Essentials: Entertainment Picks Jan. 1-7 

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Runnin' Utes Basketball Pac-12 Opener
The 1990s are back for the University of Utah men's basketball program, so put on your Andre Miller throwback jersey, pop a mixtape of your favorite grunge tunes in your Walkman and roller-blade on over to the Huntsman Center. Just as in the late 20th century, the Utes are now a ranked program, included in national conversations as a team to beat. They've already played three other ranked teams and beat BYU before a sold-out house in Provo as head coach Larry Krystkowiak strode the sidelines in a red coat brighter than any sweater Rick Majerus ever wore. It's a remarkable rise, given that just four years ago, Utah went 6-25 in its first season under Krystkowiak. The resurgent Utes roster features players ranging from local kids (Jordan Loveridge) to an Austrian seven-footer (Jakob Poeltl) to senior guard Delon Wright, who has seemingly come out of nowhere to be a national Player of the Year candidate. The one big difference between the last century and this one is that the Utes are now in the Pac-12, and highly ranked teams like Arizona and Washington are on the schedule. Utah opens Pac-12 play this weekend with Southern California on Friday night followed by UCLA on Sunday afternoon. The Utes host nine Pac-12 contests in January and February before hitting the conference tournament in Las Vegas in mid-March—and possibly much more beyond that. (Geoff Griffin) Utah vs. USC @ Huntsman Center, 1825 South Campus Drive, University of Utah, Jan. 2, 8 p.m., ESPNU; Utah vs. UCLA, Jan. 4, 2 p.m., PAC-12 Network, 801-581-8849, $5-$45.



Utah Symphony: New Year's in Vienna
During some of the darkest moments of World War II in 1939, the city of Vienna, began a New Year's Day tradition of holding a concert featuring the waltzes of Johann Strauss. Besides the date and the music, the new tradition also marked taking the music from private salons to public concert halls. The concert is still performed annually by the Vienna Philharmonic, and even televised to millions of people in dozens of countries. But there are a couple of drawbacks. First, they hold it on New Year's morning. Festive morning music after you've been up all night? Second, you have to order tickets more than a year in advance; it would be easier to get into the Super Bowl. Third, you have to fly to Europe—before New Year's morning. Luckily, the Utah Symphony has you covered as you start 2015. They'll give you a day or two to recover from New Year's Eve, and there may still be tickets available for Friday and Saturday night. In addition to Strauss, the symphony—under the baton of Maestro Thierry Fischer—will perform music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Hans Christian Lumbye and Johannes Brahms. If it's not a waltz, it will be an up-tempo march. The percussion parts feature everything from a cuckoo whistle to a toy pop-gun shot to simulate the popping of champagne bottles—something you may remember from a couple of nights before. (Geoff Griffin) Utah Symphony: New Year's in Vienna @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Jan. 2-3, 8 p.m., $10-$69.



Statewide Annual '14: Painting & Sculpture
Since 1899, the Statewide Annual Juried Competition & Exhibition has been drawing entries from all corners of the state to find the best of the best practitioners in every imaginable type of painting and sculpture. The annual show provides a remarkable overview of the most outstanding local artists in those media—with a nod this year to longtime local favorites like Maureen O'Hara Ure and Marcee Blackerby—while emerging artists are given their due. John Kaly's large oil-on-canvas portrait "Tragedienne" is one of the most captivating yet contemplative images on display. The depiction of landscape is a staple of Utah art, and there is a strong sense if place evoked in Susan Kirby's oil "Spiral Jetty #4." Abstraction makes a strong impression in works by John O'Connell, Oonju Chun and others. The selection of George Mark England's "Umber America" (detail pictured) as best in show is a recognition of his impact as a highly innovative artistic voice. Other adventurous hands are at work in sculpture. Though the medium is closer to the earth, perhaps the most surprising item in the show is Laura Sharp Wilson's "Mayday," with its astonishing array of materials: stone, wood, mulberry paper, clay, acrylic paint, and string. If you go to only one local art show this year, this is the one. (Brian Staker) Statewide Annual '14: Painting & Sculpture @ Rio Gallery, Rio Grande Depot, 300 S. Rio Grande St. (455 West), through Jan. 9, free.


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Hale Centre Theatre: Is He Dead?
As a new year begins, we're often looking to fresh, new experiences. But not every new experience is "new" in the obvious sense of the word. In the case of Is He Dead?, you have a play that didn't see its first production until 2007, which is fairly remarkable, considering it was written in 1898 by one of America's most legendary writers: Mark Twain. The story involves a fictionalized version of an actual French painter, Jean-François Millet. As Twain's story goes, Millet is facing the fairly familiar artistic problem of no money and serious debt, as is the father of Millet's fiancee. But he soon realizes that there's one sure way for an artist's work to become worth more: He only needs to be dead. Thus begins an elaborate faked death, spiked with that familiar Twain wit. Start your 2015 with a reminder that the best new experiences might be a century old. (Scott Renshaw) Is He Dead? @ Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, 801-984-9000, through Feb. 7, Mondays-Fridays 7:30 p.m., Saturdays 12:30, 4 & 7:30 p.m., $16-$31.



Phillips Gallery: Home for an Hour
Although art installation is not the usual forte for Phillips Gallery, an assemblage of wall text, photography, and stacks of books can currently be found in the Phillips basement Dibble Gallery. It's the product of an art experiment of the most elaborate sort, one that questions and provokes in an almost existential way. The project is titled Home for an Hour, and it combines the creative energies of photographer Sarah Martin and writer Adam Moser. The project involves several key ingredients: a single apartment in a single building and "seven couples, one key, one day, one hour at a time," Moser writes. Each of the consecutive seven couples is invited into unit No. 5 of the apartment block, Martin takes their photo, and the door is shut—the last anyone knows of the happenings inside, at least for an hour. Outside, Moser frantically writes a mock dialogue based on what he imagines could be happening inside. There's "no pressure to perform, wondering what the guy outside in the fur coat will write about them," Moser writes. After the hour, Martin takes a parting shot of the couple, and documents "evidence" of their one-hour occupancy, such as products used or items consumed. What Moser writes and what actually happened in the apartment is the difference between what the mind is told to believe and the truth that will never be known—sometimes based on physical attributes of the couples like age, race, clothing style or apparent social position. Preconception and expectation has an undeniable impact on the written record, when the reality is likely something entirely different. (Ehren Clark) Home for an Hour @ Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 300 South, 801-364-8284, through Jan. 9, free.

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