REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Great Gatsby Like No Other by William Arvay

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“As of January first, it’s the twenties again!” declared Chad Henderson as he introduced Trustus’ latest production, “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s roaring twenties novel, adapted for the stage in 2006 by Simon Levy.

Almost a century after it was written, “Gatsby” deals with America’s continuing modern struggles with wealth and class, war and our treatment of veterans, marital infidelity, white supremacy, business ethics, transparency and the eternally insoluble question of whether money can buy happiness, or, as The Beatles parsed it, can it buy love?

The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be a contender for the title of The Great American Novel, and it has been transformed into several memorable, lavish films over the ensuing decades, most recently by director Baz Luhrmann in 2013 starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, with Robert Redford in the title role.

To rise to the challenge of the greatness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” director Henderson began with the only stage adaptation authorized and granted exclusive rights by the Fitzgerald Estate.

But then he immediately upped the ante by enlisting the talents of trumpeter and composer Mark Rapp as musical director (for a non-musical!) who brought original jazz music with the 5 piece on-stage combo ColaJazz. Henderson also brought aboard a crew of dancers from Columbia City Ballet, choreographed by Stephanie Wilkins, to portray the frenzied flappers at Gatsby’s legendary decadent parties.

Working with technical director Richard Kiraly, Henderson designed a simplified high-tech set of large projection screens to portray orgiastic jazz age parties, great halls filled with marble statuary, the streets of 1920s New York, a hydroplane rocketing over the ocean waves, Gatsby’s swimming pool, and of course the iconic eyes-and-eyeglasses sign advertising the wares of an oculist, standing in for the eyes of a judgmental God. The scenery can change with breathtaking speed and realism. Sound effects blend seamlessly with the constantly shifting locales and even special effects. Costumed members of the ensemble add or subtract furniture pieces in character as the finishing touches to each scene.

Both sides of the stage are framed by open quadrangles lined in incandescent bulbs, suggesting both a theatre marquee and the open covers of a book, out of which the story leaps.

The show starts with a stunning and unexpected spotlight vocal solo by one of the cast members singing a modern hit ballad that has been interpolated into the script. During the course of the show, other cast members step up to the ColaJazz microphone to sing musical commentary upon the drama unfolding on stage. This reviewer will leave no further spoilers as to the singers’ identities or the choice of songs, so as to maximize the surprising spontaneity for the audience.

In every rendition of “Gatsby” my favorite character winds up being Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, and he is ably brought to life by Jared-Rogers Martin. Fitzgerald’s prose flows clearly and gently from his voice, and he brings the wide-eyed earnestness of a young man from Minnesota to the mansions of the corrupt, lustful, and fabulously wealthy Long Island elites.

Jason Stokes brings broad-shouldered good looks and a resonant baritone voice to the title role, and is at once confident and forlorn. His tender infatuation for Daisy Fay Buchanan, played by Katie Leitner with a spoiled sensuality and tortured despair, drives all events in this drama. Richard Edward III is Daisy’s abusive, adulterous lout of a husband, Tom Buchanan, who also abuses his mistress Myrtle Wilson, played expertly and with earthy emotion by Raia Jane Hirsch. Brandon Chinn gives us Myrtle’s cuckolded garage mechanic husband, George Wilson, with a homespun pathos that masks his deeper moral code. The plum role of professional golfer Jordan Baker, Daisy’s long-time sardonic girlfriend, who later becomes Nick’s tempting girlfriend is played with layered subtlety and empowered command by Brittany Hammock. She is Fitzgerald’s acknowledgement of the evolving role of women in the 20th century. Elizabeth Houck, LaTrell Brennan, Josh Kern and Frank Thompson complete the acting ensemble with memorable performances in multiple roles, particularly Thompson’s shadowy criminal version of Meyer Wolfsheim, Kern’s flawless butler, Houck’s gossipy socialite and Brennan’s crystal clear exposition.

What sets this performance apart from others you might see on the local stage is the addition of music and dance to the production. While not a musical, per se, Britanny Hammock and Katie Leitner’s bonus vocal numbers accompanied by Rapp and band are exquisite, haunting audience members into the night. And Stephanie Wilkins’ choreography, set specifically on City Ballet principal dancers Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Claire Rapp, along with Jordan Hawkins, Marian Morgan, and Katherine Brady, is a step above in terms of the professionalism typically brought to a local stage. Wilkins researched the dance styles of the period and incorporated elements of everything from the Foxtrot to the Black Bottom to the Lindy Hop in her choreography. The dancers blended well with the actors and created a large but well-managed multi-talented ensemble of performers.

