Double Header: Thinking About Gender and Athletics at Indie Grits

IG-Logo Indie Grits has always put an emphasis on documentaries engaging with thought-provoking social issues, and the 2015 edition is no exception. When Jasper was glancing over the schedule the first time, we quickly noted that two of the films--Every Body Hit Somebody [screening Thursday 4/16 at 7:30 in Nickelodeon Theater 1] and American Cheerleader [screening Friday 4/17 at 6:00 pm in Nickelodeon Theater 2]--explicitly tackle women and athletics, a rich area for exploring gender construction that both films tackle in different ways.


Every Body Hit Somebody, directed by Amanda Berg, is an experimental documentary that follows a women’s football team, the Carolina Phoenix, through the course of a season as it ponders questions of masculinity and femininity that are tied up and constricted in sports in ways that make the team and its league’s existence surprising and confounding. Berg made the film while getting her MFA at Duke University, and its unusual in a variety of ways, most notably in its combining of traditional documentary techniques like extended interviews and live-action with extensive use of still photographs (some of which have been featured on the New York Times Lens Blog) as well as its no-man’s-land run-time of 43 minutes.


American Cheerleader, on the other hand, takes on a more dominant and traditional cultural trope in the cheerleader, but attempts to both humanize the zany pop culture version of the sport typified by films like the Kirsten Dunst-starring Bring It On (2000) and to underline the competitive edge that the sport has. Directors James Pellerito and David Barba were initially skeptical about their subject matter, and that skepticism seems to have served them well in creating a compelling narrative that removes the more sensational aspects of how our culture understands cheerleading.

Jasper decided to shoot the makers of both films a few questions to get a sense of their films--how they came upon these topics, what they found surprising, and how they ultimately grappled with similar subject matter differently. Here’s what they said.

Jasper: What originally drew you to your subject matter? How did you “find your teams”?

James Pellerito (American Cheerleader): David Barba and I were originally approached to direct and produce a documentary about high school cheerleading and we were apprehensive because of the existing stereotypes of cheerleaders.  Our only points of reference for the sport were the National High School Cheerleading Championship broadcast on ESPN every year, and the movie Bring It On.  We took the project on as a challenge to produce the real Bring It On and break stereotypes about cheerleaders.

Amanda Berg (Every Body Hit Somebody): My own nostalgic football feelings and the desire to tell stories that explore gender boundaries. I researched “women’s tackle football” and found out there was a semi-professional women’s team right in Durham (NC), where I was living. I went to check out one of their pre-season practices and spent the rest of the season documenting.

Jasper: Both of you follow a single team over the course of a season, which provides a built-in narrative, but one I imagine many documentarians struggle with. What stories remain untold in this framework?

JP: For American Cheerleader, we followed two 12-member high school cheer teams and additional coaching staff.  The challenge for us was what stories to tell in the amount of screen time we had and of course we weren’t able to touch on every team member’s story.  We settled on four stories per team that served as a representation of the teams.

AB: A critique of the structure itself. A season is a linear narrative, one that we are all familiar and comfortable with. I saw this film as an opportunity to challenge narrative expectations as much as gender expectations. A lot is left untold in the hope that questions are more powerful than answers.

Jasper: Why do you think it’s important to make documentaries that tackle questions of athletics and construction of gender?

JP: It’s important to tackle these questions in order to get to the truth.  Stereotypes about athletics and construction of gender are generalizations that exist in public consciousness and have been perpetuated over decades.  If nothing is done to get to the truth, stereotypes persist.

AB: Questions about athletics and gender are important because of their prevalence in daily life, mainstream media and influence on individual freedom. Sports don’t simply reflect gender assumptions. For a really long time now sports have been one of the places where gender boundaries are defined.

Jasper:  What surprised or challenged you in the process of making your respective films?

JP: In making American Cheerleader, we were surprised by how driven and hard-working the teams were, as well as the family bonding among the athletes.  From our perspective as filmmakers, It was humbling to see how fearless and passionate the teenagers were in striving for their goal.  Their practice and competition schedules were not unlike those of high school football or other team sports.  And of course, we never could have predicted the ending.

AB: I was not expecting the Phoenix would go undefeated and win the league championship. Actually, I was having so much fun working on this project it didn’t cross my mind until we were in Texas for the title game.

Jasper: To what extent do these sports still construct certain kinds of gender identities? Is there a way forward to challenge or upend these conceptions?

JP: Cheerleading is still primarily a sideline sport promoting high school spirit and supporting other sports like football and basketball.  That will never change and maybe it shouldn’t.

AB: Football is still perpetuating “manliness.” More coverage of female athletes will promote mutual respect and opportunity between the sexes. As of now women’s sports only constitutes 2% of media coverage.

How have your films been doing? Have you shown anywhere else, or have plans to show elsewhere?

JP: American Cheerleader premiered on the festival circuit in October, screening at IndieMemphis, Dance On Camera at Lincoln Center and winning the audience award at Louisville International Film Festival.  The doc is screening at several festivals this Spring and Summer and is being distributed by FilmBuff.

AB: Every Body Hit Somebody recently screened at Images Festival in Toronto and photographs from the film were featured on the New York Times Lens Blog. Indie Grits will be its second festival screening.

Preview: Indie Grits 2015, Day 2

IG-Logo There’s really so much going on at Indie Grits each day that picking and choosing what to do comes down, more than ever, to time, taste, and happenstance. But here’s a few picks anyway.

We’ve already highlighted director Amanda Berg’s Every Body Hit Somebody, which screens at 7:30 tonight, here, but it’s worth noting that she also has another film in the festival, Welcome Home, Fayetteville Observer, a short about daily military life on Fort Bragg, that screens ahead of Old South, a fascinating documentary by Danielle Beverly that looks at the interactions between a predominantly (and historically) black neighborhood in Athens with a newly-arrived white fraternity house that just happens to fly the Confederate flag and hold an annual antebellum parade. Jasper got to see an early cut of this film last year and found it to be a fascinating exploration of naiveté and oh-so-tentative understanding between unlikely neighbors. Old South and Welcome Home screen in the 5:30 block today.

We’d also be remised if we didn’t point out that today is the grand opening of all of the Future Perfect visual art installations that mark the first time Indie Grits has ventured so wholeheartedly into that arena. Over 20 artists are showing in various spaces throughout the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Main Street as they tackle questions about past, present, and possible futures for a 21st century South. Various tours are launching from the Nick at 6:00, 6:45, and 7:30, on which you’ll have the opportunity to ask the artists questions. We’re the tour guides on the 6:45 one, so you should probably cross the other two off your to-do list. We’ll have Oreos. Seriously.

In another bout of shameless self promotion, my podcast with Lee Snelgrove, Art, Pop, & Fizz, had a great conversation with Maureen Conner of the Institute for Wishful Thinking, which will have an installation in the One Columbia office at 1219 Taylor. Check that podcast out here.

A sample of Hollis Hammond's work, who will be showing in the Free Times gallery.

Last but not least, we’d like to strongly endorse checking out the Fork & Spoon and Friends show at Music Farm tonight. Fork & Spoon is celebrating five years in business, and they’ve consistently put out some of our favorite local records while also managing to be supremely talented and awesome individuals.

Below are a few of the bands playing tonight. See ya out there gritting it up.

Laura Kissel's Cotton Road Comes to Indie Grits by Abby Davis

Laura Kissel When asked what compelled her to make her film Cotton Road, a feature length documentary that takes the audience on a supply chain journey by following cotton from local South Carolina farms all the way to Chinese factories, Emmy nominated documentarian and professor at USC Laura Kissel explains it. “I wanted to know more about where our clothing comes from—what it takes to produce it, what the industrial processes and labor are like at each step, and why some clothing is so cheap. Why can we purchase a t-shirt for less than $10 when energy costs are high and when the raw materials to produce it have traveled thousands of miles? I am also deeply interested in other people, and so I wanted to make a film that tells this story from the point of view of workers in a typical cotton supply chain—farmers, truck drivers, migrant workers, etc. I wanted average workers to be the narrators, because they are voices we hardly ever hear from.”

Her ideas came together, and the film, which debuts in Columbia on Wednesday night as part of Indie Grits Film Festival, has already found great success and continues to do so. Cotton Road has screened at multiple festivals, universities, and community events around the country and even screened in Malaysia. Along the way, it picked up the Best Documentary award at the Beaufort International Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival, as well as four other awards.

