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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Jasper's Artisan Fairway Central to West Columbia Kinetic Derby Day by Christina Xan

The Jasper Project Brings Bigger and Better Artisan Fairway to 2019’s Kinetic Derby Day

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

The City of West Columbia is bringing back Kinetic Derby Day for a 2nd year this Saturday. This event is a combination of both derby car racing and kinetic sculptures to represent the creativity in STEM and to give people of all ages a chance to learn and create. The kinetic sculptures will be shown in a parade that kicks off the event, and the racing, hosted by GoCo Events, will happen throughout the day.

 

The event’s goal to inspire creative problem solving and creative thinkers is perhaps most inventively seen with The Jasper Project’s Artisan Fairway, which is even bigger and better than last year.

 

Barry Wheeler, who is president of the Board of Directors here at Jasper, has been planning and organizing the fairway for over 6 months, ensuring he developed a variety of different musicians, poets, and visual artists. With the help of Grayson Goodman and Mark Plessinger, Wheeler was able to create these experiences, allowing people to witness art being made, make art themselves, and purchase from local artists.

 

During the entirety of Derby Day (11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.), there will be performances on the JAM Room Stage, where 5 different musicians will showcase their work: Saluda River Academy for The Arts, Boomtown Waifs, John the Revelator, Midimarc, and Husband. These performances are not meant to form one loud concert but instead to create a small, relaxed environment where the musicians can share their craft and create a sense of community for everyone. Wheeler hoped that this would “develop an environment that cultivates interesting happenings.”

 

Around the corner, in the courtyard behind Ed’s Editions, Columbia’s Poet Laureate, Ed Madden, and Bert Easter have organized 4 hours of jazz & poetry readings from local poets. Starting at noon, Mark Rapp will kick off with 45 minutes of jazz, while Madden, Ethan Fogus, Loli Molina, and Monifa Lemons Jackson will all be reading poetry for 20 minutes each.

 

Beyond these readings & performances, State Street itself will be lined with tents, two of which will be two visual arts tents. In the first, five local artists will be doing live paintings: Michael Krajewski, Lucas Sams, Corey “Roc Bottom” Davis, Shelby Leblanc, and Thomas Washington. People will be able to come and watch the artists in their process and see how 5 different artists approach their art in unique ways. Additionally, there will be a silent auction as it develops, and at the end of the day, 5 people will go home with original works of art.

 

In the second visual art tent, people who have been inspired by the live paintings can do live paintings of their own. People will be encouraged to draw “Roboto” in whatever form it means to them. All drawings will be uploaded to the Derby Day social media, and a vote will be held after the festival for the best art piece.

 

Additionally, there will be 21 tents set up with completely different artistic encounters. Wheeler’s goal for the 21 tents was to provide not only very different artists but artists who take away the stigma that art is pretentious. In fact, several of the tents will be actually teaching art or providing hands on art experiences. For example, Yarnbombers of Columbia, who will also be doing an installation piece on State Street, will be teaching knitting in their tent. Directly next to them, the Columbia Art Center will be doing clay turning demos for adults and children who want to learn how to hand turn clay.

 

In addition to just seeing art, Wheeler has also brought much more chances to purchase art pieces. The Jasper Project, The Crafty Cottage, Laura Garner Hine, Pat Harris, Mary Mac Cuellar, and Katie Chandler will all be selling art that they have created or curated, with again, a goal of providing a variety of styles. The Jasper Project’s tent, for example, will have Derby Day themed prints by Michael Krajewski.

 

Again, Wheeler wanted to reinforce his message that art is vast. An example of this, he placed Crafty Cottage and Hine’s tents are side by side, to show a contrast between crafting and what is deemed “fine art,” so that people can see the creativity, hard work, passion, and talent that goes into creating these different classifications of art. Continuing with the theme of contrast, Pat Harris and Richland Library both do very different kinds of art with wood, the latter doing woodworking and the former working with a lathe, and they both will be showing their work in their respective tents.

 

These are only some of the opportunities. There will be bike shows & repairs, found footage video screenings, virtual reality demos, 3D printing, face painting, henna, balloon art, and more. Every tent you enter will allow you to either learn more about what the community is doing, create your very own art no matter what skill level you are at, or support the artists of Columbia.

 

Lastly, there are tents for our local youth who need help in their school or personal lives. The Midlands Middle College will be there offering opportunities for high school kids to get college credit, while LRADAC will be there with programming to help those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

 

According to Wheeler, this event is most important because of how it can inspire children: “The festival promotes STEM, specifically women in STEM. If little girls see women already succeeding in STEM, they will already know what they can do. They don’t have to create place. It’s already there.”

 

While this article contains plenty of information, it can only provide a preview. To get the complete run down of events, check out the Jasper Kinetic Derby Day page. Here, you can see the locations of all the tents and performances as well as detailed background information about all our artists.

 

Come out Saturday at 11:00 a.m. to experience and create art. The event is completely free and jam packed with awesome events. We’ll see you there!

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman - PREVIEW by Hallie Hayes

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Hale’s Debut Play Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. Showcases the Life of Writer, Aphra Behn, and Her Role on Women

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. is a 75-minute production by playwright Mariah Anzaldo Hale that pays homage to the little-known legend, Aphra Behn. Behn was a playwright, poet, novelist and spy for King Charles II during the Anglo-Dutch war. This play examines the captivating life that Behn led through dialog, movement, and music.  She was the first woman to make a living as a professional writer in Restoration London during this time-period, trailing a path for women through her scandalous and exhilarating life.  

 

Through the creation of this debut play, Hale combines her love for women’s history and theatre. Hale is a writer, historian and costume designer who has obtained a career in costume design for both theater and film, where her designs can be found on and off Broadway and in VOGUE magazine. Hale decided to do extensive research on Aphra Behn after receiving a journal from her daughter with Behn’s photo on it, resulting in Hale’s desire to create her own project as a costume designer.  Not only was her play created to tell the story of a trailblazer’s vivacity but also to educate the audience on the roles of women, both past and present.

 

Specifically, Hale’s goal with this series was to provide a “femme-adventure play which not only takes us on [Behn’s] many exploits but also examines women’s roles then and now,” she continues to explain the play’s significance, “and challenges how she’s been written out of history by ‘learned’ men [who’ve] taken credit for her philosophies, ideas and innovations.”

 

In order to bring this goal to life, Hale collaborated with UofSC Theater and Dance as well as Full Circle Productions. When director Robert Richmond heard of Hale’s Aphra Behn series, he invited Hale to expand her work into a play using the grant Full Circle won for the Incubator Program at Harbison Theater.

 

Executive Director of Harbison Theater, Kristin Cobb shares that “the Incubator Program has been in place at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for over 5 years now.  The idea behind the initiative is to give local artists a professional venue to launch new work, with the potential to eventually tour,”

 

Cobb continues to explain the Incubator Program in regard to Aphra Behn: “This has been a wonderful collaborative effort with Robert Richmond and the UofSC Theatre Department as well.  It is part of our mission here at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College to support local artists, and to showcase their work on our wonderful stage.”

 

Other Full Circle member, Linsday Rae Taylor, was brought on to direct the play. Taylor is a third-year MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina who has directed productions such as UofSC’s The Wolves, Sense and Sensibility and Trustus Theatre’s Hir, among others.

 

For Taylor, this play was special to her from the moment she read the script: “If you open a theatre history book and look up Aphra Behn, who was essentially the first female playwright, you will only find two or three sentences about her.  We know very little about her, as she was kept hidden while the men of her time are documented and celebrated.  This is an opportunity to learn about an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.  We hope that, if you come see the play, it may prompt you to find out more about her.”

 

While directing the play, Taylor points out that one of her biggest challenges related to the development of this production is fitting an entire existence with so many details into a tightly focused narrative, where discovering a main focus is important to fit into their chosen time-span of 75 minutes.

 

“Developing a play takes a lot of time.  Most plays take years to realize before going into performance, so this process feels truncated in that regard,” Taylor explains overcoming the challenges, “Aphra Behn lived such an interesting life, so it has been challenging trying to edit and discover how to focus the story.”

