REVIEW: Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret - an Entertaining Concert with Potential for Growth

by Frank Thompson

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   (As always, I open with the disclaimer that I am a frequent director and a member of the Board of Trustees for Workshop Theatre.)

   The Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret, running through Sunday at Workshop’s new home at Cottingham Theatre on the Columbia College campus, bills itself as “celebrating the women of Broadway,” and there’s certainly no shortage of celebrated talent onstage. Featuring several well-established Midlands-area chanteuses alongside a few new faces/voices, last Saturday evening’s performance brought the audience to its feet more than once with multiple show-stopping bravura turns by some of the best female vocalists in town.  The acoustics at Cottingham are nice and hot, and while live mics are utilized, I doubt if even half the cast needs any amplification. These ladies know how to project and sell a song, and if you’re looking for a showcase of outstanding music plucked from Broadway hits from the 1950s to today, you’ll find it at The Fierce & Fabulous Cabaret.

   Following a full-cast rendition of  “I’m A Woman” from Smokey Joe’s CaféRegina Skeeter sets the bar high with “Home,” one of the lesser-known but most vocally powerful ballads in The Wiz. (This was my first time seeing Skeeter perform, and she delivers strength as well as a sense of dreamy wonderment to her turn in the spotlight.)  Columbia legend Valdina Hall absolutely soars with Sondheim’s  “Send In The Clowns,” and Robin Gottlieb’s signature number, Cabaret, quite literally had the crowd shouting for an encore. The second act rocks open with Katrina Blanding  delivering  Dreamgirls  “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” with her usual powerhouse voice and innate storyteller’s gift for conveying a song’s emotional foundation. On Jason Robert Brown’s  “I Can Do Better Than That,”  Emily Northrop engages the audience from intro to post-applause, demonstrating  not only impressive vocals but also an understanding of  true cabaret technique, and Mandy Applegate Bloom’s  “She Used To Be Mine” from Waitress brings down the house in classic eleven-o’clock-number style.

   The rest of the cast offers solid work across the board, and there truly isn’t a weak link, though those mentioned above are particular standouts. While watching the performance, I began to realize that I was missing the sense of an overall emotional arc, framing piece, or central theme to segue the audience from each number to the next. Some of the performers simply took the mic and started singing, others utilized a few lines of dialogue, and a few (see above) took a moment to connect with the audience. If this sounds nit-picky, it’s because The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret is of such high quality, I truly hope it comes together as a more thematically cohesive piece. Who are these women? Are they the actual people we see onstage? If so, great! I would suggest having each song tied to the singer's life experience, allowing a glimpse of the real-life woman known to many only as her onstage personae.  (Gottlieb and Northrop are particularly skilled at bonding with the audience, as is Emily Clelland, who relates a personal experience that motivated her as a performer, followed by an enthusiastic song-and-dance rendition of  “If They Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity.)  A few of the pieces, while quite splendidly performed, seemed randomly inserted. Kathy Seppamaki’s  “Christmas Lullaby” (Songs For A New World) is one of the best-sung ballads in a show full of A-list talent, but feels somewhat out of place between two comedic bits, and without context . Lou Boeschen’s  “On The Steps Of The Palace” (Into The Woods) is lovely, and dovetails nicely into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  “Stepsisters Lament,” yet nothing is said about the Cinderella myth. This would have been a perfect opportunity to comment on any number of themes relevant to modern womanhood. Once I realized that I was seeing a sort of hybrid concert/cabaret, I just sat back and enjoyed the music, all the while thinking how interesting it is to watch the artistic process unfold. With a stronger sense of identity and a commitment to one specific reality/style, The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret could easily tour as a professional show. The talent is there, the music is solid and representative of classic and contemporary Broadway, and the basic structure is in place. All it needs is a more defined sense of identity and an answer for “why is each song in its particular spot?”

   The set is simple and sleek, designed by Patrick Faulds to provide tiered seating for the cast, who stay onstage the entire show. As usual, Dean McCaughan’s steady hand keeps sound well-balanced and smooth, though I was disappointed to see that the production utilizes pre-recorded music tracks instead of live accompaniment. For future gigs, I would suggest a single pianist who could also serve as a narrative voice, presenter, and general point of connection between the singers and their audience.

   The Fierce And Fabulous Cabaret is well worth your time and money exactly “as is,” and I strongly recommend you see it now. With a little scripting revision and specific motivation behind each number, it could have a significant future, and you’ll want to catch this act from the very start of its evolution.

   There are only three performances left, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling (803) 799.6551 or visiting Workshoptheatre.com

-FLT3

Jasper's Artisan Fairway Central to West Columbia Kinetic Derby Day by Christina Xan

The Jasper Project Brings Bigger and Better Artisan Fairway to 2019’s Kinetic Derby Day

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

Kinetic Derby Day Poster Art by Michael Krajewski

The City of West Columbia is bringing back Kinetic Derby Day for a 2nd year this Saturday. This event is a combination of both derby car racing and kinetic sculptures to represent the creativity in STEM and to give people of all ages a chance to learn and create. The kinetic sculptures will be shown in a parade that kicks off the event, and the racing, hosted by GoCo Events, will happen throughout the day.

 

The event’s goal to inspire creative problem solving and creative thinkers is perhaps most inventively seen with The Jasper Project’s Artisan Fairway, which is even bigger and better than last year.

 

Barry Wheeler, who is president of the Board of Directors here at Jasper, has been planning and organizing the fairway for over 6 months, ensuring he developed a variety of different musicians, poets, and visual artists. With the help of Grayson Goodman and Mark Plessinger, Wheeler was able to create these experiences, allowing people to witness art being made, make art themselves, and purchase from local artists.

 

During the entirety of Derby Day (11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.), there will be performances on the JAM Room Stage, where 5 different musicians will showcase their work: Saluda River Academy for The Arts, Boomtown Waifs, John the Revelator, Midimarc, and Husband. These performances are not meant to form one loud concert but instead to create a small, relaxed environment where the musicians can share their craft and create a sense of community for everyone. Wheeler hoped that this would “develop an environment that cultivates interesting happenings.”

 

Around the corner, in the courtyard behind Ed’s Editions, Columbia’s Poet Laureate, Ed Madden, and Bert Easter have organized 4 hours of jazz & poetry readings from local poets. Starting at noon, Mark Rapp will kick off with 45 minutes of jazz, while Madden, Ethan Fogus, Loli Molina, and Monifa Lemons Jackson will all be reading poetry for 20 minutes each.

 

Beyond these readings & performances, State Street itself will be lined with tents, two of which will be two visual arts tents. In the first, five local artists will be doing live paintings: Michael Krajewski, Lucas Sams, Corey “Roc Bottom” Davis, Shelby Leblanc, and Thomas Washington. People will be able to come and watch the artists in their process and see how 5 different artists approach their art in unique ways. Additionally, there will be a silent auction as it develops, and at the end of the day, 5 people will go home with original works of art.

 

In the second visual art tent, people who have been inspired by the live paintings can do live paintings of their own. People will be encouraged to draw “Roboto” in whatever form it means to them. All drawings will be uploaded to the Derby Day social media, and a vote will be held after the festival for the best art piece.

 

Additionally, there will be 21 tents set up with completely different artistic encounters. Wheeler’s goal for the 21 tents was to provide not only very different artists but artists who take away the stigma that art is pretentious. In fact, several of the tents will be actually teaching art or providing hands on art experiences. For example, Yarnbombers of Columbia, who will also be doing an installation piece on State Street, will be teaching knitting in their tent. Directly next to them, the Columbia Art Center will be doing clay turning demos for adults and children who want to learn how to hand turn clay.

 

In addition to just seeing art, Wheeler has also brought much more chances to purchase art pieces. The Jasper Project, The Crafty Cottage, Laura Garner Hine, Pat Harris, Mary Mac Cuellar, and Katie Chandler will all be selling art that they have created or curated, with again, a goal of providing a variety of styles. The Jasper Project’s tent, for example, will have Derby Day themed prints by Michael Krajewski.

 

Again, Wheeler wanted to reinforce his message that art is vast. An example of this, he placed Crafty Cottage and Hine’s tents are side by side, to show a contrast between crafting and what is deemed “fine art,” so that people can see the creativity, hard work, passion, and talent that goes into creating these different classifications of art. Continuing with the theme of contrast, Pat Harris and Richland Library both do very different kinds of art with wood, the latter doing woodworking and the former working with a lathe, and they both will be showing their work in their respective tents.

 

These are only some of the opportunities. There will be bike shows & repairs, found footage video screenings, virtual reality demos, 3D printing, face painting, henna, balloon art, and more. Every tent you enter will allow you to either learn more about what the community is doing, create your very own art no matter what skill level you are at, or support the artists of Columbia.

 

Lastly, there are tents for our local youth who need help in their school or personal lives. The Midlands Middle College will be there offering opportunities for high school kids to get college credit, while LRADAC will be there with programming to help those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

 

According to Wheeler, this event is most important because of how it can inspire children: “The festival promotes STEM, specifically women in STEM. If little girls see women already succeeding in STEM, they will already know what they can do. They don’t have to create place. It’s already there.”

 

While this article contains plenty of information, it can only provide a preview. To get the complete run down of events, check out the Jasper Kinetic Derby Day page. Here, you can see the locations of all the tents and performances as well as detailed background information about all our artists.

 

Come out Saturday at 11:00 a.m. to experience and create art. The event is completely free and jam packed with awesome events. We’ll see you there!

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

Friends of Ed Congratulate the Academy of American Poets Fellow

Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina - photo by Lester Boykin    Ed Madden  was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include  Ark  (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016),  Nest  (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and  Prodigal: Variations  (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. Madden, who will receive $50,000, plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.

Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina - photo by Lester Boykin

Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. Madden, who will receive $50,000, plans to launch “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive storymap of the city.

Yesterday was a great day for one of the Jasper Project’s own – our Ed Madden, Columbia city poet laureate, Jasper Magazine founding poetry editor, and hard core Friend of Jasper, learned that he has been awarded one of only 13 of the first ever major fellowships from the Academy of American Poets. The fellowship, which is accompanied by a $50,000 honorarium, will allow Ed to launch, “Telling the Stories of the City,” a project that will incorporate local and youth voices, build on community-based workshops, and create an interactive story map of the city.

At Jasper, we were thrilled, proud, and absolutely giddy with the news of this award – but we were not surprised.

It wasn’t long ago that this writer told Ed I expected a MacArthur Genius grant to come his way soon – Ed would probably argue that this is better.

According to an announcement from poets.org, “These thirteen poets who serve as poets laureate of states, cities, and counties across the U.S. will receive a combined $1,050,000 in recognition of their literary merit and to support civic programs, which will take place over the next twelve months. 

 These new fellowships are made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and, in total, are believed to be the largest awards provided to poets in the U.S. at any one time by a charitable organization. They are also in keeping with this spring’s national poetry programming theme of Poetry & Democracy offered by the Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 organizations working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.”

I’ve had the pleasure of being a Friend of Ed and a frequent partner in projects for a long time. Having witnessed his enthusiasm and dedication to a project in action, I am fortunate to know well that when Ed Madden sets his mind to accomplishing something it is best to consider it done. As a friend, colleague, administrator, boss, activist, and fellow instigator, Ed Madden is an exemplary example of the best of humankind. He is kind, sensitive, strong, and good – and he is also very talented.

Congratulations from all of us at Jasper as well as from a few of the Friends of Ed below.

 

Ed Madden won’t be satisfied until parking tickets have verses, bus rides are lyrical, haikus magically appear after rainstorms, poems are typewritten at the Statehouse, and everyone in the city of Columbia is a poetic element. Thank you, Ed Madden, for engaging our ordinary lives with poetry. Columbia is in its best form with you as our poet laureate – Tim Conroy

  

Ed Madden is magic. When you’re around him you really understand the value of art and how it improves our world to interact with it. Fact is we live in a world that doesn’t really honor the importance of art. But when you’re around Ed you’re reminded of the necessity of art and the responsibility of the artist. You see it when you help him distribute poetry parking tickets. Maybe you see it when you talk with to him about making poem stencils for his rain poetry project. Or when you watch him create an environment where grade school students come alive with poetic insight. Whatever it is, Ed does the dreaming and physical labor necessary to make it possible. And if you’re lucky enough to go with him, then you get to see something better than magic. You get to see Ed Madden. – Ethan Fogus

 

I could not be more proud of my friend, and cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. We’re better poets, writers, teachers, and patrons because of Ed Madden, and this recognition is way overdue. I hope he buys a motorcycle! That would be badass. – Ray McManus

 

Congratulations to the gifted poet and community-minded Ed Madden who wants our state to participate in bringing poetry to our corner of the world. Good on ya’, Ed. – Libby Bernardin

 

The Fellowship is a well-deserved recognition of the work that Ed has done as Poet Laureate to amplify the voices of citizens through the expression of poetry. He continues to develop projects that treat poetry as public art, both to tell the stories of Columbians and to add creative expression to our daily lives. By honoring Ed's work, the Academy of American Poets is affirming the importance of the arts in Columbia. – Lee Snelgrove

 

Ed’s an inspiring leader - the kind that fights for you, helps you find your own voice, challenges you to do more, uses that big university money for good, and all the while making the world better with his poetry. I’m so happy that even more folks will know how lucky this city is to have him. Congrats, Ed! – Meeghan Kane

 

Ed Madden, educator, poet, mentor, friend and Columbia's first poet laureate. A better choice for poet laureate is not possible. Ed welcomes in the entire family of poetry and expertly weaves town and gown into whole cloth. – Al Black

Ed, you deserve this. You constantly keep Columbia engaged with poetry. You are treasure. We are blessed to have you. Congratulations! — Jennifer Bartell Boykin

For more on Ed’s big honor check out:

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/stanza/announcing-recipients-academy-american-poets-laureate-fellowships

https://www.free-times.com/arts/ed-madden-named-an-academy-of-american-poets-laureate-fellow/article_8294e210-6690-11e9-85b7-ab374eac2741.html

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman - PREVIEW by Hallie Hayes

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Hale’s Debut Play Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. Showcases the Life of Writer, Aphra Behn, and Her Role on Women

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. is a 75-minute production by playwright Mariah Anzaldo Hale that pays homage to the little-known legend, Aphra Behn. Behn was a playwright, poet, novelist and spy for King Charles II during the Anglo-Dutch war. This play examines the captivating life that Behn led through dialog, movement, and music.  She was the first woman to make a living as a professional writer in Restoration London during this time-period, trailing a path for women through her scandalous and exhilarating life.  

