Actors’ Activism: Portraying Womanness and Feminism by Jasper intern Haley Sprankle

Feminism. Man-hating, bra-burning, hairy women running around and shouting, “Down with the patriarchy!”



While it’s true that some women don’t wear bras, some may not be interested in men, some don’t want to shave, and some are absolutely sick of the patriarchy, those behaviors and attitudes don’t define the whole movement. Feminists are not merely some stereotype running rampant through the streets, seeking to gain the upper hand over men. Feminism is simply “the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.”

“Feminism means a lot to me, in a lot of different ways, but most importantly it’s a social movement and a way of being that seeks equality for all people, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and so on,” says Alexis Stratton, who is co-directing of the reading of the play We Are Women! for the Women and Gender Studies Program’s 40th anniversary celebration, explains.

“Because of negative stereotypes, a lot of people think feminists are ‘man-haters’ or want to put others down, but it’s actually just the opposite. I think most feminists want to bring everyone up and want equality for everyone,” she continues. “And while the focus has predominantly been on women, we have to understand that everyone exists at an intersection of identities, and one is not free until all are free. I also think it’s important to note that there’s no singular ‘feminism,’ but instead, there are ‘feminisms’—plural, because there are so many kinds of feminism, and I think they should all be welcomed and celebrated and recognized.”

Stratton, a program graduate and published author who currently works at South Carolina Equality, is co-directing with Suzanne Vargas, a local clinical social worker and former high school English teacher with a similar passion for melding arts and politics. “Alexis asked me to help her with the production because she knew that I have directed Vagina Monologues before, and am a huge believer in art as advocacy,” shes says. “I love new adventures, especially when they include ways to commemorate the individuals who came before us.”



The play itself was produced by the Women and Gender Studies program in 1995 and features a series of unrelated vignettes that are connected through the women in them.

“The play has a very 1990s, second wave feminism feel to it—a kind of ‘we are women, hear us roar’ feel that reminded me a lot of the feminism of my mother,” says Stratton. “As a queer, gender non-conforming woman, I have a complicated relationship with ‘womanness’ and have only grown to understand and accept my identity as a woman and a feminist by deconstructing what it actually means to be ‘woman.’ So to have ‘womanness’ spelled out so plainly before me in this play, I was initially frustrated, because as a queer and feminist scholar in the 2010s, I’m immediately struck by the question, what does ‘we are women’ even mean? And can we even say ‘we are women’ anymore? And does that ‘woman’ actually include me?”

Ultimately, Stratton believes it does. “I couldn’t get to the point of asking these questions if these women who came before me hadn’t pushed the lines and boundaries that they were able to push—and able to push only through their tenacity and sacrifice and hard labor and boundary-crossing,” she explains. “So once I allowed myself to see that, to get out of the blindness of my of presentism, I became quite attached to the play and really excited about producing it—and seeing what kinds of energy and ideas the cast could bring to it.”

While the piece holds on to some of the second-wave feminist ideals, Vargas and Stratton worked together to modernize it and make it more relatable to current audiences and what they may experience as women of the 21st century.

“It wasn’t until Alexis and I talked about how this is a historical piece honoring where we’ve come from and hope to go that I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s made me much more aware of how, in order to understand what we are advocating for currently, we must know where we’ve been,” Vargas says. “When Alexis brought up the possibility of also adding a few more modern pieces to make the performance capture intergenerational and intercenturial voices, I began to see the piece as snapshots through several generations advocating; and in that I find so much beauty. That’s why I wrote “My Kind of Woman,” because it’s a story and a voice that not only captures my own relationship with feminism and womynism, but also it speaks to a civil rights issue that is so prevalent today.”

The question of whether or not feminism is relevant and necessary today has been raised frequently as movements like “Meninism” and Women Against Feminism arise.

“The world needs feminism, period,” Stratton says flatly. “The world needs feminism(s) because it teaches people to look at the world, to interrogate it and explore it and imagine how it could be different, more just and more whole. And then it gives folks the tools to make that new world happen, even if it’s a struggle, and even if we argue about how to get there. And those struggles are okay, because feminism(s) also teaches us how to work through those differences and arguments in real and productive ways.”

The co-directors and actors have worked hard to put together something entertaining, but also something living, breathing, and real to help teach what feminism is really all about.

“I am just blown away at seeing such amazing individuals put so much love and individuality into a supportive and beautiful artistic community,” says Vargas. “I think often about how I hope this is what developed 20 years ago when they did this play. I also grow more attached to certain pieces; I get excited when I know they’re coming, because each time they’re read, I feel a different woman’s story in it, if that makes sense.”

We Are Women! is a free, a one-night-only event this Friday, March 20th, at 7 p.m. in USC’s Law School Auditorium. Come out to celebrate the past, present, and future of women and watch their stories come to life.

“We don’t live in a post-feminist America, just as we don’t live in a post-racial America,” Stratton stresses. “Feminisms are real and alive and meaningful today—as you’ll be able to see in these actor-activists on stage.”

Jasper Announces Finalists for 2014 Artists of the Year - Time to VOTE!

Jay graphic

Jasper and Muddy Ford Press and delighted to announce the finalists for

Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year

in Dance, Theatre, Music, Visual, and Literary Arts




Catherine Hunsinger, actress

  • Eponine, Les Miserables (Town Theater)
  • Seven roles and cello, A Christmas Carol adapted by Patrick Barlow (Trustus Theater)
  • Willowedane Poole, Constance [by the Restoration] (Trustus Theater)
  • Fest 24 actor, Group 5 – Prom Night (Trustus Theater)
  • Actress/Soloist in “The Orchestra Moves”, a South Carolina Philharmonic childrens’ concert series
  • Actress/Soloist in the Americana concert of South Carolina Philharmonic’s pops series (St. Andrews Sisters)
  • “Nasty” in Larry Hembree Bring Your Own Dinner Theater Fundraiser (Trustus Theater)
  • Actress in First Citizens Commerical with Mad Monkey
  • Actress in Pillar Awards short film with Larry Hembree
  • Ensemble in Young Frankenstein (Workshop Theater)
  • Veronica, Carnage (Living Room Theatre)
  • Katherine, Blue Moon (Short film by Jeff Driggers)


Robert Richmond, director

  • TEMPEST at the Warehouse in Greenville, SC
  • FINDING RICHARD – USC  – Undergraduate female production of Richard III that exposed 26 students  and gender bended a Shakespearean history play, while exploring acting in a close up and personal arena.
  • DREADFUL SORRY  – The winner of the South Carolina 2010 Film Commission grant was screened in the Orlando Film Festival. This movie gave on screen and behind the camera experience to over 45 students at USC.
  • RICHARD III at the Folger Theatre, Washington, DC
  • HAMLET USC – Set in an asylum the production focused on Hamlet’s madness and was inspired by America Horror Stories.
  • Audio Book of RICHARD III – Folger Shakespeare Library – Continuing my passion to bring Shakespeare into the 21st Century this recording is the 6th fully dramatized production published by Simon & Schuster.
  • WINTERS TALE at the Academy for Classical Acting, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, DC
  • A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT at Clark Studio, Lincoln Center, New York
  • Audio Book JULUIS CAESAR Folger Shakespeare Library


Frank Thompson, actor and director

  • September 2013: Thenardier in Les Miserables at Town.
  • November/December 2013: Charlie Baker in The Foreigner at Town.
  • November/December 2013: Directed Ho! Ho! Ho! at Columbia Children’s Theatre.
  • March 2014: Directed Stand By Your Man at Town.
  • May 2014: Igor in Young Frankenstein at Workshop.
  • July 2014: Dialect Coach/Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Town.
  • August 2014: Wrote/Directed A Night At The Previews fundraiser for Town.



