Hashing Out the Truth: #InRefugeeShoes Premieres Tonight (12/17/2015) by Haley Sprankle

12339435_1726665004230939_5745986248966202437_o “It's hard for us to put ourselves in other people's shoes, especially if we can't see what is happening.”

That’s how Rosalind Graverson, Events Coordinator of local business Singing Fox Creative, opens up about Syrian refugees. In Turkey alone, there are almost 2 million registered Syrian refugees, fleeing for their safety in the midst of crisis. Backlash against refugees fleeing to America has plagued the media, especially among presidential candidates seeking to gain American approval. Graverson, along with founder of Singing Fox Creative, Catherine Hunsinger, sought to shed a different light on this situation through their short film #InRefugeeShoes.

“Thanks to social media, we live in a world where hate and fear spread faster than wildfire. It's so easy to fight hate with hate; to fight fear with fear - this film is important because it's utterly hate-free,” Hunsinger says. “Our incredible production team, cast, and crew all care about one message and one message only: we are all one. What one of us suffers, we all suffer. If we continue to fight hate with hate, we'll get nowhere. My hope is that this film will inspire others to fight hate with love and to make a positive difference in the world.”

The idea for the project came to Hunsinger while discussing the weight of the refugee situation with friends, and within an hour, she and Graverson assembled a film crew and the majority of their cast.

“I have a few select friends who will allow me to hop up onto my humanitarian soap box and preach from time to time. One day a few weeks ago, I was standing on that proverbial soap box, begging to understand how one can look at a Syrian refugee as anything but a fellow human being - another member of our single most important race: the human race. It hit me that my hushed conversations with friends who already agree with me were making no difference, which is when I decided that I needed to DO something. But how does one have a conversation with someone who doesn't want to listen?” Hunsinger asks. “This was the question that ultimately led us to the film format. How do we ask someone to have a conversation with themselves, with no ideas to argue with but their own? Film. And how do we paint this picture in a way that will help people truly view the Syrian Refugee Crisis through purely human eyes? Paint the picture as if it were happening to US.”

Over the course of three days, the film was shot with a talented group of local film and theatre professionals. Two weeks later, and the film is debuting tonight at Coconuts Tropical Cafe. The premiere event begins at 6:30, with screenings of the film both at 7:00 and at 8:00.

“Before when I thought of refugees, all I saw was the homeless aspect of it. Of course that still is a huge part of it, but these were normal people, with jobs, families, hobbies, pets. Now they're living in fear of ISIS, of losing their families, of each other. It's hard to imagine what it could be like for us, but I'm hoping that the film helps to scratch the surface,” Graverson adds. “My hope is that people will just stop and think. I don't know if it will change anything, but we've already seen some positive feedback so that's really encouraging, telling us that we're on the right path… Maybe this will help us see more kindness and love, or at least some forethought before we post that comment or share that story.”

At the end of the day, this film seeks to bring people together and offer a different perspective to the public about the everyday plight that Syrian refugees continue to face.

“We're in discussions about where to take this project next. I think it's clear that we've got more to do with it - we can make a bigger difference than we imagined. The potential is unreal,” Hunsinger says. “The goal is absolutely to make a difference and to make life easier for our fellow humans worldwide, especially in Syria.”

Announcing the 2015 Jasper Artists of the Year

It was a beautiful night of revisiting the best of the Italian Renaissance at the Big Apple last night when we announced and celebrated the 2015 Jasper Artists of the Year. Without further ado, the winners are: Martha Brim pictured with Jasper Contributing Dance Editor Bonnie Boiter-Jolley

MARTHA BRIM ~ 2015 JAY IN DANCE

Julia Elliott with Jasper Literary Arts Editor Ed Madden

JULIA ELLIOTT ~ 2015 JAY IN LITERARY ARTS

Craig Butterfield pictured with Jasper Music Editor Michael Spawn

CRAIG BUTTERFIELD ~ 2015 JAY IN MUSIC

Dewey Scott-Wiley pictured with Jasper Assistant Editor Kyle Petersen

DEWEY SCOTT-WILEY ~ 2015 JAY IN THEATRE

Kimi Maeda pictured with Jasper Editor Cindi Boiter

KIMI MAEDA ~ 2015 JAY IN VISUAL ARTS

 

Congratulations to all the JAY Winners and Finalists!

Thanks to Kristine Hartvigsen for photography, Mouse House for framing, Singing Fox for event planning, and Coal Powered Filmworks for Sponsorship. Special thanks to the shared talents of Duo Cortado, Cathering Hunsinger, the Trustus Apprentices, Chris Carney, and Jasper's Wet Ink spoken word poetry collective.

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.

Jasper Announces 2014 JAYS

(L - R) Kathleen Robbins, Greg Stuart, Darien Cavanaugh, Cindi Boiter, Katie Smoak, Rhonda Hunsinger accepting on behalf of her daughter Catherine Hunsinger Jasper Magazine is delighted to announce the winners of the 2014 Jasper Artists of the Year awards. Winners were announced on Friday, November 21st at a fundraiser gala for the magazine at Columbia’s historic Big Apple at Park and Hampton Streets, amongst a crowd of 150 guests.

