Supper Table Spotlight: Sebastian Sowell and Mana Hewitt

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 12th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Mana Debalae Cochran Hewitt is a visual artist with experience in many fields, including that of display artist, illustrator and graphic designer for the military, and senior instructor and director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina. Hewitt holds numerous awards for her work, including the South Carolina Arts Commission Artist Fellowship in Crafts. Her work is driven from her passion for process and history, and she is influenced by all the artwork she has had the opportunity to witness and the power of imagination. Her show, Persistence, is currently showing at 701 Whaley.

 

For the Supper Table, Hewitt was tasked with creating a place-setting for the larger than life, Earth Kitt.

Mana Hewitt

Mana Hewitt

Eartha Kitt is a name most people know, whether as the sultry singer of “Santa Baby” or the striking Catwoman in Adam West’s Batman. What some people might not know is that Kitt spent her life being rejected and demonized by those closest to her, from her own mother to the country she lived in. Despite this, Kitt was never afraid to speak her mind and to be authentically herself. She saw herself as a voice for all those ostracized – the reasons for their rejection did not matter; she only sought to stand for others.

Kitt’s varied career and her passion for arts and human beings alike are pervasive in Hewitt’s place-setting. Hewitt as always been interested in metal working as someone who works and thinks with her hands. She has always been “intrigued by metal’s transformation from rigidity to vibrant and fluid designs,” which wonderfully parallels Kitt’s own personal transformations.

 

Supper table Eartha.jpg

Hewitt’s “conception in designing the Eartha Kitt place-setting was to provide as much biographical material as possible.” She made the main brass platter like a clock, onto which she etched twelve circles that each feature momentous occasions in Kitt’s life. The center holds an etched portrait of Kitt herself, and a copper band bearing one of her quotes surrounds her. As the final elements, Hewitt included a chalice and brass flatware with etched copper text; they read: “actress, singer, activist.”  

Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt is so stunning, and the face of Eartha Kitt so powerful, that we chose it to be the cover of our book, Setting the Supper Table, as well as the art for our t-shirts and tote bags that were once a Kickstarter premium and now will be available at the opening events.  

This place-setting is not the only portrayal of Eartha Kitt’s empowering figure that people will be able to see at our Supper Table event. Sebastian Sowell, local theatre artist, will be portraying Kitt in the theatrical element of the performance on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and September 8th at Harbison Theatre at MTC.

 

Sebastian Sowell

Sebastian Sowell

Sowell is a rising junior musical theatre major and arts administration minor at Winthrop University. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she was mainly an orchestral musician before she developed a passion for musical theatre. Her most recent stage productions are Annie Get Your Gun (Annie Oakley), Memphis the Musical (Felicia Farrell), and Fun Home (Joan).

 

To see Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt, Sowell’s interpretation of her, and the chance to get a copy of a book or t-shirt, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus or September 8th at Harbison. Tickets for Trustus are limited and going fast, and are available at the following link: https://suppertable.bpt.me/?fbclid=IwAR1M-iyMQVSXkx3rKiWpwRV3PabqcXmsODCWoaLBQxPm3BLHt7ncQIJxEV8

 

REVIEW: Trustus Delivers a Sweet, Funny, and Honest Motherhood Out Loud by Frank Thompson

The time does speed by, so enjoy every moment.”

Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, Katrina Blanding, and Becky Hunter

Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, Katrina Blanding, and Becky Hunter

I was curious as to why Trustus decided to go off-site for this production, which is being performed on the Columbia Children’s Theatre stage at Richland Mall. CCT is currently performing Mary Poppins at Eau Claire High School, so I figured it was simply a neat idea; a cute wink at the subject of motherhood, as well as an opportunity for two prominent arts organizations to partner and cross-promote. While these considerations and more were most likely part of the decision-making process, I must admit to having not considered the impact of place-association in creating the world of Motherhood Out Loud.

Having attended many performances at CCT, I have come to associate it with child-oriented entertainment and education. There’s a specific energy to the space, defined through the group’s signature décor of costumes and props, the openness of the seating, (sorry, folks, the front row is only a few feet from the stage, so there’s no sitting on the floor this time) and an overall feeling of being in a room that knows and welcomes the company of large groups of kids. I found myself smiling and looking around the audience space, as if I expected to see a laughing runaway toddler chased by a cheerful-but-weary mom, or a group of fidgety children eagerly awaiting the show. I was, that is to say, put into the perfect mindset for this little gem of a production.

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Motherhood Out Loud is a series of vignettes created by fourteen different playwrights, presented in a mockumentary style, with the characters frequently speaking directly to the audience while remaining in character. As the title suggests, the theme is that of motherhood, but this is more than a series of antique Erma Bombeck mom jokes or a retread of Kids Say the Darndest Things. While primarily a comedy, the script touches on timely and important topics such as same-sex parenting, gender identity, raising children with special needs, and how families deal with aging parents. Not having any kids of my own, I wondered if I would grow weary of the subject, but the writing is uniformly engaging, and requires no experience with parenting to appreciate and enjoy.

There’s a nicely-defined arc throughout Motherhood Out Loud, which opens with three pregnant women in various stages of agony and ecstasy, each ready to give birth. In their midst is a male OB-Gyn, doing his best to keep things normal while the three mothers-to-be expound on their hopes, dreams, and fears for the upcoming arrivals. There’s plenty of classic kidding-on-the-square about the physical pains of childbirth, but great sincerity and warmth shines through the vaudevillian “I’m giving birth to a bowling ball” humour, launching the stories of the numerous babies, children, and young adults about whom we will soon be hearing. As the show progresses through five “chapters,” these offstage offspring grow up, a process reflected in the monologues and small scenes we witness taking place among their elders. It may be cliché to wonder where the time went, but Motherhood Out Loud is only slightly over ninety minutes long (and quite entertaining) so I was actually a bit surprised when I realized it was over. The show runs without an intermission, adding another layer of audience relation to the text’s overall message. The time does speed by, so enjoy every moment.

The cast is strong and experienced, and even a Columbia theatre first-timer would know within the first few minutes that these folks are all A-list performers. Katrina Blanding, Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, and Becky Hunter each play about a dozen different characters, all fully developed and unique. They change the simple set pieces of oversized building blocks themselves, often while dancing along with a collection of 1960s and 70s pop classics ranging from “Ooh, Child” and “Baby Love” to “It Takes Two” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” (The scene change music would make an excellent road trip playlist.)

While this is a true ensemble piece, each actor has more than one opportunity to shine. No spoilers ahead, but definitely keep an eye out for Hunter’s delightfully less-than-perfect mom doing her best to live up to the standards of two idealized, by-the-book clones during a day in the park, Blanding’s hilarious and bittersweet monologue about the recent visit of her hovering, Carribean-accented helicopter mom, Bulgozdy’s second-act tour de force as an elderly grandmother who lays out some bare facts about child-raising, and Eisenreich’s funny, heartwarming, sweetly melancholy, yet ultimately empowering editorial about raising his child with another man. These were my particular faves, but without a clinker in the bunch, you may well discover yours in some of the other scenes. For a show with this structure to succeed, all the players must completely buy into the shifting realities from scene to scene and character to character, and this quartet succeeds with room to spare.

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Director Martha Hearn Kelly has cast with an expert eye, creating a team that works extremely well together, and could easily be envisioned as four parents having a grown-ups night out together, laughing and crying over the latest exploits of their kids. Kelly also serves double-duty as Sound Designer, so I may be hitting her up for a CD of the above-mentioned soundtrack. A well-supported and sustained theme clearly runs through both direction and sound , with congratulations due to Kelly for managing to excel at doing two challenging jobs at once.

Scenic Designer Sam Hetler, who recently began his new job as Trustus’ Technical Director, has done an admirable job, giving Motherhood Out Loud a bright, multi-colored, minimalist set, with simple cubes hung on the wall and scattered around the stage, occasionally functioning as storage units for the eye-catching accent pieces provided by Costume Designer Abigail McNeely. The actors are all dressed in basic black, with such things as scarves, ties, headdresses, etc., appearing from various cubbyholes and closets within the building-block structures to create various characters. Small though they may be, these transitions are all done with choreographed precision and nary a wasted movement, allowing the show to flow without interruption.

Motherhood Out Loud continues its run this weekend, with performances Wednesday – Sunday at 7pm, with a 2pm Sunday matinee. Whether you’re a parent or childless-by-choice, you’re sure to get some good laughs and a moment or two of sentimental warmth from this charming set of tales from the front lines of parenting, told by some of Columbia’s best storytellers.

 

-FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.