(Full disclosure - Boiter-Jolley and Henderson are the daughter and son-in-law of Jasper editor Cindi Boiter.)

This is a “Gatsby” unlike any other you will see anywhere else, and it is here for only a brief time, ending April 27. The Sunday matinee audience honored the performance with a standing ovation. Waste no time reserving your tickets at www.trustus.org or call the box office at (803) 254-9732.

Trustus Theatre is located in Columbia’s Congaree Vista at 520 Lady Street.

 

 

Les Merry Chevaliers & Death Becomes Even the Maiden Kick Off Jasper's Happy Hour Concert Series Wednesday Night atTrustus

The Jasper Project

Happy Hour Series

The Merry Chevaliers

The Merry Chevaliers

The Jasper Project is kicking off a new series of early evening fun on Wednesday with our first ever Happy Hour Concert featuring Les Merry Chevaliers and Death Becomes Even the Maiden.

The purpose of this series is to provide a mid-week time to listen to original local music, have a drink with friends, and still get home in time to put your kids to bed and not wreck your sleep schedule for the rest of the week. This is also an important fundraiser for Jasper Magazine.

We were thrilled when Alex Ruskell of the Merry Chevaliers volunteered their band to play and we are crazy appreciative of their generous contribution of time and time, as well as that of Heyward Sims and Death Becomes Even the Maiden, who will be opening for the Merry Chevaliers. (Blog post on DBETM coming up next.)

Come on out to Trustus on Wednesday night. Doors open at 6 for a cash bar, happy hour snacks, with music starting about 7.

Tickets are $10 at the door – or, join the Jasper Guild at any level and get in for free AND become eligible for the drawing of a pair of tickets to this year’s 2nd Act Film Festival coming up on November 7th.

Now, some words of wisdom from our featured musicians --

Jasper:  First of all, who are the Merry Chevaliers, what instruments do the band members play, and what are the members’ unique missions in the band?

 

LMC: Les Merry Chevaliers are France’s 14th favorite punk/pop band.  Les members are:

            Pierre Balz – rhythm guitar, glockenspiel, digeridoo – unique mission is to be fifth most handsome band member.

            Guillaume Guillotine – lead guitar -- unique mission is to be fourth most handsome band member.

            Garique Le Freaque – drums -- unique mission is to be third most handsome band member.

            Count De Monet – vocals -- unique mission is to be second most handsome band member.

            Menage O’Shea – Bass -- unique mission is to be most handsome band member.

 

Jasper:  Where did the concept of the Merry Chevaliers come from and how did you guys go about actualizing the idea into a musical group?

LMC: After a long night of drinking sweet claret and reading Rimbaud, the idea of dressing in French frippery and playing the dulcet tones of punk rock sprang fully formed from Pierre’s head like fair Athena in her gossamer robes.  While it is likely a violation of several sumptuary laws, the powdered wig hides Pierre’s bald spot.  The band formed when Pierre wrote some songs and asked his friends to sing along.  When they wouldn’t, he asked these guys.

 

Jasper:  How long have you been together?

LMC: We’ve been together for a year and a half, and have played shows in Columbia, Charlotte, Charleston, and Greenville.  We’ve also been featured on WUSC’s Columbia Beet, WXRY’s Unsigned, and Sirius XM’s Goldie’s Underground Garage.

 

Jasper: What kind of music do you play and why?

LMC: We play power pop punk – because we like it and think it’s fun for audiences to sing along and jump around to.

 

Jasper: What are your musical backgrounds and what do you guys do for day jobs?

LMC: Mssrs. La Freaque and O’shea have played in many other area bands.  The other three are rank amateurs.  For day jobs, we are all men of leisure.

 

Jasper: What do you want people to experience from your concerts?

LMC: Life can feel pretty dark sometimes – we’d just like people to have a little break to have some fun, dance, and laugh.

 

Jasper: What’s next for the Merry Chevaliers after the Jasper Happy Hour concert? 

LMC: We are working on our follow-up to 2017’s Never Mind the Baguettes, Here’s Les Merry Chevaliers! The current working title is Plus Grands Succes Volume Trois, and it will feature the world-wide mega hits “Faster than the Speed of Sexy,” “I Ruined Coitus for You,” “Sex Sommelier,” and “I’d Punch King Kong in the Balls for You.”

 

Jasper:  What did we not ask that you’d like our readers to know?

LMC: As part of David Hasselhoff’s divorce settlement, he kept possession of the nickname “Hoff” and the catchphrase “Don’t Hassle the Hoff.”

 

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If you or your band would like to participate in Jasper’s Happy Hour Concert Series - a fundraiser for Jasper Magazine - hit up Cindi Boiter or Kyle Petersen.

REVIEW - Trustus's Silence! The Musical is a Hilarious Respite from a Weary World

“A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”

-WillyWonka - Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

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Members of the Silence! cast Sam McWhite, Mike Morales, Kayla Machado, Latrell Brennan, and Abigail McNeely

 When one thinks of The Silence Of The Lambs, words like “hilarious” and “side-splittingly funny” don’t generally come to mind. The classic film, starring Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins, sent chills up the spines of movie-goers worldwide, but other than one or two cheeky asides from Hopkins, the movie was a straight-up crime drama/thriller without much comic relief. Such is definitely NOT the case with Trustus Theatre’s season-opener, Silence! The Musical, which serves up an affectionate but irreverent parody of the original.

The plot of the musical follows that of the film fairly closely, but takes advantage of every opportunity to play the situations and characters for laughs. Inside jokes abound, and sassy references to other pop culture staples can be found…if you know where to look. I am going to try and see the show again, as I was so busy laughing and scribbling down notes, I’m sure I missed a few things here and there. Director Jonathan Monk clearly had great fun in using his own celebrated sense of  humour to enhance an already outrageous comedy. Kudos  are also due to Monk for his superb casting, which made the show damn near perfect. (My only caveat is that the script is quite vulgar in spots, which I find delightful, but if sexual slang and twisted characters aren’t your thing, beware.)

As Clarice Starling, Kayla C. Machado is the only character to do a full-out imitation of her film counterpart. In her early-90s bobbed hairdo and makeup, she bears a striking resemblance to Jodie Foster, but the verisimilitude doesn’t stop there. Without ever breaking character, Machado delivers a brilliant rendition of Foster’s distinct dialect, complete with pronouncing her “s” sounds with “sh.” For example, she consistently refers to herself as “Agent Shtarling,” which simply got funnier as the show progressed. I will admit to having feared at first that the convention would get old, much like an SNL skit that runs several minutes too long, but I was wrong. To use another subversive pop culture example, it’s like a running gag on Family Guy that’s funny at first…then it starts to get old…but then it crosses over into hilarious, and you laugh until it’s over. Machado is, ironically, given the number of insinuations about Starling’s (and Foster’s) sexuality, the “straight man,” yet she gets some of the biggest laughs of the evening. One of her finest moments is when she gives a lengthy, incomprehensible, monologue about her detective work, only to be met with a response of “I have no clue what the fu*k you just said” from Robin Gottlieb (more on her in a minute,) and Machado manages to keep a perfectly straight face. (To her credit, Machado and a couple of the other actors did have one “Harvey Korman Experience,” when they all cracked up at some uproariously crude witticism. Rather than being a distraction, this was a positively golden moment when the actors simply couldn’t contain their hilarity, which strengthened the already-solid connection with the audience. Harvey would have been proud. ;-)

Machado and Morales with Robin Gottlieb

Machado and Morales with Robin Gottlieb

As Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hunter Boyle is at the peak of his game. I attended the show with my friend, local actor Bill Arvay, who declared Boyle’s performance “the best thing I’ve ever seen him do.” While this may have been a bit hyperbolic, given Boyle’s rich resume of memorable characters, I understood the sentiment. Boyle’s Lecter isn’t quite as menacing as Hopkins’, which illustrates the understanding Boyle and Monk had of the character as he fits into this somewhat Bizzaro-World spoof. Boyle is less genius cannibal, and more smartass intellectual, and it works. One of the many tips of the hat to other theatrical works is his prison suit number, 24601. (Les Mis fans, admit it, you were mentally singing it once you noticed the number.) Boyle is still the “Hannibal The Cannibal” from the movie, but he deftly takes the lighter script to heart.  Straight lines are played for laughs, and Boyle had to hold for laughter for at least thirty seconds when Lecter corrected S(h)tarling on the famous “Fava beans and a nice Chianti” line.

Patrick Dodds, whose considerable talent seems to grow and develop with each role he undertakes, manages to create a frightening Buffalo Bill who still fits in with the MAD Magazine atmosphere of zaniness. While making the part  his own, Dodds winks at the character with a few straight-from-the-film bits. Fans of the movie will remember the odd tic of a laugh Buffalo Bill tries to suppress when asking Starling about a missing woman she is seeking. “Was she like, a big, fat, person?” isn’t a funny line per se, but when Dodds adds the brief snicker to his query, the result is a cascade of knowing laughter from the audience. While Dodds is younger and a bit more manic than his screen counterpart, he is a perfect fit (see what I did there?) for the demented lunatic of the stage adaptation.

