REVIEW: A Bright Room Called Day by Frank Thompson

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was

the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the

epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the

season  of  Light,  it  was  the  season  of  Darkness,  it  was  the 

spring  of  hope,  it  was  the  winter  of  despair,  we  had 

everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were

all  going  direct  to  Heaven,  we  were  all  going  direct  the 

other way—in short, the period was so far like the present



-Charles Dickens

“A Tale Of Two Cities”


   After seeing Trustus Theatre’s production of A Bright Room Called Day on opening night, I have made it a point to “talk up” the show as much as possible, but (with sincere regret) I have just now been able to write a review. With all due apologies and a promise not to make a habit of late-posting, I would like to now offer my thoughts on what may be the most riveting show I’ve seen at Trustus since August: Osage County, a couple of seasons ago. There are two remaining performances, Friday and Saturday, 2 and 3 February. In brief, you need to see one (or both) of them.

   While a completely different show in almost every way, A Bright Room Called Day does have a quite literal kinship with its predecessor. August: Osage County was the last show directed at Trustus by its beloved founder, the late Jim Thigpen, and his daughter, Erin Wilson, masterfully directs A Bright Room Called Day. This is the first of Wilson’s work I have seen, and it’s quite clear that both her professional training and the lessons she no doubt learned at the knee of her father have come together to create an insightful, skilled directorial eye and style all her own. Wilson’s attention to the small details of movement and human interaction in a confined space creates a pleasantly cozy feeling in the early scenes, which slowly morphs into a trapped, claustrophobic aura by the end of the performance. (Ironically, as fewer people occupy the room, it seems to grow smaller and more prisonlike.) 

   Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner wrote A Bright Room Called Day in the 1980s, outraged at then-President Reagan for his (Reagan’s) lack of any apparent concern over the AIDS crisis. (Indeed, Reagan is invoked in the modern-day side story that serves as a point of comment on the main story. More on that in a moment.)


   Though Reagan was the bete noir when the show was penned, Wilson has, without changing the script, clearly suggested that we examine the politics of 2018 and what’s going on all around us. The story, while interesting, is an oft-told one. A group of what might well have been called “undesirables” share good times together, only to be divided both philosophically and literally by the rise of The Third Reich. The scenes set in early 1932 could easily have been played in a contemporary 2016. Liberalism seems firmly established, there’s toasting and optimism (the show opens on a New Year’s Eve celebration), and the charmingly eccentric group of characters we meet are leading happy, bohemian lives and freely share their common views as well as their disagreements without rancor. There’s an opium-addicted film star, a devout Communist, a homosexual man-about-town, a one-eyed film-maker, and a seemingly meek actress of lesser fame, who owns the apartment and revels in their company.

   As the scenes and time progress, we sense a growing feeling of unease as Germany begins to undergo a multitude of bad decisions and changes for the worse. Through dialogue and a positively masterful use of projected titles, we follow the Nazi party’s initial defeats, its growing influence, and President von Hindenburg’s eventual hesitant appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. From there begins the inevitable unraveling of the social fabric, both large-scale and among the small circle of leftists who inhabit the small apartment.

   Without beating the metaphor to death, or even mentioning his name, the “Trump as Hitler” theme rings loud and clear, speaking not only to the skills of the director and cast, but also to the timelessness of Kushner’s script. The 1930s scenes are intercut with a series of 1980s monologues by a young woman of high-school age (remember the side story?), who writes daily hate-mail letters to President Reagan, and offers a great deal of commentary that is just as applicable today as it was in the days of The Love Boat and the Commodore 64 computer.

   The second act brings to the forefront the horrors of Berlin in the early 1930s. The Reichstag fire, book-burnings, and the official opening of Dachau are mentioned, one of the characters suffers a beating, another essentially chooses to collaborate, still another flees for his safety, and Agnes, the owner of the flat, wonders aloud if she will ever leave.

   There are also other visitors to the apartment, none terribly welcome. A pair of friendly-but-don’t-push-us bureaucrats visit Agnes to “encourage” her to rethink her upcoming performance of a skit involving a “Red Baby”, complete with painted baby doll to emphasize the message. There can be tremendous intimidation in ersatz kindness and calm, and the actors in these roles convey just that.

   The story takes two turns toward surrealism in the characters of Die Alte (which, thank you Google, translates to “the old” or “the ancient”) and Gottfried Swetts, who just happens to be Satan. As the representatives of the otherworldly, each is clearly defined as unique in the reality of the main story. Die Alte is wraithlike, eerie, and seems to move freely about within the darkness. Swetts, by contrast, is dressed spiffily in an expensive-looking suit and topcoat. (A word to the wise: don’t pet the Devil’s dog.) At first the inclusion of these characters seemed out-of-place to me, but upon further reflection, what could be more appropriate than vaguely malevolent absurdity in a play about a historically significant collapse of reason and sanity?

   By now you have probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned any actors by name. That’s because director Wilson and her team have produced an almost-flawless piece of ensemble theatre by a cast of top-tier performers. There is no “standout” because this group contains no weak links. The roles are superbly cast, and the chemistry amongst them is clear. Therefore, I offer my congratulations and unfettered praise to Krista Forster, Jonathan Monk, Jennifer Hill, Becky Hunter, Alex Smith, Mary Miles, Frederic Powers, Elena Martinez-Vidal, Paul Kaufmann, and Avery Bateman. Each of you truly disappeared into your characters.

   Danny Harrington does a commendable job with the set, somehow making a pre-war German flat and a 1980s classroom cohesively exist on the same stage. In what may or may not have been a deliberate choice, one of the paintings on Agnes’ wall is partially obscured by what seems to indicate either fallen plaster or water damage. This image spoke strongly to me, and seemed an apt representation of how none of the characters, from the most innocent to the most evil, ever seemed to grasp the larger issues, or “see the whole picture” if you will.

   With one final apology for being so late in turning in my homework, I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t yet seen A Bright Room Called Day to catch one of the two remaining performances. You’ll leave thinking.

Reviewer Frank Thompson

Reviewer Frank Thompson

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Rocky Horror Show

open-uri20160909-3-dd1x7c By: Alex Smith

Trustus Theatre has made something of a one-show franchise out of Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Their current production of the show (the sixth in 24 years) is yet another fine production of a musical whose tightrope walk between cult status (the film adaptation, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, has run in midnight showings at movie houses around the world since its release in 1975) and mainstream standing (countless tours, two Broadway runs, a brand new television film premiering at the end of this month) mirrors the fine line it also walks between over-the-top, drag/camp musical comedy, and something much more thoughtful, substantive, and, ultimately, timeless.

Pilfering tropes from the best and worst of A-, B- and Z- sci-fi and horror movies and mixing them into the melting pot of a gender-bending, sexually promiscuous and experimental London of 1973, still fully in the thrall of David Bowie’s bisexual starman Ziggy Stardust (who Bowie would officially “kill” onstage just over two weeks after ROCKY’s premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs theatre), O’Brien tells the story of a hapless, hopelessly square couple of “asshole” Brad Majors and “slut” Janet Weiss. A wedding, a proposal, a stormy night, a flat tire, and the light from a castle(?!?) they passed a few miles back, and suddenly, the recently betrothed graduates of Denton High find themselves plunged into a world of incestuous servants, tap-dancing lackeys, muscle-bound monsters, and otherwise unbound and unhinged partakers of the “absolute pleasure” which the “man” of the castle, Dr. Frank N. Furter, entreats the virginal lovers to give themselves over to. Being the good, red-blooded, all-American kids that they are, it only takes a nudge from Frank, a healthy dose of lipstick and eyeliner, some fishnets, stiletto heels, and “just a little bit of stee=hee-hee-hee-mmmmm…”, before Brad and Janet find themselves cavorting with the Doctor and his whole odd, unearthly(?!?) crew in the most intimate of manners.

Reanimation! Betrayal! Murder! Infidelity! Necrophilia! Heartbreak! Aliens! O’Brien throws in everything up to and including the kitchen sink, and ends the whole shebang (like any good sci-fi/horror romp, especially ones from the Cold War-era) with a “moral”: our hero and heroine, searching for each other in the dark, smoky air where the castle once stood, finding each other but lost to themselves, it would seem, because of their transgressions…but in the final analysis (did I mention there’s a narrator commenting upon and guiding us through this brilliant madness?), we are told, these kids are actually just foolish for being so hung up over such frivolity as sexual freedom and exploration because, you know, when you think about how minuscule we are on this tiny floating blue rock, does any of it really matter?

On its own, this odd, convoluted story would flounder, however fabulously, just as the stories in many B- science fiction and horror or exploitation films often did. But playwright O’Brien dipped into not only the pulpy murk of bad double features for inspiration, he also trolled the American rock and roll and R&B airwaves of the 1950s and 1960s, eventually mixing in a little fanfare and elegance via Hollywood studios themes, and came out with that rarest of gems in the deep mine of theatrical musicals: a set of songs that could each stand completely on their own as fine individual examples of the genre to which they belong, while at the same time providing a cohesive musical whole which leads us full circle from the opening number, “Science Fiction, Double Feature,” to its show-closing counterpart “Science Ficton (Reprise)”.

A further achievement of the songs (true musical classics: “The Time Warp,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul,” “Toucha Touch Me,” “I’m Going Home”… if, for some reason, you don’t already know these songs, go see the show: you’ll never forget them once you have) is that, lyrically, O’Brien makes each one as integral a part of the overall story being told on stage as the dialogue and action - there is no filler here whatsoever - a far cry from what many musicals can claim.

The final triumph of O’Briens songs is that, in a musical theatre which, at the point ROCKY was being created, had hardly strayed from its classical cliches and methodology, he created a bunch of songs that sound and feel like they could be taken out of the context of the show and performed, one or all, anytime, at any place by a bunch of musicians with electric instruments, and they would sound just as good…in short, great songs that actually rocked.

That’s no mean feat in musical theatre, where, often, everything is necessarily softened, watered down, caricatured, or otherwise compromised in such a manner as to make it palatable and easily disseminated by the audience. This works terrifically when you’re, say, telling the story of an impressionist painter, or a gang of singing cats, or bohemians in New York in the early nineties. Rock & roll is not soft, however, and so it always seemed out of place or as though it were being turned into Muzak (with rare exceptions) when it played any part in musical theatre up to ROCKY HORROR. Just as O’Brien made a terrific set of individual songs that could stand on their own, he also proved that there was a place for harder edged music in musical theatre, that rock & roll could sustain a whole show. With ROCKY, he effectively created the Rock Musical.

THE ROCKY HORROR show changed so much about the musical theatre (and eventually the movies and the world). It un- self-consciously tipped its hat to all of its influences while simultaneously sending them up and utilizing them as the glue that held the pieces in place. Put together, O’Brien’s clever book and brilliant songs, his unforgettable characters and that never-ending sense of wonder over the idols it was at once holding up and smashing (which is nothing so much as a parallel for the pubescent feeling of liberation and awe upon one’s discovery of those old friends sex, drugs and rock & roll) melded perfectly to create what has become one of the great musicals of all time. Trustus Theatre’s 24-year hold on the ROCKY HORROR brand continues, starting this Saturday 8pm (after a slight delay for Hurricane Matthew), and the production, from front to back, could not have been placed in better hands.