Kissel says, “I’d like for audiences to think more deeply about where things come from and consider both our global connections to one another through the cycles of production and consumption that we participate in, as well as consider that there are human beings in supply chains…I hope people can be more mindful around consumption—particularly when it comes to clothing. Recycle what’s in your closet or if you really do need some new clothes, look for brands that have a strong commitment to transparency, a living wage, and sustainability…I’d like a nice mix of greater social awareness in a broader segment of the population.”

The documentary has sparked a variety of very practical viewer ideas including: making your own clothes, supporting local clothing producers and tailors, only purchasing clothes from secondhand and consignment stores, and stopping the mindless production of t-shirts for every single event.

If you enjoy Cotton Road, go ahead and get excited for Kissel’s next project. She says, “My next documentary will probably be a lot like Cotton Road. It will be a contemporary story, told by individuals who rarely get to speak in the national press in any significant way. I’d like to draw more attention to the growing gap between rich and poor and how this social reality physically structures and divides our communities. It will be in the style of Cotton Road—focusing on something seemingly mundane at first glance, but it will intensely reveal, over time, deeply entrenched social and political realities.”

Cotton Road is screening Wednesday, April 15th at 5:30pm during the opening night of Indie Grits Film Festival at the Nickelodeon Theater. For more information about the documentary, visit

Preview: 2015 Indie Grits, Day 1

IG-Logo by: Wade Sellers

Has it been 12 months already? Indie Grits begins its ninth festival today offering Columbia more artistic variety in less time than any previous installment.

The Indie Grits Opening Night Party blasts off at Columbia Museum of Art and Boyd Plaza. Be the first in line to check out the movie theater in a shipping container known as the Mini Cine. The best part of the Mini Cine is that it is free. There will be bands, beer and the party never disappoints.


Cotton Road is the screening with the most buzz on the evening. Laura Kissel’s film follows the commodity of cotton from South Carolina Farms to Chinese factories to illuminate the work and industrial processes in a global supply chain. The film has been gaining momentum on the festival circuit and has been met with praise after screenings across the country. This is Cotton Road’s premier in Columbia. Kissel will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening. If you don’t have a ticket, try to reserve one right now because it is sure to sell out [Update: Yep, it's SOLD OUT].

5:30pm- Nickelodeon Theater 2.

If you need to get you’re indie film appetite sated before the party, head to the Nick and check out the Four Minute Film Frenzy5pm- in Nickelodeon Theater 1.

People Portraits is a collection of documentary shorts about, well, people. 7pm- Nickelodeon Theater 1.

Lost Colony is a narrative feature from North Carolina Filmmaker Christopher Holmes. Named after the infamous failed settlement on the Outer Banks in the late 16th century, Holmes' film promises to feature plenty of lingering shots of the Tar Heel State's shorelines as the film explores--or perhaps undermines--traditional coming-of-age story expectations. -Kyle Petersen; 8pm- Nickelodeon Theater 2.


You have no excuse not to grab an Indie Grits schedule at the opening party, but if you have a major league excuse you cannot attend, the festival lineup can be viewed in detail here.

Jazz Under the Stars in Kershaw County

The Mark Rapp Band

The Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County (FAC) along with the City of Camden will partner to present a free weekend of jazz in historic downtown Camden Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25. Jazz Under the Stars is sponsored by First Citizens, Van Horn Agency, Inc., TruVista and Wells Fargo Financial Advisors/Roy Fakoury, CFP.

The weekend will kick off at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening at the City's new Broad Street Park on the corner of Rutledge and Broad Streets (1001 Broad Street.) Jeff Liberty will kick off the event followed by Palmetto Nights and The Mark Rapp Group will close out the night. Rutledge street will be closed for the event between Broad and Church Streets to accommodate for the concert goers.  Food and beverages will be available to purchase on site.

On Saturday, the Camden Middle School Jazz Band, under the direction of Nancy Neal, will perform at the newly located Farmers Market at 222 Broad Street on the grounds of Historic Camden. Their performance is scheduled for 9:00 a.m.

During the day, take time to enjoy the downtown shops and historic sites, have a leisurely lunch or dinner and then join us for the amazing Mike Frost Band at the Venue On Broad (1020 Broad St.) starting at 9:30 p.m. The Mike Frost Band is one of the South’s best jazz ensembles and will thrill any jazz enthusiast.


•About the artists:

Jeff Liberty earned his musical chops on the sidewalks of New Orleans' French Quarter, the back streets of St. Louis, and Beale Street in Memphis. Currently living in Columbia, SC, Liberty was voted "Best Local Solo Artist" in Columbia's Free Times Reader's Poll. A year later he formed the Jeff Liberty Band and was named "Best New Local Band" and "Best Local Blues Band" by Free Times readers in 2001. Stomping through the bars, juke joints, and blues festivals throughout the Southeast, Liberty has performed with Kenny Neal, Shrimp City Slim, Juke Joint Johnny, Sonny Landreth, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, and has also shared the bill with such greats as  Robert Plant, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Robin Trower, Cheap Trick, and The Marshall Tucker Band.

Jeff Liberty

Palmetto Nights (Sheri Speaks Berry, Geoff Collier and Brian Parmeter) — Sheri Speaks Berry is a native to South Carolina. She has lived in California and Pennsylvania and returned to SC in 2012 and began working with guitarist, Geoff Collier, soon after. Sheri fronted two bands  (one jazz, one folk/rock) in Pennsylvania. She studied vocal performance at both high school and college levels.  She is currently working towards her Master's degree and is employed by the Kershaw County School district.  Geoff Collier is a New York native who relocated to South Carolina several years ago as a psychology professor. Geoff holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and is a multi-instrumentalist who plays the saxophone, keyboards, and guitar. Brian Parmeter, a talented, upright bassist with a great love for the standards, recently relocated to South Carolina from Minnesota. Brian is an R&B veteran of the Uptown and downtown Minneapolis scenes. Jazz and the acoustic upright bass became his mainstays during a dozen years gigging in HoTown Michigan.

The Mark Rapp Group — Mark Rapp is a distinguished trumpeter, composer, arranger, didgeridoo player, recording and touring artist. He has released five diverse recordings, and is featured on the closing track of Disney’s "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" CD.  His celebrated 2009 debut release "Token Tales" (Paved Earth Music,) earned him a spot as a "Top Emerging Trumpeter" in Downbeat Magazine. His release “Good Eats” (Dinemec Jazz) had critics saying, “Rapp is quickly developing a reputation as a superb interpreter and great stylist, willing to tackle the history of this music with his eyes on the past and his mind on the present and future of this music,” according to Rapp has performed in jazz clubs and festivals around the world. He has performed with such greats as Brandord Marsalis, Hootie & the Blowfish, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Wycliffe Gordon, Nate Smith, Clerence Penn, and Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson.

The Mike Frost Band--Aiken, SC's Mike Frost Band - features the superb vocals and saxophone of Lauren Meccia energizing the music scene by blending together several musical styles to create a sound that’s all their own.  Anchored by the dynamic bass playing of Mike Frost - an artist with decades of worldwide touring and performing experience - they combine a crowd-pleasing sense of fun with adventurous, turn-on-a- dime musicianship.  As evidenced by their stellar CD releases, “Riddle Me This?” (2011,) “Get Frosted! Live at the Blue Horse” (2011,) “Frosty Christmas” (2012,) and “Live at the Red Pepper” (2013,) their sound contains elements of danceable funk, classic rock, and R&B, while their approach to jazz standards and modern ballads is laced with undeniable verve and performed with a soulful spirit. Mike Frost (bass) is a former student of jazz legends Pat Martino and Jaco Pastorius. He is a composer, studio musician, educator, recording engineer, and designer of Brickhouse speaker enclosures. Mike has recorded and performed with a long list of high-profile musicians including Donald Vega, Wycliffe Gordon, Jorma Kaukonen, Jimmy Bruno, New York Voices, The Gypsy Kings, David Mann (Tower of Power,) Manolo Badrena (Weather Report,) Todd Turkisher (David Byrne, Ute Lemper,) John Scarpulla (Tower of Power, Bruce Springsteen,) John Miceli (Meatloaf,) and George Cintron (Leslie West, Blue Oyster Cult.)  Lauren Meccia is a vocalist, saxophonist, educator, composer, and lyricist.  Listeners have said that her voice is like medicine,  comparing her tone to Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy, and Ella Fitzgerald.  Her saxophone sound has an organic warmth that is rare for the instrument, incorporating influences of bright jazz and dark classical styles and tonal colors. She is the director of jazz ensembles and instructor of saxophone and clarinet at USC Aiken.  She is the founder and director of the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) New Horizons Band, a beginning band for adults.

