Arts Issue 2023 | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly

September 06, 2023 News » Cover Story

Arts Issue 2023 

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  • Cover illustration by Bryan Beach

Following a calling to be an artist is never easy. Leaving aside the possibility that family members might not support those dreams as "realistic," there are financial constraints, fierce competition for opportunities and a world that seems to be throwing new obstacles and accusations at creative people all the time.

Every fall, Salt Lake City Weekly takes some time to celebrate the work of local artists and to give them even more of a focus. But that focus can take different forms as the realities of being an artist change from year to year, and moment to moment. In 2023, in addition to our traditional calendar of performances for the artistic year ahead, we asked local artists in a variety of fields about the question of artificial intelligence and how it might have an impact on the act of creation, whether for good or ill. Yet we're also turning a spotlight on artists who are making their passion work for them in the realm of seasonal markets and arts festivals. Doors close and doors open, and it's important to explore both.

We invite you to explore with us the life of local artists, getting to know the challenges and successes they face on a daily basis. For all the joy and enlightenment they bring to us, they've earned all this and more.

Scott Renshaw
Arts & Entertainment Editor


Artificial intelligence and the arts
Local creators talk about how AI does—and could in the future—impact the work of artists.
By Scott Renshaw

When Florida-based playwright Jenny Kokai was creating her absurdist play The Florida Variations—which has received a workshop in the playwrighting lab for Plan-B Theatre Co.—she opted to include the creation of an AI-generated piece of writing as part of that absurdity. "Right now, [AI] writes plays on about a fourth-grade level," Kokai says. "In my case, I was doing something very meta and high-concept, and the inclusion of AI as a gift for [the character of] The Writer—a story she did not have to create to make sense of the world for herself—was the point. But without that framing, [AI] is just writing very bad, very soulless children's literature."

For most artists, the current state of AI-generated artistic works—from visual art to writing—registers on that same level of absurdity and lack of quality. Yet it has also become almost omnipresent culturally, to the point where it has become a key point of contention in the ongoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, registering concerns about corporations replacing artists with technology. There is the present of generative AI, and the future of generative AI, and it's unclear when today's silly distraction might become tomorrow's genuine threat to artistic expression.

City Weekly spoke to several local artists in a variety of different creative fields to get their perspective on artificial intelligence—as a distraction, as a tool and as a danger. Their thoughts seem representative of a larger community that sees a massive gap between art created by people and "art" created by algorithm, and they wonder what might happen if and when that gap starts to narrow.

The AI of Today
Photographer and artist Cat Palmer (who is an occasional contributor for City Weekly) recalls making a recent attempt to create a brief biography of herself using generative AI. The results, she found, were ... unimpressive.

click to enlarge Visual artist - Brent Godfrey - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Visual artistBrent Godfrey

"I was testing it out, trying to have it write something on me," Palmer says, "and even though there's a lot of content out there about me ... it was garbage. There's so much that's been written about me in two decades that it could have come up with something brilliant. But it's just not there yet."

"Not there yet" is probably the most generous way that artists tend to see the artificial intelligence of the moment. "In practical use, it is still in its infancy," observes visual artist Brent Godfrey. "Literarily, I find it overexaggerated and ridiculous. In the web/online contact world, where I most see it, it often sounds like a stupid being—not quite human—clumsily using big words they don't know the meaning of surrounded by an overabundance of flamboyant adjectives."

"It's word salad," adds novelist Jessica Day George. "There's sort of a plot line, but often the adjectives are placed randomly, tons of redundancy, and something always seems just slightly off. It might serve as an outline to a book, but it hasn't been created by a human, and it shows."

click to enlarge Jerry Rapier, Plan-B - Theatre Co. artistic - director - IZZY ARRIETA
  • Izzy Arrieta
  • Jerry Rapier, Plan-B Theatre Co. artistic director

What's true of writing seems just as true of visual artwork created by artificial intelligence. Says Jerry Rapier, artistic director for Plan-B Theatre Co., "All the images that people went nuts over for a while—see how this AI program sees you—I have yet to see one that looks anything like the person sharing them. It's like electronic, overdone Botox."

"My minimal experience with visual AI is on its home turf: the internet; specifically, social media, where it makes pretty boys prettier and gives all things sexy a shiny, unblemished sheen," adds Godfrey. "I find it to be obvious and boring, but the number of followers and likes these sites generate tells me that I am well outside the norm."

