Darling Dilettante—Discussing the Art of Fear By Haley Sprankle

dreamgirls2 “Do you ever get nervous up there?”

The age-old question for performers—the question of fear.

In just about every production I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, whether I’m the lead or the third white girl from the left, I’m asked this question by a person outside of the performance realm. They ensure me that they don’t understand how actors memorize each element of the show from lines to choreography to even just remembering to smile every now and then. I normally reply with “I used to when I first started, but now it just seems like second nature.”

Most recently, that question of fear prompted me to question myself and the things others around me do, though, and how we do them.

Every day, a banker goes to work. Every day a stay-at-home parent wakes up and takes care of their family. Every day a waiter or a writer or a bus driver or even the President of the United States gets up and fulfills their necessary requirements for the day. These could be things they’ve always done. These could be things they’ve just started doing. These could be things they love, or they could be things they don’t like.


But they get up and they do them, and like most people feel about performing, I couldn’t even imagine doing these things.

With most things people do for the first time, there was probably an initial fear or nervousness.

What if they don’t like my work? What if I mess up? What if?

We can sit back and ask ourselves “What if?” all day long, but we will never know what WILL happen if we don’t try. Sometimes, it will be a little messy. Sometimes, it will be hard. Sometimes, you will do all right. Sometimes, you will do it all wrong.

One thing, however, is common among all these instances—you learn something new about yourself.

I recently came across a Japanese term: Wabi-Sabi. It translates to “A way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting, peacefully, the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

In every new or old thing you do, there are endless possibilities, but in the end, the best opportunity you have is to take each outcome and turn it into something beautiful.

So why let fear hold you back from trying something new?


Last Friday, Dreamgirls opened at Trustus Theatre and will run through August 1st. The cast includes veterans to the stage and newcomers alike, all representing a long process of hard work, fun, and love that we have put into this show. For some of us, each night may just be another performance, but for others, one or more performances may be among the most nerve-wracking things they’ve ever done. At the end of each night, though, all we can do is do what we do best—put on a show. Things may not go exactly as planned, but that’s live theatre.

In live theatre, we support each other. In live theatre, we help each other. In live theatre, we build each other up.

In live theatre, we find the beauty within our fear and imperfections, and we turn it into art.

I won’t be afraid or nervous. I will be excited and proud.


(Dreamgirls runs June 26-August 1. Go to trustus.org for tickets!)

Photos by Richard Kiraly

Double Review: Br'er Rabbit - Columbia Children's Theatre and NiA Theatre

BrerRabbit Thumb Theatre review by Melissa Swick Ellington

A NiA production in collaboration with Columbia Children’s Theatre is a sure sign of clever family entertainment, and the current offering of Br’er Rabbit will delight audiences of all ages. Written by Darion McCloud, H. Loretta Brown, and Heather McCue, this version of the trickster’s tale celebrates music and rhythm, vibrant characters, audience interplay, and cunning creativity. Recognizing the complex legacy of Br’er Rabbit in his director’s notes, McCloud envisions an approach to the folk character that “really does belong to all of us.” With this production, NiA and CCT present an interpretation of the tale which delivers “that upshot of joy.” (Further observations on the history surrounding the “Br’er” tradition are explored in the accompanying interview by young Kat Bjorn.)

A master storyteller himself, the magnetic performer McCloud is perfectly cast in the storytelling role of Anansi the spider. McCloud’s interaction with the young audience members seems natural and genuine. Even his dynamic facial expressions foster an atmosphere of encouraging warmth. As the crafty and appealing Br’er Rabbit, Bonita Peeples plays the resourceful trickster with quick-witted glee. Peeples draws in the audience with admirable skill, made evident by children’s eagerness to cover for Br’er Rabbit when the other animals realize they have been fooled by the rascal. At the performance attended by this reviewer, kids insisted “She’s nowhere!” and “Run for your life!” in their efforts to help the beloved main character. (An added treat: audiences even get to appreciate her glorious singing voice!)

The entire ensemble delivers first rate performances which include McCue as the brainy and sassy Br’er Tiger, Charlie Goodrich as Br’er Bear, Michael Clark as Br’er Lion, and Jimmy Wall as Mr. Man and Tar Baby.  Supported by percussionist Don Laurin Johnson, this talented group weaves a captivating web of magical sounds and sights. Moments of aural symphony encourage audience members to clap along, and in the case of my preschooler, offer an enthusiastic “Yeah!” At certain performances, alternate actors appear in the roles of Br’er Lion (Clark Wallace), Br’er Bear (Brown), and Mr. Man/Tar Baby (Julian Deleon and Goodrich).

An innovative approach to physical theatricality pervades the production. From the beguiling staging of the opening spider sequence to the finely tuned collaboration of Peeples and McCue in the big chase through the rousing group dance in the final scene, these performers embody characters and story with boldness and flair. Adults will particularly enjoy the pop culture references (check out that Scarecrow!) and wordplay such as the “arugula” jokes, while the kids relish the opportunity to offer ideas on sticky substances for the Tar Baby (peanut butter and jelly, gum, melted candy, and marshmallows were popular choices).

McCloud provides creative vision as director, costumer, and sound designer, and Wall conjures effective visuals as makeup designer. Costumes evoke animal identity while also inviting children to imagine. McCue (company manager), Crystal Aldamuy (stage manager), and Jim Litzinger (sound and light technician) contribute to a cohesive production team.

As one youngster declared early in the performance, “I knew it was going to be funny!” Columbia families have come to anticipate high quality theatre at CCT, and the collaboration with NiA to produce Br’er Rabbit is an enjoyable success. Treat yourself to the rollicking good time of Br’er Rabbit, and you will likely agree with my preschool son’s post-show exultation: “That was FUN!”

(l-r): Heather McCue (Br’er Tiger), Jimmy Wall (Tar Baby), Darion McCloud (director, Anansi), Thespian Formerly Known as Scarecrow, Charlie Goodrich (Br’er Bear), Michael Clark (Br’er Lion)


Rising Second Grader Interviews Cast of Columbia Children’s Theatre Br’er Rabbit by Kat Bjorn (with some help from her Papa, Arik)


Kat’s Papa:  Hey folks, technically this part isn’t a review of Columbia Children’s Theatre’s current production, Br’er Rabbit, but seriously, you have to see this show—even adults without kids.  You see, there’s a Scarecrow Formerly Known as Prince; Br’er Lions & Tigers & Bears, oh my!; plus more Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da than you can shake a briar patch at.  Also—

Kat Bjorn:  Papa, shhh!!  I’m starting the interview now.

Papa:  Okay, time to go be scribe.  Seriously, see this show!


Kat Bjorn:  What does “Br’er” mean?

Darion McCloud (Anansi the Storyteller):  That’s a good question.  It means “brother,” but it can be used for boys and girls—all humanity, really.

Heather McCue (Br’er Tiger):  Lady tigers thank you!


Kat Bjorn:  (pointing at Br’er Lion) Are you a lady?

Michael Clark (Br’er Lion):  Are you referring to my fabulous wig—I mean mane?


Kat Bjorn:  Take off your mane.

Br’er Lion:  Don’t mind if I do; it’s getting hot in here.


Jerry Stevenson, CCT Artistic Director:  He’s not even a natural blonde.

Kat Bjorn:  If “Br’er” means “brother,” and they’re brothers, how come Br’er Lion, Br’er Tiger and Br’er Bear are always trying to kill Br’er Rabbit?

Br’er Tiger:  Do you have any brothers and sisters?  I have a sister, and we fight like cats and dogs.


Anansi the Storyteller:  Also, let’s face it, they’re predators.  And rabbits taste good.

Kat Bjorn:  The characters, right?  People don’t really eat people.


Anansi the Storyteller:  Correct.  NiA Company does not endorse cannibalism.

Jim Litzinger, CCT Managing Director:  Nor does Columbia Children’s Theatre!


Kat Bjorn:  Next question.  My Papa says the Br’er Rabbit tales were sometimes codes for African-Americans a long time ago.  What does this mean, and what’s a code?


Anansi the Storyteller:  A code is when people say one thing but mean something else.  And your Papa is right.  During slavery, black people were treated really badly.  They used these stories to feel better.  Br’er Rabbit was code for black people; Br’er Fox and the other Br’er predators were the slaveholders.


Br’er Tiger:  It had a lot to do with power

Anansi the Storyteller:  Right.  They had to speak in code or risk getting punished.


Kat Bjorn:  Why does Br’er Rabbit carry a knapsack in the show poster but not in the play?

Anansi the Storyteller:  Um, director’s choice, I guess.

Papa whispers to Kat.

Kat Bjorn:  Did it have anything to do with budget?

Jerry Stevenson, CCT Artistic Director:  Knapsacks definitely would have broken the bank.


Kat Bjorn:  I’m pretty good at crafts.  I could make a knapsack pretty cheap.

Anansi the Storyteller:  We’ll have to hire you next time as a financial consultant.


Kat Bjorn:  Excuse me, Mr. Scarecrow, can you tell us about “Purple Rain”?

Anansi the Storyteller:  Actually, that’s the Actor Formerly Known as Scarecrow.  The scarecrow’s real name is Button-Bright.  It’s named after a character in L. Frank Baum’s Sky Island.  The Prince mask is another story altogether.


Kat Bjorn:  In the book we’re reading at home, Uncle Remus is the storyteller.  But in this play, it’s Anansi the Spider.  Why?

Anansi the Storyteller:  Actually, many of the Br’er Rabbit stories were originally African folktales.  And in Africa, Anansi the Spider narrates the tales.


Br’er Lion:  Well, I never got there, did I—thanks to Br’er Rabbit!  So we’ll never know!

Kat Bjorn:  How do you prepare to act like an animal character?


Bonita Peeples (Br’er Rabbit):  I use my imagination!  I try to think childlike.  And rehearsal is a great place for me to practice my imagination!

Kat Bjorn:  What was your favorite part of the show?


Jimmy Wall (Tar Baby):  When they’re planning to cook Br’er Rabbit.

Br’er Rabbit:  When Br’er Rabbit interrupts Sister Moon in the shower.

Br’er Lion:  The Tar Baby story.


Kat Bjorn:  Final question:  How come Br’er Rabbit always outsmarts Br’ers Lion, Tiger & Bear, but isn’t smart enough to realize Tar Baby isn’t really alive?

Br’er Rabbit:  You can’t be smart about everything—but I did get myself out of that jam, didn’t I?


Bre’er Rabbit runs June 12-21 with performances at the following dates and times:  Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, June 13 at 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m.; Saturday, June 20 at 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sunday, June 21 at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $10 for adult and children 3 and up.  Seniors & Military ticket prices are $8.  Tickets are $5 for the Saturday 7 p.m. performance.  The Columbia Children’s Theatre is located at the Second Level of Richland Mall, 3400 Forest Drive (corner of Beltline and Forest Drive).  Enter the Second Level parking garage walkway and park in Level 2-L for easy access.  Call 691.4548 for more information or to reserve tickets for groups.  To learn more about Columbia Children’s Theatre , visit http://columbiachildrenstheatre.com/ .







Lenzo Peter & Joe,jpeg

The breakthrough for the ceramic sculptures for which Columbia artist Peter Lenzo now is known nationally came in 2000 from his then four-year-old son Joe. Lenzo was making face jugs steeped in Southern tradition when his son asked whether he could stick all kinds of stuff into Lenzo’s ceramic heads. He could and in the process set his father on a course that would result in highly embellished, at times frightening ceramic figures and faces adorned with found and created objects sticking in and out of bodies and faces that are at times unrecognizable as the face jugs from which they originate. The adornments range from ceramic shards to found or purchased porcelains dolls, animals, pipe heads, trains, shoes, roosters or Virgin Mary statues and snakes, leaves, sticks and other things that Lenzo makes himself. For its June exhibition, if ART Gallery will show 22 ceramic sculptures that Lenzo and his son, the now 19-year-old Joe Scotchie-Lenzo, created together in 2000–2002. The exhibition, Peter Lenzo & Joe Scotchie-Lenzo: Origins 2000–2002, will open June 5 and run through June 27. The opening reception is Friday, June 5, 6 – 9 p.m. A gallery talk by Lenzo and Scotchie–Lenzo will be Saturday, June 20, 2:00 p.m. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.

“I made my dad famous,” Scotchie-Lenzo used to say about his dad.

“He started saying that right away,” Lenzo says. In truth, Lenzo already had a considerable reputation with other kinds of work – cabinet-like altarpieces filled with found objects and personal mementos. But in the late-1990s, Lenzo no longer could make such pieces as brain damage from a bicycle accident in his youth had caught up with him, and he increasingly suffered from seizures. Working with a table saw and other power tools to create the altars was an accident waiting to happen. As a result, Lenzo had switched to clay exclusively, making Southern-style face jugs. While Lenzo loved making traditional face jugs, he also worried about abandoning the fine art world from which he came. The new work inspired by his four-year-old bridged the gap. “Working with Joe gave me a direction to go in when I didn’t know where to go. I wouldn’t say Joe made me famous, but he made me sane.” Peter Lenzo (b. 1955) is a widely recognized ceramic sculptor with a national profile. The New York City native, who grew up in Detroit, was selected for the 1995 and 1998 South Carolina Triennial exhibitions at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia; the 2011 exhibition Triennial Revisited and the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial 2011 and 2013, all at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia; and Thresholds, a 2003 exhibition of Southeastern art dealing with religion and spirituality that traveled extensively throughout the Southeast. Lenzo’s work is in several museum collections, including at the South Carolina State Museum, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., and the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. His solo exhibitions include those at the Spartanburg (S.C.) Museum of Art, the European Ceramic Work Center in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, Great American Gallery in Atlanta and Ferrin Contemporary gallery in Massachusetts.

Press Hard - You Are Making Seven Copies by Peter Lenzo & Joe Scotchie-Lenzo

Lenzo and his work have been featured in numerous books, exhibition catalogues and articles about ceramic sculpture and Southern art. They include the Threshold catalogue, 500 Figures In Clay (2005), Robert Hunter’s Ceramics in America (2006) and Poetic Expressions of Mortality: Figurative Ceramics From the Porter–Price Collection (2006). He holds an MFA from Wayne State University in Detroit and used to teach at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Joe Scotchie-Lenzo (b. 1996) has been making and selling ceramic sculptures off and on since he was four years old, although he hasn’t produced any in three years. One co-production with his dad is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. One of his individual works is in the South Carolina State Museum collection. Scotchie-Lenzo is a native and resident of Columbia, where he is a business major with an interest in retail and clothing at the University of South Carolina.

June 5 – 27, 2015

Artist’s Reception: Friday, June 5, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Gallery Talk: Saturday, June 20, 2:00 pm

Gallery Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; & by appointment

For more information, contact Wim Roefs at if ART: (803) 238-2351 – wroefs@sc.rr.com

if ART Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St., Columbia, SC 29201


Review: Annie Get Your Gun at Village Square Theatre by Melissa Ellington

annie get your gun

After the original version’s success in 1946, a Tony Award-winning revival of Annie Get Your Gun (with libretto revised by Peter Stone) opened on Broadway back in 1999, starring Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat. As a graduate student living in New York City at the time, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of a fictionalized depiction of celebrated sharpshooter Annie Oakley’s success in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and her romance with star Frank Butler. Any self-respecting musical theatre kid grows up to be familiar with numbers like “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “I Got the Sun in the Morning.” Yet Annie Get Your Gun offers more than toe-tapping favorites, with a challenging book that provokes questions about treatment of Native Americans and considers the nuances of gender roles in professional and personal relationships.

As produced by Village Square Theatre, Annie Get Your Gun (music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields as revised by Peter Stone, and orchestrations by Larry Moore) succeeds on multiple levels. From the sprightly, inviting opening number to the vibrant finale, Annie Get Your Gun is sure to please longtime fans of the musical along with audience members who are new to the show.

In the pivotal role of Annie Oakley, Candice Pipkin proves a formidable comedienne with a gorgeous voice. Pipkin captivates the audience as she balances homespun hijinks with tender sincerity, a key factor in realizing Annie’s character. She is a performer of great charisma and endearing pluck, just right for the indefatigable Oakley. Pipkin’s enchanting strength as both an actor and a vocalist emerges in dynamic numbers like “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” as well as poignant songs such as her exquisite rendition of “I Got Lost In His Arms.”

With the appealing Chris Kruzner in the role of Frank Butler, Pipkin shares lovely vocals punctuated by comedic mischief in entertaining numbers like “The Girl That I Marry,” “An Old Fashioned Wedding,” and “Anything You Can Do.”

The delightful Melissa Hanna (Winnie Tate) and Brian Andrews (Tommy Keeler) sparkle in a romantic subplot, while Eliza C. Spence delivers saucy and conniving energy as Butler’s assistant Dolly Tate. The engaging ensemble features Robert Bullock as the capable, businesslike Charlie Davenport, Jeff Sigley as a splendidly costumed Buffalo Bill Cody, Drew Tyler (Pawnee Bill), and Dick White (Chief Sitting Bull). Annie’s younger siblings are played with lively sweetness by Miranda Campagna, Emily Grace McIntyre, Peyton Sipe, and Cameron Eubanks, who shine in the lilting charm of “Moonshine Lullaby.”

Talented director Debra E. Leopard collaborates with a valuable production team, including Becky Croft (Executive Producer), Matt Marks (Technical Director), and Stephanie Nelson (Stage Manager). Camille Jones provides expert musical direction, and the band members (Jones, Jim Hall, and Eddie Bird) bring Berlin’s beloved songs to life with flair. Not only do Hanna and Pipkin play lead roles, they also function as choreographers (with Jeff Lander), crafting a variety of crowd-pleasing dance numbers, including “I’ll Share It All With You” and “Who Do You Love, I Hope.”

The large cast is costumed beautifully by Nancy Huffines and Heidi Willard. Clever set designs work effectively to convey numerous locations, from a steam train to a cattle boat to the Hotel Brevoort, with various other stops in between. Ensemble members collaborate on fluid and efficient scene changes, particularly impressive with a show of this scope and size.

Led by the extraordinary star power of Pipkin, the Village Square cast and production team have achieved an enjoyable production of Annie Get Your Gun. (Audience members with younger children will want to be aware that the show includes some mild language and a few suggestively racy moments.) Performances will take place on May 15 and 16 at 7:30 pm and May 16 and 17 at 3:00 pm. For tickets and more information, contact 803-359-1436 or visit www.villagesquaretheatre.com.

Strata - An Exhibition by Katie Baehler, at Vista Studios/Gallery 80808

Jasper - The Word on Columbia Arts  is always happy to plug, brag on, and otherwise promote the work of up-and-coming talents in the art world. We note therefore with great antici......... pation a new show by a new artist, opening later this week at Vista Studios / Gallery 80808 (located in the heart of the Vista, at 808 Lady Street.)  Katie Baehler isn't entirely new; she has lived in Columbia since 2006.  A native of Spearman, Texas, she studied Printmaking and Art History at USC, graduating in 2011.  Her work was featured in the BFA exhibition Devil in the Details at the McMaster student gallery in 2011, the Ink & Paper exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art in 2011, the Union County Arts Council Competition in 2011, and received the 1st place undergraduate award at the USC Student Art Exhibition in 2011.  While at USC Baehler also received the Ed Yaghjian student award in 2010, and was President of the Ink & Paper club.  You may know her from her day job as gallery assistant at if Art Gallery, where she has been a gracious hostess for any number of openings and exhibitions over the last year.  Now she gets a chance to show off her latest series of carved acrylic paintings in her new show, "Strata."   

Carved, you may ask?  Yep - these works are created using 30 or more layers of paint, then carved to show the layers of paint, much like a crosscut of geologic strata.  Baehler’s oil paintings will also be featured; these are created using a more traditional technique, but still display the same types of intricate patterning. As she asks in a press release, "Have you ever wondered how the Aztecs might have designed a circuit board, or what crop circles would look like if aliens had a taste for Art Deco?"   We can't wait to discover the answer!

Strata will be on display Thursday, June 7th through Tuesday, June 12th at Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 (located at 808 Lady Street in the Congaree Vista.) The exhibition will be open to the public weekdays 11-7, Saturday 11-5, and Sunday 11-3.  An opening reception for the artist will be held June 8, 2012, from 5 to 9 PM.

Jasper's Ghost Story Salon at 701 Whaley = Scarily Fun

The Jasper family has been busy of late putting together the finishing touches on your next issue of the magazine, but we took some time to celebrate All Saint's Eve by staging a Ghost Story Salon on Halloween night as part of the 701 Whaley amazing Halloween Costume party staged by Tracie Broom and Debi Shadel of Flock and Rally.  We were fortunate to have some of the most talented story tellers in the community share their gifts of conjuring up a mood with us. Sometimes it was a little hard to hear, but it was always a lot of fun. Have a look below at the tellers of the tales.

Coralee Harris

Creating Columbia: An Artistic Experience -- A Guest Blog from Sumner Bender


I have been involved with theatre in Columbia almost all of my life. It is an outlet, which from an early age, has given me more encouragement and excitement than almost any other activity in which I have engaged. After moving away to another country, I was without my theatre for an entire year. That was enough of that I knew. I decided that I would never live my life without the theatre again. One of the main things that I missed while in that foreign land, where I did not speak the native language, was a community. I had other foreigners, like myself, to joke and talk with and on a certain level connect. There is a bond built when you share an interesting situation like living abroad. But there is no community that I have ever felt more alive and involved then that of the theatre community. Upon my arrival back to the States I dove back into my old passion. I was barely in the country a week when I had signed on to do my next theatrical production, Reasons to be Pretty, at Trustus Theatre. And voila, I was back.

As I became more aware of my surroundings, and the reverse culture shock began to wear off I noticed that something had changed in Columbia. Well something had changed, but so had I. My eyes were opened wider than they had been before my departure and noticed this little city, that I had known all my life, opening up for me. All of a sudden there were artists of all variations wherever I went. I found myself traveling in packs of people I had never met before, but who spoke and looked liked the ones I had always known only slightly different.  Somehow this college town that seemed monotonous and trite and something to complain about had become a flourishing venue for the arts and a breeding ground for new experience. Where had they come from, had they been here all along? I don’t know and I don’t care, all I know is that it is here and it is now and it is all happening.

Working as a legal assistant most of my college career I spent plenty of time on Main Street hustling court documents and vying for stamps and certified signatures. Now I stroll down the street dipping in and out of various buildings hoping to see some inspiring work of art, whether an instillation at Anastasia’s or the ever changing scenes at Tapp’s. The first few times at gallery openings around town I noticed a large audience of my peers, people whom I barely recognized as someone who may or may not hangout at that bar I like to go to. In general there just seemed to be a thriving scene of interesting and interested people feeding off this new cultural frenzy taking place in our small southern city. Everywhere you look people are building and creating. It is vibrant and exhilarating to watch and feel.

Having been a part of the creative class of theatre folk that has been pounding on the door to this city for decades, I couldn’t help but want to combine the two. What separates the arts from one another? The genres of course, the performer, the visual artist, the sculptor, the musician…director etc. at the heart of each of these individuals lies the same bit of truth. Creation. Where there once was nothing now there is something, from a blank page, a blank wall or a blank stage each of these creators adds life to the lifeless. So why is it that we keep them all separate, one thing here another there and very little mixed in between. Arts in this climate, political and economical, are something that have to be continuously fought for, but one of the most important things in a community worth the fight.

To begin we must evolve these communities into one. Separately theatre, film and galleries have thriving followers. The would be regulars at the local bars, the ones we can count on to support us no matter what, but how much can we ask of the ones who already give us so much. We need to share with each other. Open our doors to collaboration between the arts. Introduce each other to the enriching beauty this city has to offer. Make it our mission as creators to build a bridge for our supporters to support each other creating a solid base for this city’s artistic class to not only stand on but rely on as well.

This is the 27th season at Trustus Theatre. We have been pushing the creative envelope since the doors opened in 1985. Yet as I stroll down Main Street I will meet many a people who have never set foot in the doors of the theatre, or any theatre in town for that matter. That has to change. Selfishly of course, I would do anything to keep our doors open because I believe in what we do, but at the same time I think we could offer those people a new experience one that they can keep coming back to and counting on. Just as I say that there are plenty of Trustus regulars who have never set foot in a gallery in this town. It would almost never occur to them to do so. It isn’t there style, it isn’t their interest. But isn’t it, really?

Think about it, we are all after the same thing even if we go about it in completely different ways. We are a family and right now we are estranged. That makes for pretty lonely Thanksgiving dinner. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to bring all the quirkiness together, all the eccentricities supporting one another like one big dysfunctional family? I mean it doesn’t get much more dysfunctional than trying to consistently create in a state that thinks the arts should be thrown out with yesterday’s trash. Well one governor’s trash can be one community’s absolute treasure. But it has to be one that we all share. No finder’s keepers, but finder’s givers. Tell us what is working for you and share your successes with everyone else out there trying to keep this cultural class in Columbia on the rise.

We have started off simply, by asking some of these visual artists to hang their work in our theatre. Help us turn our space where we sometimes hang art into The Gallery @ Trustus. So far we have bemet with overwhelming excitement from those involved. Next we are asking the writers who fill notebooks whilst sitting in small coffee shops to write a poem and enter it in our Spring Awakening Poetry Contest. We want you to enhance our audiences with your words, like our actors enhance them from the stage. Our goal is to make Trustus an artistic experience, but it takes you to make that possible. Enter your poetry, hang your art, come see our shows. Tell your friends. In return you can expect them same from us. We will go to your shows and look at, maybe even buy your art. We will listen to you sing and watch you mesmerize us with your dance. But all in all we have to do this together, let’s make Columbia an Artistic Experience.


The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest

 Trustus Theatre, in conjunction with this December’s production of the Tony award-winning Broadway hit musical Spring Awakening and Jasper Magazine, announces The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest. Share your own experiences, your own version of the coming of age experience through poetry. The winning poems will be published and winners will receive tickets to Trustus Theatre’s production of this award-winning play.

Winner of 8 Tony awards, including Best Musical, Spring Awakening celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with power, poignancy, and passion. Although our own experiences are individual, the coming of age theme resonates with all of us.  Whether it was tragic or transformative, the loss of innocence of the power of self-discovery, we all experience coming of age as a kind of awakening.  What did you learn (or not learn), and what can we learn from you?  What does it mean to you to come of age, to awaken, to discover who you are, to become an adult?

The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest will have 3 winners, one each in Adult and High School categories, and a third winner to be chosen as a Fan Favorite on Facebook.  The top 10 finalists will be posted on the Trustus Facebook page and the Fan Favorite selected through Facebook feedback.

Each winner will receive 2 tickets to Spring Awakening at Trustus and will have their poems published in the shows program AS WELL AS being published in the January edition of Jasper Magazine. Besides Fan Favorite the winners will be chosen by Ed Madden, literary editor for Jasper.

Effective IMMEDIATELY the entries are to be submitted online to thegallerytrustus@gmail.com as a Word document ATTACHMENT with the subject POETRY CONTEST. The deadline for entries is November 18 at 5 p.m. On Monday November 21 the Top 10 submissions will be posted on the Trustus Facebook page where voting will open for Fan Favorite. Voting will end at midnight on November 26. The winners will be announced online on Wednesday November 30.

Submission Guidelines: Work can be any form or style of poetry, but the poem should focus on the Spring Awakening coming of age theme.  Poems should not have been previously published in print or online, including personal blogs and internet web pages.  Only one entry per person. If you are entering the High School portion please tell us what school you attend!