REVIEW: Chapin Theatre Company's Shrek: The Musical is an Ogre-Sized Delight by Frank Thompson

 

As the song goes, “it’s not easy being green,” but Clayton P. King manages to make it look effortless. Surrounded by a large cast of veterans and newcomers, King’s portrayal of the grumpy and reclusive title role in Chapin Theatre Company’s Shrek: The Musical is not only enjoyable, but also could serve as an unofficial master class for aspiring character actors. Expertly costumed and clad in full body padding, latex hands and headpiece, and a thick layer of makeup that would make The Wicked Witch Of  The West pea-soup hued with envy, the well-known local singer/actor is almost unrecognizable, but brings his usual flair and knack for interpreting a part to the Harbison Theatre stage. There’s a hint of Mike Meyers’ original screen incarnation in King’s portrayal, but he definitely makes it his own, presenting the audience with a slightly gentler, yet still comically fierce Shrek, who never relies on imitation. While some cartoon characters work splendidly when embodied by real-life actors, others falter somewhere in translation. (For every You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, there’s a Doonesbury, which proves that simply plonking down the inhabitants of a successful ink-and-paper universe onstage isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success.) Luckily, Shrek: The Musical makes the leap with room to spare, with its charm and middle-school affinity for the hilarity of flatulence fully intact. Indeed, one of the show’s highlights is a belch-and-poot contest duet between Shrek and Fiona (Korianna Hays.)

As Fiona, Hays matches King’s expertise with a skill set honed through years of experience ranging from Shakespeare to Something Very Fishy, an original musical for children which teaches marine conservation through song and dance. Though she may have grown up in a tower, awaiting her knight, this Fiona is no fragile flower, and Hays artfully creates a spunky, self-sufficient young woman who can clearly handle herself in any situation. On a side note, the next generation of stage performers is well represented, with adult Fiona singing a trio with herself (herselves?) in childhood and teenagerhood. Katy Grant and Abby Tam play Young and Teen Fiona respectively, and are in fine voice, blending perfectly with Hays in their musical growing-up montage. Carter Tam makes a brief but noteworthy appearance as Young Shrek, as well.

The supporting cast is uniformly strong, with Major McCarty handing in a hilarious and over-the-top camp turn as the diminutive tyrant, Lord Farquaad. As he clearly revels in the distinction of being one of the only characters to break the fourth wall, McCarty’s performance brings to mind the delightfully shameless mugging of a young Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly, complete with demands for applause and cheeky asides to the audience. Along for the ride is first-timer Gerrard Goines, who keeps up with his more experienced co-stars in the role of Donkey. As does King, Goines takes a pinch of the film character (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and then puts his own spin on Shrek’s ever-faithful, if beleaguered best friend and traveling companion. A splendid singer with a natural comic’s timing, Goines will most certainly be seen again on local stages.

Other standouts include powerhouse vocalist Jas Webber, who brings the Dragon to saucy, sassy life, and Michelle Strom as Gingy, the Gingerbread Man of nursery-rhyme fame, whose scene with McCarty veers rib-ticklingly into the waters of British pantomime as they transform the lyrics to “Do You Know The Muffin Man” into mock-serious banter. Similar nods to multiple pop culture phenomena throughout the ages, from Monty Python to Friends, are peppered throughout the show, including a second-act opener featuring Busby Berkeley style tap choreography, a trio of Motown-esque Blind Mice, and a final line plucked straight from the pages of Dickens. (There are other Easter Eggs as well, but I’ll let you enjoy looking for them.)

The ensemble is the backbone of any musical, and this one does not disappoint. There isn’t a weak link to be found, and the script provides plenty of opportunities for all, with pretty much every cast member having a spotlight moment or two. The commitment to the wacky reality of their world is clear, and in-jokes abound, from a mid-thirties Peter Pan needing a shave to a wisecracking, beehive-haired Sugar Plum Fairy. There’s no official Costume Designer credited, so I’ll offer kudos to the show’s Co-Directors, Tiffany Dinsmore and Meesh Hays, who managed to bring just about every character from the Mother Goose canon to the Harbison stage, in authentic and easily identifiable outfitting, with a color palette of bright primaries and soft pastels that perfectly reinforce Shrek: The Musical’s cartoon pedigree.

A wide swath of choreographic styles, from traditional “old school” musical theatre to contemporary, intertwine throughout, courtesy of Choreographers Meredith Boehme and Katie Hilliger, who have taken a group with varied levels of experience and made them all look like trained pros. While some routines are more complex than others, there’s no hint of anything being simplified or watered down. Boehme and Hilliger have obviously choreographed to the strengths of their cast, allowing dancers and non-dancers alike to move with what looks like effortless ease. Musical Director Mary Jo Johnson has clearly worked the vocals well, with soloists and group numbers both coming in strong and solidly supported.

On the technical side, Danny Harrington’s set design is whimsical and fully realized, often operating in an almost Transformers style, with a series of hinges, individual pieces, and large units blending nicely with flown-in backdrops. All scene changes are done in full view, allowing the show to progress uninterrupted, which adds a touch of magic to an already enchanting production. Laura Anthony’s light design is subtle and most effective, utilizing shadows and isolated sections of the stage to create everything from the suggestion of overhead foliage to a starlit night, blending nicely with Harrington’s set.

Flaws are few and far between in this production, but if one must be nit-picky, there were a couple of  less-than-perfect moments in Sunday’s matinee performance. The show moves at a comfortably brisk pace, but the trade-off is that a few lines and bits seemed rushed, and a couple of the higher-pitched speaking voices were slightly difficult to understand, especially with the added challenge of using distinctive speech patterns to create fairy-tale characters. The large ensemble numbers in the first act seemed a bit vocally muddled, but clear diction prevailed by act two, so perhaps it just took a little time for my hearing to adjust to the combination of character voices and sometimes- intricate wordplay within the lyrics.  The set, while sumptuous, has clearly been nicked and scratched in a few spots during what must have been a demanding tech week, but there’s nothing that a couple of dabs of paint here and there wouldn’t fix.

Shrek: The Musical is a massive undertaking, and Chapin Theatre Company has risen to the challenge with high production values, a sleek and streamlined visual quality, and a uniformly talented and capable cast who are clearly having great fun with the material. This isn’t a deep, thoughtful, drama, but it never pretends to be anything it isn’t. It’s a funny, lighthearted, and joyful confection which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Get ready to laugh, enjoy the inherent goofiness of it all, and make the short drive out to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for a winning performance. The production continues its run with shows this Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm, and 3.00pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

-          FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.

 

The Jasper Project Announces our 2019-2020 Tiny Gallery Season Line-Up by Christina Xan

Chris Lane Sabrina White Michael Krajewski

Mary Ann Haven Eileen Blyth

Bohumila Augustinova Vanessa Hewitt Devore

Mary Mac Cuellar Justice Littlejohn

Last year, Jasper launched its Tiny Gallery series. At the time, we didn’t know where this series would go, but it started with a hope that it would at least promote the art appreciation and accessibility and put some funds in the pockets of some of our beloved local visual artists.

The goal of Tiny Gallery is to provide accessible art from phenomenal local artists at a price most point folks can afford. We want people to see fine art and be able to take it home without breaking the bank. The art world in Columbia is vast and colorful, full of artists of different mediums and talents. Unfortunately, for many working people in our community, many of whom are students, artists themselves, or young adults just starting out, when they come across large, expensive pieces, they may fall in love with them, but they can’t bring them home.

 

At Tiny Gallery, we find a balance between ensuring artists are selling works worth their time, effort, and artistry with prices feasible to the average consumer. We also provide this in an intimate setting, where patrons can see the art and comfortably mingle with others including the artists themselves.

 

Our first year was a wonderful success, featuring artists such as Thomas Washington, Olga Yukhno, Kathryn Van Aernum, Will South, and Sara Cogswell. Now, we’re back for our new season. Our Tiny Gallery seasons run from August to June with breaks in January and July. We feature new artists every month, with shows on First Thursdays in our studio #7 at Tapp’s Art Center. The pieces the artists show cannot be larger than 15x15” or more expensive than $250, and they are encouraged to be smaller and less expensive.

 

Now, I’m so excited to share with you all our 2019-2020 season and the phenomenal 9 artists showing in the coming months, the first of which is this very evening.

 

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

This month, for August, we’re kicking off the season with local painter Christopher Lane. Born in Minnesota in 1968, Lane spent his formative years inspired by regional artists Thomas Hart Benton, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Roy Lichtenstein. He has traveled all over the globe and he eventually settled down in South Carolina. Here, he continues to use fantastic imagery to turn his life experiences into visual stories that primarily focus on people and their relationships with one another. They often offer historical, political, or spiritual narratives — subjects Lane is passionate about.