These artists do often acknowledge that being immersed in the world of art might make them both more sensitive to what qualifies as "real art," and a bit distanced from the perspectives of the average viewer, reader or consumer. "I think you're going to run into people who aren't going to know the difference," Palmer says. "My very sweet, naïve spouse—they're not on social media—and they're already looking at photographs that are AI-generated and asking, 'Is this real?' ... And they have a Ph.D. You're going to run into that."

The Good With the Bad
As fraught as the world of AI can be for artists, many also recognize ways in which the technology can be used as a tool to make their work easier. For Godfrey, there's a recognition that other kinds of technology, for some time now, have been used as ways to streamline the process for painters and other visual artists.

"When Photoshop first came out," he said, "some artists contemplated its use in fine art, but those valuing craftsmanship were prone to ignoring it. Now, many figurative painters use Photoshop to play with images to fine-tune composition and many elements of a painting. This speeds the painting process considerably, as one used to do this directly on the canvas, leading to scraping, overpainting and prolonged drying times to get to the painting you wanted.

"I see possibilities of AI being used in a similar way," Godfrey said. "'Here is my subject, my concept, palette and details that I am considering. Now, make a screen image of what this might look like. Now I crop this here, delete this distracting detail, darken here, make this more brilliant ... there. Click print, and here is a starting point to evolve from.'"

Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett sees the opportunity for AI to serve the same function that many other kinds of creative "prompts" have in the work of writers. "As a creativity tool, I'm in favor of language modeling programs, in the same way that I'm in favor of writers using creativity decks or exercises or games or reading to spur their process," he says. "In school, I was taught to borrow one line from an existing poem and let my imagination run with it. Certainly, the same can happen in coordination with these programs."

For Rapier, something within the artistic world that isn't specifically artistic, like writing grant proposals, might seem to be an opportunity to take advantage of AI's abilities. Yet even there, he sees inherent limitations. "Grant writing, even though it's technical writing, is also an artform," he says. "What makes the difference between a decent grant and a fundable grant is the human element in the writing. I just don't see how that is possible."

Replacement Value
As the current impasse in the movie-industry strikes over the use of AI would suggest, many artists find themselves wondering if technology is destined to take over what they do as creative people. Depending upon the field in question, there are varying perspectives on whether that danger is real, or imminent.

click to enlarge Novelist Jessica Day George - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Novelist Jessica Day George

"I can definitely see it impacting artists negatively," notes Jessica Day George about the publishing industry. "I haven't seen evidence that it's costing novelists—yet. I have seen a dozen or so authors, however, find that someone is feeding their books into AI to train it, so that it will soon be able to write books in their style. Which means that books will soon be available that are Author XYZ-like, [so] why wait for Author XYZ to work on that next book when you can have it faster and cheaper from an AI? ... I mostly worry that it will be used to make scraping faster and more efficient: taking a book that's out of print and changing the names and a couple of other details, then releasing it as a new work."

"Working exclusively in fine art (mostly painting), I have not yet seen AI negatively impact artist income," Godfrey says. "I think that it has a near-future possibility of creating new artist income sources for less expensive art (e.g., replacing some of the old poster market). ... Long term, it has the potential to cut out the artist all together, becoming another corporate income source. But this won't happen until someone figures out how to scale it up and make it broadly desired enough to make it worthwhile as a larger money generator."

While some kinds of writing and visual art have been at the forefront of the AI revolution, live performance would seem to be a form least likely to be impacted directly by robotic replacement. "Theater in particular and dance are insulated a little bit," Jerry Rapier says. "Even though playwrights do not have the financial power that we all wish they could, one really wonderful thing about theater is playwrights control their own work."

Still, Matthew Ivan Bennett can envision a scenario that does bring live theater into the realm where technology takes work from human artists and artisans. "It's not hard to think that Disney Theatricals will one day tour the world with mere holograms of its musicals instead of paid live performers. Imagine: the Eccles [Theater] sold out for a week of performances of The Little Mermaid, and the only labor cost for Disney Theatricals is paying a few people to set up the holography equipment. Or perhaps touring houses will install equipment like that themselves, and will only need to license the digital file of the 'play.'"

Legal Matters
As is often true for new technologies, their use has raced ahead of any attempts to regulate them or apply existing law. Just this summer, however, has seen a flurry of new activity that could have long-range implications regarding how and when AI can be used for creative work, and the extent to which it could be used to replace human-created art.

