Director’s Take: Taylor Mac

brooke-horejsiWe recently sat down with UtahPresents Executive Director, Brooke Horejsi, to learn more about the January 14th performance of Taylor Mac at Kingsbury Hall.

Taylor Mac has created internationally award-winning performance events that at once provoke and embrace his diverse audience. Mac is beloved for his iconic beauty, disarming vulnerability, and soaring spirit. Drawing from his current project, “A 24 Decade History of Popular Music,”  and includes an epic performance over 24 continuous hours, this show will kick off MLK Week on campus and feature songs from 1946-1976, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Stonewall Riots.

Taylor Mac and A 24 Decade History of Popular Music have been a huge critical success this year, evoking some strong responses from audiences and media alike. Mac was named to the Out 100 2016, calling the performance, “the greatest theatrical feat ever.” Wesley Morris, critic-at-large for the New York Times hailed it as one “one of the great experiences of my life. I’ve slept on it an I’m sure.”

Brooke tells us audiences should, “expect to be inspired about how to be better and do better and work harder and love more. Expect to fall in love with Taylor Mac, and his message, and his work, and his beauty and his vulnerability, and his compassion.”

Take a moment to discover what Brooke Horejsi loves about Taylor Mac and what is in store for you on January 14.

Director’s Take: Ragamala Dance Company

brooke-horejsiUtahPresents Executive Director, Brooke Horejsi, recently discussed the November 12th performance of Ragamala Dance Company at Kingsbury Hall.

Ragamala Dance Company’s work explores the dynamic tension between the ancestral and the contemporary. As choreographers and performers, Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy create dance landscapes that dwell in opposition — secular and spiritual life, inner and outer worlds, human and natural concerns, rhythm and stillness — to find the transcendence that lies in between. As mother and daughter, each brings her generational experience to the work — the rich traditions, deep philosophical roots, and ancestral wisdom of India meeting and merging with their hybridic perspective as Indian-American artists.

The company has rave reviews, with the New York Times stating, “Ragamala shows how Indian forms can be some of the most transcendent experiences that dance has to offer. This is an excellent company…

Ragamala’s performance is also part of our audience program, The MixUP, and will feature a painting class at Kingsbury Hall before the show. Learn more from the MixUP on Facebook.

Take a moment to discover why Brooke Horejsi chose Ragamala and what is in store for you on November 12.

Director’s Take: Reduced Shakespeare Company

brooke-horejsiUtahPresents Executive Director, Brooke Horejsi, sat down to discuss the second exciting performance of the 2016-2017 Season. Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete History of America (abridged) is a ninety-minute rollercoaster ride through the glorious quagmire that is American history. The show which has had rave reviews and sold-out shows has been described by the Boston Herald as “What the ‘Daily Show’ might be like if it were hosted by the Marx Brothers.” Take a moment and see the fun in store for you at Reduced Shakespeare Company, and watch our blog for more insights from Brooke and others at UtahPresents.

Director’s Take: 2016-2017 Season

brooke-horejsiUtahPresents Executive Director, Brooke Horejsi, sat down to discuss some of the exciting performances in the 2016-2017 Season. With a wide variety ranging from hip-hop dance with Versa Style, to the improv stylings of Upright Citizens Brigade, and everything in between, the season truly offers up something for everyone. Brooke takes us through some of the season highlights, as well as her process for selecting artists to bring to Salt Lake City. Take a moment and see what is in store for you in 2016-2017, and watch our blog for more insights from Brooke and others at UtahPresents.

Inside UP – Inspired by Savion

This month’s issue of Inside UP brings you the story of a student who watched a school performance by Savion Glover and was inspired to begin creating his own dances.

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Inspiration to Dance

Dylan is a creative and curious 5th grader at Riley Elementary in Salt Lake City’s Glendale neighborhood. Dylan takes part in Functional Academics, which is for students with learning and behavioral special needs.

