Black AF - And Why Columbia Deserves More New Performance Art And Why That Art Must Come from Everyone

"Nothing is more empowering than being able to speak your truth."

Preach Jacobs - photo by Brodiemedia

Preach Jacobs - photo by Brodiemedia

One of the most telling signs of a healthy arts scene in a city is when performing artists and arts organizations no longer rely solely on art being fed to them from the outside or from a canon of tried and true productions, and instead look within themselves and to their own resources to create new art and make unique contributions to culture. While we rarely see performances of new works from our more heavily funded Columbia arts organizations who seem to be more incentivized to put butts in the seats of the expensive Koger Center than to challenge, stimulate, and yes, grow their audiences, it is the smaller venues and organizations – think Tapp’s Arts Center, Harbison Theatre’s Performance Incubator, and local bars – where we most often find new work being created and performed.

Thankfully, Trustus Theatre has a history of encouraging new performing arts via their Playwright’s Festival and sketch comedy programs and, this season, they brought it all home by presenting Constance, a new musical theatre production composed by Daniel Machado, Adam Corbett, and the Restoration and written by Chad Henderson, all Columbia-based artists. Interestingly enough, Constance sold out and came close to selling out on most nights, challenging the assumption that Columbia audiences are content with the same plays, compositions, and ballets their parents grew tired of decades ago.

Now, just one week later Trustus Theatre offers a brand new one-night-only original production written and performed by Preach Jacobs and directed by Kari LebbyBlack AF.

Black AF originated with Preach Jacobs who, at 34 is a well-known member of Columbia’s local music scene. “My grandmother passed away last year and it took a toll on me,” Jacobs says. “She came from a generation where black folks … didn’t talk about their lives. …But there would be moments where she would begin to talk and those were jewels for me. Her stories were fascinating and she gave me the understanding that everyone deserves to tell their story. Black AF is paying homage to my granny and ancestors because by telling my story I’m telling their story. Unapologetically black. Black as fuck.”

Jacobs enlisted the help of Columbia native actor/director/musician Bakari Lebby, 27, whose previous directing work has included Sunset Baby at Trustus and Some Girls at Workshop, who readily jumped on board. “We had talked about how we wanted to work together on something,” Lebby says, "and Preach said he had this theatre project that he wanted to do that was ‘part TED talk, part stand up, and part hip hop show.’ That sounded dope and innovative to me, and then he told me he wanted to call it Black as Fuck, which also appealed to my interests. Then we started really fleshing out the concept and content together.”

Both artists identify the importance of supporting black art and new art from traditionally marginalized voices as being integral to their decisions to go forward with this project. “Life is scary. Shit is cray. We need art to be able to confront, explore, and express our feelings as well as the feelings of others,” Lebby says. “Any art that is not ‘mainstream’ is critically important right now. Representation. Real representation.”

“It’s important as black people in America to not just have our stories told, but in fact we be in charge of telling our stories,” Jacobs adds. “It may seem like a simple idea but it’s something that we’ve been deprived of. In this current climate it trickles to other groups of people that haven’t had their voices heard. The Me Too movement is proof of generations of women that are finally being heard and able to tell their stories. Nothing is more empowering than being able to speak your truth.”

With any new performance art audiences may be uncertain of what to expect and whether to invest in the not-inexpensive ticket price of $25, but Lebby has faith in the format and the gifts Jacobs brings to the stage. “This show is not the average ‘one-man show.’ Yes, Preach will be occupying the stage the whole time, but there is a DJ. There will be some visual supplements. There will be musical performances and dialogues. The show is funny. The show is darkly funny. It’s also a bummer at times. It is also ceaselessly honest and in Preach Jacobs’s voice. He carries the show confidently.”

Jacobs emphasizes the role of “raw honesty” in the performance, adding that the show is “a love letter to my ancestors.”

With the title of the show being Black AF (Black as Fuck) it’s reasonable to question the audiences to whom the show might most appeal, so we asked both gentlemen why both black people and white people should show up, or even if both black people and white people should show up.