 

Of course, there is no play without actors, and this one is cast with undergrad and MFA acting students. Third-year MFA student Leslie Valdez is playing the role of Behn, and others include Susan Swavely, Reilly Lucas, Sean Ardo, Luliia Khamidullina, William Hollerung and Full Circles Production member, Katrina Blanding.

 

While getting all these elements together was challenging, it was worth it for Hale and Taylor. One of the most important parts of this play for the women is that it is particularly relevant to today’s culture. As Hale states, “[Behn] was a fascinating woman 100 years ahead of her time, and we should all know who she was and what she’s done for us”

 

For Taylor, it is their “aim for audiences to witness ‘flashes’ of events in Aphra Behn’s life and understand her in a new way.  She was fighting the same battles that women are fighting today,” she continues to passionately describe the importance of the show, “we hope that it will ignite a feminist fire in both women and men, and that it will inspire us all to uncover more women’s stories that have been shrouded by history.”

 

In the end, with a ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ theme, Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman is essential to our culture.  It is important to the voices that today’s feminism have created for each of us individually.

 

“I want us to leave the theater with more questions than answers,” Hale states on the end desire of her Aphra Behn series, “It’s funny.  It’s sexy.  It means something.”

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. premiered on April 13th at Harbison Theater.

Following the premiere, you can then view the play at Uof SC’s Center for Performance Experiment every night at 8:00 p.m. from the 21st – 28th of April. Tickets are only $10 and are available at www.theatre.sc.edu.

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

 

 

Columbia Museum of Art Curator Will South Reflects on the Loss and Future of Art

We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

-Will South

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

Art is not forever. Paper fades to yellow then brown and turns to dust. Rust never sleeps, and corrodes sculpture. Canvas and panels swell and shrink, paint cracks and falls away. Objects are stolen, bombed, and buried beneath the ocean.

And then there is fire, the universally feared and ever-present threat to the survival of objects. Buildings can and do burn to the ground, and all that is inside may be destroyed completely. The number of paintings, drawings, books, furnishings, inventions and—most importantly—people that have perished in flames is incalculable.

The burning of Notre Dame in Paris is the latest, and one of the greatest, reminders of the fragility of all things. Even the largest, most impressive monuments need protection. We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

The burning of Notre Dame raises other issues injurious to our global cultural life. In the wake of the fire, some have mourned “the loss of a thousand years of history.” Not so. We know as much today about the history of Notre Dame as we did before the fire. History is judgement, and is made by people—it answers the question: how did we get from A to B? Those judgments are with us (and subject to ongoing revision). Many have already declared that Notre Dame “witnessed so many seminal events” and observed such historical luminaries as Napoleon and Joan of Arc. Actually, the stone and glass that made Notre Dame witnessed nothing. Our tendency to anthropomorphize everything on earth only serves to keep us thinking that everything is about us. Notre Dame is an object, not a living thing.

Why is it so special then? Because not all objects are equal. Size varies, weight varies, colors, texture and so on. When something is made, it functions (most often) to serve a purpose: we use forks to eat, shoes to protect our feet, bowling balls to entertain. A massive Gothic cathedral such as Notre Dame was made to express in a grand holistic manner the faith and world-view of a civilization. Arguably, this was a more ambitious purpose, if less perfunctory.

Study a fork, and you quickly get the point: it’s necessary to eat and a fork helps. Shoes, however fetishized in the modern world, help us navigate the environment by preventing cuts and blisters. Bowling balls are part of a very broad narrative of how important it is to have leisure time—play is not frivolous. It is part of forming a balanced personality.

Now, study Notre Dame, and the entirety of a complex belief system unfolds, as does the economic and social fabric of Europe in the Middle Ages. For Notre Dame to have been built eight hundred years ago remains an astonishing feat—what social force could have been so powerful as to propel its construction?

One answer that must be considered is status. Whichever city had the largest cathedral could claim preeminence. This status would attract kings and pilgrims alike, driving the local economy and serving to consolidate the power of that city. To build the tallest cathedral (one sign of its superiority) was no small task, it required all available resources and over one hundred years to build. Cities competed for this status, as they do today.

And, study of Notre Dame inevitably leads to the centrality of faith in human history. Status exists across the animal kingdom, thus the top dog and the queen bee. But it is the human species that has experienced a profound and relentless belief in a non-material world beyond the one we directly encounter each day. Faith, perhaps more so than status or economics, has driven creativity to its most glorious heights, whether in the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal, or in Milton’s Paradise Lost. To understand ourselves as a species, we need to access the most complete expressions of our desires. Which are not forks, shoes or, however useful, bowling balls.

We need Notre Dame. Though it is an object, it is one that arose from magnificent forces, and one that can be a factor in transformative experiences. Meaning, an individual standing inside that incredible architecture may experience the most exalted of human ambitions, as opposed to the most ordinary. It is in us to feel that magnificence, that exaltation. Notre Dame, a work of art as well as a house of worship, enables those precious experiences, whatever one’s beliefs.

Notre Dame can be rebuilt, and must be. Not to preserve history, that is not its function. Nor to be an ongoing witness, that’s a physical impossibility. We need to experience it. That experience—to see and smell and hear an object designed and built to touch the miraculous—can become part of us.

In a world of endless needs, where children starve and veterans go homeless, perhaps this year we can stretch just a little bit more and contribute to the rebuilding of one of our priceless treasures, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a testament to our search for the transcendent. — Will South

How to Help —

 Please visit the Friends of the Notre Dame de Paris to make a financial donation.

http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/friends/donate/

Visit Jasper’s specially created Facebook “event” to share your own thoughts about the Notre Dame fire and preserving/protecting/rebuilding the places that create our cultural landscape — at https://www.facebook.com/events/2071745049605312/

Jasper Project Announces Names of Women Honored for the Supper Table's Array of Remarkable SC Women

Become a part of the Jasper Project’s most ambitious multi-disciplinary project thus far in one of two ways:

Women and girls are invited to join Jasper on one of six occasions to paint tiles honoring an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Support the Supper Table by sponsoring a tile ($100), educational panel ($300), place-setting ($1000), or table segment ($3000)

(see below)

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The Supper Table – An Array of Remarkable SC Women, Categorized by Contribution

 

Activists & Politicians

These women spent/have spent their lives fiercely advocating for what they believe in either through the work they do or by working in government positions.

 

  • Bambie Gaddist, M.D. (September 21, 1955 – present) HIV/AIDS activist; Executive Director of The South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council.

  • Bernice Robinson (February 7, 1914 – September 3, 1994) activist in the Civil Rights Movement and education proponent who helped establish adult Citizenship Schools in South Carolina; first African American woman to run for a political office in the state.

  • Candy Waites (February 21, 1943 – present) former president of the League of Women Voters of Columbia; served on Richland County Council for twelve years; former State Representative for House District 75 

  • Elizabeth Hawley Gasque Van Exern (February 26, 1186 – November 2, 1989) Congresswoman elected into the House of Representatives on September 13, 1938; first woman elected into Congress for the state of South Carolina.

  • Gertrude Sanford Legendre (March 29, 1902 – March 8, 2000) American socialite who served with the American spy agency, Office of Strategic Services, during WWII; owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina; known as a noted explorer, big-game hunter and environmentalist.

  • Gilda Cobb-Hunter (November 5, 1952 – present) Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 66 in Orangeburg County; first African American woman to be elected into the State House for this county.

  • Harriet Hancock (Unknown) Co-founder of the South Carolina Pride Movement and longtime activist. The Harriet Hancock LGBT Center is named after her, offering a supportive meeting space for those of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Harriet Keyserling (Unknown – December 10, 2010) First woman to represent Beaufort in the South Carolina Legislature; an advocate for Women’s rights who advocated for the arts and environment.

  • Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 – June 4, 2008) Disability rights activist who was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease; American author and attorney who was named Person of the Year by New Mobility.

  •  Irene Dillard Elliott (August 7, 1892 – April 5, 1978) The first Dean of Women at the University of South Carolina; involved in many civic, educational and cultural organizations.

  •  Jane Edna Harris Hunter (December 13, 1882 – January 13, 1971) African American social worker and founder of the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland, formally known as the Working Girls Association.

  •  Janie Glymph Goree (Unknown – January 2009) Political activist who was elected the first African American female Mayor in South Carolina.