His dance teacher, Tina Misaka, is a Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program specialist, and brought her students to an exciting UtahPresents engagement performance with the world-renowned tap dancer and choreographer, Savion Glover in December 2015. The tap legend was visiting Salt Lake in the lead up to premiering new choreography for the Broadway adaptation of Shuffle Along, which just received several Tony Award nominations.

SavionatGlendale2At the lecture/demonstration, Savion showcased his incredible talent as a dancer and even brought students on stage to work with them directly – a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the thrilled children.

Savion involved students who had taken tap classes, and he showed them how he used his skill to not only move, but to make music with his tap – demonstrating that it’s as much an instrument as a dance style. The audience was electrified in the at-capacity auditorium of Glendale Elementary. The students, from one of Salt Lake City’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, were captivated hearing this engaging artist and person of color. Savion talked to them candidly about the challenges he has faced in life, and the inspiration it provided him.

Savion stressed that artists don’t always need to stay in the lines. The education system is often about normalizing and staying in the lines, but he imparted to the students that they could do more than just make a 4 beat with their feet – they can create anything. Dylan’s experience with the Tony Award-winner proved eye-opening and inspirational. In the classes following the special performance, Dylan was moved to create and practice not one, but two tap dances for Savion, which Ms. Misaka recorded.

Ms. Misaka works with the Functional Academic students in a self-contained dance class each week, allowing her to move at the students’ pace and provide the attention needed to have the greatest impact on the students.

Because of the work of dedicated teachers like Ms. Misaka and the community outreach of organizations like UtahPresents, children across Utah have the opportunity to experience art in an up-close, hands-on way, which has a profound impact on current and future academic success. To learn more or get involved with upcoming engagement activities, visit the community page on our website.

Inside UP – March

Welcome to the first issue of Inside UP, bringing you an in-depth look at connections between artists and our community.

This issue is written by U of U Theatre major Cece Otto, pictured below in the green and black tanktop, with Universes cast members and fellow workshop participants. Cece writes about her experience at a workshop with the theatre group Universes, and how that experience impacted her education and her career goals.

insideup3The Universes Experience
by Cece Otto

Seeing Universes was empowering as a young artist because the group is a great example that it is possible to create original work, and successfully share it with audiences around the globe. During this workshop we were not only given examples of original material, but we also were able to create our own. These pieces were only about 2 minutes long, but have the potential to be expanded into fuller productions. Creating the work was much easier than I expected, and left me with the impression that devising pieces is something that I could continue to do in the future.

As an actor, I often find I am at the mercy of the playwright’s words, the director’s staging, or the designers’ choices for the productions I participate in; my only job is to act the character based on the guidelines I am given. Universes demonstrated a different approach where they all work together to complete all aspects of the theatrical experience. By creating original work, I can have a hand in every piece of the show.

Universes is a unique experience because the poetry, music and opinions that can be heard throughout their performances are all products of the people on the stage. Many times in traditional theatrical settings, the playwrights do not perform their own pieces and may not even be alive. The actors become a mouth piece for the playwrights to speak through. Universes stands on the stage and shares their personal ideas with audiences which creates a special experience between audience and performer.

insideUP1The basis of the work that Universes does is that everything heard in a performance is created by using their bodies on stage. They do not use any supplementary music or sound in their performance. The workshop began with a few activities as a full group to get us comfortable in the setting as they taught us how they create their pieces of work.

The first stage of creating a piece came from the basis of all their works: The One. The One is the heartbeat of the piece. The One is the rhythm that is constant the entire time. The One can be anything, but is typically simple and consistent.

After The One has been established, the group continues to place other layers of sound on top of The One to create layers. This process is what creates the full sound that can be heard in the Universes music. These layers can consist of a variety of sounds, rhythms, and tempos, but all must be inspired by The One.

