Essentials: Entertainment Picks May 14-20 | Entertainment Picks | Salt Lake City Weekly

Essentials: Entertainment Picks May 14-20 

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Ron Carlson: Return to Oakpine
In his 2009 novel The Signal, Utah native Ron Carlson explored the reunion between two characters—an ex-convict and his ex-wife—set in the mountains of Wyoming. In his latest novel, Return to Oakpine, Carlson again deals with characters brought together in Wyoming after a long separation, but demonstrates his versatility by shifting from the framework of a thriller to a different kind of drama. The four protagonists played in a band together 30 years ago in a small Wyoming town, before they went their separate ways. Craig and Frank remained in Oakpine for their whole lives, but Jimmy moved to New York City to become a writer, and Mason to Denver to become a lawyer. Now, the terminally ill Jimmy has returned home for what he expects to be his final days, and Mason is also visiting on family business—and getting the band back together forces all four men to look at where their lives went. Join the author as he reads from and signs this bittersweet, nostalgic tale. (Scott Renshaw) Ron Carlson: Return to Oakpine @ The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, Thursday, May 14, 7 p.m., free.



Ballet West: Innovations
Ballet West's annual season-closing production, Innovations, is a showcase of some of the world's best modern ballet choreography. Some pieces come from seasoned choreographers commissioned by companies around the world; other works come from Ballet West's own company members. This year, for the eighth annual Innovations production, three original pieces come from Ballet West dancers: "Homage" by Emily Adams; "Pulse" by Adrian Fry; and "The Hunt" by Katlyn Addison. These pieces, from less-experienced choreographers pay off in the long run by developing home-grown choreographic talent. Newly named as principal dancer, Adams has proven her strength as a dancer and, over the years, as a choreographer. With three short Innovations works already under her belt, Adams reaches a new milestone this year with "Homage," her fourth Innovations piece and her first full-act commission. Two more works from established choreographers round out the evening's performance. "Presto," by Nicolo Fonte, was created for Ballet West shortly after his appointment as the company's resident choreographer in 2012. The dance, a quartet with two principal dancers and two soloists, premiered in Chicago in 2013, where dance critic Catherine Tully called the piece "simply brilliant" and "devilishly complex." The world premiere of "Façades," by Utah-native Garrett Smith, closes the evening. A young choreographer in great demand, Smith is earning attention (and commissions) across Europe and the United States. Known for his unique use of costuming, lighting and props, and praised for his ambitiously athletic movement, Smith's closing number will delight while pushing ballet's boundaries. (Katherine Pioli) Ballet West: Innovations @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, May 15-16 & 20-23, 7:30 p.m.; matinee May 23, 2 p.m., $50.



Living Traditions Festival
With modern technology shrinking global distances via high-speed communication and travel, the world seems to grow both smaller and more homogenous—the same strip malls packed with the same wares worldwide. That gives us even more reason to celebrate cultural differences, to help keep the unique alive. The Living Traditions Festival, held in downtown Salt Lake City, is such a celebration. Now in its 30th year, the annual affair prides itself on not only being the opening festival of the season but also the perfect way to bring various cultures into one shared community space—from Navajo basket-weavers and Chinese dance artists to Basque chefs and bocce players. It's the perfect, welcoming atmosphere to dabble in folk arts, sample a wide variety of ethnic cuisines and pick up any number of arts and crafts created by the disparate cultures that call Utah home. Not only a celebration of local manifestations of those cultures, the Living Traditions Festival also invites visiting performing artists to join in the fun. One of the two musical headliners at this year's festival is Bombino, a native of Niger belonging to the nomadic Tuareg people who traditionally roam the vast desert expanses of the Sahara. A master blues guitarist in the vein of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, Bombino sings his politically and culturally charged songs in his native Tamasheck language. A Tribe Called Red, a producer/DJ crew, headlines Saturday evening's musical performances, returning from Canada to liven up the festivities. (Jacob Stringer) Living Traditions Festival @ Salt Lake City & County Building, 450 S. 200 East, May 15, 5-10 p.m.; May 16, 12-10 p.m.; May 17, 12-7 p.m., free.



Relational Forms: Robert Bliss & Anna Campbell Bliss
You can't discuss modernism in local art without mentioning the contributions of Robert Bliss and Anna Campbell Bliss. The couple moved here in 1963, when he was transitioning from an architecture practice in Minnesota to head the University of Utah architecture department and, later, became dean of the Graduate School of Architecture. His concerns for education, urban planning and the environment are ongoing, and he has been active on committees devoted to historic preservation on both the local and national levels. This exhibit will showcase his furniture pieces, which represent a functional take on minimalism. Anna studied math, art history and architecture at Wellesley College and Harvard University, and these seemingly divergent disciplines have influenced her multimedia works, paintings and prints. Her work combines a clean, Bauhaus-influenced aesthetic with mathematical precision and an architectural sense of space and light. She was one of the first artists to use computer-rendering in her artistic process. Anna also has work in the con/TEXT exhibit at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the U of U, which is showing through the end of July. Now in their 80s, Robert and Anna Campbell Bliss have made an indelible impact on the national art and design communities. In the work of these artists—both independently and viewedtogether in the same setting—we can see that forms don't exist and function merely in their own right but also in myriad ways in which they interact with each other. (Brian Staker) Relational Forms: Robert Bliss & Anna Campbell Bliss @ CUAC Contemporary Art, 175 E. 200 South, 385-215-6768, May 15-July 10, Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m; Saturday, 12-4 p.m.



The Hive Theatre Co.: Bupkis: A Play About Nothing
There are times when a creative work can seem like a dare—a challenge to the audience to find something with which to engage beyond the most obvious, comfortable levels. It's the "blank canvas with a single red dot" phenomenon, where viewers can be left with feelings best described as, "Do they think I'm stupid?" crossed with "Hell, I could do that." The Hive Theatre Co.'s production of Bupkis: A Play About Nothing has just such a button-pushing conceit: It's a series of stand-alone segments designed, as we're informed by our "narrator" Yancy (Eric Leckman), to have "no themes, no messages." And so we're left with snippets of situations: two conspicuously named characters (Jeffrey Owen and Zachan Michael Reynolds) discussing what may be plans for a key historical event; a kindly old man (Owen again) who has kidnapped a young woman (Andrea Peterson); a security guard (Spencer Belnap) encountering a man (Reynolds) who thinks he's receiving messages from aliens. The segments themselves, at times, seem frustrating in their lack of specific direction and in their reliance on broad, outrageous scenarios. But when the audience knows the work isn't meant to be "about" anything, it gives them the chance to focus on other elements of stagecraft—the sets and costumes designed with an almost camouflage effect of chalky white geometric figures on a black background, or Peterson's performance effectively conveying the terror of a hostage. If Bupkis is about nothing, that doesn't mean it can't be about nothing in interesting ways. (Scott Renshaw) The Hive Theatre Co.: Bupkis: A Play About Nothing @ The Sugar Space, 616 Wilmington Ave., May 15-16, 8 p.m.; matinee May 16, 2 p.m., $15.

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