On Aug. 18, 2023, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Copyright Office did not abuse its discretion when it determined that works generated by artificial intelligence were not eligible for U.S. copyright protection, potentially disincentivizing corporations for releasing such work. Subsequently, on Aug. 30, 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office began a public comment period, inviting input that might be used "to analyze the current state of the law, identify unresolved issues and evaluate potential areas for congressional action."

"Technology is bound to disrupt culture and society, but any disruption can be mitigated by norms and rules," Bennett says. "Given the state of AI right now, I think the most rational decision we could make is changing copyright law so that only human creations are protected as IP. Anything largely or wholly derived from a language modeling program should not be regarded as intellectual property. ... In granting patents, the government requires that new inventions be sufficiently novel. A similar standard should apply for copyright: if a piece of writing was not created by an intellect, it should not be granted protection as intellectual property."

click to enlarge Photographer and artist - Cat Palmer - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Photographer and artistCat Palmer

Bennett adds that industry policies can also have a significant impact, simply by reducing the financial incentive to create works that producing and publishing entities won't accept. "Publishers and editors I respect—both in poetry and fiction—have decided not to accept submissions created from, or largely in assistance with, language modeling programs," he notes. "Their mission is supporting human creativity and [human] workers. ... Personally, I hope that theater companies will make the same commitment that publishers are making in poetry and fiction."

Meanwhile, the legal system continues to try to play catch-up with the question of whether, and to what extent, existing intellectual property created by humans can be used to train AI, and what kinds of generative works could be considered a violation of a creator's copyrights. "Ethically, where are the boundaries there?" Cat Palmer asks. "You're going to see lawsuits. As a photographer, if you took the photo, you owned the copyright to the images. Now, AI can create anything."

The Way of the Future?
Beyond questions of legalities, the artistic community is understandably troubled by what embracing AI says about what we value in art—or, to paraphrase the words of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, that we were so worried about whether we could, that we didn't stop to consider whether we should. And there are legitimate concerns about what the future holds should the AI train continue picking up steam, and becoming more and more advanced.

click to enlarge Will AI be able to someday create its own self-portrait? - CREATIVE COMMONS
  • creative commons
  • Will AI be able to someday create its own self-portrait?

"Will it replace human craftsmanship? Probably not," Godfrey says. "But then again, I'm thinking with a mature mind in 2023. It is foolish to believe that young people, having constant exposure and manipulation by technologies and the powers intent on using them for their purposes, won't be very different in their thinking and perceptions from myself, today. ... How [AI] will actually be used will, I'm sure, be far beyond my current thought processes."

"There are going to be advances in this that we don't see coming," Palmer says. "When our math teachers [decades ago] said, 'You're not going to have a calculator on you at all times,' did they foresee us actually having a calculator on us at all times? I'm going to be obsolete probably in 20 years, and I'm OK with that."

Still, one of the key matters for artists isn't necessarily what AI might someday be able to do, but what it could never do, given its origins from something that isn't human. If art is fundamentally a way to explore and express the experience of being human, is there a level on which AI-generated art is inevitably doomed to fail?

"From the inside, having spent my entire career inside the performing arts world, I resonate with things where I can feel the artist sharing their person," Rapier says. "That is impossible for a machine to do. It can approximate it, or imitate it, but it can't be it. The 'A' [for "artificial" in "artificial intelligence"] is still present. ... For me, experiencing art in any form is about that visceral connection—the synching of heartbeats in the audience with those onstage."

"Shiny, smooth things are not what excite me, but it might work for somebody else, because art is subjective," Palmer says. "There's always going to be a need for texture, and for emotion. And robots don't have emotion. They haven't been through that journey. ... There's a depth that comes with making artwork, that you're never going to find with AI."

"I think that we're losing touch with connecting with humans," Palmer adds. "I was capturing someone laughing today [in a photograph]. That was such a human moment. There's something about the spark in that person's eye—and I don't think you're going to computer-generate that."

Jennifer Worsley, a moku hanga (woodblock) and pastel artist - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Jennifer Worsley, a moku hanga (woodblock) and pastel artist

Market Artists
For many Utah creators, there's no better place for sharing work than a white tent.
By Merritt Mecham

In 2022, global art sales increased to an estimated $67.8 billion, signaling once again that the world of fine art has largely become one of finance. The art world evokes images of exclusive galleries and conceptual pieces with remote emotional connection—in other words, not a scene the average person would be comfortable engaging in.

