THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR JUL 11 - 17 | Entertainment Picks | Salt Lake City Weekly

THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR JUL 11 - 17 

Wasatch Theatre Company: King James, Johnny Hebda: Undaunted, European Cultural Festival Obon Festival, and more.

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JIM MARTIN
  • Jim Martin

Wasatch Theatre Company: King James
Male friendships are unique things, complicated by matters like power dynamics, race and fragile egos. But it seems to be a common thread through the years that guys can bond over sports, and their common passion about a local team. Pulitzer Prize-finalist playwright Rajiv Joseph explores such matters in his 2022 play King James, which follows the friendship of two men—bartender Matt and aspiring writer Shawn—linked by their shared love of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team.

The story opens in 2004, the rookie season of Ohio native LeBron James, as Shawn looks to buy tickets to the remaining Cavaliers home games from Matt, who's in need of some quick cash. They soon bond over their Cavs fandom, and the narrative follows them over the next 12 years in scenes linked to key moments in LeBron's career: his 2010 decision to leave as a free agent for Miami; his return to Cleveland in 2014; and the team's first championship in 2016. As Frank Scheck wrote in the New York Stage Review about the show's original production, "The playwright beautifully captures the vagaries of friendship, including the power imbalance dependencies that can affect them and the careless misunderstandings that can rupture them."

Wasatch Theatre Company presents the local premiere of King James at the George F. Plautz Theatre Co-op at The Gateway (167 S. Rio Grande) for seven performances only, July 12 – 20, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 14. Tickets are $15 general admission; visit wasatchtheatrecompany.org to purchase tickets and for additional event information. (Scott Renshaw)

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Johnny Hebda: Undaunted
For nearly 50 years, the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire has been dedicated to supporting the Utah LGBTQ+ community; indeed, it was the first such organization in the state. As a fundraiser for the non-profit organization, acclaimed local performer Johnny Hebda—an honoree as RCGSE's "Mr. Gay Utah" and a 2023 Top 10 finalist for Mr. Gay America—presents Undaunted, an event filled with multi-media entertainment.

At the center is Utah native Hebda, who will be accompanied by a live band, drag queens and backup dancers from great local organizations including Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and Repertory Dance Theatre for a concert full of favorites. The scheduled playlist includes medleys of Broadway hits, including selections from The Book of Mormon and Bare: A Pop Opera; renditions of hit songs from the likes of Elvis Presley; and a variety of jazz standards. Hebda is also using the occasion to premiere Cry Me a River, an original short film which he produced and stars in. Dialogue, dance, music and film combine for an evening filled with Hebda's commitment to celebrating diversity and bringing people together. And it's a preview of the performance that Hebda will present when he competes in the Mr. Continental LGBTQ pageant

Undaunted comes to the Rose Wagner Center's Jeanne Wagner Theater (138 W. 300 South) for one night only on Sunday, July 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20; visit arttix.org to purchase tickets and for additional event information. (SR)

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European Cultural Festival
Obon Festival

Cultural festivals abound in Utah throughout the summer, and those who are interested in exploring cultures have myriad options to choose from. This weekend, two such festivals bring visitors to opposite ends of the world—Europe and Japan—with experiences for the whole family.

On Saturday, July 13, University Place in Orem (575 E. University Parkway) hosts the European Cultural Festival, a chance to dive into the traditions of Spain, the British Isles, Alpine countries and more. Centerpiece entertainment includes Salt Lake Crusaders, demonstrating the world of battling knights in armor, as well as Scottish bagpipes by Heathen Highlanders, Irish dancing by Harp Irish Dance Company, flamenco dancing from Flamenco del Lago, Alpine horns by Salzburger Echo, and a variety of musicians. Kids are invited to play on the pirate ship at the event, and guests of all ages can learn about the tradition of the Maypole. The event takes place 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. and is free and open to the public; parking is also free on-site. Visit universityplaceorem.com for additional details.

Saturday, July 13 also marks the Obon Festival at the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple (211 W. 100 South, SLC), marking the traditional Japanese festival honoring the spirits of ancestors and the dead. The event includes an array of cultural experiences and performances, including Bon Odori dance, family-friendly activities and food offerings. Temple tours will be held throughout the afternoon, and taiko drumming begins at 7 p.m. The 2024 Obon Festival runs 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., and admission is free. Visit slbuddhist.org for additional information. (SR)

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