Columbia's Favorite Poetry - Today featuring Larry Hembree

In celebration of National Poetry Month the Jasper Project invited several artists, writers, and leaders in the Columbia arts community to share with us their favorite poems and most of them generously accepted.

We’ve put together this collection of our favorite poems and will be sharing them with you, poem by poem, day by day, over the month of April. Some of the poems are old and traditional, others are new and inventive. Some are whimsical, others are insightful. Some rhyme. Some don’t.

What they all have in common is that someone you know loves that poem – and this gives us such lovely insight into the soul of our community.

Thank you to everyone who shared their poetry with us.

And Happy National Poetry Month from Jasper.

national poetry month.jpg

 

My favorite poet is Hafiz.  c. 1320 to 1389, a beautiful, mystic, Sufi poet from Persia. I heard his work for the first time when I was in a little village in an ashram in India in the late ‘90s.
Hearing his poems makes my cry.

 

 

At This Party

(Translated from Persian)


I don't want to be the only one here

Telling all the secrets -


Filling up all the bowls at this party,

Taking all the laughs.


I would like you

To start putting things on the table

That can also feed the soul

The way I do.


That way

We can invite


A hell of a lot more

        Friends.

 

Formerly of Trustus Theatre, the Nickelodeon, Columbia City Ballet, the SC Arts Commission, The Jasper Project, and the Kershaw County Fine Arts Center, Larry is currently the development director for Columbia Children’s Theatre.
 
 Larry Hembree

Larry Hembree

Theatre and passion are always in fashion - the Refashionista reviews "Love, Loss, and What I Wore"

As a lover of fashion, my editor here at Jasper assumed I’d be a great fit to review Love, Loss, and What I Wore at Trustus Theatre.   I was a little worried that this show wouldn’t be for me.  I hate conventional shopping and consumerism (99% of my wardrobe comes from local thrift stores), and I was worried that this show was going to be some sort of Sex and the City knockoff - more style than substance. caption

Based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, the stage adaptation by Nora and Delia Ephron explores the adventures, loves, friendships, and tragedies of an array of women, and how the fibers of the clothes they’ve worn through the years are forever entwined with their memories and the women they’ve become.  This is something that just about any woman (life-long nudists excluded), can understand.  We all remember what we wore for our first dates and for our first dances.  We remember that really hideous orange leather jacket that seems tres chic in high school, but we wouldn’t be caught dead in now.  Objects have power when tied to memories, and what objects do we share a more personal relationship with than our clothes?  They are expressions of who we are and how we want the world to see us.

The five women of this ensemble cast are Amy Brower, Emily Deck Harrill, Tiffany James, Jodie Cain Smith, and Caroline Weidner.  They each play several different characters, each with their own unique stories.  Some are moving, while others are hysterically funny.  Each actress does a fine job, and with a show like this, where each of the women play off each other in such an intimate way, I would find it inappropriate to point out individuals.   Director Larry Hembree has done a superb job of getting a multitude of compelling characters from his cast.  The renderings of decades of fashions by USC Art student Miranda Fuller give us a visual landscape as we travel through each woman’s life.  That being said, I found a few of the vignettes to be trite and formulaically crafted to elicit an emotional response without any real character development, but overall this show is well-written.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore works well in the intimate Side Door Theatre at Trustus, due to its minimalist requirements.  A cast of five, a few chairs, a bar, and a slightly judgmental guy on guitar (who also happens to be the show’s musical director, Jeremy Polley) are all this production requires…oh yes…and a few drinks to loosen up the memories.

Are you excited about this production?  Do you want to gather your girlfriends and check it out?  Well…I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Love, Loss, and What I Wore is completely sold out (even after adding on an additional Sunday matinee.)  However, perhaps if you pester Larry Hembree (he’s not just the show’s director, he’s also the Managing Director of Trustus Theatre), they’ll bring it back.  This has happened before. (And there's always the option to call the box office to check on any last-minute cancellations, and/or to see if there is any sort of waiting list in case of no-shows.)

~ Jillian Owens

Love, Loss, and What I Wore runs through Saturday, January 18th, 2013.  Shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays start at 8pm. The Sunday matinee on January 12th will be at 3pm. The doors and box office open thirty minutes prior to curtain, and all Trustus Side Door tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students. Reservations can be made by calling the Trustus Box Office at (803) 254-9732, and tickets may be purchased online at www.trustus.org .     Except that as of now, the rest of the run is SOLD OUT.

The Richard and Debbie Cohn Trustus Side Door Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady Street and on Pulaski Street. The Trustus Side Door Theatre entrance is through the glass doors on the Huger St. side of the building.     For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit www.trustus.org for all show information and season info.

