Fighting Back: LGBT Rallies and Academic Freedom

1-fun-home-alison-bechdel-coverIn late February, South Carolina Representative Garry Smith punished the College of Charleston for its choice of College Reads! book, which was Alison Bechdel’s tragi-comic Fun Home. Although the state’s funds did not actually fund the College Reads! Program, the state legislature chose to cut $52,000 in funding to the College. This caused quite the kerfluffle among CofC students, including myself, who began a series of protests against the legislature’s decisions. This coincided also with the appointment of Glenn McConnell as College president after a politically dubious search process. On Monday, we held another protest, as Fun Home the Musical came to Charleston. Having watched the show myself, I hope it great success and also hope that the play helps spread the message of how homophobia can destroy people’s lives.




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I read the following poems at last Friday’s protests:

Several writers across the country have also spoken up about academic freedom, information for which you can find here:

Find media on the protests and controversy here:


Come Out for the Coffee House Performance at Aiken Community Playhouse

Friday will be a quarterly Coffeehouse showcase at the Aiken County Playhouse. Featured will be The Company and Broadway Bound groups performing songs and some dance numbers. Try to come out and support the ACP. Tickets are $10.

I will also be performing some poems. As open mic season heats back up (for me, this is the summer because of the extreme lack of scholarly responsibilities), I will be amping up my poetry game. Firstly, I’m going to write new material. I’ve been using the same poems for a while now, churning out a new one now and then. But I’ve got to write more original pieces to share this summer. Also, I will be refining my craft, which means rehearsing pieces more often and memorizing them better. This is partly because I honestly want to perform better and partly because I want to win some poetry slams this summer.

So, this Friday, for ten dollars, you can see some amazing singers, amazing dancers, and one comic poet. Sounds like a plan? You betcha!

As an added bonus, I’d like to share some pictures of me performing poetry and of me at poetry events. Just looking at these gets me revved up for this summer’s festivities!

Performing at Sit-a-Spell last summer
Mahogany Lounge Poetry Slam
Performance at Arts in the Heart of Augusta
I’ve been performing at Sit-a-Spell since it first opened! I will be returning toward the end of this month!
Open mic sign up list at Cafe Rio Blanca.
Possibly the first time I used my Nook to read a poem off of.
During a poetry reading of “Sapiosexual”
1st Place in the Aiken County Language Arts Festival– poetry
A performance in my very own living room. Pretty cool tattoo, right?
Posing with Michael and BET/Defjam poet Jon Goode
One of my shorter poems converted into picture form by one of my friends.

Check out my poetry this Friday downtown at the Aiken Community Playhouse in the Black Box! To see videos of past performances, check the sidebar called “POETRY.”

Stage, Lights, and Eyeliner

This is what feels good. When you dance onto stage, spinning. Bow deeply holding hands before the curtain falls one last time. This is what feels good. Shaking hands, nodding heads. You’re beaming. You’ve done it and done well. This is what feels good.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been consumed by a play at the local theatre. Spending a lot of time rehearsing late into the night. Somehow, that’s worth it once an audience sits in the seats, laughing and applauding. Suddenly, the antics make sense. Suddenly, your character comes alive. Tonight is the opening night of the Youth Wing production of You Can’t Take It With You.

It’s a comedy set in the 1930’s that calls for a lot of fireworks and cardigans, hints of communism, but mostly love. Here’s an actually decent synopsis:

At first the Sycamores seem mad, but it is not long before you realize that if they are mad, then the rest of the world is madder. In contrast to these delightful people are the unhappy Kirbys. Tony, the attractive young son of the Kirbys, falls in love with Alice Sycamore and brings his parents to dine at the Sycamore house on the wrong evening. The shock sustained by Mr. and Mrs. Kirby, who are invited to eat cheap food, shows Alice that marriage with Tony is out of the question. The Sycamores find it hard to understand Alice’s view. Tony knows the Sycamores live the right way with love and care for each other, while his own family is the one that’s crazy. In the end, Mr. Kirby is converted to the happy madness of the Sycamores after he happens in during a visit by the ex-Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Katrina, who is currently earning her living as a waitress.

Acting is strange, but much like watching a show. You escape into a world entirely not your own, escape your life. You visit with people, meet them, and follow their stories. As an actor, you do that and more. We do not simply escape by watching, but by doing. We slip into a new skin. Zipping up our backs like reptiles shedding in reverse. We’re becoming new people. Our lives become null. I stand in costume and enter the stage. The lights blind me for a moment and then, I’m not Derek Berry.

It’s a strange bit of ecstasy. In the days leading up to the first performance, it feels arduous. You’re tired of your character, annoyed with the contrivance of the plot. On opening night, though, this becomes so simple. To act becomes effortless. Not at all acting. Just being. Only being another person, not you.

Even if your microphone messes up, spitting static signals into the air. Even if you have to wear lipstick and eyeliner, which is pretty damn hard to apply. Did you know eyeliner goes on the inside of your eye? It’s like poking your eye out with a Sharpie! Even if things go wrong, there’s a spirit. An atmosphere that propels a good show to become great.

You can feel it when it comes. This is what feels good. Last night, during the Grand Dress (the final rehearsal before opening night, where a small audience is admitted), we could feel it. A trembling in your bones. A sudden rush of blood to your head. The stage becomes very real, the lights not so distracting, the eyeliner somewhat attractive.

I’m not sure I can quite describe the sensation too well. But it doesn’t matter what character, what role, in what setting. You feel something come alive. And that makes everything leading up to the opening night ultimately worth it.

Scholarships are Fun When They’re Not NOT Fun

Today I’m sick. Sick in a sneezy, sniffly, cough-y, haven’t-showered-at-all-y kind of way. So, I figured I’d take this advantage to research and apply for all those scholarships I have previously neglected. Some of them are quite fun. If you’re looking to apply for fun, creative scholarships, go here:

While some scholarships are super cool, others are boring and cliche and ask you to describe how you’ve been inspired by the movie Rocky or why you like Twinkies so much. I don’t like Twinkies and can’t really lie about that for an entire essay, so I had to pass. But while searching around for scholarships to apply to, I found a lot of small colleges that described themselves aptly. One did not.

College bio: “Not only are we a beautiful campus in an ideal location with a great staff and lively student life. We also give out degrees.”

There are a lot of essay-based awards and even some based on journalism, which is super cool. I suppose that I did not have as much to say as I previously thought. Next time, I’ll post something pertinent to writing. I swear. Maybe.

For lack of a better closing paragraph, enjoy the following musical number:

Literary Wars: Fang Face Off

Anne Rice, the queen of literary vamps, recently dissed the Twilight series, saying she’s sorry that teens must be submitted to such drivel.

Sounds like a vamp showdown is about to begin. Because I’ve read both series, I think it’s fair enough for me to judge between them. Let us compare their lead vampires: Edward Cullen and Lestat de Lioncourt.

Edward Cullen, the sparkly pretty boy vampire, lives in Forks, Washington with his dainty, annoying wife Bella. Because he’s a wimpmonster, he prescribes to a “veggie-vampire” diet, which means he doesn’t eat people. Just animals. While PETA might not see the difference, Cullen feels he is a great moral example. This vampire and his vampire (the Cullen Clan) are the creation of Stephanie Meyers, now an international celebrity.

Before the Cullens came Lestat and Louie, vampires from Anne Rice’s the Vampire Chronicles, most famous Interview with the Vampire. Lestat is an immoral megalomaniac who not only has killed humans with abandon but has also drank the blood of the vampire queen and once even switched bodies with a human so he could have normal sex again.

This is from the vamp who claimed, “I’m a ruthless dude.”

Even as a mortal, he killed an entire pack of wolves and survived. Only to be killed later by a vampire. Darn it! Lestat, surely, is the star of Anne Rice’s literary endeavors.

Both vampires are extremely popular, but who is better? Let’s get down to it.

1.) Bad Ass-ery

Edward Cullen cares abotu humans and sparkles in the sun. He plays baseball.

Lestat eats people’s hearts out. While other vampires of his universe fry, he just gets a slight tan in the sun. He even did the nasty with the original vampire, the Vampire Queen Akasha.

Winner: Lestat

2.) Romance

While Lestat is a nostalgic romance, nothing says “I love you” like creeping on a 17-year-old girl while she sleeps. Willing to kill himself for very cague moral reason, Cullen wins this one out. I mean, Twilight IS a love story, after all.

Lestat, however, has entertained many lovers, including the queen of the vampires. He does not, however, become easily attached.

Winner: Cullen

3.) Movie adaptations

Twilight grossed a whole lot of money, with Robert Pattinson portraying Edward. Although I personally prefer the film version of Interview with a Vampire (starring Brad Pitt as Louie and Tom Cruise as Lestat), the Twilight franchise wins simply because the world disagrees with me. Money speaks, so yes, maybe I’m mistaken.

Winner: Cullen

4.) Personality

Edward is a brooding, abstinent guy of a 117.

Lestat is a lover of life, who people refer to as “The Brat Prince.” Seriously? Lestat wins.

Winner: Lestat

5.) Origin Stories

Lestat dies because a mysterious and rebellious vampire named Mangus kidnaps him so he can continue his legacy. Before that, he became famous and feared for killing off an entire pack of wolves to save his village from their terror. After befriending a musician, he moves to London to become an actor. Soon after, he’s turned into a vampire, but that only helps his performance abilities.

Edward Cullen is turned after succumbing like a wimp to the Spanish influenza.

Winner: Lestat

6.) Who would win in a fight?

Edward Cullen has pretty great strength and can even stop a van with his fist that’s going maybe 20 mph. He can also crush marbles, apparently.

Lestat… would walk all over this guy. Not only can he also read minds, but he has consumed the strength of the Vampire Queen. Meaning he’s immortal. Really immortal, as in drive a stake through him, cut off his head… he’s coming back.

Honestly the Cullen boys doesn’t stand a chance. Even Claudia ( the baby vampire played by the young Kirstin Dunst in Interview) could beat him in a fight.

Winner: Lestat

So, is really the better vampire? Does Anne Rice really have room to speak?


What I Learned From Acting: How to Make Characters People

If you ever want to learn how to make a character become a real, fleshed-out person, audition for a play. Become a character.

A few weeks ago, I auditioned for The Crucible on the spur of the moment and learned the following day that I had been cast as Giles

This is what I'm SUPPOSED to look like. Handsome, eh?

Corey, a combative 87-year-old man whose wife is arrested as a witch. He storms the courts in an attempt to save her life.

Never having acted in a play before, there was much to learn. But what I really wanted to figure out was how to make a character come to life. Set in Puritan times, we could not convey the characters as modern people, yet had to be relate-able to modern people. This created an interesting conflict.

Who is Giles Corey?

In the script, he’s almost daft, certainly crazy. I was an old man, yet I was 17. How could I act older, appear older? What might I think differently, being much, much older?

But what does he care about? BECOMING a character forces you to ask more questions. Therefore, even a minor character in a story has great internal conflicts. Giles is fiercely loyal and for that reason, dies by the end of the play. Yet he is frightened by death, angered by those who permit innocents to die.

When writing a novel, use some of these same questions to help make your characters more real. If it works for actors, it works for writers too.

1.) Understand the many facets of your character

Even if your character does something horrendous, perhaps he or she does it for a good reason. Even “evil” characters have qausi-good intentions at times. At one point during the play, I lunged at another man, screaming, “I’ll cut your throat, Putman! I’ll kill you yet!” While seemingly a deadly promise, consider that I scream this line at the man who just damned me to die. It’s understandable.

In your story, make sure to understand everything your character does and make sure it’s “in character.” Even if you don’t reveal these reasons in your story, you need to know them to keep your character consistent.

2.) Know your relationships

If you’re character is a cruel guy, maybe he’s not cruel to everyone. Nice people are not nice to everyone. Know how each character feels for the others. Are they jealous or respectful or resentful? Especially if characters are relation, figure out their family dynamic. Again, there’s no need to overtly explain this, but it’s safe to know how each character might react.

3.) Know what your character owns

This may sound weird, but it’s important to know what a character owns. His clothes. His possessions. Does he have a wallet or a money clip? Does he wear bowler caps or cowboy hats? What do these things say about him?

Know what sort of car he or she drives. Know how your character might decorate his or her bedroom/apartment. Know whether or not your character owns pets. Again, you don’t need to describe all of this, but know it.

One great trick I learned is to pick a single object of great importance to your character. Make the character own the possession. Whatever it is, this is distinctly this character’s possession. In The Crucible, Giles walks with a cane. The cane became a very important part of my character. I could use it in so many different ways to help show my emotion.

I might shake it at someone because I’m angry. I might rub the top nervously. I might spin it in my hands.

All of these visual cues can be translated into a story to represent what your character is feeling. After a number of times, the reader will understands that, “Giles stroked the cane, spinning it in his fingers” means “Giles was nervous.”


These are all the pieces of advice I have at the moment, but take them into consideration to help your characters breathe. We justfinished the first weekend of performances. The last 3 start on this Friday. I have learned so much from acting in this play and will definitely blog about it later on in the week, because the people I’ve met are amazing. It has taught me a lot about character development and a lot about people.