 

Through the creation of this debut play, Hale combines her love for women’s history and theatre. Hale is a writer, historian and costume designer who has obtained a career in costume design for both theater and film, where her designs can be found on and off Broadway and in VOGUE magazine. Hale decided to do extensive research on Aphra Behn after receiving a journal from her daughter with Behn’s photo on it, resulting in Hale’s desire to create her own project as a costume designer.  Not only was her play created to tell the story of a trailblazer’s vivacity but also to educate the audience on the roles of women, both past and present.

 

Specifically, Hale’s goal with this series was to provide a “femme-adventure play which not only takes us on [Behn’s] many exploits but also examines women’s roles then and now,” she continues to explain the play’s significance, “and challenges how she’s been written out of history by ‘learned’ men [who’ve] taken credit for her philosophies, ideas and innovations.”

 

In order to bring this goal to life, Hale collaborated with UofSC Theater and Dance as well as Full Circle Productions. When director Robert Richmond heard of Hale’s Aphra Behn series, he invited Hale to expand her work into a play using the grant Full Circle won for the Incubator Program at Harbison Theater.

 

Executive Director of Harbison Theater, Kristin Cobb shares that “the Incubator Program has been in place at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for over 5 years now.  The idea behind the initiative is to give local artists a professional venue to launch new work, with the potential to eventually tour,”

 

Cobb continues to explain the Incubator Program in regard to Aphra Behn: “This has been a wonderful collaborative effort with Robert Richmond and the UofSC Theatre Department as well.  It is part of our mission here at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College to support local artists, and to showcase their work on our wonderful stage.”

 

Other Full Circle member, Linsday Rae Taylor, was brought on to direct the play. Taylor is a third-year MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina who has directed productions such as UofSC’s The Wolves, Sense and Sensibility and Trustus Theatre’s Hir, among others.

 

For Taylor, this play was special to her from the moment she read the script: “If you open a theatre history book and look up Aphra Behn, who was essentially the first female playwright, you will only find two or three sentences about her.  We know very little about her, as she was kept hidden while the men of her time are documented and celebrated.  This is an opportunity to learn about an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.  We hope that, if you come see the play, it may prompt you to find out more about her.”

 

While directing the play, Taylor points out that one of her biggest challenges related to the development of this production is fitting an entire existence with so many details into a tightly focused narrative, where discovering a main focus is important to fit into their chosen time-span of 75 minutes.

 

“Developing a play takes a lot of time.  Most plays take years to realize before going into performance, so this process feels truncated in that regard,” Taylor explains overcoming the challenges, “Aphra Behn lived such an interesting life, so it has been challenging trying to edit and discover how to focus the story.”

 

Of course, there is no play without actors, and this one is cast with undergrad and MFA acting students. Third-year MFA student Leslie Valdez is playing the role of Behn, and others include Susan Swavely, Reilly Lucas, Sean Ardo, Luliia Khamidullina, William Hollerung and Full Circles Production member, Katrina Blanding.

 

While getting all these elements together was challenging, it was worth it for Hale and Taylor. One of the most important parts of this play for the women is that it is particularly relevant to today’s culture. As Hale states, “[Behn] was a fascinating woman 100 years ahead of her time, and we should all know who she was and what she’s done for us”

 

For Taylor, it is their “aim for audiences to witness ‘flashes’ of events in Aphra Behn’s life and understand her in a new way.  She was fighting the same battles that women are fighting today,” she continues to passionately describe the importance of the show, “we hope that it will ignite a feminist fire in both women and men, and that it will inspire us all to uncover more women’s stories that have been shrouded by history.”

 

In the end, with a ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ theme, Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman is essential to our culture.  It is important to the voices that today’s feminism have created for each of us individually.

 

“I want us to leave the theater with more questions than answers,” Hale states on the end desire of her Aphra Behn series, “It’s funny.  It’s sexy.  It means something.”

 

Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. premiered on April 13th at Harbison Theater.

Following the premiere, you can then view the play at Uof SC’s Center for Performance Experiment every night at 8:00 p.m. from the 21st – 28th of April. Tickets are only $10 and are available at www.theatre.sc.edu.

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

 

 

Columbia Museum of Art Curator Will South Reflects on the Loss and Future of Art

We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

-Will South

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

The young artist Will South on the bank of the Seine

Art is not forever. Paper fades to yellow then brown and turns to dust. Rust never sleeps, and corrodes sculpture. Canvas and panels swell and shrink, paint cracks and falls away. Objects are stolen, bombed, and buried beneath the ocean.

And then there is fire, the universally feared and ever-present threat to the survival of objects. Buildings can and do burn to the ground, and all that is inside may be destroyed completely. The number of paintings, drawings, books, furnishings, inventions and—most importantly—people that have perished in flames is incalculable.

The burning of Notre Dame in Paris is the latest, and one of the greatest, reminders of the fragility of all things. Even the largest, most impressive monuments need protection. We made them, and it is we who must preserve them. Or, in extreme cases, remake them.

The burning of Notre Dame raises other issues injurious to our global cultural life. In the wake of the fire, some have mourned “the loss of a thousand years of history.” Not so. We know as much today about the history of Notre Dame as we did before the fire. History is judgement, and is made by people—it answers the question: how did we get from A to B? Those judgments are with us (and subject to ongoing revision). Many have already declared that Notre Dame “witnessed so many seminal events” and observed such historical luminaries as Napoleon and Joan of Arc. Actually, the stone and glass that made Notre Dame witnessed nothing. Our tendency to anthropomorphize everything on earth only serves to keep us thinking that everything is about us. Notre Dame is an object, not a living thing.

Why is it so special then? Because not all objects are equal. Size varies, weight varies, colors, texture and so on. When something is made, it functions (most often) to serve a purpose: we use forks to eat, shoes to protect our feet, bowling balls to entertain. A massive Gothic cathedral such as Notre Dame was made to express in a grand holistic manner the faith and world-view of a civilization. Arguably, this was a more ambitious purpose, if less perfunctory.

Study a fork, and you quickly get the point: it’s necessary to eat and a fork helps. Shoes, however fetishized in the modern world, help us navigate the environment by preventing cuts and blisters. Bowling balls are part of a very broad narrative of how important it is to have leisure time—play is not frivolous. It is part of forming a balanced personality.

Now, study Notre Dame, and the entirety of a complex belief system unfolds, as does the economic and social fabric of Europe in the Middle Ages. For Notre Dame to have been built eight hundred years ago remains an astonishing feat—what social force could have been so powerful as to propel its construction?

One answer that must be considered is status. Whichever city had the largest cathedral could claim preeminence. This status would attract kings and pilgrims alike, driving the local economy and serving to consolidate the power of that city. To build the tallest cathedral (one sign of its superiority) was no small task, it required all available resources and over one hundred years to build. Cities competed for this status, as they do today.

And, study of Notre Dame inevitably leads to the centrality of faith in human history. Status exists across the animal kingdom, thus the top dog and the queen bee. But it is the human species that has experienced a profound and relentless belief in a non-material world beyond the one we directly encounter each day. Faith, perhaps more so than status or economics, has driven creativity to its most glorious heights, whether in the Sistine Chapel, the Taj Mahal, or in Milton’s Paradise Lost. To understand ourselves as a species, we need to access the most complete expressions of our desires. Which are not forks, shoes or, however useful, bowling balls.

We need Notre Dame. Though it is an object, it is one that arose from magnificent forces, and one that can be a factor in transformative experiences. Meaning, an individual standing inside that incredible architecture may experience the most exalted of human ambitions, as opposed to the most ordinary. It is in us to feel that magnificence, that exaltation. Notre Dame, a work of art as well as a house of worship, enables those precious experiences, whatever one’s beliefs.

Notre Dame can be rebuilt, and must be. Not to preserve history, that is not its function. Nor to be an ongoing witness, that’s a physical impossibility. We need to experience it. That experience—to see and smell and hear an object designed and built to touch the miraculous—can become part of us.

In a world of endless needs, where children starve and veterans go homeless, perhaps this year we can stretch just a little bit more and contribute to the rebuilding of one of our priceless treasures, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a testament to our search for the transcendent. — Will South

How to Help —

 Please visit the Friends of the Notre Dame de Paris to make a financial donation.

http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/friends/donate/

Visit Jasper’s specially created Facebook “event” to share your own thoughts about the Notre Dame fire and preserving/protecting/rebuilding the places that create our cultural landscape — at https://www.facebook.com/events/2071745049605312/

Jasper Project Announces Names of Women Honored for the Supper Table's Array of Remarkable SC Women

Become a part of the Jasper Project’s most ambitious multi-disciplinary project thus far in one of two ways:

Women and girls are invited to join Jasper on one of six occasions to paint tiles honoring an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Support the Supper Table by sponsoring a tile ($100), educational panel ($300), place-setting ($1000), or table segment ($3000)

(see below)

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The Supper Table – An Array of Remarkable SC Women, Categorized by Contribution

 

Activists & Politicians

These women spent/have spent their lives fiercely advocating for what they believe in either through the work they do or by working in government positions.

 

  • Bambie Gaddist, M.D. (September 21, 1955 – present) HIV/AIDS activist; Executive Director of The South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council.

  • Bernice Robinson (February 7, 1914 – September 3, 1994) activist in the Civil Rights Movement and education proponent who helped establish adult Citizenship Schools in South Carolina; first African American woman to run for a political office in the state.

  • Candy Waites (February 21, 1943 – present) former president of the League of Women Voters of Columbia; served on Richland County Council for twelve years; former State Representative for House District 75 

  • Elizabeth Hawley Gasque Van Exern (February 26, 1186 – November 2, 1989) Congresswoman elected into the House of Representatives on September 13, 1938; first woman elected into Congress for the state of South Carolina.

  • Gertrude Sanford Legendre (March 29, 1902 – March 8, 2000) American socialite who served with the American spy agency, Office of Strategic Services, during WWII; owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina; known as a noted explorer, big-game hunter and environmentalist.

  • Gilda Cobb-Hunter (November 5, 1952 – present) Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 66 in Orangeburg County; first African American woman to be elected into the State House for this county.

  • Harriet Hancock (Unknown) Co-founder of the South Carolina Pride Movement and longtime activist. The Harriet Hancock LGBT Center is named after her, offering a supportive meeting space for those of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Harriet Keyserling (Unknown – December 10, 2010) First woman to represent Beaufort in the South Carolina Legislature; an advocate for Women’s rights who advocated for the arts and environment.

  • Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 – June 4, 2008) Disability rights activist who was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease; American author and attorney who was named Person of the Year by New Mobility.

  •  Irene Dillard Elliott (August 7, 1892 – April 5, 1978) The first Dean of Women at the University of South Carolina; involved in many civic, educational and cultural organizations.

  •  Jane Edna Harris Hunter (December 13, 1882 – January 13, 1971) African American social worker and founder of the Phillis Wheatley Association of Cleveland, formally known as the Working Girls Association.

  •  Janie Glymph Goree (Unknown – January 2009) Political activist who was elected the first African American female Mayor in South Carolina.

  • Jean Toal (August 11, 1943 – present) First woman and Roman Catholic to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

  • Keller Barron (Unknown – present) Actively involved in the League of Women Voters where she has served as local and state League president, Barron advocates women’s rights, voters’ rights, improved race relations and education reform.

  • Linda Ketner (May 12, 1950 – present) philanthropist who was a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s 1st congressional districts; activist for the LGBTQ community, women, and affordable housing.

  • Malissa Burnette (Unknown – present) Certified specialist in employment law; has a history of fighting for cases that involve discrimination, civil and constitutional rights, sexual harassment, breach of contract, non-compete agreements, wage claims, and academic tenure and promotions issues.

