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

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

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

Now, the ball is back in your court.

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

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

Let’s get started.

~ MUSIC ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~THEATRE ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ VISUAL ARTS ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ LITERARY ARTS ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW IT’S ALL UP TO YOU —

GO TO

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

AND VOTE YOUR GUT!

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

Congratulations

Ginny Merett!

 Corsage by Ginny Merett

Corsage by Ginny Merett

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Frank Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Keith Tolen

Keith Tolen

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

 Lucas Sams

Lucas Sams

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

 Kathryn Van Aernum

Kathryn Van Aernum

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

 Sharon Collings Licata

Sharon Collings Licata

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

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

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

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

 Michael Krajewski

Michael Krajewski

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

 Flavia Lovatelli

Flavia Lovatelli

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

 Sean Rayford

Sean Rayford

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

 Olga Yukhno

Olga Yukhno

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

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

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

-          Charles M. Schulz

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Olga Yukhno Featured in December's Tiny Gallery Series

Thursday Night December 6th

6 - 9 pm

Jasper Studio #7 at Tapp’s Arts Center

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

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

~~~~

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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REVIEW: Toro y Moi @ The Senate, 11/17/2018

By: Kyle Petersen; Photos by: Bree Burchfield

 Toro y Moi performing at The Senate, November 2018. PC: Bree Burchfield

Toro y Moi performing at The Senate, November 2018. PC: Bree Burchfield

More than most, Toro y Moi is a musical act that reinvents itself with every album cycle. Since the pre-Causers of This days when Chaz Bundick (Chaz Bear?) played shows half behind a DIY laptop and keyboard combination as a chillwave progenitor to the almost-jammy guitar pop of 2015’s What For?,  the Toro y Moi project has constantly tested its own boundaries, trying on various permutations of dance-centric indie rock, funk and pop as if flipping through an exceptionally-curated record collection.

Bundick, a Columbia native who led the sharp indie rock quartet The Heist & the Accomplice in his college days at USC, adapted his live band to each of the singular aesthetic visions of his recordings each time he flipped the dial, adding drummer Andy Woodward and bassist Patrick Jeffords and then, later on, guitarist Jordan Blackmon and then keyboardist Anthony Ferraro to the proceedings. That core nucleus carried him far, even through the beats-oriented pop of 2013’s Anything in Return, but at a certain point it felt like the touring version of the band stood resolutely apart from the studio creations, and that Bundick was pretty fine with that.

Then came last year’s Boo Boo, a moody pop affair that showed traces of The Weeknd-style R&B and the grimy grandeur of some of Toro’s hip-hop production on the side. As ambient and inscrutable as that album could get, it was among the most consciously pop the project had yet leaned. Too, it was difficult to imagine the live band translating many of these songs to the stage. That Bundick didn’t tour on the effort seemed right and would ultimately prove prescient.

This Columbia show was the final date on the first string of non-DJ sets Toro y Moi had played since Boo Boo and comes in conjunction with the release of an advance single, “Freelance,” ahead of a full-length in early 2019. And it’s clear we’re getting a very different Toro experience going forward. Now performing without Blackmon and with Jeffords on synths as much as bass, Bundick is stepping fully into the frontman role, often drifting decisively away from the keys to roam the stage and lean into the considerable power of his vocal hooks rather than laying low in the groove. It’s a move he could have made at arguably any point in his career thus far, but it fits the new material particularly well, placing him in the lineage of artists like Frank Ocean and Sampha whose auteur styles and left-field melding of pop and R&B manage to command large audiences.


 PC: Bree Burchfield

PC: Bree Burchfield

Venturing through much of Boo Boo and new material from the forthcoming album amid a smattering of older tunes that fit the new direction, Bundick was as confident as a performer as I can ever remember seeing him. Even amid the most sweaty, dancefloor-ready vamps of the past, there’s always been something fundamentally bedroom producer about him, that felt like a masterful musician reimagining the music swimming around in his brain while saddled in front of the computer screen.

