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

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

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

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

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

—Marjory Wentworth  


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

 Please support the Supper Table in the last few hours of our Kickstarter campaign by visiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brinson continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


“Not bad, huh?”


“Not bad.”


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re interested in one of our premiums, act fast. Half of the place-settings have already been sponsored, and the campaign only has four days left. You can secure your seat at the table here:




Supper Table Spotlight: Heidi Darr-Hope

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 7th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Heidi Darr-Hope (photo: Alexis Schwallier for Jasper)

Heidi Darr-Hope (photo: Alexis Schwallier for Jasper)

We were so delighted when Heidi Darr-Hope agreed to join the Supper Table Arts Team. Heidi brings such a sense of intention to everything she does that we knew her participation would result in not just a beautiful place-setting, but a grounding presence among all the artists.

Having worked as a professional artist for over 40 years, Darr-Hope has accumulated many accolades.  She’s proudest of the Elizabeth O'Neil Verner Award – South Carolina’s highest awards in the arts. Her work’s been exhibited and collected around the globe and are influenced by her enthusiastic passion for travel, her quest to understand her nighttime dreams, and her longing to find the quiet in the roar.  Her artworks are expressions of the universal search for meaning.  

Heidi was charged with creating a Supper Table place-setting to honor Sarah and Angelina Grimke, two antebellum sisters from Charleston who went on to become ardent abolitionists and human rights activists.

We knew Heidi would enjoy the process of gathering and assembling the items with which she would create her place-setting, but we were not prepared for the detail the artist put into her project.

In her own words, we’d like to share Heidi’s take on using her art to honor these important SC sisters.

Everyday Family “Heirlooms”

I come from a strong matriarchal lineage – determined, outspoken, liberal independent thinkers.  To represent the Grimke Sisters, I used heirlooms from that lineage - things passed down to me – the china, crystal and silver, the hand embroidered linens and lacework and even the wooden bowl which, growing up, my mother dished up our Saturday night spaghetti dinners in.

The Placemat

Collaged newspaper clippings featuring The Sisters bold abolitionist and equal rights protests comprise the "placemat.”   Their powerful words cradle the visual content of this piece.  “The ground upon which you stand is holy ground; never, never surrender it.  These are causes worth dying for.”

Women Unite, the Writing Quill, Nest and Eggs

Around the inside rim of the wooden bowl are the women who rallied behind The Sisters. Their weapons in this fight were their intellect and wordsmanship.   The writing quill is constructed from a dove feather I found walking in my neighborhood and the nib was given to me by my friend Eileen Blyth.  Her father collected them.  I wanted to give a nod to the men who support these causes as Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, did.  Books and knowledge are what fed Sarah and Angelina’s spirits.  They passionately shared these ideas for the advancement of social change, committed to ushering in a new life for the disenfranchised.  The Sisters worked tirelessly to build a secure nest to hold these ideals.

Book of Dreams and Binding Chains

Tucked underneath the bowl is a small book entitled Dreams.  The sisters dreamed of a new societal order, despite the monumental obstacles that stood in their way.  They were determined to break the chains binding the freedom to follow one's individual dreams.

Golden Hearts Within Us All and the Love Purse

Through their faithfulness in the Quaker principals, the Grimke Sisters believed God is found in the hearts of every single human.   In the center of the bowl, the image of The Sisters, clothed in simple evergreen smocks, depicts their hearts radiating a warm, golden, spiritual glow.  They deeply believed that as disciples of God it was their duty to respect and care for all.  To this end, Sarah kept a “love purse” with her at all times.  It contained the savings she made when she always opted for the less expensive purchase.  The difference between what she could afford and what she bought, went into her love purse. There was always someone who needed something, and she gladly made sure they got it.  The love purse can be found tucked just behind the book of dreams.  The coins inside the love purse are duplications of the coins Sarah devotedly saved in her efforts to make the world a better place.

