Essentials: Entertainment Picks Aug. 14-20 

THURSDAY AUG. 14

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Utah Symphony: Mighty 5 Tour
The natural beauty of Utah's national parks is legendary, captured in classic films and the work of inspired visual artists. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which those grand arches, spires and cliffs somehow become more majestic—unless it's when they're serving as a backdrop for performances by the Utah Symphony. Beginning Aug. 11, Utah Symphony's Mighty 5 Tour takes director Thierry Fischer (pictured) and the musicians on a weeklong excursion to Southern Utah's five national parks. On Thursday, the orchestra sets up on the banks of the Colorado River, at Moab's Red Cliffs Lodge. Friday finds them at Ruby's Inn overlooking Bryce Canyon National Park, while Saturday wraps things up at Springdale's Tanner Amphitheater against the cliffs of Zion National Park. It's spectacle to hear accompanying the spectacle you can see. (Scott Renshaw) Utah Symphony: Mighty 5 Tour @ Red Cliffs Lodge, Moab, Aug. 14; @ Ruby's Inn, Aug. 15; @ Tanner Amphitheater, Springdale, Aug. 16; 7:30 p.m. nightly, free standby tickets available at the gate for each evening's performance. UtahSymphony.org

FRIDAY AUG. 15

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Slusser Gallery Still Life & Trompe L'oeil Exhibition
The Dutch perfected the art of still life in the 17th century, but ever since, people too often assume still-life works portray a limited subject, with a limited capacity to capture a broad spectrum of "life." But this is where history has been mistaken; a better term for still life might be "distilled life": a single moment, frozen in time, captured at its most heightened, most intense, most concentrated. The Still Life & Trompe L'oeil Exhibition at Slusser Gallery sets the record straight. A standout piece of trompe l'oeil painting—a French expression meaning "fool the eye"—is Jason Wheatley's "Metamorphosis Metaphor" (pictured). This elegant piece captures so much essence of life. Ripe bananas are ready to be eaten, a Japanese kettle and cup are ready for serving, and a capricious monkey holds a brush as though he has painted the entire scene himself. The painting is only one part of a show of 25 such "distilled lifes." (Ehren Clark) Still Life & Trompe L'oeil Exhibition @ Slusser Gallery, 447 E. 100 South, 801-532-1956, Aug. 15-Oct. 10. MarkSlusser.com

FRIDAY AUG. 15

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Phillips Gallery: Stephen Seko
When a subject is disassociated from its context, its component features become a subject all their own. That's the approach photographer Stephen Seko takes for many of his compositions. He displaces objects from their original contexts, making particular features the subject of the photograph. The subject, like a spiral within a seashell, is still recognizable; it is not totally abstracted. Seko simply focuses on the line and the pattern within the shell, creating a photographic semi-abstraction. An unusual approach to landscape is found in "Tulip Fields." Instead of the expected vistas and land features, we find four horizontally defined planes of color: bright canary yellow, deep crimson red, rich alpine green and a zone of muted gray. These areas have been captured as pure linear bands of color—less a literal landscape than a lyrical, harmonious abstraction. Taken out of context, "Stairwell" (pictured) ceases to be a stairwell and becomes a dramatic rhythm of detached lines. The image is something more than a thoroughfare, evoking a progression from obscurity to clarity. As with the shell and the tulip field, the viewer is aware of the image's context, but Seko creates a new reality; it becomes a photographic subject distinct from the original. Individual parts might be appreciated for their own distinctive qualities, and seen for their essential beauty. (Ehren Clark) Stephen Seko @ Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 200 South, 801-364-8284, Aug. 15-Sept. 12, free. Phillips-Gallery.com

FRIDAY AUG. 15

Ogden Valley Balloon & Artist Festival
Occasionally life in the state of Utah actually lives up to the slogan "Life Elevated," like when balloons take to the sky for the Ogden Valley Balloon and Artist Festival. The festival includes art booths, balloon launches, continuous live entertainment, a diverse selection of music, family games and food vendors. Previous festivals have featured the Hot "Hare" balloon: a balloon version of the famous Energizer bunny, the largest hot-air balloon in North America. Balloons rise in the early mornings at Snowcrest Junior High, and the Balloon Glow will wow with its incandescence Saturday night at dusk. In between, a wide variety of activities takes place amid the natural beauty of northern Utah. Friday and Saturday also mornings feature a fundraiser breakfast for the Ogden Rescue Mission, at 7 a.m. (Brian Staker) Ogden Valley Balloon & Artist Festival @ Nordic Valley, 3567 Nordic Valley Way, Eden, Aug. 15-17, admission free, $10 parking per car. OgdenValleyBalloonFestival.com

FRIDAY AUG. 15

Utah Rep & Silver Summit Theatre: August: Osage County
Every unhappy family, as Tolstoy would have us believe, is unhappy in its own way. But there are unhappy families, and then there are families like the Westons, whose every gathering seems destined to dredge up the worst messes from their collective past. Tracy Letts' 2007 Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County tells the story of what happens when the members of this unhappy family come together at the family home in rural Oklahoma after its patriarch, noted poet Bev, goes missing. Bev's pill-addicted wife, Violet, finds plenty of relatives coming for support—including her sister, and her three daughters and their families. But even possible tragedy isn't enough to overcome the dark secrets between them—the ones that are out in the open, and the ones that could tear people apart. Utah Repertory Theatre & Silver Summit Theatre co-produce this Utah premiere that also inaugurates a new west-side theater space. (Scott Renshaw) Utah Rep & Silver Summit Theatre: August: Osage County @ Sugar Space Warehouse Theatre, 180 W. 800 South, Aug. 15-31, Fridays & Saturdays 7:30 p.m., Sundays 3 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinee Aug. 23, $11-$18. UtahRep.org

SATURDAY AUG. 16

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Utah Beer Festival
Beer is as old as the gods. In fact, ancient Sumerians believed the gods had their own head brewer, Ninkasi (a name that translates roughly into "lady who fills the mouth"). It is she who is said to be responsible for the oldest known recipe for beer, written into a clay tablet in cuneiform that comes across more like a prayer than a how-to guide. The last stanza reads, "Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat, like the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates." From such a poetic recipe has evolved the explosion of microbreweries and home brewing, where the potential ingredients are seemingly endless. Such variety has also led to the proliferation of beer celebrations, including our own City Weekly Utah Beer Festival. In just five years, this one-day affair has become a celebration of both local and international brewers—including some hard-cider vendors—augmented by great food and a slew of awesome bands. For many attendees, such festivities are a simple way to imbibe their favorite beverages. And for those more interested in the art of beer, the festival also provides an opportunity to sample seasonal brews and lesser-known varieties crafted by skilled brewmasters (see p. 31). Such masters of the craft can only dream of the day when their distinctive spin on the ancient art is preserved like Ninkasi's recipe. (Jacob Stringer) Utah Beer Festival @ Salt Lake City & County Building, 450 S. 200 East, Aug. 16, 3-8 p.m., $15 in advance, $25 day of (includes admission, taster mug and 5 beer tokens). UtahBeerFestival.com

MONDAY AUG. 18

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Wendy Darling
J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan is one of the enduring classics of children's literature, with its fantasy of eternal youth and a hero built from parts of several mythological and folkloric characters. And, lest we forget, there's flying, which has made stage adaptations of the novel immensely popular with audiences, and allowed many actors and dancers to rise to fame. Another reason Barrie's classic endures is that there's a depth to it that allows adaptations and re-examinations from multiple angles. Utah author Robert Easton's new one-act play, Wendy Darling, picks up with the title character 10 years after the events of Peter Pan, addressing her difficulties connecting with the adult world. Not only is there the adventure with Peter that only she remembers, but Wendy also has a husband from whom she's drifting apart, and it's 1914, with Britain on the brink of war. These are all classic story elements: war is always a signifier of massive change and frequently heralds the end of any lingering childhood innocence, which isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, one has to leave the past behind, but not necessarily forget it. Weller Book Works and Around the Globe Theatre Company are the co-sponsors of this staged reading, with J.C. Carter directing. (Danny Bowes) Wendy Darling play reading @ Weller Book Works, Trolley Square, 607 E. 600 South, Aug. 18, 7:30 pm., free. WellerBookWorks.com

TUESDAY AUG. 19

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Drive-by Art Celebration
Art can provide social benefits in addition to aesthetic pleasures. That's what not-for-profit arts organization Art Access is all about. Sheryl Gillilan, who took the helm as executive director three years ago, has put her own stamp on the organization's mission, which sometimes has meant stepping outside the confines of the gallery space. Art Access' Drive-by Art project, which transforms a vacant building in Salt Lake City into an art project and temporary exhibition space, isn't the first of its kind in the city. It follows in the footsteps of the 337 Project's urban gallery at Neighborhood House a few years ago, and is the brainchild of Art Access and west-side resident and businessman Heneli Kaufusi. Artists whose works will be showcased include Blue Critchfield, Eric Erekson, Zachary Franzoni, Tali Hafoka, Erica Houston, Jake Kongaika, Kristina Lenzi/Laurie Bray and Logan Sorenson. Several pieces from Washington Elementary School students will also be included, by way of Art Access' THRIVE project from earlier this year. Drive-by Art aims to convert a property that is nondescript at best and an emblem of urban industrial blight at worst into a symbol of beauty, culture and creativity. And maybe even change the connotation of the words "drive-by." (Brian Staker) Drive-by Art Celebration @ 500 W. 400 South, 801-328-0703, launching Tuesday, Aug. 19, 10-11 a.m., ongoing, free. AccessArt.org

WEDNESDAY AUG. 19

Hale Centre Theatre: She Loves Me
Miklos Laszlo's play Parfumerie is a strong candidate for "most influential play you've never heard of," since it's the source material for Ernst Lubitsch's classic 1940 film The Shop Around The Corner, which in turn inspired the popular 1998 Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan update You've Got Mail. In between the two film versions was the 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me. The premise is timeless—a man and a woman are penpals, with romance brewing, little realizing that they are rivals in real life. Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick's catchy songs ("Vanilla Ice Cream," the title song, "Tonight at Eight" and "Will He Like Me?") made the show popular on both Broadway and London's West End in its original 1963-'64 run, and just as popular in an early-'90s revival. Close out the summer with what amounts to the theatrical version of an ice-cream cone on a hot day. (Danny Bowes) She Loves Me @ Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, 801-984-9000, Aug. 19-Sept. 27, $16-$25. HCT.org

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