Essentials: Entertainment Picks Aug. 13-19 

New American Playwrights Project, Amalia Ulman, Utah Beer Festival and more

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Salt Lake County Fair
Just when it seems that summer has barely begun, it's already time for a slight change in the weather. And as we creep towards fall in Utah, 'tis the season for the fun and festivities of county fairs. The Salt Lake County Fair celebrates its 79th year with plenty of the activities that recall a simpler time: competitions of cooking, baking, home arts, livestock and performing arts; showcases of crafts and other fine arts; carnival rides, petting zoos and other activities fit for the whole family. But plenty of other special events fill out the schedule on individual days (some with special individual ticketing required). Thrill to authentic medieval jousting contests performed by Knights of Mayhem (pictured), or appreciate a wide range of motorized creations from the classic-car show to monster-truck races. With music, food and entertainment of all kinds, it's a fair bet that you'll have a better than fair time. (Scott Renshaw) Salt Lake County Fair @ Salt Lake County Equestrian Center, 2100 W. 11400 South, Draper, Aug. 12-15, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., free; some events require tickets.


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Utah Shakespeare Festival New American Playwrights Project
For more than 50 years, the Utah Shakespeare Festival has been associated with the works of a writer who created his masterpieces 400 years ago. But that doesn't mean the organization is only concerned with theater's illustrious past; there's also a mission to be part of its promising future. The New American Playwrights Project showcases three new works in progress, presented as staged readings. These productions allow for a unique interaction between the writers, actors and audience members in post-play conversations, allowing the playwrights to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their works in order to refine them for future production. This year's three plays include a pair of darker comedies, as well as a piece of speculative historical fiction. In Steven Peterson's Affluence, a down-on-their-luck family ponders the unthinkable as wealthy, dying Grandma inconveniently seems not yet ready to go before new inheritance taxes kick in at midnight on New Year's Day. Death also factors into James McLindon's Closure, as strange visions—including an unconventional version of the Virgin Mary—come to a man hoping to reconcile with his estranged family before he passes. And Rich Rubin's Caesar's Blood imagines conversations between three acting brothers—Edwin, Junius Brutus and John Wilkes Booth—about the contentious politics of their time. You may be visiting Cedar City to see plays that have been performed thousands of times, but it's also worth a stop to check out plays nobody has ever seen before. (Scott Renshaw) Utah Shakespeare Festival New American Playwrights Project @ Auditorium Theatre, 300 West & University Boulevard, Cedar City, 435-586-7878, Aug. 6-28, $10, full schedule at



Amalia Ulman: Stock Images of War
War represents humanity at its most fragile, when the lines of conflict explode into full-blown fissures, and violence wreaks havoc at every level. Amalia Ulman's wryly titled Stock Images of War, opening at the Codec Gallery of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, features wire sculptures shaped into familiar objects such as bicycles (pictured above), tanks and wheelchairs. Ulman uses the contours of the familiar and seemingly fixed and firm in repose against a backdrop of rock music and the unmistakable aroma of apple pie. The use of olfactory sensations that signify "America," as comforting as they might seem culturally, actually create a somewhat disorienting experience when re-contextualized with art objects in a museum setting. The music of bands like Limp Biskit, Linkin Park and Rage Against the Machine represents the soundtrack of American soldier culture; its sheer mundanity echoes the kitschy addition of aroma, but also somehow underscores the sense of vulnerability the sculptures creates. The Argentinean-born artist produced these works in the wake of personal trauma and recovery from injuries suffered in an accident riding in a Greyhound Bus in 2013. After growing up in Spain, she studied in London and now alternates between Los Angeles, London and New York City. She has used social-media commentary in works based on a series of selfies on Instagram, and all her work deconstructs what we have taken as "stock" or commonplace in our visual environments. The museum will host an artist's reception Friday, Aug. 28, 7-9 p.m. (Brian Staker) Amalia Ulman: Stock Images of War @ Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 S. West Temple, 801-328-4201, Aug. 14-Oct. 31.


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Celebrating Ivan Doig
Novelist Ivan Doig (pictured)—who passed away in April 2015 at the age of 75—may have been most closely associated with his native Montana, but his stories resonate beyond the specifics of Big Sky Country. A recipient of the Stegner Award, Doig crafted tales about the stoic characters of the Rocky Mountains and American West that led to a loyal readership always eager for his next work. On Aug. 18, Doig's final novel, Last Bus to Wisdom, will be published. Set in 1951, it follows an 11-year-old boy named Donal, who is sent from his home in Montana to stay with a great-aunt in Wisconsin while his caretaker grandmother recovers from surgery. But Donal discovers that his Aunt Kate is an unpleasant person with whom to live—an opinion shared by her husband, Herman. When one clash too many finds Donal on a bus back to Montana, Donal is surprised that he has a companion on his adventure-filled journey away from Aunt Kate: Uncle Herman. On this publication day, The King's English joins with many bookstores nationwide in celebrating the life and work of Ivan Doig. Those who knew him, or simply loved his writing, are invited to join in commemorating the gifted writer before taking home a copy of Last Bus to Wisdom. It's a great opportunity to bid one final farewell to the artist, even as his art continues to inspire readers. (Scott Renshaw) Celebrating Ivan Doig @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, Aug. 18, 7 p.m., free.



City Weekly's Utah Beer Festival
When City Weekly's Utah Beer Festival was first conceived six years ago, the majority of the participating breweries hailed from this desert dry state of ours: Think Wasatch, Uintah and Squatters. As the festivities grew, the event has become more and more inclusive of regional breweries, like Firestone Walker from California and New Belgium from Colorado. In 2015, though, the festival has grown to feature 50 breweries, each bringing a selection of brews from such far off places as Vermont and Japan—not to mention gluten-free cider. Even the most diehard fermentation fanatic can't possibly sample them all in one day. Of course, to keep drinking you must also feed your belly something solid. That's where all your favorite food trucks and carts come in to save your festival day: pizza from The Pie, a bowl of delicious Korean barbecue from CupBop and/or a snack taco from 3 Brothers. You can also become a VIP and join The Beer Professor, Bob Trewartha, in the Lounge for special tastings and smaller crowds. But with so many unfamiliar brews on hand, the trick is not to lose focus on the tried-and-true local breweries that still show up to proffer their new recipes. And with those hometown brewery numbers growing, the myth that you can't get a good beer in the Beehive State has finally been dispelled. (Jacob Stringer) Utah Beer Festival @ 200 East & Library Square, Aug. 15, 3-8 p.m., $15 in advance, $25 day of festival.

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