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Napkins, Fork, Spoon, Knife, Shattered China and a Wooden Bowl

Sarah and Angelina were not nourished and fed by the culture they were raised in.  The napkins are blood stained and silverware is bound, rendering them unusable.  The formal china is shattered symbolizing the conventions the sisters rebelled against.  They longed and fought for a culture that honored an equality where all genders and races could be fed respectfully.  The upside-down teacup symbolizes how they gave up the traditions they were born into, in favor of building a new life.  Balanced on top of this, is a crystal goblet nesting this potential life.  The simple wooden bowl holds all these hopes and dreams.

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Please mark your calendars for the weekend of September 6th when we will celebrate Heidi and all the other talented women in the Supper Table Arts Team.

And please consider supporting us as we enter our last few days of fundraising via our Kickstarter campaign. You’re invited to be a part of something truly extraordinary. We have a place for you at the table.

Supper Table Spotlight: Emmy-Nominated Filmmaker Laura Kissel Honors Modjeska Monteith Simkins

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 6th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Filmmaker Laura Kissel

Columbia native Laura Kissel is an Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker. Kissel’s work explores contemporary social, cultural and political landscapes through multiple film genres, specifically the use of orphan films.


Kissel has nearly 20 films to her name including short documentaries Tan Mian Hua and Window Cleaning in Shanghai which both premiered at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2011 and were included in The Flaherty’s touring festival City Symphonies in 2011-2012. Her most recent feature length documentary, Cotton Road, is about the global supply chain of cotton; the film follows cotton’s life cycle, alongside human labor, as it travels from farms to consumers. The film has won eight festival awards and been translated into four languages.


Named the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Media Arts Fellow for 2007-2008 Kissel has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work, including a Fulbright Award, a MacDowell Fellowship, funding from the South Carolina Humanities Council and the Fledgling Fund. Currently, she is a professor of Media Arts and Film at the University of South Carolina where she also serves as the Director of the School of Visual Art and Design.


We’re honored that Kissel has joined us in our project. For the Supper Table, she is creating a film to honor the pervasively influential Modjeska Monteith Simkins.


Modjeska Simkins was, as the National Park Service refers to her, “the matriarch of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina.” She was a leader in African-American public health and social reform across the state, specifically in Columbia. Simkins referred to herself as a human rights activist, and that she was.


Simkins lived a life of power and turmoil. She was the Director of Negro Work for the South Carolina Tuberculosis Association before she was fired for her increased involvement in the NAACP. For this same involvement, unnamed individuals shot at her house in the mid 1900s, despite which Simkins remained unwavering. Any fear she may have had, she did not show, instead allowing it to propel her forward into defending the rights of those who did not have the opportunity to use their voices in the way she used hers. 


Kissel’s film will be unveiled, with 11 others, at the Supper Table’s premiere events at Trustus Theatre this September 6th and Harbison Theatre on the 8th.


On our Kickstarter campaign, at the $300 level, Laura Kissel’s film on Modjeska Simkins is available to sponsor. In sponsoring this, you will become the film’s exclusive producer, plus you will receive tickets to see the films at the Harbison event. 3 of the 12 films are already sponsored, and our Kickstarter only has a week left, so if you want this opportunity, click on the following link to claim it:

 - Christina Xan




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Supper Table spotlight: Olga Yukhno and Carla Damron Honor Sarah Leverette

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 5th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

An overhead view of Olga Yukhno’s place-setting honoring Sarah Leverette

An overhead view of Olga Yukhno’s place-setting honoring Sarah Leverette

Originally from Russia, visual artist Olga Yukhno lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where she is the Gallery Director for the School of Visual Art and Design at the UofSC. After learning and creating in multiple art forms, Yukhno found a home in ceramic sculpting, where she feels that she has no limits.

With ceramics, Yukhno can create anything that she can imagine and even those which she can’t. No two of her completely handmade pieces are identical. Yukhno has used the limitless possibilities of her craft to create a place setting in honor of Sarah Leverette for the Supper Table.

Sarah Leverette was, and is, a powerful inspiration to women in and outside of South Carolina, having spent her life breaking glass ceilings wherever she went, from the Civil Air Patrol to the School of Law at USC.

Yukhno’s place-setting honors all the different aspects of Leverette’s remarkable life. The artist says she wanted to use her piece to “show the parts of her life that were the most significant and impressed her the most personally.” Having been impressed by Leverette’s quotations, she incorporated them all around the border of her place-setting, using small wing symbols with the logo of the Civil Air Patrol.  From there, each layer from bottom to top represents a different period of the subject’s life.

