About the 2017 JAY Finalists

2017 JAY Finalists in Visual Art

Nicole Kallenberg Heere * Sean Rayford * Cedric Umoja

Nicole Kallenberg Heere   Through December 2016, Nicole’s painting "Mommy's Little Helpers" was used by Theatre Lazina Nowa to advertise the play  All About My Mother  on billboards and posters in the city of Krakow, Poland. She continues to be an Artist in Residence at Tapp's Art Center in Columbia, South Carolina where her artwork was presented at "Figure Out" art exhibition in 2016. Her work was included in the Columbia Artists Guild inaugural show, "Our Art: A Celebration of Life and Creative Freedom," at City Art gallery in Columbia. In October 2016 she was selected as the cover artist for the fall issue of  Jasper Magazine  and was featured along with magazine editor Cindi Boiter on ArtsWACH for WACHFox news. From October 2016 - May 2017, Nicole showed with French Art Network at Galerie Rue Toulouse: New Orleans, LA and was honored at an artist meet and greet at Galerie Rue Toulouse in December. In January 2017, she enjoyed a solo show at Kershaw County Arts Center in Camden, SC and in February 2017 she was featured in  French Quarterly Magazine , New Orleans, LA. In April 2017, she had a solo show at Patriot's Hall Performing Arts Center (Formerly Jasper John's High School) in Sumter, SC, and from May 2017 – present she has been represented by Mitchell Hill Gallery in Charleston.   

Nicole Kallenberg Heere

Through December 2016, Nicole’s painting "Mommy's Little Helpers" was used by Theatre Lazina Nowa to advertise the play All About My Mother on billboards and posters in the city of Krakow, Poland. She continues to be an Artist in Residence at Tapp's Art Center in Columbia, South Carolina where her artwork was presented at "Figure Out" art exhibition in 2016. Her work was included in the Columbia Artists Guild inaugural show, "Our Art: A Celebration of Life and Creative Freedom," at City Art gallery in Columbia. In October 2016 she was selected as the cover artist for the fall issue of Jasper Magazine and was featured along with magazine editor Cindi Boiter on ArtsWACH for WACHFox news. From October 2016 - May 2017, Nicole showed with French Art Network at Galerie Rue Toulouse: New Orleans, LA and was honored at an artist meet and greet at Galerie Rue Toulouse in December. In January 2017, she enjoyed a solo show at Kershaw County Arts Center in Camden, SC and in February 2017 she was featured in French Quarterly Magazine, New Orleans, LA. In April 2017, she had a solo show at Patriot's Hall Performing Arts Center (Formerly Jasper John's High School) in Sumter, SC, and from May 2017 – present she has been represented by Mitchell Hill Gallery in Charleston.

 

Sean Rayford   Sean Rayford is a freelance photojournalist and commercial photographer working during the last year with  The New York Times, The Washington Post, Getty Images, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Associated Press  and more. His commercial clients include the ACLU, Chernoff Newman, and the Columbia Visitors Bureau. Sean produces  The Angry Whale , a photography webzine focusing primarily on local narratives with a heavy emphasis on the local music scene, along with national stories including a look at street protests in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. He won the Best Photo Story from the South Carolina Press Association in 2016 and the Atlantic Institute Peace and Dialogue Award: Media and Communication in 2017. He enjoyed a Solo exhibition called “Documents” at Anastasia and Friends, a book release,  Inundated , and was named one of 51 Instagram Photographers to Follow in the US by Time Magazine, all in 2016. He won the  Free Times  Best of Instagram Honorable Mention, in 2017. In 2016 Rayford had extensive coverage of rioting in Charlotte, NC for Getty Images, and Hurricane Matthew in the Carolina’s for  The New York Times , Getty Images and The European Press Agency. After the election of Donald Trump Sean’s storylines have often intersected with the resulting protest movements including contentious congressional town hall meetings.

Sean Rayford

Sean Rayford is a freelance photojournalist and commercial photographer working during the last year with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Getty Images, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Associated Press and more. His commercial clients include the ACLU, Chernoff Newman, and the Columbia Visitors Bureau. Sean produces The Angry Whale, a photography webzine focusing primarily on local narratives with a heavy emphasis on the local music scene, along with national stories including a look at street protests in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. He won the Best Photo Story from the South Carolina Press Association in 2016 and the Atlantic Institute Peace and Dialogue Award: Media and Communication in 2017. He enjoyed a Solo exhibition called “Documents” at Anastasia and Friends, a book release, Inundated, and was named one of 51 Instagram Photographers to Follow in the US by Time Magazine, all in 2016. He won the Free Times Best of Instagram Honorable Mention, in 2017. In 2016 Rayford had extensive coverage of rioting in Charlotte, NC for Getty Images, and Hurricane Matthew in the Carolina’s for The New York Times, Getty Images and The European Press Agency. After the election of Donald Trump Sean’s storylines have often intersected with the resulting protest movements including contentious congressional town hall meetings.

Cedric Umoja   Cedric Umoja has enjoyed the following exhibitions over the past year: Afrofuturism (a group exhibition) at 4th Wall Gallery in Charleston SC, as part of the Spoleto Arts Festival; "WE BLEED TOO!" a solo exhibition at the Goodall Gallery in Columbia; "Libation," a three person exhibition at Charleston City Gallery in Charleston SC; and, the MOJA African American / Caribbean Arts Festival. Cedric has completed a number of murals including "The space I'm in" in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA and "23 Million miles" on Millwood Avenue in Columbia. He has performed live art at MOCAD (Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit) and performed in the film,  Bridge (Refrain)  as an actor/co-producer, and music supervisor, shot in Columbia. He has also completed commission work for Radio Krimi, Experience Columbia, LuLu Lemon, USC, and Coach Michael and Chantal Peterson.

Cedric Umoja

Cedric Umoja has enjoyed the following exhibitions over the past year: Afrofuturism (a group exhibition) at 4th Wall Gallery in Charleston SC, as part of the Spoleto Arts Festival; "WE BLEED TOO!" a solo exhibition at the Goodall Gallery in Columbia; "Libation," a three person exhibition at Charleston City Gallery in Charleston SC; and, the MOJA African American / Caribbean Arts Festival. Cedric has completed a number of murals including "The space I'm in" in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA and "23 Million miles" on Millwood Avenue in Columbia. He has performed live art at MOCAD (Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit) and performed in the film, Bridge (Refrain) as an actor/co-producer, and music supervisor, shot in Columbia. He has also completed commission work for Radio Krimi, Experience Columbia, LuLu Lemon, USC, and Coach Michael and Chantal Peterson.

 

*****

 

2017 JAY Finalists in Theatre

Chris Cockrell * Mandy Applegate Bloom * Bakari Lebby

 

Christopher Cockrell   Christopher Cockrell is both a musician and actor, with most of his musical contributions being offered to the theatre. In July, 2016 Chris musically directed the Trustus season opener  American Idiot , nominated for the  Free Times  Best Theatrical Production award.  In October 2016, after 15 years of playing Riff Raff, Chris musically directed  The Rocky Horror Picture Show  which won the  Free Times  award. In December he was the sound guy for the  Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical . And in February 2017 he musically directed the  Love is Love  cabaret. During March 2017 he was the artist in residence at Hammond School and musically directed  Into the Woods .  In May he competed in the Vista Queen Pageant as Raven Black for which he won the Judge’s Choice award. He reprised his role in July for the Jasper Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle and won.  June 2017 saw him musically directing  Rock of Ages .

Christopher Cockrell

Christopher Cockrell is both a musician and actor, with most of his musical contributions being offered to the theatre. In July, 2016 Chris musically directed the Trustus season opener American Idiot, nominated for the Free Times Best Theatrical Production award.  In October 2016, after 15 years of playing Riff Raff, Chris musically directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show which won the Free Times award. In December he was the sound guy for the Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical. And in February 2017 he musically directed the Love is Love cabaret. During March 2017 he was the artist in residence at Hammond School and musically directed Into the Woods.  In May he competed in the Vista Queen Pageant as Raven Black for which he won the Judge’s Choice award. He reprised his role in July for the Jasper Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle and won.  June 2017 saw him musically directing Rock of Ages.