Dressed in all black, with white floppy ears, the other five actors play “everyone else,” including a flock of lambs, establishing individual characters by adding a jacket, hat, or comparably simple garment. Costume Designer Amy Brower Lown succeeds in maintaining  a specific, cohesive, style without ever compromising the ersatz reality of the script. Lown’s concept is brilliantly supported by LaTrell Brennan, Robin Gottlieb, Abigail McNeely, Samuel McWhite, and Mike Morales, who transition seamlessly from character to character.

As Ardelia, Starling’s roommate and is-she-or-isn’t-she girlfriend, Brennan not only develops a three-dimensional character, but also displays great facility at  delivering a punchline, often remaining perfectly serious during her funniest moments. Gottlieb brings her customary stage presence and overall panache to playing a series of all-male characters. (Another inside joke is set up when Gottlieb appears as Starling’s deceased father, prompting Starling to plead “Papa, can you hear me?” with Yentyl–like wistfulness.) In an uncredited cameo as mental patient Miggs, Gottlieb hilariously re-creates the (in)famous moment when Miggs masturbates and flings the resulting *ahem* substance at Starling, substituting a can of Silly String at a decidedly seminal moment in the show.

Working double duty as Buffalo Bill’s victim, Catherine, and her US Senator mother, McNeely demonstrates an almost chameleon-like ability to morph into completely different appearances. I honestly didn’t realize the roles were done by the same person until well over halfway through.

McWhite’s primary alter-ego of Lecter’s keeper, Dr. Chilton, is less pathetic than the film Chilton, interpreted more as a fast-talking pickup artist than a socially awkward nerd. While we can easily imagine the movie incarnation moping in depression after failing to seduce Starling, McWhite’s Chilton has probably had more successes than failures with women, and displays a delightful “your loss, baby” attitude, likely moving on to his next potential lover.

Morales was the most difficult actor to track, as he, like McNeely, apparently has the ability to shape-shift. I suspect it was he who played the geeky entomologist who also fails to woo Starling with his offer of “cheeseburgers and the amusing house wine.” ( This line is pretty much a throwaway in the movie, but takes on great hilarity when placed in the world of Silence!) Morales also has a most amusing death scene as the ill-fated Officer Pembry. As with the rest of the show, what was frightening and/or grotesque on the silver screen becomes fodder for hilarity onstage.

Sam Hetler’s scenic design is both functional and visually intriguing, creating a unit set that serves as over a dozen locations. Hetler’s work is showing up with growing frequency on Columbia stages, and he never fails to deliver a professional-quality set with a few unexpected flairs. Marc Hurst’s lighting design reinforces Hetler’s fun-house set with dramatic changes in intensity and color, never letting the audience forget that this is a bizarre alternate reality. Particularly impressive were his use of lighting Buffalo Bill’s lair from beneath the playing surface (blending perfectly with Hetler’s dungeon-wall motif,) and a sudden full-stage switch to fuzzy black-and-green to simulate the view from a pair of night-vision goggles. Hurst also helps create locales with projected establishing texts such as “Baltimore Nuthouse” and “Mr. Belvedere, Ohio,” among others.

Machado and Hunter Boyle

Machado and Hunter Boyle

Musical Director Randy Moore lives up to his customary professionalism, making piano, keyboard, and drums sound like a full orchestra. Bravo to Trustus and Moore for utilizing live musicians in a time when far too many theatres are opting for “canned” pre-recorded orchestration. The freshness and obvious communication among the four instrumentalists added another layer of connection to the show, as well as the audience.

Lest there be any doubt, I found Silence! To be a laugh-a-minute roller coaster ride of naughty satire, and left with my sides aching from constant guffawing.  It’s definitely for grown-ups, and never blinks or shies away from that fact, so be prepared. Never before have I seen a dancing vagina ballet, bubble-wrap bulletproof vests, the “Manamana” song used as a diversionary tactic, an imitation of Jodie Foster reciting “she sells seashells by the seashore,” or Hunter Boyle in a fabulous hat and caftan ensemble. (Okay, that last one was a lie.)

Silence! runs through 3 November, and tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org, or by ringing the box office on (803) 254.9732. Word is spreading, and tickets are likely to be going fast, so reserve your seats soon for this delightfully macabre, oft-profane, “egregiously misrespectful” piece of  theatre that maintains Trustus’ commitment to professional and well-produced art.

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.

