- Robert Holman
Pygmalion Theatre Co.: I and You
When director Teresa Sanderson first got a look at the script for I and You, she almost couldn't believe that it was by Lauren Gunderson, the same author of a play in which she had just performed, Silent Sky. I and You is a contemporary story about two high school students, with a boy named Anthony meeting with a house-bound classmate named Caroline to work on an English class assignment; Silent Sky is the true story of a 19th-century female astronomer. "I was so amazed by her ability to write such rich stuff across all time periods," Sanderson says.
The story of I and You deals with Caroline's status as a girl awaiting an organ transplant, providing subject matter that easily could have turned into something overly sentimental. But according to Sanderson, the way Gunderson writes Caroline keeps that problem at bay. "Caroline's a complete smart-ass," Sanderson says. "Like any kid who's faced with grown-up things like mortality, you probably do grow up a lot faster."
A narrative about high-school students means working with younger, relatively inexperienced cast members, which Sanderson acknowledges requires a bit more work from her, and a rigidly structured rehearsal process. In this particular case, there's also the unique dynamic of Sanderson working with Cora Fossen, whose parents—local actors April Fossen and Mark Fossen—Sanderson knows well. "I'm sure just by living with them, there are things you pick up," Sanderson says of any similarities as a performer between Cora and her parents. "But she's definitely her own person." (Scott Renshaw)
Pygmalion Theatre Co.: I and You @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, Feb. 2-17, Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m., $15-$20, artsaltlake.org
- Stuart Ruckman
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.: Strata
The rising interest in modern dance owes something to today's pop stars, who increasingly share the spotlight with troupes of acrobatic dancers in tow. Indeed, concerts have become multimedia performances that accentuate the sights as well as the sounds.
It's little wonder, then, that so many modern dance companies—from the Dance Theatre of Harlem to Cirque du Soleil—are attracting new and younger audiences drawn to creative choreography and finding a theatrical connection between music and motion. It's that spirit of artistic expression that compelled the Nikolais Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co. to create Strata, a celebration of Alwin Nikolais, one of the most influential American choreographers of the 20th century.
A recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a member of France's Legion of Honor, Nikolais' groundbreaking efforts form the basis of a unique and exhilarating four-part performance. "He was the first choreographer to fuse dance with a variety of innovative multi-media elements as a means of creating a unique theatrical experience about contemporary life," Ririe-Woodbury Artistic Director Daniel Charon says. "Nikolais remains an inspiration whose sense of exploration and curiosity continually reminds us of the power of imagination and its ability to innovate."
The weekend also includes Elements/Elementos, a family-friendly matinee performance designed to educate and entertain audiences of all ages, in both English and Spanish. "We stand firm in our motto 'Dance is for everybody,'" outreach director Juan Carlos Claudio adds emphatically. (Lee Zimmerman)
Strata @ Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Feb. 2-3, 7:30 p.m.; Elements/Elementos @ Capitol Theatre, Feb. 3, 1 p.m., $15-$35, artsaltlake.org
- Emily Nelson
Utopia Early Music: The Siren and the Nightingale: Music of Medieval France
No one can dispute the cultural contributions the French have made throughout history. That's not even including vintage wine, tasty crêpes, fashionable berets, fancy language or haute couture. The more culturally astute might point to French painters like Monet, Chagall, Cezanne or Matisse, but hey, at least we're not citing french fries as an example.
For their part, Utopia Early Music spotlights French medieval music, with a pair of performances tracing it through three centuries of evolution, from the traveling troubadours of the 12th century to more complex musical styles spawned 200 years later. Notably, many of the same themes that fascinate us today—from the ribald to the romantic—inspired those musicians as well, allowing for entertainment that's festive, intriguing and unfailingly alluring.
"I lovethis kind of music because it sparks the imagination," Emily Nelson, Utopia Early Music's co-founder and executive director (as well one of the performers in the production) says. "You can close your eyes, and it takes you on an adventure. We are passionately fond of it."
With an instrumental ensemble that includes recorders, bagpipes and harp, accompanied by a trio of vocalists, Utopia's well regarded reputation for recreating the music of the past reflects a time when courtly manners and evocative artistry found common ground. Can you say, "tres magnifique?"(LZ)
Utopia Early Music: The Siren and the Nightingale: Music of Medieval France @ Cathedral Church of St. Mark, 231 E. 100 South, Feb.3, 8 p.m.; Feb. 4, 5 p.m., suggested donation $10-$15, utopiaearlymusic.org
Masc 4 Mask Ball feat.Valentina
She's perfect. She's beautiful. She looks like Linda Evangelista. And during Season 9 of pop-culture phenom RuPaul's Drag Race, she was at the center of the gay gasp heard 'round the world: In a defiant move, Valentina asked to keep a bejeweled mask on, which was covering her mouth and thus invalidating her lip-sync in front of the panel of judges. A gripping four-second stare down between mentor and ingenue followed, and after flubbing the lyrics to Ariana Grande's "Greedy," the ultimate fan favorite sashayed away. In the postseason reunion special, RuPaul called the moment, "The shocking elimination to end all shocking eliminations."
Still, the star in the making—real name James Leyva—has since managed to build a rabid fan base, inspire fashion designers near and far and land features in Vogue's U.S. and Mexico editions (but not City Weekly, as our request for an interview was denied.) This Saturday, Valentina takes the Metro Music Hall stage courtesy of JRC Events and follows the likes of other drag superstars who have left their mark in SLC during recents months, such as Trinity "the Tuck" Taylor, Willam and the queen of snakes herself, Alaska Thunderfuck. The L.A.-native is joined by local queens Xaina, Eva Chanel Stephens, Lilia Maughn and Provo's Feral Ann Wilde.
A $15 ticket gets you in the show, with an extra $25 granting you access to a meet-and-greet with the diva-in-the-making herself. Expect flowers, Virgin of Guadalupe votives and perhaps the answer to the age-old question: Did you stone those tights? (Enrique Limón)
Valentina @ Metro Music Hall, 615 W. 100 South, 385-528-0952, Feb. 3, $15-$40, 9 p.m., 21+, metromusichall.com