Steven Chapp and Diane Kilgore Condon at if ART Gallery

Kilgore Condon -- Seed Eaters

NOW ON VIEW @ if ART Gallery

STEVEN CHAPP: Running With Crows


DIANE KILGORE CONDON: Holding The Songbird


Through January 10, 2015



if ART Gallery presents two simultaneous December-January solo exhibitions of paintings and prints by two Upstate South Carolina artists, Easley’s Steven Chapp and Greenville’s Diane Kilgore Condon. Both exhibitions, Running With Crows and Holding The Songbird respectively, opened last week and will run through January 10, 2014.

Steven Chapp, owner of Black Dog Press, will conduct a drypoint workshop at if ART on Saturday, January 10, 2015, 10:00 am ­– 4:00 pm. During the workshop, participants will create their own drypoint plates, which will be printed by Chapp at the end of the workshop. Enrollment will be limited to 10 participants; cost is $65 per participant. Those interested should contact the gallery to enroll.

Both artists typically include a lot of animal imagery. Chapp has a go-to-bird, the crow, which features in many of his monotypes, drypoints, linocuts, woodcuts and other prints as a metaphor for humans. Kilgore Condon creates in her oil paintings fantastical but technically often possible scenes featuring birds of many kinds, bees, deer, hare, geese, dogs and other animals.

Chapp - Point Taken

            Chapp (B. 1952) is a native of Kansas City, Mo. For three decades, he has been a steady presence on the South Carolina art scene, especially in the Upstate. Best known as a expert printmaker, Chapp has shown in galleries, art centers and museums throughout the region, including the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art, the Burroughs and Chapin Museum in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Spartanburg (S.C.) Art Museum and the Pickens County (S.C.) Museum of Art and History. He worked on two projects with artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Kansas City in 1978 and Key Biscayne, Fla., in 1983. In 2011 and 2014, Chapp organized Shifting Plates I and II, traveling exhibitions of works by South Carolina printmakers. Chapp has retired as a teacher for the Greenville County School District. He holds an MFA in printmaking and drawing from Clemson University and a BFA from Appalachian State University.

Kilgore Condon (b. 1964) is the owner of ArtBomb Studios. ArtBomb, established in 2001, launched what is now Greenville’s most important arts district, the Pendleton Street Art District. The Wassau, Wis., native was raised in the East and Midwest and in 1983 moved from Florida to Greenville to attend Bob Jones University. There she studied with Carl Blair and in 1988 received a BA in Fine Arts. Kilgore Condon is among the South Carolina Upstate’s most prolific and respected painters.


Drypoint Workshop Steven Chapp:

Sat., Jan. 10, 2015, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Gallery Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.;

& by appointment


For more information, contact Wim Roefs at if ART:

(803) 238-2351 –

if ART Gallery

1223 Lincoln St.

Columbia, SC 29201




"Jack Frost" - Melissa Swick Ellington reviews the world premiere of the new show at Columbia Children's Theatre

jackfrost1 Columbia Children’s Theatre presents Jack Frost, a world premiere musical with book and lyrics by Crystal Aldamuy and music by Paul Lindley II, through Sunday, December 14. Here in Columbia, SC, we have plenty of reasons to be grateful for the presence of CCT in our community, such as high quality children’s theatre performed by professional actors, educational outreach programs, and theatre training and performance opportunities for youth. Yet another reason to cherish CCT emerges with the production of Jack Frost, which further establishes the theatre’s commitment to the development of new works. Past original productions have included adaptations of Puss and Boots, The Snow Queen, A Christmas Carol, and a number of commedia dell’arte shows. Any artist who has collaborated on the production of new work for the theatre can tell you that such endeavors require a special level of dedication, hard work, and ingenuity.  We are fortunate to have a children’s theatre in Columbia that persists in the development and presentation of new plays and musicals right here in our own community.  Audiences will be delighted by the enchanting and upbeat experience of Jack Frost.

Director Jerry Stevenson delivers an entertaining production of this clever new musical by Aldamuy and Lindley.  Creative characters, inventive humor, and enjoyable music delighted the audience at the matinee I attended with my husband and two young children. The story explores the family life of the title character, focusing on parent-child conflict over tradition and responsibilities. While Isis and Ike Frost expect their son Jack to become part of the family business, Jack would rather cause mischief and go on adventures than toil away producing individual snowflakes or painting leaves. The warm Kringle family poses a worthy counterpoint to the icy Frost folks. When Crystal, the Kringle daughter, switches places with Jack, both families have a lot to learn.

Composer/Music Director Paul Lindley II as Jack Frost, changing the colors of the autumn leaves

Not only have Aldamuy and Lindley created the material for their first original musical, they are also involved in this production. Aldamuy has devised crisp choreography for numbers such as “Reindeer Tango” as well as providing stage management expertise. As Jack Frost, Lindley captivates the audience with his agile antics and impressive singing voice, evident in “Jack’s Ballad” among other strong musical numbers. Julian Deleon provides a comforting paternal presence as Chris Kringle, thus achieving another successful foray on the CCT stage. Rachel Arling (Christine Kringle, and - full disclosure - a contributor to Jasper), Carol Beis (Isis Frost), and Charley Krawczyk (Ike Frost) energize their scenes with appealing performances, while Kaitlyn Fuller portrays Crystal with vivacity and charm. Anthony Harvey plays the dual roles of Old Man Winter and Elf; his impish Elf becomes the show’s comedic engine. My preschool son’s belly laughs testified to Harvey’s hilarious and skillful portrayal, not to mention the kid’s desire to imitate some of the Elf’s inventive shenanigans. (At certain performances, Toni V. Moore plays Isis Frost, Jerryanna Williams plays Crystal Kringle, and Lee O. Smith plays Chris Kringle.)

(L-R) Kaitlyn Fuller, Julian Deleon, Rachel Arling, Anthony

Costume design (Donna Harvey and Stevenson), scenic artistry (Jim Litzinger, Stevenson, D. Harvey and A. Harvey), and sound design (Lindley) maintain the high standards of artistic quality that distinguish CCT performances. Distinctive color palettes work effectively to differentiate the worlds of Frost and Kringle, especially through the superb costuming choices. Matt Wright (Sound Technician) and Brandi Smith (Light Board Operator) also provide valuable technical support.

It is a credit to the community’s enthusiasm for CCT that a brand new and unknown work can draw a packed house similar to audiences that attend more familiar plays. My first grade daughter is always eager to go whenever I suggest a trip to CCT. Show title, genre, characters?  No concerns of hers; she is just elated at the prospect of another show. You see, my daughter – like so many of us in Columbia – trusts that whatever production she sees at CCT, she will have a great experience. Thank goodness for the extraordinary talents at Columbia Children’s Theatre for their vision and artistry. We can’t wait to see what they dream up next.

~ Melissa Swick Ellington


The world premiere of Jack Frost continues through this Sunday, Dec. 14, with morning, matinee, and evening performances.  For ticket information, call (803) 691-4548 or visit  And don't forget - there's also Late Night (i.e. 8 PM rather than 7 PM) Date Night for Mom and Dad on Friday, December 12, and when the kids are away, the actors will play!  The cast performs the same script, but loosen up and bring out double (and triple) entendres for a riotous evening of PG-13-ish fun.  This is an unpredictable evening of fun and surprises that is pretty much guaranteed to make you say, "I can't believe they got away with that in a Children's Theatre!" Recommended for ages 17 and up.  And while 8:00 may be late for Children's Theatre folk, it's still early enough (since the show only runs one hour) that you can head out into the night for more fun, in a great mood, after having laughed yourself silly!  For more info or tickets, visit


Get Osamu Kobayashi While You Can - Thursday night at 80808

Osamu Kobayashi  

The process of painting is a power struggle. I take my paintings one way; they want to go somewhere else. And when they go somewhere else; I drag them in another direction. In the end, the paintings usually wins.

My work is reductive in form, often compositionally centered, and employs a spontaneous and intuitive array of colors, shapes, and textures. Using these elements I create visual dualities: chance vs. control, organic vs. geometric, warm vs. cool, large vs. small, etc.

Like a good story, the elements that comprise each work push and pull off of each other, creating a unified structure that stays contained--but never becomes subdued--within its own parameters.

The aim is to create work with a sensation similar to that of a clear thought: the idea has its bases covered; there’s no room for argument. In reality, however, these paintings can never be clear thoughts; they are much more open than that. They are more of a confrontation: between what I desire to know and what I can never know entirely. -- Osamu Kobayashi


If you read the most recent issue of Jasper you know how proud we are of our native son Osamu Kobayashi whose visual arts career has already lifted off the launch pad, sparks flying, smoke roiling, and is making that last almost slo-mo ascent into space. Right now, we can shade our eyes against the brightness, but soon he'll be another one of those star-like satellites in the sky that we can identify by its placement and history, but no longer actually touch. (Unless we sneak in a visit with him when he comes home to see Shige and the rest of his family on one of those rare, super-artist holidays.)


Watch this video by Brian Harmon starring Columbia Museum of Art chief curator Will South as well as Osamu's very proud brother Shigeharu Kobayashi to learn more about Osamu's upcoming exhibit this Thursday, December 12th at Vista Studios Gallery 80808 at 808 Lady Street.

Don't miss a chance to meet and chat with Osamu while he's in Columbia.

See you Thursday night at this free Columbia arts event.

Read more about Osamu here.

Holiday Shows A-Plenty Across Midlands Stages

christmasbells2 There's no shortage of seasonal favorites to be found around town.  The winter holidays are all about tradition; as days grow shorter, darker, and colder, we're comforted by what is familiar.  Local theatres are no exception, offering revivals of yuletide favorites, as well as productions of classics from the screen and stage.  Here are just a few!

The Waltons was a huge hit on television, but in Earl Hamner's novels and on the big screen, they were the Spencers, and Hamner adapted his memories of growing up in rural Virginia into a stage play as well.  Narrated by Clay-Boy Spencer, The Homecoming recalls a pivotal Christmas, a missing father, and lean times during the Depression. Lexington's Village Square Theatre returns with this favorite from a few seasons ago for one weekend only, December 4-7. MonaLisa Botts directs; for information, call 803-359-1436, or visit


Similar small town warmth and values, filtered through a quirkier Southern Gothic perspective, earned Pamela Parker a Pulitzer nomination for her play Second Samuel.  West Columbia's On Stage Productions is reviving their successful production from earlier this year.  The Jasper review of that production said "like Steel Magnolias, the local ladies gather to chat at the beauty parlor, while the men convene at 'Frisky’s Bait and Brew,' the kind of place where you can get a Nehi and a Moon Pie as easily as a cold beer or a shot of whiskey...(The play) can be enjoyed at face value as a variation on Mayberry or Vicky Lawrence’s Momma’s Family, or taken at a much deeper level."

SecondSamuel2014-HolidayShow_pages Most of director Robert Harrelson's cast return, including Debra Leopard, MJ Maurer, Courtney Long, Anne Merritt Snider, Courtney Long, Sam Edelson, and Antoine T. Marion.  Run dates are December 4-13; for information, call 407-319-2596, or visit  There will also be a special staged reading of the sequel, A Very Second Samuel Christmas  on Saturday, December 6, with the playwright in attendance - your chance to give feedback on a new  work in progress!

Town Theatre is also bringing back a popular hit, the stage adaptation by David Ives and Paul Blake of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Based on the 1954 film, this musical, nominated for multiple Tony and Drama Desk Awards, is directed and choreographed by Shannon Willis Scruggs, with musical direction by Sharon McElveen Altman.  Frank Thompson and Scott Vaughan play Army buddies who stage a show at a quaint Vermont inn, encountering show biz shenanigans and romantic entanglements with Abigail Ludwig and Celeste Mills along the way.   Joining them are Bill DeWitt, Kathy Hartzog, Parker Byun, Andy Nyland, and Bob Blencowe;  the show continues this week, closing with a matinee on Sunday, December 7, and you can find a review at Onstage Columbia.

Two other special performances are also scheduled for holiday fun. First,  Jamie Carr Harrington directs  Disney’s Sleeping Beauty - Kids, the culmination of her Fall Youth Program.  This timeless classic will magic its way into your heart this holiday season. There will be music and dancing, as well as magic spells and evil curses.  Maleficent crashes little Aurora’s Christening party, and places a curse on the baby simply because she was not invited. A urora is whisked away to the woods where she lives for 16 years.  Once upon a dream she meets a handsome stranger, who ends up being the prince who will break the spell with true love’s kiss. Come see Town Theatre’s Youth Program bring a little magic now to the stage, with ayoung beauty who pricks her finger on a spindle and falls asleep due to a curse. There will be fun bumbling fairies, happy woodland creatures, and fantastical goons. (Gotta love fantastical goons! ~ ed.) The show runs Dec. 12-14, with multiple matinee and evening performances.

Also, Jasper Theatre Artist of the Year Finalist Frank Thompson directs A Christmas Carol Columbia - a new version of the Dickens novella, presented live on stage as a radio play, and written by James Kirk. (The author, not the captain.) This special performance will be presented just one, at 3 PM on Sunday, Dec. 21st.  For ticket information on all three productions, call 803-799-2510, or visit


The St. Paul’s Players are presenting  The Fourth Wise Man, a musical adaptation of the short story “The Other Wise Man” by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), an author, educator, and clergyman who is credited with writing the lyrics for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”  The Fourth Wise Man is the story of Artaban, portrayed by Jim Jarvis.  Other cast members are John Arnold, Brenda Byrd, Olin Jenkins, Randy Nolff, Mark Wade, and Valerie Ward.  Artaban, one of the Magi who has studied the stars, endeavors to journey with Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthazar to pay tribute to the Christ Child. He carries three gifts, a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl; however, during his travels he faces tests and challenges. What happens when he finally has the chance to meet Jesus face-to-face?

The St. Paul’s Players' production of The Fourth Wise Man will be presented in the Good Shepherd Theatre at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, on the corner of Bull and Blanding Streets in downtown Columbia.  A dinner theatre performance will be held on Friday, December 5 at 6 p.m.  The cost is $10.00 per person, with advance reservations required. Call (803) 779-0030 to make reservations.  Two more performances will be held on Saturday, December 6 at 3 p.m. andat  7 p.m. There is no cost for the Saturday performances and no required reservations. For more information, contact John W. Henry, Producer, at 803-917-1002, or Paula Benson, Director, at 803-206-4965.
Trustus Theatre found great success last year with Patrick Barlow's post-modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which remained faithful to the original Dickens material, while incorporating technical wizardry, live music enhanced with synthesizer effects, and sexy, steampunk-influenced costumes for the Ghosts.  You can read the Jasper review of that production here,  but there have been a few changes for this year's iteration, with Kendrick Marion joining Director Chad Henderson and last year's cast, including Catherine Hunsinger, Avery Bateman, Scott Herr,  and Stann Gwynn as Scrooge. The show runs through December 20 on the Thigpen Main Stage.


Trustus also has a couple of special events scheduled this month. First,  late nights are back with The Ladies of Lady Street Late Night Cabaret, featuring the best in female impersonation. Join a highly entertaining quartet of both local and guest performers on Friday December 12th at 11:00pm.  The hour-long show features an entertaining mix of female impersonation, celebrity illusions, showgirl costumes, comedy, glamour and live singing. Vista Queen Emeritus Patti O’Furniture leads a cast that features Dorae Saunders (as seen on “America’s Got Talent” and former Miss US of A at Large),  the live singing talents of Denise Russell, and Veronica La Blank (Columbia’s Wild Card of Drag.) This is the second offering of a series of four shows during Trustus’ 30th season. The show takes place on the Thigpen Mainstage;    tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at or at the door.  Doors open at 10:45pm after the evening performance of A Christmas Carol. The show is at 11:00pm. The Trustus bar will open at 10:45pm and will remain open during the show. Or, make a night of it, and check out the Trustus production of A Christmas Carol that same night at 8pm. Tickets for that show are also available online.

Mark Rapp, appearing at Trustus Theatre

Then get ready for Jingle Bell Jazz, featuring the Mark Rapp Quartet and special guests on  December 17th.  Celebrated jazz trumpeter Mark Rapp and his quartet present a grooving, swinging, funky fun Christmas concert that will leave you toasty, warm and happy for the holidays. Rapp has prepared unique jazz arrangements of such Christmas classics as: Angels We Have Heard on High, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, O Come All Ye Faithful, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer to Wham!’s Last Christmas.Rapp has performed with such distinct artists from Branford Marsalis to Hootie and the Blowfish, released 5 diverse recordings, and is featured leading and playing the closing track of Disney’s "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" CD which also features such artists as Dave Brubeck and Esperanza Spalding. Mark is a featured artist in Mellen Press' "How Jazz Trumpeters Understand Their Music" among a prestigious list including Terence Blanchard, Lew Soloff, Freddie Hubbard, Tim Hagans, Dave Douglas and more. Mark has performed in jazz festivals around the world from the Fillmore Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, WC Handy Festival, to Jazz Festivals in Switzerland, Croatia and Brazil.  The concert performance will begin at 9pm. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased from  For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732 .

mistletoe Theatre Rowe is presenting  Murder Under the Mistletoe at both its Columbia and Lexington locations: Scheduled dates are:

Lexington: December 4-7, 11-14, 18-21

Columbia: December 6, 7, 11, 12, 18, 19, 21

For information, call 803-200-2012, or visit

Shakespeare's Kidz, the youth program of the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, presents MidWinter's Eve: A Shakespeare's Kidz Tale on December 11th, at 6:00 pm at the Richland Country Library - and it's free!  Written and directed by London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate Katie Mixon, the show is a fun, family friendly, heart-warming inside look at Christmas in Elizabethan England. It's the night before Christmas, when William Shakespeare pops off for some holiday cheer with the wife for the evening. The Shakespeare brood is on their own! Young twins Judith and Hamnet dance, and duel with swords, while Susanna dreams of romance. Friends Emilia, Malvolio, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern join the party, with a search for the Yule Log, and visits from The Lord of Misrule!   Will the Shakespeare kids and their friends survive the night, or will chaos trump all?


Featured in the cast of young performers are Elin Johnson, Joss Kim, Maize Cook, Walt Cook, Napoleon Rodriguez, Guillermo Rodriguez Oliveira, and Lindsay Knowlton.  The perforance is approximately 30 minutes;  you're encouraged to arrive at few minutes early to make your way downstairs and claim a good seat!  For more information, visit

jack frost

Columbia Children's Theatre presents Jack Frost, the world premiere of a new musical for children, with music by Paul Lindley II, and book and lyrics by Crystal Aldamuy. Run dates are December 5-14.

Something’s up with the weather.  The leaves are turning non-existent colors, unexpected snows are blanketing the orange groves and farmers are getting frost bite in the summer.  What is going on?  Is it global warming?  No, it’s Jack Frost being “creative” again. When Jack’s rebellion and yearning for self-expression start landing him in hot water, his parents The Snow Queen and The Frost King, decide that a little time spent with the industrious and practical Kringle family would teach the head-strong lad a lesson. So, in a move straight out of Trading Spaces, Jack and Crystal Kringle trade lives and suffice it to say cleaning up after reindeer is not exactly Jack’s cup of iced tea.  With a book and lyrics by Crystal-Alisa Aldamuy and music by Paul Gilbert Lindley II this wintry world premiere musical is just the thing to warm your heart!