And that’s probably still who he is at heart but, for the first time, it’s possible to imagine that quiet, bespectacled oddball from around the way as the most unlikely thing of all—not just a nationally renowned indie artist, but a genuine pop star.

This might be some hell of a new record.

 

The Jasper Project Joins with COR to Present Time for Art Gala & Volunteer Hour Fundraiser at CMA

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The Jasper Project is delighted to partner with COR – Columbia Opportunity Resource – on this year’s celebration of Time for Art. Time for Art celebrates the Midlands’ arts, non-profit, and business communities through a silent art auction amidst an elegant Winter Wonderland gala on Saturday, December 8 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Volunteer hours are the currency of the evening and attendees bid for their favorite art pieces with hours of service to their community, taking their winning pieces home once service hours are completed.

COR invited the Jasper Project to participate this year by choosing 14 Midlands area artists to be honored on the evening of the gala. Selected artists then provided samples of their work from which COR chose and purchased one piece from each artist at a fair market price assigned by the artists themselves. All selected artists and a guest are invited to attend the gala as the guests of Jasper and COR where they will be recognized and honored. One artist will be chosen by an independent judge as the recipient of the Jasper Project Time for Art Best in Show Award and will be featured in the spring 2019 issue of Jasper Magazine.

This year’s honored artists are: Thomas Washington, Ginney Merett, Lucas Sams, Olga Yukhno, Michael Krajewski, Keith Tolen, Flavia Lovatelli, Sean Rayford, Sharon Collings Licata, Herman Keith, Kathryn Van Aernum, Cedric Umoja, Patricia Gilmartin, and Jan Swanson.

Tickets for the evening are on sale now and available at Eventbrite. The evening includes everything one would expect from a black tie optional affair with an open bar, hors d'oeuvres from F2T Productions, Management and Catering, a DJ (Big Time Entertainment), and live music by The Reggie Sullivan Band. Dress in your best and get ready to party! Tickets are $75/person and $140/couple. COR members have access to an exclusive discount.

 

 

 

CMA Presents Local Poets Joy Priest and Tim Conroy for its 2nd Session of theWrite Around Series

 

This Sunday, the Columbia Museum of Art will be putting on the second installment of its new Write Around Series, featuring poets Joy Priest and Tim Conroy in conjunction with the opening of the CMA’s newly designed collection galleries.

 

The Write Around Series is the latest project of CMA’s Writer-in-Residence, Ray McManus. For him it is “an opportunity for poets and writers to come to the CMA in pairs, walk the galleries, and write individual responses to the artwork.”

 

The idea came from an old CMA program called Frisson, which was created by Charlene Spearen and Leslie Pierce. “As a participant and audience member of Frisson, I simply loved it – the opportunity to come to the museum and generate new material,” McManus said, “and then to share that material with a receptive audience of literary folks and art folks and folks who were just curious what the hell a Frisson was; it gave me a space to grow in.”

 

Knowing how special this program was to him, McManus was confident the new Write Around Series would be just as important. “When we approach art, any art, I believe a conversation takes place – multiple conversations, really,” McManus continued, “When art speaks to us, when we are able to listen to art speaking to us, we can engage in a conversation that takes us through the art and beyond it. And each time we come back to that art, that conversation can be stronger, and completely different.”

 

By bringing local writers and poets to create work based on art, this program allows patrons the opportunity to participate in this conversation, “not THE conversation, but A conversation. A way of understanding the artwork,” McManus said, “For the everyday patron, seasoned art historian, perhaps the artist, and certainly the writers, I can’t think of a more immediate and hopefully rewarding experience. We no longer become patrons, art historians, artists, and writers. We become a community.”

 

This time around, local poets Joy Priest and Tim Conroy are sharing their work. “Joy and Tim are amazing. I’ve been a fan of their work for years, so perhaps for personal reasons, I reached out to them,” McManus continued, “But I also wanted the two of them together because the range of their voices together will make for one hell of a reading. Both are powerful poets on the page, but they also have a commanding presence on the stage."

 

Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Priest is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of South Carolina. She is the recipient of the 2018 Gregory Pardlo Fellowship at The Frost Place and has received support from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, among others. She is formerly an associate poetry editor for Narrative Magazine and senior editor emerita at Yemassee Journal. Her poems have appeared or are upcoming in BlackbirdCallalooFour Way ReviewThe RumpusBest New Poets 2014Best New Poets 2016, and The Breakbeat Poets.

 

