Westminster College: La Boheme
Art depicting the creation of art has a fascinating and often painfully poignant self-reflective quality. Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme—with its focus on young bohemian artists attempting to balance their creative desires, their hearts and the practicality of survival—is no exception. Westminster College's upcoming performance takes on the struggle of young artists and pushes it into the modern day.
Over the course of four acts, these needs compete with one another, propelling the group toward a tragic and heartbreakingly romantic conclusion. If the threads of this tale seem familiar, it might be because they inspired and provided the framework for the popular modern musical Rent.
David Schmidt, the opera's director, says this streamlined plot is perfect for first-time opera attendees. "I've actually invited several of my friends who have never seen an opera to this opera because it is so understandable," he says. "It's clearly a love story—several love stories—and it's easy to understand."
The decision for Westminster to perform La Boheme came down to having actors with the right voice types who were the same age as the characters, Schmidt says. "It's a very difficult opera to cast, but we had the perfect storm and happened to have the right cast to actually do it."
The fact that the characters' and casts' ages matched also spurred the decision to move the 1830s Paris setting to a contemporary one. The opera is sung in Italian with English supertitles. (Kylee Ehmann)
La Boheme @ Westminster College, 1840 S. 1300 East, 801-832-2458, Jan. 26 & 28, 7:30 p.m., $10, westminstercollege.edu
A self-proclaimed "D-lister" among the Hollywood elite, comedian Kathy Griffin never fails to say what's on her mind. She rants about things others dare not discuss—booze, drugs, plastic surgery, Scientology, eating disorders and stars who refuse to discuss their sexuality but substitute snooty attitudes instead. She's taken aim at a number of celebrities—Paris Hilton, Clay Aiken, Barbara Walters, Celine Dion, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey, Miley Cyrus, Uma Thurman and Renée Zellweger among them—and pissed off many along the way.
Griffin's also built a career on saying things that guarantee a laugh but also make a point, and—having been banned, unbanned, banned again and unbanned after that from The View, as well as CNN's New Year's Eve special and E's red carpet—she's shrugged off the consequences. With a record number of comedy specials and half a dozen comedy albums to her credit, she can claim both an Emmy and a Grammy, not to mention a best-selling book, courtesy of her 2009 tell-all autobiography Official Book Club Selection. Likewise, when it comes to her causes—LGTBQ equality, eating-disorder awareness, the dangers of Lasik surgery and pouncing on politicians—she's never afraid to speak up whenever opportunity arises. Just ask Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman—two politicos with whom she's tangled. Even Jesus was a comedic target inspiring much consternation.
Still, comedy and controversy go well together, and Griffin excels at both. No wonder she has such fervent fans. (Lee Zimmerman)
Kathy Griffin @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, Jan. 27, 8 p.m., $41-$117, ecclestheatersaltlakecity.com
Riot Act: Poor Bastard
University of Utah alum Whit Hertford has taken a circuitous route back to the Beehive State. After eight years of trying to make it as a professional actor in Los Angeles, Hertford applied for a graduate program in directing, moved to London and "about a year into my two-year course, I got bored," he says. "How do I get my degree and never come to campus ever again?" Hertford accomplished that goal by working at a fringe theater in East London and producing shows, which earned him university credit.
It was there that Hertford became fascinated with the plays of Anton Chekhov, rediscovering them in a way that he had never seen before on stage. He wrote an adaptation of The Seagull inspired by similarities he found between the playwright and American filmmaker Wes Anderson. "Why are the U.S. & U.K. so precious with classic texts?" Hertford asks. "We're keeping these things behind museum glass."
That same rebel spirit inspired his adaptation of Chekhov's lesser-known play Ivanov into the new version, Poor Bastard. It took only four days for him to rewrite the story about a man going through a mid-life crisis, wrestling with faith and mortality. Several friends and former classmates joined the class for this unique production, in the unique venue of CUAC gallery. "I'm kind of warming to the idea that maybe my European influence and my radical desire to resuscitate these classic plays really belongs in the states," Hertford says. "People ask, 'Is this really Chekhov?' My answer is, 'Who knows?'" (Scott Renshaw)
Riot Act: Poor Bastard @ CUAC, 175 E. 200 South, Jan. 27-28, 7:30 p.m., $17-$19, brownpapertickets.com
The Future Isn't What It Used to Be
The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art hosts an opening of all-new exhibits. Among them are Imagining UMOCA, in which architecture students from the University of Utah's Senior Design Studio imagine ideas for expanding the museum, and Only God Can Judge Me, featuring words by City Weekly Senior Staff Writer Stephen Dark and images of homeless youth by Niki Chan Wylie, whose photographs have been featured in ours and numerous other publications.
But early in the year, the future is on everyone's minds, and visiting curator Susan Caraballo maintains that The Future Isn't What It Used to Be. The present that seems to be hurdling into tomorrow is a dystopia that's far removed from idealistic visions held by our predecessors. This exhibit looks at the predominant phenomena of violence and human atrocity with a bleak eye. Explicit violence is not featured, but its effects are depicted, like scenes of detritus and images of life in a police state.
The nine artists in the exhibit reflect a wide array of artistic genres, including Caraballo's fellow Floridian Rosa Naday Garmendia, Mexican artist Octavio Abundez and Brazilian multi-media artists Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima. The common thread is a call for change. An opening reception featuring all exhibits is held on Friday, Feb. 3, from 7-9 p.m. in accordance with the museum's custom of hosting openings on the first Friday of each month. (Brian Staker)
The Future Isn't What It Used to Be @ Street + Codec Gallery, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple, 801-328-4201, Jan. 27-May 13, free, utahmoca.org