TedX Salt Lake
The past six months have forced all of us to re-think a lot of things. For this Saturday’s TedX Salt Lake event—the continuation of an annual fall tradition—more than a dozen artists, writers, government representatives, scientists and performers will offer a full day of presentations under the fitting thematic umbrella of “(Un)Conventional Wisdom.”
The four sessions for the Sept. 19 program—available entirely virtually—are organized around some specific topic areas. The opening session, “Think,” kicks off with Dr. Angela Dunn (pictured), the Utah state epidemiologist who has become a local celebrity at official state press conferences for reasons we all would have preferred not to take place. Freestyle artist C. Valenta, student Kennedy Pawloski, singer/songwriter and head of University of Utah Vocal Studies program Jazzy Olivo, and worker advocate Sydne Jacques round out that opening session. Among the fascinating presenters keeping things lively throughout the rest of the day are cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, dancer Chelsea Keefer, actor/filmmaker Danor Gerald, artist and former CUAC executive director Adam Bateman, counselor and corporate trainer Michelle Porcelli, hospice chaplain JeanneLauree Olsen, writer and Munga Punga founder Robin Konie, and podcaster/sustainability advocate Adam Peek. The words and performances they offer will inspire people to thoughtfulness and action during a time when it has become understandably easy to feel hopeless.
Limited in-person tickets are available for $50, with masks required and distanced seating between household groups, via phone only at 801-581-7100. Live-stream tickets are $15, with email required to receive instructions to live-stream link. (Scott Renshaw)
Felipe Esparza @ Wiseguys Gateway
Fifteen years into his career as a comedian, Felipe Esparza became an overnight success. That’s what can happen when you win Last Comic Standing, as Esparza did in 2010. It was a great piece of mass-audience validation for a comedian who launched his career after a stint in rehab, where he made it one of his recovery goals to try stand-up comedy after teaching himself the craft from library books and videotapes of other comedians’ routines.
Amazingly, Esparza’s career only continues to grow. In 2017, his self-produced comedy special Translate This made its way to HBO, which Esparza said in a 2018 interview with Las Vegas Magazine gave him “newer fans who have never heard of me.” The Mexican-born comedian stays busy with his podcast What’s Up Fool, and saw his latest stand-up special, Bad Decisions, drop on Netflix earlier this month.
Not surprisingly, Esparza has found much of his material in his immigrant upbringing in Los Angeles, from what it means to have a pet in a poor family to what it’s like to realize that you’re poor. “I didn’t know I was poor until I transferred to another school, and me and my friend were the only ones at that school standing in line for the free lunch,” he says in Translate This. “We felt sorry for those other kids, ‘That’s sad how they all have to pay. Fucking losers.'” Esparza visits Wiseguys Gateway (194 S. 400 West, wiseguyscomedy.com) Sept. 18-19, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., $25. Social distancing capacity restrictions and other safety measures remain in place; visit the website for details. (SR)
Front Row Film Roast Online Edition: Fight Club
Back in the spring, as it became clear that live events were going to need to go on hold, Front Row Film Roast co-owner and co-founder Jessica Sproge had to consider whether their enterprise—a live comedy accompaniment of film screenings, in the familiar style of Mystery Science Theater 3000—could work in a virtual format. “We had our anxieties, of course, because it’s like, ‘What if someone’s internet goes down, or if people didn’t like the format, because nothing beats a live show,'” Sproge recalls. “It is more difficult, a little more awkward. It’s like, ‘God, I hope people are laughing at this.'”
Local audiences have been laughing at Front Row Film Roasts since they launched at Brewvies in February 2018. Sproge and her crew of writers and comedians have found a successful formula in bypassing MST3K‘s preference for low-budget B-movies in favor of more familiar, popular titles like Twilight, Fast & Furious and Space Jam. While the shows might seem off-the-cuff, they’re generated from the performers watching the movie three times, and creating a shared document of jokes to create a script that’s around 90 percent set when the show begins.
This week’s virtual Front Row Film Roast of Fight Club (Saturday, Sept. 19, 8 p.m. MT) is free with registration for the screening link at frontrowfilmroast.com. And Sproge wants those who watch to get involved in the fun. “We encourage people to go on social media, tweet at us, share a joke,” she says. “Then during the show I’ll share, ‘This person said this thing.’ That way we know someone is watching.” (SR)
Dominic Pace @ Rogue Toys West Jordan
Becoming a character in the Star Wars universe brings with it many opportunities to translate that association into public appearances. But with the COVID pandemic shutting down comic and fan conventions around the country, actor Dominic Pace—who played the bounty hunter Gekko in the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian—found a way to get out among the fans that would also help support small businesses.
Pace brings a sort of barnstorming public appearance tour to Utah this week, visiting Rogue Toys in West Jordan (6904 S. Redwood Road) on Sunday, Sept. 20 from noon-4 p.m. Having already connected with a Rogue Toys location in Las Vegas, Pace was invited to the Utah store, where he will be using some of the proceeds from his (socially-distanced) photo ops and other merchandise sales to support local charities, including those supported by Star Wars-affiliated organizations like the 501st Legion.
With a note of self-deprecation, Pace says that huge crowds aren’t really a concern when he makes an appearance: “The good news is, I’m not Jason Momoa. If 15-20 people show up during a five-hour period that’s a decent showing.” However, for this life-long Star Wars enthusiast and veteran character actor, being even a small part of the franchise is something he loves to share. “I got involved in this business because of George Lucas,” Pace recalls. “I got a tattoo of [Gekko] on my shoulder. The Empire Strikes Back was my first experience of the magic of cinema. Representing the [Star Wars] brand with pride has been a dream come true.” (SR)