- Sandy Jensen
Off Broadway Theatre Watch Parties
For 25 years, the Off Broadway Theater has entertained audiences with improvisational comedy and satirical theater presentations. When it became necessary to close down live performances for the safety of cast members and patrons, the company looked to that history to help keep audiences engaged.
"We have a lot of taped shows we've had over 25 years," says Sandy Jensen, OBT's co-founder and executive director. "We thought, 'Maybe it would be good to walk down Memory Lane.' ... We own those shows, so there was no copyright issue. People can talk about it and reminisce, or maybe people who haven't seen it can see it for the first time."
After taking time to digitize some of those past shows—many of which only existed on VHS tapes—the OBT started holding virtual weekend watch parties in April. Shows are posted at 7 p.m. on Fridays on the company's Facebook page (facebook.com/theobt1994), with live watch party beginning at 7:30 p.m. each Friday and Saturday. Upcoming scheduled shows include the holiday show Forever Scrooge (May 22-23) and the LDS culture spoof CTR Superstar (May 29-30 , pictured).
The shows have been posted free of charge, and Jensen notes that the company was able to refund all tickets purchased for performances that had to be cancelled. While it's possible to support the company financially via their website (theobt.org), Jensen believes it's important to share the chance for a smile. "It's been a lot of fun, remembering our history and what our theaters stand for, and our mission of sharing laughter," she says, "especially during this harsh time of being apart." (Scott Renshaw)
- Paul Peterson
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art: Jane Christensen: Mapping It Out
Interacting with visual art during a pandemic is a complicated matter. On the one hand, it would seem to be easier to experience that work in a virtual setting than it would be for, say, performing art, as you can still have an individual experience of looking at a painting or a photograph. On the other hand, an art installation is a unique chemistry between the artist and the physical space of the gallery, inviting viewers to appreciate the relationship between individual pieces—and that's a bit harder to duplicate for people at home.
While the physical gallery space of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art remains closed, that's not stopping the gallery from presenting a new exhibition. Multimedia artist and BYU graduate Jane Christensen's exhibition Mapping It Out showcases work inspired by photos the artist took on travels including New York and the Utah desert. According to UMOCA's artist statement, "These photos then started to shift, breaking the boundary of the frame, and turning into collages, paintings, and in some cases sculptures."
The exhibition opened with a virtual Zoom artist reception on May 19, the first ever such opening for UMOCA. Subequent to that, virtual visitors have an opportunity to tour the exhibition in the Air Space gallery via a 360-degree experience on their website (utahmoca.org/portfolio/jane-christensen-mapping-it-out/). "When seen as a whole," the artist statement continues, "the collective body of work is the creation of a literal, psychological, and metaphorical space that is constantly evolving and is an effort to map the unsteady, at times unseen, but deeply felt, continuous shifting territories, self, and place." (SR)
- Magnolia Pictures
Life Itself Live Q&A
As many independent film exhibitors have turned to "virtual cinema" models to stay afloat during the pandemic, the shift has allowed a chance for some creative thinking. Part of that creative thinking has involved providing opportunities for remote audiences to be more interactive—in a way, turning some viewing experiences into mini film festivals.
As part of its ongoing virtual cinema and its collaboration with Magnolia Pictures' "A Few of Our Favorite Docs" series, Park City Film presents the 2014 documentary Life Itself—about celebrated film critic Roger Ebert—from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams). It plays out in part as traditional bio-doc with archival footage and talking heads, but also follows Ebert and his wife, Chaz, during the final months of his life, as the long struggle with cancer that first took his ability to eat and speak eventually takes his life. That mix of elements creates a uniquely emotional experience, like the material about his prickly relationship with TV partner Gene Siskel informing Ebert's decision to be open about his own health struggles. Even when the film feels conventional, it captures something fundamental about being thoughtful about art: It's a process of being thoughtful about life.
While the film will be available via ParkCityFilm.org May 22-28, Steve James and Chaz Ebert will be participating in a live Q&A on May 27. Questions can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using the hashtag #magnoliadocseries via Twitter, and the best questions will be sent to the filmmakers ahead of the live event. Ten percent of ticket sales will be donated to charity; visit ParkCityFilm.org/film/life-itself/for tickets more details. (SR)
- Sky Hatter
Urban Arts Gallery
Like most retail spaces, galleries closed in March as the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. According to Derek Dyer—executive director of Utah Arts Alliance, which operates Urban Arts Gallery—the gallery took its time with putting every recommended safety measure in place before deciding to re-open on May 15.
"We decided to do this about two weeks ago, but also with the idea that we were going to take it day by day," Dyer says. "I think a lot of people are not going out and resuming normal shopping, so we don't think there will be a lot of crowds. But ... we're feeling pretty confident. We have three gallons of hand sanitizer."
Upon reopening May 15, the gallery was still exhibiting work from the March show Flow—which was up at the time of the closure—in addition to new work created by represented artists during the stay-at-home period ("Buffalo Spirit" by Alex Gregory is pictured). The timing of the pandemic forced the cancellation of the popular annual Star Wars: Heroes and Villains how, but Dyer says the gallery plans to return to its regular exhibition schedule in June with the Pride Month-themed show SLC Queer, curated by local burlesque entertainer Madazon Can-Can. Dyer says that Utah Arts Alliance's Dreamscapes space is also scheduled to reopen June 2, with timed ticketing and limited capacity.
"We feel at this point we can safely reopen, so we're starting to see a little bit of life come back," Dyer says. "We think art is essential, too, so we want to make that available to people." (SR)