For more information, please call the FAC Box Office, or visit the FAC website at  The Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County is located at 810 Lyttleton Street in Camden. Office hours are Monday through Wednesday and Friday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Thursday 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

The Fine Arts Center is a 501c3 organization that is funded in part by the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding provided by the City of Camden, Kershaw County, and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina along with donations from businesses and individuals.

Mama Mia: Vista Queen 17 Takes the Stage

10857251_10153074956723718_5218575844651470967_o By Haley Sprankle

You are the Vista Queen, young and sweet, only 17!

Wait… That’s not how the song goes, is it?

17 years ago, Larry Hembree had an idea for a fundraiser that wasn’t your typical drag show.

“This event features men who would not normally (for the most part) do drag, but who we turn into men who really look like amazing drag queens, not just men in a bad dress with some ‘sort of’ make up on,” Hembree explains. “There is always a theme that gives it some focus. The wonderful Clay Owens produces it and it is hosted by Terrance Henderson and Walter Graham, both of who look amazing in drag. There are also some hot men as men in it too! The evening is all about helping Trustus raise money and everyone having one hell of a good time.”

You may be asking yourself, “What constitutes as ‘men who would not normally do drag?” With a ballet routine to the theme from Miami Vice that Hembree “will never forget,” Sherriff Leon Lott won the first pageant 17 years ago. That certainly set the standard for subsequent contestants.

“The production team searches for men who we think will have some fun and who have the potential to raise money from their friends and colleagues and, of course, who have the guts and confidence to put on a pair of panty hose in public,” Hembree adds.

The men dawning the dresses for this evening of drag include Tug Baker, Kevin Bush, Gregory Garrett, Mario Guevara, and Wade Sellers.

“I’m excited about seeing Tug Baker without a beard, seeing Mario Guevara as Amy Winehouse and seeing how the audience connects to Kevin Bush' persona,” Hembree elaborates. “I am also simply curious to see what Wade Sellers looks like in drag, and I am most excited to see how Greg Garrett bring his experience as a professional hair artist to his own self.”

While this is a pageant, it’s still a fundraiser, so the criteria for the queens’ success is based 60 percent on how much money they raise and only 40 percent on the judges’ score, including talent, onstage personality, and final questions. So, how can you help them win?

“You can give for each contestant directly to the contestant, by calling the theatre at 254-9732 and donating for a specific person, as an online donation or by attending the event (it sold out in 23 minutes this year) and making a donation to specific contestants at the event,” Hembree says.

While Trustus is currently raising money for their capital campaign, none of the money raised at the pageant goes towards the campaign or Marv’s, the new bar.

“All the revenue goes to helping with operations at Trustus. The amount of revenue from tickets sales each season only account for 33% of what is needed to meet the theatre's budget,” Hembree informs. “Fundraisers like this one help us make up the difference. Operational expenses include things like payroll (we have 10 full time and part time employees and over 150 other contracts per season as everyone who works at Trustus in any capacity gets paid), electricity, marketing, taxes, costs associated with producing our shows and educational programming and benefits like health insurance.”

At the end of the night, everyone is a winner; the audience gets a great show, Trustus gets better funded, and one queen will leave with the title of Vista Queen 2015.

“[The prize is] a lovely sash and some opportunities to appear in public as the most esteemed representative of the Congaree Vista,” Hembree says. “And of course a lot of grief from friends.”

Anybody could be that queen, so be sure to make it out to Vista Queen 17: Barely Legal on April 13 and donate to your favorite!

Preview: NiA Company Brings Back the Complex Slavery Tale The Whipping Man for an April 11-13th Run

11072297_834054930001388_3878248336643888339_o By Haley Sprankle

So often, when the topic of slavery arises, many make the rash assumption that all slave owners were bad and that all slaves hated their masters. It is assumed that slavery is solely an issue of racial prejudice. This clouds our understanding of slavery, all of its complexity and paradoxes, and how it ultimately comes down to incredibly personal and fraught relationships.

Fortunately, Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man, which the NiA Company is performing once again after a 2013 production, breaks that pattern.

The Whipping Man is on the surface about a Jewish Confederate officer that returns home at the end of the Civil War to find two of his former slaves waiting among the ruins,” says Charlie Goodrich, who plays Caleb, the aforementioned office. “However, more specifically, I think that it is simply about a family, one that exists beyond biological or socio-economical barriers.  The three men that appear on stage fight, poke fun, celebrate, and enjoy each other’s company as members of a family do.  No matter the political circumstances, the familial bond still exists between them.”

The play revolves around three characters; Caleb, John (played by Michael Clark), the elder of the two remaining slaves of Caleb’s family, and Simon (played by Darion McCloud), the younger of the two. The three characters celebrate the traditional Jewish holiday of Passover together as they attempt to ascertain the nature of their new relationship.

The Whipping Man addresses how it was possible for believers of a Faith that reveled in its celebrations of freedom could live with, condone, and put into practice an institution that vehemently juxtaposes itself against what they believed in the first place,” Goodrich explains. “Foremost, the play takes place during Passover in April of 1865.  The Jewish Festival of Passover commemorates the Israelites exodus from their enslavement in Egypt.  The three characters celebrate Passover with a Seder meal not long after the two former slaves were freed.  Throughout the dialogue leading up to this meal, various characters address what it meant to exist in the Jewish Faith as slaveholder and slave, and how this existence proved to be sometimes problematic in their understanding of this faith.”

Aside from the religious aspect, the play also calls into question not only the humanity of the situation the characters face, but the humanity of each character.

“Playing the aforementioned Confederate soldier has created an interesting crossroads between my personal feelings and the history of my family in this state,” confesses Goodrich. “It’s no secret that I’m a pretty liberal individual who has not always felt at home in a state that has historically been primarily conservative.  So, it’s no shocker that I went into the production thinking that a Confederate soldier would probably be a total 180 from myself.  However, a portion of my Grandmother’s family has been in this state since the 1690’s.  Towards the end of the 18th century, a portion of them moved from the Lowcountry to York County.  Most of this land, near the town of McConnells, is farm country, and my ancestors owned and ran plantations.  Coming across some of their wills in my ancestral research years ago, I discovered that they were slave owners.”

“This discovery got me to thinking: while I am liberal now, how would I have thought 150 years ago?  While I, in no way, support slavery or oppression, would I have gone along with my family then or rebelled against them? It’s so easy for me to judge slaveholders now, but how do I know what my ancestors in the same situation were thinking? Did they like owning slaves or was it just Southern tradition that they were observing?  To make a long story short, researching my ancestors has opened me up to approaching Caleb without bias.  He’s just a man, and like every other man, he has strengths and weaknesses as well as assets and flaws.  He makes mistakes and is faced with a lot of the same life decisions that exist to this day. I’ve even been able to find parts of myself within him, and vice versa. Becoming Caleb has proven to be not just a fascinating and rewarding experience, but a relevant one as well.”

Throughout the production, the cast and crew have partnered with Historic Columbia, Columbia Commemorates, One Columbia, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in tandem with the end of Historic Columbia’s Burning of Columbia celebration that began in February.

“Partnering with all of these institutions has been highly beneficial, most especially in bringing in different audiences to see our show.  Columbia Commemorates and Historic Columbia will bring in history buffs; One Columbia will bring in artists; while Unitarian Universalist will bring in an entire congregation of people that are curious to see the play that will be produced in their sanctuary.  Unitarian Universalist also used to be a synagogue, and performing the piece there will add to the atmosphere of the play.  Furthermore, all of our rehearsals have been at the Unitarian church as well, and the staff and members there could not have been more kind, receptive, and helpful. It has been a pleasure to work with them in such close proximity,” Goodrich says.

So now we ask, what did it mean to be a slave? What did it mean to be a slave owner? What does it mean to be a family?

With some intriguing answers to such questions, The Whipping Man runs April 11-13 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. Tickets can be purchased through or at the door.

“I hope the audience will leave with a stronger insight into what it meant to be a slave or a slaveholder at the time of the Civil War,” Goodrich concludes. “Also, I hope audience members leave with a better understanding of what it truly means to be a ‘slave.’  The word is not, for a lack of a better phrase, all ‘black and white.’  There are countless ways that people can be enslaved or enslave themselves, and the playwright does an astute job of bringing up this issue.”