  • Marian Wright Edelman (June 6, 1939 – present) President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; activist for children’s rights.

  • Marjorie Hammock (January 24, 1936 – Present) Licensed clinical social worker in Columbia, South Carolina; former President of both the SC Chapter NASW and the Columbia Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers; social justice advocate.

  • Nancy Barton (Unknown - present) Founder and Executive Director of Sistercare, an organization who provides services and advocates for domestic violence survivors and their children.

  • Nancy Stevenson (June 8, 1928 – May 31, 2001) American politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1979 – 1983; first woman to be elected to the South Carolina statewide office.

  • Nekki Shutt (Unknown – present) attorney and activist from Columbia, South Carolina; honored as Lawyer of the Year for 2019.

  • Nikki Haley (January 20, 1972 – present) The first female governor for South Carolina who went on to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations; governor who took down the Confederate Flag at the State House.

  • Reshma Kahn (Unknown – present) Founder and Executive Director of the Shifa Free Clinic; passionate about serving the uninsured at the same level of the insured.

  • Ruth Ann Butler (Unknown – present) Civil rights icon and founder of the Greenville Cultural Exchange; worked to preserve the history of African American stories. 

  • Sarah Mae Flemming (June 28, 1933 – June 16, 1993) African American woman expelled from a bus in Columbia, SC, for refusing to give her seat up, several months before Rosa Parks. Her lawsuit played a massive role in the Parks case months later.

  • Susan Dunn (Unknown – present) Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Carolina; a fierce advocate for the advancement of women in the practice of law.

  • Tamika Gadsden (Unknown – present) State leader of the South Carolina Chapter of the Women's March and longtime women’s rights advocate.

  • Tootsie Holland – (Unknown – Unknown) women’s rights activist; former Regional Director of NOW (National Organization of Women).

  • Vivian Anderson (Unknown – Present) Founder of Every Black Girl, an organization supporting justice for African American girls; recognized by Essence for being one of the 100 woke women of 2018.

 

Actors

These women were/are actors on either the stage or screen with many of them being recognized for their talent with nominations and awards.

  •  Andie McDowell (April 21, 1958 – present) Golden Globe nominated actor and model; known for roles in Groundhog Day, Green Card, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

  • Anna Camp (September 27, 1982 – present) actor, known for her roles in TV Series True Blood, Mad Men, and the Pitch Perfect movies.

  • Danielle Brooks (September 17, 1989 – Present) actor and singer; known for her role as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson on Orange Is the New Black; received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in the 2015 Broadway production of The Color Purple.

  • Lauren Hutton (November 17, 1943 – present) American actress and model who signed, at the time, the biggest contract in the history of the modeling industry with makeup brand Revlon (1973).

  • Mabel King (December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999) American film, stage and TV actress whose roles include Mabel “Mama” Thomas on the ABC hit show, What’s Happening!! and Evillene the Witch on the stage musical, The Wiz.

  • Mary Louise Parker (August 2, 1964 – present) American actor and writer who has received both a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award for roles that she has played; known for her roles in the TV series Weeds and the movie Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Monique Coleman (November 13, 1980 – present) Actor and producer who is known for her roles in the hit movie franchise, High School Musical.

  • Nina Mae McKinney (June 12, 1912 – May 3, 1967) American actor who got her start on Broadway; one of the first African American film stars in the United States.

  • Viola Davis (August 11, 1965 – Present) American actor and the first African American actor to have won an Academy Award, Emmy Award and Tony Award; known for her role on the show How to Get Away with Murder.

  • Virginia Capers (September 22, 1925 – May 6, 2004) Broadway and stage actor; won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her role in Raisin.

 

Artists

These women were/are artists of any medium or contributed greatly to the arts in South Carolina.

 

  • Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (July 14, 1876 – February 3, 1958) watercolorist, painter, and printmaker; one of the leading figures of the Charleston Renaissance

  • Anita Pollitzer (October 31, 1894 – July 3, 1975) photographer, charcoal artist, and suffragette who was a member of the National Woman’s Party and was instrumental in the passage of the 19th amendment.

  • Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntington (March 10, 1876 – October 4, 1973) American sculptor who both created the first public monument by a woman in New York City and created the city’s first monument dedicated to a historical woman

  • Betsy Teter (unknown – present) co-founded the Hub City Writers Project in 1995, opened Hub City Bookshop; winner of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts

  • Elaine Nichols (Unknown – Present) Supervisory Curator of Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; curator of the Black Fashion Museum collection.

  • Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (December 21, 1883 – April 17, 1979) Known as the “best-known woman artist of South Carolina of the twentieth century,” Verner was an artist, author lecturer, and preservationist who was one leader of the Charleston Renaissance; helped found the Southern States Art League.

  • Gail M. Morrison – (Unknown - Present) educator and philanthropist; longtime patron of the arts in Columbia; her and her deceased husband were major benefactors of the Philharmonic, City Ballet, CMA and others; former director of the Commission on Higher Education

  • Georgette Seabrooke (August 2, 1916 – December 27, 2011) Best known for her mural, Recreation in Harlem, displayed at Harlem Hospital in New York City; South Carolina native known as a muralist, artist, illustrator, art therapist and non-profit chief executive and educator

  • Georgia Harris (July 29, 1905 - January 30, 1997) One of the Catawba tribe’s former master potters; award-winning nurse who received the National Heritage Fellowship Award.

  • Helen Hill (May 9, 1970 – January 4, 2007) American filmmaker, artist, writer and social activist; known as one of the most well-regarded experimental animators of her generation after the release of her final film, The Florestine Collection.

  • Kitty Black-Perkins (Unknown) Chief Designers of Fashions and Doll Concepts for Mattel’s Barbie, where her “Black Barbie” was the first doll of color to take the name Barbie (1979-1980).

  • Lily Strickland (January 28, 1884 – June 6, 1958) Composer, painter and writer who published 395 works including sacred music and children’s songs.

  • Mary Jackson (February 3, 1945 – Present) African American fiber artist who received the MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2008 for “pushing the tradition in stunning new directions” with her sweetgrass basket weaving.

  • Suzy McCormick Shealy (Unknown – present) American artist; was awarded the Order of the Palmetto in 2017; served on the Board of Trustees of the Walker Foundation at the School for the Deaf and Blind

 

Athletes

These women were not only athletes but often broke boundaries for women and people of color in their fields.

  •  Alice Coachman (November 9, 1923 – July 14, 2014) track and field athlete, first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal

  • Dawn Staley (May 4, 1970 – present) Hall of Fame basketball player and coach; three-time Olympic gold medalist

  • Jackie Frazier-Lyde (December 2, 1961 – present) American lawyer and former professional boxer; born the daughter of former Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier.

  • Katrina McClain Johnson (September 19, 1965 – present) Retired American basketball player who has played for many USA teams and three Olympic teams; inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

  • Louise Smith (July 31, 1916 – April 15, 2006) Known as the “first lady of racing,” Smith was a NASCAR racer who became the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

  • Lucille Ellerbe Godbold (May 31, 1900 – April 5, 1981) American athlete who competed in the 1922 Women’s World Games; the 1st woman in South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

  • Mamie Peanut Johnson (September 27, 1935 – December 18, 2017) Professional female baseball player who was the first female pitcher and one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues.

 Businesswomen & Executives

These women spent/have spent their lives either founding their own businesses or working their way to the top of their respective businesses, breaking the glass ceiling both gender and race wise.

  • Darla Moore (August 1, 1954 – present) investor and philanthropist; has been mentioned in Forbes Fortune, Working Woman, Worth, Wall Street Journal, and CNN; school of business at USC is named after her.

  • Debra L. Lee, Esq. (August 8, 1954 – present) businesswoman; currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET; named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment”

  • Kathy Riley (Unknown – present) Executive Director and Founder of the Columbia Women’s Shelter.

  • Kay Thigpen (Unknown – present) Co-founder and Managing Director of Columbia, South Carolina’s Trustus Theatre.

  • Laura Bragg (October 9, 1881 – May 16, 1978) First woman to run a publicly funded art museum, the Charleston Museum, in 1920. 

  • Marva Smalls (Unknown – Present) Entertainment executive; Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at Nickelodeon Networks.

  • Sylvia Woods (February 2, 1926 – July 19, 2012) American restaurateur who founded the restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem, New York City. She is known as the “Queen of Soul Food.”

  

Educators

These women spent/have spent their lives educating/mentoring groups &/or the community to better understand both the history and current societal structures of South Carolina.

  • Augusta Baker (April 1, 1911 – February 23, 1998) African-American librarian and storyteller, renowned for her contributions to children’s literature

  • Barbara Williams Jenkins (August 17, 1934 – present) educator who greatly contributed to the library profession on a local, regional and national level; first African American President of the South Carolina Library Association

  • Brooke Bauer (unknown – present) – first Catawba Indian to receive a PhD; professor of History at USC – Lancaster

  • Charlotta Spears Bass (February 14, 1874 - April 12, 1969) educator, newspaper publisher-editor, and civil rights activist; first African-American woman to own and operate a newspaper in the US; first African-American woman nominated for Vice President.

  • Cynthia Graham Hurd (Mid-1900s – June 17, 2015) librarian who fought for literacy for all; housing rights activist; victim of Charleston AME church shooting

  • Dr. Wil Lou Gray (August 29, 1883 – March 10, 1984) Influential educator focusing on adult literacy who was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame; only female of 34 nominations for the South Carolina Man of the Hall Century Award.

  • Lucy Hampton Bostick (November 6, 1898 – July 8, 1968) Devoted librarian and citizen who contributed to the development of the library system in Richland County & South Carolina; served as Secretary of the SC State Library Board for almost 40 years.

  • Martha Schofield (1839 – 1916) Abolitionist and Educator who opened Scofield’s School in 1870 in an effort to teach her students to become “themselves” while still teaching them basic skills such as reading, writing and math. 

  • Millicent Brown (Unknown – present) Claflin professor; one of the first African American children to integrate South Carolina schools with the case Millicent Brown vs. SC School District 20 (1963).

  • Rev. Sharonda Coleman- Singleton (Unknown – June 17, 2015) Speech-language pathologist for Goose Creek High; track and field coach who brought many athletes to the state tournament; victim of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston who is honored by many.

  • Victoria Eslinger (Unknown – Present) litigator; mentor at the USC School of Law; winner of the 2012 Bissell Award, 2009 Advocate of the Year, and a Compleat Lawyer Platinum Award.

 

Scientists & Medical Professionals

These women were/are scientists, astronauts, nurses, and doctors, who spent/have spent their lives saving the lives of others and making scientific breakthroughs.

 

  • Catherine Coleman (December 14, 1960 – present) –American chemist, former United States Air Force officer, and retired NASA astronaut

  • Hilla Sheriff (1903 – September 10, 1988) South Carolina physician who became one of the most respected medical officials during the twentieth century; held positions such as Health Officer in Spartanburg County and the Director of the Board of Health’s Division of Maternal and Child Health in Columbia.

  • Juanita Redmond Hipps (July 1, 1912 – February 25, 1979) Known as one of the Angels of Bataan during the early months of war; a nurse for the United States Army Nurse Corps and the author of bestselling book, I Served on Bataan, which spoke on her experiences in the Philippines.

  • Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris (Unknown – present) Commissioned in the New York Air National Guard in April 1963; held the positions of chief nurse, nurse administrator, flight nurse instructor and flight nurse examiner; first female in history to have a Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Chapter named in her honor

  • Maude Callen (November 8, 1898 – January 23, 1990) Nurse and midwife whose work was brought to national attention through the photo, “Nurse Midwife,” by W. Eugene Smith when it was published in Life in 1951.

 

Singers & Performers

These women were/are singers, dancers, models, or other performers who either helped the state in some way or represented SC as they performed around the world.

 

  • Ann Brodie (December 13, 1929 – March 9, 1999) internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer; founding director of Columbia City Ballet.

  • Bertha “Chippie” Hill (March 15, 1905 – May 7, 1950) blues and vaudeville performer who recorded with Louis Armstrong

  • Dorae Saunders (unknown – present) transgender woman of color from Columbia who was a finalist on season 3 of America’s Got Talent

  • Etta Jones (November 25, 1928 – October 16, 2001) American Jazz singer who received three Grammy nominations for her albums Don’t Go to Strangers, Save Your Love for Me, and My Buddy. Her album, Don’t Go to Strangers, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

  • Gwendolyn Bradley (Unknown – Present) American soprano born in Bishopville, South Carolina, who has performed on both opera and concert stages around the world.

  • Linda Martell (June 4, 1941 – present) Country and blues singer who was the first African American Woman to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Mariclare Miranda (Unknown – present) Prima ballerina for Columbia City Ballet since 1997; founder and principal instructor of the Columbia Conservatory of Dance.

  • Marlena Smalls (Unknown) Gospel Singer known for forming the Hallelujah Singers in 1990 in hopes to promote the Gullah heritage.

  • Maxine Brown (August 18, 1939 – present) American soul singer whose track “We’ll Cry Together” reached #10 in the Billboard R&B chart.