As Yukhno says, the book represents her contribution to the library system of South Carolina, to which she dedicated 15 years of her life. Despite her contributions, school officials at USC would not make her faculty because she was a woman. The next tier of Yukhno’s place setting contains multiple nails, which represent the obstacles Leverette faced to become a full professor.

The very top culminates in a bowl showing a fist having just broken through a glass ceiling. As Yukhno says, “Leverette’s whole life was dedicated to fighting for women’s and civil rights, and the element of this broken glass is repeated throughout the piece to show the relevance of this pursuit throughout her lifetime.”

Finally, the goblet was created with multiple hands supporting it, to “show that in everything she did, she always built other people up.” Leverette was a mentor to many well-known lawyers who themselves brought about significant changes and continued the fight for people’s rights.


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Carla Damron is a professional writer (The Stone Necklace, USC Press, 2016) who uses her experience as a social worker throughout her work, as witnessed in her novels Keeping Silent and Spider Blue. Damron has spent over 20 years focusing on her work in mental health, where she connects this to her novels in hopes to fight stigmas surrounding the topic of mental illness. Her very own clients have been her best teachers.

Damron used her background to tackle the task of writing a creative non-fiction essay about the life of Sarah Leverette, a task she was more than ready to tackle and conquer. As Damron says, “[Leverette’s] words, and her spirit, live and breathe in our state’s constitution, its code of laws, and in all the people she touched.”

The following is an excerpt from Damron’s essay on Leverette:

Sarah always wanted to emulate her heroes Lindbergh and Earhart. And now, as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, she was about to take her first flight.

She climbed a ladder to the biplane wing, grabbed hold of the edge of the cockpit, and hauled herself into the copilot’s seat. She grasped the seatbelt and clicked it into place. Snug goggles covered her eyes. Behind her, the pilot started the plane, which gave a little shimmy as it roared to life. Breath entered her lungs in short gasps. She was nervous. Excited. Ready. 

They moved. The plane bumped and rattled up the runway, getting louder and louder as the pilot lifted the throttle. Sarah held to her seat and swayed with the movement. 

Faster. She couldn’t see the speedometer but knew they were approaching eighty-five, full throttle, as the nose of the plane tilted up. As they lifted off, all smoothed.  

She looked above, the sky a vast blue bowl with a few feathers of white. She looked down: Trees became green pencil pricks. A wide, turbulent river was just one of many of Earth’s many arteries. Everything was different here. How wide the world is, she realized, when you are away from the clutter of land.

To read more of Damron’s essay and to see more of Yukhno’s place setting, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at the link below, and join us this September as we unveil the Supper Table for the first time.



Supper Table Spotlight: Eva Moore and Laurie Brownell McIntosh Honor Eliza Lucas Pinckney

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 4th in our series on Supper Table Artists.

Paper Mache Bowl with Indigo Ink, hand-dyed indigo napkin, and indigo branch flatware by Laurie Brownell McIntosh

Paper Mache Bowl with Indigo Ink, hand-dyed indigo napkin, and indigo branch flatware by Laurie Brownell McIntosh

Each of the 12 (actually 13 with the Grimke sisters) honored & historical women seated at the Supper Table is being celebrated by four different artists including a visual artist, a literary artist who writes an essay about the subject for the book Setting the Supper Table, a filmmaker who creates a 90 second film, and a theatrical artist who will perform a staged oration during our premiere in September.

Laurie Brownell McIntosh and Eva Moore are, respectively the visual and literary artists honoring Eliza Lucas Pinckney, the colonial entrepreneur who, with the vital assistance of the enslaved individuals who were attached to the Pinckney plantations, cultivated and developed indigo as a cash crop accounting for 1/3 of the total exports from the colony.

About her place-setting McIntosh writes, “I sought guidance on all things indigo from South Carolina, indigo dye artist, Caroline Harper. I attended two workshops with her to learn the growing and dying process used in dying fabrics with traditional indigo. She supplied me with some of her precious South Carolina grown indigo pigment that she and her husband harvest and produce yearly... as well as the seed and roots from the plant.”

