PREVIEW: Ceviche o No Ceviche - A Fresh and Zesty Stage Novela By Elizabeth Rosa Houck

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Stories about people of color are far and few in between in the stage scene; stories featuring people of color in intercultural non-monogamous romantic relationships are unheard of. Ceviche o No Ceviche is a refreshing, tangy piece of theatre that inhabits a space outside of classic plays about love. Ceviche o No Ceviche is a modern-day novela through and through: it is seasoned with humor, camp, family drama, twists, and lots of love. 

The story’s main course is a relationship triad among Sol (Lucy Jaimes), Keith (James Frush-Marple), and Robert (José Luís Gallardo). Through their saccharine and silly interactions, the audience is brought into [insert today’s date] 2019: there is a mention of House of Cards and Queer Eye as the triad’s favorite shows, the current presidential administration, the topic of immigration and the path to citizenship being a trepidatious and nearly impossible one. Together, they try to figure how to support Sol on her path to United States citizenship at the end of her student visa, as she is originally from Colombia. Following some very brief discussion, Sol and Keith both decide to get married to kill two birds with one stone (or, matar dos pájaros de un tiro), at once committing their love to each other and solidifying Sol’s ability to stay in the United States. Even with this decision for Sol and Keith to be legally wed, the triad is certain that their relationship will remain the same. In the way of any feel-good rom-com about people from different backgrounds, hijinks peppered with humor and cultural clashes ensue. Throw in a Catholic priest and all the drama of planning any wedding, and we have ourselves something worth savoring.

Meeting Sol’s parents, Dulce and Jesús played by Julia Vargas Pardo and Marco Marmolejo respectively, via a Skype conversation (classic ringtone known by anyone who has tried to keep a close connection via modern technology included) feels authentic and warm. Vargas Pardo’s performance gives the feeling of a true Latina mother: opinionated, animated, loving, intense, dramatic. Her fire is met with the calm, cool energy of Jesús, and later, her cerebral, comedic sister Cuco (Mayte Velasco Nicolas). Sol and her parents’ Skype conversation also offers the audience a sense of the distance Sol must feel with her family. There is unconditional love but also a lack of understanding: Sol’s somewhat tedious explanation to her parents about the important of Queer Studies is just a microcosm of their traditional values, especially in terms of relationships. Upon Sol mentioning that she would be marrying Keith, a Protestant gringo, there are immediate, repeated assumptions that Sol is pregnant. Because if she is not pregnant, she would marry a Catholic instead. Despite Sol’s protestations and her parents’ reluctance to accept a Protestant groom, wedding bells will still ring. 

Familial relations remain a theme, though Keith and his mother, Linda (Betsy Newman), certainly have a more strained mother-son relationship. Upon Keith sharing his nuptial news with his mother, she shares her intense and bigoted discomfort with him marrying someone who is not a sweet tea-drinking, pickled sauage-eating Baptist white woman like herself. The conversation is heard through bitten tongues: Linda is as proper as she is ignorant in her views of people with backgrounds and beliefs different than her own. Admittedly, as a Mexican-American audience member, it was yet another reminder for me of how much hate someone can hold toward a particular group of people for no reason other than their existence. Ironically enough, this same sober, spiritually-minded mother falls for Sol’s uncle, Juan de Dios (Ysaul Flores), a Catholic priest who actually baptizes Keith and weds the couple. Star-crossed lovers, indeed.

The phrase “killing two birds with one stone” is mentioned three times throughout the play. The phrase is significant for its repetition but also because it serves as the impetus for the entire show. Sol and Keith get married for both love and to secure Sol’s path to citizenship. The play itself attempts un tiro to take on queerness, non-monogamy/polyamory, intercultural interactions where Colombia meets Columbia, religious differences, marriage traditions, and familial expectations (to name a few). Leaving no stone unturned even in its staging, Spanish-to-English subtitles of the dialogue are displayed on monitors to invite intercultural interactions, which is especially important as much of the show is in Spanish. I was impressed to learn that the play owes its charm to its writers who are no other than the very actors who bring the story to life. While I enjoyed the exploration of seldom discussed topics, the story spills out a little beyond its edges. Somewhere between all this, I felt the compounding of identities and storylines but also the challenge to wrangle all of these identities, even further complicated by a collaborative voice in the play. Tropes and stereotypes surrounding queerness, Latinidad, and the South rear their heads inconsistently and land somewhat awkwardly on attentive ears. Still, the heart of the show is pure and good, and the labor of Love’s work emanates from it. And we could all use a little more love.

Get your fill on Friday, September 13 at 8:00 PM, and Saturday, September 14 at 3:00 and 8:00 PM at Trustus Side Door Theater.

 

 

 

 

 

Supper Table Spotlight: Ebony Wilson and Malie Heider

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 23rd in our series on Supper Table Artists!

Still from Ebony Wilson’s film honoring Sarah Leverette

Still from Ebony Wilson’s film honoring Sarah Leverette

Sarah Leverette was, and is, a powerful inspiration to women in and outside of South Carolina, having spent her life breaking glass ceilings wherever she went, from the Civil Air Patrol to the School of Law at USC, where she was the first female law professor. She passed only shortly over a year ago, but her accomplishments will not soon be forgotten.

Tasked with turning Leverette’s long & varied career into one short film is Ebony Wilson. Since 2012, Wilson has written, directed, produced, and edited her own original works, most notably the 2017 feature Sci-Fi Drama, 2025: Prelude to Infusco. In the process of undertaking countless projects and workloads, Wilson has managed to sell her work, build brand engagement for her clients, and nurture long relationships with those around her. She owns and operates her independent production company, Midnight Crow Pro- ductions, and is the founder and administrator of the Columbia Film Community. The Supper Table project will be Ebony’s third collaboration with the Jasper Project.

As Wilson approached ideas for her film on Leverette, what struck her the most was how influential Leverette was/is for women. Still today, women struggle with issues of motherhood, glass ceilings, and the legacy they will be able to leave behind. Leverette is a constant force that reminds women they can leave whatever mark on the world they choose to. Thus, Wilson decided not to make a biopic about Leverette but instead to explore how Leverette’s legacy affects women now, in 2019 and beyond.

Ebony Wilson

Ebony Wilson

Bringing Sarah Leverette to life on the stage is Malie Heider. Heider grew up in Columbia, where she began studying acting with Mary Lou Kramer. Since then, she has enjoyed acting, studying, and teaching theatre in a variety of places up and down the East Coast, as well as China, Japan, and Indonesia. In Columbia, she has worked at Trustus Theatre, Workshop Theatre, the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, the Arts at Shandon, and SCETV, most recently in Betsy Newman’s documentary production on Belle Baruch.  

Heider remarks that she’s in awe of what Leverette did in her life and the fact she did it for so long. Leverette was 98 when she passed, and Heider believes, as do many others, that if Leverette was alive today, she would still be avidly working to keep breaking glass ceilings and to make it possible for others to do so as well. Heider also wonders about what Leverette had to give up in terms of personal life and family in order to throw herself so completely into her work and mentorship. Heider hopes that this passion, determination, and sacrifice comes across in her performance.

Malie Heider

Malie Heider

Wilson’s complete film and Heider’s performance will be available for viewing at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our Trustus Theatre event is sold out, but our nearly identical second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.

Supper Table Spotlight: Eileen Blyth and Katly Hong

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 22nd in our series on Supper Table Artists!

Still from Katly Hong’s film on Althea Gibson

Still from Katly Hong’s film on Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson was the first black athlete to break racial barriers of international tennis, specifically when she became the first black American to win a Grand Slam title. Additionally, Gibson was a golfer, a singer, and a black woman trying to have access to the same rights and activities as everyone around her, through doing what she did best – playing tennis.

Eileen Blyth is the visual artist who created a place-setting for Gibson. Blyth is a Columbia artist known for her paintings and found art sculptures. Originally from Charleston, Eileen has always thought of herself as a painter. She earned her BA from the College of Charleston and studied graphic design at the University of South Carolina. She is inspired by the moment of creation when there is a sudden shift into a space of knowing and composition falls into place. Blyth’s studio is located at Stormwater Studios in Columbia, and her work is represented by Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia, Camilla Art Gallery in Hilton Head, and Art & Light Gallery in Greenville.

Eileen Blyth

Eileen Blyth

Blyth’s place-setting is heavily inspired by Gibson’s tennis career, which is what brought her to fame, but also contains elements of Gibson’s other achievements. For example, the background of Blyth’s place-setting is modeled after a tennis court, and both the frame on her platter as well as the handle of her goblet come from disassembled found tennis rackets.

Blyth said that she “liked the metaphor for serving and service both on the court and at the clubs she was allowed to play in but not go in” that is represented by the frame on the platter as well as the glove holding the golf club.

The platter itself is engraved with Gibson’s name and the quote: “She was born too soon”.

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Turning Gibson’s full life into a short film is Katly Hong. She is an interdisciplinary artist who regularly pivots between visual, media, and performance art. For the Supper Table, Hong was enthralled by the challenge of honoring Gibson’s incredible athleticism and her determination to be somebody in a time of segregation and open discrimination.