Patrick Dodds as Buffalo Bill - all photos courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Patrick Dodds as Buffalo Bill - all photos courtesy of Trustus Theatre

REVIEW: Jon Tuttle's Boy About Ten at Trustus Theatre

A talent for drama is not a talent for writing, but is an ability to articulate human relationships.” 

-Gore Vidal

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John Tuttle is, by any standard, a man with a talent for writing, but after seeing the world premiere of his play, Boy About Ten, I can affirm that he is also quite adept at articulating human relationships. Indeed, the oft-troubled intertwining of Boy About Ten’s dysfunctional, but (somewhat) connected nuclear family of four, drives the plot of Tuttle’s work, taking a well-written piece to the level of a performance bristling with all the sharp edges relationships can provide. This is not to suggest that the production currently running at Trustus is without laughter or light-hearted moments. It may be a tragicomedy, but Boy About Ten doesn’t hesitate to let the tragic cede the stage to the comedic in a legitimate, story-faithful way. In his program notes, Trustus Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, comments that “this play has undergone a more involved development process than our previous Playwrights Festival winners or commissions,” which no doubt contributed to the feeling of polish and streamlining found in the script. I managed to make notes on some of the truly standout lines, but by no means is my list comprehensive.

 

The play opens with D’Loris (Lonetta Thompson), a kindhearted but world-weary social worker, dealing with what is clearly a family in distress. She is trying to prepare Todd (Tommy Wiggins), the elder son, to go to his mothers’ house for a week. Todd is obviously troubled in multiple ways, but is largely nonverbal, using a set of oversized headphones to drown out the conflict which surrounds him, while hiding his face behind his chin-length bangs.  As usual, Thompson creates a fully-realized, textured character, who has flaws as well as sincerely caring nature. I never tire of seeing Thompson onstage, as she is always completely immersed in and committed to her character and the moment. It would have been the easy way out to depict D’Loris as either a hyper-idealistic Wonder Woman, or as a “honey, I’ve seen it all,” world-weary cynic, but Thompson chose to create someone in-between, and in the process, gave the audience a layered, complex, and realistic performance. Kudos also to Wiggins, a former Trustus Apprentice Company member, making his mainstage debut. Though Todd doesn’t speak much, especially in the early scenes, his body language, movement style, and a sort of self-embrace clearly establish him as a damaged human being, doing his best to avoid his psychic pain. When it is revealed that he is a self-cutter/burner, it is a bit of a shock, but totally believable for the character he has, by that point, made three-dimensional. I suspect we’ll be seeing much more of Wiggins on the Trustus stage in seasons to come, and I look forward to watching his development as an actor.

 

The arrival of Tammy (Jennifer Hill), lightens the mood by, ironically, introducing the least likeable of the five characters. Hill’s Tammy is brash, flashy, loud, and obnoxious, fancying herself far above the rest of the family. She dresses herself in designer clothing, while a couple of mentions are made of the kids’ clothes coming from Goodwill, and she personifies the cliche of the “helicopter parent,” dispensing screechy advice and criticism thinly veiled as “encouragement.” Hill’s comedic timing is absolutely spot-on, and she brought Friday night’s house down with such well-penned verbal spewings as “I was once a Sweet Potato Queen, now I’m a Cyclops!” (It seems that Tammy has a glass eye, which is broken, requiring her to wear an eye patch.) Clearly proud of her somewhat meager accomplishments, she touts having played Yum-Yum in a community college production of The Mikado, along with a few other small successes, in an attempt to impress D’Loris, who is eventually prompted to ask “what the hell is wrong with you people?” The moments of conflict between Tammy and D’Loris establish a curious dynamic. Tammy, in her own twisted, control-freak way, wants the best for her children, while D’Loris tries to help establish exactly that, which eludes the self-centered Tammy.

One gathers fairly quickly that Tammy is at her ex-husband’s house to swap out the younger son, Timmy, (Daniel Rabinovich), who is a straight-A, rule-abiding, do-gooder, complete with Webelos Scout uniform, and practically a stranger to Todd, and the two react somewhat cautiously to each other. (I may have missed an important line or mention of the situation, but it is clear that the brothers have not spent much time together.) Rabinovich demonstrates an actor’s sensitivities quite impressively, especially for a young actor. His character arc may well be the most dramatic in terms of growth and change, and he handles it like a true pro. As with Wiggins, this is a young man to watch.