And yet, every summer and fall, white 10-by-10-foot tents pop up in parks around the city, featuring not only local vegetables and bakeries and businesses, but also art.

Outside of galleries and museums, there's a robust art community to be found at markets. Here, the artists may or may not have been formally trained. They may or may not have shown their work in galleries, had glowing critical reception or even sold their art before. However, what you're sure to find at an art market are artists with whom you'll be able to make a connection.

On paper, artist Jennifer Worsley appears to be the kind of artist who you might expect to see primarily in the gallery world. She earned her education at Boston University and the New York Academy of Art and was even the recipient of the prestigious Hudson River Fellowship in 2009. Her work has appeared in galleries and installations across the country. "When I was in school," she said, "I was thinking I would do big paintings and be a gallery artist ... but the best thing for me is outdoor events."

After several years on the East Coast, Worsley returned to her native Utah. As a landscape artist, she missed the connection she felt with Utah's scenic nature and felt her work wasn't doing well in galleries. In 2001, she was accepted into the Utah Arts Festival. "It was very dusty and hot," she recalled, laughing. "People came and bought my pictures, and I was like, 'This is so cool.'"

She fell in love with selling her work in the market setting. More than 20 years later, Worsley still sells her work at markets across the state, and people all over Utah have purchased her work for display in their homes. Markets and festivals provide a place for artists and customers to meet face to face. In doing so, they create a more accessible art world for both artists and customers.

Stephanie Swift’s vintage - signage artwork - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Stephanie Swift’s vintage signage artwork

For artists, the less-formal environment of a market makes it accessible to those who haven't come up through a traditional route of universities and galleries. Anyone can be accepted to a market, and anyone can sell their art.

Stephanie Swift, a digital artist, began selling her work in markets in 2008, when she made an illustration of a sign for Bronco Burgers, a favorite local joint in her hometown of Omaha. Inspired by vintage signs and the memories people have of local institutions, Swift has created illustrations of many Salt Lake City signs, from Coachman's and Dee's, to The Tavernacle and Southern Xposure. Her style has a nostalgia to it, with bright pop-art colors and dynamic angles.

But that first piece, Bronco Burgers—"I did it just for shits and giggles ... for me and my sister," Swift says. Her sister suggested applying for the Utah Arts Festival, and when Swift got in, she just went with it: "Well, the opportunity is right there. Let's just go with it and see where it goes."

Swift wasn't completely detached from the art world, with a career as a freelance graphic designer, but she hadn't really intended to be an artist who sells their artwork, and likely wouldn't have if she hadn't "stumbled" (her words) into the market scene. That's one of the wonderful things about markets: They're open to anyone.

Marine wildlife artist Hannah Moore - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Marine wildlife artist Hannah Moore

For example, artist Hannah Moore had always enjoyed painting and drawing, but she hadn't considered it as a potential career. In fact, prior to returning to Utah last year, she worked as a marine biologist and scuba diving instructor. "We all have the left brain, which is our logical scientific reasoning brain, and we all have our right side, which is the creative. ... I think really successful people have a balance of both," she said. "You know, over the last 10 years to be so scientific and logical ... I think my brain almost wanted a break from constantly thinking about, you know, writing scientific papers and doing research."

Moore's background is certainly apparent in her artwork; a majority of her work features marine wildlife, and she began painting in earnest when she felt photography didn't accurately capture the vibrant sea life she observed on her dives. However, that work didn't give her all the preparation necessary to be a professional artist—which is exactly why she decided to pursue markets.

"I'd never sold my art before, and I wanted to be able to gauge what the response to it was, especially here in Utah," she said. "Maybe people wouldn't relate to ocean art at all! And so, going to markets allowed me to see people's reactions to my art. It allowed me to see what people wanted, or what they were really vibing with." Over the past year, Moore has grown her business and her pursuits within the art world.

Markets have also been a great outlet for Janell Heck, an art teacher at Hillcrest Junior High. "You would think, as an art teacher, you would have a lot of time for your artwork, but you really don't," she said. "Having the summer, actually being able to do my own artwork, has been super nice."

And beyond that, Heck says that she never felt particularly at home in the gallery setting. During her studies at the University of Utah, she felt there was a disconnect between her reasons for pursuing art, and what her teachers were expecting.

"During art school, professors always want you to have this in-depth concept and idea of what this art piece is about," she said. "I hated that. I disliked doing it. I like doing art because I like doing art."

