Five Days Out from an Experiment on You.

Jay 2014 graphic

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

Seven Things You May Not Know about

Jasper Magazine

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Jasper would like to thank our sponsors for the

2014 JAY Awards ~ Big Apple Swing

City Art

Burt Pardue and Site-Image Website Design

HoPF

Jodi and Jeff Salter

Wade Sellers and Coal Powered Filmworks

Billy Guess

Pura

anonymous

Kristian Niemi and Bourbon

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preview: Theatre South Carolina and Our Town at Longstreet Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in General | Leave a comment

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

 

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

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

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

She scared the shit out of me.

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

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

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

Seemingly…. carefree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An actor. From Columbia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They brought the house down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break a leg.

Copyright 2014 Sheryl McAlister.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment