Essentials: Entertainment Picks Aug. 6-12 

Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, Salt Lake Gaming Con, Craft Lake City and more

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Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival
Mounting a performing arts production is hard. Finding or creating the basic material, bringing together performers and technicians, raising funding and even securing a venue can make the effort seem almost heroic. And in Utah, one might also face the challenge of making sure that the material is unlikely to give offense, lest you limit your audience. It's hard, but the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is trying to make it a little easier. While many local performing-arts organizations are still ramping up for their fall seasons, dozens of local actors, dancers and writers will be bringing original, risky work to venues in the Sugar House area, providing more than 200 individual opportunities to sample short plays, dance performances, yoga, comedy and even magic, with 100 percent of the ticket proceeds going directly to the artists. Some of the shows are created by familiar Salt Lake City theater companies: Plan-B Theatre Co. (Jennifer Nii's family-friendly story of shelter dogs, Ruff!); Pygmalion Theatre Co. (offering The Weyward Sisters, which imagines actual witches cast in the original production of Macbeth); and Pinnacle Acting Co. (the Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned to Drive). But many other productions—like the zombie musical Undying Love—take advantage of the minimalist technical requirements to deliver all-new work by artists taking chances and inviting viewers along on innovative journeys. As they push local arts beyond the fringes, let them push you, as well. (Scott Renshaw) Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival @ various Sugar House venues, Aug. 6-9, tickets $5 minimum donation per show, $10 recommended, Sprague Library shows free.



Broadway Across America: The Book of Mormon
At the end of The Book of Mormon's opening musical number, "Hello," a screen lifted to show a painted backdrop representing downtown Salt Lake City, complete with signs for Crown Burger and Zions Bank—and the crowd exploded, drowning out the last several bars of the song. This musical—our musical—had come home. The gleefully crude show by Robert Lopez and South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone—following eager young Mormons Elder Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe) and Elder Cunningham (A. J. Holmes) on their challenging mission to Uganda—offers plenty of catchy songs and punch lines that transcend Utah cultural specifics. Yet it's also hard to ignore that plenty of people in the Capitol Theatre audience felt a unique connection to the jaunty paean to repression in "Turn It Off," or laughed particularly hard at Ugandan LDS convert Nabulungi (Alexandra Ncube) singing a ballad to the wonders she expects to find in magical "Sal Tlay Ka Siti." Of course, it's a show that steps up to the boundary of good taste, takes a huge crap on that boundary and runs naked several miles past it. But even as specific LDS doctrine becomes the comedic lyrics of "I Believe," it's also a unique celebration of how religious stories—no matter how ridiculous they might seem—bring comfort to people's lives, and an alternate perspective on what a missionary might accomplish. Salt Lakers are far from the only people who are finding that notion delightful, even if certain jokes are bound to hit far closer to home. (Scott Renshaw) Broadway Across America-Utah: The Book of Mormon @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, July 28-Aug. 9, daily lottery tickets only available, $26.


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Salt Lake Gaming Con
It's been more than five years since Salt Lake City had a major videogame convention, the last being GEEX (one of the precursors to Salt Lake Comic Con). But as our geeky conventions have expanded, gamers were left as one of the few groups that haven't been tapped for their own cons. Salt Lake Gaming Con is looking to change that in as many was as possible by offering gaming fans one of the biggest weekend tournaments to ever happen in Utah. Over the course of three days, the South Towne Expo Center will host dozens of table-top and videogame tournaments, featuring beloved titles like League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter IV Ultra, Magic: The Gathering, HeroClix, Dice Masters, Dungeons & Dragons, Halo, Doom, Rock Band, Call of Duty, Splatoon and more. Beyond the tournaments will be a gigantic cosplay competition with nine different levels of entry, exhibits from gaming companies like Microsoft and Wildworks, the Geek Comedy Tour, and Utah's Biggest Murder Mystery Game, where attendees can play a gigantic version of whodunit with fellow attendees. Other scheduled guest appearances include Steven Ogg (GTA:V), Amber Goldfarb (Assassin's Creed, Helix), Elias Toufexis (Assassin's Creed, Dues Ex), Nikki Rapp (The Walking Dead videogame), professional cosplayers Destiny Nickelsen and Kristen Hughey, and composer Rika Muranaka. Brush up on your skills, figure out a cool costume and join fellow gamers in a celebration of gaming geekiness. (Gavin Sheehan) Salt Lake Gaming Con @ South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State, 385-468-2260, Aug. 6-8, Thursday, 1 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Saturday, 9 a.m.-midnight; $15-$20 single-day pass, $25 three-day pass.



Craft Lake City
Originally a one-day festival with 72 artisan vendors, Craft Lake City DIY Festival has expanded in its seventh year to two days, with almost three times as many artisans, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Building, two performance stages, a busking lounge for street performers, local food vendors, food trucks and attendance of more than 40,000 visitors. As a new feature at this year's Craft Lake City, local company Animal Jam will present live, exotic animals in front of the Graywhale Stage on both days. The company, which provides knowledge of animals and the outdoors through an online gaming experience, is a part of the festival's STEM educational mission. The musical entertainment includes some of the most well-liked bands in the local-music scene, representing the wide spectrum of musical genres. Among the scheduled performers: indie rockers Color Animal and Birthquake!; folkies Hectic Hobo; the self-explanatory Jazz Jaguars; "dad rock" with Albino Father; longtime local favorite singer/songwriter Kate MacLeod; alt-country combo Bronco; the electro-dance music of Minx; and the House of Lewis hip-hop collective. As a festival recognizing the participatory nature of all the arts and crafts, Craft Lake City is a celebration of locals making it by making things—and it helps craft the community into a better place to live. (Brian Staker) Craft Lake City @ Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main, Aug. 7-8, Friday, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; $5 single day; $7 two-day, children under 12 free.


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Sandy Hot Air Balloon Festival
Any unidentified flying objects spotted in Sandy's skies on Aug. 7 & 8 might not need to be reported to the authorities. It isn't Superman or aliens—it's the Sandy City's Hot Air Balloon Festival, which features 15 eyepopping, multicolored balloons. On Friday and Saturday, there will be two launches at Storm Mountain Park, at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Head over early to talk with the hot-air balloon pilots, who encourage questions. Vendors will serve coffee and breakfast. Later, the balloons move to the South Towne Promenade for the Balloon Glow & Festival on Saturday evening. Around 8:30 p.m., the balloons light up. Enjoy food from local vendors and live music from Van Lady Love, who will play throughout the night. (Shawna Meyer) Sandy City Hot Air Balloon Festival @ Storm Mountain Park, 11400 S. 1000 East, Aug. 7 & 8, 7 a.m. & 7:30 a.m.; Balloon Glow & Festival @ South Towne Promenade, 10000 S. 173 West, Aug. 8, 8-10 p.m., free.

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