Mandy Applegate Bloom   Mandy offered a burlesque performance featuring a body positivity, sexuality, and autonomy talkback at Hoechella Music Festival in August 2016, and was presented in an article and podcast with Auntie Bellum on Burlesque in August 2016. She also taught the Burlesque Beginners Dance Class Series at Tapp’s Arts Center in October 2016. Mandy was a singer and performer in the PALSS Torch Cabaret Benefit at CMFA October 2016 and was choreographer/movement coach for  The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical  at Trustus Theatre in December 2016.  Her most outstanding performance though was the dual leading roles in (and choreographer for)  Grey Gardens  at Trustus, March 2017. Mandy also judged the annual Vista Queen Pageant at Trustus Theatre this year.

Mandy Applegate Bloom

Mandy offered a burlesque performance featuring a body positivity, sexuality, and autonomy talkback at Hoechella Music Festival in August 2016, and was presented in an article and podcast with Auntie Bellum on Burlesque in August 2016. She also taught the Burlesque Beginners Dance Class Series at Tapp’s Arts Center in October 2016. Mandy was a singer and performer in the PALSS Torch Cabaret Benefit at CMFA October 2016 and was choreographer/movement coach for The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical at Trustus Theatre in December 2016.  Her most outstanding performance though was the dual leading roles in (and choreographer for) Grey Gardens at Trustus, March 2017. Mandy also judged the annual Vista Queen Pageant at Trustus Theatre this year.

Bakari Lebby   In August 2016 Bakari was inducted as a Trustus Theatre Company Member where, the month before he had performed as Gerard in  American Idiot . He is an actor, sound designer, and writer for The Mothers Sketch Comedy troupe. He ran projection and did video design for  Hand to God  at Trustus Theatre, directed, did sound design, projection design, and graphic design for  some girl(s)  at Workshop Theatre, assisted with costume design for  Sex on Sunday  at Trustus Theatre. Bakari was also selected to direct  One Another  (Jon Tuttle) for Syzygy: Eclipse Plays.  His podcast,  Soda City Sessions , boasts more than 70 interviews online, and his band, Sandcastles, released the album,  Die Alone , in 2016.

Bakari Lebby

In August 2016 Bakari was inducted as a Trustus Theatre Company Member where, the month before he had performed as Gerard in American Idiot. He is an actor, sound designer, and writer for The Mothers Sketch Comedy troupe. He ran projection and did video design for Hand to God at Trustus Theatre, directed, did sound design, projection design, and graphic design for some girl(s) at Workshop Theatre, assisted with costume design for Sex on Sunday at Trustus Theatre. Bakari was also selected to direct One Another (Jon Tuttle) for Syzygy: Eclipse Plays.  His podcast, Soda City Sessions, boasts more than 70 interviews online, and his band, Sandcastles, released the album, Die Alone, in 2016.

*****

2017 JAY Finalists in Music

Those Lavender Whales * Fat Rat * Tyler Matthews

Those Lavender Whales   The group was mainly focused on releasing and supporting their second full length "My Bones Are Singing" (which came out in April) which garnered some national and international press, a  Free Times  cover story, and a good amount of touring up the east coast and around the southeast. Before the release of their album, they played an Arts & Draughts last fall, a special stripped down set with upright bass and electric guitar at the Nickelodeon for a Magic Hour in January with Valley Maker, and a songwriter event at Deckle Edge literary festival earlier this year.   

Those Lavender Whales

The group was mainly focused on releasing and supporting their second full length "My Bones Are Singing" (which came out in April) which garnered some national and international press, a Free Times cover story, and a good amount of touring up the east coast and around the southeast. Before the release of their album, they played an Arts & Draughts last fall, a special stripped down set with upright bass and electric guitar at the Nickelodeon for a Magic Hour in January with Valley Maker, and a songwriter event at Deckle Edge literary festival earlier this year.

