- Beau Pearson
Ballet West Virtual Library
While performing arts companies wait to figure out how the world will look for them post-pandemic, Ballet West has dealt with both business-as-usual and business unusual. In April, the company announced the retirement of first soloist Sayaka Ohtaki and demi-soloist Trevor Naumann, in addition to several corps promotions, looking forward to the 2020/2021 season. The company was also in the news when dancers Lucas Horn and Josh Shutkind tested positive for coronavirus in March (and, fortunately, have since recovered).
Yet it's the work itself that has made Ballet West such a Utah institution, and even as live performances are not possible at this time, it's still possible to enjoy the beauty of their work. At BalletWest.org, a "virtual library" of Ballet West performances offers a look at the rich history of the company, covering classic and contemporary works. Sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare, the "Daily Uplift" videos offer snippets of performances including Giselle, Balanchine's Emeralds and Prodigal Son, and Edwaard Liang's Constant Light from the 2019 Choreographic Festival.
You might even want to dance along with Ballet West courtesy of some of the other videos hosted on their site, adapting many of their outreach programs. "Exercise with a Dancer" gives you a yoga class with soloist Chelsea Keefer; "Senior Steps" serves up stretching and movement exercises for older folks; and the "I Can Do" program continues kid-friendly lessons. No matter your age—and whether you're more interested in being a spectator or a participant—the world of Ballet West can still be part of your world right now. (Scott Renshaw)
- Regina Esparza
Ogden Virtual Art Strolls
As long as we're being discouraged from getting out and about socially, physical Gallery Strolls are going to be challenging logistically. Ogden has come up with a way not just to support galleries and the artists they represent, but to provide a virtual approximation of wandering from place to place, enjoying music and art.
On May 1, Ogden held the second remote version of its First Friday Gallery Strolls, but added a bit of a twist. From 6-9 p.m., there was a schedule of live events at a variety of locations, including everything from live painting demonstrations to live music performance by local artist Kyla Vine., for a total of 10 different "stops." According to Ogden City's marketing and communications manager for arts & culture events, Regina Esparza, "This time, we wanted to come up with sort of a schedule, and reached out to artists we knew were doing events already."
While the live event was not recorded or achived, links to the galleries and participating artists are all available at ogdencity.com/770/First-Friday-Art-Stroll. A similar format is planned for future months as long as is necessary.
In addition, local residents were invited in on being not just spectators, but participants. Using the hashtag #OgdenShowsArt, home artists have a chance to share the projects they've been working on. "I'm trying to do what I can to share that content, to let people know that art is everywhere," Esparza says. "Some people think, 'My art isn't gallery-worthy art.' So many people are doing things right now, and I want them to share it." (SR)
- Jerry Rapier
Plan-B Theatre Co.: Radio Slam
What kind of theater can you do when you're unable to do the kind of theater you're most accustomed to doing? If you're Plan-B Theatre Co., you take advantage of a format you actually have quite a lot of experience with—radio drama—and adapt it to another format that has been a part of the company's history.
For several years, Plan-B has challenged playwrights, actors, and directors with an annual Slam event, a 24-hour marathon of writing, rehearsing and performing a play from scratch. For our pandemic days, Plan-B has combined the Slam concept with the idea of Plan-B's also-traditional Radio Hour format. "It was late-night quarantine musing on [managing director Cheryl Cluff's] part," says Plan-B artistic director Jerry Rapier. "She called and said, 'Hmmm, what do you think of this?' ... It's something new that builds on something we're comfortable doing."
Local playwrights Jenifer Nii, Elaine Jarvik, Jenny Kokai and Melissa Leilani Larson were enlisted to create the works, and according to Rapier, it didn't take long for them—and for the participating actors and directors—to agree. "As soon as I could send a text message, I got a response," he says. "People are hungry to work."
The short plays—all featuring one actor, with genres ranging from ghost story to comedy about a peppy YouTube personality facing down the apocalypse—were rehearsed and recorded remotely, with each production getting two hours with a sound designer to finalize the show. The four works will then premiere on Utah Arts Alliance's radio station KUAA (99.9 FM) at 2 p.m. daily May 5-8, and available to listen to subsequently at PlanBTheatre.org. (SR)
- Candlewick Press
The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus
Princess Magnolia—the intrepid, imaginative hero of the Princess in Black illustrated book series—has battled monsters in what seemed to be every possible form. Now she's taking on something scary from the real world: the virus that has caused a radical change in our world.
Utah author Shannon Hale—who created the Princess in Black series with her husband, Dean, and illustrator LeUyen Pham—says that the idea for The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus came during a phone call between herself and Pham in March, when they were both adjusting to home-schooling their children. "We were just feeling generally worried about how kids are handling all the upheaval," Hale says. "We were talking about how it's a lot for little kids, especially, to process, and she suggested we could do a short comic with our character that could help kids process it all."
In only four days, the writing and illustrating was completed for the lively public service announcement sharing the fundamentals of pandemic-era safety—like hand-washing and social distancing—through the eyes of Princess Magnolia. Hale believes that introducing these ideas with a familiar character—a kid coping with the same changes they are—can help them better understand a scary time.
"This is hard. It's hard to give up school and friends and outings," Hale says. "And for some, thinking about a germ is scary, so giving them some simple tools like handwashing can help them feel more empowered. I hope having a book friend who gets what they're going through helps them feel less alone." (SR)