Essentials: Entertainment Picks May 22-28 

THURSDAY MAY 22

Cultural Cartography Series: Welcome to Hanksville

The desert landscapes in Southern Utah look like they could be from some barren, forbidding alien planet, and have served as such during the filming of Star Trek and many other movies. French filmmaker Melik Ohanian’s film Welcome to Hanksville explored the resemblance more openly, documenting the Aug. 27, 2003, gathering of pseudo-scientists in Hanksville during an astronomical phase that had Earth directly opposite Mars. In Ohanian’s methodical cinematic exploration of the site, the Earth’s desert and that of the Red Planet become transposed in the imagination of the viewer; the seemingly familiar environs of our own state start to take on a quality of the unknown, both eerie and enticing. The expansive vistas hint at the sprawling, enigmatic nature of time and space. The film is the first in the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s new series Cultural Cartographies: Mapping Man-Made Interventions In Contemporary Landscapes. Exhibits in the series use still images and filmmaking to investigate the ways in which various “interventions”—whether political, environmental, urban or utopian—inform current contemplations of geography and history. Ohanian’s work begins the series on a note that is subtle, meditative and breathtaking. (Brian Staker)
Cultural Cartography Series: Welcome to Hanksville @ Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple, 801-328-4201, through June 28, free. UtahMOCA.org

Nancy Vorm
A board with rusty nails, an old can of soda, a derelict automobile, an old metal shack. In Nancy Vorm’s work, it’s not the board, the soda, the automobile or the shack that are the focus, but rather the iron oxide known as rust. The natural question might be “why rust?” Vorm’s work, currently at Finch Lane Gallery, “is the result of an obsession with rusting paper that I began in 2010,” according to her artist’s statement. In form alone, the wall grids and circles within squares of this exhibition each have striking and complex compositional detailing. Vorm uses a combination of paper, rust and beeswax, which can be applied to sturdy surfaces or left as paper. A construct such as “Hoosier 9-patch,” with its own language of pattern, is technically extraordinary, and the philosophical context addresses the reality of transience. The manifestation and development of rust serves as an indicator of eventual decay, inspiring notions about essential change that are ripe for fascinating consideration. A hanging sculpture like “Dangling Permutations” makes this philosophy accessible. Each individual fragment is presented in numerous hanging linear strands, perhaps to suggest the passage of time: the fragment beneath comes before, the fragment on top will inevitably proceed. Nothing in life is permanent. (Ehren Clark)
Nancy Vorm @ Finch Lane Gallery, 54 Finch Lane (1320 E. 100 South), 801-596-5000, through June 20, free. SLCGov.com

Alice Gallery: The Family of Things
As the calendar and the weather keep inching their way toward more seasonable warmth, the world of nature starts to come into sharper focus. The Family of Things showcases some emerging local artists’ works that were inspired by the natural world. The exhibit features paintings, photography and video from artists including Mary Baum, Tiana Birrell, Ronald Linn, Hannah Mortensen and Jena Schmidt. Taking its title from a verse in the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, the show presents works that range from the strictly representational to abstract interpretations of nature. It’s not about nature being something that’s outside ourselves, but a mirror, or a constellation in which humans take their place. As the closing lines of Oliver’s poem state:  “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” (Brian Staker)
The Family Of Things @ Alice Gallery, 617 E. South Temple, 801-236-7555, through July 11, free. ArtsAndMuseums.Utah.gov


FRIDAY MAY 23

Meat & Potato Theatre: Beowulf

The middle is an interesting place to enter a narrative. It situates the story just so—events have come before and events will certainly come after. What you’re about to experience is just part of the big picture. Beowulf is just such a story. Believed to have been written sometime in the eighth century, Beowulf tells the tale of its eponymous hero, a wandering Scandinavian who attempts to return a kingdom to peace by destroying the monster, Grendel, that is tormenting it. Perfect theatrical fodder for Meat & Potato Theatre (which also brought Homer’s The Odyssey to stage in recent years), Beowulf interweaves historical people and places with fictional feats like destroying a mythical dragon. Even more impressive is how Meat & Potato can create epic battles of early European kingdoms on a small studio theater stage. (Jacob Stringer)
Meat & Potato Theatre: Beowulf @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, May 23-June 8, Thursdays-Saturdays 8 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m., $20. MeatAndPotato.org

Chris Kattan
When the gift of improv runs through your veins, it seems a natural evolution to eventually find yourself onstage doing stand-up comedy. Such is the case with Chris Kattan, the sketch comedian best known for his memorable Saturday Night Live roles like Mango the exotic dancer and Mr. Peepers the lab monkey. After years of using stand-up comedy as the butt of many of his own jokes on Saturday Night Live, Kattan now finds himself enjoying a new comedic outlet as an actual stand-up comic, connecting on a personal level with his audiences; he has even been known to jump into the audience and perform an impromptu lap dance or two. Engaging with the audience and creating a relatable show is what Kattan prides himself on, but don’t expect a scripted show. The comedian’s ability to improvise will also take him on a tangent or two—some likely suitable only for adult audiences. (Aimee Cook O’Brien)
Chris Kattan @ Wiseguys West Valley, 2194 W. 3500 South, 801-463-2909, May 23-24, 7:30 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., May 25, 7:30 p.m., $25. WiseguysComedy.com

Dance Theatre Coalition: Kinematic Suite 5
Dance Theatre Coalition (DTC), never willing to stage the expected, is always looking for a way to push artistic boundaries. In the case of Kinematic Suite 5, DTC presents film artist Justin Chouinard and sound artist Joe Greathouse (aka VCR5) for a unique visual and sonic collage. The VCR5 moniker makes sense when you realize Greathouse’s musical instrument of choice is an array of five VHS machines that he uses to manipulate sound on prerecorded clunky magnetic tapes. Chouinard’s work is also hands-on in that he tweaks, manipulates and bends raw film footage as it passes through a series of projectors. This is the first time Chouinard and VCR5 have worked together—a bit of a surprise, since both local artists prefer the odd repurposing of analog media. The spontaneous mix of live improvisation and re-imagined sound and visuals will be an intoxicating and immersive one-night-only artistic installation. (Jacob Stringer)
Dance Theatre Coalition: Kinematic Suite 5 @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, May 24, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m. $15. DanceTheatreCoalition.org

NOW-ID: Feast
Nathan Webster—architect and co-founder of NOW-ID with partner and choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen—notes that The Great Saltair, the venue perched on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, is the perfect space for the company’s new work, Feast, because of its role as a place of transition and as a threshold between the urban and the natural, and between the present and the past. Thematically, the one-night-only dance/theater event is about appetites, tastes and desires, the actual physical dimensions of the human body and how the ritual of eating can mark the passage of time. But the title is also fitting for a collaborative piece that brings together so many different international artists—architects, actors, musicians, dancers—to the same table to feed off of one another creatively. For Boye-Christensen, the work is really about “one phenomenal date, one sitting down at the table, one meal, one feast. This piece belongs in this place, this time, with a contemporary context and a deep conception of the historical. It’s a rich text that feeds off the unique environs of the salt flats and this historical building that resides out there.” Feast is designed to be an immersive event. Members of the audience will be guided through the space with an intimacy that will make them feel as if they are sitting down at the table with the performers for an all-encompassing sensory feast. (Jacob Stringer)
NOW-ID: Feast @ The Great Saltair, 12408 W. Saltair Drive, Magna, 510-501-6915, May 24, 7:30 p.m., $30 general admission plus options for Fun Bus or Mood Bus transportation. NOW-ID.com


TUESDAY MAY 27

Broadway Across America: Memphis

Throughout America’s long, tangled history of dealing with racial tension, the arts—even more specifically, music—have played a key role in narrowing the divide between races. The winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical, Memphis explores a specific moment when the popular music of black America started crossing over into the mainstream in a way that would change the nation. Set in segregated 1950s Memphis, the show tells the story of Huey Calhoun, a white man who can’t resist the city’s black nightclubs and their distinctive music that becomes the precursor to rock & roll. He even tries to spread the word about the music through his community, eventually making his way to a local radio station, where his spontaneous decision to play black music meets resistance from the station’s owner but becomes a sensation with the city’s teenagers. But that is far from the only risk that Huey seems prepared to take in challenging Memphis’ color lines: He falls in love with a talented black singer named Felicia, beginning a relationship that risks not just both of their careers, but their lives. Energized by the spirit, tensions and music of its era, Memphis features original songs by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, with the book and additional lyrics by Joe DiPietro. The production will also re-create the Tony Award-winning choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys), adding up to an irresistible mix of music and movement. (Scott Renshaw)
Broadway Across America: Memphis @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, May 27-June 1, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 & 8 p.m., Sunday 1 & 6:30 p.m., $32.50-$55. ArtTix.org

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