Creating work for markets doesn't have the same pressure, and Heck finds her style—nature-based, sometimes tattoo-style, watercolor and drawing—resonates with the people she meets. This summer, she worked on a series of Utah wildflower paintings that she's sold at her markets.

Worsley in particular loves selling her work at markets rather than galleries for two reasons. First, the natural light: "Some galleries had some of my work, and it just never really took very well ... The pastels that I do show better when they're in natural light."

The second reason is that her other primary medium— in addition to pastels—is a woodblock medium that is extremely unfamiliar even to art connoisseurs here in the West: Moku hanga. According to Worsley's website, the Japanese woodblock printmaking technique not only includes the carved woodblock, but also starch paste to manipulate the pigment's texture.

"It's a very unusual technique that nobody in a gallery is really going to be able to describe," she said. At a market, however, she can not only describe the medium, but give demonstrations. "The only way that the person's going to learn about [the medium] is from me, so it really helps to actually be there, interacting with people and showing them my woodblocks and showing them a little bit of how the process works."

In addition to the flexibility markets provide for different backgrounds and mediums, markets give artists access to something else: each other. Moore has experienced this more recently, as she's participated in markets for the first time this year.

"The people that I have found have been so amazing," she said. "It's been not only a great networking tool for what other markets and business opportunities are out there, but it's also made going to markets so much fun ... There's a really, genuinely, lovely community, and I have yet to experience the competition. ... But everybody has been so supportive and excited, and just really uplifting to be around."

Worsley says that the artist community "just has a really warm kind of welcoming quality in Salt Lake. That definitely wasn't the case on the East Coast."

When she moved back to Utah, Worsley observed that the artists weren't overly competitive and often shared recommendations for classes and workshops. "I do think that that's unique about Utah," she said.

Janell Raye Heck’s nature-based - watercolor and drawing - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Janell Raye Heck’s nature-based watercolor and drawing

There's no better way for customers to access the art world of Utah than through a market, whether or not they think of themselves as an "art person." As exclusive as the art world can appear to be, people interact with art every day. They have prints and photos on their walls, they collect postcards or greeting cards and put doodles up on their refrigerators.

"I have a lot of people who come into my booth who are like, 'Yeah, I'm not really like an art person,'" said Moore. "And when I hear that question, I always ask them ... 'You have nothing hanging on your walls? You have no plants, you have no furniture, you have nothing?' And they're like, 'Well, no ...' Well, that's art! ... It's functional art, but it doesn't mean that you didn't make a conscious choice to find something beautiful to put in your space."

For many, coming to a market will be one of the few times they come face-to-face with original artwork. Markets take place in neighborhoods and parks where communities already gather. Most don't charge an entry fee. They're diverse: In 2022, the Downtown Farmers Market reported that "nearly one third of vendors were people of color, and 55% were women." And, finally, the casual atmosphere of markets can help the customer feel at home and find an original piece of art that they'll truly enjoy.

"The gallery [owner] is not going to be looking at the picture for the rest of your life on your wall. You're the one that's going to be looking at it," said Worsley. "I think it's better if people choose their own art."

"[Markets] take out the intimidation factor," added Swift. "If you go to an art festival or any market like that, you see such a variety of stuff—and stuff that most people can afford."

Moore also said you shouldn't discount how special it is to own a unique, original piece of art. To make original art more accessible, Moore adds unique elements to her prints like gold leaf in various designs. "Some of them are gold, some are copper, some are silver. ... Find the one that resonates with you the most, and it'll be completely unique to you," she said.

The fact that they're prints keeps the price down, but each piece is still unique and specifically worked on by her. "I think we all kind of want that [exclusivity]," Moore said. "We want to feel seen no matter what it is. So we want to feel that the art that we pick is unique to us." Overall, this chance to interact directly with people seems to be the primary reason these artists love markets. "The more you interact with someone, the more they're going to feel a connection to you, to your work. And if it's a positive connection, they're going to want to take it home," said Moore.

Figuring out how to facilitate that connection is exciting for her. She describes a time a boy, around 15, and his dad entered her booth. She directed them to pieces she thought they might enjoy, but the boy seemed to be drawn to Moore's more abstract portrait series. "He pulled one out and was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is me.' ... It was so interesting, because it was the last thing that I ever thought that this teenage boy would pick out." The father ended up purchasing that piece for the son. "It's the coolest reaction to get to see a little glimmer of people's inner self without knowing them at all," Moore said.