Winners include Katie Smoak for dance, Darien Cavanaugh for literary arts, Greg Stuart for music, Kathleen Robbins for visual art, and Catherine Hunsinger for theatre.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by swing dance masters Richard Durlach and Breedlove, who are featured in the November/December issue of Jasper Magazine, and who demonstrated and taught attendees how to dance the Big Apple dance, made famous in 1937 at the historic Columbia location. Vicky Saye Henderson and the Apple Jacks, a new period musical ensemble comprised of Greg Apple, Christopher Cockrell, Chase Nelson, and Henderson, entertained with songs from the era, and Terrence Henderson emceed the event. Catering was provided by Scott Hall Catering. Rob Sprankle was the photographer.

Sponsors for the evening included Bourbon Columbia, City Art Gallery, HoFP Gallery, Peter Korper Realty, Coal Powered Filmworks, Burt Pardue, Billy Guess, Jody and Jeff Salter, Pura Wellness Spa, and an anonymous donor. The gala committee was comprised of Lauren Michalski, Bohumila Augustinova, Rosalind Graverson, Margey Bolen, Annie Boiter-Jolley, and Jasper editor Cindi Boiter.

Nominees for Jasper Artist of the Year (JAY) were solicited from the public early this fall based on individual artistic achievement from September 15, 2013 until September 15 2014. Committees of experts in each of the disciplines reviewed the nominations and narrowed the candidates down to three finalists in each field. The public was then invited once again to vote on their choices in each of the five categories. Finalists in dance were Smoak, Thaddeus Davis, and Caroline Lewis Jones; in literary arts, Cavanaugh, Julia Elliott, and Alexis Stratton; in music, Stuart, the Can’t Kids, and the Mobros; in visual arts, Robbins, James Busby, and Eileen Blyth; and, in theatre, Hunsinger, Robert Richmond, and Frank Thompson.

Outgoing JAYS for 2013 include Terrance Henderson for dance, Vicky Saye Henderson for theatre, the Restoration for music, Philip Mullen for visual art, and Janna McMahan for literary art.

For more information on Jasper and the 2014 JAYS visit www.Jaspercolumbia.net.

Trustus Reprises A Christmas Carol

Stann Gywnn and Catherine Hunsinger Trustus Theatre is reviving its hit production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on the Thigpen Main Stage this November. This recent adaptation by Patrick Barlow, the Tony-award winning playwright of The 39 Steps, is a whirlwind telling of the classic holiday story where five actors take on all of the roles. Scrooge and all of his ghostly counterparts will return to the Thigpen Main Stage as A Christmas Carol opens Friday November 21st at 8:00pm. The show will run through December 20th, 2014. Tickets may be purchased at www.trustus.org.

 

Last season’s production of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the Dickens classic was met with raves from sold-out audiences and critics, so Trustus decided to revive the production in their 30th season. While A Christmas Carol is a family-friendly production, what makes this version a Trustus show is that the script challenges five gifted actors to embody all of the characters while creating a live musical score on stage. The product is an unforgettable evening where a classic story is told in an unexpected way.

 

For the uninitiated, A Christmas Carol introduces audiences to Ebenezer Scrooge - a wealthy miser who has neither love for humankind nor any holiday cheer. His clerk Bob Cratchit works in a cold corner of the office just to make ends meet for his family, especially his ailing son Tiny Tim. When Scrooge is visited by his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, a night of haunts begins as spirits take Scrooge to the past, present, and future in an attempt to show him the good in humanity and the benefits of charity.

 

Trustus Co-Artistic Director Chad Henderson is back in the director’s chair for this revival. “A Christmas Carol is my favorite holiday story and tradition,” said Henderson. “Scrooge’s journey of redemption has always been appealing to me. This story is a classic because it’s one-of-a-kind – a Christmas ghost story. I’m looking forward to revisiting this production and creating some new moments that will surprise the audience.”

 

The Trustus production boasts the acclaimed cast from last year's production. Local favorite Stann Gwynn (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Doubt) will be portraying the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Trustus Company members Catherine Hunsinger (Constance), Avery Bateman (Ragtime, Ain't Misbehavin'), Scott Herr (The House of Blue Leaves, The Velvet Weapon), and new cast member Kendrick Marion (Ain't Misbehavin', The Black Man...Complex) join forces to bring the other characters of Dickens' story to life on stage.

 

While this adaptation calls for four actors to play numerous roles throughout the performance, it also asks them to create a live score throughout the show. Carols, sound effects and underscoring will be created and performed live on stage by the players. The music will be an unexpected mix of keyboards, cello, beatboxing, a Line6 delay modulator, a VocalistLive, violin, guitar, and of course the combined voices of the performers. “The live music is a unique combination of sounds,” said Director Chad Henderson. “It’s derived from the traditions of Reggie Watts, Danny Elfman, Justin Timberlake, and Panic! At The Disco.” While audiences may hear non-traditional takes on the carols in the show, they can be assured that the classic Dickens tale remains intact.

 

Trustus Theatre’s A Christmas Carol opens on the Trustus Main Stage on Friday, November 21st at 8:00pm and runs through December 20th, 2014. Thigpen Main Stage shows start at 8:00pm Thursdays through Saturdays, and Sunday matinees are at 3:00pm. Tickets are $22.00 for adults, $20.00 for military and seniors, and $15.00 for students. Half-price Student Rush-Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to curtain.

 

Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady St. and on Pulaski St. The Main Stage entrance is located on the Publix side of the building.

 

For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit www.trustus.org for all show information and season information.

 

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

Theatre

 

Catherine

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)

2014aoty_robert_richmond

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

2014aoty_frank_thompson

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.


Music


2014aoty_cant_kids

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.

2014aoty_greg_stuart

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)

2014aoty_mobros

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


2014aoty_eileen_blythe

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

2014aoty_james_busby

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.

