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THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR APRIL 15 - 21 

Pygmalion Productions: If This Wall Could Talk, Plan-B Theatre Co.: Art & Class, Confluence opening reception @ Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and more.

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PYGMALION PRODUCTIONS
  • Pygmalion Productions

Pygmalion Productions: If This Wall Could Talk
For 20 years, Pygmalion Productions has made it a mission to amplify women's voices through theater. And over the past year, we've seen plenty of news stories about the particular challenges faced by women as a result of the pandemic—disproportionate job loss, bearing the burden of children's at-home schooling and more. So it only made sense for Pygmalion to apply its mission to women's stories of our pandemic year, and women storytellers looking back through time at challenges faced by other women.

Inspired by the "Utah Women 2020" mural created last year in downtown Salt Lake City by Jann Haworth and Alex Johnstone, Pygmalion artistic director Fran Pruyn developed If This Wall Could Talk, a 40-minute video created with pandemic safety in mind. Several of the present-day subjects on the mural—including Salt Lake City mayor Erin Mendenhall, actor/dinger Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin and Repertory Dance Theatre artistic director Linda Smith—recorded their own reflections on the past year, and what they've learned. In addition, several female local playwrights—including Elaine Jarvik, Morag Shepherd, Debora Threedy and Julie Jensen—created monologues for historical figures like Calamity Jane and historian Juanita Brooks, speculating on how they might see our current moment. The 40-minute video is currently available for viewing at pygmalionproductions.org.

"Interweaving the two time periods gave a nice dramatic balance between reality and fiction, past and present, giving the entire piece a nice arc," Pruyn says."It was an artistic conceit, in a way, but also one that was actually do-able given our restrictions." (Scott Renshaw)

PLAN-B THEATRE CO.
  • Plan-B Theatre Co.

Plan-B Theatre Co.: Art & Class
While Matthew Ivan Bennett's Art & Class is yet another case of a work initially planned as a live theater production being adapted for Plan-B Theatre Co.'s audio-only 2021 season, Bennett's years of experience working on Plan-B Radio Hour productions came in particularly handy. "Doing Art & Class as an audio production has reminded me of advice I got early on as a playwright: write clearly enough that your dialogue could be performed on the radio and be understood," Bennett says via email. "The adjustments were minor, all things considered. ... None of the changes feel like robbery; it's just a different medium with different demands."

Art & Class was inspired by the real-life case of Mateo Rueda, a Cache County elementary school teacher who was fired in 2017 for showing his student examples of art that included nude figures. Inspired by teachers in his own life including his wife, his mother and his stepmother, Bennett changed the protagonist to a woman, hoping to emphasize how women "dominate the profession, and yet they still face sex-based discrimination and double standards."

The story also provides an opportunity to explore the ongoing tension between educators' goals and parents who believe they should be able to control whether and when their children are exposed to anything that could be considered "controversial." While Bennett believe Art & Class plays fair with parents' instinct to protect their children, he says "I think there is no 'real education' without real challenges."

Art & Class premieres at planbtheatre.org on April 15 on a "pay-what-you-can" basis. (SR)

COURTESY UMFA
  • courtesy UMFA

Confluence opening reception @ Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Normalcy—or at least an approximation thereof—continues to creep towards us, manifesting itself in multiple small ways. While the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (410 Campus Center Dr., umfa.utah.edu) has been reopened for a while now—including its successful, sold-out show Black Refractions—it's been quite a while since the space has been able to hold an actual reception.

Welcome, then, to an opening reception for the UMFA's ACME Lab exhibition Confluence, an exploration of water in the Salt Lake Valley addressing issues ranging from environmental to cultural. Showing now through December 4, 2021, and created as a collaboration with six local organizations, Confluence includes a variety of exhibits, including Larry Cesspooch's short film Water; a multimedia sculpture by Framework Arts; and information about the local water cycle. An exhibition self-guide—available at UMFA, or online via the website—provides an opportunity to continue investigating water in Utah and our connection to it from a variety of different perspectives. The exhibition is also part of the statewide Think Water Utah initiative, a conversation by Utah Humanities and its partners that

The opening celebration takes place Saturday, April 17 from 1-4 p.m., at the museum's north entrance. The family-friendly event will include a water scavenger hunt outdoors around the campus, with free materials provided to record findings. Information will also be available from the exhibition's partner organizations, including take-home activities Admission is free, but advance registration is required, and health and safety protocols—including mask-wearing—will still be in effect. (SR)

THANKSGIVING POINT
  • Thanksgiving Point

Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival
Ah, spring! The hope that arises from the cycle of renewal, a kind of hope we all really need right now. Many of the activities that were traditional parts of a Utah spring didn't take place or were abbreviated in 2020 by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now some of us will want to play catch-up, taking advantage of pleasant weather and outdoor environments to get back to our favorite places.

Last year, the beautiful annual Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point (3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, thanksgivingpoint.org) was not available to the public due to the closure of the venue. But now it's time to get enjoy it once again in the glorious Ashton Gardens. You can get a chance to see the specially-bred tulip created exclusively for Thanksgiving Point's 25th anniversary last year (tulipa Thanksgiving Point), and available for the public to see this year for the first time. Children's activities, including lawn games, are also available at the Tulip Tot Playland. And for those who want to take a little bit of the Tulip Festival home with them, cut tulips are available for purchase at the learning garden (while supplies last).

The 2021 Tulip Festival runs now through May 8, with tickets available online ($15 child/$20 adult) or at the door ($20 child/$25 adult). Due to high demand, however, and limited capacity including timed entry slots 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, online reservations are strongly encouraged. Complimentary guided garden walks are also available with advance online reservation. (SR)

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