Check Out Handcrafted Aliens And More This Week At Southern Pottery

A few years ago at a ceramics show at Vista Studios Gallery 80808, I fell in love with a colorful little bowl with a wonderfully retro-looking woman’s face on a blue background with a cartoon word bubble that said “Enjoy” and spoons floating around the perimeter. The purple rim had the words “EAT IT UP YUM” carved into the clay. Inside, I was greeted with another lush burst of green glaze. The whole work had this whimsical, imperfect feel to it, almost as if molded by a child, but this clearly was not a child’s work. It was the work of Georgia artist Vanessa Grubbs, the MFA-toting-accomplished-in-her-own-right daughter of celebrated Columbia artists Steve and Mana Hewitt.

I loved that bowl. I bought that bowl. And every time I look at that bowl (pictured), it makes me happy.

I can only imagine how it must feel to thrust one’s hands into cool damp slab of clay and shape it into something worthy of the kiln. I am so intrigued and amazed by the works of the clay artists we have right here in the Midlands, notably Anastasia Chernoff, Jeff Donovan, Sonia Neale, Paul Moore, Rita Ruth Cockrell, Mike Van Houten, Betsy Kaemmerlen, Diane Gilbert, and so many others.

So on a recent visit to Southern Pottery on Devine Street, I picked up a post card announcing the celebration of American Craft Week, which runs October 6-16. I know there are many choices for arts lovers this week. However, if you – like me – love pottery and the clay arts, you must make it out to Southern Pottery some time between today and Saturday, Oct. 16.

Tonight, Oct. 6, the Southern Pottery is hosting a reception from 6-9 p.m. for Cardinal Newman presents “Southern Icons,” hand-built clay works depicting social, religious, and cultural traditions through the eyes of teenagers. I know, it's First Thursday on Main, and there are shows at 80808 and City Art, too. But if you're a time-management wiz, you might be able to hit all of them.

And Friday, Oct. 7, the Southern Pottery will host another reception from 6-9 p.m. to celebrate “We Are Here,” clay and fiber works by Leanne Pizio and Paige Cox depicting aliens, UFOs, and quirky extraterrestrial visitors. Also on Friday, visitors to Southern Pottery are invited to participate in the “Made in China” mug swap. Those who donate their intact Chinese-made mugs (limit 4) will receive 20 percent off an American handcrafted mug.

The following week, on Friday, Oct. 14, Southern Pottery will feature artist demonstrations by Tuula Ihamaki-Widdifield and Susan Tondreau-Dwyer from 6-8 p.m. And on Saturday, Oct. 15, you can enjoy more demonstrations by Diane Gilbert and Paul Moore from 12-2 p.m.

Who knew? I urge you to check out some of this awesome clay-oriented action over the next 10 days. For details, visit www.southern-pottery.com or call the gallery at 803-251-3001. And tell them that Jasper sent you.

-- Kristine Hartvigsen

(Kristine Hartvigsen is an associate editor for Jasper Magazine. Read more of Kristine's work at www.jaspercolumbia.com)

New Local Music: The Unawares – When The Trees Are Empty

Okay, okay—it’s not really “new” (the record came out in February), but we here at Jasper just got rolling, so you’ll have to forgive us for reaching back a bit. The Unawares are a three-piece rock band fronted by guitarist/singer John Watkins and backed by bassist James Wallace and drummer Rhett Berger. And these guys have a very particular, and awesome, notion of what rock and roll should be.

Actually, you know that band Jack Black supposedly joins in High Fidelity? The Unawares are what that band would have sounded like in real life. These guys synthesize a whole host of elitist-record-clerk favorites from the 1980s, most notably groups like the Pixies, Guided by Voices, and the Meat Puppets. And, hey, there’s really nothing wrong with that. In fact, it sounds pretty great—delightfully odd rock tunes full of crunchy guitars, indecipherable-yet-catchy vocals, and an emphasis on keeping it short but sweet (3 out of 15 songs break the 3:00 mark) can really pay some strong dividends. The group has released two full-lengths and an EP prior to this, but it seems like When The Trees are Empty has finally captured the “big” rock potential of this garage punk three-piece, kind of like the way New Day Rising did for Husker Du. The band has always had succinct little rock fancies that hit you over the head and disappear shortly thereafter, but this time you kind of get the feeling that these tunes would work just as well in the outdoor theater or hip concert hall as  in the sweaty barroom clubs and dives that this kind of music is normally found it. Kudos to Chris Wenner, who records the band’s records and provides the magical glue that re-creates their live sound on tape.

Anyway, aside from all my musings, Columbia really should (and often does) count itself lucky to have a rock and roll band of the style and caliber as The Unawares. Check out the band’s website here: http://theunawares.com/index.


-- Kyle Petersen

(Kyle Petersen is the music editor for Jasper Magazine. Read his most recent article on Josh Roberts and the Hinges in Jasper Magazine Volume 1, Number 1 at www.jaspercolumbia.com.)

New (formerly) Local Music: Hannah Miller - O Black River


Although singer/songwriter Hannah Miller began her music career in Columbia, she recently left the Capitol City in the hopes of breaking it big in Nashville. Still, we here at Jasper tend to hang on to our ex-pats, cheering on their careers and welcoming their new output and hometown returns. We hated missing her record release party last Friday (a surfeit of wonderful arts options that night!), especially because her new record is absolutely amazing.

Recorded with the help of top-notch producer Neilson Hubbard, who has worked with the likes of such accomplished singer/songwriters as Matthew Ryan and Garrison Starr, O Black River’s 6 songs are easily the finest of Miller’s recorded output. While she has had great production work in the past on 2008’s Into the Black (Mitch Dane) and last year’s Journey to the Moon EP (Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks), this time the sound fits the songs like a glove. From the muted trumpet playing on “To the Swift” to the foreboding drums and ominous guitar riffs on “Bleed Out,” Hubbard matches each tune with a full-but-not-overbearing accompaniment that shows a care and attentiveness fitting the song rather than just coloring in the white space—which is one of the hardest things to avoid when trying to flesh out solo performer-oriented folk-pop tunes.

Hannah Miller O Black River

Even more fortunately, Miller has evolved into a first-rate songwriter, and every song here deserves attention. Beginning with the gospel-inflected title track, Miller also shows off her mastery of the slinky pop in “To the Swift” and “Elijah,” introspective balladry on “Elijah” and “Refuge,” and gets damn near indie rock on the throbbing “Bleed Out.” She’s always had a penchant of unorthodox genre mixing, but it has never come across so effortlessly natural until now.

So, while Miller sounds quite happy in the Music City, we can only hope that she remembers where she came from and that she comes back often—and we encourage you to support an artist who has been so thoroughly dedicated to her craft that we might soon be talking about her in national rather than local terms.

You can find more information about Hannah Miller’s music @ hannahmillermusic.com.

