What’s the Buzz: USC Lab Theatre produces The Bee-Man of Crighton County

image1By Haley Sprankle

Eight chairs line the center of the Lab Theatre at USC. The cast gathers and quickly fills the empty theatre with warmth and energy, as they joke with great wit and chemistry. Director and cast member Grace Ann Roberts engages with her team, interjecting a quick quip or two as they all settle in their seats.

This is the cast for the staged reading of an original play, The Bee-Man of Crighton County, by Ryan Stevens. We last heard from Stevens when discussing his original work Player King, which included Bee-Man cast members Jasmine James, Megh Ahire, and Carrie Chalfant. Other team members for the staged reading include Elizabeth Krawcyzk, Freddie Powers, and USC Theatre MFA student Nicole Dietze.

“Well of course we drew heavily on the USC theater community,” Roberts explains. “We’d all seen each other work, taken classes together, things like that. So there’s already an element of familiarity there, and it’s so much fun.”

The cast has a unique added element of familiarity, however.

“You mean I get to sit next to my daughter?”

Roberts’ father sits down, puts his arm around her, and smiles as bright as day while Roberts dons a look of loving embarrassment that I know all too well.

“The other member is, well… it’s my dad, Kevin Roberts. He plays the Bee Man himself. He’s done several plays before, but we’ve never worked on anything together. That has been such a new experience, for both of us, but it’s also really cool. It’s been fun to watch each other work,” Roberts lovingly adds.

The play follows a story about the people in the small town of Sheol. The people are hopelessly trying to gather historical documents from the local hermit, Ogden Flass (Bee Man), while Julie Guest witnesses it all in the midst of her own existential crisis.

“He [Stevens] and I have worked together a ton, and we really trust each other. He’s a great friend, and I think he’s a great writer too, and I’m happy to have a hand in doing this with him,” Roberts says.

A Columbia native and graduate of both the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and the University of South Carolina with a focus in theatre at both schools, Roberts is taking on the part of Julie as well as directing the reading.

“I’ve never directed a staged read before, and I’m also cast in it. That wasn’t the original plan but really, at the end of the day, that arrangement has taught me a lot—not only about what you can do as an actor, or how you can bring it to life, but also just how different it is to direct a staged read,” Roberts elaborates. “It’s like… I’m learning too, and I share those lessons with the other cast members. It really feels more like ‘guiding’ than ‘directing.’”

The element of learning doesn’t just end from a directorial or performance perspective, though. Through shared experiences with the South, early adulthood, and family life, Roberts has been able to connect and learn from her character.

“Funny enough, she and I are currently going through pretty similar given circumstances,” she admits. “I just graduated from USC, and am still living in Columbia. Honestly, that wasn’t my initial plan, and I’ll probably be here for a while. Julie is in the same boat: she moves away to start a business, which tanks, and she has to move back to her small town and live with her mom. She and I had similar feelings about the whole thing, too—those feelings being ones of disappointment, sadness, and some anger, too. But, in the same way that her perspective on that changes, I find mine to be changing too. So it’s pretty fun to have that very literal connection to her. She’s helped me to understand how to redefine ‘failure,’ and that feels really good.”

The Bee-Man of Crighton County reading is this Saturday in USC’s Lab Theatre at 7 pm. Admission is free, so come out to support original, local work produced by young emerging artists on the Columbia scene!

“To me, the Bee Man is about blooming where you’re planted. Instead of resisting where you are—geographically, professionally, existentially, what have you—really embracing it, and making the best out of something you once perceived as the worst. I do think, too, it’s unique to the idea of southern community,” Roberts says. “What it means to live in a place where everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s looking out for each other.”

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Taking it to the Streets: Pedro LDV on Solo Work, Collaboration, and the Art of Outdoor Performance

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By: Michael Spawn

Around Columbia, Pedro Lopez de Victoria is best known as the front man and songwriting force of Casio Mio, the manic, electric pop group he formed in 2013. But the band’s intense, sweat-soaked delivery can sometimes overshadow the personal nature of LDV’s lyrics, something he hopes to rectify with plans for solo, more acoustic-based material. Jasper caught up with the songwriter to discuss his future projects, his hometown of Aiken, and how growing up there instilled in him a reverence for the oft-forgotten art of busking. *

Jasper: Tell me about the music you’re working on outside of Casio Mio.

Pedro LDV: Basically, it’s all part of the same kind of heart excavating, personal, honest music that I’ve been putting out with Casio Mio. But Casio Mio is kind of that, but with jackrabbit legs, so it makes everything louder. And sweatier. And the stuff outside of that, it’s from the same source; it’s just the song in its rawest form. Because when I write music, I’m always thinking in the back of my mind, like, ‘Oh, this could be a good symphonic break,’ or ‘this could be a good part for a sick bass line,’ but it’s all kind of embedded in this genetic code that, when I’m playing, it’s the base genes of it.

