Essentials: Entertainment Picks Sept. 11-17 

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Margaret Cho
There's a joke—most popularly told in Watchmen, but old even then—that's true of nearly all comedians to a certain extent, but particularly of Margaret Cho. In it, one man speaks of apparently incurable sadness to a doctor, who advises him to see the great clown Pagliacci; that that will cheer him up. The man replies, "But Doctor, I am Pagliacci." Some comedians prefer to keep things light in order to keep that pain at bay, but Cho has always—quite boldly—mined the most painful parts of her own life for extraordinary, exhilarating comedy. Her stand-up films—notably Notorious C.H.O., Assassin and I'm The One That I Want—are among the better examples of the genre, balancing stark, painful confessional with the political activism that has always been less parallel to and more intertwined with her comedy career, into all of which is woven a welcome strain of good old-fashioned silliness. That last, of course, should not be taken to mean "less important" than the other elements, or contradictory to the more serious elements. The whole point of comedy is to make people laugh. Cho's latest show, Mother, is her critically acclaimed look at motherhood within queer culture, that she personally describes as "probably my edgiest show to date." That's saying something, given the standard she's set. (Danny Bowes) Margaret Cho @ Wiseguys West Valley, 2194 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 801-463-2909, Sept. 11-13, Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday 7:30 & 10:00 p.m., $25.

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SELF_Created: Identity Today
"Where do you start? Who are you? What color are your eyes? Are you a woman? Do people treat you like a woman? Why are you here?" These simple questions, asked by painter Ali Mitchell, are some of the myriad questions and responses, painted in small script, on a large wall inside Mestizo Insitute of Culture & Arts. The exhibition SELF_Created: Identity Today is the successful effort of curator Renato Olmedo-González, uniting four nationally recognized artists, each contributing to the investigation of dynamics of the image and of the self re-creating the self. Olmedo-González hopes to engage a dialogue on the relevancy and reality of identity in our culture today. Each artist speaks provocatively on the subject of authenticity vs. identity. The pieces on display invite a conversation about the often-challenging process of self-actualization faced by all generations. Mitchell's self-portraits are candid, honest views of the inner persona manifested through the external—scars and all—with honesty and universality. Willard Cron is a San Francisco-based performance artist, whose photographic self-portraits raise questions on gender identity. Alex Moya offers a body of work that's essentially a critique on the conflict between genuine persona and external influences. Mari Hernández, based in San Antonio, Texas, deals with norms of beauty for Hispanic women, deconstructing stereotypes with bold photographic plays on the body and the ugly, showing the viewer she is not afraid to be her "real self"—essentially, the thematic focus of this entire show. (Ehren Clark) SELF_Created: Identity Today @ Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts, 631 W. North Temple, Suite 700, through Oct. 17, free.

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Children's Expressions Through Painting
The Children's Gallery at the Salt Lake City Main Library allows kids to enjoy fully curated exhibitions, often of works by adult artists that can be appreciated by people of all ages. This show has a unique theme: the works are kid-created depicting inventive and colorful animals. Besides many cats and dogs, there is a rabbit, a squirrel, a fierce tiger, a canary in a cage, a whimsical Cat in the Hat, several pandas, a vibrant toucan, a pink flamingo and a striped butterfly. Curator Fahimeh Amiri has taught more than 500 students in the past 10 years of her advanced art program for ages 6 to 14 for. The most most rewarding aspect of teaching, Amiri says, "is when I see in the eyes of my students that they are so happy with themselves and so pleased with their accomplishment. That is all the reward I need." (Ehren Clark) Children's Expressions Through Painting @ Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, 801-524-8200, through Oct. 3, free.

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Utah Symphony: Mahler's Symphony No. 1
How many chances do you get to record with professional musicians? When the Utah Symphony opens its 2014-15 season this week, the concerts will be recorded live—the symphony's first live recordings since 2006, and first under conductor Thierry Fischer. The recordings are scheduled to be released in 2015 to celebrate the symphony's 75th season, and the audience applause—maybe even cheering—at the end of these performances will be included. This is your moment! This weekend marks the first concert in a two-season cycle of all of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, with Symphony No. 1 ("The Titan") as the featured piece. The Mahler cycle is a tribute to former Utah Symphony conductor Maurice Abravanel, who recorded Mahler's complete symphonies, and made the first-ever recordings of symphonies Nos. 7 and 8. The Mahler symphonies will be presented in four of the 18 Masterworks Series concerts scheduled for this season, with Fischer leading the orchestra in 11 of those performances. Other highlights of the series will include the U.S. debut of conductor Kazuki Yamada, pianist Yefim Bronfman and a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with soprano Celena Shafer and the Utah Symphony Chorus. This season, the symphony will also present an Entertainment Series, featuring Doc Severinsen, the Streisand Songbook, and a Christmas concert by Pink Martini; and a Family Series with programs for children. As for this weekend, start practicing your clapping, and be ready to record. (Geoff Griffin) Utah Symphony: Mahler's Symphony No. 1 ("The Titan") @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Sept. 12-13, 8 p.m., $18-$69.