Conroy is a former special education teacher, school administrator, and vice president of the South Carolina Autism Society. His work has been published in journals, magazines, and compilations including Fall LinesJasper, and Marked by Water. In 2017, Muddy Ford Press published his first book of poetry, Theologies of Terrain, edited by Ed Madden, poet laureate of the City of Columbia. A founding board member of the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Columbia.

Conroy was influenced to start writing from a young age by his older brother and sister, but he didn’t pursue writing until later in life. Three years ago, he was influenced by a presentation from Kathleen Robbins on her book of photographs of the Mississippi Delta, Into the Flatland. “I take this book home, and I’m inspired to write poems from the book,” Conroy said.

 

Shortly after, Robbins asked him if she could use his poem in her upcoming installation, and it all kicked off from there. “I was always the no guy,” Conroy continued, “But I finally said yes, and a transformation has happened.”

 

Since then, Conroy has explored many themes with his poetry. For this event Conroy is presenting 11 new poems in contingence with the new CMA galleries. “Most of the poems have turned out to be narrative poems,” Conroy said, “Some part of the art sparked a story, and I derived poems from them.”

 

He continued to say that just because the art inspired the stories, it doesn’t mean the poems are what you would necessarily expect. Conroy elaborated, “There’s one piece there that I can tell was created to make laughter, but for me it recalled one of my worst memories, and I wrote to that.”

 

To hear Priest and Conroy read, come to the CMA this Sunday the 18th at 3:00 p.m. The event is free with admission, which is free for members and $6 (or less) for general entry. For more information on the event or the gallery, check out the CMA’s website at: www.columbiamuseum.org

 

The Write Around Series has already had two wonderful writers speak and will continue even after this Sunday into the Spring. A full 2018-2019 schedule is provided below (bolded dates yet to come):

 

2018-2019 Write Around Series

 

·         April 8, 2018 – Julia Liz Elliott, Monifa Lemons, Maya Marshall, and Jillian Wiese*

 

·         September 30, 2018 — Ed Madden and Ray McManus 

 

·         November 18, 2018 — Joy Priest and Tim Conroy

·         February 10, 2019 — Nathalie Anderson and Len Lawson

·         March 17, 2019 — Cindi Boiter and Jennifer Bartell

 

* Nothing to Hide: Fours Writers Responding to Renee Cox and Imogen Cunningham

 

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for more updates on local artists and events!

 

Milo the Magnificent Coming to Columbia Marionette Theatre This Weekend with a Special Friday Evening Performance

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When asked to describe puppet act, “Milo the Magnificent,” along with the duo behind the magic, Alex & Olmsted (Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas), artist director for the Columbia Marionette Theater, Lyon Hill, captures the moment with three enchanting words: Charming, uplifting and playful.

 

“Milo the Magnificent” is a puppet performance starring an aspiring magician, Milo.  While Milo never uses dialogue, he consistently shows emotion throughout the production in the form of expression, engaging the audience without the use of language.  Alex & Olmsted, the duo behind the production, bring a unique spin to their use of innovative puppetry, according to Hill:

 

“Their work features a unique style of puppetry that draws from animation and cartooning.  The character Milo never speaks, but expresses a wide variety of emotion through interchangeable facial expressions.  At CMT (Columbia Marionette Theater), we like to showcase inventive puppetry, so I was keen to bring them to Columbia.”

 

That’s right! This one-of-a-kind production, “Milo the Magnificent,” will be featured in Columbia at CMT, one of only two guest artist brought to CMT per year.  As a show for all ages, this is one to bring amusement, entertainment and excitement to all.

 

The production will run on Friday, November 16th at 7 p.m. and Saturday, November 17th at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Ticket cost is $5 per guest, ages 2 and up.

 

The Friday evening performance is a unique one, as CMT typically does not put on evening productions; however, Milo the Magnificent will run one time on Friday evening, giving guest the opportunity to experience the show in all its glory.  A true, magical experience.

 

“The Friday evening show performance in an opportunity to see the show in a slightly different setting,” Hill says of the 7:00 p.m. production, “The theater darkens a bit more, there are no birthday parties, it gives the artist a chance to really shine.”

 

As for Hill’s personal favorite aspect of the performance: “It is a well realized production. The music, humor and style all merge perfectly.”

 

Come see for yourself!

 

To experience Milo and his magic, grab those close to you and come out to Columbia Marionette Theater this weekend to get a taste of Alex & Olmsted’s, “Milo the Magnificent,” and all of the unique and fun entertainment that this production has to offer!

 

