Something wonderful

The first Artrageous event brought together 40 local artists to create a cohesive, joyful rendition of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Our aim was to present our diversity as a community, while also showing how that diversity can be cohesive. Part of our objective was to involve the audience in the performance, so it was important for us to choose a memorable, playful song that would break down any inhibitions that the audience might have about dancing and singing in the street. This event included dancers from three local companies, musicians from four different musical genres and five visual artists with drastically different methods and talents. Our search for artists took us to The University of South Carolina, local professionals, and we kept our ears open to anyone interested in participating.

Our close relationship with the music department due to personal relationships from previous productions allowed us access to many singers and musicians. The help of four opera singers allowed the opportunity for refined melody and well placed energy. The highly experienced singers included Jessica Gibbons, Bianca Raso, Stephanie Beinlich, and Xavier Martin Moses. These singers were enlisted to guide the song with billowing lyrics from beautiful vocal chords. The event obviously was concerned with the white noise of the outdoor venue and the worry that the beauty of voices would not carry over the crowd and traffic noise, hence a balanced amount of yelling was necessary. Working with the singers to develop proper vocal choreography and adjustments to volume was vital in the performances success. The high-energy groups of singers were meant to provide elegance to Paul Simon’s classic.

After scouring our friends from the Theatre and Dance Departments we found the help of two actors and an opera singer. Under the guidance of actress Mary Tilden we also found the help of Lauren Koch and in time enlisted experienced opera singer Mary-Therese Heintzkill. Their tasks were set to be that of participants of the crowd at large in hopes of infiltrating the ranks among the audience and as the performance began to erupt with audience inclusion the actors would begin to drive the audience into the performance space. Their task was to meet new people in the galleries of Artista Vista and to find a way to keep the audience involvement to a maximum. The actors were also enlisted to help with the physical labor of stuffing our balloons and helping set up the logistics of the event on the streets. The success of the performance hinged on the actors properly infiltrating the crowd to induce participation. Future events will rely on this tactic as well.

Our close ties with the USC Dance Company and Vibrations Dance Company led us to bring together a total of 15 dancers for our ensemble piece. Although Sherry Warren directed the dance piece, the composition that you saw emerge on the sidewalk that Thursday evening was a collaboration among all of our dancers. Sherry Warren choreographed ensemble choreography, and the talented dancers from both companies worked together to choreograph the solo and pair work. Terrance Henderson, director of Vibrations Dance Company, contributed the ensemble choreography that drew the piece to a close. The talented breakdancers who performed have quickly become local legends in Columbia, and when we saw them perform at the Frame of Mind exhibition at the beginning of April, we knew they had to be a part of this inaugural spontaneous art performance. They certainly did not disappoint, performing amazing improvised work as the sun began to set.

Drummers and guitarists formed the musical backbone of the production. At the start of the evening, the sound of the musical introduction, a composition by David Wright, was heard playing from a boombox on the sidewalk. Connections with local steel drummers Davin Lail and Ryan Stokes brought us the exciting opening of our production. Guitarists David Wright and Patrick Dover, both local musicians, began the memorable melody, and carried the audience through the piece as it became a reality that Thursday evening.

A poem was needed to draw the piece together for the audience. A call for a poem was sent out to USC faculty and graduate students. We received many excellent submissions, but “Growing Backwards,” written by Charlene Spearen, best encompassed the playful, boundary-free feel of our production. Charlene, Program Coordinator for the Arts Institute, first presented poetry with Pocket Productions at our January Playing After Dark. Ten individuals were recruited to write lines of the poem, cued by Debi Schadel.

There was always the intention to add visual artists to our roster. Our original production meetings included several established visual artists; however, it wasn’t until what seemed like late in the process that we added the total of five visual artists. Professional artists Mariana Simina, Sammy Lopez, Michael Krajewski, and Cedric Umoja, along with USC art student Alexandria Baker faced the area where the performance would emerge, effectively transforming Lincoln Street into both a stage and an art exhibit. Their job was to sketch, draw or paint the scene in front of them as it unfolded in real time. We encouraged them to get to the street early to allow their canvas to take shape, taking as much time as they needed to bring to life the idea they each uniquely had in mind for the piece. They played integral roles in creating the landscape, drawing an early crowd to the streets, and documenting this momentous event.

Growing Backwards

Clowns, five rolling out of a yellow
beetle, red lipstick smiles, ear to ear,
birdflight, flying fish, the smell
of fresh-cut sweet grass, the grass
roots of poetry. Step off the stage,
two-step, twirl, clap, step out. Then
sit at my table, words spread thick
as peanut butter, think shimmering
tastes, strawberry, rhubarb, and lime.
Think tea-time, Alice in Wonderland
whistling a tune. We’ll swing between
school yards, playgrounds, and green
monkey bars. Look what I see falling
from the sky? An angel, in one hand
three ruby balloons (make a wish),
and in the other, a painter’s brush,
a shimmering palate. Life is a canvass.
If thou wilt, finger paint a dream
If thou wilt, dream a childhood dream.

Charlene Spearen

Co-Producers, Co-Artistic Directors:
Sherry Warren and Aaron Pelzek

Ryan Stokes, Davin Lail

David Wright, Patrick Dover

Jessica Gibbons, Bianca Raso, Stephanie Beinlich, and Xavier Martin Moses

Mary Tilden, Lauren Koch and Mary-Therese HeintzkillDance Director:
Sherry Warren

Joanna Hardy, Ryan Thomas, Katie Winn, Sarah Pellerin, Mindy Chester, Jackie Ball, Beth Schnapp, Emiy Enloe, Malcolm Rembert, Nyna Dalbec, Terrence Henderson, Erin Roper, Joy Beard, Quinn Brown, Sherry WarrenBreakdancers:
Lavell ShaoLin Marshall, Aaron ‘dw’ White and Bryan ‘ballistik’ Wilson

Charlene Spearen

Marianna Simina, Sammy Lopez, Michael Krajewski, Cedric Umoja, and Alexandria Baker

Photography, Web Development:
Kirill Simin

Guest Photographer:
Michael Bergen

Margey Bolen

Erin Curtis

Jack Blakenley, Seth KahnSpecial Thanks to
Debi Schadel, Anna Redwine, Kimi Maeda, Kate Fox, Molly Brenan, and Mark Plessinger