The Play Right Series, Community Producers, and Sharks and Other Lovers -- a message from cindi

When we started the Jasper Project last year as a non-profit entity dedicated to collaborative arts engineering, one of the first projects on our roster, after putting out the next issue of Jasper Magazine, was the formation of the Play Right Series.

The Play Right Series is an endeavor to enlighten and empower audiences with information about the process involved in creating theatrical arts, at the same time that we engineer and increase opportunities for SC theatre artists to create and perform new works for theatre. The word process is italicized because one of the four main missions* of the Jasper Project is to pull back the curtain on what, for most of us, is the magic and mystery of art. The Process.

How, for example, does a play get from a nugget in the playwright’s brain through her pen and all the way through re-writes, communication with directors, casting, table readings, stage readings, blocking, costuming, lighting, scoring, marketing, financing, rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal, and so much more, all the way to the stage on opening night?

We believe not only that the process of creating art deserves the same kind of accolades and wonder that the product does, but that knowledge of the process makes us both better audiences and patrons, as well as better artists ourselves. One of the ways we implement this belief is by involving Community Producers.

Community Producers are normal people, just like you and me, who invest a modest but meaningful amount of money in the production of one of the Play Right Series plays. In exchange for their investment, Community Producers are offered an insiders’ view of what goes on behind the scenes and are invited to follow the process of producing a new play from the first readings on.

The first in our line-up of new, audience-friendly plays is Sharks and Other Lovers, written by Columbia native Randall David Cook, and our first class of Community Producers is made up of Bonnie Goldberg, Roe Young, Bill Schmidt, Marcia Stine, Charles and Jean Cook, and Jack Oliver.

Larry Hembree is the director of the play and he believes strongly that this program is important for the Greater Columbia Arts Community at this point in time. “In a city that prides its arts and culture scene, the Play Right Series validates the performing arts’ work here and is a testament to artists and audiences that new work can be created and supported,” he says. “The long term goals [of the Play Right Series] are to continue to keep our city and state at the forefront of theatre by continuing to produce as much new work as possible.  Trustus has done a stellar job at this for over 30 years. So has the Columbia Children’s Theatre with its Commedia productions for young audiences.   Now the Jasper Project can continue to grow that. It’s exciting. Because this process is a true collaboration between playwright, director, actors and designers. It can only work if there is true collaboration among all the artists involved which certainly improves theatre skills for all of them.”

 

Sharks and Other Lovers stars Libby Campbell, Jennifer Moody Sanchez, Josh Kern, Glenn Rawls, and Perry Simpson. David Swicegood does costume and hair, Barry Wheeler is the sound designer, and Emily Harrill is the stage designer.

Because of the support of Bonnie, Roe, Bill, Marcia, Charles, Jean, and Jack, the Jasper Project is delighted to present a staged reading of Sharks and Other Lovers on Friday, April 28th and Saturday, May 6th. Both readings will take place at Tapp’s Arts Center and the cost is only $10. There will be a cash bar and an exciting discussion of the journey the play has taken thus far, and where it will go from here.

I hope you’ll join us for the first in an on-going series of experiments in theatre arts. It’ll be fun, and we’ll all be better theatre audiences (and hopefully artists) for having been there.

Take care,

Cindi

 

*The Jasper Project is committed to four integrated criteria:

  • Process – illuminating the unique processes endemic to all art forms in order to provide a greater level of understanding and respect for that discipline.
  • Community/Collaboration – nurturing community both within and between arts disciplines.
  • Narrative – creating a more positive and progressive understanding of SC culture.
  • Economy – being efficient stewards of arts funding committed to creating more with less. 

 

 

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Review: Trustus Theatre Presents Hand to God

If the image of a Trustus company member with a puppet on his hand in the promotional materials for Hand to God conjures up some déjà vu , that would make sense—the theatre produced the irreverent Sesame Street send-up Avenue Q back in 2012, showcasing the power and possibility of adult-oriented theatre that incorporates puppetry.

Given that, it’s hard not to make some surface-level comparisons to the two shows, particularly since they lean into the dependable gag of having puppets say naughty things. But while Avenue Q was toying directly with the staging and conventions of the traditional children’s programming around puppets, Hand to God uses another, lesser known convention of puppetry—sock puppet performances that fundamentalist churches often use to teach about the Bible to young ones—and spins off boldly from there. The expected biting satire lampooning conservative evangelicals is there, of course, but playwright Robert Askins actually peers deeper into the very nature of storytelling, and of mythmaking itself. He tellingly bookends the play with soliloquies (fittingly from a puppet) that wax poetic and half-crazed on the subject matter to prime the audience for such connection. And it works. To paraphrase Joan Didion, Hand to God is fundamentally about the stories—the fictional stories—we tell ourselves in order to live.

The building blocks of the plot are relatively simple—a grieving widow, Margery (Jennifer Hill), and her teenage son, Jason (Jonathan Monk), find solace in their church’s puppetry club. Pastor Greg (Paul Kaufman) is into Margery, Jason is into girl-next-door fellow club member Jessica (Martha Hearn Kelly), and troubled teen Timmy (Patrick Dodds) is also into Margery. The devil gets involved. Shenanigans ensue.

Central to those shenanigans is Jason’s masterful sock puppet alter-ego, Tyrone, whose foul-mouthed antics and increasingly belligerent presence gradually subsumes Jason’s character. Tyrone voices the most extreme parts of Jason’s psyche--anger, fear, love, lust, all get ribald treatment from the puppet even as Jason himself remains shy and meek. The thematic layers that get worked through in this performance--the trials of puberty, the bewildering emotional highs and lows of religion, the grief over a lost parent--all get lifted up, swirled around and interrogated by the crazed humor rather than turned into punchlines. A great example of this (mild spoiler alert) occurs during an extended puppet sex scene, which is both as comical as you’d imagine it but also surprisingly rife with sweetness and emotional complexity as it managed to capture the screaming sex drive and shuffling awkwardness that is endemic to adolescent dating rituals.

On the whole, this is one of Trustus’s finer productions in recent years, with a would-be boring set that manages to get all of the nuances and details of a church rec room down tight, with the dated evangelical posters and chintzy decorations evoking that highly specific atmosphere. And when it rivetingly transforms into the devil’s happy place at one point, with demonic, upside down crosses and lewd messages scrawled on the walls, the place becomes positively electrifying.


Too, the casting and performances here are sharp and delightful. The show itself requires Monk to give a masterful performance as Jason to make the whole thing tick, and watching him make machine gun-fire shifts between Jason’s voice and mannerisms and Tyrone’s will remind you of the magic of theatre over and over again throughout the show. The supporting cast around him is equally superb though— Paul Kaufman nails the ingratiating, slightly delusional self-confidence of a do-good-but-not-that-good pastor. Jenny Mae Hill deftly pulls the young Southern widow caricature in just enough to bring genuine pathos to the character while also gracefully hitting all the comic notes as well. Martha Hearn Kelly and Patrick Dodds both take on the kind of roles we’ve seen them in before, but there’s no denying that they both can convincingly bring to life the girl-next-door romantic interest and nascent bad boy, respectively. Kelly’s Jessica is particularly good as she seemingly calibrates a relatively straightforward character to match Jason’s eccentricities in a way that could have been forced but instead manages to feel tender and organic.

In addition to the set, director Patrick Michael Kelly’s careful blocking is also a technical showcase, particularly when allowing Monk and the rest of the puppeteers (primarily Hearn’s Jessica) to move around the stage quite naturally alongside puppets that feel every bit like separate characters from the actors bringing them to life. There’s a sense of well-rounded excellence that pervades this production, and it’s a pleasure to see such execution on a local stage.

What most surprises though, is how well the play itself deserves such thoughtful production. For all of its acerbic one-liners and comedic foibles, it’s making some astute connections that will leave you buzzing as you leave the theater. The web of connections Askins draws between sexual desire, religion, mental health, and storytelling are sharper and more thought-provoking than dramas with a tenth of this play’s charm and wit.

And one thing’s for sure—you’ll never underestimate the power—or really trust, even—a sock puppet ever again. –Kyle Petersen

Hand to God runs through May 6 on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus Theatre. Tickets are available at trustus.org.

This is not a poem. This is an incident report.

 

At the South Carolina March for Science, held at the Statehouse on April 2, Earth Day, Tara Powell read a powerful new poem, "Incident Report." Written specifically for the march, the poem addresses environmental concerns through conversations with her four-year-old son.

 

The state march was held in conjunction with a national March for Science and many other marches around the nation and the world, all calling attention to the importance of science, the value of clear air and water, the reality of climate change, and the policies of the Trump administration that betray all of these things. South Carolina organizers included speakers from the arts and religion on the program--including Powell, an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina and a poet. 

 

Powell's poem calls attention to the value of science through conversations with her four-year-old son, who shows up in the poem with a paper model of the solar system on his head. "This is not a poem," Powell repeats, it is an incident report, it is a report card, it is a lesson plan.

