Essentials: Entertainment Picks April 3-9 

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THURSDAY APRIL 3

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, like a whole host of people in this country, grew up in a small town. Think Main Street with a local grocer and a barber shop, picket fences and everybody being on a first-name basis with everybody else. Keillor used this small-town perspective to create one of the most popular public radio programs ever, A Prairie Home Companion. By utilizing his personal background, he has built an entire world through his keen storytelling capabilities and quick wit. For years, people have religiously followed the daily lives of his characters, to the point where they almost consider the residents of Lake Wobegone family, expecting newsy letters and personalized colorful cards at Christmas. The thing with Keillor is that he walks a fine line with his Midwestern sensibilities. He likes to keep it wholesome, yet he also likes to make people blush with a little bit of restrained bawdiness. But that’s how his audiences like him. He’ll make your grandmother guffaw while speaking the straight truth to granddad. He’ll commiserate with your hard-working father while discussing the domestic side of things with your mother. He’ll even get into teenager antics with the youth in your life. Really, Garrison Keillor is pretty much the friendly uncle who comes to town once in a blue moon to spin a great yarn about the good old days, while you settle in for the night in front of a cozy fire. (Jacob Stringer)
Garrison Keillor @ Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, April 3, 7:30 p.m., $20-$69. EcclesCenter.org

Salt Lake Bees Home Opener
The 2014 Salt Lake Bees home-opener marks not only the annual return of spring, but also 20 years since spring 1994, when owner Joe Buzas uprooted the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League and brought them to Salt Lake City to play in a brand-new ballpark. The ballpark was built on the site of the old Derks Field that had stood at the corner of 1300 South and West Temple from 1947 to 1993. In 1994, a new 15,411-seat stadium opened as Franklin Quest Field, and has since been know as Franklin Covey Field, Spring Mobile Ballpark and, starting this season, Smith’s Ballpark. The team has also gone through name changes. When the team arrived in SLC, there was an unfortunate trend of local teams having names that ended in “zz” to be like the Jazz, so the team started off as the Buzz. After a run as the Stingers, Jazz owner Larry H. Miller bought the team and changed the name to the Bees, a name that works well with both the history of the Beehive State, and the fact that the first PCL team to play here in 1915 was called the Bees. The franchise began as the Triple-A affiliate of the Twins, but is now the highest farm club of the Los Angeles Angels, and along the way has seen the likes of David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver and Mike Trout come through the ranks. The upcoming season will feature a number of nights with giveaways commemorating the team’s history, and a 20th-anniversary celebration is planned for May 9. (Geoff Griffin)
Salt Lake Bees vs. Sacramento River Cats @ Smith’s Ballpark, 77 W. 1300 South, 801-325-2337, April 3, 6:35 p.m., $9-$26. SLBees.com

Mark by Mark
Contemporary artists “map” their reality in myriad ways: abstraction, collage, mixed media, video installation, performance, etc. As effective as these approaches might be, there is something uniquely pure about artists employing minimalism. Minimalism is a way the artist might use only the most reduced, expressive elements of art-making. This might be a suggestion of randomness, order or chaos through simple lines, or it might be an implication of geometry, symmetry and balance of structure. But the minimalist approach requires that the viewer become involved in order for the art’s ideas to fully emerge. Artists Al Denyer, Lydia Gravis and K. Stevenson were invited by Alice Gallery to participate in the Mark by Mark exhibition. The work on display has everything to do with “physical and psychological terrains,” according to the gallery statement. With these artists we find a reduction to the rawest elements. In K. Stevenson’s masterpiece of minimalism “Tangle Untangle”, that element is the line. On its own, considered objectively, it has a specific form. Yet any viewer observing Stevenson’s marvelous work may find an affinity with the piece through limitless possible responses: invested intrigue, lucid wonderment, astute curiosity, sublime bafflement, recognition of ordered chaos or manic beauty and much more. One begins to understand a depth of the “physical and psychological terrains” of the artist himself. Stevenson proves compelling to the imagination, acutely intelligent, with a sense of artistic liberty to explore with total originality. And the viewer is always involved. (Ehren Clark)
Mark by Mark @ Alice Gallery, 617 E. South Temple, 801-236-7555, through May 9, free. Heritage.Utah.gov

Fired: New Works in Clay
Presenting a work of ceramics, from forming to firing, can be straightforward for the craftsperson, but much less so for artist Barbara Ellard. Ellard’s play between positive and negative space, in addition to her creative use of firing materials, allows for a uniquely bold art object. Ellard says she “sculpts onto the surface of her work to enhance its full-bodied shape,” a challenge between positive and negative spaces. For the majority of her pieces, Ellard uses unnatural processes, appropriating ancient techniques of carefully added contrived materials to the firing process to arrive at finishes that are meticulously premeditated yet intended to look as though they were naturally mined from within the earth. She uses coffee filters and coffee grounds for acidity, as well as pine needles and other unusual materials. She says she has a level of control as an artist over how the work will result, for a look that can be alternately geomorphic or surreal. (Ehren Clark)
Fired: New Works in Clay @ Art Barn, 54 Finch Lane, 801-596-5000, through May 2, free. SLCgov.com/arts

