When we started the Jasper Project last year as a non-profit entity dedicated to collaborative arts engineering, one of the first projects on our roster, after putting out the next issue of Jasper Magazine, was the formation of the Play Right Series.
The Play Right Series is an endeavor to enlighten and empower audiences with information about the process involved in creating theatrical arts, at the same time that we engineer and increase opportunities for SC theatre artists to create and perform new works for theatre. The word process is italicized because one of the four main missions* of the Jasper Project is to pull back the curtain on what, for most of us, is the magic and mystery of art. The Process.
How, for example, does a play get from a nugget in the playwright’s brain through her pen and all the way through re-writes, communication with directors, casting, table readings, stage readings, blocking, costuming, lighting, scoring, marketing, financing, rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal, and so much more, all the way to the stage on opening night?
We believe not only that the process of creating art deserves the same kind of accolades and wonder that the product does, but that knowledge of the process makes us both better audiences and patrons, as well as better artists ourselves. One of the ways we implement this belief is by involving Community Producers.
Community Producers are normal people, just like you and me, who invest a modest but meaningful amount of money in the production of one of the Play Right Series plays. In exchange for their investment, Community Producers are offered an insiders’ view of what goes on behind the scenes and are invited to follow the process of producing a new play from the first readings on.
The first in our line-up of new, audience-friendly plays is Sharks and Other Lovers, written by Columbia native Randall David Cook, and our first class of Community Producers is made up of Bonnie Goldberg, Roe Young, Bill Schmidt, Marcia Stine, Charles and Jean Cook, and Jack Oliver.
Larry Hembree is the director of the play and he believes strongly that this program is important for the Greater Columbia Arts Community at this point in time. “In a city that prides its arts and culture scene, the Play Right Series validates the performing arts’ work here and is a testament to artists and audiences that new work can be created and supported,” he says. “The long term goals [of the Play Right Series] are to continue to keep our city and state at the forefront of theatre by continuing to produce as much new work as possible. Trustus has done a stellar job at this for over 30 years. So has the Columbia Children’s Theatre with its Commedia productions for young audiences. Now the Jasper Project can continue to grow that. It’s exciting. Because this process is a true collaboration between playwright, director, actors and designers. It can only work if there is true collaboration among all the artists involved which certainly improves theatre skills for all of them.”
Sharks and Other Lovers stars Libby Campbell, Jennifer Moody Sanchez, Josh Kern, Glenn Rawls, and Perry Simpson. David Swicegood does costume and hair, Barry Wheeler is the sound designer, and Emily Harrill is the stage designer.
Because of the support of Bonnie, Roe, Bill, Marcia, Charles, Jean, and Jack, the Jasper Project is delighted to present a staged reading of Sharks and Other Lovers on Friday, April 28th and Saturday, May 6th. Both readings will take place at Tapp’s Arts Center and the cost is only $10. There will be a cash bar and an exciting discussion of the journey the play has taken thus far, and where it will go from here.
I hope you’ll join us for the first in an on-going series of experiments in theatre arts. It’ll be fun, and we’ll all be better theatre audiences (and hopefully artists) for having been there.
*The Jasper Project is committed to four integrated criteria:
- Process – illuminating the unique processes endemic to all art forms in order to provide a greater level of understanding and respect for that discipline.
- Community/Collaboration – nurturing community both within and between arts disciplines.
- Narrative – creating a more positive and progressive understanding of SC culture.
- Economy – being efficient stewards of arts funding committed to creating more with less.