Against the national backdrop of protests turning violent, immigration raids and presidential claims of “fake news,” six Salt Lake City performing arts groups considered themes for their annual Rose Exposed collaboration.
As something of a joke, Linda C. Smith, artistic director of Repertory Dance Theater, suggested the Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey folk tale of “The Sky Is Falling.” “It was one of those ‘aha’ moments, where I thought: ‘That’s exactly what I had been feeling,’” she says, laughing.
The well-worn tale about paranoia and mass hysteria provides a timely catalyst for the sixth annual Rose Exposed, a performance sampler showcasing the six resident companies of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. This year’s event on Saturday, Aug. 26, also marks the building’s 20th anniversary.
The theme suggests a cartoon as well as the tone of political irreverence, both of which offer a creative springboard, says Fran Pruyn, artistic director of PYGmalion Productions. “It’s great to work with different disciplines and different approaches,” she says.
The theme suggests the urgent information overload experienced in contemporary life, says Jerry Rapier, artistic director of Plan-B Theatre Company. “No matter where you turn, every day, every minute of the day, no matter whether you are liberal or conservative, there’s an urgent declaration that the world is about to end,” Rapier says. “That is not true, obviously, but I don’t remember it ever feeling like that ever before in my lifetime. Our goal was not to be political, but simply aware of what we’re all feeling together, no matter what our point of view. It’s affecting us all.”
The event will end with an apocalyptic comedy written by playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett, who has created 17 short plays for Plan-B over the years. PYGmalion actors Teresa Sanderson and Tamara Howell will be featured as Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey, the folk-tale characters who will weave together the event with songs, including a rap number.
Each of the performances will be accompanied by pianist Stephen Beus, the 2006 gold medalist of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
The annual event was launched to spotlight the art performed at The Rose, a Salt Lake County-operated facility, and to brand the 300 South building as something other than “the building across from Squatters,” Smith says.
She recounts the building’s origin story. In the early 1990s, the contemporary dance company was temporarily homeless after the demolition of its barracks home at the University of Utah. While renting space in a warehouse on 300 South, she watched an older man return daily to watch rehearsals.
At first, Smith thought the man was homeless. Then he told her wife used to be a vaudeville dancer, Smith says, and explained that he had been born in a family home on the site. The man turned out to be businessman I.J. “Izzi” Wagner, whose donations led to the construction of the building that was named for his mother.
Over the past 20 years, the Salt Lake County-operated performing-arts center has become a crown jewel of the local arts scene. “This is my artistic home,” Brown says. “I’m able to do things in this theater that I couldn’t do anywhere else, without a budget that’s 10 times larger.”
The annual Rose Exposed collaboration provides a one-of-a-kind artistic showcase, which simply can be “a pretty cool show,” as Brown describes.
“We know our responsibility as artists is to inspire people, and sometimes disturb and challenge and entertain,” Smith says. “This is a place where we really understand what the arts can do.”
Rose Exposed: “The Sky Is Falling“
When • Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $15 ($10 students); 801-355-ARTS or roseexposed.org