THE WORD ON COLUMBIA ARTS M AY / / J U N E 2 0 1 3 VOL. 002
Bernard Kruseman Aretz Photo by Forrest Clonts
A MESSAGE FROM JASPER EDITOR CINDI BOITER
JASPER WATCHES August Krickel talks with local leading men Terrance Henderson,
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JASPER GAZES Columbia’s Osamu Kobayashi receives international honor - by Kara Gunter
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COVER STORY In this cover story, Philip Mullen, Sara Schneckloth, and Chris Robinson triple-team the work of Bernard Kruseman Aretz so Jasper readers will know why they shouldn’t take their eyes off the career arc of this important visual artist
CENT ER F O L D // R E GGIE S ULLIVA N + CR A IG BUT T E R F IE LD
Kevin Bush, and Hunter Boyle about Men, Music, and Theatre
Upright basses are the backbone and the big boys of a multiplicity of music genres—Kyle Petersen and Andy Bell find out why from Reggie Sullivan and Craig Butterfield
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JA SPER I S
. Marina Alexandra wants to bring more attention to classical guitar
Cynthia Boiter // editor-in-chief W. Heyward Sims // design editor
in Columbia—by Andy Bell
. Music editor Kyle Petersen reviews local records
Forrest Clonts // photography editor
Chris Robinson // visual arts editor
Ed Madden // literary arts editor
August Krickel // theatre editor
Kyra Strasberg was the belle of Boston ballet - by Bonnie-Boiter-Jolley Kyle Petersen // music editor
Bonnie Boiter-Jolley // dance editor
. Freelancer Melinda Cotton writes about the Upstate’s
Kristine Hartvigsen // assistant editor Susan Levi Wallach // staff writer
Expecting Goodness Film Festival
Will Garland // staff writer
. Alex Smith gets inside the head of local filmmaker/videography
Andy Bell // staff writer
artist Jason Stroud
JASPER GAZES Visual arts editor Chris Robinson writes about celebration,
Kara Gunter // staff writer
ON THE COVER Bernard Bernar d Kruseman Ar Aretz etz
stagnation, and hope
Jonathan Sharpe // staff photographer Thomas Hammond // staff photographer Annie Boiter-Jolley // operations manager
Dr. Robert B. Jolley, Jr., MD // publisher
Curtain Up! with August Krickel
CO NT RIB U TO RS
. Veteran of the SC literary arts Aïda Rogers talks about her new
Lorna Festa Alexis Schwallier
book, State of the Heart, with Kristine Hartvigsen
. Susan Levi Wallach reviews The Art of Medicine by James
John Temple Ligon Melinda Cotton
Borton and Brandi Ballard
. Kyle Petersen reviews Confederado by Casey Claybough . Poetry by Roy Seeger and Nan Ancrom . Ed Madden writes about the SC Poetry Archives Book Prize . Zach Mueller reviews The Evening Light by Warren Slesinger . An essay by literary arts editor Ed Madden about buying old books
Alex Smith // staff writer
GUEST EDITORIAL By John Temple Ligon
054 JA JASPER SPER READS
Aïda Rogers Rogers
JA SPER ON THE WEB
jaspercolumbia.com facebook.com/jaspercolumbia twitter.com/jasperadvises jaspercolumbia.net/blog
A MESSAGE FROM JASPER
DEAR FRIENDS, t’s been another exciting, but exhausting spring for the Greater Columbia Arts Community as artists and arts lovers alike have dashed from ﬁlm festival to open studios to theatre and gallery openings to performances and galas. And in the great haze of human bodies in motion I saw something I had been hoping to see for a long time—a greater assortment of artistic disciplines represented in the crowds. More and more artists are coming out of their disciplinary caves to become patrons of other art forms; to be inspired by and supportive of their fellow artists; to function as a true arts community. Our community of artists and arts lovers is growing larger and stronger, yet at the same time more personal and intimate. Think about it. Poets, painters, actors, dancers, sculptors, ﬁlmmakers, writers, musicians, photographers—how many of these people can you count among your friends? And how much richer is your life— how much more texture does it have, how much more aware of the intricacies of the
world around you are you because you can count these talented and insightful people as friends? And for the non-artists among us, how much closer do you feel to the creative process—the way we as humans make sense of our existence—how much more likely are you to live your life in a creative and artistic way or, as they say, with ﬂare? Certainly, the Greater Columbia Arts Community has a way to go before we have what we need to truly be the newest Southeastern arts destination, but make no mistake, we are on our way. How to get there faster? Put people in government—from city and county council to the state and federal levels—who are enlightened to the imperative role the arts must play in one’s community. And if they aren’t enlightened—educate them. If you are a business owner, use your space to the betterment of the community—we need more gallery walls, more venues, more places to gather. Ask an artist to hang a show in your corridor; open your conference room to an intimate concert or theatre or dance performance or a reading of poetry or prose.
Jasper // as in Johns, the abstract expressionist, neo-Dadaist artist as in Sergeant, the Revolutionary War hero as in Mineral, the spotted or speckled stone as in Magazine, the Word on Columbia Arts
Bring your friends and neighbors— even your extended family—to gallery openings, First Thursday events, free concerts, festivals. Give tickets and season passes as presents. Introduce your love of the arts to the people you love. Make them our allies in this dynamic arts movement. Support your local arts magazine. Almost every member of the Jasper family works with little to no ﬁnancial compensation as our magazine grows. They do it because they believe in the mission of the magazine, they believe in the arts, and they believe in our community. Additional advertisers and Jasper Guild members will allow us not only to pay the piper, but the writers, photographers and, eventually, the editors and owners as well. As we move into summer, enjoy the community you’ve grown around you, Columbia. Enjoy living life with ﬂare!
Jasper Magazine – www.jaspercolumbia.com – is dedicated to the promotion and support of Columbia, SC artists and arts lovers. Jasper Magazine is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any manner without the publisher’s written consent. Jasper Magazine is a division of Muddy Ford Press, 1009 Muddy Ford Road, Chapin, SC 29036.
JASPER FANCIES Photo by Forrest Clonts
RIOT, GIRLS! What are little girls made of? Rhythm and drums and loud guitar strums—or at least, according to Kristin Morris, they should be. “Girls don’t always feel like that and they need a place to feel supported and accepted,” says Morris. Morris is an organizer for Girls Rock Columbia, a week-long day camp encouraging young women to learn and perform music. Open to girls ages 8 - 18, Girls Rock Columbia offers various musical workshops to foster growth and empowerment within the Columbia community. “We are giving the girls an opportunity to rock,” says Morris. “Girls who come to camp are already interested in rock music and culture. We are going to create an environment that unlocks and grows that interest.” Girls Rock Columbia is a pending member of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance. The GRCA is an international, nonproﬁt coalition consisting of several independent girls rock camp organizers worldwide. The mission statement of the GRCA is “to empower girls and women using the tools of music education to foster self-esteem and conﬁdence.” Currently, there are 39 GRCA chapters across the US and Europe. The ﬁrst girl’s rock camp, Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, was founded in 2001 by Misty McElroy and became the subject of a 2008 documentary, Girls Rock!, directed by Arne Johnson and Shane King. The success of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls inspired several other girls rock camps across the globe. In 2007, Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls held a conference for girls rock camp organizers, ultimately resulting in the formation of the GRCA. Morris was inspired by the success of South Carolina’s GRCA chapter in Charleston. In February 2013, Morris and fellow organizer Shannon Donohue, who volunteered at last year’s Girls Rock Charleston, 006
held an interest meeting for establishing a Columbia girls rock camp. “We anticipated about 25 or 30 people for that meeting and we had more than twice that many women attend,” says Morris. “Seeing the immediate community response let us know that Girls Rock was ﬁlling a void that needed to be ﬁlled in Columbia.” Morris attended the annual GRCA conference in March and met organizers of girls rock camps from as far away as Sweden and Iceland. “Since the GRCA is a member organization,” says Morris, “it exists mostly as a resource for the camp organizers to come together and share knowledge and experience.” Volunteers for this year’s Girls Rock Columbia include local punk band Chemical Peel’s drummer Victoria Mandanas and lead singer and guitarist Ony Ratsimbaharison. Ratsimbaharison previously volunteered for the Girls Rock Camp chapter in Charleston, teaching guitar to campers ages 8 - 9 and coaching campers to create a rock band. The campers dubbed their band the “Swagg Unit” and performed at a showcase. “The campers usually discover that they can write a song more easily than they might have thought,” says Ratsimbaharison. “It’s wonderful because even the ones that start off camp a bit shy loosen up and have lots of fun as the week goes on.” Ratsimaharison looks forward to the establishment of a GRCA chapter in Columbia. “I’m so glad people have been getting this together for Columbia,” says Ratsimbaharison. “It’s deﬁnitely going to be an essential part in building more of a community.” Girls Rock Columbia begins July 22 at Eau Claire High School and ends with a showcase of music created by the Girls
Rock campers July 26 - 27, location to be announced. Camp information, volunteer sign-up and workshop proposals are available through the Girls Rock Columbia ofﬁcial website (girlsrockcolumbia.org) and Twitter feed @GirlsRockCola. Sponsors for Girls Rock Columbia include Northbound Design, The Whig, and Image Ink Screen Printing and Embroidery. Giesela Lubecke
IRISH ARTS Folk enthusiasts, Emerald Islanders or not, can immerse themselves in Ireland’s rich musical tradition at the South Carolina Irish Arts Weekend, a multi-venue musical showcase featuring international musicians and instrument workshops throughout Columbia June 21-23. The event’s organizers, couple Andi Hearn and Davey Mathias, form the traditional Irish folk band Corner House and run the Redbird School of Irish Music. The Redbird School, formed in 2006, offers private traditional Irish music lessons to students of any age in and organizes monthly repertoire workshops at Delaney’s Music Pub and Eatery, located in Five Points. Hearn and Mathias organized the ﬁrst Irish Arts Weekend in 2005 to bring traditional Irish music to a broader audience. “In playing Irish traditional music and studying it we’ve traveled around to different events,” said Hearn. “It’s a really special, honest brand of music and in a lot of ways can be really accessible too for folks. We wanted to create something like that here in Columbia for the local and regional folks, and really, it’s been drawing people from all across the US in the last few years to come participate.” Last year’s Irish Arts Weekend, according to The State, attracted
Pat O’Connor (from County Clare on fiddle) and Eoghan O’Sullivan (button accordion from Cork) Photo courtesy of Andi Hearn
people from as far away as Indiana and New Mexico. “It was very packed last year,” says Cecil Decker, the sound engineer at Conundrum Music Hall in West Columbia. Last year’s Irish Arts Weekend opening concert, featuring ﬁddle and bagpipe duo Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and Mick O’Brien , was hosted at Conundrum to a crowd of over one hundred people. “Irish music is really fun. It was my favorite event at Conundrum last summer,” says Decker. The Arts Weekend kicks off Friday, 8 p.m., with a concert at Conundrum Music Hall. Tickets are $15. The opening concert features the musical talents of the Irish Arts Weekend 2013 staff: ﬁddler Pat O’Connor and button accordionist Eoghan O’Sullivan, who form the traditional Irish band Conversation at the Crosses; dancer and ballad singer Mai Hernon, who has toured America and Europe; ﬁddler and harpist Alex Reidinger, an Asheville musician; and Myron Bretholz, master of ceremonies. A Baltimore native with 20 years of musical experience, Bretholz has played and produced over 30 folk music albums and has led Irish music workshop throughout the United States and Canada. Bretholz will teach lessons on the bodhran, a type of drum traditionally made from goatskin, and the rhythm bones, a simple percussion instrument of two animal bones or carved wood pieces. Saturday, the South Carolina Irish Arts Weekend staff will play free mini-concerts at the Columbia Museum of Art and offer two-hour musical workshops. Saturday’s events at Conundrum include set dance lessons from Hearn and a nightcap of music and dancing for the SC Irish Arts Weekend Shindig! (yes, exclamation point included) starting at 7 p.m. Picnic dinners, crafted by local chef Joe Turkaly, will be available to purchase. For Sunday’s early risers, Conundrum will offer a free music session 10
a.m. - 1 p.m., and more music workshops will be held at the Columbia Museum of Art 1 - 3 p.m. The weekend will come to a close at 3 p.m. with a three-hour farewell session at Delaney’s. There will be no cover charge, but donations are accepted. Schedule updates for the event are available on Hearn and Mathias’ website www.cornerhousemusic.com/ and the SC Irish Arts Weekend Facebook page. Giesela Lubecke
WIRI WIRI (AND LATINO POETRY) Jasper loves language. The things we say, and how we say them. Etymologies and accents, cross-cultural confusions and vernacular surprises. (Did you know that across the South, jasper once meant a rascal or a scoundrel?) Language suggests something of where we came from, who we are, how we know the world. So a new book by poet Dan Vera, Speaking Wiri Wiri, is a delight—and one in which the South Carolina Statehouse makes a wicked guest appearance. Vera’s second book, Speaking Wiri Wiri won the 2012 Letras Latinas / Red Hen Poetry Prize and was published earlier this year. Wiri wiri is a term Vera’s father invented for gibberish, suggesting the book’s focus on language, and the ways that language can connect or divide us, “hold us together” or “hold us apart.” Vera moves deftly and carefully across borders—“the false borders of men”—to examine the deeply complicated perspectives of migrant peoples, colonized cultures, and divergent language traditions. Vera grew up Cuban American in Texas, at the intersection of multiple cultures, not just Cuban and American, but Mexican
and Texan. In one of the book’s funniest poems, “Tower of Babel,” Vera’s father gets into an angry exchange at a Mexican restaurant when he asks for $5 worth of change—“change being menudo for Cubans / menudo being tripe soup for Mexicans.” Though they seem to speak the same language, “neither man can be convinced / he is not dealing with an idiot.” In another poem, “Playing Scrabble with Cousin Fela,” Vera explains to his cousin that “Spanglish isn’t accepted in Scrabble.” “When she cannot ﬁnd a single ñ,” he writes, “she declares the set defective.” These small linguistic misunderstandings are intimate examples of the broader politics that animate Vera’s book, which steadily expands its scope from the family dinner table to the historical and cultural. In the book, language seems particularly and poignantly tied to food. In “The Forgotten Fruit of Cuba,” his parents talk about fruits they remember from Cuba, and “a faraway look comes over their faces / as if their tongues have activated / a memory from a hundred years ago.” Similarly, “Menu for an Immigrant Thanksgiving” is a moving celebration of food, family, and memory. The poem ends:
When it was all done, the alien mingled with the known, we give thanks with the blessing of a custard ﬂan which has now disappeared into memory with Tia Caruca a ﬂan that makes us all long for an afterlife where she is still around to set her table to make room for the dishes of two homes the new and the remembered to offer us limitless cups of café cubano in the sleepy doldrums of heaven.
Clearly, food is never simply food in Vera’s poems, and memory in this book, familial or cultural, is never simple, but always complicated by language and by the broader historical contexts that repress and reprise and (mis)represent a culture—contexts Vera turns to in the book’s ﬁnal section, “The Guide to Imaginary Monuments.” In “All Oranges and Bananas Now,” Vera tells the story of Carmen Miranda, “the highest paid actress of her era,” reduced now to a caricature, “fruited hat, arching brows and almond eyes / on the label of every yellow bunch.” Also in this section we have Cesar Romero, playing The Joker in the 1966 ﬁlm Batman, and “José Dominguez, the First Latino in Outer Space,” appearing off-screen in the ﬁrst season of Star Trek, a transmission request for supplies that Captain Kirk reduces to a request for hot peppers. In this ﬁnal section, as Vera takes on ethnic studies programs, immigration reform, po culture, and indicative bits of history, he includes the poem “This is not the postcard for the monument to J. Marion Sims.” Retitled “The Perils of the Monumental,” the poem asks us to think about the relation of monumental and official histories to the lives of those misrepresented or repressed by those histories. The official postcard, he says, would describe the heroic bust of the father of gynecology that sits at the northwest corner of the Statehouse grounds. “On paper, as in stone,/ no other names would appear,” Vera writes, “no paean to Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy,” a reference to the black slaves who suffered multiple experimental genital surgeries at the hands of Sims. Sims, who worked on both black slave women in the South and poor Irish immigrants in New York, has been praised as the founder of modern gynecology, but viliﬁed for his experimental operations on slaves and the poor. That complicated history is suppressed in “the graceful curve” and tributes on the South Carolina monument. Just as capitalism can reduce Carmen Miranda to a brand, the monument can erase the suffering that subtends history. This is powerful and necessary poetry. EM
SPOLETO USA Fresh art is good for a community. That’s why Jasper recommends that Columbians take to the highway at the end of May and early June to visit one of the world’s great arts festivals—Spoleto Festival USA. It’s right down the road in Charleston. Spoleto has been a part of the arts life of this writer since the very beginning of the festival, having missed only three years since it was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti. I’ve even visited Spoleto, Italy, Charleston’s sister city from which the idea of a Festival dei du Mondi—Festival of Two Worlds—was born. (How exciting to see the same Spoleto Festival posters that hang on
“Midsummer Night’s Dream” Photo by Simon Annand
the walls of our home hanging in a café by the city’s beautiful Duomo.) However, with an emphasis on opera, dance, classical music, theatre, and jazz, it isn’t easy to choose from the Spoleto Festival’s offerings of arts entertainment. Jasper has taken some of the work out of reviewing the possibilities by sorting through them ourselves and coming up with our recommendations. Here are Jasper’s Picks for Spoleto Festival USA 2013. Johnnyswim – This singer/songwriter team of Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano make up one of the music industry’s newest vocal duos and they are getting some traction not only for their indie-pop sounds but also for their treatment of soul, folk, and R&B. See them Friday, May 31st at 9 pm at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard. Lucky Plush Productions presents The Better Half – This Chicago-based dance theatre troupe, under the direction of founder Julia Rhodes, has been around since 1999 and has produced more than thirty original productions. The Better Half is both complex, yet accessible; amusing, but poignant. Check them out May 31 – June 2 at various times at the Emmett Robinson Theatre. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Running the length of the Spoleto Festival and being staged in the historic Dock Street Theater, Shakespeare’s lusty comedy takes a new turn as humans and puppets interact in a futuristic primal world of magic. Bristol Old Vic unites with the Handspring Puppet Company out of Africa to make this US premiere one of the highlights of this year’s festival. Oedipus – Jasper loves it when the classics go modern, and we think Sophocles would, too. That’s why we chose the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre’s production of Oedipus in its American premier for our ﬁnal pick. Directed by actor/director Steven Berkoff, who not only brought Oscar Wilde’s Salome to the festival in 1990 but has since appeared in roles ranging from Hitler to Savonarola to Dirch Frodo in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Oedipus opened this spring in London to rave reviews. See it at the Memminger Auditorium June 4 – 8. For more information and tickets go to Spoletousa.org. CB
Photo courtesy of Trustus
QUEENS Vista Queen exalts transformation. 2013 is “The Year of Crystal,” as the show celebrates its 15th year of dynamic divas. Trustus Theatre features about half a dozen straight men – all local personalities and professionals – who volunteer to undergo the intense process of becoming a drag queen for one wild evening. The pageant, set for 7 p.m. on May 20, is a celebrated, community-supported fundraiser for the theatre. Larry Hembree produced the ﬁrst three years of Vista Queen, long before he became the theatre’s executive director. The pageant was his brainchild: a drag event that is accessible to the public and raises money for future performances. Vista Queen “builds awareness for Trustus,” Hembree says. “If we get butts in the seats once, there’s a bigger chance they’ll walk through the doors for another show.” Dance choreographer and teacher at Logan Elementary, Terrance Henderson, and Walter Graham, chorus teacher at Dreher High School, will co-host the event, which kicks off with a huge production and character bios to introduce the contestants. “These are two of the most talented people I know,” says Hembree. The queens vie for the pageant title by performing a talent, strutting their stuff in an evening gown competition, and answering an on-stage question. Event organizers have upped the ante, challenging all contestants to perform a live talent. That means no lip-syncing like an ordinary drag show.
