PREVIEW - Blithe Spirit at USC

2nd-year MFA actors Josh Jeffers (left) as Charles Condomine and Candace Thomas (right) as Elvira Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward, and directed by Stan Brown, opens this weekend and serves as a close to Theatre South Carolina’s 2015 Mainstage Season. Blithe Spirit serves as the first Coward production at Theatre South Carolina since Present Laughter was staged in February of 2012. Both Blithe Spirit is a lighthearted and farcical comedy that follows author Charles Condomine (Josh Jeffers), who invites a medium, Madame Arcati (Marybeth Gorman), to his house one evening to conduct a séance in order to study her for his next novel. Charles, wholeheartedly believing the medium to be a hoax, is proven very wrong when he finds himself haunted by his first wife, Elvira (Candace Thomas). He is then caught in a supernatural love-triangle between his living wife, Ruth (Nicole Dietze), and the strong-willed Elvira.


Director Stan Brown explains, “I'm intrigued by two questions the play asks. As we move from one relationship to another, what “ghosts” do we take with us? I also believe…as the play implies, that genuine love is eternal.” And despite the show being nearly 75 years old, that is what makes the show still accessible to modern audiences. “Mr. Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in 1941, yet the story deals with what "we" would consider contemporary relationship issues. Its timelessness marks it as a classic”, explains Brown.


Coward originally wrote Blithe Spirit in the midst of World War II as a means of escapism. Audiences could go to the theatre for a few hours and enjoy a few laughs together as a way to temporarily flee the problems facing their lives.  And that is something about theatre that will always be relevant. Whether your problems are large or small, everyone can use a good laugh every once in a while. “…There's no reason why it can't be an escape for us during today's dark realities.  My hope is that our audiences have fun and forget their every day burdens for the two hours they're with us,” Josh Jeffers says, “Stan has encouraged us to play because ‘they're called plays for a reason,’ … It's always fun to see what people bring into rehearsal. We've spent a lot of time laughing.”


So join Theatre South Carolina for a few laughs with its last Mainstage show of the year! Show times for are 8pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays, with additional 3pm matinees on Sunday, November 15and Saturday, November 21.  Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors (60+) and $18 for the general public.  Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, November 6.  The Longstreet Theater box office is located at 1300 Greene St.  Drayton Hall Theatre is located at 1214 College St.

-- Rebecca Shrom

For more information about Blithe Spirit or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at

PREVIEW: Stop Kiss at USC's Lab Theatre by Rebecca Shrom

stop What do you want?”

“Sara asks this question repeatedly throughout the show, and I think it is important to ask that now and again,” explains Liz Houck, senior Theatre and Psychology major at USC, who is directing Stop Kiss in USC’s Lab Theater. Stop Kiss is a play about love. Not just the romantic love between a man and a woman, or the romantic love between two women, or two men, but the kind of love that builds from friendships, and all the fluidity that can be found in between.

Stop Kiss, by Diana Son, is a play, set in New York, which centers around 2 women, Callie (Jasmine James) and Sara (Imani Hanley), and their blossoming relationship. One fateful night, when Callie and Sara share their first kiss, they are both assaulted in the park. Callie remains physically unharmed, but Sara is beaten into a coma. The play then continues to jump back and forth between two timelines: the time before the accident and the recovery process. The play explores Callie and Sara’s relationship, their relationships with others, and how many different ways there can be to love someone, whether romantically, platonically, or otherwise.

“Stop Kiss is such a poignant, powerful play that says so much about systemic oppression and broken systems,” Houck explains. She is hoping that will bring back the question of “What do you want?” to the forefront of the audience’s brain. But not only that, she is hoping it will be a catalyst for discussion. She states, “… It’s even more productive to ask more specific questions such as ‘What do you want to change in the world in order to help people like Callie and Sara exist without fear?’ and ‘What do you want to do about the current system?’”

Stop Kiss, despite being published 17 years ago, still remains extremely relevant.  Freddie Powers (George) shares,[The play] was an important message about violence against queer people when the play was published in 1998 and it's almost shocking how easily adaptable it is to 2015. We didn't have to make any changes in the script because nothing sounds out of place today; the message is still just as relevant.” Houck goes on to explain, “Considering the current social climate regarding race and sexuality especially, there is a call to action to be taken from the show, especially in a state where marriage equality happened in the same year as the Charleston Nine tragedy. How does that happen, and what does that say about us?