Katly Hong

Katly Hong

Hong’s film uses animation and music to honor Gibson’s life. While the film’s animation mainly focuses on Gibson’s tennis accomplishments and accolades, the music in the background is Gibson’s own from the music career she embarked on later in life.

Supper Table Spotlight: Flavia Lovatelli and Jocelyn Sanders

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 21st in our series on Supper Table Artists!

Flavia Lovatelli

Flavia Lovatelli

It’d be nearly impossible to give a complete list of adjectives describing Supper Table honoree Mary McLeod Bethune. In her lifetime, Bethune was an educator, activist, businesswoman, and political advisor. She was friends to the Roosevelts and referred to by FDR as “The First Lady of the Struggle” for her tireless advocacy for black communities in America. Is it possible to contain all that is Bethune into a single place-setting? A single theatrical performance? Even if not, with incredible artists like these, we’ve come as close as possible.

Flavia Lovatelli is a local artist who created our Supper Table place-setting for Bethune. Passionate about collecting what society typically views as the “throwaways,” she is an artist who creates innovative, imaginative artwork using recycled goods. Originally from Northern Italy, she moved to the states in 1979, where she founded the Art Ecology Group, a movement of sustainable artists. She was one of four artists chosen to represent Sustainable Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention in 2012, and her work has won several awards including the CharlotteArtPop.

As a paper artist, Lovatelli used recycled magazine paper and textbooks for her place-setting, the textbook pages specifically representing Bethune’s passion for education, the foundation of her activism. The color red is prominent within the piece and “represents the strife, anger, passion and fight the African American community have suffered in History which fueled Mary’s causes” while the gold represents Bethune’s work in the political spectrum.

Overall, Lovatelli hopes that from her place-setting, people see the “incredible life, full of achievements and strides Mary McLeod Bethune had.”

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Tasked with using her body and voice to present the life of Bethune is native Columbian, Jocelyn Sanders. Sanders has been actively engaged in theatre ever since graduating from college. She was employed for several years at Trustus Theatre as Box Office Manager. While working with Trustus, she was also one of the original founding instructors of the African American Acting Workshop, which was later renamed the Multi-Ethnic Acting Workshop. She left Trustus and went on to teach; her last teaching position was with Eau Claire High School where she instructed teachers in integrating the arts into their curriculum.

Sanders is a director and an actor, having worked in numerous productions in the city. Some of her most memorable productions she’s directed are Crowns and A Wedding Band, with Trustus Theatre, and A Lesson Before Dying and The Color Purple, with Workshop Theatre.

Jocelyn Sanders

Jocelyn Sanders

Sanders has reflected on how different the times were when Bethune was an activist versus today, and believes that if Bethune were alive now, she would look around and still see a whole lot of work to be done. In her performance, she hopes to show the empowering nature of Bethune when she was alive as well as use it as a challenge to pick up our own crosses today and continue the work she once started.

Lovatelli’s complete place-setting and Sanders’ performance will be available for viewing at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our opening night event is Friday, September 6th, at Trustus Theatre (almost gone!), and tickets start at $50. Our second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.

 -Christina Xan

The Supper Table is made possible by a generous grant from

Central Carolina Community Foundation

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Supper Table Spotlight: Qiana Whitted and Annette Dees Grevious

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 20th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Qiana Whitted - photo Michael Danzler

Qiana Whitted - photo Michael Danzler

Known by Martin Luther King Jr. as “The Mother of the Movement,” Septima Clark was an educator and civil rights activist who spent her life fighting for literacy and equality for black Americans. Two Supper Table artists had the task of speaking life into Clark’s story, one through written word and the other through spoken.

Qiana Whitted is the literary artist who wrote a non-fiction literary essay about Septima Clark’s life. Whitted is the Director of the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Her research focuses on African-American literary and cultural studies, American comics, and graphic novels. Her recent book, EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest, explores representations of race and racism. She is also the author of “A God of Justice?”: The Problem of Evil in Twentieth-Century Black Literature and co-editor of Comics and the U.S. South. Additionally, Whitted is editor of Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society and chair of the International Comic Arts Forum. She is the mother of two children, Naima and Alex.

The following is an excerpt from her essay:

Clark began her career during World War I on Johns Island at a school with over 130 students. Miss Seppie, as the Gullah folk called her, would go on to teach across the Carolinas, from rural classrooms in Mars Hill and McClellanville to Avery Normal Institute in Charleston and Booker T. Washington School in Columbia. After school hours and on weekends, Clark turned her attention to the needs of her students’ parents and grandparents. She helped local residents to write letters and speeches, fill out applications and mail-order forms, and organize sewing circles, immunization drives, and handwriting clinics. While her own training at Avery emphasized a pedagogy that embraced racial uplift ideology and respectability as core values, those early years as a teacher challenged her assumptions about the realities of social and economic inequality and demanded from her a different kind of resourcefulness. Clark gained a profound appreciation for adult literacy training, deploying what historian Katherine Mellen Charron calls “educational camouflage” to transform classroom basics into acts of recognition and resistance against white supremacy. Clark’s experience on Johns Island sowed the seeds for the Citizenship Schools, a grassroots educational initiative in the South that combined practical literacy with voter registration, civics instruction, and community action.

It was Clark’s advocacy on behalf of students and teachers that transformed her into a freedom fighter. Her first steps included taking part in the NAACP campaign to allow black teachers to be hired in Charleston’s public schools. Canvassing door to door with fellow teachers, and even a few sixth-graders, Clark tirelessly gathered signatures for the successful petition. She was inspired by black women activist educators such as Mary McLeod Bethune to expand her reach within teachers’ associations and women’s clubs during the 1930s. She helped to integrate the central board of Charleston’s YWCA and made a point to forge relationships with white-led civic organizations that focused on school reform and health promotion. When it came to education for citizenship, Clark was concerned by the way many Progressive era initiatives encouraged students to exercise their rights without disrupting the status quo of segregation. Therefore, when given the opportunity to develop her own curriculum, Clark modeled her endeavors after local education reformers such as Wil Lou Gray and Booker T. Washington’s principal, C.A. Johnson. She listened closely to the needs of black adult learners, respected their experiential knowledge, and nurtured their aspirations, whether they required help reading the newspaper or understanding election laws.

Annette Dees Grevious

Annette Dees Grevious

Embodying these words in the Supper Table theatrical performance is Annette Dees Grevious. Grevious is an Associate of Professor of Speech and Drama at Claflin University, where she has served as Theatre Program Coordinator and Director of the Theatre Ensemble for 17 years. She received an MFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Louisville and a BA in Theatre from Brenau University. Grevious has been performing professionally for more than two decades. She has performed with and on the following South Carolina theatre companies and stages: Trustus Theatre, Art Forms and Theatre Concepts, Inc., and Motion FilmWorks.

Septima Clark is a name full of such power yet a name so little known. In her performance, Grevious hopes to not only represent the struggles and success of Clark’s life but tell her story in a way that will ensure no one forgets her name again.

To read the rest of Whitted’s essay, located in our book Setting the Supper Table, and to see Grevious’ performance of Septima Clark, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus (almost gone!) or September 8th at Harbison.

 

 -Christina Xan

 

Supper Table Spotlight: Christina Xan, assistant project director - by Cindi Boiter

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 19th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Christina reading her own poetry at Girls Block 2019

Christina reading her own poetry at Girls Block 2019

Christina Xan came to the Jasper Project by way of playwright and academician Jon Tuttle who, though he directs the honors program at Francis Marion University and lives in Florence, is a founding member of the Soda Citizen Auxiliary (no, there is no such thing as this). Jon introduced Christina to me when she first came to grad school at USC. The next year, Christina approached me about serving as an intern with Jasper and we were delighted to bring her and all her talents on board.

To say Christina fit right in would be an understatement. To say she pitched right in would be even more of an understatement.

In the year Christina has been involved in the Jasper Project she has risen to every challenge presented to her. An avid blogger, Christina has shared her writing, photographic, graphic design, administrative, editorial, and immense personable skills with Jasper and our friends with generosity and enthusiasm.

When it came time to invite writers to join the Supper Table project as essayists, there was no question in my mind that the young artist should be included. In addition to writing about Eartha Kit, Christina also stepped in when we needed someone to take over writing about Mary McLeod Bethune.

But Christina’s most profound impact on the project has been in her role as assistant project director — in other words, assistant to me. So I know of what I speak. I jokingly say that when Christina came on board (and she actually is on the board of directors for the Jasper Project now) it was like I grew another arm. But that doesn’t really cover it. Having Christina’s assistance has been great, but it has been the gifts she has offered via her insights, contributions, attitude, and enthusiasm that have made the difference in this project. Every time I felt like I was drowning Christina would be there to tap me on the head and remind me the water wasn’t really that deep. Every time she would meet a new artist on the team she suddenly had a new best friend. Her kindness and selflessness have magnified the element of love and mutual appreciation that has so characterized this project tenfold. Working with Christina has been an absolute joy.