Call for Submissions: The Vistovka Transporte Project, an Indie Grits Installation

273cd4_ae72c3345b6145828901f093b29f9e70 by: Abby Davis

Vistovka Transporte is a community driven arts installation coming to Indie Grits this year.  The project will use advertisements and public service announcements from the perspective of the city to illustrate how the people of Columbia view the future of public transportation.

Matt Tenebaum, the main brain behind Vistovka Transporte, says “It’s goal is to bring together these ideas under this year’s Indie Grits theme of future perfect and explore how people imagine an ideal Columbia, whether tomorrow or deep into a potential future.”

Borne from conversations with Andy Smith, executive director of the Nickelodeon, about doing a community-centered project that engaged with the festival’s theme, “Future Perfect,” the two eventually settled on the Vistoka Transporte idea. “We wanted a project that could get the community involved in the theme but also be a little satirical,” Tenebaum says. “When we discussed our mutual stories about biking and walking around Columbia, the idea to do the project about transportation began.”

The advertisements will be dispersed throughout the entire festival and placed in a way to make them look like natural advertisements done by the city. “We seek authenticity to both build the illusion that they are real and catch attention to the ideas they represent,” says Tenebaum.  A social media campaign will run simultaneously, serving both to draw attention to the ads and to explain the story behind them and the artists’ ideas for the future.

“Watching people think about issues or ideas that they feel strong about and then putting them into artistic form is a fascinating process,” Tenebaum continues. “Focusing that process towards a single subject reveals ideals and aspirations from many different people and paints its own picture of the community.  People want the city to be better; they aspire to live somewhere that has the things they want rather than just leave to somewhere that already has them.  They care, and for that reason I can’t wait to see what they have to say about their future perfect city.”

Submissions can be sent in through the website, or to  Images need to be submitted as a jpg at a minimum of 300 dpi and cannot contain nudity or profanity.  Other than that, however, the project is open to a wide array of possibilities.  A sample list of potential subjects includes: “new or potential bike lanes, buses and bus routes, highway expansion, light rail, ride sharing programs, passenger tail lines, airport development and international terminal creation, super sonic air transportation, magnetic levitation trains, extra-orbital flights, space elevators, space ports, lunar travel, flights across the solar system, and interstellar travel.”

“One of the things I hope for the Vistovka to accomplish for the community is to draw those ideas into the fore.  The quality of them doesn’t matter in the face of simply putting them out there as inspiration for more,” concludes Tenebaum. “In many ways, the Vistovka really is just a textbook brainstorming session using Indie Grits as a white board.”

Native American Rock Group Dark Water Rising Play at USC

DarkWaterRising_CharlyLowry_2015-03-27_1518 By Erika Ryan

Museums tend to revolve around nothing more than the past, but McKissick Museum presented its series “Traditions, Change, and Celebration: Native Artists of the Southeast” in a way that celebrates the Native American culture of today. With five public events, McKissick showcased native artists from all disciplines , but on April 3rd, native musicians will be in the spotlight for a concert with the group Dark Water Rising.

Although Native American music isn’t a widely known genre, Dark Water Rising is among the best in their niche. Based out of North Carolina, their sound teeters between blues and southern rock, and it’s clear that their music is deeply rooted in their cultural background.

Since their first album release in 2010, they’ve gotten plenty of attention — from radio play spanning across the East Coast, a feature on NPR, and two Native American Music Awards, Dark Water Rising captivated large audiences with deeply emotional, inspirational ballads, such as “Hometown Hero.”

Friday’s concert “Native and Now” is the final program for the “Traditions, Change, and Celebration” series, but the exhibition featured on the second floor of the McKissick Museum is open until July 25th. As part of the museum’s Diverse Voices series, the mission “Traditions, Change, and Celebration” was to explore how traditional Native American heritage is incorporated and maintained in the works of today’s southeastern, native artists.

The “Native and Now” performance will be at USC’s Booker T. Washington Auditorium this Friday at 7:30p.m., and while the concert is free to the public, be sure to claim a ticket on McKissick’s website before the show. - Jasper intern Erika Ryan


Review: John Mellencamp at the Township Auditorium

720x405-20140922_mellencamp_x1401 For most of the 24 hours leading up to John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s performance last Tuesday at the Township Auditorium, I made jokes about his name change. You would think that the joke would be stale, given that now-legendary rock and roller dropped the manager-demanded stage moniker in 1991. But, somehow, it still seemed to suggest some critical distance, as if, even if I liked Mellencamp’s songs, I still recognized them as the fluffier, commercially friendly flip side of the alt-country underground that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In truth, such a critical distance isn’t really necessary. Yes, Mellencamp had some rather dominant pop hits (“Hurt So Good,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “R.O.CK. in the U.S.A” among them) that felt like water-downed Springsteen, ready to be force-fed to an eager nation in the wake of Born in the USA’s mammoth sales, even if some of them preceded that blockbuster. But, by and large, Mellencamp wrote some of the best straight-forward roots-rockers of all-time, full of elegant small town details and genuine populist fervor, over the course of his career, and he's continued to write and record solid records, with 2014’s Plain Spoken greeted with critical if not commercial acclaim. Yes, he can come off as a poor man’s Springsteen, but really what he does is strip a lot of the excess from The Boss’s approach, writing with a keen sense of detail and little wasted in his spare lyrics. He arranges his songs similarly, balancing acoustic guitar and fiddle against understated electric guitars and organ with little in the way of soloing bombast or orchestral pretension. And I’ll be damned if the chorus to “Jack & Diane” isn’t the most perfect catchy-bleak-honest sentiment of any heartland rocker I’ve ever heard, Bruce be damned.

Plus, the whole Springsteen thing has probably followed him around enough as it is. If anything, generations of Americana singer/songwriters since the 1980s owe more to Mellencamp than he ever owed to his Jersey counterpart. Seriously, listen to folks like Ryan Bingham or Chris Knight and tell me they aren’t just pale imitations when you compare them to the real thing.

So how was the show you ask? Pretty good. Mellencamp opened with a couple of tunes from Plain Spoken as if to prove his songwriting hasn’t lost his step and each was full of his characteristic populist anger and cynical regret. He then proceeded to move smoothly between big hits and deeper cuts, keeping the crowd happy without devolving into pure nostalgia. His solid backing band was as unflashy as his recordings, with only violinist Miriam Sturm truly stepping out and showing off virtuosic chops. And although he was in fine vocal form throughout the evening, punctuating most every song with an energetic yelp or a holler, he seemed mostly bemused, as if he’s a cantankerous-yet-energetic young grandpa who is surprised to find himself surrounded by grandchildren given what a gruff he’s been throughout much of his life. The only time he addressed the crowd directly was to speak vaguely of history and aging, warning that “time is the only critic without an agenda” and delivering a cryptic parable about eating your eggs. It all felt vaguely like a performance Michael Keaton might riff on, Birdman-style, in the next few years.

While the hits might seem the obvious highlights (the acoustic “Jack & Diane,” replete with a gentle chiding of the karaoke crowd for prematurely jumping to the chorus, was genuinely moving), my favorite moments were on newer introspective ballads like “Longest Days” and “The Isolation of Mister” where Mellencamp’s weathered voice and wizened perspective were perfectly matched with the jaundiced philosophy of his earlier material. The other big surprise was when he went into full on Tom Waits-mode, playing up the cragginess of his voice as he sauntered around on stage with maniacal glee on bluesy romps like “The Full Catastrophe of Life.”

At the end of the day, a few people with me were still a bit bummed about some missed hits, but a set featuring “Small Town,” “Pink Houses,” “Cherry Bomb,” “The Authority Song,” and “Rain on the Scarecrow” can hardly be faulted for not giving the crowd what they wanted. For myself, I was just glad to see a legend who was still vital and creating new music while finding a comfortable way to please his audience and put on a good show. As we’ve too often seen, a 60-something rocker can do far, far worse. –Kyle Petersen

Revived Magazine Auntie Bellum Provides an Outlet for Southern Women to Speak Once Again

11051829_1793328944224801_2662040046559740819_n by Kirby Knowlton

Thirty years ago, there was a magazine for South Carolina women and their art, ideas, experiences, and concerns. This magazine was called Auntie Bellum and was first published in 1977. The founding editors wrote in the inaugural pages that “this kind of publication is long overdue. Women here have lacked some necessary tools for examining what experiences they have in common with those of other women.”

