Two Shadows.  The book release will be held at Tapp’s this Saturday, September 22nd at 7pm.  At the release, you can expect live entertainment from jazz band, Vasaboo group, along with poem readings by the author, followed by a book signing.

 

The new book is a collection of poetry inspired by his father.  After his passing at age 94, the poet wrote for 120 days, eventually compiling a book with the poems he had created during the time-period before and after his father’s death.  Ed Madden, Black’s friend and first publication’s editor, edited this collection of poetry, as well.

 

“Well, it’s basically shortly before my dad’s passing and then it’s in two parts.  You know, that period shortly before when he’s getting sick and you’re going back to see him … and you’re beginning to worry,” the son says, “and then I was with him when he passed.  He passed a little after one o’clock in the morning.  And then it’s that time and then immediately after … that’s what the book’s about.  It’s about, you know, everybody has a different relationship with their parents.  It’s never all smooth sailing … So, yeah, my dad was the old-world way and you know, I was a baby boomer.  It’s dealing with that relationship, you know, that feeling that’s there.”

 

Months after the passing of his father, the poet lost his mother who was 93.  Both parents surface throughout Black’s latest poetry, and he is currently in the editing process for a book inspired by his mother.

 

“My father died at 94 in October. My mother was lonely and died in April at 93,” Black explains, “And so, I wrote for 120 days there, too.  So, now I’m in the editing process of her book.”

 

When he isn’t writing, you can find Black hosting and co-hosting multiple events, including Mind Gravy (Wednesdays at 8pm), Poems: Bones of the spirit (held once a month at a yoga studio), Blue Note Poetry (every first Tuesday of the month) and Songversation (monthly), along with multiple events surrounding the Poets Respond to Race initiative.  Each event is unique until itself.

 

Black also hosts and organizes three workshops, where poets, through invitation, work on a prompt, share their work and critique it.  Black stays busy and as evidenced through his dedication and involvement in the literary arts.

 

At age 66, the poet is still following what he is passionate about and living through his talent.  As said best by Black himself, “You know, if you have the talent for something, you should do.” Most are happy to know that this kind, humble soul lives through these words.

 by Hallie Hayes

______________

If You’re Going

Book Launch - Man with Two Shadows

by Al Black

Saturday, September 22nd - 7 pm

Tapp’s Arts Center

1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC

For more information on Muddy Ford Press go to www.MuddyFordPress.com

 

REVIEW: South Carolina Shakespeare Company's The Liar

“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”

-Fleetwood Mac

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 Due to Hurricane Florence, The Liar will end its run tonight!

There are plenty of lies in South Carolina Shakespeare Company’s production of The Liar, previously scheduled to run through Saturday at Columbia Music Festival Association, and not all of them are sweet or little. Actually, there are some absolute whoppers thrown down in this hilarious prevarication-palooza, which playwright David Ives has skillfully translated and peppered with contemporary references, some Shakespeare here and there, and just a hint of sympathy for the eponymous character. Based on the 1644 French comedy, Le Menteur, by Pierre Corneille, the plot is a delightful confection, with a storyline straight out of an episode of Three’s Company. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities abound, lechery is played for laughs, and the bungling anti-hero grows increasingly frantic as his schemes unravel. A somewhat deus ex machina conclusion solves everything by play’s end, and The Liar becomes an honest man…perhaps.

 

The show opens with a hilarious introduction by Cliton, manservant to Dorante, (who is the titular liar.) As Cliton, Sam Hetler  hits the bull’s-eye with his interpretation of the servant who is much more intelligent than his master. Though this archetype is a stock character in farce, Hetler brings a freshness and sincerity to the role. His is the only character to “break the wall” and address the audience, until Dorante concludes the show with a brief address. Hetler’s opening monologue is part rap, part straight pentameter, and part free-style. Were it not for his period costume (more on that in a minute), one might mistake him for the hands-down winner of an open-mic poetry slam. With his witty delivery and slightly-put-upon demeanor, Hetler masterfully draws the audience into the tale from the very beginning.

Played by SCSC regular, Jeff Driggers, Dorante is an eager young man who abandons his study of  Law to experience all the pleasures and diversions of Paris. (In a delicious twist of irony, Dorante is practically incapable of telling the truth, while Cliton has a comparable inability to tell a lie.) As Dorante, Driggers is a veritable dervish for most of his stage time. Constantly in motion, telling one falsehood after another, with his anxiety growing with every close call, I couldn’t help thinking of The Music Man, and how Driggers is surely destined to play Professor Harold Hill someday. His energy is seemingly boundless, and his delivery and timing are outstanding. My one complaint was that occasionally he spoke so quickly in his con-man patter, I had a difficult time catching each word, but his absolute commitment to the role and slightly over-the-top physicality left no doubt as to his meaning.

 

Soon enough, he meets two lovely young women, Clarice (Hillary MacArthur), and her friend, Lucrece (Mary Miles). Immediately proving himself a BS artist extraordinaire, he regales the ladies with stories of his battlefield heroism against the German Army. He immediately falls for Clarice, only to misunderstand when Lucrece’s maid, Isabelle, (Brittany Hammock, who turns in a delightful double role) describes her mistress as “the most beautiful one,” and sets his cap to win his inamorata, whom he now thinks is named Lucrece. The three female actors have no difficulty in keeping up with their male castmates, delivering unique, individual, characters who manage to create a cohesive trio (quartet?) without sacrificing or diluting any of their differences. Miles’ Lucrece is appropriately befuddled, without ever resorting to caricature, and uses her facial expressions to communicate just as clearly as her voice. As always, her time onstage is professional and artfully crafted. (After the show, I commented to Miles that if ever I open a playbill and see her name, I know to expect a high-quality performance, and The Liar was no exception.) As Clarice, MacArthur demonstrates not only comedic proficiency, but also an ability to play her unhappy moments with authenticity, while never compromising the overall texture of the silliness surrounding her. Although frequently distressed, MacArthur also provides a sort of calm within the chaos, treating the audience to a layered and complex character. Hammock, with a distinctive half-flowing, half-braided hairdo adding to the illusion, also plays Isabelle’s twin sister, Sabine, who just happens to be Lucrece’s maid. Though played by the same actress, the two roles are somewhat Jekyll-and-Hyde in their differences. Hammock proves that she can play sweet and salty with equal aplomb, and creates two characters with easily-identifiable differences in style and temperament, though I wouldn’t have minded a tiny costume change, such as a hat or scarf, to further punctuate the duality of the roles.

 

Things get even more turned-around when we meet Alcippe, Dorante’s best friend. Did I mention that Alcippe is engaged to Clarice? The traditional Comedie –Francaise misconceptions and mutually cloudy understandings leave Alcippe constantly vacillating between fury and thick-headed amiability. As played by Josh Kern, Alcippe has the capacity to turn his emotions on a dime (centime?) and clearly revels in playing a hothead and a pleasant fop. Having worked with Kern several times over the last seven or eight years, I have enjoyed watching a kid with a hell of a lot of raw talent grow into a seasoned pro who is quickly mastering his craft.

 

Also in the melee are Alcippe’s friend, Philiste (Morgan Wood) and Dorante’s father, Geronte (Douglas McConnell), who further complicate matters through relaying inadvertent half-truths and misinformation (Philiste), and arranging for Dorante to marry Clarice, whom Dorante thinks is named Lucrece. While these two roles are somewhat smaller than the rest, both Wood and McConnell make the most of their onstage moments, matching the rest of the cast in skill and commitment to the “reality” of the script.

 

A story about a midnight boat ride, a hilariously mimed duel, and countless moments of ensuing confusion add to the insanity, with a tidy-if-contrived happy ending for everyone. Director Scott Blanks clearly had a good time creating the frenetic insanity of the piece, yet never allows the chaos to go too far off the rails. Discipline and precision are essential when half the characters are frequently out of control, and Blanks expertly keeps the lunacy tightly blocked and well-rehearsed.