Once all is settled, Timmy is left alone with his father, Terry. Played by Trustus mainstay, Paul Kaufmann, Terry is an affable, childlike n’ere-do-well, whose love for his sons manifests in an “at my house, there are no rules” dynamic. (When asked by Timmy if they can attend an Imax film or visit the Planetarium, Terry immediately scoffs at the thought of an educational outing, at least in the traditional sense.) Kaufmann, without ever breaking the established reality of the play, or mugging to the audience, brought to life an enchanting man-child, reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Big, with a dash of Bertie Wooster and Falstaff tossed in. To Timmy’s growing amusement, the two of them chug Cheerwine (no sodas allowed at Tammy’s house), fight ludicrous pretend war games against “Vagicilla, Dark Queen of the Nether Regions” (inspired, no doubt, by Tammy), and Timmy frequently receives his father’s military decorations, which may or may not be legit. It was at this point that I began to wonder about the show’s eponymous title. Was Timmy the Boy About Ten, or was his father? Had the parent/child dynamic between them already shifted before the action of the play began? Kaufmann, incidentally, scores one of the biggest laughs in the show while telling Timmy about his days in an ersatz KISS cover band. “You can always tell when chicks dig you. They chew their gum at you…like meat!”

 

A brief in-one scene gives us our sole glimpse of life at Tammy’s house, when the focus is, both literally and figuratively, on Todd, who is passively receiving an unwanted haircut from his mother. A special tip of the hat to Lighting Designer Laura Anthony, for transforming a simple floor lamp into a “where were you on the night of the robbery?” beacon. This is an occasion upon which the lighting truly made the scene for me. We, the audience, are semi-blinded by the intensity of the same light shining into Todd’s eyes, and subject to the same jabber from Tammy. Like a police officer in a bad, made-for-TV crime drama, she prattles on and on about how Todd should want to be “normal” and make friends “like all the other boys,” painting a Leave It To Beaver lifestyle, which will supposedly emerge with a haircut and a suit from Goodwill. Interrogation/indoctrination and “tough love” establish an uneasy coexistence at Tammy’s house, and the two children she raised reflect that. Timmy’s unblinking obedience earns him praise, so he obeys. Todd, whom I assumed to be somewhere on the autism spectrum, is unable to deal with what his senses perceive as blinding light and a barrage of impossible commands. Though short, this scene impacted me. I began to wonder through whose eyes we were seeing any given situation, and then viewing each scene from each character’s angle. Thank you, Jon Tuttle, for this (I’m guessing) three-page scene, which widened the lens through which I saw the rest of the play. Though she was the antagonist of the scene, it allowed a glimpse into Tammy’s desperate desire for a “normal, happy, family,” and humanized her for me.

 

I won’t go into too much detail about the second act, as it is, essentially, a minefield of spoilers, and much of what happens requires the elements of shock and surprise to work. While not without laughs, the second act takes a somewhat darker turn, with a grim family story, involving animal abuse, being revealed. (*While no violence is depicted onstage, a gruesome monologue could be mildly to moderately triggering for some.*) Terry childishly endangers his and Timmy’s lives at the end of act one, the aftermath of which, we see in act two. Todd returns, neatly trimmed and besuited, but still distant, albeit with the occasional smile of hope. Toward the end of the play, we discover that Terry suffered physical wounds far worse than Timmy’s while saving the boy from the dangerous results of his (Terry’s) recklessness. Romantic impossibilities are pondered and argued, D’Loris loses another crumb of her idealism, but hangs on to hope, Timmy takes his first step toward adult cynicism, Tammy reveals some game-changing information, and the family is left as we found them; bruised and battered, but oddly okay. The playwright leaves us with the idea that life will simply go on, and with the insanity and bizarre love in this family, who can even speculate on the eventual outcome?

 

Director Patrick Michael Kelly has taken an artfully written play, refined by much workshopping, and brought to the stage a world of slightly-heightened reality, never losing sight of the connecting themes of family and what it truly means to care for someone.

 

So, who is the Boy About Ten? I have my suspicions that each character, with the exception of D’Loris (who serves as the impartial observer and voice of reason) is that boy. Perhaps that answers my earlier question, and tips us off that the show is seen from D’Loris’ perspective.

Boy About Ten is an engaging, thought-provoking, and most enjoyable play, and a worthy addition to the Tuttle ouvre. Only four performances remain, so get your tickets now!