2014aoty_kathleen_robbins

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
  • oxfordamerican.org, Borne, Eliza. “Interview: Kathleen Robbins on the landscape of the Delta,” oxfordamerican.org, 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
  • Lenscratch.com, Smithson, Aline. “Your Favorite Photographs of 2013 Exhibition”; Lenscratch.com, January 1, 2014 The Southern Photographer: Blog about Fine Art Photography in the American South
  • Wall, John. “Kathleen Robbins at Rebekah Jacob Gallery” southernphotography.blogspot.com, 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


2014aoty_alexis_strattonA

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 Granta.com,     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.


Dance


2014aoty_caroline_lewis-jones

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.

 

REVIEW: SC Phil's Beloved Broadway by Rosalind Graverson

SC Philarmonic with (l-to-r) Elisabeth Smith Baker, Avery Bateman, and Catherine Hunsinger I love any excuse to get dressed up, so going to the South Carolina Philharmonic's Beloved Broadway concert sounded like the perfect way to spend my Saturday night.

This was the first of three concerts that the Philharmonic will be doing out at Harbison Theatre this season. This is a wonderful venue with intimate stadium seating, so no matter where your seat is, you still have a perfect view of every inch of the stage.

They opened with a medley of popular songs from Gypsy, The Fantisticks, and Funny Girl and proceeded to play selections from some of the most iconic shows from Broadway. I expected to be impressed just by the quality of the performance, but when they began to play "Show Me" from My Fair Lady, I knew we were in for a fun time. The arrangements suddenly had more character and personality than I remembered.  I grew up listening to this music, and hearing it played by a 45 piece orchestra brought back so many memories.

Every song that they played, I could hear the words in my head, and I'm sure more than a few people in the audience wanted to burst into song. The conductor, Morihiko Nakahara, introduced the Sound of Music section by saying something to the effect of "I'd never say this at the Koger Center, but feel free to sing along." Thank goodness the whole audience did not take him up on that because then we would've missed some of the quieter moments of the show. The cello section took the lead on "Edelweiss" and it was perfection. I just wanted to close my eyes and wrap up in a blanket by the fire and listen to them play that soothing melody all night.

Nakahara introduced the other sections and did mention that two of the composers' work  they would be playing are EGOT (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony) and Pulitzer winners. Marvin Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers are the only two people to have one all five awards. "It's like winning 5 gold medals" Nakahara said.

Throughout the night we heard selections from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, and the previously mentioned My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. I feel like you can't mention Broadway and not have something from The Phantom of the Opera, and they did not disappoint. I was suddenly on the edge of my seat listening so intently to every note. I would love to see this group do a full production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic along with some of our talented theatre and opera performers.

Towards the end of the night, Nakahara introduced the singers for the last portion of the concert. Avery Bateman performed "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from Evita. The audience was blown away by her elegance and timbre. It was the perfect choice for the first song that we heard the lyrics to. Catherine Hunsinger sang "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables. She performed the part of the ingénue, Eponine, in the Town Theatre production last season, so it was nice to hear her perform a song she hasn't done before. I'm used to hearing Catherine sing soprano, which she does beautifully, but the low parts of this number were so mature and she blew me away.

At the closing number Nakahara, again invited everyone to join in and dance in the aisles, which was fitting for the Mamma Mia ballad, or as he said "Abba's greatest hits." Avery and Catherine were joined by Elisabeth Smith Baker and brought the evening home with 5 or 6 of the most popular Abba songs. All of these women are well known in the theatre community as Trustus company members and always provide professional performances; tonight was no exception.

If you haven't seen the South Carolina Philharmonic perform, please go to one of the many events happening this year, throughout the midlands. It'd be a shame not to witness this quality of musicianship while it's right at our fingertips. You don't have to go to Carnegie Hall to hear the classics; just go to the Koger Center or Harbison Theatre.

"A Christmas Carol" for the post-modern, steampunk generation - August Krickel reviews the new show at Trustus

ChristmasCarol2 When the pretty young lady, clad in Victorian-era garb but sporting short, natural hair, leans into the microphone and begins beatboxing, you know this isn't your father's Christmas Carol. It's still Charles Dickens's timeless story, however, but with plenty of reinvention from playwright Patrick Barlow, director/scenic designer Chad Henderson, and costumer Amy Lown.   Purists may raise an eyebrow or two at this post-modern take on a holiday classic, while purists of a different sort may wonder why Trustus Theatre is producing a family-friendly, feel-good version of a century-and-a-half-old novella, but there's no question that talent both on stage and behind the scenes ensures enjoyable seasonal entertainment with some decidedly non-traditional story-telling twists.

We're all familiar with Scrooge, but let's focus on Barlow for a moment.  He's best known for a stage adaptation of The 39 Steps, in which three actors played dozens of characters from the Hitchcock film, interacting with a rugged hero whose tongue was firmly planted in cheek; their quick changes of costume, wig, accent and gender, miming or improvising most sets and props while navigating the melodramatic plot and dialogue made for broad slapstick comedy.  Here Barlow uses the same technique, but retains respect for the original flowery prose.

