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Jason Rapp

A look at SLED’s forensic artists

Bringing descriptions to life


Most of the time, being the subject for a professional artist is an aspiration, if not a treat.

If you are a subject for artists Deborah Goff or Lara Gorick, you've made some questionable life choices. Both are senior special agents with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and both use their artistic skills to help law enforcement find alleged criminals on the lam. WCBD TV-2 in Charleston aired a fascinating story with the SLED agents last week. It takes a good look at the process of putting a forensic sketch together and the services these unique #SCartists provide:
  • composite sketches
  • forensic facial reconstructions
  • post-mortem images
  • and age progressions.
It's definitely worth a watch:

Jason Rapp

Tuning Up: Student art call + Carter Boucher, Adrian Rhodes news

Good morning! 

"Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...
[caption id="attachment_34666" align="alignright" width="150"] The world-famous Hub Calls for Art Megaphone.[/caption]

ArtFields Jr. is looking for student art

Submission deadline: February 12, 2021 The ArtFields Jr. Art Competition is open to South Carolina students in grades 1 through 12. All artwork submitted is considered by their review panel. Select pieces will be displayed during the month of April and final judging takes place during ArtFields. Schools and families are encouraged to attend the awards ceremony to support their student artists and developing artists throughout the community. Submissions for the 2021 competition are open through February 12, 2021. For complete details of the ArtFields Jr. competition, click here.

2020 is stopping neither Carter Boucher...

(Submitted material) Clarence Carter Boucher, Arts Access South Carolina master teaching artist, is continuing a very successful year. The website/blog https://www.detour-ahead.org/ is featuring three of his paintings and information about his art career, live now here. Plus:
  • "Art from the Heart," a hardback book about art, is going to include his oil portrait, Jesse James, composer.
  • Hip Pocket Press is publishing a piece of his flash fiction, Postcard to a Train Conductor.

... nor Adrian Rhodes

The 2020 SCAC visual arts fellow made a book of recent drawings, currently on view at 701 CCA as part of the 701 Prize Finalists exhibition. She is taking preorders for the book on her website through December 3rd.

Submitted material

McCormick school a beneficiary of new murals

MACK program completes three new murals at elementary school

[caption id="attachment_45821" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Artist Darion Johnson sits for an interview in front of his mural Artist Darion Johnson sits for an interview in front of his mural “Science Discovery: Oceans” at McCormick Elementary School.[/caption]

There are now three new murals on the McCormick Elementary School campus that provide engagement for specific educational goals: science, inquiry, and innovation.

These murals, painted by South Carolina artist Damion Johnson, are made possible through the McCormick Art Council (MACK) program "Painting a Brighter Future," a public art program designed to engage our community members, students, and visitors. We are able to combine the intentions of this public art program and help our schools deliver a series of engaging, rich, and vibrant paintings designed to make the student feel immersed in the learning environment. Each mural at McCormick Elementary School adheres to the curriculum standards and pacing guides for lesson plans and utilizes the arts as an important learning partner in providing a quality educational experience to our students.

BONUS CONTENT: Artist Darion Johnson discusses Science Discovery: Oceans on YouTube

This project was made possible through an Arts in Education grant provided through the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. It is also an extension of the school district's participation in the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project mission to provide students with quality art education and advance our student's educational experience by providing access to the arts for daily learning experiences. Most importantly, our students and teachers have celebrated the project and are actively enjoying and creating moments of learning engagement. The sheer scope and presence of the learning murals has transformed our school hallways with a quality project that excites, engages, and celebrates art in education. The images are truly spectacular. Our greatest accomplishment is to deliver these high-quality discovery walls for our students to enjoy. The look of awe and amazement on our littlest community members was worth every challenge this school year. We also are very encouraged by the continued greater commitment and value that art has to offer non-art curriculum. We believe these projects have accomplished achieving support and recognition for the value art has in enhancing our student's educational experiences. MACK extends its thanks to everyone involved.