Costume Designer Janet Kile made the interesting choice of dressing each character in a combination of classical and contemporary fashion. (Kern’s plush blue great-coat and Driggers’ ornate vest work particularly well with blue jeans.) While not at all distracting, the costumes helped establish the timelessness of the plot, as does modern scene-change music. (Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” was an especially nice touch.) As Cliton, Hetler was the only character to appear in all-period dress, which served his character well, as he not only opens the show by addressing the audience, but comments frequently on the wild events that sweep him along for the ride.

 

The Liar is a perfect show for those who love classic farce, but it never shies away from its moments of modernity. Playwright David Ives not only translated, but also re-wrote parts of the script, adding multiple modern-day terms and expressions. As with Kile’s costumes and the 21st century music, the dialogue occasionally reinforces the message that similar shenanigans go on in 2018 as went on in 1645.

 

-FLT3

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

J. Michael McGuirt Exhibit at Harbison Theatre

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J Michael McGuirt’s new show hanging in the halls of Harbison Theatre says his show was inspired by none other than his hometown, Camden, SC.

 

“I was born in Camden, raised in Camden.  Love Camden and I kind of alluded to being in the area.  You’re exposed to a lot of art; got the Fine Art Center there and a lot of musical programs, so I was raised around that and inspired by that, and then Camden in itself is a really beautiful town,” says McGuirt.

 

McGuirt is a self-taught artist who initially set out for a degree outside of the art field, yet art was continuously a part of his life, and so he took hold of that.  He started with sculptures but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he would discover the medium that would be found in a majority of his work.

 

“I went to Furman University and have a business degree, but I’ve always been creative. … I’ve actually made sculpted dolls before, a long, long time ago; but probably about four years ago I was introduced to acrylic painting and I was like, ‘I love acrylics.’  And they dry fast and you’ve got to really work with it, unlike oils.  You know oils take a long, long time to dry and, I had tried an oil painting when I was in college.  I just went and bought supplies and was like, ‘I’m gonna do an oil painting,’ which of course didn’t work out.  I was like, that’s just really juvenile looking you know, no classes or whatever,” McGuirt explains.

 

Since the decision to work with acrylic paint, McGuirt has developed a very unique technique with his work.  Rather than thinning his paint with a paint thinner, he simply uses water and works with his painting while it is completely wet, rather than waiting for layer after layer to dry as typically done with acrylic paintings.

           

“… I really want to work with color and not [be] so constrained.  So, I started watching it and messing around with it.  And there’s a lot of people who do the flow work now and they make products that are thinned acrylic paints, and so they’re layering them like- well, I want to do that but I want to do it a little differently.  So, it took about a year and a half to develop the technique …  You’ve really got to get all of the motion and the life and the depth, all at one time and that was the trick – [that] and controlling. You’re thinning the paint and letting it flow …,” says McGuirt.

           

On September 7, 2018, Harbison Theater opened a gallery exhibition for McGuirt’s collection known as “Form and Flow,” in which McGuirt’s new technique is amply exhibited.  Harbison began the process of hanging art on their lobby walls nearly three years ago, however, it wasn’t until Executive Director, Kristen Cobb joined the team nearly a year ago that the art has really began to take off, starting with McGuirt.

           

“I’ve known Mike McGuirt for pretty much, most of our lives, 20 plus years.  And I’ve really watched him evolve as such a talented artist and the type of work he does is so fascinating … He approached me about doing the show and I really loved the idea of having his handmade robots,” Cobb says.

           

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While most of the work found in this show is Abstract paintings, McGuirt has also brought in three dimensional figures that most people call “Robots,” along with a couple of modern, geometric black and white paintings.  McGuirt is a fan of modernism, and through the inspiration of the Bauhaus movement and his love for modern work, he was able to develop these pieces, which also play into his show at Harbison Theater.

           

“There was a school in Germany, Bauhaus, and I’ve always liked modern stuff and appreciated, you know, the modernism and it was the fore runner of that … Their students were also known for their parties and the wild, wacky costumes that they designed.  They were geometric but they were asymmetrical and they used circles and squares and curves.  But it was like, one side of the head would be one color and then the leg would be that color.  So, it was balanced yet it was still skewed.  And I’m like, okay, that’s what I want … So, the inspiration for the three-dimensional figures came from that,” Michael explains.

