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Plan-B Theatre brings solo play Good Standing to life, a love letter to uncertainty and complicated faith


October 22, 2018

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UPDATE: Plan-B has announced there are only 90 tickets remaining in Good Standing's run. Tickets can be purchased through planbtheatre.org.

Good Standing Graphic

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.

Matthew Greene, Playwright of Good Standing
Matthew Greene, playwright of Good Standing


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


October 19, 2018

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Zombie Thoughts Header

ZOMBIE THOUGHTS

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.

Alicia Washington as Pig, Katie Jones Nall as Sam
Alicia Washington as Pig, Katie Jones Nall as Sam

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. 

Jennifer A. Kokai and her 11-year-old son Oliver Kokai-Means
Jennifer A. Kokai and her 11-year-old son Oliver Kokai-Means

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.

Jennifer A. Kokai and Oliver Kokai-Means at Arts Express
Jennifer A. Kokai and Oliver Kokai-Means at Arts Express


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!


August 28, 2018

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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.

Tier II Funding At A Glance

The $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.

 

This 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 funding.

Highlights 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 positions)
  • 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 a complete list of funded organizations.

2. Learn more about how to apply for ZAP funds.

 

 


Discovery Gateway Gears Up for New Exhibits Reveal


June 12, 2018

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New Exhibits Sign

After years of long meetings, sleepless nights, and lots of hard work, Discovery Gateway is gearing up to reveal two brand new world-class exhibits! On June 23rd, experience racing rivers, water vortexes, and tipping buckets in a brand new re-vamped Water Play exhibit and, by the end of this summer, Discovery Gateway visitors will be able to climb, hop, slide, and buzz around in the Honey Climber exhibit. In 2015, Discovery Gateway's executive director, Laurie Hopkins, announced to the team big plans for the next three years. And just like that, the Discovery Gateway staff were off to work in their busy beehive.

“Three years ago, the staff and board agreed to revitalize the museum by adding new exhibits, weekly programming, and updating existing exhibits. At Discovery Gateway, we were determined to be a part of the solution in improving the West side of the city by working together with our talented staff and the county, city, and state governments,” Hopkins commented.
 

Discovery Gateway has certainly had a lively three years. Since 2015, the children’s museum has invested $1.5 million in exhibit upgrades, and has opened seven new permanent exhibits, including Block Party, DG Derby: Powered by Gravity, SkyCycle, Live Hive, and the Intermountain Rescue Hangar A Little Girl Playing at Museumin Saving Lives. The Discovery Gateway team wanted to end their three-year plan with a bang. "Discovery Gateway has made huge strides over the past three years, and I couldn't be more proud or excited about all the progress we've made in such a short period of time. The Honey Climber and Water Play exhibits are the height of our three-year strategic plan for museum revitalization, and they bring us one step closer to being a world-class children's museum," said Hopkins. 

Celebrate the opening of Water Play on Saturday, June 23. The event will kick off at 9 am for a VIP and Members-Only preview of the new exhibits and at 10 am the public is welcome to join the party! There will be prizes, giveaways, and educational activities to celebrate this highly anticipated event. Honey Climber will open later this summer.

Water Play

Over at Water Play, children are encouraged to imagine, discover, and connect by working together as engineers and builders by designing a waterway or dam. "Water Play has been a beloved centerpiece in Kids Eye View since the opening of The Gateway location. The exhibit was simply too loved, and was time to replace it,” Hopkins said about Water Play. With the use of water wheels and vortexes, buckets, scoops, and running water children will develop essential science skills like observing, comparing, and predicting. By working together to solve problems, children will boost their communication skills as they play cooperatively, negotiate space, and share Water Play equipment.

Honey Climber Exhibit












Honey Climber will keep the whole family engaged and active as kids climb through a maze of honeycombs, walk across rope bridges, and slide down to explore The Garden. Children are invited to use their imaginations and discover new paths as they transform into a busy bee. "Having a new climber is important to us, not only because children love to climb and get above it all, but also because a climber is a gold-standard exhibit for children’s museums. The addition of the Honey Climber gives children opportunities to explore and gain confidence while developing decision-making and gross motor skills," expressed Hopkins. The Honey Climber is the finishing touch in the museums existing exhibit, The Garden, which demonstrates the importance of bees and their connection to Utah.

When asked about plans for Discovery Gateways future, Hopkins commented, "Water Play and Honey BalloonsClimber are the culmination of our revitalization project. Our goal over the next year is to focus on maintaining and updating existing exhibits to keep the museum fresh and exciting so that every time a family visits they will receive the best experience possible. In addition, Discovery Gateway will continue to improve upon and add to on-site programs that amplify the learning that’s going on in the exhibits for families that want a deeper level of experience."
 

Be sure to mark your calendars for June 23rd and join Discovery Gateway for a day of celebration, play, prizes, curiosity, and discovery at the Water Play exhibit grand opening! Follow Discovery Gateway on their social media channels to keep up with the buzz about the launch of Honey Climber.