people to scream, to holler, to go to work the next day and have coworkers ask: What did you do last night?” Buy tickets in advance, as Vista Queen is a repeat sold-out show. Admission is $40 and includes appetizers before the show. Join the party for happy hour at 6 p.m. and take advantage of the cash bar. Tickets can be purchased online at trustus.org or by calling the box office at 254-9732. Lorna Festa
DINNER AND A MURDER
Photo courtesy of J. B. Productions, LLC
The winner attains more than simply a sash and bragging rights. She holds the honor of joining the mayor to light the tree during the Vista Lights Festival. Last year’s winner Gerald Floyd, aka Polly Gripp, acted as an ambassador for Trustus and the Vista in the 2012 ceremony. The sash, sponsored by Jasper and created by Columbia artist Susan Lenz, is a recent addition. The winner traditionally donned a tiara, which was retired in honor of Patti O’Furniture, who now presents the sash to Miss Vista Queen. Participating “scares some guys,” Hembree says. “It forces them to step out of their comfort zone.” Courageous men turned drag dames from the pageant’s history include Senator Jakie Knotts, arts writer Jeffrey Day, and Sheriff Leon Lott – the contest’s ﬁrst Vista Queen. “It’s always good to have men in your community go to bat for your organization,” Hembree says. “These guys are really taking a risk and setting an example.” This year’s contestants include Daryl Byrd, band instructor at Crayton Middle School; Billy Guess, arts director at Tapp’s Art Center; Richard Burts, developer of 701 Whaley; Tim Goldman, of MetLife insurance; Tyler Ryan, anchor at WACH FOX; and a secret almost-sashed participant from last year will return for another chance at the title. With a background in costume design, special events, and stage management, Clay Owens takes on the challenge of organizing the show behind the scenes. He is no stranger to the 15-year run of Vista Queen, as a previous winner, judge, and host of the event. From dress and shoe ﬁttings to walking lessons, Owens helps the contestants navigate all stages of the pageant. The men must learn to become a character, to work the costume and the crowd, and Owens is there to guide them every heel-clad step of the way. The show has grown more serious and outrageous since its origins, when a certain contestant refused to shave his beard. Each participant has his own coach and esthetician – a seasoned queen to assist with styling wigs and full makeup. “Some of these guys are absolutely stunning, and I hate them all,” says Kay Thigpen, co-founder of Trustus and former managing director. Audience participation plays a large role in the show – donations cast as votes partially decide the winner – along with a panel of judges. Two previous contestants Tess Testosterone, aka Anderson Burns, ABC anchor; and Venus Envy, aka John Sheerer, Director of Cultural Resources; will return this year as judges. Debbie McDaniel, of Five Points’ staple shops Revente and Sid & Nancy, has been a huge supporter of Vista Queen and also will be among the panel at this year’s pageant. “This is not your typical evening of theatre,” says stage manager Owens. “We want
It was Jane Brutto, in the restaurant, with the menu and savvy marketing strategy. Midlands foodies and theatre-goers alike have been treated to a slew of tongue-incheek murder mysteries in recent months; while actors often joke that they have died on stage before, this time they’re as likely to be the killer as the victim, and audience members are called on to solve the crime. It’s all part of Jane Brutto’s brainchild, the Capital City Killers, and they’re coming to wreak mayhem in an entertainment venue near you. Brutto, a certiﬁed SC educator for K-12 in choral music, has acted professionally in ﬁlm, television, commercials, and voiceovers, works as a talent representative with Harvest Talent, and teaches classes and workshops in acting and voice though her company, JB Productions, LLC. Local audiences may recall her as a memorable Annelle in a Workshop Theatre production of Steel Magnolias when she was just 19. She discovered the potential for “fun” murder mysteries while performing with the Asheville (NC) Community Theatre, then branched out with a partner to perform in venues in and around western North Carolina. Now based in Columbia, Brutto has assembled an all-star cast of the usual suspects from local theatre, including George Dinsmore (Dr. Jekyll in Chapin last fall),
Lee O. Smith (Felix in The Odd Couple at Town), English Weston, Gina Calvert, Robin Saviola, Gary Pozsik, Shelby Sessler, and Charlie Goodrich (both featured in last November’s Jasper.) Brutto is artistic director of the group as well as a performer, and her most recognizable cast member may be Bill Roberson, still recalled as the man on the bench with Forrest Gump. Roberson’s credits include blockbusters (Patch Adams, The Patriot) and local indies (Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader) as well as a series of commercials for the Riverbanks Zoo in which he played a jubilant, tie-dye-clad visitor, rocking out to “Born To Be Wild” and “Wild Thing.” The Killers have performed at restaurants (Gervais and Vine, Villa Tronco, Sam Kendall’s in Camden), on Lake Murray party boats (the Southern Patriot and the Spirit of Lake Murray), in historic venues (the Dusty Horseman in Camden), at festivals ( First Thursday and Columbia’s New Year’s Eve celebration), and at private and corporate events, including a recent gig at EdVenture. Brutto writes the scripts, and can tailor the performance to the venue or client. A recent show at Villa Tronco was titled You Give Love a Dead Name, and featured Brutto as a Cyndi Lauper-like 80’s diva at a reunion tour where Dinsmore, playing a morphing of Axl Rose and Jon Bon Jovi, was literally “shot through the heart,” returning later as his detective twin brother to help solve the murder. Roberson mumbled like Ozzy, but dressed like Slash as one suspect, and others included thinly veiled versions of Moon Zappa and Sharon Osbourne. Other mysteries have included Death By Speed Date, Frankly My Dear, I Didn’t Kill the Man! (based on Gone with the Wind), The Moon Hit Your Eye with a Big Pizza Pie: That’s a Murder!, Murder Through the Grapevine (similar to the board game Clue), and Murder at Davie’s Cafe (a 1941 historical, non-comedic mystery in collaboration with the Dusty Horseman.) Brutto’s next project is an all-day acting workshop at Richland Mall on Saturday May 18, covering acting basics and audition techniques for both stage and camera, group and solo work, line delivery, how to break into the biz and more. The Capital City Killers return on Saturday, June 1, with Elephants, Dogs and Ghosts - Oh My! a fundraiser for Stage 5 Theatre, now celebrating its ﬁrst year at Stadium Park. Included are an interactive murder mystery, musical numbers from Brutto, Goodrich and Sessler, art for display and sale by Will Moreau and Sassies Glassies, a silent auction (including private voice and acting lessons by Sessler and Brutto) refreshments and libations. Performances at Villa Tronco will resume this summer, once or twice a month on Tuesdays. AK
MAY / JUNE 2013
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B Y AU GUS T K RIC KE L
“Columbia sucks ... you in. Columbia is the perfect size city to experience and appreciate a really good sense of culture that will teach you things that are different and new, just like you could experience in New York or LA or Atlanta, but it’s all more accessible here.” – Kevin Bush
t’s a frequent topic of conversation in theatre circles: musicals sell tickets. Especially name-brand musicals. Yet theatre purists sometimes gripe about commercialization, and lament the demise of “serious” drama. Last issue, Jasper proﬁled three of Columbia’s most talented and proliﬁc “leading ladies,” all of whom have performed extensively in musical theatre, so we felt it was time to give the men their turn. Kevin Bush, Hunter Boyle, and Terrance Henderson all grew up in South Carolina, in Charleston, Sumter and Newberry respectively. All came to USC, after becoming hooked on performing as children. Boyle toured professionally after grad school with Charleston’s Chopstick Theatre, and says that “taught me a lot about the nonglamorous side of the business. Touring is hard work. Lots of traveling with people you have to work with onstage and deal with offstage. It gave me a thicker skin.” He now teaches acting, theatre history, creative drama, voice, and speech at USCSumter, and recently appeared in a professional production of Lend Me a Tenor with Atlantic Stage in Myrtle Beach. Henderson laughs, in his “best Jamaican accent,” that “I got 18 jobs, man!” He Photo by Jonathan Sharpe | Pictured left to right: Terrance Henderson, Hunter Boyle, and Kevin Bush
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has been artist-in-residence for the last 15 years at Logan Elementary School, a position that grew from an “after-school enrichment program (that) is now a vital part of the fabric of that school and its community.” Henderson also directs a similar dance program at A.C. Moore Elementary, teaches at two private studios, and choreographs, directs, and participates in numerous residencies. He received the Bronze Leo Award for Outstanding Jazz Choreography at the Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago. Bush now works as the marketing/pr director for USC’s theatre/dance program, after a career as an account executive for a marketing ﬁrm. He says he has “seen how demoralizing the commercial side of a performing career can be. That said, if the right opportunity came along, of course I’d consider it, but I’m well aware that that would be a one-in-a-million opportunity. I’m also very happy in purposely not living my life reaching for the elusive brass ring. It’s nice to just take pleasure in the art, instead of stressing about how I’m going to use the art to make my next meal happen.” He jokes that ”I’d prefer to have the opportunity to just perform the role of Kevin Bush, with a piano player, over and over and over. Kevin Bush Lounge Singer. Aww, yeah!” His cabaret show will open at Trustus this summer. The trio performed together in The Full Monty at Workshop in 2007. All three are current or former Trustus Company members, and all have performed at Town Theatre, Workshop Theatre, and USC. Bush serves on the board at Trustus, Boyle does the same at Workshop, and Henderson serves as Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer for Vibrations Dance Company, and is also developing independent dance/theater projects under his personal brand T.O. Henderson Dance Incorporated (TO DANCE, Inc.) Bush counts among his favorite roles Mark in Rent, Jeff in [title of show], Edgar in Bat Boy, and would love to play Bobby in Company. Boyle has enjoyed playing Edna in Hairspray and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and dreams of playing ZaZa in La Cage aux Folles. Henderson loved playing Mr. Venus in Passing Strange, and Tom Collins in Rent. He looks forward to a number of roles, including the Lead Player in Pippin and the Emcee in Cabaret, but notes that he is ready to play the lead in something, after many memorable parts in ensemble casts. He will direct and choreograph Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Trustus this summer. Jasper convened this talented group for a round-table discussion over a bottle or two of wine. The topic was to have been the role of musical theatre locally, from the perspective of three veteran pros. Quickly, however, all agreed with Bush, that “every theatre community mirrors Broadway, which currently is 70-80% musicals - because that is what is selling.” What follows are edited excerpts from a lively conversation that ranged from musical theatre as legitimate art, to a thoughtful reﬂection on the magic and passion of live performance.
Jasper: You have all done serious dramatic work, but also often turn up in musicals. A number of musicals have won the Pulitzer for Best Drama - why do you think musicals may not be taken as seriously as traditional drama? Bush: The musical suffers because it is more commercialized, and has been throughout history, through popular song - the connection between a hit song, and the hit Broadway show that it came from. That was pop music; a Black Eyed Peas song is part of the hit parade now in the same way that Cole Porter’s hit songs from musical theatre were then. That’s probably why people don’t think of musical theatre as “serious” theatre. But we have come up in a generation where musical theatre did a turnaround, and became a more serious literary medium.
Henderson: The kind of musical theatre that’s being done now is different. Shows like Next to Normal are breaking out of what we have been calling a “musical.” There are some pieces of theatre that have stood out in recent years like Spring Awakening, and Passing Strange, that are changing the perception of what a musical is. I think that trend is going to continue. Musicals tend to put an end on a story, but now we’re having (stories) that don’t wrap up quite so tidily. That’s a newer wave that’s going to change this conversation a little bit, and we’re in the midst of that change. Jasper: Hunter, you have an interesting perspective as a teacher of theatre, and its history; clearly, what was popular on Broadway in 1930 is very different from 2013. Boyle: Eugene O’Neill plays that were so serious, like Strange Interlude - for them that was as cuttingedge as Next to Normal is for us. I think it has to do with the creativity of the people who come together and want to make the magic happen. (A play) that we consider as intelligent theatre, or classic theatre, or “thinking person’s theatre” still has its place, but (theatre) is an organism, and it has to keep up with the times. In 1985, La Cage aux Folles was a social shock. And even then, they interpolated within the Cagelles (the idea of) “who’s the real woman, and who’s in drag?” to soften that for mainstream audiences. Musicals have been dismissed, because in Oklahoma or South Paciﬁc, everybody goes off into their various sunsets, and Cinderella gets back with the Prince. These days it’s not necessarily a happy ending. In Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, (the female lead) just leaves, the whorehouse gets closed, and it’s all because of this moralistic, bombastic jerk which was me. (Everyone laughs, recalling the three times Boyle has played the role.) She sings this gutwrenching song, about how “I have these dreams” ... and that’s it. Jasper: Many of these groundbreaking shows may not be taught yet as literature, but they’re seen as cultural phenomena. Whorehouse may seem almost quaint now, but was daring for its day. Even Oklahoma, with a ballet in the middle of a cowboy musical, was cuttingedge for its time. High schools now do a cleaned-up version of Avenue Q.
Bush: Junior versions. Rent, Jr., which is bizarre. The key is the way people are educated about theatre. Musicals aren’t treated as literary works, in the same way plays are. The script rules; the playwright rules over all when it comes to what is “classic.” With a musical, librettos don’t rule, not in theatre education. Boyle: Right - we’re not teaching the libretto of Next to Normal. Now at Coastal Carolina, they’re doing a musical theatre class, and not only is it scene study, they also read the musicals, and talk about the lyrics, and what was going on in society at the time, like with Hair. Bush: You do the same kind of dramaturgy work with any play. Boyle: And you develop the character the same way - it’s just that they break out into song. I do that in real life. I walk down the street, and all of a sudden (breaking into a tra-la-la tune.) And people leave me alone. (Laughter.) People think it’s frothy, or doesn’t have as much meaning, but I think that a lot of times, people feel more through song than through the spoken word. Henderson: Or they connect a little sooner to the material... Boyle: ...and it eases them into what’s going on. Henderson: That’s also the thing that turns some people against musical theatre. When I was in college, that wasn’t part of our program - I was doing musicals in community theatre. I realized I had abilities to sing and to dance, which came after my pursuit of acting, but that wasn’t seen by the powers that be in my university program as necessarily valid. Because you can sing a song in
a musical, and capture (characters) in their essence. To a thespian, that’s a little annoying to think that (someone) can go out and in one song, just grab everybody, and wrap it all up. Even amongst us, there are actors who don’t do musicals, who have that opinion about what we do, and how easy it is for us to come out and grab an audience. Boyle: And there are people who do musicals, but have second thoughts about doing straight plays for that same reason. Bush: Musical theatre isn’t accepted as teaching core theatre principles, certainly not acting principles. It’s like when you take voice, you start singing opera. You may not care for opera, or go for classical music, but if you train that way, you can do anything. That’s the perception. Boyle: When I got my MFA, that’s where we got our classical training, from the Shakespeare Theater. They ﬁgured if you could do any of those Shakespearean roles, then you can do the comedies, or the other stuff. Although in the Opera Department now, Ellen Schlaefer will have guest artists come in, and work with her students about how to act a song. Henderson: We all grew up watching triple threats - Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, people who were the best at everything, performing live on television. Thing have gotten more divided now; kids want to pursue entertaining, but there aren’t as many people with an interest in being excellent in all three. They want to be just dancers, or actors, or singers. Boyle: I feel like some kind of old Ethel Merman (laughter) but when I started, you sang. And you ﬁlled up the house, and you did it on your own natural ability. You had
Photos by Jonathan Sharpe
to learn how to train your voice, and if you didn’t, you didn’t get the job. Today, it’s a lot different, with microphones and area mikes. I understand that it enhances the audience’s experience, but nothing enhances an audience’s experience like somebody who’s trained to do it in a natural way. Bush: I love an area mike, but I hate individual mikes. Henderson: I do too. I’m the one that will have some kind of conductive thing in my body, as soon as I get next to somebody who has one on, and it does the feedback thing. Boyle: Or it’ll go dead, or I’ll sweat through the thing and get shocked.
Bush: But it’s a ﬁne balance, when you’re doing musicals that are so electronically ampliﬁed, then you have to have something. Henderson: But there was a time when we were doing Hair without mikes, and I mean we tore it up! Bush: That mike stands between the actor and what he’s doing for the audience. Especially when they start going out.... eccchhh. Boyle: It takes you out of the moment. You as the actor are like, “Oh crap,” and you as the character are like, “I’ve lost a moment, because I’m an actor that’s saying ‘Oh crap.’”
Jasper: As you say, most of the professional jobs in theatre now are in musicals. An aspiring performer may arrive in New York, and not have the vocal dance or skills to land a role in a touring company, while a musical entertainer may never have studied acting. Henderson: There’s a big difference between people doing theatre as a hobby, and trying to pursue it professionally. It doesn’t mean there’s not the same pursuit of honesty and quality in your work, but if you’re trying to pursue a profession, then you have to think about your marketability, and pursue that training too. Boyle: Professional (theatre) is different. You’ve got to have that bag of tricks, and be able to pull it out at any second when you’re auditioning. We’ve all laughed about “what’s my motivation, but literally it’s, a business, and you can’t waste their time. They don’t want for you to get up to that high note, they want you to get the high note, ﬁrst, and then go. It’s all about being ready, and having conﬁdence in yourself to do it, but also if you don’t get this one, you have to have that spirit of “next time then.” Resiliency is a must. Bush: You have to know that your job 9-5 is to audition and get work, like if you were a salesperson. Well, you’re selling you. You’re just not a prostitute. Henderson: You kind of are. (much laughter) Discussion turns to local venues. All three are current or former Trustus Company members, technically a professional theatre where actors receive a modest honorarium In other words, they get paid. Yet
does a performer see his or her work as somehow different depending on whether it’s “community” or “professional” theatre? Bush: Nobody in town, even the Equity actor at the table (pointing to Boyle) does this for the money. We choose to be here, doing this work, and doing the best we can, for our own artistry. Some people are here to go to a different level, a professional level. Henderson: No one who is serious about theatre, period, does it for the money. Bush: That’s an even better point. Henderson: We do have an interesting situation, where people are doing shows professionally, but choose, for whatever reason to also live in Columbia. We’re choosing not to be in a market that is as consistent as New York or Chicago, so we have choices: we’re either going to work here as well as outside, or live here but work elsewhere... or ﬁnd some balance between the two. I’ve auditioned for Broadway shows, but I want to live here right now, so I’m dedicated to helping to raise the bar at what we’re doing in Columbia. But I never considered the level of what I was doing to be different, depending on where I was, or how much I was being paid. I think that’s how we end up with shows at Workshop and Town that are at a professional, level, but not necessarily paid. Bush: The area where we’re not being professional is where budgets are involved. We couldn’t do Wicked here. Boyle: It’s the love of telling a story, the love of creating that with people you’re comfortable with, and Columbia has such eclectic places to do theatre. Theater chooses you sometimes. It pulls you in. It’s part of who you are, part of your DNA. A lot of times in my life, I’m more relaxed on stage, in the moment, creating, even in rehearsals. It’s given me the freedom to create, with other people. Nobody does this by themselves. That sense of community - it connects, and weaves, and gives everybody that strong base. Bush: To me, and to a lot of people, theatre is one of the most spiritual of the art forms. For audiences too. Henderson: Whether you’re going to get that paycheck at the end of the gig or not, it’s that moment where you realize you’ve made a difference. Those moments are what we hold on to. The diversity and wealth of local talent reoccurs throughout the conversation. Bush points to culture as a magnet that draws people to Columbia, and how the existence of Trustus was one reason why he consciously chose to move back from the west coast. Bush: Columbia sucks... you in. (laughter) Columbia is the perfect size city to experience and appreciate
a really good sense of culture that will teach you things that are different and new, just like you could experience in New York or LA or Atlanta, but it’s all more accessible here. Boyle: You may not be spending $134 for a ticket to see a show here like you do for Broadway, but (here) it’s people who love what they do, just as much as those people on Broadway, and it may be someone you see in the grocery store the next day. Henderson: One of the beneﬁts of being in a place like this is to know not just that somebody great and fabulous will come here, but that people great and fabulous ARE here. (As if on cue the other two chime in together on those ﬁnal two words.) Henderson does note however that a smaller market can cause artists to limit their vision, perhaps due to complacence, and not to push themselves. “We need to raise our expectations of each other, so that we can change the perspective that we have to go somewhere else to be fabulous.” Boyle recalls how the Trustus production of Angels in America quietly sold out to a receptive and diverse audience, while protests and controversy dogged the show in other, supposedly more cosmopolitan cities. Jasper: What about theatre as sheer entertainment? Boyle: It’s fun to be in show that can uplift the audience, and they go on this ride with you. (He tells the story of a full-ﬁgured woman who was moved to tears when his character in Hairspray says that it’s all right to be big.) That did it all for me, and validated everything, the fact that I had to wear a girdle and ﬁve wigs and everything. When you’re in a show that has a message, that the audience is obviously rocking and rolling with and enjoying, there’s not a better high. Maybe there is... but I haven’t found it yet. I’m not giving up though! Bush: When you know the spirit of the work is coming through you, and the audience is getting that, then you’re both just thrilled that it’s actually happening. Henderson: Being a song and dance guy, one of my greatest goals as an artist is to ﬁnd that honesty in that work, to do something sheerly for fun, and to have honesty and heart in that as well, which means it’s just as valid as anything else. Bush: Our country doesn’t appreciate the interpretive art of acting, or dancing, the song. Boyle: Somebody connecting with an audience, singing a song about something they believe in, and really selling it, and having that feeling to channel it through that audience, is magic.