Christina and author Dorothy Allison -Deckle Edge 2019

Christina and author Dorothy Allison -Deckle Edge 2019

Christina Xan is a poet, playwright, photographer, and adjunct professor of English. She graduated with an MA from the University of South Carolina, where she is now pursuing her doctorate. Her work has been published by Snow Island Review and Z House Publishing, and her play Glass was turned into a short film that toured SC festivals in 2017. Her art is influenced by her life, as each story contains a different element of herself, and she is inspired by the concepts and questions people usually hide away from.

Christina with FMU mentor Jon Tuttle

Christina with FMU mentor Jon Tuttle

-Cindi Boiter

Supper Table Spotlight: Tonya Gregg and Bonita Peeples by Christina Xan

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 18th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Visual Artist Tonya Gregg

Visual Artist Tonya Gregg

Alice Childress – playwright, novelist, actress. Born in Charleston, Childress dedicated her life to telling the stories of black Americans, specifically portraying the have-nots of society. Her reach was so vast, author Mary Helen Washington refers to her as “the only African-American woman to have written, produced, and published plays for four decades.”

Tasked with creating the place-setting for Childress is Tonya Gregg. Gregg is a painter who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art where she became the first full-time art student to be featured in New American Paintings. Her paintings navigate different narratives relating to popular culture, class, consumption, colorism, ancient mythology, and interwoven topics related to black girls and women. She has had solo exhibitions in multiple places locally and has exhibited in several different countries throughout the world.

Gregg explored Childress’ work and specifically found inspiration from her play The Wedding Band, a story of an interracial relationship. This is exactly what Gregg wanted to contemporize in her place setting. She used acrylic paint to create a pop-art effect on both a ceramic plate and mug. Specifically, the artist says her place-setting “is intended to invite people to the Supper Table and provide conversation, comfort or healing within this theme.”

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An artist putting Childress into conversation with her own body is Bonita Peeples, a theatre artist who is portraying Childress in the Supper Table theatrical performance. Peeples’ acting debut was performing a monologue of one of the greatest women in history, Madame C.J. Walker. She is a wife, a mother, and a working actor. She is a member of Kaufmann Forensic Actors, the NiA Theatre Company, and serves on the board of the Columbia Children’s Theatre.

Bonita Peeples

Bonita Peeples

Peeples recently reflected on how wonderfully human Childress was. When she would cast her plays, for example, if she had to choose between two friends auditioning for a role, she would be so fearful of hurting a relationship, she would scrap the entire project. While this could be seen as a weakness, Peeples believes it is actually a strength – proof that Childress’ love for others trumped all, a lesson that still can be learned today.

Gregg’s completed place-setting and Peeples’ performance will be available for viewing at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our opening night event is Friday, September 6th, at Trustus Theatre (going fast!), and tickets start at $50. Our second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.

 

 -Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Bohumila Augustinova and Jocelyn Walters-Brannon

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 17th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Bohumila Augustinova - visual artist

Bohumila Augustinova - visual artist

Elizabeth Evelyn Wright lived less than 40 years but accomplished more in that time than most will do in 80. Wright was constantly motivated by the lack of education for her fellow black Americans, and instead of waiting around for a solution, she created one. She opened school after school, and even after those who wanted her to fail burned eight separate schools, she successfully founded what we know today as Voorhees College.

 

Honoring Wright’s journey with her copper-wire place-setting for the Jasper Project’s the Supper Table is visual artist Bohumila Augustinová. Augustinová was born and raised in Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, but she came to the United States in 1998. She has a degree in fashion design, and after winning Runaway Runway, she quickly became part of the Columbia art scene. In 2015, she took over curating responsibilities at Anastasia and Friends Gallery. Augustinová is the leader of Yarnbombers of Columbia and is the art curator for Motor Supply Company Bistro. She works at the Columbia Art Center where she both makes art and teaches art to others.

 

Augustinová’s place-setting represents several elements of Wright’s life. For example, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright was biracial; she had a black father and a Cherokee mother, so the artist chose two different colors of wire that she wove together. This wire is woven into a flower, the edges of which are shaped like the flames of the arson fires that destroyed many of Wright’s schools, and the center of which represents her final success – Voorhees.

 

 

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Portraying Elizabeth Evelyn Wright for the theatrical component of the premiere is Jocelyn Walters-Brannon. Walters-Brannon is a South Carolina native and believer in the power of creative individuals to manifest joy and understanding into the world. She serves as Director of The Palmetto School of Protocol and earned a BA in Journalism and MA in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Walters-Brannon has served on numerous artistic boards and committees, including Trustus Theatre, Columbia Children’s Theatre, Vibrations Dance Company, and the East African based In Movement. Her favorite stage credits include roles in Rent, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Caroline, or Change.

 

Jocelyn Walters-Brannon

Jocelyn Walters-Brannon

Walters-Brannon finds Wright’s untimely demise particularly interesting. Wright was sick for numerous years before dying at the young age of 34. What she did in that time is testament to what people can do when they put actions to thoughts and words, but it also sparks the question, “What would she have done if she only had time?” This question is driving Walters-Brannon as she finalizes her performance of Wright.

 

To see Augustinová’s place-setting on Wright, Walters-Brannon’s interpretation of her life, and the chance to get a copy of a book or t-shirt, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus (going fast!) or September 8th at Harbison.

-By Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Writer Kristine Hartvigsen and Actor LaTrell Brennan

 

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 16th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Literary Artist Kristine Hartvigsen

Literary Artist Kristine Hartvigsen

Althea Gibson is mostly remembered as a tennis player, and for good reason. She was the first black athlete to break racial barriers of international tennis, specifically when she became the first black American to win a Grand Slam title. Beyond this, though, Gibson was a golfer, a singer, and a woman, a human. She was a black woman trying to be a human being that had access to the same rights and activities as everyone around her, not through activism but through existing and doing her work.

 

The literary artist who captured Gibson’s life for the Supper Table is Kristine Hartvigsen. Former assistant editor of Jasper Magazine as well as a number of publications in the SC Midlands, Hartvigsen is an author who finds beauty in the human condition, using words to express raw stories of love, loss, hurt, anger, lust, envy and more. She currently holds a position at Piedmont Technical College as a public information specialist, but she has done much journalistic work throughout her years. Hartvigsen has had her literary work published in multiple outlets, including State of the Heart, Fall Lines, and more. She authored To the Wren Nesting, a poetry chapbook published by Muddy Ford Press, and she was twice a finalist at the SC Poetry Initiative. She is currently working on her next book, The Soul Mate Poem.

 

The following is an excerpt of Hartvigsen’s essay on Gibson written for the upcoming book, Setting the Supper Table, which will be launched on Friday night, September 6th at the Supper Table premiere event at Trustus Theatre:

 

Singles success at Wimbledon in 1956, however, was not meant to be for Althea. She had unwittingly exhausted herself in the tournaments played on the way to the All England Club. U.S. government officials were pleased overall with Althea’s world tour. She had conducted herself according to traditional conventions and represented her country well. She was more consistent and less nervous. Most importantly, she had done nothing to harm America’s equal rights image around the world. The U.S. Supreme Court had just declared bus segregation unconstitutional, so the country was on a race-relations roll.

 

Fast forward to 1957, arguably the pinnacle year in Althea’s tennis career. She was absolutely focused on Wimbledon above all other tournaments. She wouldn’t make the same mistake twice and made sure to be well trained and well rested before crossing the pond. Before it was all over, Althea was poised in Centre Court facing Darlene Hard in the final. This was the moment. In near triple-digit heat, it took Althea only 50 minutes to overwhelm Hard in two sets and win the singles crown. It seemed almost surreal as officials from the All England Club unfurled the red carpet at courtside, and Queen Elizabeth, who had witnessed it all, approached.

 

As cameras clicked rapid-fire, Althea executed her perfectly practiced curtsey, and Queen Elizabeth shook her hand before presenting the iconic Venus Rosewater platter. She was the first black Wimbledon champion in the tournament’s history. That evening at the time-honored Wimbledon ball, Althea delivered her acceptance speech, saying: “In the words of your own distinguished Mr. Churchill, this is my finest hour. This is the hour I will remember always as the crowning conclusion to a long a wonderful journey.” At the insistence of guests at the ball, Althea sang “If I Loved You” and “Around the World.” It was like a true-life fairy tale.

 

Taking this power and putting into a physical performance is LaTrell Brennan. Brennan is a professional stage, film, and voice over actor with over ten years of experience. She is a Trustus Theatre company member and has been seen in productions such as Silence! The Musical (Ardelia), Fun Home (Joan), Barbecue (Marie), and In the Red and Brown Water (Shun). Some of her film credits include Crosswalk, which won the 2013 Second Act Film Festival Audience Award, and Foundation, which won the 2012 University of South Carolina Campus MovieFest Best Drama Silver Tripod Award. For the latter film, she also won the Best Actress Silver Tripod Award and was a Best Actress Golden Tripod finalist at the 2012 Hollywood Campus MovieFest.

 

LaTrell Brennan

LaTrell Brennan

Theatre artist LaTrell Brennan has been looking back on the life of Althea Gibson and at the nature of her existence to prepare for her role as Gibson in the upcoming performance of Gathering at the Table, the performative aspect of the Supper Table premiere to be held first at Trustus and then at Harbison Theatre on September 6th and 8th respectively. Gibson never wanted to be an activist; she just wanted to play tennis. She wanted to work at what she loved, wanted to be good at it, for what she could do, not for the color of her skin. Yet, everyone expected Althea to be an activist, to use her experiences of racial discrimination to fight back against a country that only wanted her when she was their winner. However, Althea Gibson chose to use her body to fight her own battles instead of her voice to fight others. Whether this is a weakness or a strength or a culmination of both, this is what Brennan hopes to highlight in her performance.