Today, Auntie Bellum is being revived by a new group of Columbia women. Though the original magazine only ran for four issues, it featured women of all different backgrounds and covered many different subjects. Auntie Bellum was a place for artists, activists, hair stylists, and beauty queens to write about everything from women’s history to health, politics to poetry. Meeghan Kane, the new editor, aims to pay homage to the original publication and grow a community for southern women.

“Like the original,” says Kane, “we’d like to focus on arts and culture, politics and health.” The magazine wants to show particular attention to the issues of domestic violence and reproductive rights, especially how they are being debated in the South Carolina State House. As a safe space for women to talk about all subjects, Auntie Bellum will “publish survivors’ stories from a broad range of experiences, including rape and assault, and struggles with sexual orientation, harassment, and discrimination,” says Kane. Auntie Bellum is looking for article-length content about any subject pertaining to southern women, including “the music and art they’re creating, the jokes they’re telling, and the stands they’re taking.” Not to leave the original publication in the past, the magazine also to include a great deal of southern women’s history.

Auntie Bellum is as necessary a resource for women today as in 1977. The original issues give evidence that there were more abortion clinics open back then than there are today. “Equal pay, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are all, unbelievably, still hotly debated topics,” says Kane. Auntie Bellum’s mission is to amplify voices who have the ideas and will to bring about changing the inequalities still affecting southern women. Kane hopes to include podcasts, photography, videos, and art in the publication and its website, “to get a bunch of women involved, and give us a broader reach and a longer run.”

The magazine will have a website up in early April, and plans on having its first print issue by the end of the year. The women involved are Meeghan Kane, Roxy Lenzo, Heather Green, Courtney Phillips, Sara Kennedy, Jenni Brennison, Brittany Braddock, Karla Turner, and Betty Benns. Auntie Bellum aims to be an inclusive publication, inviting anyone to speak who has a story to tell, regardless of age, gender, or sexuality.

For more information about Auntie Bellum, check out their Facebook page at or email them at

Director Bakari Lebby and Workshop Theatre Tackle Race, Class, Gender & Privileged with Stick Fly

stickFly by: Haley Sprankle

“I originally pitched this show as The Cosby Show with a sex scandal.”

Bakari Lebby definitely adds his own quirky spin on Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly, the fourth show he has directed this season at Workshop Theatre. No rookie to the stage, Lebby has been involved a myriad of productions for the theatre, but this is his debut as a main season director.

“It has been cool. It feels like home,” the young director says. “I brought over a show that I directed at Carolina for a two-night run about two years ago and that was my first time working behind the scenes there. I did two [productions] last year with two directors that I really respect, Chad Henderson and David Britt, so that was cool, but yeah, Workshop is home.”

While his theatrical home has changed a bit, Lebby adapts to working and staging in 701 Whaley’s Market Space where each of the previous shows this season were produced.

“Theatre can be done anywhere. The only thing is the time constraints,” Lebby elaborates. “We've already pretty much built everything, and it all has to go up in about a day which is totally cool because we have a great set designer, Billy Love. It's a cool space. It's pretty intimate, so I'm excited for close contact with the stage.”

The play itself revolves around the LeVays, a wealthy African-American family who come together for a weekend vacation. The conversations focus on the issues the family faces with race, gender, and privilege.

“They're like any other family,” Lebby explains. “Loving, protective. There are secrets. But they  are also extremely wealthy. Martha's Vineyard homeowners wealthy. Homes in Aspen and New York and Atlanta wealthy. On the surface, they could seem like the Huxtables [The Cosby Show] grown up.”

Lebby brings the audience into this world through his eccentric style in performance and design.

“Well, the play is set in Martha's Vineyard, so it will all be on the first floor of a beach house,” he says. “It will be like watching a Wes Anderson-type set (mostly thinking of in The Life Aquatic) where each room is very specifically different, but the actors very easily flit from one room to another while all still feeling like one all-encompassing space.”

“I wanted the set to be a bit sitcom-y. I've accelerated the dialogue a bit to match my style more. Actors are occasionally interrupting each other mid-conversation. That's also more my style. We've also taken the script and used it to make any character the protagonist or antagonist depending on the viewer's opinion or emotions.”

These opinions and emotions address very real controversy in what may be perceived as a surrealistic life.

“The play not only addresses race, but also class and gender roles. There are relationships where race is an issue more than class, race is an issue including class, class is an issue more than race, and so forth. Even within race, there are colorism issues which are still prevalent in current society,” Lebby points out. “It also brings up the whole point that racism is still alive, but no one wants to talk about it past pleasantries. Kimber [a character in Stick Fly] has a line that rings true, ‘They don't even want people to say that it still exists.’ It does, and I think this play brings up the point that the only way to make it better is to talk about it.”

Stick Fly opens March 27 and runs through April 4 and 701 Whaley’s Market Space. Call the box office at 803-799-6551, or order online at for tickets.

“I wanted to take a play that could have been only entertainment and turn it into a piece that makes people think and consider their relationships with family, friends, lovers, and strangers,” Lebby eloquently adds. “Oh, and I want you to be able to laugh also. Gotta have some laughs. And there are definitely some laughs.”

Actors’ Activism: Portraying Womanness and Feminism by Jasper intern Haley Sprankle

Feminism. Man-hating, bra-burning, hairy women running around and shouting, “Down with the patriarchy!”



While it’s true that some women don’t wear bras, some may not be interested in men, some don’t want to shave, and some are absolutely sick of the patriarchy, those behaviors and attitudes don’t define the whole movement. Feminists are not merely some stereotype running rampant through the streets, seeking to gain the upper hand over men. Feminism is simply “the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.”

“Feminism means a lot to me, in a lot of different ways, but most importantly it’s a social movement and a way of being that seeks equality for all people, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and so on,” says Alexis Stratton, who is co-directing of the reading of the play We Are Women! for the Women and Gender Studies Program’s 40th anniversary celebration, explains.

“Because of negative stereotypes, a lot of people think feminists are ‘man-haters’ or want to put others down, but it’s actually just the opposite. I think most feminists want to bring everyone up and want equality for everyone,” she continues. “And while the focus has predominantly been on women, we have to understand that everyone exists at an intersection of identities, and one is not free until all are free. I also think it’s important to note that there’s no singular ‘feminism,’ but instead, there are ‘feminisms’—plural, because there are so many kinds of feminism, and I think they should all be welcomed and celebrated and recognized.”

Stratton, a program graduate and published author who currently works at South Carolina Equality, is co-directing with Suzanne Vargas, a local clinical social worker and former high school English teacher with a similar passion for melding arts and politics. “Alexis asked me to help her with the production because she knew that I have directed Vagina Monologues before, and am a huge believer in art as advocacy,” shes says. “I love new adventures, especially when they include ways to commemorate the individuals who came before us.”



The play itself was produced by the Women and Gender Studies program in 1995 and features a series of unrelated vignettes that are connected through the women in them.

“The play has a very 1990s, second wave feminism feel to it—a kind of ‘we are women, hear us roar’ feel that reminded me a lot of the feminism of my mother,” says Stratton. “As a queer, gender non-conforming woman, I have a complicated relationship with ‘womanness’ and have only grown to understand and accept my identity as a woman and a feminist by deconstructing what it actually means to be ‘woman.’ So to have ‘womanness’ spelled out so plainly before me in this play, I was initially frustrated, because as a queer and feminist scholar in the 2010s, I’m immediately struck by the question, what does ‘we are women’ even mean? And can we even say ‘we are women’ anymore? And does that ‘woman’ actually include me?”

Ultimately, Stratton believes it does. “I couldn’t get to the point of asking these questions if these women who came before me hadn’t pushed the lines and boundaries that they were able to push—and able to push only through their tenacity and sacrifice and hard labor and boundary-crossing,” she explains. “So once I allowed myself to see that, to get out of the blindness of my of presentism, I became quite attached to the play and really excited about producing it—and seeing what kinds of energy and ideas the cast could bring to it.”

While the piece holds on to some of the second-wave feminist ideals, Vargas and Stratton worked together to modernize it and make it more relatable to current audiences and what they may experience as women of the 21st century.

“It wasn’t until Alexis and I talked about how this is a historical piece honoring where we’ve come from and hope to go that I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s made me much more aware of how, in order to understand what we are advocating for currently, we must know where we’ve been,” Vargas says. “When Alexis brought up the possibility of also adding a few more modern pieces to make the performance capture intergenerational and intercenturial voices, I began to see the piece as snapshots through several generations advocating; and in that I find so much beauty. That’s why I wrote “My Kind of Woman,” because it’s a story and a voice that not only captures my own relationship with feminism and womynism, but also it speaks to a civil rights issue that is so prevalent today.”

