Plan-B Theatre Co.: ... Of Color
The challenge of being a person of color in America today hasn't escaped Plan-B Theatre Co.'s artistic director, Jerry Rapier. The company makes it a point to present works that help expand local dialogue while challenging prevailing mores and expectations.
Plan-B's upcoming production ... Of Color extends that notion by confronting the obstacles local artists often face when attempting to share stories from their own viewpoints. It grew out of a gathering the company hosted in June 2017, which attracted more than 50 artists and focused on the idea of telling stories borne from different cultural perspectives. The artists-of-color writing workshop, initiated by Plan-B and organized by playwright Julie Jensen, resulted in four world-premiere short plays written by a diverse group of Utah playwrights. Plan-B boldly describes it as "unlike anything undertaken in the history of Utah theater."
"Between the cast of color, the playwrights of color and the all-female design team, I believe this is the future of the theater," Rapier says. "We're to the point in the American theater—hopefully globally—where we have to stop pretending we don't see color. It's impossible not to see what one another looks like. What matters is what we do with what we see."
Rapier notes that the Dramatists Guild of America estimates only 15 percent of plays produced in 2018 were by artists of color. "We're doing our best to change that locally," he says. "This is our fifth consecutive season exceeding that percentage." (Lee Zimmerman)
Plan-B Theatre Co.: ... Of Color @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, through April 7, dates and times vary, $10-$22, planbtheatre.org
Performers bring all kinds of unique background experiences to their work, and Craig Robinson is no exception. Before he took his talents to movies and television, Robinson earned a master's degree in education and followed in his mother's footsteps as a music teacher in his hometown of Chicago, an experience that helped inspire his short-lived NBC sitcom Mr. Robinson. Imagine having the opportunity to enjoy his entertaining lesson plans.
Nowadays, Robinson shows how it's done as a comedian, learning in Chicago's legendary Second City and getting small roles in films like Knocked Up before landing his breakout role in 2005 as The Office's taciturn warehouse worker (and eventual manager) Darryl Philbin. He also continues to turn up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the recurring role of Doug Judy, the nemesis/pal of Andy Samberg's Detective Jake Peralta, and he stretched his acting muscles with a terrific dramatic role as a widowed single dad in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival feature Morris from America.
But Robinson's career doesn't keep him too busy to return to live stages; he continues to tour as a stand-up performer. For most of his performances, he also brings along his keyboards to showcase the musical prowess he's brought to episodes of The Office, to his side project with the band The Nasty Delicious, to his occasional musical-comedy duet with fellow comedian Jerry Minor as L. Witherspoon & Chucky and, yes, to his job as a music teacher. So here's to you, Mr. Robinson; heaven holds a place for those who make us laugh. (Scott Renshaw)
Craig Robinson @ Wiseguys SLC, 194 S. 400 West, 801-532-5233, March 28, 7 p.m.; March 29-30, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., $25, wiseguyscomedy.com
When David Parsons and Howell Binkley founded Parsons Dance in 1985, they asked a question that has guided their performances for more than 30 years: "What's wrong with having fun?"
In the New York City-based company's show at the Eccles Center Theater, the audience gets to see the fruit of that rhetorical question. Each of the show's five pieces—"Round My World," "Hand Dance," "Microburst," "Caught" and "Whirlaway"—brings its own whimsy and charm to the show. For example, "Caught" uses more than 100 jumps and a strobe light to create the illusion that the performers are flying. The only time the audience sees the dancers is when they are off the ground.
Zoey Anderson, one of the company's performers, says "Caught" is her favorite piece to perform because it creates a stunning visual for the audience and pushes her physically, but she also loves the energy throughout the show. "The work is just so upbeat and energizing and uplifting and athletic," Anderson says. "It's truly a company and a show that is for all ages, and there's something for everyone to see and enjoy."
This energy and fun is a core value at Parsons Dance and was one of the things that drew Anderson to the company when she moved to New York City from Utah. "David Parsons loves humans and humanity and to connect," Anderson says. "So, we kind of get to break that fourth wall, and we get to reach out to the audience and reach out to each other on stage, and it just creates a wonderful dynamic." (Kylee Ehmann)
Parsons Dance @ Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, March 30, 7:30 p.m., $29, parkcityinstitute.org
Amor Towles: A Gentleman in Moscow
In the world of 21st-century publishing, a novelist almost doesn't dare allow themselves to dream of creating a work that becomes a phenomenon. You write the best work you can and send it out into the world, but nothing can quite prepare you for discovering that readers have fallen in love with that work, turning it into a best-seller.
Such is the good fortune that befell author Amor Towles with his second novel, 2016's A Gentleman in Moscow. Opening during the volatile 1920s in which Russia was becoming the Soviet Union, it tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who is called before a Bolshevik tribunal. Rostov finds himself given a life sentence of house arrest at a Moscow hotel across the street from the Kremlin, living in an attic room. There, a man who has never worked a productive day in his life must learn over the course of 30 years to re-frame his existence through his encounters with various other guests and employees of the hotel.
A Gentleman in Moscow finally arrives in paperback, after more than 59 weeks on The New York Times' best-seller list and more than 1.5 million copies sold. And its fascinating story is destined to find another audience, as a TV series adaptation produced by and starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role is set to begin production soon. Join the author for a special engagement in Salt Lake City this week to discuss his fascinating work; an autographed paperback copy is included with admission. (SR)
Amor Towles: A Gentleman in Moscow @ Rowland Hall's Larimer Center, 843 S. Lincoln St., April 2, 7 p.m., pre-sale tickets sold out; limited $20 day-of-event tickets available on first-come, first-served basis, kingsenglish.com