The Play Right Series, Community Producers, and Sharks and Other Lovers -- a message from cindi

When we started the Jasper Project last year as a non-profit entity dedicated to collaborative arts engineering, one of the first projects on our roster, after putting out the next issue of Jasper Magazine, was the formation of the Play Right Series.

The Play Right Series is an endeavor to enlighten and empower audiences with information about the process involved in creating theatrical arts, at the same time that we engineer and increase opportunities for SC theatre artists to create and perform new works for theatre. The word process is italicized because one of the four main missions* of the Jasper Project is to pull back the curtain on what, for most of us, is the magic and mystery of art. The Process.

How, for example, does a play get from a nugget in the playwright’s brain through her pen and all the way through re-writes, communication with directors, casting, table readings, stage readings, blocking, costuming, lighting, scoring, marketing, financing, rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal, and so much more, all the way to the stage on opening night?

We believe not only that the process of creating art deserves the same kind of accolades and wonder that the product does, but that knowledge of the process makes us both better audiences and patrons, as well as better artists ourselves. One of the ways we implement this belief is by involving Community Producers.

Community Producers are normal people, just like you and me, who invest a modest but meaningful amount of money in the production of one of the Play Right Series plays. In exchange for their investment, Community Producers are offered an insiders’ view of what goes on behind the scenes and are invited to follow the process of producing a new play from the first readings on.

The first in our line-up of new, audience-friendly plays is Sharks and Other Lovers, written by Columbia native Randall David Cook, and our first class of Community Producers is made up of Bonnie Goldberg, Roe Young, Bill Schmidt, Marcia Stine, Charles and Jean Cook, and Jack Oliver.

Larry Hembree is the director of the play and he believes strongly that this program is important for the Greater Columbia Arts Community at this point in time. “In a city that prides its arts and culture scene, the Play Right Series validates the performing arts’ work here and is a testament to artists and audiences that new work can be created and supported,” he says. “The long term goals [of the Play Right Series] are to continue to keep our city and state at the forefront of theatre by continuing to produce as much new work as possible.  Trustus has done a stellar job at this for over 30 years. So has the Columbia Children’s Theatre with its Commedia productions for young audiences.   Now the Jasper Project can continue to grow that. It’s exciting. Because this process is a true collaboration between playwright, director, actors and designers. It can only work if there is true collaboration among all the artists involved which certainly improves theatre skills for all of them.”


Sharks and Other Lovers stars Libby Campbell, Jennifer Moody Sanchez, Josh Kern, Glenn Rawls, and Perry Simpson. David Swicegood does costume and hair, Barry Wheeler is the sound designer, and Emily Harrill is the stage designer.

Because of the support of Bonnie, Roe, Bill, Marcia, Charles, Jean, and Jack, the Jasper Project is delighted to present a staged reading of Sharks and Other Lovers on Friday, April 28th and Saturday, May 6th. Both readings will take place at Tapp’s Arts Center and the cost is only $10. There will be a cash bar and an exciting discussion of the journey the play has taken thus far, and where it will go from here.

I hope you’ll join us for the first in an on-going series of experiments in theatre arts. It’ll be fun, and we’ll all be better theatre audiences (and hopefully artists) for having been there.

Take care,



*The Jasper Project is committed to four integrated criteria:

  • Process – illuminating the unique processes endemic to all art forms in order to provide a greater level of understanding and respect for that discipline.
  • Community/Collaboration – nurturing community both within and between arts disciplines.
  • Narrative – creating a more positive and progressive understanding of SC culture.
  • Economy – being efficient stewards of arts funding committed to creating more with less. 




5 Playwrights - 5 Directors - 5 Casts of 4 Actors -- 1 Night Only with FEST 24!

fest 24

FEST 24: 5 playwrights, 5 directors, and 20 actors create and perform 5 new 10-minute plays in 24 hours. Always entertaining, always a whirlwind - and not to be missed! You'll truly have a unique experience at this one-night only performance!