But it’s all a continuation.

Yeah. Casio Mio has always been my songwriting, just amped up a little bit. Kind of distorted.

Are you going to record any of this music? Are there plans for a record?

Yeah, I’m going to be doing a recording of some of my acoustic stuff with Daniel [Machado] from the Restoration. We’ve talked a little bit about working together. One thing we see eye-to-eye on is that there’s something in the performative aspect of our music that could be parsed out a little bit. The livewire thing that comes out of it, I’d want it to be a big part of any release of my solo stuff, because that’s kind of what it’s been. I’ve been in a number of bands with all these bells and whistles, but the undercurrent has always been simple—just standing there with a guitar, maybe stomping on a tambourine, playing a Nirvana cover. That’s the needle to the vein, you know? That’s the most direct method for me. So I’ll probably just put something out under the name Pedro LDV and it’s just going to be an audio capture of my recent stuff and from there I’ll implement more instrumentation and interesting stuff. The next Casio Mio record we’re writing, which we’re still working on, is definitely going to have a lot more than the bare bones, but I still want to get the bare bones stuff and accouterments figured out.

Which will see the light of day first—the new Casio Mio or the Pedro LDV record?

Probably Pedro LDV just because Lee [Garrett, Casio Mio drummer] is spending the summer in Knoxville, so that’s been delaying stuff a little bit. But it’s been coming out of my pores. I can’t stop writing, so that record will naturally be a thing that’s going to happen first, probably.

In what way have you and Daniel been collaborating? Are you writing together or showing each other things you’ve written independently?

We’ve just been kind of just been showing each other songs, but mostly talking about taking the first step of him recording me and then . . . We’re really just into each other’s songs. We haven’t done anything yet, but we’ve got an understanding of each other’s styles and I think that we’ll definitely do something in the future.

Tell me about being drunk in Aiken, busking on the street corners.

Aiken is a pretty dry spot for being a young, teenage creative person; it’s not really known for its offerings in that respect. Therefore, it’s kind of a 101-lesson plan in trying to carve out your own niche in the music scene. It was like going uphill on roller skates because there are no venues. The only venue was a Christian café called Solomon’s Porch; I played there one night and they had an issue with one of my lyrics. I had a song that said, “damn right,” and they just wouldn’t let me play it. So that was a restriction and basically I decided to just get a business license and start busking in the street downtown. And this was groundbreaking. Until then, there had been no street performance at all of that nature. And people enjoyed it because, well, because they were drunk, but also because it was this novel thing that they weren’t used to seeing. So I enjoyed doing that. What I like about busking is it’s own kind of thing. You know, it’s just me and there aren’t any amps and it’s not really congruent with anything and it’s this improvised, organic thing, as opposed to a gig where you have these songs or a record. You could always, if there’s a guy who likes ABBA, just play an ABBA song.

Did you come with a set list or just take requests?

I would just feel the crowd. It’s a more engaging, interactive thing if the people are in the right mood.

What would you guess is the largest audience you’ve ever busked for?

That’s a good question. But when does it not become busking anymore? When does it become a concert? Where’s the line? I think the key here would be, ‘What’s the biggest unplanned crowd?’ Probably my favorite crowd was when I was in New Zealand in this town called Palmerston North for a little bit; I bought this crappy little classical guitar and I was playing near this monument, and these kids started coming around and following me. Then the kids got more people to come and all of these people started gathering around. I think they thought it was a planned thing. That was the line, I guess, where it became this kind of event and people were giving me random things—cups of coffee, business cards, tickets, that sort of thing. It was a beautiful thing to just have spring out of the earth like that.

*[‘What is busking?’ you may be asking. You see that guy or gal over there on the street corner with the guitar/saxophone/ukelele/pan pipes, hoping to scrape together a few extra bucks? They’re busking. Now cough up a dollar.]

 

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A Poem for Leslie from John Starino

Like so many who make a difference by their humility and presence, Leslie Pierce was just such a person.  Here is a poem dedicated to her which appears in my second book Onion Season Pt. 2.  Because of her I participated twice in Frisson at the Columbia Museum of Art.  In my preparation by talking with her, this poem ensued.  – John M. Starino

i come to do homework

frisson prepare cma
the light plays a different way
inconsequential of the lens

this muse
this day
setting, tenor
articulation

leslie pierce
brown hair exhibit
brown eyes alive today
i peruse even remark
how vibrant you are

do you ever wish
any one to sit down
be at eye level
that you do not
have to look up to

since in essence
i look up to you
your difference is so obvious
not like mine

and in further essence
a difference only
in appearance

entreat to enjoin
compassionate, intelligent
demonstrative, adept

so in this essence of humankind
you are the standard that has been raised

astride your chariot
every day

 

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