One of the Universes company members found his entry into music as a child by beat boxing, and he still uses that skill in their work today. In order to teach his sister, also a Universes member, how to beat box, he broke all of the sounds down into phonetic phrases. One of the simpler phrases is: puff-tippy-cah-tippy-tippy-puff-cah. By using this process, beginners can get the feel for what the rhythm is and gradually work into where the sounds live in their mouths to create a full beat boxing sound.

insideup2The last component we worked on was text. Each of us took some time to sit down and write a haiku poem about something we found very important, or that has affected our lives. After sharing these poems with the group we expanded them into full bodies of text. This could be a monologue, a free verse poem, a compilation of many small haikus, or whatever the writer found appropriate.

When we had our building blocks established (The One, layers, beat boxing, and text) we then split up into groups to create our own pieces. Each group was given 30 minutes to combine the text each member had written and create a piece using music created and sung by the group. As we were working, the Universes members came around and worked with the groups to provide suggestions and feedback throughout the process.

At the end of the workshop we performed our pieces.

I greatly enjoyed being able to work closely with this talented group of artists. I am thankful for the basis they have given me of how to continue creating my own work in the future. I appreciate their willingness to work with students and young artists to inspire new voices to share their thoughts and opinions with audiences. I hope to have the opportunity to work with them again in the future!

Think of UtahPresents this #GivingTuesday Dec. 1

This past weekend, we hope you enjoyed time with family and friends to celebrate, eat well, and share thanks for one another. In the center of the thanks we wish to share is our thanks to our incredible audience. It is because of you that we are inspired to offer dynamic, innovative performances that support the vibrant, cultural atmosphere in our city, county, and state.

After a few days of deals and gift purchasing, you may be interested in giving back—and you’re not alone! In the spirit of the season, UtahPresents joined #GivingTuesday as a way to harness the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Students arriving for a school matinee performance

Students arriving for a school matinee performance

When you make a tax-deductible donation to UtahPresents this #GivingTuesday, you:

  • Provide access to arts education for K-12 students who attend matinee performances with leading arts performers
  • Create opportunities for K-12 teachers to receive professional development training in the arts
  • Support sensory-friendly programming that enhances family entertainment
  • Promote innovative and thoughtful arts opportunities in our community

Will you support UtahPresents on #GivingTuesday? Each gift made will be matched up to $250 by an anonymous donor—meaning your gift will be doubled and have double the impact on our education and outreach programming.

Join us on Dec. 1 for #GivingTuesday and be part of a movement that inspires people to improve their local communities by giving back in impactful ways.


UNIVERSES Residency Brings Opportunities to Create and Learn

Guest post by Julie Rada, Raymond C. Morales Post-MFA Fellow in the Department of Theatre
Universes. Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz, Gamal Abdel Chasten y Ninja. Hemispheric Institute 7th Encuentro: Staging Citizenship, Cultural Rights in the Americas (Bogot‡, Colombia, August 2009)

Universes. Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz, Gamal Abdel Chasten y Ninja.
Hemispheric Institute 7th Encuentro: Staging Citizenship, Cultural Rights in the Americas (Bogot‡, Colombia, August 2009)

Founded in The Bronx, New York in 1995, the members of UNIVERSES came together in the urban poetry and music scene of downtown New York and have come to build a home for themselves in the landscape of the American theatre. I first encountered UNIVERSES in 2008 as a working performer in Colorado where UNIVERSES was visiting in a residency at Curious Theatre Company, developing a performance called The Denver Project. I had the pleasure in participating in one of their workshop weekends, helping to develop the project. I was inspired by their work. They were a visiting ensemble, but sought to connect with the city in a meaningful way, guiding a group of local artists in the creation of an original work of music, poetry, and movement. I observed that how they worked was connected to why they worked, deeply engaging with local issues, supporting the creative work of others, and demonstrating their own virtuosic skills in singing, composing, and crafting stories and songs.

As a company comprised of Puerto-Rican and African-American artists, UNIVERSES’ diversity is changing the face of the American theatre. Over two decades, UNIVERSES has performed at high-profile venues throughout the U.S., toured extensively worldwide, and has been honored with prestigious awards. UNIVERSES devises new musicals about powerful, humanistic topics such as the history of the Black Panthers and Young Lords movement in the U.S. (Party People) or the aftermath of Katrina (AmeriVille), treating each topic with critical insight that provides understanding while also revealing questions that complicate these histories and the human condition.

In this residency, University students will have the opportunity to create with UNIVERSES and peers on campus, gaining practical experience with the unique methods that UNIVERSES utilizes to generate their work. Participants will discover the intrinsic value in developing a “blueprint” of their own stories, connecting their personal narratives to historical events, and infuse them with rhythm, song, and poetry. As I look at how the regional and commercial theatre models are shifting, I believe that emerging 21st -century artists must generate their own work. UNIVERSES stands as an example of a small, classically-trained ensemble of self-made artists that is doing just that. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions of UNIVERSES and practice the skills the ensemble demonstrates in generating new material.


Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz in Eyewitness Blues, photo by Joan Marcus

Then we will all get to see UNIVERSES in action! Students and the public will experience “Live from the Edge,” an evening that showcases the ensemble’s brand of fusion theater that tracks the evolution of their poetic language from childhood rhymes and community rituals, to poetry and theater, hip-hop and gospel. Watching high-caliber performance is innately beneficial and inspiring, particularly for aspiring performing artists. Performances by UNIVERSES are met with national critical acclaim and, from my own experiences seeing UNIVERSES live, I can attest to them as captivating and electric. UNIVERSES doesn’t disappoint in creating work that is hip, catchy, and thoughtful. I can’t wait to see them again.


Mnozil Brass Puts the Fun Back in Fundamentals

After their amazing (and hilarious) performance at Libby Gardner Hall on Oct 18, Mnozil Brass spent the following day holding workshops for music students from both the U’s School of Music and from area high schools.IMG_6297







Individual coaching was available both to University of Utah Students and local High School students, with input and advice on technique, phrasing and expressiveness. Several students were advised to sing their music before playing, to concentrate on the melody and the story the music is telling to the audience. Some students were even asked to act out the melody, being told to act like elves and other magical creatures (much to the students’ chagrin and everyone else’s pleasure). Mnozil brought their witty Austrian humor to pass on their creative story telling to another generation of brass players.













The Mnozil musicians also provided coaching for chamber groups, including a trombone quartet from the University of Utah and President’s Circle Brass, comprised of high school brass musicians from several area high schools, including Park City, Bountiful, Riverton, Maple Mountain and American Fork. Mnozil musicians worked on unifying these chamber groups both in interpretation and in pitch.

President’s Circle Brass, led by the School of Music’s Dr. Seretta Hart, performed several pieces as a opening act to Mnozil’s public performance, perfectly setting the mood for Mnozil’s dynamic performance.

Sold-out TEDxSaltLakeCity kicks off the UtahPresents 2015-2016 season

Nothing can beat a warm Saturday afternoon in mid-September. Although fall has begun to sweep through the University of Utah campus, none of the usual autumn lethargy was felt among the sold-out TEDxSaltLakeCity crowd. It was electric inside the Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium with a crowd of incredibly thoughtful and creative people.

fd8b0f77d767f1f6640afba6916ff67c_LUtahPresents was thrilled to open its 2015-2016 presenting season with this imaginative event. TEDx brings together passionate members of our community to organize these events, which have become iconic for bridging our understandings of complex issues through the power of storytelling. TEDxSaltLakeCity brought an array of diverse topics presented by innovators within our community. Ranging from aerial arts to conversations about love and partnership, to presentations about how rare cancers can inform basic medical practices—TEDx inspired us all to reconnect and reimagine the world we share together.

To all who joined us, thank you! And to those who would have liked to join us, you’re in luck! UtahPresents has an exclusive partnership with TEDxSaltLakeCity and will present the 2016 and 2017 events. We hope you’ll join us. Look for tickets to go on sale July 2016.