 

With this show at Harbison Theater, McGuirt wants people to have their own experience through his work. “People really want to be engaged by a painting,” he says. “They want to relate to it.  So, I’m like, let me give them something really complex and I like being complex in a painting.  People, no matter what their background and what their mood is, they might relate to that painting. They may see something in there that I didn’t see and I’ve noticed that really depends on the person.”

 J. Michael McGuirt

J. Michael McGuirt

You can also find work of McGuirt in other locations, such as in his own gallery in Camden, SC.  Outside of art, McGuirt does real-estate and owns The Heritage Antique Mall, which holds his very own art gallery. McGuirt is also a member of Sumter Country Artist Guilds which is associated with the Sumter Country Gallery of Art, where his painting of a young bird recently won a People’s Choice Award. “I made it bigger in its chest like it’s taking a deep breath and it’s got its eyes closed, and I’m like, it’s about to fly.  I called it ‘Gathering Courage,’” McGuirt says.

           

McGuirt’s work will show at Harbison Theatre through October and more shows by a variety of local artists are on the way.  Cobb wants to continue supporting local art and developing more extensive relationships with local artists.  After working for The Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County for over ten years, Cobb appreciates the value of local relationships. “I know how important it is to have those relationships with the local artist and to be able to give back to the local community … Columbia is very fortunate.  We have some amazing artists,” says Cobb.

           

To see McGuirt’s work at Harbison Theater, tour the venue during any of their operating hours. Support local artist, local art and local venues - these are the things that give Columbia, SC, so much character.

 

Hallie Hayes

Intern, the Jasper Project

 

Learn more about Bauhaus at

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-bauhaus.htm

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REVIEW: Misery is Optional at Trustus Theatre

"Rest assured there isn’t a weak or underdeveloped character or a wasted moment." - Frank Thompson

 Director and Co-Writer Dewey Scott-Wiley

Director and Co-Writer Dewey Scott-Wiley

Words were spoken, hearts were broken, but now I hope you see it was the whiskey talking, not me.”  - Jerry Lee Lewis

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Though The Killer’s famous ditty about the perils of drinking was considered humorous in the 1950s (and still has a great tune), it’s no longer acceptable to laugh at alcohol/drug induced misbehavior. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised at how much I laughed during Misery Is Optional, running tonight through Sunday at Trustus Theatre. Developed through the Midlands Tech-based Harbison Theatre Incubator Project, Misery Is Optional is a collection of vignettes and short monologues, taken verbatim from interviews with those suffering from chemical addiction. Their stories are often tragic, but Director Dewey Scott-Wiley wisely includes moments of hilarity throughout the show, without ever abandoning the seriousness of the disease or its impact on its victims and those in their personal orbits. Scott-Wiley’s staging is simple and minimalist, placing the focus squarely on the people and their experiences. While often colorful and eccentric, the many characters embodied by the cast of four are never lampooned or made into cartoonish figures. Scott-Wiley adds a glaze-thin layer of heightened reality at just the right moments, and at other times deals with stark reality head-on. The result is an immersive, emotionally engaging, and accurate-yet-respectful look at the world from the addict’s perspective. Character changes are done seamlessly onstage, with a simple change of hats or donning a pair of glasses, etc.
 

 Co-Writer, Christine Hellman

Co-Writer, Christine Hellman

The cast is uniformly strong, and features Scott-Wiley, alongside Christine Hellman, Arischa Conner Frierson, and Jason Stokes. This ensemble of four well-known Columbia actors flows seamlessly from one character to the next. Many are recurring, while others we glimpse only once. From well-heeled society alcoholics to homeless heroin addicts, the entire socio-economic spectrum is explored, subtly driving home the point that addiction cuts across all cultural lines. There is no linear plot, per se, but there is an unmistakable thematic arc, taking us from the darker, hopeless stories through the process of intervention and treatment, and ending on a bright note of hope.

