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

Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

Artist Keith Tolen - photo by Michael Dantzler

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

—Christina Xan


Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

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



By: Jasper Intern Hallie Hayes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Jasper welcomes

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

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


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


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


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


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


Hope to see you there!

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Dylan Nutter


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

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Katarina Merlini


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


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Trezlen Drake


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

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Victoria Romero


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

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Andrew Green


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

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Emily Davis


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

by Christina Xan

Join Us

Thursday, September 27th at 6 pm

Stormwater Studios on Huger St. behind One Eared Cow Glass

Music by The Witness Marks and more

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

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

Call for Nominations for

Jasper Artists of the Year 2018

are Now OPEN


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 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

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


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.



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

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

Jasper project print.jpg

REVIEW: Misery is Optional at Trustus Theatre

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

Director and Co-Writer Dewey Scott-Wiley

Director and Co-Writer Dewey Scott-Wiley

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


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

Co-Writer, Christine Hellman

Co-Writer, Christine Hellman

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

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

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

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

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


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

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled

artist - Bree Burchfield - untitled


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


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.

olga 4.jpg

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.

olga 3.jpg

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.


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


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 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.


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!





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

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

Hallie Hayes

Hallie Hayes


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


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


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


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


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


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




REVIEW: Jon Tuttle's Boy About Ten at Trustus Theatre

A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships.” 

-Gore Vidal

Boy about ten.jpg

John Tuttle is, by any standard, a man with a talent for writing, but after seeing the world premiere of his play, Boy About Ten, I can affirm that he is also quite adept at articulating human relationships. Indeed, the oft-troubled intertwining of Boy About Ten’s dysfunctional, but (somewhat) connected nuclear family of four, drives the plot of Tuttle’s work, taking a well-written piece to the level of a performance bristling with all the sharp edges relationships can provide. This is not to suggest that the production currently running at Trustus is without laughter or light-hearted moments. It may be a tragicomedy, but Boy About Ten doesn’t hesitate to let the tragic cede the stage to the comedic in a legitimate, story-faithful way. In his program notes, Trustus Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, comments that “this play has undergone a more involved development process than our previous Playwrights Festival winners or commissions,” which no doubt contributed to the feeling of polish and streamlining found in the script. I managed to make notes on some of the truly standout lines, but by no means is my list comprehensive.


The play opens with D’Loris (Lonetta Thompson), a kindhearted but world-weary social worker, dealing with what is clearly a family in distress. She is trying to prepare Todd (Tommy Wiggins), the elder son, to go to his mothers’ house for a week. Todd is obviously troubled in multiple ways, but is largely nonverbal, using a set of oversized headphones to drown out the conflict which surrounds him, while hiding his face behind his chin-length bangs.  As usual, Thompson creates a fully-realized, textured character, who has flaws as well as sincerely caring nature. I never tire of seeing Thompson onstage, as she is always completely immersed in and committed to her character and the moment. It would have been the easy way out to depict D’Loris as either a hyper-idealistic Wonder Woman, or as a “honey, I’ve seen it all,” world-weary cynic, but Thompson chose to create someone in-between, and in the process, gave the audience a layered, complex, and realistic performance. Kudos also to Wiggins, a former Trustus Apprentice Company member, making his mainstage debut. Though Todd doesn’t speak much, especially in the early scenes, his body language, movement style, and a sort of self-embrace clearly establish him as a damaged human being, doing his best to avoid his psychic pain. When it is revealed that he is a self-cutter/burner, it is a bit of a shock, but totally believable for the character he has, by that point, made three-dimensional. I suspect we’ll be seeing much more of Wiggins on the Trustus stage in seasons to come, and I look forward to watching his development as an actor.


