"Praise the Union, Praise God," sings the Rev. Samuel Harper in Trustus Theatre's stage adaptation of The Restoration's 2010 album Constance.
The fictional 19th century Lexington County minister, played with intensity by Paul Kaufmann, is letting his true feelings surface as the Union Army marches toward Columbia: that the Union is doing God's work by bringing an end to slavery. The fact that this line was sung just a parking lot away from a former Confederate printing plant — and that it was enthusiastically received by a sold-out crowd — only made it that much more electric.
Harper has been told what to preach — and what not to. Instead of towing the line, however, he passionately tells his congregation, "His Law is Love" — and he hopes they will absorb what that means.
They don't, of course — and therein lies the driving narrative of Constance. Life is hard in 19th century South Carolina for people like Harper, and for the titular Constance, who marries a man of murkily defined "mixed blood." And things don't get much better as the decades go by.
The transformation of Constance the album into Constance the stage production is both simple and powerful. Music, not theater, plays the dominant role in the production, which played just twice at Trustus, Aug. 21 and Aug. 23. Members of The Restoration are seated at the right side of the stage. In the center is a choir. As the narrative moves along, characters approach microphones in front of the choir to deliver lines and sing. Vocal parts from the album have been divvied up among the actors playing the various characters; the band does not sing during the production.
Though the acting and dialogue in Constance are minimal, the drama is not — the songs provide plenty of it. For anyone who's suffered through one too many musicals, know this: Constance is full of grit and passion, not filler and fluff. It's an ambitious, homegrown rock opera — not a wannabe Broadway show.
By bringing Constance to the stage, Trustus has scored on a number of levels. First, it has exposed an extraordinarily talented and ambitious local band to a wider audience. Second, it has transformed an album that was already well regarded among local music fans into a viable stage production. Third, it has shown the power of a cross-disciplinary collaboration done right.
Last, but certainly not least, it has shown that Trustus can deliver on its newfound commitment to developing new works from the ground up — and that it can get an audience to show up for such an endeavor.
Full disclosure: Cook served on a talk-back panel after the Aug. 23 staging of Constance.
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
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Currently seeking a friendly & detail-oriented individual for an Administrative Assistant/Data Entry Clerk position on our Administrative Office team. Primary responsibilities include: Data entry, process incoming & outgoing mail, good communication skills required. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: email@example.com.