Collected Stories, opening at Trustus, poses tough questions by Jaquelyn Mohan

collected stories Who owns your memories?  It is a strange question, and one which opens conversation about intellectual property, personal experience, ownership, and the often blurred line between what is right and what is wrong.  In Collected Stories, playwright David Margulies raises these issues, and Milena Herring further explores these issues and more in her production of the controversial play opening at Trustus Theatre this August.


Collected Stories tells the tale of the changing relationship between two women over a span of six years.  Ruth Steiner, played by Elena Martinez, takes the role of teacher and mentor to the younger Lisa Morrison, played by E. G. Heard Engle.  Ruth is a respected professor and short story writer in her mid-fifties who takes on Lisa, graduate student and aspiring writer, as her assistant.  As the years pass, they become friends and eventually adversaries as one character makes a choice that forever changes both women’s lives, careers, and futures.


A USC graduate, director Milena Herring worked in New York in the theater business for thirty years before returning to Columbia in 2010.  Her love for Collected Stories originally sparked when she saw the play performed in New York in 1997 by Uta Hagen and Debra Messing.  Herring is thrilled to finally have the opportunity to direct Collected Stories.


“What appealed to me about the play originally was the veracity of who is wrong and who is right.  There’s a point in the play where the audience gives a collective gasp and realizes a truth about ones of the characters,” Herring says, recalling when she first saw the play years ago.  “The plays that I love, both as a director and as a member of the audience, are plays that move the audience from point A to point B or even point W—they move the audience intellectually or emotionally, and this play does both.”


Collected Stories deals with numerous highly charged ideas and themes ranging from betrayal, intellectual property, the creative process, aging, lost love, and literary appropriation.  “It’s a good thinking person’s play,” Herring says.  The play deals with these heavy issues with honesty and oftentimes humor.  “It’s just very real,” Herring adds.  “In the 1960s it would have been called kitchen sink realism.  It’s a slice of life.  You’re dropping in on a conversation between Lisa and Ruth over six years.”


In this unique two-person play, both actors are equally passionate about the issues the play raises and the story it tells.  “This is a story about two women and their friendship. Friendships change and shift over time as lives change, and I love that their relationship is the root of the play,” says Engle, who takes the roll of Lisa Morrison.  Elena Martinez Vidal, who plays Ruth Steiner, said “I like this kind of show because it can engender tons of discussion…The play does not guide the audience to any conclusions: they will have to make up their own minds.  And those conclusions will probably depend a lot on their experiences and backgrounds.”  Collected Stories will leave you wondering to what extent your life is your own and how one person’s experience can become another person’s story.


Collected Stories is the celebratory closing play for the 28th season at Trustus Theatre.  “The first play of the season was Next to Normal, and it was a really fine local production you could hold up to any New York production,” Herring recalls.  “Collected Stories is a good counter production to Next to Normal…They’re good bookends to the season.”  Raising ideas pertinent to theater itself such as intellectual property and literary appropriation, Collected Stories is a brave production that is sure to keep the audience guessing until the end and, as they exit the theater, leave them with the haunting question, Who owns your memories?


Three leading ladies work together to run this play, two on-stage and one off-, and make it an experience no one will soon forget or, for that matter, be able to stop talking about.  Sponsored by Callison Tighe with consideration by Muddy Ford Press, Collected Stories will run on the Trustus main stage from August 15th through the 18th.  Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street.  For tickets and more information, visit or call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732.


-- Jaquelyn Mohan, Jasper intern


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Confessions of a Good Man Opens at Harbison, Tarzan + Doctor Dolittle Continue at Town and Workshop


Walking on Water (WOW) Productions playwrights Tangie Beaty and Donna Johnson have teamed up with author Kevin A. Rasberry to present their brand new production, Confessions of a Good Man.  The show is a prelude of sorts to Rasberry’s book, Evolution of a Good Man, which will be released in 2013 as well. WOW will be returning to the Harbison Theater at Midlands Technical College to bring this show to life for FOUR  nights only! Run  dates are Thursday July 25 - Sunday July 28, and tickets range in price from $20 - $30 (with group rates available.)

Confessions of a Good Man is an inspirational stage play that gives a glance into the mind and struggles of one man. The production tells the tale of three brothers who grew up in the same household, but ended up with three vastly different lives. Each of the brothers takes his own path to try and become like their father, the epitome of a good man. Although the goal seems to elude them all, each of their paths lead to the same place...home. Family secrets, lies and love both bind this family together and keeps them bound. Will a confession free or destroy them?