 

We are honored and delighted to post "Incident Report" for the first time in print here on the Jasper blog. 

~~~

 

Incident Report

 

Columbia, SC, March for Science

April 22, 2017

 

Listen up, class.

This is not a poem, y’all.

This is an incident report.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  It’s all the colors,

scraps of paper orbiting his curls.

I imagine this boy commanding tides,

moving back the waters creeping up our steps.

I tell him about the cypress water;

he tells me about stars.

One thing reflected in the other.

The bream move beneath, whatever

we believe.  The stars shoot across,

whatever we know.

 

Hurry up please, it’s time.

This is not a poem, Columbia.

This is a report card.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  It’s a crown of many colors,

illegal in another place and time.

An emergent truth:  he is his brother and sister’s

explainer-in-chief, not me.  He says

his friends at school are going to kill the trees,

that they tore the garden out by its roots that day

and the teacher couldn’t stop them.

He never wants a playdate again.  He is afraid

they are coming for our magnolia.  He patrols

the yard, my sweet, solar boy.

The trees give us breath, he says.

My boy makes me breathless.

 

Last call, America. 

This is not a poem.

This is a lesson plan.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  The moon was pink last week,

 

the egg moon, the first of spring.  The rising water

still deeply brown.  Uneasy lies the hand

that crowned that crown, the mother who picks

it up when he puts it down.  The march is round

our trees and down our street,

over to the schoolyard where they play

for keeps.  The good Lord grant what I hope for him,

plenty of ink and a wide blue pen,

a curl of stars and marching feet,

strings to take soundings from below the deep,

a listening ear, and a voice to teach.

 

The things he wonders, I will work to know.

Tara Powell

Tara Powell

I'm sorry, Officer - I forgot to rhyme: Poet Laureate Plays April Fools' Prank on Public

Poetry turned a lot of angry frowns to smiles today on Columbia’s Main Street as One Columbia for Arts and History and our Columbia city poet laureate Ed Madden played a big April Fools' joke on folks parking their cars downtown.

According to Madden, “I was brainstorming with my intern Luke Hodges about gorilla poetry projects—projects that would put poetry in places people would not expect it, projects that would put poetry in daily life. We came up with a lot of ideas, but this seemed the perfect one for this year since April 1st falls on a Saturday when the city does not ticket downtown.”

Along with the help of “a nice mob of folks” windshields throughout the area were slapped with pretty realistic looking parking poetry tickets, like those pictured below.

“It has been great,” Madden says. “Some folks were angry at first, and then laughed very hard.” He continues, “When I was going back into one of the parking garages a woman pulled over and stopped me and told me how mad she was when she first saw it but, then, what a great idea it was. She loved it!”

Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia agrees. “The project caught people off guard and made them take a moment to consider poetry as part of their daily experience. It was a fun project to be a part of.”

ticket Barbara Hagerty.jpg

What's Your Idea for the New City of Columbia Flag?

Design is all around you in both loud and quiet ways. From the buildings we work in to the products we use, many times we experience design in ways that have been created for us. Sometimes, though, we are brought into the experience.

 

The re-imagination of the City of Columbia flag is one of those opportunities.

 

Last fall, the Columbia Design League hosted a lecture featuring noted vexillologist Ted Kaye, author of the flag design bible Good Flag, Bad Flag. As you might suspect, a quick Google search of the words “flag” and “Columbia, SC” delivers two distinct stories. First, comes the protracted battle to furl the Confederate flag from the state house grounds. On a more positive note (and included in Kaye’s fall presentation) is the other flag, the State of South Carolina’s official flag, which South Carolinians embroider, fly and stick on everything from silver jewelry to foam coozies to belts.

 

One flag decidedly absent from our conversations around the event was the City of Columbia flag. Before last fall’s event, most of us hadn’t a clue that the city even had a flag. When we evaluated the flag based on Kaye’s criteria, it was painfully clear. Our dynamic city deserved a flag upgrade.

 

With so many paths forward to a new flag, the question was our approach. One of the biggest issues with the current design is that the imagery — stalks of corn and cotton — is dated. When you add a seal to the mix, the flag says government and farming. What’s missing? People. People are what make up any city. That’s who the flag should represent.

 

That’s why both Columbia Design League and One Columbia for Arts and History overwhelmingly decided to partner on the project and bring it to life as a public initiative with a $2,000 award for the winning idea.

 

A city flag is not a logo or even a brand. It’s an object that represents all things in this city. The flag’s next iteration will represent the people, the various cultures, the physical features, and most of all represent the pride we share for our city.

 

The current design, created by Taylor School first grade teacher Kate Manning Magoffin in 1912, has served our community well. We encourage you to take the same pride as Mrs. Magoffin did and create your own vision of Columbia’s flag, too.

 

Visit Design a Better Flag to learn more about flag design and how you can submit your idea. Designs will be accepted through April 10, 2017.

- By Julie Turner

 

 

City of Columbia flag since 1912 -  

City of Columbia flag since 1912 -

 

Review: Trustus Theatre Presents Grey Gardens: A Musical

It’s hard to get over the fact that Grey Gardens: The Musical exists at all. 

The 1975 documentary delves intimately into both the lives of the eccentric, fallen aristocrats of “Little Edie” and “Big Edie” Bouvier Beale, the latter the aunt of Jackie Onassis Kennedy, as well as their dilapidated, equally fallen mansion in the Hamptons, Grey Gardens, in a cinéma vérité fashion, something which felt like a distinct, if odd, product of the American New Wave. The film achieved cult status for its memorable turns of phrase and its voyeuristic exploration of both the women’s nostalgia and their cat and raccoon-infested mansion, but it hardly felt like the natural basis of a musical.  

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, then, the musical adaptation’s formalism (book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie) is particularly striking. Neatly bifurcated into two acts,  the first captures the two women prior to their fall and at the height of their wealth,  playing up Big Edie’s slightly-delusional preoccupation with her singing as well as planting the contentious seeds of the relationship we see thirty years later in the second act. 

Because of this structure, there’s a certain musical-by-numbers feel to the long first half of the play. Taking place in the hours prior to an ill-fated engagement party for Little Edie and a young Joseph Kennedy, Jr. (something which has no real-life basis, although the younger Beale would lay claim to it), much of the commotion in preparing for the party centers on whether Big Edie is deliberately sabotaging her daughter’s courting in an effort to keep her at home, as well as her desire to always be (quite literally) center stage. Act one mostly functions as a way to introduce us to a couple of familiar set piece characters. Thankfully, much of the Trustus-assembled cast shines here. Cody Lovell delivers a slick and striking young Kennedy, with all of the privilege and chauvinistic charm that implies, and Rob Sprankle brings a sly bit of whimsy to the dithering patriarch of the clan,  while Kevin Bush hams it up as the wry and withering resident piano player.  The butler, played by Samuel McWhite, proves to be an adroit straight man. Too, the young Clare Kerwin (as little Lee) and Ella Rescigno (playing Jackie O as a child) are apt and able, the latter managing a sense of poise that both belies her age and serves as a distinct contrast to the silliness of the adults around her. 

For all that, though, the best moments of Act I belong to Haley Sprankle as Little Edie. Showcasing her pure vocal chops and a distinct brogue tempered only by her ability to channel the sort of aristocratic coquettishness that defines her role, much of the joy of the show comes from simply watching her perform, whether dueting with Lovell and the upbeat courtship-cum-ambition tune “Goin’ Places,” locking souls with Mandy Applegate Bloom as Big Edie on “Two Peas in a Pod,” or taking on a stirring, if discomforting, ballad with "Daddy's Little Girl." 

Bloom is great, of course, as the middle-aged Big Edie in Act I, but it's when she pivots to playing the older Little Edie in Act II that she sends the play into overdrive. As her voice rings out across the stage with lines cribbed directly from the documentary you would almost swear that the real-life Edie was in the room, so thoroughly did she capture the bizarre inflection and thick accent. Add to that her eerily accurate body language and you have the makings of a star turn as Bloom fully embodies the larger than life cult figure that gave the documentary its longevity.  

It helps as well that the second half of the play gets to borrow some of the most memorable bits of dialogue from the film, but Bloom and Caroline Weidner, as the octogenarian Big Edie, (are also adept at bringing to light the swirling realities of nostalgia and the overwrought toxicity that has developed in the two women through the years. They are both great whether singing songs that are stirring, (“Will You?,” “Another Winter in a Summer Town”) or humorous and ribald (“The Revolutionary Costume Today,” “Jerry Likes My Corn”). 

By the play's end, director Milena Herring and this Trustus crew have proven that there's something distinctly less peculiar about the idea of a Grey Gardens musical, even if the characters remain both laughably ludicrous and fragile and familiar. Thanks to several star turns and a well-managed production, the way in which the play allows the construct of the genre to toy compellingly with the real-life narrative of the Beale women is understated, yet undeniable.  

In other words, a production that offers a nice balance of smart and edgy, makes for an enjoyable night on the town.   

-Kyle Petersen

CityBallet presents Beauty and the Beast

Columbia City Ballet invites you to be their guest as they grace the Koger Center stage with its production of Beauty & The Beast, for two spellbinding performances only.

This production features choreography from Executive Director, William Starrett and music composed by Léon Fyodorovich Minkus and will be held on Saturday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts.

A love story perfect for ages 9-90, Beauty & The Beast is a captivating fairytale as old as time that blends magic with artistry. The dancers of Columbia City Ballet couple beautiful lines and riveting stage presence to tell a classic tale where love conquers all.

Over 80 local children from the midlands area are incorporated throughout the performance. This musical and romantic fantasy creates a love story, where a frightening beast and a beautiful woman fall for each other despite their differences.

First performed in the Spring of 1991 as a Koger Center box office sell out, Columbia City Ballet brings a newly updated and revived Beauty and the Beast to the stage just in time for the classic Disney film to hit theatres.

Costume Designer, Alexis Doktor has crafted a one of a kind Belle gown to debut in the performance. The production will also feature enchanting medieval sets including the mysterious castle nestled in old France. Columbia City Ballet invites you be their guest for an evening of magic and excitement for this captivating performance of Beauty & The Beast at the Koger Center for the Arts. For more information and tickets, visit www.kogercenterforthearts.com or call the box offices at 803-251-2222. Military and student discounts available at the box office or Koger Center kiosk.

Two Reviews of the Same Book - Secondhand, by Maya Marshall (dancing girl press, 2016)

In Secondhand, Maya Marshall invites us to examine the everyday intimacies that our bodies share with strangers through the lens of the secondhand item. She shines light on the way in which we (are forced to) carve sensual moments out of the remnants of someone else’s similar moments.

One such instance is the opening poem, “Dressing Room: Thrift Store,” in which someone is trying on a blue slip: “…you think you/ Can sew the tear and how slick the blue slip will be/ between you and your sheets.” Marshall forces the reader to acknowledge that desire is not only as old as history and memory, but is equally used and well-worn.

“Secondhand Lingerie” expands on this theme by evoking the images of domesticity. We witness women in possession of “a black nightie/ to upcycle into passion/ after another night of chicken/ and pasta.” Marshall does not shy away from the fact that sex and its trappings are tied to both race and class and gender. If the speak bucks at the suggestion that same-sex attraction is a “phase” in the poem “Lust,” then that idea is deepened by the much more intimate lines of “Someone Borrowed”: “a girl will send you home/ in clean panties of her own.” This echoing across poems, the thrifted and reused, permeates the first section of the chapbook, “The Dressing Room.”

These echoes take on more depth in the second half, “What is Handed Down.” Here we read poems of the family and the question of what can be given, exchanged, or inherited takes on additional weight.  

In “My Father’s House,” Marshall plays with language, deconstructing the idea of family only to reassemble it, much as one might repair a blue slip, using newer parts as seen in “The Youngest: Addendum.” Here the speaker states: “I watched him breastfeed at my mother’s table./ His mother, mistress, feeding him at my mother mother’s table.” Relationships, roles, even family structure can be secondhand.

The reusing, the repair, the handing down both changes the object and the speaker and, yet, changes nothing about the nature of intimacy itself. Nothing but a miracle could spare the speaker – or the reader – from the cycle of want and use, but as Marshall writes “Grace is cheaper than a miracle.”

-Nicole Homer

Nicole Homer’s debut poetry collection, Pecking Order, will be out spring of 2017 on Write Bloody press.

 

~~*~~

 

The poems in Maya Marshall's slim chapbook, Secondhand, are arranged in two groups, Dressing Room and What Is Handed Down.

Opening in Dressing Room we consider poems operating in a psychic space of privacy, intimacy. This is self-facing clothing that cherishes those aspects of our bodies which relate to - or create - other bodies. Marshall's words thread together into a network of organized ambiguities (like the mesh and lace of some of the garments referenced in the poems).

The reader becomes more aware of the intimacy Marshall has created when sharp violent moments arrive. Momentary violence roots the poems in reality. In “Port of Entry,” Marshall unfolds a series of images which masterfully engage the reader's imagination.

The last poem in this group, “Someone Borrowed,” is the most concrete, acting as a hinge for the collection. Marshall pulls us into a new zone for self-identity (mirrored with lover). The poems’ internal rhythmic repetitions echo other poems in the group, but this poem's hardness, its 'broken-piece' structure, and its question of self give it a handle that I come back to after finishing the last poem in the book.

“What is Handed Down” brings us to the locus of inheritance. Now intimacy is not chosen, but instead was given to (forced upon?) us - by the culture (American Girl Movies) by the father or mother chosen for us, our siblings. Here the language becomes more direct (The Youngest: Addendum) as the body is direct. The relatedness describes lives in exchanges of language, instead of gestures (Baptism). Marshall has arranged this series of poems along a continuum of self-perceiving-self-and other, from the imagined to the embodied, with remarkable subtlety and control. I look forward to reconsidering these poems in the future, and reading her next work.

-Jessica Fenlon

Jessica Fenlon is developing code-based projection sculpture for her March 2017 gallery show. Her second book of poetry, Manual for Wayward Angels, arrived in February of 2017 from 6 Gallery Press.

 

~~*~~

 

Someone Borrowed      

 

           Think of the hands that have touched this cotton.

           What wisdom do you get from hunger?

________

Note:   You are a woman loosed.

________

            Naked over her panties,

            I consider how

            a girl will send a girl home

            in clean panties of her own.

 

            I took the bus with my underwear

            in my pocket.

________

Note:    When you write about a black woman

            lusting after

            a black woman,

            You write about a ghost chasing

            herselfherself

________

            I took the bus

________

            There is desire and

            Shame and relief

            In this story, (though

            It isn’t yet

            Fully a story (where

Is the middle?) She runs

Her nails down my thigh:

Denim resists),

But there is no healing touch.

(She howls out, yes. It is her performance.)

________

Note:    when you write about this borrowed woman,

you write about a woman who sells herself—

                Punishment for some sin she can’t identify.

________

                I consider how I took the bus

                with no panties on,

                                                to a borrowed room.

I took the bus naked over her

                                naked over

                her panties.

A queer question: am I into myself?

                (Is it me?) Is she myself?

 

~~*~~

To purchase Secondhand by Maya Marshall contact the author at mayamarshallpoetry@gmail.com

Or the publisher at https://dulcetshop.myshopify.com/products/secondhand-maya-marshall

 

Review: Trustus Theatre Presents Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet -- a Play for our Times

Marcus or The Secret of Sweet is the third installment of The Brother/Sister Plays by noted playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney whose work inspired the now Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated film Moonlight. Marcus is a coming-of-age story for the title character Marcus Eshu who is haunted by dreams and memories of his father Elegba that lead Marcus on a path to discovering his secret of sweetness, or key to his sexuality.

 

The play begins with two powerful images. The first occurs when Marcus’ dreams are dramatized by the full cast and narrated by cast member Chris Jackson while he is showered upon symbolizing a storm soon to come either within Marcus or the impending Hurricane Katrina to his town in Louisiana. The second occurs at the dynamic funeral procession for Marcus’ father where the cast marches around the theatre singing a Negro spiritual to honor Elegba’s death.

 

