Artys 2010 | Artys | Salt Lake City Weekly

Artys 2010 

Celebrating Utah's Arts: The best in local theater, dance, art & more.

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Art—real art—is a discovery. It’s something that hits us in a place we didn’t expect to find it, making us think about things we didn’t expect to think about, and feel things we didn’t expect to feel. It’s a dare—and sometimes, it breaks rules.

The theme of this year’s issue is a tribute to graffiti and public art, a category we added to our reader’s ballot. It’s a recognition not just of the high-profile graffiti that hit the state around Sundance time, but also of the fact that our concept of what to call “art” is always shifting and evolving—sometimes in ways that will inspire argument. Is a tattoo art in the same way that a painting is? Is an article of clothing art in the same way that a mixed-media collage is? And is it art when someone doesn’t want it to be where it is?

For the fifth year, City Weekly invited our readers to take up the challenge of answering questions like that, and our contributors have added their own praise for favorite creative enterprises of the past year. We hope you discover something here that makes you re-think the boundaries of art.

Scott Renshaw
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Contributors: Brandon Burt, Stephen Dark, Austen Diamond, Marty Foy, Bill Frost, Jesse Fruhwirth, Rachel Hanson, Jennifer Heaney, Josh Loftin, Dan Nailen, Eric S. Peterson, Scott Renshaw, Gavin Sheehan, Brian Staker, Jacob Stringer, Jerre Wroble


Charm, Kathleen Cahill (Salt Lake Acting Company)

One can only ponder what Margaret Fuller would have thought about this adaptation of her life, as resident SLAC playwright Kathleen Cahill penned a surreal look into the female journalist and pioneering feminist. Serving as an imaginative exploration within a biographical play, the story takes elements of Fuller’s experiences and musings from other 1840s writers and translates them into an avant-garde production about her struggle to overcome male-dominated society. Fuller’s (Cheryl Gaysunas) audience interactions brought thoughtful and enlightening commentary to the already entertaining performances, making the play an endearing delight this past season.

Avenue Q [Broadway Across America]

In this musical-comedy, humans and puppets interact a la Sesame Street, but that’s where the similarities end. Well, sorta: The puppets coming to terms with their homosexuality do bear an uncanny resemblance to Bert and Ernie. Elsewhere, the characters—both fabric and flesh-and-blood—learn valuable life lessons via songs like “The Internet is for Porn” and “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?” as they move into adulthood. Utahns (save for the scattered few ill-prepared for the adult fare in Avenue Q) loved the show, including a graphic onstage sex scene, set to “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love).”

Read the 2010-2011 Utah Theater & Dance Schedule

Propel (Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company)

Typical of RWDC performances, Propel featured several company repertory pieces—including Alicia Sanchez’s “If My Right Hand Would Say What My Left Hand Thought” and Joan Woodbury’s “L’Invasion”—which complemented a brand new commissioned work by New York-based choreographer John Jasperse. “Spurts of Activity Before the Emptiness of Late Afternoon” was in turn atypical for a Jasperse piece, as it featured non-sets and seemingly pedestrian movement. Reaching outside RWDC’s comfort zone to perform its commissioned pieces has become an important way for such an established company to imbue each and every performance with entertaining freshness and vitality.

Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Gravity (Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company)

It’s not often that dance companies have the funding and creative gumption to include live music onstage during a performance. And when one of the most respected composers in Scandinavia, Jens Horsving, asks specifically to work with you while enlisting a renowned music ensemble—Copenhagen-based Figura—how can you say no? Boye-Christensen’s resulting Gravity easily takes the cake for the most inventive choreography of the past year. Set to the experimental sounds of Figura, the work expertly averted the trappings of such an esoteric subject matter, grounding itself in physical elements such as pushing/pulling and action/reaction.

T.J. Spaur (Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company)

For Ririe-Woodbury dancer T.J. Spaur, the rave reviews started immediately upon his joining the company. Unfortunately, after just four seasons with the company, Spaur has listened to the critics and decided to move onto the larger stage of New York City. According to RWDC Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Spaur’s charm, sense of humor, large physicality and willingness to experiment should have him on Broadway in no time. Utah’s loss will certainly be to the world’s greater benefit.

Levi Rounds

Mustached, slender-framed and often mullet-ed, Levi Rounds offers comedy as scrappy as his appearance—nothing’s held back. Throughout his four or five years of stand-up, he’s trampled over topics such as religion (acid trips walking through Temple Square), kids (the merits of women having tapeworms versus children) and abortion (God’s divine plan). Rounds is captivating onstage, generally swigging beer while performing. Aside from being spotted at dive bars scrawling fresh material with other local comedians, he’s at Mo’s Neighborhood Grill every Sunday night on his trajectory to stardom.

Amerigo (Plan-B Theatre Company)

Kirt Bateman, Amerigo (Plan-B Theatre Company)

It could easily have been politically correct, history-scolding art at its most annoying: A “trial” in purgatory pitting Amerigo Vespucci against Christopher Columbus for the right to call himself discoverer of the New World. But playwright Eric Samuelsen refused to give in to the temptation to simply lament Age of Discovery imperialism and crafted instead a thoughtful and funny exploration of how much contemporary America still rests on the twin pillars of capitalism and religion. Jerry Rapier’s deft direction created an effective “theater-in-the-semicircle” experience, but the cast’s anchor was Kirt Bateman, who reveled in his role as Niccolo Machiavelli, the de facto ringmaster of the proceedings. A stalwart of the Salt Lake City stage, Bateman has excelled in roles calling for a frisky edge, but Machiavelli’s celebration of Queen Isabella’s—well, Machiavellian—power-grabs was just one of the moments that reminded audiences of Bateman’s versatility.

Laughing Stock

Experience and the utmost sincerity about being ridiculous and entertaining at all costs have kept fans coming back to Laughing Stock for nearly 15 years. The group has been a staple of the improv scene, pulling from a troupe of 15 members, many of whom have been around from the beginning. Aside from performing festivals like EVE, acting in half-improv, half-scripted plays like Robyn Hood: Boyz in the Hood and challenging other troupes to improv battles, the veterans can be spotted every Saturday and Sunday night at Off Broadway Theatre. Success never sounded so funny.

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me, by Kristen Chandler

For many writers of young-adult fiction, “coming of age” is a concept restricted to burgeoning sexuality. But there’s more depth and complexity to the way first-time novelist and Salt Lake City resident Kristen Chandler told the story of KJ, a 16-year-old girl living with her widowed father near Yellowstone National Park. The controversy over the reintroduction of wolves to the park becomes an entry point for KJ learning to stick to unpopular convictions in a world of polarized political views, even as she deals with first love. The result is a rich tale that effectively mixes romance, whodunit and sincere character study.

U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven National Parks, by Ann Torrence

Once tracing a 1,600-mile route from Nogales, Ariz., to Piegan, Mont., U.S. Highway 89 is, as the title of Ann Torrence’s book says, the scenic road to seven national parks, from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Teton. Torrence’s camera has caught the stretch’s dichotomy: busy intersections and open roads, tender townsfolk and cactus-like cowboys, skyscrapers and tall pines. Her lush, vivid photography of these western jewels could stand alone. But, when paired with her evocative writing, Westerners and non-Westerners alike discover a compelling sense of place.

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