Samba Fogo: Inspiraçao do Fogo
In Portugese, ispiraçao means both inhalation and inspiration. Delighted by this double meaning, Samba Fogo’s founder/director Lorin Hansen decided to incorporate it into the title for her group’s spring concert, Inspiraçao Do Fogo: “breath of fire.” For Samba Fogo, which performs drumming, music and dance from the Brazilian culture, fire has always been a central component, with dancers often spinning fire. This week’s performances will feature a complete cast of more than 30 dancers, musicians, singers, martial artists and fire-spinners. The Samba Fogo band—with traditional instruments like the cavaquinho (a small guitar) and the berimbau—will present new rhythms and styles for their audience, including “Jiboia,” a song created in 2013 for Samba Fogo by a visiting Brazilian drum master. The aggressive, powerful rhythm of the song simulates the heavy writhing of a boa constrictor deep in the jungle. Dancers accompany the music with a warrior dance choreographed with an energetic afro-Brazilian style of movement native to the state of Bahia on Brazil’s northeastern coast. (Katherine Pioli)
Samba Fogo: Inspiraçao Do Fogo @ Rose Wagner Center, 138. W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, April 3-5, 7:30 pm, $20. ArtTix.org


FRIDAY APRIL 4

Drew Carey

There are certain people in the entertainment industry who have a public life much longer than anyone would expect. Where most people are relegated to their 15 minutes, others can sustain act after act after act. Comedian Drew Carey is of that special breed. He started his stand-up career in 1985 and really got noticed by America on the original Star Search. Then Johnny Carson got wind of him. After that, his sitcom The Drew Carey Show became a long-running success, which led to an improv/sketch comedy program called Whose Line Is It Anyway? As if that weren’t enough, when the venerable Bob Barker decided to retire from hosting The Price Is Right, it was Carey who was chosen to fill his shoes. There’s also an entire sports world that knows him not just from such television celebrity, but as a part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team and as a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. And, he was a Marine in his youth, to boot. The point? Carey is a far more versatile entertainer than you might imagine. The fact that he could be sitting on his rich laurels enjoying his soccer club or playing Plinko but that he instead chooses to hit the open road playing comedy clubs around America tells you a lot about him. Whether it’s with his own improv troupe or simply him, mic in hand, standing in front of the brick wall, Carey will apparently keep doing what he’s always done best: Making people laugh. (Jacob Stringer)
Drew Carey @ Wiseguys West Valley, 2194 W. 3500 South, 801-463-2909, April 4, 7:30 p.m., April 5, 7 & 9 p.m., $25.  WiseguysComedy.com

Pioneer Theatre Company Play-by-Play Series: Alabama Story
In 1958, writer/illustrator Garth Williams published a picture book called The Rabbits’ Wedding, a seemingly innocuous and whimsical story with a more-or-less self-descriptive title. There was one small issue, however: In the story, a white rabbit marries a black rabbit. In 1950s Alabama, that made the story seem to many—including elected officials—like a piece of “integrationist propaganda.” Librarian Emily Wheelock Reed was told to take the book off the shelves of the Alabama Public Library Service. And she refused. Kenneth Jones’ play Alabama Story tells a fictionalized version of these events, with Garth Williams serving as the narrator exploring Reed’s controversial stand against banning his book. The play closes out Pioneer Theatre Company’s series of three staged readings of new works, this one directed by PTC artistic director Karen Azenberg. Jones will be participating in a week-long residency that includes talk-back sessions about the play. (Scott Renshaw)
Alabama Story @ Utah Museum of Fine Arts Dumke Auditorium, 410 Campus Center Drive, University of Utah, 801-581-7332, April 4, 8 p.m.,  April 5, 2 & 8 p.m., $5-$10. PioneerTheatre.org

Ballet West II: The Little Mermaid
Every art form needs its “gateway” material for younger audiences—stuff that gets the next generation inspired to love theater, visual art, symphonic music, painting and more. With regards to ballet, it often seems that such an entry point is limited to annual trips to see The Nutcracker. But Ballet West is working to change that. Two years ago, artistic director Adam Sklute launched a family series designed to introduce young viewers to the delights of ballet in an accessible format. In that spirit, Principal Ballet Mistress Pamela Robinson-Harris and former soloist Peggy Dolkas crafted a balletic stage interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale The Little Mermaid especially for this purpose. The lively production—which includes child performers from the Ballet West Academy, providing an extra level of connection—runs just over an hour, including an intermission, making it a perfect starting point for all ages. (Scott Renshaw)
Ballet West II: The Little Mermaid @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, April 4, 7 p.m., April 5, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m., April 6, 2 p.m., $15-$35. BalletWest.org, ArtTix.org

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