Scott Blanks, an actor of the highest calibre, stood tall, over the course of almost twenty years, in the stack-heeled shoes of ROCKY’s antagonist and bustier-bedecked master of ceremonies, Dr. Frank N. Furter. Blanks played the role in no less than five separate productions over two decades (full disclosure: this reviewer portrayed the doomed “delivery boy” Eddie in the third production of ROCKY at Trustus and has fond memories of being chased every night to his offstage “doom” by a pick-axe wielding, rubber gloves wearing, surgeon’s gown draped dervish in the form of Blanks-as-Frank from December, 1999 to January 2000). His spot-on portrayal of the fetching, gender-fluid “Doctor” cast a long shadow over any hopes of a subsequent revival of ROCKY at Trustus when he announced that with the theatre’s fifth production in 2009 that he would be hanging up his fishnets for good, and that he would not portray Frank again.

So what better choice of a director to oversee the proceedings in Trustus’s ROCKY #6, could there have been than the man who stood, onstage, at the center of each previous production, Scott Blanks? Having seen the latest incarnation of the show, one would be hard-pressed to make a better selection. Blanks’ direction of the show is lean and tight, and each act flashes by swiftly in a trail of glitter and pheromones. Blanks’ solid choices with regard to staging, along with Caitlin Britt’s elegant, energetic choreography, make the action of the play, which gallops apace from start to finish, convey far more nuance than a show which runs as fast might lead one to expect.

Brandon McIver’s set and Barry Sparks’s lighting design are of the usual excellence which Columbia theatergoers have come to expect from these two veterans. Baxter Engle’s projections add the perfect amount of texture to the entire stage picture when and wherever they are utilized, especially in the opening and closing use of rainfall. From a technical angle, the stand-out part of the evening is the sound. The show’s excellent band, lead ably by Musical Director Chris Cockerel, could be heard loud and clear, each instrument coming through the system without any distortion, and none of it interfering whatsoever with the actors voices coming from the stage. Trustus has always been problematic when it comes to amplified sound, so to hear everything so clearly was an absolute revelation.

Costumes by Clay Owens and props by Nathan Herring are appropriately campy and kitsch, respectively, and the wigs were an unexpectedly tacky delight. But, “I see you shiver with antici…pation.” So let’s get to the heart of things.

Blanks has assembled a remarkably young performance ensemble for the sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus, whose collective youth is only matched and exceeded by its talent. This is an excellent cast.

The always outstanding Katie Leitner starts the show out in the guise of the oft-forgotten “Usherette,” and returns in short order as the servant Magenta, who she plays with eerie, unblinking and hilarious “bride of Frankenstein” look frozen on her face. We also meet the “Phantoms” or Transylvanians as they are sometimes called, the “background” players who seem to constantly be everywhere at all times, as dancers, singers, windshield wipers, party guests, and just about any other thing the show requires. They are excellent here, turning the stage from flats and platforms into something more akin to a living, breathing organism, and their collective work is so good that they deserve to be pointed out individually: Allison Allgood, Sara Blanks, LaTrell Brennan, Brittany Hammock, Parker Byun, Jackie Rowe, Abigail McNeely, Mario McClean, Blair Baudelaire, and Matt Wright.

Possibly the youngest member of this young cast, Gerald Floyd plays the no-named, no-necked Narrator with the poise, dignity and sophistication of a much older gentleman, even when doing the pelvic thrust. Cody Lovell and Anna Lyles are hilarious as, respectively, everybody’s favorite asshole and slut, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss. It’s especially fun to watch these two transform from the sweet kids from Denton High at the beginning to the insatiable beasts of excess they become by the end of the show. Michael Hazin is great as the “butler with a secret” Riff Raff, playing him with a barely perceptible half grin and hunchbacked swagger.

Kayla Cahill is fabulous as tap-dancing groupie Columbia, her portrayal significantly less ditzy and squeaky than most, which is a breath of fresh air. Josh Kern is more than sufficiently well-suited to play the titular “creation” Rocky, and Percy Saint Cyprian is terrific as Eddie, ex-delivery boy and organ donor. And GREAT SCOTT! I swear I recognized that (uncredited and unlisted in the program) actor playing Eddie’s uncle, Dr. Everett Scott, from somewhere…something about a pig and a spider, maybe? Anyway, whoever he was, he was, and is, always fantastic.

Have I forgotten anyone? Ah! The “man” himself, Dr. Frank N. Furter, played with fearless bravado and boundless talent by Walter Graham, who clearly benefitted from the tutelage and direction of one who knew the character inside and out, but who also brings such a fundamentally different take on the “sweet transvestite” to this production that he does what any actor playing this legendary role must do: make it their own. Graham meets and exceeds this task (“In abundance!”), gliding through his performance as though he’d been preparing his whole life for it. To point out any one moment in his performance as Frank is unfair to the strength of the whole (harharhar), but, in all seriousness, if Graham’s emotional, soulful, show-stopping delivery of ROCKY’s most gentle, beautiful number, “I’m Going Home,” doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then you simply must not have eyes. Or a heart. Where’s Eddie? He might have one for you…

Blanks, Cockrell, Britt, and the whole cast and crew have done Trustus Theatre proud with this sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, bringing such a wealth of talent and energy to the production that, like Brad Majors, you would have to be an asshole to miss it. So, put on your fishnets, slather on mascara and lipstick, make sure to pack a spare tire if it’s a rainy night, and get ready to swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh: there’s a light over at the Frankenstein place, and it’s the glow coming from this production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus Theatre, which absolutely sparkles!

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien Directed by Scott Blanks Musical Direction by Chris Cockrell Choreography by Caitlin Britt Runs Saturday, October 8 through Saturday November 5

6 SONGS FOR SUMMER, 2016 by Alex Smith


"It is happening...again..."

-The Giant in "Lonely Souls", episode 14 of TWIN PEAKS

Eight months is a blink of an eye these days. I used to call songs like these "prescient". Now I just think of them as reminders I can shake my ass or slow dance to, but reminders, nonetheless, that we're not learning anything from history. And these days, history keeps getting closer and closer...

Listen to these songs. Shake your ass. Slow dance. But LISTEN. If they don't seem topical right now, just wait until it is happening again. Because it will.


David Bowie - "It's No Game (Part 2)" from the 1980 album SCARY MONSTERS (AND SUPERCREEPS)

"I am barred/from the event/I really don't understand this situation/so where's the moral?/People get their fingers broken/to be insulted by these fascists is so degrading...."

Alex David



The Clash - "English Civil War (live)" outtake from the film RUDE BOY

"It's still at the stage of clubs and fists/hurrah....hurrah/a well known face got beat to bits/hurrah...."


Alex Clash


Rolling Stones - "Street Fighting Man" from the 1968 album BEGGARS BANQUET

"Everywhere I hear the sound of marching charging feet, boy/'cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy...."


Alex Stones



Stevie Wonder - "Big Brother" from the 1972 album TALKING BOOK

"My name is secluded/we live in a house the size of a matchbox/roaches live with us wall to wall/you've killed all our leaders/I don't even have to do nothing to you/you'll cause your own country to fall...."


Alex stevie



John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" from the 1975 album SHAVED FISH

"If you don't believe me take a look at the one you're with...."


Alex john



Nina Simone - "Ne Me Quitte Pas" written by Jacques Brel, from the 1965 album DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD

This song was my sole response on social media after the terrorist attack in France. Eight months ago.

alex nina
 Eight months is a blink of an eye these days. But these days, eight months ago is so easily forgotten that it's history, too. Listen to these songs. I'll see you in the street.

-Alex Smith

July 15, 2016


Alex Smith is a multi-talented visual and performing artist , based in Columbia, SC, who also writes.



Jacob West opens show at Wired Goat & Travis Bland has a chat with him

Local artist Jacob West has his fingers in many pies. Jasper noticed that West planned to put some of his visual arts skills on exhibit coming up this Friday the 8th at the Wired Goat Coffee House down in the Vista, and we asked frequent Jasper contributor David Travis Bland to come up with a few questions for West to give us a little insight into what makes the man behind the music and the visual art tick. Here's a bit of that conversation. west c



I think I've always had the sneaking suspicion that southern cities and towns have a dark side, a seedy underbelly just underneath, not necessarily negative, but dark all the same. --- Jacob West

Music is a big inspiration for you. What’re some acts and song that motivated you to pick up the brushes?


I listen to a lot of different kinds of music and like to pull inspiration and imagery from all different places. Most of the pieces for my newest showing have been done fairly recently, and were inspired in part by some newer albums. The first three that come to mind are:

Deftones – Gore – This album is gritty, beautiful, and haunting, all the things I try to make my paintings.into

Aesop Rock – Impossible Kid – This album is dark, honest, and personal. I admire artists that can be open and honest, because I try to do the same thing with my art.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book – This mixtape is just too damn good and I can't stop listening to it.


This show features other local artists. Who are a couple local artists you dig?


I grew up in Columbia, so I've been extremely lucky to run into a lot of talented artists around town. There are three guys that I think are just on a whole other level:

John Stroman – I've known John a long time, and am just blown away with every piece of his I see. A lot of his pieces are on found materials, so he ends up with some really unique canvases to paint on. He also paints animals a lot, like I do, but where my work is usually pretty dark, his end up full of joy and just make you smile. I can't say enough good things about John or his work.

Alex Smith – Alex is another super talented artist from around town. He's a writer, director, actor, painter, I don't even know what all else he does! He recently had a show at Tapp's, full of extraordinary pieces. His work is usually a little haunting and just pulls you in instantly. I love art that can do that.

Sean Rayford – I've always been a huge fan of Rayford's work. He used to work at New Brookland and took pictures of all my favorite bands. Then I saw the pictures he took of Charleston and the State House when the flag was coming down, he's just been consistently capturing powerful and compelling images for as long as I can remember. I'm glad he's finally getting the recognition he deserves.


Each of your pieces are like self contained stories—snapshots of narratives. What are some of those stories and how did you visualize them on the canvas?

That's really what I was aiming for with my latest images. I felt that for a while now, my stuff has really depended on symbolism. This time around, I wanted to see if I could tell a story. I have a kind of loose narrative in my head for these new paintings, I named this group of paintings “Out Where the Grass Don't Grow”. They're supposed to be snapshots of different places and things happening in a fictional, romanticized version of a small southern town. I think I've always had the sneaking suspicion that southern cities and towns have a dark side, a seedy underbelly just underneath, not necessarily negative, but dark all the same.


You never had any formal art education. Do you think that’s allowed you to develop your own style? Has not having any training held you back in any way?