Each of the four performers presents a chameleon-like ability to seamlessly navigate the waters of dialect, social class, education level, and a spectrum of emotions, which will likely leave each theatre-goer with his or her favorite characters, so I won’t prejudice anyone by sharing mine. Rest assured there isn’t a weak or underdeveloped character or a wasted moment. Scott-Wiley utilizes a circular-pattern style of blocking throughout the show, which creates a perpetually kinetic atmosphere. Whether physically or emotionally, there is always motion, and the overall pacing and fluidity of the show are clearly well-rehearsed and perfected.

Misery Is Optional is a non-season special event, being hosted by Trustus, so there are only three more chances to catch it. I would urge anyone who enjoys good theatre to experience this production. This isn’t a “Hey kids, don’t do drugs” Afterschool Special, nor does it speak only to those in recovery. It has a message, but it’s also a fascinating, funny, and enjoyable show.

The Confluence of Art and Feminism - Figure Out 18 by Christina Xan

Figure Out "supports the mission of Planned Parenthood, which is to empower individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their sexual health and reproductive lives." - Molly Harrell, Founder

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 Artist Bree Burchfield - the beginning of girls with fruit, 2017

Artist Bree Burchfield - the beginning of girls with fruit, 2017

Tapp’s Art Center and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic are hosting Figure Out this month, their annual art exhibit that celebrates the human body. Thursday night, as part of First Thursday on Main, Figure Out will hold its first public event of the year, a figurative nude art show that is free and open to the public. What’s a figurative nude art show? It’s a show that gives artists the option to display non-censored, full frontal nudity in a judgment free environment, making it one of the only shows of its kind presented annually in South Carolina.

 

The event, located at Tapp’s on Main, will begin Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. and go until 10:00 p.m. The works presented will showcase talent from local photographers, painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, and more. Over 40 artists participate each year, and a minimum 50% profit of all artwork sold goes to the artist.

 

An event that is willing to display the human body without censorship is immensely important. Founder of Figure Out, Molly Harrell, says this event is close to her heart because it both, “supports the mission of Planned Parenthood, which is to empower individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their sexual health and reproductive lives,” and “promotes body positivity [and] equality for all people regardless of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” Beyond promoting these themes, the event also gives artists the freedom to express themselves and their experiences involving the human body.

 

How did an event this significant begin in Columbia? It all started in 2010 when Harrell attended RE: Nude, a figurative nude art show in Charleston that celebrates the human body and benefits Planned Parenthood. Harrell, being a passionate photographer herself, knew this was an event she wanted to participate in, so she brought it to Columbia and, with help from the community, rebranded it under the name Figure Out.

 

Many people have helped Harrell along the way. Tapp’s has been hosting since 2013 when the event began, and this year Harrell is working with Brittany Pringle from Planned Parenthood and the Executive Director at Tapp’s, Caitlin Bright, to bring the event to life for a 6th time.

 

The figurative nude art show on Thursday may be the central public event, but it doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday, September 19 at noon, a free panel on art and sexuality will be conducted. An RSVP is not required to attend the event, but those who RSVP in advance will be provided a light lunch. The panel will be an effervescent discussion of art and sexuality featuring artists, educators, coalition partners, and media.

 

The event closes out on Thursday, September 27 at 5:30 p.m. with beer, wine, and live entertainment. This closing reception is an opportunity for anyone to purchase art and enjoy cocktails and music before the show ends. 

 

While there are several events, Thursday’s exploration into the human body will be unforgettable, so you’d be wise not to miss it! There’s no fee or RSVP needed, so be sure to come join us Thursday night to explore and celebrate our bodies in their purest forms.

 

For more information on the events, check Figure Out’s website at www.figureoutppsat.org

 artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

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Did you know that the Jasper Project is an all-volunteer organization that relies on contributors and sponsors to do the work we do, such as publish Jasper Magazine?

We need your Jasper Guild membership fees to make our world go round.

Please visit

SUPPORT

and join or renew your membership in the Jasper Guild today.

You'll drink for free at the Jasper release party on September 21st at Stormwater Studios AND you'll see your name in that very issue of

Jasper Magazine.

And, you'll be a part of a pretty fabulous project in Columbia SC that is going into it's 8th year of supporting arts and artists because of people like YOU!