The play takes risks as the characters themselves verbalize their own asides, stage instructions and emotions, to the audience. At times in the play, this is helpful and even humorous, and at other times, it can appear condescending. The play also narrates the history of homophobia within the African American community all the way back to slavery, purporting that homosexuality would have been unprofitable for plantation owners, thereby eventually unaccepted and discouraged by black people. There is, finally, the running motif of Marcus’ sexuality perhaps being inherited from his father, embracing the theory of the so-called gay gene.

 

Marcus’ mother played by Celeste Moore declares in the play, “Ain’t nothing sweet about having a soft son.” The word sweet is a colloquialism used in the town for gay. Marcus labors intensely to unearth his father’s sweetness leading him to long for the affection of his uncle played by Jabar Hankins. Marcus’ dreams intensify the closer he gets to this secret that somehow everyone knows but him.

 

The cast complements each other well. Katrina Blanding nails her performance as Aunt Elegua with the candor and humor of Tyler Perry’s Madea character. John Floyd as Marcus Eshu is believable and engaging.

 

Marcus or The Secret of Sweet at Trustus is an education in drama and black culture. The play teaches the process of weathering the storms of internal and external conflict within the paradigms of family and community. 

-- Len Lawson

Len Lawson is the co-editor of the poetry anthology, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, releasing on February 19th from Muddy Ford Press. https://www.facebook.com/events/398977450447357/

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre’s production of BOY

by Kyle Petersen

 

Trustus Theatre’s production of BOY, the Anna Ziegler play which has won critical praise for its depiction of a heartbreaking attempt to “decide” a young boy’s sexual identity following a botched circumcision as an infant, is one of those plays that runs the risk of being too tightly-constructed without the emotional intimacy of the performances. Opening and closing with mirroring, highly symbolic set pieces at a Halloween party, the play flashes back and forth between a “present” time in the late 1980s as we learn about the young man known as Adam Turner and how we was raised as a girl, “Samantha,” in the 1960s. Rounding out the cast, there’s bewildered parents, a fussy and overconfident psychologist, and, of course, a love interest for the protagonist.

There’s a certain predictable, although occasionally frustrating, momentum which carries through Adam’s early years as his parents and doctor make ineffectual attempts at strictly socializing him as a girl so as to make sure the operation and hormones “take,” and it’s probably here the play lands its sharpest blows. Much of that comes from how acutely Stann Gwynn portrays Dr. Wendell Barnes, the gender specialist convinced of the absolute power of nurture over nature. Gwynn lends that character both a sense of brilliance inextricably linked to a pompous sense of superiority that often seems to plague status-driven academics and researchers. He’s a delight, a next-gen Freud with a tantalizing intimate relationship with Adam that eventually shatters his clinical remove. Gwynn’s fully-realized performance sits comfortably next to strong performances by Jennifer Little and Harrison Saunders, who play Adam’s parents Trudy and Doug Turner. The desperate drive and sense of helplessness that pervades Little’s performance, as well as the blue-collar distrust that Saunders’ Doug brings to the proceedings feel true to type. While some of their behavior can feel almost too pat and accommodating to the liminal uncertainty surrounding sexual identity, the actors make these characters real and heartbreaking in the tight quarters of Trustus’ Side Door. Doug’s rare, beer-assisted conversation with Adam about how we was raised is a special theatrical moment, and one that depends deeply on the actors to bring to life. 

Despite strong performances, there’s an almost documentary-like impulse towards this gender identity-confused coming-of-age narrative. It’s as if in the desire to craft a teachable moment, Ziegler is a bit too dismissive of the thorny ways that socialization still cuts deep, in unpredictable ways, across every person’s complicated sense of self.

This is perhaps even more apparent in the parallel, “present” time plot involving Adam’s romance with Jenny Lafferty, played by Martha Hearn with a quirky confidence that feels straight out of a mid-2000s indie flick. Hearn clearly sketches out her own take on Jenny, something which doesn’t always seems to jibe with the shallowness of the character in the script or with the expected drama of a young woman in the 1980s discovering puzzling, even betraying secrets about her romantic partner’s past. That’s not to say Hearn doesn’t turn in a solid performance, just that it stretches the believability just a bit. 

Where Trustus’s production shines brightest, though, is in the performance of Patrick Dodds as Adam. Dodds is a young actor who has dazzled in other Trustus productions like Spring Awakening and American Idiot but who here, with his musical showmanship set entirely aside, he proves his formidable acting chops as he jumps through the nervous and kindly self-effacing version of his character to the belligerent and angry 23-year-old still struggling with his tumultuous upbringing. Dodds heightens every gut-wrenching moment that Adam faces, only to disappear, often just seconds later, into the childlike wonder and puzzlement of the young “Samantha,” something he does without the benefit of a costume or makeup change (after all, he’s still “Adam”). His potent performance alone is worth the price of admission, a masterly effort that places him firmly in the top tier of Columbia’s theatre talent.

The set itself is relatively bare, a small, utilizing bright lights and a raggedly zig-zagging stage set up in the round with just a few crucial props to block off the scenes and a desk off to one side with a helpful calendar to denote which moment in time we’ve bounced around to. It’s simple and effective, with subtle flourishes of panache, something also true of Ilene Fins’ direction, moving these actors in careful concert in keeping with the taunt framework of Ziegler’s play. 

Although not without some minor flaws, it feels wrong to undercut the emotional impact of this production. While I have quibbles with the overarching narrative, particularly as its gleans a much happier story than the one that inspired it, tender, nuanced moments abound as the characters work their way through some of the earliest clinical attempts at addressing the uncertainties and hardships of pressing a binary understanding of gender identity and sexual biology onto a messy, complex world. Fins and her troupe of actors nails both the 21st century lens that we have as well as the realities of the situation decades earlier which is both revelatory and necessary. This is the kind of play that you might do well to start off 2017 with.

BOY plays on the Cohn Side Door Stage at Trustus Theatre through January 21. For times and tickets go to trustus.org.

New Review of an Old Book - Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Mary Catherine Ballou

Published in 1968, Joan Didion’s first nonfiction book, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, recounts and muses upon various vignettes of social, political, and existential occurrences in American lives during the 1960s. She especially reflects on life in California, showing how its particular history and environment shapes and morphs the psyches of its inhabitants. Trained as a reporter, Didion began her journalism career working at Vogue for two years. Much of her writing resembles the style of seasoned reporters, appearing like evidence from eyewitness accounts. With an objective clarity, keen wit, and shrewd outlook, she composes each essay and eschews personal judgment, yet still implies tragic bents that cut to the heart of matters with descriptive analyses of people and their environments.

 

Didion prefaces her book with the poem written by William Butler Yeats in 1919 entitled “The Second Coming.” It contains the closing lines: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Written in the aftermath of World War I, Yeats’s poem is a reaction to the death and destruction of the war, in conjunction with the rapid rise of industrialization. The effects were widespread, unanticipated, and horrendous, and Yeats, among countless others, felt the world was falling apart.

 

Didion divulges the reasoning behind her book’s poem-derived title, stating, “…For several years now certain lines from the Yeats poem…have reverberated in my inner ear as if they were surgically implanted there. The widening gyre, the falcon which does not hear the falconer, the gaze blank and pitiless as the sun; those have been my points of reference, the only images against which much of what I was seeing and hearing and thinking seemed to make any pattern” (p. xxv). Didion uses the imagery of the poem to echo and propel her attempt to comprehend the chaos she senses around her during the 1960s. With this in mind, it becomes clear why she chose to transpose Yeats’s poem onto the feelings she emits through her collected writing.

 

Comprised of three main sections, each containing several short nonfiction stories, Slouching Towards Bethlehem also serves as the title of a piece within the section called “Life Styles in the Golden Land.” The other section called “Personals” includes essays published in various magazines that contain didactic tones, while “Seven Places of the Mind” portrays intimate anecdotes about Didion’s time in different locales, such as New York City, Hawaii, and Alcatraz Island. In “Lifestyles in the Golden Land,” Didion illuminates eccentric, sordid details surrounding the lives of West Coast residents, covering a broad range of social strata from stories of murderous housewives in the Los Angeles suburbs, to smoke-and-mirror, cash-strapped, dubious think tank centers in Santa Barbara, to the harmony-seeking school of musician Joan Baez in the Carmel Valley, to the ignoble proclivities of Hollywood, to the drug-induced, alternatively-minded haze of 1960s San Francisco youth culture replete with hippies, flower power, and anti-establishment mindsets.

 

Didion declares, “‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ is also the title of one piece in the book, and that piece, which derived from some time spent in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, was for me both the most imperative of all these pieces to write and the only one that made me despondent after it was printed. It was the first time I had dealt directly and flatly with the evidence of atomization, the proof that things fall apart: I went to San Francisco because I had not been able to work in some months, had been paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, that the world as I had understood it no longer existed. If I was to work again at all, it would be necessary for me to come to terms with disorder” (p. xxv-xxvi). Didion did not write this piece merely to expose the lives of displaced youth in San Francisco – she wrote it in an effort to observe and hopefully come to terms with the inevitability of disorder. While this degeneration may be most apparent in her essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” the entire book acknowledges the inclination for matter to tend toward entropy.  

 

Didion discloses the unpredictable nature of her own life in the last section. “Seven Places of the Mind” is a compilation of firsthand narrations, ranging from Didion’s upbringing in Sacramento, California to the fickle, unpredictable experience of her young adult years. She unveils aspects of her time living in New York City as a young woman, not exactly knowing what path she wants to pursue in life or where she will ultimately end up. Even though Slouching Towards Bethlehem was written and published 48 years ago, its lessons will always remain relevant. In addition to its expressive depictions of myriad lifestyles and mindsets, this book concedes that while chaos is inevitable, one must continue to think and act, because life moves on and the opportunities to rebuild are endless. People and circumstances change, but that is OK because change, although sometimes scary, is inevitable and translates to progress, and without change there is no progress, and without progress there is no hope.

Didion also emphasizes the importance of archives however futile they may seem, the enigmatic recollection of memories, and the silent cords of hysteria and subversive thought running through the undercurrents of society. Her essays assert, in both obvious and subtle ways, the difficult realization found in Yeats’s poem: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The Ceremony of innocence is drowned / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Still, Didion knows that things can always be rearranged and reassembled, and she confirms this by the simple fact that she herself found the courage and will to write this book, creating a documentation of both her life and the lives around her. These records help prove and sustain the worth and purpose of our existence, enlightening readers of the infinite ways life can morph but nonetheless carry on. 

Kendall Jason Writes About Being a 2nd Act Filmmaker

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This is new…..

 

I was trying something different.

 

I am a “fan”… of art, music, film and generally anything you might consider “nerd” culture. I use this to deconstruct my own identity, masculine persona and cultural expectations of masculinity in hopes it will take me out of my comfort zone and keep me from doing the same thing over and over. The approach provides a launching pad for my ideas to develop and change while tackling new projects, which keeps my studio practice fresh and unpredictable.

This process is what drove me to enter the 2nd Act Film Festival this year. I needed to push my practice in a new direction and engage a different audience within the context of film culture. In past years the 2nd Act Film Festival has produced some amazing films by a talented set of filmmakers. Honestly, I had no expectation of getting in, since I was coming from an art making background. Although I tell stories in my art, I use a different approach that incorporates the manipulation of objects, image and space. I tend to allow the subject matter and materials to dictate what the final embodiment becomes, without considering constraints like length, cast and crew. So, when I received notification that I was chosen as one of the ten filmmakers I was in uncharted territory.

Before receiving the Artistic obstructions I considered a setting for this story. I wanted to use objects and locations that contained their own character and could hold up against another person’s actions. I also used my Dad’s recently sold elevator business to document the existence of a life long endeavor while allowing it to take on a life of it’s own in the film. This opened up the possibility to explore my relationship with my father in an unexpected way.

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These lines of thought lead me back some music I wrote. It was a song that told a story that turned into an instrumental that bounced back and forth between different configurations within the same chord structure. In sections it reminded me of an engine or even crying. This birthed the idea of the guitar creating the atmosphere and dialogue in the film. As it started to become a lead character in the film I wondered how it would fit into the final film. I knew I could borrow from Jim Jarmusch, especially since I am a fan of his film “Deadman”.

When I received the script perimeters I labored to write the script. I could see the film in my head, but putting it down on paper was forced and didn’t flow with the images I was seeing in my head. I turned to what was familiar, drawing. I storyboarded the whole film, which fleshed out the entire narrative sequence. Then the script basically wrote itself. This in turned was used informed the cast and crew. The storyboards were a perfect tool to use to direct, without having to be behind the camera.

I have always been the sole contributor in the video based projects I have created over the years. With the exception of using my brother or other friends as camerapersons, I have rarely depended anyone else. Jasper’s film editor Wade Sellers suggested that I talk to other artists/ filmmakers who deal with similar issues in their work and have the same taste in films. He connected me with local artist Alex Smith. This was a true turning point in the development of the project. I sent Alex the storyboards and a few notes on what I was thinking about in terms of direction. When we met to talk about what he thought. The discussion sparked a friendship and provided a fresh take on how I could realize the vision I had on paper. One of the conversations brought to mind Pink Floyd’s song “Wish You Were Here.” It begins and ends in an old radio broadcast while the clean song plays throughout the middle. I wanted to attempt to incorporate that approach somehow. Little did I know the basis for the narrative would revolve around that concept.

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Once the shooting began I captured as much footage as possible. Since I was accustomed to shooting live performances or approaching a video shoot as a live performance and in this process I was accumulating footage over several days was foreign. I was used to a one shot deal and using only what I had from that one take of the action. During this experience I could shoot, reshoot and if I thought of a new idea I could create a whole new scene right on the spot. As the footage was uploaded I broke up the scenes into sequences that represented each act and I started to “sculpt” the shots to reflect the narrative in the storyboards.

As the different section of the film became finalized I recorded the music. Most of those recordings simply got scrapped or didn’t work, but I eventually began to hear the sounds that would be part of the film. As the final version started to emerge, the ability to react organically to the project faded away, I found myself in an uncomfortable position of having to make editing decisions that only contributed to the strength of the film. I felt like a surgeon with a scalpel carefully slicing the ends of flesh or a butcher just hacking away whole sections of meat that might taste good but weren’t right for the meal I was serving.

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All of a sudden the deadline had arrived and the film was somehow finished. Hesitation and self-doubt crept in like a demon in the night. I reached out to friends and colleagues to help calm my nerves. I was scared to death. I wasn’t a filmmaker. I’m a sculptor. A performance artist.

The night of the screening arrived. I took a deep breath and walked in the door at Tapp’s.

The lights went down…..I started sweating profusely.

 

This changes everything……

 

You wanted something different.

 