I think not having gone to art school did help me in certain ways. Years ago, I went to a comic convention with my sketchbook in hand and a young man's ambition. I did the thing that all young artists do at comic book conventions, I tried to get a job. My sketchbook was embarrassingly bad, but I did get a lot of great advice from the professional artists there. At the time, I was still deciding whether or not to go to art school, and every single person I asked for advice told me not to go. They said that my work had a strong voice of its own, and that I'd lose it if I went to art school. I'm not sure if they were saying that because my sketchbook was so terrible, or because they meant it. But either way, I didn't go to art school, and kept drawing, painting, and doing my own thing.

I've never really thought about how things would have turned out had I gotten formal training. I suppose i'd be better and maybe have made some important contacts. But, I'd also have art school debt.


You said your art is Southern Gothic in ways. Would your style be different if you weren’t born and raised in the South? (is that the case, you’ve always been around the south?)

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I was born in Lexington, spent some time as a kid in Charleston, then moved back to West Columbia in middle school, and moved downtown as an adult. Though, I've been lucky enough to travel all over the U.S and even Central and South America, I feel like the south (for better or worse) has a rich history and plenty of good and bad to pull from for inspiration. I have the feeling if I wasn't from around here, there's no way my style would be the same. I can't really put my finger on it, but there's something special about the American South. Our culture and community is special and unique and I hope that comes across in our art.


What does it mean to make it as an artist for you? Like is having a day job and being recognized in your community enough or does making it mean your livelihood comes exclusively from art?

I'm not sure, because every time I think I've made it, I set a new goal for myself. I remember thinking that “made it” meant that I got commissioned to paint for somebody. Then, I made it the first time I got to hang my art somewhere for sale and sold it. Then, I made it again when I had my first solo show. I keep moving the benchmark, so I don't think I'll ever make it. That being said, it sure would be awesome to be my own boss and paint for a living.


You get to do a portrait of anyone past, present, or future live in the flesh. Who is it?

Definitely the very first cave painter. The guy that invented 2D visual art.



Announcing the 2015 JAY Gala Line-up

JAY 2015 graphic It's no coincidence that we patterned this week's 2015 JAY Awards Gala after the Italian Renaissance--a fertile time of humanism, art, architecture, science, and literature. In so many ways, we've been living through our own renaissance over the past several years in Columbia and we want to celebrate this fact at the same time we celebrate the 15 artists honored as Jasper's Artists of the Year Finalists and Winners.

Join us for an evening of Renaissance inspired food, drink (open bar), and entertainment, and the announcement of the Jasper Artists of the Year in Dance, Literature, Music, Theatre, and  Visual Arts.

  • Musical performance by the classical guitar duo Duo Cortado who will be playing Renaissance tunes and more
  • Renaissance inspired spoken word performances by members of Jasper's Wet Ink Spoken Word Collective, featuring Kendal Turner, Debra McQueen, & Kenneth Denk
  • Mini cello concert by Catherine Hunsinger
  • Impromptu performances by Al Black and Catherine Hunsinger
  • Leonardo daVinci (Michael Krajewski) will be creating his own version of the Mona Lisa from a live model
  • Michelangelo (Alex Smith) will be our guest throughout the evening embodying the Enlightenment, inciting evocative conversations, inspiring us with his multiple talents, (and maybe even creating art!)
  • Roving Renaissance entertainment from the Trustus Apprentices will keep the spirit of the Enlightenment alive and a smile on your faces
  • Il Magnifico's own Court Jester (Chris Carney) will meet you on the walk with fire eating demonstrations
  • USC Theatre Students are cooking up a surprise performance for us all
  • Bier Doc (Bob Jolley) has a rich selection of special biers and wines
  • Be sure to arrive in time to sample the Editor's Punch, created specially for this gala
  • Enjoy a sample feast of Renaissance-inspired dishes created by Chef Joe Turkaly
  • And, of course,the announcement of the Jasper Artists of the Year!

Tickets are $25 in ADVANCE and $35 at the door. Or join us at 6 for a special champagne reception in which you can sip bubbles, nosh on special treats, and hob nob with some of the greatest of the city's artists.

Come out and support your local arts magazine, celebrate its release, and congratulate the Jasper Artists of the Year Finalists and Winners: Martha Brim, William Starrett, Dale Lam, Eileen Blyth, Kimi Maeda, Russell Jeffcoat, Jullia Elliott, Ray McManus, Al Black, Jordan Young, Craig Butterfield, Heyward Sims, Dewey Scott-Wiley, Jennifer Moody Sanchez, and Kendrick Marion.

Special Thanks to Coal Powered Filmworks, Mouse House, Bert Easter of Easter Antiques, Richard Durlach and Breedlove of The Big Apple,  and Singing Fox Event Planning.


alex smith cinemapurg
Last summer I had the pleasure of acting in my friends Chris and Emily White's film CINEMA PURGATORIO. I portrayed a possibly fictional European expatriate living in the southeast U.S. named Dos Midler. I had WAY too much fun, met and worked with an amazing group of people, got to play a role which now ranks among my favorites (and kiss Chris on the mouth MANY times in the process), and the film turned out to be a real gem, a beautiful, hilarious piece of art that speaks extremely well of the state of cinema in our state. I was rewarded for my efforts and time by not only getting to be a part of this wonderful film, but being treated as a VIP at the very first public screening CINEMA PURGATORIO in Columbia back in June.
Chris and Emily have been hauling the film all across the U.S. for screenings, and I've tried to make it to one or two of them, to no avail. When Chris told me that they had secured a screening at one of the nation's premiere independent cinemas, Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon, and that it would open a double bill that would close with a 25th anniversary screening of Christopher Guest's THE BIG PICTURE, I jokingly mentioned to him that if he and Emily could find someone to pay for the flight and hotel, that I would bring Dos to the Portland screening.
Literally, the next day, I received an e-mail from Chris with this link:
...and the amazing news that, per my suggestion, he and Emily had created a page for me (and for other people in the cast and crew who had expressed interest in going to the Portland screening) at the CINEMA PURGATORIO web site to raise money for us to be flown out for the screening and put up for the night! 
Amazing. I knew Chris and Emily were kind and generous, but this blew my mind ...
So, here's the deal. Follow this link:
...and click on the button that says, "CLICK HERE TO SEND DOS".
You can contribute anywhere from $5 to $500, with some pretty nice incentives in return for your contribution, and once $500 is raised, BAM! Dos is going to Portland (I myself have already put a little bread into the pot, so let's just say I'm already 1/10th of the way there!).
Also, in the odd event that more than $500 is contributed in my name, all the money over $500 goes toward sending another member of the CINEMA PURGATORIO team to the screening! Again, Chris and Emily White are the BEST!
Now, you're probably wondering why you should help send me to this screening. Well, let's start with the personal: I haven't been on a vacation beyond North or South Carolina since August of 2001, and this whirlwind of a trip would be such a lovely little working vacation, and it would also be so beautiful to spend time with my wonderful friends watching their wonderful film ... but that's not the important part.
The important part is that when you send me, you will be sending Dos Midler to the Portland screening of Cinema Purgatorio. Dos and I are very different people, yes, but we are alike in three key ways:
1. Dos and I are both cinematic masters.
2. Dos and I both own tickle bats (I'll tell you about that later).
3. Dos and I are both troublemakers.
You send Dos or me to this screening, and what was already classified as an "event" turns into a full fledged CAPER (and you'd better believe there will be documentation of this caper's unfolding right here in the Jasper blog, minute by minute, as it happens)!
So what do you think? Are you ready to make me Jasper's man (and I use that term very loosely) on the ground in Portland when the deal goes down and CINEMA PURGATORIO premieres there? If so, click the link:
...follow the instructions, and get ready for "ess" to get real!
If you need any other reasons here are some videos that might bolster your confidence:

Win Passes to World Premiere of Cinema Purgatorio

cinema purg Yes, summer is finally making its way to Columbia after a spring that teased far more than delivered and, before you know it, events will thin out, you might not have to wait to get a table at Cellar on Greene, and you may even find a booth at The Whig. Those who know Columbia know that part of our culture is to sort of go underground during the summer months. We’re not sure whether it’s because we’re a college town or whether we’re so perfectly positioned between the mountains and the shore that it’s hard to stay put during summer days – or whether it’s just so damn hot here in July that we just can’t stand it. But we are what we are, and you have to love us.

That said, don’t put away your opera glasses and pearls quite yet. (Pfft! Who has opera glasses or wears pearls to most of Columbia’s events? Show off!) Jasper has several important arts events on our upcoming radar, so don’t pack your bags just yet.

Chris White & Emily Reach White


Sunday, June 1st – Cinema Purgatorio World Premiere

We’re delighted that SC filmmaking team Emily Reach & Chris White of Paris Mountain Scout productions chose Columbia to premiere their latest film, Cinema Purgatorio. You might remember the Whites from their previous feature films Taken In (2011) and Get Better (2012). Not only do the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Emily have strong ties to Columbia, but two of the actors in the film walked right off of Main Street.

While local filmmaker/actor Jeff Driggers plays the pushy documentarian Clark Wiggins, Alex Smith, whose work ranges from the stage to the studio to the screen, plays a pretentious filmmaker named Dos Midler. (Alex is also a staff writer for Jasper, and Jeff won the Jasper Award at Hub City’s Expecting Goodness Film Festival last June. Both were chosen to participate in Jasper’s Second Act Film Festival last October.) In addition, Columbia photographer Sean Rayford will be shooting red carpet photos at the first screening and the reception at Bourbon.

Jeff Driggers


Alex Smith


What’s more, the after party at The Art Bar will feature live music by  Shallow Palace and Mel Washington. Tickets to either screening include admission to the after-party.

As a sponsor of Cinema Purgatorio, Jasper invites everyone to come out and support independent filmmaking for the premiere showing on June 1st at IT-ology.  By purchasing your tickets at this special Jasper site, you’ll also be supporting Jasper Magazine.

But there’s more. Everyone who joins the Jasper Guild this week – at any level – will be entered to win two Gold Pass tickets to the premiere, including passes to the Producer’s Reception.  (Those who join at the $25 level will be entered once; those at the $50 level - twice, those at the $100 level - four times, at the $250 - 10 times.) Drawing will take place on Saturday afternoon, May 31st and the winner will be notified by email and announced on Facebook and Twitter. For more on the Jasper Guild -- see Below.


Isn’t it time for YOU to join the Jasper Guild?

The Jasper Guild is a group of supporting artists and arts lovers who appreciate not only the vital Columbia, SC arts scene, but the magazine devoted to promoting it. Members of the Jasper Guild recognize the labor-of-love that is Jasper and work to do their parts to ensure that Jasper continues to publish a 100% LOCAL & artist-produced magazine. You’re invited to join us in our mission to make Columbia, SC the Southeast arts capitol by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild. And the next time you open a copy of Jasper you’ll be able to say,

“I helped make this happen and here’s my name to prove it!”