-- Frank Thompson

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Tickets can be purchased online at Trustus.org , or by calling the Trustus Theatre box office on 803.254.9732
 
Remaining performance dates are:
Wednesday, August 22 – 7:30pm
Thursday, August 23 – 7:30pm
Friday, August 24 – 8:00pm
Saturday, August 25 – 8:00pm
 
Frank Thompson is the theatre editor for Jasper Magazine - contact him at flt31230@yahoo.com
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JOIN THE JASPER GUILD TODAY AND SEE YOUR NAME IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF JASPER MAGAZINE

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The Jasper Project is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that provides collaborative arts engineering for all disciplines of arts and artists in the South Carolina Midlands and throughout the state. Please help us continue to meet our mission of validating the cultural contributions of all artists and growing community within the arts by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild .  We'll print your name in the magazine, thank you on social media, and love you forever!

www.JasperProject.org

 

More New Art from Trustus - FEST 24

"We think it’s important for Trustus, a non-profit that is supported and funded by the community, to give back to the community."

- Chad Henderson

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Jasper loves art for art's sake and we love new art -- so you know we're going to be excited about what Trustus has cooked up for next weekend -- a FREE 24 hour theatre festival.

What a joy to see a non-profit arts organization that, like all of us, could really use a little more cash in their lives, say - hey - let's get a bunch of playwrights, directors, and actors together and throw a festival just for the hell of it and, just to spread the love around a bit more, let's open up the theatre and make it free to whoever can legally fit into the joint.

In other words, let's do what we love because we love it and that's it. No applications, no guidelines, no submission fees, no goddamned bureaucracy allowed. 

Thirty-five artists writing, directing, and performing because they just can't help themselves.

Here's what Trustus artistic director Chad Henderson had to say when we questioned him about the festival.

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Jasper: How did you choose the participating playwrights and directors?

Henderson: As we approached revisiting this fun event, we knew we wanted to engage playwrights from the community. Each of these writers is constantly writing and creating narratives. Folks in Columbia may know them in different ways, but it will be a great chance to introduce some new voices in local playwriting as well let folks learn something new about local theatre artists who are usually participating in the theatre in other ways.

For example, Paul Kaufmann is known around town as a wonderful actor, but he’s also a creative writer. Robbie Robertson is known for screenplays and commercials, but he’s also penned local comedies and wrote the book for a musical that’s been workshopped in NYC. Tangie Beaty is a prolific Columbia playwright who produces her work with her popular company – WOW productions. Trinessa Dubas is a passionate theatre artist who recently self-produced her script “The T—y Diaries.” Charlie Finesilver is constantly writing and in the past few years he’s been getting his work produced at Manhattan Repertory Theatre in NYC.

As for directors, we wanted a mix of directors who work at Trustus and who work elsewhere in the community. Our directors this year are Jonathan Monk (who will be directing our season opener, SILENCE!), Martha Kelly (who will be directing MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD in the spring at Trustus), Robin Gottlieb (who’s directing a revival of 5 LESBIANS EATING A QUICHE this spring), Jocelyn Sanders (who’s directed a lot of work at Trustus and who’s been directing great productions at Workshop Theatre), and Ginny Ives (who’s studied under Dewey Scott-Wiley and is making her Trustus debut – she’s also currently in Memphis).

 

Jasper: Who are some of the actors we can look forward to seeing?

Henderson: We’ve got a great group of actors who are convening for FEST 24. They’re familiar faces from the Trustus Company as well as some folks who have been seen on other stages in Columbia. Among them are some of your favorites like Jennifer Hill, Krista Forster, Freddie Powers, Samuel Hetler, Amy Brower Lown, Christine Hellman, Jared Rogers-Martin, Mahogany Collins, Jon Whit McClinton, Mary Miles, Brittany Hammock, Russel Sanders, Trell Brennan, Kevin Bush, and the multi-talented Chris Cockrell.

 

Jasper: How does this project benefit the theatre community and theatre patrons?

Henderson: Creating theatre is a process that usually takes place over 2-3 months in markets our size. Production teams meticulously make creative decisions that are intended to tell the story with the utmost clarity. Actors have weeks to create their performances and find connections. And playwrights…? Well playwrights can often take as long as they want to get their story on paper.

So, with a 24-hour theatre project like this, the entire theatre-making process is crammed into 24 glorious hours of intense goal-setting. What’s great about events like these is that it is a moment of elevated trust and collaboration. Artists are often working with new co-collaborators, and it’s a rush to the finish line without having months to develop creative relationships.

Patrons who attend festivals like this are often sitting on pins and needles, just like the artists involved. They know that everything is completely new, under rehearsed, and that anything can happen during the performance. Everyone is gathered under the theatre’s roof for something new. If you ask me, the feeling is really special. 

 

Jasper: Why did you decide to make this a free event? 

Henderson: The major reason we wanted to make this a free event is because everyone who’s working on it is volunteering. This event is focused on community and creativity, so we didn’t want there to be a barrier to keep the community from experiencing it. We think it’s important for Trustus, a Non-profit that is supported and funded by the community, to give back to the community. While seating is limited, 45 people will have the chance to experience Fest 24. We suggest getting to the Side Door Theatre early. First come, first served.

