Q & A with filmmaker Lauren Greenwald By: Alivia Seely

 

As an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and professor, Lauren Greenwald has led a busy life thus far.

Greenwald put her many skills to the test with a video project instalment called Waterway that was showcased at Indie Grits this year. This was her first artist appearance at the festival. Indie Grits is an annual film festival hosted by The Nickelodeon Theatre. The four-day festival showcases film, music and visual artists in the southeast region.

 

 

As a South Carolina native, how did the flood affect your video installment for Indie Grits?

 

Greenwald: I recently returned to South Carolina after almost 20 years. I was originally planning on creating a video about the river for Indie Grits, but the flood and the history-making aspect of it prompted me to turn my focus towards the river and South Carolina waterways in general in history and documentation. I’m using a lot of found footage to create a video piece.

 

 

What type of preparation and background research did you have to do for this video?

 

G: This video piece was not a document, but a collection of imagery, historical and contemporary, of the rivers and waterways, both natural and manmade. I’m interested in the various paths water takes through the state and in representing it in a non-narrative manner.

 

 

How do you think this year’s festival theme Waterlines will effect the city of Columbia, given the flood back in October?

 

G: It’s was very timely, and I feel was a great response to the events of this past fall. Many natural disasters arrive and then disappear quite quickly from public consciousness, while the reality, especially for those who were directly affected, is much different. Just as Columbia is still working to repair the damage to the dam and other elements of infrastructure, just as people are still recovering from displacement and loss of property and life, this is an event that should still be present in our consciousness. I think the festival was a good commemoration and celebration of recovery and renewal.

 

In what ways did you see the Indie Grits festival increase art awareness for the city and people of Columbia?

 

G: I think it brings Columbia into the national and international arena. Indie Grits is a world-class film festival, and brings talent from well outside South Carolina. This year’s celebration of its 10th anniversary, with all of the programming available for free, hopefully encouraged the people of Columbia to engage in this amazing cultural event and to recognize that they should support such events in the future.

 

 

What advice have you been given that inspires your work, and what advice do you give your students?

 

G: I was told once not to worry about what I should do, but to pay attention to what I love and am attracted to. The rest will find a way of working out.

I advise my students to stay curious and to read about everything and look at everything. Learn another language, live abroad, be engaged, and keep trying new things. Art can’t be made without learning and investigation.

 

 

 

In between getting her bachelor’s from the College of Charleston in 1997 and her masters of fine arts from the University of New Mexico in 2011, Greenwald worked in the field of architecture and production. She even took her skills across the pond and owned her own project management business in France. Since 2011, she has taught photography at a college level, and in 2014, she joined the visual art and design faculty at the University of South Carolina.

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REVIEW: Kimi Maeda’s Ephemera Trilogy at the Trustus Side Door Theatre

Homecoming
From “Homecoming,” Part I of Ephemera Trilogy

By: Kyle Petersen

Ephemera (noun):

  1. things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time.
  2. items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.

“The year the law of gravity was abolished the moon wandered away.
In the excitement we didn’t notice that the Nakashimas disappeared.
You had to hold on tight or things floated off.
I suppose they never really put down solid roots.”  –Kimi Maeda

It’s difficult to leave a performance of Kimi Maeda’s Ephemera Trilogy, which runs through May 7th in the Trustus Side Door Theatre, without your head buzzing with questions. What is the relationship between storytelling and art, art and memory, memory and identity, identity and truth?

Maeda is not offering up answers, of course, but is certainly providing provocative new ways of tackling these questions. Her work is deeply invested in interrogating the act of storytelling itself, of how we come to know ourselves through creative expression, with all of its messy contours and murky revelations. Using stories of her parents (and, perhaps more to the point, the stories they have told her) as logical guideposts to understanding herself, Maeda’s work is grounded in sorting through the thorny reality that the telling of a story is an ephemeral act and, yet, also the fundamental way we come to make sense of our memories and ourselves as people. Each section of Ephemera, which was developed over a period of six years, employs a different stunning and innovative method of telling a story, each of which foregrounds its storytelling artifice while at the same time reaching for something that feels true, that feels real, in the process.

In the first part of Ephemera, “Homecoming,” Maeda uses a flashlight to bring paper cutouts to life as she ponders questions about her parent’s homes as well as the kind of fables and myths we all tell about home, what it’s supposed to say about who we are. The idea is that how we think about home is a kind of storytelling in and of itself. Maeda is both fascinated and distrustful of these questions, and you can sense that lack of sureness in both the pre-recorded narrative and the ever-so-slight shake of the flashlight as she moves across and through the miniature tableaux and brings it to life. This story doesn’t, can’t, exist without Maeda there, providing that thin light and fragile movement necessary to make sense of this piece of visual art. This phenomenon is something that occurs in each of the sections, a kind of implicit recognition that how both viewer and artist are being swayed and prodded by a distinct viewpoint, one that only exists in precisely this way in this one particular moment in time. Each performance, then, is a reminder of both the power of storytelling and its ephemeral, magical nature.

The second section, “The Crane Wife,” has Maeda performing elegantly wrought shadow puppetry as she weaves together the story of her mom coming to America from Japan with an old Japanese folktale. Framed by (real?) historical letters that Maeda pens and reads aloud in real-time, the interpretation of the crane wife tale she tells becomes intertwined with how the artist understands her Japanese-American identity. Maeda renders it lovingly. She also ponders the story’s intrinsic message about sacrifice and feminism, testing what identifications she has with the story and the limits to which it can function as a genuine link to her Japanese heritage. That a folktale like “The Crane Wife” is endlessly told and retold, revised and reshaped, makes such tests of authenticity quite fraught. Yet this particular version will always have meaning for Maeda and her mother, will structure their identities and how they understand themselves. It’s an ancient practice of making new.