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Stann Gwynn, almost unrecognizable under heavy character make-up, plays Scrooge throughout.  The bulbous nose, ravaged face and bushy eyebrows (designed by Robin Gottlieb) are reminiscent of some of the dwarves from the recent screen version of The Hobbit - exaggerated but still believable - but more importantly, they seem to free Gwynn as an actor. He's played older before, he's done accents before, and he's played grandiloquent characters before, but I've never seen those all at once, with such sustained intensity over more than two hours. Avery Bateman, Catherine Hunsinger, Wela Mbusi, and Scott Herr portray everyone else, although the quick changes and jumps from one persona to the next occur fairly naturally.  Actors playing multiple roles is commonplace now on stage, and Barlow only occasionally uses that convention for comedy. Even the use of marionettes to depict young Scrooge and Tiny Tim prompts an initial surge of laughter from the audience, but then plays out in a fairly straightforward manner.  Indeed, I found myself wishing that there were a lot more comedy, even if improvised by the capable cast, especially in the first act. When Hunsinger appears as a sort of sexy, steampunk Spice Girl-turned-nanny in the second act as the Ghost of Christmas Present, the pace picks up, and Barlow occasionally veers away from the original Dickens text to insert jokes here and there, including a hilarious conclusion to Scrooge's dream that breaks the fourth wall unexpectedly.

Catherine Hunsinger - photo by Richard Arthur Király

All four of the mini-ensemble also double (triple?) as singers and musicians, providing mood music in the background via various instruments, and sometimes breaking out into traditional Christmas songs.  Both Hunsinger and Bateman, last seen together in Henderson's production of Spring Awakening two years ago, get to show off their lovely voices, but they actually are even more impressive in their mastery of multiple characters and authentic accents.  Dialect coach Marybeth Gorman (surely helped by Mbusi, a native of the U.K. who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company) has ensured a lively mix of credible twangs and lilts that are mainly Cockney, "proper" British, and Irish, but I swear I heard hints of Manchester, rural Yorkshire, and Wales here and there, which was quite refreshing.

Stann Gwynn; photo by :Richard Arthur Király

A little more on the music:  sometimes, Henderson incorporates modern songs, from artists like Justin Timberlake and Panic! At The Disco. At other moments, the actors perform moody instrumental tunes, developed by cast and director before rehearsals began. Particularly effective are Hunsinger on cello at moments of poignancy and sorrow, and Herr on keyboards, creating menacing chords sung to by Bateman, as Mbusi appears as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Henderson uses a Line 6 Delay Modulator to create a number of beatbox and hip hop effects, as well as a Vocalist Live harmony effects processor. The tech gadgetry is certainly interesting; I'm not sure how much it actually adds to the performance, but it certainly livens up the proceedings. What is especially memorable is the production design, which incorporates a painted facade of a London street scene, plus expertly detailed projected images (snow falling, the hustle and bustle of city streets, a clock's face moving forward in time, the logo of Scrooge's business, a time vortex a la Doctor Who) courtesy of Baxter Engle.  Those projections are seen on a large round screen of sorts over stage left, and enhance the setting so much that I'd be happy to see similar effects in future productions. Amy Lown's excellent costumes include elegant Victorian attire, saucy steampunk-chic couture, and an ominous, tattered Christmas Yet to Come that could have been designed by Terry Gilliam.

Avery Bateman as the Ghost of Christmas Past

Not everything works. The audio technology sometimes gets very loud, which is intended as a sort of in-your-face wake-up call to an audience that might get bored by the familiar material, but might be a little intimidating to the youngest or oldest attendees. (The show is completely G-rated, but its intensity, from the apparitions for example, might make this best for, say, age 10 and older.)  Sometimes the music and sound effects clash with the dialogue, and/or make it sound distorted.  The first act drags at times, and could use a lot more of the comedy found the second. A re-imagined Marley, his chains now controlled by the other three actors as if to signify his torment in the afterlife, seems awkward and unwieldy rather than scary.  Christmas Yet to Come is scary, but a Darth Vader-like heavy breathing effect got laughs where there needed to be chills.

This production is a new one, however, simultaneously opening here, off-Broadway, and at other regional theatres around the country, and new works are often revised. What impressed me about Barlow's adaptation is his incorporation of huge amounts of the original language from Dickens, made easily relatable by proficient performers, and his tweaking of its theme to resonate even more with contemporary audiences. Scrooge is no longer simply a cranky old man who had a sad childhood and bad experiences at Christmas; Barlow's Scrooge is now much more of a predatory lender, who seems to take delight in seeing the poverty of his fellow citizens, and gloats over his riches like Alberich and the Rhine gold.  Several of the supporting characters emphasize with great eloquence the "It takes a village" mentality, making it clear that charity and compassion are necessary far beyond the Christmas season.  It's no secret to local theatre-goers that director Henderson likes to liven up material that needs it with inventive staging.  I'd love to see him take this overall production theme - music, costumes, set design - and apply it to some classic of the stage like Shakespeare or Aristophanes.

At this point, one is likely to do one of two things. Either you will say "Wow - a Dickens classic with a twist, actors playing live music, Avery Bateman beatboxing, Catherine Hunsinger playing the cello and dressed as a steampunk babe - I've got to make reservations now!!"  Or all of that that may sound utterly ridiculous.  I must say that I had no real interest in seeing the story of Scrooge yet again, but I enjoyed this production; however, I generally enjoy these performers, and the way Henderson often toys with narrative technique for maximum dramatic effect.  Box office for this show will likely determine whether Trustus experiments more in this direction, or less.  But as I often find myself saying with local productions, either way, the people involved do a great job.

A Christmas Carol runs through Saturday, December 21st; contact the Trustus box office at 803-2254-9732 for more information, or visit www.trustus.org.