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The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 to “foster, assist, and sustain excellence” in the arts. This year, one of South Carolina native Osamu Kobayashi’s paintings was purchased as a part of the Academy’s Art Purchase Program, and two of Kobayashi’s paintings will be on display during the Academy’s Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts. Kobayashi is one of 34 American artists to be invited to show, and one 14 artists whose work was selected for purchase and placement in a museum in this country. Recognition by The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a prestigious accomplishment, as artists are nominated for inclusion in the exhibition by a committee of 250 art world giants such as Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, and native South Carolinian, Jasper Johns. The ﬁnal decision for inclusion in this year’s exhibition was made by a smaller committee of ten well-established artists: Lois Dodd, Yvonne Jacquette, Wolf Kahn, Alex Katz, Catherine Murphy, Thomas Nozkowski,
Judy Pfaff, Dorothea Rockburne, Peter Saul, and Joel Shapiro. Osamu Kobayashi was born in 1984 in Columbia, SC, and studied art in New York and Maryland, attending the Maryland Institute College of Art to earn his BFA. Currently, he is living and working in Brooklyn, New York. For such a young artist, Kobayashi has already seen a good response to his work. He has two solo exhibitions under his belt (one in New York and one in Italy), and has another solo exhibition opening this May in Manhattan, at the Greenwich House. Kobayashi’s paintings are simple in color and form, often comprised of two to three essential colors. Concepts aside and based on aesthetics alone, Mark Rothko’s work comes to mind. Joan Miro’s more minimalistic paintings do, as well, but Kobayashi is more controlled. There are bisections and intersections, and ﬂoating shapes in ephemeral, glowing color ﬁelds. In some cases, paint is applied thickly,
evoking our desire to touch. The forms are organic while remaining geometric; structured while at the same time staying loose. Throughout his paintings, there is a sense of duality. His paintings are uncomplicated, but sophisticated explorations of the fundamental building blocks of design. Kobayashi writes that his 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…” Frozen Ghosts, Black Hole, one of the paintings that will be included in the Academy’s exhibition, is an exploration of a dichotomous relationship between perhaps the real and the imagined, or existence and non-existence. The “push and pull” between form and color, and perceived conceptual ideas is noted by Kobayashi in his statement. He is working to create “…a uniﬁed structure that stays contained--but
Photo by Brendan Coyle
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never becomes subdued—within its own parameters.” Evanescent blue tones screen our view to the coral color beneath. We see only hints of form as they disappear, or maybe even shift, into new dimensions we can’t see, or that maybe we can only catch glimpses of out of the corner of our eye. There is a subtlety to this piece, but subdued it is not. The elements are indeed contained within the conﬁnes of the four edges of the painting, but we get the sense that if we could peer into that one black circle—or hole—that we could see inﬁnitely back into space, into depths, under layers we’re not normally privy to. Above | “Remote Horizon” by Osamu Kobayashi Bottom Left | “Skinned Eye, Trapezoid” by Osamu Kobayashi
Once again, we see that tenuous relationship between the tangible and the intangible, as a well-deﬁned earthly circle becomes obfuscated by and within a square nebulous cloud in another of Kobayashi’s paintings, Force Garden. Here, Kobayashi composes an enigmatic investigation of rectilinear and curvilinear form, and high contrast color relationships. There is an otherworldly quality to many of Kobayashi’s paintings, and an artful tug-of-war between contrasts. Opposites attract and repel, lull us into calm, or grab our attention with a razor’s edge. We are absorbed into inﬁnity or jolted to a stop on the edge of deep space. Kobayashi resides in the in-between space, orchestrating opposing elements in an elegant battle or dance, depending on your perspective. The Academy’s Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts opened on March 7, 2013 in New York, and ran through April 14, 2013. You can also see more of Kobayashi’s work at his website www. osamu-kobayashi.com, as well as learn about past and upcoming exhibitions.
C H R I S
R O B I N S O N ,
ernard Kruseman Aretz is an outsized hulk of a man, standing 6’6” tall, a Dutch born, world-class sailor, who dominates most conversation with his powerful presence and energetic passion. He lives with his wife and two children in a self-built round house in Charleston and commutes each week to Columbia as a graduate student in the University of South Carolina’s Master of Fine Arts degree program in painting. Finishing up his third year and preparing the work for his project exhibition, he has worked closely for the last nine months with a required self-selected faculty project committee to develop and reﬁne the work, write a comprehensive documentation of the concept and functional development, and exhibit the paintings to meet the ﬁnal requirements of his graduate degree. That faculty committee gets a rare, intimate opportunity to look at and support an artist’s development and the artist gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to have cooperative, collective, and professional feedback on a regular basis. It is a chance to intensely focus on and develop a select idea; not the rest of your career, but nine months to learn to comprehensively focus on a single, dedicated concept. In a discipline so often accused of being subjective, it is intriguing how independently universal the collective response of the committee can be. But what you will also read here are the minor variations of thought and focus brought by these observers– Sara Schneckloth (Professor of Drawing), Philip Mullen (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Painting), and myself (Professor of Sculpture). You will read many similarities, and the repetition is beneﬁcial, but also note the subtle variations of approach based on our own artistic preferences and professional backgrounds.
S A R A
S C H N E C K L O T H ,
Bernard is ambitious and successful, a standout in a compelling crop of distinctive international graduate students. As a leader in our program he has won accolades ranging from the Graduate Studio Art Research award to a $25,000. Dean’s Fellowship, and he also runs a business and repairs classic yachts to make ﬁnancial ends meet. He often talks about commitment. His paintings are creative, museum scale - very large, articulate and expressive in their representation, but also gestural, rich in their painterly surface, and demand your attention. They emanate the intriguing and complex dichotomy of our troubled world, visually celebrating both treasure and tragedy. These paintings are rich in technique, but also so ripe with meaningful content – the qualities of great works of art. He has to select and take what he deems appropriate and courageously discard the rest. The work of the committee is not only to provide feedback and insight, but also to remind the artist of the growing space between his or her own constantly developing and focused understanding and that of the viewing public. One of the sad facts being that most people just don’t spend too much time looking at art. You want the artist to know more than you and direct you, but still be reasonably accessible. And students so often forget where they started and what they have learned along the way. We encourage them to keep notes and write as they go, but the focus almost always ends up acquiescing to the art making. Bernard’s paintings are actually many paintings in one and I have encouraged him to buy more canvas and save the many successes along the way, but have also come to appreciate how he slowly builds up, reﬁnes, and saves only the best and most critical aspects of each one for a ﬁnal
A N D
P H I L I P
M U L L E N
substantive, edited totality that can be neither ignored nor denied. An athlete landing in a sand pit becomes a struggling ﬁgure desperately seeking balance and repose in an explosive environment, a dripping and somewhat obscured swimmer’s head ﬂoats in a ﬁeld of lonely darkness, the artist looking up at the mirrored ceiling of an elevator becomes that same artist asking the wash of troubling and compelling questions of the universe. Each of these individual stages might be enough to stand alone, but in the course of development they go from descriptive, representational artworks to powerful strokes of non-objective chaos, and then get drawn back again, adding and saving all along the way and highlighting only the critical elements for the ﬁnal image. He makes them happen. You must, as with all artworks, see these paintings, not only the steps of these reproductions, but the ﬁnished, living reality. The paintings are drawn from media images of beauty, torture, drama, and raging action. The images are carefully explored, selected, evaluated, altered, and offer so much that a viewer takes for granted – a consistency of thought, subtle and aggressive compositional control of the planar surface, sensitized instants that draw you from the ﬁeld of paint to delicate details you focus and rest upon, and sensuous and glamorous painterly highlights to feed the eye. He paints fast and discards what others would give anything to save, only to understand and establish the complex relationships of his vision. He labors over and ﬁghts for that understanding, often to the peril of those who cross his path. He also has to face the collective knowledge of his committee who typically confront him with some liabilities he recognizes and knows and some he does not.
This may be one of the greatest assets of graduate education; the early confrontation of where choices today may leave one many years down the road. It isn’t always comfortable, frequently frustrating, but in the end, most often appreciated. The documentation requires an introduction to the proposal, ideas, concepts, and plan of the project, a description and explanation of the individual artworks constituting the project, and a concluding statement of what was learned and where he envisions going next. I am not usually an advocate of painting, but see that Bernard has carved out yet another consequential aspect of this long standing, domineering, and dying form–no easy task. Give these paintings some time, and be drawn in to a more complex understanding of both our rapidly changing world and the arts’ role in that development. Chris Robinson
he moving body leaves its impression in space, and in memory. If there is material in hand pencil, charcoal, paint on a brush - this body may also leave a physical trace, visual evidence of its action on a surface, gestures that speak to moments of engaged aesthetic activity. A gestured mark is often characterized by a looseness of motion coupled with a precision of description, a mark made with a particular direction, duration, pressure, and speed, a mark that captures an essential moment of seeing and reacting. This gesture has the capacity to transmit more than visual information; it can also convey the emotional state of the artist and offer a glimpse into the time and conditions of its making. Bernard Kruseman’s paintings combine this kinetic language of gesture with a more
methodical approach to rendering discrete aspects of the human form. The result is a layered visual and experiential reference to the body working on a scale that is larger than life, paintings that speak to both the body’s structure and the body’s action. Through the gestured mark, we see how an artist moves, how his or her ﬂesh, bone and muscle impacts a surface, how an expansive line unfolds in space to express an idea and a feeling. In these paintings, we are presented with fragmented images of the body, parts that imply the whole limbs, hands, faces, mysterious passages of ﬂesh enveloped in paint. We are presented with explosions of color, sinuous ribbons, pounding waves, and quiet pools. The overall effect is of a cumulative expression of human energy and emotion, conveyed through color, gesture, and form. In 1952, critic Harold Rosenberg coined the term “action painting,” now used often interchangeably with “abstract expressionism.” He wrote, “At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act. … What was to go on canvas was not a picture but an event.” Kruseman’s paintings function as examples of both action painting and picture-making, reading simultaneously as events and pictures, as records of experience but also as images that imply a narrative moment. Kruseman accesses this fusion of action painting and controlled rendering in his ambition to capture a range of human experience through painting. His approach to the canvas is open and sincere, combining carefully-considered source material with a sense of physical abandon and expressiveness in his handling of paint. The large size of the canvas and the textures on the surface invite consideration from both near and far – from a distance the elements combine into swathes of color interacting with limbs and faces, while up close, one sees the layers of material and gesture at work. At this range, the viewing body is able to echo the painting body, imagining the activity that creates the visible explosions, ﬂows, and tendrils of paint. The experience of painting is shared with a viewer, inviting both an enjoyment of the surface and a consideration of the image. We are left to think through a range of possibilities for the meaning of the painting, while being affected by the physicality of the gesture, material, and scale. When I encounter Kruseman’s paintings, I ﬁrst see the embedded gestures that point to hand and paint, the traces of material, time, and body which conspire to create a layered experience of touch, vision, and kinetic making. Each mark is a record of the artist’s ambition to express himself; each mark is also an invitation for a viewer to feel in concert with the painting. Kruseman’s way of working presents an opening for a viewer to participate in the work, by engaging in a shared dance of viewing and understanding, in, through, and about the body. Sara Schneckloth
Photo by Forrest Clonts
bout every three weeks for many months Chris Robinson, Sara Schneckloth, Bernard Kruseman Aretz, and I have been getting together to talk about Bernard’s MFA project, which was shown in April at City Art Gallery in Columbia’s Vista. The committee thinks the paintings are strong and ready to show but Bernard always wants to change them. Five beautiful paintings made up the show; three “small” ones (about seven feet square) and two big ones (about eighteen feet wide). Bernard could have been happy that his committee thought the paintings were good but he wanted to develop them, make them just
a little bit better, extend the conversation. Why not since it is so interesting? Somehow it is like eating a good desert, going to an amusement park, indulging in a favorite hobby, or hanging out with your best friend. The goal is not to ﬁnish but to savor the experience. Maybe it is even hard to think about there being a goal. Traces of the painting experience exist in Bernard’s ﬁnal, or maybe not so ﬁnal, paintings. The richness of the works comes, in part, from the route taken to get to whatever point the painting exists at in the moment. It’s funny how we have a sense about art being made by getting an idea then going through the technical steps to convert 023
Photo by Forrest Clonts
it into an art object. As a teacher I often heard, “I have good ideas but I just can’t get them down on canvas.” A good idea is a good idea and a successful painting is a successful painting but they sure are not the same thing. Why make one into the other? Would it even be possible? Sure, we can get an idea like meeting someone to discuss something, but the idea is not the discussion. What if we decided that our discussion would be the same as the idea and pre-scripted the words. When we arrived we could hand the script to the other person, then each read our parts, then proceed on our way ﬁnished with what we set out to do. It would probably have some entertainment value but otherwise it would be sort of a waste of time. What could we learn if we already knew what the conversation would be? What could Bernard learn if he painted according to a preexisting plan? Bernard approaches painting in a way that provides for a real discussion between the work and the artist. In these discussions, both parties speak and both parties
listen. For someone who has never painted, or one who paints by deciding what they are going to do then just attends to the mechanics to make it happen, or even the artist who apes other artists who actually do have conversations with their work, this may be a difficult concept to grasp. When Bernard paints he has a sense of direction but doesn’t know where he will go or what the journey will look like. He does have many skills that will help along the way. These skills involve being able to draw and build surfaces that are rich and complex, but they also include the less obvious ability to listen to his paintings and being able to ﬁnd his way through the creative act without a speciﬁc road map. Maybe he is making the art work to ﬁnd out what it will look like and even what it will mean. What if a person developed into the most wonderful twenty year old we could ever imagine? By some magical process we could freeze them at that point, but in order to do so we start another person’s life at age twenty. If this new person lived to become
ﬁfty years old and we could somehow compare who they became with who they would have become with the beneﬁt of the ﬁrst twenty years, it would probably be two very different people. We could identify some of the differences, which would probably mean the person with the experience of the ﬁrst twenty years would be more complex and emotionally deep than the person without those years. Could we see the speciﬁcs of those early years? Probably not, but we would know that they were there. In practice Bernard may see a photo of an athlete swimming in which something like suffering or anxiety registers for him so he begins a painting based on this subject. Bernard is too smart to think that the subject is the whole content, so maybe he looks at the painting, which encourages him to submerge the swimmer in an overwhelming space in order to make it more ominous. As it develops, some of the space looks like water while some does not. The painting tells Bernard that the movements
in the water need to extend into the rest of the space. The artist gets excited and the extension gets overdone, which is often necessary to ﬁnd just that point where it is enough but not too much. Parts are painted out leaving some dynamic movements that make it look like the hands have grabbed onto the space and are pulling it around. It is as if he has just painted the air. A viewer may not be able to see just how the hands pulling the space came into existence but the pulling is there and has an impact much like the ﬁrst twenty years of our imaginary ﬁfty year old person. Somewhere in Bernard’s process two blue lines appear extending from the ﬁngers and establishing a certain dimensional space. And it goes on and on for months and still the conversation seems too rich to abandon. At some point it gets lost that an ath-
letic event kicked this whole thing off and the conversation becomes far bigger than anyone, including the artist, could have imagined. Great art often comes from the artist’s ability to take the speciﬁcs of their own experiences and develop them into something more universal in such a way that the audience can convert it to relate to what is important in their own lives. Bernard’s approach is to discover the painting as he works on it, learning about what it means as he paints, and leaving a trail of evidence for a viewer to experience while ﬁnding their own meaning. The entire process exists and is necessary although it is not totally evident. It may be productive to think of Bernard’s paintings as a record of his experience with the art work that may offer us a window
into Bernard and the painting while still allowing us to have our own experiences with the painting and later with the world at large in light of that experience. There is, for me, no desire to have him stop if one of his paintings is at a particular point that resounds for me and have him put anything else that might develop into a new work. These paintings will be shown and they will be ﬁnished, at least for the duration of the exhibit, and maybe forever, but ﬁnished with these paintings may only be a vague notion. Maybe these paintings are best experienced as moments, as time passing, as action with no requirement that they be ﬁnished. Philip Mullen
View more images on the following page
Photos by Forrest Clonts
Find Jasper and Muddy Ford Press at booth #416 at the SC Book Festival May 18 - 19, 2013
congratulates Zach Mueller, recipient of the first summer residency at The Writers House sponsored by Hub City Writers Project in Spartanburg. Zach is a 2012 graduate of USC with the MFA in poetry, and a regular reviewer of poetry for Jasper.
