Essentials: Entertainment Picks Oct. 9-15 

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FRIDAY OCT. 10

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People Productions: These Shining Lives
Melanie Marnich's These Shining Lives is based on a (tragically) true story that paralleled one of the most notorious cases of workplace abuse in American history: the "radium girls," women workers who ended up discovering the side effects of radium poisoning the hard way due to cruelly profit-minded employers who regarded them as interchangeable. The play focuses on four women whose job was painting watches with radium—so they could be seen in the dark—and their camaraderie. People Productions' staging favors narrative momentum, with no scene changes and almost no blackouts, keeping the story moving. That, and the spirited performances of the cast—lead Sarah Danielle Young is terrific, but everyone else is nearly as strong, and all are on the same wavelength—keep the show compelling even at almost two hours without intermission. Director Richard Scharine's choice to not try to visually convey the physical horrors visited upon these women—he chooses instead to rely solely on spoken text to describe them—is a slightly risky choice that ultimately ends up paying off, as stage makeup is a tricky thing to pull off on a reasonable budget. As it is, the play remains a powerful text that conveys plenty of anger at the injustice of the capitalist system, and the brutal indifference society shows the working classes—particularly women. The decision not to resort to shock, and instead show confidence in the production's ability to compel on its own, is a welcome one. (Danny Bowes) People Productions: These Shining Lives @ Sugar Space River District, 130 S. 800 West, through Oct. 19, Friday & Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m., $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. PeopleProductions.org

FRIDAY OCT. 10

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Odyssey Dance Theatre's Thriller
Now in its 18th season, Odyssey Dance Theatre's Halloween production—inspired by Michael Jackson's classic 1983 short film/music video—has become a scarily attractive tradition for Utah audiences. Once again, ODT has two separate casts touring the region for the entire month of October, taking the company's widely popular formula of pop familiarity, broad comedy and contemporary jazz/ballet movement all the way to Idaho. The thrill of Thriller for eager audiences is the company's blend of contemporary culture with dance and a macabre sense of humor. Fan favorites include Curse of the Mummy (think mummy hip-hop artists) and Dem Bones (which features black-lit tap-dancing skeletons). Then there is always the Romeo & Juliet-inspired Frankenstein & Frankenstein, in which the big creature loves his bride to the point of smothering her. And don't forget the infamous and Irish-enraging River of Blood Dance, a gory massacre in which a sniper picks off the performers one by one. (Jacob Stringer) Odyssey Dance Theatre: Thriller @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Oct. 10-Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m., 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, $25-$45. OdysseyDance.com, KingTix.com

FRIDAY OCT. 10

Provo Fashion Week
Influenced by such fashion meccas as New York and Paris, smaller cities like Salt Lake City and now Provo have launched their own Fashion Weeks in recent years. Provo Fashion Week was created by local designers Bree Wilkins and Natalie Workman, who operate their own fashion event and marketing firm. The second Provo Fashion Week will showcase the work of 19 different designers in three separate shows. You might think of Utah County fashion as more along the lines of missionary suits and other similarly conservative apparel, but the lines the designers will be showing encompass a wide range of styles, from formalwear to casual and sportswear. Given the local fascination with genealogy, a number of the designers incorporate elements from their ancestral heritage, as well as influences from other disciplines: visual arts and even comic-book culture. The event promises to be an eclectic and eye-opening celebration of fashion. (Brian Staker) Provo Fashion Week @ Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave., Oct. 10-11, $10-$18, ProvoFashionWeek.com

SATURDAY OCT. 11

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Utah Opera: Madame Butterfly
The old saying that "it's not over till the fat lady sings" is rooted in classic opera, but the less catchy, more accurate version adage should be, "It's not over till the lady dies a tragic death." It's certainly true of Giacomo Puccini's classic Madame Butterfly. In fact, in this case it would be even more accurate to say, "It's not over until the lady plunges a steel blade into her own throat." The story begins with U.S. Naval officer Pinkerton renting a house in the hills above Nagasaki, Japan. As part of the agreement, he also agrees to marry a young local girl, Cio-Cio San, with the belief that the act of simply not paying the rent negates the marriage. Pregnancy ensues, the officer bails back to America, and the spurned bride is left pining away for Pinkerton's return. The years fly by, and as the rest of her society begs her to move on, Cio-Cio San is steadfastly loyal to her betrothed. But upon his return to Japan—with a new American wife in tow set on taking Cio-Cio San's child back to the States—things turn dire. When Cio-Cio San finally grasps the severity of the situation, it's too late. And as she pulls the family sword from the wall—the very blade her own father committed hari-kari with—reading the inscription, "To die with honor ... when one can no longer live with honor," the opera draws its tragic curtain. (Jacob Stringer) Utah Opera: Madame Butterfly @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Oct. 11, 13, 15 & 17, 7:30 p.m., 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 19, $18-$95. UtahOpera.org, ArtTix.org