National Gospel recording artist Blanche McAllister-Dykes, a South Carolina native, will join cast members Kayla Baker, Dana Bufford, Deon Generette, Rod Lorick, Regina Skeeters, and Will Young, IV.   WOW Productions' mission is to inspire, educate, encourage and empower artists and audiences to make communities more conscious and compassionate places. WOW believes in utilizing local and upcoming artists who also share the desire to utilize the performing arts in making a difference in not only their surrounding communities, but nationwide.  For more information about WOW Productions and Confessions of a Good Man please visit or call 803.807.2969.


Town Theatre meanwhile continues its run of Tarzan the Stage Musical, based on the animated Disney film, which was in turn based on the classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


Tarzan’s adventure begins when a shipwreck leaves him orphaned on the shores of West Africa. This helpless baby is taken under the protection of a gorilla tribe and becomes part of their family. Growing into a great hunter and leader, Tarzan is much-loved by his ape mother, Kala, but yearns for acceptance from his ape father, Kerchak. When he eventually encounters his first human – Jane Porter, a curious young explorer – both of their worlds are transformed forever. Despite challenges, foes and differences, Jane and Tarzan find that together they can overcome all odds. This unlikely love story, full of adventure and songs by Grammy winner and rock icon Phil Collins promises touch your heart, while thrilling you as Tarzan literally swings over the heads of the audience and onto the stage.

Alternating in the role of Young Tarzan is Luke Melnyk (The Music Man) and Jadon Stanek (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) with newcomer Liberty Broussard and Caroline Quinn (Annie) alternating as Young Terk. Parker Byun (Miss Saigon, The Music Man) plays the grown Tarzan, with Town newcomer Celeste Morris as his leading lady, Jane Porter. The influence of parental guidance pervades the show in ape form with Kala, portrayed by Laurel Posey (Guys & Dolls) and Kerchak, taken by Scott Stepp (Annie Get Your Gun, The Odd Couple), and in human form with Professor Porter, played by Frank Thompson (White Christmas, Harvey). And what is a Disney tale without a scoundrel or two? Creating strife from the-get go is Kristy O’Keefe (Joseph…) as the leopard and Chad Forrister (The 39 Steps) as the conniving Clayton, a nefarious hunter. On the opposite end of the mischief spectrum is the feisty adult Terk played by Jackie Rowe (Peter Pan.)

Photo by David Barber. — with Parker Byun and Celeste Morris.

Director/Choreographer for this production is Shannon Willis Scruggs; the Scenic Designer/Technical Director is Danny Harrington; and the Costumer is Lori Stepp. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Tarzan come to life on Town's stage, with only four shows remaining: Thursday July 25- Sunday, July 28. Curtain is at 7:30 pm, and 3 pm on the fimal Sunday matinee. Tickets are $15-25. Call the box office at 803-799-2510, or for more information visit


Workshop Theatre meanwhile continues its production of the family-friendly musical Doctor Dolittle , with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and based on the classic film.  This is a tale about the adventures of a doctor who learns to speak to animals, and who takes a journey from the small English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh to the far corners of the world. In the beginning, Doctor Dolittle is wrongly accused of murder and the animals and his friends rally together to prove his innocence. Once Dolittle is pronounced innocent, he continues with his search for the Great Pink Sea Snail -- the oldest and wisest of the creatures on earth. This is the classic tale of kindness to animals based on the stories of Hugh Lofting.


Lee O. Smith (Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka) plays Doctor Dolittle, the wacky, but kind doctor who can talk to animals. He is joined by Kate Huggins (Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella) as Emma, Hans Boeschen (Legally Blonde the Musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella) as Matthew Mugg, Liza Hunter (Disney Camp Rock) and Marra Edwards (The Color Purple, Disney Camp Rock) as Polynesia, Doctor Dolittle's parrot, and Workshop newcomer Ben Connelly as Tommy. along with a host of youth actors.

E.G. Heard Engle (Disney's Camp Rock, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella) directs a talented cast of veteran actors and up-and-coming youth. Music director Daniel Gainey (Disney's Camp Rock, Songs for a New World) helps create a harmonious sound, and choreographer Katie Hilliger (Disney's Camp Rock, Hairspray) brings her energetic style to the dances.  For ticket information, call the box office at 803-799-6551 from noon to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or visit  Only three performances remain:  Thursday July 25 - Saturday. July 27.

You can read reviews by August Krickel for both Tarzan the Stage Musical and Doctor Dolittle at Onstage Columbia.