Essentials: Entertainment Picks May 29-June 4 

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THURSDAY MAY 29

Peter Heller: The Painter

In his terrific 2012 debut novel The Dog Stars, Peter Heller told the story of a single man left virtually alone in a world ravaged by an apocalyptic virus. His follow-up, The Painter, again features an isolated individual as the protagonist—except that in this case, the man is isolated almost entirely by his own personality. Jim Stegner is the novel’s titular painter, an art-world celebrity whose “outsider” works are wildly popular largely thanks to Stegner’s compelling history as a convicted felon and short-tempered interview subject. Trying to start a new life in rural Colorado after years attempting to recover from a family tragedy, Stegner instead finds himself in familiar territory when a snap reaction leads to an act of violence that may change his life again. Heller’s prose style favors a kind of clipped representation of his taciturn protagonists’ interior voice, and it works brilliantly at allowing readers inside Stegner’s head to capture his often jagged thoughts. And Heller also does a wonderful job of evoking the process by which Stegner creates his paintings—a kind of furious inspiration that even he can’t always understand—and the different kind of release he finds in his beloved pastime of fly-fishing. But mostly, The Painter is a strikingly complex character study, one that parcels out information about the details of Stegner’s back story while never building to an obvious cathartic revelation. Jim Stegner may be a mess of a man, but it’s fascinating watching Heller plumb his broken soul. (Scott Renshaw)
Peter Heller: The Painter @ The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, May 29, 7 p.m., free. KingsEnglish.com

Jody Plant
It would be hard to completely understand the evocative sculptures of Jody Plant, simply because it’s hard to completely understand Jody Plant. These sculptures—as well as the mysteries they reveal and the essence of artistic discovery they represent—are, at their core, biographical of the artist. As Plant said, “I want my work to change, because nature changes; everything is ever-changing, all of the time. It’s not going to stay the same. I’m not interested in that. What I am interested in is how they evolve.” While evolution is a concept that can be understood through progress over time, it’s not as easy to grasp how the evolution of a physical art object can be measured. Currently featured at Modern West Fine Art, Plant is an artist whose learning, passions, experience and spirituality inform the construction of her multimedia found-object sculptures. She and her work are in a state of flux, never static. The mixed-media work “They Became Birds” is one that is in part a testimony of who Plant is, while also being an autonomous work of art. It explores literature for its own sake, the limitless wonder of nature, spirituality and the connection between the present and the past. Doors of mystery, imagination and wonder are opened as the viewer is lost in a new consciousness—just as the process of creation for the artist is a conscious, personal journey. (Ehren Clark)
Jody Plant @ Modern West Fine Art, 177 E. 200 South, 801-355-3383, free. ModernWestFineArt.com

Mind Control: Is the E-World Rewiring Our Brains? 
Leonardo After Hours events at The Leonardo museum foster animated discussions with local experts on topics in science and technology. This  discussion looks at the effects of spending so much time online, communicating via electronic devices. What has an expanding presence on the Internet and social media done to our social norms and the ways we connect with one another? When everything from shopping to playing games to dating seems to have migrated to the online world, what is lost and what is gained? It has changed the ways in which we form social bonds, but has it altered who we are—the way we are “wired”? The talk is bound to be electric. Small plates and beverages will also be available. (Brian Staker)
Mind Control: Is the E-World Rewiring Our Brains? @ The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South, 801-531-9800, May 29, 6 p.m., free but space is limited, RSVP online. TheLeonardo.org

Denae Shanidiin: Hózhóogo Naasháa Doo (I Will Walk in Beauty)
The photography of Navajo artist Denae Shanidiin is a visual essay about what is most important to her: family. As she says in her artist’s statement, “Sharing the same blood means we are always connected, therefore we feel each other’s stresses, sadness, and love. My family has experienced pain that continues to be a constant struggle for us to endure.” Shanidiin states that her work is “rooted on the importance for present-day Native Americans to be able to express their religious and spiritual beliefs.” Her show, I Will Walk in Beauty, at Mestizo Gallery, draws its title from a poem about the purity and beauty of nature, while Shanidiin’s photography responds to the family connections that bring beauty and purity to her life. “My Older Sister” captures the veneration and love of a younger sister reflected in the eyes of a treasured older sister. (Ehren Clark)
Denae Shanidin: Hózhóogo Naasháa Doo (I Will Walk in Beauty) @ Mestizo Gallery, 631 W. North Temple, Suite 700, 801-596-0500, through June 14. Mestizoarts.server295.com


FRIDAY MAY 30

Meat & Potato Theatre: Beowulf
Just as in the old theatrical saying that there are no small parts, only small actors, so is it true that even a “small” theatrical production can feel like a vital, extraordinary epic. That’s what Tobin Atkinson and Marynell Hinton achieve in their Meat & Potato Theatre adaptation of the ancient tale Beowulf, set in a long-ago Danish kingdom ravaged by the monster Grendel. The desperate King Hrothgar (Josh Thoemke) sends out a call for a hero, and receives an unlikely response from Beowulf (Atkinson), a once-great warrior who’s semi-retired into the life of a merchant but is inspired to take up this dangerous quest. The adaptation finds wonderful complexities in the character dynamics, from Beowulf’s surrogate father relationship with the maiden warrior Wiglaf (Anne Louise Brings) to the power-hungry plotting of Queen Weahltheow (Rebecca Marcotte) and the ineffectual Prince Unferth (Steven Robert Jones). This Beowulf takes the episodic, decades-spanning adventures of the original epic poem—including battles with a powerful dragon—and folds them into something Shakespearean in its grasp of people’s frailties, strengthened by rich performances. But it’s also just plain impressive watching this production re-create grand confrontations—involving monsters, cursed wolf-men and a dragon—and represent them on a manageable scale including creative puppetry, creative sound and lighting, and a single large wooden set piece. The Studio Theatre space—and perhaps the budget—may be small, but Beowulf delivers fantasy and humanity on a truly impressive scale. (Scott Renshaw)
Meat & Potato Theatre: Beowulf @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, through June 8, Thursdays-Saturdays 8 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m., $20. MeatAndPotato.org


SATURDAY MAY 31

Serbian Folk Festival
Salt Lake City summers have never been wanting for ethnic festivals, as cultural communities fill convention centers and outdoor venues with the arts, music and food of their native countries. Yet there always seems to be room for an additional opportunity to learn something about an ethnic group that might exist for most Americans primarily as a vague concept of some place that appears in news headlines. The first Serbian Folk Festival gathers multiple performers, giving attendees a chance to experience music and dancing representing the Balkan region, plus an authentic dinner. Performers are scheduled to include singer Boris Batula, the Zivio Ethnic Arts Ensemble, the Narodna folk dance group and the KUD Rastko Serbian folk dance ensemble. Sometimes all it takes is one evening for a completely unfamiliar culture to come alive in a fascinating way. (Scott Renshaw)
Serbian Folk Festival @ Prophet Elias Orthodox Church, 5335 S. Highland Drive, May 31, 5 p.m.-2 a.m., $30 ages 16+, $15 ages 12-15, under 12 free, dinner included with admission

Get Into the River Festival
There sure has been a lot of water flowing under the bridge since the municipal powers that be started trying to rescue the Jordan River. The Jordan River Reclamation project began in 1971, covering the approximately 40 miles of river between Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake. Now, after 40-plus years, there is a significant reason to celebrate. The Get Into the River Festival highlights the Jordan River Parkway, a paved recreational bike and jogging path beginning in Utah County and traveling the length of Salt Lake County before terminating in Davis County. Recreation opportunities abutting the parkway are plentiful, with parks, golf courses and, of course, the river itself, which is a burgeoning canoeing playground. The festival will see communities from Sandy to Salt Lake City hosting activities—like free boat rentals, volleyball tournaments, live music, refreshments, outdoor yoga classes, scavenger hunts and nature tours—in the myriad local parks and wildlife preserves that line the valley floor. (Jacob Stringer)
Get Into the River Festival @ Jordan River Parkway, May 31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., free. GetIntoTheRiver.org

American Ultimate Disc League: Salt Lake Lions vs. Seattle Raptors
You may remember Friday afternoons back in college when you’d get together with friends and play “ultimate,” a soccer-style game where you’d throw a Frisbee around toward a goal. It was all about celebrating the end of classes for the week, getting the weekend rolling and generally having fun. The only stats anybody might keep track of was the number of beers consumed—certainly not wins and losses. But as happens with any and every sport, somebody eventually decides that it’s time to get serious, and that it might be possible to get paid to play the game. Such is the case with the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), a professional league where they care about winning and you’d better not call the disc a Frisbee. They’ve got refs, penalties, pre-game warm-up drills, stats, overtime and even games streamed live on ESPN3.com. The 17-team league—with franchises stretching from New York to San Francisco—began in 2012, and has a local entrant, the Salt Lake Lions, who are playing a 14-game schedule, with the seven home games held at Taylorsville High. There are three home games left: May 31, June 21 and 22. Many of the Lions players have attended the University of Utah or BYU, and have nicknames officially listed on the roster, like “Au Jus” or “Dayglow,” next to position names like “cutter” and “handler.” Show up and find out what happens when a game grows up. (Geoff Griffin)
Salt Lake Lions vs. Seattle Raptors @ Taylorsville High School, 5225 S. Redwood Road, May 31, 6 p.m., $12-$20. SaltLakeLions.com

Michael Homer: Joseph’s Temples
Ask any Mormons about the early connection between their American-made religion and Freemasonry, and you will most likely be rebuffed. Modern-day Freemasons similarly seem inclined to distance themselves from the LDS Church, although early church founders were indeed connected to the fraternal organization. Author Michael Homer aims to cement that early relationship by exploring the foundational mortar that binds the two in his book Joseph’s Temples. Homer explores how Freemasonry was not only the foundation for Mormons’ secret rituals, but also how the priesthood and Relief Society were shaped by the centuries-older organization. Another key aspect of the overlapping history of these two groups is how both have negotiated societal inclusion. Yes, members want to assimilate into mainstream society, but they also wish to remain distinct—which in many ways is where the secrecy of the temples and their rituals play a key role. These are both exclusive institutions—and you need to know the secret handshakes to be a member. (Jacob Stringer)
Michael Homer: Joseph’s Temples @ Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, 801-328-2586, May 31, 7 p.m., free. WellerBookWorks.com

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