Show Times:

~ August Krickel


Fall Lines



Fall Lines – a literary convergence is a literary journal based in Columbia, SC and presented by Jasper Magazine in partnership with the University of South Carolina Press, Muddy Ford Press, Richland Library and One Columbia.

With a single, annual publication, Fall Lines is distributed in lieu of Jasper Magazine’s regularly scheduled summer issue. Fall Lines will accept submissions of previously unpublished poetry, essays, short fiction, and flash fiction from December 1, 2014 through March 1, 2015. While the editors of Fall Lines hope to attract the work of writers and poets from the Carolinas and the Southeastern US, acceptance of work is not dependent upon residence.

Please limit short fiction to 2000 words or less; flash fiction to 350 – 500 words per submission; essays to 1200 words; and poetry to three pages (Times New Roman 12 pt.)

Submit your work to Jasper Magazine’s Fall Lines – a literary convergence at

While you are invited to enter up to five items, each item should be sent individually as a single submission. Please include with each submission a cover sheet stating your name, email address, and USPO address.

There is a five dollar reading fee for each short story; for up to three poems; for up to three flash fiction submissions; or for each essay.

Publication in Fall Lines will be determined by a panel of judges and accepted authors will be notified in May 2015, with a publication date in June 2015. Accepted authors will receive two copies of the journal.


The Columbia Fall Line is a natural junction, along which the Congaree River falls and rapids form, running parallel to the east coast of the country between the resilient rocks of the Appalachians and the softer, more gentle coastal plain.

Jasper Announces 2014 JAYS

(L - R) Kathleen Robbins, Greg Stuart, Darien Cavanaugh, Cindi Boiter, Katie Smoak, Rhonda Hunsinger accepting on behalf of her daughter Catherine Hunsinger Jasper Magazine is delighted to announce the winners of the 2014 Jasper Artists of the Year awards. Winners were announced on Friday, November 21st at a fundraiser gala for the magazine at Columbia’s historic Big Apple at Park and Hampton Streets, amongst a crowd of 150 guests.

Winners include Katie Smoak for dance, Darien Cavanaugh for literary arts, Greg Stuart for music, Kathleen Robbins for visual art, and Catherine Hunsinger for theatre.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by swing dance masters Richard Durlach and Breedlove, who are featured in the November/December issue of Jasper Magazine, and who demonstrated and taught attendees how to dance the Big Apple dance, made famous in 1937 at the historic Columbia location. Vicky Saye Henderson and the Apple Jacks, a new period musical ensemble comprised of Greg Apple, Christopher Cockrell, Chase Nelson, and Henderson, entertained with songs from the era, and Terrence Henderson emceed the event. Catering was provided by Scott Hall Catering. Rob Sprankle was the photographer.

Sponsors for the evening included Bourbon Columbia, City Art Gallery, HoFP Gallery, Peter Korper Realty, Coal Powered Filmworks, Burt Pardue, Billy Guess, Jody and Jeff Salter, Pura Wellness Spa, and an anonymous donor. The gala committee was comprised of Lauren Michalski, Bohumila Augustinova, Rosalind Graverson, Margey Bolen, Annie Boiter-Jolley, and Jasper editor Cindi Boiter.

Nominees for Jasper Artist of the Year (JAY) were solicited from the public early this fall based on individual artistic achievement from September 15, 2013 until September 15 2014. Committees of experts in each of the disciplines reviewed the nominations and narrowed the candidates down to three finalists in each field. The public was then invited once again to vote on their choices in each of the five categories. Finalists in dance were Smoak, Thaddeus Davis, and Caroline Lewis Jones; in literary arts, Cavanaugh, Julia Elliott, and Alexis Stratton; in music, Stuart, the Can’t Kids, and the Mobros; in visual arts, Robbins, James Busby, and Eileen Blyth; and, in theatre, Hunsinger, Robert Richmond, and Frank Thompson.

Outgoing JAYS for 2013 include Terrance Henderson for dance, Vicky Saye Henderson for theatre, the Restoration for music, Philip Mullen for visual art, and Janna McMahan for literary art.

For more information on Jasper and the 2014 JAYS visit

Record Review Redux: ET Anderson - Et Tu, ________?

a4176656844_10 Almost as soon as ET Anderson announced their formation, its recorded debut became one of the most anticipated local indie rock records of 2014. Band mastermind Tyler Morris did great work in the Pavement-esque Calculator prior to joining up with Raleigh’s Octopus Jones, where his slashing guitar work and dry, terse songwriting did wonders as a complement to the bandleader Danny Martin’s funky, New Wave-inspired romps. When he split from that group and returned to Columbia earlier this year, he quickly assembled an extraordinarily talented group of players to back him for his new project, which made its first broad debut at this year’s Jam Room Music Festival.

Whether this seven song recording, written and performed almost entirely by Morris, lives up to the hype will largely depend on what you make of his approach, though, for Et tu is all about taking chances, letting instruments float at-times beautifully and at-times dissonantly in and out of the picture while testing the limits of the rhythmic pocket which most rock and roll depends on. The one-two opening punch of “It Don’t Even” and “I Do Not Mind” sees the bass line teasing a groove playfully rather than laying it down straight while alternating between twinkling guitar licks and Malkmus-esque distortion. The only thing seemingly holding it together are the drums, with who lots of fills and stops thrown into the mix that provide the momentum for songs that feel like they are near sinking under the weight of the rest of the composition’s playful experimentation. Things only get slightly more standard from there, as keyboards parts create an otherworldly aura for much of the record but also provide a surprising organ-style body to many of the songs, particularly to great effect on “Acid Earlier / Love Thy Neighbor,” the tune which comes closest to the charging spree of Octopus Jones. The fact that Morris plays almost all of these instruments himself is a dizzying feat given the dramatic range of styles and approaches that come together across these eclectic compositions.

Still, it’s the latter half of the EP that the project at its most winsome, with ballads like “Things You’d Do,” “Legs,” and “It’s Not the Same” capturing the warped beauty of peak-era Yo La Tengo. Like the sound pioneered by that seminal group, ET Anderson is attempting to combine noisy experimentation, pop sensibilities, and a sense of adventure in a way that defies the predictable and, at times, ease of access. Also like that band, their ambition might involve a few missteps and dead-ends, but the very kinds of missteps and dead-ends which can be so fascinating and delightful precisely because the process itself is so revelatory. As much as this EP falls short in some ways, it also leaves you impatiently waiting to hear what’s coming next.

Note: In the print version of this review (published in the November/December 2014 issue of Jasper), a significant number of mistakes were made involving musician credits on this project. This updated review more accurately reflects the creative process for the record.

Gallery West – Call for Submissions “Selfies, Real or Imagined: An Exhibition of Visual and Literary Art"

  Call to Artists

Gallery West is currently accepting submissions for its exhibition, Selfies: Real or Imagined, which will be held in late April of 2015. This exhibition will present a broad range of contemporary art and literature using all media in one, two or three-dimensional works. The exhibition is organized by Sara Cogswell, Director of Gallery West, and will include works by both emerging and established artists, internationally and from across the United States.

Social media and the mobile web have given rise to a strange phenomenon called the selfie. What is a selfie? A portrait of yourself, visual or written, usually shared on a social networking website. There are many selfie styles, and numerous psychological factors that might drive any specific person to create a selfie and share it.

This exhibition will explore the wide arena of selfies, either from the perspective of the artist or writer themselves, or an alter ego, as if from another person, animal, mythical or fantasy character…anything the artist or writer can imagine. Writers might share their visions of themselves in poetry or short verse.



  • Only unique, one-of-a-kind works of art and literature will be accepted. These may include drawing, painting, collage, prints, photography, sculpture, fiber, and ceramics. Multiples are not accepted.
  • A literary component has been added to expand the scope of this exhibition. Flash fiction, poetry, or prosetry, 500 words or less, will now be accepted. Accepted submissions in literature will be compiled into a chapbook, which will be edited by Susan Levi Wallach and Ed Madden, and published in limited edition by Muddy Ford Press.
  • A literary prize in the amount of $250 will be awarded to one writer. All writers whose work is accepted and included in the chapbook will receive two copies of the publication. Additional chapbooks will be published for purchase.


  • Artworks selected for inclusion in the exhibition must be suitably framed and/or made ready for installation, no exceptions.
  • All artworks must be for sale. A “Price on Request” designation is not acceptable. 
The submission of and entry to “Selfies: Real or Imagined” will constitute agreement by the entrant to all conditions set forth in this prospectus.
  • All submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, January 16, 2015. Materials received after January 16 will not be considered. Gallery West assumes the responsibility of insuring and caring for works of art selected for exhibition at the gallery. The artist will cover shipping costs, arrange for transportation of art works to and from the gallery, and insure works while in transit. After works are selected for exhibition, the gallery reserves the right to photograph and reproduce images of selected entries for publication, education, and publicity purposes.Each artist may submit up to five jpeg images on CD (200 dpi or larger at 1024 x 768 pixels) to the Gallery West address, or via email ( Writers may submit up to five pieces, each 500 words or less, via email to (, or by mail to the Gallery West address below.Artists will be notified of their status by mid-February, 2015. A contract will be sent when participation is confirmed.
  • All images must be of works made within the past two years (between 2012-2014), and must be accompanied by a checklist of the works submitted for review, including title, date, materials, dimensions and price. Slides are not accepted.
  • Up to 5 images of recent work in jpeg format
for visual artists
  • Up to 5 submissions of written word, each 500 words or less
  • Detailed image list (including title, year, media, dimensions, and price)
  • Current resume or C.V. (please include mail and email address)
  • Artist statement


All submissions must be received by 5pm, January 16, 2015.

Please address submissions to:


Sara Cogswell, Director

Gallery West

118 State Street

West Columbia SC 29169



"Our Town" at Longstreet Theatre - a review by Jillian Owens


The University of South Carolina’s second production of the 2014-15 academic year isn’t the most adventurous of choices, but it is a popular one. Often-produced, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (directed by Steven Pearson in USC's Longstreet Theatre) tells the simple story of a simple town full of simple people,  but also tackles themes as heavy as why no one seems to appreciate life while they’re living it, and the meaning of eternity.