  • Jean Toal (August 11, 1943 – present) First woman and Roman Catholic to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

  • Keller Barron (Unknown – present) Actively involved in the League of Women Voters where she has served as local and state League president, Barron advocates women’s rights, voters’ rights, improved race relations and education reform.

  • Linda Ketner (May 12, 1950 – present) philanthropist who was a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s 1st congressional districts; activist for the LGBTQ community, women, and affordable housing.

  • Malissa Burnette (Unknown – present) Certified specialist in employment law; has a history of fighting for cases that involve discrimination, civil and constitutional rights, sexual harassment, breach of contract, non-compete agreements, wage claims, and academic tenure and promotions issues.

  • Marian Wright Edelman (June 6, 1939 – present) President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; activist for children’s rights.

  • Marjorie Hammock (January 24, 1936 – Present) Licensed clinical social worker in Columbia, South Carolina; former President of both the SC Chapter NASW and the Columbia Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers; social justice advocate.

  • Nancy Barton (Unknown - present) Founder and Executive Director of Sistercare, an organization who provides services and advocates for domestic violence survivors and their children.

  • Nancy Stevenson (June 8, 1928 – May 31, 2001) American politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1979 – 1983; first woman to be elected to the South Carolina statewide office.

  • Nekki Shutt (Unknown – present) attorney and activist from Columbia, South Carolina; honored as Lawyer of the Year for 2019.

  • Nikki Haley (January 20, 1972 – present) The first female governor for South Carolina who went on to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations; governor who took down the Confederate Flag at the State House.

  • Reshma Kahn (Unknown – present) Founder and Executive Director of the Shifa Free Clinic; passionate about serving the uninsured at the same level of the insured.

  • Ruth Ann Butler (Unknown – present) Civil rights icon and founder of the Greenville Cultural Exchange; worked to preserve the history of African American stories. 

  • Sarah Mae Flemming (June 28, 1933 – June 16, 1993) African American woman expelled from a bus in Columbia, SC, for refusing to give her seat up, several months before Rosa Parks. Her lawsuit played a massive role in the Parks case months later.

  • Susan Dunn (Unknown – present) Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Carolina; a fierce advocate for the advancement of women in the practice of law.

  • Tamika Gadsden (Unknown – present) State leader of the South Carolina Chapter of the Women's March and longtime women’s rights advocate.

  • Tootsie Holland – (Unknown – Unknown) women’s rights activist; former Regional Director of NOW (National Organization of Women).

  • Vivian Anderson (Unknown – Present) Founder of Every Black Girl, an organization supporting justice for African American girls; recognized by Essence for being one of the 100 woke women of 2018.

 

Actors

These women were/are actors on either the stage or screen with many of them being recognized for their talent with nominations and awards.

  •  Andie McDowell (April 21, 1958 – present) Golden Globe nominated actor and model; known for roles in Groundhog Day, Green Card, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

  • Anna Camp (September 27, 1982 – present) actor, known for her roles in TV Series True Blood, Mad Men, and the Pitch Perfect movies.

  • Danielle Brooks (September 17, 1989 – Present) actor and singer; known for her role as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on Orange Is the New Black; received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in the 2015 Broadway production of The Color Purple.

  • Lauren Hutton (November 17, 1943 – present) American actress and model who signed, at the time, the biggest contract in the history of the modeling industry with makeup brand Revlon (1973).

  • Mabel King (December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999) American film, stage and TV actress whose roles include Mabel “Mama” Thomas on the ABC hit show, What’s Happening!! and Evillene the Witch on the stage musical, The Wiz.

  • Mary Louise Parker (August 2, 1964 – present) American actor and writer who has received both a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award for roles that she has played; known for her roles in the TV series Weeds and the movie Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Monique Coleman (November 13, 1980 – present) Actor and producer who is known for her roles in the hit movie franchise, High School Musical.

  • Nina Mae McKinney (June 12, 1912 – May 3, 1967) American actor who got her start on Broadway; one of the first African American film stars in the United States.

  • Viola Davis (August 11, 1965 – Present) American actor and the first African American actor to have won an Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award; known for her role on the show How to Get Away with Murder.

  • Virginia Capers (September 22, 1925 – May 6, 2004) Broadway and stage actor; won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in Raisin.

 

Artists

These women were/are artists of any medium or contributed greatly to the arts in South Carolina.

 

  • Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (July 14, 1876 – February 3, 1958) watercolorist, painter, and printmaker; one of the leading figures of the Charleston Renaissance

  • Anita Pollitzer (October 31, 1894 – July 3, 1975) photographer, charcoal artist, and suffragette who was a member of the National Woman’s Party and was instrumental in the passage of the 19th amendment.

  • Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntington (March 10, 1876 – October 4, 1973) American sculptor who both created the first public monument by a woman in New York City and created the city’s first monument dedicated to a historical woman

  • Betsy Teter (unknown – present) co-founded the Hub City Writers Project in 1995, opened Hub City Bookshop; winner of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts

  • Elaine Nichols (Unknown – Present) Supervisory Curator of Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; curator of the Black Fashion Museum collection.

  • Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (December 21, 1883 – April 17, 1979) Known as the “best-known woman artist of South Carolina of the twentieth century,” Verner was an artist, author lecturer, and preservationist who was one leader of the Charleston Renaissance; helped found the Southern States Art League.

  • Gail M. Morrison – (Unknown - Present) educator and philanthropist; longtime patron of the arts in Columbia; her and her deceased husband were major benefactors of the Philharmonic, City Ballet, CMA and others; former director of the Commission on Higher Education

  • Georgette Seabrooke (August 2, 1916 – December 27, 2011) Best known for her mural, Recreation in Harlem, displayed at Harlem Hospital in New York City; South Carolina native known as a muralist, artist, illustrator, art therapist and non-profit chief executive and educator

  • Georgia Harris (July 29, 1905 - January 30, 1997) One of the Catawba tribe’s former master potters; award-winning nurse who received the National Heritage Fellowship Award.

  • Helen Hill (May 9, 1970 – January 4, 2007) American filmmaker, artist, writer and social activist; known as one of the most well-regarded experimental animators of her generation after the release of her final film, The Florestine Collection.

  • Kitty Black-Perkins (Unknown) Chief Designers of Fashions and Doll Concepts for Mattel’s Barbie, where her “Black Barbie” was the first doll of color to take the name Barbie (1979-1980).

  • Lily Strickland (January 28, 1884 – June 6, 1958) Composer, painter and writer who published 395 works including sacred music and children’s songs.

  • Mary Jackson (February 3, 1945 – Present) African American fiber artist who received the MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2008 for “pushing the tradition in stunning new directions” with her sweetgrass basket weaving.

  • Suzy McCormick Shealy (Unknown – present) American artist; was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 2017; served on the Board of Trustees of the Walker Foundation at the School for the Deaf and Blind

 

Athletes

These women were not only athletes but often broke boundaries for women and people of color in their fields.

  •  Alice Coachman (November 9, 1923 – July 14, 2014) track and field athlete, first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal

  • Dawn Staley (May 4, 1970 – present) Hall of Fame basketball player and coach; three-time Olympic gold medalist

  • Jackie Frazier-Lyde (December 2, 1961 – present) American lawyer and former professional boxer; born the daughter of former Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier.

  • Katrina McClain Johnson (September 19, 1965 – present) Retired American basketball player who has played for many USA teams and three Olympic teams; inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

  • Louise Smith (July 31, 1916 – April 15, 2006) Known as the “first lady of racing,” Smith was a NASCAR racer who became the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

  • Lucille Ellerbe Godbold (May 31, 1900 – April 5, 1981) American athlete who competed in the 1922 Women’s World Games; the 1st woman in South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

  • Mamie Peanut Johnson (September 27, 1935 – December 18, 2017) Professional female baseball player who was the first female pitcher and one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues.

 Businesswomen & Executives

These women spent/have spent their lives either founding their own businesses or working their way to the top of their respective businesses, breaking the glass ceiling both gender and race wise.

  • Darla Moore (August 1, 1954 – present) investor and philanthropist; has been mentioned in Forbes Fortune, Working Woman, Worth, Wall Street Journal, and CNN; school of business at USC is named after her.