 

To read the rest of Hartvigsen’s essay, located in our book Setting the Supper Table, and to see Brennan’s performance of Althea Gibson, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus (going fast!) or September 8th at Harbison.

Supper Table Spotlight: Lori Isom and Faye Riley

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 15th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Septima Clark. A name that should not only be known but revered in the minds of all those living in our country, especially in South Carolina. However, not nearly enough know her name. A 20th century educator and civil rights activist, Clark spent her near 90 years fighting for literacy and equality for black Americans. She developed literacy and citizenship workshops, which she called “Citizenship Schools” in order to educate black individuals on how to not just vote but to fight for their right to vote, to fight for their voice. Her relentless and passionate activism during the height of the Civil Rights Movement led her to be known by Martin Luther King, Jr. as "The Mother of the Movement".

 

Fortunately, two of our artists have dedicated and are dedicating their visual arts to ensure the name of Septima Clark is quick to all our tongues. Our place-setting artist for this task is Lori Isom. Isom has experienced a varied career as an artist, dedicating years to professional dancing, singing and acting. A figurative and portrait artist for over 20 years, she has been commissioned to do hundreds of individual & family portraits. Her work has been featured in a plethora of places including American Art Collector. She recently completed a one-year artist residency for the City of North Charleston, during which she had the privilege to work on several community-focused projects.

Lori Isom

Lori Isom

For her place-setting, Isom used a round baking sheet that she discovered at a local thrift store to represent her own love of baking in the project. Isom recalls that, in creating the piece, she “felt that although [Clark] was certainly a brave, dynamic trailblazer with incredible fortitude, she also seemed to be simple and understated.” Therefore, the artist chose a style for her plate that represented this simplicity. The plate features a portrait of Clark against a red, white, and blue background to represent her fight for voting rights. Colors of red, black, and green are also present to pay homage to her African roots. Quotes from Clark decorate the border of the plate.

 

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Complementing the style of this place-setting, is a film by artist Faye Riley. Riley has a PhD in Theatre and Film from the University of Kansas and is a teacher, writer, and filmmaker based in Columbia. She has created ten short films and has taught scriptwriting for ten years. Her influences include Agnes Varda, Georgia O’Keefe, Ed Small, and her parents. She is consistently creating and working on new projects and has a feature film in New York in addition to this project.

Faye Riley

Faye Riley

For her film, Riley has selected a handful of archival materials on Clark. She has combined footage, photographs, and quotes masterfully with different soundscapes to represent, in 90 seconds or less, 90 years of passion and love. The aesthetic simplicity of utilizing these found images and recordings of Clark is able to do exactly what needs to be done – tell us who Clark is while proving she was, and still is in spirit, a force to be reckoned with.

 

Isom’s place-setting and Riley’s film will be on view at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our opening night event is Friday, September 6th, at Trustus Theatre, and tickets start at $50. Our second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.

- Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Steffi Brink and Erica Tobolski

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 14th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

It takes a special kind of artist to portray a figure like Eliza Lucas Pinckney with the finesse and beauty Steffi Brink and Erica Tobolski are. Pinckney was a remarkable young woman, both far ahead of, and stuck in the center of, her time. At only 16 years old, a young Eliza Lucas was sent to the South to run her own plantation. Instead of fading away or losing her grip like many in her position might have, she not only succeeded, but became one of the most successful individuals of her time.

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Pinckney was one of the first to discover the importance of the indigo plant and to make it the cash crop in the colonies that it became. While we are forever indebted to her and in awe of her power as a young woman in a male oriented world, we cannot disregard that Pinckney was a slave holder and that it was the forced labor of the enslaved individuals on her plantation that made her success so tangible. In honoring her, we must honor them, the unnamed who made indigo possible, whilst not failing to recognize what an empowering figure and role model Eliza is for young girls.

 

The women creating the film honoring Pinckney and embodying Pinckney herself have been cognizant of this challenge and have worked to reconcile these two parts of Eliza’s life in their own art.

 

Steffi Brink is a visual artist, curator, and film programmer at Indie Grits Labs. She was a photo instructor and organizer for the PhotoVoice project “Seen and Heard: Women and Girls in the Midlands.” Her work has been exhibited at the Columbia Museum of Art and received the People’s Choice Award from the Darkroom Gallery in Vermont. She has a BA in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina and is the recipient of the 2016 USC Photo Review Prize.

Steffi Brink

Steffi Brink

 

Brink’s film on Pinckney features cyanotype, a type of printmaking that makes the final images a stunning blue in color, which echoes, of course, the indigo crop that Pinckney is known for. The images etched into the prints reflect different images and aesthetics of the life of Pinckney, set with words from her own journals and letters.

 

Erica Tobolski is an actor, voice-over artist, and vocal coach. At the Aspen Fringe Festival, she played Nora in Doll’s House Part 2 and Juliana in The Other Place. She has played major roles in productions at Trustus Theatre, Theatre South Carolina and the South Carolina Shakespeare Company. In Chicago, she appeared at Bailiwick Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, and Open City Theatre. Erica has vocal coached at Great River Shakespeare, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and the National Theatre in Malaysia. She is an Associate Professor at USC and a consultant in voice and presence for business professionals.

Erica Tobolski

Erica Tobolski

Together with theatre artists managers, Vicky Saye Henderson and Colleen Kelly, Tobolski is crafting an embodiment of Eliza that reflects both her power and her struggles.

 

Brink’s film and Tobolski’s performance will premiere at our two opening events. Our first event is at Trustus Theatre on the evening of September 6th, and tickets can be purchased here. Our second event is that Sunday afternoon, the 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets are also available for that performance online.

 

-Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Jennifer Bartell Writes about Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 13th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Jennifer Bartell again.jpg

Jennifer Sharain Bartell is a poet and educator, currently teaching at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. She has a BA in English Literature Creative Writing from Agnes Scott College and an MFA in Poetry from the University of South Carolina. Though she loves all forms of creative writing, poetry is her home. She has had literary work published in Jasper Magazine, The Texas Review, and Pluck!: The Affrilachian Journal of Arts and Culture, among others. Bartell is passionate about quality education and equality for all students in South Carolina. You can view her work at www.jenniferbartellpoet.com

 

Bartell was tasked with writing a creative non-fiction essay on Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a remarkable late 19th century Black woman and educator whose desire to share her passion of knowledge with others never faltered. Bartell writes with painfully true poeticism on how Wright walked from church to church to receive funding for her schools, about how unnamed and un-prosecuted individuals set fire to nearly all of Wright’s schools, and how she still rose above these flames and founded the school we know now as Voorhees College. Bartell writes:

The school was burned. The fire sheriff did not investigate and said the fire was due to a faulty chimney. She went back to Tuskegee to complete her studies, graduated, and returned to Hampton County to establish a school. That school was burned. Next, lumber she intended to use to build a new school building was burned. Her intentions were to build a school for Black people, run by Black people, and supported by Black people.

Her plan was for young men who worked in the fields by day to learn in the school at night. Those young men whose hands picked cotton and cropped tobacco for a few cents a day came at night to pick up a book to gain knowledge.

Her faith commanded her to walk on and so she had her eyes set on an old mill between Cummings and Early Branch. She was going to transform it into a school. Before she could even have her first class in the mill, it was reduced to ashes.

The school was burned. The passive voice lies so well. The school was burned. As if it had lit the match and tossed it on itself. White racist arsonists burned those schools. Ignorance and hate burned those schools. It was prejudice in the hands of white men who burned the schools. It was an unabashed effort to uphold the laws of their ancestors: Keep Blacks illiterate and without knowledge.

She did not fear the fire and did not sit in the ashes of these moments. Instead she used them as motivation. Educating Black children in South Carolina was and still is revolution. Especially since poor white children weren’t getting an education at this time either.

To read Bartell’s full essay on Wright, as well as our other 11 essays, purchase a copy of our book Setting the Supper Table, which launches on Friday, September 6th at Trustus Theatre as part of the premiere of the Supper Table installation, performance, and film premieres. The book will be available via a limited-edition printing for $25 at this event, and tickets are available online now and selling fast: https://suppertable.bpt.me/?fbclid=IwAR1M-iyMQVSXkx3rKiWpwRV3PabqcXmsODCWoaLBQxPm3BLHt7ncQIJxEV8   

Supper Table Spotlight: Sebastian Sowell and Mana Hewitt

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 12th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Mana Debalae Cochran Hewitt is a visual artist with experience in many fields, including that of display artist, illustrator and graphic designer for the military, and senior instructor and director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina. Hewitt holds numerous awards for her work, including the South Carolina Arts Commission Artist Fellowship in Crafts. Her work is driven from her passion for process and history, and she is influenced by all the artwork she has had the opportunity to witness and the power of imagination. Her show, Persistence, is currently showing at 701 Whaley.