Houck also states that the production is going to use glitch art to address the issue of oppression visually. With the help of USC Media Arts MA alum OK Keyes, the cast was led in a workshop, took images from the media, and broke them in order to creat something new.  Houck says, “We are using glitch art as a means to break the systems which oppress the charcaters in the world of the play, which mirrors the world in which we live. Glitch involves breaking the image: the actual code is bent or broken, which distorts the image.”

But in the end, it really all comes back to the idea of love. Everyone should be free to love, and let others love in whatever fashion they desire. Abi McNeely (Mrs. Winsley/Nurse) shares,There are so many different types of love: romantic, sexual, friendly, combinations of all three... and nowadays, these different types are even more prominent, especially with young people. There will always be people against these different kinds of love, but people love anyway. And that's important. It doesn't matter; love anyway.”


Stop Kiss will be performed in the Booker T. Washington Theater (1400 Wheat St.) on October 15-18 at 8 pm each night. Tickets are $5 at the door. For more information about Stop Kiss or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at (803) 777-9353 or via email at


 Stop Kiss contains adult language and content 
that is not suitable for children.

PREVIEW: USC's Threepenny Opera

Shown, from left: Carin Bendas as Lucy, Josh Jeffers as Macheath, Nicole Dietze as Jenny -- photo by Jason Ayer The Threepenny Opera, written by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Steven Pearson, is back at the University of South Carolina. This production brings about USC’s first musical Mainstage production since another of Brecht’s works, Mother Courage and Her Children, was performed in April of 2009!


The Threepenny Opera follows the deeds of the charming, but innately vile, Macheath (Josh Jeffers). Macheath is a notorious criminal who is widely admired by beggars and thieves of Victorian London, and is known for thousands of heinous crimes, including thievery, adultery, and murder. Macheath only sees wild success in all of his endeavors until he takes the young, and naïve, Polly Peachum (Candace Thomas) as his wife in secret. For when Mr. and Mrs. Peachum (Benjamin Roberts and Rachel Kuhnle), discover that Macheath has ‘stolen’ their daughter away, they vow to have him arrested and hanged.


“[The play] was radical when Brecht first introduced it as a sort of anti-opera, anti-establishment sort of theatre,” Pearson explains.  “It has a sociopolitical bent which says, ‘Look at what is going on the country and in society, at thieves and beggars and the commodification of people.” Threepenny is Brecht’s adaption of John Gay’s 1728 satirical ballad opera entitled The Beggar’s Opera. Both plays take a socialist standpoint to make social commentary on the inequality of the classes in capitalist societies. “Brecht was talking about the same things that are happening now, and even though the play is set in the 19th-century, it has a very contemporary feel,” says Pearson.  “It all keeps coming back, people wanting to cut funding that supports the poor, the discrepancies between the haves and have nots…  Really, nothing has changed.”


By placing such a self-serving, ironic-hero in a role that one is intended to sympathize with, it forces the audience constantly question who in the play they should be identifying with or fighting for. Even Mr. Peachum, who is the strongest supporter of traditional morality, still only gains income through the exploitation of others and only truly has selfish intentions. “The play centers around beggars, thieves, and whores, or “the poorest of the poor”, trying to lift themselves from their current socioeconomic state,” explains Josh Jeffers (Macheath).  “…Not a single character has the luxury of remaining incorruptible, nor bears shame because today, not only is the financial gap between the poor and the wealthy significantly wide, but we’ve become profoundly desensitized to corruption.  If our audiences feel confronted with this theme in either capacity, then I think we’ve succeeded. “


And being a Brecht production, which focuses on the alienation of the audience, or verfremdungseffekt, Threepenny should be considered less a ‘musical theatre production’ and more ‘a play with music’. “The audience plays a major role.  We use music and, occasionally, direct address to include them in this story because the themes are so universal,” Josh Jeffers explains, “…The music in a Brecht piece is a tool used to comment on the theme of the moment, rather than advance the plot or reveal characters’ intentions.  Brecht’s music isn’t necessarily as melodic as we’re used to.  It’s rough and messy because the characters and themes are rough and messy. “


Mack is back! Show times for The Threepenny Opera are 8pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, with additional 3pm matinees on Sunday, October 4 and Saturday, October 10.  Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public.  Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, September 25.  Longstreet Theater is located at 1300 Greene St.


