Hashing Out the Truth: #InRefugeeShoes Premieres Tonight (12/17/2015) by Haley Sprankle

12339435_1726665004230939_5745986248966202437_o “It's hard for us to put ourselves in other people's shoes, especially if we can't see what is happening.”

That’s how Rosalind Graverson, Events Coordinator of local business Singing Fox Creative, opens up about Syrian refugees. In Turkey alone, there are almost 2 million registered Syrian refugees, fleeing for their safety in the midst of crisis. Backlash against refugees fleeing to America has plagued the media, especially among presidential candidates seeking to gain American approval. Graverson, along with founder of Singing Fox Creative, Catherine Hunsinger, sought to shed a different light on this situation through their short film #InRefugeeShoes.

“Thanks to social media, we live in a world where hate and fear spread faster than wildfire. It's so easy to fight hate with hate; to fight fear with fear - this film is important because it's utterly hate-free,” Hunsinger says. “Our incredible production team, cast, and crew all care about one message and one message only: we are all one. What one of us suffers, we all suffer. If we continue to fight hate with hate, we'll get nowhere. My hope is that this film will inspire others to fight hate with love and to make a positive difference in the world.”

The idea for the project came to Hunsinger while discussing the weight of the refugee situation with friends, and within an hour, she and Graverson assembled a film crew and the majority of their cast.

“I have a few select friends who will allow me to hop up onto my humanitarian soap box and preach from time to time. One day a few weeks ago, I was standing on that proverbial soap box, begging to understand how one can look at a Syrian refugee as anything but a fellow human being - another member of our single most important race: the human race. It hit me that my hushed conversations with friends who already agree with me were making no difference, which is when I decided that I needed to DO something. But how does one have a conversation with someone who doesn't want to listen?” Hunsinger asks. “This was the question that ultimately led us to the film format. How do we ask someone to have a conversation with themselves, with no ideas to argue with but their own? Film. And how do we paint this picture in a way that will help people truly view the Syrian Refugee Crisis through purely human eyes? Paint the picture as if it were happening to US.”

Over the course of three days, the film was shot with a talented group of local film and theatre professionals. Two weeks later, and the film is debuting tonight at Coconuts Tropical Cafe. The premiere event begins at 6:30, with screenings of the film both at 7:00 and at 8:00.

“Before when I thought of refugees, all I saw was the homeless aspect of it. Of course that still is a huge part of it, but these were normal people, with jobs, families, hobbies, pets. Now they're living in fear of ISIS, of losing their families, of each other. It's hard to imagine what it could be like for us, but I'm hoping that the film helps to scratch the surface,” Graverson adds. “My hope is that people will just stop and think. I don't know if it will change anything, but we've already seen some positive feedback so that's really encouraging, telling us that we're on the right path… Maybe this will help us see more kindness and love, or at least some forethought before we post that comment or share that story.”

At the end of the day, this film seeks to bring people together and offer a different perspective to the public about the everyday plight that Syrian refugees continue to face.

“We're in discussions about where to take this project next. I think it's clear that we've got more to do with it - we can make a bigger difference than we imagined. The potential is unreal,” Hunsinger says. “The goal is absolutely to make a difference and to make life easier for our fellow humans worldwide, especially in Syria.”

Diving a little deeper … In the Red and Brown Water at Trustus Theatre: A Preview by Rosalind Graverson

red and brown  

When Columbia starts trusting the arts programs and supporting them more, the organizations can start taking more risks and exploring. Trustus Theatre has reached a point where they can start sharing unique theatre experiences with their audiences. That's exactly what their production of In the Red and Brown Water is.


First in The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the series blends Yoruba mythology with a modern day story set in the Louisiana projects. The trilogy is described as a choreopoem, combining poetry, movement, music, and song. The language throughout the show is beautifully lyrical, but it's not what you expect to hear from the average citizen of Louisiana.  Along with the poetry, the actors are also called to say their stage directions, reminiscent of Shakespeare's asides.


The cast features some familiar faces: Avery Bateman, Kendrick Marion, Katrina Blanding, Kevin Bush, Annette Dees Grevious, and Jabar Hankins; and some new ones as well: Bakari Lebby, LaTrell Brennan, Felicia Meyers, and Leroy Kelly.


Not only does the audience get to experience something new, but the production team and cast do as well. We asked Avery Bateman to share some of her experiences getting to know her character, Oya, and Kendrick Marion to explain some of the differences in the rehearsal process between this production and a more typical play or musical.