 

-Anna Branson

 

Anna Branson is the Marketing Assistant at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. She is a recent graduate from the University of Utah in Communications and interned at Discovery Gateway in the Spring. When she’s not practicing her marketing skills, Anna loves to travel, camp, or simply relax at home.



Springtime Fun with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation


March 22, 2018

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slco egg hunt

by Michelle Ludema

On your marks, get set, go! Grab your baskets and get ready for some springtime fun. Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation is kicking off the season with a handful of community egg hunts across the valley.

Egg Hunt

All egg hunts are free unless otherwise noted. Arrive early, as each hunt begins at the listed time.

Friday, March 23 slco flexing bunny

  • Fairmont Aquatic Center, 5:00 PM | Ages 3-12
    Fairmont Park, 1044 East Sugarmont Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
  • Teen Flashlight Egg Hunt, 8:00 PM | Ages 13-18
    Copperview Recreation Center, 8446 South Harrison Street (300 West), Midvale, UT 84047

Saturday, March 24

  • Copperview Recreation Center, 9:00 AM | Ages 12 and under
    8446 South Harrison Street (300 West), Midvale, UT 84047

Saturday, March 31 – 9:00 AM Sharp!

  • Northwest Recreation Center | Ages 2-12
    Soccer Field, 1255 Clark Avenue (300 North), Salt Lake City, UT 84116
  • Kearns Recreation Center | Ages 2-10
    Oquirrh Park Soccer Field, 5670 South Cougar Lane, Kearns, UT 84118
  • Redwood Recreation Center | 12 and under
    West Soccer Field, 3060 South Lester St, West Valley City, UT 84119
  • Taylorsville Recreation Center | 12 and under
    Valley Regional Park Softball Complex, 5100 South 2700 West, Taylorsville, UT 84118
  • Sorenson Multicultural Center | 12 and under
    Soccer field, 855 West California Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Egg Dives

Egg dives are a fun twist from the regular egg hunt. Splash around the pool as you fill up your basket! Registration is required, so sign up quick!

Friday, March 23 slco egg dive

  • JL Sorenson Recreation Center, 5:00 - 6:00 PM | Ages 12 and under
    5350 West Herriman Main Street, Herriman, UT 84096
    $4 per participant

Saturday, March 30

  • Northwest Recreation Center, 6:00 -7:00 PM | Ages 12 and under
    1255 Clark Avenue (300 North), Salt Lake City, UT 84116
    $3 per participant
    Includes additional activities for all ages

Saturday, March 31

  • Dimple Dell Recreation Center, 8:30 AM-11:40 AM | Ages 13 and under
    10670 South 1000 East, Sandy, UT 84094
    $6 per participant

April Fools Run

Too cool for baskets or up for chasing a finish line instead? Central City Recreation will be hosting the annual April Fools 5k and Fun Run at Sugar House Park! Both runs are open to all ages, and include prizes and fun that the whole family can participate in. Pre-registration by March 23 is encouraged, so sign up today.


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30 percent of Zoo, Arts and Parks funds go toward supporting parks and recreation opportunities throughout Salt Lake County. To learn more about what’s happening with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, visit recreation.slco.org. For adaptive and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities, contact Ashley with Adaptive Recreation at 385-468-1520 or abowen@slco.org.

Michelle Ludema is the Public Relations Coordinator for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. She loves a good egg hunt and believes that arts, parks and recreational opportunities inspire healthy, innovative communities.


2018 ZAP Kids Summer Passport Cover Design Contest


March 19, 2018

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2018CoverDesignContest

In 2017, Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks, in partnership with the Salt Lake County Libraries and the Clark Planetarium, hosted the first ZAP Kids Summer Passport. The Passport opens up a world of possibilities, allowing youth and their families to explore several free or discounted activities offered by the County and ZAP-funded organizations.

This year we have increased our partnerships to include the Salt Lake City Public Libraries and Murray City Library. We have also expanded our participating organizations' activity list, which will be available to view early May in preparation for our Passport kick-off June 1 at the Salt Lake County Library.

ZAP also hosts a Cover Design Contest where Salt Lake County youth under the age of 17 are encouraged to design their own cover of what the zoo, arts and parks mean to them. For our 2018 contest, we asked them to show us how they rock, in correspondence with the libraries Summer Reading Program theme of "Libraries Rock!" The winner of this year's Cover Design Contest will have their design and name printed on our 2018 ZAP Kids Summer Passport.

We had so many great entries this year! ZAP staff has narrowed all the designs down to our top four (4) choices, and are now asking for your help to choose the winner. The names and ages will be kept hidden at this time to keep judging anonymous and fair.

