Patrick Kelly - Project Director for SYZYGY: The Plays

Columbia has a sneaky-good arts scene and many people are only beginning to realize that. – Patrick Kelly


As curtain time for SYZYGY: The Plays approaches, The Jasper Project would like to shine some light on the person responsible for making this all come together – Patrick Kelly, who has served as Project Director over the past several months, overseeing selecting directors, planning all the details of sound and lighting and rehearsal and staging, and answering to almost three dozen theatre artists embarking on a brand new arts adventure.

We are incredibly indebted to Patrick for lending us his expertise and thought you might like to know a bit more about the guy who is bringing it all together.


Jasper: Tell us briefly about how you got from Columbia to Chicago to NYC, and back to Columbia.


Patrick: After I finished undergrad at USC, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in theatre. I had several friends living in Chicago and knew the city had a large, proud theatre community. I took a quick trip there to check it out and loved it - it seemed much more accessible and welcoming than New York, and the Chicago theatre scene is focused on the ensemble - groups of like-minded people working together towards a shared vision. I spent four years acting, directing, interning, and training, and I’d recommend Chicago to anyone looking to immerse themselves in making theatre. While I was there, I was wanting to take the next step - to get a Master’s degree and the training I needed to make the most of a career in theatre - so I began applying to graduate schools. After a few years of trying, I was accepted into the NYU Graduate Acting Program. After school, I booked some regional work and struggled in the acting biz, but I continued to work on projects with my classmates, teachers, and friends. I always knew that I wanted to return to the southeast at some point and make theatre in places that didn’t have access to the arts in the way people in big cities do. I was looking for a way into teaching and an opportunity to teach at the college level in Columbia came up. I needed the experience, so I looked at the life I had in the city and thought about the life I knew I wanted. I thought, “Why wait?” and jumped on the job.


Jasper:  And what exactly are you doing now?

Patrick: I taught Theatre Appreciation for the last year and immersed myself in the theatre scene here in Columbia. I was invited to rejoin the company at Trustus Theatre and now I’m on staff at the theatre, serving as Production Manager. I’m also the General Manager of Lula Drake Wine Parlour.


Jasper: What shows have you been involved in since coming back to Columbia -- and what is on the horizon?

Patrick: I’ve appeared as an actor in last year’s Trustus Playwrights’ Festival winner Anatomy of a Hug and in this year’s production of Some Girl(s) at Workshop Theatre, and I directed this year’s production of Hand to God at Trustus. Up next, I’m directing next summer’s production of Boy About Ten at Trustus and I’ll continue writing for and performing with the Mothers - Trustus’s resident sketch and improv comedy troupe.


Jasper: What prompted you to take the position of Project Director for the Jasper Project's SYZYGY project?

Patrick: I’m passionate about new work for the stage, and about celebrating local artists and performers. Since this project features both, it was a no-brainer for me. I’m thrilled to facilitate the premiere of these plays and for so many local theatre artists to be seen.


Jasper: What have been your biggest challenges?

Patrick: Fitting the right people to the right project. Meeting the needs of 24 different people. Scheduling and running tech rehearsals for six projects in one day.


Jasper: Biggest rewards?

Patrick: Watching the birth of six brand-new works for the stage. Getting to employ so many artists at once.


Jasper: What do you think the audiences are going to be most surprised by when they see these plays?

Patrick: I think audiences will be most surprised with the diversity of voices represented not only in the writing but also on the stage performing it. Columbia has a sneaky-good arts scene and many people are only beginning to realize that.


Jasper: Why should people show up?

Patrick: It’s not every day you get to see six brand-new plays in one sitting.


Jasper: What else would you like to add?

Patrick: This is the beginning. Theatres are producing more and more new work and Columbia is catching the wave. Trustus Theatre will have three new works in this season alone. Expect to see more productions of new plays by local and regional playwrights. People want to see their stories and their issues reflected in their art and entertainment. Art makers are listening.