CENTERFOLD CRAIG BUTTERFIELD + REGGIE SULLIVAN
CRAIG BUTTERFIELD & REGGIE SULLIVAN BY ANDY BELL + KYLE PETERSEN 028
There is something different about a Craig Butterﬁeld performance. Every week, all undergraduate students at the University of South Carolina School of Music are required to attend Seminar, a mid-day class that functions as a performance opportunity for faculty and students. The USC School of Music faculty is well stocked with seasoned performers with lengthy resumes, so their performances are always enjoyable and educational. But whenever Butterﬁeld, the professor of double bass, performs, there is some kind of palpable thrill in the audience, an excitement and joy about what is being accomplished in front of them. Perhaps it is due to the physical parameters of playing the bass; with most double basses measuring almost six feet tall, the instrument is much larger than any other stringed instrument (the cello, the next largest, has an average height of two feet). When Butterﬁeld plays the bass, his left hand navigates the entire length of the neck with ease and precision. Most concert audiences rarely witness this style of bass playing, due to hundreds of years of the instrument being largely relegated to a utilitarian function in orchestral music. It is also possible that students have a unique reaction to Butterﬁeld’s performances because the bass is not widely known for being a ‘solo’ instrument. A large bulk of canonical solo repertoire for stringed instruments is written for violin or cello. This can lend a novel quality to some solo bass performances, especially if they merely reach adequate quality. But Butterﬁeld’s performances are too viscerally thrilling, technically proﬁcient, and aesthetically serious to be merely a circus act within a high-art discipline. Butterﬁeld is a true musician, playing the bass as if it has a long history of being the mainstream solo instrument that he hopes it will become. Butterﬁeld’s eclectic musical experience comes out of an eclectic musical upbringing. After begging his parents for piano lessons (an event he has since forgotten), he began training on the instrument using the Suzuki method. This involved learning pieces by rote, listening to recordings both while awake during the day and sleeping at night, and playing back melodies by ear. In the 4th grade, Butterﬁeld started playing french horn in band class at his elementary school in New Jersey. He continued to take band when he moved to Durham, North Carolina in the 6th grade, but due to a two-year head start on the instrument, Butterﬁeld’s band director allowed him to practice in a private practice room, rather than rehearse with the rest of the band, for an hour a day.
Butterﬁeld took up the electric bass at 13, opting for the instrument in an effort to distinguish himself from his guitar-playing older brother. He fell in with a group of musicians at his school, forming a band with guitarist Matthew Slotkin (currently a classical guitar performer and educator) and Matthew McCaughan (who went on to play bass and drums for Bon Iver). They pushed each other to develop musically and explore their evolving curiosities about the art form; their affinity for the classic rock of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix led them to the prog rock of Rush, which led them to the jazz fusion of Chick Corea and Al di Meola. In their senior year, spurred by Slotkin’s newfound interest in classical music and playing violin repertoire, Butterﬁeld began listening to renowned solo classical bassist Francois Rabbath. Upon high school graduation, Butterﬁeld sold his french horn to purchase a bow, and his double bass career began. Butterﬁeld enrolled as a freshman at University of Miami with the intention of double majoring in classical and jazz bass performance. Although he enjoyed his time at the school, the passive instruction was not enough to satisfy his aspirations for himself as a bassist. He had a vision for his own playing, but could not execute it with his limited technique. “I was a beginner there, very much the bottom of the class,” he recounts, “but I had these big aspirations and I was working really hard, and I wanted people behind me, pushing me constantly.” He saw that the best path towards this goal was to focus on his technique, learning how to play the instrument as efficiently as possible. Not sure of his next step, he left Miami and tagged along with his then-girlfriend out to Texas. Still interested in studying classical bass and improving his technique, he decided to apply at the nearby University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, simply on a hunch that, since their jazz program is one of the best in the country, their classical program was probably pretty good. What Butterﬁeld didn’t know was that the double bass instructor at UNT was Jeff Bradetich, a highly successful performer and educator and “one of the top names in the profession.” “I called information, got the information for the bass office, called [Bradetich], caught him in his office...[and] I said ‘Hey, I want to come there next month to study.’” Unfortunately, it turned out Bradetich would be leaving the country in a couple of days, not to return back to campus until classes start. “So I ﬂew out the next day...I had maybe something little prepared, I don’t remember, but I ﬂew out there and played an audition and somehow, miraculously, got into the program.”
Craig ButterďŹ eld | Photo by Thomas Hammond
“Now, knowing a lot more than I knew then, he was the perfect teacher for me. We saw eye to eye on everything.” Although Bradetich has a solid background of orchestral training (he studied with Warren Benﬁeld and Joseph Guastafeste of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), he made his name performing and transcribing solo repertoire for the double bass. “From the ﬁrst moment [he] played bass,” Butterﬁeld knew that he did not want to play in orchestra, but focus on chamber music, solo repertoire, jazz, and improvisation, making this serendipitous teacher-student pairing a perfect vehicle for his artistic training and improvement. Butterﬁeld focused purely on classical performance during his undergraduate years at UNT. “I felt completely inept on the instrument. I knew what I wanted to sound like, I knew what I wanted to play, but I couldn’t come anywhere near it. I wanted to sound like a horn player when I was improvising, I wanted to sound like a violinist or cellist when I was playing classical music.” In his last years earning his Bachelor’s degree, Butterﬁeld had improved enough on the instrument to be given a graduate assistantship teaching bass. In addition to private lessons, he coached an unusually large masterclass with 80 bass students every week. After eventually earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Butterﬁeld’s friend Buffy Jacobs (a cellist who now plays with The Polyphonic Spree) informed him about a bass teaching position open at the University of South Carolina School of Music, her alma mater. He applied for the position, but the application process fell through. He then went on tour with charismatic trumpeter Maynard Ferguson for two years, ﬁnishing his Doctorate in Musical Arts coursework in the meantime. When the USC position opened up again, Butterﬁeld decided to take another crack at it. After a rigorous process (playing a jazz and classical recital at 8:00 AM, teaching lessons, teaching a masterclass, and meeting the faculty), he ended up happily accepting the tenure-track position before he had even completed his doctoral studies. Butterﬁeld’s widely-varied career as a performer, and the variety of skills that it has required, can be seen as a direct reﬂection of his musical upbringing. His Suzuki method training on the piano helped develop his hearing and rote-learning abilities at a very young age. “Learning music is an underrated skill. To the practical working musician, learning music by rote is equally as important as reading music.” Playing along with Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden as a teenager reinforced his ear, while helping him learn to groove and play with good ‘feel’. His hours spent playing horn in the practice room helped him learn how to practice efficiently, while playing jazz and fusion exercised all of those skills, in addition to improvising and understanding complex music. These skills combined
have enabled Butterﬁeld to perform at a high level in all styles, from classical to jazz to Indian to rock. As a teacher, he hopes to “bridge the divide” between genres and give his students a simlarly wide-ranging, yet necessary set of skills. “That’s what’s really missing I think today ... musicianship is a very broad spectrum, and being a classical musician has limitations. Being a jazz musician has limitations. We should all just strive to be great musicians in any situation that we’re thrust into. If we’re given a recording and someone says ‘Hey, here’s what I’m doing tomorrow, learn a part to play along,’ we should have no problem doing that. If we consider ourselves good classical musicians, we should be able to do that. If we consider ourselves good jazz musicians, we should be able to do that, no matter what the genre of music.” “I think it’s really important to combine classical training with the ability to improvise, the ability to play ‘in the pocket’ and groove like rock musicians do. These are all really important skills” Butterﬁeld has done his share to separate himself from other bassists. For the last few years, he has been working long hours to realize his early ideas of playing classical music like a violinist and improvising like a horn player. While several famous jazz bassists have improvised with a bow, Butterﬁeld had yet to see it applied to horn-like improvisation (Danish bassist Neils-Henning Ørsted Pederson applied horn-like bebop vocabulary to the bass, but not with a bow). In late 2011, Butterﬁeld ﬁlmed himself in his office playing trumpeter Tom Harrell’s improvisation on a recording of Charlie Parker’s tune “Chasin’ the bird,” and posted the clip to YouTube. Butterﬁeld plays on top of the original recording, duplicating Harrell’s feel, articulation, and phrasing with a precision that probably few bassists imagined possible. The video quickly gained recognition in the online jazz community, with “shares” posted by saxophonist Dave Liebman and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on Facebook. However, Butterﬁeld sees even more that can be done as an improviser. Recently, while on tour with alto saxophonist Greg Osby, Butterﬁeld was taken aback by his modern style of improvisation, hardly able to understand anything that he played while still enjoying it immensely. “Why can’t this be done on the bass?” he asked himself. He hopes to explore more contemporary jazz language--utilized by Osby as well as other modern horn players, pianists, and guitarists--and apply it to his instrument. In the past year, Butterﬁeld began to experiment with performing solo with the aid of effects pedals. Using looping, unconventional playing approaches, and sound effects produced from the bass, Butterﬁeld creates his own percussion, bass, and chordal accompaniment for melodies and improvisations on music by such artists
as Radiohead, Muse, and Chick Corea. He will be performing these arrangements on concert tours in the coming year. In addition to these performances, Butterﬁeld is preparing for a couple of new recording projects: Dez Cordas, his duo with high school bandmate Matthew Slotkin, will be releasing their third CD, consisting entirely of commissioned works. He has also begun to transcribe Johann Sebastian Bach’s three Violin Partitas for the double bass, a project which will include published sheet music, an audio recording, and videos posted to YouTube. Yet with of all these professional accomplishments, academic credentials, and executed plans, Butterﬁeld still approaches his instrument and career as he did when he ﬁrst picked up the instrument: that there is still something new he can explore, and that he has to work very hard to reach them. Whether it’s expanding his studio, elevating his instrument to the levels of other respected solo instruments, expanding the possibilities of jazz improvisation on the bass, or reﬁning his pedagogical approach, Butterﬁeld has got his work cut out for him, and we will all get to enjoy the results. Andy Bell
REGGIE SULLIVAN It’s a spring Tuesday night out in Forest Acres, the kind of signature lackadaisical South Carolina evening that can make Columbia occasionally feel like a sleepy town. If you pop into Pasta Fresca, a local Italian restaurant and bar, the mood continues. The restaurant is full but not too loud, and a little jazz/R&B trio is set up in the corner playing a mix of covers and originals at the perfect volume to match the middle level hum of the restaurant. But if you listen closer, you’ll notice that this isn’t some casual jazz trio strolling through standards for a payday. The bandleader, bassist/singer Reggie Sullivan, steps up to the microphone and announces that they are going to ﬁnish their ﬁrst set with an original. The group—also featuring keyboardist/vocalist Nick Brewer and drummer/vocalist Brendan Bull—launches into “Small Stuff,” a funky, surprisingly simple tune driven by a catchy little hook (“we don’t sweat the small stuff”) that is more direct than your typical cover band fare. Then, about a couple of minutes in, the band quiets down and Sullivan takes off, working his way down his acoustic bass with amazing dexterity and trilling off a few high notes before passing the spotlight off to Brewer, who also takes a solo. The band slides easily back into the melody of the song, leaving the makeshift stage on a note of ﬂawless professionalism that belies the casual nature of the gig they are playing. As it turns out, you just saw what is possibly the hardest working band in South
Reggie Sullivan | Photo by Thomas Hammond
C E N T E R F O L D // R E G G I E S U L L I V A N + C R A I G B U T T E R F I E L D // V O L . 0 0 2 N O . 0 0 5
Photo by Thomas Hammond
Carolina. Sullivan tells me later the next week, when we meet up at Speakeasy, that the group, which also features ace guitarists Zach Bingham and JMichael Peeples in its full incarnation, plays anywhere between 5 and 13 gigs a week. “It’s just a lot of playing time, a lot of practice at gigs,” Sullivan says. “We’re almost a road-worn and road-tested band without having ever left the city [that much].” Since he started out in the jazz scene here in Columbia over a decade ago, the bassist has consummately established connections and contacts that keep up a steady stream of work, from private parties and weekly gigs at places like Pasta Fresca or the Sheraton Rooftop to more traditional rock and roll festival and club gigs. He’s also developed from an in-demand sideman into a songwriter and bandleader (the second Reggie Sullivan Band album will be released sometime this summer) who ﬁts comfortably into the headlining position. He’s now at the point, he hopes, “where this band can make money for the rest of our lives.” Like so many musicians, Sullivan got his start in what has become an increasinglyendangered entity—a public school music education program. “I started playing bass at 13, when I was at Blue Ridge Middle School [in Greer, SC],” he says. “My sister told me to play the bass. She was older than I was, and she pretty much told me to what I was gonna play. I just listened,” he laughs. The guidance, as it turns out, was serendipitous. “It [playing the bass] felt very natural to me,” he recalls. “And I enjoyed the size of it—the spectacle of [a large instrument].” Even now, he mostly sticks with the acoustic bass, including at most rock gigs. “I’ll switch to the electric if I feel the song calls for it. And I still get to play [the electric] every week in church,” he explains. “But a lot of times it’s just easier, when you have to get in and out of a gig, to just take one instrument.” Sullivan, although he “kind of was always playing in church,” stayed serious about studying music academically. After graduating from high school, he spent two years at what was then north Greenville College as a dual vocal performance and bass performance major before transferring to the University of South Carolina. “My teacher told me there was a void for bass players in Columbia,” Sullivan explains. “When I got to USC, there was only one other bass player, and then he left too and I was the only one.” The bassists’ years here were a bit odd in that respect—pianist Bert Ligon actually taught him private lessons, and he overlapped with incoming bassist and professor Craig Butterﬁeld for just a single year. More importantly professionally, though, was Sullivan’s introduction to the jazz scene in the city. “I took some jazz lessons in college, but I never really played jazz until I got to Columbia,” he says. “I started playing at clubs, Hunter-Gatherer, those types of places. And then I was just kind of
in it. It stuck with me, so I had to stick with it,” he laughs. Sullivan started playing steadily with the Robert Gardiner jazz quartet, a gig which he would hold down for many years, and gradually started getting calls to play with bigger names. “Dr. [Dick] Goodwin was really one of my ﬁrst calls, with his jazz-pop string orchestra,” he recalls. “And then Marian McPartland helped me, called me up to play in her trio at the [Greenville] Peace Center—which was a really big deal, to play in a trio with a piano legend.” The pianist asked Sullivan to come up with a list of songs he knew—and the bassist returned her a list of over 300 songs. “She said there were some songs on it that she didn’t know but she’d heard them before,” he laughs. “But then she sat down at the piano and played ‘em like she’d been playing them all her life.” From there, Sullivan became the man to call on when you needed a bass player, at least in South Carolina. “I wasn’t ﬂashy, I was just getting the job done,” he admits. “I think there’s a certain quality [to my playing] that really appealed to a lot of [those big artists]. The best compliment I can get is when people say they didn’t even know a bass player was up there. Because I know my presence is felt [anyway].” The bassist also began getting studio session work in Nashville, where he had recently joined up with Mike Willis and the Cumberland Collective, a large group of musicians and songwriters who frequently perform together. “Sometimes you have to go into the studio on the ﬂy, without a whole lot or any rehearsal,” he says of that work. “My academic background was helpful in some cases because we could talk about a song in an academic or theoretical way.” It was around this time that Sullivan also tried to move away from the restricting conﬁnes of the “jazz” tag. “I took the title ‘jazz bassist’ off my name because I felt like to be a complete musician, you have to play whatever the job calls for. If it’s country, I want to sound country. If it’s R&B, I want to sound R&B,” he asserts. “I can’t say I’m a master of anything, but I’m a con artist at a lot of them. I can fake the style I need to have.” The Nashville work also pushed Sullivan to become more interested in songwriting and moving out front in a band. First, he launched the Reggie Sullivan Project, a covers-oriented group that saw him collaborating with Bert Ligon in arranging pop and R&B songs. He was pleased with the response, but still felt unsatisﬁed. “I couldn’t really feel like I did the work to make the songs work,” he recalls. “I kind of felt like I just hit ‘play.’ The audience already loved those songs. So I decided that, hopefully, one day, if it takes ten years, twenty ears, thirty years—one day I want my songs to get that same reaction.” He quickly organized a band, wrote a few
songs, and jumped in to the Archer Avenue studio with producer Kenny McWilliams. “I really wanted to get an album out [and] just get my feet wet,” he admits. He is far more excited about his upcoming release, which “is a lot more cohesive.” Still, the album, entitled Together, is an impressive product, trafficking in pop songs, charging Southern rock, and laidback R&B and gospel in almost equal measure. The contrasts can actually be a bit startling, as tunes like the hard rock riffing of “Double Cross” have to square up against things like the funky “High Five” or the torch ballad “Say Anything.” Throughout though, the band seems to have made a special effort to restrain their instrumental virtuosity, allowing Sullivan’s voice and songs to truly take center stage for the ﬁrst time. And while he is quick to say he is still proud of that effort (or at least a few of the songs), Sullivan is far more excited about how far the band has grown since then. “Now everybody’s personality is in there,” he says of the freer and more open sessions for the upcoming album. [And] I think I have some of the baddest players in the state in my hand,” he says, more in praise of his collaborators than boastful. “We have a really tight bond, mostly I think because everybody is really humble about our craft, because we’re all jazz musicians. We’re always searching for the stars.” This relentlessness is probably the most singular characteristic of the group. At the Pasta Fresca gig, the band launches into a second set with another original tune, before shooting into a deep-grooving take on Bob Marley’s “Three Birds.” The song segues seamlessly, with the same in-thepocket reggae groove, into Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” As a vocalist, Sullivan remains committed throughout, always using his own voice, a warm, gospel-tinged, pop-oriented instrument, and he smoothly synthesizes his various inﬂuences without mimicking them. The band itself stays loose and funky, at-times straying into ﬂashy jazz combo territory, but constantly working to stay within that surprising gray area between the pop/rock and jazz worlds where they shine. Sullivan is quick to tell people that it’s “not a cover band—we’re an original band that can play covers,” and it’s easy to see why. Near the end of the set, the band starts coming up a little stronger, ﬁnishing their set up with a bit more force. As a bandleader, Sullivan says he strives to stay focused on the mood of the room, and you can feel him trying to make a lasting impression. This is a small, weekly gig—Sullivan and company have seen far bigger and more prominent stages—but it’s here more than anywhere else that you can see the possibilities for success. This is a band driven— ﬁnancially and musically—in all the right ways. Kyle Petersen
Photo by Thomas Hammond
BY ANDY BELL
Classical guitarist Marina Alexandra will be hosting the second annual Southern Guitar Festival and Competition on June 21st through the 23rd at the R. Wright Spears Music/Art Center on the campus of Columbia College. This three-day event will be comprised of master classes, performances, and a competition, featuring the work and talent of local, national, and international performers.
orn in Kharkov, Ukraine, Alexandra’s gift for playing the guitar was apparent early on, resulting in her acceptance to the School Of Music for Talented Children in her hometown at the age of six. She continued her study of the instrument at the State College of Music in Kharkov under the tutelage of Vitaly Petrov. For her graduate studies, Alexandra came to the United States to study with Christopher Berg at the University of South Carolina School of Music. She has since gone on to maintain an active career as a performer and teacher, placing in guitar competitions around the country and teaching in programs at the Community Music Program at the USC School of Music, Wingate University, and USC Aiken. While Alexandra has attempted to foster a classical guitar community in Columbia, she had been frustrated with the results. Her efforts ﬁnally paid off in 2011: “I found a small but very supporting group of guitar players and active teachers who are willing to contribute their time and energy into bringing guitar teaching and playing to a new level in Columbia. It is a handful of people who are eager to make a difference in students’ lives and want to inspire guitar audiences in SC.” “I decided early on that my main goal for this festival and competition would be to inspire people and to show the outstanding capabilities of classical guitar,” she goes on. So, while choosing the performing artists, 036
I was trying to stay true to myself, to my beliefs, and to my standards of true musical inspiration. I have invited Romanian, Russian, and American guitar virtuosos that will add to the world of culture in SC.” The ﬁrst day of this year’s Festival will open with a roundtable discussion, entitled “What It Takes to be a Winner.” This will serve as an open forum between festival attendees and classical guitar “experts” Silviu Ciulei, Steve Walter, and Rovshan Mamedkuliev. Following the discussion there will be a concert given by the Festival’s faculty, including Alexandra, Craig Butterﬁeld, Steve Sloan, Steve Walter, Chance Glass, Matthew Smith, and more.
