- Kimo Easterwood
Christopher Titus has never shied away from comedy that explores the darker corners—and usually, that has meant the darker corners of his own life. In a career that has already spanned more than 30 years, Titus has never been reluctant to expose the most painful parts of his own life, from his dysfunctional family history (which helped inspire his short-lived Fox sitcom Titus) to his divorce from his first wife (in his 2009 comedy special Love Is Evol). He even turned the cancellation of that sitcom into more humor about the way he has had to deal with success and failure.
Yet, as many people have in this polarized era, Titus has focused on the state of our national political divide. In his latest show Amerigeddon, the comedian turns his attention not just to the issues that turn Americans into factions, but perhaps even how we might bridge some of those differences—though he's also wise enough to realize he's fighting an uphill battle. "I wanted to write a show that would bring us all together, give us something to laugh," he says at the opening, "so it's about politics, guns and abortion. Talking about politics in America right now is like trying to organize an interracial hoedown in 1840."
And while he spends plenty of time speculating on who's going to survive the apocalypse, he's more concerned with how all of us—"red baseball caps and pink pussy hats"—can "come together and fix this bitch." There's bound to be plenty of uncomfortable laughter along the way. (Scott Renshaw)
Christopher Titus @ Wiseguys SLC, 194 S. 400 West, June 13, 7 p.m., $28, 21+, wiseguyscomedy.com
- Karen Boe
Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival
Chalk and sidewalks just go together, a fact that's obvious again this year at the 17th annual Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival. More than 100 budding artists take chalk in hand and turn the streets of The Gateway into a one-of-a-kind art gallery and multi-hued panorama.
Those colors also contribute to a cause—part of the proceeds benefit Utah Foster Care, a nonprofit organization that finds, educates and nurtures families to help meet the needs of children in foster care. Several participanting artists either belong to a foster family or know someone in foster care. "Utah Foster Care's festival is a unique event," UFC CEO Mike Hamblin says in a news release. "You will be able to experience art being created right in front of you, while also learning about an important need in our community."
It's something special to watch artists transform a downtown destination into a dazzling display of artistic expression. It's also wonderful to watch as the Foster Dads of the Year are honored at noon on Saturday. Other attractions include a charity spin class hosted by Rush Cycle and a special appearance by world-renowned street artist Julie Kirk Purcell, who was recently cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the world's largest display of 3-D pavement art.
While amateur artists compete for prizes, everyone can agree the foster kids are the real winners. That makes for a masterpiece all its own. (Lee Zimmerman)
Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival @ The Gateway, 200 S. 400 West, Friday, noon-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; all day Sunday, free, utahfostercare.org
- Paul Christean
SB Dance: Sleeping Beauty
Every June since 1996, SB Dance has launched an original, avant-garde production known as the June Creation. This year's production of Sleeping Beauty remains true to the troupe's unconventional style, which crosses genres and refuses to be categorized. "It occurs to me that it's so odd and terrific to see how a more mature group of artists approach a fairy tale that's all about virginity and young love," Stephen Brown, director of SB Dance, says. "No giggling on a bench in a rose garden, I can tell you that."
A story retold many times over, SB Dance's Sleeping Beauty is far from any Disney version, with an unpredictable narrative and a clever assemblage of innovative artists. Conveying the freaky fairytale through an adventurous entanglement of dance, theater and little dialogue, this warped tale also features live music by pop duo MiNX, along with a score including Sinatra and Scarlatti.
In Brown's creation, the familiar plot is meshed into a narrative that's offbeat and humorous, but just as enchanting as the original. With similarities few and the twists many, those looking for a princess reeking of purity, pining away for a chaste prince, will be disappointed. Instead, a lecherous love triangle of danger and deceit (best suited for adults) rules the stage.
"It's humorous, twisted and the characters— especially Aurora— are rich," Brown adds. "It's dance theater, which in this case means lots of dance but also a thru-line plot, occasionally moved forward with words." (Colette A. Finney)
SB Dance: Sleeping Beauty @ Rose Wagner Black Box Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, June 14-15, 8 p.m., $16.50, recommended for ages 8 and up, sbdance.com
- Viking Press
Mona Awad: Bunny
In her 2016 debut novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl—winner of the Amazon Canada First Novel award—Mona Awad dug deep into issues of self-image, and the unhealthy choices young women can make out of a desire to fit in. She takes a similar notion in a creepy, hilariously distinctive direction in her follow-up novel Bunny, a tale that throws a little grand guignol at the Ivory Tower.
It's the story of Samantha Mackey, an MFA creative writing graduate student at a prestigious university who is entering her second year, feeling isolated from a group of female classmates who Samantha gives nicknames like "Cupcake" and "Creepy Doll," but who all refer to one another as "Bunny." Then, one day, she finds herself unexpectedly invited to join in a social gathering with the Bunnies, even if it means ditching her one friend. And as she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the Bunnies' world, she finds that they have some unique ways of finding inspiration for their work.
Awad applies her tart writing to a variety of topics, including the economic disparity between the privileged world of the university and the city right outside its boundaries. But mostly she offers a savage spin on classic bad-girl-clique tales ranging from Heathers to The Craft to Mean Girls, built on the artist's all-consuming need to be seen and acknowledged—even if the rough drafts you have to go through, in this case, are really rough. Join the author this week for an exploration of this satirically sinister story. (SR)
Mona Awad: Bunny @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, June 18, 7 p.m., free, kingsenglish.com