 

Tyler Matthews   One of Tyler Matthews’ goals for the last 12 months was to gain music coverage beyond state lines. Producing his first full-length album in the form of the soundtrack for Exit 8 achieved just that — generating positive reviews, commentary, and interest from music blogs across the country. Along with scoring Exit 8, he served as the video editor for the film which gave him the opportunity to create a film trailer. This led to scoring and producing an additional composition which subsequently went on to receive a Gold Addy Award for Original Music at the Addy Awards. Tyler was one of 2 freelancers to win a gold award out of 250 professional entries. He was recognized by the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands as the member of the year for the video he volunteered to make promoting the Addy’s.  He was a selected filmmaker for the 2nd Act ( Mr. Wonderful ) Film Festival in October 2016, which involved creating original music for the film as well as tapping into music industry contacts Skylar Spence and Niilas who gave me the green light to use their music for  Mr. Wonderful . He ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to submit  Mr. Wonderful  to the short film festival circuit, and supported other musical artists and organizations around the community through video and audio production. He played shows around Columbia for Jasper, Scenario Collective, and miscellaneous house parties. However, the vast majority of his music work was done in the studio setting on a Macbook Pro - Writing, Recording, Engineering, Mixing, Mastering, etc.  He was the producer of Insanity Podcast and was selected “Who to Stream” by  Cola Daily , after being named New & Noteworthy on iTunes earlier in the year. He produces the music and all multimedia for the podcast.   

Tyler Matthews

One of Tyler Matthews’ goals for the last 12 months was to gain music coverage beyond state lines. Producing his first full-length album in the form of the soundtrack for Exit 8 achieved just that — generating positive reviews, commentary, and interest from music blogs across the country. Along with scoring Exit 8, he served as the video editor for the film which gave him the opportunity to create a film trailer. This led to scoring and producing an additional composition which subsequently went on to receive a Gold Addy Award for Original Music at the Addy Awards. Tyler was one of 2 freelancers to win a gold award out of 250 professional entries. He was recognized by the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands as the member of the year for the video he volunteered to make promoting the Addy’s.  He was a selected filmmaker for the 2nd Act (Mr. Wonderful) Film Festival in October 2016, which involved creating original music for the film as well as tapping into music industry contacts Skylar Spence and Niilas who gave me the green light to use their music for Mr. Wonderful. He ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to submit Mr. Wonderful to the short film festival circuit, and supported other musical artists and organizations around the community through video and audio production. He played shows around Columbia for Jasper, Scenario Collective, and miscellaneous house parties. However, the vast majority of his music work was done in the studio setting on a Macbook Pro - Writing, Recording, Engineering, Mixing, Mastering, etc.  He was the producer of Insanity Podcast and was selected “Who to Stream” by Cola Daily, after being named New & Noteworthy on iTunes earlier in the year. He produces the music and all multimedia for the podcast.

 

FatRat Da Czar   As South Carolina’s godfather of hip hop, Fat was the Invited speaker/panelist at 2017 Charleston Music Confab and a performer at Charleston Music Confab (Charleston Music Hall). He was named the  Free Times  Best Hip Hop Artist and the 2017 Free Times Writers Pick for Best Annual Event or Festival for Love, Peace & Hip-Hop Festival, which he previously founded. He established a hip-hop headquarters at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street, and was an invited participant in EdVenture’s 100 Men Who Cook for Kids fundraiser. He executive Produced hip-hop artist Cole Connor’s album: SODA (Sometimes Our Dreams Align) and was an invited speaker at Richland Library’s Music Entrepreneur Seminar: Find Your Voice. Fat released the album,  RailRoad , co-authored the book  Da Cold Warrior , released the Cold Warrior double CD, performed at Freeway Music Festival (at the Music Farm Columbia) and performed at the Indie Grits opening party.                                                      *****                              2017 JAY Finalists in Literary Arts                        Al Black * Nicola Waldron * Don McCallister

FatRat Da Czar

As South Carolina’s godfather of hip hop, Fat was the Invited speaker/panelist at 2017 Charleston Music Confab and a performer at Charleston Music Confab (Charleston Music Hall). He was named the Free Times Best Hip Hop Artist and the 2017 Free Times Writers Pick for Best Annual Event or Festival for Love, Peace & Hip-Hop Festival, which he previously founded. He established a hip-hop headquarters at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street, and was an invited participant in EdVenture’s 100 Men Who Cook for Kids fundraiser. He executive Produced hip-hop artist Cole Connor’s album: SODA (Sometimes Our Dreams Align) and was an invited speaker at Richland Library’s Music Entrepreneur Seminar: Find Your Voice. Fat released the album, RailRoad, co-authored the book Da Cold Warrior, released the Cold Warrior double CD, performed at Freeway Music Festival (at the Music Farm Columbia) and performed at the Indie Grits opening party.