  • Melanie Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) American pop singer who was the lead singer of the band La Bouche from 1994-2001.

  • Ophelia Devore-Mitchell (August 12, 1921 – February 28, 2014) First African American model in the United States; helped establish the Grace Del Marco Agency, one of the first modeling agencies in America.

  • Sarah Reese – (Unknown - Present) instructor and opera singer who has traveled and performed throughout the world; praised by a plethora of sources such as The New York Times; won on the “Ted Mack” show.

 

Writers

These women are poets, novelists, essayists, journalists, playwrights, and more who were often inspired by their own lives in the works they wrote and frequently used their written works as a form of activism.

 

  • Annie Greene Nelson (December 5, 1902 – December 23, 1993) novelist and playwright; first African American woman from South Carolina to publish a novel

  • Betsy Cromer Byars (August 7, 1928 – present) author of children's books; won a Newbery Medal, a National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and an Edgar Award 

  • Beryl Dakers (Mid-1900s – present) Emmy nominated broadcast journalist; first black person on air reporting news for WIS radio; worked for ETV.

  • Blanche McCrary Boyd (1945 – present) novelist, essayist, and screenwriter; feminist & LGBTQ+ advocate  

  • Carrie Allen McCray (October 4, 1913 – July 25, 2008) novelist and poet;
    one of the founders and first board members of the South Carolina Writers Workshop

  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault (February 27, 1942 – present) journalist; former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio; Civil Rights Activist

  • Dori Sanders (June 8, 1934 – present) African-American novelist, food writer and farmer; winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award

  • Dorothy Allison (April 11, 1949 – present) best-selling author; nominated for the 1992 National Book Award for her novel Bastard Out of Carolina

  • Dot Jackson (August 10, 1932 – December 11, 2016) Novelist and longtime journalist for the Charlotte Observer.

  • Elizabeth Allston Pringle (May 29, 1845 – December 5, 1921) Female rice-plantation owner; author of the best-selling novel A Woman Rice Planter; wrote about her childhood and women during the Civil War.

  • Elizabeth Boatwright Coker (April 21, 1909 – September 1, 1993) Author of nine novels with plots revolving around the legends and family histories of South Carolina; inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1992 for her impact on South Carolina and American culture and history.

  • Essie Mae Washington-Williams (October 12, 1925 - February 4, 2013) Daughter of former Governor of South Carolina, Strom Thurmond; a teacher, author and writer known for her pro-racial segregation policies.

  • Grace Lumpkin (March 3, 1891 – March 23, 1980) American writer of proletarian literature with much of her work focusing on the Depression Era. Her first book, To Make My Bread, won the Gorky Prize in 1933.

  • Gwen Bristow (September 16, 1903 – August 17, 1980) American Author and Journalist known for her best-selling western romance, Jubilee Trail; inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989.

  • Helen von Kolnitz Hyer (December 30, 1896 – November 14, 1983) American Poet named the second South Carolina Poet Laureate from 1974-1983 by Governor John C. West.

  • Josephine Humphries (February 2, 1945 – present) Author who wrote many novels inspired by the landscape of Charleston, SC, and her own life in the South; recipient of the 1984 Hemingway Foundation/PEN award.

  • Mary Boykin Chestnut (March 31, 1823 – November 22, 1886) American author; known for her book published as her Civil War diary, which outlines the society and its struggles throughout this time.

  • Mary C. Simms Oliphant (January 6, 1891 – July 27, 1988) South Carolina historian; updated the 1860 history of South Carolina textbook, which was adopted by the State Board of Education.

  • Nikky Finney (August 26, 1957 – present) American poet who advocates for social justice and cultural preservation; inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2013.

  • Peggy Parish (July 14, 1927 – November 19, 1988) American author known for her children’s book series; published over 30 books in her lifetime.

  • Sheila R. Morris (Unknown - Present) author and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights; wrote Southern Perspective of the Queer Movement, a collection of the true stories of LGBTQ+ individuals in South Carolina. 

  • Sue Monk Kidd (August 12, 1948 – Present) American author whose work has debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List; best known for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which was turned into a fairly well-critiqued movie.

  • Vera Gomez (Unknown – present) Greenville based poet; founding member of the first Greenville Poetry Slam team that won the 1998 Southeast Regionals, bringing the first, all-women team to Nationals.

  • Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor (April 4, 1937 – September 3, 2016) Culinary anthropologist, food writer, and broadcaster on public media; produced two award-winning documentaries.

  • Virginia Mixson Geraty (1915 - 2004) American Author who published books in the Gullah Language; Gullah Scholar and defender of the language.

 

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

Participating Artists include:

Bohumila Augustinova – Columbia Art Center, Anastasia and Friends

Eileen Blyth – www.eileenblyth.com

Tonya Gregg – www.tonyagregg.com

Mana Hewitt – www.manahewitt.com

B. A. Hohman – www.facebook.com/bahohman

Heidi Darr-Hope www.darr-hope.com

Lori Isom

Flavia Lovatelli – www.flavia-lovatelli.com

Laurie Brownell McIntosh – www.lauriemcintoshart.com

Michaela Pilar Brown – www.michaelapilarbrown.com 

Renee Roullier –www.reneerouillier.com

Olga Yukhno 310art.com/olga-yukhno

 

Literary Artists

Jennifer Bartell – poet and educator - https://jenniferbartellpoet.com/

Carla Damron – social worker and author of The Stone Necklace - http://carladamron.com/

Joyce Rose Harris – poet, The Watering Hole

Kristine Hartvigsen – editor, author of To the Wren Nesting

Meeghan Kane – founder, editor UnSweetened

Monifa Lemons – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Eva Moore – editor, Free Times

Marjory Wentworth – SC poet laureate

Qiana Whitted – USC professor of English and African Studies, author of Comics and the US South

Candace Wiley – poet, founder The Watering Hole

Christina Xan – poet, adjunct English professor, USC 

Claudia Smith Brinson – The State, Columbia College

 

Additional Artists

Kirkland Smith – portraitist

Jordan Morris – table artist

Betsy Newman –filmmaker advisor

Mahkia Greene – filmmaker coordinator

Vicky Saye Henderson – theatre artist coordinator

Lee Ann Kornegay – long-form and short-form filmmaker

Brenda Oliver – ceramicist

Diane Hare  - ceramics assistant

Kathryn Van Aernum – photographer/graphic artist

Cindi Boiter – project director/editor

Christina Xan- assistant project director

Filmmakers (4/15/19)

Betsy Newman, Lee Ann Kornegay, Laura Kissel, Roni Nicole, Ebony Wilson, Tamara Finkbeiner, Josetra Robinson, Katly Hong

Public Invited to Participate in Supper Table Tile Painting for an Array of Remarkable SC Women

Supper Table 1x.png

The Jasper Project presents

An Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women – an ancillary project of The Supper Table

When Judy Chicago created her monumental 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party, the artist knew she wanted to highlight the accomplishments of more than just the 39 women who have place-settings at the table. So Chicago created the Heritage Floor upon which the names of 999 women were written on more than 2000 tiles.

The Jasper Project’s Supper Table* takes further inspiration from Chicago’s installation with an ancillary project called an Array of Remarkable South Carolina Women, consisting of 120 ceramic tiles, each embossed with the name of an exceptional SC woman, embellished and signed by a woman from the Midlands community, and set into wall-like panels for display.

You are invited to embellish one of these tiles, each of which honors a SC woman, living or deceased, whose life’s work has improved or continues to improve humankind. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. All you need to do is sign up for one of the designated time slots, go to the Columbia Arts Center at 1227 Taylor Street, choose your subject and then paint and sign your tile. Your name will be recorded in our commemorative book, alongside the bio of the woman whose tile you paint, and you will be invited to an opening reception for the tiles later this summer.

Times to paint:

·        Wednesday, April 17, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, April 24, 3 – 5 pm

·        Tuesday, April 30, 6 – 8 pm

·        Wednesday, May 1, 3 – 5 pm

·        Wednesday, May 8, 3 – 5 pm

·        Saturday, May 11, 1 – 3 pm

*The Supper Table is the Jasper Project’s most ambitious project to date! A SC-centric homage to the 40th anniversary of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the Supper Table honors 12 women from SC history who devoted their lives to breaking barriers and improving humankind including Mary McLeod Bethune, Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Mathilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, Eliza Pinckney, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, and Sarah Leverette.

Deckle Edge Literary Festival Announces Dorothy Allison as Keynote Speaker

Dorothy Allison.jpg

In its 4th year as the grass roots answer to the SC Book Festival, Deckle Edge Literary Festival announces South Carolina author Dorothy Allison as the keynote speaker for the 2019 festival and the recipient of the second annual Deckle Edge Literary Festival Southern Truth Award. Allison will speak at the Booker T. Washington auditorium at the University of South Carolina on Friday, March 22nd at 7 pm in an engagement sponsored by the USC Women’s and Gender Studies Program. On Saturday, March 23rd at 10 am, Allison will address the Deckle Edge Literary Festival in a conversation with Bren McClain, author of One Good Momma Bone (2017, USC Press) at the Richland Library on Assembly Street in downtown Columbia, SC.

Allison is the author of Trash (1988), a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, the multi-award winning Bastard Out of Carolina (1992), Cavedweller (1998), which became a New York Times bestseller, and more. She has written for the Village Voice, Conditions, and New York Native and won several Lambda Awards. Bastard Out of Carolina was a finalist for the National Book Award, the winner of the Ferro Grumley Prize, was translated into more than a dozen languages and became a bestseller and award winning film directed by Anjelica Huston. Allison is a recent inductee into the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

A native of Greenville, SC, Allison’s writings frequently reference the class struggles and social alienation she experienced as a child growing up gay, impoverished, and the first child of a 15-year-old unwed mother in the conservative SC upstate. Bastard Out of Carolina also details the sexual abuse she endured throughout childhood at the hands of her step-father. The New York Times Book Review calls the book, “As close to flawless as a reader could ask for.”

Allison will be awarded the Deckle Edge Literary Festival Southern Truth Award on Friday evening, March 22nd. The Southern Truth award, whose first recipient in 2018 was Nikky Finny, is awarded to a Southern author whose body of work exemplifies the complexity of the South’s history, celebrates the gifts of the South’s diverse peoples, and enhances the narrative of the South by focusing on the progress we make and the continued work before us.

The 2019 Deckle Edge Literary Festival includes an exciting roster of authors, panels, and interviews including, among others, printmaker Boyd Sauders; Chieftess Queen Quet who is an elder of the Gullah/Geechee Nation; Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Kathleen Parker and more.

For more information please visit www.DeckleEdgeSC.org

 

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REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's Cost Of Living is An Acting Tour-De-Force With Diverse And Talented Cast

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

Pictured Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Bauer Wesetren - photo courtesy of Trustus Theatre

In his pre-show welcoming speech, Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson, spoke briefly about a few of the production requirements listed in the contract for playwright Martnya Majok’s Cost Of Living. According to Henderson, the script and stage directions strongly suggest that actors with disabilities are to be cast in the roles of Jon (Bauer Westeren) and Ani (Kathy LaLima.) Trustus’ professional commitment to inclusivity is well-known, as is their mission to tackle new and innovative work, which made theirs the perfect stage upon which to present this 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In their bios, both Westeren and LaLima mention life with spina bifida and Multiple Sclerosis, respectively, and each expresses gratitude for the opportunity to perform onstage. Cost Of Living shows that the footlights are meant to shine on both of them, and will hopefully encourage more performers who, for whatever reason, think full-length shows are “not for them” to re-think that notion.

Director Paul Kaufmann delivers his traditional textured and subtly reinforced thematic consistency and “world-creating” to the production, with a solid eye for casting. The script involves two pairs of people, each pair in a unique relationship, with sufficient parallels to the companion story to allow them to come together at the end without seeming forced. There’s no deus ex machina involved, although one is gently teased before being revealed as a false hope

The two stories are straightforward and relatively simple in terms of plot, and are told through alternating scenes with only one or two jumps in time. We first meet Eddie (Eric Bultman), sitting alone in a bar. The first scene is an extended monologue, casting the audience member in the role of the sympathetic listener. In a riveting spotlight moment, Bultman immediately spellbinds the room with a tale of tragedy and hope. His sincerity never falters, whether he’s on the verge of tears or cracking up at one of his many one-liners, including “the shit that happens is not to be understood…that’s in the Bible.” This Biblical reference is explained through the mention of the many lonely nights Eddie has spent on the road as a long-distance truck driver. “Motels give you certain feelings,” Eddie muses, “and that’s why they’re all full of Bibles.” Though he’s often been tempted, Eddie has remained (mostly) faithful to his wife, who we now assume to be deceased. After a slightly cryptic discussion of said wife, Eddie reveals that he no longer consumes alcohol, having overcome a drinking problem, yet offers to buy his unseen companion a drink every time he “gets gloomy.” These moments of abrupt transition between contemplative malaise and forced jocularity give Bultman the chance to display his acting skills as well as an impressive storyteller’s ability to mesmerize the listener. Rich and full of character, his speaking voice does the heavy lifting in the opener, setting a tone that sustains through his work opposite his scene partners. (To avoid bouncing between the two plotlines, I’ll tell the stories in linear fashion.)