  • Debra L. Lee, Esq. (August 8, 1954 – present) businesswoman; currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET; named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment”

  • Kathy Riley (Unknown – present) Executive Director and Founder of the Columbia Women’s Shelter.

  • Kay Thigpen (Unknown – present) Co-founder and Managing Director of Columbia, South Carolina’s Trustus Theatre.

  • Laura Bragg (October 9, 1881 – May 16, 1978) First woman to run a publicly funded art museum, the Charleston Museum, in 1920. 

  • Marva Smalls (Unknown – Present) Entertainment executive; Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Nickelodeon Networks.

  • Sylvia Woods (February 2, 1926 – July 19, 2012) American restaurateur who founded the restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem, New York City. She is known as the “Queen of Soul Food.”

  

Educators

These women spent/have spent their lives educating/mentoring groups &/or the community to better understand both the history and current societal structures of South Carolina.

  • Augusta Baker (April 1, 1911 – February 23, 1998) African-American librarian and storyteller, renowned for her contributions to children’s literature

  • Barbara Williams Jenkins (August 17, 1934 – present) educator who greatly contributed to the library profession on a local, regional and national level; first African American President of the South Carolina Library Association

  • Brooke Bauer (unknown – present) – first Catawba Indian to receive a PhD; professor of History at USC – Lancaster

  • Charlotta Spears Bass (February 14, 1874 - April 12, 1969) educator, newspaper publisher-editor, and civil rights activist; first African-American woman to own and operate a newspaper in the US; first African-American woman nominated for Vice President.

  • Cynthia Graham Hurd (Mid-1900s – June 17, 2015) librarian who fought for literacy for all; housing rights activist; victim of Charleston AME church shooting

  • Dr. Wil Lou Gray (August 29, 1883 – March 10, 1984) Influential educator focusing on adult literacy who was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame; only female of 34 nominations for the South Carolina Man of the Hall Century Award.

  • Lucy Hampton Bostick (November 6, 1898 – July 8, 1968) Devoted librarian and citizen who contributed to the development of the library system in Richland County & South Carolina; served as Secretary of the SC State Library Board for almost 40 years.

  • Martha Schofield (1839 – 1916) Abolitionist and Educator who opened Scofield’s School in 1870 in an effort to teach her students to become “themselves” while still teaching them basic skills such as reading, writing and math. 

  • Millicent Brown (Unknown – present) Claflin professor; one of the first African American children to integrate South Carolina schools with the case Millicent Brown vs. SC School District 20 (1963).

  • Rev. Sharonda Coleman- Singleton (Unknown – June 17, 2015) Speech-language pathologist for Goose Creek High; track and field coach who brought many athletes to the state tournament; victim of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston who is honored by many.

  • Victoria Eslinger (Unknown – Present) litigator; mentor at the USC School of Law; winner of the 2012 Bissell Award, 2009 Advocate of the Year, and a Compleat Lawyer Platinum Award.

 

Scientists & Medical Professionals

These women were/are scientists, astronauts, nurses, and doctors, who spent/have spent their lives saving the lives of others and making scientific breakthroughs.

 

  • Catherine Coleman (December 14, 1960 – present) –American chemist, former United States Air Force officer, and retired NASA astronaut

  • Hilla Sheriff (1903 – September 10, 1988) South Carolina physician who became one of the most respected medical officials during the twentieth century; held positions such as Health Officer in Spartanburg County and the Director of the Board of Health’s Division of Maternal and Child Health in Columbia.

  • Juanita Redmond Hipps (July 1, 1912 – February 25, 1979) Known as one of the Angels of Bataan during the early months of war; a nurse for the United States Army Nurse Corps and the author of bestselling book, I Served on Bataan, which spoke on her experiences in the Philippines.

  • Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris (Unknown – present) Commissioned in the New York Air National Guard in April 1963; held the positions of chief nurse, nurse administrator, flight nurse instructor and flight nurse examiner; first female in history to have a Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Chapter named in her honor

  • Maude Callen (November 8, 1898 – January 23, 1990) Nurse and midwife whose work was brought to national attention through the photo, “Nurse Midwife,” by W. Eugene Smith when it was published in Life in 1951.

 

Singers & Performers

These women were/are singers, dancers, models, or other performers who either helped the state in some way or represented SC as they performed around the world.

 

  • Ann Brodie (December 13, 1929 – March 9, 1999) internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer; founding director of Columbia City Ballet.

  • Bertha “Chippie” Hill (March 15, 1905 – May 7, 1950) blues and vaudeville performer who recorded with Louis Armstrong

  • Dorae Saunders (unknown – present) transgender woman of color from Columbia who was a finalist on season 3 of America’s Got Talent

  • Etta Jones (November 25, 1928 – October 16, 2001) American Jazz singer who received three Grammy nominations for her albums Don’t Go to Strangers, Save Your Love for Me, and My Buddy. Her album, Don’t Go to Strangers, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

  • Gwendolyn Bradley (Unknown – Present) American soprano born in Bishopville, South Carolina, who has performed on both opera and concert stages around the world.

  • Linda Martell (June 4, 1941 – present) Country and blues singer who was the first African American Woman to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Mariclare Miranda (Unknown – present) Prima ballerina for Columbia City Ballet since 1997; founder and principal instructor of the Columbia Conservatory of Dance.

  • Marlena Smalls (Unknown) Gospel Singer known for forming the Hallelujah Singers in 1990 in hopes to promote the Gullah heritage.

  • Maxine Brown (August 18, 1939 – present) American soul singer whose track “We’ll Cry Together” reached #10 in the Billboard R&B chart.

  • Melanie Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) American pop singer who was the lead singer of the band La Bouche from 1994-2001.

  • Ophelia Devore-Mitchell (August 12, 1921 – February 28, 2014) First African American model in the United States; helped establish the Grace Del Marco Agency, one of the first modeling agencies in America.

  • Sarah Reese – (Unknown - Present) instructor and opera singer who has traveled and performed throughout the world; praised by a plethora of sources such as The New York Times; won on the “Ted Mack” show.

 

Writers

These women are poets, novelists, essayists, journalists, playwrights, and more who were often inspired by their own lives in the works they wrote and frequently used their written works as a form of activism.

 

  • Annie Greene Nelson (December 5, 1902 – December 23, 1993) novelist and playwright; first African American woman from South Carolina to publish a novel

  • Betsy Cromer Byars (August 7, 1928 – present) author of children's books; won a Newbery Medal, a National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and an Edgar Award 

  • Beryl Dakers (Mid-1900s – present) Emmy nominated broadcast journalist; first black person on air reporting news for WIS radio; worked for ETV.

  • Blanche McCrary Boyd (1945 – present) novelist, essayist, and screenwriter; feminist & LGBTQ+ advocate  

  • Carrie Allen McCray (October 4, 1913 – July 25, 2008) novelist and poet;
    one of the founders and first board members of the South Carolina Writers Workshop

  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault (February 27, 1942 – present) journalist; former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio; Civil Rights Activist

  • Dori Sanders (June 8, 1934 – present) African-American novelist, food writer and farmer; winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award

  • Dorothy Allison (April 11, 1949 – present) best-selling author; nominated for the 1992 National Book Award for her novel Bastard Out of Carolina

  • Dot Jackson (August 10, 1932 – December 11, 2016) Novelist and longtime journalist for the Charlotte Observer.

  • Elizabeth Allston Pringle (May 29, 1845 – December 5, 1921) Female rice-plantation owner; author of the best-selling novel A Woman Rice Planter; wrote about her childhood and women during the Civil War.

  • Elizabeth Boatwright Coker (April 21, 1909 – September 1, 1993) Author of nine novels with plots revolving around the legends and family histories of South Carolina; inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1992 for her impact on South Carolina and American culture and history.

  • Essie Mae Washington-Williams (October 12, 1925 - February 4, 2013) Daughter of former Governor of South Carolina, Strom Thurmond; a teacher, author and writer known for her pro-racial segregation policies.

  • Grace Lumpkin (March 3, 1891 – March 23, 1980) American writer of proletarian literature with much of her work focusing on the Depression Era. Her first book, To Make My Bread, won the Gorky Prize in 1933.