Can’t Kids


  • This year we released Ennui Go which was a lot of hard work for us and many people who aren’t in Can’t Kids.
  • We were the house band for the Indie Grits puppet slam where we collaborated with Bele et Bete.
  • We put out ‘The Twist’ music video that was directed by Katherine McCullough.
  • We released a song on the Tidings from the Light Purple Gam comp.
  • We just finished our side of a split “7 record with Schooner out on Sit and Spin Records next year.
  • We had a pet baby squirrel for about 3 weeks.
  • We’ve obtained an early model Prius.


Greg Stuart

  • 11/18/13 –organizes world premier of Los Angeles-based composer Michael Pisaro’s asleep, forest, melody, path (2013) for large, mixed ensemble and field recordings at the Columbia Museum of Art. Ensemble includes students from the USC Honors College, USC School of Music, and members of the greater Columbia music community. The field recordings used in the concert (i.e., environmental sound recordings) were made by Stuart and Pisaro in late 2012/early 2013 in Congaree National Park.
  • 2/24/14 –Organizes a performance of the legendary Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani’s acclaimed Nakatani Gong Orchestra with 12 local musicians at the Columbia Museum of Art. The piece is an innovative, community-based ensemble consisting of large gongs suspended on custom hardware and played with handcrafted bows designed by Nakatani.
  • 12/06/13 – Stuart plays a set at the Conundrum Music Hall concert of Mind Over Matter Music Over Mind’s (the brainchild of ethnomusicologist and eminent Sun Ra scholar Thomas Stanley). The piece is a collaboration with Columbia-based visual artist Nathan Halverson, Asleep in the watchtower (2013).
  • 2/20/14 –Stuart’s USC-based experimental music performance group, the New Music Workshop, performs John Cage’s One7 (1992) at Conundrum Music Hall.
  • 7/20/14 – Composes a new work for bowed bell and electronic sound, slab (2014) as a solo set opening for electronic powerhouse Jason Lescalleet’s July 2014 Columbia appearance at Conundrum Music Hall.
  • Between 9/15/13 and 9/15/14 Stuart released the following recordings: Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds Michael Pisaro/Matthew Sullivan, “Add Red” With Joe Panzner: Live at the Issue Project Room Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart + Jason Brogan/Sam Sfirri: Harness (Tape)


The Mobros

  • handpicked to open for B.B. King on a few of his summer dates. July 23rd & 24th 2013
  • on the road since January 17th traveling the east coast up to New York, through the Midwest to Chicago, and down through Texas going as far south as New Orleans. Having played 50 cities, The Mobros will finish their tour December 22nd in Charleston, SC.    January 17th- December 22nd 2014
  • released their first full record February 25th  2014

Visual Arts


Eileen Blyth


  • Juried in Vista Studios – Sept 2013
  • Vista Lights – Group Show – Vista Studios – November 2013
  • Big Paint Project – Jan-Feb 2014
  • Volumes II – Women Bound by Art – group exhibition at The Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery- Spartanburg, SC, Jan – Feb 2014
  • Artista Vista – Group Show – Vista Studios – April 2014
  • Art Fields – Lake city – April 2014
  • Big Paint Exhibition – Columbia College- August/October 2014
  • One Columbia Public Art Installation – Sept 2014


James Busby

  • James Busby, Figure 8, 701 Center for Contemporary Art, Columbia SC
  • James Busby, New Paintings, Randall Scott Projects, Washington DC
  • Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast, Kravets|Wehby Gallery, New York, NY
  • Smoke & Mirrors, Randall Scott Projects, Washington D.C.


