Plan-B Theatre Co.: (in)divisible
A polarizing president is bound to inspire artists to address his impact on the nation. But how do you explore that controversial subject in a way that's thoughtful, and not merely preachy?
That was the challenge Plan-B Theatre Co. put to a dozen local playwrights for (in)divisible, an evening of five-minute plays about politically fragmented 2017 America. Two crucial components of the project forced participating writers to think even more creatively: They couldn't include any current political figure by name, and they had to write two pieces—one representing each side of the political aisle.
"The parameters are pretty strict: no mentioning of Trump or Clinton, or even allusions to them," Plan-B Artistic Director Jerry Rapier says. "When those names surface in conversation, listening seems to cease. The lack of respect for those with whom we differ is at the root of the quagmire we find ourselves in as a country."
Perhaps surprisingly, he says it was more challenging for the writers to represent the point of view closest to their own. "The opposite point of view was much easier," Rapier says. "It could be looked at objectively as ... a character to treat as truthfully as possible. But when representing their own point of view, each playwright felt immense pressure to avoid being didactic. The result is pretty magical: Each playwright examined their own biases and fears, boldly and frankly sharing what they found." (Scott Renshaw)
Plan-B Theatre Co.: (in)divisible @ Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, June 8-18, Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m., free, ticket required, planbtheatre.org
Granted, it's a fine line between the improbable and the impossible, but superstar magician David Blaine crosses that boundary so often that even disbelievers drop their jaws in awe. Consider his exploits: He was buried alive for a week. He encased himself inside a block of ice for three days. He balanced himself on a 100-foot-tall pillar for 36 hours without a safety net. He spent 44 days inside a transparent box in London, subsisting on nothing but water. He allowed himself to be zapped continuously with more than a million volts of electricity for 72 hours. He spent a week submerged in an aquarium, and claimed a world record by holding his breath for 17 minutes under water.
He's clearly interested in doing more than pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
For Blaine, magic and masochism seem to go hand in hand. While some consider him an irresponsible risk-taker, a brazen exhibitionist or both, audiences are obviously enthralled. He has entertained presidents and celebrities, hosted his own TV specials, starred in a Super Bowl halftime show and shared a stage with Michael Jackson—no small trick in itself.
"I look at it all as magic," Blaine recently told London's Daily Telegraph. "In this day and age, when everything is explained on YouTube, the ultimate goal is to create magic that seems like it is impossible, but you can really do it."
Well, he can. The rest of us are best left to watch in wonder. (Lee Zimmerman)
David Blaine @ DeJoria Center, 970 N. State Road 32, Kamas, 435-783-3525, June 9, 8 p.m., $29.50-$69.50, dejoriacenter.com
SB Dance: The Pushers
It's fair to say Stephen Brown has a different approach to a dance production than most people are used to. If you're expecting the kind of show where you sit passively in a seat and watch the dancers from a distance, you're probably in the wrong place.
The Pushers—originally staged in 2014, but now revised with more characters and polished choreography, according to Brown—is in many ways a typical SB Dance experience. The source material is a bit edgy, taking the lives of iconic artists Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in 1970s, pre-AIDS New York, as depicted in Smith's memoir Just Kids, and turning it into a jumping-off point for Brown's own reflections on people he knew as a young artist in the city. The themes and language are adult, and not Utah family-friendly.
More significantly, though, The Pushers is an interactive theatrical experience, as audience members become participants in the show with Brown's veteran company of dancers—including a cash bar that's actually on stage. "Good art is a two-way street," Brown says via email. "The art needs to take a few steps toward the viewer, or reader, and they need to take a few steps toward the art. Moments of interacting with the audience reminds them that we're in this together. ... Interacting with the audience is a way of breaking down the formality of theater and introducing a down-to-earth relationship.
"Plus," he finalizes, "it's fun to fuck with people." (SR)
SB Dance: The Pushers @ Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, June 9-17, Friday-Saturday, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m., $22.50, artsaltlake.org
Utah Asian Festival
From dance and cosplay, to various food offerings, to presentations on unique crafts and skills, the Utah Asian Festival provides a fun way to learn about and appreciate Asian and Pacific Islander cultures that have found homes here. There's plenty of interesting stuff on that list of highlights, but the best part is arguably its accessibility, thanks to free admission.
This year, the festival celebrates the 40th anniversary of local Chinese, Japanese and Korean communities pooling their resources, hoping to build bridges with their neighbors. As such, it was the first multi-ethnic cultural festival in the state. Much has been accomplished since then, as the festival provides space for 15 different communities—including South Asian and Pacific Islander groups—allowing their children, and others, to learn and celebrate their heritage.
The event promises entertainment and fun from every angle, though the highlight might be the Asian Pop Dance and Parade. However, Anime—which is part of the cosplay component—is not the only cultural aspect. In addition to live performances by dance groups (the Cambodian-American Khemera Dance Troupe is pictured), a showing of Chinese master brush-and-ink painter Richard Hsieh's work provides one of the fascinating artistic offerings, as well as a collection of photos and memorabilia from past events. You'll find lots to do and plenty to see in this event recognizing the diverse range of cultures that are part of Utah's past and present. (Casey Koldewyn)
Utah Asian Festival @ South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State, Sandy, June 10, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., free, utahasianfestival.com