Following a mention of how his wife used to text him little notes every day, Eddie reveals that he has been recently receiving new daily texts, which obviously leaves him a bit confused. These mystery messages have drawn him to the bar, where he is awaiting his new correspondent, who fails to show. In a moment both hilarious and heartbreaking, Eddie asks the audience if “a ghost ever stood you up?”

In what we assume to be a flashback sequence, Eddie gets his wife, Ani, settled into an accessible apartment, and we find that their relationship is on the skids. Having shattered her spine in a car crash, Ani is full of rage and resentment toward Eddie, with substantial justification. (As always, I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum.) LaLima’s Ani may be unable to move most of her body, but she has lost none of what we can assume to have been a long-established spitfire personality full of wit and no-nonsense realism. As with Bultman’s bar scene, LaLima’s reaction to the new normal of her life takes her from depression to hilarity to arch sarcasm, always with a metaphorical (and occasionally literal) arched eyebrow. Eddie wishes to comfort her, subsequently offering to act as her caretaker. Though estranged, they are still technically married for insurance purposes, and Eddie reasons that he is the obvious person for the job. She finally consents, and the unspoken between them shouts volumes, allowing plot points to reveal themselves in their own good time. LaLima is both wounded and defiant, subtly driving home the fact that people with disabilities are far from helpless. In one of the show’s most touching scenes, she shares a cigarette with Eddie while he helps her take a bath. The very basics of human touch and the emotions it can evoke are beautifully illustrated with minimal dialogue. Any given moment of the production could have left a few audience members in tears, but this particular one, I suspect, had the entire space softly crying as a single unit. Not to be overly flowery, but in that few minutes, we in the seats experienced a collective emotional response. Joy, grief, and hope are component parts, but I’m not sure there is a single word to define the specific feeling we shared. Kudos to LaLima and Bultman for a story well-told, and for a scene of absolute magic.

In the other story, wealthy and cynical John is introduced as he interviews his potential new caretaker, Jess (Ellen Rodillo-Fowler.) Erudite and sophisticated, John is puzzled as to why a tough-talking, streetwise bartender with a degree from Princeton wants such a physically demanding and time-consuming job. Jess is visibly nervous, and Rodillo-Fowler adds several layers of discomfort which deftly inform the audience that she is a woman with secrets to keep and a desperate need for extra income. John is sardonic and somewhat suspicious, but eventually agrees to give Jess a chance. In a scene involving John’s first bath from Jess, Westeren and Rodillo-Fowler offer an alternate set of circumstances to the Eddie/Ani bathtub scene, playing Jess’ uncertainty with the situation and John’s dry responses for some well-timed comic relief. Each scene establishes a new intimacy between caregiver and caretaker, and begin to inspire introspection as to which character is in the power position at any given point. Rodillo-Fowler is well-known to Trustus audiences as a versatile and talented performer, and first-timer Westeren has no apparent difficulty in matching her dramatic and comedic capacities. Clearly at ease onstage and gifted with a stinging sense of delivery reminiscent of Hugh Laurie’s House, I hope and expect to see much more of Westeren in upcoming seasons at Trustus and elsewhere.

By the story’s end, each pair has suffered ups and downs, moments of closeness, a scene of great danger, and one so full of simultaneous sadness and happy anticipation it drew audible gasps at Saturday night’s performance. (Not going to spoil the surprise, but in a superb second-act twist, a misunderstanding leads to one hell of a reveal.)

Brandon McIver’s scenic design and projections are understated and functional, allowing for smooth transitions and more than one multi-use section of playing space. We know exactly where we are at all times, but the design never gets in the way of the story. Frank Kiraly’s lighting design works quite well alongside the set, sometimes using what appears to be but a single instrument to create a locale. One moment that particularly stands out is Rodillo-Fowler’s anxiety-filled phone call to her mother, who lives in the Philippines. (A special nod to Rodillo-Fowler’s ability to convey every emotion and meaning in Jess’ monologue, spoken entirely in Tagalog.) Kiraly has given her the simplest of top-lit streetlight motifs, and the effect is a keen visual representation of the isolation Jess feels. Sound Designer Patrick Michael Kelly embraces the subtlety of running/dripping water as a connecting concept, and allows it to reinforce the overall piece without ever intruding on the point of focus.

Cost Of Living continues its run Thursday through Saturday, with two performances on Saturday, and the show is selling out quickly. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience this timely, contemplative, laugh riot/heartbreaker of an evening in the Trustus Side Door Theatre.


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

 

 

JAY Music Finalist Marina Alexandra hosts Southern Guitar Festival Competition

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Guitar Gala is an elegant evening that will feature wine tasting, delicious dining from Dupre Catering, comedy and superb performances by such popular musicians as  Ukrainian-born guitarist,  Marina Alexandra, Charleston based guitarist, Chris Teves, Tony Lee (drums),  nationally recognized soprano, Janet Hopkins, and award winning actress Martha Hearn Kelly from Trustus theater.

Janet Hopkins

Janet Hopkins

Renowned dramatic mezzo-soprano Janet Hopkins, a 16 year veteran of the New York Metropolitan Opera, continues to thrill audiences on her concert tour of symphonic stages across America. Recent performances include The Defiant Requiem (Verdi Requiem) at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC,  El Amor Brujo (South Carolina Philharmonic), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Bowling Green Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky) and Alexander Nevsky (West Shore Symphony Orchestra, MI).

Known for her innovative style and approach to bringing classical music to broader audiences, Miss Hopkins won critical acclaim from the New York Times and USA Today for the limited edition ARIA. A first-of-its-kind music and fine wine project, ARIA is the marriage of a world class wine personally blended by Miss Hopkins with Tulip Hill Winery and her recording of well known classical Italian love songs at historic Capitol Records in Hollywood. The boxed set was an immediate mainstream hit.

Miss Hopkins made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1991 – 1992 seasons. Since then, opera lovers have appreciated her diverse repertoire on the world’s greatest stage.

She debuted at The Met in The Ghost of Versailles, and has since returned many times over the years, pleasing audiences in Die Walküre, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier, Katya Kabanova, Elektra, Jenufa, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, War and Peace, Les Mamelles de Tiresias, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Khovanschina, Doktor Faustus,The Makropulos Case, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Bartered Bride, and Parsifal. Miss Hopkins has toured Japan three times with The Met in Der Rosenkavalier, Die Walküre, and Rigoletto. While in Japan the mezzo-soprano sang a series of solo recitals in Tokyo, garnering much critical acclaim.

Away from touring and performing, Miss Hopkins enjoys her position as a member of the voice faculty at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

 

Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra has established herself as a dynamic performer with a powerful stage presence. Finger Style Guitar Magazine described her as an “amazing player that commands the guitar with world-class technique and musicianship that is uncommon.” Marina Alexandra was listed by the Aaron Shearer Foundation as one of the most influential female classical guitarist in America.

She has received awards in several guitar competitions including the Music Teachers National Association State and Regional Competitions and semifinalist in the 6th annual Edwin H. and Leigh W. Schadt National String Competition for classical guitar. Marina has a concert career spanning the last fifteen years, taking her to Piccolo Spoleto Festival, National Public Radio, Allentown Radio, and hundreds of venues including colleges, guitar festivals and museums throughout USA.  She has released three albums   including; Timeless Enchantment (Baroque, Classical, Modern, and Latin-American music) , A Moment of Magic (modern music by Russian composer, Nikita Koshkin) and Americas from North to South (flute and guitar music). Her albums received high praises from such prestigious music magazines as Soundboard, Classical Guitar (UK) and American Record Guide.

Marina Alexandra was born in the Ukraine, where she began her guitar studies at the age of six. In 1996 she immigrated with her family to the United States, and in 1998 she was awarded an assistantship to earn her Master of Music degree at the University of South Carolina.  She has served on the faculties of Furman University, University of South Carolina- Aiken, SC, Wingate University, and Columbia College.  Her students have been awarded scholarships to attend music schools such as the Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and University of Southern California.  Under Marina’s direction, many students have also received top prizes in national guitar competitions.

Marina performs regularly on stages throughout the southeast United States. In addition to her concert solo career, Marina Alexandra participates in the group Duo de Vista (with flutist Teri Forscher-Milter).

Marina is a major contributor to the guitar community on both the local and national levels. Mrs. Alexandra is the founding president of the Guitar Muse Society, which  hosts yearly concert and educational events in Columbia, SC.  Mrs. Alexandra is also the artistic and executive director of the Southern Guitar Festival and Competition, which attracts participants from all over the US and abroad. Mrs. Alexandra plays a major role in advocating for the arts, she was invited to be on the planning committee for Midlands Art Conservatory (SC) as well as grant approval  committee for the  South Arts non-profit organization, that represents nine Southeastern states.

REVIEW: Workshop’s Jake’s Women an overlooked gem in Neil Simon’s Oeuvre

 

“He said, I got tongue-tied by a teacher in Tallahassee

I got french-fried by a waitress in Idaho

I got way-laid by a widow in Wyoming

Oh Lord, he said, women gonna be the death of me but what a way to go.”

Dr. Hook – “What A Way To Go”

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by Frank Thompson

Hello, friends! Happy to be back in the saddle, following a nasty couple of weeks under the weather. (Drink your juice, get a flu shot, and dress warmly!) My first review of 2019 requires that I play “Full Disclosure” (see The Addams Family: The Musical for the reference.) I am a frequent director with Workshop Theatre, and serve as Vice-President of the Board of Trustees. I do my best to remain completely objective, but feel it only ethical to establish the relationship up-front. That said, let’s talk about the show.

Jake’s Women, the first official production in Workshop’s new “home” at Columbia College’s Cottingham Theatre kicks off a new era, a new venue, and a new optimism for all involved. Last season saw “guest appearances” at Cottingham, with a show-by-show arrangement. Without revealing anything classified, I can say that Workshop and Cottingham have come to a more substantial relationship. With a full-sized, legitimate theatre space, and the amenities and advantages that come with it, Workshop is poised to re-establish its position as one of Columbia’s premiere performing houses.  I say this in my capacity as a critic, not as Workshop “family,” but the venerable theatre group seems strongly poised to re-capture the glory days of Bull Street. Special props to Executive Director, Jeni Decamp McCaughn, for steering the ship through a few stormy years, yet holding a steady hand at the helm, with husband Dean McCaughan dedicating countless hours to helping his wife weather the storm, and a mostly-volunteer staff and crew devoting their talents to resurrect Workshop’s past identity. We’re straying into promotional territory, so I will shift my focus to the show, not the organization.

“With a full-sized, legitimate theatre space, and the amenities and advantages that come with it, Workshop is poised to re-establish its position as one of Columbia’s premiere performing houses.”

Jake’s Women tells the story of a widowed and remarried man, Jake, who is struggling with the devastating loss of a beloved spouse, attempting to re-build his life by dating and falling in love with Maggie, his second wife. Maggie is loving, pretty, and embrace’s Jake’s daughter with sincere affection. Throughout the performance, the all-female cast (minus Jake) remain far upstage, watching, ignoring, and occasionally reacting to his experiences. While hilarious, Jake’s Women jumps between reality, (possible) dreams, and manages to work in a couple of tear-jerking moments internal to the hilarity. The plot is somewhat meta-on-meta, and it takes a few minutes to understand the structure and symbolism of the ever-present women in his literal and figurative background.

Another confession: I am not a huge Neil Simon fan, with the exceptions of Barefoot In The Park and Murder By Death, a mid-70s TV film that BEGS for a stage adaptation. Director David Britt is, however, a Simon aficionado, and his love of the material shines through in every scene.

Without dropping spoilers, I can say that Jake encounters various women in his life, including his daughter, his shrink, his deceased ex-wife, and his potential new wife, should he and Maggie divorce. Through a series of flashbacks, we meet ex-wife Julie, who hasn’t let death remove her from the realm of the living.

If this sounds Quentin Tarantino-esque, that’s because it is. Realities and perspective frequently swap places, and, (again, no spoilers) and it takes a few minutes to understand the conceit. For anyone who knows Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Simon’s Jake’s Women provides a similar feeling of “eureka!” when the structure becomes obvious. Trust me, you’ll have a difficult time not shouting “ah-ha!” when things become clear.

“If this sounds Quentin Tarantino-esque, that’s because it is.”


Re the cast, Director Britt has assembled an A-plus group of performers. In the eponymous role, and as the sole male perspective, newcomer Damian Garrod displays a level of skill that will likely place him at the forefront of casting calls, should he continue in the Columbia theatre community. Jake is clueless and mildly chauvinist, but tries to be a genuinely nice guy, and Garrod nails the role. In my notes, I wrote “Young George Clooney,” “Jimmy Stewart,” “Joey Tribbiani,” (Friends) “Charlie Brown,” and “Mark Hamill in Star Wars.” Garrod channels these, and other actors/characters with seeming effortlessness , never allowing himself to slide into caricature, or shatter the illusion of his own interpretation of the world surrounding him.