  • Gwen Bristow (September 16, 1903 – August 17, 1980) American Author and Journalist known for her best-selling western romance, Jubilee Trail; inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

  • Helen von Kolnitz Hyer (December 30, 1896 – November 14, 1983) American Poet named the second South Carolina Poet Laureate from 1974-1983 by Governor John C. West.

  • Josephine Humphries (February 2, 1945 – present) Author who wrote many novels inspired by the landscape of Charleston, SC, and her own life in the South; recipient of the 1984 Hemingway Foundation/PEN award.

  • Mary Boykin Chestnut (March 31, 1823 – November 22, 1886) American author; known for her book published as her Civil War diary, which outlines the society and its struggles throughout this time.

  • Mary C. Simms Oliphant (January 6, 1891 – July 27, 1988) South Carolina historian; updated the 1860 history of South Carolina textbook, which was adopted by the State Board of Education.

  • Nikky Finney (August 26, 1957 – present) American poet who advocates for social justice and cultural preservation; inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2013.

  • Peggy Parish (July 14, 1927 – November 19, 1988) American author known for her children’s book series; published over 30 books in her lifetime.

  • Sheila R. Morris (Unknown - Present) author and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights; wrote Southern Perspective of the Queer Movement, a collection of the true stories of LGBTQ+ individuals in South Carolina. 

  • Sue Monk Kidd (August 12, 1948 – Present) American author whose work has debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List; best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which was turned into a fairly well-critiqued movie.

  • Vera Gomez (Unknown – present) Greenville based poet; founding member of the first Greenville Poetry Slam team that won the 1998 Southeast Regionals, bringing the first, all-women team to Nationals.

  • Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor (April 4, 1937 – September 3, 2016) Culinary anthropologist, food writer, and broadcaster on public media; produced two award-winning documentaries.

  • Virginia Mixson Geraty (1915 - 2004) American Author who published books in the Gullah Language; Gullah Scholar and defender of the language.

 

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

Participating Artists include:

Bohumila Augustinova – Columbia Art Center, Anastasia and Friends

Eileen Blyth – www.eileenblyth.com

Tonya Gregg – www.tonyagregg.com

Mana Hewitt – www.manahewitt.com

B. A. Hohman – www.facebook.com/bahohman

Heidi Darr-Hope www.darr-hope.com

Lori Isom

Flavia Lovatelli – www.flavia-lovatelli.com

Laurie Brownell McIntosh – www.lauriemcintoshart.com

Michaela Pilar Brown – www.michaelapilarbrown.com 

Renee Roullier –www.reneerouillier.com

Olga Yukhno 310art.com/olga-yukhno

 

Literary Artists

Jennifer Bartell – poet and educator - https://jenniferbartellpoet.com/

Carla Damron – social worker and author of The Stone Necklace - http://carladamron.com/

Joyce Rose Harris – poet, The Watering Hole

Kristine Hartvigsen – editor, author of To the Wren Nesting

Meeghan Kane – founder, editor UnSweetened

Monifa Lemons – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Eva Moore – editor, Free Times

Marjory Wentworth – SC poet laureate

Qiana Whitted – USC professor of English and African Studies, author of Comics and the US South

Candace Wiley – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Christina Xan – poet, adjunct English professor, USC 

Claudia Smith Brinson – The State, Columbia College

 

Additional Artists

Kirkland Smith – portraitist

Jordan Morris – table artist

Betsy Newman –filmmaker advisor

Mahkia Greene – filmmaker coordinator

Vicky Saye Henderson – theatre artist coordinator

Lee Ann Kornegay – long-form and short-form filmmaker

Brenda Oliver – ceramicist

Diane Hare  - ceramics assistant

Kathryn Van Aernum – photographer/graphic artist

Cindi Boiter – project director/editor

Christina Xan- assistant project director

Filmmakers (4/15/19)

Betsy Newman, Lee Ann Kornegay, Laura Kissel, Roni Nicole, Ebony Wilson, Tamara Finkbeiner, Josetra Robinson, Katly Hong

Public Invited to Participate in Supper Table Tile Painting for an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Supper Table 1x.png

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Great Gatsby Like No Other by William Arvay

gatsby.jpg

“As of January first, it’s the twenties again!” declared Chad Henderson as he introduced Trustus’ latest production, “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s roaring twenties novel, adapted for the stage in 2006 by Simon Levy.

Almost a century after it was written, “Gatsby” deals with America’s continuing modern struggles with wealth and class, war and our treatment of veterans, marital infidelity, white supremacy, business ethics, transparency and the eternally insoluble question of whether money can buy happiness, or, as The Beatles parsed it, can it buy love?

The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be a contender for the title of The Great American Novel, and it has been transformed into several memorable, lavish films over the ensuing decades, most recently by director Baz Luhrmann in 2013 starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, with Robert Redford in the title role.

To rise to the challenge of the greatness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” director Henderson began with the only stage adaptation authorized and granted exclusive rights by the Fitzgerald Estate.

But then he immediately upped the ante by enlisting the talents of trumpeter and composer Mark Rapp as musical director (for a non-musical!) who brought original jazz music with the 5 piece on-stage combo ColaJazz. Henderson also brought aboard a crew of dancers from Columbia City Ballet, choreographed by Stephanie Wilkins, to portray the frenzied flappers at Gatsby’s legendary decadent parties.

Working with technical director Richard Kiraly, Henderson designed a simplified high-tech set of large projection screens to portray orgiastic jazz age parties, great halls filled with marble statuary, the streets of 1920s New York, a hydroplane rocketing over the ocean waves, Gatsby’s swimming pool, and of course the iconic eyes-and-eyeglasses sign advertising the wares of an oculist, standing in for the eyes of a judgmental God. The scenery can change with breathtaking speed and realism. Sound effects blend seamlessly with the constantly shifting locales and even special effects. Costumed members of the ensemble add or subtract furniture pieces in character as the finishing touches to each scene.

Both sides of the stage are framed by open quadrangles lined in incandescent bulbs, suggesting both a theatre marquee and the open covers of a book, out of which the story leaps.

The show starts with a stunning and unexpected spotlight vocal solo by one of the cast members singing a modern hit ballad that has been interpolated into the script. During the course of the show, other cast members step up to the ColaJazz microphone to sing musical commentary upon the drama unfolding on stage. This reviewer will leave no further spoilers as to the singers’ identities or the choice of songs, so as to maximize the surprising spontaneity for the audience.

In every rendition of “Gatsby” my favorite character winds up being Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, and he is ably brought to life by Jared-Rogers Martin. Fitzgerald’s prose flows clearly and gently from his voice, and he brings the wide-eyed earnestness of a young man from Minnesota to the mansions of the corrupt, lustful, and fabulously wealthy Long Island elites.

Jason Stokes brings broad-shouldered good looks and a resonant baritone voice to the title role, and is at once confident and forlorn. His tender infatuation for Daisy Fay Buchanan, played by Katie Leitner with a spoiled sensuality and tortured despair, drives all events in this drama. Richard Edward III is Daisy’s abusive, adulterous lout of a husband, Tom Buchanan, who also abuses his mistress Myrtle Wilson, played expertly and with earthy emotion by Raia Jane Hirsch. Brandon Chinn gives us Myrtle’s cuckolded garage mechanic husband, George Wilson, with a homespun pathos that masks his deeper moral code. The plum role of professional golfer Jordan Baker, Daisy’s long-time sardonic girlfriend, who later becomes Nick’s tempting girlfriend is played with layered subtlety and empowered command by Brittany Hammock. She is Fitzgerald’s acknowledgement of the evolving role of women in the 20th century. Elizabeth Houck, LaTrell Brennan, Josh Kern and Frank Thompson complete the acting ensemble with memorable performances in multiple roles, particularly Thompson’s shadowy criminal version of Meyer Wolfsheim, Kern’s flawless butler, Houck’s gossipy socialite and Brennan’s crystal clear exposition.

What sets this performance apart from others you might see on the local stage is the addition of music and dance to the production. While not a musical, per se, Britanny Hammock and Katie Leitner’s bonus vocal numbers accompanied by Rapp and band are exquisite, haunting audience members into the night. And Stephanie Wilkins’ choreography, set specifically on City Ballet principal dancers Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Claire Rapp, along with Jordan Hawkins, Marian Morgan, and Katherine Brady, is a step above in terms of the professionalism typically brought to a local stage. Wilkins researched the dance styles of the period and incorporated elements of everything from the Foxtrot to the Black Bottom to the Lindy Hop in her choreography. The dancers blended well with the actors and created a large but well-managed multi-talented ensemble of performers.