We hope that we’ll have a packed theatre, and incentive to do the event annually.

 

Jasper: Will the bar be open?

Henderson: We will indeed have the Side Door bar selling beer, wine, and our regular concessions during the event!

 

Paul Kaufmann

Paul Kaufmann

Chris Cockrell

Chris Cockrell

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Latrell Brennan

Latrell Brennan

Robin Gottlieb

Robin Gottlieb

Trustus Theatre to Open Tony Award Winning Musical - FUN HOME - featuring Robin Gottlieb

“What would happen if we spoke the truth?” 
- Alison Bechdel

fun home.jpg

Trustus Theatre continues its dedication to bringing important theatre to Columbia with their production of Fun Home, an acclaimed and award-winning Broadway musical to their Thigpen Main Stage this spring. The musical is a masterful expansion of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name about being able to live in your truth, whatever it may be. 

When her father dies unexpectedly, graphic novelist Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life. Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home, her growing understanding of her own sexual orientation, and the looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden secrets. Fun Home is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.

Fun Home’s book and lyrics were written by Lisa Kron with music by Jeanine Tesori. Based on Bechdel's graphic memoir (2006), Fun Home was the winner of several awards at the 2015 Tony Awards including Best Music, Best Score (Jeanine Tesori & Lisa Kron), and Best Book of a Musical (Lisa Kron). Fun Home also won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Musical.

Trustus Theatre Artistic Director Chad Henderson is excited to help bring this musical to life on Trustus Theatre’s stage as the play's director.  “I directed the production at Pure Theatre in Charleston, SC earlier this year. It sold out and is coming back to Pure for Piccolo Spoleto. So right on the heels of directing that production, I’m returning to my home theatre and working with a great team of Columbia actors and designers. I can already tell that this will be a very different production because all of the artists involved in the project are bringing their own unique reactions to the piece to the table.

“At the heart of Fun Home is a story in which we can all see ourselves," Henderson says. "Examining the truth of our past, looking past the myths we create about our parents when we’re younger, dealing with the societal challenges of being our most authentic selves—these are themes that many of us can relate to. These ideas are explored through the eyes of a lesbian cartoonist who, 20 years after her father’s suicide, is finally ready to look deeper into her relationship with her family and dissect the things she never understood. On the surface, Fun Home could seem like a tragic evening in the theatre. However, the beauty of this piece is that it’s incredibly uplifting and provides us with a feeling of hope by the end.”

Paul Kaufmann, of Season 33’s A Bright Room Called Day, will be playing the role of Bruce Bechdel, Alison’s father. “Playing Bruce is a great challenge,” says Kaufmann. “He’s a character who’s put himself in such a scary and difficult position, and his actions cause great upheaval in his family. Despite that, he somehow has to try and justify his actions to himself. He is deeply in denial about the costs of creating those justifications. He’s trapped himself and ultimately is not successful in finding ‘a way through’ as he sings in one lyric," Kaufmann says. 

"Fun Home is such a ‘Trustus show’—with a small cast and a thoughtful, deep, and beautiful play that cries out for sensitivity and compassion—it’s an honor to perform it. My fellow cast mates, several of whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with for years, are phenomenal actors and singers. Our young cast mates are top notch—they’re really dedicated and are doing an amazing job. Randy Moore is teaching us the complicated but beautifully layered score and Chad is guiding us through this intricate piece with a strong vision. The process of putting it together so far has been truly rewarding.”

Paul Kaufmann

Paul Kaufmann

Cassidy Spencer is bringing the role of one of the three Alisons, Medium Alison, to life. “I think my favorite part about playing Medium Alison is how clumsy and awkward this character is in an endearing way that we can all relate to,” says Spencer. “She often seems to unabashedly say things that many of us think or otherwise, she illustrates feelings that we’ve all experienced, like powerful crushes on our peers or intense nerves. This character is so honest and so charming, and I’m thrilled to bring her to the stage. ...this show is vastly beautiful—not only in its music and story—but in its characters, its message, and its subject area. It drew immense attention when it came to Broadway and I think it’s fantastic that Trustus is bringing the musical to Columbia.”

 

fun home robin.jpg

Stay after the shows on Friday, March 30 and on Friday, April 6 to enjoy an improv comedy show from the very same group that brought you the holiday comedy A Christmas Miracle at the Richland Fashion Mall: The Mothers. Tickets for the comedy show will be sold at the door for $10 ($5 for students) and are all general admission.