As Maggie, Jake’s second wife, Lou Boeschen shines while demonstrating dramatic acting skills that I had never before seen, knowing Lou from “big, happy, musicals.” While she is certainly adept at roles in shows such as Anything Goes and The Marvelous Wonderettes, she also has the chops to believably portray a hopeful but world-weary Maggie. I was quite impressed with this new discovery from someone whose musical talent I have always admired.

The rest of the cast is uniformly strong, featuring Dee Renko as Jake’s funky-meets-hip sister, Karen, who truly wants the best for her brother. H. Loretta Brown provides a sympathetic gravitas as psychiatrist Edith, while Riley Campbell and Raelyn O’Briant share the role of Jake’s daughter, Molly, with Campbell taking the role as a young girl, and O’Briant picking up as the older Molly. As the deceased Julie, Jennifer Lucas O’Briant straddles the line between dream/hallucination and corporeal presence. Rounding out the cast is Melissa Frierson as Sheila, the new girlfriend we meet in act two. Each of the above presents a fully-developed, serious, yet entertaining character in Jake’s life. There’s not a weak link in this ensemble cast, which makes it a pleasure to enjoy.

The set, designed by director Britt, is minimalist without seeming skimpy, and fits the shifting times, perspectives, and realities of the story. Alexis Doktor’s Costume Design perfectly fits both the characters and period. Stage Manager Caleb Carson does an excellent job of keeping the show moving. Though Jake’s Women is almost two hours long, counting the interval, I was shocked when each act ended. Britt has clearly emphasized pace, which is always a good idea with Neil Simon. Dean McCaughan, as always, runs a tight sound/light board, and Columbia College’s Patrick Faulds delivers an effective and creative lighting design, which moves the show along while enhancing specific moments.

Jake’s Women is not the most well-known of Simon’s work, but it is one of the most engaging and entertaining shows I’ve seen in some time. The entire cast is onstage for the full evening, with the actors playing semi-detatched, yet still-aware figures in Jake’s psyche.

As for the drawbacks, they are few. A couple of actors need to project more, which shouldn’t  be difficult, and (as much as I love minimalism,) I’m ready to see the newly–rebranded Workshop bring us a fully-realized set. The script, while clever and enjoyable, is benignly surreal. Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction will enjoy a Tarantino-esque gradual reveal, which lets us know that various time periods and flashback sequences prevent approaching the work as a linear timeline. It takes a few moments to catch onto the conceit. If you’re confused at first, just give it a few minutes.

Jake’s Women is a bit of a mind-bender, and (quite honestly) not quite up there with Simon’s absolute best, but it’s a charming, enjoyable show, performed by a talented cast. There are, as the saying goes, worse ways to spend an evening. It didn’t change my life, but I laughed, I cried, and I had one hell of a good time. Jake’s Women runs Thursday-Sunday, so don’t miss your chance to see this hilarious, heart-warming, and occasionally tear-jerking “sleeper” show by the master of urban comedy.

On a final note, I couldn’t suppress a guffaw when the twenty-something “ghost” of Julie, misunderstanding the timeline, shouts at Jake with “EEEEW! You’re 48 and I SLEPT with you last night?”

I will be 49 in June. Ouch.

Make sure your weekend plans include Jake’s Women. It’s a lighthearted show that has moments of sincere pathos and seriousness, and a lesser-known work by a master of American comedy. You’ll be glad to have “discovered” it, and have a delightful time laughing at the mirror-image of life that Simon artfully crafts.

-FLT3

Jake’s Women continues its run Thursday-Sunday at Collingwood Theatre, Columbia College. Tickets can be reserved by ringing the Box Office on (803) 799. 6551, or by visiting WorkshopTheatre.com

New Beatles Ballet from Columbia City Ballet Means NEW Choreography, Music, and Dance Experience

by Hallie Hayes

Soloist Abby McDowell rehearses for Beatles - The Ballet (photo Ashley Concannon)

Soloist Abby McDowell rehearses for Beatles - The Ballet (photo Ashley Concannon)

In an original ballet conceived by Columbia City Ballet’s artistic director, William Starrett, one has the opportunity to relive, or to experience the ‘60s for the first time through the inspiration of one of the most famous bands of the century: The Beatles.

 

While the opportunity to experience the beautiful classics from Columbia City Ballet is often presented, Beatles The Ballet embraces a new experience, following The Beatles’ careers and impacting the audience through the social awareness that The Beatles presented decades ago.

 

The ballet features 40 classics from the band, all producing short form pieces which allows viewers to experience ballet and this prolific journey in a new way.  The Beatles create dialogue through their music- producing a cultural impact and still today, topics that they covered in the ‘60s make appearances in our conversations; this inspired Starrett.

 

Under the artistic direction of Starrett himself, 12 guest choreographers from all over the country have been brought in to help him with creating this production, including Sherry Horton, Carolina Lewis Jones, Racheal Leonard, James Atkinson and Jerry Opdenaker.   All 32 company members active with Columbia City Ballet will play a role in this production.  Starrett has also brought in two performers from Nashville, TN, who have toured internationally with a The Beatles impersonation group called Rain.

 

The Beatles, generations later, still play a substantial role on young listeners and Starrett acknowledges this, making this a show one for a wide-ranged audience.

 

The ‘60s loved The Beatles.  The ‘80s loved The Beatles.  Today, listeners love The Beatles.

 

In a recent interview with ABC News, Starrett explains the impact that putting the journey of this prolific band into a ballet can have: “Through the dance, the music can have more intensity and you can really see some of the lyrics.”

 

You’ve heard the lyrics.  You’ve sang the lyrics.  Come see the lyrics.  Come experience the lyrics.

 

Before the ballet, a ‘60s themed VIP reception will be held where Starrett will discuss the creation of the ballet.  Enjoy an open bar and travel back in time, as your best 60s attire is highly encouraged.

 

Beatles The Ballet will take place on Saturday, February 2nd at Kroger Center for the Arts with two performance: 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at www.krogercenterforthearts.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indie Grits Labs Offers Experienced Artists and Novices Alike a Chance to Explore a New Creative Medium

This Sunday, Indie Grits Labs (IGL) is offering a two-day workshop on creating your own zines, accurately called DIY Zine-Making.

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by Christina Xan

 

I was able to chat with Savannah Taylor, the Project Manager and Designer at Indie Grits Labs, who took the time to give me all the great details on the upcoming workshop. In addition to organizing this event, Taylor does the graphic design for the IGL festival & the Nick Mag, manages the social media, and makes sure things are running smoothly!

 

For those who don’t know, Indie Grits Labs is a non-profit organization directed by Seth Gadsen, that is dedicated to serving the Columbia community through media education, year around artist projects, and the Indie Grits festival. IGL is a part of the Columbia Film Society and a part of the same organization as the Nickelodeon Theatre.

 

“IGL’s main focus,” as Taylor said, “is on our education programs, festival happenings, and art projects year-round at our house at 1013 Duke Avenue.” Part of this focus is creating workshops, just like this one, that anyone and everyone can attend.

 

IGL facilitated a zine workshop last fall that was so successful, it prompted them to do it again this month. This year’s DIY Zine-Making is a two-day workshop that will take place on back to back Sundays: Sunday, February 3 and Sunday, February 10. Both workshops will be located at 1013 Duke Avenue from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

 

Taylor says that she and her partner, Irving Juarez, who is a local artist and designer, have been planning these events together for over a year. Juarez is an artist who works at Bluetile Skateshop in 5 Points and was a part of the Indie Grits Visiones Project back in 2017.

 

“[Juarez] created a zine documenting his childhood as an immigrant,” Taylor states, “I think that was the precedent for both of us realizing the power of print to share our personal stories and to bring communities together.”

 

Taylor says that she and Juarez pride themselves as a print and zine duo who both love print, design, and spreading the message that art is for everyone and should be accessible to all.

 

For Taylor, the goal of this workshop specifically is “to do more and engage with people of all ages to do something creative and [with] local artists who may want to stretch their creative muscles with new modes of art and storytelling.” 

 

What will the workshop entail, you may be wondering? According to Taylor, over the course of the two-day workshop, they are going to do several small exercises that can be an entry point for anyone interested in making a zine for the first time.

 

“Day 1 we are going to collaborate on a zine as a class to learn about zine production and how to print out your very own zine, analog style, using a photocopier and scanner,” Taylor continues, “We will also learn about the 8-page fold zine, and by the end of the class you will walk away with your very own!”

 

According to Taylor, it is really important to have events like this in Columbia because it’s necessary to engage with the local community and support the arts and education. “The arts should not be seen as exclusive or elitist,” Taylor elaborates, “and should be open to all who wish to learn!”

 

By registering, in addition to getting your very own zine, you can learn something new and support IGL in continuing their education program and in supporting the very artists that are facilitating these workshops and making them a reality.

 

This workshop isn’t the end to Taylor and IGL’s plans, though. “We are also hoping in the future to do some zine showcases to further support the arts community, and we might be planning a zine fair to happen during Indie Grits 2019 this March.”

 

Overall, this experience is a unique one that is close to Taylor, Juarez, and the others at IGL’s hearts. “I hope that participants are proud of their final zine creation and walk away feeling that they have the knowledge and tools to keep creating zines after the workshop is over,” Taylor concludes.

 

Tickets are only $35 for Nickelodeon Theatre members and $50 for General Admission. Tickets are available on IGL’s website, or in person at the Nickelodeon Theatre box office (1607 Main Street). This registration price includes 10 free prints of the zine you make, so you can share with your family and friends! 

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

REVIEW: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time -- Trustus' New Production Proves That What Makes Us Different Only Makes Us Stronger by Christina Xan

“Chandler’s portrayal of Christopher is remarkable, his embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks.”

Last Friday night, Trustus Theatre opened The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, their interpretation of the 2015 Tony Award winning Broadway play.

 

The original play itself is an interpretation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 book, making this performance, essentially, an interpretation of an interpretation – and a good one at that.

 

For those who don’t know, the play surrounds a 15-year-old boy named Christopher, who although not directly stated, is implied to have Asperger’s, a syndrome that previously fell on the autism spectrum and now is under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The play opens on Christopher cradling the body of his neighbor, Mrs. Shears’, murdered dog. While Mrs. Shears blames Christopher for the death of her dog and calls the police on him, Christopher asserts that he did not kill the dog and that he is telling the truth because he “cannot tell a lie.”

 

Once being released from police custody, Christopher makes it his mission to find the dog, Wellington’s, true killer, despite strict orders from his father not to. The majority of the play, then, follows the path Christopher travels to discover who killed Wellington and the fallout from what else he discovers along the way (all while trying to ace maths on the way to being an astronaut! Phew!). Any mention of the play’s further details might spoil it for those who have not seen it, so I will end my little summary here, but know that this is a play full of important ideas like understanding what family really means, why people make the decisions they do, and how we become the people we are today.

 

The play is told in two acts and is told in mostly present time with some flashbacks. However, the play is technically told through stories Christopher is writing about the experiences we are seeing. His teacher, Siobhan (played by the wonderful Libby Hawkins), has encouraged Christopher to write his experience in a book and to even turn it into a play. The play we see, thus, is not only what is happening to Christopher as he and Siobhan read from his book, but in the end, is the play itself, even breaking the 4th wall at times. All these transitions are done fairly smoothly, but one wants to make sure to pay close attention to not miss important details! 

 

I, myself, have never seen the original Broadway play. Though I knew the plot generally beforehand, I knew nothing about the set up or staging of the original play and thus cannot speak to how faithfully this was interpreted. However, I genuinely enjoyed the staging of this play and felt as if all creative decisions made by the director, Chad Henderson, and the cast brought the story to life in such a way that I couldn’t imagine it any differently. (Full disclosure - Chad Henderson is the son-in-law of the executive director of the Jasper Project.)

 

The set design and costuming were minimal, which fit the tone of the play. The lighting, which paralleled the design in its simplicity yet also was complex enough to fit the rapidly changing emotions presented in every scene, was done by the fabulous Baxter Engle, who came back from NYC just to do this design. The show itself follows a plot with twists and turns and a plethora of emotions, so the clean set literally and figuratively set the stage for these emotions to be felt without becoming muddled with distractions.

 

The stage, which appeared completely flat, was actually comprised in areas of many “boxes” that could be pulled out of the stage at ease and slipped back in just as quickly. These boxes, though always appearing the same, easily became briefcases, suitcases, chairs, rooms, trains and more with just a switch of the imagination. The fluency with which the characters switched scenes and the poise with which they held themselves filled in any missing spots.

 

A screen behind the characters acted as a literal window into Christopher’s mind and would show us answers to mathematical problems, letters he read, and more, both giving us insight into the plot of the play and into the mind of an autistic individual. Additionally, characters dressed in black, who acted as voices in some scenes, also acted as elements of Christopher’s mind, being choreographed to move around him and appear, say, threatening or even to become stage props themselves, picking up and propelling Christopher into “space” in one scene.