  • Apprentice – 1 year delivery of Jasper & your name listed in Jasper for 1 year $50
  • Journeyman – above + your name in print in LARGE LETTERS $100
  • Master – above + a non-transferable Econobar PASS for 1 year $250
  • Centerfold Sponsorship above + your name/dedication printed on the centerfold $500
  • Publisher above + your choice of 3 books from the Muddy Ford Press catalogue $1000

 “But I’m just a starving artist myself,” you say?

  • Artist Peer - Practicing artists in dance, theatre, music, film, visual & literary arts are invited to join The Jasper Guild at a reduced rate & see your name in Jasper for 1 year $25

Join NOW!





The Man That Got Away -- Remembering Andrew Quattlebaum by Alex Smith

Andrew Quattlebaum -- from the film Summer Knowledge The ice and snow started falling late Tuesday afternoon, February 11, 2014. By Wednesday afternoon, the ground was covered in thick, white sheets of frozen, fallen precipitation, as unlikely (in late winter in Columbia) as the news I received in an e-mail that same Wednesday evening that my friend and long-time collaborator Andrew Quattlebaum had died the day before.

I met Andrew when he was a boy, a student at Heathwood Hall, and a member of the Trustus Theatre Apprentice Company. I helped my friend Tamra Stevenson direct a production of LINE by Israel Horowitz for a state high school drama competition that year, and Andrew was among the students we cast. I paid especially close attention to his work in this production as he was playing the role of Fleming, one which I had played in a previous production.

I became very close with the kids in the Apprentice Company that year. I felt a deep affinity with many of them for many reasons, and the one I felt for Andrew was especially strong. I was almost ten years older, but the similarities of our personal experiences made it especially easy to open up to him with regard to my shyness, my issues with having been “the fat kid” when I was young, my sadness over my parents’ divorce when I was young…we shared so many experiences that our ability to communicate developed into something of a shorthand.

This is not to say that our shorthand was limited to the negative. Far from it, we were both voracious readers and unapologetic autodidacts. We were both rabid for information, for knowledge, for that mental spark that came from putting it all together and making it make sense, even if only to ourselves, but often to and with each other. We shared a passion for music, and Andrew always had some new music he wanted to know if I’d heard, turning me on to a lot, especially in the last few years when I, admittedly, had reached a point where it was becoming harder and harder to seek such things out. Of course, we lost each other on certain topics: I was never nearly smart enough to engage with him in discussion of quantum physics, and I never could convince him of the fact that Barry Gibb is one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. C’est la vie…

The point is, like many of the other relationships I cultivated as a result of meeting that amazing group of kids that were in the Apprentice Company the same year Andrew was, he and I became friends in life and contemporaries in the world of acting, film and the theatre. When I wasn’t working directly with him, I was marveling at his work…but I was one of the lucky ones who got to work with him a great deal, and there is not a moment of that time that I would trade for the world.

I said it in an essay I wrote about the first film we worked on together, SUMMER KNOWLEDGE, but it bears repeating: The thing that always amazed me about Andrew as an actor was that no matter how outlandish a direction or line you threw at him, he always made you believe it. In that very film I required of him delivery of a complete non-sequiter of a line as the culmination of a scene full of dialogue on the page: “To crush the earth until it curses requires strength.” His delivery of that line was so jarringly right that I ended up cutting all but one other line of dialogue in the scene for the film’s final edit. He believed so earnestly in the line itself, and in the elusiveness of there necessarily being meaning within every thought or function that made up the dramatic structure of a piece of art, that all you needed to know about his character, aside from his name (which we had just been told), were those very words, and everything that occurred with and about the character of Paul (who he also played in the next film we worked on together, INSIDE) from that point forward made perfect sense. This was, for me, the unique mark of his already outrageous talent that hovered just below the surface of every choice he made, but which ultimately made the performances that those choices added up to unforgettable.

I said in the same essay that I would get him to play that same character forever, and, at least in INSIDE and, for a brief moment, in the production of THE GRADUATE I directed at Trustus in 2006 (which remains one of my favorite casts from any show I’ve directed), I did. In one scene, late in the play, Andrew was playing a quackish family counselor to Benjamin Braddock and his confused parents. As the session devolved at its end into a generational argument between son and parents, complete with yelling, I asked Andrew to make the counselor’s exit out the office window instead of a nearby door, which he did, close on the heels of laughing hysterically in response to Mrs. Braddock saying, “Doctor, I think we…”, and then, once he had the Braddock’s and the audience’s full attention, suddenly stating with deadly seriousness, “I’m not a doctor.” What the “doctor” was in that moment, as was the character of Paul in both films, was the man that got away.

I didn’t expect life to imitate art. I simply took for granted that there would always be the next thing we worked on together. I think a lot now about the work we didn’t get to do together…the fact that, among many other things, after two films as a supporting player, I had an outline for a film that would focus on the character of Paul…I think about the production I wanted to direct someday of WAITING FOR GODOT with Patrick Kelly as Vladmir and Andrew as Estragon, or the dream production of OTHELLO which Darion McCloud and I have been talking about for years, and the fact that, to both our minds, there really was no one other than Andrew to play Roderigo to Darion’s Othello and my Iago…Christ, I’m getting so old now that I can’t help but imagine how amazing Andrew’s Iago would be However empty his leaving us has rendered those dreams, though, I remind myself that those of us who were fortunate enough to have shared in his immense well of talent were indescribably lucky to have witnessed Andrew’s (far too) short career.

I’ve been trying to balance the personal and the professional as I wrote what I have here about Andrew, and I see that I’ve failed. It’s mainly because the two intertwined between us, and a great deal of our time spent together was working, but it’s also a lot easier to forget to cry when you’re composing hyperbole about your friend’s talent and not just saying what you feel.

I will always wish that we had a little more time to work together, a little more time to create, but, ultimately, what I really am wishing for is just a little more time with my friend.

Andrew was a beautiful, beautiful person, and I am lucky to have counted him among those I hold dear to and deep in my heart. I loved him, I love him still, and I will miss him for the rest of my days.





"Knuffle Bunny - A Cautionary Musical" - Alex Smith reviews the new play at Columbia Children's Theatre

Mo Willems is something of a rock star if you’re a kid between the ages of 4 and 11 (or even if you’re just the parent of a kid that age.)  His career in children’s entertainment began illustriously on Sesame Street, where as an animator and writer he won six Emmy awards between 1993 and 2002.  During that time he also created two animated television series, The Off-Beats and Sheep In The Big City.  Since 2003, he has been a wildly successful author of children’s books, introducing the world to such immortal characters as Cat the CatPiggie and Elephant, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, Leonardo The Terrible Monster, Naked Mole Rat and Big Frog.   His lovely illustrations and easy storytelling simultaneously create tales whose worlds are complex and self-contained, yet are wrought in such a simple way that the lessons they teach are so subtle that you don’t feel like you’re being beaten over the head with them.   Above all his writing and his drawings are VERY funny, making them a joy for both children and adults. All of the same qualities which make Willems’ books so appealing are on full display in the Columbia Children’s Theatre’s musical staging of Knuffle Bunny, subtitled A Cautionary Musical.  With book and lyrics by Willems and music by Michael Silversher, this adaptation of the Caldecott Medal-winning adventures of the beloved stuffed animal of the title, Trixie (the toddler who loves the bunny), and Trixie’s Mom and Dad, is staged as confidently as ever by director Chad Henderson, whose genre-defying talent as a theatrical director shines in this family-friendly production.   Henderson, as usual, has brought together a cast and crew whose talent coalesces to create a brisk, wonderfully entertaining evening in the theatre for children and their grown-ups alike.

This "cautionary tale" is straightforward enough: Dad, in an attempt to give Mom some time to herself, decides to take their daughter Trixie to the laundromat a few blocks from their home in the big city.  Trixie drags along her favorite stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. In the process of laundering the family’s clothes, Knuffle Bunny is accidentally put in the washing machine, and not until they return home between cycles does Dad realize what Trixie (who hasn’t learned to speak yet) has been trying to tell him throughout their journey home: Knuffle Bunny has been left behind. Mom, Dad and Trixie all rush back to the laundromat, where Dad embarks on a hero’s journey to recover Trixie’s missing doll. To say that hilarity ensues would cheat all of the above described action of how wildly entertaining and very funny it is.


Mom and Dad are expertly played by Kathy Sykes and Paul Lindley II, respectively. They are portraying archetypes, which can easily be overplayed and stereotypical in lesser hands, but as Mom, Ms. Sykes conveys all the frustration, patience, nurturing and love which mothers exercise with their children (and, often, with the fathers of their children) in such a sincere and earthy way that we laugh at and with her because of the familiarity her portrayal evokes. Lindley as Dad is all bluster and bravado which mask his genuine sensitivity and insecurities about his ability as a parent and a spouse; in other words, he is every dad.  Lindley, in addition to serving as the show's musical director, is a comic actor of immense talent (he was side-splitting as "Snail" in CCT's recent staging of Frog and Toad), and in his hands Dad is the perfect over-serious, overwrought and over-compensating foil to Ms. Sykes’ “straight-man” mom. Their performances, individually and as that archetypal institution of “mom and dad,” are worth the price of admission alone.

And then there’s Trixie. Having an adult play a child onstage is another dangerous proposition: the temptation to over- or under-play the impossibly endless and variant characterizations which make up the earliest eras of childhood make the task a difficult one for any actor...or, as one of the show's songs explains, "Trixie Is Tricky".  Hats off, then, to Sara Jackson, who embodies the pre-verbal toddler Trixie with all of the requisite foibles of a child that age without ever falling into the easy traps of being too cutesy or commenting on them.  The strength of Ms. Jackson's performance lies in the fact that despite the fact that, for instance, the role calls upon her to do something as outlandish as speak for 95% of the play in incomprehensible toddler-speak, she takes Trixie as seriously as an actor would take any adult role. This not only makes her character completely clear and interesting, it allows her to nearly bring down the house with laughter when she delivers, with straight-faced sincerity, a ballad about her troubles whose lyrics consist of no recognizable human language. It is a high point of the show.

There are so many other elements which make Knuffle Bunny such an excellent show: the hard work of a fine ensemble of actor/puppeteers (Julian Deleon, Anthony Harvey, Brandi Smith and Christina Whitehouse-Suggs) who play multiple roles and are particularly wonderful in a scene where Dad does battle with some troublesome clothes in an attempt to find Knuffle Bunny; Donna Harvey's costume and puppet design which ably bring those troublesome clothes, Knuffle Bunny, and all the other characters, animate or not, to colorful life; Baxter Engle's superb projections, which build upon Willems' own layout in the Knuffle Bunny books, creating a living backdrop out of actual photographs of New York city and otherwise broadening the staging possibilities in the Children's Theatre's modest space (this may be the first production in Columbia to stage a musical number inside a washing machine); and, of course, a cameo appearance by Willems' other Caldecott Honoree, the troublesome Pigeon - in the form of an excellent marionette, designed and built by Lyon Hill - who in the play's final moments literally "steals the show," and opens up the welcome possibility that this may not be the end of Knuffle Bunny's stage adventures...

The Columbia Children's Theatre's top-notch production of Knuffle Bunny is so well-crafted and performed, that it makes the prospect of further musical journeys with Mom, Dad, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny a tantalizing prospect indeed. It is the best kind of family entertainment around, and it should not be missed.

~ Alex Smith

Knuffle Bunny - A Cautionary Musical runs Friday, April 19th at 7:00 PM, Saturday, April 20th at 10:30 AM, 2:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, and a final matinee Sunday, April 21st, at 3:00 PM.  For ticket in formation, visit their website, or call (803) 691-4548.

First Lines -- an invitation from Jasper

"As she sat stunned in her car on Charleston's rickety old John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, trapped precariously 150 feet above the swift-moving waters of the Cooper River, ..."


"When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."


"It was a Tuesday night in the spring of 1988 and I decided to head down to Pug's in Five Points for the weekly jam session."


"This essay is not an act of revenge."


"Bastille Day 2001, personal date of independence."


"It's a particularly hot summer day, even for Columbia, when I parallel park my car on Washington Street and notice a tall, lanky gentleman as he moves stiffly to reposition an over-sized canvas by the curb."


"It began with a gift."

 Ahh, first lines.

Every literary adventure you've ever been on began with one.

Please join the Jasper and Muddy Ford Press family today as we celebrate the first lines above and more than a dozen more when we launch our newest book,

The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists,

volume 1,

with a launch party from 5 – 8 pm at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street in Columbia.

The $15 admission to the event includes a copy of The Limelight ($18 after 2/24/13), music, food, and the opportunity to gather signatures from authors and artists in attendance at the launch. For couples wishing to share a book, admission is $25.

There will be a cash bar.

The Limelight, published by Muddy Ford Press, LLC, is the first volume in a serialized collection of 18 first-person, narrative essays written by professional Columbia authors and artists about professional Columbia authors and artists. It is the sixth book to be published by Muddy Ford Press since February 2012.

Edited by Jasper Magazine founder and editor Cynthia Boiter, The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume 1 is a serialized collection of first person narrative essays written by Columbia, SC writers and artists about Columbia, SC writers and artists. As the Southeast’s newest arts destination, Columbia is bursting with visual, literary, and performing artists whose work has caught the attention of the greater arts world at large, and these essays tell the stories of how the influence of these artists has spread. New York Times best-selling author Janna McMahan, for example, writes about spending a day touring Beaufort, SC, the hometown of literary giant Pat Conroy, with the writer himself. Poet Ed Madden writes about the disconcerting words of advice he received from dying poet and professor James Dickey when Madden took over teaching the last academic course of Dickey’s career. Music writers Michael Miller and Kyle Petersen share insights on saxophone great Chris Potter and contemporary singer-songwriter Danielle Howle, respectively, and poet Cassie Premo Steele writes about the inspiration stemming from her friendship with nationally-known visual artist Philip Mullen.

These 18 essays include works by and about poets Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Marjory Wentworth, Ray McManus, Cassie Premo Steele, Kristine Hartvigsen, Colena Corbett, and Ed Madden; visual artists Philip Mullen, Gilmer Petroff, Blue Sky, James Busby, Stephen Chesley, and Susan Lenz; musicians Chris Potter and Danielle Howle; dancers Stacey Calvert and Bonnie Boiter-Jolley; actors and directors Robert Richmond, Greg Leevy, Chad Henderson, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jim and Kay Thigpen, and Alex Smith; and writers and editors James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Janna McMahan, Aida Rogers, Michael Miller, Jeffrey Day, Kyle Petersen, Robbie Robertson, Don McCallister, Robert Lamb, August Krickel, and Cynthia Boiter.

For more information or to order online please go to



Song for Jeffrey By Alex Smith, Sports Editor, Jasper Magazine

A few miles down the road from the fortified compound that houses Jasper Magazine, something is cooking at The Free Times in the Rant And Rave section, and when something starts to cook on that burner, the responses can go on longer than some of the threads on Chris Bickel's Facebook posts, only it's not inter web realtime, so that means weeks. I wanted to throw my pat of butter onto this particular griddle in a somewhat public forum before everybody forgets how the whole fucking thing started (I'm just as guilty as the next: we have given ourselves the attention span of gnats with this internet thing-I hear heckles that 'this internet thing' is what is allowing me to have my say about something while it's still remotely topical…just remember, if you're close enough to hear you're close enough to chew the face off of…).

  Ed [Madden, Poetry Editor] and I were in the bullpen out at the compound at Muddy Ford about a week ago, grinding the pigment out of wildflowers to use for the various colored ink for the upcoming issue (you don't just write when you're on staff at Jasper). As the man said so long ago, "we spoke of movies and verse, and the way an actress held her purse, and the way life and times could get worse…" Then we spoke of Jeffrey. Ed mentioned somebody bitching about our mutual friend Jeffrey Day and one of his less than enthusiastic notices concerning some or other arts related event here in town. We agreed not only that bitching about a review was unwarranted and whiny, but that (you can quote me on this) Jeffrey Day is the best all-around arts critic writing in Columbia. Imagine my surprise when, perusing the new issue of the Free-Times the next day [June 26-July 2], I got to the very last words that weren't ad copy, and they read, "I found a little Jeffrey Day dribble in my Free Times this morning (Arts, June 20). Apparently, the guy is like treatment-resistant gonorrhea; you may think he’s gone, but he ain’t."


I love the Free Times. I have had a man-crush on its editor since I saw his band open for The Violent Femmes when I was 15 years old. When it comes to full coverage journalism in Columbia, The Free Times has no competition, and their work is consistently terrific. And, like most people, I love the Rant And Rave section. So, let me make it completely clear that in no way am I trying to defame The Free Times when I say, in regard to the quote above: Fuck. That. Shit.

Here are a few more choice words in regard to that quote. I've known Jeffrey for going on 25 years, and I consider him a friend, but my anger about those words being said about a friend is beside the point, and what's more, personal, and I'd like to keep this out of that realm. I will, therefore, dispense with attempting to address the anonymous coward who spilled that bile onto the back page of an otherwise decent news rag, and try to look at the bigger picture.


The above quote is indicative of a problem some of the people involved in Columbia's arts community have that can end up being fucking deadly: everybody wants press, but none of them are willing to take criticism from anybody who knows what they're saying. First, let me say that, if you're an artist and you can't take the ugly words the same way that you take the kind words that people say about your art, if you can't be humble in the face of adulation and venom, throw that towel in. Now. You're a kiddie swimming in the big person pool. Get out until you've grown up a little. Beyond that, if our arts scene (which, listen, don't get me wrong, seems to be flourishing and cohering so successfully at this point that it's making me nervous) is nothing but a bunch of people smiling and waxing each others' cars, the whole thing will either burn bright very briefly and then die (again) because, take my word, that kind of enthusiasm can not be maintained without serious drugs; or those grinning waxers will turn around after telling you they love your work and tell somebody else how shitty they really think it is, this behavior will proliferate, and the whole thing will fizz out like a soggy sparkler and die (again).


Be honest about what you think and feel when you experience a work of art, and be willing and able to back it up, especially if your thoughts and feelings are negative. This will create dialogue, which will create working and personal relationships, which will create community. That's one thing.

The other is, for FUCK'S sake, we artists should get down on our knees and praise Allah for allowing us to have an art critic like Jeffrey in this town. Jeffrey is knowledgeable about enough aspects of both visual and performing arts that he can write incisive criticism about what he sees, whether it's a review of a musical at Town Theatre, a symphony performance at the Koger Center, or the latest show at the Columbia Museum of Art. He does so without any bells and whistles, without flexing his intellect publicly, and in such a way that a person reading his reviews does not have to be an aficionado to understand what he has written. He has been a paid writer for virtually every print outlet that covers the arts in Columbia, and when times got tough, he continued to do it for free online. Somehow, Jeffrey sees it all, and he reports on it honestly and thoroughly. People have faulted him for being too harsh a critic as long as I've known him, and, again, let me say it: Fuck. That. Shit.


Jeffrey has seen what the arts community in this city is capable of, and the reason we should be grateful for him is that he holds us to that high standard, and if we weren't around to know about the standard he's holding us to, he'll be glad to tell us about it. He is a good man. He may be a grumbling, naysaying curmudgeon sometimes, but if he knows you, he'll laugh at himself with you about it, especially if you're like me, and he knows that you'll only put up with his grumbling for so long before you pull out your tickle-bat and whack him with it (I'll tell you more about the tickle-bat some other time).


Jeffrey wrote a review of a play I directed in 2005 that has been the kindest thing written about any single artistic endeavor I've been involved with. It ended with the phrase, "…one of the ten best plays to be performed in Columbia in the last ten years." No shit. It was such a good review that I started telling people I'd paid him to write it, or that myself and the cast had gotten him loaded, like Joe Cotten in Citizen Kane, and finished the review for him after he passed out. He also wrote a very poor review of a show I directed in 2000 that I thought was perfect. Ultimately, I believe it was that poor review that made Jeffrey my friend. He would come sit and talk with me and whoever I was with (or vice-versa) when we'd see each other out at the bars or around town. I noticed that, for a long time after that poor review, he didn't seem to come and sit and talk when I saw him, and at first it puzzled me, but then, I realized that he probably thought I was pissed at him about the review (reading that Free Times quote and thinking about how much of that bullshit he's probably had to endure over his career makes me feel naive for ever wondering why he would have thought he should approach an artist with kid gloves). I saw him out one night. I was a little in my cups, so I told him that he needn't ever worry about me being an asshole to him if he wrote a bad review of one of my shows because, ultimately, good or bad, I wasn't doing it for him. I think most people would have been more than a little off-put by some drunk jerk coming up and telling them that they didn't care what they thought, but after that, Jeffrey seemed so much more relaxed and willing to talk when we would see each other.


The part I'm not sure about is whether I told him about the quote. After his bad review came out, I happened to read an interview from the 60's with Miles Davis. To bolster the esteem of the cast of the play Jeffrey had panned, I printed this quote out and hung it backstage:


"I get sick of how a lot of them write whole columns and pages of big words and still ain't saying nothing. If you have spent your life getting to know your business and the other cats in it, and what they are doing, then you know if a critic knows what he's talking about. Most of the time they don't. I don't pay no attention to what critics say about me, the good or the bad. The toughest critic I got, and the only one I worry about, is myself. My music has got to get past me and I'm too vain to play anything I think is bad."


What came after this, which I left out for my cast, but include here, is this:


"No, I ain't going to name critics I don't like. But I will tell you some that I respect what they write -- Nat Hentoff, Ralph Gleason and Leonard Feather. And some others, I can't right off think of their names. But it ain't a long list."