McIntosh continues, “All of the blue you see in my piece is made from this dye mixed with different paint mediums. (the exception being the writing on the bowl... that is just dark blue ink... after many tries I realized I could not get the consistency to flow freely enough for handwriting). The yellows in my piece represent the middle phase of the dying process. Once the fabric is submerged into the dye vat of the indigo mixture the fabric surprisingly turns yellow and stays this way until it is pulled from the vat and the oxygen turns it the rich dark blue associated with indigo. The three apothecary bottles in the setting represent this graduated process.”

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Eva Moore is a Columbia-based writer who cares about food, local government, and outdoor places. The former editor of Columbia’s Free Times newspaper, she now works in state government. In her eloquent look at the controversial Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s contributions, Moore writes, “At Wappoo plantation, where Eliza lived when she first came to South Carolina, her family enslaved 20 people. In later years there would be more. … Eliza Lucas Pinckney lived a remarkable and fortunate life, but did so at the expense of other lives.”

Moore continues, “Indigo is not like other natural dyes. It doesn’t come out of the indigo plant easily; in fact it doesn’t come directly out of the plant at all. After harvesting, the leaves must be pounded and fermented over hours or days to create a chemical reaction. Depending on who you ask, fermenting indigo smells like ammonia, urine, cow poop or wet dog, and the odor is so intense that the fermentation must be done well away from places where people live and eat. Done at a large scale, it can attract flies and other insects.”

“In colonial South Carolina, in the mid-1700s, indigo processing took place during the hot summer and fall,” she writes.

“It’s hard to comprehend the horrors of the process, because lately, indigo dyeing has made its way into the boutique textile category in South Carolina. … Eliza Pinckney almost certainly didn’t pound the indigo leaves or stir the stinking vats. She didn’t till the ground, or weed the fields, or harvest the leaves. That work was done by people enslaved by her family.“

To read more of this fascinating essay and 11 others, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at

Supper Table Spotlight: Filmmaker Betsy Newman honors Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our film artists: Emmy Award-winning Betsy Newman

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There’s so much to celebrate about filmmaker and producer Betsy Newman and what she has brought and continues to bring to South Carolina’s cultural landscape. So much so that we’re doing a profile of Betsy in the fall issue of Jasper magazine, coming out later in August.

Here, Betsy talks about her work honoring Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, founder of Vorhees College in Denmark, SC.

My Supper Table subject is Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, the woman who founded Voorhees College. I’m thrilled to have learned about her – she was one of those people who blaze brightly for a short time and contribute an enormous amount. From the time she boarded a train by herself at the age of 16 to go to the Tuskegee Institute, to her death at the age of 34, she had built and rebuilt several schools for black students. Though two of her schools were destroyed by arsonists, she was undeterred by the racist violence of the Jim Crow era. She raised funds from wealthy white philanthropists and named her successful school for her most generous supporter, Ralph Voorhees. It’s fun to work on a short video about Wright, and inspiring to be part of the Supper Table cohort. I love hearing about the approaches that the other women are taking to their films, and the ways in which the visual and literary artists are treating the same subject matter.

To learn more about Jasper’s Supper Table project please visit our Kickstarter at and for a comprehensive look at what the SC Arts Commission calls a “Who’s Who of SC Female Artists” please visit

To be a part of this project and have your contribution celebrated in the accompanying book, Setting the Supper Table, please consider making a minimum $50 donation and dedication to the SC Women who rock your world at

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Supper Table Spotlight: B. A. Hohman Honors Julia Peterkin

We’re kicking off our series of spotlights on our Supper Table artists by looking at one of our visual artists: local painter and muralist B.A. Hohman.

B.A. Hohman

B.A. Hohman

A visual artist who views art as her grounding force, B.A. Hohman promotes the creativity found in each of us through her work. Hohman graduated cum laude from Ohio University with a Studio Art degree, focusing on painting, and she has received an Art Education certification from Roberts Wesleyan in Churchville, NY.

Though Hohman has worked in many fields, from retail to being a public art teacher, she has always been a working artist often focusing on murals and trompe l’oiel paintings.

