Friday Fiver: Total Eclipse of the Art

On Aug. 21, 2017, all eyes will be on the sky, as a total solar eclipse occurs for the first time in nearly four decades.

And two artists from Vermont will keeping more than just eyes on the sky. Michael Zebrowski, a professor of art at Johnson State College in Vermont, and Kelly Holt, his project manager, are planning on installing four art exhibits along the eclipse’s path across the U.S., and includes one right here in The Holy City.

The yellow tripods will be mounted with a time lapse camera and a live stream camera, and will capture the eclipse as it makes its away across the country.

Anyone interested in partnering with them on the project is encouraged to contact them at holt.kelly@gmail.com or http://zebrowski.tumblr.com/. Or, shoot us an e-mail at the Alliance and we’ll get you connected.

Michael Zebrowski

Michael Zebrowski

We sat down with Michael and Kelly for this week’s Friday Fiver.

What was the inspiration for taking on this ambitious cross-country project?

I have a fundamental desire in my artwork to challenge the scale of my work. I do this not necessarily through how big a structure or sculpture is, but through the relationship that the structure has to the immediate environment, earth and universe. So the event of the eclipse on August 21st fits right into this. I see this project like orchestrating a band’s US tour except all venues play the music at the same time almost and the band consists of the sun moon and earth. My thinking is if I place a modest structure at four points along the path of totality across the country then the works are more about their relationship to the Moon, Sun and Earth. And ultimately our relationship to these celestial bodies.

You have chose four locations for the installations – Charleston; St. Joseph, MO; Jackson Hole, WY; and Salem, OR? How did you select these locations?

I chose the four locations because I wanted to fully do justice to the entire eclipse event across the USA. The total event lasts 95 minutes roughly from land fall in Salem Oregon to exiting in Charleston. I love the idea that everyone will stop and look even if they don’t know about or anticipate the event. There is a type of movement in sculpture and other forms of art that are “site specific,” meaning a work that is placed in a particular place while responding to the conditions of the space. This work is site specific. I also like the idea of expanding this concept to include “time specific.” This work is also time specific. The multiple locations, one in each time zone, is important to following through further with this notion of connecting to time. More simply, the locations all exist on or very near the path of totality. The path of totality is where the true shadow of the moon will hit the earth. If you were on the moon looking at the earth, you would see the shadow cross the planet. Satellites will pick this up as well.

Once you have documented the eclipse, what will you do with the photographs?

The time lapse photography and video will be a way to see the eclipse no matter where you are. Our goal is to have a live feed in all four installations and beyond. We teach at Johnson State College in the Fine Arts Department. There will be live projections there for students and colleagues to see the event as it happens. It happens to be the first day of classes in the Fall. A great way to start the semester. The live feed will also be recorded as a set of four videos that can be projected as an installation in a gallery setting at a future date.

Where will you be for the eclipse?

My family regularly travels to South Carolina to go to Charleston and Hilton Head. We will be in Charleston or just north where we will be completely absorbed in the path of totality. The path of totality travels just north of Charleston proper. If funding through partnerships allow, we will have Kelly the project manager and other team members in each location across the country, monitoring cameras, coordinating with live-time locations and participating in conjunction with community partners during eclipse driven events.

Normally, we ask our Friday Fivers what they would wish for if they could wave a magic wand over Charleston. Today, however, we’re going to ask you this: If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you make happen ANYWHERE on Aug. 21?

Clear skies across the country, especially in Charleston where we will be. The goal is to install ECLIPSE Survey in all four time zones. The hope is that a collective pause during the eclipse signifies a cultural moment in time. I have never witnessed a solar eclipse. This work has been developed in preparation for personally seeing the eclipse and looking to share the event with a broad public audience; ultimately bringing the eclipse into the fold of my public art practice. I have been developing an approach to this moment over the last 5 years and the work presented in this proposal is the result of that process.

Interested in being a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.

 


Friday Fiver: Kerri Forrest

KLF Ashepoo Mar 2015Kerri Forrest is one of the best friends the arts community could ask for. She personally supports and consumes a variety of local arts, but also helms an organization that is one of the biggest arts supporters in the Lowcountry. Forrest has served as the Director of the Lowcountry Program for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation since February 2015. Her latest initiative is an arts survey in conjunction with a national nonprofit to assess arts space needs for the area. She is encouraging all artists and arts organizations to make their voices heard by taking part in the survey. It takes less than 15 minutes, and the input will be incredibly important for the arts community moving forward. Click here to take the survey.

We sat down with Kerri for today’s Friday Fiver.

  1. The Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality and regional collections in the Lowcountry and Chicago. How did those two locations become linked for the Foundation? The Foundation was founded in 1952 by Gaylord Donnelley, then chairman of the RR Donnelley Company and his wife Dorothy Donnelley. The family lived in both Chicago and the ACE Basin. Their love of the arts, the outdoors, and books was the impetus for the three program areas we fund in the two regions.
  2. What was on your radio on the way into work this morning? A podcast: Tritonia by two EDM DJ’s out of Texas. Best way to get the adrenaline going on a hump day.
  3. You have been working with Artspace Project, a national nonprofit, to conduct a survey of artists and arts groups on space needs. What are you hoping to learn from these surveys? The survey will tell us 3 critical pieces of information: where artists / arts organizations and creative businesses want to be located, what type of space they need (residential, commercial, studio, rehearsal) and what they can afford to pay for that space.  That information will not just tell the Foundation and our core group of partners from across the region whether a live/work space would potentially be successful (the type of project Artspace does around the country) but would provide local city planners, developers and others with hard numbers on what could be offered to artists. It will help everyone make more informed decisions.
  4. You’ve heard from quite a few different artists and disciplines with the survey. However, are there additional groups, areas or disciplines you would really like to encourage to take the survey? We have 3 weeks left to get responses from a cross section of our arts community, both individual artists and arts organizations/creative businesses. To date, we have not received responses from artists in the theater, dance, music or literary disciplines. Also, we’ve received fewer responses from artists currently living in North Charleston and few responses from artists and organizations of color. It’s important that we hear from all of these groups or important information about the arts community will be left out.
  5. If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston and have one thing happen immediately, what would it be? A metro transit system would magically appear… but that’s another conversation…

 

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Kyle Barnette

Kyle Headshot #3 2012 (2)-minWhat If? Productions and Threshold Repertory Theatre are teaming up to bring the zombie-fighting franchise to the stage, with Evil Dead: The Musical, opening Friday, Oct. 14. We sat down with show director Kyle Barnette for this week’s Friday Fiver.

For more information on the show or to order tickets, visit http://www.whatifproductions.org/evil-show-page/

  1. The Evil Dead franchise was a low-budget horror series that became a pop culture sensation with a rabid cult following. What will movie enthusiasts of the franchise think of the musical adaptation? For a musical adaptation it is almost religiously faithful to the franchise, especially the first film The Evil Dead, although all three movies are paid homage to in the musical. Movie enthusiasts will recognize iconic quotes as well as bloody moments from the films all the way down to how each character becomes a demon and songs that take quotes right from the films! But you don’t have to be an enthusiast to appreciate the comedy and spectacle of the show.
  2. Some of the songs in the show include What the F@#k Was That?, Look Who’s Evil Now and All the Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons. Can you share with us what exactly a Candarian Demon is, and why they keep killing people? Well a Candarian Demon is what these stupid college kids conjure up when they come across the Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead) that they find in the cabin when they first arrive. Those demons are assholes who often talk in really bad puns which is a great running gag in the show.
  3. There are 12 seats available for each show in the “splash zone” in which you are “guaranteed to get drenched in some of the blood and guts throughout the show. Come dressed appropriately and get ready to get bloody!” What is ideal attire for getting drenched in blood and guts? Well I would recommend all white so everyone can see the blood and you can wear it like a badge. They can also pose on stage after the show on the set and hastag #evildeadchs to show they were there. We will also have a huge cutout of the poster in the lobby where you can stick your head in and become Ash, the hero of the show.
  4. What If? is known for its edgy, no holds barred productions. What is a production What If? has yet to put on but really wants to? Well we were going to do Carrie: The Musical this season before we decided the collaboration with Threshold for Evil Dead ….thinking two gory horror musicals would be too much in one season!
  5. If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston and have one thing happen immediately, what would it be? That sounds like witchcraft to me…we only deal in demonic possession!
edmusical

 

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? Shoot an e-mail to mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Courtney Daniel

Courtney DanielCourtney Daniel has spent a lifetime in theater. As Executive Director for Threshold Repertory Theatre, she continues that lifetime passion, bringing shows to life at their home on Society Street. Courtney is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a BA in Arts Management. She is a Delta Zeta alumni and sits on the board of League of Charleston Theatres. She is also a licensed Esthetician and make-up artist. Threshold’s next production, part of Piccolo Spoleto, is “Fully Committed,” which opens May 27 and features a single actor portraying more than 40 roles. We sat down with Courtney for this week’s Friday Fiver:

Located on Society Street, Threshold is smack in middle of downtown. What are the challenges of being in the heart of the Holy City? The advantages?

There are always pros and cons to any location. Charleston has so much to offer and being downtown can be extremely beneficial for foot traffic, easy access to great restaurants for patrons, and the allure of the Lowcountry. Some of the challenges we face as a local non-profit organization in a quickly growing city is; property values increasing, lack of parking for staff, actors, and patrons, and competition with larger performing arts venues.

What is your favorite role you’ve ever played? What’s your dream role you hope to one day play?

My favorite role was Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. My background in theatre is primary Musical Theatre and this role was a lot of fun. She was funny, caring, feisty, and you can’t beat music by Cole Porter. There are a lot of roles I would love to play. One off the top of my head would be Christine in Phantom of the Opera.

As a licensed Esthetician and make-up artist, what is something about theatre make-up that most people don’t know or realize?

Firstly, you must have a good base, you have to take good care of your skin to get the best results from makeup. So I would advise everyone to make sure they are cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing daily. Theatre makeup is naturally thicker than most daily makeups because it has to stand up to lighting and audience distance.

In “Fully Committed” actor Adam Miles plays 40 separate characters. Can you give us a couple of examples of the diverse characters we see him perform?

Fully Committed is filled with fun, witty, and unique characters. Some of the my favorites include; Bryce, the gay assistant for Naomi Campbell’s office; Jean Claude, the french maitre d’ with no manners; Bunny Vandevere, the V.V.V.VIP patron who expects special treatment; and Ms Wantabe, the Japanese patron that can’t speak English well. I think patrons will find multiple characters to love in this show.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what one thing would immediately happen?

We have a beautiful culturally enriching city with a multitude of arts organizations with dedicated and hard working people at the helm. If I could wave a wand over Charleston I would make it so these organizations had the appropriate funding to continue their work and have the ability to pay artists living wages. I would want to see organizations make larger impacts for youth, the underserved, artists, and our community as a whole without funding limitations.

 Interested in being a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.

Friday Fiver: Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers is looking the change the world. Founder and director of The Sophia Institute, Carolyn guides the organization as “she focuses on personal and societal transformation that fosters the emergence of the Feminine, cultivating wisdom and mindfulness, for a more just, sustainable, flourishing world.” The Sophia Institute conducts retreats, classes, and seminars year-round. Their next event, More Lessons in Becoming Myself on Saturday April 30, features Academy Award winning actress Ellen Burstyn, who “chronicles through story and poetry her latest lessons in her transformative journey as a woman and an artist.”

We sat down with Carolyn for this week’s Friday Fiver:

What is the significance of “Sophia” in your organization’s name?

Sophia means “divine wisdom” in the ancient Greek and is portrayed in all the world’s traditions as the Feminine divine nature. In Christianity she is portrayed as Sophia or Mary, in Buddhism as Tara or Quan Yin, in Hinduism as Saraswati. She’s also the basis of philosophy- philosophy, the love of Sophia. At Sophia Institute our work is centered on the rise of the feminine, cultivating wisdom and mindfulness, for a more just, sustainable, and thriving world. Wisdom awakens us to new ways of living and being on the planet that honors the sacredness at the center of life and moves us to love in action to make the world a better place.

The Sophia Institute seeks to bring change to our world by “using a new model of spiritual partnership and integration between feminine and masculine values.” What is one way you hope that people can see the world differently through this new model?

I think the world is in a time of profound transformative change as more and more people awaken to what they are truly called to, to a wholeness that is part of their own innate nature. We have the opportunity now to move from “power over” or domination, to “power with” or true partnership and to cultivate a world that is more egalitarian, just, sustainable, and potentially a much more conscious world.

