Measure in Love – A look into a decade of Torch by Haley Sprankle



One little acronym with a heavy connotation.

In the early 1980s, a handful of men began experiencing a series of rare illnesses that were often diagnosed as cancer or pneumonia. The cancer was referred to as Kaposi’s sarcoma and the pneumonia was called Pneumocystis Pneumonia Carinii.

By July 1982, it was diagnosed as AIDS.

Because this traumatic illness was often linked to homosexuality or drug use, many who sought treatment faced great adversity—judgment, discrimination, and often the refusal of care.

Then came an acronym with a much more positive outlook.


In 1985 Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services was created in South Carolina in order to fight AIDS with the proper treatment and care. Their services were, and still are, free to those suffering from HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. They were the light in the dark for many people.

Over 25 years later, PALSS still offers support and care to those in need.

In 2005, the organization formed a benefit concert called Torch.

“I have very good friends who were and still are on the Board of Directors of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services. It was at their request that we put together the first and all subsequent benefits. Torch, in its current form, was first performed in 2005,” Artistic Director Randy Moore says.

As Artistic Director, Moore is in charge of selecting the performers for the show.

“When I was asked to do Torch for the first time, we were in the middle of the SC Shakespeare Company’s production of Man of La Mancha in Finlay Park. Most of the original Torch cast of four men and four women were selected from that musical production. Those who weren’t were hastily recruited at the last minute to help balance out the cast. We only had a little more than two weeks to put the entire show together,” Moore remembers. “While I wanted to keep the core group for future productions, some of the original cast weren’t able to do Torch again– some for just one year, some for several. In fact, only four cast members have performed every single year. It’s very difficult to find the same talent available every single year. So, we added new performers to take the place of those who were absent. As the years progressed, some of the original performers were able to return which increased the cast size. This year, we will have every single performer who has done Torch in the past ten years and our largest cast ever- twelve people.”

Many of the performers who have graced the stage for this sentimental benefit have been seen on local stages all over Columbia, one of which is local actress and choreographer Mandy Applegate.

“Performing with this group is incomparable! I am amazed at this web of friendship and love that spans decades. Some of these people I have known for 20 years, some for closer to 10.  We frequently work together in musicals and choirs and are all friends outside of that as well,” Applegate says. “Some nights we can barely get through songs because we are either laughing, or crying, or both. We are truly a little family, and at times, our teamwork is effortless.”

This weekend, the benefit celebrates its 10th anniversary.

“Torch has grown so much since our first offering. We’ve expanded to two nights of performance, enlarged our cast and increased seating to include theatre seats as well as cabaret tables. I’m honored and humbled to have been a part of it these past ten years and to have raised so much money for such a terrific organization as PALSS. It also means a lot to have worked with these talented performers, whom you’ll never otherwise see all onstage at the same time,” Moore says.

In the end, both PALSS and Torch are all about love for one another, and how that love is used to help others through the good and the bad.

“Torch is a beautifully intimate gathering in support of PALSS and their very important work with food, drinks and song, guaranteed to warm your heart,” Applegate says. “Knowing we are raising money for PALSS, which is completely local, is truly heartwarming. The work they do is a gift to our community, and we are glad to give our service of song in support of that each year.”

Don’t miss Torch this weekend, November 7-8 at 6;30 in the Black Box Art Space at CMFA on Pulaski Street!

Transylvania Mania at Workshop Theatre - a review of "Young Frankenstein" by Jillian Owens

youngfrank1 It seems appropriate that the last show ever to be performed by Workshop Theatre at their Gervais and Bull Street location would be Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein. Emotions surrounding their move to 701 Whaley run high among the Columbia theatre community. Only something silly and fun will do for this occasion. Adapted from the 1974 film of the same name, Young Frankenstein tells the story of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fron-ken-steen”!), grandson to that other Frankenstein who terrorized the townsfolk of Transylvania with his monsters for decades.

Kyle Collins as Dr. Frankenstein - photo by Rob Sprankle

Frederick is summoned to Transylvania to claim his inheritance when his Grandfather dies. At first, he has no intention of “joining the family business” of creating monsters, but then he meets Igor (played by Frank Thompson), a masterless hunchbacked stooge who pronounces his name “Eye-gor,” and who softens his resolve in the song "Together Again (for the First Time."  A visit from the ghost of his dead grandfather (played by Hunter Boyle), and the temptation of taking on a sultry local by the name of Inga (played by Courtney Selwyn) as his lab assistant remove it altogether. With the assistance of Igor, Inga, and his horse-scaring housekeeper Frau Blucher (played by Elena Martinez-Vidal, he builds a monster that-- you guessed it--ends up terrorizing the village.

Elena Martinez as Frau Blucher ("Nee-e-e-e-igh!") - photo by Rob Sprankle

This is one of the best put-together casts I’ve seen. Kyle Collins is a delightfully neurotic Dr. Frankenstein, and Thompson is a brilliantly hilarious Igor. Vicky Saye Henderson delivers a standout performance as the Doctor’s madcap socialite fiancée, Elizabeth Benning, who is more than a bit frigid with the good doctor in the song "Please Don't Touch Me." Selwyn is an exciting and relatively new talent, having only one other production under her belt (the recent Ragtime at Trustus.) With impressive vocal chops and other…ahem…assets, she is perfectly cast as Inga, and I look forward to seeing her talent grow in future productions. Martinez-Vidal earned the most laughter as Frau Blucher, sometimes without havingto say a thing.  Jason Kinsey is perfectly cast as The Monster, and his “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number does not disappoint.