For the Supper Table, Hohman was tasked with creating an art piece representative of prolific author, Julia Peterkin, who wrote about life in the Jim Crow South and worked to preserve the Gullah language. Peterkin, a white woman, lived from 1880-1961, and in that time, she wrote a plethora of novels, one of which would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize. As Hohman recalls The Paris Exposition that helped launch the Art Deco style had taken place just four years prior to Peterkin’s first dive into writing. This inspired Hohman as she created her place setting.    

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Hohman’s place setting starts with a place-mat made of vintage black velvet bordered by hand tatted lace, which was handed down to her from her great aunts. She chose to add this lace trim completely by hand, which she feels reflects Peterkin’s social status. She made the copper flatware from pieces she’d saved and repurposed, and she then added the mug and copper colored charger. For Hohman, these pieces represent Julia’s flaming red hair and indefatigable spirit.

Since the focus and center of Peterkin’s writing and goals was her own depiction of the Gullah customs, language and beliefs, Hohman embellished the center of the plate with woodcut styled representations of images both from Peterkin’s books and from the artist’s own imagination. The plate is bordered with an aforementioned Art Deco design. Hohman states that her overall attempt was to “convey the conundrum that was Julia Peterkin.”

On what makes Peterkin so inspiring, Hohman says, “the title of one of Julia’s biographies is, A Devil and a Good Woman. I found this fitting. She was a force to be reckoned with, yet she managed to expand the consciousness of her audience by humanizing and preserving for posterity, the Gullah way of life.”

All in all, Hohman views art as a necessity of life. In her work both on the Supper Table and in general, she asks the question: what would we know of our world were it not for the depictions, be they visual, spoken, written or musical?

Hohman contributes to gallery showings, restaurant displays and the occasional public mural, but you can currently view her work at her Facebook page: Art & Murals by B.A.

To see Hohman’s work on Julia Peterkin, join us at one of our Supper Table events this September. Information on tickets and other premiums is available on our Kickstarter page. Donating not only grants you access to early showings and sponsorship opportunities, but it also goes straight to supporting our artists, like B.A.

Check it out at the following link:

Christina Xan


We're Setting the Supper Table & You'll Be Able to Feed Your Soul There Soon - A Message from Cindi


The Supper Table – Honored Subjects

Mary McLeod Bethune Alice Childress

Septima Clark Matilda Evans

Althea Gibson Angelina and Sarah Grimke

Eartha Kitt Sarah Leverette

Julia Peterkin Eliza Pinckney

Modjeska Monteith Simkins Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

Laurie Brownell McIntosh’s place-setting inspired by Eliza Lucas Pinckney whose development and cultivation of indigo accounted for 1/3 of colonial SC’s economy prior to the Revolutionary War.

It’s all coming together.

More than 10 year ago I started having this dream of using Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist arts installation, The Dinner Party, as a model for an arts project that would honor some of the amazing women from South Carolina history whose work in the arts, sciences, education, business, athletics, and human rights literally — and usually without a lot of fanfare — changed the course of human history. I realized that 2019 would be the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s project and, about 4 years ago, decided to try to make this fantasy a reality using the structure of the Jasper Project to do so. It was terrifying. I appreciate so dearly all the people I spoke to who, when I told them how terrified I was said, “yes, you’re supposed to be” because there are any number of times I might have chickened out had they not.

But with the support and advice of people who are smarter and more experienced than I am, especially my board of directors at the Jasper Project, I jumped in. Central Carolina Community Foundation was kind enough to invest in us with a Connected Communities Grant funding almost two thirds of the project. Friend and arts patron Bill Schmidt stepped up as soon as I told him about the plans and committed to sponsoring not just a place-setting (he chose the Grimke Sisters) but also a third of the table itself. But more importantly, he gave me his faith and he shared the project with others.



So, I was off!

The first thing I needed to do was to gather together the first two groups of artists — the visual and literary artists — as well as to find a woman to build the actual table for the Supper Table. I can’t remember who recommended the amazing Jordan Morris to me but, whoever it was, thank you.