 

"Next to Normal" at Trustus Theatre - a Review by Jillian Owens

When I was asked to review Trustus Theatre’s first show of the season, Next to Normal, I was hesitant.  I don’t usually like musicals.  It seems like the vast majority that are being launched on Broadway nowadays are pure fluff – adaptations of 80’s and 90’s movies hoping to bank on an easily entertained populace’s desire for nostalgia and escapism.  But then there was this little gem that won the Tony for Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Book by Tom Kitt (Music) and Brian Yorkey (Book and Lyrics).  It also won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama - an uncommon honor for a musical.  “What am I in for?” I wondered. The story of a family being ripped apart by mental illness seems an unlikely subject for a musical, which is one of the reasons this one works so well.  The play opens on what appears to be a typical morning with Diana Goodman (played by Vicky Saye Henderson) preparing lunches for her husband, daughter, and son, and devolves into her throwing sandwiches on the floor.  Diana is not well.  She suffers from severe bipolar disorder, accompanied by hallucinations.   In the next few weeks, Diana visits her psychotherapist (played by Terrance Henderson) who adjusts and readjusts her meds until she is mentally numb, but deemed “stable”.   But she misses her highs and lows…making her something less than the most cooperative patient.

This show’s power comes from the twisted but strong ties between the characters.  Dan (Paul Kaufmann) loves Diana, but wonders who is crazier: her for her illness, or him for staying with her?   Natalie (Elisabeth Baker) is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the play.  She is struggling to be the perfect daughter, but gets lost in competition with her brother (the song “Super Boy and the Invisible Girl”), while living with the very real fear that her mother’s illness might be lurking somewhere in her DNA as well.  Fortunately, she has found a friend in her new love, Henry (played by Chase W. Nelson) whose struggle to keep her out of trouble is a haunting mirror image of the struggle between Dan and Diana.  I won’t give any spoilers here, but rest assured, the plot twists in surprising and heartbreaking ways that will leave you agog.

The entire cast is simply terrific.  Vicky Saye Henderson’s vocal chops are on perfect display here, and Paul Kaufmann’s numbers will make you tear up.  Terrance Henderson’s voice is powerful and lush, and he gives great dimension to what could easily have ended up being a throwaway role.  It’s exciting to see terrific young talent cropping up in Elisabeth Baker, Andy Bell, and Chase W. Nelson – all relative newcomers to the Trustus stage.  I look forward to seeing more from them.

Next to Normal, directed by Chad Henderson,  is the type of show Trustus does best.  They have taken an amazing script, combined it with a small but amazing cast, and put it on a simple but well-designed set.  Musical Director Tom Beard's orchestra is subtle and effective.  The music melds with the story seamlessly.  Spectacle and shows with huge casts have never been the ideal for such a small stage, and this one doesn’t need it.  This show is powerful…spine-tinglingly so.  This is a beautifully challenging piece of theatre that needed to be created, and demands to be seen.

You should see this show.  Yes…you.  Even if you don’t like musicals, and especially if you or anyone you love has been affected by mental illness.  You will leave the theatre profoundly affected.

This is the first show without Jim and Kay Thigpen at the helm (Happy Retirement!), and proof that you can still put your trust in Trustus.

~ Jillian Owens

Next to Normal runs at Trustus Theatre through Sat. Sept. 29th; contact the box office at 803-254-9732 for ticket information.

 

Jon Tuttle's "The Palace of the Moorish Kings" - A Review by Jillian Owens

Jon Tuttle’s new play, The Palace of the Moorish Kings (based on the short story by Evan S. Connell) makes for a powerful and thought-provoking night of theatre.  Tuttle is no stranger to  Trustus Theatre – he’s their Playwright-in-Residence.  You may remember him from such works as The Sweet Abyss, Holy Ghost, and The White Problem. It’s Thanksgiving Day, 1970.  Dave and Millicent, played by Gene Aimone and Christina Whitehouse-Suggs, are a seemingly happy upper middle class couple full of smiles with a lovely home (newly renovated!) and dear friends whom they’ve invited over for their traditional holiday feast.  But there’s more than a hint of worry behind their cheerful expressions:  there’s one guest that hasn’t RSVP’d.  Their son has gone missing in Vietnam, but traditions must continue.

As the guests arrive, we learn theirs is not the only family in concealed crisis.  Aileen and Art (played by Becky Hunter and Christopher Cockrell), have a marriage whose foundation is beginning to show its cracks.  Leroy and his daughter Junie (played by James Harley and Erin Huiett) seem to be a content pair, but why has Junie dropped out of college?  Barbara and Al (played by Kim Harne and Shane Walters) are still deeply in love after many years of marriage, but Barbara’s sporadically shaky right hand indicates trouble on the horizon.  This coming-of-middle-age story explores what this group of friends, who have known each other since high school, has given up in their quest for the American Dream.  They’ve all achieved their own levels of success, but still have become wistful and jealous when they hear from their friend J.D., a draft dodger who chose a life of travel and adventure over college, a job, and marriage.  They all live vicariously through his letters from around the world, which curiously never ask about their own, considerably more predictable lives.