- K. Petersen

(Kyle Petersen is the Music Editor for Jasper Magazine -- contact him at kpetersen@jaspercolumbia.com)


J. Spencer Shull at First Thursday


There are many fine parts to the puzzle that makes First Thursday on Main Street the delightful experience that it is. Here's a look at just one of the happenings being presented on Thursday, October 6th at S & S Arts Supplies on Main Street.

This October's First Thursday on Main event is sure to be filled with thrills, chills, and cute n' creepy creatures! This amazingly talented local artist has a HUGE show in store for you! In addition to the crazy fun artwork inside, there will be many more surprises as well! You can dance the night away on Main street to the musical stylings of DJ Dr. Scott Padget, or play dress up and get your photo taken with Red Road Portraits photo-booth!

J. Spencer Shull is a self taught artist born and raised in South Carolina. His style incorporates aspects of cartoon illustration, pop surrealism, and lowbrow art. Along with his wife Kelly Shull, J. Spencer runs Jellykoe, an art collective. The husband and wife duo specialize in making one of a kind plush monsters as well as original 2-D artwork. Together, they have exhibited their work at art shows, festivals, and conventions in over eleven states. You can view more of their work at: jellykoe.com.

(Thanks to Amanda Ladymon for the above post.)


Coalescence Reminder -- Photography and the Word

Photographs, like the one below by Kirill Simin, are coming in and the deadline in approaching -- send us your shots, Photogs!

The first event in the series, Coalescence: Volume 1 – Photography and the Word, will turn the process of illustration on its head as the Columbia area’s excellent local writers are invited to respond in short prose form (500 words or less) to photos submitted by our best local photographers. The result?  A journey into the imagination of the literary artist as it is stimulated by that of the visual artist in photographic form.

Here’s how to get involved.

Photographers – please select your most evocative, narrative-rich photographic images for submission. While portraits are not prohibited, they may be less likely to induce imaginative response, and therefore, not chosen for this project. We encourage you to choose photographic submissions that depict action or interaction; pictures that show distance, proximity, mannerisms, emotions, relationships, or response. Look for potential clues to the action in your images. Can you can find one or more stories in the image you submit?

A few more things to consider:

If your submission depicts an individual, have your model sign a standard model release form (available at jaspercolumbia.com).

Submit only high-resolution photography to editor@jaspercolumbia.com.

The deadline for photography is October 15, 2011.

Writers – stay tuned to jaspercolumbia.com and the announcement of the winning photographic images selected for your compositional pleasure, and follow the directions you find there.

Photography and the Word will coalesce in December 2011. More details to come at jaspercolumbia.com.Remind

Woodworks at McMaster Gallery

Of all the canvasses with which artists work, there is a warmth and depth to wood that makes it hard to compare to other materials. Maybe it's because of its organic nature; maybe its because wood is such a part of our daily lives, evoking so many images -- from shelter to forests to fire.

McMaster Gallery on the campus of USC at Senate and Pickens Streets is hosting, this week for the last week of a month-long run, an exhibition in wood by an impressive set of international artists. The likes of Jasper were found to be wondering the halls of the McMaster building this weekend, so we stopped by the small gallery for a gander at the exhibit. We found whimsical sculptures, functional vessels, and naturally-occurring burls on objet d'arts so beautiful they could make a strong woman weep. The only problem we had was in resisting the temptation to touch!

Artists represented include Derek Bencomo, Hunt Clark, David Ellsworth, Harvey Fein, Ron Fleming, Todd Hoyer, John Jordan, Robert F. Lyon, Michael Mocho, Hilary Pfeifer, Binh Pho, Betty Scarpino, Mark Sfirri, and Leah Woods.

The exhibition closes on Friday, September 30th, but the gallery is hosting a day-long workshop on Wednesday, September 28th, beginning at 9 am in room 102 of the McMaster Building. An artist talk will follow from 3:30 until 5 and, after that, a closing reception from 5 until 7 pm.

For more information visit http://web.mac.com/mcmastergallery/McMaster_Gallery/On_Display.html

Palmetto Pointe Project - Guest Blog

Local photographer captures spirit of ballet dancers amid Columbia’s landscape By Rebecca Krumel

(Special to What Jasper Said)

Jason Ayer is a Columbia native and creator of the Palmetto Pointe Project which will be highlighted starting this Friday at Cool Beans Coffee Shop on College Street through  October 30.  His unique and captivating photography collection showcases local dancers in unconventional settings far from the confines of the dance studio.

When asked why he chose to photograph dancers, he laughs and says, “Taking pictures of beautiful women is never a bad thing!” But, the father of two added jokingly, “If I were twenty years younger I’d do it for the women; now I do it for the art.”

Ayer’s interest in photographing dancers began as a high school student in Charleston. He did technical work for the Youth Company in Charleston, and moved back to Columbia in the 1980’s and tried his hand in theatre by performing dance and musical roles at Workshop Theater for a decade. “I did a little bit of everything--singing, dancing, and acting.” Now, Ayer is the photographer for the USC Dance Program as well as the Coquettes.

At first glance, the Palmetto Pointe Project is reminiscent of New York’s Ballerina Project which has received widespread recognition from the Wall Street Journal to the Australian ballet blog Behind Ballet. Quite popular on Facebook, The Ballerina Project is inspiring photographers nationwide, although Ayer says his aim is not to mimic the successful venture which focuses on photographing dancers amid elaborate cityscape. His artistic vision spotlights the dancer rather than the setting. “In The Ballerina Project, the landscape often overpowers the dancer,” he says. Ayer prefers to match the setting to the dancer by drawing out their personality in each image, or for a more bold approach, taking them out of their element. Ayers’ process for a  typical photo shoot involves meeting with the dancer at a location in the Columbia area, and then focusing his lens as her inner creative spirit is revealed through choreography and movement.

Ayer seeks to get the dancers involved in the creative process as much as possible. “What ends up on the canvas relies on them.” He says dance photography is about capturing the personality of the dancer, and oftentimes this is achieved by placing them in settings that may contradict their personality or challenge their creativity. Not only do the dancers drive the photo shoot with their artistry, they are given the final say on all the photographs. Ayers will not display an image that the dancer has not previously approved. “If the dancer doesn’t like it then I’m not going to use it.” The dancer also shares in the profits of any images sold in which they appear.

Ayer and his ballerina subjects are making something unique to Columbia. His photographs are site-specific and therefore nostalgic for Columbians. Palmetto Pointe Project is uniquely South Carolinian and true to the artistic setting and lives of the dancers it portrays. His slogan is, “See some familiar and not-so-familiar places in Columbia through the eyes of a dancer.” While he seeks out niches of Columbia for his backdrops, the dancers are central to the art. Each image is named for the dancer and not the place. Most of his subjects are performers with the USC Dance Company, but Ayers is interested in expanding the project to include other local dance companies as well.

Goals for the project include a website (already underway), a  calendar, and you can check out Palmetto Pointe Project on Facebook now. Friday’s opening will offer the public a chance to meet Ayers, purchase his prints, and meet the dancers featured in his new photographic works.