Jordan is the Maker Coordinator at Richland Library and has been a maker most of her life. Grade school consisted of macaroni ornaments and sugar cube igloos, but it wasn’t until she met an inspiring high school teacher that her creative mind was ignited and took flight. That journey continued on through college at the University of South Carolina where she earned a BFA in sculpture. She continued with ceramic work and expanded into woodworking and computer numerical control production. Jordan’s professional journey led her to an art museum, tech startup, and teaching, but nothing felt quite like home until landing at Richland Library as the Maker Coordinator in February 2016.

Jordan rose to the challenge of creating the table for the Supper Table magnificently, integrating a Southern aesthetic into her design all the way down to the wood she chose. I couldn’t be happier with her finished product.

Supper Table Jordan Morris.jpg

On January 20th of this year we brought together the 25 literary and visual artists who would inaugurate the Supper Table project with their work on place-settings and essays honoring the 12 women at the Supper Table. Over the next few weeks we will be posting daily blogs featuring these artists and the gifts they have brought and are bringing to the project.

While the essays and place-settings are complete there is still much work to be done before we premiere the project on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and move the next day to Harbison Theatre at MTC for our first installation.

The film artists are all at work now under the direction of Mahkia Greene, and Vicky Saye Henderson is casting the actors who will portray out 12 honored women in the theatrical productions.

Kathryn Van Aernum has taken all the photos for the book and the poster and is working on those now.

We still need to frame the 12 portraits Kirkland Smith created which will accompany the installation and we are working on our walls to display the 120 tiles created for our Array of Remarkable SC Women by Brenda Oliver, Bohumila Augustinova, and Diane Hare and embellished by local women and girls.

Lee Ann Kornegay is working on a long-form film that won’t even be ready to view until spring 2020.

I’m editing constantly with the help of assistant project director Christina Xan, who will also be sharing some blogs with you.

So, please stay tuned as we roll out as much information and celebration as we can through summer’s end and into the fall.

The Supper Table will be touring in 2020 and we’d love to talk to you about bringing the installation, along with the book, films, portraits, and tiles your way.

But most importantly, we really need your help raising funds to put some change in the pockets of these artists who are honoring these amazing 12 women from SC. You can sponsor a place-setting, a tile, a film, or the portrait collection or you can share this info and link with someone with the resources to do so.

Here’s the link:

Thanks for helping us along.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

The plate from Mana Hewitt’s place-setting honoring the legendary Eartha Kitt.

Fall Lines Volume VI Announces Winners - Kimberly Driggers and Derek Berry!

Jasper is delighted to announce the winners in this year’s competitive Fall Lines categories.

Congratulations to Kimberly Driggers whose poem, IMAGINE THE SOUND OF WAVES, is the winner of the Saluda River Prize for Poetry and to Derek Berry whose prose piece, SASQUATCH, is the winner of the Broad River Prize for Prose.

Both literary artists will be published in Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Volume VI which launches on Sunday, August 18th from 2 - 3:30 with a reading and awards ceremony at Richland Library. The event if free and open to the public.

Fall Lines is sponsored by the Jasper Project in partnership with Richland Library and One Columbia for Arts and Culture. The two winning authors will each receive a check for $250 sponsored by the Richland Library Friends & Foundation.

Judges for this year’s contests included Judy Goldman (prose) and DeLana Dameron.


Additional authors whose work will appear in the 2019 volume of Fall Lines include:

Teresa Haskew

Ellen Malphrus

Loli Molena Munoz

Libby Bernardin

Len Lawson

Susan Craig

Lawrence Rhu

Worthy Evans

Curtis Derrick

Terri McCord

Al Black

Ruth Nicholson

Heather Dearmon

Randy Spencer

Tim Conroy

Suzanne Kamata

Frances Pearce

Bo Petersen

Jon Tuttle

Kathleen Warthen

Kristine Hartvigsen

Gil Allen

Andrew Clark

Kevin Oliver

Yvette Murray

Ed Madden

Ray McManus

Nathalie Anderson

Fall Lines.png

REVIEW - Heathers at Trustus Theatre by Frank Thompson

Here she is with two small problems

And the best part of the blame

Wishes she could call him heartache

But it's not a boy's name…

-From the song “Appetite” by Prefab Sprout (1985)