The list might not be long, but this vain, self-critical artist is glad to say that Jeffrey Day is on it.

-- Alex Smith, staff writer, Jasper Magazine


(Alex Smith has written about The Next Door Drummers and artist Cedric Umoja for Jasper Magazine. In the upcoming issue, releasing on July 12th, he writes about music director Tom Beard, Lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, and experimental musician C. Neil Scott. Alex Smith is NOT the Sports Editor for Jasper Magazine.)

Two New Writers Join the Jasper Staff

We couldn't be more delighted to announce that two new staff writers have come on board the Jasper bandwagon. Many of you will already be familiar with these names and faces -- or at least the hair. Please help us welcome Susan Levi Wallach and Alex Smith to the Jasper family.

Susan Levi Wallach has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her short stories have appeared in Best Fiction, Fogged Clarity, Stone's Throw, and Monarch Review; her articles in a number of theatre, technology, and military publications; her poems in emails to her children. She won a Keith D. Ware Journalism Award from the Department of Defense in 2003. She is a freelance copy editor.


Alex Smith refuses to decide. He produces, acts, designs, and directs for the stage; acts in, writes, produces directs, shoots, scores and edits film; is an accomplished and prolific visual artist; has published a book of his poetry; and (given the right circumstances) has been known to sing every now and then, and, even more rarely, to dance. He heads the Sports desk at Jasper Magazine. (No, he doesn't.)



Why I'll Be Writing In "Tom Jones" On Tuesday by Alex Smith

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Mike Miller has withdrawn from the race for Columbia city council, and, frankly, I'm depressed. You should be too. We all should be. There were many reasons Mike should be on city council. I think I might mention a few here. Initially this was meant to be a ringing endorsement of Mike on behalf of the freak (a.k.a. arts at large) community. Now I'm not quite sure what it is other than another goddamn admonition to the voters of Columbia to remember that if you want to affect positive change, start around the corner. Vote in your local elections, and pay attention to what the folks who are running for ACTUALLY stand for and whether they're actually going to do anything once they're elected. Anyway, here's what I had to say.


Politics and art are eerily similar in America. To the vast majority of the population they:

  • A. are far too complicated, paradoxical, cryptic and boring to even try to comprehend;
  • B. are easiest to accept when kept safely behind large, preferably hard wooden doors inside halls of marble and plaster;
  • C. are of little or no use until they mingle with religion, sex, bodily fluids, or any combination of the three;
  • D. must fall precisely within the parameters of an individual's beliefs concerning the proper use of religion, sex and/or bodily fluids;
  • E. are deemed "impeachable", "obscene", or both, if they don't fall precisely within said parameters.

Perhaps this is why artists and politicians get along so well … Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys … Bob Evans and Henry Kissinger … Frank Sinatra and the Reagans … when you run with the damned, there's little need to discern which circle you're mingling in, and there's no telling who you'll meet, who you'll end up in bed with, or what you'll learn.

Which is how, I suppose, I managed (being what might be described as an artist) to dip my toe in the milk of local politics, and why I'm attempting to talk about them here having done some practical learning. Last year, when I was helping to get The Tapp's Arts Center built and partially funded by the city of Columbia, I attended what seemed like countless meetings (but probably amounted to no more than six or eight) at city hall and thereabouts. My experiences only added to my belief that politics and art are not too distant cousins.

I'm looking over the notes I took during a 'what will remain un-named' subcommittee meeting at city hall. It reminds me of most 501-c3 board meetings I've been to (only, you couldn't pay a local reporter enough to attend a non-profit board meeting and take notes, which, I guess, makes me look foolish for writing this stuff down, but, hey, I never said I wasn't a fool):

  • quote: "…trying to get their arms around that 800 lb. gorilla…"
  • '____' (a local reporter) looks B-O-R-E-D…
  • quote: "Who brings a mini-van to a gun fight?"
  • The people running this shindig are the same people who can't stay in their seats until intermission at the opera… when's the intermission for this fucking show?
  • quote (of the day): "…dog ain't got no more hair on it…"

You should never get a bunch of artists OR politicians in the same room trying to decide something. If one of them has a plan which they need help putting together, chances are, no matter how great the person's idea is, it will disappear into a storm of great ideas that everybody else in the room has, because, as you're probably starting to understand, none of them give a shit about anybody's ideas but their own. Just like politicians. Only, getting a bunch of politicians to decide on something is twice as difficult, because, not only do they have to agree that one person's idea is best, then they have to vote on it, which, as I have seen firsthand, can take months. "Why on earth should it take months to vote on something that everyone agrees on," you ask? I respond with another question: "Who brings a mini-van to a gun fight?" Exactly.


To find any one person who truly gives a shit and is somewhat knowledgeable about both art AND politics in this day and age is rare; to find them in public office is astounding. You have to be truly interested in your community to engage in pushing the arts as a politician, and you have to be significantly less ego driven than most if you are an artist who is trying to effect political change (of course, there's a third option which applies to both politicians pushing arts and artists getting involved in politics: you can be fucking insane).

When I met our mayor for the first time, I was impressed by the fact that he introduced himself as "Steve." I was impressed when I watched him have an assistant usher a woman, who became very upset by how disrespectfully she felt she had been treated at one of these endless meetings I attended, out of the meeting, and to find him actually talking to and encouraging her outside the meeting afterward. After getting to know him, I was impressed by how astute he seemed to be concerning how, when placed thoughtfully and with care within an infrastructure, the arts can function as a tremendous business catalyst in any city. Mostly, overall (and he is too much a gentleman to approve of my language here, but that's why he's mayor and I'm not) I was, and remain, impressed with how much of a fucking human being he is. Make no mistake, friends: human being sightings are rare among politicians, whatever side of the fence you fall on.

Don't get me wrong. Mayor Benjamin shakes hands and kisses babies with the best of them; but when it comes down to it, Steve is going to stick by his guns when it concerns getting things done that will make our city a better place … and, if you are on his team, or vice versa, he is going to laugh with you about it when the shit gets done. I happen to share his vision for what a cohesive community this city can, and should, be, and he and I were among a group of folks who believed that Brenda Schwarz's idea for an arts center on Main Street was integral to that vision, so it is easy for me to respect and admire him for that commitment to getting the job done.

Mike Miller falls in the same category as the mayor. As long as I've known him (socially for almost twenty years), he's always been "Mike." He is a gentleman of the first order. He has written with great care and passion about music in this town for … well, for as long as I can remember, and he's stuck by it through good times and bad. But more than all of this, Mike cares, genuinely and selflessly, about the city of Columbia as a community, and he not only believes that the arts can create stronger community within our city, he works to make it a reality, and has been for some time.

I could go down the list of all the amazing shit Mike has done in Columbia to make it a better, stronger community, but I'd rather tell you why I'm voting for him. I used to live around the corner from Mike, and he was always trying to drum up ideas to get the neighborhood together to get outdoors, have some fun, and get to know each other. What he and I are actually talking about in the photo above is the idea he had to screen free movies for kids when the weather got warm at a public park right around the corner from where I used to live. I told him, having made and projected films, that if he handled the red tape, I'd help out with any technical know-how that I could.

That's why Mike gets my vote. He's smart enough to know that if you want to create a community that cares about their city, get them together on a beautiful spring evening, give them some snacks and drinks, and put on a movie that they and their kids love, and you have a hell of a lot better chance of getting them together on any of the real issues plaguing our city, than if you treat them and refer to them as "constituents," which is as good as to say, "numbers." Or "voters."

By being a human being instead of a politician.

-- Alex Smith

Alex Smith is an actor, director and visual artist. You can reach him at or respond to this post in the comments section below.


A message from Cindi about Kendal Turner, Pink Power, Virginia Scotchie & Gallery V, Al Black, USC Dance & Stacey Calvert, Corey Hutchins,Wade Sellers, Passing Strange & it's Art

Dear Friends, A few things are coming up this week that might fall under your radar but you probably don't want to miss. Let's take a look.

On Tuesday night at the Art Bar, spoken word poet Kendal Turner -- yes, the same amazing lady who put together the All Woman Entourage for the release of Jasper #4 the Pink Power Issue last week -- will be presenting Poetic Awakenings. Here's what Ms. Turner posts about the event on Facebook:

"This is a place for everyone. To share, to listen, to write their next big masterpiece. This is where to go when you're not sure where to turn. A peaceful refuge in the back room of a bar that's been the safe haven for many weary wanderers. Join me for VerseWorks at the Art Bar for an open mic like no other. I invite you to share what's in your heart and open to the highest form of grace. Art is the backbone of the universe and we, we are the architects." -- K. Turner

To RSVP for this event and for more information click the magic button. And to read more of Ms. Turner's impetus for creating this event, look for a blog post in the next day or so.


On Thursday night, a new gallery space is opening in 5 Points and, as you know, Jasper is all about finding more and more walls for all the art being generated in our town. This is Virginia Scotchie's gallery and she's calling it Gallery V - Contemporary Art and Fine Craft. Her first show is called "10 Women in Clay" and it features work by Isabelle Caskey, Heyley Douglas, Laura VanCamp, Virginia Scotchie, Allison Brown, Frieda Dean, Katherine Radomsky, Emily Russell, Brittany Jeffcoat, and Kristina Stafford.

Gallery V (as in 5) is located just above Good for the Sole shoes at 631-D Harden Street in Columbia. Opening reception hours are from 5 until 8. For more info or to RSVP, your magic button is here.

We'd also like to plug the newest issue of the magazine, Jasper #4, in which Ms. Scotchie wrote the guest editorial. Turn to the back of the mag and give it a read, please.


Two fine arts events will be happening at the same time on Friday night -- a problem Columbia rarely used to have, but which we seem to be plagued with now. I complain about this a lot myself, but it's a purely selfish complaint. If we lived in NYC or Seattle or Boston, we would  have long ago become accustomed to making choices of what arts events to attend on any given evening. This is something artists and arts lovers have to get used to if we're going to live in an arts hub like Columbia, SC. (For more on this, please refer to the recent Facebook exchange between myself and local poet Al Black that I have posted below.)*

At 7 pm on Friday, the USC Dance Company once again presents the Stars of the New York City Ballet at the Koger Center for the Arts.  I've written a piece on this for the Free Times, so I'll leave you to read that on Wednesday. (And, by the by, big props to Free Times for taking home a boatload of awards from the SC Press Association -- the SCPA paid for a portion of my undergrad tuition so I am still a fan -- and especially to Corey Hutchins of the Free Times for being named SC Journalist of the Year.)

But in the meantime, please know that to say that Stacey Calvert, former soloist with the NYC Ballet, has changed the face of ballet in Columbia, SC is no exaggeration whatsoever. I am overwhelmed by the misinformation being tossed around out there concerning who knows what about ballet in this city. If anyone really wanted to know what the bottom line on professional ballet is, rather than asking those who try to preserve their ephemeral positions of authority simply by clinging to the long gone skirt-tails of long dead people, they would ask Stacey Calvert. Read about her on page 42 of Jasper #4 and be aware that if we don't keep this woman in Columbia by giving her a position of real authority in which she can use her talent and her connections to put Columbia on the map for professional ballet, then this will be a shameful and disastrous loss -- as well as a likely remnant of the internecine conflicts mentioned in * below.