Your next speaker is acclaimed actress, storyteller, and author Ellen Burstyn. Why Ellen Burstyn as your choice for a speaker?

Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn

We’ve always loved Ellen Burstyn and the roles that she’s portrayed for women in our culture through film and theater. When we read her memoir Lessons in Becoming Myself we were truly moved by that, because we understood that the roles that she’s chosen and portrayed so well come out of a deep wellspring that she has found within herself, a wellspring that she’s cultivated, she’s worked hard to excavate through study, through her depth in Sufism, and through her mentor Lee Strasburg who really helped her perform from this deep wellspring, from her own true nature.

When you travel in your car, what’s on the radio?

Either its music like that of Harold Budd or All Things Considered.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what one thing would happen instantly?

Charleston would become a model city for greening consciousness and for greening the planet — for racial justice and environmental justice. It’s really what Sophia Institute is investing in now. It’s central to our evolving work.

Interested in being a Friday Fiver? Email mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Mark Sloan

Mark Sloan has seen the Charleston arts scene change dramatically since he took the helm of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in 1994. A North Carolina native, Sloan is an accomplished artist who has exhibited across the country, and has authored or co-authored 14 books, with topics ranging from Russian contemporary art to 20th century circus life. At the Halsey, Sloan has showcases a wide range of contemporary art and brings an interactive component to each of the exhibits, in particular on each exhibit’s opening night, which usually features the artist. We sat down with him for this week’s Friday Fiver.By Nancy Santos

The Halsey’s current exhibit is “Young Contemporaries,” an annual showcase of College of Charleston students and recent grads. What trend(s) did you find in this year’s submissions?

There seems to be quite a lot of figurative work this year. It varies year to year, but the figure is present in sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing, and painting.

The Halsey prides itself on finding art out of the mainstream to showcase. What artist with “out there” art were you most pleased to see the public’s reaction about?

Well, Jumaadi, our Indonesian visiting artist was pretty Out There, and the public seemed to eat him up. He was in residence for 45 days and did a variety of projects while here, including creating an evening of shadow puppet theater with local puppeteer Geoffrey Cormier and a group of dedicated artists and musicians, working with Academic Magnet High School students to produce an evening of shadow puppet theater that they produced, and he made an exquisite series of paintings, drawings, and cut outs that we displayed in the gallery. More than 100 people came to his going away party, so he had a big effect on our small community!

Visitors to the Halsey, particular during openings, are able to meet and chat with the artists. Tell us a little bit about the positives of the public having personal interaction with the artists.

We have always been committed to de-mystifying the creative process. One of the best ways to do that is to create opportunities for the public to interact with the artists in an informal setting. That way, people learn that artists are just like everyone else, but they happen to work in a visual medium.  It has been gratifying to witness these interactions. One visitor asked artist Lonnie Holley if he could articulate his reasons for making a particular piece. His memorable response was “If I could describe it in words, I wouldn’t have to make it.”

You have been the curator since 1994. How has the art scene in Charleston changed since then?

Charleston has changed tremendously since 1994. I think the contemporary art scene has grown exponentially.  It has been wonderful to watch the transformation and to have been a participant in this city-wide effort.  I am so pleased to see that we now have many other venues for the display of contemporary art—both for profit and not for profit spaces. The level of sophistication is also much higher. People from other major cities who have moved here brought their expectations, and Charleston has risen to the challenge. There seems to be much more community engagement with art and artists now. I think the Kulture Klash series did a great job of breaking down barriers between artists and audiences.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston and make one thing happen immediately, what would that be?

You mean, if I were a fairy princess?  I would magically transform the attitude toward local arts philanthropy.  I have lived and worked in Richmond, Charlotte, San Francisco, and upstate New York before moving here. I can tell you that getting people to financially support non profit arts organizations is much harder here than anywhere else I have lived. It seems the people here feel entitled to it, and therefore do not give. The Halsey Institute has an even harder time fundraising because many people wrongly assume that the College provides us with all the money we need.  That is certainly not the case. We have had to become quite successful at raising money through grants, private foundations outside of South Carolina, through earned income (traveling show rentals and catalogue sales), and through corporate sponsorship.  We do have a robust membership program now, but it has taken years to cultivate.