The question of whether or not feminism is relevant and necessary today has been raised frequently as movements like “Meninism” and Women Against Feminism arise.

“The world needs feminism, period,” Stratton says flatly. “The world needs feminism(s) because it teaches people to look at the world, to interrogate it and explore it and imagine how it could be different, more just and more whole. And then it gives folks the tools to make that new world happen, even if it’s a struggle, and even if we argue about how to get there. And those struggles are okay, because feminism(s) also teaches us how to work through those differences and arguments in real and productive ways.”

The co-directors and actors have worked hard to put together something entertaining, but also something living, breathing, and real to help teach what feminism is really all about.

“I am just blown away at seeing such amazing individuals put so much love and individuality into a supportive and beautiful artistic community,” says Vargas. “I think often about how I hope this is what developed 20 years ago when they did this play. I also grow more attached to certain pieces; I get excited when I know they’re coming, because each time they’re read, I feel a different woman’s story in it, if that makes sense.”

We Are Women! is a free, a one-night-only event this Friday, March 20th, at 7 p.m. in USC’s Law School Auditorium. Come out to celebrate the past, present, and future of women and watch their stories come to life.

“We don’t live in a post-feminist America, just as we don’t live in a post-racial America,” Stratton stresses. “Feminisms are real and alive and meaningful today—as you’ll be able to see in these actor-activists on stage.”

Edmund Yaghjian's "The Beginning of Women's Lib" on Display at USC Event

Yaghjian Edmund The beginning of women's lib  

The Women’s & Gender Studies program at the University of South Carolina celebrates its 40th anniversary Tuesday, March 24, 2015, with an event that honors its past as well as its future. Art and social justice will be central elements of the celebration.


Formed in the early 1970s at the height of the women’s rights movement, the program focused on teaching and research on women’s contributions to history and culture as well as women’s role in society. Over the years, the program has grown to emphasize intersections of gender with race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and other areas of social inequality. In 2008, the Women’s Studies Program became the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Then and now the program emphasizes  areas of women’s health and well-being; public policy, activism and social movements, as well as culture, literature and the arts. Social justice and community engagement are central to the mission and objectives of the program.


It is fitting that the 40th celebration, hosted by the Women’s & Gender Studies Partnership Council, honors three women – Marjorie Hammock, Harriet Hancock and Sarah Leverette -- who have fought the decades-long fight for social justice on the front lines in South Carolina. It is also fitting that a painting focused on women’s history and recently donated to the program will be unveiled at the event. Columbia artist Edmund Yaghjian’s 1971 painting The Beginning of Women’s Lib will be highlighted at the event. Yaghjian was a nationally prominent artist and served as Chair of USC’s Art Department from 1945-1966. The painting, in polymer, is a portrait of a suffragette being arrested and was one of the few paintings by Yaghjian that depicts a social message. It was donated to WGST by his daughter Candy Waites.


Also on exhibit at the event will be art from the program’s community outreach work. The Women’s Well-Being Initiative, founded by WGST to improve the overall well-being of South Carolina’s girls and women, believes that what is learned in the classroom translates to real-life outside the classroom. “Our arts-based juvenile justice arbitration program, coordinated through the Women’s Well-Being Initiative, offers behavioral rehabilitation interventions that give students a second chance,” says Dr. Sally Boyd, Chair of the WGST Partnership Council, the community board comprised of business, community, university and non-profit leaders. “Our research shows that adolescents who participate in these arts programs have the lowest recidivism rates of any similar programs,” Boyd says.


Dr. Olga Ivashkevich, Associate Professor of Art Education at USC, and an affiliate of the WGST program, conducts art and new media workshops for at-risk girls from local communities. Her research focuses on girlhood studies, social justice and feminist pedagogies. Works of art, created by Ivashkevich’s students, will be on display at the anniversary celebration as well. Their depiction of opportunities and challenges faced by young women and the underserved today are both moving and chilling in their honesty.


Art won’t be the only draw for the 40th celebration, however. The March 24th event is a fundraiser for the Women’s Well-Being Initiative. The party lasts from 6 pm until 9 pm, and features live jazz, open bar and plenty of good food and conversation. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased online.



USC Women’s & Gender Studies (WGST)

40th Anniversary Celebration

Hosted by the WGST Partnership Council

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

6 pm – 9 pm

Stone River

12 Alexander Street, West Columbia

Order Tickets


By Sheryl McAlister, editor of Old Broad & New Trix & member of WGST Partnership Council

USC Symphony Concert March 26

Victor Zeyu  

At the age of 16, Zeyu Victor Li was already wowing Columbia patrons of the university’s premier symphony orchestra. A Free Times reviewer wrote a glowing review of that 2013 concert – “Thrilling, bright, incredibly precise, energetic and athletic. Zeyu’s technique, the precision, pitch accuracy and musical delivery were astonishing.”

The prodigy returns to the Koger stage on Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. to play Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor with the USC Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro Donald Portnoy. Back by popular demand, the now 18-year-old Chinese violin virtuoso is quickly building an international reputation as one of the most prodigiously gifted young concert soloists to emerge in recent years – praised for his technical mastery, exuberance and calm confidence. Violin virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman called him a genius with a bright future.

Born in Huaunan City, in China, Zeyu Victor Li is a student of respected pedagogue Aaron Rosand at the Curtis Institute of Music - and is a recent prize winner at the Montreal International Violin Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, in New York.

He will play Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 on the March concert. The concerto is more conventional than the composer's early bold compositions and begins with a melody related to traditional Russian folk music. About the work, Prokofiev wrote, “The number of places in which I wrote the Concerto shows the kind of nomadic concert-tour life I led then. The main theme of the 1st movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the 2nd movement at Voronezh, the orchestration was finished in Baku and the premiere was given in Madrid.”

This concert also features some of the University of South Carolina School of Music’s top students in solo roles – the winners of the 2014-2015 USC Concerto-Aria Competition. The USC Symphony Orchestra sponsors the annual competition for USC students studying applied music on the Columbia campus.

Levi Cull, timpani, plays Raise the Roof for Timpani and Orchestra by Michael Daugherty; Cera Finney, voice, will sing Donizetti’s “O mio Fernando” from La Favorita; John Siarris, voice, will sing  Wagner’s “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Tannhäuser; and Susan Zhang, piano, plays Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb Flat Major.


Tickets on sale now

$30 general public; senior citizens, $25 USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Capitol Tickets 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets.

Coming up next on April 21 is the Berlioz Requiem with guest artist, tenor Christian Sebek.

Artist Kendall Jason is a Different Kind of Man by Jasper intern Grace Fennell

kendall Jason dorothy  

Kendall Jason was never “one of the guys”. A wide-shouldered, burly man, one might look at Kendall and be reminded of a lumberjack or construction worker.


One might be wrong. Kendall Jason is the new resident artist at Tapp’s Arts Center. His work is largely a commentary on gender roles and an attempt to challenge the perception of masculinity in our society. Jason also puts a spin on the normally accepted concept of framed art, and instead channels his ideas into a combination of sculpture, drawing, video, music, and performance art. Often in Jason’s work he attempts to walk the line between hyper-masculine characters and the feminine strength, dressing up in drag in his visual art performances as well as in super masculine costumes.


For Jason’s latest piece, The Dorothy Project, he does away with the concept of gender and performs a visual arts piece in which he dresses as the female characters from The Wizard of Oz. The piece addresses the urban legend of a sonic connection between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd, creating kind of a trippy, psychedelic feel. He can be seen as a man-ish disgruntled construction worker version of Dorothy, dragging large yellow cinderblocks behind him, in an attempt to re-build the yellow brick road. The idea behind it being what would it look like if he was Dorothy having to return to Oz, and rebuild the yellow brick road and bring the magic back into the bricks. The juxtaposition of the feminine characters and the “masculine” tasks creates a blur between the roles of gender.


Jason thoughtfully discusses his football years in college and how he enjoyed playing the game but never bought into the culture that went along with it. He could always physically compete but never felt comfortable in the role. With his long hair and alternative music, he never fit into jock culture, using music and art as his escape. It seemed to him that there was too much of one set version of “masculinity” involved in his environment. He felt that the way he looked made it very easy for him to fit in but mentally he wasn’t there at all. Jason preferred a wide variety of things. He not only enjoyed art, music, and performance, but he also had a completely different outlook on the way he wanted to act and live his life. He didn’t grow up in a household of intrinsic or enforced gender roles, and he continues that tradition with his own family. Everyone does every job in and outside of the house regardless of whether they are male or female.