SYZYGY: The Plays

Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 pm

Tapp's Arts Center


For tickets to SYZYGY: The Plays visit


Patrick Michael Kelly is a theatre artist and educator. Patrick holds a BA in Theatre from the University of South Carolina and an MFA in Acting from the Graduate Acting Program at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. He also trained at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, The Second City, Victory Gardens Theatre, and Trustus Theatre. Patrick has performed and directed at theaters in New York, Chicago, and along the East Coast including La MaMa E.T.C., Virginia Stage Company, WNEP Theater, Arundel Barn Playhouse, Workshop Theatre of South Carolina, and Trustus Theatre. Patrick is a proud member of Actors' Equity and a company member at Trustus Theatre, where he also serves on staff as Production Manager. 

Lindsay Rae Taylor Directs Futuristic SYZYGY Play VISITATION by Nicola Waldron

On Aug. 17, the Jasper Project will debut six plays in honor of the much-anticipated total solar eclipse that will grace Columbia skies. One play in particular, Visitation by Nicola Waldron, will transport the audience to future times and provide social commentary on the ongoing struggles of today and tomorrow.


The director of Visitation, Lindsay Rae Taylor, is a New York University alumna and current second-year MFA Directing Candidate in the Theatre Department at the University of South Carolina.


“I believe that Nicola has written an incredibly important and thought-provoking play. I am inspired with what she created from the idea of the eclipse—a happening that is rarely witnessed,” Taylor says. “I love how she uses the eclipse to note the passage of time and the change that is possible in our world before, after, and during such a unique event.”


Taylor describes Visitation as a timely piece that is set in South Carolina during May 2078. The play centers on the story of a mother fighting for a better life for her daughter—away from a misogynistic regime.


“The characters witness a solar eclipse and reveal to us what has happened in our world since our 2017 eclipse,” Taylor says. “It addresses the state of our nation and the possible repercussions should we continue on our current trajectory—specifically the effect it could have on women in our society.”


Visitation is set to feature some familiar faces from the pool of theatrical talent in SC. Marybeth Gorman Craig holds an MFA in Acting from the University of South Carolina and continues to act regionally while also teaching, directing, and performing at USC. She plays Mother in Visitation.


Kelsie Hensley recently graduated from USC’s Theatre Department where she was a featured actor in last year’s season. She plays Grace.


Dr. Andrea Coldwell is an Associate Professor of English from Coker College as well a veteran actor of Coker’s main stage productions. She plays The Custodian.


“We have a real powerhouse group of ladies in our rehearsal room, and it has been invigorating watching Nicola’s words come to life,” Taylor says. “When I had my initial meeting with Nicola, I felt we were kindred spirits, and I feel that energy among all of the women involved.”


Taylor says she loves that Syzygy marries art with science and encourages audience members to find perspective in thinking of one’s own place in the universe. Although she looks forward to the performance, Taylor anticipates speaking with individuals afterwards to learn how the play’s various messages and interpretations resonate.


“The piece has an ambiguity that I find thrilling. Nicola’s idea is frightening and relevant, and the poetry of her language is served from the extraordinary voices of this cast,” Taylor says. “It has been an enlightening journey and we are so excited to share this story with an audience.”

By Bria Barton

Tickets are at --

Tickets are at --

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

Playwright Jon Tuttle   

Playwright Jon Tuttle


SYZYGY Director Paul Kaufmann Writes About Directing Terry Roueche's TWEETERS for The Jasper Project

Paul Kaufmann directs TWEETERS by Terry Roueche for SYZYGY: The Plays Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 PM   

Paul Kaufmann directs TWEETERS by Terry Roueche for SYZYGY: The Plays Thursday, August 17th at 7 and 10 PM


I got involved in Syzygy because Patrick Kelly emailed to ask me.  I immediately jumped on board.  I think the production of new plays is vital to making a more complete theater scene in Columbia.  Trustus's Playwrights Festival, which has been happening now for many years, has paved the way.  I have always believed that event should be expanded to include readings and stagings of other new works.   


Tweeters is, at least in part, about looking for something, someone, anyone to follow.  It's a short, funny take on the seriously disturbing use of social media by our country's leader. [Playwright] Terry Roueche has hidden some real commentary in what seems, on the surface, to be a short farce.  So I'd say it's a satire.