 

Interested in being a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Geoff Yost

Photo Credit: Colin J. Johnson, colinjjohnson.comGeoff Yost loves the creative process. As a partner and graphic designer at Annex Studio, Yost and his team collaborated with the Arts Alliance to develop www.artscharleston.org, a calendar dedicated to the arts in the Lowcountry. Prior to opening Annex, Yost worked on numerous high-profile events, including the 2014 Inaugural Ceremony for the Governor of Virginia and President Obama’s 2012 Election Night in Chicago.

We sat down with Geoff for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Annex created the platform for the arts calendar at www.artscharleston.org. What separates the www.artscharleston.org platform from other arts calendars on the web?

When the Alliance approached us to build an arts calendar, we knew using a third-party tool wasn’t going to work. For one, many of the existing calendar tools are clunky and difficult to use for developers, but more importantly, difficult to use for the visitor. We wanted to make sure the new ArtsCharleston.org arts calendar was super easy to use.

To accomplish this, we built a custom piece of software we call CurtainTime. CurtainTime is optimized for performance, chiefly ease of use, but under the hood too. A modern web application needs to work on every device, quickly, and there were many advantages to building a solution from the ground up.

We’re still working on improving CurtainTime, and since we’re the developers, and we’re not relying on someone else’s timeline, we can make improvements to add features and customizations for the Alliance and other clients much faster. Ultimately, that means every visitor gets a better experience and arts organizations, hopefully, fill more seats.

You are a font aficionado. How do you determine the perfect font for a particular project?

I love typefaces. I have since I was a very young kid. Some people say that type doesn’t matter, or there’s no difference between them, and to that I say: write the next memo to your boss in Comic Sans and see how that goes over. Like music, typefaces have tone, timbre, and rhythm. And, they change depending on the space in which they’re used. A kid’s birthday invitation might be the perfect place to use Comic Sans, although I probably still wouldn’t. A business memo, not so much.

For our projects, we start everything with research. We know the goals of the project. From that understanding, we start to get a feeling for the typographical style need to meet the goals. So, we’ll rely on our favorites, and some standbys, including the enduring Futura, the ‘Obama font’ Gotham, the classic Caslon, or my current favorite Harriet. We’re susceptible to trends, too. Proxima Nova and Lato get heavy use, two of the most popular typefaces on the web today (Proxima Nova is used for the headlines here on CharlestonArtsAlliance.org). From the dozen or so go-to typefaces, we’ll look for specific typefaces that best match the project.

I’ll say this, there’s a special moment when you find the perfect typeface for a project. There’s an art to selecting type, but it’s the gut feeling that wins every time.

On your website, you say that at Annex, “Our charge is to bring all of this together: technology, design, experience, knowledge. And when we add you, your story, and your goals to the mix, something magical happens.” Tell us about the magic.

We do our best work under these conditions: first, we let our client be the expert in their business. Second, the client lets us be the expert in our business. We expect to learn from our client, and to teach them. We expect the same in reverse. Time and again, we’ve found that if these conditions are met, the magic happens. Everyone is bringing their strengths to the table. It allows us to be the most creative, and it ensures the client gets a design solution to their business problem.

The magic might be a great piece of underlying technology, like CurtainTime, or four beautiful designs for fundraising loyalty cards, like the Alliance’s ArtsMatter Card. Those creative solutions are the output of a trusting, curious relationship between client and agency. And, because we develop all of our designs and technology in house, we’re able to stoke that creative fire.

The Annex team all went to the College of Charleston. How does that Charleston tie help you in your work?

Yes, the four partners, our part-time developer, and our intern are all College of Charleston folk. We learned how to design and write code while at the College, in this city. As a result, the city is a constant source of inspiration. We’ve looted the Charleston urban fabric for everything from color palettes to patterns and symbols. We’re even exploring creating an original typeface, our own, with inspiration drawn from old Charleston signage and printing.

We also love admiring, collaborating with, and drawing inspiration from the other creative firms and organizations in town. There’s a great sense of community here and whether it’s a tech happy hour, a new exhibition at City Gallery, or an artist lecture at the Halsey, there are a million ways we connect with Charleston to stretch our creativity. A peaceful lunch in the Cistern Yard on the campus can be a perfect recharge, too.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what would instantly happen?

Charleston has to further its support for artists and creative professionals. Our city’s vibrancy comes from its diversity of thought, and the city deeply needs to address the growing difficulties people like me and other artists of all kinds have in maintaining a presence in the urban core. Affordable housing, better transportation, and real incentives to be creative are needed. Not sure I have the solution, but we will not continue to be the destination we are for so much of the world if a growing number of the people that make the city what it is are not able to make a life here.

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? Email mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Joseph Demerly

Photo by Jonathan BoncekJoseph Demerly’s life has been theatre. Since he was a young boy, Demerly has been involved in all aspects of putting on a show. He carried that love into his professional life, and is now the Executive Director of Theatre Charleston, an alliance of local theatres with a mission “to promote awareness and visibility for live theatre in the Charleston area, and provide services that strengthen the operations of both the member theatres and performing arts organizations in general.” Demerly relocated here from Buffalo, where he was the managing director Kavinoky Theatre. One major aspect of his new career is overseeing the Unified Auditions, which will be held April 2. Theatre Charleston is partnering with the South Carolina Theatre Association to bring dozens of directors and producers to search for actors, designers and technicians. For more information on the auditions, click HERE.

What is one key piece of advice you would give to actors planning to attend unified auditions?

Auditioning can be scary and intimidating (at least it is for me!) Let your hair down, take a deep breath, and relax; have fun and show the directors that you’re confident in what you do. A flubbed line is a lot better than watching someone who isn’t confident. Be confident!

You moved to Charleston from Buffalo, NY. What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make living in the Lowcountry?

The bugs! I am not a fan of bugs. Oh, and those little lizards. And the frogs. I’m not a creepy-crawler kinda guy. Other than those things, the adjustment has been just great. The people down here are as nice as can be…and the weather isn’t too bad either (no snow!)

What is the favorite role you’ve played on stage? On a similar note, what is one role you have yet to play that you would love to?

I had the awesome opportunity to play Richard Loeb in “Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story” starring opposite its writer/composer, Stephen Dolginoff. Oddly enough, I played Nathan Leopold seven years earlier in “Never the Sinner.” As for roles that I haven’t done that I’d like to… Hmm. A role that I always wanted to play (and am now far too old to play) is The Writer in Tennessee Williams’s “Vieux Carre.” It is one of the last plays he wrote and, I believe, his most autobiographical; it’s beautiful.

How do you see the Charleston theater scene evolving over the next few years?

There is so much passion and a great deal of pride involved in anyone who produces or participates in live theater. Although I’ve only been in Charleston for eight months, I am pleasantly relieved that the theater scene is as large as it is here! My job as Executive Director for Theatre Charleston is to advocate for this area’s growing theater scene; I can only hope that it continues to grow and that those in the Lowcountry (and those who visit) will do themselves a favor and see a show! Bring your kids, invite your neighbors: the great thing about live theater is that it truly is participatory; the actors can HEAR you, too! I love everything about theater.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

Now that “Downton Abbey” is over, it has to be cooking shows. I particularly like “Masterchef” and “Worst Cook in America”. You can occasionally catch me watching one of the “Housewives of…” on BRAVO but I won’t admit to that in person.

 

Want to be featured in a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.


Friday Fiver: Holy City Sinner

holycitysinnerYou probably know Christian Senger, but you may not know it. He is most known by his blog handle, Holy City Sinner, which debuted in August 2011. Since then, it has grown to be one of the most popular local Charleston blogs, having been voted best Twitter feed in the City Paper’s Best of Charleston for the past two years. Senger said he focuses on the wide array of Charleston offerings that make the city unique. “Holy City Sinner is centered around the beautiful Holy City and its talented residents. We have some of the best cooks, musicians, charities, events, and people in the nation who demand your attention,” he said. As for the name? Senger sums it up thusly: “Although Charleston is known for its strong religious base and southern hospitality, it is also well known for some hedonistic behavior. Much like many of his fellow residents, this blog’s creator can often be found trying to balance the city’s equally enticing extremes. Holy City Sinner hopes to celebrate the many sides of this historic and lively city.”

You now have almost 20,000 followers. If you could go back and tell 2011 Holy City Sinner you’d have that reach, what do you think your reaction be?

To think I’d even have half that amount of followers would have shocked me. Each step along the way has been a pleasant surprise. I thought there would be a segment of Charleston that would appreciate what I was trying to accomplish, but I never thought I’d have the support of that many people.

You post dozens of tweets each day about the various goings-on in Charleston. How do you decide what to share with your followers?

Honestly, I try to include just about anything I can. There will be at least one person who is interested in each piece of news or information I come across. One of my goals has always been to inform people of things they may not have heard about otherwise and Twitter has been the best medium to accomplish that.

You’ve kept your followers up to date on myriad events happening in the Charleston area day in and day out. What is the best kept event secret in Charleston – the one event more people should put on their bucket list?

This was probably the most difficult question to answer. There are so many great events and it was impossible to choose one. However, after just a little bit of stressing out, I chose the Jail Break events, which are going to be changing in some fashion, but were always a lot of fun. Attendees could roam free in the Old City Jail, which was fun enough, but there were also performances and exhibits featuring local bands, comedians, artists, dancers, and artisans. It was a great opportunity to see the Charleston creative community while checking out a unique building.

Charleston is known for its fine dining, and you share plenty of delectable food news with your followers. But what is your fast food guilty pleasure?

Growing up in the Northeast, I never experienced places like Zaxby’s or Chic-fil-a, so those have become my go-to fast food places.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what would immediately happen?

As much as I love this city, there are certainly things that ail it. A lot of those issues came up in the recent mayoral election – traffic, homelessness, downtown’s poor drainage, public transit issues, the rising number of the rising cost of living downtown is pushing many people out of the city, the rapid gentrification of the city is doing the same for lower income families, and despite what some think, there are still racial issues that need to be addressed and fixed. Of course there are other big issues that plague the state and Charleston – domestic violence against women, education, and the rising number of HIV infections.  Those are all things I would fix if I had a magic wand.

 


Friday Fiver: Jo Ellen Aspinwall

Jo Ellen AspinwallJo Ellen Aspinwall is the embodiment of following your dreams. After 15 years as a high school teacher, Jo Ellen decided to chase her passion: theatre. After earning her MFA in Directing from the University of Southern Mississippi, she moved to Charleston to dive into the full-time world of theatre.

Jo Ellen has directed and designed three dozen productions, including multiple Piccolo Spoleto entries. In 2010, Jo Ellen received the Bob Knowles Award for Outstanding Artistic Integrity and Professional Discipline for The Lost Colony. She is also the co-founder of Storytree Theatre.

Her current show, Dorothy in Wonderland, opens this weekend and runs through March 13 at Footlight Players. We sat down with Jo Ellen for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Your upcoming play features two of the most iconic fictional worlds of all time. As a director, how do you balance the two to ensure neither overshadows the other?

Most of the story takes place in Wonderland, so it’s a little out of balance naturally. But it’s a lot of fun to watch the Ozian heroes encounter such completely different rules and expectations in this new, topsy turvy world. One of my favorite moments is when Dorothy throws a glass of water on the Queen of Hearts (spoiler alert—she doesn’t melt!).

Once we’ve seen the worlds of Dorothy and Alice collide, suppose you could direct a sequel. What two fictional characters would you love to see come together next?

Hmmmm…this is a tough one! How about Hermione Granger and Anne of Green Gables? Or a sudden outbreak of zombies in a Dr. Seuss world? On a more adult level, the boys from Supernatural getting a visit from The Doctor!

What was your favorite fantasy book when you were a child?

I was a big fan of Madeleine L’Engle and the Wrinkle in Time trilogy definitely started my life-long fascination with fantasy stories.

Most recently you directed “A Streetcar Named Desire” at Footlight. How does your directing differ from a serious drama to a children’s fantasy?

Ultimately, every show is about telling a story. That’s where the work always starts, regardless of the specifics. The differences will come in style and scale of choices, in the focus of our energy in rehearsal—I find myself becoming much “bigger” when working on a children’s show, louder, faster, goofier.

You have an extensive theater resume, with many stage classics under your belt. That said, what is your guilty pleasure TV show or movie? 

Oh dear—I have a number of them! Probably the guiltiest is America’s Got Talent. There is something I just can’t resist about all those people every season fighting to live out their dream; I especially love watching acts who have been honing a particular skill for decades get the chance to perform for a huge and enthusiastic audience. I get ridiculously mushy about it…

 

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? E-mail mike@artscharleston.org.