One of the reasons this play is so -- in my opinion -- over-performed is that it’s easy to produce. The script dictates that no props or sets be used. The actors must instead mime all action. Ladders become the second floors of houses where characters exchange secrets, and there are a few tables and chairs. That’s it. No real budget is required. Another reason this play is often-produced is that it’s extremely popular. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938, and its 1989 Broadway revival garnered a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for Best Revival.

 Matthew Cavender and Nicole Dietze - photo by Jason Ayer,

Our Town is divided into three acts: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Dying.  The play opens in the tiny town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in 1901. An equally omniscient and nostalgic Stage Manager (Carin Bendas) introduces us to several of the townsfolk and explains the town’s not-very-exciting history. We see the Gibbs and Webb families sending their children off to school. It’s all a bit tedious, and it’s meant to be. We meet the two teenagers, George Gibbs (Matthew Cavender) and Emily Webb (Nicole Dietze.) Much like the town of Grover’s Corners, there’s nothing really remarkable about either of them. We begin to see them fall in love. We see them marry. Nothing remarkable.

The third act poses an intriguing question: If you were dead and could go back to any day in your life, what would it be, and how would your perspective change? If youth is wasted on the young, is life wasted on the living? Do any of us really appreciate life while we’re in the moments that stack upon other moments until it’s all over? According to the Stage Manager, "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.”

photo by Jason Ayer

Most of it is frightfully simple and boring, as are most of our lives. And that’s kind of the point. If Our Town wasn’t written in this simplistic style and with so few things that actually happen, we wouldn’t be as able to empathize with the characters as we are. We can see ourselves in them...not in those exciting, electric moments that we wait for, but in the spaces in between when we’re cooking dinner, running errands, or just chatting with a friend. This is who we are.

This production of Our Town features a new crop of MFA students, as well as a few undergrads. Dietze and Cavender are naively pleasant enough as Emily and George. I enjoyed the easy and comfortable dynamic between Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs (Josh Jeffers and Candace Thomas), which was perhaps the most subtly touching and believable relationship in this production. The Stage Manager is usually cast as a male, but features a female actor, Carin Bendas, in this production. It’s a difficult role, as it isn’t really so much a character as it is a time-warping deliverer of exposition. Bendas comes off as off-puttingly smug at times, but still delivers some of the best lines of the show with empathy and compassion. All of the actors do an impressive job at miming props, and manage to deliver decent New Hampshire accents.

Carin Bendas - photo by JAsopn Ayer

I was impressed by how visually interesting the “not really a set” set was. Neda Spalajkovic adhered to Wilder’s desires as much as she could, while still giving the audience something interesting to look at that establishes location and time changes. And even if you don’t care very much for this sort of show, you’ll be impressed with how she has worked with lighting designer Ashley Pittman to create a visually stunning final tableau.

photo by Jason Ayer

The plot is slow. The language is plain. But then you get lines like this that jump out at you and stir something inside of you:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

And this is why Our Town remains an American theatre classic.

~ Jillian Owens

Show times for Our Town are 8pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, with additional 3pm matinees on Sunday, November 16 and Saturday, November 22.  Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, November 7.  Longstreet Theatre is located at 1300 Greene St.

Film Review: The Ballad of Shovels & Rope (Screening at the Nick on Nov. 21)

web-thumbnail-650x331 The key to a great music documentary is in the timing. D.A. Pennebaker caught Bob Dylan at his apotheosis as a folk singer and the height of his songwriting powers right before he turned decisively towards electric rock and roll for Dont Look Back (1967). Sam Jones started filming Wilco the day after they fired their original drummer and didn’t finish until they canned another band member, were dropped by their record label, and released their most critically acclaimed and commercially successful record to date in what became I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (2002). It’s easiest when it coincides with the band’s swan song—think The Last Waltz (1978) or Shut Up and Play the Hits (2012)—and, conversely, far more difficult to capture the moment where the band first emerges in the national spotlight.

The last of these is what The Ballad of Shovels & Rope, produced and directed by Jace Freeman and Sean Clark, poignantly does.

The film opens on Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, circa 2010, playing a weekly bar gig at El Bohio, a Cuban joint that shares a space with the Charleston Pour House. It’s a familiar sight to long-time fans, as Hearst and Trent could frequently be found playing shows like this for years in order to make a living. Not long after, we see Hearst waiting tables at Jestine’s kitchen, a part-time job that persists through the recording of their breakthrough album, 2012’s O Be Joyful.

And throughout most of the documentary, this precarious position is where the two find themselves in. Over the course of 2011 and 2012, Trent and Hearst would make a serious bid at making Shovels & Rope succeed, spending hundreds of days on the road in an old touring van retrofitted with an air mattress for nights spent in Wal-Mart parking lots. Sometimes the van serves as a makeshift studio as well—the film captures with crackling intensity the moment where Amanda Shires is shuffled into the van between soundcheck and show to record fiddle parts for a few of the songs.


While the plot points of this story can seem a little predictable now—aborted recording session in L.A., lots of touring, home recording and trips to the Laundromat in between—the beauty here is all in the relationship between Trent and Hearst (and their dog Townes, who tours with them). Watching them casually interact with each other, whether they are writing songs together, working long hours in various studios, or deciding to sign a record deal, feels both intimate and revelatory. You get a sense of the full breadth of their relationship, with everything from slapstick humor and playful teasing mixed with subtle physical touches and smoldering emotional intensity.

Structurally, the filmmakers also wisely hang their narrative around the writing and recording of just a handful of songs, among them “Birmingham,” the lead single that would launch them into the national spotlight and later win “Song of the Year” at the Americana Music Awards in 2013. There’s a glorious amount of footage given to these creative moments, with everything from a half-written rendition of “Birmingham” by Hearst to a scene where the duo gathers around a living room microphone trying to nail harmony parts on “Hail Hail.” These are obviously great fan-pleasing moments, but it’s also just as likely to win over audiences unfamiliar with Shovels & Rope as well. In a casual, informal way, it’s an incredible glimpse of how a songwriting and recording partnership works, at least for them. Freeman and Clark also stick mostly with montages to capture the grueling grind of the road, using only choice bits like the Wal-Mart parking lot scene and casual backstage chatting with Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires (Trent and Hearst play them a hilarious double/single entendre tune called “Hard Hard Feeling,” which remains unreleased), wisely keeping the focus on songwriting and other scenes shot at the couple’s rustic Johns Island home.

Right around the one-hour mark, there is a palpable sense that the filmmakers are speeding up the story—we move quickly from record deal to  album release to Letterman appearance to the Americana Music Awards, with a montage that also sees the band upgrading to an RV and getting their own washer and dryer delivered to their house. The film only runs about ten more minutes, so it might feel a bit tacked on or like a rushed ending for some, but I can’t help but be happy with the balance of the film. It’s the moments of struggle and uncertainty that are the appeal here, and the adrenaline rush of success at the close that the film gives up probably mimics a bit what the duo (and, to a lesser extent, the filmmakers themselves) felt. “Being in a rock band is a lot like playing the lotto at the gas station,” Hearst opines during a late interview. It’s an apt comparison, and a fitting one that hits on the unlikeliness of the Shovels & Rope success story. And it’s all the more amazing for having been captured on film by these guys.

The film will be screened The Nickelodeon Theatre on Friday, November 21st, at 11pm, with an opening set by Mason Jar Menagerie. DVD copies of the doc will be available starting December 1, with preorders available now at The Moving Picture Boys website here.

Note: You can still attend the 2014 JAY Awards, which start at 7pm, and see the film as well!


Trustus Reprises A Christmas Carol

Stann Gywnn and Catherine Hunsinger Trustus Theatre is reviving its hit production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on the Thigpen Main Stage this November. This recent adaptation by Patrick Barlow, the Tony-award winning playwright of The 39 Steps, is a whirlwind telling of the classic holiday story where five actors take on all of the roles. Scrooge and all of his ghostly counterparts will return to the Thigpen Main Stage as A Christmas Carol opens Friday November 21st at 8:00pm. The show will run through December 20th, 2014. Tickets may be purchased at


Last season’s production of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the Dickens classic was met with raves from sold-out audiences and critics, so Trustus decided to revive the production in their 30th season. While A Christmas Carol is a family-friendly production, what makes this version a Trustus show is that the script challenges five gifted actors to embody all of the characters while creating a live musical score on stage. The product is an unforgettable evening where a classic story is told in an unexpected way.


For the uninitiated, A Christmas Carol introduces audiences to Ebenezer Scrooge - a wealthy miser who has neither love for humankind nor any holiday cheer. His clerk Bob Cratchit works in a cold corner of the office just to make ends meet for his family, especially his ailing son Tiny Tim. When Scrooge is visited by his deceased business partner Jacob Marley, a night of haunts begins as spirits take Scrooge to the past, present, and future in an attempt to show him the good in humanity and the benefits of charity.


Trustus Co-Artistic Director Chad Henderson is back in the director’s chair for this revival. “A Christmas Carol is my favorite holiday story and tradition,” said Henderson. “Scrooge’s journey of redemption has always been appealing to me. This story is a classic because it’s one-of-a-kind – a Christmas ghost story. I’m looking forward to revisiting this production and creating some new moments that will surprise the audience.”


The Trustus production boasts the acclaimed cast from last year's production. Local favorite Stann Gwynn (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Doubt) will be portraying the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Trustus Company members Catherine Hunsinger (Constance), Avery Bateman (Ragtime, Ain't Misbehavin'), Scott Herr (The House of Blue Leaves, The Velvet Weapon), and new cast member Kendrick Marion (Ain't Misbehavin', The Black Man...Complex) join forces to bring the other characters of Dickens' story to life on stage.


