Zoo, Arts & Parks Blog
Plan-B Theatre brings Good Standing to life on stage, a love letter to uncertainty and complicated faith
UPDATE: Plan-B has announced there are only 90 tickets remaining in Good Standing's run. Tickets can be purchased through planbtheatre.org.
By Matthew Greene
It’s possible that if I hadn’t spent so many years in the proverbial closet I never would’ve become a writer. It’s the oldest story in the book, isn’t it? Creativity born out of private pain. I spent my days playing the perfect Mormon, slipping that ill-fitting
costume on over the self I’d learned to loathe and trying my best to walk a path that was, frankly, killing me. My solace in those dark days was the pen and the page. In the fictional worlds I crafted, nothing could stop me from exploring the tantalizing
gray areas and questioning tenets of belief that were supposed to be taken as gospel.
The heady, emotional conflict taking place between these two characters onstage was just a reflection of the debate running constantly through my own confused, closeted head
day and night.
I was an undergrad at Brigham Young University (that’s right, Mormon Mecca) when Proposition 8 rocked California and, in turn, the world. Desperate to make sense of the divisive and disturbing rhetoric I heard every day, I wrote a play called ADAM & STEVE
AND THE EMPTY SEA, exploring what the gay marriage debate did to two friends, one openly gay and the other openly Mormon. After nearly getting me kicked out of school, the play received its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre in 2013. People were quick
to identify Adam, the devout church member, as my onstage stand-in, but who, they all seemed to ask me, was the inspiration for Steve, his gay best friend who wanted simply the freedom to love? I capitulated and talked around the question, not wanting
to reveal the truth: the heady, emotional conflict taking place between these two characters onstage was just a reflection of the debate running constantly through my own confused, closeted head day and night.
Years have passed since then, and I’ve changed the narrative quite a bit. I’m now an out-and-proud gay man who made the choice, in a moment of crisis, to love himself no matter what. I worried, though, as I crawled out from under the weight of religious
expectation, if I’d lose the drive to write now that I felt so liberated, so unburdened. It turns out, once again, that I was naive. Taking a step (or two or three) toward authenticity didn’t make the world any less complicated. Allowing myself to
truly fall in love (surprise surprise) led to more emotional tumult than I’d ever imagined. And stating emphatically all the things I didn’t believe in could only go so far in helping to make sense of this murky mess of a world.
There's no way to untangle the threads of identity that have made me who I am...
The truth is, life is tricky even after you’ve gone through a “personal renaissance” and my new play GOOD
STANDING is proof of that. But unlike ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA, I’ll own up to the true inspiration behind the script’s central figure: it’s me. The man onstage torn between love and belief was born out of the internal debates I’m still having.
There’s no way to untangle the threads of identity that have made me who I am and I’ve got Mormonism practically woven into my DNA. I treasure the new life I’ve crafted for myself, but I mourn the loss of innocence I knew within comfy church walls
and regret the pain I’ve caused to those who love me.
Life didn’t magically become easier when I finally admitted that I, like Curtis in this play, dreamed of finding a husband, not a wife. What’s different, I guess, is an enhanced ability to feel joy and to claim it as my own. But the search continues:
the search for meaning and for purpose and for the light I know is out there. GOOD STANDING is another step in that ongoing journey, a love letter to uncertainty and to complicated, problematic faith.
Playwright Matthew Greene premiered his play
ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA at Plan-B Theatre Company in 2013; it then
played the New York International Fringe Festival. His latest, GOOD STANDING,
opens Plan-B’s 2018/19 season October 18-28 and will also play the United Solo
theatre festival in New York. Tickets and details at planbtheatre.org
Plan-B World Premieres ZOMBIE THOUGHTS, a Create-Your-Own-Adventure-play
by 11-year-old Oliver Kokai-Means
IS THIS THE SAME ONE?!
My name is Oliver. I am a kid who likes soccer, who likes sports, and who likes and is really good at reading, and video games, and is not what some people would say normal is. Because I have anxiety.
My anxiety has caused problems for me because I don’t like being with people I don’t know, so first days are extra hard for me. It has also caused me problems with teachers who don’t understand, and with making friends.
Our play ZOMBIE THOUGHTS is about a pig named Pig and a nine-year-old kid named Sam who has anxiety [I was nine when we started writing the play]. They are in a video game and they go on an adventure with different levels and try to beat them, but they
have a hard time and they fail most of the time. They try and work on it and then they finally beat a level and then they have to fight The Machine. They technically beat The Machine but it doesn’t go away because you can’t beat anxiety. The audience
gets to make a lot of choices in the play, like they’re the ones playing the video game. I identify with Sam.
One of the things that happens in anxiety is you get scared of all this stuff, and some of the stuff that you’re scared of doesn’t even exist. Zombie Thoughts are where you do something but you don’t think about it first. You just do it. Like, one of
the things about anxiety is you don’t stop and think about what you’re scared of. You don’t stop and say, wait, zombies aren’t real.