 

For the Supper Table, Hewitt was tasked with creating a place-setting for the larger than life, Earth Kitt.

Mana Hewitt

Mana Hewitt

Eartha Kitt is a name most people know, whether as the sultry singer of “Santa Baby” or the striking Catwoman in Adam West’s Batman. What some people might not know is that Kitt spent her life being rejected and demonized by those closest to her, from her own mother to the country she lived in. Despite this, Kitt was never afraid to speak her mind and to be authentically herself. She saw herself as a voice for all those ostracized – the reasons for their rejection did not matter; she only sought to stand for others.

Kitt’s varied career and her passion for arts and human beings alike are pervasive in Hewitt’s place-setting. Hewitt as always been interested in metal working as someone who works and thinks with her hands. She has always been “intrigued by metal’s transformation from rigidity to vibrant and fluid designs,” which wonderfully parallels Kitt’s own personal transformations.

 

Supper table Eartha.jpg

Hewitt’s “conception in designing the Eartha Kitt place-setting was to provide as much biographical material as possible.” She made the main brass platter like a clock, onto which she etched twelve circles that each feature momentous occasions in Kitt’s life. The center holds an etched portrait of Kitt herself, and a copper band bearing one of her quotes surrounds her. As the final elements, Hewitt included a chalice and brass flatware with etched copper text; they read: “actress, singer, activist.”  

Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt is so stunning, and the face of Eartha Kitt so powerful, that we chose it to be the cover of our book, Setting the Supper Table, as well as the art for our t-shirts and tote bags that were once a Kickstarter premium and now will be available at the opening events.  

This place-setting is not the only portrayal of Eartha Kitt’s empowering figure that people will be able to see at our Supper Table event. Sebastian Sowell, local theatre artist, will be portraying Kitt in the theatrical element of the performance on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and September 8th at Harbison Theatre at MTC.

 

Sebastian Sowell

Sebastian Sowell

Sowell is a rising junior musical theatre major and arts administration minor at Winthrop University. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she was mainly an orchestral musician before she developed a passion for musical theatre. Her most recent stage productions are Annie Get Your Gun (Annie Oakley), Memphis the Musical (Felicia Farrell), and Fun Home (Joan).

 

To see Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt, Sowell’s interpretation of her, and the chance to get a copy of a book or t-shirt, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus or September 8th at Harbison. Tickets for Trustus are limited and going fast, and are available at the following link: https://suppertable.bpt.me/?fbclid=IwAR1M-iyMQVSXkx3rKiWpwRV3PabqcXmsODCWoaLBQxPm3BLHt7ncQIJxEV8

 

REVIEW: Trustus Delivers a Sweet, Funny, and Honest Motherhood Out Loud by Frank Thompson

The time does speed by, so enjoy every moment.”

Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, Katrina Blanding, and Becky Hunter

Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, Katrina Blanding, and Becky Hunter

I was curious as to why Trustus decided to go off-site for this production, which is being performed on the Columbia Children’s Theatre stage at Richland Mall. CCT is currently performing Mary Poppins at Eau Claire High School, so I figured it was simply a neat idea; a cute wink at the subject of motherhood, as well as an opportunity for two prominent arts organizations to partner and cross-promote. While these considerations and more were most likely part of the decision-making process, I must admit to having not considered the impact of place-association in creating the world of Motherhood Out Loud.

Having attended many performances at CCT, I have come to associate it with child-oriented entertainment and education. There’s a specific energy to the space, defined through the group’s signature décor of costumes and props, the openness of the seating, (sorry, folks, the front row is only a few feet from the stage, so there’s no sitting on the floor this time) and an overall feeling of being in a room that knows and welcomes the company of large groups of kids. I found myself smiling and looking around the audience space, as if I expected to see a laughing runaway toddler chased by a cheerful-but-weary mom, or a group of fidgety children eagerly awaiting the show. I was, that is to say, put into the perfect mindset for this little gem of a production.

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Motherhood Out Loud is a series of vignettes created by fourteen different playwrights, presented in a mockumentary style, with the characters frequently speaking directly to the audience while remaining in character. As the title suggests, the theme is that of motherhood, but this is more than a series of antique Erma Bombeck mom jokes or a retread of Kids Say the Darndest Things. While primarily a comedy, the script touches on timely and important topics such as same-sex parenting, gender identity, raising children with special needs, and how families deal with aging parents. Not having any kids of my own, I wondered if I would grow weary of the subject, but the writing is uniformly engaging, and requires no experience with parenting to appreciate and enjoy.

There’s a nicely-defined arc throughout Motherhood Out Loud, which opens with three pregnant women in various stages of agony and ecstasy, each ready to give birth. In their midst is a male OB-Gyn, doing his best to keep things normal while the three mothers-to-be expound on their hopes, dreams, and fears for the upcoming arrivals. There’s plenty of classic kidding-on-the-square about the physical pains of childbirth, but great sincerity and warmth shines through the vaudevillian “I’m giving birth to a bowling ball” humour, launching the stories of the numerous babies, children, and young adults about whom we will soon be hearing. As the show progresses through five “chapters,” these offstage offspring grow up, a process reflected in the monologues and small scenes we witness taking place among their elders. It may be cliché to wonder where the time went, but Motherhood Out Loud is only slightly over ninety minutes long (and quite entertaining) so I was actually a bit surprised when I realized it was over. The show runs without an intermission, adding another layer of audience relation to the text’s overall message. The time does speed by, so enjoy every moment.

The cast is strong and experienced, and even a Columbia theatre first-timer would know within the first few minutes that these folks are all A-list performers. Katrina Blanding, Felicia Bulgozdy, Joseph Eisenreich, and Becky Hunter each play about a dozen different characters, all fully developed and unique. They change the simple set pieces of oversized building blocks themselves, often while dancing along with a collection of 1960s and 70s pop classics ranging from “Ooh, Child” and “Baby Love” to “It Takes Two” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” (The scene change music would make an excellent road trip playlist.)

While this is a true ensemble piece, each actor has more than one opportunity to shine. No spoilers ahead, but definitely keep an eye out for Hunter’s delightfully less-than-perfect mom doing her best to live up to the standards of two idealized, by-the-book clones during a day in the park, Blanding’s hilarious and bittersweet monologue about the recent visit of her hovering, Carribean-accented helicopter mom, Bulgozdy’s second-act tour de force as an elderly grandmother who lays out some bare facts about child-raising, and Eisenreich’s funny, heartwarming, sweetly melancholy, yet ultimately empowering editorial about raising his child with another man. These were my particular faves, but without a clinker in the bunch, you may well discover yours in some of the other scenes. For a show with this structure to succeed, all the players must completely buy into the shifting realities from scene to scene and character to character, and this quartet succeeds with room to spare.

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Director Martha Hearn Kelly has cast with an expert eye, creating a team that works extremely well together, and could easily be envisioned as four parents having a grown-ups night out together, laughing and crying over the latest exploits of their kids. Kelly also serves double-duty as Sound Designer, so I may be hitting her up for a CD of the above-mentioned soundtrack. A well-supported and sustained theme clearly runs through both direction and sound , with congratulations due to Kelly for managing to excel at doing two challenging jobs at once.

Scenic Designer Sam Hetler, who recently began his new job as Trustus’ Technical Director, has done an admirable job, giving Motherhood Out Loud a bright, multi-colored, minimalist set, with simple cubes hung on the wall and scattered around the stage, occasionally functioning as storage units for the eye-catching accent pieces provided by Costume Designer Abigail McNeely. The actors are all dressed in basic black, with such things as scarves, ties, headdresses, etc., appearing from various cubbyholes and closets within the building-block structures to create various characters. Small though they may be, these transitions are all done with choreographed precision and nary a wasted movement, allowing the show to flow without interruption.

Motherhood Out Loud continues its run this weekend, with performances Wednesday – Sunday at 7pm, with a 2pm Sunday matinee. Whether you’re a parent or childless-by-choice, you’re sure to get some good laughs and a moment or two of sentimental warmth from this charming set of tales from the front lines of parenting, told by some of Columbia’s best storytellers.

 

-FLT3

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

REVIEW: Chapin Theatre Company's Shrek: The Musical is an Ogre-Sized Delight by Frank Thompson

 

As the song goes, “it’s not easy being green,” but Clayton P. King manages to make it look effortless. Surrounded by a large cast of veterans and newcomers, King’s portrayal of the grumpy and reclusive title role in Chapin Theatre Company’s Shrek: The Musical is not only enjoyable, but also could serve as an unofficial master class for aspiring character actors. Expertly costumed and clad in full body padding, latex hands and headpiece, and a thick layer of makeup that would make The Wicked Witch Of  The West pea-soup hued with envy, the well-known local singer/actor is almost unrecognizable, but brings his usual flair and knack for interpreting a part to the Harbison Theatre stage. There’s a hint of Mike Meyers’ original screen incarnation in King’s portrayal, but he definitely makes it his own, presenting the audience with a slightly gentler, yet still comically fierce Shrek, who never relies on imitation. While some cartoon characters work splendidly when embodied by real-life actors, others falter somewhere in translation. (For every You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, there’s a Doonesbury, which proves that simply plonking down the inhabitants of a successful ink-and-paper universe onstage isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success.) Luckily, Shrek: The Musical makes the leap with room to spare, with its charm and middle-school affinity for the hilarity of flatulence fully intact. Indeed, one of the show’s highlights is a belch-and-poot contest duet between Shrek and Fiona (Korianna Hays.)