Heck says one of her favorite-ever market interactions was "getting to chat with these girls—they were in fourth and seventh grade—and that's about the grade that I teach. When I told them that I started with drawing anime, they were like, 'You did?!'" The girls ran off and returned a few moments later with a phone and proudly showed Heck their own anime drawings.

Swift says her work, in particular, brings her the best stories. "Because of what I do," she says, "a lot of it [brings up] people's memories." When people come into her booth and see signs, she can hear everything from "that's the first bar I got kicked out of!" to "my grandpa used to take me to Snelgrove!" She described a man coming into her booth who worked as a bouncer for Southern Xposure paying her all in ones. "I treasured that money for a while," she said.

Another time, someone came in and told her they had previously bought one of her pieces. "Their grandfather was an Alzheimer's patient, and he hadn't remembered anything for a while. His wife brought him the piece because that's where they used to go on dates. She said, 'Do you remember what this is?' and he said, 'Yes! That's where I met you, my girlfriend.'"

And while she could do without hearing the old Dee's advertisement jingles that people inevitably break into when they see her illustration of the old Dee's clown, hearing these memories is one of the best parts of her work.

"It makes everyone happy," Swift said. "I just like listening to everybody's stories."

Heck also finds that the local nature of markets means that you're more likely to find a connection with a piece. The art you find at a market will be work made by your peers and neighbors, and will often be of the subjects the average market-goer cares about. This is why Heck, who has primarily sold at the Millcreek Twilight Markets, says local markets cater to her prime demographic.

"I am from Salt Lake. I've lived here all my life," she said. "You make art based in Utah. You draw national parks. You draw the state flower. And people are very drawn to that, because that's where they're from. More people are willing to buy the things that they know."

As for whether or not these artists feel their presence as market sellers is stigmatized by the gallery world, their answer is ... not really. Both Moore and Heck are pursuing exhibitions, but at galleries that fit their style and vibe.

When asked about the differences between a gallery audience and market audience, Worsley said, "I don't think it's as different as people might think." While she says she's come across a few people who think festivals have "lower-quality art," and would only buy high-end work at galleries, they're in the minority by far.

And Swift? "I don't really try to show in galleries, because that doesn't feel like that's my people."

The market and festival seasons will die down as summer ends and the weather gets colder. However, Worsley hopes that artists will think about coming to markets with their own work. "You know, people think, 'Well, if you want to make art, you're not going to make any money,'" she said.

But with markets, Worsley said, "there's actually this door in the wall that opens up and ... you're showing your work and people are actually buying it. And it's like, that's like the thing that everyone says doesn't happen. So, I definitely recommend it."

Ballet West Dracula - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Ballet West Dracula

Performing Arts Calendar
By Scott Renshaw

Many of Utah's amazing performing arts organizations have announced their season calendars beginning in 2023 and running into 2024. Here's a roundup of some of the key companies, titles and dates that are confirmed for this year; information is always subject to change, so confirm with the individual organization when planning to purchase tickets.

Ballet West

Oct. 20 – 28: Dracula
Nov. 3 – 11: Firebird
Dec. 8 – 27: The Nutcracker
Feb. 9 – 17: Swan Lake
March 29 – 30: Beauty and the Beast
April 12 – 20: Love and War
June 5 – 8: Choreographic Festival VI

Broadway at the Eccles
Nov. 12 – 18: My Fair Lady
Dec. 19 – 24: Mamma Mia!
Jan. 9 – 21: Six: The Musical
Feb. 27 – March 3: MJ: The Michael Jackson Musical
April 2 -7: Pretty Woman
April 26 – 28: Come From Away
May 10 – 12: Annie
June 11 – 16: Girl from the North Country
July 31 – Sept. 1: Hamilton

Covey Center for the Arts
Sep. 21: The Mysto Really Big Magic Show!
Sep. 28 – Oct. 21: The War of the Worlds – the Night that Panicked America
Oct. 13:John King
Dec. 1 – 2: A Covey Center Christmas
Dec. 7 – 23: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol
Dec. 22: Peter Breinholt
Feb. 3: Nashville Songwriter Showcase
Feb. 25 – March 2: Silent Sky
March 27: iLuminate

Desert Star Playhouse
Aug. 24 – Nov. 4: Addams Family: Wednezday's Haunted Mansion
Nov. 9 – Jan. 6: Miracle on 42nd Street

Hale Centre Theatre

July 31 – Nov. 11: Catch Me If You Can
Sept. 13 – Oct. 21: Around the World in 80 Days
Nov. 6 – Jan. 6: Elf: The Musical
Nov. 24 – Dec. 28: A Christmas Carol

Hart Theatre Co.