Here are the top entries, in alphabetical order:

A Day at the Zoo

2018cover_Day at the Zoo

Family Fun

2018cover_Family Fun

Welcome to Animal Wonders

2018cover_Welcome to Animal Wonders

ZAP Makes Fun Summers Happen

2018cover_ZAP Makes Summer Fun Happen

Visit our Jotform poll to place your vote! Share the poll and encourage your friends and family to vote for your favorite cover design, too. Votes will be limited to one per person. Voting will remain open until Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced on Facebook Monday morning, March 26.

Happy voting!



Salt Lake County accepting applications from arts organizations for funding consideration


February 23, 2018

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cfspmemeSALT LAKE COUNTY, UT—Arts and cultural projects or organizations can apply to receive funding from Salt Lake County as part of the Cultural Facilities Support Program. Phil Jordan, Salt Lake County Cultural Planning & Project Director, says the county is accepting applications until April 20, 2018. The selected projects will be considered for funding during Salt Lake County’s 2019 budget process.

Jordan says applicants are required to attend a mandatory workshop on March 1st from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 South State Street, north building, room N3-200**.

**Edit: The workshop room has been changed to N2-800**

The Cultural Facilities Support Program was first established in 2011 to support construction or renovations of arts and cultural facilities in Salt Lake County, says Jordan. Eligible projects must be publicly accessible arts and/or cultural facilities that serve the performing arts, visual arts, literature, media, or cultural history. Previously funded projects include Midvale Performing Arts Center renovations, new seating and lighting at Cottonwood Butler Middle School’s auditorium, and construction of the Salt Lake County Mid-Valley Performing Arts center – opening in 2020.

Jordan says each application undergoes a technical review by a team made up of Salt Lake County facilities management, finance, and Community Services staff. Their findings are then provided to the Cultural Facilities Support Program (CFSP) Advisory Board which reviews each application. The board then recommends projects to the County Mayor to consider including in the county’s annual budget with a final review and possible approval by the County Council.

More information including an application and program guidelines can be found at slco.org/community-services. Applicants can contact Phil Jordan for more information at pjordan@slco.org or 801-244-1962.

Program Guidelines & Information   Apply via ZoomGrants

Plan-B Theatre Company Presents the World Premiere of THE WEIRD PLAY by Jenifer Nii


February 05, 2018

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plan-b weird play horizontal

Jenifer Nii’s latest play, THE WEIRD PLAY, is the second subscription offering of Plan-B Theatre Company's 2017/18 Season - our 27th season! Performances are March 1-11 and tickets may be purchased online.

Jenifer proudly calls Plan-B her creative home. She has previously premiered five plays with the company: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (the first original musical in our history created with composer and co-lyricist David Evanoff); THE SCARLET LETTER and SUFFRAGE (garnering back-to-back nominations for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York); RUFF! (our third annual Free Elementary School Tour); and WALLACE (co-written with Debora Threedy). THE WEIRD PLAY is a co-production with Sackerson and is a recipient of the Dramatist Guild Foundation's inaugural Writers Alliance Grant.

plan-b weird play jenifer nii

FROM PLAYWRIGHT JENIFER NII:

It’s all in the title, I suppose. I just couldn’t think of another way to describe the content or the process of my latest play. It’s all different, and weird. My hope is that it’s a good weird, and not just weird weird.

THE WEIRD PLAY began as a challenge to myself: to step outside everything I was comfortable with and everything I’d done before, to face head-on the aspects of theatre that had frightened me in the past. I wanted to experiment with language, to discover whether I could retain my “voice” using another style of expression – and a style I wasn’t seeing presented in theatre at the time. I wanted to utilize the set, light, props, and movement in a way I hadn’t tried before. It’s the first time I’ve scripted in any detailed way a vision of what I wanted the piece to look like, and to use those elements as characters with roles to play. And, I wanted to write something that invited (required, really) audience members to participate and determine what the play is about and what it means to them.

This play is different also in that we had three (THREE!) readings before the play was cast. The cast changed each time. The first time, it featured two men and a woman. The next two readings featured women. I wrote it with that possibility in mind – that it might be gender-blind, or at least flexible. It also is meant to be race-blind, and to some extent flexible in the age of the cast. At least, that was my hope.

The reaction by audiences at those readings was fascinating, and tremendously exciting. Opinions varied rather dramatically regarding both the subject and the theme of the play. Some were what I had in mind, while others came out of the blue and reflected a completely different interpretation of what happened on stage. I LOVED hearing the difference, and the range of those differences.

At its core, THE WEIRD PLAY is about love. Maybe it’s first love, the ecstasy of love, really bad love, self love, religious love, the end of love, moving on from love. For me, it was about all of that, some of that, and maybe something else. Weird, huh.

Also, for me, it’s about just loving theatre – the process of making it and celebrating what it can do to engage us as an entertainment event, and with one another. It’s unique, theatre is. It’s special. I hope THE WEIRD PLAY reflects, serves, and contributes to that in some small, if also weird, way.

plan-b weird play quote