I learned about Zombie Thoughts from my old therapist, Gennie. Every week I would see her and talk about stuff involving this topic and, based on what she knows, she would give me some ideas and I would try them and if they worked I would tell her and
continue them and if they didn’t, I would tell her and we wouldn’t use them. In the play, Pig teaches Sam some of the things I’ve learned. You shouldn’t get mad at people. If someone suggests something that scares you, you shouldn’t get mad at them,
you should say, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
I refused to go on Space Mountain and threw a fit. But when I actually thought about it and went on it, I loved it and now it’s one of my favorite rides.
To write the play my Mom and I had a lot of conversations about what could go in it. Then we decided to make it like a video game. There aren’t that many choose-your-own adventure plays, so I like that, and I really like video games. I gave my Mom the
ideas and the characters and she wrote the words.
I like how the play goes right to the topic and doesn’t kind of talk around it. It doesn’t have an end really. That’s what some people wanted, but it doesn’t really make sense because of what the play is trying to convey. It has kind of a happy ending,
but it doesn’t use sweet words and avoid the topic it’s trying to talk about. Adults will talk about anxiety and things like that, but they’ll kind of talk around what it is and they’ll use words that make it sound like this cute little thing and
not a big issue that you should worry about.
I hope that kids who see the play understand that those people with anxiety aren’t just scared, they’re scared in a way they can’t help, and you shouldn’t make fun of these people for being scared because they can’t help it. I also hope that if they have
things they’re scared about, the ideas in the play help them learn how to feel better.
ZOMBIE THOUGHTS, co-written by Jennifer A. Kokai and her
son Oliver Kokai-Means, receives its world premiere as Plan-B’s sixth annual
Free Elementary School Tour, serving 8,000 elementary students, grades K-6, at
46 schools in 12 counties beginning October 1. Public performances October 8
(Weber State University, $5) and October 13 & 25 (Salt Lake City Public
Library branches, free). Details at planbtheatre.org.
Congratulations to the 2018 ZAP Tier II Grant Recipients!
On August 28, 2018, Salt Lake County Council unanimously approved $2.2 million of funding recommended by Salt Lake County’s ZAP Tier II Advisory Board for local arts and cultural nonprofits. The nonprofit grant recipients represent a wide range of disciplines, including community symphonies, historical museums, dance companies, visual arts programs, theatre companies, art and ethnic festivals, natural history organizations, folk arts groups, botanical gardens, and more. Recipient organizations span every district in the County.
$2.2 million in approved grant funding
for the 2018 funding cycle is split between 183 organizations. 20 of these
organizations are brand new to ZAP this year. This 7% increase in applicants
beats out 2017 as the highest number to date, meaning the ZAP program is
providing more support to growing arts and cultural organizations each year
thanks to tax payer support.
year’s applications from ZAP grantees show these dollars being put to
incredible use. “With ZAP funding we serve people who primarily are not served
by other performing arts projects. Heart & Soul brings over 900 live
concerts each year to Salt Lake County residents.” said Janna Lauer of Heart
& Soul, a Salt Lake County nonprofit that brings live local music and
performances to disadvantaged, marginalized, and isolated individuals. These performances
represent a small (but vital) fraction of county residents reached through ZAP
from the remarkable range of work include:
- 18,433 events provided (a 34% increase from last year)
- 2.9 million attendees/participants
- 1.7 million free admissions to events and programs
- 35% increase in full and part-time jobs provided (1479 to 2009
- 46,683 contracted positions, from artists to photographers to
scientists and more
- 30,426 volunteers
For many arts and cultural organizations, ZAP funding represents
integral community support for their organizations. “ZAP provides critical
funding to…encourage residents to engage with their neighbors through art
events.” shared Sheryl Gillian, executive director of the Holladay Arts
Council. Their Recent Crossing Paths
project by local artist Jim McGee pulled residents from all over Holladay to
their City Hall during its month-long showcase.
Over 400 hours were spent by the ZAP Tier II Advisory Board in
carefully reviewing applications, plus another 30 hours discussing, scoring,
and determining funding amounts. $3.4 million was requested by 187 total
applicants, and through this diligent review process the Advisory Board
determined the $2.2 million in funding approved by County Council on Tuesday.
With funding recommendations now approved, the 2018 Tier II application process is now complete. Organizations funded in Tier II can expect to receive funding in two installments in January and May of 2019.
Applications for 2019 will open in January.
Want to learn more?
1. View acomplete list of funded organizations.
2. Learn more abouthow to apply for ZAP funds.
BREAKING NEWS: the theme for the 7th Annual ROSE EXPOSED is … wait for it … BREAKING NEWS!
Roland and Kary Billings from Gina Bachauer
During the hour-long program on Saturday evening, August 25th, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, newly-created short works illuminating the nature of Breaking News in our present-day world will be performed by resident companies Plan-B Theatre,
PYGmalion Theatre Company, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, and SB Dance. Repertory Dance Theatre will weave the pieces together with dance interludes, all accompanied by live performances of pianist Josh Wright, representing Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation.