The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill English Translation by Robert MacDonald Original German text based on Elizabeth Hauptmann's German translation of John Gay's The Beggar’s Opera

Directed by Steven Pearson Musical Direction by Matthew Marsh

Preview by Rebecca Shrom

The Women of Troy: Teaching the World Equality Through Theatre by Haley Sprankle

Jasper Intern Haley Sprankle in Trojan women “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation; we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Patricia Arquette’s rousing Oscar acceptance speech not only called to question the inequality women today face all over the world, but the inequality women have faced throughout time.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW):

  • Hispanic and Latina women were paid 54 percent of what white men were paid in 2013.
  • Women make up just 14 percent of the engineering workforce.
  • Women represent only 18.5 percent of Congress.
  • 24 states have never elected a woman governor.
  • The United States ranks 60th globally in women’s political empowerment.
  • 60 percent of sexual assaults have gone unreported since 2009.
  • Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • More than 22 million working women do not have paid sick days.
  • Half of working mothers say that they often take unpaid time off to care for a sick child.
  • So far in 2014, state legislatures have introduced 468 restrictions on women’s bodies, and zero for men.

(“10 Stats on Women’s Equality That Might Be Scarier than Halloween,” AAUW)

These striking statistics reinforce how the nation and the world needs to raise awareness and fight for gender equality.

One way that can be achieved — through the medium of theatre.

The University of South Carolina’s Lab Theatre opens Trojan Women, and immersive theatre experience written by Euripides, and directed by senior Kelsea Woods Thursday, Feb. 26.

“Feminism definitely plays into the show. First of all, it’s a show with eight women and two men which is something that you almost never see in modern theatre, much less Ancient Greek theatre. That’s definitely a feminist aspect right off the bat,” sophomore Brooke Smith, chorus member, explains. “I also think the play, especially our interpretation of it, shows women persevering in an extremely difficult, tragic situation and uniting together to take control of their own fate. If that’s not some awesome feminism, I don’t know what is.”

These women of Troy, both fictional and historical, represent all women in their own respective manner in the way they act and the way the actors describe them. They are broken, fervent, observant, good-hearted, strong and resilient women who face unsurmountable odds.

“It’s not Cassandra’s fault she is crazy — It’s Apollo’s. Literally the only reason she is crazy is because she said no having sex with Apollo. Everyone else treats her like she is insane, so she is,” senior Rebecca Shrom, playing Cassandra, elaborates. “Honestly, she is one of the only people who accepts her fate and takes it head on. Everyone else is all, ‘Woe is me. Weep for me,’ while Cassandra says, ‘Watch me while I destroy our enemies, the thing the men couldn’t do.’”

While each woman has their individuality, they also come together as one to face the world that crumbles before them.

“This very easily could be a play of women being very, ‘Take pity on me,’ wallowing, and just succumbing to this force and subordinating. In the way that I’m reinterpreting it, I’m seeing these women and their general call to action to these crimes that the Greek people would have seen as a feminist platform in today’s society where they are constantly rallying and actively not giving up. Even when the only thing they have left is to express their grief and weep, that is so powerful to them,” Woods adds.

This grief plagues women today as it did the women of Troy and of nations past.

“A big thing that we’ve talked about and something I’ve been kind of looking into more is the idea of women really being the true victims of war as far as being prone to war crimes such as systematic rape like what’s going on in Syria and all these crazy things where men use them as objects to gain power,” Woods says.

As a first-time director, Woods has created the world for the women of Troy in a new, modern way.

“In bringing it into our world and approaching it with a modern sensibility, I chose a translation that would allow for that. It’s still heightened text, but the translator did a fantastic job of making it so immediate, that I think modern audiences will respond to that. In kind of going in that way and as its very much a reflection of issues going on now, I just wanted to bring the whole production from design, staging, going about it in a new, nontraditional way — I just wanted to bring all of that modernity into a new interpretation of a classical text,” Woods says.

Not only does Woods modernize the world to make it more applicable, she offers the idea of immersive theatre.