 

While the staging was innovative and the production sound, genuinely, the acting is the highlight of this play. Every character fills their role stunningly well. I wish I could speak to the passion and truth of every player in this wonderful team. Scott Pattison perfectly embodies the caring but lost dad whose few bad decisions snowball out of control. Raia Jane Hirsch’s flashback scenes in the first act make us feel the tension of having to decide between the elusive freedom the world offers and the simultaneously bright but restrictive path of motherhood. (Full disclosure - Hirsch is a member of the board of directors for the Jasper Project.)

 

However, the star of the show truly is Beck-Ryan Chandler. Chandler, who plays Christopher, is the first autistic person to perform the role in the entire Southeast, and he delivers a truly remarkable performance. His embodiment of the character and commitment to his role is evident throughout, and his passion leaks through every word he speaks. As you sit in the audience, you feel scared when Christopher feels scared, confused when he is confused, and happy when he is happy.

 

It fills me with pride to see Trustus has taken the strides to find an autistic actor to fill an autistic role. Too often in our society, whether on a small stage or the big screen, roles are given to actors based on ease of finding them or based on money and rarely on the representation they call for. We live in a society where roles are whitewashed, where cisgender individuals take roles of the LGBTQ+ community and where talented actors and actresses like Christopher are overlooked for people who have no idea what having autism is like. This coupled with the fact that mental illness and syndromes like autism are terribly stigmatized and awfully misunderstood, makes this exploration of a teenager with autism navigating his everyday life so, so important. I am so thrilled to say this has happened in our city and should be seen for this if nothing else.

 

In the end, this show will put you on a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, fumed, gasped, and cried – definitely cried. The people in this show are doing such important work in our community and in our world, and fortunately, it’s also just a damn good show – clever, interesting, well-done, and endlessly important.

 

Christopher asks us in the last line of the play, “Does that mean I can do anything?” to which there is no response. This lack of a response, this empty space is for us to decide, yes, that not only can he do anything, but this is the possibility for all of us. We are all capable of facing our fears and using our unique strengths to launch ourselves (pet rat included or not) into the stars.

 

Catch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time until February 9th at Trustus Theatre: https://trustus.org/event/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time/

 

Follow The Jasper Project on Facebook and on Instagram @the_jasper_project

for more updates on local artists and events!

 

 

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Ginny Merett Wins Jasper's Time for Art Best in Show Award

Congratulations

Ginny Merett!

Corsage by Ginny Merett

Corsage by Ginny Merett

Jasper congratulates artist Ginny Merett on winning The Jasper Project Time for Art Best in Show Award on Saturday night, December 8th, at the Time for Art Gala, presented by COR at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Merett’s work, Corsage, was unanimously chosen by the judges from the works by 14 artists who had been selected by the Jasper Project to be honored at the event. The judges remarked on the painting’s “unique attention to detail and dedication to the artist’s innovative aesthetic” as well as her “vivid choice of color palette.” Jasper will explore more of Merett’s work in the spring issue of Jasper Magazine.

Other honored artists selected by The Jasper Project include Kathryn Van Aernum, Michael Krakewski, Olga Yukhno, Sharon Collings Licata, Pat Gilmartin, Flavia Lovatelli, Sean Rayford, Lucas Sams, Thomas Washington, Herman Keith, Keith Tolen, Jan Swanson, and Cedric Umoja. Through an arrangement with the Jasper Project COR purchased a piece of art from each of these artists at an artist-stated fair market rate then auctioned the art pieces for a volunteer hour currency at the Saturday night gala.

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Artist Statement, Ginny Merett: I never forget a face. There are no two alike. I’m inspired by the faces in my grandmother’s 1920s photo albums, faces of strong women and ordinary faces in the crowd. Using collage techniques, I create new faces and personalities that focus on eye-to-eye contact, and the connection between the viewer and my work. Collage is tactile. I get to feel every piece of paper in several ways. Tear. Cut. Glue. Embellish. I plan and gather my color palette from found papers just like a painter gathers paint. I glue papers as varied as maps, sheet music and pages from old textbooks to fill in all areas. Once the glue has dried, I outline each shape to show emphasis and unity. I’m reserved yet my art is loud and gaudy and complex. This is my alter ego. My art is me on the inside.

 

Artist Bio: 1954) Art has sustained award-winning artist Ginny Merett throughout her life and is the cause for her every success. She studied Art Education at the University of Georgia and earned two masters degrees from The University of South Carolina. She devoted 30+ years to teaching art to children of all ages while developing her style in painting murals, creating watercolor paintings, and drawing portraits in graphite. Currently, Ginny uses collage techniques to create portraits and figurative works of art. Her influences include David Hockney’s 'joiners,' Hannah Hoch’s timeless collages, and the beautiful execution of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. Ginny is a member of FigurativeArtists.org, Trenholm Artist Guild and South Carolina Artists. She lives in Lexington, SC with her two dogs, Bingo and Jack.

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre Provides a Hauntingly Delightful Ride with Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol

 

“Marley was dead to begin with…”
Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”

L to R — Richard Edward III, Kevin Bush, Krista Forster, Jeff Driggers

L to R — Richard Edward III, Kevin Bush, Krista Forster, Jeff Driggers

These six words are well-known by just about anyone who has ever read or seen a production of Dickens’ now-immortal (pun intended) holiday classic. The undeniability of Marley’s having left the realm of the living is also the first point established in Tom Mula’s Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, running through 22 December at Trustus Theatre. As a huge Dickens fan, as well as a Christmas nut, I eagerly anticipated seeing this production, and was not at all disappointed. Time, finances, and practicality usually prevent me from seeing local shows more than once, but I’m going to do my best to catch this gem again before it closes. Like its inspirational predecessor, this is a story with many layers and subtleties beneath the deceptively simple plot, and the combination of acting and directorial skill lives up to Trustus’ long-cemented reputation for professional and artfully crafted work. For those familiar with the BBC series, Dickensian, this script takes a similar approach to the world(s) created by Dickens well over a century ago, and turns perspective on its ear, giving us a glimpse of how certain events came to be, and an intriguing semi-prequel as seen from the viewpoint of a secondary character. (On a side note, if you haven’t seen Dickensian, look for it online. By coincidence, the plot centers around the murder of Jacob Marley, and characters from multiple Dickens novels are interwoven throughout.)

…but, I digress. I’m here to discuss what’s being presented onstage at Trustus, so let’s get to it. As Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol opens, a recently-deceased Marley has arrived in a posthumous waiting room, where he encounters a sort of eternal book-keeper who has tallied up Marley’s good deeds and his sins, with the latter taking up the lion’s share of the ledger. As he is assigned, as Dickens described them, “the chains he forged in life,” Marley realizes that each condemned soul experiences his or her own personal Hell, where a manifestation of one’s particular sins serve as the tools of eternal torture. Marley’s punishment for his heartless greed and miserliness arrive in the traditional form of literal chains, bearing heavy cash boxes and other tools of his ruthless pursuit of wealth as a money-lender. With assistance from a damnation-borne, yet playfully charming sprite called Bogle, he is offered a single chance for escape from his fate; to redeem his partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, whose avarice and cruelty exceeded even Marley’s. (In a cheeky aside, Marley refers to Scrooge as the only man in the world worse than himself.) At first he is reluctant, but a shot at a reprieve is too tempting to resist, so Marley sets out, with Bogle in tow, on what seems an impossible mission. From here, the story takes on a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-esque quality, with familiar scenes and experiences seen through Marley’s eyes. His backstory is provided, and we discover that his childhood was as traumatic and depressing as Scrooge’s, with the two first meeting as teenage employees of Mr. Fezziwig, whom they eventually betray and drive out of business, taking over the firm for themselves. As the show progresses, we realize that Marley was actually all three of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-To-Come, taking on different forms, but all the while witnessing Scrooge’s life choices and literally watching him turn into the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” of A Christmas Carol. Throughout the long night’s journeys, Marley softens on Scrooge, whom he actually despised in real life, and gradually replaces hatred with pity. To avoid a significant spoiler, I will simply say that Marley’s animus was well-placed, as we learn in his death scene, which makes his journey toward compassion all the more effective.

The script makes ample use of Dickens’ dialogue, and tosses in a few subtle references that die-hard fans of the original will enjoy. (“Easter eggs” in a story of Christmas, if you will.) Here I will give away one plot point that is not only clever, but completely changes the context of one of Scrooge’s lines in A Christmas Carol. Another apprentice at Fezziwig’s, Dick Wilkins, is seen cruelly bullying Marley, and it is Scrooge who comes to his defense, eventually leading to Wilkins’ fall into disgrace and penury. While taking Marley’s part in matters, Scrooge explains that he, too, has been bullied by Wilkins, and suggests that the two of them can bring an end to his cruelty as well as his situation. Devotees of the original will recall Scrooge seeing his tormentor in the Christmas Past flashback, and shouting ““Dick Wilkins, to be sure! Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick! Dear, dear!” (As he was yet to have been reformed, Scrooge’s seemingly affectionate comment takes on a sinister tone when Wilkins’ true nature is revealed in this version.)

The rest of the show follows along fairly closely to the events of the original, with Marley growing more human as he watches Scrooge grow into the ogre he knew in life. It’s certainly no secret that Scrooge eventually repents and changes his ways, so we can assume that Marley manages to escape his torment.

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As for the performances, there isn’t a weak link (pun once again intended) in the show. Kevin Bush, well-known to Columbia audiences, steps outside his usual wheelhouse of lovable and/or sympathetic characters to portray Marley as an absolute scoundrel and hard-edged “bad guy,” retaining a definite gruffness even as his humanity blossoms. Having always been impressed with Bush’s talent, my respect and admiration for his versatility cannot be understated. This is a role unlike any I have ever seen him tackle, and he succeeds as only a true master of his craft can. (He’s also a very nice guy in real life, which made it even more darkly delightful to watch him channel a hateful old bastard like Marley.)

All the other characters are played by three actors who match Bush’s skill and stage presence. Krista Forster’s Bogle manages to be otherworldly, cute, menacing, and fun simultaneously. Her physicality and use of the playing space often suggested the movements of a spider, yet her vocal and facial expressions maintained an undercurrent of saucy friendliness. Bogle is sassy, playful, and hilarious at times, yet always clearly in command of the situation, as well as Marley’s trip through his memories. Forster approaches it subtly, but leaves no doubt that Bogle is in charge and fully at ease, which provides a nice contrast to Marley’s initially stern (but eventually pointless) resistance to his task. Richard Edward III delivers an appropriately nasty and duplicitous Scrooge who is somehow even more tyrannical than Dickens’ character, yet never crosses over the line to caricature. While definitely making the character his own, Edward embodies his role with several Spirits of Scrooge Past (that was the third one, so I promise, no more puns.) Hints of George C. Scott’s interpretation are there, as well as a dash of Albert Finney’s and a moment or two of Kelsey Grammer’s, all connected by the fresh work of Edwards, who obviously did his research and then added his own vision. Jeff Driggers’ Bob Cratchit is as endearing as one would expect, but Driggers somehow makes him more three-dimensional than the too-kindly-to-be-true Cratchit often seen in A Christmas Carol. This Cratchit comes across as more of a decent fellow who has accepted the fact that he must take whatever his employer dishes out, as opposed to a simpering innocent. One of the things that has always perplexed me about Cratchit is his loyalty to Scrooge. Even in 1840s London, demeaning, low-paying jobs were not impossible to find, so why did Cratchit work for the worst employer in the city? Driggers artfully justifies this by adding a slight resignation to his fate, leaving the audience with the impression that while he could likely do better, it just isn’t worth the risk of missing even a few day’s pay, and he has decided to just make the best of his lot. Without giving away which plays whom, which would ruin the fun, I must emphasize that Forster, Edward, and Driggers all bring the same artistry to each of their additional roles.

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On the technical side, Curtis Smoak’s lighting dovetails perfectly with Sam Hetler’s set, which is somewhat minimalist, but definitely evocative of the early Victorian era. As we follow Marley and Bogle, we visit a myriad of locales, which Smoak and Hetler manage to believably create. Costume Designer Jean Lomasto has, as usual, done outstanding work in dressing her actors in period style while maintaining the script’s eccentric nature, and Christine Hellman’s Hair Design deftly supports all of the above. This is a production crew that has obviously communicated well and brought the same sensibilities to each of their creations.

Director Patrick Michael Kelly has cast his show well, assembled a highly-skilled production team, and paced the show briskly, yet allows the actors to take the time they require in the moments where the audience needs to ponder and process what’s happening onstage. The smoothness of the production’s flow, and the undercurrent of suspense in what is, even in forced perspective, a well-known story are testimonials to Kelly’s vision and commitment to treating Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol as the fresh, new(ish) piece that it is.

There are quite a few dark moments, even more so than in the original story, so this may not be the show for pre-teens who still enjoy Frosty and Rudolph, but should delight both Dickens aficionados and those encountering Marley, Scrooge, and the Spirits for the first time. Tickets are sure to sell quickly, so don’t delay in making your reservations for this splendid addition to the holiday canon. (And yes, there’s always wine and popcorn.)

