The Essential A&E Picks for Nov. 3-9 

Jewish Arts Fest, Madame Butterfly, and more

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THURSDAY 11.3
Jewish Arts Festival

Celebrating one's religion can be a joyous thing. But sharing it with someone else is often equally rewarding. And if you're Jewish, that means turning your friends on to blintzes, dreidels and maybe even a taste of the Torah.

Indeed, there's plenty of wisdom that can be learned from Judaism's rich traditions, and what better way to do it than attend this year's Jewish Arts Festival, an event presented by the I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center. With three days of food, film and music, it offers the opportunity to explore Jewish life from various perspectives.

"Experiencing other cultures promotes tolerance and understanding among people of diverse backgrounds," says Rita Skolnick, special events program coordinator for the JCC. "The goal of the festival is to bring the community together to celebrate and experience the rich history of Jewish arts and culture in ways accessible to all."

This year's event includes an opening night reception with a film and food-tasting by local chefs; a Saturday night concert by Steve Katz of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, including a dinner catered by Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine and a talk and book-signing. Several free movies will also be shown on the final day, including a short-films program, the family drama Belle and Sebastian and the Israeli drama Apples from the Desert (pictured). Bring your bubala or come alone. (Lee Zimmerman)
Jewish Arts Festival @ I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, 2 N. Medical Drive, Nov. 3-6, opening night tickets, $40; An Evening with Steve Katz, $50; Sunday movies, free. SLCJCC.org

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THURSDAY 11.3
Drew Conrad: The Desert is a Good Place to Die

Brooklyn-based installation artist Drew Conrad has exhibited widely, and found the West held an uncanny attraction—one that led him to the notion that the desert is a good place to die. This perhaps was no coincidence, as his architectural assemblages of sections of buildings in disrepair are a meditation on the temporal nature of existence, deterioration and decay.

Following in the footsteps of John Baldessari in the 1970s, Conrad decided to destroy every work of art he had created from 2010 onward, disposing them in a landfill, and keeping only the reusable objects. He had imagined the decision would be liberating, but instead it imposed a sense of pain and loss. He has used those recovered materials to create The Desert is a Good Place to Die, resembling a teepee or lean-to from the Old West, as a kind of shrine and memorial to his lost work and the part of himself gone missing. At the same time, it evokes a sense of our collective history, what we have all lost.

The installation is guest-curated by Persian/Canadian curator Mitra Khorasheh. "Drew's installation is ultimately a spiritual exercise of finding catharsis in loss," CUAC's Executive Director Adam Bateman says. "The reconstruction aspect of it can be read as a grappling with those issues through the faith of building. That action is one of hope in the face of so much loss." (Brian Staker)
Drew Conrad: The Desert is a Good Place to Die @ CUAC Contemporary Art, 175 E. 200 South, 385-215-6768, through Jan. 13, Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m. CUArtCenter.org

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THURSDAY 11.3
Pioneer Theatre Co.: The Glass Menagerie

Writers are encouraged to write what they know. Perhaps that's why playwright Tennessee Williams scripted The Glass Menagerie, ultimately kick-starting his successful career. The semi-autobiographical play is loosely based on his relationship with his family. It's been produced numerous times on stage and screen, and now Pioneer Theatre Co. is diving into it.

Narrator Tom Wingfield (Zachary Prince)—essentially Williams himself—tells the audience that since this is a memory play, not everything will be completely accurate. Living with his overbearing mother Amanda (Nance Williamson) and fragile sister Laura (Hanley Smith) in a small St. Louis apartment, Tom moves through life torn between wanting more and caring for his disabled sister. Meanwhile, his mother longs for Laura to be called on by suitors and eventually marry. Absent is Tom's father who left 16 years prior. Perhaps their lives will change when Tom's co-worker and former high school friend Jim O'Connor (Logan James Hall) comes to call.

Since this is Tennessee Williams, you can probably guess it doesn't exactly end happily. And yet, his plays are always entertaining to watch—this production in particular because of the stellar cast. Director Mary B. Robinson pulls fantastic performances out of each actor, making them feel like a real, dysfunctional family—something most can identify with. It doesn't matter if you've seen The Glass Menagerie several times or never before; this is one production you don't want to miss. (Missy Bird)
Pioneer Theatre Co.: The Glass Menagerie @ 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, through Nov. 5, Monday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m., $25-$49. PioneerTheatre.org

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FRIDAY 11.4
Ballet West: Madame Butterfly

When the New York City Ballet performed Stanton Welch's contemporary narrative ballet Madame Butterfly in 1999, reviewers offered a caveat to their critique: Created in 1995, it was one of Welch's earliest works, the production of a young and unseasoned choreographer. In short, there are some weak points.

Though there was energy in the movement, wrote New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff, Welch's neoclassical choreography was also described as "conventional." There were "dead spots" and "too much gestural mime." But there were a couple of truly important points that salvaged the piece, even redeemed it: beautiful love duets, and an incredible cast of dancers.

The importance of a strong company of dancers to pull off a piece of choreography can't be over-stated, and when Ballet West performs Madame Butterfly, Utah audiences will likely leave more than satisfied.

The narrative for this piece is derived from the 1903 opera of the same name by composer Giacomo Puccini, and danced to the operatic score—only without the libretto. The story, like most operas, is a tragedy. A U.S. Naval officer marries a 15-year-old Japanese girl while stationed abroad. Their romance is short; he soon departs for home. Three years pass and the officer returns to Japan to see his young bride—and their son—but this time he brings his American wife. The reunion doesn't go well. With plenty of drama, it's easy to see how Welch could get carried away with sweeping arms, as the dancers declare their love and despair. (Katherine Pioli)
Ballet West: Madame Butterfly @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Nov. 4-13, varying days and times, $32-$110. BalletWest.org

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