 

Lane is also our only extended artist of the season—in September, we’re offering you Christopher Lane Extended. Here you will have a second chance to see work you may have missed out on the first time around and even see new pieces. Lane is also doing additional gallery events throughout the months of August and September that we will be announcing on social media soon.

Michael Krajewski

Michael Krajewski

In October we have a special creepy show planned with artist Michael Krajewski, who is doing a Halloween themed show titled “Michael’s Monsters & Maniacs”. Krajewski is a self-taught artist who has shown in numerous galleries, collaborated on large commissioned pieces for museums, painted live at art events and been the subject of magazine and newspaper profiles. (Krajewski was Jasper Magazine’s first ever centerfold artist in 2011!) His style has been called neo-expressionist and compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat's, though Krajewski says he is less interested in defining, more interested in producing. He’s had solo shows at the HoFP Gallery, Frame of Mind and Anastasia & Friends in Columbia, SC, and participated in a two-person show at the Waterfront Gallery in Charleston and in a group show at 701 Whaley

Mary Ann Haven

Mary Ann Haven

In November we have Mary Ann Haven’s paintings. Haven works in acrylic paint, mixed media, collage, and photography. She has been an Open Studios artist with the 701 Center for Contemporary Art's annual studio crawl since 2011. In today’s hectic world, Haven says, the ability to find quiet can be a challenge. As an artist moving color across a canvas, she must be fully present listening to where her intuition guides her. She finds this is grounding, exhilarating, and peaceful at the same time. This art practice keeps her ever the explorer of the unknown and grateful for the opportunity.

Eileen Blyth

Eileen Blyth

In December, we have a show just in time for the holiday season with artist Eileen Blyth, who will be offering art pieces perfect to give as gifts. Blyth is a Columbia artist known for her paintings and sculpture. Originally from Charleston, Eileen has always thought of herself as a painter. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston and studied graphic design at UofSC. She is inspired by the moment of creation when there is a sudden shift into a space of knowing and composition falls into place. Eileen’s studio is located at Stormwater Studios, and her work is represented by Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia, Camilla Art Gallery in Hilton Head, and Art & Light Gallery in Greenville

Bohumila Augustinova

Bohumila Augustinova

We will take a break in January to celebrate the JAYS, but our February show will feature wire artist and ceramicist, Bohumila Augustinová. Augustinová was born and raised in communist Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic. She has a degree in fashion design. She was always an artist. Bohumila came to the United States in 1998. After winning Runaway Runway, she quickly became part of the Columbia Art scene. In 2015, she took over Anastasia & Friends Gallery. Bohumila is a leader of Yarnbombers of Columbia and is the Curator of Art for Motor Supply Company. She works at the Columbia Art Center where she not only makes art, but also teaches art to others.

Vanessa Hewitt Devore

Vanessa Hewitt Devore

In March we are hosting potter Vanessa Hewitt Devore. All of Devore’s life she has enjoyed nature; in fact, some of her earliest memories are of her grandmother’s backyard.  Every day, she would help her plant and tend her flowers and she would point out to Devore all the different birds and animals that would visit her garden.  The memory of those times fills her with a sense of joy that she tries to convey in her artwork. Devore is not the only artist in her family; in fact, she is a fourth-generation artist.  Her great grandmother painted, her grandmother both made pottery and painted, her father is glass artist, Steve Hewitt and her my mother is the renowned artist and educator Mana Hewitt.. The wheel Devore uses every day belonged to her grandmother.

Sabrina White

Sabrina White

In April we are featuring fine artist Sabrina White. White incorporates a wide variety of mediums into her mixed media work and creates everything from drawings to paintings to sculptures to fiber art and textiles. Born in Charleston, SC, White holds a BA in Studio Art and a M.Ed. from Columbia College. She is an instructor who teaches classes and workshops throughout North and South Carolina. Most of her small format work focuses on one of the following three subjects: eyes, portraits, and animals.

Justice Littlejohn

Justice Littlejohn

In May we have painter Justice Littlejohn. Littlejohn is an abstract painter and educator. He was born and raised in Columbia and received his BA in Art History from Wofford and his MA in Art Education from UofSC. He has previously taught at the SC Governor’s School of the Arts and Glenforest School in Columbia. He is a father and professional exhibiting artist who has shown works in the city before at galleries such as Anastasia & Friends

Mary Mac Cuellar

Mary Mac Cuellar


Finally, in June, 2020, we close out our 2nd Tiny Gallery season with painter Mary Mac Cuellar. Cuellar is a mixed media artist who resides in Columbia, SC. She recently showed her work at Kinetic Derby Day.

 

More about these artists, their work, and their shows will be posted on our social media as their events draw closer, but be sure to go ahead and mark your calendars for First Thursdays at Tapp’s now.

 

When Tiny Gallery started, I was just an intern, in my first month of working with Jasper. Our first show was Keith Tolen, who I interviewed about the show, and then I helped run the event. From the moment I met Keith to witnessing the interactions between artists, patrons, and Jasper members, I knew Tiny Gallery was special. I’ve grown closer and closer to it over the months, and now, I’m the Host of the series. 

 

For me, as both a graduate student and an artist, I’ve always wanted to bring the art I saw in galleries home, but often, I couldn’t. Now, I never leave a Tiny Gallery empty handed. It fills me with happiness and pride to not only bring home the work of artists so dear to me but to know I am part of creating that opportunity for others as well.

 

I am absolutely floored by the round up of artists we’ve been able to put together for you all this season. Each of them is bringing their completely unique perspectives to the table, and my heart swells knowing you will be able to witness their magnificence. There isn’t one of these you’ll want to miss.

 

Be sure to follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and Instagram for more updates on our Tiny Gallery series and more details about our upcoming show, and stop by Tapp’s Art Center tonight between 6 and 9 pm to see Christopher Lane’s fabulous work.

 

 — Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Lee Ann Kornegay and Jordan Mullen Honor Eartha Kitt and Mary McLeod Bethune

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 11th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Filmmaker Lee Ann Kornegay

Filmmaker Lee Ann Kornegay

Both Lee Ann Kornegay and Jordan Mullen have special roles in the Supper Table as they are 2 of 12 filmmakers who are making 60-90 second short films on one of the 12 honored women at the table. Both artists have and continue to offer their skills to the project in additional ways.

Kornegay is our official project filmmaker and, as such, she has attended almost every project meeting and event to record the activity associated with the creation of the Supper Table. Kornegay has gone to the artists’ homes to record them while they created their place-settings, and will create a feature length film on the Supper Table demonstrating the process behind the project from inception to realization.

Mullen is our Kickstarter filmmaker. The main video on our Kickstarter was designed, filmed, and edited by Mullen, who continues to help us film and photograph additional Supper Table events.

Filmmaker Jorden Mullen

Filmmaker Jorden Mullen

Jordan Mullen is a recent Media Arts graduate from the University of South Carolina and has an Art Degree from White Knoll High School. She is known around the city for her remarkable work with animation having won Best in Show for her experimental film, “There’s A Monster In My House”.  

Mullen is using her unique animation style to create a film honoring Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune was an American educator and civil rights activist best known for developing Bethune-Cookman University and co-founding UNCF. She was a national adviser to president Franklin D. Roosevelt who referred to her as "The First Lady of The Struggle" because of her fight for the African American community.

 

Lee Ann Kornegay also graduated from the University of South Carolina with a media arts degree and started working immediately as Broadcast Production Manager for Chernoff/Silver and Associates. In 2000, she took a chance and left this successful career to create L.A. Kornegay, Media Productions, pursuing a life-long goal to direct, shoot, and edit documentaries. Kornegay has won numerous national and local awards including Best Documentary at the Colossal Film Crawl for her film Boloba. This film, as well as many of Kornegay’s other documentaries, have aired on SCETV. Since 2008, she has served as Marketing/Public Relations Director for 701 Whaley.

Kornegay is creating a film on the powerhouse South Carolinian Eartha Kitt. She has recently been conducting research by traveling to Kitt’s hometown (near North, SC) and exploring it for herself. Kitt was a singer, actress, and dancer known for her still loved Christmas song "Santa Baby" and her role as Catwoman in Adam West’s Batman. Kitt was also a social activist who was never afraid to speak her mind and stand up for anyone who she felt was discriminated against, even if it meant taking putting herself in harm’s way.

Kornegay and Mullen’s films will premiere in September, but right now our Kickstarter has a limited opportunity to become a Film Sponsor. As Film Sponsor, you will be listed as the exclusive producer for the film of your choice. For only $300, you get this plus two tickets to our Harbison installation & show as well as a dedication to the SC woman of your choice to be included in the book, Setting the Supper Table..