As Fiona, Hays matches King’s expertise with a skill set honed through years of experience ranging from Shakespeare to Something Very Fishy, an original musical for children which teaches marine conservation through song and dance. Though she may have grown up in a tower, awaiting her knight, this Fiona is no fragile flower, and Hays artfully creates a spunky, self-sufficient young woman who can clearly handle herself in any situation. On a side note, the next generation of stage performers is well represented, with adult Fiona singing a trio with herself (herselves?) in childhood and teenagerhood. Katy Grant and Abby Tam play Young and Teen Fiona respectively, and are in fine voice, blending perfectly with Hays in their musical growing-up montage. Carter Tam makes a brief but noteworthy appearance as Young Shrek, as well.

The supporting cast is uniformly strong, with Major McCarty handing in a hilarious and over-the-top camp turn as the diminutive tyrant, Lord Farquaad. As he clearly revels in the distinction of being one of the only characters to break the fourth wall, McCarty’s performance brings to mind the delightfully shameless mugging of a young Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly, complete with demands for applause and cheeky asides to the audience. Along for the ride is first-timer Gerrard Goines, who keeps up with his more experienced co-stars in the role of Donkey. As does King, Goines takes a pinch of the film character (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and then puts his own spin on Shrek’s ever-faithful, if beleaguered best friend and traveling companion. A splendid singer with a natural comic’s timing, Goines will most certainly be seen again on local stages.

Other standouts include powerhouse vocalist Jas Webber, who brings the Dragon to saucy, sassy life, and Michelle Strom as Gingy, the Gingerbread Man of nursery-rhyme fame, whose scene with McCarty veers rib-ticklingly into the waters of British pantomime as they transform the lyrics to “Do You Know The Muffin Man” into mock-serious banter. Similar nods to multiple pop culture phenomena throughout the ages, from Monty Python to Friends, are peppered throughout the show, including a second-act opener featuring Busby Berkeley style tap choreography, a trio of Motown-esque Blind Mice, and a final line plucked straight from the pages of Dickens. (There are other Easter Eggs as well, but I’ll let you enjoy looking for them.)

The ensemble is the backbone of any musical, and this one does not disappoint. There isn’t a weak link to be found, and the script provides plenty of opportunities for all, with pretty much every cast member having a spotlight moment or two. The commitment to the wacky reality of their world is clear, and in-jokes abound, from a mid-thirties Peter Pan needing a shave to a wisecracking, beehive-haired Sugar Plum Fairy. There’s no official Costume Designer credited, so I’ll offer kudos to the show’s Co-Directors, Tiffany Dinsmore and Meesh Hays, who managed to bring just about every character from the Mother Goose canon to the Harbison stage, in authentic and easily identifiable outfitting, with a color palette of bright primaries and soft pastels that perfectly reinforce Shrek: The Musical’s cartoon pedigree.

A wide swath of choreographic styles, from traditional “old school” musical theatre to contemporary, intertwine throughout, courtesy of Choreographers Meredith Boehme and Katie Hilliger, who have taken a group with varied levels of experience and made them all look like trained pros. While some routines are more complex than others, there’s no hint of anything being simplified or watered down. Boehme and Hilliger have obviously choreographed to the strengths of their cast, allowing dancers and non-dancers alike to move with what looks like effortless ease. Musical Director Mary Jo Johnson has clearly worked the vocals well, with soloists and group numbers both coming in strong and solidly supported.

On the technical side, Danny Harrington’s set design is whimsical and fully realized, often operating in an almost Transformers style, with a series of hinges, individual pieces, and large units blending nicely with flown-in backdrops. All scene changes are done in full view, allowing the show to progress uninterrupted, which adds a touch of magic to an already enchanting production. Laura Anthony’s light design is subtle and most effective, utilizing shadows and isolated sections of the stage to create everything from the suggestion of overhead foliage to a starlit night, blending nicely with Harrington’s set.

Flaws are few and far between in this production, but if one must be nit-picky, there were a couple of  less-than-perfect moments in Sunday’s matinee performance. The show moves at a comfortably brisk pace, but the trade-off is that a few lines and bits seemed rushed, and a couple of the higher-pitched speaking voices were slightly difficult to understand, especially with the added challenge of using distinctive speech patterns to create fairy-tale characters. The large ensemble numbers in the first act seemed a bit vocally muddled, but clear diction prevailed by act two, so perhaps it just took a little time for my hearing to adjust to the combination of character voices and sometimes- intricate wordplay within the lyrics.  The set, while sumptuous, has clearly been nicked and scratched in a few spots during what must have been a demanding tech week, but there’s nothing that a couple of dabs of paint here and there wouldn’t fix.

Shrek: The Musical is a massive undertaking, and Chapin Theatre Company has risen to the challenge with high production values, a sleek and streamlined visual quality, and a uniformly talented and capable cast who are clearly having great fun with the material. This isn’t a deep, thoughtful, drama, but it never pretends to be anything it isn’t. It’s a funny, lighthearted, and joyful confection which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Get ready to laugh, enjoy the inherent goofiness of it all, and make the short drive out to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for a winning performance. The production continues its run with shows this Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm, and 3.00pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

-          FLT3

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

 

The Jasper Project Announces our 2019-2020 Tiny Gallery Season Line-Up by Christina Xan

Chris Lane Sabrina White Michael Krajewski

Mary Ann Haven Eileen Blyth

Bohumila Augustinova Vanessa Hewitt Devore

Mary Mac Cuellar Justice Littlejohn

Last year, Jasper launched its Tiny Gallery series. At the time, we didn’t know where this series would go, but it started with a hope that it would at least promote the art appreciation and accessibility and put some funds in the pockets of some of our beloved local visual artists.

The goal of Tiny Gallery is to provide accessible art from phenomenal local artists at a price most point folks can afford. We want people to see fine art and be able to take it home without breaking the bank. The art world in Columbia is vast and colorful, full of artists of different mediums and talents. Unfortunately, for many working people in our community, many of whom are students, artists themselves, or young adults just starting out, when they come across large, expensive pieces, they may fall in love with them, but they can’t bring them home.

 

At Tiny Gallery, we find a balance between ensuring artists are selling works worth their time, effort, and artistry with prices feasible to the average consumer. We also provide this in an intimate setting, where patrons can see the art and comfortably mingle with others including the artists themselves.

 

Our first year was a wonderful success, featuring artists such as Thomas Washington, Olga Yukhno, Kathryn Van Aernum, Will South, and Sara Cogswell. Now, we’re back for our new season. Our Tiny Gallery seasons run from August to June with breaks in January and July. We feature new artists every month, with shows on First Thursdays in our studio #7 at Tapp’s Art Center. The pieces the artists show cannot be larger than 15x15” or more expensive than $250, and they are encouraged to be smaller and less expensive.

 

Now, I’m so excited to share with you all our 2019-2020 season and the phenomenal 9 artists showing in the coming months, the first of which is this very evening.

 

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

This month, for August, we’re kicking off the season with local painter Christopher Lane. Born in Minnesota in 1968, Lane spent his formative years inspired by regional artists Thomas Hart Benton, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Roy Lichtenstein. He has traveled all over the globe and he eventually settled down in South Carolina. Here, he continues to use fantastic imagery to turn his life experiences into visual stories that primarily focus on people and their relationships with one another. They often offer historical, political, or spiritual narratives — subjects Lane is passionate about.

 

Lane is also our only extended artist of the season—in September, we’re offering you Christopher Lane Extended. Here you will have a second chance to see work you may have missed out on the first time around and even see new pieces. Lane is also doing additional gallery events throughout the months of August and September that we will be announcing on social media soon.

Michael Krajewski

Michael Krajewski

In October we have a special creepy show planned with artist Michael Krajewski, who is doing a Halloween themed show titled “Michael’s Monsters & Maniacs”. Krajewski is a self-taught artist who has shown in numerous galleries, collaborated on large commissioned pieces for museums, painted live at art events and been the subject of magazine and newspaper profiles. (Krajewski was Jasper Magazine’s first ever centerfold artist in 2011!) His style has been called neo-expressionist and compared to Jean-Michel Basquiat's, though Krajewski says he is less interested in defining, more interested in producing. He’s had solo shows at the HoFP Gallery, Frame of Mind and Anastasia & Friends in Columbia, SC, and participated in a two-person show at the Waterfront Gallery in Charleston and in a group show at 701 Whaley

Mary Ann Haven

Mary Ann Haven

In November we have Mary Ann Haven’s paintings. Haven works in acrylic paint, mixed media, collage, and photography. She has been an Open Studios artist with the 701 Center for Contemporary Art's annual studio crawl since 2011. In today’s hectic world, Haven says, the ability to find quiet can be a challenge. As an artist moving color across a canvas, she must be fully present listening to where her intuition guides her. She finds this is grounding, exhilarating, and peaceful at the same time. This art practice keeps her ever the explorer of the unknown and grateful for the opportunity.