Meet the Artist: Damion Johnson

“Art is the one thing that makes you enjoy the world. Art is far more important, far more than just being important to the world, it is the world. It is the world.” - Damion Johnson

Damion Johnson, a talented artist and native South Carolinian, is the featured artist for this series of educational murals. He is a regional artist, educator, and entrepreneur. His work was featured at the McCormick Arts Council (MACK) in October 2014 and again in September 2016. He is the visual arts teacher at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and was notably selected to represent his school as Teacher of the Year for 2018/2019. He is a professional artist and small business owner who represents the Orangeburg community. Johnson’s artistic journey formally began under the watchful eye of his middle and high school art instructor and uncle John Scott, who planted the seed for developing his artistic trade. Damion continued his studies and earned his bachelor's in professional art from Claflin University and now teaches and operates a successful art studio, as well as a barbershop, to serve his community. His current work honors a process Damion uniquely coins as the ‘capturing what is felt" ideal. His artistic work transforms song lyrics, phrases, and emotions into visual statements. Damion’s art features collage-style compositions where figures often exist on different planes in very involved ways and defines the character of his unique painting style.

Jason Rapp

SCAC prose fellow publishes new book

Scott Gould's latest available now


Scott Gould, a two-time recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission's prose fellowship, is out with his latest book.

[caption id="attachment_13111" align="alignright" width="150"] Scott Gould[/caption] Koehler Books Publishing is out with Whereabouts, in which Gould "lyrically weaves a tale of escape and redemption and, ultimately, of how love somehow survives, no matter the twisting paths it travels." Here's a synopsis from Koehler:

"[a] coming-of-age story of an independent teenager who desperately longs to flee her small, claustrophobic hometown following the unexpected death of her father and her mother’s sudden remarriage to the local funeral director. As she attempts to map a new course for her young life, Missy’s search is constantly derailed by the men she encounters ... Missy Belue wanders the back roads of a forgotten South, looking for a safe place to land, earning fresh scar tissue from the confusing, complicated world outside her hometown."

Gould is the author of the story collection, Strangers to Temptation (Hub City Press, 2017). His work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Carolina Quarterly, Crazyhorse, New Madrid Journal, The Bitter Southerner, Black Warrior Review, Eclectica, The Raleigh Review, New Stories from the South, and New Southern Harmonies, among others. He is a past winner of the fiction fellowship from the South Carolina Academy of Authors and is creative writing department chair for the South Carolina Governor's School for Arts & Humanities.

Submitted material

2020 College of Charleston theatre grad wins national award. Again.

[caption id="attachment_45697" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Noah Ezell headshot Noah Ezell.[/caption]

Recent College of Charleston alumnus Noah Ezell (2020) had completely forgotten about the award.

He’d entered his submission way back in January and, to be fair, there have been some major distractions since then. So, when he recently learned he’d won the 2020 national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Undergraduate Theater Scholar Award, it was a welcome surprise—one the College of Charleston theatre major really needed. “This award reaffirmed for me something that felt a little more distant than it did in early March. I needed that reminder that this field is my home, that this is what I was designed to do,” Ezell said. His winning paper, “Metamodernism of the Oppressed: An Exploration of Metamodernism and Its Surfacing in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ‘An Octoroon,’” was derived from his senior thesis paper. The KCACTF is a national theater program serving as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the U.S. In order to further student activity in the discipline of scholarship, the prestigious national awards program encourages and rewards research and scholarly writing among undergraduates throughout the nation. But this isn’t Ezell’s first national KCACTF award. Last year, he received the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA)/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award for his work on the college’s production of Marisol by José Rivera. “It was through the LMDA/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award that I made a network of artistic connections, and I was able to intern at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, one of the leading new play development centers in America,” Ezell said. “From there it’s just been a sort of spiral as my networks of connections and collaborators have grown, and my love for new plays and new play dramaturgy has expanded.”
  Since graduating in May, Ezell has stayed busy with several projects, carving out a place for himself in the professional theater world, one that has all but come to a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic. “Even though things aren’t what I thought they would be, I’m getting to create art with my friends, and that’s really soul filling for me,” says Ezell, who is currently serving as a dramaturg for a friend’s new play about queer bodies and trauma as well as a script reader for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, among other things. “I’m lucky that in the midst of all this I am still able to connect theatrically in all these different ways.” Ezell hopes to have a career both in new play development theater and, later, in academia. “Ultimately I am both an artist and an academic, which is why I love dramaturgy so much. It melds those two worlds in a very beautiful way,” he said. “At the core, though, I really just want to fully support myself with my art and help make art that is socially conscious, lifts up the voices of underrepresented groups and makes a difference in the world.”

Jason Rapp

Platts issues SCAC statement on Marjory Wentworth

 

Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission


Earlier today, on Facebook, South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth announced she is resigning from the post. She provided no further details in that medium, and the South Carolina Arts Commission is not aware of any. [caption id="attachment_26773" align="alignright" width="200"]Marjory Wentworth Marjory Wentworth, the former poet laureate of South Carolina. Photo by Andy Allen.[/caption] As she is a notable figure on the state's arts and culture scene, South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director David Platts issued the following statement:

"On behalf of all of us at the South Carolina Arts Commission, I wish Marjory well and thank her for the many contributions she has made while serving as our state’s poet laureate.

Throughout much of history, poets have played a significant role in examining and addressing important issues of the day through the lens of their art. The stature of the poet laureate’s position allows all of us to see and recognize that the arts do not merely exist for their own sake. Rather, they can provoke thought, self-reflection, and meaningful dialogue across a wide range of opinions and perspectives, and they can unify by appealing to our better instincts.

In all times, but most especially in uncertain times like we are currently experiencing, artists like Marjory Wentworth exemplify and demonstrate the relevance and the importance of the arts to our daily lives.”


About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.

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Six #SCartists awarded by Artists Collective Spartanburg

[caption id="attachment_45617" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Harriet Hancock Center | Gregory Wilkin | 2020[/caption]

The second annual 2020 juried art exhibition presented by Artists Collective | Spartanburg has eight winners from the Carolinas, awarding a total of $4,500 in cash prizes.