Photos by Forrest Clonts
The second day will begin the Competition, with guitarists from elementary school-age to college students and older competing in three separate divisions. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend masterclasses given by Rovshan Mamedkuliev and Steve Walter, with the day’s activities culminating in a concert by the Maharajah Flamenco Trio. The Competition’s ﬁnal round and winner announcement will take place on the third day, in addition to featuring a free concert showcasing local guitar talent. There will also be concerts given by Artem Dervoyed (2012 winner of the competition), and Rovshan Mamedkuliev. All of the event’s concerts are ticketed, with reduced admission prices for students, and the masterclasses are free to the public.
LOCAL RECORD REVIEWS BY KYLE PETERSEN
Kent of Shallow Palace) and adding additional guitars, applies a variety of recording tricks and reverb to give the record an evocative, mesmerizing sheen that is wellsuited to the group. Vocals are layered and juxtaposed, quiet piano chords provide ghostly skeletal structures, and songs bleed and blend into each other in a way that makes the craftsmanship undeniable, both for producer and band. Calculated guest spots from The Unawares’ James Wallace (contrabass), The Sea Wolf Mutiny’s Bobby Hatﬁeld (piano), and Patrick O’Neil (cello) also add to the grandeur of some of the arrangements, particularly on ballads like “A Streak of Bad Luck.” As a band though, Stagbriar still feels a little young, with an outsized sense of ambition that doesn’t always gets matched by the songs. While their way with a hook is undeniable, as is the wordiness and grandeur of their lyrics, that epic feel can often lead you adrift, particularly when the songs are a little too oblique to confer much more than a general emotion. Most of time, though, such quibbling is beside the point—if you want a local act to champion in the same breath as The Lumineers or The Civil Wars, you are going to ﬁnd it in Stagbriar.
creates an album with a true ebb and ﬂow. For every powerfully suffocating track like “King Louie,” we get near danceable moments like “Jungle Fever” or “Heavy Heart.” While it can often be difficult to warm to Flourance’s records—largely because they are so antithetical to modern pop music— once you are immersed in his world and creative process, it’s difficult not to see the brilliance and, yes, beauty, in his approach. That music this chopped and processed via computer can be reinvigorated enough to have some soul in it quite honestly gives me hope for the 21st century.
THE POST-TIMEY STRING BAND – PORCH SONGS EP
STAGBRIAR – QUASI-HYMNS, MURDER-BALLADS, AND TALES OF HOW THE HERO DIED Stagbriar is the brother-and-sister duo of Emily and Alex McCollum (along with drummer Brandon Edwards), a new group that mines the fertile grounds of indie folkrock on this, their ﬁnely polished debut full-length. Opening cut “Tom” announces itself with a tightly-wound electric guitar riff and spoken-word verses before the sweeping chorus showcases the two singers’ emotionally wrought vocals soaring into each other—which is really where the heart of their appeal lies. And despite their instrumental prowess—between them, the siblings are contributing guitars, mandolin, banjo, and harmonica to the proceedings—they knows it, too, and rarely does one of their songs not utilize the powerful chemistry of their two voices intertwining at some point. While the songs range from plaintive folk ballads to atmospheric country-rock, the emotional center of the album always comes back to just how damn pretty these guys can sing. Of course, the group is aided by the production work of Kenny McWilliams of Archer Avenue Studios, who, in addition to playing bass (now provided live by Brett 038
RAMPHASTOS – ALAKAZAM Will Flourance is probably most famous (infamous?) in Columbia as MC Ginger Snap, one-half of the sardonic hip-hop duo Sweet Vans. While not to be disparaging of that output—after all, Sweet Vans is friggin’ hilarious—many would probably be surprised to discover Flourance in his Ramphastos guise: an experimental, quasihip-hop producer who chops up beats and samples in surprising and unrecognizable ways that gives off the impression of a producer who has incorporated dubstep and postmodern theory equally into his creative process. Of his recorded output, Alakazam is easily the most accessible. While the disorienting sample snippets and aggressive looping will always be oft-putting to some, this record sees Flourance giving his beats a bit more room to breathe, and in the process
While there are many “folk” bands in Columbia, perhaps none deserve the title so much as The Post-Timey String Band. A duo composed of vocalist/guitarist/kazoo player Kelly McLachlan and multi-stringed player Sean Thomson, PTSB are more Gillian Welch & David Rawlings than She & Him, with a love of the most time-worn idioms of classic folk and blues songs and a blazing authenticity to support their claim as a “string band.” The songs themselves range from lonesome country to ramshackle blues, but McLachlan’s voice is best suited to wrenching the nuance out of individual syllables in the most simplistic of country ballads or sad-eyed blues songs. Here, “I Do” and “Tightrope” serve as the best showcases, although “Blues for Charley” and “Lauren’s Song” are the best examples of the group’s songwriting prowess. What saves this EP from the moments where it sounds the most rote, though, is its lo-ﬁ charms. None of these songs are given a semblance of production polish, but are instead allowed to stand as acoustic statements relatively unadorned next to one another, thus absolutely living up to the title Porch Songs.
PANDERCAKES/PUZZY WIZARD SPLIT 7” A limited release from Fork & Spoon Records, this 7” sees the seldom-heard-from indie pop quartet Pandercakes and Toro y Moi guitarist Jordan Blackmon (under his Puzzy Wizard moniker) joining forces for some psychedelic, experimental indie pop goodness that sounds far more cuttingedge than Columbia generally has any right to be. The A-side is ostensibly from the Pandercakes, a little tune called “Compassion Fatigue,” that goes through so many different sections and moods as to make it nearly uncategorizable. It stretches to life with a burbling bass line and gurgling synth in an Elephant 6-sort-of-way before moving into near-Flaming Lips-style pop on the closest thing the song has to a chorus. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a gorgeous song, and it’s only fault might be that it packs so many ideas in a four and a half minute song. Each moment is glorious, from the wandering synth lines of the second verse and bridge to the extended guitar outro that sends the tune on its merry way. The B-side, Blackmon’s effort, ﬁts the Pandercakes single surprisingly well—it’s psychedelic vibe and reverb-drenched vocals don’t deviate too far from the A side band’s sound, although, for all its accruements, Puzzy Wizard is still very much a singer/songwriter project. Given that Blackmon is living out in L.A. now, it’s hard not to compare “Dunno (Translucent Blue)” to Elliott Smith—everything from the rich melodies and bleak lyrics to the downtrodden beauty bares the markings of the late singer/songwriter. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful song, and it as well as the “Compassion Fatigue” inevitably just makes you thirst for a full-length from both parties.
KARMESSIAH – LUSHWAVE That Columbia can boast underground rappers at all is kind of surprising, but Karmessiah ﬁts the bill. A misﬁt even in an outsider scene like the Soda City, the young MC is more comfortable playing house shows among the indie rock crowd than sharing the bill with the city’s more prominent MCs like Ben G or Fat Rat da Czar. While lyrically Karmessiah deﬁnitely falls into the Odd Future-style of whacky, kind-of-dry exaggerated humor, his beats—which he produces himself—are slow-burning, disorienting pieces which lend a haziness and sense of ambiguity to many of his songs. The counterweight balance comes from his pop-based sampling, which often juxtaposes his witty, occasionally crass verses with hooky-if-discomforting choruses. Whether Karmessiah is out for anything beyond his small devoted audience is an open question, but his continued output suggests—nay, demands—that he is taken seriously in the conversation surrounding the future of Columbia’s hip-hop scene.
record label/collective Post-Echo, is his homage to the electronic 8-bit melodies that inspired early video game soundtracks. Surprisingly for a record with such a narrow initial premise, ALF is a fascinating electronic journey, largely because Stroud reaches outside of that premise to incorporate found sounds, additional synths, and guest vocalists, all in an effort to graft 10 songs together in a cohesive effort. The end result is what feels like a dystopian soundtrack with a silver lining, a recording which features warm electronic melodies next to disembodied voices that say things like “Fuck it. All hope is lost. Fuck it all.” Moments of dubstep (“Gazelle Hunt”) give way to evocative Italian-disco rave-ups like “Street Dealz.” Amazingly, it all feels like one of a single piece, even when the record ﬁnally climaxes into the two singles from the album, “Rebel Daughter” (featuring vocals from Jessica Oliver) and “Liberty.” Both tunes could almost be club bangers—if, you know, you were under the inﬂuence of some fairly serious stuff. Actually, I have no idea what I’m talking about—I never go out to clubs. Still, I like the idea of a bunch of drugged out, 21st century American Psycho-types making horrible decisions with “Liberty” in the background. And I kind of getting the feeling that Jason Stroud would, too.
DEAD SURF – SUMMER NEVER WAS
JFS – ARTAX LOST FOREVER While more well-known about town as a talented experimental videographer, Jason F. Stroud has always been a musician as well. Artax Lost Forever, released by the
Another young act comprised of USC undergraduates, Dead Surf is a charmingly retro act that, despite its occasionally heartbroken lyrics, wears its carefree nature on its sleeves. Co-fronted by keyboardist/singer Randy Moore and guitarist/singer Kelsey Lopez de Victoria, the quartet blasts through surf-inspired rock songs that demonstrate an obvious love for the likes of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, to the point where you could easily imagine some of these songs slipping casually into an oldies format radio station’s playlist. That’s not to say that the group traps itself in a box or anything—many of their arrangements sprawl and wander enough to let them lay claim to the jangly indie rock
tradition, although much more unabashedly in love with melody and wordless vocal oohs than most. And neither Moore or Victoria are uber traditionalist singers—Moore gives off tinges of 80s New Wave in his delivery, while Victoria’s throaty delivery has moments of near-Patsy Cline twang mixed with a riot grrl edge. Still, the band is easily at its most gloriously ecstatic here when one or both of the vocalists is scatting almost in conversation with the other, getting off on the primal joy of singing a song. Even though they hardly need it, the band has a few more tricks up its sleeve. On songs like Moore’s “Falling In” or Victoria’s “Prom Night on the Moon,” for instance, the group balances its good-time feel with some of genuine lovelorn songcraft—the former a pleading paean, the latter a brilliant kissoff. And lest we forget, it’s worth noting that songs like this, a top-notch rhythm section is need to provide the kind of tilt and whirl that can remain infectious over the course of an album’s running time—something which drummer Lee Garrett and bassist Michael Roberts accomplish with ﬂying colors. While by its very nature Dead Surf seems like a band more interested in good times than bold artistic statements, it’s hard to deny that Summer Never Was demonstrates a group with chops to spare, and a promising future if they choose to pursue music past their college salad days.
Everything is, as always, recorded to analog tape by producer Chris Wenner, the band’s longtime collaborator. So, in other words, the Unawares are still one of the odder punk rock bands you are ever likely to hear. New songs like “Barﬁghting Nothings” and “Half the Day” seem to have a more comfortable relationship to some of the classic rock inﬂuences the band lays claim to in interviews, but they sit so comfortably next to prototypical Unawares-style rockers like “I Gotta Have Ya” and “Be a Farmer.” And the B side to Absinthe Acres, which consists of re-recorded versions of songs from one of the band’s earliest efforts, the Tooth Deep EP, captures the band in all of its hard-charging glory. Song for song, each re-recording is shorter, tighter, and more ferocious, and ends up serving as a pointed declaration of just how good the three have gotten as a group. What could have been a short six song EP becomes a full-length vinyl album that is perhaps the most deﬁnitive statement yet from this band of middle-aged ruffians.
ELVIS DEPRESSEDLY – HOLO PLEASURES
THE UNAWARES – ABSINTHE ACRES Although this record is most exciting (and notable) for being the ﬁrst effort the punk rock trio has pressed to vinyl, it’s also worth noting that, musically, the band hasn’t lost its primordial essence. Charging out of the gate with “Gold Box,” a tune driven by James Wallace’s slinky bass line, the band barrels through a set of songs that continues to breathe ﬁre in their trademark style—idiosyncratic guitar riffs and inscrutable vocals from guitarist/singer John Watkins, tightly interwoven bass parts that serve as melodic foil as much as a rhythmic purpose from Wallace, and Rhett Berger’s spirited drum parts skittering underneath.
The latest from musician/mastermind Mat Cothran, who also releases more layered and polished recordings under the Coma Cinema moniker, this 12 minute EP sees the lo-ﬁ auteur branching out from his traditionally-solo recording style and bringing in guitarist/bassist Eric Jones and keyboardist/vocalist Delaney Mills into the process to ﬂesh out his caustic-yet-emotionally-arresting tunes. While it is hard to pin down individual contributions given Cothran’s penchant for recording everything himself in the past, it’s hard not to hear the warm bass lines on “pepsi/coke suicide” and “weird honey” or the swirling keyboard part on “thinning out” and not credit the new folks a bit. Still, the additions don’t seemed to have changed Cothran’s M.O. much—these are still incredibly sad songs, recorded in a contemplative, ramshackle style and shot through with rich melodies, simple strumming, quietly epic synthesizers, and a keen
pop sensibility that makes lines like “if there is a cool spot in hell I know you’ll get it” haunt you for weeks. The six songs here pass by quickly, rarely more than a few lines long, but each showcases Cothran’s ability as a songwriter to perceptively, if a bit cynically, get right to the heart of the matter. While he often sings from a myopic perspective, so intensely focused on his own feelings and understandings of the world, the net effect is an emotional universalism that is positively striking. The other part of Cothran’s appeal—his cracked, overly-wrought vocals that recall the gorgeous sad-sack melodicism of an Elliott Smith or Conor Oberst—is also at its ﬁnest here. The vocal performance on “inside you,” for instance, sees the singer sliding across his limited range with preternatural ease, including a wordless falsetto part that feels achingly sincere, and the quietly soaring “thinning out” features Cothran’s vocals fading almost imperceptibly into the beautiful cello part provided by Amy Cuthbertson of Can’t Kids. While expectations are high for Cothran’s next Coma Cinema effort, Posthumous Release, which was recently recorded out in L.A. with help from members of TV Girl, holo pleasures is hardly a simple prelude easily passed on. Instead, it’s another wonderful, welcome addition to Cothran’s increasingly stacked catalog.
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Photos by Forrest Clonts
STRASBERG THE BELLE OF BOSTON COMES HOME TO COLUMBIA BY BONNIE BOITER-JOLLEY
hen Dorita Strasburger was 17, she travelled from her home in Columbia, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts to dance for the summer. Years later, she would return as Kyra Strasberg to ﬁll a position at the University of South Carolina. In the years in between, Strasberg would ascend the ladder of professional dance at the Boston Ballet, rising to the rank of Principle dancer and retiring as such. Hard working, independent, and determined, the ballerina’s journey was not an easy one, but she’d be damned if she gave up. Strasberg began her training in Columbia at Calvert Brodie with the Godmother of Carolina Ballet, Ann Brodie, and like many of her peers, travelled during summers to train with prestigious companies and schools such as Houston Ballet and the School of American Ballet that feeds into the New York City Ballet. Upon the recommendation of classmate and future Ballerina of the Columbia City Ballet, Mariclare Miranda, Strasberg attended the Summer Dance Program at the Boston Ballet the summer after she graduated high school from Heathwood Hall. 042
From the beginning, Strasberg’s parents encouraged the young dancer to take charge of her future and goals, insisting that she be the one to communicate her intentions and dedication to the powers that be—advice she took to heart. When Strasberg attended the summer program at the Boston Ballet, it was she who took
it upon herself to demonstrate, by taking extra classes and seeking guidance from her instructors, her intentions to be accepted as a year-round student. She recalls being pulled aside by Bruce Wells, director of the program and future assistant director of Boston Ballet, and told that her work had been noticed and they would see if she
could “keep it up.” Strasberg accepted the challenge, was moved to the highest level, and by the end of the six week course was invited to stay on. The young spitﬁre had set her sights on a contract with the Boston Ballet and when founder and then Artistic Director E. Virginia Williams suggested she change her name she was more than happy to comply, bidding farewell to a name that had earned bullying and jokes throughout her childhood. She settled on the name Kyra and when the printer left off the closing “er” in her ﬁrst Nutcracker program, she became Kyra Strasberg. That ﬁrst year, Strasberg became an apprentice with the company, getting her ﬁrst exposure to the choreography of the “godfather of American ballet,” George Balanchine when she was selected to understudy the 1946 ballet The Four Temperaments, (and losing her skirt onstage in the Czardas in the ballet Coppelia.) Wells created a group of young dancers he called the “Ensemble,” training and coaching them intensively apart from their older more experienced counterparts. Strasberg fondly remembers Saturday work sessions with Wells and her fellow ensemble members. She credits him with teaching her how to move and “what it meant to be a dancer.” Always inquisitive, Strasberg sought advice from her superiors. When Bruce Marks was brought in to take the artistic reigns of Boston Ballet in January of 1985, Strasberg was the only ensemble member hired. She developed a tutorial relationship with the former Metropolitan Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Royal Danish Ballet principle who maintains still that she was the ﬁrst person he hired. Strasberg remembers Marks, protégé of Antony Tudor, as being well-read and a “complete artist,” constantly furthering his education and understanding. Strasberg says that Marks is responsible for
teaching her how to be an artist by setting the story and “conjuring” imagery instead of simply executing steps. He stressed the importance of the spirit of the dancer as opposed to pure athleticism. Dance did not have to be visceral and showy, but could be in the smallest, most simple movements that create a character. She remembers Marks saying, “[ballet] class is your church, your temple.” While under Marks’s artistic leadership, Strasberg had the opportunity to work with Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, and original members of the Ballet Russe. She maintained open lines of communication with the director and when she was offered a contract to the San Francisco Ballet, he countered with a promotion to soloist. Strasberg competed at the New York International Ballet Competition and had the privilege of being coached by the likes of Kirk Petersen and Frederick Franklin on variations from Swan Lake, Flower Festival, and Blue Danube. Of the many roles she performed she counts “Fate” in choreographer Choo San Goh’s 1984 Eastern version of Romeo and Juliet, the female lead in Marks’s The Lark Ascending, and Twyla Tharp’s athletic In the Upper Room amongst her favorites. Strasberg remembers her performance of The Lark Ascending as the ﬁrst time Bruce Marks seemed to fawn over her. The ballet drew a standing ovation and members of the audience say they’ll never forget her performance. A similarly memorable though less enjoyable moment came when Strasberg, slated to perform in Tharp’s In the Upper Room, came down with a case of Hepatitis from bad shellﬁsh. Strasberg went home for a few weeks to recover while her understudy was brought up to speed on the role. As she was sitting in the audience at the premier, her replacement fell within minutes of the start of the ballet, breaking her wrist and
running off stage. Strasberg ran backstage, was changed in the wings, and ﬂew onto stage, caught mid-air in the arms of a partner she hadn’t seen in nearly a month. Strasberg talks about the challenges and intricacies of changing a feeling of a character with the treatment of the steps. It’s the dancer’s job to internalize and then physicalize, moving the energy through the body, she explains. In Swan Lake for instance, she describes the femininity and softness of the White Swan as contrasted by the crispness, attack, and at the same time sultry treatment of the Black Swan. The way you execute the steps makes it easier to convey the feeling, she concludes. When Strasberg was promoted to Principle dancer with Boston Ballet, she was sent ﬂowers from hard to impress ﬁrst teacher Ann Brodie whom, she says, had never taken notice of her before. She remembers thinking, “Where do I go from here?” Looking back, Strasberg cites the challenges of keeping a positive self-image and battling the ever-lurking feelings of selfdoubt as the most difficult parts of being a dancer. Fighting to keep these feelings at bay, particularly during slow times in a dancer’s career, is difficult but essential. Slow is not always bad, she advises. In total contrast, Strasberg considers the physical challenges of being a professional dancer among the highlights. She recalls loving the feeling of being so ﬁt and alive and feeling that, “ﬁngers to toes you are the art.” If you apply yourself, you will get results. “You can’t go wrong,” she says, “but you have to have the ﬁre.” Upon her retirement from the Boston Ballet in 2000, Strasburg danced brieﬂy with Suzanne Farrell, long-time advocate and teacher, but soon decided to direct her energies elsewhere. Having been introduced to the practice of yoga in 1999, Strasburg soon devoted much of her time to the study and practice. For her, yoga made sense. “Dancers are always trying to be someone else,” she says “you have to transcend yourself.” Strasburg began studying with Rolf Gates, who encouraged students to “be a calm center” and ﬁnd who they want to be. She went on a retreat, was hooked, and began teaching. Strasberg continued training, was certiﬁed in Pilates and ultimately in yoga. In 2007, she took the position of Distinguished Artist in Residence at the University of South Carolina, and moved back to Columbia. She calls the city a great place to raise children. Her daughters Mary and Caroline, nine and seven respectively, are her spitting image. In 2011, Strasberg opened her own Hot Vinyasa studio called Yoga Masala. She loves the idea that with yoga you can have a room full of people in their own world and their own life, yet they are all practicing together. “Yoga is for everyone,” she says. Strasberg has many plans for her bustling studio, but as for herself, she plans simply to “Enjoy the sweetness of this present.” 043
BY MELINDA COTTON tart with 38 short stories published by South Carolina writers. Add 15 local ﬁlmmakers who each choose one of the stories for inspiration to create a short ﬁlm. Mix in a hundred or more cast and crew members. Stew and simmer for four months. Open and celebrate with more than 500 ﬁlmgoers at the sold-out 2013 Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival in the Chapman Cultural Center’s David Reid Theater in Spartanburg on March 23, 2013. Only in its second year, Expecting Goodness, billed as a writers’ ﬁlm festival, came to life when Joshua Foster contacted Betsy Teter, executive director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg with a unique idea. He proposed inviting local ﬁlmmakers to choose a short story by a local author to use as inspiration for a short ﬁlm, culminating in a festival where the ﬁlms would be shown to the public. After some discussion as to whether the idea could work, Hub City decided to use Expecting Goodness and Other Stories, a 2009 collection edited by Michael Curtis, as the base from which ﬁlmmakers chose their story.