Also on Friday night, The rock musical Passing Strange opens at Trustus Theatre. I hope you've been reading and hearing about this performance and the collaboration between Jasper and Trustus as we brought 10 local artists together to create the set of the musical. We previewed the art last Friday and were treated to another magnificent example of what happens when artists from different disciplines come together to cooperate and inspire one another. (See photo below.) Now you have the opportunity to see the art on the stage. The show opens on Friday night and runs through April 14th. For ticket info punch here.


On Saturday, March 24th, local filmmaker Wade Sellers will be premiering his new film Lola's Prayer at the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival in Spartanburg, SC. Mr. Sellers shared a guest blog with us previously. It's not that far to Spartanburg -- and if you're brave you can go early and eat at the Beacon. The festival starts at 7 and is only $5 -- but is expected to sell out, as well it should. I hope you'll join me in representing Columbia and supporting Mr. Sellers and his fine cast of Columbians who are in this film.


*Finally, here's a cut and pasted copy of the exchange between Mr. Black and myself from Facebook -- we'd love to know what you think, Columbia.

The first lines are from Al Black --

My thoughts on the 'Poetry Community' & the 'Arts Community' in general:We should stop looking at the 'Columbia Arts Community' as a pie and that the more artists and arts events the smaller our piece of pie.The 'Columbia Arts Community' is a fabulous psychedelic mushroom and when people bite off a piece spores are released into the atmosphere and mushrooms start popping up in more locations and more minds are fed.

The more we share the faster our crop grows & spreads - the potential is endless not finite.

With Warm Regards,

Albee In Wonderland Jefferson Starship once sang, "Feed your head!"

· · Thursday at 4:00pm

  • You and 3 others like this.
    • Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts At Jasper, we couldn't agree more. And not to get all socio-political on a perfectly pleasant Sunday afternoon, but there is something to be said for the theory that internecine competition once held our fine burg back -- too much energy spent hating and not enough invested in supporting our sisters and brothers in the arts. As we grow in numbers, we grow in strength and power and visibility. We can become an arts destination by growing our arts community exponentially and via multi-disciplinary patronage.


Thanks for reading this far. Have a great week in the arts, my friends.





                         ~~ Cindi

The Art of Passing Strange -- Blog #2 with Krajewski, West, Puryear, Smith, and Umoja

REMINDER Jasper #4, our 1st annual All Women - All Art issue releases on Thursday March 15th with a spectacular release party at Vista Studios Gallery 80808 -- 808 Lady Street that evening. Women Only from 6 until 7 -- and then at 7 we'll open the doors to the gentlemen. Admission is free and we'll be enjoying the famed Jasper EconoBar as well as a


Please join us.


A few days ago, we shared with you the exciting news about Jasper and Trustus Theatre's collaboration on The Art of Passing Strange. There's even more excitement in the air as the 10 selected artists (Thomas Crouch, Cedric Umoja, Alex Smith, Whitney Lejeune, Lisa Puryear, Paul Kaufmann, Lucas Sams, Michael Krajewski, David West, and Lindsay Wiggins) begin to complete their paintings and share them with us at Trustus and Jasper. So in the interest of fairness and generosity, we're sharing the images we receive with you, as we receive them.

Read on to see what lies in store for you if you attend the opening of The Art of Passing Strange on Friday night -- but while pictures are a great tease -- they're nothing like seeing the real thing. And remember, all the art is for sale -- we'll be conducting a silent auction throughout the run of the show with 100% of the proceeds going straight back to these artists who so often give of their creativity to various causes throughout the Columbia community. (And if you have your heart set on any one specific piece, each artist will be determining a BUY NOW price which will allow you to purchase the piece and take your selected painting out of the auction. You'll just need to pick it up at the end of the run of the show.)

Michael Krajewski is a self-taught artist whose work has appeared throughout South Carolina and locally at Anastasia AND FRIENDS, HoFP Gallery, Tapp’s Arts Center, Frame of Mind Gallery, the Columbia Museum of Art, and more. He was chosen to be the first artist featured as a centerfold in Jasper Magazine – the Word on Columbia Arts. Reach Michael at


David West has a BFA in Studio Art and a Masters degree in Art Education. He has worked professionally as a graphic designer for the last 13 years, while also creating and showing fine art in his free time. Though he still provides design services, he is currently transitioning into a teaching career. You can see some of his fine art at his studio in the Arcade on Main Street. Reach David at


 Lisa Puryear studied at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and the University of South Carolina under Philip Mullen, Roy Drasites and Ann Hubbard.  Lisa is currently a member of the Trenholm Artists Guild in Columbia, SC and About Face at the Columbia Museum of Art. Reach Lisa at


Alex Smith is an actor, director, and visual artist who returns to the Trustus stage (in the form of visual artist) after a 12 year hiatus since he painted the backdrop for the production of Gross Indecency:  The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, which he directed in 2000. He dedicates his work for Passing Strange to Jim and Kay Thigpen, whom he loves more than words can say. Reach Alex at


Cedric Umoja attended the Art Institute of Atlanta and studied in South Carolina under Tony Cacalano. He is a founding member of the artist collective Izms of Art, a recipient of a 2012 South Carolina Arts Commission grant. His influences are Dondi White, Max Beckmann, Hans Hoffman and Sam Keith. Reach Cedric at



The Art of Passing Strange - Blog #1

My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs;
She swore, in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange ;
'Twas pitiful. 'twas wondrous pitiful,
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd
That heaven had made her such a man.
Othello, the Moor of Venice, act 1, scene 3, lines 158–163


Those of you well versed in Jasper's mission know that we are all about bringing together artists and patrons from a variety of arts disciplines as a way of growing and sustaining Columbia's burgeoning arts community. So when Chad Henderson, director of Trustus Theatre's upcoming play, Passing Strange, approached us about collaborating on a project which would bring the visual and performing arts together for an extended run this spring, we were delighted to get involved.

Here's the deal, 10 local artists were invited to view a 2009 Spike Lee-directed film of the Broadway production of Passing Strange, a rock musical about a young man's journey into enlightenment via his travels in Europe. Then, each artist was given two four by four canvasses on which to create the art that the film inspired. Those 20 canvasses will be used on the set of the musical throughout its Trustus run. Simple and beautiful, right?

Now here's where you get involved.

Come to Trustus Theatre on Lady Street in Columbia's Vista on Friday night, March 16th for the opening of The Art of Passing Strange. There will be music and entertainment -- more on that below -- snacks, a cash bar, and most importantly, you'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the 20 paintings newly created for the musical as well as the artists who created them. And the exciting thing is this -- the art is for sale. Throughout the run of the play, bid sheets for each painting will be available in the lobby and you'll be able to register your bid for your favorite art. There are two especially cool things about this.

One, the artist gets 100% of the sale of her or his work.

And two, each painting will also feature a "Buy Now" price at which you can purchase the painting, close all other bids, and know then that you'll be taking that art home at the end of the run of the show on April 14th.

For more information, read on below and visit The Art of Passing Strange's Facebook page.

So, come out on the 16th for the art show opening -- The Art of Passing Strange -- and then return to the theatre during the March 23 - April 14 run to see the art on stage and take in this Tony winning rock musical, with local musical groups like Day Clean and The Mobros opening up each performance with a a free pre-show concert for theatre ticket holders.

And yes, Friends, this is how our community continues to grow. Stay tuned for more of What Jasper Said about the artists and their art in The Art of Passing Strange.


Trustus Theatre and Jasper Magazine present

THE ART OF PASSING STRANGE - a one-night only event!

PASSING STRANGE is a one-of-a-kind rock musical charts a young musician's journey to find "the real" through an exploration of artistic voice and authenticity.

Trustus' pro...duction of PASSING STRANGE marks a new level of inter-disciplinary creation - mixing theatre, dance, music, and visual art together for an unparalleled artistic event. Local visual artists will be creating 20 brand new pieces inspired by the show that will serve as the scenic design, and local singer/songwriters will be performing during pre-show.

THE ART OF PASSING STRANGE is the grand unveiling of the new pieces created for the show. Get an intimate experience with each piece before they make their way onto the set. Also, enjoy music performances by Major 2 Minor and a dance performance by Vibrations Dance Company. You'll also get the chance to make your mark on the set - we will provide the paint, you bring the inspiration. The cash bar will be running - so join us at Trustus to celebrate a unique artistic collaboration in Columbia, SC!

Artists: Lisa Puryear, Michael Krajewski, Lindsay Wiggins, Cedric Umoja, Paul Kaufmann, Lucas Sams, Alex Smith, Thomas Crouch, Whitney LeJune, & David West

Admission is free!

(Please check out Jasper Magazine's Facebook page, and click on "Like," and please be sure to subscribe to What Jasper Said so you'll always be on top of the latest in Columbia's arts news.) 


Sometimes it's all I think about, too.

Jasper is hosting the upstairs performance space in the Olympia Room at this year's What's Love evening of art and performance on Feb 14 at 701 Whaley.  We've got Shane Silman, Andrew Quattlebaum, and Alex Smith recreating the Beat poets, NiA Theatre Company offering a little teaser of a play, some poets and slammers, some short films, a freaky cool little installation of altered dolls by Susan Lenz, and Dr. Sketchy.

And one of the really cool things that Jasper Magazine is doing for this year's will be a little chapbook of sexy, quirky poems about love, sex, and technology.  The theme of this year's event is "input/output," so we invited poems and fiction writers to submit poetry and flash fiction that addressed love and sex and especially the ways that technology has changed our emotional and sexual relationships.  We got about 130 submissions from 40 SC writers.  There were text message poems, Skype poems, poems about voicemail and sexting, telephones and digital cams and iphones, a faux blog by a teenage girl, and story written in Facebook posts.  Girl crushes, long-distance calls, a Grindr post, lights left on all night--oh, and a lurker.  And we narrowed it down to 17 powerful, punchy little pieces.

Poets included are:  Ray McManus, Betsy Breen, Eric Kocher, Carol Peters, Worthy Evans, Nicola Waldron, Julie Bloemeke, Dustin Brookshire, Daniel Nathan Terry, Kristine Hartvigsen, Kendal Turner, Lauren Wiggins, Libby Swope Wiersema, Ed Madden, and Barbara G S Hagerty, as well as a poignant little bit of flash fiction by Carl Jenkinson.

The book is published thanks to Jasper and to Hip-Wa-Zee.