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Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER, and can be reached at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

Artist, Christopher Lane's Exhibition Resist Division Opens December 7 at Frame of Mind

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“Collectively, what I’m trying to say is we throw away 2/3 of what we produce because we’re in such a hurry to produce it,” local artist Christopher Lane passionately speaks on his upcoming art exhibition, “I would like to take 1/3 and give it to the people … there shouldn’t be any reason why anybody is hungry in this country.  There should be no reason why some kids not getting an education.”

 

50-year-old, full-time artist, Christopher Lane, relinquishes a collection of work that reflects on the individual and delivers a message that contains the true form of who we are as a whole, as a community: we are one.  Lane’s exhibition, “Resist Division,” opening Friday December 7, 2018 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Frame of Mind and lasting through January 28, 2019, expresses the desire to accept one another as one in the same and to reach a point of complete equality rather than the cruel reality that we often face: division.

 

“I don’t know if it’s because my family is so diverse.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve made every mistake and I need a break sometimes.  You know, you can throw Winston Churchill in there, ‘divided we fall,’” the artist describes his ideas behind this collection of work, “So, I think it’s just, we’re better together.  We’re all the same, basically.”

 

Lane is aware that we are separated by aspects such as beliefs, race, and geography; however, through his collection, “Resist Division,” he takes notice that we are separated by our unique individuality but we should not be divided.  We all have the same basic rights and we all have needs and desires.  The things that separate us should not also divide us.

 

“ … I went back through Arlington, you know, I went through all the monuments and if you look at all the tombstones it’s like, men and women in there.  And it’s every religion, people that don’t believe in religion, gay people, straight people, whatever,” the artist softly laughs as he describes the monuments he saw coming back from a DC trip, “It’s like, they’re all on there and to me, you know, you’re an American.”

 

Lane studied art at New Mexico University and minored in photography.  He began painting as a child, where he found the trade therapeutic.

 

“I have dyslexia … so, I guess I would paint to kind of escape,” Lane speaks on painting at a young age.

 

Though he began painting at a young age, this collection shows the passion and desire he has developed to create a world where we decide not to let our physical appearances or personal mentalities separate us.  Where we accept the truth, and come together as one.

 

 The artist often paints dreams that he has had, but he gets much of his inspiration from simply watching the news and seeing what’s going on globally.  Though he doesn’t always understand it, he studies it and learns from it, until he can create artwork to represent his discovery.  Here is what Lane passionately describes when asked about the process of creating this collection:

 

“… watching this,” Lane eagerly points to the news running on the TV screen, “… everything’s the same basically… I watch this and it’s like the run off and I’ll see something and I don’t understand it, and I’ll dig into it.  Normally, my first opinion on something when I first see it and I’m really passionate- I’m completely wrong, you know?  And then, if I look at it for a while, then start maybe taking it aside, I realize, ‘well, I understand where they’re coming from and, well, this is what I think,’ and then we talk and then that person goes, ‘well, I didn’t know that was that.’  And when I try to paint, it’s all of that.’  He continues to eagerly express his ideas, “And I don’t know if I’m smart enough to do it …  I don’t know if I can change anybody but I can at least speak and send a message, and maybe it will make the other person think.”

 

As the veteran and current artist describes one of his paintings found in his “Resist Division” exhibition, you can see the fire within him to really send a message and to bring the division that has become our society to one:

 

“That one was like a year ago and they were kind of questioning what a real American is,” Lane points at a painting hanging on his studio wall, “ ... but I was just like, well, what is that?  You know, it’s like, I’m Norwegian.  I’m all Norwegian except for Iroquois Indian, and that’s what that painting is.  You know, am I good enough for you?  Do I qualify?  And it just really made me mad.”

 

 

Lane’s work isn’t just a lovely painting for you to admire.  It is a striking collection of paintings that send a passionate message that not only needs to be heard, but understood.  That is Lanes desire with this exhibition: to share his thoughts through his craft, to share the one truth and to bring a divided world together.

 

“Resist Division,” is an exhibition that all should come together for.  It is a collection that will make you think, make you question and make you reflect.  Reflect not only on the division of our society, but on the constant rush that we seem to live in.  How did things end up this way?  How can we resist division? 

 

 As best said by Christopher Lane, ask yourself this: “What led us here?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Frank Thompson

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There are good kids, there are bad kids…and then there are the Herdman kids. Between community theatre and school productions, most of us are at least passingly familiar with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which has long been a holiday staple for young theatre-goers and their parents. It’s a simple tale about a church Christmas pageant which finds itself with a family of uncontrollable hellions in the cast, the less-than-enthusiastic reception they get from the parish, and the travails of a young boy named Charlie Bradley, who despairs at the invasion of the “horrible Herdman” kids into the one place he has always felt safe from them. Along the way, Charlie and his family deal with all the usual Yuletide hustle and bustle, exacerbated greatly by Charlie’s mother, Grace, being roped into directing the show when the original director suffers a broken leg. (I guess she took the traditional “good luck” wish for theatre people a bit too seriously.) It’s a charming little play, which Columbia Children’s Theatre has taken to a new level of engagement and fun by presenting the relatively-new musical version. Director Jerry Stevenson has assembled a tight, well-rehearsed production that retains the sweet simplicity of the original, while adding a glossy layer of professionalism and energy to what could have all too easily been simply another staging of a holiday chestnut. Having directed the non-musical version myself, I can say without hesitation that the revised musical version is livelier and the characters are more developed and three-dimensional. Stevenson and Musical Director Paul Lindley II have obviously cast thoughtfully, with an eye for acting and an ear for singing, complimented by Lisa Sendler’s energetic and creative choreography. Housed in their new location, (still at Richland Mall, but in a much bigger space downstairs, next door to Barnes & Noble) CCT has more room than before to create an impressive set, complete with hinged flats and moving pieces. Kudos to Scenic Artists Jim Litzinger (who serves double duty as Sound Technician,) Sallie Best, Dawn Cone, Gresham Poole, and Alex Walton, whose design combines a dollhouse’s functionality with a Transformers-style “coolness” factor. The perennial CCT duo of Litzinger and Stevenson both wear multiple hats, as Stevenson, along with Donna Harvey, have assembled a delightful costume plot in which a soupcon of each character is reflected in his or her clothing. The expression “a well-oiled machine” may be cliché, but it describes this production perfectly. From the seasoned pros in the cast to the first-timers, there is never a moment of hesitation or uncertainty, yet the audience is led quite successfully to believe that the events of the show are taking place for the first time, with believable moments of surprise and legitimate responses to the events surrounding them.

Much of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’s success can likely be attributed to CCT’s education program, which is quite clearly providing quality instruction to the next generation of stage performers. To put it simply, these guys (cast and production team) know what they’re doing, and do it well.

In what is pretty much an ensemble piece, it is difficult to single out specific actors and moments as standouts, but there are a few. Many of the roles are double-cast, but I strongly suspect the cast I enjoyed at last Saturday’s 2:00pm performance is indicative of the other cast’s aplomb. In both casts, the role of kindly but frazzled Reverend Hopkins is played by CCT regular, Lee O. Smith, who brings his customary goofy jollity to the role while managing to work in several moments of pastoral sincerity. Jordan Harper is hilariously shrill and shrewish as the injured Helen Armstrong, who manages to assert/insert herself into the proceedings, leaving gentle, non-confrontational Grace to try and direct around Helen’s many suggestions and unwanted “advice.” (I especially enjoyed Stage Manager Mary Miles’uncredited silent role as Helen’s nurse. Having seen Miles as the pretty young ingénue in multiple productions around town, it was a hoot to watch her channel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s scowling Nurse Ratchet.) Despite her character’s passive demeanor, Grace (Courtney Reasoner) gets the opportunity to show off not only her celebrated singing voice, but also a set of acting chops that one seldom finds in younger actors. Along with Henry Melkomian’s Charlie, Sara Jackson’s Beth, and (again, a double-duty pro) Paul Lindley II’s Bob, Grace helps to create a family unit quite reminiscent of the Parkers in A Christmas Story (minus the leg lamp and turkey-snatching Bumpus hounds.) This wink to the film is quite subtle, as are several other in-joke homages to other shows. (I couldn’t suppress a guffaw at Smith’s most frantic moment, when his voice rose two octaves while he ran and flailed his arms in what had to have been a tribute to Kermit the Frog.) Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is referenced, and when all the kids join together to stop the Herdmans from stealing Charlie’s lunch, the steady echo of “take mine!” conjured images of The Hunger Games “I volunteer!” protectiveness. (BTW, the “This Is A Peanut-Free Zone” sign was a nice touch of verisimilitude which immediately established the grade-school lunchroom.)

As for the Herdman kids, (Sarah Krawczyk, Julian Deleon, Annie Varner, Baker Morrison, Cort Stevenson, and Will Varner) each has a spotlight moment or two, but function mostly as a group. At first, this bunch is more of a gang of scroungy street toughs than a set of siblings, yet by the end of the show they have become part of the church family, and seem destined for at least semi-respectability. This transformation always seemed a bit deus ex machina in the non-musical, but an added scene in this version shows us the Herdman home, which is a place of hunger and squalor, with a deceased father and an oft-absent mother who works multiple jobs to (barely) keep the family afloat. When the kids sing in awe over a charity basket of simple food, the audience gets not only an insight to their unhappy lives, but also an explanation for their bad behaviour. To use one of my favourite portmanteau words, the poor urchins are “hangry” most of the time, and have little adult attention or guidance. The gift of food touches their hearts while filling their tummies, which makes the motivation for their softening more understandable.

The score is eclectic and fun, and no matter what your musical tastes may be, you’ll love at least a couple of the songs, which vary in style throughout. (With numbers ranging from country to rock-n-roll to classic musical theatre, and beyond, there’s something for everyone, much in the style of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.) I particularly enjoyed the Doo-Wop 1950s-esque “Take The Job, Grace” and “The Telephone Call,” which could have easily been composed by Lerner and Loewe. Among the handful of adults in the cast are a trio of Church Ladies, who become a quartet when Harper gets the Christmas spirit and lends her outstanding voice to those of Carol Beis, Jill Peltzman, and Kristin Young for a spirited gospel number. Their harmonies are tight, and there’s clearly not a weak singer amongst them.

Stevenson has included several “total immersion” moments, with actors entering and exiting through the aisles, and at one point handing out mini candy canes to the real-life audience, which serves as the church’s congregation. (Having stopped for a coffee on my way to the show, I was especially pleased to receive a peppermint treat.)

With expanded chair-seating for grown-ups and a larger floor-seating area for the little ones, CCT has successfully grown without losing any of the informal warmth of the previous upstairs venue. Stevenson, as usual, greeted the audience with a warm welcoming speech before the show, which always kicks off CCT performances on a cheerful note and informs the audience of upcoming events. (If you have a school-aged daughter who would like to learn stage combat, a class called “Girls Fight” is being offered in the spring.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical may never sit alongside A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker as an immortal holiday classic, but if you’re looking for a fun, upbeat, joyful show for the whole family, head on down to Richland Mall for a sweet confection of a show put on by a dedicated and skilled group of artists. (Tell ‘em the Herdmans sent you.)

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER, and can be contacted at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

Highlighting the Jasper-Selected Artists Being Honored at Time for Art

When COR (Columbia Opportunity Resource) came to Jasper and asked us to help with their annual Time for Art project we were excited to say yes. Time for Art is a unique project in that bidders attending the swanky gala held this year on Saturday, December 8th at the Columbia Museum of Art bid for art not with dollars and cents, but with volunteer hours. Jasper likes the idea of valuing a person in terms of the time they have to offer over the money they have to spend. But we wanted to make sure that the artists whose work is being auctioned are not only paid a fair price for their art, but that the artists themselves are honored for the important contribution they make, not only to the Time for Art event, but also to the Midlands area everyday by practicing their art.

So Jasper agreed to select a panel of artists who we wanted to honor and introduce these artists to the folks at COR, who then purchased or will purchase their art to auction this weekend. In addition to choosing the artists, we also asked that COR treat the artists and their guests to free admission to the gala, that they recognize the artists at the gala and give them a round of applause, and that they allow judges for the Jasper Project to award a Jasper Project Best in Show award consisting of a feature article in the spring issue of Jasper Magazine.

Over the next few days leading up to the gala, Jasper will be highlighting the 14 artists we selected as Time for Art Honorees. Yesterday we highlighted Michael Krajewski, Olga Yukhno, Flavia Lovatelli, Sean Rayford — Here are today’s honorees:

Keith Tolen

Keith Tolen

Keith Tolen is a retired arts educator from Kershaw County who just closed a solo show at Harbison Theatre.

Lucas Sams

Lucas Sams

Lucas Sams studied art at Temple University, the University of SC, and the SC governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities, He lived for a while in Japan.

Kathryn Van Aernum

Kathryn Van Aernum

From Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kathryn Van Aernum is a photographer, painter, visual arts educator, and creativity coach.

Sharon Collings Licata

Sharon Collings Licata

Sharon Collings Licata is a Sculptor/Photographer & Instructor, Shamanic Practitioner, Sand a member of the faculty for SC Faculty for Foundation For Shamanic Studies.