According to Lebby, black people should attend “because supporting black art is lit. It’ll be a good time. The more that we show up, the more opportunities that we can get and give to more artists of color. … These are conversations we need to be having with each other.”

Jacobs says, “Hopefully the black folks that show up can relate to what I’m saying. Having a shared experience is a type of emotional bonding that I look for with my art. Watching Black Panther resonated so much because of that fact. Black folks could relate.”

As for white folks, Jacobs hopes they will “come with an open mind and really hear what I believe are things that could help with dialogue about race relations. There’s not much in the show about black and whites dealing with each other per se, as much as it is embracing and loving myself. To learn that being black isn’t a curse is life changing but also a process. Some of these things might surprise them.”

Lebby adds, “I think checking out perspectives that you haven’t seen on stage before is cool. If you’re a white theatre person, yes, come see this show. It’s important. You don’t get to ‘support black art and then not actually support it.”

 

Black AF is a one-night-only event coming up Sunday, May 27th at 8 pm at Trustus Theatre and tickets are available at http://trustus.org/event/black-af/.
A free accompanying art show will also be held May 26th at Frame of Mind (142 State St., West Columbia, SC).
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- Cindi Boiter is the executive director of The Jasper Project and the founder and editor of Jasper Magazine

Bakari Lebby Directs Jon Tuttle & Cindy Turner's SYZYGY Play, One Another

Bakari (Kari) Lebby - photo by Singing Fox Creatives

Bakari (Kari) Lebby - photo by Singing Fox Creatives

by Jenna Schiferl

 

In astronomy, syzygy is the alignment of three celestial objects.  The origins of the word date back to as early as Ancient Greece, where the word suzugos meant ‘yoked’ and ‘paired.’

 

As part of the upcoming total solar eclipse celebrations in Columbia, The Jasper Project is launching a three-part series featuring South Carolina’s top poets, playwrights, directors, and actors.  SYZYGY will kick off on Thursday, Aug. 17 with a poetry invitational and book release at the newly renovated Richland County Public Library Auditorium.  Later that day will begin the SYZYGY: THE PLAYS. Six local playwrights were asked to create a 10-minute piece with three actors or less.  The only other requirement was that each performance includes two and a half minutes of “darkness” to continue in the theme of the solar eclipse.  Finally, the project will conclude with SYZYGY: POSTMORTEM, a panel discussion and reflection led by playwright Jon Tuttle and Columbia Poet Laureate Ed Madden.  The discussion will delve into topics such as the processes of culture transitioning to art and its effectiveness.

 

University of South Carolina graduate Bakari Lebby will direct Jon Tuttle and Cindy Turner’s drama, One Another.

 

Jasper executive and editor-in-chief Cindi Boiter approached Lebby to direct the play, who was immediately on board.

 

According to Lebby, One Another is incredibly relevant to the current political climate.

 

One Another is about trust and privilege. I believe it is a very timely piece,” Lebby says.  “I'm excited for people to view this piece and contemplate its relevance to this country and them personally.”

 

Although the play is limited to 10 minutes, Lebby and his team are working to create a fully developed and cohesive storyline.

 

“We're working hard to flesh out a full true story,” Lebby says.

 

The three actors featured in the play are Akida Lebby, Jason Stokes, and Avery Bateman.  Lebby emphasized the impressive cast when asked why individuals should be interested in seeing the play.

 

“We have veteran Trustus Company members and my little brother, so I think it's worth seeing their artistic prowess,” he says.  “I'm very stoked and thankful for this opportunity, and I hope we keep pushing the boundaries of theatre, art, and the culture of Columbia.”

 

Ultimately, the night will be one with themes of alignment, synchronization, and of course – darkness.

