Essentials: Entertainment Picks Aug. 20-26 

Ultima, Living Traditions Exhibit, Prairie Home Companion and more

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Nick Pedersen: Ultima
Salt Lake City native Nick Pedersen is a mixed-media artists who uses illustration and photography to highlight the intricacies of the world around us. Since breaking onto the scene, he's exhibited in Los Angeles; Miami; Santa Fe, N.M.; and even in Iceland. Recent achievements include releasing his first book, Sumeru, in 2011, and receiving the Stella Art Award from Digital Arts California in 2013. Now, after many years of intense focus and planning, Pedersen will be releasing a brand new book, titled Ultima. Centered around the theme of environmentalism, the works within the book showcase a post-apocolyptic world in which nature has reclaimed places that were human-occupied. Ships are frozen on icy shores where people now hunt for food; city monuments and parks are overrun with greenery in a near deserted cityscape; desert towns are ravaged by war and left to decay as the few souls remaining search for animals. ("Fallen Kingdom" is pictured above.) It's Fight Club's Tyler Durden's vision of the future in artistic detail. The limited-edition hardcover book features all 36 images from the three-part series and will be sold during a one-night exhibition at Copper Palate Press, where the works will be on display. The series itself is one over which to ponder, as Pedersen does his best to show that once we've become all but extinct from this planet, nature will pave over our accomplishments, as if we were never here. (Gavin Sheehan) Nick Pedersen: Ultima Exhibition & Book Release @ Copper Palate Press, 160 E. 200 South, No. B, Friday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m., free.


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Claire Porter: Portables
A theater manager steps in front of her audience before the start of the play and directs the patrons' attention to the exits. It's a gesture familiar to anyone who frequents the theater—and, for Claire Porter, it's a moment ripe with artistic potential. Porter, a choreographer and comedian, uses her wit, her words and her movement in her touring production, Portables, a constantly revolving repertoire of comedic vignettes that she's created and adapted over the past 40 years. In "Green Dress Circle," one of the earliest Portables works, Porter plays a theater manager whose opening words take an absurdist turn as she guides the audience on a spiraling tour from the auditorium to the lobby, neighborhood, distant galaxies and then back again. Her sophisticated humor, say reviewers, is accentuated by the kind of flawless timing and expressiveness that only a dancer knows. This week, Claire Porter performs "Green Dress Circle" and four other Portable vignettes one night only at the Rose Wagner Center—a special guest performance in honor of Repertory Dance Theater's 50th season. Behind the scenes, Porter is also in town to work with RDT dancers on a piece that makes its world premiere in November during the company's regular season: Revel. Porter's performance of Portables will also include "Interview," about an anxious young college graduate sitting for her first job interview, and so eager to please she dances, bends over backwards and turns upside down, literally; and "Piano" in which an egotistical concert pianist must play it cool when her piano fails to arrive in time for the performance. (Katherine Pioli) Claire Porter: Portables @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m., $20.



Living Traditions Festival Exhibit
The Living Traditions Festival recently celebrated 30 years of showcasing the diverse cultures that make up the local community. The annual three-day event, produced by the Salt Lake City Art Council and held at Salt Lake City's Washington Square, highlights more art, craft, dance, food and music from more than 50 different cultures. An exhibit at the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folks Arts in Liberty Park now commemorates the festival's history. The Chase is worth a visit in its own right as a historical building—built 150 years ago, it is itself an example of folk art. It's notable as the only museum in the country specifically purposed to house a state-owned collection of contemporary folk art. The museum's permanent collection includes a wide array of ethnic, folk and occupational folk art. This encompasses works from native peoples in the state, giving a window onto history and culture, as well as a variety of immigrants' crafts, including everything from Japanese origami to Swedish weaving. This exhibit documents the history of the festival with photographs of artists and other participants throughout the history of the festival, and evidence of dance, music and other crafts that have been highlights of the festival. A number of the artists featured in the show also have work in the museum's permanent collection. (Brian Staker) Living Traditions Festival exhibit @ Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, Liberty Park, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 pm., through Sept. 15.



Utah Summer Dance Festival: Desert Rhythms
Some art forms are tinged with the exotic, which can add to their appeal, yet can make them less immediately accessible. But Middle Eastern dance and music don't need to be relegated to some curious corner, and the many local practitioners of these forms want to invite all comers into a chance to learn and experience more. The second annual Utah Summer Dance Festival brings together many of the state's top professional belly dancers in a showcase of many forms and traditions for a day-long festival. As a special guest for the event, the festival is featuring Grammy-nominated world music performers, Brothers of the Baladi (pictured), who have fused traditional Middle Eastern music and multi-language vocals with a Western sensibility. Come just to be a spectator—and enjoy a variety of vendors selling food, clothing and crafts—or consider taking one of the mini-classes for adults. You can even bring the kids to learn their own rhythms. (Scott Renshaw) Summer Dance Festival: Desert Rhythms @ Viridian Event Center, 8035 S. 1825 West, West Jordan, Aug. 22, 12:30-9 p.m., free,


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A Prairie Home Companion: The America the Beautiful Tour
For most listeners, since its debut in 1974, A Prairie Home Companion has—along with shows like Fresh Air and This American Life—become virtually synonymous with public radio. Red Butte Garden's Outdoor Concert Series continues with a stop from the show's cross-country America The Beautiful Tour on Tuesday. Host Garrison Keillor leads a touring program highlighting the long-running variety show's traditional combination of comedy skits and Americana music. Along with Keillor, the tour's featured acts include folk-roots musician Sarah Jarosz (pictured right, with Keillor) and sound-effects artist Fred Newman. With an aesthetic that falls somewhere between Grand Ole Opry and The Lawrence Welk Show, A Prairie Home Companion delivers a distinctive Midwestern sensibility that has remained constant throughout its run. Recurring comedy bits include the pulp-fiction parody character Guy Noir and the segment "News From Lake Wobegon," which documents daily life in Keillor's fictional hometown. The show was also the subject of an eponymous 2006 movie that was legendary director Robert Altman's final film. The tour comes as A Prairie Home Companion prepares for significant changes behind the scenes. Earlier this summer, Keillor announced that he would step down from the program in September 2016. Keillor will still head A Prairie Home Companion's scheduled 2015-16 season beginning this fall, but before his official retirement, the show plans to have several guest hosting and co-host stints from Keillor's successor: mandolinist Chris Thile, a member of the musical groups Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers. (Eric Chiu) A Prairie Home Companion: The America the Beautiful Tour @ Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way, 801-585-0556, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m., $54-$59.

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