Kathleen Robbins, photographer

  • Into the Flatland / Gandy Cultural Arts Center / University of Southern Mississippi / Long Beach MS (November 2013 – February 2014), University of Nebraska / Lincoln NE  (March – April 2014), Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art / Charleston SC (August – October 2014), University of Central Arkansas / Conway AR (September – October 2014),  Rebekah Jacob Gallery / Charleston SC (September – October 2014)
  • The Kids are Alright: an exhibition about family and photography / Addison Gallery of American Art / Andover MA / (traveling exhibition) (September 2013 – January 2014)
  • Photographers from the Permanent Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art / New Orleans LA /
  • Somewhere in the South, Rebekah Jacob Gallery / Charleston SC  /
  • CRITICAL MASS TOP 50: Color and Light, Southeast Museum of Photography / Daytona Beach FL /
  • Sense of Place: Picturing West Greenville / Clemson University Center for Visual Arts – Greenville
  •, Borne, Eliza. “Interview: Kathleen Robbins on the landscape of the Delta,”, September 19, 2014; Oxford American Magazine, Mar, Alex. “Issue 86: Sky Burial” Oxford American, Fall 2014; Oxford American Magazine, Brenner, Wendy. “Issue 82: Telegram” Oxford American, Fall 2013; Oxford American Magazine, Giraldi, William. Issue 84 / Oxford American, Spring 2014
  •, Smithson, Aline. “Your Favorite Photographs of 2013 Exhibition”;, January 1, 2014 The Southern Photographer: Blog about Fine Art Photography in the American South
  • Wall, John. “Kathleen Robbins at Rebekah Jacob Gallery”, August 12, 2014
  • Artist Salon Series: Kathleen Robbins (October 2013) / Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
  • Visiting Artist Lecture / Workshops (April 2014) , University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Artist Lecture (August 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Gallery Talk (August 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Patron Party Artist’s Talk (May 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Panel Discussion: “Southern Photography” (March 2014) / Rebekah Jacob Gallery, Charleston, SC

Literary Arts


Alexis Stratton, writer

  • Published prize-winning fiction chapbook “Fratricide” (Dec. 2013) (published by BLOOM)
  • Awarded 2nd Prize in Blue Mesa Review Fiction Contest (and publication) for short story, “The Ambassador’s Wife” (Dec. 2013)
  • Wrote and directed short film, “Crosswalk,” which received the Audience Award at the Second Act Film Festival (Oct. 2013)
  • Short fiction published in A Sense of the Midlands, ellipsis… literature & art, Fall Lines: A Literary Convergence
  • Proposed and led the Imagine If project at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, which was a collaborative, community-driven arts and anti-violence initiative asking community members to imagine a world without violence and show us what that world might look like through various arts media and genres. The project (which consisted of free monthly arts workshops at Tapp’s Arts Center and in community groups, an art exhibition in Tapp’s Arts Center in April 2014, and a kickoff event in April 2014 featuring musicians, spoken-word artists, dancers, and others) brought together local artists, musicians, activists, and others, connecting arts and community groups in the idea of envisioning a better world.


2014aoty_julia_elliottJulia Elliott, writer

  • Book: The Wilds (short story collection) out with Tin House Book, Fall, 2014
  • Book: The New and Improved Romie Futch (novel), Tin House Books, forthcoming
  • The Wilds     receiving positive advance buzz,     including a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, "The     International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling"
  • Published short story “The Love Machine” on,     September, 2014
  • Featured in “18 Short Story Writers on Why They Decided     to Write a Novel,” BuzzFeed Books, August 15, 2014
  • Interviewed by New York Times Bestseller Jeff     Vandermeer in “Julia Elliott and Jeff Vandermeer in Conversation,” Tin House     Blog, September, 2014
  • Published short story “Caveman Diet” in Tin House     61: Tribes, Fall 2014
  • Published short story “Bride” in Conjunctions: 62:     Speaking Volumes, Fall 2014