 

Artist Profile: Olga Yukhno by Hallie Hayes

Olga Yukhno's gallery show opens on Thursday night at Anastasia & Friends Gallery and will be up throughout the month of September

 artist Olga Yukhno

artist Olga Yukhno

Art is a trade embodied by many around the world; Olga Yukhno clearly displays this.

 

Olga Yukhno is an artist from Pyatigorsk, Russia, and is the current Gallery Director at The University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery.  It is back in her native country where she began her journey as an artist.

 

As a student at Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University, Yukhno received a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and a Master’s degree in Education and Psychology.  However, she continued to pursue her love for art.

 

Yukhno focused a lot on enameling, using metal work tools that her father had made for her.  She fell in love with Juxtaposition within her art and continued to show this throughout her work.  While in Russia, Yukhno apprenticed under distinguished artist and enamellist Nikolai Vdovkin.  It was here where Yukhno experienced some of her most formative years as an artist.

 

In 2008, Yukhno moved to the United States where she continued her journey as an artist.  She realized that she no longer had the resources needed to continue enameling, and decided to expand into new mediums.  Yukhno loves making complex and intricate pieces; “I love detail.  I think I’m not capable of making something simple.”  This was one factor that led her to the decision of expanding into 3D-figurative work.

 

Yukhno says, “It was a very intimidating process for me because it just seemed to be so complicated and intricate, and I was not even sure I was capable of that.  So, I was able to take a class and it changed my, it changed my world because I tried it and I loved it!”

 

Yukhno has been working with 3D-figurative art for two years now.  It is in this work that she finally feels as if she has found her voice.

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Yukhno’s degree in psychology greatly influences her current work and brings about pivotal questions relating to the human mind.  She correlates her interest in humanity and human psychology with her figurative sculptures.  It is in this that she will be introducing her first 3D-figurative art exhibition, What Moves Us?

 

What Moves Us? is a solo art exhibition hosted by Anastasia & Friends, displaying Yukhno’s 3D artwork.  The show will open on Thursday, September 6, at 6:00pm and will last until 9:00pm.  The theme of this show is the motivation of people, where Yukhno displays the questions that rest in her mind relating to the motivation of humanity through her artwork.  She enjoys thinking and analyzing different aspects of human psychology, and this can be seen through her intro exhibition.

 

 Yukhno is very fascinated with denial and how it works.  She finds it interesting how we sometimes recognize when we are in denial, yet we choose to not see it.  She also finds interest in how society influences us as individuals.

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Yukhno says, “I’m extremely interested in the influence of society on us and how we influence on each other, and the issues of judgment … it’s fascinating how some people strive to resist it, but most people don’t, and it makes me wonder why and how, and what makes us give up or what makes us just keep plowing through, refusing to give up.”

 

These are the ideas that can be expected to be seen through Yukhno’s 3D-figurative sculptures found in the What Moves Us? exhibition.

 

This is just one of many things Yukhno has planned.  While she will continue with sculpture, she also wants to expand into instillations and collaborative work, bringing in more ideas of societal influences, but also of political and social issues.

 

Be on the lookout for this talented artist. One can expect more to come from Yukhno in the future.

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Did you know that the Jasper Project is an all-volunteer organization that relies on contributors and sponsors to do the work we do, such as publish Jasper Magazine?

We need your Jasper Guild membership fees to make our world go round.

Please visit

SUPPORT

and join or renew your membership in the Jasper Guild today.

You'll drink for free at the Jasper release party on September 21st at Stormwater Studios AND you'll see your name in that very issue of

Jasper Magazine.

And, you'll be a part of a pretty fabulous project in Columbia SC that is going into it's 8th year of supporting arts and artists because of people like YOU!