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

Lisa Baker, Brittany Hammock, and Katie Leitner

While the music and lyrics for Heathers: The Musical are all original, created for the stage version by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, I couldn’t get the above Prefab Sprout song out of my head when pondering how to address the production from a critical standpoint. For those unfamiliar with the Daniel Waters film upon which the stage adaptation is based, the story centers around Veronica, a seventeen-year-old high school student who develops a darkly romantic relationship with a charismatic nihilist, J.D., whose moral relativism is softened by a genuine concern for the underdog. Coming from a dysfunctional, single-parent home, J.D. is cynical beyond his years, and quite capable of handling himself in just about any situation. Veronica comes from a different world, with an almost-stereotypical loving-but-clueless “Mom and Dad” straight out of central casting.

Veronica’s life isn’t a horror story, but she suffers all the usual travails of a cute-but-nerdy young woman navigating the world of geeks, jocks, outcasts, and the rest of the archetypes that exist in high school to this day. In a funhouse-mirror version of the Pygmalion myth, Veronica finds herself thrust into the world of the uber-cool girls who rule the school’s social scene. Her malevolent new mentors, each named Heather, decide to make a sport of transforming Veronica into one of their own, yet maintain social dominance over her. After utilizing Veronica’s skill at imitation handwriting, the Heathers enjoy unlimited hall passes and excuse letters, and decide to play a cruel trick on a nerdy girl who happens to be Veronica’s best friend. The joke goes terribly wrong, resulting in the breaking up of a party and Veronica’s expulsion from the group by ringleader Heather Chandler. While attempting to make amends, Veronica (with J.D. at her side) accidentally poisons Heather Chandler, having just dismissed J.D.’s suggestion that they do exactly that. A hastily-forged suicide note covers their tracks, but their victim’s ghost remains prominent in Veronica’s psyche. After several comparably dark experiences, Veronica wants nothing more than to return to her previously-normal life, but J.D. has the conflicting goal of essentially murdering the entire student body. Without spoiling the denoument for those seeing the show for the first time, I will simply say that the final few minutes will not only have you on the edge of your seat, but also leave you pondering the concepts of right and wrong in this particular situation. This is by no means meant to suggest that Heathers: The Musical is without lighthearted moments, but even the hilarity is grounded in a macabre reality that never completely releases the audience from a feeling of impending disaster.

The cast is comprised of an outstanding brio of Trustus regulars, familiar faces from other venues, and a few first-timers, all of whom come together to create a believable and cohesive ensemble. Katie Leitner’s Veronica is immediately relatable and sympathetic, falling (as did most of us) somewhere around the middle of the school’s social spectrum. Presenting her as a latter-day Carrie, minus the pig’s blood, would have not only been overdone, but would also have somewhat absolved Veronica for her actions. Leitner displays her strength at creating three-dimensional characters by making Veronica a normal kid caught up in a disturbingly abnormal set of circumstances. As with her recent portrayal of Daisy Fay in Trustus’ The Great Gatsby, Leitner succeeds in being likeable but flawed. As her figurative reverse-mirror image, Michael Hazin provides a level of sync with J.D. that brings to mind a well-choreographed ballroom dance. Hazin offers a darker reflection of Leitner’s image, with J.D. flying (for the most part) under the social radar, as opposed to swimming midstream. Each character has the potential to survive through relative social invisibility, but neither their respective personalities nor the situations that arise allow either to embrace that option. Both Leitner and Hazin are in fine voice, and only a small suspension of disbelief is required, but their clearly trained and experienced vocal work almost cracks the façade of their being teenagers. Both are youthful twentysomethings in real life, and are physically believable as high school students, so this is hardly a negative point, but when they sing, it’s obvious that these are well-taught professionals.