2014aoty_darien_cavanaughDarien Cavanaugh, writer and editor

  • Founding director of The Columbia Broadside Project which pairs artists and poets from Columbia and throughout SC to work together to create an original “broadside” painting/image comprised of an original work of art and an original poem. The 2014 Columbia Broadside Project exhibit featured work from 28 poets and artists and was held at the Tapp’s Arts Center in downtown Columbia from February 6th to February 28th.
  • Named as the recipient of the 2014 Arts and Humanities Award for Inspiration from the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties for work on work on The Columbia Broadside Project.
  • Founding co-editor of The Frank Martin Review, a print and online literary journal.
  • Poems published or accepted for publication in A Sense of the Midlands (Muddy Ford Press), Blue Earth Review, Burningword, Drunk Monkeys, Found Anew (USC Press), Coe Review, The Gap-Toothed Madness, Grievances, I-70 Review, Juked, Kakalak, Main Street Rag, San Pedro River Review, See Spot Run, and Sou’wester in the past year.



Caroline Lewis-Jones


  • Oct. 2013 Vista Unbound Zombie Bar Crawl
  • Nov and Dec 2013 Unbound performed at 3 different Christmas Events downtown
  • Unbound performed at the Charleston Dance Festival
  • Traveled every weekend to a different part of the country to teach on the dance Convention, Adrenaline and to choreograph at various dance studios. Cities visited were Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbia, St. Louis, New York City, Kansas City, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, and more
  • Caroline was off from May till the end of August having her first baby

2014aoty_katie_smoakKatie Smoak

  • Over the 2013-2014 season Katie retired from the Columbia City Ballet after 16 Professional seasons, and 26 consecutive years of performing with the company-from childhood through professional career.
  • Katie started off as a Junior apprentice as an 11 year old, climbed the ranks through the Corps de ballet, then Soloist, and spent the last 4 years of her career as a Principal Dancer.  Never missed a Nutcracker in 26 years — Alice in Wonderland was her final performance.
  • the longest standing company member (never out with an injury, never missed part of a season) of any dancer

2014aoty_thaddeus_davisThaddeus Davis – Wideman/Davis Dance Co.

Information to come

After you view our finalists profiles, head over to the Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year Ballot and cast your vote.

The winners of Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year in Dance, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts will be announced on November 21, 2014 at the release of the November/December issue of Jasper at the Jasper Artists of the Year Celebration and Fundraiser at The Big Apple in Columbia, SC with a limited supply of tickets. Ticket info coming soon.


In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Imagine If: Envisioning a World Without Violence by Alexis Stratton

"A few years ago, when I was volunteering at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM), one of their staff members asked if I could write something for them about what a world without sexual violence would look like. I was immediately drawn to this idea for a couple reasons. First, I was in the MFA in Creating Writing Program at USC, and I loved any excuse to write something new. Second, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I'd often wondered how things would've been different for me if the abuse had never happened. ..." - Alexis Stratton For the full column and accompanying poem, click through the photo below:

Stratton Column

Review: The Uncomfortable—and Beautiful—Intimacy of Blue Is the Warmest Color by Alexis Stratton

blue is the warmest color  A lot has been said and written about Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013), the award-winning French film by director Abdellatif Kechiche and starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The film has been hailed as a masterpiece in many circles—an unrivaled love story between two women. Others have criticized the film for its extensive (but, for some, oddly clinical) lesbian sex scenes or on the representational problems of the female characters. But criticism aside, within the context of this three-hour film about growing up, growing passions, and growing losses, these intense images of intimacy and embodiment only make sense. Because if Blue Is the Warmest Color is anything, it’s a portrait of intimacy.

Blue Is the Warmest Color draws us into the protagonist Adele’s life in Lille, France, from the first shot, and plunged into her world, we barely come up for air until the end. At the forefront of the film is this almost-claustrophobic closeness to Adele, the teenage protagonist who comes of age and explores her romantic and sexual identities throughout the course of the film. The film gives us the story of La vie d'Adèle (“The Life of Adele,” the original French title of the film), but to do so, it focuses not only on the rising passions between her and Emma, the college-aged art student she falls in love with, but also on the minutiae of  Adele’s daily living. The film takes us into the private, the close, and the closed—revealing to us what the world doesn’t see yet all that Adele experiences. We see what happens behind the closed doors of Adele’s life—stolen kisses with a classmate in the school bathroom, disappointing sex with a boyfriend, an almost-wordless family dinner, with only the sounds of eating and the occasional “Would you like some more?” breaking the silence.