For more information on the duo behind the act, visit: www.alexandolmsted.com

—Hallie Hayes

My Feet Will Be Praying -

Received this message this morning from a dear friend and member of our arts community, Cassie Premo Steele, and wanted to share it with all of you.

Dear Cindi,

I woke this morning with my heart heavy about yesterday’s events at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. I know you’re feeling it, too.

So I did what I always do when my heart is yearning for healing and change. I made something.

This image is a combination of two things from The ReSisters:

-Art by Amy Alley that depicts the Cherokee word for “fight,” which is not the kind of fighting we do now in our society.

-Dialogue between Hadassah, a theology professor, and Sanna, who knows that she is echoing the phrase by Rabbi Heschel, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma.

I hope this little gift ripples out with waves of peace and understanding today.

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Thank you to Cassie, and peace to us all —

Columbia City Ballet Dancer Leonardo Victorino Reveals What it Takes to be Dracula

by Christina Xan

 Victorino, as Dracula, with Principal Dancer Claire Richards in the role of Lucy Westenra

Victorino, as Dracula, with Principal Dancer Claire Richards in the role of Lucy Westenra

Based closely Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Columbia City Ballet is putting on its annual performance of Dracula this weekend, a show they have been doing for more than two decades.

Last week, I was able to sit down with ballet dancer and company member Leonardo Victorino to talk about what it’s like to get into the role of Dracula, a role he has been playing at CCB for four years.

“I’ve been dancing for 11 years now,” said Victorino, adding that he was inspired by his parents to start dancing, “My parents are musicians, and I grew up in the arts conservatory.”

Victorino experimented with several art genres like painting, violin, and drama, before finally finding the art form that’s enchanted him for the past several years, ballet: “When I was 16, 17 years old I decided to start dancing,” Victorino said, “It was a passion I had but was scared to follow because of negative perceptions. Fortunately, I did it, and it’s the best thing I’ve done.”

When asked why ballet was the art form that spoke to him, he said, “I feel like with ballet, I was able to do all the art I had done in the past in one. I had the drama, the music, the art, and I got to keep moving and expressing myself.”

Though he started dancing seriously as a teenager, Victorino said he believes dance is something that has been inside him since he was born: “When I was a baby, and my mom put me on the bed, she saw me stretching out on the bed,” he paused and smiled, “She thought I looked like a ballet dancer.”

This passion built and built, and he was dancing in a company in Pennsylvania before finding CCB: “I came to Columbia in 2015 when I got offered the job here,” Victorino said, “I immediately started playing Dracula, which was both scary and a huge honor.”

Victorino talked with me about the detailed physical and emotional process it takes for him to get into the role of Dracula: “The moment everyone goes on stage, and I’m left alone, I start getting in the mood of Dracula. As soon as I sit in the chair to start doing my makeup, that’s the moment Leo is leaving, and Dracula is coming,” he shared, “I try to keep far from distractions during the show because the stage is a full-time job. I know I carry the name of the production.”

Furthermore, Victorino shares that he watches documentaries about Dracula as a character and about Bram Stoker as an author so that he can fully understand the mindset of the character: “I’ve learned that to be Dracula I have to feel pleasure in the pain,” he said, “I have to convert the natural in me to the opposite.”

 For Victorino, telling a story through dance is just as and even more important than telling it through words: “Telling a story through dance allows me to express myself without words. The words are kind of dangerous because sometimes you don’t know how to express through them,” he added, “I can express anything inside of me just by movements. I can put out positive and negative energy through my body.”

Victorino also shared with me his two favorite scenes to perform: “The death of Dracula is my favorite scene because of the process of bringing this tragic death to the audience,” he continues, “the second scene where I bite Lucy and she is becoming a vampire is also really fun because we have a very intricate and sensual dance.”

When asked what his goal for the show is Victorino said, “Everything that I’m feeling is important; the stage is the reality for me, and I want to bring this expression as real as I can to touch the audience,” he concluded, “Really, I just hope people come and that they have a good time. Oh, and if they want to see me after the show, I promise I won’t bite!”

To see Victorino and the rest of the production in Columbia City Ballet’s Dracula, get your tickets to attend either Friday, October 26th or Saturday, October 27th.

 

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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