Screenshots from Pretty Pitiful God featuring Alex Smith
A call went out and seven ﬁlmmakers answered. The ﬁrst festival sold out and organizers determined to not only hold a second festival, but to double the number of participants and move the screening to a larger venue, opening the call for story submissions and ﬁlmmakers to all writers and ﬁlmmakers in South Carolina. As a Midlands writer, I was thrilled to be selected a winner of the 2011 South Carolina Fiction Writers Project with a short entitled “Grammy’s Keys.” My story takes a humorous look at a serious universal issue–the difficult decision of when to take the car keys from an elderly loved one. In August 2012, I learned “Grammy’s Keys” was nominated for consideration in the 2013 Expecting Goodness Festival. On October 29, writers and ﬁlmmakers ascertained who would be paired with whom during a webcast. Names of 14 ﬁlmmakers were randomly drawn and their story choices revealed. After an endless wait, “Grammy’s Keys” was announced as ﬁrst choice by ﬁlmmaker Durham Harrison of Chapin. Self-characterized as an emerging ﬁlmmaker, Grammy’s Keys is Harrison’s ﬁrst short ﬁlm.
Harrison selected local musicians, the MoBros and Cherrycase, for the ﬁlm’s soundtrack, and cast Kathy Hartzog, who most recently appeared in 9 to 5 at Town Theater, as strong-willed Grammy. Aleks Amer starred as her grandson, Jeremiah. Nosy neighbor Mrs. Whittleﬁeld is played by an effervescent Marguarite Haines. Three other Midlands ﬁlmmakers participated in this year’s festival. Filmmaker Jeff Driggers and producer Drew Baron, selected “Pretty Pitiful God,” written by Deno Trakas—poet, author, and chair of the English department at Wofford College. Trakas’s tale about a pair of teenage boys who spend a disillusioning evening with Jack Kerouac watching their idol as he falls from grace was published in the 2009 Expecting Goodness and Other Stories. The ﬁlm, Pretty Pitiful God was the recipient of the Jasper Magazine Midlands Film Art Award. Daniel Fisher chose “Remember, No Thinking,” written by David Wright of Travelers Rest. Fisher chose to make signiﬁcant changes for his ﬁlm adaptation and won the Best Emerging Filmmaker award. Husband and wife team, Ron Hagell and Shirley Ann Smith, chose a short story entitled “Living the Dream,” written by Terresa Haskew of Greenville. One mission of the Expecting Goodness Festival is to promote local talent and provide opportunities to build community between writers, ﬁlmmakers, and specialists across the ﬁlm industry. There is a true sense of belonging and shared enthusiasm in the artistic interpretation of word to ﬁlm. Led by an overwhelming response to the festival, two re-screenings have been held in the Upstate, with a third scheduled to take place in Columbia on May 21 at the Nickelodeon Theatre at 1607 Main Street. The show begins at 5:30 p.m., and includes all twelve completed ﬁlms; admission is ﬁve dollars.
Now Available Red Social Portraits of Collaboration by Alejandro GarcĂa-Lemos and Cynthia Boiter
BY ALEX SMITH etters spill out, off-white and grey, like dominoes or backgammon pieces, across a startlingly black background. At ﬁrst they look like random jumbles; then, as the eye adjusts, the letters become clear. First, a familiar phrase. Then, equally familiar local names: Michael Thomas Krajewski, Bonnie Sara Boiter-Jolley, Cayman Brooke Young. Who knew the ﬁlmmaker’s middle name was Franklin? The thought occurs that these letters look like black-and-white negatives of black words ﬂoating about a half an inch above a white background and lit in such a way that they throw their shadows onto the white at different angles. They look like poorly cut lines of cocaine on an obsidian table. They look like stars shooting across a moonless, starless sky. They spell out familiar words, names. This is reassuring. There seems to begin an air-conditioned agreement that has turned cinema into an industrial factory and its viewers into louche, spoon-fed consumers. But just as the letters become recognizable as “titles,” just as the casual viewer assumes there
might still be time to run to the restroom or get a reﬁll of popcorn before the show starts, just when it seems like it’s going to be easy, the screen goes black. Something is happening now. Music begins to play. Two minutes and 47 seconds pass. In addition to the aforementioned jumbles of letters, the screen shows us many other things: eyes, skin, legs, a moon behind clouds, a bathroom sink, a blurred young woman covering herself with a blanket and approaching, or being approached by, the camera, a manicured hand, palm down on a dirty ﬂoor, the same hand in a sink, covered in dark liquid (blood?), a young woman being covered in plastic sheeting by those same (bloody?) hands, a young man in a pork-pie hat tugging at the neck of his t-shirt, rack focus from ivy leaves to a young woman’s face behind them, several pairs of silhouetted hands writhing together, a stream of dark liquid (blood?) on a white surface — all in stark, high-contrast black and white. What sounds like a ﬂute and several stringed instruments play out a sad dirge as the pictures reveal themselves, images that strike a chord but which are not cloying, not pandering, not selling.
After approximately two minutes and 47 seconds, the screen fades to black once again. The music stops. For all intents and purposes, “Yellow Number 5,” a video piece by ﬁlmmaker and musician Jason F. Stroud, could be over. It isn’t. It continues to hypnotize for another 12 minutes, parsing image and sound as though it were the thread in a tapestry, weaving a spell at 30 frames per second. Even after its full 15 minutes, “Yellow Number 5” continues weaving its spell, its random, gritty images and propulsive score impossible to forget. This ﬁlm is not the manufactured, packaged, marketed product on sale at the cineplex or on Netﬂix. This ﬁlm is a work of art. All of Jason Stroud’s experimental video pieces are works of art. Stroud has been crafting these works out of simple ideas in his head and with the money in his pocket for some time now. His ﬁrst love was music; maybe it still is. “I’ve recorded weeks of music,” he states furtively, without bragging. Stroud considered studying music in college but decided not to. “I loved making music so much, and when I was younger, I was afraid that if I
Photo by Forrest Clonts
studied music in any sort of academic way that it would compromise not only that love but possibly my ability to make music, since I sort of had my own way of doing it. I also didn’t see any real way to put an undergraduate degree in music to use other than teaching, which I didn’t want to do.” So, after a brief ﬂirtation with philosophy, Stroud adjusted his academic focus. “I ended up majoring in media arts with an emphasis in video rather than ﬁlm,” he explains. “I felt like it was more likely I’d be able to make my own stuff working in video. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get paid for work in video rather than ﬁlm.” Stroud’s media arts education was a hands-on endeavor. He found himself ﬂung head-ﬁrst into the learning process, sometimes literally: “My ﬁrst experience with a professional camera was in one of my classes. We were shooting in a parking garage. I was operating the camera up on the back of a moving car. Something went wrong, and I ended up falling off and smacking my head on the cement. I got up, and the ﬁrst thing I did, of course, was to check on this very expensive camera I was holding that didn’t belong to me. It looked alright, so I got up and said,
‘Everything’s ﬁne. The camera’s not broken.’ It wasn’t, but I had a huge gash on my forehead. I had to go to the emergency room and get a ton of stitches. I still have a scar — but the camera was okay!” Stroud’s decision to focus on video rather than ﬁlm soon paid off. “I got hired right after I graduated at a production house that made TV and online classiﬁed ads. After that, I got a job at a dub-house, recording mini-DV and Hi-8 and whatever else to VHS. I got a gig shooting a video for a televangelist.” The more he worked, the more he learned, and vice versa. Stroud settled into television, ﬁlming news clips for a local affiliate of one of the big four networks and has since shifted focus to commercials. Along the way he bought a used DV camera and editing suite from another professional who was upgrading his personal equipment. “I just started shooting,” he says, “random objects, ﬂowers, and stuff. I ended up using the footage in a video I made for (the band) Death Becomes Even The Maiden. That was how I began developing my process. You can still see some of what I was doing then in the stuff I’m making now.”
Stroud, who is in his late 20s, naturally begins with music when describing his process. “Usually I’ll have a song or a friend’s song that accents the imagery,” he says. “I like being able to tell a story without words. More often than not, the music I use has no words, and even if it does, it doesn’t have to necessarily correlate to the image being shown. The music serves more as a guide for the rhythm of the editing.” The editing suite is where Stroud devotes most of his time and attention. “I spend maybe 90 percent of the process editing. I’m envious of painters. There are some who can lay out a canvas, be done in 15 minutes, and say, ‘That’s it. It’s perfect.’ And everyone who sees it agrees, ‘It’s a masterpiece!’ Sometimes I wish I could work that way, but I love the nuts and bolts. I love the tinkering too much.” This is not to say that, when the project requires, Stroud isn’t willing to work at length outside the editing room. “We spent about two months shooting ‘Yellow Number 5’,” he says. Whatever ended up on screen was developed with each new day of shooting. Stroud regards Krajewski, Boiter-Jolley, and Young less as actors in his
ﬁlm and more as collaborators. “The ﬁlm came about very organically as we shot, and then I took it away and chopped it up.” Stroud says that, as his technical knowledge continues to grow, he discovers new avenues for expression that might seem surprising. “A lot of times, I’ll ﬁnd the usual components like actors and sets and costumes aren’t necessary. The movement on the screen of a blurred, three dimensional object, or the color of a light, can have just as much emotional impact as anything else if they ﬁt the rhythm of the piece.” Stroud’s “Blackmail Stalemate” is a perfect example of this theory in action. Set over simple electronic music, it seems to be raw rhythm upon ﬁrst viewing. However, the perfectly symmetrical, pulsing shapes and colors that inhabit the black screen are not just arbitrary ﬂashing lights set to a dance beat; they are shapes, silhouettes, sometimes complete images that leave heavy ﬁngerprints on the mind. To try to describe them is impossible, for what they are is entirely dependent upon the viewer. But there is something in the simultaneous subjectivity and familiarity of these images that resonates deeply enough to encourage multiple viewings, which applies to all of Stroud’s experimental video pieces. With Stroud having attained the ability and conﬁdence needed to self-produce and generate these abstract pieces on a regular basis in relatively short form, the question arises whether the next step is to attempt something longer. Stroud’s answer, as always, is striking. “I’d like to do longer, possibly narrative-driven pieces, but for me, the next step is bringing in other people to work on the projects, trying to get 048
Photo by Forrest Clonts
other people involved without compromising my vision. That’s not always easy when what you’re creating, and, to some degree, your creative process is intuitive. It makes it hard to explain what it is you’re trying to do.” Asked who he considers inﬂuential in terms of his art, Stroud pauses at length before sighing and saying, with no trace of irony, “That’s a terrible question.” At various moments, he mentions the names of the great Russian-American ﬁlmmaker Maya Deren and outsider auteur Kenneth Anger. Watching Stroud’s work, one is tempted to draw comparisons to Stan Brakhage, who pioneered ﬁlm techniques such as painting and scratching celluloid and collage ﬁlm, or Hollis Frampton, who, in the 1970s, was at the forefront of exploring the possibilities of digital artistry in ﬁlmmaking. Whatever his inﬂuences, it is clear that,
while many ﬁlmmakers working in digital video strive to mimic the lush and much more expensive celluloid ﬁlmmaking of the past 50 years, Stroud is searching and stretching constantly in order to create something completely without precedent in the medium. Those who love all that is thrilling about the possibility of what cinema can become as a result of the digital video revolution should pay keen attention to the work of Jason F. Stroud. His work is a model for ﬁlmmakers and video artists who want to push the grammar of cinema beyond its limits.
Jason Stroud’s videos are available to watch on YouTube. Search “Jason F. Stroud.”
BY CHRIS ROBINSON here have been some important anniversaries recently. This is the one hundredth anniversary of the New York Armory Show, a controversial landmark exhibition where Marcel Duchamp famously had two very distinctive pieces, Nude Descending a Staircase – the ﬁrst painting to imply motion in a still image, referred to by critics at the
time as ‘an explosion in a shingle factory’, and an artwork, Fountain, by the same artist but submitted surreptitiously as R. Mutt, a readymade urinal hung upside down on the wall. There are two kinds of art, those that innovate and those that reﬁne. Using medicine as an analogy, there are family doctors who provide diagnosis and cure for your maladies, and research scientists who explore diseases and identify new cures and techniques. A well-known local artist asked me recently what innovative art I saw in the Columbia area. My reluctant answer, perhaps taking him aback, regarding the truly innovative was, ‘None’. Columbia has a wide and productive collection of those who continue reﬁnement of a large and aging collection of existing structures including the notion of painting itself, but few or none who are even attempting to establish seminal ideas. It is certainly not easy ground, but part of what creative artists are supposed to be distinctive for. Two well know historic examples are Picasso and Duchamp who also ﬁrst met just over one hundred years ago. Picasso, who reﬁned Cubism over a lifetime and Duchamp, whose work predicted every major movement that would follow in the next sixty years. A Master of Fine Arts graduate from here at the University of South Carolina, Ronald Jones, recently curated the ﬁrst ever exhibition of their combined work at the Musete Moderne in Stockholm. Jones is well known in the broader art world and one of the Department of Art’s most successful graduates. Picasso and Duchamp were not fast friends, and this legacy persists, much like the musician and composer, one having popular recognition and the other, often misunderstood, but garnering intellectual respect. It is an old argument, but the Impressionists were considered barbarians by both the critics and viewing public of their time, but are popularly revered today. Every work of art is made of form and content, the question usually being how the two balance – too much attention to form is seen as simple craft or technique, and too much attention to content is often viewed as remote, unintelligible, and obscure. The nineteen-ﬁfties through the nineteen-seventies were a proliﬁc time in this country, ﬁrst with the advent of Abstract Expressionism bringing the world center of art to New York, as well as the advent of Color Field Painting, Minimal and Conceptual art, Installations, Earth Works, and Performance Art. I once self-identiﬁed as a conceptual artist and was often teased about how I would sell ideas. Boy, how times have changed. Many still feel that
New York is the world leader of art. They are most likely very wrong and the United States and the art world, in general, have been sadly stagnant in the interim years. This argument is often seen as critical, skeptical, or pessimistic, but I prefer to envision what great opportunity exists for artists today and what dire need there is for art to step forward and creatively lead toward progress and innovation at a time begging for such leadership. Likewise, Columbia remains at that critical juncture: more of the same or step up and address both innovation in art, the problems of the world, or at least act locally while thinking globally? That is one of the few real ways we can and would become a true arts city and tourist destination. ArtFields, the $100K Southeastern Exhibition prize in Lake City seeks this role. They want to use art as a vehicle to help a small South Carolina town emerge in the twenty-ﬁrst century. The opportunity, money, and ambition are there, some artists are there, even with so many uninformed, uninterested, or left behind, but what is new and distinctive – 800 entries, 400 selected, and precious little reﬁnement, not to speak of any innovation. None-the-less, it is an ambitious start and one hopes they have the money, interest, dedication, determination, and willingness to learn, persevere, grow, sustain, and succeed. On other related notes, a close variation of Philip Mullen’s recent Boroughs and Chapin Myrtle Beach exhibition is on now at Gallery 701 and worth your time to see. And, I hope you had a chance to see Bernard Kruseman’s exhibit at City Art as described in this issue, with some promise, even if staid in medium reﬁnement, for the future of meaningful art in South Carolina. Finally, Happy Birthday Mr. Johns, the 83rd anniversary of your birth and still going strong!
J A S P E R W AT C H E S
Continuing at Workshop Theatre through Saturday, May 25, is Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New Word; Chad Henderson directs a kaleidoscopic production focused on “personal discoveries where change, self-examination, and circumstance lead to the next steps in these characters’ realities - a new world.” The cast includes Vicky Saye Henderson, Andy Bell, Elisabeth Baker, Samuel McWhite, Kendrick Marion, and Kanika Moore; Daniel Gainey is musical director, and Wayland Anderson choreographs. The show is a collaboration with the Columbia Summer Repertory Company, “a forum for dance artists to continue their practice, performance, and passion through the summer,” and features professional dancers, including Lainey Johnson, Malcolm Rembert and Bonnie Boiter-Jolley. For information, call 803-799-4876, or visit www.workshoptheatre.com .
Town Theatre’s production of Miss Saigon, directed by Jamie Carr Harrington, continues through Sunday, May 26. This Tonywinning update of Puccini’s Madame Butterﬂy by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boubil and Richard Maltby, Jr. features Shelby Sessler as the naive prostitute Kim, Lanny Spires as the Marine who falls for her as Saigon falls around them, and Will Moreau as the scheming Engineer. Tracy Steele choreographs, and Christopher McCroskey is musical director. For information, call 803-799-2510, or visit http://www. towntheatre.com.
W/ AUGUST KRICKEL
As spring segues into summer, larger theatres pull out all the stops to ﬁnish their seasons oﬀ with a bang, while smaller groups dip into the classics. Curtain Up! 050
Only a few days remain to catch By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, running on the Thigpen Mainstage at Trustus Theatre through Saturday May 18. Dewey ScottWiley directs Katie Mixon, Bobby Bloom, Clint Poston, and Michelle Jacobs in the title role in Lynn Nottage’s comic nod to classic Hollywood, as a fading screen goddess and her African-American maid ﬁnd themselves cast in the same Southern epic. Trustus continues its Off-Off-Lady series with Collected Stories, running for ﬁve performances only, Wednesday May 15 Sunday May 19, at the Columbia Museum of Art. Milena Herring directs Elisabeth Gray Heard Engle as a young author who bases her ﬁrst novel on the personal life of her mentor (Elena Martinez-Vidal.) Author Donald Margulies examines issues of literary, creative and personal expression, and
the show is presented in conjunction with the SC Book Festival. Terrance Henderson then directs and choreographs Ain’t Misbehavin’, a stage celebration of the music of Thomas “Fats” Waller. Expect a recreation of the sassy, sultry, swing music of the Cotton Club in 1930’s Harlem. Walter Graham is musical director, and the show runs on the Thigpen Mainstage Friday June 14 - Saturday July 20. Beginning Friday, June 21, audiences may be enticed to stick around for a late-night show, Voices on Lady: Kevin’s Un-Cabaret, which runs through July 12. Singer Kevin Bush and pianist Tom Beard will collaborate on “song interpretations paying homage to but also breaking the mold of traditional cabaret.” For information on all four shows, call 803254-9732, or visit www.trustus.org/.