 

Meet New Jasper Intern Christina Xan and Read About a Favorite Poet Cynthia Dewi Oka

"...language is not fixed and is always moving. We, as people, are continuously evolving, and our poetry does have to not stay stagnant." - Christina Xan

 Hi! I’m Christina Xan, and I’m a new intern here at Jasper for the 2018-2019 year. I’m currently a grad student at USC working on my MA in Lit. When I’m not busy taking and teaching classes, which is essentially never, I’m quickly grasping for time to scribble down plays and poetry or to make a ruckus banging on my keyboard in my apartment. My favorite activities include screaming over how perfect my cats are to the point of getting noise complaints, wearing the same pair of jeans to paint in because they were *so* expensive but got ruined on the first day, and eating so many cupcakes and tacos in one sitting that I slide into a comatose state for at least a week.

Hi! I’m Christina Xan, and I’m a new intern here at Jasper for the 2018-2019 year. I’m currently a grad student at USC working on my MA in Lit. When I’m not busy taking and teaching classes, which is essentially never, I’m quickly grasping for time to scribble down plays and poetry or to make a ruckus banging on my keyboard in my apartment. My favorite activities include screaming over how perfect my cats are to the point of getting noise complaints, wearing the same pair of jeans to paint in because they were *so* expensive but got ruined on the first day, and eating so many cupcakes and tacos in one sitting that I slide into a comatose state for at least a week.

Cynthia Dewi Oka

 

I’ve been reading and writing poetry since I was a little girl, and when I was in undergrad, I still had time to fit in reading poetry especially since I was a creative writing minor. However, once the first year of my MA rolled around, my time for any reading outside of class dwindled, and by the end of that first year, I realized I hadn’t read one new book of poetry in pretty much the entire time I’d been in grad school. So, I dedicated the beginning of this past summer to getting back to it. One of the first poets I stumbled across was Cynthia Dewi Oka when she was featured on Poets.org. I find poets through their site all the time, and I usually add them to my list of “Poets to Keep an Eye On,” but when I read Oka’s poem on that site (it kills me that I can’t remember which one), I became completely and wholly entranced. I basically flew to Amazon and bought both of her books of poetry, a decision I have not regretted once.

 

Oka’s work is far from unappreciated; she is a three time Pushcart Nominee who has two published books of poetry: Nomad of Salt and Hard Water and Salvage. Something that drew me to her right away was that her first work, Nomad of Salt and Hard Water, has come out in two editions, each of which are, to some degree, different from one another – I love this. While containing the same poems for the most part, Oka took the time between the publications of her first and second editions to reflect on what she felt the first publication lacked, editing poems for the second edition as well as adding new ones. While some people may criticize Oka for going back and changing her already published poems, for me this is just a demonstration that language is not fixed and is always moving. We, as people, are continuously evolving, and our poetry does have to not stay stagnant.

"Particularly, when Oka says at the end that “to wake will not mean betrayal, to be lost will not mean goodbye” I felt that she was speaking to all of us who have to lock part of ourselves away, that it is a call to all of us to not fear the light of our own suns."

Although Oka’s poems may be everchanging, for me, Oka’s poems pretty much boil down to one thing: identity. I suppose that if you break any piece of writing down to one thing you could say that it’s identity, that we’re always writing about ourselves in a way to understand ourselves. However, there’s something special about Oka, the way she writes about our struggle to take broken pieces of our identities to form something recognizable, something we can, as her aptly titled second book is called, salvage. What’s wonderful about Oka is that while her poems can be very specific in audience, I believe anyone can relate to them. Many times she writes to and about minorities, and her poems both speak to them and to others, partially by teaching those of us who are not minorities about their struggle. However, whether you’re a minority that has suffered a fracturing of your identity by a culture you’ve been unable to fight against or you’re just a human being whose biggest enemy against your identity is, well, you, there’s a poem for you in Oka’s work. One of my favorite poems from Nomad called “Soothsayer” is a perfect example of this. This poem is painfully relevant, a poem for those who look for refuge in a country that is not their own. However, even though I’m not an immigrant, this poem speaks to me in a personal way. Particularly, when Oka says at the end that “to wake will not mean betrayal, to be lost will not mean goodbye” I felt that she was speaking to all of us who have to lock part of ourselves away, that it is a call to all of us to not fear the light of our own suns.