Sep. 7-10: Nine @Park City Egyptian Theater
November 3-5, 7-12: The Beauty Queen of Leenane @ Midvalley Performing Arts Center
December 19-22: Artaban, The Other Wise Man @ Midvalley Performing Arts Center

Kingsbury Hall

Sept. 23: Tom Papa
Oct. 25: Circa-Humans
Nov. 9: Timothy White Eagle: The Indigo Room
Nov. 17: Justin Willman
Dec. 16: Joe Gatto
Jan. 15: Step Afrika
Feb. 1: Healthcare Stories: Promise
Feb. 21: Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival
March 14: Music from the Sole
April 4: Matt Rife
April 19: University of Utah School of Dance: Alchemy

Live at the Eccles
Sept. 29: Lewis Black
Oct. 7 – 8: Taylor Tomlinson
Oct. 10 – 11: Derek Hough
Oct. 21: Jonathan Van Ness
Oct. 29: Eddie Izzard
Nov. 8: David Sedaris
Dec. 1: Wheel of Fortune Live
Jan. 26 – 27: Bluey's Big Play

Reperatory Dance Theatre I Am - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Reperatory Dance Theatre I Am

Off Broadway Theatre

Oct. 6 – 28: Dracula vs. The Hunchback
Nov. 3 – 25: It's a Wondrous Life
Feb. 2 – 24: Utahoma!
April 5 – 27: Lore of the Rings
May 31 – June 29: TBD
Aug. 2 – 31: The Scarlet Pimpernel

New World Shakespeare Co.
Nov. 17 – 18: A Winter's Tale
Feb. 2 – 11: Henry IV Part 1 & 2
May 3 – 11: The Merry Wives of Windsor
July 12 – 20: All's Well That Ends Well

Pioneer Theatre Co.
Sept. 22 – Oct. 7: Murder on the Orient Express
Oct. 20 – 31: The Rocky Horror Show
Dec. 1 – 16: Christmas in Connecticut
Jan. 12 – 27: Native Gardens
Feb. 23 – March 9: Bonnie & Clyde
March 29 – April 13: The Lehman Trilogy
May 10 – 25: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Plan-B Theatre Co.
Oct. 27: Radio Hour 17: Sherlock Holmes and the Final Problem
Feb. 15 – March 3: Balthazar
April 11 – 28: Bitter Lemon

Pygmalion Theatre Co.
Nov. 3 – 18: The Half Life of Marie Curie
Feb. 9 – 24: TBD
May 3 – 18: Mother of the Maid

Repertory Dance Theatre
Oct. 5 – 7: I Am ...
Nov. 16 – 18: Venture
Jan. 5 – 6: Emerge
March 2: Regalia 2024
April 11 – 13: Gamut

Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co.

Sept. 21 – 23: Groundworks
Dec. 13 – 15: Synthesis (Young Artist Showcase)
Feb. 1 – 3: Traverse
April 18 – 20: Ascent

SALT Contemporary Dance
Oct. 20 – 21: Radio Silence
March 29 – 30: Spring 11

Salt Lake Acting Co.
Sept. 27 – Oct. 29: Can I Say Yes to That Dress?
Dec. 1 – 30: Elephant and Piggie's "We Are in a Play!"
Feb. 7 – March 3: You Will Get Sick
April 10 – May 5: Bald Sisters
June 26 – Aug. 18: SLAC Summer Show 2024

The Sting & Honey Co.
Sept. 22 – Oct. 7: Oleanna

Utah Opera

Oct. 7 – 15: La Bohème
Jan. 20 – 28: The Little Prince
March 9 – 17: The Marriage of Figaro
May 4 – 12: Thaïs

Utah Shakespeare Festival
Through Oct. 7: Coriolanus
Through Oct. 7: Timon of Athens
Through Oct. 7: The Play That Goes Wrong
Through Oct. 7: Jane Austen's Emma: The Musical
Summer 2024: Henry VIII
Summer 2024: The Winter's Tale
Summer 2024: The Taming of the Shrew
Summer 2024: Much Ado About Nothing
Summer 2024: The 39 Steps
Summer 2024: The Mountaintop
Summer 2024: Silent Sky