SATURDAY OCT. 11

Julie Boyden: Beowulf: A Pagan Hero
The Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf is the oldest surviving work in the Old English language, and as such has been a fascinating text for exploring the infusion of early Christianity into folk tales that may have predated the introduction of Christianity to the world where it was created. University of Utah graduate Julie Boyden presents a new translation that focuses attention on the pagan elements located within the poem. Boyden studied more than 50 different translations of Beowulf—the legend of a hero helping a kingdom plagued by a man-eating monster—to explore both the values of a pagan society and the language in which the epic was written. Her background notes explain the Anglo-Saxon society of the first millennium, and the principles of honor and destruction of those who have wronged you that were its underpinnings. Join the author for an exploration of how heroism and fame were powerful forces in an age before the teachings of Christianity. (Scott Renshaw) Julie Boyden: Beowulf: A Pagan Hero @ Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, 801-328-2586, Oct. 11, 2 p.m., free. WellerBookWorks.com

SATURDAY OCT. 11

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Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire
There have always been avid arts & crafts hobbyists, but the possibilities have expanded exponentially with the growth of consumer technology and the sustainability movement. President Obama even declared June 18 a National Day of Making. The local version of that event began in 2012, and this year's Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire will include more than 65 makers. What is most fascinating about "maker" culture is the way different projects overlap—for example, the art cars incorporate elements of fine art and nomadism of a type that you might expect to see at Burning Man. From gardening to puppets, beekeeping to robots, and sewing to the latest 3-D printing technology, what people make is an expression of themselves and a means of personal growth; these are the things people are passionate about. The fair is a family-friendly event, and amid all the exhibits, installations, workshops, displays and demonstrations, there is a multitude of opportunities for hands-on learning experiences. The Salt Lake City event is part of an immense network of communities all over the world linked to the original Maker Faires in San Mateo, Calif., New York and London. With an increasing emphasis on reusing and repurposing existing materials, there is also an environmental bent to the event: creating not just objects, but lifestyles that are more sustainable. Additional activities will take place next door at The Leonardo. (Brian Staker) Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire @ Library Square, 210 E. 400 South, Oct. 11, noon-6 p.m., $6-$30 in advance, $7-$40 day of. SLCMakerFaire.com

SATURDAY OCT. 11

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Wanda Sykes
When you hear the name Wanda Sykes, three things probably come to mind immediately: her fantastic string of Comedy Central and HBO standup specials; her recurring role on The New Adventures Of Old Christine; or her short-lived Fox talk show, which was advertised everywhere they could possibly fit a promo. (Bonus for about seven of you: her leading role in Pootie Tang.) In her 27-year career, Sykes has gone from working small clubs in Washington, D.C., to performing and writing for television to being heralded as one of America's funniest comedians. Her successful comedy tours and TV specials have made her one of the most watched comedians on YouTube—and that's not including all her voice work your kids know from Over the Hedge, Ice Age: Continental Drift and Barnyard. But Sykes has become much more than a successful stand-up comedian in recent years. After coming out in 2008 during California's Proposition 8 campaign, she became an informal spokeswoman for LGBTQ issues in America, earning a GLAAD award in 2010 for her work. She's also spoken openly about her own preemptive fight against breast cancer, and worked with PETA on anti-chaining legislation. Sykes will bring her 2014 tour through Utah this week, where her comedic targets might include President Obama, Nelson Mandela's funeral, the birth of both her children, failing at trying to raise them right and growing older with them and her wife. (Gavin Sheehan) Wanda Sykes @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Oct. 11, 8 p.m., $45-$55. ArtTix.org

TUESDAY OCT. 14

Garth Stein: A Sudden Light
In 2008, Garth Stein struck New York Times bestseller gold with his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, the unique story of a racecar driver and the quest by his dog to become worthy of being reincarnated as a human. For his much-anticipated follow-up, Stein leaves behind a canine point of view for a story of long-hidden family secrets coming into the light. The narrator is Trevor Riddell, who shares with his own family the story of his first encounter with a family legacy: Riddell House, a mammoth Puget Sound dwelling constructed from whole trees, standing as testimony to the Riddell family's power in the timber industry. As a 14-year-old boy, Trevor is brought by his father—recently separated from his mother and completely bankrupt—to Riddell House, where he hopes to sell the valuable property. But the house holds many secrets, as Trevor is soon to discover. (Scott Renshaw) Garth Stein: A Sudden Light @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., free. KingsEnglish.com

WEDNESDAY OCT. 15

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Plan-B Theatre Company: Radio Hour: Grimm
As is now something of a tradition, Plan-B Theatre Company opens its new season with something that's not exactly traditional theater, and not exactly a staged reading. But talented actors get to show off unique skills when the performance is meant primarily to be heard, rather than seen. This year's Radio Hour finds playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett adapting three classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm for a perfect dose of macabre Halloween-time entertainment. While "Little Snow-White" and "Rapunzel" may be familiar from Disney and other pop-culture adaptations, the production also presents the lesser-known tale "The Juniper Tree," with its own unique spin on the evil stepmother. Buy a ticket while they last for the one-night-only performance—to see the sound effects artists at work, for instance—or enjoy the KUER simulcast and imagine you're getting your drama the way so many Americans got it 70 years ago. (Scott Renshaw) Plan-B Theatre Company: Radio Hour: Grimm @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Oct. 15, 7 p.m., $20, simulcast on KUER 90.1. PlanBTheatre.org

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