These intimate acts are revealed to us first by their mere existence—shots of Adele sleeping peacefully, Adele and her girlfriend Emma engaging in passionate sex. However, we are not simply voyeurs; the frequent closeups and no-holds-barred sound editing bring us into the scenes as if we were a part of them. We are brought so close to these daily acts that they are almost ugly—the sloppy chewing, noisy kissing, red-faced crying. In fact, in one of the first dinner scenes, I felt myself cringing at the slurping of spaghetti, and in almost every scene where someone cried, I was taken aback by the actresses’ running noses (the friend I saw the film with mentioned later her intense desire to wipe Adele’s snot away).

However, perhaps it’s in this “ugliness” of life that the beauty and warmth of the film come in. On one hand, the film is lusciously shot and skillfully edited, with carefully chosen color schemes and shooting techniques and angles that bring a simultaneous beauty and intensity to even the rawest of scenes. On the other, by taking the time to portray those “ugly” and seemingly small moments, Kechiche brings our focus to the “real” moments that are often deemed unimportant to a narrative—but in which most of our living occurs. (Rumor has it that Keciche even had the characters read the script and then forget the lines, encouraging them toward the approximation of "realness" that improvisation allows.) 

And perhaps the discomfort I felt are part of what the film so wonderfully accomplishes. From the director’s distinctive choices about what to reveal to the rawness of the actresses’ stunning performances, perhaps the closeness and intimacy become too real and too close—revealing the audience’s own issues with intimacy, the body, and communing with others. Perhaps filmgoers have become so used to the clean and the aestheticized that such rawness is meant to make us uncomfortable—and is meant to make us connect to the characters in a way that is notable in its rarity.

Blue Is the Warmest Color offers a closeup on Adele’s lived experience and the intimacies that many struggle with and work for. We are her shadow, and her, and we are so close to her that the classmates’ laughter around her rings in our ears, that the painful memories of ex-lovers are in our minds, that the women’s growing passions and broken hearts are our own. For those few hours in the theater, La vie d'Adèle became mine, and as she walked away, the camera for once not following after her, I felt her life and story slip away from me, too—an intimacy once shared and now gone. - Alexis Stratton

Blue Is the Warmest Color. Drama. Starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. In French with English subtitles. (NC-17. 179 minutes.)

At the Nickelodeon – Jan. 31-Feb. 6

Meet the Filmmakers for The 2nd Act Film Festival - pt. 1

2nd act single cam The 2nd Act Film Festival is a unique take on the curated film project. Presented by Jasper Magazine, its mission is to encourage and promote the growth of independent filmmaking in South Carolina.

We gave filmmakers the 1st Act and the 3rd Act (one page each) of a script. The filmmakers job was to write the 2nd Act and make the film. All films will screen at Tapp's Arts Center in Columbia, SC on October 10th, 2013.

Over the next few days we'll be introducing you to the 2nd Act filmmakers and filling you in on a few details about the event and all the local artists so generously involved in making it possible. Today you're meeting the team of O.K. Keyes and Alexis Stratton. Their film is called Crosswalk.

O. K. Keyes - photo courtesy of O. K. Keyes


Alexis Stratton - photo by Forrest Clonts


O.K. Keyes and Alexis Stratton

O.K. is a cinematographer from South Carolina. She has been the director of photography for a number of short films, and recently completed principal photography for her first feature, Her Tragedy. She is a graduate student in Media Arts at the University of South Carolina with a concentration in Cinematography. Her thesis is focused on exploring Southern queer narratives and the construction of gender and sexuality from behind the lens.

Alexis is a native of Illinois but has spent her life in many homes, from New Orleans to South Korea. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Carolina and works as an educator for a non-profit organization in Columbia, SC. Her writing has recently appeared in Oyez Review, Ayris Magazine, and Bare Root Review, and she won the 2012 BLOOM Chapbook Contest for Fiction.

2nd act multiple cams

About The 2nd Act Film Festival

As part of Jasper's mission to cultivate the arts in Columbia, we decided that something needed to exist here, in our city, that specifically brought Columbia filmmakers together to work on one singular project. With that goal in mind, the Second Act Film Festival was

The Second Act Film Festival exists in two parts. The first is a film project which was created to challenge SC filmmakers with a unique and creative goal. The second part is the film festival itself. A one-night screening of all the films created by the filmmakers chosen by a panel of experts to participate in the project.

In early August of this year, the call was put out to SC filmmakers to take part in the 2nd Act Film Fest. This past week, ten filmmakers were chosen to participate. We gave them the first and last pages of a short film script that was written with the help of professional author Janna McMahan(1st and 3rd acts, respectively). All the filmmakers received the exact same script pages. It then became their job to write the second act and make the movie. All films will be screened at the Tapp's Arts Center for the festival on October 10th, 2013. All films will be compiled into a single DVD. And all scripts will be bound and published and submitted to the Library of Congress.

Funds raised from our campaign will be used to offset the cost of putting on the festival itself. These costs include renting the facility, printing, equipment rental, advertising, and other minor miscellaneous costs.

Please consider becoming an integral part of this project by supporting us --no matter how minimally -- on Kickstarter. We are less than $100 from our goal. Thanks!


-- cb

Arts and Activism: Changing the Culture of Rape -- a guest editorial by Alexis Stratton

alexis blog rapeculture From my work as co-director of The Vagina Monologues to my time spent with fellow writers and artists, I’ve gotten into a lot of discussions about the arts, media, and representation. Many of these discussions follow the same patterns:

Art is meant to provoke thought and discussion. We can’t govern the imagination.

People just write what they know. He’s a white guy writing about his experiences—he’s not purposely excluding people of different colors/genders/etc.

Sure, all of these characters are based on stereotypes, but at least this film gets people talking about sexual violence/gender stereotypes/race/etc.

As a writer, I have to admit that there is something to be said for some of these arguments. Many of the characters I create are representations of the various facets of my own identity, and while I try to step out of the boxes of my experience and imagine someone else’s, doing so is often a perilous adventure. What if I misrepresent this community? Do I really have the right to write what I don’t know but have only imagined, researched, and tried my best to represent?

Yet, as an artist who is also an activist and a feminist, I think that questions of art and representation must be constantly considered and go beyond my individual experiences as an artist.

As the Prevention Education Coordinator at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, I am invited into schools and community groups to teach our six-session Youth Violence Prevention Program. The first lesson that I facilitate is about gender stereotypes and the normalization of sexual harm. In that lesson, we look at the pervasive ways in which the media perpetuates gender stereotypes and also, in the end, promotes rape culture and makes sexual violence “normal.” Think of these Dolce and Gabbana and Calvin Klein ads, or this Rick Ross song, or any movie in which rape or abuse is eroticized (something that’s often hard to avoid on film).

alexis blog dolcegabbana03-gang-rape-ad

One might try to argue that “The Arts” rise above this fray of marketing and populism. But it doesn’t, and I’m reminded time and time again that it doesn’t. From perpetuating the myth that “no really means yes” to supporting gender stereotypes (i.e., equating masculinity with violence/dominance or upholding the madonna/whore binary) to pigeonholing female characters/subjects as nothing more than romantic interests, “The Arts” are not immune to these issues of misrepresentation and the promotion of rape culture.

