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Monday, January 21, 2019

Powerful production of “Miss Saigon” lands at the Peace Center

Photo by Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson.

War is hell, and the creators of “Miss Saigon,” much to their credit, don’t glorify the Vietnam War or shy away from the sordidness and tragedy of the conflict.

The Tony Award-winning mega-musical stormed into the Peace Center Tuesday in a powerful and poignant staging that is darker and grittier than the original 1991 Broadway production. It’s a show that probably will – and should — haunt you long after its superb cast has moved on to conquer another city.

Written by the “Les Mis” team of Claude-Michel Schonberg (music) and Alain Boublil (lyrics, with additional words by Richard Maltby Jr.), “Miss Saigon” is a searing and serious work of theater, asking probing questions about American idealism, hypocrisy, foreign intervention and the glorification of excess.

“Miss Saigon” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. Emily Bautista as Kim and Anthony Festa as Chris in the North American Tour of “Miss Saigon” sing “Sun and Moon.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

This production, with a sizable cast for a national tour, has the breadth of an epic, with the Vietnam conflict as backdrop. But at its heart is a simple story of a 17-year-old Vietnamese girl, Kim, who falls in love with an American G.I., Chris.

Schonberg’s terrific music score spotlights soaring melodies and muscular ensemble numbers in a range of styles, from gentle ballads to R&B duets and hard-charging rock choruses.

It’s really an opera, with very few lines of spoken dialogue, and operatic in its extravagance and occasional bombast. It’s even based on an opera: Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”

With its strong language, sexual situations and amplified music that sometimes rattles the ribcage, this emotionally charged show may be too intense for some theater-goers. It’s no “South Pacific,” to mention another musical set against the backdrop of war.

“Miss Saigon” continues at the Peace Center through Sunday. The company of the North American Tour of “Miss Saigon” performs “Morning of the Dragon.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“Miss Saigon” boasts some hair-raising scenes, such as the confrontation between Kim and Thuy, the young man to whom she was promised.

And did we mention the helicopter? The musical famously features a helicopter landing on stage and then spiriting away Americans as Saigon falls and villagers are left behind screaming. It’s a jaw-dropping coup de theatre, thrillingly executed in this production.

The electrifying cast takes on some of the most demanding roles in musical theater: Emily Bautista, with a voice at turns tender and impassioned, is a sympathetic Kim. Anthony Festa, also strong of voice, plays the impulsive, tortured Chris. Red Concepcion embraces the role of the Engineer (both a pimp and an emcee) with tremendous gusto.

Stacie Bono, J. Daughtry and Jinwoo Jung also contribute strong performances. The entire ensemble of more than two dozen create a mighty sound in the Peace Center.

This big, brash “Miss Saigon” continues through Sunday at the Peace Center. For tickets, call 864-467-3000 or visit the website www.peacecenter.org.

Paul Hyde, a veteran Upstate journalist, writes about the arts in the Upstate for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

In Our Community: Spinx donation; STEAM learning; Mayfair Art Studios; and more

The 10th SPINX store campaign for the American Cancer Society raised $174,104 to support the health organization’s mission. Photo provided.


CDS receives $17,000 from Ned Marshall Memorial Golf Tournament

The Ned Marshall Memorial Golf Tournament, hosted by AC Controls, recently raised $17,000 for the Center for Developmental Services. The tournament honors Ned Marshall, a 30-year employee of AC Controls who had a passion for helping children. The funds were raised through sponsorships, teams, a silent auction, and donations. The $17,000 will support the general program of CDS that serves families and children. 

Spinx donates $174,000 to American Cancer Society

The 10th Spinx store campaign for the American Cancer Society raised $174,104 to support the health organization’s mission of education, treatment, research, and ultimately a cure for cancer. All 80 Spinx convenience stores in South Carolina participated in the campaign collecting customer donations. Founder and chairman Stewart Spinks personally matched the donations raised in the five stores that collected the most donations. 

“As a cancer survivor myself, I know the importance of the work that the American Cancer Society accomplishes each day,” Spinks said in a news release. “I’m so proud of our team’s efforts, and I know that our local community will benefit greatly from their hard work and the generosity of so many of our customers.”


Bosch Community Fund awards TCMU over $52,000 in grant to promote STEAM learning

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate received a grant of $52,856 from the Bosch Community Fund to promote learning in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) through the enhancement of guest programming and professional development. TCMU delivers its STEAM programming primarily through play-based learning at the museum’s exhibits, as well as lesson plans included in field trips, classroom outreach activities, and after-school programs.

“We’re very grateful that Bosch has given us dedicated funding to support our organization’s STEAM learning efforts, which support teachers with content knowledge that translates into effective classroom practices applying science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics,” TCMU interim CEO Michelle Shain said in a news release. “As a result, students in effective STEAM classrooms learn how to identify, apply, and integrate concepts from those five domains to better understand complex problems and to solve them using innovative approaches.”


Chapman Cultural Center builds art studios with support from Timken Family Foundation

Upon receiving an $80,000 grant from the Timken Family Foundation of Canton, Ohio, the Chapman Cultural Center will construct 3D metal and glass fusion studios at Mayfair Art Studios in Spartanburg. “The Timken Foundation of Canton has a long-standing tradition of supporting the arts and education initiatives within the communities for which the Timken Company operates,” Scott Lamitina, human relations manager of Timken’s Duncan location, said in a news release.

Mayfair Art Studios is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2019. “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this support from the Timken family,” Brad Wright, corporate giving manager for Chapman Cultural Center, said in the release. “We were already grateful to have local Timken support for our education programs from the Duncan distribution center, but to receive this kind of support from the family foundation is truly overwhelming.”

Construction set to begin on $10M sewer project in Simpsonville

Photo Credit: Docter_K/iStock

Renewable Water Resources (ReWa) is set to launch a major wastewater treatment project in the coming months, upgrading a decades-old sewer pipe that provides service to more than 5,000 people in southern Greenville County. 

The pipe, known as the Rock Creek Interceptor, was built in 1981 and is connected to ReWa’s Lower Reedy Water Resource Recovery Facility, where wastewater is treated and then discharged into the Reedy River. It primarily services the eastern portion of Simpsonville. 

An analysis conducted by New York-based engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer last year found that the Rock Creek Interceptor would nearly exceed capacity by 2020 without an upgrade, according to Jason Gillespie, senior engineering project manager at ReWa. 

ReWa plans to replace approximately 13,500 linear feet of the existing 24-inch diameter sewer pipe with newer pipes of varying size to increase the system’s capacity to meet current and future needs. The project is expected to conclude in the summer of 2020. 

“Hydraulic modeling predicted that the new upsized sewer can accommodate sewer flows to the year 2035,” said Gillespie. “Generally speaking, the project provides over a 50 percent increase from the current system in sewer service capacity to the watershed.”

Construction is expected to cost about $10 million, according to Gillespie. ReWa will use a Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) infrastructure loan to pay for the project.

The CWSRF is a federal-state partnership that provides communities with a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water-quality infrastructure projects, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the past 31 years, its programs have provided more than $132 billion in financing for water-quality infrastructure.

Gillespie said ReWa’s interceptor project will span about 2.5 miles, with construction beginning south of Rocky Creek Road and ending at Adler Park. It will cross 67 properties.

ReWa is working to acquire temporary and permanent construction easements, according to Gillespie. The easements will not only protect the infrastructure but also allow for proper construction access and maintenance once the project is complete.

“ReWa has conducted several public meetings with residents impacted by the upgraded sewer project to explain the benefits associated with the project and to ensure property and traffic disturbance is minimized during construction,” said Gillespie. 

An assessment conducted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control found that the sewer’s expanded capacity will ultimately help prevent sewage overflows from impacting the water quality of Rocky Creek, a tributary of the Reedy River.

The assessment also noted that construction would have minimal environmental impacts: “Most of the construction will be confined to areas within existing easements and highway right-of-ways that have been disturbed in the past as part of highway and wastewater construction projects … Short-term, minor disturbances associated with construction — such as traffic interference, noise, dust, vegetation loss, erosion, and sedimentation — will be minimized through the use of best-management construction practices.”

For more information, visit www.rewaonline.org

James Jamerson was a Motown hit-maker


You’ve heard him before, whether you realize it or not. An uncredited studio musician, James Jamerson laid down legendary bass grooves on many a Motown record, including that of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, the Jackson 5, the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson.

His cousin Anthony McKnight has spent 20 years campaigning for Jamerson’s induction into the S.C. Hall of Fame, and although that hasn’t been fruitful as of yet, Jamerson has received two lifetime achievement Grammy Awards, a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, and inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Musician’s Hall of Fame, and the Fender Music Hall of Fame. And now, the Lowcountry Music Hall of Fame. Damn straight.

Live the high life in these Cliffs homes


Living in the foothills, it’s easy to fall in love with the mountains. Hiking, fishing, and kayaking are just a short car trip away. But instead of day trips to enjoy mountain life, you can live it every day with any of these gorgeous Cliffs properties currently on the market.


  • The Scoop: Take in the magnificent views of Caesar’s Head from your 700-foot screened porch. Enjoy the trails on your property that lead to natural springs. Take advantage of the community’s swimming pools, tennis courts, and clubhouse.  Another selling point; you can enjoy the serenity of the mountains with downtown Greenville only a short drive away.
  • Address: 126 Caesars Pointe
  • List Price: $1,495,000
  • Listing Agent: The Marchant Company, Tom Marchant


  • The Scoop: This home offers a trifecta with views of the mountains, lake, and golf course. You can take in the scenery from the floor to ceiling windows in nearly every room and from the spacious terrace. In addition to the stunning views, the home features a main-level master suite and four additional en suite bedrooms.
  • Address: 117 Upper Ridge Way
  • List Price: $1,200,690
  • Listing Agent: Joan Herlong & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty, Patrick Furman


  • The Scoop: Natural light abounds in this contemporary home nestled in the Carolina foothills on the side of glassy mountain. There are triple windows, clerestory windows, and skylights. Enjoy the views from the upper and lower decks that span the length of the house. Stroll along the home’s walking paths among the property’s evergreens.
  • Address: 203 Southview Ledge Road
  • List Price: $575,000
  • Listing Agent: Blackstream Christie’s, John “Clark” Kent and Cynthia Cole Jenkins

The Anchorage named to inaugural World Restaurant Awards longlist

Pictured here: The Anchorage's kitchen during opening week in January 2017. Photo by Will Crooks / Greenville Journal

The Anchorage restaurant at 586 Perry Ave. in the Village of West Greenville has been named one of 18 best restaurants in the world that doesn’t require reservations by the inaugural World Restaurant Awards.

The newly formed World Restaurant Awards were created by IMG, a leading events, media, fashion, and sports company, operating in more than 30 countries to recognize the culinary world in the same way as film, art, and music.

The winner of the “No Reservations” award will be announced Feb. 18 in Paris at the awards ceremony. The Anchorage is one of four U.S. restaurants to make the longlist alongside 14 others from around the globe.

The judging panel of 100 experts represents 37 different nationalities. The list of chefs on the panel reads like a culinary hall of fame lineup and includes Alex Atala of Brazil, Daniel Humm of NYC, Elana Arzak of Spain, Esben Bang of Norway, David Chang of NYC, René Redzepi of Denmark, Dan Barber of New York, Andreas Caminada of Switzerland, and Massimo Bottura of Italy. Many of them hold three Michelin stars and some have become near-household names thanks to various TV series, including Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Interestingly, The Anchorage executive chef and owner Greg McPhee and his wife, Beth, traveled to Italy and dined at Bottura’s three-star restaurant Osteria Francescana in the summer of 2017. Instagram has the enviable photographic proof.

Based on the information on the World Restaurant Awards website, it’s unclear whether or not those on the panel visited any of the restaurants before adding them to the list.

Since opening in January of 2017, The Anchorage has received numerous accolades from food journalists and travel publications, but the highest honor so far came in 2018 when it was nominated for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation.

The Anchorage was the only South Carolina restaurant to make the Best New Restaurant list for 2018.

The roasted carrots done on the wood-fire grill have been a guest favorite since opening. Photo by Will Crooks / Greenville Journal


Local grants keep Safe Harbor up to the challenge of addressing domestic violence


Domestic violence occurs in every community, and the Upstate is no exception. In Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, and Pickens counties, victims can call Safe Harbor 24/7 to access services including shelter, case management, counseling, advocacy and support groups. From January–November of 2018, Safe Harbor received 2,238 crisis calls—up 28 percent from 2017.

“These are people experiencing the worst day of the worst season of their lives. We’re there to help them get their bearings and figure out what to do next to be safe and independent,” said Becky Callaham, executive director. “We charge nothing for our services,whether they need someone to talk to, help making a safety plan, a safe place to stay with their children, or help getting an order of protection.”

In addition to intervention services, Safe Harbor offers prevention and community outreach programs like the school-based Relationship Education Project, which teaches middle and high-school students about healthy relationships and warning signs of relationship violence.

“It’s important to have those conversations with young people,” Callaham said. “When you change attitudes, you can change behavior and have a long-term impact.”

Other community outreach services include providing speakers for faith and community groups; trainings for healthcare providers, educators, and law-enforcement personnel; and advocacy to raise awareness among fellow community service providers of domestic violence, its impact, and services available at Safe Harbor.

Although federal grants cover many safety-net intervention services, other critical needs are met by gifts from local philanthropic organizations. In 2009, Greenville Women Giving, a special initiative of the Community Foundation, provided funding for security at Safe Harbor’s community services building. A 2015 GWG Grant awarded $49,000 for the “ManUPstate” campaign, which encourages men to stand against mistreatment of women, create a culture of respect, and serve as role models for the next generation.

The Community Foundation has supported Safe Harbor through Capacity Building Grants and other programs geared towards increasing effectiveness, said Bob Morris, president.

“Becky and her team have attended Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, professional development seminars that promote leadership of our local organizations. Safe Harbor also participated in a community-wide capacity initiative which collected data from 43 nonprofit partners to assess capacity needs and opportunities,” Morris said. “The Community Foundation invests in both programs to strengthen Greenville County’s nonprofit system.”

A 2014 Capacity Building Grant funded technology upgrades including new computers, an upgraded accounting system, and wireless Internet access. A second, in 2016, funded a feasibility study to gauge the community’s interest in and willingness tosupport the development of a new facility. Results of the study were favorable, and beginning in 2019, Safe Harbor will begin raising funds to replace their current Greenville domestic violence shelter.

It comes not a moment too soon: The current 34-bed facility was modified from a home built over 100 years ago. In the first 11 months of 2018, Safe Harbor had to turn away 313 families needing emergency shelter—up 29 percent from 2017. Not only is it crowded, it offers residents little privacy, with as many as eight clients sharing a bedroom.

“Our three shelters are usually full, so increasing capacity is important. But victims need more than a safe space to spend the night. After the trauma they’ve experienced, it’s hard to have to share a bedroom and bathroom with strangers,” Callaham said. “The new facility will have privacy for families who are healing, plus thoughtful, comfortable spaces for teenagers and children.”

‘The Glass Menagerie’ shows reverence to the American classic with a sense of urgency

Thomas Azar will be playing Tom Winfield in the Warehouse Theatre's production of The Glass Menagerie. Photo by Will Crooks.

Tennessee Williams is often thought of as “capital T, capital W Tennessee Williams,” says Kerrie Seymour, director of The Warehouse Theatre’s “The Glass Menagerie.” “It is such an iconic title in the American theater that I think a lot of people already think they know what it is,” Seymour explains.

While many people have experienced “The Glass Menagerie,” whether reading it in high school or seeing the film version, The Warehouse Theatre aims for more than a dreary adaptation.

“This show seems to be cursed by some very depressing productions where there is this sad violin, and welcome to the downer family,” says Mimi Wyche, who plays Amanda Wingfield, the overbearing mother of the Wingfield family. “We all believe that the play is much more than that. It’s inspiring and funny. It is heartbreaking, but it’s so engaging, and that’s the kind of production we want to do.”

Mimi Wyche will be playing Amanda Wingfield, the matriarch of the Wingfield family. Photo by Will Crooks.

The show tells the story of the Wingfield family. Amanda’s husband left years ago, and although she yearns to do the best for her children, Tom and Laura, she doesn’t quite know the best way. Tom works to support the family but wishes to be a poet and escape the monotony of his life. Laura has become increasingly removed from the outside world due to her disabilities and mental state, and Amanda tries unsuccessfully to set her up with a gentleman caller.

Seymour sees each character as complex and real with both faults and strengths. “Williams is known for doing these brilliant psychological studies of humans who aren’t quite fit to deal with the brutalities of the world. And I think you have four of them in this play,” Seymour says.

“Tennessee Williams, while an absolutely poetic realist, is a realist playwright. The trick with realism is that no one character is all good and no one is all bad,” she says. “I don’t think that this play feels like it has heroes and villains; it feels like it has four humans that have the capacity to be both in one body, just depends upon the situation and who’s in the room.”

The complexity of the characters and plot, as well as the reputation of the show, leave the actors and directors with a challenge to bring new energy to the play without changing its nature.

Kerrie Seymour, director of the Glass Menagerie at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo by Will Crooks.

The show is referred as a memory play because Tom narrates the evening retrospectively. The show plays on the incomplete nature of memory by hanging on to and often dramatizing the iconic moments and losing some of the lesser details.

Thomas Azar, playing Tom, says the show needs new energy to help the audience grasp it. “This is not a paint-by-numbers ‘Glass Menagerie.’ It feels very urgent. All of the characters are at their peak, and I think that means something very different to each one.”

Though the show is often labeled a tragedy, Azar says Tom is the only person who knows it’s tragic, as it’s based on his memories. Tom wants the audience to know that “he is telling the story of a tragedy, but maybe his life doesn’t have to be,” Seymour says.

The cast wants to pay reverence to the classic American play, while still breathing new life into it. “When you have a play that is as tremendous and beautiful and heartbreaking and illuminating as this, I don’t think you want to reinvent it, you just want to look at it with present eyes,” Seymour says.

If you go…

What: “The Glass Menagerie”
When: Jan. 25- Feb. 10, times vary
Where: The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St.
Tickets: $35 for general admission and $40 for reserved seating
Info: warehousetheatre.com or 864-235-6948.

Trolley ridership is down, Greenlink recommends changes


When Greenville decided to expand its trolley system by two routes two years ago, everybody expected ridership to increase.

But it has actually done the opposite, something that has the city and Greenlink, which operates the trolley system, considering changes to or elimination of the neighborhood routes, as well as starting seasonal routes earlier to take advantage of baseball and downtown concert series, and eliminating Thursday service in the fall and winter.

“We have to focus on the downtown area. Anything beyond that, if it’s not getting rides, you’ve got to consider that,” Mayor Knox White said.

Trolleys have been a common sight in downtown Greenville since 2006, when the Greenville Drive bought one to shuttle fans who parked at County Square to Fluor Field on game days. The idea came when city officials visited Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city that also has a baseball stadium downtown, and saw a trolley shuttling baseball fans up a hill. White said the city thought a trolley could alleviate parking concerns in the West End on game days. When there wasn’t a baseball game, the trolleys would transport passengers downtown.

There are four trolley routes.

Heart of Main, which covers downtown, and Top of Main, which covers the North Main Street area, run year-round Thursday through Sunday.

Augusta, which covers Augusta Street, Cleveland Park, and the Greenville Zoo, and Arts West, which runs to the Village of West Greenville arts district and Heritage Green, where Greenville’s museums are located, were added in 2016 and run seasonally, May through October.

Residents of the Alta Vista neighborhood supported having the Augusta trolley, but Greenlink was unable to identify stop locations along McDaniel Avenue that met Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility requirements, had encroachment permits approved by the state Department of Transportation, and had the support of the adjacent property owners.

In 2016, trolley ridership was 118,000 — 10,000 more riders than Greenlink’s most popular fixed route that year.

But ridership fell to 97,672 in 2018, according to James Keel, Greenlink’s assistant public transportation director.

White blames the length of the neighborhood routes, which have to be tied to tourist destinations such as restaurants, art galleries, or attractions such as the zoo because they are paid for with tourism-generated taxes. “To be effective, [trolley routes] have to be relatively short. The more you loop around and complicate it, the less efficient it is.”

Keel recommended that seasonal routes shift to April through September, partly because of the Greenville Drive’s season and because trolley service is difficult to provide in October because of special events such as Fall for Greenville and Boo in the Zoo.

“At the end of the day, baseball makes or breaks ridership,” he said.

Keel said Thursday off-season service is low and he recommended eliminating it.

Keel said Greenlink has four trolleys, but the optimal fleet is six. A new trolley costs $250,000.

Comprehensive Dentistry at Meyer Dentistry


Many people don’t realize there is a direct link between oral health and whole-body health. The word comprehensive means “complete; including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something”. Comprehensive Dentistry is addressed by Dr. James Meyer in four major categories that encompass your whole-body health:

Esthetics – the smile should compliment features; face shape, lips, jaw

Functionality – the bite should be comfortable and properly aligned

Health – oral health issues can be signs of other bodily health concerns or vice versa

Foundation – Building a smile that will give you confidence long term

People notice and admire a great healthy smile. Maintaining oral health with regular hygiene appointments, completing treatment as the doctor recommends, restoring flaws or decay can promote the longevity of natural teeth and bone. The presence of bacteria and decay in the mouth will damage teeth and unchecked bacteria can travel to other parts of the body including the heart.

Did you know that your bite, how the teeth fit together, can damage teeth and may cause headaches? Chewing is a basic function that we do every day and discomfort in the jaw or pain in teeth can really ruin a good meal! Making sure functionality is balanced and in proper alignment is important to a happy mouth.

Dr. Meyer promotes prevention as the place to start for your overall health. Taking care of the basics can reduce cost in the long term by solving small problems; being proactive in your oral health could prevent greater more costly treatments in the future and more serious health issues.

Dr. Meyer has taken the time to further his training beyond the basics that are presented in Dental School. Being trained and experienced in many different dental procedures like crowns, implants, TMJ treatment and having the artistic perspective for cosmetic dentistry to enhance or completely rejuvenate your smile gives him the ability to provide a comprehensive approach to your dental and whole-body health.

Greenville takes new approach to city manager search


Greenville’s next city manager probably isn’t currently looking for a new job.

That’s what Greenville City Council members are saying as a second search gets underway to replace former city manager John Castile, who left the city in August and became Greenville County Redevelopment Authority’s executive director in September.

“I anticipate that the person we hire does not know they would like to come to Greenville yet. They do not know that they are going to be changing jobs in the next few months. They may not even be looking for a change,” said Councilman Russell Stall.

Greenville-based Find Great People will help the council find a new manager. Council members have earmarked $57,500 from the city’s fund balance to pay for the search.

Mayor Knox White said this search would differ from the traditional city administrator search that starts with resumes of candidates who are looking for a job and finding those that seem the best fits. Instead, this search will identify the best talent for the role first and then try to sell that person on the city and the job, he said.

“We’re looking for someone who is not looking for a job,” White said.

Councilman Russell Stall said after the first search, council members realized they needed a search firm that better understood Greenville and the “Greenville way.”

“We are a much larger city that our population would suggest, and our expectations are higher than most other cities,” he said. “We’re excited about FGP. They understand Greenville, and because they live here, have a vested interest in finding a city manager who can effectively lead us into the future.”

The city paid $22,050 to Texas-based recruiting firm Springsted|Waters for the first search. Three finalists were selected, but one withdrew to become Asheville’s city manager. Council members interviewed the two remaining candidates but decided not to hire either.

“We could have settled on one of the candidates identified in the first round, and they would have been fine. But fine is not good enough. We are at a point in Greenville’s history where we cannot compromise on who we hire,” Stall said. “We have an amazing product to offer to a new city manager, and believe we have the ability to have high expectations.”

Nancy Whitworth, the city’s deputy city manager and economic development director, has served as interim city manager since Castile left. Originally, she told City Council members she would serve in that capacity for six months. She said she told the council at the conclusion of the initial search that she would continue to serve in an interim capacity to allow more time to find someone permanently. She said she has no interest in filling the job permanently.

‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’ waddle onto stage, into hearts

The Popper family penguins were each handmade by director Kim Granner. Photo provided.

Captain Cook meets Greta, and soon after, 10 more penguins join the Popper family — flapping and squawking around the house and all over town.

Based on the children’s book “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Florence and Richard Atwater, South Carolina Children’s Theatre brings the penguins to life on stage under the direction of Kim Granner.

Mr. Popper receives a male penguin named Captain Cook as a surprise gift and later obtains a female penguin named Greta. Along with his wife and two children, Mr. Popper transforms their home into a penguin playground.

Building a penguin pyramid, shooting out of a cannon, and floating on balloons, the penguins perform some pretty impressive stunts. For this reason, Granner decided to portray the penguins with puppets, which she crafted herself.

Kim Granner has directed productions at SCCT for over 20 years. Photo provided.

“Puppets can do things in this that the people couldn’t do,” Granner says. The production presents a unique learning opportunity for the actors involved.

Twelve actors comprise the cast — Mr. and Mrs. Popper, four actors who play multiple roles, and six others who manage the puppets.

Although the children are the puppeteers, they will be very visible behind the penguins. The puppeteers get costumes, too — ‘30s-style outfits to match the era. 

Granner says none of the cast were experienced puppeteers. “It’s been a challenge to teach them how to take these inanimate objects of material and foam and breathe life in it,” she says. 

Continually keeping the penguins alive on stage requires a different set of skills from memorizing a character’s lines. 

Granner tested the actors’ abilities at auditions by showing a penguin puppet and asking actors what they thought penguins sounded like. Then, she would name emotions and ask them to communicate those feelings in their best penguin voices.

“That was an interesting challenge for them,” she says. “They are not just a puppeteer; they are the penguin. Whatever the penguin is feeling, they have to show that on their face.”

Directing SCCT productions since 1996, Granner seeks new ways to make productions unique. “I always try to bring something new and different to it if I can,” she says.

She first incorporated puppets into “The Little Mermaid” years ago. “I’ve just always thought puppets are cool, and I think people can really identify with them in a way that’s great,” Granner says. 

Making over 20 puppets for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” Granner first had to decide what the penguins would need to do — use their feet, flap their wings, move their heads. Next, she had to make those actions possible.

Using some unusual materials — salad tongs and parts of umbrellas — Granner brought the penguins to life through countless hours of work. Captain Cook and Greta are just shy of 3 feet tall, and the 10 babies measure about 18 inches. Granner also created 10 even smaller penguins to show their growth from eggs to baby penguins. 

Granner’s daughter Kasie Granner, an elementary school teacher, plays the role of Mrs. Popper. Using uncommon words and phrases popular in the 1930s adds a fun element to the role, Kasie Granner says. “I’ve also enjoyed working with puppets because that has been a new experience for me,” she says.

Acting with puppets presents unique challenges, but Kasie Granner says she’s enjoyed the challenge. “I think the puppets will really capture the audience’s attention,” she says. “They are so darn cute! It is hard not to stare at them.”

Working under the direction of her mother, Kasie Granner feels fortunate to create these special memories of working together. Theater has been a professional hobby of theirs for the last 25 years, forming a unique mother-daughter bond on and off stage.

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

When: Jan. 26-27 and Feb. 1-3; times vary
Where: Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre
Tickets: $19-$28
Info: https://scchildrenstheatre.org/shop/mpp/

Saltwater Kitchen unveiled as new seafood concept from Rick Erwin Dining Group

rendering by Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture

Kept under wraps for several months, Rick Erwin Dining Group has announced the name, menu, and leadership for its newest restaurant under construction at Haywood Mall.

Named Saltwater Kitchen, the new seafood restaurant will be under the leadership of executive chef Josh Thomsen, also exec of Rick Erwin’s Eastside, and general manager Mark McCalmont, coming from the group’s Level 10 rooftop restaurant in Spartanburg.

The name follows a naming trend RE Dining Group started with The Standard and Level 10, dropping the founder’s name for the most recent restaurants as the brand expands.

Saltwater Kitchen will be informal enough for the every day diner without sacrificing quality of service and food, says Michael Ivey, the dining group’s CFO and partner.

“It was never our intent to make this white linen concept fit in the mall,” Ivey said, referencing the formal dining style at Rick Erwin’s Eastside and most of the other locations during a tasting for the new menu.

Sales and marketing director Daniel Lovelace reiterated that Saltwater Kitchen would not be a divergence from their core strength of high quality service and experience while catering to a broader demographic.

Saltwater Kitchen is on track to open in the spring in the nearly 6,000-square-foot former Palmetto Moon retail space fronting the parking lot on the lower level, to the right of the mall entrance nearest the Apple Store.

Craig Gaulden Davis Architecture has designed the space to feel less like a restaurant in a mall and more like a destination with expansive outdoor patio bar with sailing and rigging-inspired details that flows into the interior space.

Architect Ed Zeigler said a main challenge was converting a shotgun retail space into a restaurant without disrupting the tenants above.

“We wanted to be bold but wanted to be really sophisticated,” he said.

The restaurant will have both an exterior and interior entrance into an open reception and bar area. To the right will be the all-weather patio and bar. To the left will be two distinct dining areas with large booths and banquettes as well as traditional tables that will allow for flexibility with larger groups.

The decidedly Southern menu will highlight chef Thomsen’s strength of showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients in an approachable way.

Founder and owner Rick Erwin said the menu items, including sides, will total 30 or fewer, allowing for more creativity and quality control from the kitchen.

Thomsen has been working on the opening menu with the group’s corporate chef, Jason McCarthy, and said it’s about 90 percent complete.

A staple at all RE restaurants is in-house baked bread. At Saltwater, the bread option will be fresh buttermilk biscuits served with butter and local honey.

Shareable plates include a savory warm crab and pimento cheese dip; a Crab Louie salad with a red bell pepper syrup, blue crab, green goddess dressing, avocado, tomatoes, and grated hard boiled egg; and breaded rock shrimp served out of a Chinese to-go container with chopsticks.

Entrees will feature a cedar plank roasted Atlantic salmon with house succotash, salsa verde, and a grilled lemon; an open-faced BLT sandwich with pickled fried green tomatoes, root beer glazed pork belly with aioli and micro greens; Southern crab fried rice; and what Thomsen jokingly called the “Almost famous” lobster roll – poached Maine lobster, a touch of Duke’s mayonnaise, butter lettuce, and Old Bay fries.

Additionally, oysters on the half-shell will be a mainstay.

Current dessert options are pecan pie, key lime pie, and a cast iron baked chocolate chip cookie.

Saltwater Kitchen will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and specials may include weekly oyster roasts, choose-your-own lobster night, and fried chicken Sundays for post-church lunches.

Is Greenville becoming new hub for both emerging, veteran artists?

Keeping himself well-rounded as an artist, Gerry Wubben explores new things in his artwork. Photo by Will Crooks.

People move to Greenville for a variety of reasons — weather, housing, air quality, the economy, the mountains, career opportunities. But recently, more and more people are relocating here for one big reason — the Greenville arts scene.

“Our cultural amenities in Greenville are miraculous, given that we’re a city of about 65,000 people,” says Alan Ethridge, executive director at Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC). “The arts in Greenville are an amazing factor in both tourism and quality of life.”

Established artists, as well as emerging artists, are relocating to Greenville for the energetic arts community and innumerable opportunities. “We are very fortunate to live in such an area where the arts are greatly valued,” Ethridge says. 

Jeffrey Leder brings harmony to the opposing logic and emotion in his art. Photo by Will Crooks.

Painter and artist Jeffrey Leder came from New York City over two years ago. After exhibiting in Puerto Rico and SoHo, opening a marketing firm, and owning a gallery, Leder decided it was time to leave busy New York.

Seeking warmer weather and a new place to call home, Leder discovered Greenville. During his first visit, he stumbled upon First Fridays. “I was in love with Greenville,” he says. “I said, ‘This is the place for me.’”

Mentioning the downtown galleries Art and Light Gallery, The Art Bomb Co., MAC, and Greenville Center for Creative Arts, Leder says he could sense a strong local art community. “I just love Greenville,” he says. “Everyone is very welcoming, open-minded.”

For Leder, Greenville also offered a variety of people to meet. “There’s a great core of people that were here originally and then also a lot of people who are coming in — which is one of the things I loved about New York.”

Showing his artwork locally at Art and Light Gallery, Leder has six galleries representing him in the U.S. Leder’s works combine shapes and colors to reflect his logical and emotional sides. “I like that sort of yin-and-yang combination of structure and emotion and both being in balance with each other,” he says.

At this stage of life, Leder enjoys focusing on his own work and contributing to the arts scene. “There are so many different pockets here involved in the art scene,” he says. “It’s a wonderful mix. I get different things from different organizations and different involvement.”

Doing commission work for hospitals, participating in Open Studios last year, being involved with the MAC art committee, and teaching classes and taking a class at GCCA, Leder’s life in Greenville has been saturated with art.

“This is my base, this is my home,” Leder says. “It’s where my heart is.” 

After teaching at McNeese State University in Louisiana for 30 years, artist Gerry Wubben relocated to Greenville upon discovering the very active arts community two years ago. 

Gerry Wubben focuses on his own artwork now more than ever before. Photo by Will Crooks.

“This is a much more energetic art scene,” he says. “Where I came from, it was a bit more isolated.” Through his earlier studio space at Hampton Station and particularly through Open Studios, Wubben and his work gained exposure in the community. 

Keeping himself well-rounded as an artist, Wubben explores new things in his artwork, which includes abstracts, collages, etchings, realistic works, sculptures, and mixed media. “My main goal is to achieve the highest level that I can and then go from there,” he says.

Being an adjunct art professor at Furman University, Wubben found Greenville a place to continue his passion for teaching while concentrating on his own art like never before. “I always felt it was one of my main purposes in life to help young artists develop so that they find the artists within,” he says.

With the ever-growing local arts culture, Wubben enjoys being a part of the arts community as well as contributing to its future artists. “This is a very livable community, and I think the arts are a big part of that,” he says. “The appreciation of that is a way of life basically.” 

He attributes Greenville’s arts success to local support. “The whole network is a pretty fantastic thing, promoting everybody and allowing the art to be shown for the whole community.”

Greenville’s variety is another attractive trait for Wubben. “Moving here and discovering how wonderful it is, that’s been a really delightful thing, realizing how cool this area is and how people want a well-rounded life.” 

Fine art photographer Michael Pannier spent most of his life in the Mid-Atlantic, where for 30 years he owned galleries showing others’ work. Visiting Greenville over several years, Pannier and his wife decided to move. 

Michael Pannier brings recognition to fine art photography in Greenville. Photo by Will Crooks.

“There are more and more people coming in, especially like me, from out of the area that find it and fall in love,” Pannier says.

They relocated in 2015 and opened the SE Center for Photography, which is now located downtown. “One of the things that really drew us to Greenville was the arts presence that was here, the talent that was here, and the support among the artists,” he says.

The SE Center serves as a studio/gallery for Pannier’s work as well as for photographers from Greenville and all around the world. Advanced workshops, juried shows, invitational shows, and “Second Saturday Coffee” events are held there.

“I wanted to do a Southeast center to promote and develop the level of photography,” Pannier says. “You’re not going to find talent like this in major metropolitan areas, much less an area like Greenville.”

Pannier, through the center, helps student artists through partnerships with Furman University, Converse College, Bob Jones University, and Anderson University. “We want to expose them to fine photography,” he says. “It’s a different world when you’re making work to hang on the wall and physically hold it.”

With smartphones making everyone a photographer, Pannier says the acknowledgment of fine art photography can be difficult. “Photography has always had a hard time being accepted as art,” he says.

Greenville provides opportunities for Pannier to share more of his own work and help other artists in the thriving local arts scene. “The support in Greenville is phenomenal both in the artists and the community and the city,” he says.


Current Art Climate

The growth of Greenville’s arts scene is evidenced through recent expansions in the cultural landscape, display opportunities in galleries and businesses, numerous collective studio/gallery areas, and popular art events. Currently, 31 art galleries exist in Greenville. In 2018, Open Studios had record-high sales — over $318,000.

Open Studios in 2002 vs. Open Studios in 2018

  • 48 vs. 143 participating artists
  • $7,000 vs. $200,000-plus operational budget

Information provided by MAC’s Alan Ethridge.

‘Doubt’ allows audience to decide for themselves who is guilty


“Doubt” does not stray from the seriousness of scandal in the Catholic Church, but it also leaves room for the audience to decide for themselves. “Doubt” is set in 1964 at St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx, where Sister Aloysius, the school’s principal, is suspicious of the interactions between Father Flynn and young student Donald Muller.

The actors in Centre Stage’s production hope the topic they are challenged with presenting will provoke conversation about an issue that has recently come to the forefront again.

Maury Reed playing Father Flynn in ‘Doubt.’ Photo by Will Crooks.

“The overall conflict of if the priest did it or not is still very prominent in the Catholic Church, and they are struggling with that all the time it seems like, with no clear conclusion,” says Maury Reed, who will be playing Father Flynn.

“I guess his character is kind of part of the ‘new order of priests’ that are a lot more progressive,” he says. “That’s one of the things that sets Sister Aloysius off a little bit.”

Sister Aloysius is a nun who stresses the importance of vigilance in the Church and shares this with the younger, impressionable Sister James. Sister Aloysius becomes determined to see Father Flynn removed from his position and goes to Donald’s mother, Mrs. Muller, to try to convince her of their inappropriate relationship.

Regina Wells, who plays Mrs. Muller, explains that her character’s goal is to ensure that Donald makes it through school, no matter the circumstances.

Regina Wells playing Mrs. Muller in “Doubt.” Photo by Will Crooks.

Wells draws her inspiration from the many maternal figures in her life. She knows this subject can be tough to broach and challenges the audience to be aware of the nature of the show.

“It’s still something that happens. It’s not something that is talked about, and it’s a very uncomfortable subject. I think that it’s a story that needs to continue to be retold over and over until issues like this no longer exist,” she says.

“There’s going to be a lot of uncomfortable moments and tense and uneasy moments, so I think people can expect to not know what to expect exactly,” Wells explains. “When things are performed right in front of you, you always have a different response, and people can expect to feel uneasy and a little wound up about the subject matter, but in a good, provocative way.”

As the audience could expect, the themes of doubt and uncertainty prevail, leaving viewers with something to think about when they leave.

“You never having full evidence of anything. Doubt is also present in their faith; they never have full evidence for what they believe in, so you will have doubts in that, and that is something that most people could relate to,” Reed says.

In the show, each character faces doubt about what has happened between Father Flynn and Donald, as well as doubt and suspicion toward one another and the Church.

Since the show is set in the ’60s, it allows viewers to remove themselves from the conflict in a way that illuminates the reality of the issue that still exists. “It keeps that in the light, and us doing this play reminds people that this issue hasn’t been solved,” Reed says. “We need to be vigilant about it. Setting it in the ’60s I think helps us connect to it a little more because it isn’t so in-your-face. It keeps the idea there, and it gives you a little bit of objectivity without turning the audience off to it.”

Both actors say audiences will leave with a sense of urgency and a desire to carry on the conversation about sexual abuse and corruption, even in the most sacred places.


If you go …

What: “Doubt,” part of the Centre Stage Fringe Series sponsored by Greenville Health System
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 22, 23, 29, 30, and Feb. 5, 6
Where: Centre Stage, 501 River St.
Tickets: $15
Info: centrestage.org or (864) 233-6733

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