Six resident companies in Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts set for Aug. 26 Mix Tape offering of their artistic strengths

Formerly known as Rose Exposed, the annual fast paced one-hour show of the six resident companies in the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts has been rebranded as Mix Tape, frankly a better title for the event. The show will go on Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. at the Jeanné Wagner Theatre in The Rose.

With each group tasked to present a 10-minute offering, the six independent arts companies — three dance institutions, two theatrical organizations and an international piano foundation — agreed that it was time for a change. “It reflects the showcase’s biggest selling point as a sampler of what we offer,” Stephen Brown of SB Dance, explains. 

Three of the six companies are presenting new works, for example. While five companies are about to launch the main events of their respective 2023-24 season, SB Dance is just rolling into the most active part of its season, after premiering Tarotville, its latest Curbside Theater edition, on Aug. 11. 

Curbside Theater emerged as a feasible mobile outdoor performing option during the pandemic and the formula has stuck with great results. SB Dance has proven the concept so effectively that it received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for its latest production. 

Described as “a theater experience that comes to you, as traveling vaudeville with a modern twist,” Brown adds that it is “a pop-up experience under night skies, with mind-boggling melodrama and marvel.”

But, Brown always keeps it fresh every year for the Rose showcase. For Mix Tape, once again choosing music from the Baroque Era, he is collaborating with three of his company’s performers to set a piece titled Trio for Three (duh), from music sampled from the Tra le procelle in Carl Graun’s Cleopatra e Cesare. In fact, on Monday evening, Brown and the trio — Ashley Thomson, Jorji Diaz Fadel and Arielle Hassett— stepped foot into the studio for the first time. 

The new work should definitely emphasize the flair of spectacle and acrobatic agility which drives SB Dance productions such as Tarotville. That show, which runs through Oct. 7, is a theatrical card reading for the audience, so every performance is new and some of the shows feature a pre-performance Tarot Bazaar. The show premiered in Ogden’s Dumke Arts Plaza and along with numerous outdoor stops in Salt Lake City, SB Dance also will take the show to stops in Nevada and Southern California.

Plan-B Theatre will present the world premiere of The ‘C’ Word, by first-time playwright Jacqueline Morasco, which she wrote as part of the company’s Creative Aging Writing Workshop.

Based on her own experiences, Morasco sets the short play as a two-hander chamber theater piece, where a patient who has just learned of her breast cancer diagnosis is frustrated about communicating effectively with her surgeon.

“It was a good way to process the feelings I had with my own experience. I found it freeing to have the characters speak to another and move on the stage,” Morasco says in an interview with The Utah Review. The first-time playwright learned to appreciate the value of reading her script out loud to fellow workshop participants. “I was very afraid at first but the experience really made the writing come alive for me. Even now when I am writing my newsletter, I find myself reading out loud before I submit it,” she adds. 

Jacqueline Morasco.

While playwriting was new for Morasco, a certified yoga therapist, she has written a lot in other forms. The author of a bestselling book Wake Up: A Transformative Guide to Creating Simple and Sacred Rituals for More Energy, Focus and Fulfillment, she is creator of Mantra Oracle Cards, SOUL Sound, and Spirited Practice.

Morasco decided to cast the character of the patient as a person of color, acknowledging that many like Julie (the character in the play) often do not have comprehensive access to the proper care options or regular mammograms. But, she also wanted to emphasize how vital effective communication is between surgeon and patient, while simultaneously avoiding the temptation to cast one character simply as some sort of villain and the other as victim.  

“I hope that people who experience this will see this play, realizing they are not alone as well as the importance of speaking up for themselves,” Morasco explains. “My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer some 20 years ago and she did not ask for her paperwork because of her belief that whatever the doctor had to say is true. It is so important for patients to not hesitate in asking questions and requesting that they are answered not by some coordinator but by the doctor or surgeon who is directly treating them.”

Teri Cowan portrays the surgeon and Sonia Maritza Inoa-Rosado Maughan will play the role of the patient. 

Repertory Dance Theatre will premiere a section of a new work Oktet: In Situ, set by internationally known choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska to a recording of a string quartet adaptation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

The full work, which RDT will premiere as part of its November concert Venture during its 58th season, is the second one that Skarpetowska is setting as part of a triptych, which features music by Bach as the accompaniment to the choreography.

Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Photo Credit: Brian Guilliaux.

In an interview with The Utah Review, Skarpetowska says she is creating these works specifically for dance companies that are challenged to sustain and reinforce their core as an artistic community during events that complicate such an objective.

Sextette, the first piece in the triptych, was set on Smuin Ballet to music from Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. The San Francisco-based company was confronting how the pandemic had changed performance standards and artistic expectations. 

For RDT, Oktet: In Situ reflects how the eight principal dancers of the company have processed and rejuvenated the community core, after a controversial incident in 2022 led to the sudden departure of a fellow artist. Skarpetowska says the third section will be titled Quatuor but she has yet to determine the specific Bach music and who will be the company for that final piece.

Skarpetowska, who has worked extensively with Lar Lubovitch (a choreographer whose works are part of the RDT catalog), says she was impressed by how the dancers “rallied around each other and pulled together, and I wanted to celebrate their energy and individuality in building their own community.” She worked with RDT in 2021 as repetiteur, when the company performed several of Lubovitch’s works.

As for her selections of music by Bach, Skarpetowska says that he is a “great dance partner” and his works lend themselves to how she likes to structure her choreography. 

To See Beyond Our Time, Daniel Charon, Alexandra Harbold, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company artists. Photo Credit: Stuart Ruckman.

Ahead of its 60th anniversary season, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company will perform an excerpt from Daniel Charon’s To See Beyond Our Time, which the company performed in a production to close out last season. 

The work was a collaboration created by the dancers with Charon and Alexandra Harbold, a theatrical director who is on the University of Utah faculty and is cofounder of the Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory. Having received its premiere in April, the work is a potent third-way approach to engaging the audience to help build that critical mass of social will and consensus of opinion essential to addressing the existential crisis of the Great Salt Lake. Arts such as dance can stimulate the relevant conversation about the proper ways to mobilize efforts for saving the lake, without being burdened by pedantry, partisanship or moral lecturing. The company will perform the finale, Hope in the Dark. 

Tamara Johnson Howell, Bella Bella. Pygmalion Theatre Company.

Tamara Johnson Howell will perform a selection from PYGmalion Theatre Company’s 2022 production of Bella Bella by Harvey Fierstein. Howell portrays the late Bella Abzug, a rising political star who was part of the Democratic delegation from New York to the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1970s. As The Utah Review noted previously, Howell invokes a convincing, astutely accurate portrayal of Abzug in her most colorful rough-and-tumble image. Howell pulls all of the right strands from Fierstein’s theatrical tribute, which is based on Abzug’s words as well as those by members of her inner circle of friends and colleagues. Howell will perform a scene, recounting the 1940s when she was legal defense for Willie McGee, an African-American from Mississippi, who was convicted for the rape of a white woman and sentenced to death. McGee’s case epitomized the gravest possibilities of the miscarriage of justice in the Jim Crow South. 

Ahead of a season of concerts and next year’s international piano artists competition, Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation will feature Matthew Liu performing Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan, which references Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. While Bachauer audiences have been treated to magnificent performances of Liszt’s transcriptions, this work has a subtle yet significant difference, in that the title cites ‘reminiscences.’

Liszt no longer sees the eponymous character of the Mozart opera in a negative light as a licentious, flawed being but instead as a high-spirited unashamed romantic. A teenager, Liu was one of the six young pianists tapped to participate earlier this summer in Bachauer’s piano festival. He has won numerous piano competition prizes in the last two years.

For tickets and more information, see the Salt Lake County Arts and Culture link.

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