The Making and Celebrating of Jasper #3 - What to Expect

When we started planning Jasper #3 we looked at the date the magazine was due and thought -- really? Would anyone really be interested in a new issue of an arts magazine so early in the year -- so close to Christmas? Having increased the size of Jasper #2 by 8 pages we thought that maybe we should ease back for #3 and go back to our original 48 pages. We also thought it would be a good idea to make the issue somewhat literary heavy, given that so many folks would still be in that holiday state of mind in the middle of January, and not much would be going on in the performing or visual arts. So we thought.

It didn't take long for us to realize that there was way too much going on to reduce the pages of the magazine -- in fact, we increased them even more. Jasper #3 will be 16 pages longer than Jasper #1. But the fascinating thing about putting together a magazine that is reflective of the arts community it represents is how organic the whole process is. For example, our choices of cover artist and centerfold artist easily gave way to our choice of venue for the celebration of the release. Our Jasper Reads story led us to our choice for Guest Editorial. An essay written by an esteemed visual artist on how social service can act as a muse for creation directed us to another story on a local theatre troupe that we quickly made room for and wrote. Our story on Columbia's choral arts scene suggested an obvious choice for entertainment at our release event. Things like that.

The other thing that surprised us was just how much would be going on in the performing and visual arts community this early in the calendar year.

This week has been packed already with an abundance of diverse and stimulating art. Tuesday night we had the opportunity to visit Tom Law's Conundrum concert hall and sit in on Jack Beasley's The Weekly Monitor, which hosted Elonzo, Magnetic Flowers, and Henry Thomas's Can't Kids.

Magnetic Flowers blew us away, by the way, and we've listened to their new CD 4 times in the last 24 hours. For more on Magnetic Flowers, read Kyle Petersen's story in Jasper #3. We were also pretty charmed by the raw almost 80s sounding tunes of the Can't Kids. I look forward to hearing what Kyle has to say once he gets a chance to listen to their new CD.

Wednesday night saw us attending the opening reception for Thomas Crouch's new show in the Hallway Gallery at 701 Whaley. We're pretty big Crouch fans already, and it was great to see some of his new work and to meet his mom, duly proud of her boy. Kudos to Lee Ann Kornegay and Tom Chinn for making blank wall space meaningful. We  hope to see more and more businesses do the same. There is no shortage of art to hang on Columbia's walls.

Which brings us to Thursday night -- the celebration of the release of Jasper #3 as well as Night #1 in Columbia Alternacirque's 3-Night Festival of Doom. We hate missing this first night of the only kind of circus we're ever interested in seeing, but we're reassured that there are two more nights of awesomeness we can avail ourselves of AND Ms. Natalie Brown -- the mother of the tribe -- will be visiting us down at the Arcade as soon as she's off the boards at CMFA Thursday night. For more on Natalie Brown, read Cindi's article on her in Jasper #3.

Much like this issue of the magazine our release event scheduled for Thursday night has grown far beyond our initial intentions. Rather than being a quiet evening of acoustic music and intellectual conversation, as we thought it might be, it has turned into a multi-disciplinary arts event.

Here's what to expect:

  • 7 - 7:15 -- a performance from the balcony of the Arcade Building by the Sandlapper Singers (Read Evelyn Morales's piece on them and the rest of the choral arts scene in Jasper #3)
  • 7:15 - 7:30 -- Kershaw County Fine Arts Center will perform three of your favorite songs from the musical Chicago
  • 7:30 - 7:45 -- the NiA Theatre Troupe will perform
  • 7:45 - 8 and throughout the evening, a young acoustic guitarist named David Finney will play classical guitar
  • then, starting about 8 pm rock 'n' roll time, Tom Hall has arranged for the nationally known and esteemed Blue Mountain band featuring Cary Hudson to perform
  • Chris Powell's The Fishing Journal will follow them up (See Jasper #2 for a little ditty on the Fishing Journal)
  • and then, the Mercy Shot, with Thomas Crouch from Jasper #2, will play.
  • In the meantime, Michaela Pilar Brown will be displaying her most recent work in the Arcade lobby, and
  • street artist Cedric Umoja will be demonstrating his work (Read more about Michaela in Jasper #3 as well as Alex Smith's article on Cedric), and
  • all the galleries of the Arcade Mall will be open -- including those of our Cover artist and Centerfold!
  • Throughout the evening we'll have the return of our famous EconoBar with cheap beer, decent wine, and big spender craft brew at $2, $2, and $4 respectively, and
  • a nice little cheese spread courtesy of our friend Kristian Niemi and Rosso, as well as
  • a sampling of delicious roasted coffees from SC's own Cashua Coffee, and
  • the Krewe de Columbia-ya-ya will be on hand to school us all on the importance of parades, beads, beer, and dogs.
  • And, of course, there will be the release of Jasper #3.

Not a bad night for free, huh?

Please join us in the historic Arcade building on Main and Washington Streets, Thursday night, January 12th from 7 until 11 pm as we celebrate the art that makes us all get up in the mornings. The afterparty is at the Whig. We hope to see you both places.

Thank you for your support, Columbia.

-- Your Friends at Jasper


2012 Resolutions for & by Columbia artists & arts lovers

We know that you all have your own resolutions to worry/quickly forget about, but we thought you might like a peek into what's going on in the brains of some of your friends and neighbors. Here's a small sample of what we heard from folks when we asked them

What would you resolve for 2012 for the Greater Columbia Arts Community?

Musician Chris Powell says,

“I'd like to see ColaTown artists in residence resolve to double their output and involvement in 2012. Isn't the world ending this year or something? May as well quit your dayjob and pump out some jams. Nothing to lose!”

Arts Supporter Tracie Broom says,

“For those who extol Columbia's virtues as a cultural destination already, keep it up! Positive talk adds to our city's collective unconscious and its outward appearance, making it more attractive to creatives, knowledge economy workers, investors, & companies who could, down the road, become arts sponsors! For those who range from kind of negatory to downright pessimistic about Colatown, I challenge you to employ my mother's old tactic when you feel the urge to denigrate our city: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.”

Visual and Performing Artist Alex Smith says,

“Work together, and if you can't, cut the backstabbing rumor-mongering bullshit and address the problem directly. If you can't be adult enough to do that, you are a community of one (or two if you can get your B.F.F. to go along with you) and you are dead weight on the barely floating boat of a community that the rest of us are trying to create here.”

Visual Artist Susan Lenz says,

“A great New Year's resolution for the entire Columbia arts community COULD be to use an all inclusive, good-looking, easy-to-navigate, totally complete arts calendar if Santa brought it to us!

Individually, I've always made "professional" New Year's resolutions. Past years were for Mouse House and dealt with trying to find personal time for art. Like the stereotypical "go on a diet" resolutions, they never worked. Finally, I forcibly downsized Mouse House and my New Year's resolutions started being about my creative process and artistic goals. Amazingly, I've been successful with every resolution. Three years ago my goal was to get "real, quality gallery representation". It took until September ... but I'm now in the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville. Two years ago my goal was to find a professional, juried or adjudicated affliation ... and now I'm a PAM (Professional Artist Member) of Studio Art Quilt Associates. Last year my goal was to get a solo show in an accredited museum ... and I had "Personal Grounds" with my Decision Portrait Series at Waterworks Visual Arts in Salisbury. I haven't set my goal for 2012 but I'm open to suggestions! It's got to be a "big goal" ... something really worth the effort!”

Performing Artist Chris Bickel says, (and we really like this,)

"I'd like to see the arts community resolve to be more self-critical and open to constructive criticism. While it's extremely important for a small and growing art scene to be a supportive community, that support can sometimes devolve into glad-handing which doesn't serve to create an atmosphere where artists challenge themselves. We should seek to be constructive with our criticisms and thick-skinned enough to take them.”


No matter what you reject or resolve, Jasper Magazine wishes you all a wonderful 2012 filled with new projects, cooperation, busy calendars, inspiration, productivity, community involvement, and accomplishment.


Happy New Year!






Wishes from and for the Columbia Arts Community for Christmas - Part I

One of the best Christmases I can remember celebrating with my friends happened over twenty years ago. We were all young and economically challenged -- Coles, Cathy, Natalie, Margaret, and I -- but we loved each other dearly and wanted to give one another the world. So we decided to stuff each others' stockings with wishes for the things we most wanted our friends to have. Once we let go of the obligation to give one another material things, we were free to give them any wish we chose. Vacations, book deals, confidence, sleep. It was liberating and it made us seriously consider how we might improve the lives of the people we loved if money and time and power and even magic were at our disposal.

In this same vein, Jasper asked Columbia artists and arts lovers what they would like Santa to bring to their beloved arts Community this Christmas. Answers are still coming in, but here's a start on what folks had to say.

Please feel free to comment on these wishes below, and do add some wishes of your own.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas from your friends at

Jasper - The Word on Columbia Arts.


From Tom Poland

I’d like for Santa to bring the arts community a big bag of confidence, commitment, and energy. Being an artist often means working in isolation wondering if your work is good or wondering if it makes a meaningful contribution to society. Being sure of your work and

yourself generates the strength to keep plugging away at your chosen craft. When you believe in and commit to your art it does make a meaningful contribution. The journey is a long one, a marathon, and rewards go to the patient and persistent.


From Alexis Doktor

I feel that most often the problems that I'd love to see fixed don't lie within the arts community, but those that hold the strings. I wish Santa could bring a new found respect and intrigue to those that don't currently appreciate the arts. That maybe people would see the beauty in our movements, our music, our work, our soul, instead of which gamecock has the most field goals or who just got benched. The artists I've met in Columbia, whether performers or fine artists, all share something: passion. And it seems that every year funding gets smaller, and concerns are turned elsewhere. The artists here live out their resolutions every day... do what you love, and do it often. Personally, I'd love to see the Main Street first Thursday arts fair grow and grow. It's such a wonderful forum for artists of all kinds. I'd like to see more funding given to the companies that work SO hard on SO little (i.e. Workshop Theatre, Columbia City Ballet, Trustus, SC Shakespeare Company, and the list goes on). I'd like to see a new governor who understands and appreciates that taking away arts and good education from our children hurts everyone, because they are the future!


From Natalie Brown

I would love to see an arts incubator space open up, and/or live/work artist spaces in the downtown area. Bonus points if the ceilings are high enough for a circus arts school.

Belly Dancer and Columbia Alternacirque director Natalie Brown


From Chris Bickel

I'd love to see Santa bring us more alternative spaces for display of works. I'd like to see more businesses open up their walls to local artists. We're seeing more of this lately in Columbia, and it's a trend I'd like to see continue. It's an aesthetic improvement to the business and good exposure for the artist.




From Chris Powell

I'd like Santa to bring us all some unification, concrete goals both as a community (and as individuals), continuing inspiration gleaned from our daily lives, and the energy and eagerness to help our fellow artist in THEIR work as well as the open mind to accept their criticisms.


From Alex Smith

Integrity. Honesty. A ten ton sack full of hundred dollar bills.


 From Elena Martinez-Vidal

Funding and audiences!


Merry Christmas from Jasper!