While this adaptation calls for four actors to play numerous roles throughout the performance, it also asks them to create a live score throughout the show. Carols, sound effects and underscoring will be created and performed live on stage by the players. The music will be an unexpected mix of keyboards, cello, beatboxing, a Line6 delay modulator, a VocalistLive, violin, guitar, and of course the combined voices of the performers. “The live music is a unique combination of sounds,” said Director Chad Henderson. “It’s derived from the traditions of Reggie Watts, Danny Elfman, Justin Timberlake, and Panic! At The Disco.” While audiences may hear non-traditional takes on the carols in the show, they can be assured that the classic Dickens tale remains intact.


Trustus Theatre’s A Christmas Carol opens on the Trustus Main Stage on Friday, November 21st at 8:00pm and runs through December 20th, 2014. Thigpen Main Stage shows start at 8:00pm Thursdays through Saturdays, and Sunday matinees are at 3:00pm. Tickets are $22.00 for adults, $20.00 for military and seniors, and $15.00 for students. Half-price Student Rush-Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to curtain.


Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady St. and on Pulaski St. The Main Stage entrance is located on the Publix side of the building.


For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit for all show information and season information.


Five Days Out from an Experiment on You.

Jay 2014 graphic  

At Jasper, we're five days away from an experiment we hope you'll help make successful.

When we started Jasper over three years ago, we set the policy that we would always celebrate the release of a new magazine with a large, free, multi-arts party that usually includes a variety of performances.  We've had concerts from both new and established rock 'n' roll bands, films, readings, opera singers singing from the balcony, gallery exhibits, excerpts from local theatre -- you name it, we've either done it or it's in our plans to do. The point was twofold: to bring artists and arts lovers from various disciplines together to help foster community and collaboration, and simply to celebrate the fact that another issue of Jasper was coming out when we said it would, like we said it would.

By now I hope we've earned your trust and that you look forward to these celebrations as much as we do.

As most readers know, Jasper is a labor of love and only made possible because more than 20 artists of various disciplines go home after their day jobs, and work to plan, write, photograph, and design this magazine by the midnight oil. Like all artists who go home from offices and commercial endeavors to their studios and stages, their guitars and cameras and pads of paper to the work that makes life a little more meaningful, we don't have to do this. We do it because we want to.

This will be the 20th time we've done this, in fact. And we want you to help us celebrate it.

Join us this Friday night, November 21st, as we announce and celebrate our third class of Jasper Artists of the Year (JAYs) in dance, theatre, music, and literary and visual arts, and celebrate the publication of the 20th issue of Jasper Magazine.  We wanted to do something special to mark this occasion, and start a tradition of honoring the artists of the year, so we decided a gala or party of sorts was in order. Not one of those parties though in which no working artist could afford to attend. We asked around and found out that $25 for an evening of entertainment complete with delicious snacks from one of the best caterers in town and an open bar of wine and beer seemed like a good and fair deal. We asked Vicky Saye Henderson to help us with the entertainment, along with Terrance Henderson who will serve as our emcee. Richard Durlach and Breedlove will be on hand both to dance, demonstrate and be honored. The illustrious Scott Hall agreed to grace us with his culinary skills. And we're putting together a bar that we hope you'll be talking about for days.

Our research question is this:  Will members of the Columbia arts community come out once a year and pay for entrance to an event they usually come to for free as a way of showing support to Jasper and honoring our 2014 Jasper Artists of the Year?

We hope you'll make our experiment a success by answering Yes and clicking here.


Seven Things You May Not Know about

Jasper Magazine

1.  In its 4th year of publication Jasper Magazine has provided unmatched coverage of the greater Columbia arts community, and has inspired collaboration and growth both between and within artistic communities including dance, film, literary arts, music, theatre, and the visual arts.

2. Jasper has covered more than 1000 artists in its pages and hundreds more in its daily blog What Jasper Said.

3. Jasper Magazine is distributed for free in almost 100 locations throughout Columbia, as well as in select locations throughout South Carolina, is available online in its entirety, and in every branch of the Richland Library system.


4. Via its highly active website and dynamic blog, Jasper endeavors to bring Columbia arts news and opportunities into readers’ homes on a daily basis.

5. In June 2014, Jasper collaborated with the University of South Carolina Press, Richland Library, and One Columbia for Arts and History to launch to critical acclaim the newest literary journal in the southeast, Fall Lines – a literary convergence.


6. In May, 2014 Jasper editor Cindi Boiter was awarded the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for her work with Jasper Magazine.

7. As a no-profit labor-of-love, Jasper eschews advertorial financial support in favor of artistic integrity, relying solely on advertising dollars, reader support, and the kindness of members of the Columbia arts community at large.

Jasper would like to thank our sponsors for the

2014 JAY Awards ~ Big Apple Swing

City Art

Burt Pardue and Site-Image Website Design


Jodi and Jeff Salter

Wade Sellers and Coal Powered Filmworks

Billy Guess



Kristian Niemi and Bourbon

Preview: Theatre South Carolina and Our Town at Longstreet Theatre

USC Our TownTheatre South Carolina will present the Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic Our Town, November 14-22, 2014 at Longstreet Theatre.

Show times for Our Town are 8pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, with additional 3pm matinees on Sunday, November 16 and Saturday, November 22.  Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, November 7.  Longstreet Theatre is located at 1300 Greene St.

Thornton Wilder’s beloved script was described by playwright Edward Albee as “the greatest American play ever written.” Through Wilder’s artfully simple prose, we are transported through a timeless, quintessentially American experience, as young George and Emily meet, fall in love and marry. While we share in their journey, we find ourselves witnessing a full life cycle — from childhood to adulthood, and, ultimately, the grave. Wilder’s beloved, Pulitzer Prize-winning drama opens our eyes to all we take for granted — the beautiful small details of everyday existence in a world “too wonderful for anybody to realize.”

Wilder’s play was especially radical when it premiered in 1938, says director Steven Pearson, a theatre professor and head of the university’s graduate acting program.  The playwright insisted that productions be mounted with extremely minimal scenic design — usually only two ladders and a few chairs — and employed the then-unique practice of “breaking the fourth wall,” or having the play’s characters communicate directly with the audience.

The play’s moving depictions of the beauty of ordinary existence have been praised since its original production.  Critic Brooks Atkinson called the play “hauntingly beautiful” in his 1938 New York Times review, adding that the playwright “has transmuted the simple events of human life into universal reveries.”

“Essentially what Wilder talks about in this play is that every day living is life,” says Pearson.  “People don’t live just so they can get to the point where something big happens.  It’s kind of a zen play in that sense.”

Pearson sums up this production just as simply.  “It’s radical, it’s funny… it will be well-acted and well-designed.  And if you’ve seen it before, come see it again — you’ll find something new about something important.  It’s like Shakespeare — the more we work on it, the more we find.”

Featured in the production are the theatre program’s first-year Master of Fine Arts in Acting students, who have all been working in theatres around the country for the last few years.  “They’re terrific,” adds Pearson.  “Professional people who have come back to school to just get stronger.”

The cast includes first-year MFA acting candidates Carin Bendas (Stage Manager), Matthew Cavender (George), Nicole Dietze (Emily), Josh Jeffers, Rachel Kuhnle, Benjamin Roberts, Candace Thomas and Dimitri Woods.  Also included in the cast are Michael Castro, Michael Ferrucci, Katrina Kopvowicz, Jon Whit McClinton, Madeline Mulkey, Megan Parlett, Beth Paxton, Samantha Roberts and Taiyen Stevenson.

In addition to directing, Pearson is also creating the sound design for the production, which he says will work toward sparking the audience’s imagination while completing the musicality of Wilder’s text.  Scenic design graduate design student Neda Spalajkovic is developing an innovative set which allows for the spareness of Wilder’s original concept while giving just the right detail to paint the locale of his fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.  Valerie Pruett, a senior costume and make-up design instructor, is creating the early twentieth century fashions for the play.  Undergraduate theatre student Ashley Pittman is helming the play’s lighting design.

The enduring message of Our Town remains universal, says Pearson.

“We are so ‘end’ or consumer oriented in our society, that we think of the time of our life as getting ready for the next ‘important’ thing,” he explains.  “But, if we do that, then we’re missing the point because the only thing we have is the time of our life.  That’s all we have.  Unless this is interesting — now — then what are we doing?”

For more information on Our Town or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at (803) 777-9353 or via email at

An Act of Humanity - Theatre Alums Share a Kidney in the Production of a Lifetime - a guest blog by Sheryl McAlister

  (The below is a copy of a blog posted by Sheryl McAlister, a freelance writer in South Carolina. She is editor of the blog Old Broad & New Trix.

Part 1, Erin’s Story: “Let’s get this Show on the Road”

The first time I saw Erin Thigpen Wilson was March, 2014, in Charleston, SC. She was playing a sadistic human trafficker in PURE Theatre’s production of Russian Transport. She was the matriarch of a group of equally sadistic family members.

She scared the shit out of me.

“Art…,” Edgar Degas said, after all “… is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Meeting her, mercifully, was altogether different. She’s groovy in an old school, hippy sort of way. Laid back with a been-there, done-that attitude. Funny. Quick wit. Seemingly carefree.

She grew up in community theatre in Columbia, SC, the child of a father who was a community theatre actor and high school drama teacher and a mother who ran the box office of the local theatre out of her living room. She performed in too many plays to count, starting at the age of 5 as “Rabbit #3” in Workshop Theatre’s production of Winnie the Pooh. Long ago, she learned how to play make believe.

Seemingly…. carefree.

Early in the summer of 2013, she nearly died. Her kidneys were destroyed. Doctors still don’t know why.

“I was having trouble breathing, but that’s normal for me,” Wilson, an asthma sufferer, said. “The first doctor told me I had bronchitis and gave me an antibiotic. But a week later, I had this incredible body pain. My bones hurt. I didn’t sleep for days.”