The four-state show (South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia) had 2-D and 3-D entries from all four states but only 67 were chosen. The show opened Sept. 15 and will end Oct. 17. The public can see these outstanding works Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at no charge. The gallery adheres to all social distancing protocols in its efforts to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The winners were announced virtually Saturday, Sept. 26. “We are very pleased with this year’s show,” the Collective’s Management Board Chair Beth Regula said. “Especially in light of the pandemic. A lot of the work this year addressed social issues that the world is now facing, something I believe is very telling about how stress influences the creative process. Also, I think overall the work is very accessible to non-artists. This is a show that anyone can visit and take away some thought-provoking concepts, as well as some great beauty.”
First place was taken by Gregory Wilkin for his oil painting — Harriet Hancock Center, Melrose Heights, Columbia. “I am very flattered by the win because the quality and creativity of the other entries were so strong that I really had no expectations,” Wilkin said. “Watching the video of the announcement of winners was a big and very pleasant surprise.” This image of a house and parking lot has many messages—everything from gay pride to urban trash hidden behind walls — and is presented very cleanly, as if to make sense out of the conflicting morals of today’s woke culture. Each element — the lush greenery, the modern architecture of the white house, the red pickup truck, the trash bins, the rainbow flag — seems isolated and carefully placed in the composition to find tenuous balance and create contrast in the overall image. It is thought provoking in both its subject matter and applied technique. Wilkin’s first place gives him $2,500 from The Wendy Mayrose Memorial Award. “I have been working on scenes of Melrose Heights in Columbia, where we are living for the past couple of years,” Wilkin said. “It is a mix of influences that have driven my recent work. This piece was attempting to capture a moment in time that normally would have been overlooked and yet when examined closely actually carries in it the currents of our time and the beauty of the eternal.” Wilkin was reared in southeastern rural Ohio, and he and his wife Candace have three children. For 26 years, he worked as a graphic designer in New York City for most of the major publishing houses, art directing book cover designs. In his spare time he painted and showed his work in several solo exhibitions at the Frank Miele Gallery in Manhattan. His work was chosen by UNICEF to grace its Christmas card in 2000 and has been exhibited in the U.S. Senate Building in Washington. His work has been featured in Country Living Magazine, Down East Magazine, Yankee Magazine, and Maine Boats and Harbors. He has been profiled many times by the news media.
Second place was taken by Seth Scheving of Anderson for his work Ignorance Was Bliss, a watercolor and ink on paper work of a blindfolded white man wearing a shirt made from an American flag. He received $1,000 from the Friends of Artists Collective | Spartanburg. “I actually watched the video at 10 a.m. (Saturday, Sept. 26) with a lot of nerves,” Scheving said. “I just had a weird feeling, I guess. I kept watching and waiting as they were announcing the pieces, and when they got to the third-place winner, I was at the edge of my seat – hopeful but keeping my expectations low. Then they changed scenes, and they were standing in front of my piece, and I got really overwhelmed. I cried. I’ve never won anything on this level. The piece was my most politically driven, and I didn’t know what the response was going to be. I was content to be included – never would’ve thought it would win an award.” This entry is a wonderful example of hyperrealism used sparingly to drive home the political message. Front and center is a blindfolded white man wearing an American flag that is in contrast to the white-on-white background all-cap letters that repeatedly spell WHITE PRIVILEGE. The man is expressionless, however, he wears a Cleveland Indians baseball cap with the red-faced Chief Wahoo logo bearing teeth and raging eyes. Careful examination shows the man’s skin is a rainbow of colors. “As a middle-class white male living in the Southeast, this painting is for all my white peers who do not realize the privileges we have benefited from,” Scheving said. “I am more speaking to the crowd who think they have no part in it. Choosing to remain ignorant or uninvolved is just perpetuating the problems. We need to be aware of our failings and teach the next generations how to make meaningful change in our country. Equality needs to be an equal opportunity for all, but before we can have that, we really need equity -– we spread the resources to those who need them most, so we can all have an equal starting point. No one is born racist: It is a learned behavior. We need to teach our youth that everyone belongs.” He plans to donate a portion of his winnings to the Urban League of the Upstate. Scheving grew up in North Dakota before moving to the Anderson area in 2008, where he attended Anderson University. As an undergraduate, he discovered his love for watercolor and has been painting with the medium since 2009. He specializes in watercolor and producing work that illustrates vulnerability, dark undertones, self-reflection, or subtle humor. During the past decade, Scheving ventured into graphic design and marketing for about six years, until ultimately becoming a high school art teacher in 2019. He has also served as an instructor at the Anderson Arts Center and has been on the curation committee since 2019. His work has been shown in various South Carolina galleries and shows. Most recently, he has been invited to head an Anderson Mural Project, hoping to raise awareness for social injustices.
In third place is Bennett Stowe for her impressionistic Dining Room, a vibrant still-life that accentuates a large dining table in a refined room with red wallpaper. The work is in acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastel. Stowe, who lives in Charlotte, received $500 from the Collective. This exaggerated and impressionistic image of a dining room gives the patron a sense of luxury gone awry. A passionate red used in the wallpaper and intermixed throughout the image dominate the palette, but the room is grounded with darker colors in the floor rug and lighter — airy — colors on the ceiling. The dining room table is grossly exaggerated from the back of the room to the edge of the canvas, making it both inviting and revolting at the same time. It is the sort of image a patron can study for a long time, taking in the various elements and wondering how they come together to create a dreamy room that just might be nightmarish. “This work was inspired by my childhood home and the often troubling and unstable conditions that surrounded growing up there,” Stowe said. “This dining room is the space where my family and I had dinner together most evenings -- or, at least, that’s what I remember. When my parents began their divorce and things started to fall apart more, I remember walking into that room and it felt so dark and cold and vacant. All of those feelings had dissipated and the warmth that was once there only existed in my memories. When I worked on this painting, I used a photograph of the house as a reference, but the majority of my decisions were made through those feelings and memories. Stowe grew up in Charlotte and attended Virginia Commonwealth University to study art. She graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking with a double major in gender, sexuality and women’s studies, as well as a minor in art history. She has a passion for animals and worked as a veterinary assistant while living in Richmond before moving back home to Charlotte because of COVID-19. “I honestly don’t find painting to be very easy or even very fun a lot of the time, but I do feel it is something that is an important part of my identity and a way that I can conquer my own internalized feelings and ideas that I often have trouble dealing with in real life,” she said. “The challenge of working through a painting and creating an outcome that exceeds my own expectations is one of the most rewarding feelings.”
In addition to the first, second, and third place winners, there are five merits award winners, each of whom received $100:
  • Wendy Converse of Salem, South Carolina, was recognized for her wood-fired ceramic, Twisted Barrels Tested by Fire, which is organic and almost biological in its conveyance of three opened-end tubes that melt and merge downward to a singular base.
  • Tomya Henderson of Greenville won for her abstract The Essential Worker painting of crowded black handprints holding cotton bolls against a red, green, and yellow backdrop.
  • Aldo Muzzarelli of Mauldin received merit attention for the mixed media work Unprejudiced and Coloress Rain, a portrait of a young African-American woman looking heavenward, amid colorless butterflies and shingle-like raindrops, with the lower portion of the canvas showing cracks in the mixed media of acrylic, graphite and metal leaf on canvas.
  • Lynne Tanner of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, entered untitled#1, a nonrepresentational acrylic painting that utilizes a strong yellow base overlaid with striking and intrusive elements of a black and white tubular slant, three red dots, and a multi-hue blue capstone.
  • Mary Hannah Willingham of Fountain Inn presented Forever on Call, a 3-D creation of a wooden cabinet door, supporting an old-fashion (landline) wall-hanging rotary telephone that uses a red 6-inch high heel shoe as the handset.
The jurors (judges) for this show were Alice Sebrell, program director for the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville and Connie Bostic, a late-blooming and highly involved artist in Western North Carolina.
Artists Collective | Spartanburg is a membership-based and member-focused organization, providing low-cost studio space to more than 30 working artists. Its membership is more than 50. The Collective is housed in what was once a three story Baptist church. Each month (when safe from the pandemic), the Collective hosts three art exhibitions showcasing its members and guest artists. It has two galleries and the once-sanctuary now serves as a large gallery space, as well as a venue for performance art. Its annual juried show has some of the largest cash prizes in the region. Most works are available for purchases at the Collective, located at 578 West Main Street, Spartanburg, SC. For more info, please visit online: ArtistsCollectiveSpartanburg.org.