Courtney Selwyn as Inga - photo by Rob Sprankle

This is one of those rare Columbia productions that has somehow managed to capture the best of our local talent, and has showcased it fantastically well. Even the ensemble is comprised of actors and actresses whom I’m accustomed to seeing in lead roles. And I’ve never seen a show where the cast is so clearly having such a ridiculous amount of fun.

Frank Thompson as Igor - photo by Rob Sprankle

That’s what this show is. Pure fun. Well, not all that pure. There are plenty of bawdy jokes, songs (such as the song, “Deep Love,” which is referring to exactly what you think it’s referring to) , and silly sight gags. But this is nothing that would surprise anyone who’s ever seen a Mel Brooks film.

Young Frankenstein is a big show, both in cast size, and technically speaking. Randy Strange has done a phenomenal job with the challenging set requirements, most impressively in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. This is a bittersweet compliment, as this is to be Strange’s last show in his decades-long career-- but what a way to go out. What couldn’t possibly be built on such a small stage is created through the clever use of projections by Baxter Engle, also credited as Sound Designer for this show.

Director Chad Henderson, Choreographer Mandy Applegate, and Music Director Tom Beard have created a production that is truly a triple threat. Great direction, great choreography, and great musical talent have come together to make the last show on this stage something truly special.  Young Frankenstein runs though Saturday, May 24;  contact the box office at 803-799-6551, or visit for ticket information.


Be the first to see "The Velvet Weapon" (winner of the 2013 Trustus Playwrights' Festival) on Sat. Aug.10 at 2 PM!


Love live theatre, but stymied by steep ticket prices?  Trustus has got you covered.

Love live theatre, but have commitments like jobs and children that keep you from going out at night?  Trustus has got you covered.

Love live theatre, but wish there were some way to see new shows other than traveling to New York?  Ever wish there were some way for new works of theatre to get a shot at an audience without having to worry about either being a Broadway blockbuster?  Trustus has got you covered.

Ever wish you could give feedback directly to a playwright, before the play ever even opens?  Trustus has got you covered.

Are you so tired of the famously hot August heat - punctuated by the monsoon-like August thunderstorms - that you wish you could just sit down in the dark somewhere with a cold beer or refreshing glass of wine, and watch some live theatre you've never seen before? Trustus has got you covered.

Tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM - that's Saturday, August 10th - The Velvet Weapon, winner of the 2013 Trustus Playwrights' Festival, will have a one-time-only staged reading at Trustus Theatre, open and free to the public.  The Trustus bar will also be open (although not free.)  There are only some 135 seats, however, so make sure one of them is yours.

The playwright, Deborah Brevoort, was kind enough to talk with Jasper about her new work, and you can read that exclusive interview here.  The cast for this reading includes:  Paul Kaufmann (last fall's Next to Normal and  I Am My Own Wife, both at Trustus), Trey Hobbs (Albany in USC's recent King Lear, Greg in reasons to be pretty at Trustus in 2010), Mandy Applegate (The Last Five Years and Plan 9 from Outer Space, both at  Trustus, and The Producers at Workshop) Hunter Boyle (Peron in Evita at Trustus, Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Workshop) Chelsea Nicole Crook, Eric Bultman, Cindy Durrett (numerous incarnations of Nunsense at Act One Theatre), Josiah Laubenstein (Edgar in King Lear, and Mike in Pine, the previous year's Festival winner  currently running at Trustus), Raia Jane Hirsch (The Motherf*@%er With the Hat at Trustus, Pride and Prejudice with SC Shakespeare Co.), and Kayla Cahill (The Shape of Things at  Workshop.)

Press material describes The Velvet Weapon as "a hilariously smart backstage farce that will leave you laughing while also engaging you long after you've left the theatre.  At the National Theatre of an unnamed country, in an unnamed city, a matinee audience rises up in protest over what is being performed on stage, and demands something new. They begin a performance of their own of The Velvet Weapon, a play by an unproduced playwright of questionable talent. Inspired by the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia, The Velvet Weapon is a humorous exploration of populist democracy told through a battle between high-brow and low-brow art."

Director Chad Henderson shared a few thoughts with Jasper:

Jasper:   What has your involvement been in previous years with the Playwrights' Festival?

Henderson:  I directed Swing ’39 in 2011. I also acted in Copy Man under the direction of Jim Thigpen years ago.

Jasper:  Why is it important for an author to get feedback via a reading?

Henderson:  Probably the same reason I invite colleagues to come watch rehearsals of a show I’m directing before we open – its good to know what’s working and what’s not. In this particular case, Brevoort has written a farce – so pace and delivery is the name of the game it seems. The language on the page is the direct key to engaging an audience, so

Jasper:  How did you go about casting Velvet Weapon?

Henderson:  I was looking for people who are quick, humorous, and who have good timing.

Jasper:  For audience members who have never attended a reading before, what can they expect?

Henderson:  The actors (and it’s a great cast) will be reading without staging. Therefore, they will be acting while reading – but not walking around the stage. We would have loved to have staged this reading, however with farces there’s so much action that simplistic blocking would get in the way of the words being said. And since this is a celebration of a new work – we’re keeping it simple. But the script is certainly funny enough and endearing enough to entertain on a Saturday afternoon.

Jasper:  What sort of themes are addressed in this play?

Henderson:  “What is art?” is a question that strings through the narrative. Should art entertain? Should art explore the human condition? If it doesn’t explore the human condition – is it still art?

Be the first to see The Velvet Weapon, which will get a full production in the summer of 2014.  Curtain is at 2 PM tomorrow (Sat. Aug. 10) at Trustus Theatre, at 520 Lady Street in the heart of the Congaree Vista.  The Facebook "event" page for the reading is here.

~ August Krickel