This is how it works --

  • 7 pm - Saturday evening (August 23rd):  5 directors show up at Trustus Theatre and pick (from a hat, we can only assume) one of 5 playwrights and 5 casts of 4 actors. A matter of minutes later, the playwrights (not all currently in SC, but all with ties to SC) each receive an email with instructions that they have until 7 am Sunday morning to create an original, 10 minute play that includes 1 specific prop and 1 specific line of dialogue, (which will be announced to the public just before 8 pm on Saturday evening.)


  • Night falls, playwrights write, actors and directors sleep - restlessly.


  • 7:30 am Sunday morning (August 24th): directors and casts show up once again and meet with artistic/criminal mastermind Chad Henderson who delivers unto them brand new, never performed plays, fresh from the printer and the exhausted imaginations of the now sleeping playwrights.


  • 8 am until 7:59 pm Sunday -- directors and casts rehearse tirelessly


  • 8 pm Sunday -- YOU show up to Trustus theatre (there are a few seats left, but not many) as the 5 brand new world premiere plays are performed to witness the kind of innovative, cutting edge theatre arts Columbia can now get accustomed to.


This is how we do it now.


Introducing the actors:

fest 24

and the directors:

Heather Lee


Elena Martinez-Vidal


Robert Richmond


Dewey Scott-Wiley


Larry Hembree


And the playwrights:

Sarah Hammond

A resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2007, Sarah's plays are Green Girl, The Extinction of Felix Garden, Circus Tracks, Kudzu, and House on Stilts. Honors include the Lippmann Family “New Frontier” Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award, commissions from South Coast Repertory and Broadway Across America, and a residency at The Royal National Theatre in London. String, her musical with Adam Gwon, won the Frederick Loewe Award at New Dramatists, a NAMT residency grant, the Weston Playhouse New Musicals Award, and was chosen for the Eugene O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference. Her plays have been produced at the Summer Play Festival at The Public, Trustus Theatre, Hangar Lab, City Theatre Summer Shorts, Live Girls! Theater, Collaboraction, Tulsa New Works for Women, and several universities. Her short plays are published in Ten-Minute Plays for 2 Actors: The Best of 2004 (Smith and Kraus) and Great Short Plays: Volume 6 (Playscripts, Inc.).

Randall David Cook


A New York-based playwright who originally hails from South Carolina. In recent years he's had two plays premiere Off-Broadway: in 2007, Fate's Imagination opened at the Players Theatre (Entertaining...Tasty plot twists and some very funny lines, The New York Times), and in 2006 Sake with the Haiku Geisha opened at the Perry Street Theatre (Witty, Observant, The New York Times) and was chosen as one of Backstage magazine's Picks of the Week. His one-act play Sushi and Scones was broadcast by the BBC, and his two screenplays (Quintet and Revelation) were both finalists for the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. He is the Resident Playwright of Gotham Stage Company, the writer of the annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards (for best of dance on Broadway and in film) and an active member of the Dramatists Guild.

Robbie Robertson


A playwright, screenwriter and a graduate of the University of South Carolina and UCLA’s professional screenwriting program. Robbie’s first play, Mina Tonight!, was published by Samuel French Inc. and has been produced in regional theatres across the nation. He is also the writer/director of the musical theatrical production, The Twitty Triplets, which has been produced at Trustus and other local venues over the last two decades years (and set to return in 2015). Robbie’s screenplays have placed in several national contests, and his latest, Sweet Child of Mine, was named one of the top 12 comedy scripts in the Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition. Last year in NYC, Robertson staged a sold out run of his staged adaptation of the film Satan in High Heels, a work that received its first staged reading at Trustus. In 2013, he was awarded the SC Arts Commission Fellowship in Screenwriting. Robbie thanks Larry Hembree and Chad Henderson for their sincere interest and courage in mounting new works.