(Full disclosure - Boiter-Jolley and Henderson are the daughter and son-in-law of Jasper editor Cindi Boiter.)

This is a “Gatsby” unlike any other you will see anywhere else, and it is here for only a brief time, ending April 27. The Sunday matinee audience honored the performance with a standing ovation. Waste no time reserving your tickets at www.trustus.org or call the box office at (803) 254-9732.

Trustus Theatre is located in Columbia’s Congaree Vista at 520 Lady Street.

 

 

REVIEW -- Workshop Theatre Raises the Bar with Other Desert Cities

“In a bold step outside of musicals and light comedies, Workshop has taken a chance with a more serious dramatic piece, and the payoff is a moving, thought-provoking, and occasionally unsettling production which closes on a hopeful note.”

Marshall Spann and Dell Goodrich

Marshall Spann and Dell Goodrich

As always, I will open by disclosing that I am a frequent director and member of the Board of Trustees for Workshop Theatre, which is of particular importance in the case of Other Desert Cities. Organizational affiliations aside, I strive for neutrality and objectivity with all of my reviews, and do my best to put on blinders concerning friendships and professional connections with cast members, performing companies, etc. That said, here’s my take on the production, which runs through Sunday afternoon at Columbia College’s Cottingham Theatre.

Wow.

Under the skilled guidance of Jefferey Schwalk, who makes his Columbia directorial debut, this finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama comes to glorious, heartbreaking, and oft-hilarious life through the work of a uniformly strong and experienced cast. While known for quality and high production values, Workshop has set a new standard for itself and its audiences with this distinguished and compelling drama/comedy which spends the first quarter of the show providing subtle exposition through a series of intelligent wisecracks and bitingly witty exchanges, gradually morphing into a dystopia of family secrets and suppressed resentments. Unless you were lucky enough to grow up in an extremely happy and conflict-free home, you’re likely to recognize at least some of the dysfunction, which makes Other Desert Cities relatable to almost everyone. (Seriously, while the script is brilliant, it could be mildly to moderately triggering to those with unresolved family-based emotional wounds. There’s no physical violence onstage, but as far too many of us know, words can sting much more than a slap to the face.)

The plot is a straightforward one, so I won’t risk creating spoilers with an in-depth synopsis, but the basics are that Brooke Wyeth (Dell Goodrich) is a writer from NYC, visiting her childhood home in California for the first time in six years. There she encounters her acerbic mother, Polly (Debra Kiser), who openly criticizes Brooke’s liberal politics and presumably humble lifestyle. Brooke’s father, Lyman (Bill Arvay), is a former B-list cowboy/detective film star who has made a name for himself as a GOP politico representing the “old guard Hollywood” brand of conservatism. Clearly based on the Reagans, Polly and Lyman both reference time spent with “Ron and Nancy,” and drop a few more right-wing names throughout the script, with Lyman presenting himself as the more reasonable and decent parent while Polly revels in her dragon-lady persona. Polly’s brother, Trip (Marshall Spann), and fresh-out-of-rehab aunt, Silda (Resi Talbot) complete the family circle, as the quintet attempt to spend a pleasant Christmas Eve together despite their differences. Looming over the holiday is the shadow of Henry, the deceased third Wyeth sibling. As with most families thrown together at the holiday season, age-old irritants quickly surface, and resentments are only somewhat tempered by the Yuletide spirit. While substance abuse doesn’t directly drive the plot, drugs and/or alcohol are frequently consumed, subtly contributing to the aura of desperation each character brings to the situation. Through the course of the show we discover more than a few hidden psychological scars, a couple of turnabout motivation revelations, and a second-act reveal that forces the audience to rethink prior assumptions about the entire family. If you’re looking for a morality tale with clearly-defined “good guys and bad guys,” you won’t find it here. Each of the Wyeths has secrets, and everyone shows the capacity for cruelty and kindness, often within the same sentence or two.

The performances are uniformly solid, with Goodrich’s Brooke as a particular standout. The events unfold from (presumably) her point of view, and Goodrich wrings pretty much every emotion out of her character as the story progresses. (Having seen and admired her work for years, I must say that this is one of her strongest roles to date.) Brooke is the adult child who never fit in with her family, which Goodrich clearly conveys without ever resorting to melodrama. Part of what makes Other Desert Cities so impressive is its commitment to stark realism, and the cast never flinches or sugar-coats the subject matter. Arvay’s commanding stage presence and imposing physique lend themselves perfectly to the ascot-sporting benevolent patriarch whose explosions are few and far between, but Vesuvius-like when they do occur. Kiser’s performance dovetails nicely with Arvay’s, bringing a constantly nagging but easily dismissed balance to the parental team. One can easily envision them having (perhaps unknowingly) having raised their children by the “good cop/bad cop” technique. As Silda, Talbot creates a sassy, aging peacenik with flower-child sensibilities. While battling her own demons, Silda serves as an advocate for Brooke, yet holds a few of her own cards out of sight. Having seen her in mostly musicals and comedies, I was most impressed with Talbot’s dramatic acting chops. As does Goodrich, she takes on a character that could easily drift into caricature, and portrays a three-dimensional human being whose life choices took her down a different path than the one her sister chose. Spann’s Trip, who exudes a friendly enough persona, is arguably the only glue binding Brooke to the rest of the clan. At times cynical, and at others genuinely hopeful, Spann artfully captures the spirit of a young man who has accepted his mundane yet lucrative life as the producer of a courtroom reality show. Given that Lyman’s film career was financially rewarding but undistinguished, it makes sense that Trip would see himself as having similarly “succeeded” in show business, and Spann subtly incorporates touches of Arvay’s aura of undeluded self-satisfaction. The script has each of them acknowledging that his work is anything but high art, yet neither approaches this admission with shame or resignation.

On the technical front, the unit set, designed by director Schwalk and Patrick Faulds, is fully realized and realistically furnished. Not only does the family room appear cared for and complete, it features various books, works of art, and bric-a-brac contributed by the cast (including a painting by the late Gerald Floyd, a Columbia theatre icon.) This touch of personalization will likely go unnoticed by most, but I suspect it provided an extra element of actor familiarity with the space, which added a layer of believability to the performances. Another nice touch is a series of framed movie posters depicting Lyman’s silver screen days. Costume Designer Alexis Docktor brings her well-established skill to the production, with an outstanding use of color, dressing Brooke in shades of grey and black, with the rest of the cast in bright pastels and primaries. Brooke is the only family member not living behind some manifestation of a façade, and freely admits to having been hospitalized for depression, while the others (at least initially) suppress and hide their respective dark experiences. Lighting and sound are ably handled by Dean McCaughan, who does a particularly nice job of side-lighting the small section of the outdoors glimpsed through the room’s French doors, and Stage Manager Jeff Morris keeps everything moving at a steady pace while coordinating a prop-heavy show.

Other Desert Cities is almost flawless, but I would be remiss not to mention the minor issue of occasionally having found the more intimate moments of conversation a bit difficult to hear. Cottingham Theatre’s acoustics are not ideal, and the actors perform without mics, so if you want to catch every word, I would suggest taking a seat somewhere around audience center or closer.

In a bold step outside of musicals and light comedies, Workshop has taken a chance with a more serious dramatic piece, and the payoff is a moving, thought-provoking, and occasionally unsettling production which closes on a hopeful note. It may not be “happily ever after,” but by the epilogue, it looks as if the Wyeth family may finally be at peace with itself.

Tickets for Other Desert Cities may be purchased online at Workshoptheatre.com, or by calling the box office at (803) 799-6551.