I have three extraordinary actors in my show.  Hunter Boyle plays Murdock, Eric Bultman is Fisher, and Tristan Pack plays Jones. This cast of three boast two actors who have earned MFA degrees (Boyle and Bultman). Pack is an excellent young actor who grew up performing in Sumter and who has done several plays in Columbia and at USC.  He's also a contractor to my company and has worked as an actor for me in Montana and elsewhere. Their chemistry as a trio is exciting.


We've had such a fun time exploring the levels and depths of this short piece. The brevity of the play has allowed us to run it more times than usual in each rehearsal, which really helps develop rhythm, comedy, and pace. I'm very happy with the work the actors have put into it.  We still have a few more rehearsals scheduled before Thursday.


I'm most eager to see how these actors will respond to having an audience and to see the audience's reaction to this Absurdist comedy. This type of play really speaks to the difficulty of finding the appropriate way to react to the political and social craziness of these times -- what other real choice to we have except to acknowledge the breakdown of dialogue, the lack of clear and controlled communication and the fear that permeates our current culture?  Yes, all that in ten minutes!


I want people to come so they can see local teams of theater people creating new work.  In and of itself, that's reason enough to attend The Syzygy Plays.  And no matter what one's taste in entertainment may be, I think these ten minute plays are a great way to see and sample work by dedicated artists.  I've not seen or read any of the other pieces, but I'm sure it will be an evening of varied and stimulating shows.



Paul Kaufmann is a Columbia-based stage and film actor, writer, voiceover artist, acting coach, visual artist and director. Directing credits include The Magical Medical Radio Hour, which he also wrote, funded in part by the Duke Endowment and Ho for the Holidays (also written by Kaufmann), The Testament of Mary and Season’s Greetings for Trustus Theatre. Most recently, he appeared in Trustus Theatre’s production of Hand to God as Pastor Greg.  In November/December 2016, he played The Actor in FUSIONS by Nic Ularu at LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York, his fourth role there after The Cherry Orchard Sequel (NY Times Critics’ Pick), The System and Hieronymus (title role), all for Mr. Ularu’s UniArt Productions. Internationally, he’s performed in Wales and Romania with UniArt, in Australia with The Salvage Company and in Sicily with Florida State University. Recent Trustus credits include dialect coaching Grey Gardens and acting in Peter and the Starcatcher (Black Stache), Marie Antoinette (Revolutionary) and The Restoration’s Constance (Reverend Harper.) Other favorite shows there include: Assassins, Next to Normal, Dirty Blonde, I Am My Own Wife, August: Osage County, Side Man, Spinning Into Butter, Touch, Gross Indecency, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Santaland Diaries, When Pigs Fly and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Theatre South Carolina: King Lear, The Real Thing, The Illusion and The Country Wife. Pacific Performance Project/East: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mizu No Eki. Co-founder of HIT SEND Studio Theater with Marybeth Gorman. A founding company member of SC Shakespeare Company, he’s proud to have played Iago opposite his late best friend Greg Leevy’s Othello among other roles. He’s proud to have provided voiceovers for several productions at Columbia Marionette Theatre, including Snow White and The Wizard of Oz, in which he plays Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Flying Monkeys.  He also does voiceover work for radio stations across the US. Film/television/web series: Preacher Feature, The Girl from Carolina, Season 2: God Bless New Dixie, Third Reel, Junk Palace and Campfire Tales. Paul is founder of a company that contracts actors utilized in scenario-based training for the FBI and other federal and state agencies across the country. He is a proud former student of Jim Thigpen, his life-changing high school theater teacher.

Tickets are available at Tapp's Arts Center

Tickets are available at Tapp's Arts Center

Cassie Premo Steele Talks with Syzygy Poetry Open Call Winners Ann Humphries & Maggie Olszewski


Interview with Ann Humphries and Maggie Olszewski


Jasper asked Cassie Premo Steele, who adjudicated the Syzygy New Voices of the Eclipse poetry contest for new and emerging writers, to talk to the winners about their poetry and processes.


Maggie Olszewski, whose poem, “The Nature of Shadow,” was chosen as the contest winner, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and she is 16 years old. She has been writing ever since the age of 6, when she wrote her first piece—a Harry Potter fanfiction. This year she is attending South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, where she will further pursue her craft.