The arrival of Tammy (Jennifer Hill), lightens the mood by, ironically, introducing the least likeable of the five characters. Hill’s Tammy is brash, flashy, loud, and obnoxious, fancying herself far above the rest of the family. She dresses herself in designer clothing, while a couple of mentions are made of the kids’ clothes coming from Goodwill, and she personifies the cliche of the “helicopter parent,” dispensing screechy advice and criticism thinly veiled as “encouragement.” Hill’s comedic timing is absolutely spot-on, and she brought Friday night’s house down with such well-penned verbal spewings as “I was once a Sweet Potato Queen, now I’m a Cyclops!” (It seems that Tammy has a glass eye, which is broken, requiring her to wear an eye patch.) Clearly proud of her somewhat meager accomplishments, she touts having played Yum-Yum in a community college production of The Mikado, along with a few other small successes, in an attempt to impress D’Loris, who is eventually prompted to ask “what the hell is wrong with you people?” The moments of conflict between Tammy and D’Loris establish a curious dynamic. Tammy, in her own twisted, control-freak way, wants the best for her children, while D’Loris tries to help establish exactly that, which eludes the self-centered Tammy.

One gathers fairly quickly that Tammy is at her ex-husband’s house to swap out the younger son, Timmy, (Daniel Rabinovich), who is a straight-A, rule-abiding, do-gooder, complete with Webelos Scout uniform, and practically a stranger to Todd, and the two react somewhat cautiously to each other. (I may have missed an important line or mention of the situation, but it is clear that the brothers have not spent much time together.) Rabinovich demonstrates an actor’s sensitivities quite impressively, especially for a young actor. His character arc may well be the most dramatic in terms of growth and change, and he handles it like a true pro. As with Wiggins, this is a young man to watch.

Once all is settled, Timmy is left alone with his father, Terry. Played by Trustus mainstay, Paul Kaufmann, Terry is an affable, childlike n’ere-do-well, whose love for his sons manifests in an “at my house, there are no rules” dynamic. (When asked by Timmy if they can attend an Imax film or visit the Planetarium, Terry immediately scoffs at the thought of an educational outing, at least in the traditional sense.) Kaufmann, without ever breaking the established reality of the play, or mugging to the audience, brought to life an enchanting man-child, reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Big, with a dash of Bertie Wooster and Falstaff tossed in. To Timmy’s growing amusement, the two of them chug Cheerwine (no sodas allowed at Tammy’s house), fight ludicrous pretend war games against “Vagicilla, Dark Queen of the Nether Regions” (inspired, no doubt, by Tammy), and Timmy frequently receives his father’s military decorations, which may or may not be legit. It was at this point that I began to wonder about the show’s eponymous title. Was Timmy the Boy About Ten, or was his father? Had the parent/child dynamic between them already shifted before the action of the play began? Kaufmann, incidentally, scores one of the biggest laughs in the show while telling Timmy about his days in an ersatz KISS cover band. “You can always tell when chicks dig you. They chew their gum at you…like meat!”


A brief in-one scene gives us our sole glimpse of life at Tammy’s house, when the focus is, both literally and figuratively, on Todd, who is passively receiving an unwanted haircut from his mother. A special tip of the hat to Lighting Designer Laura Anthony, for transforming a simple floor lamp into a “where were you on the night of the robbery?” beacon. This is an occasion upon which the lighting truly made the scene for me. We, the audience, are semi-blinded by the intensity of the same light shining into Todd’s eyes, and subject to the same jabber from Tammy. Like a police officer in a bad, made-for-TV crime drama, she prattles on and on about how Todd should want to be “normal” and make friends “like all the other boys,” painting a Leave It To Beaver lifestyle, which will supposedly emerge with a haircut and a suit from Goodwill. Interrogation/indoctrination and “tough love” establish an uneasy coexistence at Tammy’s house, and the two children she raised reflect that. Timmy’s unblinking obedience earns him praise, so he obeys. Todd, whom I assumed to be somewhere on the autism spectrum, is unable to deal with what his senses perceive as blinding light and a barrage of impossible commands. Though short, this scene impacted me. I began to wonder through whose eyes we were seeing any given situation, and then viewing each scene from each character’s angle. Thank you, Jon Tuttle, for this (I’m guessing) three-page scene, which widened the lens through which I saw the rest of the play. Though she was the antagonist of the scene, it allowed a glimpse into Tammy’s desperate desire for a “normal, happy, family,” and humanized her for me.