Eileen Blyth

Eileen Blyth

In December, we have a show just in time for the holiday season with artist Eileen Blyth, who will be offering art pieces perfect to give as gifts. Blyth is a Columbia artist known for her paintings and sculpture. Originally from Charleston, Eileen has always thought of herself as a painter. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston and studied graphic design at UofSC. She is inspired by the moment of creation when there is a sudden shift into a space of knowing and composition falls into place. Eileen’s studio is located at Stormwater Studios, and her work is represented by Carol Saunders Gallery in Columbia, Camilla Art Gallery in Hilton Head, and Art & Light Gallery in Greenville

Bohumila Augustinova

Bohumila Augustinova

We will take a break in January to celebrate the JAYS, but our February show will feature wire artist and ceramicist, Bohumila Augustinová. Augustinová was born and raised in communist Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic. She has a degree in fashion design. She was always an artist. Bohumila came to the United States in 1998. After winning Runaway Runway, she quickly became part of the Columbia Art scene. In 2015, she took over Anastasia & Friends Gallery. Bohumila is a leader of Yarnbombers of Columbia and is the Curator of Art for Motor Supply Company. She works at the Columbia Art Center where she not only makes art, but also teaches art to others.

Vanessa Hewitt Devore

Vanessa Hewitt Devore

In March we are hosting potter Vanessa Hewitt Devore. All of Devore’s life she has enjoyed nature; in fact, some of her earliest memories are of her grandmother’s backyard.  Every day, she would help her plant and tend her flowers and she would point out to Devore all the different birds and animals that would visit her garden.  The memory of those times fills her with a sense of joy that she tries to convey in her artwork. Devore is not the only artist in her family; in fact, she is a fourth-generation artist.  Her great grandmother painted, her grandmother both made pottery and painted, her father is glass artist, Steve Hewitt and her my mother is the renowned artist and educator Mana Hewitt.. The wheel Devore uses every day belonged to her grandmother.

Sabrina White

Sabrina White

In April we are featuring fine artist Sabrina White. White incorporates a wide variety of mediums into her mixed media work and creates everything from drawings to paintings to sculptures to fiber art and textiles. Born in Charleston, SC, White holds a BA in Studio Art and a M.Ed. from Columbia College. She is an instructor who teaches classes and workshops throughout North and South Carolina. Most of her small format work focuses on one of the following three subjects: eyes, portraits, and animals.

Justice Littlejohn

Justice Littlejohn

In May we have painter Justice Littlejohn. Littlejohn is an abstract painter and educator. He was born and raised in Columbia and received his BA in Art History from Wofford and his MA in Art Education from UofSC. He has previously taught at the SC Governor’s School of the Arts and Glenforest School in Columbia. He is a father and professional exhibiting artist who has shown works in the city before at galleries such as Anastasia & Friends

Mary Mac Cuellar

Mary Mac Cuellar


Finally, in June, 2020, we close out our 2nd Tiny Gallery season with painter Mary Mac Cuellar. Cuellar is a mixed media artist who resides in Columbia, SC. She recently showed her work at Kinetic Derby Day.

 

More about these artists, their work, and their shows will be posted on our social media as their events draw closer, but be sure to go ahead and mark your calendars for First Thursdays at Tapp’s now.

 

When Tiny Gallery started, I was just an intern, in my first month of working with Jasper. Our first show was Keith Tolen, who I interviewed about the show, and then I helped run the event. From the moment I met Keith to witnessing the interactions between artists, patrons, and Jasper members, I knew Tiny Gallery was special. I’ve grown closer and closer to it over the months, and now, I’m the Host of the series. 

 

For me, as both a graduate student and an artist, I’ve always wanted to bring the art I saw in galleries home, but often, I couldn’t. Now, I never leave a Tiny Gallery empty handed. It fills me with happiness and pride to not only bring home the work of artists so dear to me but to know I am part of creating that opportunity for others as well.

 

I am absolutely floored by the round up of artists we’ve been able to put together for you all this season. Each of them is bringing their completely unique perspectives to the table, and my heart swells knowing you will be able to witness their magnificence. There isn’t one of these you’ll want to miss.

 

Be sure to follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and Instagram for more updates on our Tiny Gallery series and more details about our upcoming show, and stop by Tapp’s Art Center tonight between 6 and 9 pm to see Christopher Lane’s fabulous work.

 

 — Christina Xan

Supper Table Spotlight: Lee Ann Kornegay and Jordan Mullen Honor Eartha Kitt and Mary McLeod Bethune

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 11th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Filmmaker Lee Ann Kornegay

Filmmaker Lee Ann Kornegay

Both Lee Ann Kornegay and Jordan Mullen have special roles in the Supper Table as they are 2 of 12 filmmakers who are making 60-90 second short films on one of the 12 honored women at the table. Both artists have and continue to offer their skills to the project in additional ways.

Kornegay is our official project filmmaker and, as such, she has attended almost every project meeting and event to record the activity associated with the creation of the Supper Table. Kornegay has gone to the artists’ homes to record them while they created their place-settings, and will create a feature length film on the Supper Table demonstrating the process behind the project from inception to realization.

Mullen is our Kickstarter filmmaker. The main video on our Kickstarter was designed, filmed, and edited by Mullen, who continues to help us film and photograph additional Supper Table events.

Filmmaker Jorden Mullen

Filmmaker Jorden Mullen

Jordan Mullen is a recent Media Arts graduate from the University of South Carolina and has an Art Degree from White Knoll High School. She is known around the city for her remarkable work with animation having won Best in Show for her experimental film, “There’s A Monster In My House”.  

Mullen is using her unique animation style to create a film honoring Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune was an American educator and civil rights activist best known for developing Bethune-Cookman University and co-founding UNCF. She was a national adviser to president Franklin D. Roosevelt who referred to her as "The First Lady of The Struggle" because of her fight for the African American community.

 

Lee Ann Kornegay also graduated from the University of South Carolina with a media arts degree and started working immediately as Broadcast Production Manager for Chernoff/Silver and Associates. In 2000, she took a chance and left this successful career to create L.A. Kornegay, Media Productions, pursuing a life-long goal to direct, shoot, and edit documentaries. Kornegay has won numerous national and local awards including Best Documentary at the Colossal Film Crawl for her film Boloba. This film, as well as many of Kornegay’s other documentaries, have aired on SCETV. Since 2008, she has served as Marketing/Public Relations Director for 701 Whaley.

Kornegay is creating a film on the powerhouse South Carolinian Eartha Kitt. She has recently been conducting research by traveling to Kitt’s hometown (near North, SC) and exploring it for herself. Kitt was a singer, actress, and dancer known for her still loved Christmas song "Santa Baby" and her role as Catwoman in Adam West’s Batman. Kitt was also a social activist who was never afraid to speak her mind and stand up for anyone who she felt was discriminated against, even if it meant taking putting herself in harm’s way.

Kornegay and Mullen’s films will premiere in September, but right now our Kickstarter has a limited opportunity to become a Film Sponsor. As Film Sponsor, you will be listed as the exclusive producer for the film of your choice. For only $300, you get this plus two tickets to our Harbison installation & show as well as a dedication to the SC woman of your choice to be included in the book, Setting the Supper Table..

 

These premiums are not only going fast – Kitt’s film has been sponsored while Bethune’s film is available – but the Kickstarter has less than 24 hours before it closes out.

 

To sponsor Mullen’s film on Bethune or one of the other 8 available films, click on the following link no later than noon tomorros (Wednesday, July 31st) Jasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper table Spotlight: SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth Honors Alice Childress

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 10th in our series on Supper Table Artists

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I consider myself quite fortunate to have seen Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation when my husband and I were living in Scotland, where it was featured in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer of 1984.  The sheer magnitude of the work was overwhelming, and the enormous dining table which anchored the exhibit served as a powerful visual metaphor.  Many of the women honored there were unfamiliar to me, but they certainly deserved a place at the glorious table!       

So, I was particularly thrilled to participate in the Jasper Project’s The Supper Table Project. Cindi Boiter’s concept of focusing on 12 South Carolina women who devoted their lives to positive change is a brilliant way to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. I was even more thrilled to have the opportunity to research and write about Alice Childress – a writer I had always wanted to know more about.  This award-winning writer deserves to be better known and read by a larger audience, and her plays should be seen around the world.  Many of Alice Childress’ plays are rooted in the South Carolina low country, and her characters are working-class African Americans struggling against systemic racism.  These are voices that can teach us so much about the present day. Childress was a ground breaking African American artist, and she should be celebrated and honored for her multitude of achievements. She paved the way for so many others, particularly African American women playwrights and actresses.  I am grateful for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on this extraordinary American icon.             

I love the way The Supper Table Project brings together so many of South Carolina’s working visual artists, writers, filmmakers, and performers.  This community of amazing women deserves the support of everyone in the Palmetto State who supports the arts and the rich culture of our home place. 

