Commission Honors State Artists

July 18, 2010

Poet Barbara G.S. Hagerty and Pure Theatre co-founders Sharon Graci and Rodney Lee Rogers represent a near-sweep by Charleston County in capturing three of the four 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship Awards announced by the S.C. Arts Commission. Recipients gain $5,000 each "in recognition of their superior artistic merit." Joining Hagerty (poetry), Graci (acting) and Rogers (playwriting) is Ed Madden of Richland County (prose). Rogers and Graci, who are married, started Pure seven years ago to present new and experimental plays. "This is the first time a husband and wife have won these awards in the same year," says Ken May, executive director of the arts commission, adding that a total of 119 hopefuls applied. "We're fortunate to have funds for these awards this year, thanks to a generous contribution from the South Carolina Arts Foundation, a nonprofit, which supports several of our programs." May notes that entries were identified only by Social Security numbers and were evaluated by out-of-state judges. 
Individual artists working in visual arts, craft, music performance and music composition can apply for the 2012 fellowship awards. The deadline is Oct. 1. For more information, visit

 Barbara G.S. Hagerty

Palm fronds peer through a glass wall behind Hagerty in her sunroom as she ticks off the genres of poetry she has recently composed: free verse, a formal sonnet and an experimental poem inspired by, containing such terms as "earlybirdatude."
Hagerty, who early in her career wrote articles for Town and Country and The Ladies Home Journal and has published two books, says, "I'm so thrilled about this, and I plan to use the money to improve my ability to write poetry by attending workshops and writers' colonies and expanding my poetry library.  "One day in September, 2007, I decided, as a challenge, I would switch from prose to poetry and write a poem every day, no matter what," she explains. 
In 2009, she published her first poetry chapbook, "The Guest House," illustrated by her surgeon/artist husband Dr. Richard Hagerty. Believing poetry can present kaleidoscopic insights to life, Hagerty writes in "My Deathday," "I'll slip like less than a feather into the cosmic lake." But she definitely plans to make her mark well before then.

 Rodney Lee Rogers

An actor, director and screenwriter, Rogers, who has written seven plays, describes his submissions: "One was 'Hogs,' inspired by Ibsen's 'Enemy of the People.' But instead of Norway, it's set in South Carolina, where the water is being contaminated by the waste from hog farms in North Carolina," he explains. "In Ibsen's play, it's a tannery that is polluting the water. But both are no-win situations."
The second play, "Killing Chickens," is set in Mullins, where Rogers' family is from.  "It's about how the owner of a chicken processing plant witnesses death every day, and then he sees the ghost of his dead son seated on the couch in his living room. It's how death, even of animals, can consume you."
With a degree in theater from UNC-Charlotte, Rogers participated in master classes in New York, Los Angeles and London. His star power gleamed in Kenneth Lonergan's "Lobby Hero," one of the first Pure staged. As a playwright, he was selected for the 2007 Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Pure Theatre performs in Lance Hall behind the Circular Congregational Church, but is looking for a new home.

Sharon Graci

A professional actress for 20 years, Graci is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and graduate of Augusta College and studied at the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Theatre. The mother of five ranging in age from 5 to 20, she also has appeared in numerous television shows and commercials. To demonstrate her acting prowess, Graci submitted videos of scenes from "Hogs," "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," "Army Wives," the NBC series "Surface," and the WB series "One Tree Hill." "In the 'Army Wives' clip, I play the sister of a soldier who bombed a bar which killed half a dozen people, including him," says Graci. "My character talks to the grieving families and examines how tragedies affect those left behind." On the combined $10,000 prize money they won, she adds, "Our theater has many needs, such as a development director and a home; but Rodney and I also may have to put some away, as there is no retirement plan for theater owners."

 Ed Madden

Madden is an associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina and directs the school's women's and gender studies undergraduate program. He also serves as a poet-in-residence at the Richland Northeast High School's Palmetto Center for the Arts. 
Madden earned a doctorate in English from the University of Texas and is the author of an array of books, poems, articles and essays. Apart from his four theater fellowships, including those in Dublin and London, Madden is the recipient of the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize and was a winner of the 2008 S.C. Fiction Project.