~~~~~

 

Kendall Jason or kendallprojects (Jason Kendall) depending on what artistic context you kendal5catch him in is a local artist creating multi-dimensional work (sculpture, performance, video installations and drawings) that rest on the conviction that art should generate an experience for the viewer which challenges them on a variety of sensory levels. His investigations are transformed into conflicts that engage the viewer on a visceral level. The encounters he creates exploit different stimuli to affect the viewer’s perceptions by using a combination of images, sound, smells or text to leave the viewers curious about what they are witnessing. In his first official endeavor into film making he attempted to balance his studio practice with the obstructions of creating a film.

 

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Visit us at www.JasperProject.org

Ony's Bands -- Cazador releases new album "Can I Leave?"

cazador Local power violence band, Cazador, released a new album on October 1 entitled Can I Leave?, their second release since their debut at the beginning of this year. This album gives us more power and more agony-drenched heaviness. With a few re-recordings from their first demo, which was released in January, Can I Leave? makes the heavy guitars and seething vocals more prominent. Brandon Johnson, both the vocalist and drummer of the group, with splintering snarls, presents images of suffering, isolation, and disintegration within a society. Overall, the sound and the musicianship are tighter and more thought-out, as their sound has evolved, just from playing and writing more.

The use of sound bites moves the album along and sets the tone for the anguish to come. One of the album’s heaviest and most eminent songs, “Backyard Tomb,” opens with a sound clip of a man threatening to remove someone’s flesh with a cheese grater (for all the True Detective fans). “Drawing Strings,” the album’s single, starts off with a catchier riff and moves toward a darker and more dismal breakdown shouting “Hang the fake, die in chains.” Alex Strickland, vocalist of local aggressive bands, Bathe and Abacus, appears on this song doing guest vocals.