SC Shakespeare Company›s production of Carlo Goldoni›s A Servant of Two Masters, is FREE, and runs through Saturday May 18, outdoors in Finlay Park. Jeff Driggers plays a bumbling servant caught in a madcap romp through Venetian intrigue, disguise and romance. Also in director Linda Khoury’s cast are Sara Blanks, Tracy Steele, Rob Sprankle, Raia Hirsch, and Scott Stepp. Picnic baskets, blankets, folding chairs, and cushions are encouraged. For information, call 803-787-2273 or visit www.shakespeare.org .
Mortimer (Carson Lambert) loves his elderly aunts (Tracy Rice and Rae Fuller), unaware that the eccentric dears have been sending lonely old gentlemen to their heavenly reward via poisoned wine, after which cousin Teddy (Matt Marks) buries them in the cellar, where he thinks he’s digging the Panama Canal. Matters become complicated (as if they weren’t already!) when fugitive brother Jonathan (Jim Shaylor) returns home with another body in tow… and this is a screwball comedy! Joseph Kesselring’s beloved Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by M. J. Maurer for the Lexington County Arts Association, runs Thursday May 16 - Sunday May 26 at the Village Square Theatre. For information, call 803-359-1436, or visit www.villagesquaretheatre.com.
Theatre Rowe presents Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck’s gritty Depression-era fable of displaced, migrant farm workers who dream of a better life. Running Thursday May 30 Sunday June 9, the cast includes Don Jackson, Maxwell Highsmith, John Dixon, Heather Bartlett, William Antley, Mikell Fox as the savvy George, and George Kaupp as the (seemingly) gentle giant Lennie. For information, call 803-200-2012, or visit www.theatrerowe.com .
Mama needs to get to from Alabama to California for a family wedding; the problem? Mama Won’t Fly, both title and premise of a road-trip comedy from Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, a writing team known for Southern-fried, family-themed, down-home humor and warm sentiment. Jocelyn Sanders directs Tiffany Dinsmore and Linda Durant in this Chapin Theatre Company production. Run dates are Friday June 14 - Sunday June 23 at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College. For information, call 803-240-8544, or visit www. chapintheatre.org/.
Columbia Children’s Theatre presents The Commedia Rapunzel, a fairy tale done in classic slapstick commedia dell’arte style. Sam LaFrage triples as director, writer and performer, along with CCT regulars Elizabeth Stepp, Paul Lindley II, Beth DeHart, Carolyn Chalfant, Lee O. Smith, and Bobby Bloom. After an initial run Friday June 14 Sunday June 23, Rapunzel will run in rep with The Commedia Pinocchio; for information, call 803-6914548, or visit www.columbiachildrenstheatre.com.
DON’T MISS THE SOUTH CAROLINA LITERARY EVENT OF THE YEAR!
“Something wicked this way comes,” as Stage 5 Theatre tackles Shakespeare›s Macbeth; Mitchell Hilburn directs Maxwell Highsmith as Macbeth, Myriah Clifton as Lady Macbeth, Chris Griffin as Banquo, William Boland as Macduff, William Antley as Duncan, Charlie Goodrich as Malcolm, and Crystal Leidy, Avery Bateman, and Danielle Kendall as witches. And what do we burn, apart from witches? More witches! Run dates are Friday June 21 - Sunday June 30; for information, call 803-834-1775, or visit www.mbfproductions.net .
MAY 17 17--19 19,, 2013
Col olum umbi bia a Metr Metropolitan opolitan Con onv vention Cent Center er
1101 Lincol Lincoln n St Street eet,, Columbia Columbia SC
SAT SA TUR URD DAY 10 10AM – 5PM & SUND SUNDA AY 12PM – 4PM Presentations by renowned national and local authors Book Signings Antiquarian Book Fair Book Sales & Appraisals Self-Publish Information
Children’s Pavilion with Performances & Storytelling
AL NU AN Presented by: Redbird School of Irish Music
Immerse yourself the vibrant Irish tradition for a w
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Summer Reading Station for Kids
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AIDA ROGERS AND WRITING ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA BY KRISTINE HARTVIGSEN WITH CYNTHIA BOITER
Photo by Alexis Schwallier
ome people were born to write about the South. Their words enter our minds like song lyrics, like lapping waters that carry us along with intention but without hurry. And the stories they tell, no matter their gravity, are often amiably balanced with folksy humor. Aïda Rogers hails from that exclusive society of scribes with an affinity for writing about the South. The longtime writer and editor is perhaps best known for her 21 years at Sandlapper Magazine, the Magazine of South Carolina, where in addition to producing her own articles about the state’s most curious or compelling people, places, and events, she thoughtfully nipped and tucked into shape the work of countless other professional writers for nearly two decades. Rogers’ seasoned ear for gripping copy and its resulting contributions to the literary culture of our state have earned her status as one of the most respected names in the South Carolina journalism. “My favorite stories are about good people doing good things, day after day, year after year, with no need for recognition,” she says. “A piece I wrote (for Sandlapper) about an old country church in Bamberg County with a dwindling, elderly congregation might be the best example. These people showed up, Sunday after Sunday, less than 10 of them, and so did their
preacher and his wife, who then went to serve two or three churches that day. The preacher and congregation members were between 70 and 80 years old, and they kept that church going.” Rogers was completely intrigued that this humble handful of elderly folks managed to raise half a million dollars to keep their church from falling down after it was damaged by a termite infestation. “Because the church is in a town that disappeared after the Civil War, the story was even more interesting to research. The whole thing was quietly heroic and totally authentic and wonderfully unﬂashy, and I loved that.” The national Society of Professional Journalists also appreciated the spirit and quality of the piece, honoring Rogers’ work with one of its highly coveted Green Eyeshade Awards in 2010. Rogers received her unusual given name in honor of her maternal aunt, Aïda Kouyoumjian of Seattle, an author in her own right, who in 2011 published Between the Two Rivers: A Story of the Armenian Genocide. It is the true account of Rogers’ maternal grandmother, Mannig, a survivor of the 1915 “ethnic cleansing” by supporters of the Ottoman Empire in which an estimated 1.5 Armenians were murdered. “My mom grew up in Iraq,” Rogers explains. “She was born in ‘a little village called Fallujah’ but spent most of her youth in Baghdad. She came to America through a scholarship to − of all places − Columbia College. That was in the 1950s.” Both Armenian sisters came to the United States on academic scholarships, married Americans, and settled in this country. Rogers’ father is a longtime native of Lexington County, where Rogers grew up.
After earning a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of South Carolina, Rogers began her career as a reporter and editor at the Myrtle Beach Sun News in the early eighties. In 1986, she moved to Savannah, where she wrote and edited for the Savannah News-Press. While there, Rogers met one of her biggest inﬂuences as a writer, the late columnist Archie Whitﬁeld. “He never used these words, but what I learned from him and his easy style of writing is that good writing doesn’t show off.” Rogers eventually produced an early morning interview-based talk show. But in 1989, she made the career move that secured her position as an integral part of the literary life of South Carolina when she took the job that led her to the position of editor of Sandlapper Magazine. The late attorney Bob Wilkins founded Sandlapper in 1969 as a way, he hoped, of expressing to the rest of the country how beautiful and interesting he thought South Carolina was. A Columbia native with keen instincts for harvesting the best of Palmetto State history and culture, Aïda Rogers was a natural ﬁt for the post. Among her many roles at Sandlapper, Rogers wrote a popular restaurant column, “Stop Where the Parking Lot’s Full.” After 15 years, her Sandlapper colleague Tim Driggers followed her in writing the column. Together, they collected favorite columns over the years and published them in a 301page book by the same name. “It’s more than just a typical restaurant guide,” Rogers told the Orangeburg Times and Democrat in 2008. “It’s a culinary South Carolina road trip. … Sandlapper’s intent was always to encourage readers to explore South Carolina. We think this book can guide people to interesting places to visit and eat in the Palmetto State. These restaurants are one-of-a-kind, non-chain establishments, which give patrons a taste of more than just good cooking. They give readers a ﬂavor for the community they’re in, the people who live there, and the history surrounding them.” The 2008 book may be difficult to ﬁnd these days, a virtual collector’s item that turns up on eBay from time to time. “There’s a chance we’ll republish an updated version,” Rogers says. “Tim and I have the rights to that book.” Rogers is quite understandably most excited about her newest book, State of the Heart (2013, University of South Carolina Press). The project took about three years to put together – from concept, research, contributor selection, and editing to securing artwork and managing contracts and permissions. “I think the book looks very orderly,” she says, “but I can promise you, the process wasn’t!”
As she pondered how her life might have been different had she grown up anywhere else, Rogers thought of the Smithsonian magazine series “My Kind of Town,” which featured writers describing the places where they had lived. “I thought something similar and even more meaningful could be done,” she says, with local writers producing essays focusing on speciﬁc locations in South Carolina to which they have a personal connection. So she presented her idea to officials at the USC Press, and they told her to run with it. “Then I approached a variety of writers I knew and didn’t know – writers of ﬁction and non-ﬁction, sports and mystery, history, and poetry,” she explains. “There’s a playwright, a food writer, a writer of children’s books, a minister. I was just intensely curious about what I’d get back.” USC Press describes the resulting collection – 37 essays and a foreword by South Carolina author Pat Conroy – as “an artful love letter to our state.” Rogers said USC Press Executive Director Jonathan Haupt was responsible for persuading Conroy to write the foreword. “All I know is when I heard he’d agreed to write the foreword, I was so excited I could hardly drive home,” she recalls. “Now that was a highlight of my writing career!” “State of the Heart,” Conroy wrote, “reminds us of what is best about South Carolina and her many gifted writers, the monumental power of this place to shape our memories into stories and then our stories into art.” Rogers declined to name a single favorite essay in the collection. “The whole project was like a huge bouquet of immensely different ﬂowers,” she says. “I learned a lot from all of them.” For example, poet, boat builder, wood craftsman, and retired French professor Nick Lindsay recounts the development of the Savannah River Site in the early 1950s. The piece not only conveys the overall chaos of the gargantuan construction project but also reﬂects on issues of the day, including racism and unions. “He also describes a ‘ﬁght’ of sorts between two different foremen, competing about their preaching, that is really funny and needs to be in a movie,” Rogers adds. The book is rich with both sweet and bittersweet literary nuggets that Rogers confesses make her tear up every time she reads them. Among them, the essay “Heart of the Garden” by Upstate author Liz Newall tells the story of how the cadets of Clemson College’s Class of 1939 helped build what ultimately would become the South Carolina Botanical Garden. “She describes how her father came from Georgia on a train to Clemson to play football,” Rogers explains. “There’s a moment when she talks about
his ‘big hands’ that caught the football and later kept a vegetable garden.” And Wofford College professor Deno Trakas’ essay, “Sipping from the Secret Cup,” Rogers notes, is an extremely wellcrafted examination of life that delivers deep meaning through clever observation of everyday things. “I’m still trying to ﬁgure out how he so effortlessly shows the connection between the meaning of life and death by drinking tea and eating fresh bread at Panera in Spartanburg, while gazing out at the cemetery where all four of his Greek immigrant parents are buried,” she says. “He writes haiku there, and some examples are sprinkled in. His ending is just wonderful.” Several writers in the collection skillfully invoked literary ﬁgures such as e.e. cummings and Washington Irving in their essays. And Rogers says she suffers “chill bumps” when she reads Hemingway native Mary Eaddy’s descriptions of her beloved home: “No mountain, no red clay, no ocean will displace the Pee Dee in my heart.” “I think any reader will be struck by the honesty some of these writers show,” Rogers says. “What really started as an exercise in curiosity for me turned out to be a cavalcade of blessings from writers, most of whom are older, more experienced, and better published than I. I am so much richer for this experience and so honored they trusted me with their work.” Esteemed historian and author Walter Edgar ably summed up State of the Heart this way: “Southerners − whether they write poetry, ﬁction, or non-ﬁction − have a sense of place. In their work, sometimes that place is a literal, physical presence; sometimes it is spiritual. For some, a place is a haven; for others, it is a muse: a front porch, a garden, a cabin in the woods, a library, or the Carolina Coliseum. In this wonderful book of ‘mini-memoirs,’ you can discover the places that have inspired and continue to inspire a marvelous group of South Carolina writers.” These days, Rogers works at the Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitor’s Center, where she enjoys spending time “on the other side of journalism” writing press releases and developing content for the Center’s website and newsletter. “After years of writing complicated, time-consuming, multi-faceted features,” she says, “I’m writing short and fast, newsier stories and learning it’s all truly a craft.”
THE ABSOLUTE SUBJECTIVITY OF PAIN AND SOLACE: THE ART OF MEDICINE IN METAPHORS BY JAMES BORTON AND BRANDI BALLARD BY SUSAN LEVI WALLACH
harles Baxter could have been discussing narrative medicine when he wrote, “You can always put your demons to use if you try.” In other words, what doesn’t kill you is material. Writing can be as much a therapy as an art, a way to work through and make sense of whatever has gone wrong. As a relatively recent genre, narrative medicine pretty much stands opposed to Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. Sontag, writing in 1978 and 1989, claimed that metaphor got in the way, that not only patients but also society in general needed plain descriptive language to understand sickness, as opposed to something ﬂowery or judgmental. At the time she wrote the ﬁrst of these works, she was under treatment for breast cancer; the treatment would lead to the disease that killed her. 056
James Borton borrowed from Sontag’s titles with his The Art of Medicine in Metaphors: A Collection of Poems and Narratives. It is an attempt to make sense of things that are devastating, awful, often life-changing. Borton, who teaches in the English Department at Coastal Carolina University and is a faculty associate at the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of South Carolina, said his spark was his own triple bypass surgery. Before the dizzy spell that quickly led to surgery and twenty-one days in an ICU, he’d considered himself healthy. Afterward, he realized how fragile that assumption had been. He decided that to heal he needed to write about what he went through. He started a blog, All Heart Matters (allheartmatters. com). Then he decided to put together an anthology “Everyone who has been ill has a broken story and writing often helps in the healing process,” he said. “I know this to be certitude.” Despite Borton’s title, there isn’t much that is metaphorical here. Most of the contributors—one hundred thirty of them— prefer their writing unadorned. Even the poet Ed Madden, whose sublime “Prodigal Variations” shows his mastery of all things poetic, here is direct, prosaic. His poem “Thirteen Weeks” recounts his father’s illness and a confrontation with the mundanity of ﬁnal days. There’s no need to embellish, and the poem is all the stronger for letting the words do the work. “Serious illness most often brings devastating hardship,” Borton said, “but it also has the potential to bring blessings with positive impact and it certainly links people together who have survived their broken story.” Narrative medicine can be as much a journaling tool for physicians as a way for patients to make sense of and cope with their experience. Though writers such as Sontag and Norman Cousins and Randy Pausch and Diana Raab and Christopher Hitchens probably weren’t thinking “narrative medicine” when they wrote their books, they all addressed their life’s purpose, putting into practice a concept of Viktor Frankel’s: as humans, we are meaning-making creatures. Life is an endless game of “Why?” If writing a poem or a personal essay or a memoir can be a way to heal, then putting out a book can be a way to reach people who might ﬁnd solace and support in the experience of others. “I put out a call for illness stories to anyone in South Carolina who has experienced illness,” Borton said. “I did not expect to be deluged with over one hundred thirty
responses in the form of poems and stories. The majority of those who responded were unpublished and simply regarded this as a healing exercise.” For Brandi Ballard, the project became cathartic. Ballard, who as an MFA student at USC, often writes about sexual trauma and recovery, said that at ﬁrst she “couldn’t come up with anything. Although she’d recently gone through eight months of physical therapy after being hit by a drunk driver, she ended up writing about the death of her uncle. “It was really hard for me, but I needed to write it. I interviewed my mom to make sure I got the details right. I remembered him as just a guy in a plaid shirt and cowboy boots. I have to confront guilt and anger, because something as simple as a toenail removal led to his death. He got gangrene, and they cut him away piece by piece. After the last stroke, he didn’t know who he was much of the time.” The ﬁnal essay, she said, “is about me, but obliquely.” Borton wound up asking Ballard to coedit the book. It was only after she started assembling the manuscript that she “found the power to tackle” her own accident and the night terrors it caused. Ballard thinks that much of the book’s value lies in its accessibility. “It’s everyday language, something for the writers and readers to grab onto to see they’re not alone. It’s a chance for community building, when you let all these voices be heard, not just the polished professional voices, though we have those, too.” Some of the contributors were writing for the ﬁrst time, she said. “It was their ﬁrst time accessing the feelings and exploring the memories even. You go more in-depth when you write, as opposed to when you just remember.” She talked about the need to “suspend the fear of judgment” when writing something so intensely revealing. “I think we succeeded in that. The pieces run the gamut. Some are very surface. The writers aren’t connecting with those deeper emotions yet or there’s fear of vulnerability. It’s one thing to say, ‘I nursed my husband through cancer.’ It’s another to say, ‘I wanted to leave.’ It goes back to audience: Whom are you writing for? Sometimes I think the writers who write for themselves—those confessional, gushing pieces—are the most gripping. Not the most polished but the ones that trigger the reader to empathize with that ﬂood of emotion and understand it.” Borton concurs. “It is the task of medicine to give voice to the silent world of suffering and to uncover the meaning of illness” he said. “These contributors were eager to shout their story!”