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

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's Cost Of Living is An Acting Tour-De-Force With Diverse And Talented Cast

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

In his pre-show welcoming speech, Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, spoke briefly about a few of the production requirements listed in the contract for playwright Martnya Majok’s Cost Of Living. According to Henderson, the script and stage directions strongly suggest that actors with disabilities are to be cast in the roles of Jon (Bauer Westeren) and Ani (Kathy LaLima.) Trustus’ professional commitment to inclusivity is well-known, as is their mission to tackle new and innovative work, which made theirs the perfect stage upon which to present this 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In their bios, both Westeren and LaLima mention life with spina bifida and Multiple Sclerosis, respectively, and each expresses gratitude for the opportunity to perform onstage. Cost Of Living shows that the footlights are meant to shine on both of them, and will hopefully encourage more performers who, for whatever reason, think full-length shows are “not for them” to re-think that notion.

Director Paul Kaufmann delivers his traditional textured and subtly reinforced thematic consistency and “world-creating” to the production, with a solid eye for casting. The script involves two pairs of people, each pair in a unique relationship, with sufficient parallels to the companion story to allow them to come together at the end without seeming forced. There’s no deus ex machina involved, although one is gently teased before being revealed as a false hope

The two stories are straightforward and relatively simple in terms of plot, and are told through alternating scenes with only one or two jumps in time. We first meet Eddie (Eric Bultman), sitting alone in a bar. The first scene is an extended monologue, casting the audience member in the role of the sympathetic listener. In a riveting spotlight moment, Bultman immediately spellbinds the room with a tale of tragedy and hope. His sincerity never falters, whether he’s on the verge of tears or cracking up at one of his many one-liners, including “the shit that happens is not to be understood…that’s in the Bible.” This Biblical reference is explained through the mention of the many lonely nights Eddie has spent on the road as a long-distance truck driver. “Motels give you certain feelings,” Eddie muses, “and that’s why they’re all full of Bibles.” Though he’s often been tempted, Eddie has remained (mostly) faithful to his wife, who we now assume to be deceased. After a slightly cryptic discussion of said wife, Eddie reveals that he no longer consumes alcohol, having overcome a drinking problem, yet offers to buy his unseen companion a drink every time he “gets gloomy.” These moments of abrupt transition between contemplative malaise and forced jocularity give Bultman the chance to display his acting skills as well as an impressive storyteller’s ability to mesmerize the listener. Rich and full of character, his speaking voice does the heavy lifting in the opener, setting a tone that sustains through his work opposite his scene partners. (To avoid bouncing between the two plotlines, I’ll tell the stories in linear fashion.)

Following a mention of how his wife used to text him little notes every day, Eddie reveals that he has been recently receiving new daily texts, which obviously leaves him a bit confused. These mystery messages have drawn him to the bar, where he is awaiting his new correspondent, who fails to show. In a moment both hilarious and heartbreaking, Eddie asks the audience if “a ghost ever stood you up?”

In what we assume to be a flashback sequence, Eddie gets his wife, Ani, settled into an accessible apartment, and we find that their relationship is on the skids. Having shattered her spine in a car crash, Ani is full of rage and resentment toward Eddie, with substantial justification. (As always, I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum.) LaLima’s Ani may be unable to move most of her body, but she has lost none of what we can assume to have been a long-established spitfire personality full of wit and no-nonsense realism. As with Bultman’s bar scene, LaLima’s reaction to the new normal of her life takes her from depression to hilarity to arch sarcasm, always with a metaphorical (and occasionally literal) arched eyebrow. Eddie wishes to comfort her, subsequently offering to act as her caretaker. Though estranged, they are still technically married for insurance purposes, and Eddie reasons that he is the obvious person for the job. She finally consents, and the unspoken between them shouts volumes, allowing plot points to reveal themselves in their own good time. LaLima is both wounded and defiant, subtly driving home the fact that people with disabilities are far from helpless. In one of the show’s most touching scenes, she shares a cigarette with Eddie while he helps her take a bath. The very basics of human touch and the emotions it can evoke are beautifully illustrated with minimal dialogue. Any given moment of the production could have left a few audience members in tears, but this particular one, I suspect, had the entire space softly crying as a single unit. Not to be overly flowery, but in that few minutes, we in the seats experienced a collective emotional response. Joy, grief, and hope are component parts, but I’m not sure there is a single word to define the specific feeling we shared. Kudos to LaLima and Bultman for a story well-told, and for a scene of absolute magic.

In the other story, wealthy and cynical John is introduced as he interviews his potential new caretaker, Jess (Ellen Rodillo-Fowler.) Erudite and sophisticated, John is puzzled as to why a tough-talking, streetwise bartender with a degree from Princeton wants such a physically demanding and time-consuming job. Jess is visibly nervous, and Rodillo-Fowler adds several layers of discomfort which deftly inform the audience that she is a woman with secrets to keep and a desperate need for extra income. John is sardonic and somewhat suspicious, but eventually agrees to give Jess a chance. In a scene involving John’s first bath from Jess, Westeren and Rodillo-Fowler offer an alternate set of circumstances to the Eddie/Ani bathtub scene, playing Jess’ uncertainty with the situation and John’s dry responses for some well-timed comic relief. Each scene establishes a new intimacy between caregiver and caretaker, and begin to inspire introspection as to which character is in the power position at any given point. Rodillo-Fowler is well-known to Trustus audiences as a versatile and talented performer, and first-timer Westeren has no apparent difficulty in matching her dramatic and comedic capacities. Clearly at ease onstage and gifted with a stinging sense of delivery reminiscent of Hugh Laurie’s House, I hope and expect to see much more of Westeren in upcoming seasons at Trustus and elsewhere.

By the story’s end, each pair has suffered ups and downs, moments of closeness, a scene of great danger, and one so full of simultaneous sadness and happy anticipation it drew audible gasps at Saturday night’s performance. (Not going to spoil the surprise, but in a superb second-act twist, a misunderstanding leads to one hell of a reveal.)

Brandon McIver’s scenic design and projections are understated and functional, allowing for smooth transitions and more than one multi-use section of playing space. We know exactly where we are at all times, but the design never gets in the way of the story. Frank Kiraly’s lighting design works quite well alongside the set, sometimes using what appears to be but a single instrument to create a locale. One moment that particularly stands out is Rodillo-Fowler’s anxiety-filled phone call to her mother, who lives in the Philippines. (A special nod to Rodillo-Fowler’s ability to convey every emotion and meaning in Jess’ monologue, spoken entirely in Tagalog.) Kiraly has given her the simplest of top-lit streetlight motifs, and the effect is a keen visual representation of the isolation Jess feels. Sound Designer Patrick Michael Kelly embraces the subtlety of running/dripping water as a connecting concept, and allows it to reinforce the overall piece without ever intruding on the point of focus.

Cost Of Living continues its run Thursday through Saturday, with two performances on Saturday, and the show is selling out quickly. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this timely, contemplative, laugh riot/heartbreaker of an evening in the Trustus Side Door Theatre.


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

 

 

Indie Grits Labs Offers Experienced Artists and Novices Alike a Chance to Explore a New Creative Medium

This Sunday, Indie Grits Labs (IGL) is offering a two-day workshop on creating your own zines, accurately called DIY Zine-Making.

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by Christina Xan

 

I was able to chat with Savannah Taylor, the Project Manager and Designer at Indie Grits Labs, who took the time to give me all the great details on the upcoming workshop. In addition to organizing this event, Taylor does the graphic design for the IGL festival & the Nick Mag, manages the social media, and makes sure things are running smoothly!

 

For those who don’t know, Indie Grits Labs is a non-profit organization directed by Seth Gadsen, that is dedicated to serving the Columbia community through media education, year around artist projects, and the Indie Grits festival. IGL is a part of the Columbia Film Society and a part of the same organization as the Nickelodeon Theatre.

 

“IGL’s main focus,” as Taylor said, “is on our education programs, festival happenings, and art projects year-round at our house at 1013 Duke Avenue.” Part of this focus is creating workshops, just like this one, that anyone and everyone can attend.

 

IGL facilitated a zine workshop last fall that was so successful, it prompted them to do it again this month. This year’s DIY Zine-Making is a two-day workshop that will take place on back to back Sundays: Sunday, February 3 and Sunday, February 10. Both workshops will be located at 1013 Duke Avenue from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

 

Taylor says that she and her partner, Irving Juarez, who is a local artist and designer, have been planning these events together for over a year. Juarez is an artist who works at Bluetile Skateshop in 5 Points and was a part of the Indie Grits Visiones Project back in 2017.