 

While the content of the poem is obviously exceptionally important, the structure of a poem is equally so. I personally really appreciate people playing with form, trying something new, and speaking to an audience not just from the way a poem sounds but the way it looks. Oka has a perfect balance with form – she is able to break boundaries without alienating her reader. A poem in Salvage that I’ve particularly fallen in love with is “Winter Country,” and it’s mainly because of the form. Oka does something wonderfully unique with this poem. In her books, most of the poems are aligned to the left margin. “Winter Country” is split into two parts. One half contains the title and the poem, aligned to the right margin, while on the left margin appears a separate part of the poem in a different form, not under the title, and in different ink, only relating to the same subject. By putting half of the poem in a faded grey ink just behind the rest, Oka makes it appear almost as if the poem is haunting itself, something I personally haven’t seen done before.

 

In the end, I’ve fallen in love with Oka. She has a way of touching me with her words that I don’t find easily these days. On the cover of Salvage, Joy Harjo writes, “We are in the thick of the sludge of salvage, in an age of greedy locusts…when visionaries are bound to emerge. Cynthia Dewi Oka is one of these visionaries, a word prophet,” and I think if you take a few moments to read any one of her poems, you’ll agree.

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It's a great time to join or renew your membership in

The Jasper Guild!

We're raising money to pay for the publication of Jasper Magazine now!

Join today and get a free bottomless beer or wine cup at the Magazine Release Party on September 21st at Stormwater Studios!

And see your name in print in this issue of Jasper Magazine!

 

 

 

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Meet New Jasper Intern Hallie Hayes and Read her First Review of Foxing's New Album, Nearer My God

Hi! I'm Hallie Hayes, a new editorial intern for The Jasper Project. I am a Junior at The University of South Carolina majoring in Multimedia Journalism, where I hope to start a career in an entertainment editorial position post-graduation. Coming from the small town of Pamplico, South Carolina, I am proud to have found my way to the talented city of Columbia where local art is appreciated. My first true love is poetry, but my passion lies in the music, arts, and entertainment industries. You will be hearing a lot from me along these lines of subjects. I look forward to exploring the talent found in this city with The Jasper Project and sharing that with you!

 Hallie Hayes

Hallie Hayes

       

For those who have followed the band Foxing through their first two albums, the wait for the third record has been long and highly anticipated. The indie-rock band from St. Louis, Missouri has a fan base that has hung onto their moody melodies, in-your-thoughts lyrics and most importantly, their experimental bravery. As the third album has released, there is one thing that is known for certain: experiment they did.

 

Nearer My God was released on August 10, 2018, and it is a far fetch from the bands prior records, The Albatross and Dealer. Foxing’s prior two records gave fans the self-proclaimed emo hits that the band would become known for. The unique rasp of lead singer Conor Murphy’s voice mixed with soft indie rock tones delivered track after track. The band keeps the moody undertones that fans love, mixing in their own versions of R&B and electro-rock, giving the album a unique twist. Unafraid to mix two genres into one track, in songs like “Heartbeat,” the band begins with a classic instrumental style and transitions into an electro-rock ballad.

 

While Foxing’s first two albums gave us first tracks that are slowed down; almost acoustic, listeners receive a much different take with this album. Nearer My God gives us a first track, “Grand Paradise,” that unexpectedly jumps right into the newly experimental electro-rock instrumental style. It is a bit of an initial shock, but that’s fine. It shows the diversity of the band and their attempt to open new sounds for their fans, while keeping old habits.

 

With their second track, “Slapstick,” the band gives us a sound that combines upbeat electro instrumental music with a low indie-rock tones. They continue to transition their songs in this manner throughout the album. Moving from upbeat, to ballads, to a mixture of R&B with a touch of post-rock. At the same time, however, fans are still given the moody, intimate lyrics that were first brought by the band in tracks such as “Trapped in Dillard’s,” “Nearer My God” and “Crown Candy.”

 

The one consistency throughout the album is that everything is different. The ability to experiment with multiple different resonances is what makes this album a masterpiece. It is like nothing that has been heard from the indie-rock band.

 

Foxing took chances with this album, and it was a chance that truly worked for them and their sound. This is an album for those seeking something new, different, and truly innovative.