 

These premiums are not only going fast – Kitt’s film has been sponsored while Bethune’s film is available – but the Kickstarter has less than 24 hours before it closes out.

 

To sponsor Mullen’s film on Bethune or one of the other 8 available films, click on the following link no later than noon tomorros (Wednesday, July 31st) Jasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper table Spotlight: SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth Honors Alice Childress

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 10th in our series on Supper Table Artists

marjory wentworth.jpg

I consider myself quite fortunate to have seen Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation when my husband and I were living in Scotland, where it was featured in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer of 1984.  The sheer magnitude of the work was overwhelming, and the enormous dining table which anchored the exhibit served as a powerful visual metaphor.  Many of the women honored there were unfamiliar to me, but they certainly deserved a place at the glorious table!       

So, I was particularly thrilled to participate in the Jasper Project’s The Supper Table Project. Cindi Boiter’s concept of focusing on 12 South Carolina women who devoted their lives to positive change is a brilliant way to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. I was even more thrilled to have the opportunity to research and write about Alice Childress – a writer I had always wanted to know more about.  This award-winning writer deserves to be better known and read by a larger audience, and her plays should be seen around the world.  Many of Alice Childress’ plays are rooted in the South Carolina low country, and her characters are working-class African Americans struggling against systemic racism.  These are voices that can teach us so much about the present day. Childress was a ground breaking African American artist, and she should be celebrated and honored for her multitude of achievements. She paved the way for so many others, particularly African American women playwrights and actresses.  I am grateful for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on this extraordinary American icon.             

I love the way The Supper Table Project brings together so many of South Carolina’s working visual artists, writers, filmmakers, and performers.  This community of amazing women deserves the support of everyone in the Palmetto State who supports the arts and the rich culture of our home place. 