ROSE EXPOSED was launched initially to spotlight the art performed at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (also known as “The Rose”) and also to raise the profile of this under-appreciated venue to something beyond “the building across the street
from Squatters.” We six resident companies happily co-resided within the facility for years. Creating this now-annual event together has taken us from neighbors to collaborators, and is a welcome opportunity to share and explore each other’s distinctive artistic personalities.
It is a joyous thing to collaborate on a “one night only” performance, bringing to light what Stephen Brown of SB dance calls “the richest part of the local cultural ecosystem.” The synergy of making cooperative performance art has proved energizing to the
performers and creators and has delighted audience members for the past six years on the last Saturday in August.
Initially, the event was a day-long festival culminating in a variety show featuring each company in a ten-minute performance created that day. An early afternoon child-friendly program was also a feature the first two years. For example, a collaboration
between Plan-B and The Bachauer, brought forth an interactive theater piece telling the story of “Peter and the Wolf,” which was subsequently performed in more than 25 elementary schools.
From 2014-2016, we made a more direct impact by donating the evening’s proceeds to a community-based organization from whose work we could draw inspiration. The Road Home was the recipient of the 2014 gift, and the partnership influenced the art with each
company creating a piece based on the theme of “Home.”
In 2015 Art Access shaped the “Dreamers” theme, and in 2016 a partnership with the Tracy Aviary inspired works that took “Flight.”
In 2017, we introduced a connective through-line, with Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey moving from piece to piece frantically and repeatedly telling each other and everyone else that “The Sky is Falling!”
In 2018, ROSE EXPOSED will again employ a through-line, with dance, theatre, and live piano music working together to bring you BREAKING NEWS, highlighting the immediacy and urgency that the world around us seems to demand.
Don’t miss opening night on August 25. In our high-paced world, opening night and closing night are one and the same!
Tickets are $15 at
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company: Almost at the Finish Line as the End of Season 54th Approaches
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Elements-Elementos Family Series
By Juan Carlos Claudio/Outreach Director and Ai Fujii Nelson/Education Director
The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company would like to thank the Salt Lake County residents, patrons, and ZAP voters once again. It is because of your support that the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is almost to the finish line as we approach the end of our 54th Season. As one of the pioneering forces in the arts in the State of Utah, we take pride in the work we do and the opportunities we offer to the beautiful tapestry of our diverse residents of Salt Lake City. As part of your tax support, we were able to provide free dance performances for children, seniors, and families who can not otherwise afford it. We could also bring dance education in the Salt Lake schools (7 of them were Title-1 schools) and serve over 3,700 students and 200 teachers. Your support also helped us provide public school teacher training and professional development opportunities, assisting the educators to improve the quality of their teaching and integrate arts effectively into their curriculum.
North Star Elementary "Kids in Motion" Residency Programs
“Previously, Dylan went to kindergarten through third grade at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. Dylan has been in a mainstream classroom in a public school for just over one year. During this dance experience, Dylan was able to work and communicate with a partner, a team, and the entire class through movement… I think his ability to be physically lifted up by his peers was a great symbol…even for his classmates to remember that one way we support Dylan like we did in the dance, is to make sure we show him we care about his ideas”
Ashlee Ekins, M.Ed., 4th Grade Educator, North Star Elementary (Title-1)
"Your assembly is the best we’ve ever had. Often assemblies do not include performers who are representative of our student body, and they are difficult for our students to comprehend (meaning the performance do not scaffold enough). We loved your assembly. It is the perfect length, highly engaging, it involves students emotionally and physically and it is bilingual. It is the first bilingual assembly we have ever had. And the performers are diverse and representative.”;
Nicole O’Brien, Principal, Rose Park Elementary and Community School (Title-1)
4th Graders at North Star Elementary in "Kids in Motion " Residency Program
We are still moving strongly towards the finish line, as dancers Yebel Gallegos, Mary Lyn Graves, Megan McCarthy, Dan Mont-Eton, Bashaun Williams and Melissa Younker dance for all they’re worth. We wrap up our 54th Season with a cultural diplomacy tour to Mongolia and South Korea as part of DanceMotion USA℠ program, accompanied by Executive Director/Tour Manager/Jena C. Woodbury, Artistic Director/Daniel Charon, and Technical Director/William Peterson. DanceMotion USA℠ is a people-to-people international exchange initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
As the proud representative of the State Department, State of Utah, and Salt Lake City, the Company is spreading its knowledge, passion, and love for dance and education. During this month-long tour, the dancers have been able to teach children, young and older adults, and persons with alternate abilities about the values of dance as well as presenting lectures/roundtable discussions and formal performances. Our message is that dance is a universal language; “Dance is for Everybody”. We believe that they will return with the richness of their cultural experience and their hearts full of wonderful memories, and they will be ready to share their renewed energy and passion for the art of dance with the students and the audience of Salt Lake City in the upcoming season. Here’s to a great finish line and much more to come in the new 55th Season.
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in South Korea
Thank you for your support!