 

                                                 *****

                           2017 JAY Finalists in Literary Arts

                    Al Black * Nicola Waldron * Don McCallister

Al Black   Al Black is a northern born Southern poet who is trying to make up for 50 years of hiding his poetic life beneath a layered costume of respectability. He publishes in journals, online blogs and anthologies, most recently in  Fall Lines  2017. He organizes and hosts a weekly poetry venue called Mind Gravy and three monthly poetry venues called Magnify Magnolias, Poems: Bones of the Spirit, and Blue Note Poetry as well as two monthly poetry workshops, in addition to organizing and hosting a monthly lyric singer/songwriter event called Songversation. Al co-founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative with the poet, Len Lawson in May 2015 on which Len and Al continue to tour organizing and hosting readings and events connected with the initiative and, in February 2017, they co-edited,  Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race  published by Muddy Ford Press.   

Al Black

Al Black is a northern born Southern poet who is trying to make up for 50 years of hiding his poetic life beneath a layered costume of respectability. He publishes in journals, online blogs and anthologies, most recently in Fall Lines 2017. He organizes and hosts a weekly poetry venue called Mind Gravy and three monthly poetry venues called Magnify Magnolias, Poems: Bones of the Spirit, and Blue Note Poetry as well as two monthly poetry workshops, in addition to organizing and hosting a monthly lyric singer/songwriter event called Songversation. Al co-founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative with the poet, Len Lawson in May 2015 on which Len and Al continue to tour organizing and hosting readings and events connected with the initiative and, in February 2017, they co-edited, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race published by Muddy Ford Press.

 

Nicola Waldron   Nicola Waldron has enjoyed a number of essays being accepted for publication or published in nationally-recognized magazines and websites this year, including "Ictus, or 1984 Redux" which was shortlisted for the Proximity personal essay prize in July 2017; “If Plan 'A' Don’t Work Out”: in  About Place ; and “Containing the Chaos: Spiral Form in Memoir” in  Assay . “Spill” which was published in  Marked by the Water  in October, 2016 was performed as a staged oration at Tapp’s Art Center as part of the Marked by the Water commemoration of the first anniversary of the 1000 year flood. An excerpt from her book,  River Running Backwards,  was published in  Fall Lines , summer 2017, and she was selected as a playwright for the Syzygy: Eclipse Plays project in spring 2017 for which she wrote the play  Visitation . Her poems “Dream” and “Birthday in October” were published in in  California Quarterly,  July 2017; “Walking the Sawmill” in  California Quarterly,  in fall 2016, and “Crawlspace” and “After a Flood” were published in  Marked By The Water , 2016. (“Crawlspace” was also published in  Jasper , October 2016.) Nicola also participated in Bones of the Spirit, Mind Gravy, and Magnify Magnolias.

Nicola Waldron

Nicola Waldron has enjoyed a number of essays being accepted for publication or published in nationally-recognized magazines and websites this year, including "Ictus, or 1984 Redux" which was shortlisted for the Proximity personal essay prize in July 2017; “If Plan 'A' Don’t Work Out”: in About Place; and “Containing the Chaos: Spiral Form in Memoir” in Assay. “Spill” which was published in Marked by the Water in October, 2016 was performed as a staged oration at Tapp’s Art Center as part of the Marked by the Water commemoration of the first anniversary of the 1000 year flood. An excerpt from her book, River Running Backwards, was published in Fall Lines, summer 2017, and she was selected as a playwright for the Syzygy: Eclipse Plays project in spring 2017 for which she wrote the play Visitation. Her poems “Dream” and “Birthday in October” were published in in California Quarterly, July 2017; “Walking the Sawmill” in California Quarterly, in fall 2016, and “Crawlspace” and “After a Flood” were published in Marked By The Water, 2016. (“Crawlspace” was also published in Jasper, October 2016.) Nicola also participated in Bones of the Spirit, Mind Gravy, and Magnify Magnolias.