I won’t go into too much detail about the second act, as it is, essentially, a minefield of spoilers, and much of what happens requires the elements of shock and surprise to work. While not without laughs, the second act takes a somewhat darker turn, with a grim family story, involving animal abuse, being revealed. (*While no violence is depicted onstage, a gruesome monologue could be mildly to moderately triggering for some.*) Terry childishly endangers his and Timmy’s lives at the end of act one, the aftermath of which, we see in act two. Todd returns, neatly trimmed and besuited, but still distant, albeit with the occasional smile of hope. Toward the end of the play, we discover that Terry suffered physical wounds far worse than Timmy’s while saving the boy from the dangerous results of his (Terry’s) recklessness. Romantic impossibilities are pondered and argued, D’Loris loses another crumb of her idealism, but hangs on to hope, Timmy takes his first step toward adult cynicism, Tammy reveals some game-changing information, and the family is left as we found them; bruised and battered, but oddly okay. The playwright leaves us with the idea that life will simply go on, and with the insanity and bizarre love in this family, who can even speculate on the eventual outcome?


Director Patrick Michael Kelly has taken an artfully written play, refined by much workshopping, and brought to the stage a world of slightly-heightened reality, never losing sight of the connecting themes of family and what it truly means to care for someone.


So, who is the Boy About Ten? I have my suspicions that each character, with the exception of D’Loris (who serves as the impartial observer and voice of reason) is that boy. Perhaps that answers my earlier question, and tips us off that the show is seen from D’Loris’ perspective.

Boy About Ten is an engaging, thought-provoking, and most enjoyable play, and a worthy addition to the Tuttle ouvre. Only four performances remain, so get your tickets now!

-- Frank Thompson


Tickets can be purchased online at , or by calling the Trustus Theatre box office on 803.254.9732
Remaining performance dates are:
Wednesday, August 22 – 7:30pm
Thursday, August 23 – 7:30pm
Friday, August 24 – 8:00pm
Saturday, August 25 – 8:00pm
Frank Thompson is the theatre editor for Jasper Magazine - contact him at



The Jasper Project is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that provides collaborative arts engineering for all disciplines of arts and artists in the South Carolina Midlands and throughout the state. Please help us continue to meet our mission of validating the cultural contributions of all artists and growing community within the arts by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild .  We'll print your name in the magazine, thank you on social media, and love you forever!


Something like a review - Cassie Premo Steele's Tongues in Trees, poems 1994 - 2017

"... Coin by coin, drop your worth into the jar of your heart and feel the equity begin. You are not a commodity...."

from Trust, by Cassie Premo Steele


cassie tongues in trees.jpg

I’ve been enjoying spending some time the past week or so with Cassie Premo Steele’s newest collection of poetry, Tongues in Trees, poems 1994 – 2017, published by Unbound Content in 2017. I nabbed a copy from Cassie on First Thursday when Cassie, along with Randy Spencer, so generously read for Kathryn Van Aernum’s opening of Common Ground at Anastasia & Friends. Kathryn’s show will be up for the rest of August, by the way, if you missed this lovely look at the places where we put our feet on a daily basis.

Cassie’s collection is divided into three sections—1994-2004, 2006-2016, and 2017. I met Cassie during the second section of this book when she taught me two classes in the women’s and gender studies graduate certificate program at USC – theory and methods. It was an interesting experience to learn theory and methods from an instructor who was not a social scientist. My first two degrees were in sociology and sociologists live and die by theory and methods. The scientific method validates our work when novices want to compare our work to the findings of Oprah. I was all about the N.