My favorite track is “Imprisoned,” which showcases more of the spirited nature in Cazador’s song structures. “We try to incorporate a heavy noise rock influence, while speeding it up a bit with a touch of power violence,” Johnson says, citing his main influences as Infest, Crossed Out, and Unsane. It’s clear that the group shares an array of musical influences, leaving them not only limited to one strict genre description. There’s a little something for everyone on this album, which is heavy, raging, and dense.

 

Columbia native Jeff Miller to screen new horror film “Clowntown” at the Nickelodeon Theater

 Baseball Clown from Jeff Miller's film Clowntown  

 

“If you’re terrified of clowns, don’t see this movie.” Jeff Miller says. Miller adds that his new film Clowntown has nothing to do with the South Carolina clowns that have been popping up in news reports around the state lately.

 

It is a bit of a coincidence though. Miller is a graduate of Brookland-Cayce high school and the University of South Carolina Media Arts program. His first steps in producing horror films came in and around Columbia with credits on Paul Talbot’s film Hellblock 13 and his own directorial debut Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader.

 

In 2001 Miller made the move to Los Angeles and continued producing several features, mostly horror, such as Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (which aired on the Syfy channel).

 

Clowntown is receiving heavily positive reviews around the country from many standard bearing horror film outlets. The film is inspired by the clown who terrorized Bakersfield, CA in 2014. Miller wrote the script and produced the film. The film also features music from Columbia metal stalwarts Isabelle’s Gift and South Carolina native Hick’ry Hawkins.

 

“I’d love to come back to South Carolina and make another movie” says Miller. But in the meantime he has his hands full as Executive Producer on the action film Kill ‘Em All starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, currently filming in Mississippi.

 

CLOWNTOWN screens at the Nickelodeon Theater on Main St. on Friday, October 21st at 11pm. Tickets available at nickelodeon.org

-- Wade Sellers

REVIEW: Jason Isbell @ The Township Auditorium

img_0048 By: Kyle Petersen

When Jason Isbell took the stage at the Township Auditorium this past Sunday, I wanted to tell you that it felt a little weird, mixed with a little sense of triumph. As if this was the apotheosis of the hard-touring rock ‘n’ roll musician done good, a story that countless musicians toiling in tour vans day in and day out could look up to and aspire to. I wish I could say that.

But the reality is, over the last few years Isbell seems to have matured seamlessly from seedy 300-person rock clubs to stately 3,000 seater auditoriums, and it felt surprisingly inevitable. Four years into sobriety and three years removed from the breakthrough success of 2013’s Southeastern, Isbell looked trim and dapper on stage, carrying himself with the air of a consummate, perhaps even slightly bored, professional. That’s not to say that the performance wasn’t amazing—after all, he is undisputedly one of the preeminent songwriters of his generation, with the kind of hotshot guitar skills and booming, soulful voice that would allow him to get away with songs as tenth as good. As he generally does these days, Isbell opened with a salvo of electric rock songs (including the old Drive-by Trucker Southern rock staple “Decoration Day” and the 2016 Americana Music Awards “Song of the Year” winner “24 Frames”) before switching to acoustic guitar and diving deep into his last two more songwriting-oriented efforts. The fact that the set is loaded with stunners (“Speed Trap Town,” “Cover Me Up,” “Alabama Pines”) helps, along with the fact that Isbell is at this point adept at balancing the more somber acoustic tunes with more sprightly ones like “Codeine” or “If It Takes a Lifetime.”

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Still, there were relatively few moments or features that genuinely stuck out thanks to the unerring professional consistency. One notable element for sure, though, was the elegant, top-notch staging and lighting, a new feature for longtime Isbell fans. Backed by pseudo-stained glass windows and often bathed in multiple spotlights when he stepped out to take a solo, there was an element of grandeur to the proceedings which felt wholly new. Another great moment was the knowing inclusion of “Palmetto Rose,” a welcome nod to the audience with its South Carolina subject matter. And, ever so slightly, the genuine joy the bandleader seemed to take in the ostentatious stage interplay he had briefly with keyboard/accordionist Derry DeBorja on "Codeine" and then, later, with guitarist (and SC native) Sadler Vaden during a staged-but-electrifying guitar duel. That latter moment, which took place during an extended take on the gnarly and riveting “Never Gonna Change,” felt like the most significant addition to the band’s live show and allowed them to end the regular set with a bang.

Perhaps the most telling moment, though, was when Isbell brought opener (and contemporary) Josh Ritter out during the encore to cover John Prine’s “Storm Windows.” Isbell briefly mentioned that he used to pay to go to Ritter’s show rather than bringing him on tour, an oblique reference to his newfound stature, but really it was the cover choice itself, along with the “Prine/Isbell” campaign ticket shirts at the merch table, that suggested the songwriter’s intended route in the coming decades. Having arrived at the upper echelon of the music world on his own terms and on the strength of his artistry, Isbell clearly intends to stay on that level with the consistency and persistence of his 70-year-old forbear.

And, judging by Sunday night's show, that shouldn't be a problem.

Tamara Finkbeiner Takes 2nd Act Win for 2nd Year as SC Indie Film Community Grows

Painting by Cedric Umoja from which the 2016 2nd Act Film Festival poster was created Last night, the Jasper Project wrapped our third 2nd Act Film Festival, under the direction of Wade Sellers, to a sold-out crowd at the always hospitable arts refuge, Tapp's Arts Center. (It was an added bonus that the Tapp's walls were hung with art from another Jasper Project endeavor, Marked by the Water, commemorating the first anniversary of the 1000 year flood.)

This morning, we're seeing a Facebook full of  photos of filmmakers, most of whom didn't know each other before the project started. Some were first-timers and some were alums, appearing in groups of 2 and 3 and more, laughing with each other, mugging for the camera, embracing, being new friends and colleagues.

Being a community.

2nd Act Film Fest Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner with friend, colleague & fellow 2nd Act 2016 Filmmaker Tyler Matthews

2nd Act Film FEst 2016 Filmmakers Cory John, Tamara Finkbeiner, and Ebony Wilson mugging for the camera after the fest

The Jasper Project has a number of missions, but underlying everything is the fostering of an interdependent community of multidisciplinary artists and arts lovers who recognize and honor the implications of community -- simply said, it means having each others' backs.

The 2nd Act Film Festival exemplifies this goal. Filmmakers loan equipment, technicians, and advice. They encourage each other. They root for each other. This year, one filmmaker even sent a pizza to another filmmaker who was struggling with the kinds of obstacles only other filmmakers can understand.

The 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award for 2016 went to Tamara Finkbeiner for her film, Bait. For the third year, Columbia-based sculptor Matthew Kramer created a one of a kind trophée de l'art, pictured below.

2016 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award by Matthew Kramer

Congratulations to Tamara Finkbeiner and all the selected 2016 2nd Act Film Festival Filmmakers.

Finkbeiner with 2nd Act Film Festival director Wade Sellers

2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner

Wade Sellers interviews 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers 2016 during tallying of Audience Award ballots.

 

The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 was sponsored in part by a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 is an endeavor of the Jasper Project.  

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An Interview with J. Henry Fair about his exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art

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Photographing coastlines from airplane windows, photographer J. Henry Fair aims to broaden people’s awareness of both the allure of our coastal areas and the environmental degradation that has occurred, and continues to occur, to our beaches, marshes, wetlands, and waterways. His latest exhibition, entitled Eyes on the Edge, currently on display at the Columbia Museum of Art through October 23rd, accomplishes just this, captivating viewers with artistry and technical expertise, while at the same time inspiring awareness of the fragile environmental conditions.

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Photo: Coastal Wetlands Meet the Ocean, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Composed of large-scale photographs of the South Carolina coast, all of which display rich colors and detailed clarity, Fair’s aerial shots reveal the beauty of the natural landscape. At the same time, his photos document the detrimental and intrusive effects of human-made developments, seen, for example, in the form of high-rise condos jutting out into the ocean past the edge of the dunes and tide-lines, with golf courses buttressed against it; cookie-cutter subdivisions squeezed tightly together; and geometrically-dizzying views of rows upon rows of automobiles, RV campers, and beach umbrellas galore. Complex coastal topographies, composed of various inlet formations, resemble root and vein-like structures expanding into tree-type shapes and alien landscapes. Ultimately, they serve as foils to the human-made constructions, intermingling in both apparent and dangerous ways.

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Photo: Ocean Undermines Beachfront Condominiums, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Isle of Palms, SC, 2016, Color photograph

Eyes on the Edge reveals to viewers in South Carolina what Fair eventually aims to document along the entire coastline of the United States – the precarious and vulnerable interspersion of the oftentimes destructive encroachment of human development on the naturally-formed landscapes and waterways of our country, and how, unfortunately, that balancing act is well on its way to tipping the scales much too far toward the side of irreversible damage to the splendor and geography of Mother Nature.

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Photo: Morning Beachgoers, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Myrtle Beach, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

A visit to this photographic exhibit offers eye-opening views and rarely seen perspectives of familiar coastal locations and landscapes. Perhaps more importantly, it reinforces and reminds viewers that we must strive to protect and conserve what remains of the natural world before it is too late, and that while development may be beneficial at times, it is imperative to remain cognizant and respectful of the need for a harmonious relationship between nature and humankind.

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Photo: St. Helena Sound Wetlands, 13 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Beaufort, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

In the following interview, J. Henry Fair offers insight into his artistic and environmental work.

How did your interest in photography begin? Did you always aspire to be a professional photographer?

I stole my father’s old Kodak Retina as soon as I could figure out how to use it, and started photographing the same things I’m doing now: people, machines, icons. I like to tell myself that I have figured a few more things out since then.

Please explain your photographic process behind the creation of the exhibit Eyes on the Edge.

I start with an idea of what images I want to make, then I go look for them, which involves hiring a plane and pilot, and plotting the ideal time for the light and the tide for this project. The pictures were made with a medium format camera for maximum detail on the prints, which are photographic “c” prints, done by a lab in Frankfurt.

What initiated your passion for environmentalism?

I have always had a deep concern for the environment and our heedless abuse of these systems that provide us with free air and water. That and my fascination with the beauty of machines (as a pinnacle of human achievement) led me to try to create images that would provoke thought about the impacts of our consumer society.

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Photo: New Cars Queued for Loading onto Transport Ship, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Does your concern for environmental issues always go hand-in-hand with your photography? Would you describe yourself as an environmental photographer?