 

SYZYGY: The Solar Eclipse Plays will be performed at 7 pm and 10 pm on Thursday, August 17th with a reception honoring the artists at 9 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at https://www.tappsartscenter.com/

Playwright Jon Tuttle   

Playwright Jon Tuttle

 

All-Arts Trivia-Yeah w/Guest Quizmasters this Sunday Night at The Whig

trivia How much fun was Trivi-Yeah at the Whig, back when Eric Bargeron would slam us up against the wall with what was probably the most clever (and often) most difficult questions in town? Winning was usually out of the question (thanks Les Frogs!), but placing was a thrill! Hell, just winning the best team name was a hoot, even though it was usually because someone who will remain nameless screeched like a banshee.

Well, Trivi-Yeah is back for one night only courtesy of the good folks at the Whig and it benefits the Jasper Project -- and this time Quizmaster Bargeron has created an all-arts slate of questions to spin our brains out of control. And to make it even more interesting, we've asked some guest quizmasters to come in and ask a few questions about local arts and award all kinds of fun prizes in between the standard Bargeron rounds.

eric-bargeron

Eric Bargeron, Quizmaster

_________

Guest Quizmasters:

JAY Julia Elliott

Julia/Liz Elliott - Author of The Wilds and The New Improved Romie Futch

larry-smiling

Larry Hembree, formerly of the Nick, Trustus, SCAC, and current president of the Board of Directors for the Jasper Project

kari

Kari Lebby, musician, podcaster, pop maven, pretty boy

william-starrett

William Starrett, artistic and executive director of Columbia City Ballet

wade-profile-pic

Wade Sellers, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, Columbia mover & shaker, and film editor for Jasper Magazine

_________

Prizes include swag from lots of your favorite arts organizations, books, t-shirts, mugs, pens, stickers, buttons, etc., plus the regular Whig treats and goodies.

6 - 8 pm, Sunday September 25th

$5 suggested tax-deductible donation to the Jasper Project, who brings you Jasper Magazine, 2nd Act Film Festival, Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Marked by the Water, Wet Ink Spoken Word Poetry, and more

For more info -- click here!

JasperProjectLogo

Hoechella: Rock against the patriarchy by Ony Ratsimbaharison

hoechella Next month a festival to raise awareness on body-positivity, called Hoechella, will run August 26-27 at New Brookland Tavern. The festival, organized by local musician and stage actor/director, Kari Lebby, was created to combat “slut shaming, rape culture, and unjust legislation that affects people's bodily autonomy.” This event will be completely free, thanks to Girls Rock Columbia and Girls Rock Charleston, who procured funding for the event, Lebby says.

The decision to throw this event came from a desire to subvert the idea that expressing ones sexuality should be shamed and made to be a bad thing. “It isn’t a bad thing,” Lebby says. “What is a bad thing, however, is the marginalization of women, people of color, and queer people.” By holding this event, they wish to bring artists and leaders from these communities together for visibility and to encourage everyone to be comfortable with who they are, and to be informed about issues that affect us all.

The festival will feature local and regional acts, almost all of them including at least one member who is queer, a woman, or a person of color, according to Lebby. Debbie and the Skanks, Cyberbae, MyBrother MySister, Glittoris, and Can’t Kids will be performing, just to name a few. They cover a wide range of genres, which was another important factor in booking. This is to showcase diverse acts and to hopefully bridge some of the gaps in our ranging music scene.

Hoechella became a fully-realized festival in what seemed like no time at all, but that was not without the help from people and organizations in our community. “I just have crazy ideas, but it takes a ton of people to make it happen!” Lebby says about seeing Hoechella come to fruition. People from the organizations Girls Rock Columbia and Girls Rock Charleston, along with the staff at New Brookland Tavern helped to solidify their plan, while others helped with things like the organizing and designing of the logo.

Lebby hopes this event will encourage people to start speaking out against rape culture, body shaming, slut shaming, and unjust legislation. It will hopefully add a new spin on the typical shows we see here in Columbia, with added awareness and encouragement to be comfortable with one’s self and their personal choices.

For more information, check out Hoechella.org.

Full list of performers

Can't Kids, Say Brother, Debbie & the Skanks, MyBrother MySister, She Returns from War, Glittoris, Sandcastles, Paisley Marie, Del Sur, Cyberbae, BRBN, and Sugar St. Germain.