A second opinion led to tests that revealed elevated creatinine levels. As the doctor ran yet another set of tests to verify her assumptions, she told Wilson to decide which hospital she wanted to go to in the meantime. And she told her to decide quickly.

Wilson’s husband Laurens had met her at the doctor’s office. “We just looked at each other and were like ‘WHAT?’ The doctor told us we could go by ambulance or drive ourselves but if we decided to drive ourselves, we had to drive straight there. No stops.”

They called her parents – Sally Boyd & Les Wilson and Jim & Kay Thigpen. And her in-laws, Hank & Sue Wilson.

She spent two days in the ICU and was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. Her only option was dialysis. And just like that… Life, as she knew it, had changed forever.

She started hemodialysis, a rigorous, inflexible process that saves lives but dictates how those lives will be spent. The patient is attached to a machine 12 hours a week and cannot move while undergoing treatment. An alternate solution was available a couple months later, and she jumped at the chance.

Peritoneal dialysis “can be done at home,” she said. “There’s a cath in my abdomen; I call it a bullet hole. It’s where a very long tube goes out of my body and hooks up to a machine about the size of a copying machine.”

The process takes 9 to 10 hours each night. Every single night, she’s hooked up to a machine that pumps toxins out of her body. But Wilson seems to take it all in stride, expressing relief that the lead is long and allows her to move around her house without too much hassle.

“My days are free,” Wilson said, “And I can do what I need to do during the day. I have to schedule the 9 to 10 hours every night, but if I have a late night at rehearsal, I won’t schedule anything early the next morning.”

Late night at rehearsals would be at Pure Theatre where she is a member of the Core Ensemble, and Laurens is Managing Director. They met in March of 1995 in Manhattan when they both bartended for the Broadway production of Miss Saigon.

It was probably love at first sight, but she was married. So they became friends instead. “He introduced himself as Laurens from South Carolina,” Wilson said. “He knew Trustus.”

Trustus is Columbia (SC)’s Trustus Theatre, founded by Wilson’s dad Jim and his wife Kay 30 years ago.

The Wilsons began their life together later that year, and were married in June of 1998. They have moved from New York City to Baltimore to Chicago to Charlotte to Charleston, with occasional moves to Columbia in between. With one exception – Charlotte – every move they made involved “our actual family or a theatre community,” she said.

While the medical brilliance that is dialysis keeps her alive, it is art – the theatre — that has sustained her.

“I have worked harder this past year than I ever have,” she said. “And it has been my saving grace. There was a six month gap where I didn’t do anything, and it was depressing. For the most part, my activity hasn’t diminished.”

Art has long been a vehicle that can tame uncivilized societies, challenge conventional thinking and bring color to the grey. Art represents the heart and soul of a community and its basic humanity.

Art, in this case, literally connected life to life. Kidney to kidney. Generosity to gratitude.

“I needed a transplant,” Wilson said. “I don’t like asking people for help, so it was terrifying for me to think about having to ask. But I put it out there on Facebook.”

The posting said, in essence, she needed a kidney. And a living donor was preferred. She has no siblings. No cousins. Her parents weren’t ideal candidates. To this day, she has no idea how many people were tested or inquired. But one person stepped up.

An actor. From Columbia.

Part 2, Monica’s Story: “The Kidney Thing”

Monica Wyche grew up in Columbia and now lives in New York with her husband, playwright Dean Poynor, and 2-year-old son, Elrod. Wyche is scheduled to donate her left kidney to Wilson during a 4-hour surgery at Charleston’s Medical University of South Carolina next week.

They met each other 25 years ago, but they weren’t really friends. They’re about the same age – Wilson is 47, and Wyche is 44 — but they didn’t go to the same high schools. They are both only children. And both have lots of parents. Both their fathers were involved in the theatre, and they met their respective husbands through theatre work.

They didn’t travel in the same circles. Except for the theatre. And Trustus.

Wyche said she owes a debt of gratitude to Trustus and all it has meant to her life. Wyche, who started acting at Cardinal Newman High School, remembered her first role at Trustus in the 1993 production of Dancing at Lughnasa. She taught drama in Columbia’s Richland District 2 schools for seven years.

If not for Trustus, Wyche said: “I would never have met my husband. Erin’s family is directly responsible for my family.”

Wyche is the only child of Alan Wyche and Ann Beatty. Her parents divorced when she was in the third grade, but she said they’ve remained the best of friends. “They have always been so nice to each other, and it’s made a world of difference.”

Wyche’s bonus parents include her mother’s husband Mike Beatty as well as her dad’s third wife Linda Wyche. Her dad’s second wife, Sharon Tanner, was a huge artistic influence on Wyche. “I still call her my stepmother, too,” she said. “I’m close to all of them.” Her in-laws, Paul and Alice Poynor, live in Irmo, SC, where he serves as pastor at St. Andrews Road Presbyterian Church.

Wyche’s mother did not want her to do the surgery at first. “She made that very clear. She’s never been one to try to influence my decisions, but she let me know how she felt. Several times.

“I found a website where they posted all these stories about people who have donated organs and are getting along fine,” she said of  Rock1Kidney. “Once she started reading those stories, she started to feel better. She’s still nervous, but she doesn’t think I’ll die. Ultimately, she’s very proud.”

The first time Wyche met Wilson was approximately 25 years ago when they were both working on a student film. She remembered it was about the time Robby Benson was making the movie Modern Love in Columbia. Wilson worked on the film and shared some of the inside humor, Wyche recalled. “She was really nice. Even though we had never been friends, we were friendly.”

Their lives from there took them in different directions, but the common ground was always the theatre. Years later when social media allowed connections between people who might not otherwise have done so, they friended each other on Facebook. And their lives intersected again.

Wyche remembered seeing Wilson’s plea for help and recalled the details of their lives that were so very similar — particularly their theatre experiences. “She just put it out there, and I thought ‘I’d want someone to do that for me.’

“Of course I would give her a kidney,” she continued. “I have two, and I only need one.”

It’s an act of heroism she doesn’t seem to recognize. An act of generosity so selfless most people can’t understand it — giving a body part to a virtual stranger. Plenty of people are organ donors. It’s easy to check the box on the driver’s license; we’ll be dead when our organs are donated. But Wyche doesn’t see herself as anyone’s hero. She has, understandably, wondered about her own decision. But she never contemplated backing out.

Wyche said she has often wondered if all their similarities had anything to do with her steadfast commitment to Wilson and this procedure.

“The tests and the process went really fast. And it never occurred to me to back out. But at one point,” she said with a giggle, “I was looking over my shoulder like “So where are your best friends? Ok. Anyone? Anyone?

“I mean, once this is over I won’t be able to pick up my 2-year-old for 6 weeks. But she could die without it. Of course, I’m going to give her a kidney.”

A show at Trustus and a role in The House of Blue Leaves brought Wyche back to South Carolina from New York for two days of testing which finalized her physical and mental fitness for such an extraordinary experience. The date for the surgery was random. “It was either November 12th or the day before Thanksgiving,” she said. “I picked November 12th.”

Her husband, Poynor, has been “incredibly supportive.” They met, not surprisingly, when they collaborated on a theatre project. They didn’t date at the time; Poynor was married but had separated from his wife. Wyche mused she’d always wanted to marry “someone like Dean Poynor.” Funny how things work out.

The couple resides on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Poynor is an accomplished playwright, and Wyche calls herself a stay-at-home mom. “My work has taken a backseat to being a mom,” she said without a hint of regret. Wyche said the pace of film and television the past couple years has allowed her to continue working and enjoy quality time with her son. “I haven’t pursued work as fervently as I did before. Now that he’s (Elrod) getting a little older… and after the kidney thing…. I’ll get back into it.

“I audition more than I work,” she laughed. “But I could definitely try harder to get in the room.”

Fans of the Law & Order series Law & Order: SVU would have seen Wyche early this year in an episode titled “Jersey Breakdown,” when she played a hard-ass warden of a juvenile detention center.

Wyche was spending a recent Saturday morning moving around her neighborhood anonymously having a mani-pedi and a casual coffee and croissant – “Oooh, one with cheese,” she told the guy working the counter. She was making preparations to return to Charleston where she will remain until the day after Thanksgiving.

Doing all the normal things one does before giving away a body part, I suppose.

She doesn’t allow herself much time for reflection. For what it all means to her, her family and to Wilson’s. “Maybe one day I’ll really think about it,” she said. “But, right now, I won’t let myself be still with it.”

Which explained her discomfort at a recent benefit at Trustus where both Wilson and Wyche were the center of attention. One had to suspect it was the only time the two women have felt uncomfortable onstage.

In mid-October, an all-star cast of performers turned out for a one-time only Torch Cabaret on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus . And the production was a love fest.

The artists performed old familiar numbers as well as some kidney and organ-donor inspired new ones. The evening offered equal amounts of laughter and seriousness. Columbia performer Steven Thompson had some memorable one-liners in the song Masochism Tango. “This shit’s gonna hurt,” he shouted above the audience’s raucous laughter.

Columbia theatre veteran Paul Kaufmann, the evening’s moderator, said privacy policies prevented the two patients’ friends and families from keeping up with the other during surgery. “I can’t believe it,” he said referring to HIPAA rules about patient privacy. “I mean they’re sharing a fucking kidney but they can’t share surgery updates.”

Again, the laughter. The audience, at times, had to jolt itself back into the life and death reality that was the evening’s theme. But who knew organ donation and health care could be so much fun. Yeah, right.

There were songs of reflection and about the “women we are now and the girls we were then.” When Wilson and Wyche took the stage briefly to take a bow, Wilson said: “There are certain people who do things like this and don’t ask. It’s second nature. Luckily, there was a person willing to do that for me.”