It wasn’t until art school at NYU that Jason finally found his place when a mentor an arts professor advised him to understand the feminist tradition behind what he was doing. He needed to get to know his predecessors. This is where Jason discovered his talent and his unique way of expressing it. He honed in on identity theory and performative art and discovered how free an open one could be from social constructs.

kendall jason 2


Through the years, Jason has gained a wider understanding and become more free comfortable with expressing his own gender identity and opinions about the constructs of gender through his art. Often combining elements of masculine sports imagery with strong femininity, Jason questions and challenged why society so often puts women and men in such distinctly different boxes.


Jason’s new piece, The Dorothy Project, will open in May. Hear him speak during Peer Review at Tapp’s Art Center this Wednesday at 6 pm.


By Grace Fennell, Jasper intern

Celebrating Mark

Mark Plessinger Any other First Thursday evening for the past several years, if you were walking down Main Street and someone mentioned the name Mark, most anyone would know who you were talking about.

"Have you been to Mark's yet?"

"I just saw her at Mark's"

"What did Mark have to say about that?"

You wouldn't have to  use his last name, because anyone who knows anything about the arts in Columbia would know you were talking about Mark Plessinger, owner of Frame of Mind optics shop, and one of the founders and certainly the sustainer of the First Thursdays on Main arts crawl.

First Thursday got started back in the day when Mark Plessinger partnered with Mark Pointer who once ran a magazine called undefined. I met Mark (Plessinger) through Mark (Pointer) and we became instant friends. Like a lot of you reading this, Mark (Plessinger) and I share this sense of getting personal validation out of trying to make our immediate environment a place where we really want to live. We're selfish that way. I was lucky enough to watch Mark as he took over the undefined series and made it the FOM series, finally turning it into First Thursdays on Main.

I got to see Mark delve into areas of diplomacy that I'm sure he never thought would come with the job of doing something for the better good. I saw him negotiate with business owners, empower emerging artists, and bend over backwards to make sure that whoever wanted to share their creative gifts with the community were allowed to -- often on a stage he built himself. I don't know how many times I saw Mark reach into his own pocket to pay for security or publicity or any of the other errant expenses that accompany sustaining a major monthly arts event often on one's own. There is no telling how many things he ponied up for that no one knows about. And while he did it for himself, because it made him happy and because it felt good to him to be able to do so, he did if for a city and an arts community that desperately needed his specific contribution at the specific time he offered it.

Despite, or maybe because of his generosity, Mark is not a wealthy man. When circumstances with his Main Street shop and studio changed, he made the incredibly difficult decision to relocate his shop across the river, sadly leaving the business home he had opened for so many artists on Main Street. He will not be in his old space tonight -- though, happily, the precedent he set is being continued and Ivan Segura's art will be there.

Mark did what he was driven to do. He was brave. And he made Columbia a far better place than those of us who sit back and complain that our city isn't as perfect as we would like it to be.

Who knows how many people were impacted by the gracious generosity of time and spirit that Mark Plessinger gave to our city and our arts community. I'm guessing thousands.

Tonight, a few of us will gather with Mark to express our love and appreciation to him for all that he has done for us. We'll be at One Columbia about 6 pm, if you'd like to stop by. If not, and you see this tall, lanky dude on the street with a goofy smile and arms big enough to wrap around the world, you'll know its Mark. Because people will be repeating his name on Main Street, and throughout Columbia, for a very long time.

-- Cindi Boiter

"CMA Chamber Music on Main" Returns with Pianist Adam Neiman

Adam Neiman The Columbia Museum of Art presents the fourth concert in the 13th season of "CMA Chamber Music on Main"on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, at 7:00 p.m., intimately set in the museum's DuBose-Poston Reception Hall. Artistic director and internationally acclaimed cellist Edward Arron hosts an evening of chamber music with the Columbia debut of a composition by American pianist Adam Neiman.


Neiman is hailed as one of the premiere pianists of his generation, praised for possessing a truly rare blend of power, bravura, imagination, sensitivity, and technical precision. He is described as "...a new genius of the piano, capable of obscuring the legacy of the legendary interpreters of our epoch" by the Italian newspaper Corriere dell'Umbria. Tuesday's concert features his 2013 composition for violin and piano.


Maria Bachmann on violin, Hsin-Yun Huang on viola, and Neiman join Arron to perform:

  • Franz Schubert - Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F Major for Piano Quartet, D. 487
  • Adam Neiman - Serenade for Violin and Piano
  • Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns - Piano Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 41
  • Antonín Dvořák - Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 87


Final concert of the 2014-2015 on Tuesday, April 28.


Presented by U.S. Trust. $40 / $30 for members / $5 for students. All seats are on a first-come, first-served basis.


Happy hour at 6:00 p.m. Concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Museum shop and galleries open during happy hour.


For tickets and program information, visit

Q&A with Singer/Songwriter Hannah Miller by Jasper Intern Erika Ryan

Hannah Miller 0612 b After finishing college in 2003, Hannah Miller moved to Columbia for a band that ended up breaking up, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her music career.

She decided it was time to go solo, and she’s being doing it ever since. She ended up staying in Columbia for seven years, but in December of 2010, Miller moved to Nashville, where she currently lives and works.

Her self-named umbrella genre “pop/folk/soul” was relatively isolated in Columbia, but settled nicely into the Nashville scene. Miller is known in the folk community for her bluesy, singer-songwriter sound paired with her charming voice, and has released several albums and singles over the last 12 years, including her 2008 debut LP Into the Black and a trio of polished EPs that followed her move to Music City.

Miller is currently experiencing a surprising flood of interest thanks to a viral video created by filmmaker Danny Cooke that used one of Miller’s new songs, “Promise Land,” to soundtrack drone footage taken of Chernobyl and the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine. The video got an airing on 60 Minutes and has since gone on to get over 2 million views. “Promise Land” is available on iTunes now, but will also be on her new album, which she’s taking pre-orders for at her website here.

On Saturday, March 7th, Miller is set to play at Music Farm Columbia with her fellow Nashville-based and Soda City ex-pat Patrick Davis. Jasper was able to catch up with Hannah Miller and chat a bit about starting her career in Columbia, how the industry has treated her, and what she’s up to now.

Jasper: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience in Columbia when you first got into the music business solo?

Hannah Miller: Well, I was very young and inexperienced — I was just starting out, I had no idea what I was doing. Columbia was a really respective, welcoming place for me to start, I think. I remember sending the Free Times my very homemade demo that I made on my computer—that sounded awful—and they actually reviewed it and said nice things about it.

It was a great place for me to grow. There was a welcoming vibe about it — no one was snobby, I wasn’t looked down upon for just being a beginner. So, I’ve always appreciated that. I would just take my guitar and travel around to open mics and coffee shops around Columbia. It was a good place to be for traveling easily — Charlotte, Atlanta, Charleston are all right around there.

I’ve always thought it was a good thing that I started there.

Jasper: How is the community support for folk musicians in Columbia? What was it like starting out in that genre?

Hannah Miller: I felt like it was pretty supportive. I mean, it’s on a very small scale compared to Nashville because there were just not as many people doing it, so sometimes I felt a little isolated. No one was really doing that — none of my friends were really musicians in Columbia. But as far as the people that were doing it, I found it really supportive, and not competitive or anything.

I remember going to the South Carolina Musicians Guild, so that was a great community I got plugged into. I always felt accepted, and not judged. The only negative for me was the amount of people doing it — there weren’t that many.

Jasper: Do you feel connected to the music community in Columbia now, if at all? How do you think it has changed over the years?

Hannah Miller: I can’t say that I really feel connected anymore. I don’t know who’s playing anymore. I used to recognize names, knew them personally or at least had met whoever was playing, and now when I’m traveling through, and I hear who’s playing, I hardly ever recognize who it is or have met them.

I feel like it’s grown since I lived there, but I don’t know if that’s a matter of it being a different class of people. I don’t know if it’s growing, or if it’s different people doing it.

I feel like when I was there it was a little better of a time for venues, or places to play. Since I’ve been gone, it seems like a lot of places have closed, like the White Mule, I loved playing there.

As far as the listening room type of environments I like to play, it didn’t seem as hard to find, when I was in Columbia, to find places to play as it is now, trying to go back.