But one of the things Cassie taught me was that there are other important ways to validate reality in addition to statistical significance. And her point was well taken. Just because a person’s reality does not reside within the safe neighborhood of the majority does not negate their reality. Of course, I knew this already but her way of reminding me this, after the fully immersive experience of being a survey research wonk, changed my world. And I thank her for that.


Cassie Premo Steele (photo by Suzanne Kappler)   

Cassie Premo Steele (photo by Suzanne Kappler)


In reading Cassie’s collection, I’ve become aware of how much the author’s world has also changed in the time I’ve known her. Without going into personal details, Cassie’s paradigm shifted in several ways over the course of our friendship. And it shifted beautifully to a place of fulfillment and authenticity. Her collection of poems and their shifting persuasions are elegantly emblematic of her growth as a scholar, an artist, and a human being. The nature of this book continues to teach me (remind me) about the importance of fluidity, of being in the moment, of keeping my feet close to the ground but still floating gently enough above it that I can still move easily and purposefully, exploring places and realities from many perspectives, even the most lonely and quiet.

I don’t know how to thank this poet, this friend, for such an important and powerful lesson.

But I can share with you my favorite poem from this lovely collection which is, probably not coincidentally, the next to last poem in the book. This poem tells me that patience should not be so exalted that it becomes a bog of our best intentions, and it reminds me once again that constructs, when they are first born, are made of wishes and fumes. We add the bricks and mortar. And we can tear them down. - CB



By Cassie Premo Steele


I see your boots by the bed and I shed years of straightening

up not sitting till it was right the spoon out of the sink the towel

on the rack the peanut butter capped the coat in the closet the plants

watered and animals fed but none of this straightened me so I threw

spoons until a visitor came and it was you and we threw towels

on the floor ate everything with our fingers took boxes from the

closet and let a spring come up to feed and water the world.




Cindi Boiter is the founder and executive director of The Jasper Project and the editor of Jasper Magazine.


The Jasper Project is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that provides collaborative arts engineering for all disciplines of arts and artists in the South Carolina Midlands and throughout the state. Please help us continue to meet our mission of validating the cultural contributions of all artists and growing community within the arts by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild .  We'll print your name in the magazine, thank you on social media, and love you forever!



Laura Spong - A Remembrance

Laura Spong

1926 - 2018

(photo courtesy of the family)

(photo courtesy of the family)

Laura Spong, the Columbia abstract painter who died August 13 at the age of 92, was a woman of convictions who had a great sense of humor and a difficult-to-match work ethic.


She was joking a few weeks ago during what turned out to be a late rally before her health took its last turn for the worst. She said she wanted to live long enough to vote for Democrat James Smith for governor. If she could just hang on until the absentee voting period opened, she could fill out a ballot and mail it in. Then, it wouldn’t matter when she died, she said. Her eyes twinkled at the thought of “voting after death” and the consternation that might bring to voter fraud conspiracists.


A few weeks ago was about the time Laura quit painting. My husband, Wim Roefs, and I have known Laura for about 20 years, and have always known that she could be found in her studio whenever she could possibly get there, even though she was in her 70s, 80s and 90s. Painting was a job to her – she woke up, drove to the studio and got to work. But painting was also a joy, the thing she wanted to do more than anything else on just about any given day. And she was good at it. Really good. She only got better with each passing year.


Yet she was self-effacing. She frequently had been honored for her talent, but she was kind and encouraging of every other artist who asked for her advice. She wanted everyone to do well, to be able to do what they wanted, whatever that might be.


Laura was a genteel Southern woman with a Tennessee accent whose “Coming Out” party as an artist was on her 80th birthday. She had been painting, although irregularly, for about 50 years, and began to work full-time as an artist in the late 1980s.


Her 80th birthday show, which she organized through Wim, was a smash hit. It introduced the greater world to the work she was making at Vista Studios in downtown Columbia. After that, she had multiple solo exhibitions throughout the state and beyond, including a retrospective at the University of South Carolina. She also was represented in group shows in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee. Her work, that from early in her career as well as more recently, has been acquired in the past decade by the South Carolina State Art Collection, the South Carolina State Museum and the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art.

We’ll miss her always. But her work will live on. And, for many of us, she’ll live on through it. Thank you, Laura.

-- Eileen Waddell, director, if ART Gallery, Columbia, S.C.


Laura Spong,  It's Out There Somewhere , 2018, 24 x 30 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong, It's Out There Somewhere, 2018, 24 x 30 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong,  I've Been Known To Float Upstream,  2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong, I've Been Known To Float Upstream, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong,  Mostly It's a Journey,  2008, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong, Mostly It's a Journey, 2008, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong,  Time Is Taking Its Time , 2008-17, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in. (if ART Gallery)

Laura Spong, Time Is Taking Its Time, 2008-17, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in. (if ART Gallery)

More New Art from Trustus - FEST 24

"We think it’s important for Trustus, a non-profit that is supported and funded by the community, to give back to the community."

- Chad Henderson

trustus 24.jpg

Jasper loves art for art's sake and we love new art -- so you know we're going to be excited about what Trustus has cooked up for next weekend -- a FREE 24 hour theatre festival.

What a joy to see a non-profit arts organization that, like all of us, could really use a little more cash in their lives, say - hey - let's get a bunch of playwrights, directors, and actors together and throw a festival just for the hell of it and, just to spread the love around a bit more, let's open up the theatre and make it free to whoever can legally fit into the joint.

In other words, let's do what we love because we love it and that's it. No applications, no guidelines, no submission fees, no goddamned bureaucracy allowed. 

Thirty-five artists writing, directing, and performing because they just can't help themselves.

Here's what Trustus artistic director Chad Henderson had to say when we questioned him about the festival.


Jasper: How did you choose the participating playwrights and directors?

Henderson: As we approached revisiting this fun event, we knew we wanted to engage playwrights from the community. Each of these writers is constantly writing and creating narratives. Folks in Columbia may know them in different ways, but it will be a great chance to introduce some new voices in local playwriting as well let folks learn something new about local theatre artists who are usually participating in the theatre in other ways.

For example, Paul Kaufmann is known around town as a wonderful actor, but he’s also a creative writer. Robbie Robertson is known for screenplays and commercials, but he’s also penned local comedies and wrote the book for a musical that’s been workshopped in NYC. Tangie Beaty is a prolific Columbia playwright who produces her work with her popular company – WOW productions. Trinessa Dubas is a passionate theatre artist who recently self-produced her script “The T—y Diaries.” Charlie Finesilver is constantly writing and in the past few years he’s been getting his work produced at Manhattan Repertory Theatre in NYC.

As for directors, we wanted a mix of directors who work at Trustus and who work elsewhere in the community. Our directors this year are Jonathan Monk (who will be directing our season opener, SILENCE!), Martha Kelly (who will be directing MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD in the spring at Trustus), Robin Gottlieb (who’s directing a revival of 5 LESBIANS EATING A QUICHE this spring), Jocelyn Sanders (who’s directed a lot of work at Trustus and who’s been directing great productions at Workshop Theatre), and Ginny Ives (who’s studied under Dewey Scott-Wiley and is making her Trustus debut – she’s also currently in Memphis).


Jasper: Who are some of the actors we can look forward to seeing?

Henderson: We’ve got a great group of actors who are convening for FEST 24. They’re familiar faces from the Trustus Company as well as some folks who have been seen on other stages in Columbia. Among them are some of your favorites like Jennifer Hill, Krista Forster, Freddie Powers, Samuel Hetler, Amy Brower Lown, Christine Hellman, Jared Rogers-Martin, Mahogany Collins, Jon Whit McClinton, Mary Miles, Brittany Hammock, Russel Sanders, Trell Brennan, Kevin Bush, and the multi-talented Chris Cockrell.


Jasper: How does this project benefit the theatre community and theatre patrons?