—Marjory Wentworth  

~~~

MARJORY WENTWORTH is the New York Times bestselling author of Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets (with Kwame Alexander and Chris Colderley). She is the co-writer of We Are Charleston, Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, with Herb Frazier and Dr. Bernard Powers and Taking a Stand, The Evolution of Human Rights, with Juan E. Mendez.  She is co-editor with Kwame Dawes of Seeking, Poetry and Prose inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green, and the author of the prizewinning children’s story Shackles.  Her books of poetry include Noticing Eden, Despite Gravity, The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle and New and Selected Poems. Her poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize six times. She is the current poet laureate of South Carolina. Wentworth is a Senior Fellow at the Global Social Justice Practice Academy.  She teaches courses in writing, social justice and banned books at The College of Charleston.

 Please support the Supper Table in the last few hours of our Kickstarter campaign by visiting https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper Table Spotlight: Claudia Smith Brinson Honors Charleston's Grimke Sisters - Sarah and Angelina

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 9th in our series on Supper Table Artists

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The word “honor” comes up so often for me these days as the Supper Table enters its last month of preparation and, in light of the political climate we are living in, it is such a wave of relief, such a respite for the soul, to find myself surrounded by so many honorable women who want to honor others.

Claudia Smith Brinson is a perfect example of the breath-of-fresh-air kind of person I’m talking about. Claudia Smith Brinson was a senior lecturer and program coordinator of the Writing for Print and Digital Media major at Columbia College in Columbia, S.C. She worked as a journalist for 30 years, mostly for Knight Ridder, and was honored with more than three dozen state and regional awards. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as a member of the team covering Hurricane Hugo. She also writes short stories and has won an O.Henry. Claudia is at work on a book on the untold stories of civil rights activists in South Carolina.

Claudia was charged with writing a third-person, creative non-fiction essay about the Grimke Sisters—Sarah and Angelina—from Charleston who became abolitionists and human rights activists for most of the 19th century. Claudia writes with painful candor about the world of slavery the sisters bore witness to and their early decision to leave their churches, join with the Quakers in Philadelphia, and eventually, be disappointed with Quakers and organized religion in general.

What must arise in the heart and head that allows you to see all about you are morally and ethically wrong? What does it take to act? And to continue despite condemnation and abuse? What is in you that allows you to think and act hundreds of years ahead of your time? The brilliance of sisters Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke force these questions on us, as well as the frustrating realization that we have yet to meet their standards of equality and goodness.

Brinson continues:

The prisons of gender and color were asphyxiating: Only white men could vote. The enslaved were owned but owned nothing, including their own bodies. Enslaved women were vulnerable to rape; any children born to them, no matter whom the father, were born enslaved and could be sold. Free white women lived under the control of their fathers, and, once married, had no legal identity. Free married women were considered one with the husband; any property, inheritance, income, or ensuing children fell the man under the law of coverture. Poor free women might work as cooks, domestics, seamstresses, and assistants to tradesmen and shopkeepers, but income they made belonged to their husbands. During the sisters’ adulthood, fewer than fifteen percent of women worked outside a household. Not only the law but Christianity confined them: Slaveholders used the Bible to justify white male control of sisters, daughters, wives, and the enslaved.

How does a person, then, gain a sense of her own humanity and her right to have rights? How does a woman find her own self and her life’s meaning when selfhood is denied? And how does she then apply that not only to herself but to others in extremis? The Grimke sisters developed young a repugnance and resistance to cruelty and abuse, to repression and denial while all around them people of their race acclimated. The sisters seem, perhaps through their quests for education and a nondiscriminatory religious community, to have fostered their awareness against odds and opposition into an individuality that knew right from wrong – despite the rules of their times, religion, and country – and also into an individuality that fought for what was right – despite the countering messages of gender, society, and law. To say they were geniuses is exclusionary; they eventually found a like-minded community in women such as Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. To call them prophets is depressing; much of what they called for has yet to come to pass.

Claudia Smith Brinson’s full essay on the Grimke Sisters will appear in our book, Setting the Supper Table, which launches on Friday, September 6th at Trustus Theatre as part of the premiere of the Supper Table installation, performance, and film premieres, then moves to Harbison theatre at MTC for on Sunday September 8th for a performance and installation. Setting the Supper Table will be available via a limited edition printing for $25, but you can secure your copy now by contributing to the Supper Table Kickstarter campaign — which closes in less than two days—at the $50 and above levels.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

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Supper Table Spotlight: Candace Wiley Honors Modjeska Simkins and Matilda Evans

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 8th in our series on Supper Table Artists

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Candace G. Wiley is the co-founding director of The Watering Hole, a non-profit organization that brings a hint of Harlem-Renaissance to the modern South. She is a South Carolina native who graduated with her B.A from Bowie State University, her MA from Clemson University, and her MFA from the University of South Carolina where she graduated as a Dickey Fellow.

 

Wiley’s writings create striking imagery and invoke imagination, and she frequently writes in the style of Afrofuturism, introducing themes from mutants to mermaids. Whether fiction or non-fiction, she always brings her raw imagining of individuals’ lives to the table. She is a Vermont Studio Center Fellow, Lighthouse Works Center Fellow, Fine Arts Work Center Fellow and Callaloo Fellow.

 

Wiley joins our Supper Table team as one of our literary artists, where she has done incredible work honoring not just one, but two different women, each with their own essay: Modjeska Monteith Simkins and Matilda Evans.

 

Modjeska Simkins was a matriarch of civil rights in South Carolina and a leader in African-American public health and social reform, specifically in Columbia. Simkins referred to herself as a human rights activist, and that she was.

 

The following is an excerpt from Wiley’s essay on Simkins:

Throughout her career, Modjeska helped launch the multi-racial Southern Negro Youth Congress (SYNC). The organization’s pact starts, “We, Negro and White young people, one thousand strong, do hereby declare our common purpose, to build a new and democratic South.” Modjeska ran for office; raised funding for renovations to the Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital, Columbia’s Black hospital; hosted a weekly Civil Rights radio show called, “I woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” which she paid for out of pocket; equalized white collar jobs for Black WPA workers; and rectified the gross mistreatment of Black mental health patients. In Columbia’s segregated Black mental institution, female patients weren’t provided shoes, underwear, or gowns; were housed in leaky, dirty, unscreened buildings; had no psychiatrists; and Black female patients were forced to bathe and help dress the White patients at the White mental institution, while Black male patients worked the yard.

 

After Judge Waring was forced to retire and leave the state, he invited Modjeska to his New York home. Public sentiment had turned on him when he left his first wife of thirty years, who was Charleston aristocracy, and married his second wife, a Yankee matron who turned him against all forms of discrimination. 

 

“So you’re still in Carolina? You haven’t had any trouble?” He asked Modjeska.

 

“Well they shot up my hotel a few times, bombed my brother’s yard, called the house with threats. I belonged to all kind of organizations that were labeled communist fronts, so I've been Red-Smeared up and down South Carolina.” Modjeska tossed her hands.

 

“Not bad, huh?”

 

“Not bad.”

 

Like Simkins, Matilda Evans was a prominent human rights activist. The state’s second licensed black female doctor, she took care of not only black patients who could not receive care from white doctors, but also of white patients who came to her because of caring, open-minded spirit.

 

The following is Wiley’s imagining of Evans in her own essay:

 

Imagine Matilda reaching out to her powerful contacts. Taking tea in some fancy living room, the ice tinkles the glass when she tilts it forward for a kiss. Affable as always, she’d assert, "You, sir, have truly been an honest blessing from the Lord. It’s people like you who could even make heaven a better place." Just a little butter over bread. "Even the way you threw your resources into furnishing St. Luke’s, you are a man of action."

"What really concerns me is your beautiful family." His face would have frozen. His eyebrow perched. Was it a warning? A threat? "Jenny, Katie, and Davey, they are so happy and innocent, but I’ve seen illness firsthand." He would have tilted his head to the side, hesitant to ask for more information.

"I don’t know how the health of Negro children isn’t a concern to all of us. What infects the child infects the mother. Then the mother, in her infinite sense of responsibility, returns to her domestic employ, cooking for a wonderful White family like yours, dressing the children, grooming the mistress of the house, and the epidemic spreads through sheer love. Isn’t it awful?" It wasn’t a threat. There was kindness in her eyes. Her manners were impeccable. The way she might’ve tinked the spoon around her glass, in sweet tea that didn’t need stirring. There was no hint of anger or frustration.

"It’s a conundrum really. Germs know no color line." Matilda would’ve sat comfortably, occasionally lifting her eyes from her glass. She wouldn’t mention the specific cases of ringworm or scabies she’d seen. He would be well aware that Tuberculosis was ravaging Black Columbians.

He would’ve leaned back in his chair and smirked, amused at how she’d so easily played his emotions, yet interested in her solution.

You can find the completed versions of these essays, as well as the other 10 essays by our wonderful literary artists, in our upcoming book Setting the Supper Table. Early access to copies of this book are included in several of our premiums on our Kickstarter, along with other opportunities such as being listed as the executive producer on one of our films or sponsoring a place-setting honoring one of our 12 women at the table.

If you’re interested in one of our premiums, act fast. Half of the place-settings have already been sponsored, and the campaign only has four days left. You can secure your seat at the table here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

 

 

 

Supper Table Spotlight: Heidi Darr-Hope

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 7th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Heidi Darr-Hope (photo: Alexis Schwallier for Jasper)

Heidi Darr-Hope (photo: Alexis Schwallier for Jasper)

We were so delighted when Heidi Darr-Hope agreed to join the Supper Table Arts Team. Heidi brings such a sense of intention to everything she does that we knew her participation would result in not just a beautiful place-setting, but a grounding presence among all the artists.

Having worked as a professional artist for over 40 years, Darr-Hope has accumulated many accolades.  She’s proudest of the Elizabeth O'Neil Verner Award – South Carolina’s highest awards in the arts. Her work’s been exhibited and collected around the globe and are influenced by her enthusiastic passion for travel, her quest to understand her nighttime dreams, and her longing to find the quiet in the roar.  Her artworks are expressions of the universal search for meaning.  

Heidi was charged with creating a Supper Table place-setting to honor Sarah and Angelina Grimke, two antebellum sisters from Charleston who went on to become ardent abolitionists and human rights activists.

We knew Heidi would enjoy the process of gathering and assembling the items with which she would create her place-setting, but we were not prepared for the detail the artist put into her project.

In her own words, we’d like to share Heidi’s take on using her art to honor these important SC sisters.

Everyday Family “Heirlooms”

I come from a strong matriarchal lineage – determined, outspoken, liberal independent thinkers.  To represent the Grimke Sisters, I used heirlooms from that lineage - things passed down to me – the china, crystal and silver, the hand embroidered linens and lacework and even the wooden bowl which, growing up, my mother dished up our Saturday night spaghetti dinners in.

The Placemat

Collaged newspaper clippings featuring The Sisters bold abolitionist and equal rights protests comprise the "placemat.”   Their powerful words cradle the visual content of this piece.  “The ground upon which you stand is holy ground; never, never surrender it.  These are causes worth dying for.”

Women Unite, the Writing Quill, Nest and Eggs

Around the inside rim of the wooden bowl are the women who rallied behind The Sisters. Their weapons in this fight were their intellect and wordsmanship.   The writing quill is constructed from a dove feather I found walking in my neighborhood and the nib was given to me by my friend Eileen Blyth.  Her father collected them.  I wanted to give a nod to the men who support these causes as Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, did.  Books and knowledge are what fed Sarah and Angelina’s spirits.  They passionately shared these ideas for the advancement of social change, committed to ushering in a new life for the disenfranchised.  The Sisters worked tirelessly to build a secure nest to hold these ideals.

Book of Dreams and Binding Chains

Tucked underneath the bowl is a small book entitled Dreams.  The sisters dreamed of a new societal order, despite the monumental obstacles that stood in their way.  They were determined to break the chains binding the freedom to follow one's individual dreams.

Golden Hearts Within Us All and the Love Purse

Through their faithfulness in the Quaker principals, the Grimke Sisters believed God is found in the hearts of every single human.   In the center of the bowl, the image of The Sisters, clothed in simple evergreen smocks, depicts their hearts radiating a warm, golden, spiritual glow.  They deeply believed that as disciples of God it was their duty to respect and care for all.  To this end, Sarah kept a “love purse” with her at all times.  It contained the savings she made when she always opted for the less expensive purchase.  The difference between what she could afford and what she bought, went into her love purse. There was always someone who needed something, and she gladly made sure they got it.  The love purse can be found tucked just behind the book of dreams.  The coins inside the love purse are duplications of the coins Sarah devotedly saved in her efforts to make the world a better place.

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Napkins, Fork, Spoon, Knife, Shattered China and a Wooden Bowl

Sarah and Angelina were not nourished and fed by the culture they were raised in.  The napkins are blood stained and silverware is bound, rendering them unusable.  The formal china is shattered symbolizing the conventions the sisters rebelled against.  They longed and fought for a culture that honored an equality where all genders and races could be fed respectfully.  The upside-down teacup symbolizes how they gave up the traditions they were born into, in favor of building a new life.  Balanced on top of this, is a crystal goblet nesting this potential life.  The simple wooden bowl holds all these hopes and dreams.

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Please mark your calendars for the weekend of September 6th when we will celebrate Heidi and all the other talented women in the Supper Table Arts Team.

And please consider supporting us as we enter our last few days of fundraising via our Kickstarter campaign. You’re invited to be a part of something truly extraordinary. We have a place for you at the table.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

Supper Table Spotlight: Emmy-Nominated Filmmaker Laura Kissel Honors Modjeska Monteith Simkins

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 6th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Columbia native Laura Kissel is an Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker. Kissel’s work explores contemporary social, cultural and political landscapes through multiple film genres, specifically the use of orphan films.

 

Kissel has nearly 20 films to her name including short documentaries Tan Mian Hua and Window Cleaning in Shanghai which both premiered at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2011 and were included in The Flaherty’s touring festival City Symphonies in 2011-2012. Her most recent feature length documentary, Cotton Road, is about the global supply chain of cotton; the film follows cotton’s life cycle, alongside human labor, as it travels from farms to consumers. The film has won eight festival awards and been translated into four languages.

 

Named the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Media Arts Fellow for 2007-2008 Kissel has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work, including a Fulbright Award, a MacDowell Fellowship, funding from the South Carolina Humanities Council and the Fledgling Fund. Currently, she is a professor of Media Arts and Film at the University of South Carolina where she also serves as the Director of the School of Visual Art and Design.

 

We’re honored that Kissel has joined us in our project. For the Supper Table, she is creating a film to honor the pervasively influential Modjeska Monteith Simkins.

 

Modjeska Simkins was, as the National Park Service refers to her, “the matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.” She was a leader in African-American public health and social reform across the state, specifically in Columbia. Simkins referred to herself as a human rights activist, and that she was.

 

Simkins lived a life of power and turmoil. She was the Director of Negro Work for the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association before she was fired for her increased involvement in the NAACP. For this same involvement, unnamed individuals shot at her house in the mid 1900s, despite which Simkins remained unwavering. Any fear she may have had, she did not show, instead allowing it to propel her forward into defending the rights of those who did not have the opportunity to use their voices in the way she used hers. 

 

Kissel’s film will be unveiled, with 11 others, at the Supper Table’s premiere events at Trustus Theatre this September 6th and Harbison Theatre on the 8th.

 

On our Kickstarter campaign, at the $300 level, Laura Kissel’s film on Modjeska Simkins is available to sponsor. In sponsoring this, you will become the film’s exclusive producer, plus you will receive tickets to see the films at the Harbison event. 3 of the 12 films are already sponsored, and our Kickstarter only has a week left, so if you want this opportunity, click on the following link to claim it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

 - Christina Xan

 

 

 

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Supper Table spotlight: Olga Yukhno and Carla Damron Honor Sarah Leverette