~ August Krickel

Memorable Theatre Moments from 2012 - August Krickel's picks

This time last year, on a lark, I put together a stream-of-consciousness recollection of some things I had enjoyed on stage over the preceding year.  Would you believe - we set a new record for site visits with that blog post!  Sure, sure, the site and blog were still young, and most of it was folks logging in to see if they were mentioned or not, but still, it showed everyone involved that there is significant interest in theatre among the greater Columbia arts community.  As I wrote at the time, "theatre for me is sometimes not about the final product, but rather individual moments that move me, make me smile, or stay with me long after the show is done."  This year I have been fortunate to see most of the shows at the main theatres in downtown Columbia:  7 of 8 done on the Thigpen Mainstage (plus a late-night show) at Trustus, 3 of the 5 done at the Trustus Side Door, 5 of 6 at both Town and Workshop, plus a couple at Columbia Children's Theatre.  That's 23 freakin' shows, which sadly means that I didn't have time to see any at the many excellent theatres and venues on campuses and in the suburbs.  So with that disclaimer, I give you the best, funniest, and most memorable theatre moments for me from 2012: - the opening image as the curtain rose in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Town Theatre, with dancers frozen in exotic poses. In particular, Haley Sprankle, Grace Fanning and Becky Combs were draped over their partners with extension that went from here to the moon, and it perfectly captured the look and feel of the carefree and free-spirited Riviera setting.

- Doug Gleason in Scoundrels, goofing and camping it up shamelessly, then breaking into song with the voice of an angel, not a buffoon.  In my review, I wrote that he reminded me of the young Bill Canaday, a gifted comic actor now happily retired from the state and (at least temporarily) the stage. Several people mentioned to the real Bill that they saw his name in a theatre review, and he laughed and later told me that this was like the actor's nightmare - was he supposed to have been in a show somewhere?  Did he miss his entrance?

- Elizabeth Stepp as a huffy, haughty insect, miffed over being shooed away in Pinkalicious at Columbia Children's Theatre.  Lindsay Brasington, vamping and cooing for the press as she imagined being the first doctor to diagnose acute "pinkititis." George Dinsmore, dramatically confessing to his wife after all these years, his dark secret that he too secretly had a fondness...for the color ....pink.  (At which point Sumner Bender leaned over and whispered to me "But they named their daughter ... Pinkalicious?"

- Shelby Sessler's tour-de-force as three separate and distinct characters in Alfred

Hitchcock’s 39 Steps at Town.  Only a couple of weeks after portraying the titular tyke in Pinkalicious above,  she played a va-va-voomish German femme fatale,  a forlorn Scottish farm wife, and a proper yet spunky yet romantic British lady. As the German she somehow managed to not only play dead, but to feign rigor mortis, stretched out over an armchair... I still don't know how she managed it.  As the lady, she and her castmates mimed all the effects to convey a train speeding down the tracks.... and if you looked down, very subtly her hand was fanning the hem of her skirt back and forth to add the effect of wind.  Not surprisingly, she was one of three finalists for Jasper Theatre Artist of the Year, and organized the entertainment for the November issue release party at City Art.

 

 

- Avery Bateman and Kanika Moore playing multiple roles in Passing Strange at Trustus.  Bateman cracked me up as a materialistic princess-type whose life with hero Mario McClean was pre-planned within about 5 seconds; then she and Moore turn up as Dutch girls, then Germans. "Have a conversation vit' ze hand," Moore declares, almost getting American slang right. Even music director Tom Beard got a line in on stage, rising in outrage, when the cynical German nihilist characters dismiss the punk movement as commercialism, to protest "What about The Clash, man???"    Also loved the vivid colors that symbolized the free-spirited European setting of Passing Strange, provided via original paintings from ten local artists, and director Chad Henderson's always-moving, never-a-dull-moment, no-one-wasted-on-stage  blocking.  (And sure enough, Henderson was voted Theatre Artist of the Year by Jasper readers!)

- Randy Strange's lush, opulent, plantation-interior set for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Workshop Theatre. There was something to take everyone's breath away in this classic show, from Jason Stokes in a towel, to E.G. Heard (and on alternating nights, Samantha Elkins) in a negligee. Ironically, the beautiful and talented Heard teaches theatre at my old high school, while the equally lovely and gifted Elkins teaches drama at the one I was zoned for. I seem to recall my old theatre teacher was nicknamed "Sasquatch" - my how times have changed!

- G. Scott Wild utilizing the teeny Side Door Theatre space at Trustus more efficiently and realistically than I had ever seen before, with his set design for A Behanding in Spokane. The entire show takes place in a hotel room, and Wild wisely used every single

inch of available space, including the main entrance into the theatre as the room's only door, complete with deadbolt and peephole.  And Wild himself, perfectly capturing a world-weary, frustrated (possible) serial killer, then seamlessly segueing into the character's actual nature: a world-weary, frustrated, hen-pecked nebbish.  When you meet him, you realize Wild is quite young, but with little make-up and primarily mannerisms, he effectively embodied a character 20+ years older than he. Christopher Walken played this role in New York, but I somehow suspect that Walken played Walken, while Wild embodied and fleshed out the character.

- Also, in Spokane, Elisabeth Smith Baker embraced a challenging character role.   In my review, I wrote that she somehow managed "to be pathetic and sympathetic, winsome and adorable in a skanky sort of way, vulnerable, crafty and resourceful, yet sometimes just dumb as a post. She has some nice moments of physical comedy that would make Lucille Ball proud.   At one point she makes a quite logical decision to try to charm her way out of a life and death situation, yet her effort is so obviously contrived that only an idiot would fall for it... and of course, one does."

- Sumner Bender and Ellen Rodillo-Fowler, both getting a chance to sink their teeth substantial roles in In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play at Trustus.  Color-blind casting is always a tricky challenge, and Bender and her infant's wet nurse need to be white and black respectively, because of specifics in the script, but Rodillo-Fowler played another society lady, and peer to Bender.  Was she perhaps the mixed-heritage daughter of a prominent admiral or missionary? Could she have simply been adopted, and raised in starchy whitebread Victorian society?  Or was she (as my spirit-guide Dr. Moreau suggested) a Native American? Most importantly, it didn't matter.

- Vibrator also featured the return of Steve Harley, not seen enough on local stages in recent years. I got some mileage out of this line of his:  "Hysteria is very rare in men, but then he is an artist.” The artist referenced was played by Daniel Gainey, one of a number of gifted young actors who seemingly came out of nowhere to captivate local audiences. (See Wild and Gleeson above, and Andy Bell below; with Gainey, "nowhere" was actually many roles in opera and operatic musical theatre.)

- Speaking of Gleeson, he played a vastly different type in Andrew Lippa's Wild Party at Workshop, still a clown, but a scary one. The extreme physicality of some of the choreography was impressive, as were his scenes with Giulia Marie Dalbec (his leading lady in Scoundrels above, but more on her in a moment.) Also in the cast as part of the ensemble was Grace Fanning, as an underage party girl in the Roaring 20's. At one point the lyrics describe each "type" as they enter: a dancer, a producer, a madam, a boxer, and.... as Fanning sashays in, anticipating something like "a flapper," "a beauty," "a vamp" .... all she gets is: "a minor." The look of shock and outrage on her face was priceless, a combo of "I'm busted!" and "Is that all I get?"

- the strong supporting cast in Grease at Town, finally getting to sing all their best songs. The film version cut out a lot of the 50's do-wop homages, and focused on Sandy and Danny.  Here, Sirena Dib got to break hearts with "Freddy My Lo-ove," and Patrick

Dodds (still sporting his high hair from Spring Awakening) not only got a chance to smile on stage, but rocked out with "Those Magic Changes," two of my favorite songs of all time. Hunter Bolton reclaimed Kenickie's "Greased Lightning" (complete with the original lyrics describing exactly what sort of wagon it is) while Jenny Morse and Mark Zeigler beautifully harmonized in "Mooning," a song I had forgotten entirely. Leandra Ellis-Gaston got to drop the (Italian) F-bomb on Town Theatre's stage (it's just the seemingly meaningless "fangu," but it means the same thing) and was another example of how color-blind casting rarely hurts

anything.  Sure, the script calls for Rizzo to be Italian, but who's to say her dad wasn't progressive, and married an African-American?  Dodds also got some incredible moments of physical comedy with Haley Sprankle, as he tries to match her, move for move, at the prom.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Stepp, a gifted comedienne, literally throwing herself into each scene with abandon, as a beautiful Cinderella (at Columbia Children's Theatre) who still managed to get plenty of laughs.

 

 

 

 

- Gerald Floyd's increasing frustration with life after death in Almost An Evening (at the Trustus Side Door) navigating obstacles that ran from a maddeningly matter-of-fact receptionist (Vicky Saye Henderson, another Theatre Artist of the Year finalist) to a smooth-talking, winking bureaucrat (Jason Stokes.) Followed by his sympathetic portrayal of a grieving Texas father, in his scene with Kendrick Marion, playing against type as a stuffy, repressed government operative.

- the graphic puppet sex and nudity in Avenue Q at Trustus. And Kevin Bush hastily inventing his girlfriend Alberta...from ...um... Vancouver...in Canada.  And Katie Leitner voicing and manipulating two very different-sounding characters, Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut, with the aid of Elisabeth Smith Baker, who voiced plenty of others too, including one of the Bad Idea Bears. "Important day at work tomorrow?  Let's do some shots!"

 

- the commitment by director Shannon Willis Scruggs and costumer Lori Stepp to go all the way into the absurd in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Town.  The musical numbers are pastiches of various styles (country, rockabilly, calypso, etc.) and here, almost like a live cartoon, the cast morphed quickly into Frenchmen with berets, cheerleaders with pom-poms, you name it. Frank Thompson as the King, baby, i.e. an Elvis-style Pharaoh, was particularly amusing.  James Harley noted in his review that "some of the show’s best energy comes from deep within the ensemble, Charlie Goodrich leading the way with 100% commitment to every movement he makes on stage."  There were dozens of people on stage at any given time, so I made a point to look for Goodrich within each number, and sure enough, whether or not he had any lines, he was always the best at reacting appropriately to whatever was going on.  And conceiving the "hairy Midianites" as members of ZZ Top was just inspired.

- Katie Foshee, who has enlivened the ensembles of about a hundred musicals in recent years, stepping into (and owning) the lead role in Camp Rock - The Musical at Workshop.  Avery Herndon and Alex Webster too were adorable as they as they succumbed to puppy-love-at-first sight, and Kathryn Reddic made a great mean girl.  From her bio, Reddic would have had Linda Khoury for drama in high school, meaning that she is well-versed in Shakespeare, and as a current English major at Vanderbilt she is surely immersed in Shelley and Keats, Joyce and Yeats, Chekhov and Strindberg, yet she rocked out like Beyonce in some complex hip-hop dance numbers.  Commodore girls represent, y'all.