When I bring this up, though, my friends and colleagues often ask me, “Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Isn’t it enough that this work has this great character of color/Trans* person/ Strong Female Character/etc.?” And my answer is that it’s not. Yes, art is art, art provokes, and I will not control another artist’s work. I may even praise artists’ use of X, Y, or Z, but that won’t stop me from challenging them to reconsider their (mis)representations of race, class, gender, etc. I won’t stand idly by while those works promote the rape culture I work to dismantle on a daily basis.

The film Miss Representation makes it clear that the socio-cultural and economic powers that be will make it difficult to create and distribute art/media that represents the voices of populations that are sidelined by those who dominate such industries. I cannot stop Robin Thicke from telling women what they want and objectifying the female body. I cannot get Adam Levine’s label to decry the intimate partner violence in the music video for “Misery.” I probably can’t even convince the beloved (and self-proclaimed feminist) Joss Whedon that just because The Avengers’ Black Widow is a Strong Female Character doesn’t mean she isn’t still overly sexualized. (Even for those who cheer on Whedon’s female characters, The Avengers still fails the infamous Bechdel Test.)

Robin Thicke - "Blurred Lines" video still

But as educators and artists, we have a choice. As an educator, I can teach others to be critical readers, viewers, and thinkers, celebrating the successes of art and media while also being willing to voice what is problematic about certain works. And I can encourage others to create works that speak out against privilege and that recognize both rape culture and inequalities that occur in the arts and media.

As an artist, I can create art that tells a different story—one that resists stereotypes, creates space for different voices, fights rape culture, and talks back to the racist, classist, sexist, ableist, heterosexist messages we receive day-in, day-out. I can create art that doesn’t think rape is a joke and perhaps instead calls out injustices and maybe even reflects the realities of the violence that many women face. I will make mistakes, but I can listen when those mistakes come to my attention. I can be self-reflexive, enter into conversation, and recognize where my own privilege creates blind spots.

alexis blog boston museum

alexis blog avengers1In Miss Representation, Katie Couric says that the media (and I’ll add the arts to it, too) “can be an instrument of change: It can maintain the status quo and reflect the views of the society or it can, hopefully, awaken people and change minds. I think it depends on who’s piloting the plane.” I challenge you to pilot that plane, creating art that resists rape culture—and changing that culture in the process.

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Alexis Stratton is the Prevention Education Coordinator at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, a Columbia-based organization that supports survivors of sexual violence and educates the community to identify and prevent sexual violence. As a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Women’s and Gender Studies Program, she has spent years working in the Columbia community (and beyond) to raise awareness about issues of gender-based violence and to empower community members to change the world around them.


V-Day Speak Out -- Listen to the Vaginas

Alexis Stratton, friend of Jasper and essayist in the most recent issue of the magazine (Jasper Watches: An Essay -- Reclaiming Vaginas) shared some info with us about an upcoming event that we think is pretty important. (Jasper adores the confluence of art and politics!) Rather than prattle on about it, we'll let Alexis do the talking:

Come enjoy a night of music, readings, storytelling, and speaking out at V-Day's open mic night at Conundrum Music Hall (626 Meeting St., West Columbia)!

All artists, writers, musicians, and other community members will be invited to take the stage at "V-Day Speak Out: Break the Silence, End the Violence" on Thurs., Feb. 7. We welcome everyone who has a song to sing/play, some spoken word to deliver, a story to share, or anything else you'd like--the sky's the limit! Doors open (and sign ups start) at 7:00, open mic begins at 8:00!

We're hosting this event in support of raising awareness of sexual and domestic violence, so we especially invite artistic expressions that respond to those issues. However, you're welcome to respond to those themes creatively, using them as a launching point or a place to start brainstorming.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands ( Tickets for The Vagina Monologues will also be on sale. Find out more on our Facebook event page!

We hope you'll join us for an empowering, healing evening of speaking out, fighting back, celebrating the arts, and building community!