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 5th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

An overhead view of Olga Yukhno’s place-setting honoring Sarah Leverette

An overhead view of Olga Yukhno’s place-setting honoring Sarah Leverette

Originally from Russia, visual artist Olga Yukhno lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where she is the Gallery Director for the School of Visual Art and Design at the UofSC. After learning and creating in multiple art forms, Yukhno found a home in ceramic sculpting, where she feels that she has no limits.

With ceramics, Yukhno can create anything that she can imagine and even those which she can’t. No two of her completely handmade pieces are identical. Yukhno has used the limitless possibilities of her craft to create a place setting in honor of Sarah Leverette for the Supper Table.

Sarah Leverette was, and is, a powerful inspiration to women in and outside of South Carolina, having spent her life breaking glass ceilings wherever she went, from the Civil Air Patrol to the School of Law at USC.

Yukhno’s place-setting honors all the different aspects of Leverette’s remarkable life. The artist says she wanted to use her piece to “show the parts of her life that were the most significant and impressed her the most personally.” Having been impressed by Leverette’s quotations, she incorporated them all around the border of her place-setting, using small wing symbols with the logo of the Civil Air Patrol.  From there, each layer from bottom to top represents a different period of the subject’s life.

As Yukhno says, the book represents her contribution to the library system of South Carolina, to which she dedicated 15 years of her life. Despite her contributions, school officials at USC would not make her faculty because she was a woman. The next tier of Yukhno’s place setting contains multiple nails, which represent the obstacles Leverette faced to become a full professor.

The very top culminates in a bowl showing a fist having just broken through a glass ceiling. As Yukhno says, “Leverette’s whole life was dedicated to fighting for women’s and civil rights, and the element of this broken glass is repeated throughout the piece to show the relevance of this pursuit throughout her lifetime.”

Finally, the goblet was created with multiple hands supporting it, to “show that in everything she did, she always built other people up.” Leverette was a mentor to many well-known lawyers who themselves brought about significant changes and continued the fight for people’s rights.

 

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Carla Damron is a professional writer (The Stone Necklace, USC Press, 2016) who uses her experience as a social worker throughout her work, as witnessed in her novels Keeping Silent and Spider Blue. Damron has spent over 20 years focusing on her work in mental health, where she connects this to her novels in hopes to fight stigmas surrounding the topic of mental illness. Her very own clients have been her best teachers.

Damron used her background to tackle the task of writing a creative non-fiction essay about the life of Sarah Leverette, a task she was more than ready to tackle and conquer. As Damron says, “[Leverette’s] words, and her spirit, live and breathe in our state’s constitution, its code of laws, and in all the people she touched.”

The following is an excerpt from Damron’s essay on Leverette:

Sarah always wanted to emulate her heroes Lindbergh and Earhart. And now, as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, she was about to take her first flight.

She climbed a ladder to the biplane wing, grabbed hold of the edge of the cockpit, and hauled herself into the copilot’s seat. She grasped the seatbelt and clicked it into place. Snug goggles covered her eyes. Behind her, the pilot started the plane, which gave a little shimmy as it roared to life. Breath entered her lungs in short gasps. She was nervous. Excited. Ready. 

They moved. The plane bumped and rattled up the runway, getting louder and louder as the pilot lifted the throttle. Sarah held to her seat and swayed with the movement. 

Faster. She couldn’t see the speedometer but knew they were approaching eighty-five, full throttle, as the nose of the plane tilted up. As they lifted off, all smoothed.  

She looked above, the sky a vast blue bowl with a few feathers of white. She looked down: Trees became green pencil pricks. A wide, turbulent river was just one of many of Earth’s many arteries. Everything was different here. How wide the world is, she realized, when you are away from the clutter of land.

To read more of Damron’s essay and to see more of Yukhno’s place setting, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at the link below, and join us this September as we unveil the Supper Table for the first time.

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table.

 

Supper Table Spotlight: Eva Moore and Laurie Brownell McIntosh Honor Eliza Lucas Pinckney

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 4th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

Paper Mache Bowl with Indigo Ink, hand-dyed indigo napkin, and indigo branch flatware by Laurie Brownell McIntosh

Paper Mache Bowl with Indigo Ink, hand-dyed indigo napkin, and indigo branch flatware by Laurie Brownell McIntosh

Each of the 12 (actually 13 with the Grimke sisters) honored & historical women seated at the Supper Table is being celebrated by four different artists including a visual artist, a literary artist who writes an essay about the subject for the book Setting the Supper Table, a filmmaker who creates a 90 second film, and a theatrical artist who will perform a staged oration during our premiere in September.

Laurie Brownell McIntosh and Eva Moore are, respectively the visual and literary artists honoring Eliza Lucas Pinckney, the colonial entrepreneur who, with the vital assistance of the enslaved individuals who were attached to the Pinckney plantations, cultivated and developed indigo as a cash crop accounting for 1/3 of the total exports from the colony.

About her place-setting McIntosh writes, “I sought guidance on all things indigo from South Carolina, indigo dye artist, Caroline Harper. I attended two workshops with her to learn the growing and dying process used in dying fabrics with traditional indigo. She supplied me with some of her precious South Carolina grown indigo pigment that she and her husband harvest and produce yearly... as well as the seed and roots from the plant.”

McIntosh continues, “All of the blue you see in my piece is made from this dye mixed with different paint mediums. (the exception being the writing on the bowl... that is just dark blue ink... after many tries I realized I could not get the consistency to flow freely enough for handwriting). The yellows in my piece represent the middle phase of the dying process. Once the fabric is submerged into the dye vat of the indigo mixture the fabric surprisingly turns yellow and stays this way until it is pulled from the vat and the oxygen turns it the rich dark blue associated with indigo. The three apothecary bottles in the setting represent this graduated process.”

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Eva Moore is a Columbia-based writer who cares about food, local government, and outdoor places. The former editor of Columbia’s Free Times newspaper, she now works in state government. In her eloquent look at the controversial Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s contributions, Moore writes, “At Wappoo plantation, where Eliza lived when she first came to South Carolina, her family enslaved 20 people. In later years there would be more. … Eliza Lucas Pinckney lived a remarkable and fortunate life, but did so at the expense of other lives.”

Moore continues, “Indigo is not like other natural dyes. It doesn’t come out of the indigo plant easily; in fact it doesn’t come directly out of the plant at all. After harvesting, the leaves must be pounded and fermented over hours or days to create a chemical reaction. Depending on who you ask, fermenting indigo smells like ammonia, urine, cow poop or wet dog, and the odor is so intense that the fermentation must be done well away from places where people live and eat. Done at a large scale, it can attract flies and other insects.”

“In colonial South Carolina, in the mid-1700s, indigo processing took place during the hot summer and fall,” she writes.

“It’s hard to comprehend the horrors of the process, because lately, indigo dyeing has made its way into the boutique textile category in South Carolina. … Eliza Pinckney almost certainly didn’t pound the indigo leaves or stir the stinking vats. She didn’t till the ground, or weed the fields, or harvest the leaves. That work was done by people enslaved by her family.“

To read more of this fascinating essay and 11 others, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table.

Supper Table Spotlight: Filmmaker Betsy Newman honors Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our film artists: Emmy Award-winning Betsy Newman

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There’s so much to celebrate about filmmaker and producer Betsy Newman and what she has brought and continues to bring to South Carolina’s cultural landscape. So much so that we’re doing a profile of Betsy in the fall issue of Jasper magazine, coming out later in August.

Here, Betsy talks about her work honoring Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, founder of Vorhees College in Denmark, SC.

My Supper Table subject is Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, the woman who founded Voorhees College. I’m thrilled to have learned about her – she was one of those people who blaze brightly for a short time and contribute an enormous amount. From the time she boarded a train by herself at the age of 16 to go to the Tuskegee Institute, to her death at the age of 34, she had built and rebuilt several schools for black students. Though two of her schools were destroyed by arsonists, she was undeterred by the racist violence of the Jim Crow era. She raised funds from wealthy white philanthropists and named her successful school for her most generous supporter, Ralph Voorhees. It’s fun to work on a short video about Wright, and inspiring to be part of the Supper Table cohort. I love hearing about the approaches that the other women are taking to their films, and the ways in which the visual and literary artists are treating the same subject matter.

To learn more about Jasper’s Supper Table project please visit our Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table and for a comprehensive look at what the SC Arts Commission calls a “Who’s Who of SC Female Artists” please visit http://www.scartshub.com/whos-who-of-female-scartists-headline-new-project/.

To be a part of this project and have your contribution celebrated in the accompanying book, Setting the Supper Table, please consider making a minimum $50 donation and dedication to the SC Women who rock your world at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper Table Spotlight: B. A. Hohman Honors Julia Peterkin

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our visual artists: local painter and muralist B.A. Hohman.

B.A. Hohman

B.A. Hohman

A visual artist who views art as her grounding force, B.A. Hohman promotes the creativity found in each of us through her work. Hohman graduated cum laude from Ohio University with a Studio Art degree, focusing on painting, and she has received an Art Education certification from Roberts Wesleyan in Churchville, NY.

Though Hohman has worked in many fields, from retail to being a public art teacher, she has always been a working artist often focusing on murals and trompe l’oiel paintings.

For the Supper Table, Hohman was tasked with creating an art piece representative of prolific author, Julia Peterkin, who wrote about life in the Jim Crow South and worked to preserve the Gullah language. Peterkin, a white woman, lived from 1880-1961, and in that time, she wrote a plethora of novels, one of which would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize. As Hohman recalls The Paris Exposition that helped launch the Art Deco style had taken place just four years prior to Peterkin’s first dive into writing. This inspired Hohman as she created her place setting.    

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Hohman’s place setting starts with a place-mat made of vintage black velvet bordered by hand tatted lace, which was handed down to her from her great aunts. She chose to add this lace trim completely by hand, which she feels reflects Peterkin’s social status. She made the copper flatware from pieces she’d saved and repurposed, and she then added the mug and copper colored charger. For Hohman, these pieces represent Julia’s flaming red hair and indefatigable spirit.

Since the focus and center of Peterkin’s writing and goals was her own depiction of the Gullah customs, language and beliefs, Hohman embellished the center of the plate with woodcut styled representations of images both from Peterkin’s books and from the artist’s own imagination. The plate is bordered with an aforementioned Art Deco design. Hohman states that her overall attempt was to “convey the conundrum that was Julia Peterkin.”

On what makes Peterkin so inspiring, Hohman says, “the title of one of Julia’s biographies is, A Devil and a Good Woman. I found this fitting. She was a force to be reckoned with, yet she managed to expand the consciousness of her audience by humanizing and preserving for posterity, the Gullah way of life.”

All in all, Hohman views art as a necessity of life. In her work both on the Supper Table and in general, she asks the question: what would we know of our world were it not for the depictions, be they visual, spoken, written or musical?

Hohman contributes to gallery showings, restaurant displays and the occasional public mural, but you can currently view her work at her Facebook page: Art & Murals by B.A.

To see Hohman’s work on Julia Peterkin, join us at one of our Supper Table events this September. Information on tickets and other premiums is available on our Kickstarter page. Donating not only grants you access to early showings and sponsorship opportunities, but it also goes straight to supporting our artists, like B.A.

Check it out at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

Christina Xan

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We're Setting the Supper Table & You'll Be Able to Feed Your Soul There Soon - A Message from Cindi

 

The Supper Table – Honored Subjects

Mary McLeod Bethune Alice Childress

Septima Clark Matilda Evans

Althea Gibson Angelina and Sarah Grimke

Eartha Kitt Sarah Leverette

Julia Peterkin Eliza Pinckney

Modjeska Monteith Simkins Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

It’s all coming together.

More than 10 year ago I started having this dream of using Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist arts installation, The Dinner Party, as a model for an arts project that would honor some of the amazing women from South Carolina history whose work in the arts, sciences, education, business, athletics, and human rights literally — and usually without a lot of fanfare — changed the course of human history. I realized that 2019 would be the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s project and, about 4 years ago, decided to try to make this fantasy a reality using the structure of the Jasper Project to do so. It was terrifying. I appreciate so dearly all the people I spoke to who, when I told them how terrified I was said, “yes, you’re supposed to be” because there are any number of times I might have chickened out had they not.

But with the support and advice of people who are smarter and more experienced than I am, especially my board of directors at the Jasper Project, I jumped in. Central Carolina Community Foundation was kind enough to invest in us with a Connected Communities Grant funding almost two thirds of the project. Friend and arts patron Bill Schmidt stepped up as soon as I told him about the plans and committed to sponsoring not just a place-setting (he chose the Grimke Sisters) but also a third of the table itself. But more importantly, he gave me his faith and he shared the project with others.

THANKS, BILL SCHMIDT!

THANKS, BILL SCHMIDT!

So, I was off!

The first thing I needed to do was to gather together the first two groups of artists — the visual and literary artists — as well as to find a woman to build the actual table for the Supper Table. I can’t remember who recommended the amazing Jordan Morris to me but, whoever it was, thank you.

Jordan is the Maker Coordinator at Richland Library and has been a maker most of her life. Grade school consisted of macaroni ornaments and sugar cube igloos, but it wasn’t until she met an inspiring high school teacher that her creative mind was ignited and took flight. That journey continued on through college at the University of South Carolina where she earned a BFA in sculpture. She continued with ceramic work and expanded into woodworking and computer numerical control production. Jordan’s professional journey led her to an art museum, tech startup, and teaching, but nothing felt quite like home until landing at Richland Library as the Maker Coordinator in February 2016.

Jordan rose to the challenge of creating the table for the Supper Table magnificently, integrating a Southern aesthetic into her design all the way down to the wood she chose. I couldn’t be happier with her finished product.

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On January 20th of this year we brought together the 25 literary and visual artists who would inaugurate the Supper Table project with their work on place-settings and essays honoring the 12 women at the Supper Table. Over the next few weeks we will be posting daily blogs featuring these artists and the gifts they have brought and are bringing to the project.

While the essays and place-settings are complete there is still much work to be done before we premiere the project on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and move the next day to Harbison Theatre at MTC for our first installation.

The film artists are all at work now under the direction of Mahkia Greene, and Vicky Saye Henderson is casting the actors who will portray out 12 honored women in the theatrical productions.

Kathryn Van Aernum has taken all the photos for the book and the poster and is working on those now.

We still need to frame the 12 portraits Kirkland Smith created which will accompany the installation and we are working on our walls to display the 120 tiles created for our Array of Remarkable SC Women by Brenda Oliver, Bohumila Augustinova, and Diane Hare and embellished by local women and girls.

Lee Ann Kornegay is working on a long-form film that won’t even be ready to view until spring 2020.

I’m editing constantly with the help of assistant project director Christina Xan, who will also be sharing some blogs with you.

So, please stay tuned as we roll out as much information and celebration as we can through summer’s end and into the fall.

The Supper Table will be touring in 2020 and we’d love to talk to you about bringing the installation, along with the book, films, portraits, and tiles your way.

But most importantly, we really need your help raising funds to put some change in the pockets of these artists who are honoring these amazing 12 women from SC. You can sponsor a place-setting, a tile, a film, or the portrait collection or you can share this info and link with someone with the resources to do so.

Here’s the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

Thanks for helping us along.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

Fall Lines Volume VI Announces Winners - Kimberly Driggers and Derek Berry!

Jasper is delighted to announce the winners in this year’s competitive Fall Lines categories.

Congratulations to Kimberly Driggers whose poem, IMAGINE THE SOUND OF WAVES, is the winner of the Saluda River Prize for Poetry and to Derek Berry whose prose piece, SASQUATCH, is the winner of the Broad River Prize for Prose.

Both literary artists will be published in Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Volume VI which launches on Sunday, August 18th from 2 - 3:30 with a reading and awards ceremony at Richland Library. The event if free and open to the public.

Fall Lines is sponsored by the Jasper Project in partnership with Richland Library and One Columbia for Arts and Culture. The two winning authors will each receive a check for $250 sponsored by the Richland Library Friends & Foundation.

Judges for this year’s contests included Judy Goldman (prose) and DeLana Dameron.