Frank Caliendo - Wiseguys Gateway - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Frank Caliendo Wiseguys Gateway

Utah Symphony

Sept. 8 – 9: Black Panther in Concert
Sept. 14 – 16: Dvorák's New World Symphony
Sept. 18: Celebración Sinfónica
Sept. 22 – 23: Beethoven's "Emperor" Piano Concerto
Oct. 19 – 21: Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2
Oct. 26 – 28: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 in Concert
Nov. 2 – 4: Beethoven's 9th Symphony
Nov. 9 – 11: Audra McDonald
Nov. 17 – 18: Brahms' Symphony No. 2
Nov. 22: Salute to Youth
Nov. 25 – 26: Messiah Sing-in
Nov. 30 – Dec. 2: Appalachian Spring
Dec. 8 – 9: Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony
Dec. 11: Celtic Woman
Dec. 15 – 16: Holiday Pops
Dec. 16: Here Comes Santa Claus
Dec. 21 – 23: Frozen in Concert
Jan. 4 – 6: Beethoven's 7th Symphony

Wasatch Theatre Co.
Sept. 7 – 11: Art and Class
Sept. 22 – 30: Possessive! The Musical
Nov. 3 – 11: The Thanksgiving Play
Dec. 7 – 10: Disney's Frozen Junior
Jan. 12 – 20: JQA
March 26 – April 7: Hangmen
April 19 – 27: The Realistic Joneses

Wiseguys Gateway
Sept. 7 – 9: Michael Rapaport
Sept. 10: Two Dykes & a Mic
Sept. 12: Justin Rupple
Sept. 14: Uncle Lazer
Sept. 15 – 16: Matt McCusker
Sept. 19: Will Burkart
Sept. 21: Are You Garbage?
Sept. 22 – 23: Steve Rannazzisi
Sept. 24: Sean Patton
Sept. 28: Don McMillan
Sept. 29 – 30: Becky Robinson
Oct. 3: Frank Caliendo
Oct. 5: Morgan Jay
Oct. 6 – 7: Pete Holmes
Oct. 8: Brittany Schmitt
Oct. 13 – 14: Christina P
Oct. 19 – 21: Felipe Esparza
Oct. 27 – 28: Ryan Sickler
Nov. 2: Maria Bamford
Nov. 3 – 5: Michael Blaustein
Nov. 9 – 11: Chad Daniels
Nov. 17 – 18: Duncan Trussell
Nov. 24 – 25: Preacher Lawson
Dec. 1 – 2: Natasha Leggero
Dec. 7 – 8: Chris Distefano
Dec. 15 – 16: Zarna Garg: Practical People
Dec. 29 – 31: Dusty Slay
Jan. 5 – 6: Josh Blue
Jan. 19 – 20: Ashley Gavin
Jan. 25: Zoltan Kaszas
Jan. 26 – 27: Akaash Singh
Feb. 2 – 3: Drew Lynch
Feb. 9 – 10: Jeff Arcuri
Feb. 23 – 24: Ian Bagg

Wiseguys Ogden
Sept. 8 – 9: Todd Johnson
Sept. 15 –16: Pete Jr.
Sept. 22 – 23: Rodney Norman
Sept. 29 – 30: Andy Gold
Oct. 6 – 7: Craig Bielik
Oct. 13 – 14: Marcus and Guy
Oct. 20 – 21: Karen Rontowski
Oct. 27 – 28: Russ Nagel
Nov. 17-18: Brad Bonar

Wiseguys South Jordan
Sept. 8 – 9: Russ Nagel
Sept. 15 – 16: Beth Stelling
Sept. 16: Two Girls One Ghost
Sept. 21 – 23: Pauly Shore
Sept. 29 – 30: Paul Sheffield
Oct. 6 – 7: Aaron Weber
Oct. 13 – 14: David Nihil
Oct. 20 – 21: Jen Fulwiler
Oct. 27 – 28: Jon "Polar Bear" Gonzalez
Nov. 3: Liza Treyger
Nov. 4: That's Messed Up
Nov. 10 – 11: Jordan Jensen

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About The Authors

Merritt Mecham

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw has been a City Weekly staff member since 1999, including assuming the role of primary film critic in 2001 and Arts & Entertainment Editor in 2003. Scott has covered the Sundance Film Festival for 25 years, and provided coverage of local arts including theater, pop-culture conventions, comedy, literature,... more

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