Wasatch Theatre Company: The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was first adapted into a film, which was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and then became a Broadway sensation, earning 11 Tony Award nominations in 2006. Clearly the power of The Color Purple hasn’t been lost in translation. Wasatch Theatre Company kicks off its 2014-15 season by bringing it to the Rose Wagner Center. The story spans four decades, telling the life of Celie, a poor, uneducated black girl living in rural Georgia. Her journey takes the audience through domestic violence and racial oppression to deliverance when Celie finally discovers her strengths and her voice. The choreography and the music from the show inspire feelings of hope, survival and love through jazz, ragtime and gospel, written by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. (Aimee Cook O’Brien) Wasatch Theatre Company: The Color Purple @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Sept. 11-28, 8 p.m. with 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, $15.

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Rosemary Wells: Max & Ruby at the Warthogs' Wedding
The beloved tales of bunny siblings Max and Ruby are brought to life by illustrator and New York Times bestselling author Rosemary Wells. Over the years, these somewhat mischievous young critters have taken children on many adventures, from opening Pandora's Box to making new friends. Now the duo has a new adventure to explore in Wells' latest book, Max & Ruby at the Warthogs' Wedding. In this story, Ruby has the honor of being a flower girl in her friend's wedding, and Max is the ever-important ring bearer. But when Max loses the ring, the siblings are on the hunt to find it using the map in Grandma's Bunnyphone—yes, even small bunnies have learned how to navigate GPS. The search for the ring takes the siblings from one end of the grand hotel to the other, and the book employs lift-the-flap construction to allow readers to track the journey through Grandma's iBunny. (Aimee Cook O'Brien) Rosemary Wells: Max & Ruby at the Warthogs' Wedding @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Sept. 12, 6-8 p.m., book signing free with purchase of book.

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Lindsay Frei: The Painted Edge
In the 14 years since Lindsay Frei completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting/drawing at the University of Utah, she has established herself as one of the most assertive, confident wielders of the brush, becoming a regular at prestigious galleries like Salt Lake City's 15th Street and Coda Gallery in Park City, and also being featured in magazines like Southwest Art. Now, she is set to add another accomplishment as she presents her MFA thesis exhibition. She has been a graduate teaching assistant at the U, and it's apparent from her works that she has a wide range of talents and ideas to impart. There is an influence from fashion photography in the way her portraits are posed ("Surveyed" is pictured), including the way she uses clothing as a statement of identity. All of her subjects are rendered exquisitely, with a mastery of composition and technique. Her works are rendered in somewhat stark relief, against minimal, high-contrast backgrounds, almost as though they aspired to be photographs. But they also strongly assert themselves as paintings, with dynamic strokes. The "edge" she is painting could refer to the sharply defined contours of the objects she depicts, but also the space they inhabit, the boundaries of the art of painting itself, and the edge we approach as observers in a visual world. (Brian Staker) Lindsay Frei: The Painted Edge @ Alvin Gittins Gallery, Department of Art & Art History, University of Utah, 375 S. 1530 East, 801-581-8677, through Sept. 19, artist's reception Friday, Sept. 12, 6-9 p.m., free.


Pioneer Theatre Company: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
As Pioneer Theatre Company launches its new season with the winner of two 2005 Tony Awards, it’s wise for potential attendees to know a couple of things going in. For one, the musical comedy was developed in two versions—a raunchy R-rated tale, and a tamer, more PG-13-friendly variant—and PTC will be putting on both versions at different performances, so buyer beware. For two, tradition has it that audience members may be invited to participate in the onstage spelling bee. But as hilarious as it may be watching an average theater-goer try to spell the arcane words on a middle-school spelling bee list, it’s likely to be even funnier enjoying the scripted material and songs. Led by moderator and former spelling bee champ Rona Lisa Peretti, the anxious adolescents share the respective roads that brought them to the Putnam County Spelling Bee stage. (Scott Renshaw) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee @ Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Sept. 12-27, Monday-Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 & 8 p.m., $38-$54.


Strut Your Mutt
Dog people love their dogs. And those who love their own dogs often love dogs in general, and are eager to do whatever they can to support the work of organizations that try to find homes for rescued dogs, or provide services to try to save homeless animals. The national Best Friends Animal Society sponsors events all over the country, including Salt Lake City’s own Strut Your Mutt, to raise funds and awareness for homeless animals. Register online or the day of the event for either the three-mile “fun run,” three-mile walk or 1.5-mile walk with your pet at 10 a.m., then spend the rest of your morning and early afternoon visiting vendors offering pet treats and specialty gear. Make pawprint keepsakes of your pet, check in with a pet psychic or watch trick performances by Dazzle Dogz. Or, if you’re particularly proud of your pooch, enter him or her in the costume contest or other fun competitions. (Scott Renshaw) Strut Your Mutt @ Liberty Park, 700 E. 900 South, Sept. 13, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., $10-$30.

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