As the two embraced on-stage, Wyche responded: “My life is totally fucking different.” To which Wilson deadpanned: “You’re welcome.”

They brought the house down.

As the countdown to surgery begins, both women have taken nothing for granted and have kept relentlessly optimistic attitudes.

Wilson has permitted herself quiet moments of introspection. She recalled the first one which came after she had been in the hospital about a week during the initial period of diagnosis. Her husband had slept every night in a hospital chair, and she insisted he go home and get a good night’s sleep.

“Mom stayed with me in the hospital,” Wilson said of Boyd. “It was about 3 a.m, and Mom and I had some illuminating conversations about life. The thing that struck me was that I didn’t want to die. That the purpose for me and my life was to love and be loved. I feel like I do that.

“And I knew that if I did die, the most important thing I realized was very freeing. It took a lot of the burden off of having to prove anything. It’s made a big difference for me as a human being. This gift has brought me comfort that whatever happens, I did it right.”

Wilson’s plans for the future have her focused on her post-surgery timetable at PURE. She’s directing Glengarry Glen Ross, which opens January 23, 2015. “Since I’m directing, I can just sit in a chair with a riding crop,” she said, a hint of that Russian Transport character creeping back in.

She’s planning to perform in Outside Mullingar at PURE in March, 2015. In the spring of 2015, she will play “Brooke Wyeth” in Other Desert Cities, on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus. Her uncle, Ron, will play her father; her stepmother Kay will play her aunt. The show will be directed by her dad.

It will be a homecoming, no doubt, with plenty of open arms. When she said “let’s get this show on the road,” it wasn’t altogether clear whether she was referring to the surgery or the theatre. Either way, she calls herself fortunate. “I know how lucky I am to have been born who I am,” she said. “I have a family who loves me. I’m fairly intelligent, have a husband and, thank God, good insurance.”

Wyche is also making plans once the recovery period has passed. “I’m going to cut my hair, and go through a re-branding.” She sounded almost excited. She will celebrate her 45th birthday November 21st in Charleston. It will, no doubt, be one to remember.

“Art is a nation’s most precious heritage,” President Lyndon B. Johnson said when he signed into existence the National Endowment for the Arts. “For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”

For a group of people in South Carolina, a dedication to the performing arts has strengthened a community, launched careers, provided food for the soul and fueled passion. The passion motivated an actor to summon the courage to ask for help. It moved another actor to provide an extraordinary gift. And it challenged a community to respond. Ultimately, what that passion may have done, inadvertently, is laid the foundation that saved a woman’s life.

Break a leg.

Copyright 2014 Sheryl McAlister.

17th Annual Native American Indian Film Festival among highlights of National Native American Indian Heritage Month in November

native2 November is  National Native American Indian Heritage Month, with plenty of events and educational opportunities available locally throughout the month to honor and celebrate native culture and history.

National American Indian Heritage Month is celebrated every year in November to honor and recognize the original people of this land.   Established nationally in 1990, this commemorative month aims to provide a platform for native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. This gives native people the opportunity to express to their community, both city, county and state officials their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area. Local, municipal, federal and state agencies are encouraged to provide educational programs for their employees regarding Native American history, rights, culture and contemporary issues, to better assist them in their jobs and for overall awareness. National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month takes place each November and is a great way to celebrate the traditions and cultures of the first Americans. Today, American Indians comprise 2.3 percent of the U.S. population. Their buying power in 2014 is 156 percent greater than in 2000, and is expected to grow to $148 billion by 2017.For more information, visit

South Carolina is home to the Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized nation, and twelve recognized tribes & groups, representing over 43,000 people of Native descent according the 2010 US Census. These tribal communities are all "body politic," and preserve their distinctive culture, heritage and history in South Carolina.

native1The Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. have been sponsoring and leading the statewide observance of National Native American Indian Heritage Month since 1994.  In 2013, the SC state legislature officially designated November 18 as Native American Awareness Day in South Carolina.


native3State government officials and Native American Indian leaders will  gather at the State House on November 18 from 12 -1 PM  to celebrate the 2nd Native American Awareness Day in South Carolina, in conjunction with the local and national observance of National Native American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month. There will be drumming, Native songs, a traditional flag ceremony,  the reading of the Proclamations and H-Bill 3746 proclaiming this day, plus leaders from tribes and groups will speak and introduce their tribal communities' history to the general public.  For more information, visit

Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois, and United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc.  is an organization that works to promote  self-determination, civil rights, religious freedoms, education, history, culture, and the arts of Native people. ECSIUT is a nonprofit that serves federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Natives and “state status” Native American Indian people, and is also a tribally based intertribal consortia.


Also beginning on November 18, Columbia once again plays host to  the  17th Annual Native American Indian Film Festival of the Southeast, a community-based event which aims to present the richness and variety of indigenous cinematic expressions. The festival is a time to educate the public  about contemporary Native American talent and issues, Native themed documentaries, and to discuss film and the power it has to tell Native stories by Native people (and to entertain.)


A screening of The Cherokee Word for Water, last year's festival winner, will take place at 7 PM at USC's McKissick Museum, followed at 8:30 PM by a reception and talkback session with the film's director, Charlie Soap.  This year's films will be shown at Tapp's Art Center starting at 6 PM on November 20 and 21, and at Conundrum Music Hall on November 23 beginning at noon. There will also be programming at Main Street's Nickelodeon on November 24.


Films include:

The Mayan Connection: Lost Legacy of Southeast,  directed by  Antara Brandner, who will be attending the Festival for talkback sessions

Between Hell and a Hard Place, directed by Jaysen P. Buterin   (also attending)

Indian Relay ( 2013)

LaDonna Indian 101 (2014)

Indian Like Us (2014)

Spirit in Glass (2014)

Inner Healing : Journey with Native Trees of Knowledge, directed by Adrian Esposito (also attending)


For more information on the film festival, visit .

Additionally, the McKissick Museum is hosting a year-long exhibition,  Traditions, Change & Celebration: Native Artists of the Southeast, which features 150 pieces of Native American Indian handcrafted art, from 75 artists in nine states, representing over 25 distinct Native American Indian tribal nations and cultures,    including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole.  Also featured are  Pamunkey Indian Pottery from Virginia, art from the Poarch Band Creeks, the basketry of John Paul Darden of the Chitimacha Indians of Louisiana, and pottery by Bill Harris of the Catawba Indian Nation.  For more information on this exhibition, visit, and for a list of events taking place locally, visit











"Cheaper by the Dozen" - Melissa Swick Ellington reviews the new show at Lexington's Village Square Theatre

cheaper2 The Lexington County Arts Association presents Cheaper by the Dozen, dramatized by Christopher Sergel from the book by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, at the Village Square Theatre through November 16.   Based on the book authored by two of the Gilbreth children, Cheaper by the Dozen explores family life in the early twentieth century as the older girls begin grappling with the social and fashion issues of high school.  While the song titles and style choices are of a different era, the teenagers’ feelings are timeless. The real life inspiration for the father character, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, was an accomplished efficiency expert. His work in the field of time and motion study extended from factories to his own home, where Gilbreth and his wife Lillian Moller Gilbreth implemented procedures inspired by efficiency with their children. Several of these attempts are dramatized in the play, such as the use of Victrolas in the bathrooms for the purpose of learning foreign languages. Although the scene of Gilbreth modeling the most efficient way to bathe while fully clothed on the living room rug is undeniably humorous, he made serious contributions to his profession. (The book by Gilbreth and Carey was made into a film in 1950. Potential audience members may want to know that the more recent movie starring Steve Martin does not reflect the book’s characters or plot.  South Carolina connection: Gilbreth later wrote a popular column for the Charleston News and Courier for many years under the pseudonym of "Ashley Cooper.")

As the authors of the book that inspired the play’s creation, Frank and Ernestine provide a handy narrative framework, sharing glimpses of character and exposition as they remember their energetic and loving father’s impact on family life. The story focuses on Mr. Gilbreth’s goal of prioritizing efficiency as well as instilling strong character and values in his large brood. While the oldest child Anne rebels with silk stockings and a flashy cheerleader suitor, her younger sisters encourage her daring ways as ardently as her father tries to put on the brakes through insisting younger brothers accompany older sisters on dates. Although light-hearted matters of high school popularity and the family dog’s misbehavior suggest an insouciant romp, there is a dark cloud of illness that runs through much of the drama. The parents’ awareness of Mr. Gilbreth’s heart trouble contrasted with the children’s ignorance of the situation allows for moving exchanges such as one daughter’s careless declaration (“I wish I were dead”) met by her father’s troubled reply, “What a thing to wish.” As the audience comes to understand the motivation behind Mr. Gilbreth’s urgent need to organize his family and push the children through their education, the play moves beyond a simple comedy to a more complex depiction of the harsh struggle that mortality poses for any family.

This Village Square production boasts effective direction and an excellent cast. In the central role of the patriarch known for his “By jingo!” exclamations, Brian Andrews delivers a moving performance as Mr. Gilbreth. With the charming Lisa Pappas playing his gracious and clever wife, Andrews creates a highly convincing family dynamic. (Gariane Gunter plays the role of Mrs. Gilbreth for the November 14 – 16 performances.)  The idea that “what works in the factory” can improve the home helps to drive an entertaining script.  Andrews’ strong stage presence reveals a father who loves, gives firm direction, and teaches his children.

Although we don’t see all twelve children referenced in the title as the babies are being cared for “upstairs” throughout the play, the nine youngsters who appear on stage are vibrant enough for a full dozen and then some. The children craft a very believable sense of sibling camaraderie, transforming the living room set into a real home full of lively young people. As eldest daughter Anne, Maggie Hornacek achieves a skillful portrayal of the adolescent girl trying to date boys and become popular, while also learning adult truths about life.    Riley Goldstein and Cameron Eubanks share enthusiasm as Ernestine and Frank, making fluid transitions between reminiscences and scenes of the past. Kori Hays plays Martha with verve, and Paul Woodard becomes a genuine and funny younger brother in the role of Bill.   Isabella Gunter (Jackie), Kristen Hallman (Danielle), Cade Culler (Fred), and Annsyn Feinberg (Lillian) demonstrate spirit and charisma. It is rare to see a cast this young deliver such consistently strong performances, and the Cheaper by the Dozen kids succeed admirably.


