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THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR OCT 21 - 27 

Ballet West: Dracula, Pioneer Theatre Company: Ass, Jorge L. Contreras: The Genome Defense, and more.

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LUKE ISLEY
  • Luke Isley

Ballet West: Dracula
Among the canonical works of horror, Bram Stoker's Dracula ranks with the greatest, and not just because its indelible titular character has become all-but-synonymous with "vampire." You can get a sense for a story's greatness from its adaptability to many different artistic formats and interpretations, allowing for new ways to consider its themes. That's why it's not surprising to realize that choreographer Ben Stevenson transformed Dracula into a ballet in 1997, and that it was popular enough with Ballet West audiences when it first arrived here in 2011 that it seemed ripe for a Halloween-season return.

The basics of the narrative are probably familiar enough—the mysterious Count Dracula, his faithful assistant Renfield, a young woman at risk of becoming his next victim—but there's nothing stodgy about the theatrical energy provided by this version. Elaborate costuming, scenic design and stage effects including characters taking flight provide a unique spectacle, while a 52-piece orchestra plays a score made up of Franz Liszt compositions to accompany the cast of more than 60 dancers. It's quite a grand way for the company to return to full in-person performances.

Ballet West's Dracula runs Oct. 22-30 at the Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 South), with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday matinees. Tickets are $29-$99, available at arttix.org; face coverings will be required of all patrons for all performances. A special "Dracula Bash" event follows the Oct. 29 performance as an add-on. Visit balletwest.org for additional information. (Scott Renshaw)

COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo

Pioneer Theatre Company: Ass
It's been a long road towards the world-premiere of Ellen Simon's Ass, which was originally scheduled to debut as part of Pioneer Theatre Company's season in spring 2020, after a development process that included readings at the company in 2018. But few collaborators would seem to appreciate the patience required in the creative process like Simon and PTC artistic director Karen Azenberg, who have known each other going back to the Broadway collaborations between their respective fathers—producer Manny Azenberg, and legendary playwright Neil Simon.

"We had a front row seat to our fathers' friendship and to their professional collaboration, influencing our careers in theatre," Simon told Broadway world last year. "We're excited to continue this partnership as second-generation collaborators." To which Azenberg added, "It's gratifying to watch this production come full circle with Ellen. And to witness our lifelong relationship, growing up together backstage in New York, coming around full circle as well."

The comedic play itself deals with an artist, as well—a celebrated sculptor whose health is failing him, forcing him to confront his mortality. His relationships are predictably complicated, including those with his son and his current wife (his ninth), as they deal with the collision between professional excellence and personal messiness that, in contemporary parlance, would be called "problematic."

Ass runs Oct. 22-Nov. 6 at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre (300 S. 1400 East), with tickets ranging from $33-$50 advance purchase, $5 more day of show. Visit pioneertheatre.org to purchase tickets, or for information about current health and safety protocols. (SR)

ALGONQUIN PRESS
  • Algonquin Press

Jorge L. Contreras: The Genome Defense
Technological change often moves faster than the law can keep up with it—and the result is a fraught legal landscape tangled up with questions of ethics and the capitalist push for innovation, in fields ranging from agriculture to medicine. Such a matter forms the foundation of University of Utah law professor Jorge L. Contreras's fascinating new book The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA.

The tale begins with biotech companies like Myriad Genetics using patent law to protect their isolation of specific parts of the human genome, such as the BCRA genes allowing detection of genetic propensity towards certain types of breast cancer. Civil rights attorney Chris Hansen, however, was among those who began asking, "Can a corporation own a part of the fundamental building blocks of what makes us human?" In 2010, Hansen and the ACLU began litigation challenging the right of corporations to patent parts of the human genome, a fight that led all the way to the Supreme Court. Contreras goes behind the scenes with many of the key participants, offering an inside look at the legal strategy and the potential consequences on either side of the final decision.

Contreras will be discussing The Genome Defense via The King's English Bookshop Crowdcast on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m., in conversation with author Jordan Fisher Smith. The free, virtual event is open to the public, but advance registration is required via kingsenglish.com. Order the book through the King's English website, and receive an autographed copy. (SR)

DEEN VAN MEER
  • Deen Van Meer

Broadway Across America: Frozen
Anyone who had young children circa 2013 can tell you what a sensation Disney's animated film Frozen was at the time, inspiring Anna and Elsa costumes by the millions and perpetual sing-alongs to "Let It Go." It was utterly predictable, then, that Frozen would inspire not just a film sequel, but would follow in a 25-year tradition of Disney bringing some of its biggest animated hits to the live-action theatrical stage. So it was that the original Frozen creative team—writer/director Jennifer Lee and the songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez—reunited to expand the story for an elaborate Broadway musical presentation.

The basic story itself remains the same, of course, involving the sister princesses Anna and Elsa in the kingdom of Arendelle, and the clash of wills between them that threatens perpetual winter. But there's more going on here than a different place to hear all of those familiar songs; a dozen new musical numbers have been added to the soundtrack. Creative puppeteering effects bring characters like Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer to life, while digital projections allow the stage to come alive with the magical powers of Elsa.

The touring production of Frozen makes a stop at the Eccles Theatre as a Broadway at the Eccles presentation, Oct. 26 – Nov. 13. Face coverings are required of all patrons, regardless of vaccination status, throughout the performance. Special accessibility performances are available for captions (matinee, Oct. 30), audio description (evening, Oct. 31) and ASL (evening, Nov. 5). Visit arttix.org for tickets and additional information. (SR)

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