My pictures are always about subjects that concern people, whether that be environment, racism, gun control.

Is photography your primary artistic medium?

I do some film as well as photography, and the presentation of image and science is starting to become for me its own artistic medium.

What do you expect or hope viewers to take away from this exhibit?

I hope my pictures will help people realize the power they have as consumers. Everything that we purchase has a hidden cost to our planetary life support systems that is usually not included in the purchase price. Our situation is dire, but we can all affect it by changing our buying habits, which will force the producers to change their methods, and by demanding that our governments enact regulations to protect our children.

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Photo: Yellow Haze Over City of Charleston with Industry in Foreground, 9 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Is there a certain piece in Eyes on the Edge that you find particularly compelling in terms of artistry and/or environmental issues?

Each of the pieces in the show tells an important story about an aspect of the Carolina coast. My favorites are the inlet on Edisto Island and the three rivers entering St Helena Sound.

Where else can people view your work?

The next show in the USA is a group show about climate change at the University of Denver in the spring. But my website is http://www.jhenryfair.com.

Do you have any future projects in-store that you would like to tell Jasper readers about? Will your emphasis remain primarily on photographing coastal areas only?

I will continue to photograph the coasts of the USA, and actually just did Maine. Another project on my mind is slavery and racism.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and environmental activists?

My advice for aspiring photographers would be to get a real job. It’s too hard to be an artist. If one must do it, one should enroll in a good art school. Environmentalists I would suggest to think small and local and focus on something for which one has a passion.

Did any unusual or interesting experiences occur during your aerial photography sessions?

The process begins with a lot of research: the nature of the industry, environmental impact of their practices, different operators and locations. Then it’s a matter of logistics. Once, with a pilot from Alabama, on a trip to explore the lower Mississippi River, we had landed at a small airfield to warm up, hit the head, and begin. After takeoff, I asked if it was safe to open the window, and proceeded, only to have it come free in my hands. As this was a push/pull plane, there was a prop behind us, and the aileron. Had I released the window (in the 100 mph airstream) the results might have been problematic.

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Photo: Wetlands in Long Brow Plantation, 14 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Green Pond, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

For exhibit info, please visit: https://www.columbiamuseum.org/exhibitions/eyes-edge.

For more information about Fair’s work, please visit: http://www.jhenryfair.com/.

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Rocky Horror Show

open-uri20160909-3-dd1x7c By: Alex Smith

Trustus Theatre has made something of a one-show franchise out of Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Their current production of the show (the sixth in 24 years) is yet another fine production of a musical whose tightrope walk between cult status (the film adaptation, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, has run in midnight showings at movie houses around the world since its release in 1975) and mainstream standing (countless tours, two Broadway runs, a brand new television film premiering at the end of this month) mirrors the fine line it also walks between over-the-top, drag/camp musical comedy, and something much more thoughtful, substantive, and, ultimately, timeless.

Pilfering tropes from the best and worst of A-, B- and Z- sci-fi and horror movies and mixing them into the melting pot of a gender-bending, sexually promiscuous and experimental London of 1973, still fully in the thrall of David Bowie’s bisexual starman Ziggy Stardust (who Bowie would officially “kill” onstage just over two weeks after ROCKY’s premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs theatre), O’Brien tells the story of a hapless, hopelessly square couple of “asshole” Brad Majors and “slut” Janet Weiss. A wedding, a proposal, a stormy night, a flat tire, and the light from a castle(?!?) they passed a few miles back, and suddenly, the recently betrothed graduates of Denton High find themselves plunged into a world of incestuous servants, tap-dancing lackeys, muscle-bound monsters, and otherwise unbound and unhinged partakers of the “absolute pleasure” which the “man” of the castle, Dr. Frank N. Furter, entreats the virginal lovers to give themselves over to. Being the good, red-blooded, all-American kids that they are, it only takes a nudge from Frank, a healthy dose of lipstick and eyeliner, some fishnets, stiletto heels, and “just a little bit of stee=hee-hee-hee-mmmmm…”, before Brad and Janet find themselves cavorting with the Doctor and his whole odd, unearthly(?!?) crew in the most intimate of manners.

Reanimation! Betrayal! Murder! Infidelity! Necrophilia! Heartbreak! Aliens! O’Brien throws in everything up to and including the kitchen sink, and ends the whole shebang (like any good sci-fi/horror romp, especially ones from the Cold War-era) with a “moral”: our hero and heroine, searching for each other in the dark, smoky air where the castle once stood, finding each other but lost to themselves, it would seem, because of their transgressions…but in the final analysis (did I mention there’s a narrator commenting upon and guiding us through this brilliant madness?), we are told, these kids are actually just foolish for being so hung up over such frivolity as sexual freedom and exploration because, you know, when you think about how minuscule we are on this tiny floating blue rock, does any of it really matter?

On its own, this odd, convoluted story would flounder, however fabulously, just as the stories in many B- science fiction and horror or exploitation films often did. But playwright O’Brien dipped into not only the pulpy murk of bad double features for inspiration, he also trolled the American rock and roll and R&B airwaves of the 1950s and 1960s, eventually mixing in a little fanfare and elegance via Hollywood studios themes, and came out with that rarest of gems in the deep mine of theatrical musicals: a set of songs that could each stand completely on their own as fine individual examples of the genre to which they belong, while at the same time providing a cohesive musical whole which leads us full circle from the opening number, “Science Fiction, Double Feature,” to its show-closing counterpart “Science Ficton (Reprise)”.

A further achievement of the songs (true musical classics: “The Time Warp,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul,” “Toucha Touch Me,” “I’m Going Home”… if, for some reason, you don’t already know these songs, go see the show: you’ll never forget them once you have) is that, lyrically, O’Brien makes each one as integral a part of the overall story being told on stage as the dialogue and action - there is no filler here whatsoever - a far cry from what many musicals can claim.

The final triumph of O’Briens songs is that, in a musical theatre which, at the point ROCKY was being created, had hardly strayed from its classical cliches and methodology, he created a bunch of songs that sound and feel like they could be taken out of the context of the show and performed, one or all, anytime, at any place by a bunch of musicians with electric instruments, and they would sound just as good…in short, great songs that actually rocked.

That’s no mean feat in musical theatre, where, often, everything is necessarily softened, watered down, caricatured, or otherwise compromised in such a manner as to make it palatable and easily disseminated by the audience. This works terrifically when you’re, say, telling the story of an impressionist painter, or a gang of singing cats, or bohemians in New York in the early nineties. Rock & roll is not soft, however, and so it always seemed out of place or as though it were being turned into Muzak (with rare exceptions) when it played any part in musical theatre up to ROCKY HORROR. Just as O’Brien made a terrific set of individual songs that could stand on their own, he also proved that there was a place for harder edged music in musical theatre, that rock & roll could sustain a whole show. With ROCKY, he effectively created the Rock Musical.

THE ROCKY HORROR show changed so much about the musical theatre (and eventually the movies and the world). It un- self-consciously tipped its hat to all of its influences while simultaneously sending them up and utilizing them as the glue that held the pieces in place. Put together, O’Brien’s clever book and brilliant songs, his unforgettable characters and that never-ending sense of wonder over the idols it was at once holding up and smashing (which is nothing so much as a parallel for the pubescent feeling of liberation and awe upon one’s discovery of those old friends sex, drugs and rock & roll) melded perfectly to create what has become one of the great musicals of all time. Trustus Theatre’s 24-year hold on the ROCKY HORROR brand continues, starting this Saturday 8pm (after a slight delay for Hurricane Matthew), and the production, from front to back, could not have been placed in better hands.

Scott Blanks, an actor of the highest calibre, stood tall, over the course of almost twenty years, in the stack-heeled shoes of ROCKY’s antagonist and bustier-bedecked master of ceremonies, Dr. Frank N. Furter. Blanks played the role in no less than five separate productions over two decades (full disclosure: this reviewer portrayed the doomed “delivery boy” Eddie in the third production of ROCKY at Trustus and has fond memories of being chased every night to his offstage “doom” by a pick-axe wielding, rubber gloves wearing, surgeon’s gown draped dervish in the form of Blanks-as-Frank from December, 1999 to January 2000). His spot-on portrayal of the fetching, gender-fluid “Doctor” cast a long shadow over any hopes of a subsequent revival of ROCKY at Trustus when he announced that with the theatre’s fifth production in 2009 that he would be hanging up his fishnets for good, and that he would not portray Frank again.

So what better choice of a director to oversee the proceedings in Trustus’s ROCKY #6, could there have been than the man who stood, onstage, at the center of each previous production, Scott Blanks? Having seen the latest incarnation of the show, one would be hard-pressed to make a better selection. Blanks’ direction of the show is lean and tight, and each act flashes by swiftly in a trail of glitter and pheromones. Blanks’ solid choices with regard to staging, along with Caitlin Britt’s elegant, energetic choreography, make the action of the play, which gallops apace from start to finish, convey far more nuance than a show which runs as fast might lead one to expect.

Brandon McIver’s set and Barry Sparks’s lighting design are of the usual excellence which Columbia theatergoers have come to expect from these two veterans. Baxter Engle’s projections add the perfect amount of texture to the entire stage picture when and wherever they are utilized, especially in the opening and closing use of rainfall. From a technical angle, the stand-out part of the evening is the sound. The show’s excellent band, lead ably by Musical Director Chris Cockerel, could be heard loud and clear, each instrument coming through the system without any distortion, and none of it interfering whatsoever with the actors voices coming from the stage. Trustus has always been problematic when it comes to amplified sound, so to hear everything so clearly was an absolute revelation.

Costumes by Clay Owens and props by Nathan Herring are appropriately campy and kitsch, respectively, and the wigs were an unexpectedly tacky delight. But, “I see you shiver with antici…pation.” So let’s get to the heart of things.

Blanks has assembled a remarkably young performance ensemble for the sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus, whose collective youth is only matched and exceeded by its talent. This is an excellent cast.

The always outstanding Katie Leitner starts the show out in the guise of the oft-forgotten “Usherette,” and returns in short order as the servant Magenta, who she plays with eerie, unblinking and hilarious “bride of Frankenstein” look frozen on her face. We also meet the “Phantoms” or Transylvanians as they are sometimes called, the “background” players who seem to constantly be everywhere at all times, as dancers, singers, windshield wipers, party guests, and just about any other thing the show requires. They are excellent here, turning the stage from flats and platforms into something more akin to a living, breathing organism, and their collective work is so good that they deserve to be pointed out individually: Allison Allgood, Sara Blanks, LaTrell Brennan, Brittany Hammock, Parker Byun, Jackie Rowe, Abigail McNeely, Mario McClean, Blair Baudelaire, and Matt Wright.