Supporting characters are also well represented in this production. Graycen Szalwinski is appropriately flashy as the cheerleader Joe Scales, while Nick Holland makes a sympathetic impression as the beleaguered boyfriend Larry. Ben Sellers shares a memorable performance as the disapproving teacher Mr. Brill, and Rae Fuller’s effective appearances as Mrs. Fitzgerald remind us of the tremendous work required to keep the home running. Alternating in the brief yet significant role of Dr. Burton are Jeff Sigley, Steve MacDougall, and Troy Fite.

Mr. Gilbreth keeps an eye on his daughter and her suitor.

Village Square Theatre has once again assembled a talented production team, with producers Jill Larkin and Jeff Sigley at the helm. Debi Young provides insightful direction, and Daniel Woodard (Technical Director/Master Carpenter) has created a very attractive and functional set. Additional technical support includes experienced theatre artists such as Debra Leopard (Lighting Design), Nancy Huffines (Costumes), and Becky Croft (Sound Design and Control).

This lovely production gently affirms the idea of saving time for where one’s heart lies. Hard work, education, and family bonds: the Gilbreth clan’s experiences do not sugarcoat life’s challenges. My first grader shared that she enjoyed this play “about a family who learned about love.” I believe that audiences will leave the theatre feeling that they have learned something about love, and family, too.

~ Melissa Swick Ellington

Cheaper by the Dozen runs through Sunday, November 16; visit for more information.


USC Symphony Welcomes Guest Pianist Adam Golka for its November 18th Concert

ADAM GOLKA Rach 3 is the stuff of nightmares – for pianists. The 105-year-old piece has been hailed or lambasted, worshipped or cursed, for being one of the most technically challenging and demanding concertos in the literature for pianists. Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) composed the work in 1908 and 1909, completing it at the pastoral setting of Ivanovka, his family’s private retreat. The dedicatee, Josef Hoffmann, for whom the work was originally composed as well, never publicly performed the work. Many a pianist has lamented not learning the work as students – students are fearless in taming the unconquerable. Vladimir Horowitz – one of the legends of piano – infamously dubbed a passage (albeit short) of Rach 3 as “absolutely impossible,” despite Horowitz being responsible for being the most visible early representative performer of the work. All this is a reputation, though. A reputation, however, reinforced and dramatized through its focal point in the film Shine – but the work, no matter how well it lays under the fingers (or doesn’t), is a Herculean feat of romanticism, one of the last great out-and-out Romantic (with a big R) piano concertos.

Following a legacy of Van Cliburn and Vladimir Horowitz, Polish pianist Adam Golka will perform the work with the USC Symphony Orchestra on November 18. Golka initially studied with his mother Anna Golka in Poland, but later studied with Dariusz Pawlas at Rice University and Jose Feghali at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX (the hometown of Van Cliburn). Golka holds an artist diploma from Peabody where he worked with Leon Fleisher. He has won the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award, First Prize at the 2003 China Shanghai International Piano Competition, and debuted in Carnegie Hall in 2010 performing Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto with the New York Youth Symphony.

Also on the November 18 concert is Beethoven’s 4th Symphony in B-flat – a cheery, robust work that is often masked by the epic Eroica Symphony (Symphony No. 3) and Beethoven’s ubiquitous and dominating work, his Symphony No. 5. -Tom Dempster

Single concert tickets are $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Concert tickets are available from Capitol Tickets: 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online at



A. R. Gurney's "The Dining Room" - Rachel Arling reviews the new Workshop Theatre production

10698504_722000094522659_2184738282356308280_n “The trouble is, we’ll never use this room. . . The last two houses we lived in, my wife used the dining room table to sort the laundry.”

So says a modern home buyer during the first scene of A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room, a series of vignettes that take place in an upper-middle-class dining room throughout several time periods. As someone whose formal dining room has been converted into a home office, I can relate to the home buyer in the play. Dining rooms are practically obsolete these days, right? However, Gurney’s play reminds us that there was a time when they were the center of family life. The decline of the dining room coincides with the weakening dominance of the “WASPs of the Northeastern United States.” Gurney alternates between satirizing this “vanishing culture” and showing nostalgia for it. Ultimately, though, the play is less concerned with documenting a specific society, and more concerned with presenting universal snapshots of human life.

Workshop Theatre’s production, directed by Daniel Gainey, uses six actors to portray over fifty characters.  It is a true ensemble show, so all of the actors remain visible onstage the entire time. The minimalist set by Richard Király consists of a single wall covered with picture frames, which are left empty so that we can imagine decor suitable for each household and time period depicted in the play.  There are no props--nearly everything is mimed.  Six high-backed wooden dining room chairs are the only furniture pieces.   I expected a table; however, Gainey’s decision to leave the table to the imagination is smart because it allows for more flexibility with blocking, keeping the show visually interesting.

The versatile cast includes Hans Boeschen, George Dinsmore, Samantha Elkins, Ruth Glowacki, Emily Padgett, and Lee Williams. The actors wear unobtrusive black clothing, relying solely on physical and vocal characterization to differentiate their parts. The show’s only costume piece is an apron that signifies servant status (all of the women play maids at some point). Each actor plays a variety of ages, from stern grandparents to excitable young guests at a birthday party.  The actors are especially effective when they play children; during the birthday scene, they burst with giddy energy, but try hilariously hard to contain it so they can placate the adults and receive their cake. Other notable acting moments include Boeschen and Elkins’ utter certainty that their family’s future is at risk because of a single remark someone made at their country club, and Glowacki and Dinsmore’s strong chemistry that develops while their characters crawl around on the floor (don’t ask.)


The show’s most touching vignette occurs at the end of the first act. Padgett plays an elderly woman who struggles with dementia and cannot recognize her own family during Thanksgiving dinner. Padgett masterfully portrays the woman’s attempts to overcome her confusion and hold on to her train of thought. The woman’s most devoted son (played by Williams) tries every method he can possibly think of to help her remember, and his refusal to give up is heartbreakingly beautiful.

In a play with so many separate stories, some are bound to be more engaging than others. Most of my favorite scenes happened during the first act, so the second act seemed to pass more slowly for me. Luckily, if a particular scene fails to catch your interest, you can rest assured that a completely different scene will replace it soon enough. With a running time of about two hours (including intermission), the show is not too long.

My only real complaint about this production is the fact that the actors never exit the stage even when their characters temporarily leave the dining room. In such instances, the actors just walk upstage, turn around, and stand stiffly until it is time for them to re-enter the scene. This situation becomes awkward when the actors have “offstage” lines, which they deliver while remaining rigidly still and facing backward. I would have been less distracted if the actors in question had simply exited the stage for a short time. I think Gainey was perhaps overly committed to the concept of keeping all the actors visible the entire time. However, this scenario only occurs a couple of times throughout the play, so it’s not a big deal.

On the whole, Workshop’s production of The Dining Room is a success. Gainey makes an admirable directing debut, and he has selected a cast of actors who are game to try anything. Watching them play with the material is a treat.  The Dining Room runs through this Sunday, November  9, at The Market Space at 701 Whaley, with evening performances at 8 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday, plus matinee performances at 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday.  Visit or call (803) 799-6551 for more information.

~ Rachel Arling

Will South Show continues at Gallery West through November 16th - by Rachel Haynie

Being surrounded all day by notable fine art neither intimidates nor saturates Will South. He leaves Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) where he is surrounded by notable works of art daily, yet when he wraps up, he goes home to paint in his studio for several more hours an evening. “I love painting and look forward to getting back to it each day, just as I enjoy studying and interpreting it, talking and writing about it in my job as curator at Columbia Museum of Art. I don’t think I can remember a time when I wasn’t making art; certainly I have never stopped trying to paint and draw, but I find I am at a time and place in my life now where I can fully enjoy both being an artist and being a curator. I learn more about creating art from art history than I have ever learned in an art class. ” South says: “There is no substitution for work,” meaning his tenacity at his easel ultimately pays off, and the result of this pleasurable labor is currently on view at Gallery West, 118 State Street (former Café Strudel location.) This show, in which South’s recent work shares exhibition space with the ceramics of Douglas Gray, Francis Marion University art professor, is up through November 16: Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This show marks the first opportunity for Metropolitan Columbia to see evidence of South as an artist. All of South’s pieces for this show have been painted or drawn in the months since he arrived in Columbia to assume curatorial duties at CMA so have not been exhibited previously. “Simplicity is a virtue,” says South, and that philosophy is notable in the works in this show. To him, “what is enduring about an image is the sensuality of color, the refinement of shape, the human intelligence contained in a line. I challenge myself to edit out all but the essential and, of course, the problem is in knowing what the essential is.”

Spare and lean are words that surface when looking at these pieces, both the oils and the charcoal drawings. One Ahh! moment elicits from the ethereal Back in Blue, oil wash over charcoal. A playful note, revealing something of the artist’s drawing side, is the label for Self Portrait as Pencils, an oil on canvas. Wake Up in New York, an oil and charcoal on linen, may conjure up a bit of déjà vu for this artist who honed some of his skills at the Art Students League in New York. He had come to the city for PhD studies at the Graduate Center of the City University in New York following a Master’s degree in art history and an undergraduate studio art degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

In co-exhibiting with Doug Gray, South and his work provide textural contrast. Gray’s interest in color and surface are evidence in the pieces selected for this show. -- Rachel Haynie


For more information, call 803-207-9265.