Sketch comedy is part of the lifeblood of the performing-arts community in Utah—it’s that strange plateau that actors live on when they’ve grown out of doing improv but haven’t yet become full-time actors. Most attempts at a local TV show have fallen short, but Studio C and its brand of clean comedy has been able to reign supreme on one of the most unpredictable spots: BYUtv. Yes, the cast will all eventually graduate from BYU, and the show will probably end quietly. But for the time being, we have our own Utah sketch show—enjoy it.
Best Indie Art Event
Urban Arts Festival
Once every alternative artist who never got a second glance from major events partnered with the single-day Urban Arts Festival, it didn’t take long for the Utah Arts Alliance to have a major hit on its hands. This year, the Urban Arts Festival invaded The Gateway, bringing more life in a single day to the mall than it sees in a week. The event showcased a skateboard competition, two stages of live local bands, the Bboy Federation dancing all day, and a graffiti wall where people could spray-paint their own masterpieces.
Best Open Programming Selection
Salt Lake City Film Festival
At most film festivals, you know that everything that hits the screen went through about 14 different committees and reviews before it was even put into consideration to be a part of the event. But the Salt Lake City Film Festival—entering its fifth year this September—airs the bulk of its submissions, holding to the old axiom that films are meant to be watched. Festival organizers just hope that SLC will be exposed to more culture and art.
Sept. 26-29, SaltLakeCityFilmFestival.org
Best Recycled Moments
Lars Love Letters
Who says you can’t make a statement with junk—or, in this case, recycled paper, turned into heartfelt cards and sentiments? Brady Lars Burrows takes junk mail, pulps it down and transforms it into multicolored cards, which he then adorns with his own brand of art and humor. It’s the perfect sentiment for anyone who’s both environmentally conscious and looking for something funnier than Hallmark. Who could resist a card with two robots on it that says, “You’re A Little Strange, I Like That. (Let’s Make Out.)”?
Best New Horror Attraction
What’s better than watching zombies get killed on AMC? How about actually participating in the “violence” yourself? Rocky Point Horror legend Cydney Neil returned to Salt Lake City, took over the former RPH location and teamed up with Battlefield Live Utah to give fans of the genre an opportunity to fight their way to safety in a junkyard full of undead characters looking to eat you alive. Short of the actual zombie apocalypse, this laser-tag experience is the best way to live the life of fending off hordes of flesh-eaters.
Best Talk Show
The Paul Duane Show
Paul Duane has never been one to keep to the dark corners; even as a photographer, he was best known for sporting a pair of heels and a skirt at photo shoots. So it wasn’t much of a shock to see him start his own talk show—with his own name as the title—and bring some of Utah’s most influential names to chat with him in front of a live audience at The Complex. With its live band for musical accompaniment and a format going back to Carson’s three-guest presentation, the show is only a TV deal away from being the best showcase in town.
Inspired by the Channel 101 format that Community creator Dan Harmon perfected in California, the minds behind Channel 801 call on short-film directors to create something new once a month and showcase it for an audience to watch at Brewvies and vote on their favorites. The monthly showcase has helped several filmmakers find a new audience to see their works, and given locals a new source of entertainment—from their own backyard.
Best Stereo You
Wish You Owned
Taking over the former spot of Nobrow Coffee in downtown Salt Lake City, E3 Modern opened its doors with one of the most impressive displays we’ve seen in a long time: a hi-fi vacuum-tube stereo with two large speakers (created by Josh Stippich) that rival the one found in Doc Brown’s garage. The gallery also boasts a fine-furniture collection and art display—created by local artists—that changes ev merging artists, as well as live art performances, all for free. Along with an educational program and daring pinpoint exhibits, they’ve provided a much-needed shock to our system.
Best Use Of 32 Square Feet
Dance Theatre Coalition: Micro-Dance
It’s hard to imagine just what kind of contemporary dance you can fit into a rather small 8-foot-by-4-foot space. Dance Theatre Coalition’s Micro-Dance challenged a number of local choreographers, including Ai Fujii-Nelson, Jerry Gardner, Emily May, Ashley Mott and Kimberly Schmit, to create new work for just such a stage, set in the middle of the Rose Wagner Center Black Box Theatre. The incredible results proved that, sometimes, reining in your boundaries and creating self-limitations is actually a profound way to push the edges of your artistic envelope.
Best Local Film Channel
Utah Film Network
For years, the film community has struggled in its attempts to highlight new works, whether they be short films or extravagant features. The Utah Film Network has made it its mission to give local directors and producers a website to properly display everything they’ve created, as well as help indie directors with their Kickstarter efforts to fund the next great series or movie. It’s only a matter of time before the next big thing will have had its first showing on the Utah Film Network’s website.
Best Local Erotica
It should come as no surprise that Utah has, per capita, the biggest number of porn downloads and erotica-book purchases in the entire United States. So, it only makes sense that one of the busiest erotica novelists is living here in the Salt Lake Valley. Aubrey Brown types her fingers to the bone working with two different publishing companies to crank out steamy fantasy novels. And it doesn’t hurt that she literally lives smack in the middle of her most dedicated fanbase.
Best Big-Screen Dreams
Shannon Hale, Jerusha Hess: Austenland
It doesn’t get much more local than this—a local book turned into a movie by a local director, produced by an (honorary) local, premieres (and sells out) at a local film festival. Best-selling author Shannon Hale’s 2007 novel—a modern-day spoof of/homage to Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen fans—was adapted for the screen by Hale herself and director Jerusha Hess, with Stephenie Meyer producing, and quickly sold out its Sundance screenings. It’s an unabashedly fun, frothy movie, made by women and starring women—a decidedly (and unfortunately) rare combination. Its level of success on a national scale remains to be seen, but Utah screenings have been mobbed; whether that stems from hometown pride or an unashamed love of romance doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing for female creators, and for movies.
Jennifer A. Nielsen, The Ascendance Trilogy
Perhaps the best mark of success for a local author is when local readers don’t realize they’re reading a local book until they’ve gotten to the breathless final pages and read the author bio. Or maybe that another best-selling local author isn’t a cause for front-page news is simply an indication of just how robust Utah’s young-adult literature scene is. In any event, 2012’s The False Prince—a clever political fantasy adventure about a missing prince and an impersonation plot—garnered starred reviews across the country and hit the New York Times best-seller list; an executive story editor for Game of Thrones will be adapting the series for Paramount. Nielsen’s turny-twisty tale continued in The Runaway King, released in early 2013, and will conclude in March 2014 with The Shadow Throne, teased with the intriguing phrase “War is coming ...” We’re ready.