Clearly reveling in every malignant power move and verbal smackdown, Brittany Hammock deliciously chews the scenery as Heather Chandler. Her alpha-of-all-alphas interpretation of the role is spot-on, taking command of the triad in everything from physical presence to the occasional “putting in place” of the other two Heathers. Interestingly, once she becomes a ghost, Hammock asserts her new quasi-immortality through a slightly softened approach to Veronica. Sometimes a whisper is more frightening than a shout, and Hammock utilizes both between her corporeal and ghostly forms. Though not physically connected to the world of the living, Heather Chandler becomes even more of a puppeteer after her death, as we see her leisurely chip away at Veronica’s sanity. Her eponymous cohorts, Heather McNamara (Rachael Mitchum) and Heather Duke (Jazmine Rivera) initially appear to be Heather Chandler clones with slightly less authority, but after her death, they begin to reveal more depth of character. Mitchum, while never coming across as deferential, is somehow the most humane of the three, heaping slightly less attitude and intimidation on her fellow students. It’s a subtle choice, but Mitchum makes it work well in setting up a moment of high drama in the second act. Rivera’s Heather Duke, by contrast, brings out the fangs and claws when Heather Chandler’s death leaves an opening for the group’s leader. Though not mentioned in the script, the performances of all three Heathers suggest a variety of control mechanisms employed pre-mortem by Heather Chandler. Combining Hammock’s dead/undead personae, one could easily see her slightly softening to control Heather McNamara, while displaying a more fierce approach to managing Heather Duke. Kudos to all three for creating a depth and texture that enhances the story while remaining faithful to the playwrights’ dialogue.

As “bad boy” football stars, Kurt and Ram, Paul Smith and Josh Kern are less defined by the script, yet never allow themselves to slide into caricature. At first they appear to be nothing more than bullying jocks, but a set-up midnight encounter with Veronica displays their more vile and predatory natures. Jordan Harper’s ever-put-upon Martha adopts a similar style, introducing herself as a stereotypical nerdy girl, then revealing herself to be much more emotionally textured in a second-act spotlight number that showcases her impressive vocal range. The rest of the cast fills in the remaining students and adults orbiting the main story, and there truly isn’t a weak link in the bunch. A particular standout is Cassidy Spencer, whose work I’ve not seen before, but look forward to seeing in future productions. As an ensemble member, Spencer may have had two or three lines, but most of her acting was done through face and body language, which she presented most memorably. (In reviewing my notes, I referenced her several times as “girl in denim skirt,” each time with a comment on her commitment to the scene, her character, and the reality established by the principal players.)

On the technical side, Heathers: The Musical is mostly successful. Sam Hetler’s set is streamlined, yet totally evocative of a neon-hued, white-tiled 1980s, Amy Brower Lown’s costume design is scrupulously faithful to the period and gives a respectful nod to the film, while maintaining an originality and freshness of vision, and Lighting Designer Frank Kiraly brings his customary skill at creating multiple settings with different combinations of shading and color. Choreographer Grayson Anthony and Musical Director Randy Moore keep the movements (both physical and musical) brisk and sharp, and Stage Manager Brandi Smith nicely corrals all of the elements into a cohesive and smooth production. My only real complaint is that the vocals, even in ensemble numbers, were a bit difficult to hear over the band. In talking with Moore and several cast members following the performance, I found out that there were several mic and sound issues the night I was there, and I feel confident that those small issues have since been ironed out. One other small issue is entirely script-related, as I had the same reaction when reviewing another production of the show earlier this year. The adults are double/triple cast, often with little or no time for costume or wig changes, which can lead to a bit of confusion as to which is whom at any given moment. Matthew DeGuire, Jonathan Monk, and Lisa Baker turn in delightful performances as the multiple grown-ups, but I do wish the script made it easier for them to change back and forth more easily.

Director Dewey Scott-Wiley has, as usual, assembled a winning cast and created a world which is both believable and captivating. I frequently find myself using the word “thoughtful” to describe her work, and Heathers: The Musical is no exception. In her Director’s Notes, Scott-Wiley observes that in today’s more violent society, things like murdering your classmates aren’t as outrageous as they were thirty years ago, and this level of directorial awareness is part of what makes the show work. By immersing the audience in an era-specific set of mores, she succeeds in getting stylized-yet-believable work from her cast while essentially giving the audience permission to laugh at things that would strike too close to home in today’s world.

Heathers: The Musical runs through 27 July, and tickets can be purchased online at, or by calling the Box Office at (803) 254.9732. They’re likely to go quickly, so don’t delay in making your reservations.


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


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

by Frank Thompson

workshop fierce.jpg

   (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


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, “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: