Essentials: Entertainment Picks Oct. 30-Nov. 5 

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THURSDAY OCT. 30

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Slusser Gallery: Escape from Reality
Every October, Slusser Gallery breaks from its usual fare of plein air contemporary impressionism and contemporary realism for a show where the "real purpose is to have fun," says owner, director, and curator Mark Slusser. In the past, that has meant shows like Day of the Dead; this October, Slusser hosts Escape From Reality, a series of mind-bending images from some of Salt Lake City's best artists. Included in the group show are Cody Chamberlain, Craig Cleveland, Rod Heiss, Ti Ku, Randall Lake, Jeffrey Mauger, Christian Michael, Chauncey Secrist, Martin Stensaas, Sunny Strasburg, Sri Whipple and Benjamin Wiemeyer. Although "fun" is the primary aim, the beauty of each of the works is no less astonishing than what you'd find in Slusser's regular shows, even as they transport viewers to psychological domains not usual for a Slusser show. "These subjects are unusual, surreal and abstract, and do not exist in reality," Slusser says. "There is nothing else on earth like them, so they have to come from a creative spot in the mind." Martin Stensaas' "Lifted Veil III" has an ethereal beauty increased by iridescent paint; a woman in an exotic headdress holds a dragon painted with magnificent graphics, casting an uncanny inner lifelike glow. Sri Whipple's "Berlin Girl #3" (pictured) causes the viewer to look once, twice and then again, while still remaining confounding. It has porcelain, doll-like pinkish skin, yet also has alien appendages that refuse to reveal themselves in scale and number, while hair erupts into a burst of flora. (Ehren Clark) Escape from Reality @ Slusser Gallery, 447 E. 100 South, 801-532-1956, through Jan. 9, free. SlusserGallery.com

THURSDAY OCT. 30

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Cordell Taylor
Sculptor Cordell Taylor, one of Salt Lake City's most gifted artists, challenges notions of structure by working in an almost-lost tradition of robust modernist sculpture that is abstract, geometric and aggressive. Each piece is an assertive and compelling construction of linear compositions that, when seen in the round, have seemingly limitless interesting angles, points of view and perspectives that lead the eye in and out, round and about. This is no empty use of design and formulaic placement of sculpted squared and rectangular prisms. Instead, as Taylor's artist's statement attests, it "constructs universal relations into personal statements about life, society, and culture." You can find yourself trapped in a maze of one of Taylor's sculptures, such as "Geo Met #166" (pictured)—transported by the seemingly ever-so-slightly off-balance bronze squares that are locked into the darker metal square structures behind them, which also seem unstable. And in "Geo-Met Series #121," you might find yourself exploring two tall bronze square towers, with a grouping of interlocking darker metal cubical structures at the top. Taylor finds a balance with structure and art, as he uses his creativity to express through heavy metal and linear form some of his ideas—to return to his artist's statement—about "relations" and "life, society and culture." He seamlessly welds the composite forms of his structure together so that they express some of these more intangible ideas through very tangible works of art. (Ehren Clark) Cordell Taylor @ Phillips Gallery, 444 E. 200 South, 801-364-8284, through Nov. 14, free. Phillips-Gallery.com

SATURDAY NOV. 1

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An Evening With the Creators of Witness Uganda
In Africa—when confronting obstacles such as providing people with a good education, battling homophobia and inequality in race and gender, or even trying to provide basic health care in the face of HIV and Ebola—the first hurdle becomes believing in change. Is it even possible to make that world a better place? More than anything else, Witness Uganda is a musical production that is unflinching when it comes to posing the big questions inspired by such big issues. Created by Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould, the soon-to-be Broadway-bound performance is based on Matthews' own life-changing trip to Uganda, and his overwhelming need to help those he left behind upon his return to the states. An Evening With the Creators of Witness Uganda—based on the full-length production, but filled with storytelling about the creation of the work, as well as musical numbers pulled from the stageis a way to help fund the affiliated nonprofit organization. As Gould sees it, the goal of this tour, beyond sharing the behind-the-scenes story of creating Witness Uganda, is demonstrating how the entire endeavor was designed to "teach, inspire and help." For these two activists, spreading the word that young artists can actually make a difference is almost more important than helping support this particular cause: You can change the everyday lives of people, you can change the way people think and, ultimately, you can end up changing the world. (Jacob Stringer) An Evening With the Creators of Witness Uganda @ Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m., $20-$69. EcclesCenter.org

SUNDAY NOV. 2

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Light As Air
As the Wasatch Front approaches the winter weather season, those of us who have been here long enough cringe at the prospect of the inversions that turn the Salt Lake Valley into one of America's unhealthiest places to breathe. You can help advance the cause of clearing up some of that ugliness through an evening of beauty. Landis Lifestyle Salon and local dancer/teacher/choreographer Leigh Cornu present Light As Air, a program combining fashion and dance, with all proceeds benefitting the Clean Air Utah division of Western Resource Advocates. A VIP dinner will be followed by a cocktail-hour reception, leading in to a performance by dancers from some of Utah's most talented companies. Ballet West, Ririe-Woodbury, Transfusion Hype, NOW-ID, Underground Dance, B-Boy Federation and Park City Dance Academy are among those who will take your breath away, all to support our goal of breathing a little easier. (Scott Renshaw) Light As Air @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Nov. 2, VIP dinner 5 p.m., performance 6 p.m., $35-$100. ArtTix.org

WEDNESDAY NOV. 5

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Dannielle Owens-Reid & Kristin Russo: This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids
In 2010, Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo launched the organization and accompanying website Everyone Is Gay, with a goal of providing a safe forum for LGBT youth to ask questions and get information. But along the way, they also discovered that the youth themselves weren't the only ones in need of information; their parents also often felt that they didn't have a place to deal with revelations about their children that could be confusing or unsettling. This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids is as simple and straightforward as its title—a collection of frequently asked questions by parents whose kids may have recently come out to them, or who may simply be loving parents uncertain as to how to proactively address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. They cover topics including how to handle suspicions that a child may be gay; reassuring and appropriate language for letting kids know you're supportive; how to process tensions between kids' shifting identities and the parents' deeply held religious beliefs; and the nuts and bolts of what specific terminologies mean. But most significantly, they approach these topics with sympathy and compassion, recognizing the emotions that a parent faces in these circumstances without blaming or shaming. It's a comprehensive resource that's also a comforting hand on the shoulder, letting parents know they're not the only ones to have gone through these experiences, and that there are ways to emerge from it with strong, healthy and mutually respectful parent/child relationships. (Scott Renshaw) Dannielle Owens-Reid & Kristin Russo: This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids @ University of Utah Social Work Building, Auditorium 134, 395 S. 1500 East, Nov. 5, 7 p.m., free. EveryoneIsGay.com

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