Essentials: Entertainment Picks Jan. 8-14 

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Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular
The enormously popular worldwide tour Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular visits EnergySolutions Arena this week, with 20 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, including the king of them all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Walking With Dinosaurs originated in the late 1990s, when the BBC was looking to capitalize on the popularity of the film Jurassic Park, and began as a collaboration between scientists and animators to create photorealistic dinosaurs. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh for the BBC and by Avery Brooks in the version broadcast on the Discovery Channel in America, Walking With Dinosaurs became a six-part documentary and eventually a feature film. As complex an undertaking as it is for film, the live show— which debuted in Australia in 2007 and later toured North America, Europe and Asia—is another beast entirely. The Arena Tour requires not only a full creative team for the theatricality of it as performance, but also scientific consultants to ensure the accuracy of the dinosaurs, and a veritable army of technicians to physically operate the dinosaurs, each of which requires three people to operate. That Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular manages to pull off this balancing act—again, as live theater without the benefit of the editing afforded to film—for a moment is impressive. That it's sustained a live show with ongoing popularity for as long as it has in this highly cynical age is—for lack of a better word—spectacular. (Danny Bowes) Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular @ EnergySolutions Arena, 301 W. South Temple, 801-325-7328, Jan. 7-11, various times, $27.50-$65.


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Will Gadd
The Utah Adventure Journal Speaker Series brings renowned outdoor adventurers of all stripes to Snowbird Resort, where they share their stories and experiences with locals. This week, Will Gadd—a world-record-holder in both ice-climbing and paragliding—will squeeze about 30 different "trips of a lifetime" into just the 60 minutes allotted for his talk. Perhaps best known in the industry for his numerous ice-climbing awards and medals, the Canadian thrillseeker also played host on the Discovery Channel's series Fearless Planet, about various extreme environments and unique geological structures found on Earth. Known to his friends as "Captain Adventure," Gadd is still hell-bent on pushing the boundaries of his own sport of mixed climbing, but is also eager to share his enthusiasm for adventure travel in general. He lives by the philosophy that there is always somewhere new to explore, something different to discover and new ways to push yourself to the limit. Having already piloted his paraglider to a world distance record, this past year saw Gadd, along with pilot Gavin McClurg, travel over 650 kilometers of the wild Canadian Rockies. Typical of his style, he couldn't pick a simple route with support; he and his new traveling buddy went deep into a section of the backcountry that had no road access and a ton of virgin flying territory. Join Gadd as he talks about that experience and 29 others, including flying over the Grand Canyon, caving under the Greenland ice cap and every other nutty adventure he's dreamed up. (Jacob Stringer) Will Gadd @ Snowbird Ski Resort, Wildflower Lounge, 9385 S. Snowbird Center Drive, Snowbird, 801-933-2222, Jan. 8, 6 p.m., 21+, free.


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Zach Franzoni: Disrupted Identities
Identity can be a puzzle, as people try to figure out their place in the world, and Zach Franzoni takes the visual metaphor of the puzzle to its extreme. But then, being originally from Detroit, the local artist is fascinated with the ways the urban environment shapes the individual. The shapes of his figures take on the labyrinthine circuits of plumbing conduits or city thoroughfares, or other symbols of power structure that constrain and oppress the underprivileged. For example, if you follow the twists and turns of "Pencilman," you'll find that one of the subject's extremities ends in the sharpened tip of a writing instrument. Another one ("Torch," detail pictured) holds a torch aloft, like the Statue of Liberty. The body mirrors how social institutions like education and political entities not only must be navigated to advance in society; they constitute the structure of society. Movement appears difficult for these characters, not only set against their surroundings as mazes, by negative space, but also seemingly embedded in their surroundings, boxed in. These paintings, drawings and mixed-media images are somewhat cartoonish and playful, but also contemplative and tinged with pathos as we witness their desire to escape an imprisonment not of shackles, but of misshapenness. To delve into their dilemma, we must wander through the mazes with them. These identities—in which we might see ourselves—aren't disrupted so much as distorted, in search of disentanglement. (Brian Staker) Zach Franzoni: Disrupted Identities @ Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts, 641 West North Temple, Suite700. 801-596-0500, through Feb. 10, Gallery Stroll artist reception Jan. 16, 6-9 p.m.


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Pioneer Theatre Company: Alabama Story
In 1958, writer/illustrator Garth Williams published a simple picture book called The Rabbits' Wedding, about two bunnies in a forest looking to live happily ever after. But it wasn't quite so simple when, in 1959, the White Citizens Council of Montgomery, Ala., and one Alabama state legislator began a push to have the book banned from local libraries, for one very simple reason: One of the rabbits getting married was white, and the other was black. Kenneth Jones explores this real-life controversy in Alabama Story, receiving its world-premiere production at Pioneer Theatre Company. Jones dives into the stories of many of the key figures involved in the fight, including author Williams and librarian Emily Reed, who refused to bow to the pressure to remove the book from circulation. Learn how a tense moment at the dawn of the civil rights era became defined by a love between two fluffy bunnies that dare not speak its name. (Scott Renshaw) Alabama Story @ Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Jan. 9-24, Mondays-Thursdays 7:30 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays 8 p.m., 2 p.m. Saturday matinees, $25-$44.



When Words Weren't Enough: Works on Paper from Topaz, 1942-1945
At its peak, the Topaz Relocation Center housed 8,500 Japanese World War II detainees, and was at that time the fifth largest city in Utah. "There is a psychological and an emotional stress involved when your government labels you an enemy of your country," says Scotti Hill, curator of When Words Weren't Enough: Works on Paper From Topaz, 1942-1945. This is the inaugural project of the Topaz Museum in Delta, preceding the large-scale permanent Topaz Museum exhibition of history and artifacts scheduled to open this year. The story of the camp is told in this exhibit through art created in the detention center. In this full-scale concentration camp of 8,500 residents in a radius of just 1 1/2 miles—subject to bitter cold and dust storms, with crude barracks as living quarters—there were also schools, hospitals, libraries, theaters and an art school with important artists producing work that chronicled the realities, anxieties, hopes and dreams of detainees. "It gave people a reason to look forward to life," Hill says. An estimated five artists are represented in the exhibition. The images capture camp life, traditions and home life, landscapes, abstraction, woodblock prints and more. The conditions in the camp were harsh, but art allowed detainees to process some of their feelings. Practicing the traditions and rituals of their culture and heritage was a reconnection with their humanity. (Ehren Clark) When Words Weren't Enough: Works on Paper from Topaz, 1942-1945 @ Topaz Museum, 55 W. Main, Delta, 801-915-3646, Jan. 13-Aug. 30, free.

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