By Scott Renshaw
In her fascinating 2006 memoir Riding in the Shadows of Saints, Jana Richman wrote about the struggle to reconcile who you think you are with where you came from. Apparently, she’s not done wrestling with that compelling notion.
In her new novel The Last Cowgirl, Richman tells the story of Dickie Sinfield, a 50-something journalist who is pulled by the death of her brother from her Salt Lake City home back to her childhood stomping grounds in Utah’s west desert. Flashbacks explore Dickie’s youthful anger at being yanked from 1960s suburbia into a ranching life by her father, while in the present, she’s forced to deal with unresolved feelings about the people and place she left behind.
Through rich characterizations and a vivid sense of place, Richman evokes the complex world of Utah west of the Oquirrhs: the stubborn ranchers trying to wrestle a living out of the arid land; the earthier brand of Mormonism practiced by the residents; the strange relationship between proud, patriotic people and the nearby military facilities whose activities threaten their lives and livelihoods. And, while her sense of this particular place is singular, she also tells a more universal story of people carrying so much baggage, they’re unable to grasp what will make them happy. At this week’s book-release event, grab this early contender for one of the year’s finest works of local fiction.
Jana Richman @ The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 484-9100, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m.
By Scott Renshaw
Mike Nichols & Elaine May. Alan Arkin. Robert Klein. John Belushi. Dan Aykroyd. Bill Murray. Gilda Radner. George Wendt. Martin Short. John Candy. Bonnie Hunt. Chris Farley. Tim Meadows. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Mike Myers. Tina Fey. Steve Carell. Stephen Colbert. Impressed yet?
For two generations, Chicago’s The Second City comedy troupe has been the go-to recruiting spot for Saturday Night Live, and America’s premier training ground for great comic talent. Try to think of an institution that has had a greater influence on its field. Maybe Harvard Law for politics, USC Film School for directing, or the 2006 Cincinnati Bengals for mug shots.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that the touring company making a stop at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre will include anyone soon to be ranked among those famous names above, though cast members like Tim Sniffen, Shad Kunkle, Michael Lehrer, Aimee McKay, Tara DeFrancisco and Sarah Haskins will be doing their best to convince you they will. But as the company performs a set combining classic material from its 40-year-plus archive, new topical satire and on-the-spot improve, it offers the kind of unique opportunity you get watching the hottest major-league prospects playing Triple-A ball, or discovering the next great auteur at Sundance. Maybe you can say you saw a legend in the making. Being on the doorstep of entertainment history rarely gets this funny.
The Second City @ Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main, Park City, 435-649-9371, Jan. 4-5. EgyptianTheatreCompany.org
By Stephen Dark
I had a girlfriend in my glib 20s back in the U.K. who tried to convince me to attend a symphony by composer Antonin Dvorák. The closest I’d come to Dvorák at that point was a commercial on British TV, where his “New World Symphony” had been used as the soundtrack for a series of ads for Hovis wheatgerm bread. A more lachrymose recycling of old-England images of cottages and cobblestones— paradoxically set to Dvorák’s celebration of American Indian and African-Amercian music—you couldn’t hope to find.
I persuaded the young lady that Hovis was sufficient reason to abandon Dvorák for the deafening pleasures of The Swans at a London college bar. If I’d been truthful, I might also have admitted that my perception of classical music as impenetrable high culture was also why I opted for a night of droning hell.
Fast forward 25 years, and the Utah Symphony’s East European-flavored program offers works by Czech-born Dvorák, Hungarian Gyorgy Ligeti, and Armenian Aram Khachaturian as rich in musical ideas as they are in melodies—none more so than Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7, an emotionally lush piece that captures the composer’s commitment to the Czech nation’s political struggles at the end of the 19th century.
If I were in my glib 20s today, I’d also have no excuse for avoiding a girlfriend’s plea for some “culture.” The Utah Symphony’s Vivace club, which requires no membership fee, provides a crib sheet on the works and their composers. So, when you head over to Squatters for Vivace’s after-concert party, you can harangue your fellow concertgoers with your views on Dvorák without feeling in the least out of your depth.
Dvorák’s Seventh, Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 533-6683, January 4-5.
Here & Now: Other New Happenings This Week
48 HOURS IN UTAH Local filmmakers are invited by the Utah Arts Council to participate in an online weekend-long marathon of film production, open to Utah residents age 16 and up. 236-7548 to register, Begins Jan. 4, 7 p.m.
JOHN BELL: THE SOUND AND THE FURY The Salt Lake City artist’s new exhibit of limited-edition prints and works on paper, in conjunction with the Utah Arts Alliance’s new recording-arts program. Midnight Records, 127 S. Main, 651-3937, opening reception: Friday, Jan. 4, 6-11 p.m. MidnightRecordStudio.com
GREGG CHADWICK: PASSPORTS FROM THE REALM Haunting, almost time-lapse oil on linen works, with an Asian flavor. Julie Nester Gallery, 1755-B Bonanza Dr., Park City, 435-649-7855, Jan. 4-29, Artist reception Friday, Jan. 4, 5:30-8 p.m. JulieNesterGallery.com
DANCE ALL DAY Repertory Dance Theatre invites the public to sample its entire slate of community dance classes for only $5. Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 534-1000, Saturday, Jan. 5, 9 a.m. RDTUtah.org
SAVION GLOVER And, speaking of dance, the already-legendary Tony Award-winning funk-tap master and house-bringer-downer of the 2002 Olympics closing ceremonies hits the Park City stage. Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, Saturday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m. EcclesCenter.org
FREESTYLE MOTOCROSS The death-defyin’est, motorcycle-crashin’est extravaganza your entertainment dollar can buy. EnergySolutions Arena, 301 W. South Temple, 325-7328, Saturday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m. FreestyleMotocrossOnline.com
DE NADIE The 2006 Sundance Film Festival winner for Best Documentary Feature returns to Utah for a special screening, with director Tin Dirdamal on hand for Q&A. City Library Auditorium, 210 E. 400 South, 534-8000, Monday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m.
TREE SILHOUETTES Black and white photography by Brett Johnson, to give your library experience a little visual flava. Sprague Library, 2131 S. 1100 East, 594-8640, Jan. 7–Feb. 18.