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Award-winning S.C. poet to lead workshops in Georgetown Co.

Award-winning poet Marlanda Dekine, Sapient Soul, will lead a series of poetry writing workshops this October and November in her native Georgetown County.

[caption id="attachment_45489" align="alignright" width="251"]Close up facial image of Marlanda Dekine, Sapient Soul Marlanda Dekine, Sapient Soul[/caption] The workshops are scheduled for Wednesdays in October and November 2020 from 10-11:30 a.m. for the Georgetown County Library System (GCLS). Due to COVID-19, all sessions will be conducted online with the video-conferencing program, BlueJeans. The program is free and open to the public. However, space in the workshop is limited in order to give proper attention to all participants. To register, please contact, Dr. Dan Turner at 843.545.3363 or dturner@gtcounty.org. If you’re interested, don’t let technology stand in your way. GCLS has laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots available for patrons to check out.
The overall theme for the sessions is “Writing Wherever You Are” and offers a unique approach to writing poetry, one that can be of equal value for beginning and experienced poets. Dekine will bring in a selection of poems by accomplished and emerging South Carolina poets and then guide participants through key elements of these works. She will then discuss ways participants can incorporate these techniques into their own writing. Each individual session of the overall “Writing Wherever You Are” series has a distinct focus to provide participants with a diverse range of approaches and tools for creating poems. Individual session topics are listed below:
  • October 7: “The Blank Page”: Techniques to start writing
  • October 14: “Healing through Writing”: Cathartic approaches to generating individuality
  • October 21: “Voice & Tone”: Immersion in literature to speak truthfully and well
  • October 28: “Sound & Noise”: Consideration of the musicality of words
  • November 4: “Before We Wrote, We Spoke”: Vocal ways to recall oral traditions
The workshop series is funded by a Fast-Track Literary Grant from SC Humanities and the SCAC. The sessions are supported by the Friends of the Library groups at each of the four GCLS libraries: Georgetown, Waccamaw, Andrews, and Carvers Bay.
Marlanda Dekine-Sapient Soul is a poet and author from Plantersville. Her work has appeared in Emergence Magazine, Screen Door Review, Flycatcher Journal, Spark & Echo Arts, TEDxGreenville, and elsewhere. Previously, Marlanda studied in Paris with NYU’s Low-Residency MFA program and was a 2019 Fresh Voice of the Year, awarded by SC Humanities. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at Converse College. Marlanda believes in the power of being with poetry for collective healing and liberation.

Jason Rapp

Tuning Up: #SCartists as active as the tropics?

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


It isn't just the tropics that are active

Good soggy Thursday morning, Hub readers. As what's left of Sally creeps across South Carolina throughout the day and into tomorrow, take heart: despite everything tough weather and tough times, #SCartists are as busy as ever. Here's proof.
  • Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE, according to tickets) is back in "Tuning Up." The airport announced the selected artists for its 2020/2021 "Art in the Airport" program. Out of 115 submissions received from local artists eager to reflect the talents of the area arts community, four were selected to exhibit their artwork for the upcoming season:
      • Christopher Garvey (October 2020 – January 2021)
      • Ija Charles (February – May 2021)
      • Sonya Diimmler (June – September 2021)
      • Harold Branham (October 2021 – January 2022)
    "Once a traveler lands, these works of art will be the first artistic and cultural touchpoints to the region,” CAE's Kim Jamieson said. The exhibit location will be in the connector of the terminal, the walkway between the security checkpoint and the departure/arrival gates.
  • Camera taking high-resolution image of glass artwork in a studio settingFarther north and west on I-26, photographer Thomas Koenig and fused-glass artist Judy Martin are set to exhibit a collaborative work, Big In Glass, at Artists Collective | Spartanburg. The free and public exhibit will be open Oct. 6-31, 2020 Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Social distancing and other protocols will be practiced. Each artist is contributing 10-12 pieces of work. Martin will present a collection of fused glass creations especially made for this exhibit; Koenig will use macro photography (right) to present highly enlarged details of Martin’s work, giving the viewer a different perspective.