- James Harley back on stage in Palace of the Moorish Kings at Trustus, under-playing a complex character who wasn't given a lot of lines or movement. Silence can sometimes speak volumes, and Harley had some great moments where he started to say something... then words failed him, and the point was nevertheless made.  But he did get a few memorable lines as a member of the "greatest generation," who never felt entirely comfortable as being seen as a hero, since he never killed anyone, never did anything heroic, and only served after being drafted.

- Elisabeth Smith Baker (yet again!) so sweet and natural in Next to Normal at Trustus.  And the show's big "reveal," which fooled me entirely, even though I more or less was familiar with the plot.  Andy Bell made a great transition from musician to actor/singer on stage, and the entire cast distinguished themselves as professionally as if they were the original cast on Broadway. The set too (by Danny Harrington, with input from Chad Henderson) showed how even the big-name New York shows are going for simple, stylized, low-cost sets these days, which often work better than trying to achieve realism.

- Giulia Marie Dalbec dominating the year with not one but four bravura performances.  While she has played countless roles as vixens, ingénues, or someone'sgirlfriend or daughter, Dalbec made her mark as a name-brand lead in Scoundrels and Wild Party (above) and as Elle in Legally Blonde at Workshop. The word that immediately comes to mind to describe her on stage now is "confident" - and with that confidence, she bravely took on the role of the meek Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (also at Workshop) and nailed that one too.  Half the time Honey was drunk, or passed out, or ignored by everyone else, but Dalbec was always engaged in believable action and movements, however subtle.

 

- Robert Michalski's swaggering cameo as a UPS delivery guy in Blonde; I don't think I've ever seen a performer simply walk across a stage and then through the audience and get such a big laugh.  As I wrote at the time, he definitely had a package, and was determined to deliver it.

- Elena Martinez-Vidal's characterization (complete with New England accent) of Martha (in Virginia Woolf) as an aging Snookie, the college president's scandalous daughter who bluffs her way through academia via booze, sex, humor and bravado.

- Paul Kaufmann playing 35 different characters in I Am My Own Wife at the Trustus Side Door. Clad for most of the time in a dress!  The main figure was an East German "tranny granny" who may or may not have been a pioneering cultural historian, a murderer, an informer for the secret police, and/or a courageous activist and supporter of the oppressed gay community in Berlin.  After a while you got used to most of the various German and American "voices" ...and out of the blue, he's also a crisp Anglo-Indian reporter called Pradeep Gupta, with the perfect, smooth, musical lilt to his voice that you'd expect.  And this was a week after playing the male lead in Next to Normal !

 

 

- the striking, sunset-hued panels that comprised most of the set for Next Fall at Trustus. And the banter between G. Scott Wild and Jason Stokes (both yet again!) as mismatched lovebirds who just happen to be guys.  And the odd (but probably fairly common) paradox of fundamentalist Christian characters as they try to rationalize their own "sinful" lifestyle, especially as detailed by Bobby Bloom.

- Abigail Smith Ludwig, conveying the flowing, soft, lyrical beauty of German syllables and consonants in a  disgruntled rendition of "O Tannenbaum" in Winter Wonderettes at Town. And Alexa Cotran, yet another remarkable discovery, a very young performer who matched her older castmates note for note, scene for scene. Cotran bears a striking resemblance to my first grade teacher, who had that exact same huge 1960's hairdo, perfectly coiffed here by Cherelle Guyton, who was responsible for most of the good-looking hair in the shows mentioned above.

- the wonderful cast of [title of show] at Trustus in just about every moment on stage. Laurel Posey recounting her recurring lead role as "corporate whore," and Robin Gottlieb segueing from a cute number on secondary characters into Aerosmith were especially funny, but somehow the genuine moments in this little show touched me as few usually do.  "Who says four chairs and a keyboard can’t make a musical?  We’re enough with only that keyboard - we’re okay with only four chairs. We’ll be fine with only four chairs - we’ll rock hard with only four chairs!"  That sort of do-it-yourself mentality and optimism can be applied to so many things in life, as can their conclusion that it's better to be "nine people's favorite thing, than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing."  Score one vote for the rice crispy treats, as this was far and away my favorite show of the year.

- the actual do-it-yourself production of Plan 9 from Outer Space - Live and Undead 2.0 presented at Trustus, but essentially cobbled together on a shoe-string six months earlier at Tapp's Art Center.  Thanks to enlisting the aid of some of Columbia's finest actors, the show almost became a real play, even though the basic idea was to do a tongue-in-cheek spoof of what many feel is the worst movie ever made. So many of the cast were inspired in their campy re-imagining of the film's original dialogue, including Jennifer Mae Hill as a sexy stewardess (Hill was a gifted actress at Trustus, Chapin, and elsewhere long before she got into doll-making) and Chad Forrister as the stolid hero. Forrister was also the hero of 39 Steps above, and has perfected the mock-heroic, ever-so-slightly-exaggerated tone required by these spoofs.  Victoria Wilson was beautiful as an evil alien, but used a

rich, serious, Shakespearean voice that reminded you of Judith Anderson or Maggie Smith. Some of Forrister's best moments came with Catherine Hunsinger, playing the soon-to-be-abducted heroine.  There's an exercise in acting classes called "give and take," where two actors alternate allowing each other to take focus and dominate a scene. Hunsinger could have gotten some laughs as a stereotypical 1950's housewife, and given some to Forrister; instead, she wisely chose to downplay her performance, setting him up for vastly bigger laughs than either would have gotten separately.  As I wrote in the review, "Another example of her generosity on stage comes when the zombie-fied Scott Means attacks her; she swoons melodramatically...but at the same time, falls over the actor's shoulder in a perfectly-timed movement, allowing him to lift her easily, with as much grace as two ballet dancers.  Well, or pro wrestlers."