~~~

Additional authors whose work will appear in the 2019 volume of Fall Lines include:

Teresa Haskew

Ellen Malphrus

Loli Molena Munoz

Libby Bernardin

Len Lawson

Susan Craig

Lawrence Rhu

Worthy Evans

Curtis Derrick

Terri McCord

Al Black

Ruth Nicholson

Heather Dearmon

Randy Spencer

Tim Conroy

Suzanne Kamata

Frances Pearce

Bo Petersen

Jon Tuttle

Kathleen Warthen

Kristine Hartvigsen

Gil Allen

Andrew Clark

Kevin Oliver

Yvette Murray

Ed Madden

Ray McManus

Nathalie Anderson

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REVIEW - Heathers at Trustus Theatre by Frank Thompson

Here she is with two small problems

And the best part of the blame

Wishes she could call him heartache

But it's not a boy's name…

-From the song “Appetite” by Prefab Sprout (1985)

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

While the music and lyrics for Heathers: The Musical are all original, created for the stage version by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, I couldn’t get the above Prefab Sprout song out of my head when pondering how to address the production from a critical standpoint. For those unfamiliar with the Daniel Waters film upon which the stage adaptation is based, the story centers around Veronica, a seventeen-year-old high school student who develops a darkly romantic relationship with a charismatic nihilist, J.D., whose moral relativism is softened by a genuine concern for the underdog. Coming from a dysfunctional, single-parent home, J.D. is cynical beyond his years, and quite capable of handling himself in just about any situation. Veronica comes from a different world, with an almost-stereotypical loving-but-clueless “Mom and Dad” straight out of central casting.