CLAYBOUGH BY KYLE PETERSEN
Confederado is an odd word, and it generally rolls tentatively off the tongue for most Southerners. As it turns out, it’s a real thing—a term given to Confederate veterans of the Civil War who, rather than begin life anew in their war-town homeland, resettled in Brazil under the urging of Emperor Dom Pedro II, who wanted to begin the lucrative cultivation of cotton in his country. Casey Claybough, a Virginian native who received his PhD in Literature here at the University of South Carolina and now teaches at Lynchburg College when not managing his 100-acre farm in Appotomax, ﬁrst heard the word from his wife’s grandfather, who told the story of a family ancestor who fought in the Civil War as part of Mosby’s Rangers and later resettled in Brazil, where his agricultural expertise was highly valued. On the basis of this tale, Claybough, already the author of numerous scholarly monographs and short stories, set out to craft his ﬁrst novel of historical ﬁction, a sprawling work which sees him stretching and twisting the archetype established by Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain onto another continent, with rich results. The story chronicles the journey of Alvis Stevens, who upon returning to his family’s homestead after the war becomes quickly embroiled in a violent encounter with a Union soldier, forcing him to ﬂee the country for Brazil. Fortunately, Alvis’ sweetheart from before the war, Lavinia, has also reportedly emigrated there with her own family as well, and the young vet jumps at the chance to pursue her. From there, Claybough keeps the narrative action-packed, intermixing memories from the Civil War with the present as Alvis encounters hurricanes, shipwrecks, anaconda battles, an entrance into Brazil’s own war with Paraguay, and dangerous duels for the hand of his beloved, who remains just out of reach for much of the novel. Clearly intent on keeping the reader enthralled, the author rarely lets a chapter or two go by without forcing the heartbeat to quicken, and in the process demonstrates a keen facility for writing epic adventures. However, there is more going on here than a ﬁerce and fast journey into South America—a scholar of Southern literature, Claybough clearly wants us to examine traditional notions of the Confederate veteran. While his protagonist is a paragon of virtue and insight throughout the novel (at times gratingly so), other Southerners come off in varying degrees less palatable, championing the glories of war and ignor-
ing the enormous costs it extolls. In introducing the Brazilian war with Paraguay in the latter half of the book, Claybough also subtly comments on the strategies used in the Civil War by aligning Alvis with the more Union-like Brazilian army. Mostly, though, the novel sticks with fairly traditional versions of the Confederate veteran (Claybough admits that it is primarily the migration which makes him “something more than one more clichéd Civil War protagonist”) and other stock characters, from the villainous bastard Emilio who is Alvis’ chief foil in his quest for Lavinia’s hand to the wizened, eccentric father ﬁgure Evandero whose land Alvis takes over and makes successful. More attention seems to have been paid to imbuing the text with a rich sense of history, and throughout Claybough peppers the narrative with real historical details and ﬁgures, from the introduction of North American crops by the Confederados to minor corrupt Brazilian ambassadors. As historical ﬁction it’s deﬁnitely admirable, but Claybough’s best moments here are when he focuses not on war or strife, but the storytelling tradition that binds together his Southern and Brazilian characters. While other narrative moments may seem straight off a page in Gone with the Wind, the ways in which Alvis bonds through storytelling, ﬁrst with Lavinia during their courtship, and then later with his Brazilian benefactors, demonstrates a nuanced understanding of how we understand one another and ourselves via a complex and meaningful oral tradition. That Claybough does so in such a gripping and thrilling historical ﬁction work only heightens his achievement here, as he has created an attenuated ﬁrst novel that achieves a careful balance of commercial appeal and cultural insight.
DOUBLE RAINBOW B Y N A N A N C RO M George saw it too she said sitting in lattice-work hose thick black shoes at the Riverfront drumming with her lithe lucent ďŹ ngers tripleting the beat
driving home a pale orange moon bobbing above the lavish oaks the ball spoke: tell all tell all it invoked what came next, the days since then
Nan Ancrom was the class poet of Beaufort High School. Her poems have appeared in The Nation, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. She has received four residential grants from the Wurlitzer Foundation of Taos, New Mexico, and one from the Ragdale Foundation of Chicago. Ancrom is currently the SC poetry fellow, recipient of a fellowship from the SC Arts Commission.
WHEN THE BLACKBIRD OF CHILDHOOD EXUBERANCE GETS CAUGHT TAUNTING THE CAGED DOG OF EVERYDAY EXISTENCE B Y ROY SE E G E R The morning shattered like a bulb spun from the thin sugars of my memory;
it shattered like a childhood mishandled,
& this is the rhetoric behind the genetic shrapnel of familyâ€”
that the crows we grow to love devour our eyes
& leave their feet as payment.
Roy Seeger moved to Aiken, SC in 2008 where he is an Instructor of English at the University of South Carolina Aiken. His poetry collection The Boy Whose Hands Were Birds was the winner of the 2008 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Contest. His chapbook Prayerbook for the Midwestern Agnostic will be released through Main Street Rag in the fall of 2013.
BY ED MADDEN
t’s [my] life’s work in a twelve dollar paperback,” quips Warren Slesinger, author of The Evening Light, just released in April by Ninety-Six Press. The Beaufort poet has been publishing his work in chapbooks and anthologies and journals for years. Now, after a long and, as he says, “intermittent” writing life, his ﬁrst book is in print, winner of the 2012 South Carolina Poetry Archives Book Prize. The Evening Light brings together a range of work—from deeply affecting poems about love and loss to a series of quirky “deﬁnition” poems that end the book, as well as several poems about the South Carolina Lowcountry. (See review, page 61.) With this publication, Slesinger joins a number of South Carolina writers published by the Greenville-based literary press, including Claire Bateman, Starkey Flythe, Bennie Lee Sinclair, and state poet laureate Marjory Heath Wentworth. Ninety-Six Press was founded in 1991 by Greenville poet Gil Allen and
William Rogers, his colleague in the Furman English Department. From the outset, the purpose of the press has been to publish South Carolina writers. As stated on the website, “The press operates on the premise that a number of ﬁne poets live and work in the state, and that they need more opportunities to make their writing available to the public.” In 2011, the Press established a partnership with the South Carolina Poetry Archive at Furman, located in the Special Collections and Archives Department of Furman’s James B. Duke Library. Started by Furman’s Special Collections librarian DebbieLee Landi, the archive includes manuscripts and related materials for a number of contemporary South Carolina poets—such as Phebe Davidson and Kurtis Lamkin—materials available not only for research but also for Furman faculty to more easily integrate poetry into their curricula. With the book prize, Allen says he tried to connect his commitment to the press with his teaching at Furman—as he said at the launch of Slesinger’s book, to “create a little synergy with my day job.” To that end, he taught a course on poetry editing and publishing in fall 2012, and his students helped him to review and evaluate the fourteen manuscripts submitted for the ﬁrst book prize. The students also wrote extensive comments on the manuscripts,
which were provided to entering poets on request. The press accepted manuscripts from any poet who had lived in South Carolina for at least ﬁve years and who had published at least ﬁve poems in nationally or regionally circulated literary magazines, and who had not yet published a book with Ninety-Six Press. Entrants also could not be students, and they had to be over 21 years old. And the winner, it turns out, is an eightyyear-old poet who was, as he says, “relieved” to learn of his win. And now, “I have the urge to begin again.”
For more information about this year’s contest, and the second South Carolina Poetry Archives Book Prize, see http://library.furman. edu/specialcollections/96Press/ submissions.htm. Manuscripts will be accepted May 1 to July 1, 2013.
BY ZACH MUELLER
Of the thirty-seven poems in Evening, many are new works, but several have been printed previously in competitive journals. Slesinger has been writing seriously good poems for a long time; however, it would be foolish to consider this a retread or a collected hits. Although his poems have appeared in isolation—temporally even, as many of these were published several years ago—by putting them together, we retrieve a much better sense of Warren Slesinger as an artist and a contributive voice to contemporary poetry. The collection is divided into three section, the ﬁrst indebted to Beaufort or ‘home’, but less so a locale than a conceptual framework. The opening lines of the ﬁrst (and title) poem realize mortality in a disarming but gentle way: “The horizon holds no lofty notion,/no mansion in the moving clouds.” We enter immediately from there into an intimate moment between the narrator and his wife, and we suddenly realized that she is a survivor of breast cancer and surgery. This poem, and others in the collection, mine the mutual relationship between sensuality and loss through lyrical tendencies that are frequently gorgeous and painful, uniquely self-aware. He writes, “[I] smell the perfume from the soap/in the hollow of her collarbone;/the tiles gleam, the air swirls around her,/and the mirror fogs with steam.” The narrator is positioned frequently as participant, witness. From “Oracle”:
its teeth, pebbles overgrown with moss.
The poems of the ﬁnal section take the form of deﬁnitions, moving away from lyric and isolating concepts to augment and resituate new connotations. “Scrapescape,” for example, wrings new meanings from literal and metaphorical debris, combining ‘scrape’ and ‘landscape’ to suggest marginalization. The ﬁnal image of “Lifeboat” is both smart and deeply upsetting, as passengers “club the knuckles” of those outside the boat clinging to its side, putting them all in danger of drowning. It’s a haunting sentiment: to be saved means to leave others behind. The second section of the book begins with a quote from Samuel Johnson, whose lines speak to Slesinger’s aesthetic best: “We know somewhat, and we imagine the rest.” Slesinger’s work allows those two impulses to take hold at the same time, creating moments that distinguish where we are from where we ﬁnd ourselves.
SC RA T C H Scratch (skrach) n-es. 1. The sign of a struggle: “. . . an ugly scratch, his jacket smutched, a button missing.” --B. Potter. 2. A harsh, grating sound in the pinestraw and pebbles that clung to the ground. 3. A test of character: The grim-faced farmer, chest heaving, shirt drenched, caught him on his property and nearly skinned him with a knife. 4. A contraction of “trace,” “landscape,” and “chance.” The Tale of Peter Rabbit in the red hills and cotton of South Carolina.
The water worried me when it muttered a riddle of bubbles and duff as the gray face that ﬂoated over it in lines and patches to the shore.
The Evening Light comes to us from Furman University’s Ninety-Six Press, and the inaugural South Carolina Poetry Archives Book Prize. As press editor and Furman professor Gil Allen says in his forward to the book, the purpose of the prize was to publish a South Carolina poet who hadn’t published with Ninety-Six Press. Out of all the entries, many of them poets with books to their names already, Slesinger was chosen, so the prize this year is also a ﬁrst book. In his forward, Allen calls Evening a “ﬁrst book that represents a lifetime of work.” Slesinger gives readers reason to privilege celebration of the former over the latter, as poems in the collection interact to create a fully-realized aesthetic that is consistently inventive and honest.
The narrator is less a singular presence than a point of observation for emotional and ontological resonances that move in and around like waves. “Harbor” and “Bay Street” explore Beaufort as an encapsulation of meeting points and distances, as the Lowcountry and its heritage drifts in and away from itself along the water. The second section stakes itself in the more elusive spaces between the narrator’s inner and outward contemplations, often grounded in the natural world. “Black Umbrellas” captures the jumbled frames of a thunderstorm, feeling less like thirdperson narrative than the narrator caught in an auto-scopic trance. An unknown speaker appears at the window: “‘It’s like dying: vivid/and blinding,” he says./…and the black umbrellas popped/like buds that opened in the rain.”
SC RA P E SC A P E Scrapescape (scrape.scape) n-s. 1. A contraction of “scrape” and “landscape” with the removal, in a word, of the scenery. 2. The development of a piece of property for a commercial purpose commencing with a puff from the upright exhaust pipe of a bulldozer that shoves a heap of halfburied debris to the side of the road, and the junk dumped in the underbrush cracks as it is crushed; or a reversal of the process when a truck lumbers down a road, jounces to a stop, and dumps a load of rubble into a landﬁll; either way, the reconﬁguration of a landform. 3. How the blade of a grader brings a clump of vegetation into line with the horizon: broad, boundless and level.
from The Evening Light, by Warren Slesinger Used with permission of Slesinger and Ninety-Six Press.
An essay in praise of old books, prison poetry, and local writing
BY ED MADDEN In the prison of his days Teach the free man how to praise. W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”
One of the best things about the South Carolina Book Festival is that odd little aisle down the middle of the downstairs book fair, crowded with antiquarian book dealers. I’ve been to book festivals around the South, and South Carolina has one of the best book fairs, and it’s one of the few that has antiquarian dealers. Between readings, you can wander through the booths—USC and Hub City, little regional presses publishing Lowcountry photos or cookbooks or poetry, the Buddhist table and the Koran table, and a scattering of self-published authors of varying quality but all fascinating for their passion. (And who was that little gem of an illustrator last year who had the beautiful watercolor children’s book about a lonely little boy and a violet?) But for me, it’s antiquarian row that is the real treat. Of course, antiquarian row is a treat in part because Columbia, sadly, lacks good used bookstores—other than Ed’s Editions, a treasure in West Columbia, or the occasional odd book dealers in the various antiques malls. There are some other used bookstores, with baroque and frankly off-putting categories for trade-ins and emphasis on genre ﬁction. Most major university cities
have good used bookstores, but not Columbia. I remember Half Price Books of Austin, Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway, the old Downtown Books in Milwaukee, or the Chamblin Bookmine in Jacksonville FL. Or even the great used book sections of independent bookstores like Lambda Rising in DC or Rivermarket Books in Little Rock. I love multi-ﬂoor, multi-room warrens of books, those take-your-allergy-medicine-before-you-go and we-try-to-organize-by-categories-mostly kinds of bookstores, where three hours later you realize you’re hungry and you haven’t even looked at biography yet. So come book festival time, you’re likely to ﬁnd me poring through shelves of old books, hoping to luck upon a bit of garish pulp ﬁction (ask me about my collection!) or the surprise (and surprising price) of a chapbook of poems by Southern poet David Bottoms or the delightfully cranky Wendell Berry, both lucky ﬁnds at last year’s festival. (Full disclosure: a couple of years ago my partner joined the aisle of vendors. But I have been a fan of antiquarian books for over two decades. He sells. I buy.) A couple of years ago I found two striking little volumes of local voices—both poetry, but speaking from very different places. One was Sounds, a collection of sometimes moving, sometimes maudlin poems by Columbia real estate mogul Michael Mungo, published in 1979—a mix of greeting card verse and character poems (think Spoon River at a construction site) and some love poems, shot through with a bit of swank and swagger. With an introduction by William Price Fox, I couldn’t resist it. Fox says, “Many of the poems are brilliant, some still need work and a few are hopeless,” but he insists that Mungo, “for all his bluster and ﬂamboyance, has a marvelous ear and eye for detail.” Some of it was laughable, particularly the love poems, like imitations of that master poet of pseudo-philosophical dreck, Rod McKuen. The book’s last poem, “Woman,” opens with:
You are mystical, yet you are woman— You are duty, poise and lady yet woman— I love the moisture of your lips He goes on, “and when I am/ with you,/ it is easy to be a man . . .” I love the ellipses at the end, as if this poem could keep going, maybe with a Barry White—no, more likely Lionel Richie—soundtrack. I’ll admit there’s a charm to this, and it goes on the shelf beside the deliciously bad poems of Leonard Nimoy, Richard Thomas, and Jewel. I was struck, though, by the real loneliness of this book. In the middle of poems ﬁlled with platitudes of the riches-won’t-make-you-happy sort, there was a striking little poem called “Myriad of Mazes,” in which Mungo asks, “Are these shackles that bind me / of my own doing?” And, “Have I built these walls / which made me prisoner?” For a man who made a career in home construction, this image felt powerful, impelled by something more than middle-age, middle-class discontent. The same day, the same bookshop, I ran across A Season in the Hour: Poems from the Prisons of South Carolina, published the year before (1978) by the SC Arts Commission with help from the National Endowment for the Arts. (Um, yes, that’s a little plug for what public funding of the arts can do.) This little book took me by surprise.
Arizona poet Frank Graziano spent six months teaching poetry workshops in South Carolina prisons as an NEA poet in residence. In the introduction, Graziano admits he was surprised by “the syrupy, butterﬂy-on-the-rose, bicycle-builtfor-two poems submitted by men conﬁned to the most miserable of conditions.” But the men worked with Graziano, and some of the results are stunning. Throughout the use of language and image is moving. Dennis Chiles of Manning Correctional Institution piles on one wild or wildly speciﬁc simile after another (“we ran / like ﬁre in wheat ﬁelds”). And even as he portrays the racism that oppressed his grandmother or the mixed blessings of migrant farm labor (boys with “silver dollar eyes” headed to a “Promised Land” of watermelon packing), he repeatedly works in bits of colloquial phrase (“nappy-headed negro boys / with cat butter in eyes”). In “A Wind Chime,” J. A. Hines at Kirkland Correctional in Columbia, describes a wind “that moves the tree tops / like a hand across a fresh crew cut.” It’s a striking and intimate image, one that feels ampliﬁed when he tries to expand the time and space of the poem: “The same wind / that blew through / Whitman’s beard.” Several poems take on “Vanity” and “Affluence,” and loneliness—the big themes that suffuse Mungo’s book. Michael Wise, also of the Kirkland facility, writes in “Freedom” (I quote the entire poem):
Pressed against someone soft in a crowded comfortable sleeping bag pocket full of dimes and nickles head full of tomorrow’s dreams sporadic traffic overhead the season is Summer the bridge security I love the juxtaposition of the pocket and the head, ﬁlled with quite different things, in a poem driven by paradox—the crowded but thus comfortable sleeping bag, the transformation of the y at the end. After reading prison word security the poems of “a successful entrepreneur, ﬁnancier, educator and adventurer” (to quote the back cover of Sounds), these poems were bracing and poignant and seemed, at the end, more intimate, more deeply human. For example, James Bush from Lower Savannah Pre-Release just outside Aiken could relocate those big abstractions Mungo liked to throw around within quite speciﬁc and intimate moments. In “Silence,” Bush describes himself “crouching beneath the listening trees” in a park, all “the swings and slides now / silent.” The poem ends:
a stray dog searching for a hand to lick. I gave him mine. One book illumined the other, and I would have found neither had I not spent an hour or so on the ﬂoor of an antiquarian dealer.
BY JOHN TEMPLE LIGON outh Carolina’s Jasper Johns, the painter honored recently by President Obama with the Medal of Freedom award, attended A. C. Moore Elementary in Columbia for his fourth grade in 1939, leaving after only one year. He lived with his aunt on the west side of Lake Murray, and he moved to Sumter to live with his mother and her husband for his senior year at Edmunds High School, where he graduated valedictorian in 1947 Johns left the art department at USC in his sophomore year for New York City. During the Korean War, 1951, Johns was drafted and trained as a machine gunner and placed at Ft. Jackson before he was shipped off to Japan for a year.
After his honorable discharge, 1953, Johns returned to New York City. In late 1954 and early 1955 Johns painted his Flag, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, and White Flag, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the past few years, Johns’s False Start sold for $80 million, and a mid-‘60s Flag sold for $110 million. Johns, the world’s most successful artist and arguably the most important American artist of the 20thCentury, has amassed an extraordinary art collection of his own work and other high points in paintings of the 20th Century. He is particularly proud of his Cezannes. Picasso said, “Cezanne is the father of us all.” Johns lives surrounded by his great art in Sharon, Connecticut. On May 15, Johns turns 83. When Picasso died surrounded by his fabulous art collection, both his work and the work of other contemporary geniuses, the French government proceeded to tax his heirs based on the new values of the late artist’s work. The family struck a deal: The nation got the art and the family got the rest. Hence, the Picasso Museum in Paris. Johns never married. His art collection needs to settle in where it can accomplish the most, somewhere removed from the usual repositories in New York and Chicago and San Francisco, where there is plenty of Johns’s work and other great art to go around. Why not Columbia? Locating the Johns art collection can reﬂect the attitude in play in planning a cocktail party. It really doesn’t matter where to put the bar, everybody will ﬁnd the bar, certainly. It really doesn’t matter where the Johns art collection ends up, the whole world will ﬁnd it. Hence, the Jasper Johns Museum in Columbia. Small specialty museums are expensive to operate and to secure. A separate building for the Jasper Johns Museum can exhibit the art collection, but management and control should come from the existing Columbia Museum of Art and its board. The Cy Twombly wing, a separate building next to the Menil Collection in Houston, comes to mind. Appealing to Jasper Johns is the real challenge, as is the timing. And then the matter gets sticky with the collective Columbia decision: Who puts this together and approaches Johns? Who really knows Johns? Tough call. But what a great opportunity!
2013-2014 SEASON The Doo Wop Project October 4, 2013
Aquila Theatre Company in
Fahrenheit 451 February 7, 2014
Brian Sanders’ JUNK presents
Patio Plastico Plus October 18, 2013
Valentine’s Pillow Talk February 14, 2014
The Onion, Live! You Can Haz Cheezburger October 29, 2013 The Harbison Theatre at MTC Incubator for New Work presents
– A Night Devoted to the Art of Online Cat Videos March 21, 2014
November 8 & 9, 2013
April 26, 2014
SCP Holiday Pops
The Harbison Theatre at MTC Incubator for New Work presents
December 15, 2013
Works in Progress May 9, 2014
January 23, 2014
For tickets & information visit HarbisonTheatre.org Midlands Technical College | 7300 College Street, Irmo, SC