Jasper has been busy

Jasper has been busy and we'd like to take a moment to share what we've been up to with you, our loyal readers.

To start with, we released the inaugural issue of Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts in print form last Thursday night at a lovely party, hosted by one of our favorite places for imbibing, Speakeasy on Saluda Street in Five Points. It was a grand night, and we were overwhelmed by the kindness and support of the arts community. Thank you all so very much for your kind words and your presence at our birthday party for Jasper. Thanks also to Speakeasy for hosting us and Josh Roberts for entertaining us.

Local Gallery Owner Lynn Sky checks out centerfold artist, Michael Krajewski.

The Jasper staff and family has been busy distributing magazines throughout the city. But if we haven't gotten to you yet, not to worry -- we're diligent and we still have more than half of our inventory on hand. That said, we're happy to take your recommendations of spots where you would like to see Jasper distributed. By week's end, we should be all over the Columbia metropolitan area, including Camden, Chapin, Prosperity, and Newberry. And soon, you'll be able to find us in Greenville and Spartanburg, as well.

Lenza Jolley, our web maven, has also been hard at work building our brand new website. If  you haven't had a chance yet, please visit us at www.jaspercolumbia.com. We hope to make jaspercolumbia.com an extension of the print version of Jasper Magazine. To that end, please find more music by Josh Roberts, more art by David Yaghjian, more poetry by all of our featured poets, well ... more of everything, we hope, at our new cyber home.



As you may know, Jasper comes out in print form once every other month on the 15th of the month. If the 15th falls on a weekend, then look for us on the Thursday prior to that date. Our next issue will release on Tuesday, November 15th, for example, but the following issue will release on Thursday, January 12th -- and yes, we plan to celebrate every single issue that hits the streets! But the reality is that Jasper wants to see his arts buddies more than just six times per year. That's just one of the reasons we will be coming to you on our off-print months with various projects and events.

  • On Wednesday, October 26th at 7 pm, please join us for our first ever Pint and Poem Walk. Look for more information on how to sign up for one of only 25 spaces on this one-of-a-kind walk in the coming week at jaspercolumbia.com.
  • On Monday, October 31st, Jasper will host our first ever Ghost Story Salon as part of 701 CCA's Halloween Night Costume Bash. We're busy gathering all the great tellers of tales of ghosts and ghouls from around town to entertain you, via candlelight and creepy tunes, upstairs in the Olympia Room at 701 Whaley CCA.
  • The first stage of our first ever Coalescence Project is well underway as photographers throughout the midlands are submitting their work to Jasper Magazine Coalescence Series - Volume 1: Photography and the Word (http://jaspercolumbia.net/blog/?p=357). October 15th is the deadline for photography and which point local writers will be invited to come try their hands at creating 500 word or less stories to "illustrate" the photographic images. The completed project -- Photography and the Word -- will be unveiled in December.

Finally, we have moved into our studio office downstairs at the Tapp's Arts Center on Main Street and we are in the process of tidying up and making pretty. Please join us for a little open house on Thursday, October 6th as Jasper Magazine happily becomes a part of the First Thursday Arts Crawl community. We'll get back to you before then with more information on the treats we'll have in store as we welcome you to our new creative home.

Until then, thanks for reading Columbia. And thanks for giving us so many good works to write about.





(Photos courtesy of Jasper associate editor Kristine Hartvigsen)

American Whiskey Brother Gun Plow Revue Preview

Sometimes the best places to go see live music are the least likeliest of venues. Case in point in the crazy Southern soiree going down in Rosewood Sunday—over a half dozen acts associated with a practice space off of S. Edisto are going to be throwing down starting at 3 in the afternoon. Performances will be both inside and outside the space, with a down-home atmosphere that will see Plowboy leader Tom Hall grilling burgers, a keg of beer being tapped, and a donation jar getting passed to help raise money for the performers (suggested donation is $5).

Groups like Say Brother and the Plowboys will play rollicking acoustic music that fits right in with the lazy Sunday vibe of the day, while singer/songwriters Noah Brock and Will Pittman will also be playing in between full band sets. Whiskey Tango Revue will be delivering some of its rough-hewn outlaw country (the group has just put out their debut full-length, Seersucker Soldiers, and should have some copies for sale), while some of Jasper’s buddies in American Gun will be trying out some Afghan Whigs covers in preparation for their cover show on Oct. 15th, in addition to some of their more roots rock-oriented material.

The party will also feature one of the first live performances by the new Columbia band The Fishing Journal, fronted by ex-Death Becomes Even the Maiden drummer Chris Powell and featuring some energetic, Superchunck-inspired tunes. These are the kind of bands that everyone can love, and the loose vibes and casual atmosphere should make this humble musical bash the place to be this Sunday.

-- Kyle Petersen

Jasper loves vintage spaghetti westerns - a guest blog by August Krickel

Jasper loves vintage spaghetti westerns. But would you believe...a paella western?

By Saturday, you may already be worn out after attending the Jasper Launch Party, openings of three plays (at Workshop, the USC Lab Theatre and the Trustus Black Box) and the new H. Brown Thornton exhibition at if Art Gallery.  So before you head out to the Greek Festival or the USC game, you might be looking to relax with a good ol' fashioned movie to watch on tv.

AMC runs the Charles Bronson-Toshiro Mifune film Red Sun at noon on Saturday 9/17, and yes, we did say Bronson and Mifune!  Technically an Italian/Spanish/French co-production, the movie was shot in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in English, with an almost entirely European cast, by a British director, and released overseas in 1971 as Soleil Rouge.  And did we mention Toshiro Mifune turns up as a lethal samurai warrior?

It's unclear exactly how this film came together, whether the story was the brainchild of its four credited screenwriters (most with backgrounds in American television including westerns, and one, William Roberts, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Magnificent Seven) or if the producers simply had some available international stars and a location, and started from there; Ted Richmond was a veteran American producer of westerns, who had recently done Villa Rides and Return of the Seven, and went on to produce Papillon with the same French partner as this film.

All of that said, the international cast actually works very well. Bronson - who wasn't quite enough of a pretty boy in his youth to be a big leading man in the US, but made a fortune playing Americans in European films - portrays a traditional, loveable bad guy named Link, on the trail of an even badder bad guy, "Gauche," played by French actor Alain Delon. A reference is made to Gauche (i.e. a French version of a cowpoke named "Lefty") being from New Orleans, but it's unclear if he's supposed to literally be a Cajun or Creole, or just a Frenchman who has come to America. Either way, he dresses as more of a slick, refined gambler, while Bronson has more of the traditional cowboy look, and so it works just fine.  Along the way they interact with several ladies of the evening, played by French temptress Capucine and Swiss beauty Ursula Andress. Again, it makes sense for foreign girls to be working as prostitutes in a new nation of immigrants, and Capucine has a fairly Latin look anyway, so honestly, you assume she's Mexican (her character is called "Pepita") and the nuances of her accent don't matter.  Many of the supporting cast are clearly Italian, with names like Barta Barri, Guido Lollobrigida and Gianni Medici.

(You can just imagine that pitch to distributors:  'We've got Lollobrigida!"  "Great!  Gina?"  "Errr...no....Guido Lollobrigida.")

Since only the leads and a very few supporting cast members have any lines, and since the scenes alternate between regular "desert" scrub brush, snowy Rocky-ish mountains, and some really convincing tall grass (I mean convincing as in "wow, we have grass just like that in Missouri") you really would assume this was shot in the US. It's directed by British filmmaker Terence Young (best known for Bond films like Thunderball, From Russia w/ Love and Dr. No, which introduced the world to Andress a decade earlier.)   Mifune turns up when visiting Japanese dignitaries are robbed, and he vows to avenge them.  If you think he and Bronson may cross paths, fight, engage in several clashes of culture, and eventually develop respect for each other, you know not just Hollywood, but film conventions in general.  Both were in their early 50's when this came out, and it's interesting to note that it's the only time that a member of the 7 Samurai and one of the Magnificent Seven did a project together.

Oh, and did I mention that Comanches attack, and everyone has to band together to fight them off?  There's a really neat climactic battle scene in the middle of that tall grass that's extremely well shot and edited.   Music is by Maurice Jarre (The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, even Fatal Attraction) and is excellent. Parts are the very familiar "western" type theme we hear in so many films, with swooping strings, punctuated by French horns and trumpets. But at other times there's an intriguing jazz score, much like the Planet of the Apes theme, with primarily percussion, possibly a little bass, I think some percussive banging on the very lowest keys of a piano, possibly even some xylophone in there, but all sharps and discordant notes.

According to Mifune's IMDB bio, "Even though Mifune worked hard to learn his English-speaking roles phonetically, his voice was always dubbed in the American films in which he appeared."  If that is indeed the case here, it's an excellent dubbing job; Mifune was speaking every word, and matching them with appropriate emotions just perfectly.

Red Sun, aka Soleil Rouge, airs this Saturday (9/17) at high noon on AMC.

-- August Krickel



Just What the Doctor Ordered

Hmmm. What to write. You stare at the keyboard. Gaze out the window. Contemplate a snack. Pet the dog at your feet. Finally, you tap out a few words, pause, then backspace over them. Repeat. And … repeat.


I can’t say I’ve experienced serious writer’s block, but I’ve certainly had my share of what I would call creative slumping. These are times when I feel like nothing original or of good quality issues from my cluttered brain. Nothing flows. It’s all crap.

When this happens, I’ve found one of the best remedies is to shut down the computer and head out to a local poetry reading. The Columbia area is full of great talent. There are so many diverse, creative voices here, and fortunately not everyone is slumping at the same time. In fact, many are bursting at the seams with good stuff, and it makes you hopeful that you may be able to write well again. If you pay attention, ideas, themes, and images seem to magically come to mind. It could be a poet’s well-crafted turn of phrase that launches a particular creative thought process for you. I suppose you could call it harvesting − carrying with you the energy that is coming out of that microphone and the people at the reading.

I was in such a slump a few years back when I attended an open mike reading on Café Strudel’s back porch. One of the readers, a regular at the time on the local poetry circuit, would bring his work scribbled on all sorts of crumpled bits of parchment thrown into a repurposed plastic Wonder Bread bag. That alone sparked intrigue in me, and it led to the following poem, which ended up as a SC Poetry Initiative Single Poem Contest Finalist this year:



appalachian poet carries his insides around in a plastic polka-dotted bread bag an elegy whispered through lips moistened by fiddlesong he scribbles on napkins, receipts any medium can become a gum wrapper haiku tall hunching wordsmith the smell of woodsmoke in his hair shuffles feet, shuffles papers reads without accompaniment simple flapjacks on the griddle plucks what he can to season the iron


This turned out to be one of my favorite poems, an unexpected joy. I hope you like it. And don’t forget that a local poetry reading may be just what the doctor ordered if your brain is feeling a bit anemic.

-- KH

Get your groove back via Cassie Premo Steele

It happens to all of us, whether we're artists or artisans (two decidedly different classifications) or amateurs. Sometimes we just get stale. We can't find our groove. The juices aren't flowing. We freeze up. For those of us who build with words, we call it writers' block -- and it is the scariest, most frustrating sensation in the world. Other times we're plodding along just fine. Cranking it out. Meeting our deadlines. Getting the job done. And our work is fine. Just fine. Nothing special, nothing innovative, nothing earth-shattering. It's fine.

If you're a writer and you ever find yourself in either of these two situations, it's important to keep your head about you. Your world probably isn't coming to an end. But you may, in fact, need something of a tune up. Luckily there's someone in town who has perfected the art of stimulating creativity -- poet, author, academician, and creativity coach, Cassie Premo Steele.

Jasper has had the pleasure of both attending Cassie's creativity workshops and hosting them, so we're taking this opportunity to spread the word that another series of workshops will be taking place soon. It's nice to take a moment now and then and just tend to one's creative core. It's sort of like tidying up your desk -- it needs to be done anyway and, in all likelihood, it'll help you work better. Jasper recommends it.

We're bold-faced copying and pasting info about Cassie's upcoming creative writing class below, as well as one of her lovely poems below that. If you decide to sign up for one of her classes, please tell her Jasper sent you, and let us know how it worked out. We'd really like to know.

Here's the spiel in Cassie's own words --

In October, I will be offering a lunchtime Creative Writing Class on Tuesdays from 12:00-1:00 at The Co-Creating Studio in the Forest Acres area of Columbia.

We will cover the fundamentals of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, and the primary focus will be to help you generate new material and stretch yourself to write with greater emotional depth and clarity. Also covered will be the fundamentals of revision and how to... submit your writing for publication.

The cost is $100 per month to be paid at the first class of the month or $30/ per class.

Class size will be limited so everyone can get individual attention, and spaces are already filling, so if you are interested, feel free to email me at cassiepremosteele@gmail.com or call or text 803 420 1400.

All best wishes, Cassie Premo Steele

For those who don't know me, I am the author of eight books, a Pushcart nominated poet, and a writing & creativity coach with two decades of university and community teaching experience. You can visit my website at www.cassiepremosteele.com for more.


And here's one of Jasper's favorite Cassie poems --


Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again*

Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again but with a book,

not a baby, and my stomach extends not roundly but with four

corners, sharp edges and the fear of splinters, cuts and wood.


When I wait in the rain before dawn for the rest of the world

to awaken, I imagine the eggs still within me are pearls.

What I hold is a jewel of beginning again, something softer


than scarves and more precious than music playing in the dark.

Sometimes I rise and go to the window and make myself take

a look.  The baby is there, and the book, looking down from the moon.


They sing me a lullaby.  Their words say there is always enough time,

enough space, more than enough room.  I fall back asleep in this world, dreaming of what is

beginning in me to the sound of this tune.


(*A certain member of Jasper's clan has been dreaming lately that she, too, is pregnant, though she is far too old for another child. We're wondering if the dreams will subside after Jasper debuts in print form on Thursday night?)