Veronica’s life isn’t a horror story, but she suffers all the usual travails of a cute-but-nerdy young woman navigating the world of geeks, jocks, outcasts, and the rest of the archetypes that exist in high school to this day. In a funhouse-mirror version of the Pygmalion myth, Veronica finds herself thrust into the world of the uber-cool girls who rule the school’s social scene. Her malevolent new mentors, each named Heather, decide to make a sport of transforming Veronica into one of their own, yet maintain social dominance over her. After utilizing Veronica’s skill at imitation handwriting, the Heathers enjoy unlimited hall passes and excuse letters, and decide to play a cruel trick on a nerdy girl who happens to be Veronica’s best friend. The joke goes terribly wrong, resulting in the breaking up of a party and Veronica’s expulsion from the group by ringleader Heather Chandler. While attempting to make amends, Veronica (with J.D. at her side) accidentally poisons Heather Chandler, having just dismissed J.D.’s suggestion that they do exactly that. A hastily-forged suicide note covers their tracks, but their victim’s ghost remains prominent in Veronica’s psyche. After several comparably dark experiences, Veronica wants nothing more than to return to her previously-normal life, but J.D. has the conflicting goal of essentially murdering the entire student body. Without spoiling the denoument for those seeing the show for the first time, I will simply say that the final few minutes will not only have you on the edge of your seat, but also leave you pondering the concepts of right and wrong in this particular situation. This is by no means meant to suggest that Heathers: The Musical is without lighthearted moments, but even the hilarity is grounded in a macabre reality that never completely releases the audience from a feeling of impending disaster.

The cast is comprised of an outstanding brio of Trustus regulars, familiar faces from other venues, and a few first-timers, all of whom come together to create a believable and cohesive ensemble. Katie Leitner’s Veronica is immediately relatable and sympathetic, falling (as did most of us) somewhere around the middle of the school’s social spectrum. Presenting her as a latter-day Carrie, minus the pig’s blood, would have not only been overdone, but would also have somewhat absolved Veronica for her actions. Leitner displays her strength at creating three-dimensional characters by making Veronica a normal kid caught up in a disturbingly abnormal set of circumstances. As with her recent portrayal of Daisy Fay in Trustus’ The Great Gatsby, Leitner succeeds in being likeable but flawed. As her figurative reverse-mirror image, Michael Hazin provides a level of sync with J.D. that brings to mind a well-choreographed ballroom dance. Hazin offers a darker reflection of Leitner’s image, with J.D. flying (for the most part) under the social radar, as opposed to swimming midstream. Each character has the potential to survive through relative social invisibility, but neither their respective personalities nor the situations that arise allow either to embrace that option. Both Leitner and Hazin are in fine voice, and only a small suspension of disbelief is required, but their clearly trained and experienced vocal work almost cracks the façade of their being teenagers. Both are youthful twentysomethings in real life, and are physically believable as high school students, so this is hardly a negative point, but when they sing, it’s obvious that these are well-taught professionals.

Clearly reveling in every malignant power move and verbal smackdown, Brittany Hammock deliciously chews the scenery as Heather Chandler. Her alpha-of-all-alphas interpretation of the role is spot-on, taking command of the triad in everything from physical presence to the occasional “putting in place” of the other two Heathers. Interestingly, once she becomes a ghost, Hammock asserts her new quasi-immortality through a slightly softened approach to Veronica. Sometimes a whisper is more frightening than a shout, and Hammock utilizes both between her corporeal and ghostly forms. Though not physically connected to the world of the living, Heather Chandler becomes even more of a puppeteer after her death, as we see her leisurely chip away at Veronica’s sanity. Her eponymous cohorts, Heather McNamara (Rachael Mitchum) and Heather Duke (Jazmine Rivera) initially appear to be Heather Chandler clones with slightly less authority, but after her death, they begin to reveal more depth of character. Mitchum, while never coming across as deferential, is somehow the most humane of the three, heaping slightly less attitude and intimidation on her fellow students. It’s a subtle choice, but Mitchum makes it work well in setting up a moment of high drama in the second act. Rivera’s Heather Duke, by contrast, brings out the fangs and claws when Heather Chandler’s death leaves an opening for the group’s leader. Though not mentioned in the script, the performances of all three Heathers suggest a variety of control mechanisms employed pre-mortem by Heather Chandler. Combining Hammock’s dead/undead personae, one could easily see her slightly softening to control Heather McNamara, while displaying a more fierce approach to managing Heather Duke. Kudos to all three for creating a depth and texture that enhances the story while remaining faithful to the playwrights’ dialogue.

As “bad boy” football stars, Kurt and Ram, Paul Smith and Josh Kern are less defined by the script, yet never allow themselves to slide into caricature. At first they appear to be nothing more than bullying jocks, but a set-up midnight encounter with Veronica displays their more vile and predatory natures. Jordan Harper’s ever-put-upon Martha adopts a similar style, introducing herself as a stereotypical nerdy girl, then revealing herself to be much more emotionally textured in a second-act spotlight number that showcases her impressive vocal range. The rest of the cast fills in the remaining students and adults orbiting the main story, and there truly isn’t a weak link in the bunch. A particular standout is Cassidy Spencer, whose work I’ve not seen before, but look forward to seeing in future productions. As an ensemble member, Spencer may have had two or three lines, but most of her acting was done through face and body language, which she presented most memorably. (In reviewing my notes, I referenced her several times as “girl in denim skirt,” each time with a comment on her commitment to the scene, her character, and the reality established by the principal players.)

On the technical side, Heathers: The Musical is mostly successful. Sam Hetler’s set is streamlined, yet totally evocative of a neon-hued, white-tiled 1980s, Amy Brower Lown’s costume design is scrupulously faithful to the period and gives a respectful nod to the film, while maintaining an originality and freshness of vision, and Lighting Designer Frank Kiraly brings his customary skill at creating multiple settings with different combinations of shading and color. Choreographer Grayson Anthony and Musical Director Randy Moore keep the movements (both physical and musical) brisk and sharp, and Stage Manager Brandi Smith nicely corrals all of the elements into a cohesive and smooth production. My only real complaint is that the vocals, even in ensemble numbers, were a bit difficult to hear over the band. In talking with Moore and several cast members following the performance, I found out that there were several mic and sound issues the night I was there, and I feel confident that those small issues have since been ironed out. One other small issue is entirely script-related, as I had the same reaction when reviewing another production of the show earlier this year. The adults are double/triple cast, often with little or no time for costume or wig changes, which can lead to a bit of confusion as to which is whom at any given moment. Matthew DeGuire, Jonathan Monk, and Lisa Baker turn in delightful performances as the multiple grown-ups, but I do wish the script made it easier for them to change back and forth more easily.

Director Dewey Scott-Wiley has, as usual, assembled a winning cast and created a world which is both believable and captivating. I frequently find myself using the word “thoughtful” to describe her work, and Heathers: The Musical is no exception. In her Director’s Notes, Scott-Wiley observes that in today’s more violent society, things like murdering your classmates aren’t as outrageous as they were thirty years ago, and this level of directorial awareness is part of what makes the show work. By immersing the audience in an era-specific set of mores, she succeeds in getting stylized-yet-believable work from her cast while essentially giving the audience permission to laugh at things that would strike too close to home in today’s world.

Heathers: The Musical runs through 27 July, and tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org, or by calling the Box Office at (803) 254.9732. They’re likely to go quickly, so don’t delay in making your reservations.

-FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.