And the Winners Are ...

Life beats down and crushes the soul

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

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

Congratulations, once again, to all our finalists:

Music - Marina AlexandrA~ Marcum Core ~ Zach Seibert

Theater - Michael Hazin ~ Christine Hellman ~ Darion McCloud

Visual Arts - Trahern Cook ~ Flavia Lovatelli ~ Andy White

Literary Arts - Libby Bernadine ~ Tim Conroy ~ Monifa Lemons

And the winners are …

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Frank Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Come see for yourself!

 

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

 

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

—Hallie Hayes

My Feet Will Be Praying -

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

Dear Cindi,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you to Cassie, and peace to us all —

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

by Christina Xan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Introducing the Roster of 2nd Act Film Festival 2018 Filmmakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd Act Film Festival 2018

Wednesday, November 7th at 7 pm

VIP/Filmmaker Reception at 6 pm

Trustus Theatre

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The artist Karl Larsen

The artist Karl Larsen

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

-Hallie Hayes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

Ara-Viktoria Goins as Motormouth Maybelle.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Frank Thompson is Theatre Editor for Jasper.

Next up for the Jasper Project?

Keith Tolen is our first featured artist in the

Tiny Gallery Series

Thursday, October 4th in

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

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

Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

—Christina Xan

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

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

Jasper welcomes

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hope to see you there!

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Dylan Nutter

 

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

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Katarina Merlini

 

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

 

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Trezlen Drake

 

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

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Victoria Romero

 

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

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Andrew Green

 

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

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Emily Davis

 

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

by Christina Xan

Join Us

Thursday, September 27th at 6 pm

Stormwater Studios on Huger St. behind One Eared Cow Glass

Music by The Witness Marks and more

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

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

Call for Nominations for

Jasper Artists of the Year 2018

are Now OPEN

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

Jasper Artist of the Year

based upon their artistic accomplishments during the period from

July 31, 2017 through October 31, 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 19th, 2019

at the historic Seibels House and Gardens in downtown Columbia.

——

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

1.    My nominee has agreed to be nominated

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

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

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

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

Send Nominations to

JasperProjectColumbia@gmail.com

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

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

Praise for Man with Two Shadows

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 by Hallie Hayes

______________

If You’re Going

Book Launch - Man with Two Shadows

by Al Black

Saturday, September 22nd - 7 pm

Tapp’s Arts Center

1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC

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

 

REVIEW: South Carolina Shakespeare Company's The Liar

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

-Fleetwood Mac

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

-FLT3

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

J. Michael McGuirt Exhibit at Harbison Theatre

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

           

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

           

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

           

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

           

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

           

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

 

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

J. Michael McGuirt

J. Michael McGuirt

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

           

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

           

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

 

Hallie Hayes

Intern, the Jasper Project

 

Learn more about Bauhaus at

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

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

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

Please visit

SUPPORT

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

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

Jasper Magazine.

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

 

Artist Profile: Olga Yukhno by Hallie Hayes

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

artist Olga Yukhno

artist Olga Yukhno

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Please visit

SUPPORT

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

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

Jasper Magazine.

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

 

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

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

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

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

Cynthia Dewi Oka

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

The Jasper Guild!

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

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

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

 

 

 

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