About Paige Cooperstein

Journalist, Blogger, Audio Producer, Double-feature watcher

Music and words from the cast of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

 Andrew Jackson, the Rockstar president, makes his first visit to Charleston via The Village Repertory Co. at its new home in the Woolfe Street Playhouse. “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which transforms America’s 7th president into an emo lead singer, has never before been performed in the Charleston area. Go behind the curtain with this audio preview of the show.

Will Haden plays Andrew Jackson and sings “I’m not that Guy.” In his professional directorial debut, Josh Wilhoit styles the musical around the idea of politics as celebrity. Becca Anderson plays Rachel Jackson, Andrew’s wife, and sings “The Great Compromise.” Corey Webb serves as musical director and sings “Second Nature,” a reflective song near the end of the show.

If you go

  • When: Thursday May 30 – June 22
  • Where: Woolfe Street Playhouse, 34 Woolfe St.
  • Tickets: $36

“God of Carnage” Would Wreak Better Havoc with Age-Appropriate Actors

Review of “God of Carnage,” part of the Stelle di Domani series.

It takes a minute to get used to seeing a pair of college students discuss their 11-year old son.

As part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents “God of Carnage,” Jasmina Reza’s dialogue dense 90-minute production. “Carnage” traps two sets of parents in a living room as they deal with their sons’ playground scuffle. Christopher Hampton translated Reza’s tight French into equally tight English, bringing a whole new meaning to “fighting words.” But, all these words put a lot of pressure on the actors.

The cast of "God of Carnage"

The cast of “God of Carnage.”

Margaret Nyland and Peter Spearman play Veronica and Michael Novak, parents of Henry, who gets whacked in the face with a stick. Nyland is a University of Virginia graduate taking classes at the College of Charleston. She’s older than her undergraduate cast mates, which really works to her advantage. She moves and sounds like a harried young mother standing up for her son after a child’s fight. Spearman, as her nebbish husband, nails the hesitant speech of a spouse who is clearly not the dominant one in the marriage. Although only a college junior, Spearman acts old enough. He employs that particular brand of fatherly pride when he learns his son has a little gaggle of boys who follow him around like a gang. Novak’s boy is a ringleader in a way that Novak hasn’t been since before he got married.

College of Charleston senior Diana Biffle and junior Christian Persico play the other married couple, Annette and Alan Raleigh. The Raleighs’ son, Benjamin, hit Henry with a stick because Henry wouldn’t let him join his gang. Biffle and Persico are clearly college actors. They look young and sound young. Benjamin would more likely be their kid brother than their son. It doesn’t help that the Raleighs’ dialogue in “Carnage” naturally calls for an annoyed attachment to Benjamin. “He’s a savage,” Alan declares to explain away his son’s behavior in the park.

Costume designer McKenna DuBose doesn’t help the dilemma when she employs a hackneyed trick: make a young girl look older by suctioning her luscious hair into a dour bun, then add glasses. It’s the same trick used in movies to make a pretty girl look like a dork. Because we’re so used to it, we become less swayed to believe the design. Biffle is left looking like a cute kid toddling around in her mother’s heels. The same goes for Persico who wears a trench coat that swallows him whole. He fishes around in the large pockets of his trousers every time his blackberry rings, reminding us that he is as uncomfortable in these grown men’s pants as he is with bandying about legal advice over the phone. Alan works as a corporate litigator.

What does end up saving “Carnage” is when Nyland, Spearman, Biffle and Persico all work together, talking on top of each other and exhausting their characters at the same time. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts in this production. When Spearman’s Michael breaks out a bottle of perfectly aged rum, a catalyst among college kids as much as full grown adults, the show turns quite nicely.

Alliances shift from husband and wife batting for the same team, to the two husbands playing against the two wives. Of course, Hampton’s translated dialogue dictates this shift, but without the clever chemistry of the core four actors, you wouldn’t have felt the necessary comedy in “God of Carnage.”

The body beautifully decoded in Compagnie Kafig dance

Something beautiful lives in the expression of athletic skill. Compagnie Kafig, a troupe of 11 dancers performing at TD Arena as part of Spoleto Festival USA, shows just what a body can do. In its hip-hop heavy version of Brazilian fight dancing, Kafig’s capoeira takes advantage of isolations common to pop lock dancers.

Toward the end of “Correria,” the first presentation, one dancer comes out for a solo with his torso bare. He torques his abdomen until it takes on the flow of a pencil wobbled between two fingers in the rubber pencil optical illusion.

Later, Kafig kicks around the stage with an extra set of wooden legs in hand. Dancers use their arms to drive the fake legs into the same steps as their real ones, to dramatic effect. Each episode demands, “Pay attention, this is what legs can do, this is what muscles are for, this is what torsion, contraction and relaxation can produce.”

Kafig explores the body’s history. As “Correria” opens, a primordial orange glow—designed by Yoann Tivoli—lights three dancers on their backs, with their legs up in the air pedaling an invisible bicycle. We see them first as machines in the body’s present or future.

“Agwa,” the second presentation, is much more organic. During “Agwa,” a grid of clear plastic cups fills the stage. Only after a dancer backflips through the maze do we see that some of the cups are filled with water. The dancers dazzlingly dash it from one cup to another, visibly delighted with Mourad Merzouki’s choreography. You can’t help but be reminded of the fact that up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Kafig earns its finale, and you’ll want to stick around for the encore.

Natalie Daise Reveals What it Takes to Become Harriet Tubman

This is Harriet Tubman’s year, according to Natalie Daise, a storyteller out of Beaufort, S.C. Daise presents her one-woman show, “Becoming Harriet Tubman,” as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. She originally put on “Becoming Harriet Tubman” at last year’s Piccolo festival, but especially wanted to perform it again to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death. Daise portrays four people at turning points in Tubman’s life, including Harriet’s mother, her first slave owner, a field worker and Harriet herself. Daise chats with The Post and Courier about life as a professional storyteller, as well as what it took to get into the life of Harriet Tubman.

Listen to a sample of Daise playing each of the four characters (Audio by Paige Cooperstein).

A lot of people will remember you from your family’s Nick Jr. show Gullah Gullah Island. How has your storytelling evolved since then?
Daise: I was already a storyteller before the show. My husband had written a book about Gullah culture called “Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage.” He interviewed a lot of the elders on St. Helena Island and I brought those stories to the stage. At one performance, we met an executive producer from Nick and she said, “We could do a show with you guys!” I was pregnant with my second baby at the time and we shot the show in Orlando until he was five.

Can you explain a little bit about the Gullah culture?
Daise: My husband is Gullah and for many years people misunderstood the culture and the language. The Gullah stories I told were to preserve African culture in the coastal islands of the Carolinas and Georgia. Gullah traditions come largely from West Africa and we talked about things like the dietary practices, part of which is eating rice every day.

Natalie Daise, playwright and actor in “Becoming Harriet Tubman.”
Photo: Josh Austin

Why did you decide to tell the life story of Harriet Tubman?
Daise: People tend to think of African American culture as starting in slavery, but really that was just a transitional period. While I was telling stories about the Gullah culture, I came across Charlotte Forten, who was the first black instructor to white students on St. Helena Island in 1862. In her journal, she mentions coming into Beaufort, South Carolina, and having lunch with Harriet Tubman. I thought, “What?! How did I not know about this? Actually Harriet Tubman spent quite a bit of time in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Take me through your writing process for Becoming Harriet Tubman.
Daise: I originally wrote a 15-minute show on her. As I got going, people would say, “Why don’t you do that Harriet Tubman Show?” And I thought, “I don’t really have a Harriet Tubman show.” But I was interested in who she was as a person and how she became an icon. I always tell this story, and it is true. A friend of mine said she hated one-person shows because it felt like being trapped in a closet with someone who wouldn’t shut up. So I thought the more perspectives you have, the more you can flesh Harriet out.

You portray four characters at formative moments in Harriet Tubman’s life. How did you decide which people to include in Becoming Harriet Tubman?
Daise: The first voice that came to me was her mother’s because of the research that I’d done, but I also felt I could really identify with her as a mother. I also chose a field hand because one of the iconic stories they tell about Harriet is how she got her skull fractured. I thought it’d be interesting to hear it from the field hand’s point of view because he was really the catalyst of that moment for her. Harriet Tubman is also included, but she does not tell her story until the second half because she is created really by her circumstances.

You performed Becoming Harriet Tubman as a part of Piccolo Spoleto last year. What made you want to perform it again this year?
Daise: The first time I did the show was February 2012. Someone said I should do it for Piccolo and so I said okay. It was a fairly new show last year, but shows are always evolving. Right now, it feels complete. I have such a relationship with her at this point. When she became complete, I just really wanted to do her. I thought she needed more time on the stage. Plus this is Harriet Tubman’s year. This year is the 100th anniversary of her death, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement. I will probably do something else if I do Piccolo again. But this year just felt right to do Harriet Tubman again.

If you go

  • Where: Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St.
  • When: May 24 at 8 p.m., May 31 at 6 p.m., June 7 at 8 p.m.
  • Tickets: $18 Adults, $16 Students/Seniors