SCAC Fellow featured in Columbia

Back in the Midlands, 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia has a familiar face on exhibit now through Oct. 26. Well, her work is exhibited, anyway. "Reigning" SCAC fellowship recipient in craft Valerie Zimany has And I was Covered in Blossoms in the gallery Wednesdays through Sundays, 1-5 p.m. Visitors are required to wear coverings over mouth and nose (You know who you are. - Ed.). Zimany, a chair and associate professor at Clemson, is a decorated ceramicist who was awarded her fellowship from the SCAC for FY2020.
 

Jason Rapp

Val Dunn named 2020 winner of the Trustus Playwrights’ Festival

Get a preview with online reading event this month


Trustus Theatre has named Down in the Holler by Val Dunn the winner of the 2020 Trustus Playwrights’ Festival, an annual national new works competition that was founded by the theatre in 1988.

Trustus TheatreThe theatre will present a free, online reading reading of the winning script on its website Saturday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. Here is a synopsis:

As the play begins, audiences are transported to a holler in the Shenandoah Valley. Juniper prepares to spend a perfect life in a perfect cabin with her perfect partner, Blake. That is, until Maeve appears in the doorway. Telling tall tales and crooning high lonesomes, Maeve beguiles Juniper's return to Gin—a past self who once lived and loved in this here house. As Juniper attempts to exorcise her pursuit of passion and maintain the stable life she's created with Blake, Down in the Holler witnesses a collision of class and queerness, ultimately asking how we reconcile who we were and who we thought we would become.

Trustus Theatre received more than 800 submissions to the 2020 Trustus Playwrights’ Festival. The Festival Selection Committee, comprised of Trustus company members, selected Dunn’s work. The winning script is traditionally produced as a part of Trustus’ Main Stage subscriber season the year after it is named the winner, however Trustus leadership expects this script to be staged in Summer 2022 because of the pandemic. After the reading event on Sept. 26, the show’s production team, including director Dewey Scott-Wiley, will work with the playwright over the next two years to finalize the script for production.
Val Dunn is a writer/deviser who creates plays, performance art, and rituals. Her work possesses a strong sense of place and tackles issues of feminism and queerness while pushing against the limitations of form. She is a member playwright of Azuka’s New Pages, Writers on the Rocks, and an alumna of the Foundry @ PlayPenn. She has received developmental support from the Orchard Project (Core Company), Signal Fire, Centrum, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and SANDBOX. Val holds a bachelor's with honors in drama and English from Washington College where she received the Stewart Award for Drama, The Mary Martin Prize, The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize, The William W. Warner Prize for Writing on the Environment, The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize, and was a finalist for the Sophie Kerr prize in Literature. Val has also created zines about depression, the border crisis, and late-stage capitalism.
Directed by Trustus Company Member Dewey Scott-Wiley, Down in the Holler will feature the acting talents of Christine Hellman (Juniper), Susan Swavely (Gin), Katie Leitner (Maeve), and Tashera Pravato (Blake). Virtual scenic and lighting design will be created by Trustus staff members Curtis Smoak and Sam Hetler, editing will be done by staff member Abigail McNeely, and Producing Artistic Director Chad Henderson will be composing the additional media used to provide contextual imagery. This reading event will also feature music by Columbia folk bands The Prairie Willows and Post-Timey String Band. “We’re getting very energized about creating virtual events,” said Producing Artistic Director Chad Henderson. “This reading of Down in the Holler will allow us to share Val’s script with our fans and followers—a show we deeply believe in and look forward to producing. This event also gives us a chance to play and stir our creative impulses. Director Dewey Scott-Wiley has embraced this new format for theatrical experience, and with the addition of virtual backgrounds, sound design, music, and film—I think this reading is going to offer much more than one would expect.”