Don McCallister   Over the past year, Don began his own indie publishing company, calling it Mind Harvest Press, to publish his own backlog of material including  Let the Glory Pass Away  which launched in February 2017. His short story, “Eye of the Vandal” received an Honorable Mention from the  Short Story America  Fiction Contest and his short story, “Ruby in the Dust,” was published in  Fall Lines 2017.  In addition, his papers from the publication of  Fellow Traveler  were selected for the Grateful Dead Archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz.   Don teaches creative writing at Midlands Technical College. 

Don McCallister

Over the past year, Don began his own indie publishing company, calling it Mind Harvest Press, to publish his own backlog of material including Let the Glory Pass Away which launched in February 2017. His short story, “Eye of the Vandal” received an Honorable Mention from the Short Story America Fiction Contest and his short story, “Ruby in the Dust,” was published in Fall Lines 2017. In addition, his papers from the publication of Fellow Traveler were selected for the Grateful Dead Archives at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Don teaches creative writing at Midlands Technical College. 

*****

Vote

Jasper Artists of the Year

2017

http://jasperproject.org/jays

 

Then join us on Tuesday, December 5th at 7 pm in the 701 Whaley Market Space for the

2017 JAY Awards & Retro Snow Ball

and

Caroling with Those Lavender Whales

Retro Family Photos

Pop UP Art Show & Silent Auction by Thomas Washington

Silent Auction of Original Christmas Ornaments Created and Donated by Columbia-based Fine Artists in Support of Jasper Magazine

Cash Bar by The Whig

and more ....

 

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REVIEW: Barbecue at Trustus Theatre - Frank Thompson

“There’s a face that we wear in the cold light of day.
  It’s society’s mask, it’s society’s way,

  But the truth is that it’s all a façade…”

 

-Jekyll And Hyde: The Musical

 

   When Frank Wildhorn penned the above lyrics for his adaptation of the classic tale of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde over two decades ago, he probably didn’t anticipate them being used in the introduction of a review for a yet-to-be-written play about a family staging an intervention, but the song has been stuck in my head since seeing Friday night’s performance of Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue. As usual, Trustus Theatre has selected a multi-layered, thoughtful, and well-crafted piece of work to open the 2017-2018 season. It also happens to be hilariously funny at times, especially early on, as we are introduced to a series of social misfits gathering for a cookout/confrontation in hopes of persuading the meth-addicted Barbara (Christine Hellman and Devin Anderson) to get the help she desperately needs. Known also as “Zippity-Doo”, Barbara is the loosest cannon on a full deck; her would-be rescuers each have substance and/or personal issues, and the family is a nigh-stereotypical dysfunctional, lower-middle-class bunch.

 

   It would be impossible to adequately review the performance without revealing a few spoilers, so if you want to go in completely blind, stop reading now and take my word that Barbecue is well worth your time and money.

 

   If you’re still reading, I promise not to give away all of the surprises, but to avoid confusion, I’ll go ahead and say that each role is double-cast, with one family entirely African-American, the other entirely white. The two families are identically named and costumed, with only minor (or so it seems) differences between them. Both Barbaras are addicts, and the set-up for the intervention, etc., utilizes almost identical dialogue, with a few cultural colloquialisms and stylistic choices unique to each group. The first act alternates scenes between the groups, with a fairly close-to-real-time overlap until a big reveal at the end of the first act, at which point we realize that we’re watching a reality show onstage. (The TV series Intervention is actually mentioned several times). But which “reality” is real? Over drinks at intermission, several friends and I guessed what would happen as well as what was going on. We were all incorrect, which illustrates the artistry of the playwright in avoiding the obvious in a play populated by what seem at first to be two-dimensional characters.

   The show opens with a laugh-riot, profanity-laden, monologue by Christopher Cockrell as Barbara’s n’ere-do-well brother, James T., who wants nothing to do with any of it, yet is forced to set up for the party alone. Having seen Cockrell mostly in dramatic, serious roles, I was most impressed with his flawless comedic timing, as well as his ability to convincingly play a lowbrow redneck. It’s always enjoyable to see familiar faces in roles outside their personal norm, and Cockrell’s James T. is just that. Matching Cockrell’s stage presence and skill, Kendrick J. Lyles appears as the black James T., who, while slightly more laid-back, is the same scruffy, beer-swilling schlub as his white counterpart. One has a mullet, the other dreadlocks, but they’re both reluctant, unimpressed with the plan, and would rather be anywhere else.