 

“[Juarez] created a zine documenting his childhood as an immigrant,” Taylor states, “I think that was the precedent for both of us realizing the power of print to share our personal stories and to bring communities together.”

 

Taylor says that she and Juarez pride themselves as a print and zine duo who both love print, design, and spreading the message that art is for everyone and should be accessible to all.

 

For Taylor, the goal of this workshop specifically is “to do more and engage with people of all ages to do something creative and [with] local artists who may want to stretch their creative muscles with new modes of art and storytelling.” 

 

What will the workshop entail, you may be wondering? According to Taylor, over the course of the two-day workshop, they are going to do several small exercises that can be an entry point for anyone interested in making a zine for the first time.

 

“Day 1 we are going to collaborate on a zine as a class to learn about zine production and how to print out your very own zine, analog style, using a photocopier and scanner,” Taylor continues, “We will also learn about the 8-page fold zine, and by the end of the class you will walk away with your very own!”

 

According to Taylor, it is really important to have events like this in Columbia because it’s necessary to engage with the local community and support the arts and education. “The arts should not be seen as exclusive or elitist,” Taylor elaborates, “and should be open to all who wish to learn!”

 

By registering, in addition to getting your very own zine, you can learn something new and support IGL in continuing their education program and in supporting the very artists that are facilitating these workshops and making them a reality.

 

This workshop isn’t the end to Taylor and IGL’s plans, though. “We are also hoping in the future to do some zine showcases to further support the arts community, and we might be planning a zine fair to happen during Indie Grits 2019 this March.”

 

Overall, this experience is a unique one that is close to Taylor, Juarez, and the others at IGL’s hearts. “I hope that participants are proud of their final zine creation and walk away feeling that they have the knowledge and tools to keep creating zines after the workshop is over,” Taylor concludes.

 

Tickets are only $35 for Nickelodeon Theatre members and $50 for General Admission. Tickets are available on IGL’s website, or in person at the Nickelodeon Theatre box office (1607 Main Street). This registration price includes 10 free prints of the zine you make, so you can share with your family and friends! 

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

REVIEW: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -- Trustus' New Production Proves That What Makes Us Different Only Makes Us Stronger by Christina Xan

“Chandler’s portrayal of Christopher is remarkable, his embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks.”

Last Friday night, Trustus Theatre opened The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, their interpretation of the 2015 Tony Award winning Broadway play.

 

The original play itself is an interpretation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 book, making this performance, essentially, an interpretation of an interpretation – and a good one at that.

 

For those who don’t know, the play surrounds a 15-year-old boy named Christopher, who although not directly stated, is implied to have Asperger’s, a syndrome that previously fell on the autism spectrum and now is under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The play opens on Christopher cradling the body of his neighbor, Mrs. Shears’, murdered dog. While Mrs. Shears blames Christopher for the death of her dog and calls the police on him, Christopher asserts that he did not kill the dog and that he is telling the truth because he “cannot tell a lie.”

 

Once being released from police custody, Christopher makes it his mission to find the dog, Wellington’s, true killer, despite strict orders from his father not to. The majority of the play, then, follows the path Christopher travels to discover who killed Wellington and the fallout from what else he discovers along the way (all while trying to ace maths on the way to being an astronaut! Phew!). Any mention of the play’s further details might spoil it for those who have not seen it, so I will end my little summary here, but know that this is a play full of important ideas like understanding what family really means, why people make the decisions they do, and how we become the people we are today.

 

The play is told in two acts and is told in mostly present time with some flashbacks. However, the play is technically told through stories Christopher is writing about the experiences we are seeing. His teacher, Siobhan (played by the wonderful Libby Hawkins), has encouraged Christopher to write his experience in a book and to even turn it into a play. The play we see, thus, is not only what is happening to Christopher as he and Siobhan read from his book, but in the end, is the play itself, even breaking the 4th wall at times. All these transitions are done fairly smoothly, but one wants to make sure to pay close attention to not miss important details! 

 

I, myself, have never seen the original Broadway play. Though I knew the plot generally beforehand, I knew nothing about the set up or staging of the original play and thus cannot speak to how faithfully this was interpreted. However, I genuinely enjoyed the staging of this play and felt as if all creative decisions made by the director, Chad Henderson, and the cast brought the story to life in such a way that I couldn’t imagine it any differently. (Full disclosure - Chad Henderson is the son-in-law of the executive director of the Jasper Project.)

 

The set design and costuming were minimal, which fit the tone of the play. The lighting, which paralleled the design in its simplicity yet also was complex enough to fit the rapidly changing emotions presented in every scene, was done by the fabulous Baxter Engle, who came back from NYC just to do this design. The show itself follows a plot with twists and turns and a plethora of emotions, so the clean set literally and figuratively set the stage for these emotions to be felt without becoming muddled with distractions.

 

The stage, which appeared completely flat, was actually comprised in areas of many “boxes” that could be pulled out of the stage at ease and slipped back in just as quickly. These boxes, though always appearing the same, easily became briefcases, suitcases, chairs, rooms, trains and more with just a switch of the imagination. The fluency with which the characters switched scenes and the poise with which they held themselves filled in any missing spots.

 

A screen behind the characters acted as a literal window into Christopher’s mind and would show us answers to mathematical problems, letters he read, and more, both giving us insight into the plot of the play and into the mind of an autistic individual. Additionally, characters dressed in black, who acted as voices in some scenes, also acted as elements of Christopher’s mind, being choreographed to move around him and appear, say, threatening or even to become stage props themselves, picking up and propelling Christopher into “space” in one scene.

 

While the staging was innovative and the production sound, genuinely, the acting is the highlight of this play. Every character fills their role stunningly well. I wish I could speak to the passion and truth of every player in this wonderful team. Scott Pattison perfectly embodies the caring but lost dad whose few bad decisions snowball out of control. Raia Jane Hirsch’s flashback scenes in the first act make us feel the tension of having to decide between the elusive freedom the world offers and the simultaneously bright but restrictive path of motherhood. (Full disclosure - Hirsch is a member of the board of directors for the Jasper Project.)

 

However, the star of the show truly is Beck-Ryan Chandler. Chandler, who plays Christopher, is the first autistic person to perform the role in the entire Southeast, and he delivers a truly remarkable performance. His embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident throughout, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks. As you sit in the audience, you feel scared when Christopher feels scared, confused when he is confused, and happy when he is happy.

 

It fills me with pride to see Trustus has taken the strides to find an autistic actor to fill an autistic role. Too often in our society, whether on a small stage or the big screen, roles are given to actors based on ease of finding them or based on money and rarely on the representation they call for. We live in a society where roles are whitewashed, where cisgender individuals take roles of the LGBTQ+ community and where talented actors and actresses like Christopher are overlooked for people who have no idea what having autism is like. This coupled with the fact that mental illness and syndromes like autism are terribly stigmatized and awfully misunderstood, makes this exploration of a teenager with autism navigating his everyday life so, so important. I am so thrilled to say this has happened in our city and should be seen for this if nothing else.

 

In the end, this show will put you on a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, fumed, gasped, and cried – definitely cried. The people in this show are doing such important work in our community and in our world, and fortunately, it’s also just a damn good show – clever, interesting, well-done, and endlessly important.

 

Christopher asks us in the last line of the play, “Does that mean I can do anything?” to which there is no response. This lack of a response, this empty space is for us to decide, yes, that not only can he do anything, but this is the possibility for all of us. We are all capable of facing our fears and using our unique strengths to launch ourselves (pet rat included or not) into the stars.

 

Catch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time until February 9th at Trustus Theatre: https://trustus.org/event/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time/

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

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And the Winners Are ...

Life beats down and crushes the soul

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

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

Congratulations, once again, to all our finalists:

Music - Marina AlexandrA~ Marcum Core ~ Zach Seibert

Theater - Michael Hazin ~ Christine Hellman ~ Darion McCloud

Visual Arts - Trahern Cook ~ Flavia Lovatelli ~ Andy White

Literary Arts - Libby Bernadine ~ Tim Conroy ~ Monifa Lemons

And the winners are …

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Music - Marcum Core

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

Jasper Artist of the Year 2018 in Theatre - Darion McCloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Frank Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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