“This is not your typical production. The intimate, immersive quality of the show is unlike any other I have had the opportunity to work on. Audience members will have no choice but to fully engage with this timeless story. This theatrical experience is all encompassing,” junior Jamie Boller, playing the lead of Hecuba, adds.

This new theatrical concept mixed with an old struggle for women’s rights and respect brings the audience into a world where they are forced to face the facts that the world still has room for improvement.

“Our community has expanded in a greater sense than what it once was, but it still calls for empathy, compassion, understanding, all these things that we often lose sight of, but are so incredibly important. Being aware of these factors helps things like war not happen. Especially given all the current political situations — it’s the same issue we’ve been dealing with for thousands of years, but we haven’t learned fully from our mistakes just yet,” Woods says.

Through these overwhelming statistics, this powerful story, and the women who have dealt with and continue to deal with these issues, there is a lesson to be learned from Hecuba, the main character:

“Life means hope,” and that hope is that the world will change for the better as women continue to strive for equality.

“This show really demonstrates that women have the ability to fight back in their own way,” junior Cami Reid says, “Even under the most devastating of circumstances.”



Classic Greek “Call-To-Action” Play The Trojan Women Comes to Lab Theatre

Jasmine James, Cami Reid, Jamie Boller, Rebecca Shrom, Brooke Smith, Haley Sprankle, Ashley Graham and Elizabeth Houck -- Photo by Alexandra Herstik

The UofSC Department of Theatre and Dance will present The Trojan Women, translated from Euripides’ ancient text by acclaimed scholar Nicholas Rudall, Feb. 26- March 1 at the Lab Theatre.

Show times are 8pm nightly. Tickets are $5, and available only at the door.  The Lab Theatre is located at 1400 Wheat St. in the Booker T. Washington building.

Senior theatre major Kelsea Woods is directing the centuries-old Greek meditation on the brutality of battle, which continues to move and inspire audiences, even in the present day. Euripides’ classic tragedy tells of the fates of the women who remain in the city of Troy after its destruction during the Trojan War.  Woods’ production of the play intends to give audience members a firsthand look at the human cost of war, as told by the women left to survive in the aftermath of their fractured world.

The director plans to use the entire Lab Theatre space, as well as unconventional seating, to immerse the audience in the action of the play.

“I knew I wanted to use different staging elements to really enhance the experience of this play, instead of just watching it proscenium style,” says Woods. “I’m playing with the sensation of place and time, and using design elements as characters almost. The audience will be considered ‘Trojan Women’ and there will be a set of rules to let them know what they are getting into. The whole Lab space will be playing space, the characters have been living their daily lives here, and the audience is walking straight into that.”

Woods’ vision for the production injects a contemporary, urban aesthetic into the ancient, war-torn world of the main characters. She imagines the surviving women of Troy living in a derelict subway, abandoned during the years of violence.

“These women have watched their families be killed and their city be destroyed, and they are waiting to see what is next for them,” says Woods. “But, they aren’t just going to sit around and do nothing.  This play was originally a call-to-action for the Greek people… and I see echoes of that within the Trojan Women themselves.”

Woods says she was drawn to direct the play after spending last summer in London at the American Institute of Foreign Study.  As a scholar with USC Beyond Boundaries and USC Carolina Global Study, Woods conducted research on experimental and immersive theatre.  Additionally, she began a dialogue with Dr. Josephine Machon, author of the pioneering textbook, Immersive Theatres, to further delve into the concepts.

“In my mind, immersive theatre is really an extra-sensory experience,” Woods says about the unorthodox production style.  “It’s really about imbuing all the senses and pulling you into the world of the story as if it’s happening around you.”

Appearing in the production are undergraduate students Jamie Boller, Rebecca Shrom, Cami Reid, John Floyd, Jon Whit McClinton, Jasmine James, Elizabeth Houck, Haley Sprankle, Brooke Smith and Ashley Graham.

“This production won’t be just ‘theatre,’ it will be an actual life experience,” says Woods. “That’s what immersive theatre does — it enhances your ability to intellectualize and interpret the text because you have now lived it, felt it and experienced it first hand. You will come out of this play a different person in some way, shape, or form.”

For more information on The Trojan Women or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at