 

   Krista Forster and LaTrell Brennan share the role of Barbara’s sister, Marie, who has plenty of her own secrets. As with Cockrell and Lyles, both performers manage to create the same character with just enough differences to keep things interesting. While each Marie is self-serving and hypocritical, Forster’s is a bit more aggressive somehow, with Brennan’s interpretation bringing out a slightly softer side. Rather than being a distraction, this adds another layer to the almost-but-not-quite-identical nature of the two families. One gets the idea that Marie is following fairly closely in Barbara’s footsteps, which is supported by slight differences in the two Barbaras that mirror the personality of each Marie. Kudos to director Ilene Fins for weaving such subtleties into the parallel universes.

   Trustus mainstay Elena Martinez-Vidal plays the white incarnation of Aldean, a chain-smoking opioid addict who is battling breast cancer. With her edgy, crass, and selfish nature, Aldean could easily be the most-disliked of this crew of undesirables, but Martinez-Vidal brings a raffish lovability to the role. She’s the cranky old aunt or neighbor lady whose nastiness is somehow endearing. Her counterpart, Mahogany Collins, is just flat-out hateful, with hilarious results. In the hands of a less skilled actress, this approach could have fallen flat, but Collins brings such sincerity to Aldean, you can’t help cracking up at her most venomous lines. This was my first time seeing her onstage, and I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

   Two more familiar faces on the Trustus stage, Dewey Scott-Wiley and Marilyn Matheus, provide what semblance of stability the family has in Lillie Anne, the harried organizer and driving force behind the intervention. It goes without saying that each of these seasoned pros turns in a solid, well-developed performance, but as an added layer to an already complex set of circumstances, the two Lillie Annes also helped define each family. Each has seen tragedy and loss, but seemingly from different directions. With Scott-Wiley’s Lillie Anne, there’s a slightly frantic quality which suggests a family in decline, while Matheus’ solid, no-nonsense Lillie Anne has the aura of someone who has pulled herself up beyond her beginnings. The script does not address the issue, but the performances suggest one person who is desperately trying to fix something broken, while the other is calmly determined not to let things get any worse.

   And of Barbara, herself? Well, that’s where things get complicated, and (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) once we discover that Hellman’s is the actual Barbara, the story splits open, and we see Anderson in her true identity: a successful singer who plans to conquer Hollywood by bringing Barbara’s story to life onscreen. (While in rehab, Barbara wrote a best-selling book about her experiences). In one of the show’s strongest scenes, the two play a game of cat-and-mouse over identity and reality, with Barbara claiming to have made up the entire story, which doesn’t seem to matter at all to the singer, who has her eyes on the Oscars and nothing else. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that everything from race to sexual identity is addressed in the scene, with the overwhelming message being that reality is subjective and what you see isn’t always what you get. By the end of the scene, the two have merged in a way, and the audience is left wondering how many layers of deception and fakery just occurred, and if a “real” Barbara has faded into a pastiche of lies and re-writes. Hellman and Anderson manage to create just enough doubt about…well, almost everything. Watching their interaction and the game of one-upsmanship literally had me on the edge of my seat and figuratively doubting my sanity as each “revealed” something that may or may not have been true.

      By the end, all is made clear, but the path takes several more twists along the way, dropping in one or two more revelations that tie the two worlds together. The final moment of the show (which I won’t reveal) brought laughter from some, gasps from others, and a whispered-but-distinct “daaaaaaaamn” from someone in the row behind me. For a script which addresses and bases itself on relativism and skewed perspective, I can think of no better reaction. Barbecue is a fresh, thought-provoking, mind-twisting, funny, vulgar, and intelligent piece of theatre, with a strong cast and ambiguous storyline that leaves you scratching your head a little. It’s a perfect show for Trustus, and Artistic Director Chad Henderson is clearly committed to continuing the theatre’s goal of bringing new works of high quality to the stage. His opening night welcome to the audience included a tribute to his mentor, the late Jim Thigpen, whom I have no doubt would have taken great pride in Barbecue.