The final section, “Bend,” uses archival footage of Maeda’s father, suffering from dementia, and the famous Japanese sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, both of whom were assigned to the same Japanese internment camp in 1942 -1943. This footage and audio, which often features Maeda talking with her father about the past, is juxtaposed and blended with live sand drawings of figures and places, memories and fragments that are constantly erased, literally disappearing as Maeda draws over or sweeps them away with a broom the last image to make way for the next one. The idea of Maeda’s father, who is clearly a man of extraordinary intellect, warmth, and ambition having to grapple with his own shifting sands of memory makes this method of storytelling particularly significant and brings home the reality of the ephemeral nature of both memory and art.

These are by necessity brief and incomplete descriptions of what goes told through the incredibly innovative and evocative visual language that Maeda uses, but what’s even more difficult to translate is the sheer creativity at the heart of it all. The way she uses light and crumbled papers to conjure up a fire, the way layers of design and shadow move us through airports and palaces and soar us through the sky or into the interior of phone lines in “Homecoming.” The casual virtuosity of the shadow puppet illustrations of “The Crane Wife” that feel more keenly alive than any picture book. And perhaps most profoundly, the unusual framing and living transitions that exist over the course of one of her many sand drawings, each of which is remarkable in each distinct moment. It’s wholly distinct and different from simply watching a painter paint or an illustrator draw. I can’t help but think about a performance like this in spiritual and ritual terms, of finding some solace, some beauty, and some redemption in these symbolic and repetitive acts. Ritual is something that keeps tradition alive even as it changes, that gives us new spins on ancient questions, and that remind us all that all creative acts are storytelling ones, each with their fair share of an older narrative inextricably grafted to a new thread.  

To that end, art-as-ritual, or storytelling-as-ritual, or perhaps even storytelling-as-truth, feels at the heart of Maeda’s trilogy. Our stories are who we are. Even if there is something lost in translation, there is also something invented, something new, something you.   

And I can’t say that everything I pulled out of her Ephemera Trilogy is what Maeda necessarily intended. But I can without qualification say that such a rich, nuanced, and simply extraordinary piece of artwork is a treasure that contains multitudes and is very much worth spending your time with. 

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PREVIEW: Finlay Park welcomes back SCSC with The Merry Wives of Windsor – By Alivia Seely  

Libby Campbell-Turner and Becky Hunter with Hunter Boyle - photo by Rob Sprankle
Libby Campbell-Turner and Becky Hunter with Hunter Boyle – photo by Rob Sprankle

 

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

 

The words of William Shakespeare are not always as clear in their meanings as audience members would like them to be. Yet, that does not stop the talented individuals from The South Carolina Shakespeare Company from taking that difficult language from folio, to the stage.

 

Sharing the beautiful, historic language with audiences across Columbia, the SC Shakespeare Company will be gracing the Finlay Park stage for a two weekend production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

 

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a story that chronicles the life of Sir John Falstaff, played by Hunter Boyle. Falstaff is an outrageous man. He is a retired bacchanal with vulgar wit and multiple schemes of seduction, as he plans to dazzle the hearts of Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, played by Libby Campbell-Turner and Becky Hunter. Yet, it does not take long before the two ladies and Ford’s husband Master Ford, to figure out why Falstaff is set on reeking havoc in Windsor.

“He is a very suspicious and jealous husband. I think that he is someone that always thinks that someone is up to something. So when all of this stuff with Falstaff starts happening, my character Master Ford very easily and rapidly buys the fact that his wife is cheating. He then sets out to discover if that is true,” says Scott Blanks, managing director for the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, and will be playing the role of Master Ford.

 

This production is directed by Linda Khoury, artistic director and co-founder of the company. Other notable characters are: Robert Shallow, played by Chris Cook, Dr. Caius, played by Tracy Steele, Master Page, played by Jason Sprankle, Mistress Quickly, played by Sara Blanks, Anne Page, played by Katie Mixon and Parson Evens, played by David Reed.

“It is captivating, energetic, and is a humorous take on marriage, miscommunication, and forgiveness. The wild and bawdy characters along with the fast-moving story full of mischief and trickery will keep the audience riveted,” says Khoury.

 

The outdoor performance environment is no stranger to these company members. Finlay Park has been home to numerous SCSC performances in the past. The only thing that will be keeping them out of the park is inclement weather.

“I really enjoy the outdoor environment. I think audiences enjoy the outdoor environment. I can tell your first hand it is a really great experience for an audience member; however, it is really rather difficult for actors and actresses,” says Blanks.

 

Although there are moments of scandal and humorous revenge, Khoury encourages the entire family to come out and enjoy the show.

 

The South Carolina Shakespeare Company is one of the most popular professional theatre
companies and producers of classical theatre in South Carolina. Since its founding in 1992, the company has sought to bring language, art, and history to the community in order to foster the arts culture.

 

The show opens Saturday April 23 at 8:00 p.m. in Finlay Park, and will run again April 27-30 at 8:00 p.m. For more information about the show visit www.shakespeareSC.org.

 

 

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