Avery Bateman - photo by Jonathan Sharpe

Avery: “Oya is a completely different character in comparison to the others I've portrayed throughout the years. She delves deep into a part of my spirit that I have not returned to in a while. She is both regal and vulnerable. Her regal persona is that of her Orisha/Goddess name. "Oya" known as "The Mother of Nine" is the orisha or storms, wind, change, magic, death and the cemetery, and the guardian between worlds. She is the bringer of death and new life (hope). Oya's orisha persona has every right to stand high and tall with pride. However, her vulnerable persona, her humane side is a type of soul that is complex and broken. Oya's broken spirit gives her a complexity that I as an actress must sit and think about every now and then so that I give her the correct amount of balance when on stage. I must say that I am extremely blessed to not have experienced all that "Oya the human" has experienced in my youth. Everything that she loves deeply is taken from her against her will. I've not had the privilege of portraying a person of this definition in all my years of theatre. I've only ever portrayed the comic-relief character or the misunderstood villian or the obliviously happy sunshine. All of them had great dimension but none of them reached into my chest and broke my heart as much as Oya. I love this character; she has helped me understand love and life in a way I don't think I would have ever understood fully if not for this show.”


Kendrick Marion, photo by Rob Sprankle

Kendrick: “This production differs from your normal straight play because there are so many other elements and textures involved with this piece. The text itself reads like poetry, and McCraney challenges the actors to portray it as such, while still making it feel natural and conversational. Both the music (most of which we arranged) and the stylized movement help to tell the story in an almost ethereal way. This has been an incredibly challenging piece, but an amazing experience, and I cannot wait for Columbia to take the journey to San Pere, Louisiana with us!”


Also, in the gallery at Trustus, Ernest Lee , The Chicken Man, will have his art showing and for sale. Wednesday, February 4th at 7:30, he will have a meet and greet and give a talk, "The Life and Art of Ernest Lee, The 'Chicken Man.'"


Be sure to get your tickets for In The Red and Brown Water, opening Friday, January 23rd and running through February 7th.

REVIEW: SC Phil's Beloved Broadway by Rosalind Graverson

SC Philarmonic with (l-to-r) Elisabeth Smith Baker, Avery Bateman, and Catherine Hunsinger I love any excuse to get dressed up, so going to the South Carolina Philharmonic's Beloved Broadway concert sounded like the perfect way to spend my Saturday night.

This was the first of three concerts that the Philharmonic will be doing out at Harbison Theatre this season. This is a wonderful venue with intimate stadium seating, so no matter where your seat is, you still have a perfect view of every inch of the stage.

They opened with a medley of popular songs from Gypsy, The Fantisticks, and Funny Girl and proceeded to play selections from some of the most iconic shows from Broadway. I expected to be impressed just by the quality of the performance, but when they began to play "Show Me" from My Fair Lady, I knew we were in for a fun time. The arrangements suddenly had more character and personality than I remembered.  I grew up listening to this music, and hearing it played by a 45 piece orchestra brought back so many memories.

Every song that they played, I could hear the words in my head, and I'm sure more than a few people in the audience wanted to burst into song. The conductor, Morihiko Nakahara, introduced the Sound of Music section by saying something to the effect of "I'd never say this at the Koger Center, but feel free to sing along." Thank goodness the whole audience did not take him up on that because then we would've missed some of the quieter moments of the show. The cello section took the lead on "Edelweiss" and it was perfection. I just wanted to close my eyes and wrap up in a blanket by the fire and listen to them play that soothing melody all night.

Nakahara introduced the other sections and did mention that two of the composers' work  they would be playing are EGOT (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony) and Pulitzer winners. Marvin Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers are the only two people to have one all five awards. "It's like winning 5 gold medals" Nakahara said.

Throughout the night we heard selections from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, and the previously mentioned My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. I feel like you can't mention Broadway and not have something from The Phantom of the Opera, and they did not disappoint. I was suddenly on the edge of my seat listening so intently to every note. I would love to see this group do a full production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic along with some of our talented theatre and opera performers.

Towards the end of the night, Nakahara introduced the singers for the last portion of the concert. Avery Bateman performed "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from Evita. The audience was blown away by her elegance and timbre. It was the perfect choice for the first song that we heard the lyrics to. Catherine Hunsinger sang "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables. She performed the part of the ingénue, Eponine, in the Town Theatre production last season, so it was nice to hear her perform a song she hasn't done before. I'm used to hearing Catherine sing soprano, which she does beautifully, but the low parts of this number were so mature and she blew me away.

At the closing number Nakahara, again invited everyone to join in and dance in the aisles, which was fitting for the Mamma Mia ballad, or as he said "Abba's greatest hits." Avery and Catherine were joined by Elisabeth Smith Baker and brought the evening home with 5 or 6 of the most popular Abba songs. All of these women are well known in the theatre community as Trustus company members and always provide professional performances; tonight was no exception.

If you haven't seen the South Carolina Philharmonic perform, please go to one of the many events happening this year, throughout the midlands. It'd be a shame not to witness this quality of musicianship while it's right at our fingertips. You don't have to go to Carnegie Hall to hear the classics; just go to the Koger Center or Harbison Theatre.