Ann Humphries is also from Columbia, where she studied poetry with Nikky Finney and Ed Madden at USC. Her poem, “An Eclipse and A Butcher,” was chosen as the honorable mention in the contest. She has also earned Ultimate Outsider status for visiting all 47 state parks — as the only blind person to finish. She has a guide dog and tree named in her honor.


Cassie: Since this was a contest for new and emerging writers, can you tell us a little about why you entered the contest and how it felt? This might be helpful to others who may be hesitant to submit their work.


Maggie: This prompt really hit home for me. As someone who is deeply invested and interested in the science behind the upcoming eclipse, the idea to convey my feelings towards it artistically hadn't occurred to me. It felt great to take the prompt and shape my own thoughts around it. 


Ann: I loved this prompt. I became deliciously lost in the research. I spun five poems about the eclipse. 


Cassie: Can you say a little about what the process of writing poetry is like for you?


Maggie: I usually sit down with a rough idea of where I want to go or end up—often a first line, a theme, or a story. I get my thoughts onto paper and revise in a couple of days.


Cassie: When you have a specific assignment, such as you did for this poem about the eclipse, is your writing process different?


Maggie: Yes. When I have a specific assignment, I don't wait to revise. I plan the structure of the poem before I start and make sure I have a stronger sense of what I'm trying to accomplish. 


Ann: I appreciate deadlines. I played in the research, asked myself what would be a unique perspective. What I especially admired about this contest is its intersection of science, visual art, poetry, even plays, culture, history, and technology. This contest took me to fresh reservoirs of writing.


Cassie: What's your sense of the poetry and arts scene in Columbia?


Ann: Bursting with life! And Jasper is a nexus for collaboration across the genres. By the way, I searched the country for comparable contests. All I could find were readings and plays in Oregon and Illinois. Good for Jasper! Bravo to the SC Humanities Council.


Maggie: I know quite a few actors and artists through my father, but not as many as more established writers might (obviously). From what I can tell, everyone seems to know everyone, and there's an immense amount of collaboration and supportiveness that goes on. It seems like a really cool thing to be a part of. 


Cassie: And if you could wave a magic wand and make something happen in the city, what would it be?


Ann: Bring back the Book Festival - or fully support Deckle Edge. I savored every morsel, would have pitched a tent. If only we could have clones to attend all the events.  


Maggie: Hm. That's a good question. I'd probably clear the city of litter. It's not too bad in my little corner of Columbia, but I've driven through areas that could really do for a cleanup. Maybe we could get all the artists together to clean up the city and make an art project from it!


Cassie: I love that idea! Anything else you'd like to share?


Ann: I'm becoming a Jasper Guild member.


Maggie: And I’m really grateful for this opportunity.


Cassie: Thank you both.


Jasper thanks Cassie for all her efforts in this project - from adjudicating the open call to participating as a poet in the Syzygy Poetry Invitational.

If YOU'D like to become a member of the Jasper Guild like, Ann (and thank you, Ann!), just click on "Store" at this website's main page.

Look for Ann and Maggie's poems in the Fall 2017 issue of Jasper Magazine.

Join us on Thursday, August 17th at 3 pm in the first floor auditorium of Richland Library to hear Ann, Maggie, Cassie, and a spectacular cast of South Carolina's most elite poets read their poetry in response to the eclipse at SYZYGY: The Poetry (free). Then join us at 7 pm or 10 pm at Tapp's Arts Center for the performance of SYZYGY: The Plays ($10).


Cassie Premo Steele is the author of 14 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including Earth Joy Writing (2015) and Beautiful Waters (2016).  She has recently completed a novel about mindfulness called The Lessons of Birds and is working on a poetry collection called Tongues in Trees. She works as a writing coach with women from around the world and lives in Columbia with her musician/web developer wife and laughter-inducing daughter. 

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of 14 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including Earth Joy Writing (2015) and Beautiful Waters (2016).  She has recently completed a novel about mindfulness called The Lessons of Birds and is working on a poetry collection called Tongues in Trees. She works as a writing coach with women from around the world and lives in Columbia with her musician/web developer wife and laughter-inducing daughter.