Henderson: Creating theatre is a process that usually takes place over 2-3 months in markets our size. Production teams meticulously make creative decisions that are intended to tell the story with the utmost clarity. Actors have weeks to create their performances and find connections. And playwrights…? Well playwrights can often take as long as they want to get their story on paper.

So, with a 24-hour theatre project like this, the entire theatre-making process is crammed into 24 glorious hours of intense goal-setting. What’s great about events like these is that it is a moment of elevated trust and collaboration. Artists are often working with new co-collaborators, and it’s a rush to the finish line without having months to develop creative relationships.

Patrons who attend festivals like this are often sitting on pins and needles, just like the artists involved. They know that everything is completely new, under rehearsed, and that anything can happen during the performance. Everyone is gathered under the theatre’s roof for something new. If you ask me, the feeling is really special. 


Jasper: Why did you decide to make this a free event? 

Henderson: The major reason we wanted to make this a free event is because everyone who’s working on it is volunteering. This event is focused on community and creativity, so we didn’t want there to be a barrier to keep the community from experiencing it. We think it’s important for Trustus, a Non-profit that is supported and funded by the community, to give back to the community. While seating is limited, 45 people will have the chance to experience Fest 24. We suggest getting to the Side Door Theatre early. First come, first served.

We hope that we’ll have a packed theatre, and incentive to do the event annually.


Jasper: Will the bar be open?

Henderson: We will indeed have the Side Door bar selling beer, wine, and our regular concessions during the event!


Paul Kaufmann

Paul Kaufmann

Chris Cockrell

Chris Cockrell

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Latrell Brennan

Latrell Brennan

Robin Gottlieb

Robin Gottlieb

Jasper Takes a Turn at Anastasia & Friends with Kathryn Van Aernum

Phoenix by Kathryn Van Aernum

Phoenix by Kathryn Van Aernum

One of Jasper’s most rewarding missions is supporting independent artists as they move through the various growths and stages of their careers. We have recently been afforded another opportunity to do so by guest curating one show a year at Anastasia & Friends gallery on Main Street.

Our first show opens this Thursday and features the photography of Kathryn Van Aernum.

We had a chance to visit with Kathryn recently and learned more about her history, process, and aesthetic. A graphic artist and photographer, Kathryn also serves as a creativity coach. Her joy, she says, is helping artists “find ways into their work.”

A graduate of Narope University in Boulder, a learning institution founded in the 1970s by Buddhist education Chogyam Trungpa that fosters not only personal and professional growth, but also intellectual development and contemplative practice, Kathryn carries much of what she learned there into her personal and professional lives today.

“I always take the scenic route,” Kathryn says, explaining that she originally went to school for theatre. Born in Ann Arbor, she grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area and spent 15 years living in Key West where she spent some time operating a B and B, then moved on to doing ad work for much of the gay hotel industry in the area. Throughout the time, however, Kathryn was also at work on her art giving solo and group shows and photography exhibitions. Kathryn has exhibited at Artfields twice and copies of one of her photos of the Congaree Fireflies will soon be offered at the Columbia Fireflies Baseball team gift shop thisyear.

Common Ground, the show Jasper is producing for Kathryn at Anastasia & Friends Art Gallery, opening August 2nd, is a photographic contemplation on the common pathways individuals and communities take. “Living in the city, I began to see patterns in the pavement itself and asking myself – how can I render this in a way that will make people take notice?”

Kathryn notes the double entendre of the show’s title as it focuses both on human mobility and common pavement and how we share it. “You can’t really separate humans from nature,” she says. “We erroneously feel like we aren’t really nature, but we can’t escape the natural elements that occur and connect us.”

The show will also feature a few images from a recent trip to Greece the artist enjoyed with her sister, Gail Van Aernum Barnes, who is director of the Strings Project at USC.


About the show:


Common Ground: Artist Statement

Common: belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or things or by all members of a group.