Possibly the youngest member of this young cast, Gerald Floyd plays the no-named, no-necked Narrator with the poise, dignity and sophistication of a much older gentleman, even when doing the pelvic thrust. Cody Lovell and Anna Lyles are hilarious as, respectively, everybody’s favorite asshole and slut, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss. It’s especially fun to watch these two transform from the sweet kids from Denton High at the beginning to the insatiable beasts of excess they become by the end of the show. Michael Hazin is great as the “butler with a secret” Riff Raff, playing him with a barely perceptible half grin and hunchbacked swagger.

Kayla Cahill is fabulous as tap-dancing groupie Columbia, her portrayal significantly less ditzy and squeaky than most, which is a breath of fresh air. Josh Kern is more than sufficiently well-suited to play the titular “creation” Rocky, and Percy Saint Cyprian is terrific as Eddie, ex-delivery boy and organ donor. And GREAT SCOTT! I swear I recognized that (uncredited and unlisted in the program) actor playing Eddie’s uncle, Dr. Everett Scott, from somewhere…something about a pig and a spider, maybe? Anyway, whoever he was, he was, and is, always fantastic.

Have I forgotten anyone? Ah! The “man” himself, Dr. Frank N. Furter, played with fearless bravado and boundless talent by Walter Graham, who clearly benefitted from the tutelage and direction of one who knew the character inside and out, but who also brings such a fundamentally different take on the “sweet transvestite” to this production that he does what any actor playing this legendary role must do: make it their own. Graham meets and exceeds this task (“In abundance!”), gliding through his performance as though he’d been preparing his whole life for it. To point out any one moment in his performance as Frank is unfair to the strength of the whole (harharhar), but, in all seriousness, if Graham’s emotional, soulful, show-stopping delivery of ROCKY’s most gentle, beautiful number, “I’m Going Home,” doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then you simply must not have eyes. Or a heart. Where’s Eddie? He might have one for you…

Blanks, Cockrell, Britt, and the whole cast and crew have done Trustus Theatre proud with this sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, bringing such a wealth of talent and energy to the production that, like Brad Majors, you would have to be an asshole to miss it. So, put on your fishnets, slather on mascara and lipstick, make sure to pack a spare tire if it’s a rainy night, and get ready to swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh: there’s a light over at the Frankenstein place, and it’s the glow coming from this production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus Theatre, which absolutely sparkles!

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien Directed by Scott Blanks Musical Direction by Chris Cockrell Choreography by Caitlin Britt Runs Saturday, October 8 through Saturday November 5

trustus.org/

Meet the 2016 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers

2nd act 2016 Back for our 3rd year, the 2nd Act Film Festival, under the direction of Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Jasper film editor Wade Sellers, hits the screen Friday night at 7 pm at Tapp's Arts Center. Tickets are just $10 and are available by clicking here! Past festivals have sold out to SRO audiences and tickets are going far quicker online this year than in years past, so a word to the wise ...

But no need to wait until Friday night to meet this year's filmmakers. Here's a brief intro below to what you have in store on Friday night, October 14 at 7 pm.

 

MEET THE 2016 2ND ACT FILM FESTIVAL FILMMAKERS

Cory John

Cory John

Film: At Last

Columbia, SC actor, screenwriter, producer, and director Cory John began performing at his hometown high school Spring Valley. There he noticed and embraced his love for theater and acting. He later became part owner of Real Records LLC where he was a writer and director for their original film series, which included "Spare the Rod" and their feature film, "Addiction: What’s Yours?" He has since gone on to star in productions such as Yesterday Is Still Gone, Finding Hope in the Struggle, and Thee Final Destination 2 Love, to name a few. His recent endeavors include being director for the EmPOWERment Corp, and appearing as co-writer, co-producer, co-director, and lead in the Horror film Bag Lady set to premiere in October of 2016. Cory is also the director and founder of Cory John’s Murder Mystery Dinner Show, which will soon celebrate its one year anniversary of bringing fun, food, and horror to the Carolinas. Cory is a lover of the arts and credits his writing and directing of his latest short film "At Last" as his best work to date.

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Tamara Finkbeiner

Tamara Finkbeiner

Film: Bait

Originally from Barbados, Tamara is married to Janson Finkbeiner and a stay at home mom with my joys; King Kai, Big Jon and Benji. She graduated from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She works in graphic design and is a co-founder with Josetra Robinson of our company One7evenOne Productions LLC.

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Collins White

Collins White

Film:

Collins Abbott White is a filmmaker born and raised in Greenville, SC. He directed his first film when he was a senior in high school, and went on to study film in college. Upon graduating, Collins founded Other Vision Studios, a film and video production company with the goal of producing feature films in Greenville and helping to establish an industry presence in the upstate. For the past 5 years, Collins has worked with upstate businesses to help them capture the essence of their brand in video while producing several short films and the pilot of a mini-series as well as several YouTube Channels. He is passionate about the art of filmmaking and is determined to push himself in terms of story and quality every chance he gets.

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David Holloway

David Holloway

Film: Botched

David Holloway is a freelance Cinematographer from Greenwood, South Carolina. He specializes in commercial and documentary projects. He is the owner operator of StoryReel Productions. He has a history degree from the University of Plymouth, UK. David is a self taught filmmaker, however, he has taken several workshops through Maine Media College. David is a passionate and dedicated film maker who is always looking to work with and learn from others.

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Chris White

Chris White

Film: All Seeing

Chris White is an Irmo High School grad who now resides with his family in Greenville. His first film, ED THE MOVIE, was shot thirty years ago with a camera he bought at the old K-Mart on Bush River Road. Chris' next film is a rock-n-roll road movie about a kid who becomes a roadie for his favorite Christian hair band during the summer of 1986.

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Kendall Jason

Kendall Jason -  kendallprojects

Film: Tonewood

Kendall (Jason) kendallprojects was born and raised in Columbia South Carolina. He briefly majored in Studio Art while participating in the football program at the University of South Carolina and North Greenville College. Leaving South Carolina he attended Art school at Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida where he received his BFA in sculpture. Upon graduating from Ringling he and his wife moved to New York where they lived in Brooklyn while working at Dia Center for the Arts (a nonprofit organization that initiates, supports, presents and preserves art projects “whose nature or scale” would preclude other funding sources). Also while in New York he received his MFA from New York University while teaching undergraduate classes in the fine art department. In 2009 Jason returned to South Carolina after his twin girls were born. Now back in Columbia Kendall works as an art teacher and spends most of his time in the studio developing new projects around ideas involving southern masculinity and blue-collar work ethic.

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Ebony Wilson

Ebony Wilson

Film: W H O R L

Ebony is a returning filmmaker to the 2nd Act Film Festival from the Columbia area. She currently owns and operates her own independent production company, Midnight Crow Productions, is the administrator of the Columbia Film Community networking group, and manages branding and online positioning for media, talent, and film professionals in the Film Community Directory. Her latest works include Divine Intervention (a 48 hour film project), Underground 13 (web-series), and Prelude to Infusco (feature length sci-fi drama).

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Michael Tolbert

Michael Tolbert

Film: Parental Guidance is Suggested

Michael Tolbert is an actor/director based out of Columbia, South Carolina. Over the course of four years he starred in Operation Adventure, hosting the documentary travel series. Most recently, Tolbert appeared in science fiction horror film Alienography and made his directing debut with the documentary film Wood: A Family Affair. Previously, Tolbert worked as a production assistant on films such as 50% and the short film Drifts. Both films have made their way across the nation screening at both Campus Movie Festival and Frameline Film Festival.

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Jennifer Baxley

Jennifer Baxley

Film: Reality Really Bites

Jennifer Baxley is an amateur filmmaker whose inaugural music video “Jenny Saves Trump’s Jewels” allowed her to meet Donald Trump during the auditions for the Apprentice. This launched her very fruitful but profitless filmmaking career.  She’s produced five music videos, won a Palmetto Pillar Award and performed assorted production tasks on a few awesome films.  In her other lives she is a software developer and adjunct instructor for Midlands Technical College.

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Tyler Matthews

Tyler Matthews

Film: Mr. Wonderful

Tyler Matthews is an equally adept filmmaker and music producer. After a four year stint in finance, he taught himself how to create video and music professionally. He's an artist on the Post-Echo Music label, an active member of two arts groups (Moas Collective and Scenario Collective), and a member of the SOCO Co-Work community. He produces two podcasts professionally and operates in the Vista under his business name Tyler Digital.

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The 2nd Act Film Festival is a production of The Jasper Project.

JasperProjectLogo

The Jasper Project is a project-oriented, multidisciplinary arts facilitator serving the greater Columbia and South Carolina arts community by providing space, resources, and collaborative engineering for emerging artists and new projects by established artists. For more information go to www.JasperProject.org.

It's JAY Season - Vote Now! VOTE HERE!

2016-jays A really good year.

Every artist has one now and again. A period of time when the universe smiles upon you, life just seems to click, and you have the energy to get done all the jobs you need to do.

It’s a brilliant feeling. And we like spreading that brilliance around. That’s why we asked our readers to nominate the artists in their lives who have had one of those really good years. Then, our panel of experts took a look at the list of nominees and winnowed it down to the top three artists in each discipline who seemed to have the very best years of all.

Below, you’ll read about these 12* artists and have the opportunity to register your vote for which artist in each field should be named 2016 Jasper Artist of the Year.

Winners will be announced at the 2016 Jasper Artist of the Year Gala & Columbia Christmas Carol Lip Sync Championship on December  2nd.

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VOTE HERE!

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Literary Arts

Carla Damron

Carla Damron’s most important work for the year was the publication of her literary novel, The Stone Necklace, by Story River Books, a division of USC Press. The Stone Necklace was also chosen as the One Book, One Community selection for February 2016 which led to multiple events and appearances, which gave Damron the opportunity to explore the intersection of art and social awareness with hundreds of people (including a presentation at the SC National Alliance for Mental Illness conference). Damron has completed approximately 30 book club presentations thus far, with more scheduled. Damron’s other works include a submission to the Jasper Project’s Marked By Water collection, monthly blogs on the Writerswhokill website, a quarterly column in the SC Social Workers newsletter, and the completion of her fifth novel, which is now in her agent’s hands.