I’m excited that Music Farm is a new venue in Columbia, and I hope that my music will be better received there. I just feel like it’s kind of been a struggle, because it was going strong there for a while and now a lot of venues closed down and it feels like there’s no where to play.

Jasper: What has it been like climbing the popularity ladder? Was there any specific moment where you felt as if you “made it”?

Hannah Miller: No, [Laughs] not really. I don’t know who said this quote, but it was something like “No success is permanent, and no failure is permanent,” and I feel like that’s very true in music. If you think, “Oh, people are paying attention,” it goes away very quickly — then you could think, “Ugh, this sucks, nobody cares,” or no one came to your show or something, but that’s not permanent either. For me, it’s just up and down.

The biggest thing, recently, this video used a song of mine, and it went viral with millions of views. It was just kind of like, “Cool, this is happening!” Even then, I just never trust in that place of feeling successful, because it’s probably going to go away and I’ll have a time when it’s quiet and not much is going on.

I don’t feel like there’s ever a “made it” place — there’s making it, then not making it, then making it again… you know. I feel like it you go to a place where Bono and U2 is, you could say, “yeah, I’ve made it.” [Laughs] But for independent artists like me, it is just moments of success and glory, followed by moments of failure and depression.

Jasper: [Laughs] Well, I guess that’s true. How does Nashville’s arts scene compare to a smaller, less music-centric city arts scene like Columbia?

Hannah Miller: Nashville is just great — on one level, you don’t feel like a weirdo anymore. All your friends are musicians, they know what you’re going though, and they don’t look at you weird when you tell them you’re a singer-songwriter. [Laughs] Everybody’s doing it, everybody understands the struggle of it, and that’s cool.

And on the other hand, you could be in town and working. Versus in Columbia, I would always have to travel and book shows outside of Columbia, because there’s just not that many opportunities to play in town, other than just playing cover gigs at a bar, which I didn’t really want to do. So if you wanted regular work, you have to book shows and travel.

I just had a baby last year, so I had to cut back on traveling. So, it’s a great place to be if you want to focus on songwriting and recording, but you can play all over Nashville all the time if you want to, too. It’s just such a huge scene, and the audiences aren’t going to overlap that much, because there are a lot of tourists. You’re always playing for different people, so you’re not necessarily burning out your welcome, even if you play at the same venue every night.

Those things I’ve found to be really great about Nashville. There’s so much going on, so even if you’re not doing it, you still feel like you’re in the middle of it — your friends are doing it, they’re doing cool things and you can live vicariously through them. There’s a lot of music going on, so it’s kind of a cool vibe here.

Jasper: What brought you back to Columbia for your show in March? Was it just by chance?

Hannah Miller: Yeah, that was just my friend Patrick Davis — he invited me to play with him. We’ve done some shows together and he’s really great, so I always try and say yes when he invites me to play, so that’s what brought me back this time.

I’ve tried to play [in Columbia] once or twice a year, to try and stay connected a little bit to my home base.

I haven’t been back that much — this will be my first show in Columbia for a while, I think, maybe even a couple years. I don’t know, I can’t remember the last time I played in Columbia, which is crazy. [Laughs]

Jasper: So how does it feel to come back and perform here? Is there a sentimental aspect to it?

Hannah Miller: I mean, a little bit. It feels—I don’t know—different. When I first moved away and I would come back to play, it would feel like some kind of homecoming — a show with a bunch of friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. So when you’ve been gone for five years, it’s kind of changed. More people I don’t recognize will be at the show. It’s not as much about, “Aw, my friends are here” and playing music for fans, more than just old friends.

But, we can still get some old friends to come to the show, and that’s cool. I also love being able to come and eat at old places that I miss. [Laughs] So I guess it is a bit like a homecoming.

-Jasper Intern Erika Ryan

The Women of Troy: Teaching the World Equality Through Theatre by Haley Sprankle

Jasper Intern Haley Sprankle in Trojan women “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation; we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Patricia Arquette’s rousing Oscar acceptance speech not only called to question the inequality women today face all over the world, but the inequality women have faced throughout time.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW):

  • Hispanic and Latina women were paid 54 percent of what white men were paid in 2013.
  • Women make up just 14 percent of the engineering workforce.
  • Women represent only 18.5 percent of Congress.
  • 24 states have never elected a woman governor.
  • The United States ranks 60th globally in women’s political empowerment.
  • 60 percent of sexual assaults have gone unreported since 2009.
  • Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • More than 22 million working women do not have paid sick days.
  • Half of working mothers say that they often take unpaid time off to care for a sick child.
  • So far in 2014, state legislatures have introduced 468 restrictions on women’s bodies, and zero for men.

(“10 Stats on Women’s Equality That Might Be Scarier than Halloween,” AAUW)

These striking statistics reinforce how the nation and the world needs to raise awareness and fight for gender equality.

One way that can be achieved — through the medium of theatre.

The University of South Carolina’s Lab Theatre opens Trojan Women, and immersive theatre experience written by Euripides, and directed by senior Kelsea Woods Thursday, Feb. 26.

“Feminism definitely plays into the show. First of all, it’s a show with eight women and two men which is something that you almost never see in modern theatre, much less Ancient Greek theatre. That’s definitely a feminist aspect right off the bat,” sophomore Brooke Smith, chorus member, explains. “I also think the play, especially our interpretation of it, shows women persevering in an extremely difficult, tragic situation and uniting together to take control of their own fate. If that’s not some awesome feminism, I don’t know what is.”

These women of Troy, both fictional and historical, represent all women in their own respective manner in the way they act and the way the actors describe them. They are broken, fervent, observant, good-hearted, strong and resilient women who face unsurmountable odds.

“It’s not Cassandra’s fault she is crazy — It’s Apollo’s. Literally the only reason she is crazy is because she said no having sex with Apollo. Everyone else treats her like she is insane, so she is,” senior Rebecca Shrom, playing Cassandra, elaborates. “Honestly, she is one of the only people who accepts her fate and takes it head on. Everyone else is all, ‘Woe is me. Weep for me,’ while Cassandra says, ‘Watch me while I destroy our enemies, the thing the men couldn’t do.’”

While each woman has their individuality, they also come together as one to face the world that crumbles before them.

“This very easily could be a play of women being very, ‘Take pity on me,’ wallowing, and just succumbing to this force and subordinating. In the way that I’m reinterpreting it, I’m seeing these women and their general call to action to these crimes that the Greek people would have seen as a feminist platform in today’s society where they are constantly rallying and actively not giving up. Even when the only thing they have left is to express their grief and weep, that is so powerful to them,” Woods adds.

This grief plagues women today as it did the women of Troy and of nations past.

“A big thing that we’ve talked about and something I’ve been kind of looking into more is the idea of women really being the true victims of war as far as being prone to war crimes such as systematic rape like what’s going on in Syria and all these crazy things where men use them as objects to gain power,” Woods says.

As a first-time director, Woods has created the world for the women of Troy in a new, modern way.

“In bringing it into our world and approaching it with a modern sensibility, I chose a translation that would allow for that. It’s still heightened text, but the translator did a fantastic job of making it so immediate, that I think modern audiences will respond to that. In kind of going in that way and as its very much a reflection of issues going on now, I just wanted to bring the whole production from design, staging, going about it in a new, nontraditional way — I just wanted to bring all of that modernity into a new interpretation of a classical text,” Woods says.

Not only does Woods modernize the world to make it more applicable, she offers the idea of immersive theatre.

“This is not your typical production. The intimate, immersive quality of the show is unlike any other I have had the opportunity to work on. Audience members will have no choice but to fully engage with this timeless story. This theatrical experience is all encompassing,” junior Jamie Boller, playing the lead of Hecuba, adds.

This new theatrical concept mixed with an old struggle for women’s rights and respect brings the audience into a world where they are forced to face the facts that the world still has room for improvement.

“Our community has expanded in a greater sense than what it once was, but it still calls for empathy, compassion, understanding, all these things that we often lose sight of, but are so incredibly important. Being aware of these factors helps things like war not happen. Especially given all the current political situations — it’s the same issue we’ve been dealing with for thousands of years, but we haven’t learned fully from our mistakes just yet,” Woods says.

Through these overwhelming statistics, this powerful story, and the women who have dealt with and continue to deal with these issues, there is a lesson to be learned from Hecuba, the main character:

“Life means hope,” and that hope is that the world will change for the better as women continue to strive for equality.

“This show really demonstrates that women have the ability to fight back in their own way,” junior Cami Reid says, “Even under the most devastating of circumstances.”