Dean Poyner

An emerging playwright, Dean was selected as a Kennedy Center / ACTF Core Member Apprentice at the Playwrights’ Center (Minneapolis, MN) for the 2010 / 2011 season. His plays include: THE MORE BEYOND (developed with Playwrights' Center, Kennedy Center, The Puzzle Festival NYC, The Flea, Semi-Finalist for the 2011 Princess Grace Award), BELLHAMMER, a modern allegory set in the world of Christian Professional Wrestling (developed at Carnegie Mellon University, Semi-Finalist for the O'Neill Theatre Conference), the full-length drama PARADISE KEY (Winner of the 2010 Trustus Theatre Playwrights' Festival, produced at Arena Players Repertory Theatre in NY, Trustus Theatre, Hyde Park Theatre), the Zombie-thriller H apocalyptus (produced by The Salvage Company at the Cairns Festival, Queensland Australia, and at Piccolo Spoleto Festival, developed at The Garage Theatre in San Francisco, and in residency at The Studios of Key West), the full-length drama, LOSING SLEEP (Winner of the 2008 Helford Prize in Drama, and produced Off-Off Broadway at the American Theatre of Actors), and the full-length, two-person comedy, COMPANY TIME (developed under luxurious circumstances at the Players Theatre, NYC.)Dean's screenplay SALK, the true story of the discovery of the vaccine against Polio, won the 2009 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation student screenplay award. Dean graduated from WheatonCollege, Wheaton, IL, with degrees in Philosophy and Communications, and received his MFA in Dramatic Writing at CarnegieMellonUniversity where he was a two-time recipient of the Shubert Foundation Fellowship. He is a Principle Artist with The Salvage Company (NYC), and a proud member the Playwrights’ Center and the Dramatists Guild of America.

Michael Thomas Downey


Downey has written plays before and he hopes the knowledge of that makes you feel like the two hundred bucks you're shelling out for a celebrity impersonator to join you at the "legitimate theater" tonight isn't going to waste. The important thing to remember is that Mike is getting out there and is no longer aware of his grotesque limitations. Mr. Downey (Janet if you're nasty) likes huffing gin, shouting at cars, and collecting wall hangings that have printings of that footprint dealie about Jesus. He's six foot one inch tall and would love to talk about the 1984 film "2010: The Year We Make Contact" with you over tea and Bavarian sage rugelach. His wife and children tolerate his frequent Finish Jenkka dancing…barely.





Review -- Third Finger, Left Hand

Randall David Cook's clever, funny, and comfortably bizarre play, Third Finger, Left Hand, is a production that could benefit from the addition of both time and space. A portion of the Jasper entourage had the opportunity to attend a late night show on Friday, for the next-to-the-last-performance of the play's Columbia run, as we snuggled into the intimate confines of the Trustus Black Box Theatre along with a few dozen of our closest friends. An efficient configuration of the seating in the black box area created something of a theatre-in-the-round arrangement and, as is the way with small space productions, we all became a part of the show.

With a cast of five strong women and one delightful man, (Joe Hudson plays the part of Mark Luke Matthews, a church organist with a penchant for sound effects), the play catapulted the audience into the overlapping conjunctions of sad but hysterical drama from the first word. In the part of a sappily sweet-mouthed wedding planner, Dell Goodrich embodied the socially constructed worst of Southern womanhood as she contrived and manipulated, and said one thing but meant another, all from a plastered smile evoking images of the proverbial serpent in the garden itself. While it is disturbing to see this stereotype perpetuated in the theatre, the reality is that those bitches are still out there and maybe the best way to rid the world of them is to expose their likes on the stage for all to see. Sumner Bender, Kristin Wood Cobb, Ellen Rodillo-Fowler, and Denise Pearman, under the direction of Larry Hembree, fashioned a well-balanced ensemble cast that fed off one another like a dysfunctional and somewhat sapphic sorority.

The 75 minutes of Third Finger, Left Hand were filled with all the laughter and cringes appropriate to a modern-day gothic tale of the worst of humanity dressed up all pretty in the guise of family lore, but we couldn't leave the theatre without feeling as if the play itself needed something more -- the luxury of time and space. While we enjoyed the intimacy of the black box setting, Third Finger, Left Hand is the kind of play that really needs to spread out and take off its Spanx. We would like not only to see the play on a larger stage with a less minimalist set, but also in two extended acts. Several of the most important components to the creepiness of the conflict were delivered to the audience like a slap on the face, but with the economy of the forward motion of the play, we were given little time to process them. A few extra moments for both the actors and the audience to catch our collective breath -- and realize how disgusted we really were -- would have been helpful and much appreciated.

That said, thanks to Randall David Cook for bringing  his special kind of crazy back home to South Carolina. We like it when successful people don't forget where they came from. And we like it even better when they come back. You have one more night to see this engaging play. Do it. Then call, facebook, or email Randall David Cook and ask him to bring it back to us again -- same cast, same director -- but this time on the main stage.


For Your Consideration -- Jasper's take on three plays opening in Columbia this week

Jasper loves going to the theatre. On rare occasions, he'll just show up and be surprised by what he gets. But most of the time, he does his homework. There are three shows opening in the city this week. One you should just show up for and have a good time. One you might want to do a little planning for. And another that you need to know what you're getting into so, you know, you can really get into it. Anything Goes, opening at Workshop Theatre on Friday night and running through October 1st, is like an ice cream sundae. You really just have to go for it. Other than knowing it's Cole Porter and how, like ice cream and chocolate syrup, it's brilliant in its simplicity, you don't need to over-analyze it. Just have fun. And, given that Cindy Flach is directing it, yeah, you will have fun. Flach has a way, not only with execution, but with space. Her shows conjure up words like pizzazz, and sizzle, and flare. She's another one of Columbia's treasures who asks for little attention, but always gets the job done and gets it done well.

On Wednesday night, in some wild configuration of the Trustus Black Box and Late Night series, our boy Larry Hembree opens Randall David Cook's play, Third Finger, Left Hand. The show plays Wednesday nights at 7:30 and Friday and Saturday nights at 11, for two weeks. Cook is a hometown boy who has done well so, in our book, that would be reason enough to go out and support this show with your patronage. But there's more -- well, first of all, you know Larry Hembree and the kind of weird and magical spells he tends to put on a stage, so, there's that. But the bottom line is that the play has been described as both "Southern gothic" and "twisted" -- terms that makes Jasper's pulse absolutely race. (Jasper likes weird -- why hide it?) But here's the thing -- Cook and Hembree are also presenting a little bonus, next Tuesday the 20th, when they give a staged reading of another little something from Cook's box of tricks, a play called Southern Discomfort. In an effort to construct something of a study of Cook's work, we'll be seeing both the reading and the play next week. Then we're going to sit down and decide what we really think of Cook's work and talk about it. We invite our lovely readers to join us in this online discussion next week. Come back here -- right here -- and share your comments below. We look forward to getting your views.

Finally, a third play opens this week that already has us wiggling in our seats. We've never seen David Mamet's Oleanna, but we've seen David Mamet's Race (with David Spade) and his Glengarry, Glen Ross (with Alan Alda), and we've seen his films, Wag the Dog, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, to name just a few. So we know that when David Mamet writes for us, we have to prepare ourselves to be receptive. Mamet's use of language and delivery (called "Mamet speak") is unique and edgy and a little scary. Rather than enjoying a little vino or a draught of bourbon before a Mamet play, we recommend you dose up on caffeine -- not to help you stay awake, but rather to help you keep up. Mamet is unrelenting. That said, the subject of Oleanna is sexual harassment in the academy. A subject far too serious to trivialize or present solely for entertainment value. Mamet doesn't - it will be interesting to see what director, Ait Federolf, a senior in the department of theatre at USC, does with his production. It opens at the USC Lab Theatre on Thursday night, the 15th -- but you'll be busy then attending the Jasper Magazine Launch Party at Speakeasy -- and only runs until the 18th. All shows are at 8 pm and cost $5 -- with tickets available only at the door.

For more information on all three plays, visit the following websites or addresses  respectively:

Anything Goes -

Third Finger, Left Hand -

Oleanna -


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