—Marjory Wentworth  

~~~

MARJORY WENTWORTH is the New York Times bestselling author of Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets (with Kwame Alexander and Chris Colderley). She is the co-writer of We Are Charleston, Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, with Herb Frazier and Dr. Bernard Powers and Taking a Stand, The Evolution of Human Rights, with Juan E. Mendez.  She is co-editor with Kwame Dawes of Seeking, Poetry and Prose inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green, and the author of the prizewinning children’s story Shackles.  Her books of poetry include Noticing Eden, Despite Gravity, The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle and New and Selected Poems. Her poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize six times. She is the current poet laureate of South Carolina. Wentworth is a Senior Fellow at the Global Social Justice Practice Academy.  She teaches courses in writing, social justice and banned books at The College of Charleston.

 Please support the Supper Table in the last few hours of our Kickstarter campaign by visiting https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table

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Supper Table Spotlight: Claudia Smith Brinson Honors Charleston's Grimke Sisters - Sarah and Angelina

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 9th in our series on Supper Table Artists

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The word “honor” comes up so often for me these days as the Supper Table enters its last month of preparation and, in light of the political climate we are living in, it is such a wave of relief, such a respite for the soul, to find myself surrounded by so many honorable women who want to honor others.

Claudia Smith Brinson is a perfect example of the breath-of-fresh-air kind of person I’m talking about. Claudia Smith Brinson was a senior lecturer and program coordinator of the Writing for Print and Digital Media major at Columbia College in Columbia, S.C. She worked as a journalist for 30 years, mostly for Knight Ridder, and was honored with more than three dozen state and regional awards. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as a member of the team covering Hurricane Hugo. She also writes short stories and has won an O.Henry. Claudia is at work on a book on the untold stories of civil rights activists in South Carolina.

Claudia was charged with writing a third-person, creative non-fiction essay about the Grimke Sisters—Sarah and Angelina—from Charleston who became abolitionists and human rights activists for most of the 19th century. Claudia writes with painful candor about the world of slavery the sisters bore witness to and their early decision to leave their churches, join with the Quakers in Philadelphia, and eventually, be disappointed with Quakers and organized religion in general.

What must arise in the heart and head that allows you to see all about you are morally and ethically wrong? What does it take to act? And to continue despite condemnation and abuse? What is in you that allows you to think and act hundreds of years ahead of your time? The brilliance of sisters Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Emily Grimke force these questions on us, as well as the frustrating realization that we have yet to meet their standards of equality and goodness.

Brinson continues:

The prisons of gender and color were asphyxiating: Only white men could vote. The enslaved were owned but owned nothing, including their own bodies. Enslaved women were vulnerable to rape; any children born to them, no matter whom the father, were born enslaved and could be sold. Free white women lived under the control of their fathers, and, once married, had no legal identity. Free married women were considered one with the husband; any property, inheritance, income, or ensuing children fell the man under the law of coverture. Poor free women might work as cooks, domestics, seamstresses, and assistants to tradesmen and shopkeepers, but income they made belonged to their husbands. During the sisters’ adulthood, fewer than fifteen percent of women worked outside a household. Not only the law but Christianity confined them: Slaveholders used the Bible to justify white male control of sisters, daughters, wives, and the enslaved.

How does a person, then, gain a sense of her own humanity and her right to have rights? How does a woman find her own self and her life’s meaning when selfhood is denied? And how does she then apply that not only to herself but to others in extremis? The Grimke sisters developed young a repugnance and resistance to cruelty and abuse, to repression and denial while all around them people of their race acclimated. The sisters seem, perhaps through their quests for education and a nondiscriminatory religious community, to have fostered their awareness against odds and opposition into an individuality that knew right from wrong – despite the rules of their times, religion, and country – and also into an individuality that fought for what was right – despite the countering messages of gender, society, and law. To say they were geniuses is exclusionary; they eventually found a like-minded community in women such as Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. To call them prophets is depressing; much of what they called for has yet to come to pass.

Claudia Smith Brinson’s full essay on the Grimke Sisters will appear in our book, Setting the Supper Table, which launches on Friday, September 6th at Trustus Theatre as part of the premiere of the Supper Table installation, performance, and film premieres, then moves to Harbison theatre at MTC for on Sunday September 8th for a performance and installation. Setting the Supper Table will be available via a limited edition printing for $25, but you can secure your copy now by contributing to the Supper Table Kickstarter campaign — which closes in less than two days—at the $50 and above levels.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu

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Supper Table Spotlight: Candace Wiley Honors Modjeska Simkins and Matilda Evans

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 8th in our series on Supper Table Artists

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Candace G. Wiley is the co-founding director of The Watering Hole, a non-profit organization that brings a hint of Harlem-Renaissance to the modern South. She is a South Carolina native who graduated with her B.A from Bowie State University, her MA from Clemson University, and her MFA from the University of South Carolina where she graduated as a Dickey Fellow.

 

Wiley’s writings create striking imagery and invoke imagination, and she frequently writes in the style of Afrofuturism, introducing themes from mutants to mermaids. Whether fiction or non-fiction, she always brings her raw imagining of individuals’ lives to the table. She is a Vermont Studio Center Fellow, Lighthouse Works Center Fellow, Fine Arts Work Center Fellow and Callaloo Fellow.

 

Wiley joins our Supper Table team as one of our literary artists, where she has done incredible work honoring not just one, but two different women, each with their own essay: Modjeska Monteith Simkins and Matilda Evans.

 

Modjeska Simkins was a matriarch of civil rights in South Carolina and a leader in African-American public health and social reform, specifically in Columbia. Simkins referred to herself as a human rights activist, and that she was.

 

The following is an excerpt from Wiley’s essay on Simkins:

Throughout her career, Modjeska helped launch the multi-racial Southern Negro Youth Congress (SYNC). The organization’s pact starts, “We, Negro and White young people, one thousand strong, do hereby declare our common purpose, to build a new and democratic South.” Modjeska ran for office; raised funding for renovations to the Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital, Columbia’s Black hospital; hosted a weekly Civil Rights radio show called, “I woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” which she paid for out of pocket; equalized white collar jobs for Black WPA workers; and rectified the gross mistreatment of Black mental health patients. In Columbia’s segregated Black mental institution, female patients weren’t provided shoes, underwear, or gowns; were housed in leaky, dirty, unscreened buildings; had no psychiatrists; and Black female patients were forced to bathe and help dress the White patients at the White mental institution, while Black male patients worked the yard.

 

After Judge Waring was forced to retire and leave the state, he invited Modjeska to his New York home. Public sentiment had turned on him when he left his first wife of thirty years, who was Charleston aristocracy, and married his second wife, a Yankee matron who turned him against all forms of discrimination. 

 

“So you’re still in Carolina? You haven’t had any trouble?” He asked Modjeska.

 

“Well they shot up my hotel a few times, bombed my brother’s yard, called the house with threats. I belonged to all kind of organizations that were labeled communist fronts, so I've been Red-Smeared up and down South Carolina.” Modjeska tossed her hands.

 

“Not bad, huh?”

 

“Not bad.”

 

Like Simkins, Matilda Evans was a prominent human rights activist. The state’s second licensed black female doctor, she took care of not only black patients who could not receive care from white doctors, but also of white patients who came to her because of caring, open-minded spirit.

 

The following is Wiley’s imagining of Evans in her own essay:

 

Imagine Matilda reaching out to her powerful contacts. Taking tea in some fancy living room, the ice tinkles the glass when she tilts it forward for a kiss. Affable as always, she’d assert, "You, sir, have truly been an honest blessing from the Lord. It’s people like you who could even make heaven a better place." Just a little butter over bread. "Even the way you threw your resources into furnishing St. Luke’s, you are a man of action."

"What really concerns me is your beautiful family." His face would have frozen. His eyebrow perched. Was it a warning? A threat? "Jenny, Katie, and Davey, they are so happy and innocent, but I’ve seen illness firsthand." He would have tilted his head to the side, hesitant to ask for more information.

"I don’t know how the health of Negro children isn’t a concern to all of us. What infects the child infects the mother. Then the mother, in her infinite sense of responsibility, returns to her domestic employ, cooking for a wonderful White family like yours, dressing the children, grooming the mistress of the house, and the epidemic spreads through sheer love. Isn’t it awful?" It wasn’t a threat. There was kindness in her eyes. Her manners were impeccable. The way she might’ve tinked the spoon around her glass, in sweet tea that didn’t need stirring. There was no hint of anger or frustration.

"It’s a conundrum really. Germs know no color line." Matilda would’ve sat comfortably, occasionally lifting her eyes from her glass. She wouldn’t mention the specific cases of ringworm or scabies she’d seen. He would be well aware that Tuberculosis was ravaging Black Columbians.

He would’ve leaned back in his chair and smirked, amused at how she’d so easily played his emotions, yet interested in her solution.

You can find the completed versions of these essays, as well as the other 10 essays by our wonderful literary artists, in our upcoming book Setting the Supper Table. Early access to copies of this book are included in several of our premiums on our Kickstarter, along with other opportunities such as being listed as the executive producer on one of our films or sponsoring a place-setting honoring one of our 12 women at the table.

If you’re interested in one of our premiums, act fast. Half of the place-settings have already been sponsored, and the campaign only has four days left. You can secure your seat at the table here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table?ref=user_menu