 

Frank Thompson is a graduate of The University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law, who has made his home in Columbia since 2010. He has performed, taught classes, and/or directed with several local theatres, and co-writes a column for "The Good Life" blog for Goodwill Industries, along with his wife, Laurel Posey. His essay, 'Que, was featured in the 2014 edition of Fall Lines by Muddy Ford Press.

 

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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.

Jon Tuttle's "The Palace of the Moorish Kings" - A Review by Jillian Owens

Jon Tuttle’s new play, The Palace of the Moorish Kings (based on the short story by Evan S. Connell) makes for a powerful and thought-provoking night of theatre.  Tuttle is no stranger to  Trustus Theatre – he’s their Playwright-in-Residence.  You may remember him from such works as The Sweet Abyss, Holy Ghost, and The White Problem. It’s Thanksgiving Day, 1970.  Dave and Millicent, played by Gene Aimone and Christina Whitehouse-Suggs, are a seemingly happy upper middle class couple full of smiles with a lovely home (newly renovated!) and dear friends whom they’ve invited over for their traditional holiday feast.  But there’s more than a hint of worry behind their cheerful expressions:  there’s one guest that hasn’t RSVP’d.  Their son has gone missing in Vietnam, but traditions must continue.

As the guests arrive, we learn theirs is not the only family in concealed crisis.  Aileen and Art (played by Becky Hunter and Christopher Cockrell), have a marriage whose foundation is beginning to show its cracks.  Leroy and his daughter Junie (played by James Harley and Erin Huiett) seem to be a content pair, but why has Junie dropped out of college?  Barbara and Al (played by Kim Harne and Shane Walters) are still deeply in love after many years of marriage, but Barbara’s sporadically shaky right hand indicates trouble on the horizon.  This coming-of-middle-age story explores what this group of friends, who have known each other since high school, has given up in their quest for the American Dream.  They’ve all achieved their own levels of success, but still have become wistful and jealous when they hear from their friend J.D., a draft dodger who chose a life of travel and adventure over college, a job, and marriage.  They all live vicariously through his letters from around the world, which curiously never ask about their own, considerably more predictable lives.

All of the actors do an excellent job with their roles.  Huiett makes a wonderfully subtle Junie, which is perhaps the most important character in the play.  We see her asking all the questions the rest of the group wishes they had asked themselves at her age.  She’s not quite so easily sold on the idea of a marriage and a split level being the ingredients for happiness and fulfillment.  Hunter’s Aileen is spot-on and sassy, with unwavering energy and passion.  Aimone, Suggs, and Cockrell deliver powerful and dynamic performances. Other characters, however, seem to exist merely as sounding boards for their more fleshed-out counterparts.  James Harley does what he can with the role of Leroy, who doesn’t say or do very much, except get a little sad about his divorce, and worried about his daughter.  Harne and Walters also fall victim to being good actors with weak characters.  They make a convincingly loving couple, and Harne’s portrayal of a woman who is in the beginning stages of a serious illness is truly touching -- but it seems like Al only exists to provide exposition about the adventures of the well-traveled J.D.  Once again, Walters does what he can, but this script doesn’t give him anywhere to go.  As  director, Dewey  Scott-Wiley has gotten the most out of her cast with this demanding script.

A great deal of dialog is dedicated to how beautiful and amazing Dave and Millicent’s home is, and the set really needed to show the 1970's ideal of beautiful and amazing.  I wasn’t feeling it.  It seemed almost unfinished and quickly thrown together.  An implied set would have worked better for this production if budget or time constraints were the issue. 

The Palace of The Moorish Kings leaves you in a state of thoughtful contemplation.  I would like to see this show 20 years from now, to see if I still identify with the youthful idealism of Junie, or if I find myself agreeing with the older, more conservative Dave.  It’s a show I’d like to take my parents to see with me and discuss over dinner afterwards. Perhaps you’ll go see it with yours?

 

~ Jillian Owens

The Palace of the Moorish Kings  continues its run on Wednesday, August 15th, and runs through this Saturday, August 18th.   The Wednesday and Thursday night performances  start at 7:30 PM, while Friday and Saturday nights begin at 8:00 PM.  Note that half-price student tickets are available 15 minutes prior to every 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 at 803-254-9732, or visit http://www.trustus.org .

 

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.)