Hunsinger is a fearless performer, taking an emotionally demanding role in Spring Awakening the year before as the (semi-compliant) victim of a disturbing rape/seduction by the show's protagonist, yet somehow she managed to allow him to still seem deserving of the audience's sympathy. And then she tackled the Olivia Newton-John role in Grease (above) which is surely a daunting vocal challenge for the most talented of singers, but she filled Sandy's saddle oxfords with ease.  That incredible voice had its biggest test in Plan 9, as Hunsinger's character was pursued across stage and into the house by zombies.  The

original villains' make-up from the film was absurd enough, and here it was made even campier, yet Hunsinger chose to play the entire scene straight. As Chris Bickel cued some vintage movie chase-scene music and Hunsinger gamely screamed her head off, just for a moment I was no longer at Trustus.  Just for a moment I was a 13-year-old watching the Mummy or the Wolfman or the Creature abduct some forgotten heroine on the Universal or Hammer Studios back lot. Just for a few seconds there was a genuine chill down my back, as a brave young actress fully committed to being a terrified damsel in distress, running for her life from unspeakable horror.   Theatre is supposed to transport you, to take you out of yourself, and so this was for me, however briefly, the most memorable moment on stage in 2012.

So there are some of the things I enjoyed in the last year.  How about you?  That "comments" section below is there for a reason. What did you enjoy on stage in 2012?

~ August Krickel

 

This is Not a Review of Spring Awakening

There are a couple of reasons why Jasper cannot review Trustus Theatre's current performance of Spring Awakening -- not the least of which is the fact that the director of the play is dating the daughter of the editor of the magazine. The fact that we can't review the play is unfortunate for a couple of reasons, as well -- not the least of which is the fact that the editor of the magazine doesn't hold anything back, and doesn't care who is dating whom.

That said, there are issues of propriety which we will respect. So, as you read, please keep in mind that this is not a review of Spring Awakening.

What this is is the story of how, thanks to the generosity of Coralee Harris, a dear friend and all around lovely person, whom Tracie Broom most aptly denominated as a bon vivant, this writer and more than one hundred other luckies had the opportunity to enjoy one of the last dress rehearsals of Spring Awakening on Wednesday night last week. It was cozy and friendly -- we sipped champagne, munched on our free popcorn, and simply took in all the youthful angst and profundity that the performance offered.

As frequent theater goers, it is unusual for us to attend a play in Columbia in which we know few of the actors, but this was the case on Wednesday night. Of course, we were very familiar with the work of the  director, Chad Henderson, who previously directed such plays as Assassins, Dog Sees God, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and more. And if you live in Columbia and don't know the work of the two people who played the parts of the adult male and female respectively, Christopher Cockrell and  Vicky Saye Henderson , I'm sorry, but it's my duty to inform you that your life would be so much better than it is if you did.

The new faces were universally young and unaffected; their voices, powerful and eager. From the closeness of our second row seats we were easily caught up in the almost palpable atmosphere that their combined energies created -- it was like some kind of youthful and frustrated pheromone. We could sense how thrilled and terrified they were to be on the stage, and how delighted they were by their own abilities to overcome their terror and giddiness and give us a professional performance. While I would usually never recommend sitting so closely, this was one time that proximity paid off.

The contrast of the young and eager cast against the laid-back and experienced persona of the band also needs to be noted. With local legends like professor of Jazz, Bert Ligon, and loyal Trustus stage musical director, Tom Beard, on deck, we expected the music to be exceptional, and it was. The gentlemen were joined by Jeremy Polley on guitar, James Gibson on bass, Greg Apple on percussion, Dusan Vukajolvic on cello, Jerrod Haning on viola, and Jennifer Hill on violin. Their steady, subdued-but-excellent sounds seemed at times to perturb the young actors who, when singing seemed to try to channel to the band the message to play louder and faster so they could metaphorically roll down the windows on the theatre and let their voices and spirits soar.

Our favorite part of the performance happened before the play itself got underway. Director Henderson had his actors frolicking about the stage, as young people are wont to do, as the audience arrived.  Then, they took their places perched atop chairs that were literally hanging off the wall at random heights and order. It was as if the young people had been set on shelves -- out-of-the-way, out of sound, out of mind -- until the performance began, and the young actors were finally in charge -- taking the stage and, with sometimes heart-breaking results, taking control.

It is the little things, like suspending the children on the wall at the beginning of the show, and two young and damaged women singing together and ultimately taking one another's hands in courage, that touch people so much about Spring Awakening. It's the authentic tears of young Patrick Dodds who plays Moritz and the Judy Collins-like voice of Adrienne Lee's Ilse. It's the sad realization that the premise of the story -- adults being fearful and unwilling to affirm the agency of a new generation, and the individuals within it, because of the fear of their own authentic selves -- is just as applicable in modern America as it was in late 19th century Germany.

No, this is not a review of Spring Awakening -- clearly it was a night to remember -- but you can find an excellent assessment by Jasper's own staff writer, August Krickel by clicking right here.

 

(Like reading Krickel? Tune in tomorrow for his reflections on, for many of us, the day the music died.)