Common: widespread, general, ordinary

The photographs in Common Ground focus on man-made surfaces, such as pavement, asphalt, cobblestones, concrete etc., with attention paid specifically to the abstract “paintings” created on these ordinary surfaces by the interaction of time, weather and humans. All the artificial terrains portrayed have one thing in common: to facilitate human flow and interaction, with some reaching back as early as the 2nd millennium BC.




More about the artist:

Kathryn Van Aernum’s subjects range from the mundane to the sublime, and she continues to cultivate a sense of spaciousness in her photography. The elements of design: harmony, balance and rhythm present themselves to Kathryn almost subconsciously, allowing her to capture a moment that transports the viewer into their own minds, memories and dreams.        

Ms. Van Aernum holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction in Visual Arts from Naropa University, the premier educational institution combining contemplative practice with academic rigor.

While photography is her main medium, she is also an accomplished watercolorist, mixed media and book artist. As a creativity coach she works with professionals who have buried their creative soul in the daily grind, helping them reclaim creative confidence so they can thrive at work and beyond.     

Her work has appeared in juried competitions, group and solo exhibits, in Key West, FL; Boulder, CO;  Fort Collins, CO; Ann Arbor, MI; and Columbia, Spartanburg and Lake City, SC. and is in many private collections throughout the US.

You can find her on the web at

@kvanastudios on instagram, twitter and facebook

The Artist - Kathryn Van Aernum

The Artist - Kathryn Van Aernum

Jasper Magazine Welcomes New Theatre Editor - Frank Thompson

Frank Thompson wine.jpg

The Jasper Project is delighted to announce the addition of Frank Thompson to the editorial staff of Jasper Magazine effective immediately. Frank will serve in the role of Theatre Editor. You can learn more about Frank below.

FRANK THOMPSON holds a BA from The University of Alabama, and a JD from Cumberland School of Law. Originally from Alabama, Frank's two great passions in life have always been writing and the theatre, and he is excited to embark on this new journey, combining the two.

Frank had an auspicious start to his writing career at age 8, with a story printed in an ARCHIE comic book, to the far loftier achievement of having his short story, 'Que, published in A SENSE OF THE MIDLANDS by Muddy Ford Press, Frank has never stopped scribbling down his thoughts and hoping someone will read them. Along the way, he has written several plays for children, produced by Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre, (more years ago than he cares to admit,) short essays and observations for his college newspaper, radio comedy and original sketches for Tuscaloosa's Z-102 and FOX96 radio stations, where he also worked as on-air talent, theatre reviews for the Birmingham theatre website, (, local spots for WBHM, (Birmingham's NPR affiliate), and is currently working on his first book, tentatively titled "A CANCER SPOUSE'S SURVIVAL GUIDE," chronicling his wife's successful battle with breast cancer, from a husband/caretaker's point of view.

In the Columbia blogosphere, Frank's writing can be found on "The Goodlife Blog" for Goodwill Industries "Broke In Columbia," and in JASPER.

Theatrically, Frank has performed professionally with THE LOST COLONY, Birmingham Childrens' Theatre, and was cast as General Glossop in the first non-Equity national tour of JEKYLL & HYDE, again, more years ago than he prefers to recall. Before moving to Columbia in 2010, Frank was active since childhood in the the Birmingham, AL, theatre community, serving seven years as Artistic Director for CenterStage, and three years in the same capacity with Theatre LJCC. As a performer, his favourite roles include Freddie in NOISES OFF, The Proprietor in ASSASSINS, Igor in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Thurston Howell III in GILLIGAN"S ISLAND:THE MUSICAL, and Gomez Addams in THE ADDAMS FAMILY: THE MUSICAL.

Directorially, he is most proud of his work on THE KING AND I, and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (Birmingham), and AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, CHICAGO, Ho! Ho! Ho!, and PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, a cabaret which he produced and co-wrote (Columbia.)

Frank is proud to serve as Vice-President of Workshop Theatre's Board of Trustees, and has presented his one-week sketch comedy class, "Funny By Friday" at Trustus Theatre and Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County.

He is also a Certified Teaching Artist with South Carolina Arts Commission.