All of the actors do an excellent job with their roles.  Huiett makes a wonderfully subtle Junie, which is perhaps the most important character in the play.  We see her asking all the questions the rest of the group wishes they had asked themselves at her age.  She’s not quite so easily sold on the idea of a marriage and a split level being the ingredients for happiness and fulfillment.  Hunter’s Aileen is spot-on and sassy, with unwavering energy and passion.  Aimone, Suggs, and Cockrell deliver powerful and dynamic performances. Other characters, however, seem to exist merely as sounding boards for their more fleshed-out counterparts.  James Harley does what he can with the role of Leroy, who doesn’t say or do very much, except get a little sad about his divorce, and worried about his daughter.  Harne and Walters also fall victim to being good actors with weak characters.  They make a convincingly loving couple, and Harne’s portrayal of a woman who is in the beginning stages of a serious illness is truly touching -- but it seems like Al only exists to provide exposition about the adventures of the well-traveled J.D.  Once again, Walters does what he can, but this script doesn’t give him anywhere to go.  As  director, Dewey  Scott-Wiley has gotten the most out of her cast with this demanding script.

A great deal of dialog is dedicated to how beautiful and amazing Dave and Millicent’s home is, and the set really needed to show the 1970's ideal of beautiful and amazing.  I wasn’t feeling it.  It seemed almost unfinished and quickly thrown together.  An implied set would have worked better for this production if budget or time constraints were the issue. 

The Palace of The Moorish Kings leaves you in a state of thoughtful contemplation.  I would like to see this show 20 years from now, to see if I still identify with the youthful idealism of Junie, or if I find myself agreeing with the older, more conservative Dave.  It’s a show I’d like to take my parents to see with me and discuss over dinner afterwards. Perhaps you’ll go see it with yours?

 

~ Jillian Owens

The Palace of the Moorish Kings  continues its run on Wednesday, August 15th, and runs through this Saturday, August 18th.   The Wednesday and Thursday night performances  start at 7:30 PM, while Friday and Saturday nights begin at 8:00 PM.  Note that half-price student tickets are available 15 minutes prior to every curtain.  Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady St. and on Pulaski St.  The Main Stage entrance is located on the Publix side of the building.  For more information or reservations, call the box office at 803-254-9732, or visit http://www.trustus.org .

 

For Your Consideration -- Jasper's take on three plays opening in Columbia this week

Jasper loves going to the theatre. On rare occasions, he'll just show up and be surprised by what he gets. But most of the time, he does his homework. There are three shows opening in the city this week. One you should just show up for and have a good time. One you might want to do a little planning for. And another that you need to know what you're getting into so, you know, you can really get into it. Anything Goes, opening at Workshop Theatre on Friday night and running through October 1st, is like an ice cream sundae. You really just have to go for it. Other than knowing it's Cole Porter and how, like ice cream and chocolate syrup, it's brilliant in its simplicity, you don't need to over-analyze it. Just have fun. And, given that Cindy Flach is directing it, yeah, you will have fun. Flach has a way, not only with execution, but with space. Her shows conjure up words like pizzazz, and sizzle, and flare. She's another one of Columbia's treasures who asks for little attention, but always gets the job done and gets it done well.

On Wednesday night, in some wild configuration of the Trustus Black Box and Late Night series, our boy Larry Hembree opens Randall David Cook's play, Third Finger, Left Hand. The show plays Wednesday nights at 7:30 and Friday and Saturday nights at 11, for two weeks. Cook is a hometown boy who has done well so, in our book, that would be reason enough to go out and support this show with your patronage. But there's more -- well, first of all, you know Larry Hembree and the kind of weird and magical spells he tends to put on a stage, so, there's that. But the bottom line is that the play has been described as both "Southern gothic" and "twisted" -- terms that makes Jasper's pulse absolutely race. (Jasper likes weird -- why hide it?) But here's the thing -- Cook and Hembree are also presenting a little bonus, next Tuesday the 20th, when they give a staged reading of another little something from Cook's box of tricks, a play called Southern Discomfort. In an effort to construct something of a study of Cook's work, we'll be seeing both the reading and the play next week. Then we're going to sit down and decide what we really think of Cook's work and talk about it. We invite our lovely readers to join us in this online discussion next week. Come back here -- right here -- and share your comments below. We look forward to getting your views.

Finally, a third play opens this week that already has us wiggling in our seats. We've never seen David Mamet's Oleanna, but we've seen David Mamet's Race (with David Spade) and his Glengarry, Glen Ross (with Alan Alda), and we've seen his films, Wag the Dog, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, to name just a few. So we know that when David Mamet writes for us, we have to prepare ourselves to be receptive. Mamet's use of language and delivery (called "Mamet speak") is unique and edgy and a little scary. Rather than enjoying a little vino or a draught of bourbon before a Mamet play, we recommend you dose up on caffeine -- not to help you stay awake, but rather to help you keep up. Mamet is unrelenting. That said, the subject of Oleanna is sexual harassment in the academy. A subject far too serious to trivialize or present solely for entertainment value. Mamet doesn't - it will be interesting to see what director, Ait Federolf, a senior in the department of theatre at USC, does with his production. It opens at the USC Lab Theatre on Thursday night, the 15th -- but you'll be busy then attending the Jasper Magazine Launch Party at Speakeasy -- and only runs until the 18th. All shows are at 8 pm and cost $5 -- with tickets available only at the door.

For more information on all three plays, visit the following websites or addresses  respectively:

Anything Goes - workshoptheatre.com/11-12season_AnythingGoes.html

Third Finger, Left Hand - Trustus.org

Oleanna - bushk@mailbox.sc.edu

 

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