Len Lawson

Len Lawson’s many poetry publications this year have included the following: “Briefcase of Little Tortures,” in Up the Staircase Quarterly, “Down South,” in Charleston Currents; “I Write My Body Eclectic” in [PANK] Magazine; “Feel the Vibration: Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, A Retrospective” in Yellow Chair Review; “Church Fan,” “Niger (Or the Country Missing a Letter,” and “When a White Man in Camden Tells You to Act Like  You Got Some Sense,” in Drunk in a Midnight Choir;  “Google Search for Black Lives Matter” in Winter Tangerine Review; “ The Black Life Anthem: Unarmed Black People Killed by Police or Dying in Police Custody Since 2012*” in Free Times; “For the Dead Whose Caskets Flowed Out of Graves After the South Carolina Flood,” “12 Year Old Inside Me Seeks a Father Figure,” “Uneasy Dreams of a Presidential Hopeful,” and “The Body is a Cave” in Connotation Press; “  George Zimmerman as Jack in Titanic Painting Trayvon Martin as Rose” and “Krack” in Public Pool; and, “The Invitation” in Get Free Books.

Ray McManus

This year, along with R. Mac Jones, Ray McManus co-edited the anthology Found Anew: Writers Responding to Photographic Histories which was published by USC Press and nominated for the Lillian Smith Book Award. He published the following poems: “Caveman Survey,” “How Boys are Measured,” and “Manspread,” in The Good Men Project; “For the Hardest to Reach Places” in Prairie Schooner; “Dog Box,” “Disturbing Remains,” and “Staying in the Truck” in Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry from USC Press; “When a Dog Comes Back Rabid,” “We Were All Dead Once,” and “Natural Selection,” in Red Truck; “Ask Your Doctor,” “Origin of Species,” “In the Absence of Protection,” and “The Descent of Man” in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; and, “Ruts” in The State of the Heart Volume II, from USC Press. McManus participated in community projects that included the Tri-District Arts Consortium, The Carolina Master Scholars program, Serious Young Women Writers Workshop, Poetry Out Loud Region II Competition, High School and Middle School ABC Site Training, Word Fest Charlotte, and the Center for Oral Narrative and gave readings at Festival for the Book in Nashville; Pat Conroy Lit Fest in Beaufort: LILA Author Event in Charleston; Book Tavern in Augusta GA; Deckle Edge Literary Festival as well as Mind Gravy in Columbia; the Upcountry Lit Fest; Two Writers Walk into a Bar in Durham NC; and, the Scuppernong Book Store, Greensboro NC.

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VOTE HERE!

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Visual Arts

Kendal Jason

Kendall Jason's work this year has included quite a few multidisciplinary performance art pieces including the following at The 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial 2015 comprised of Speak to Me: "I've been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands..." as well as, "I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us...very hard to explain why you're mad, even if you're not mad" and Far away across the field, The tolling of the iron bell, Calls the faithful to their knees. To hear the softly spoken magic spells, both with reconstituted performance costumes; Lunatic on the Grass and

Breathe, a single channel video. Jason also created the "Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad" performance at Tapp’s Arts Center In conjunction with Michaela Pilar Brown, and The Transitioner Episode 1- "Who Do You Love"- 3 night performance at 701 CCA. For the Da Da Desque Exhibition 701 CCA, he created The Bags (50lbs Zombie Drawings), The Uniform (Custom Uniform for Work and Play), Episode I, Who Do You Love (Live video), and Ol' Man. He performed at Artista Vista as The Transitioner Episode 2, producing Corn hole Bags (50lbs Zombie Drawings), Extra Large Corn hole boards (Fear Vs. Fan Zombie Cheerleader drawings), and Zombie Drawings.

Michaela Pilar Brown

Among the programs that have occupied Michaela Pilar Brown’s time of late are Summer Arts Residencies in both Sedona Arts Center in Sedona, Arizona as well as one in Kunstlerwerkgemeinschaft Kaiserslautern, Germany. She also served as a visiting artist at Claflin University, Central Piedmont Community College, and at Tapp’s Arts Center, here in Columbia. She was featured in a film by Roni Nicole Henderson as well as one by Wade Sellers, and her work, Speak No’, 2011 was acquired by the Columbia Museum of Art. Her exhibitions included 15-Jahre-Künstlerwerkgemeinschaft volksbank Kaiserslautern; Artfields in Lake City; a solo exhibition and site specific performance, I’m a boss my house, at If Art Gallery; a two-woman show and site specific installation and performance called Making Time Marking Forever at Carrack Contemporary Art in Durham, NC; The Mother Wound site specific performance at Spelman College in Atlanta; Remix – Themes and Variations in African American Art at the Columbia Museum of Art; Wet Hot Southern Summer Group Exhibition at The Southern Gallery in Charleston; Where They Cut Her I Bleed – Site Specific Installation/ Solo Exhibition and Performance at Tapp’s Arts Center; The Space Between – Solo Exhibition and Performance at McMaster Gallery, University of South Carolina; Ruptured Silence Multimedia Performance and Collaboration with Wideman Davis Dance and Darion McCloud at Drayton Hall, University of South Carolina; Liquor and Watermelon Will Kill You – Solo Exhibition at Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery in Conway; and Red Dirt and Doilies – Solo Exhibition at Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter.

Lauren Chapman

Among Lauren Chapman’s accomplishments this year was winning second place in the 61st Annual USC Student Art exhibition for the painting Still, and her painting The Flood was featured at the ArtFields Festival 2016 in Lake City as well as being published in the 2016 ArtFields catalog. In May, Chapman had a joint exhibition at Tapp’s Art Center and in August she showcased 25 oil paintings in her first solo exhibition and artist talk, titled Repetitions at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, IA. Chapman was awarded the Yaghjian Studio arts scholarship at USC and received a fully funded art residency at the international center for the arts in Monte Castello, Italy which she attended in June. Finally, Chapman’s oil painting the white rabbit was selected for the "Figure Out" Planned Parenthood exhibition in August.

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VOTE HERE!

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Music Arts

Mark Rapp

If there’s a linchpin of Columbia’s jazz scene, it’s probably trumpet (and didgeridoo) player Mark Rapp. In addition to balancing a steady stream of gigs around the city with his constant national and international travel, Rapp has kept busy orchestrating a steady stream of recordings, including a long overdue set from jazz patriarch Skipp Pearson and two efforts under his The Song Project Series with guitarist Derek Bronston. And, as part of the Harbison Theatre Performance Incubator Series, Rapp teamed up with professional choreographer Stephanie Wilkins to create Woven, a unique collaboration that combines jazz and contemporary dance that stands as one of the most innovative original performance pieces created in Columbia in recent years.

Dylan Dickerson

Although he’s one of the most affable and easygoing artists in town, when Dylan Dickerson steps on stage with his band Dear Blanca and starts playing music that person seems to slip away. With his post-punk-meets-Hendrix approach to playing guitar and an unadorned bawl of a voice, Dickerson stands clearly out among his peers. His lyrics, pondering and painstaking, feel like anthems for twentysomethings who want to make it plain that their disaffection and distress should never be mistaken for apathy.

Dear Blanca started out slowly but over the past year seems poised to make the next step, releasing two EPs--one produced by Triangle veteran Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, St. Vincent, Spoon), the other by Charleston’s producer-of-the-moment Ryan “Wolfgang” Zimmerman of Brave Baby--that hold to Dickerson’s idiosyncratic vision of folkie Townes Van Zandt drinking at a bar with D. Boon of the Minuteman while proving that Dear Blanca is a band capable of making music every bit as captivating as their heroes.

Justin Daniels

As much as Columbia has begun to champion its hip-hop veterans like FatRat da Czar and Preach Jacobs, there’s no denying that much of the energy of the genre still lies with a powerful younger generation that is still forging its own identity. Of the newer crop of emcees in the Capital City, Justin Daniels, who raps under the moniker H3RO, is one of the best. His December release Between the Panels, despite its DIY sensibility, plays like a masterclass in how to embrace youthful swagger with a keen sense of history. His comic book motifs and love of pure bars harkens back to Wu Tang Clan; the joyful soul samples and backpack rap self-consciousness to Lauryn Hill and early-period Kanye West; and his charismatic exuberance not unlike current rapper-of-the-moment Chance the Rapper. Daniels is still hustling, but his past year suggests the sky is the limit.

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VOTE HERE!

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Theatre Arts

Baxter Engle

A perennial behind-the-scenes magic maker, Baxter Engle has served over the past year in the following productions: Marie Antoinette (Sound Design); Blithe Spirit (Scenic Design); Peter and the Star Catcher (Scenic and Props Design); American Idiot (Scenic and Video Design); and, Anatomy of a Hug (Scenic and Video Design.) In addition to handling the creative aspects of design, Engle is hands-on throughout the productions from conception to the birth of the show.

Robert Harrelson

The consummate theatre man, Robert Harrelson is the executive director and owner of his own company, and all the hard work and minutiae that implies, with On Stage Productions, a non-profit theatre company in West Columbia. This year, Harrelson directed Little Shop of Horrors, Twisted Carol, Miracle in Memphis, Crimes of the Heart, and Oz: Dorothy’s Return, which he also wrote. He also teaches ongoing acting classes.

Hunter Boyle

In January 2016 Hunter Boyle performed in a staged reading of Composure, a screenplay by Jason Stokes at Trustus’ Side Door Theatre, playing “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and several other characters. Next, he performed at Trustus Theatre, where he is a Company member, in Peter and the Star Catcher, playing the roles of Mrs. Bumbrake and the mermaid called Teacher. Following that, Boyle performed with the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, where he is also a company member, playing Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Boyle taught several Master Classes in Musical Theatre (how to tell a story through song) and Acting (how to develop/train your voice effectively for stage work) for the Trustus’ Apprentice Company, as well as a total of five classes (three classes in the fall and two classes in the spring) of Introduction to the Theatre at USC Aiken. Boyle is currently a member in good standing of the Actor’s Equity Association-the union of professional actors in the US, as well as the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in the US. As of the nomination cut-off date, Boyle is currently rehearsing the role of Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Trustus Theatre, being directed by Scott Blanks.

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VOTE HERE!

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(*The 2016 JAY in Dance will not be awarded this year.)