HAPPY NEW YEAR!
At least the various critics in our Arts section are hoping it's happy. And since it's Jan. 1, today seemed like a good time to turn our arts writers loose and let them offer predictions, resolutions and even a few "wish list" items for the arts in '89."More money, please" is the obvious wish of most local artists. A lugged down economy has forced everyone to tug their belts tighter.
But by whittling their wishes down to specifics, our literary, visual and performing arts staff has come up with a few wishes that aren't just pie in the sky. To wit:
A dozen artistic wishes
On the 12 days of Christmas (traditionally the 12 following), if price were no object, I would gladly have given many things to the song and dance arts of Utah - big things like endowment funds ranging from $1 million to $12 million. But reality, and my own Mrs. Fixit nature, dictate gifts more along the line of do-it-yourself suggestions.
So, retroactively speaking and with a few days of Christmas still to come, here are 12 gift wishes that the recipient organizations may or may not hope to see fulfilled during 1989:
On the first day of Christmas, I wish for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir one very fast carrier pigeon, trained to fly to the Deseret News with the latest dispatches, so we won't have to find out by chance or from the national wire services what's going on with the city's oldest and most nationally visible arts organization. (This bird should have a beak for news, and bring us scoops, not just confirmation of reports that have been circulating on the streets for weeks.)
On the second day of Christmas, I wish for the University of Utah dance department two turtledoves, who shall make their home in a dovecote above the main entrance to the new Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance. Their presence shall insure eternal harmony between the ballet and modern dance departments, as they go in to possess their beautiful new home in spring, 1989.
On the third day of Christmas I wish for three French hens, to be joined by their sisters in Russia, China, Australia, Greenland, Bermuda, Chile, and all points north, south, east and west, to proclaim the excellence of Utah arts organizations.
On the fourth, fifth and sixth days of Christmas, I wish for Ballet West four very savvy birds, who can get somewhere calling on heretofore unimpressed corporate executives; five wide-band, 24-carat gold rings; and six geese a-laying golden eggs. All the resulting proceeds should be readily convertible into legal tender, to help meet the company's 1989 commitment in matching funds, required by their $500,000 NEA challenge grant.
On the seventh day of Christmas, I wish for Utah Opera seven more years of plenty, signified by seven swans aswimming. One black swan signifies the company's enviable debt-free status. These fowls do not sing swansongs, but they do read supertitles, and they love them - like the hundreds of added subscribers that have increased Utah Opera audiences to capacity.
On the eighth day of Christmas, I wish for the Utah Arts Council eight maids, adept at milking large appropriations for the arts from the Utah State Legislature.
On the ninth day of Christmas, I wish the Salt Palace organization nine pipers piping constantly at the box offices and up and down the halls - the idea being that the noise and commotion will discourage any furtive thieves from slipping their hands into the till to rob our arts organizations.
On the 10th and 11th days of Christmas, I wish for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and the Repertory Dance Theatre 10 ladies dancing and 11 lords a-leaping. Actually these people don't need to be royalty, but the ratio is about right, since it's usually much harder to find good male dancers than females.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I wish for all Utah singing organizations 12 drummers, drumming up at least 12 fresh and inspiring Christmas music presentations - oratorios, cantatas, new and old, famous and obscure compositions, Bach Passions, you name it - that have nothing to do with "Messiah."
By Dorothy Stowe, music/dance critic
Please, no sequels!
In 1989 it would be nice if Hollywood recognized that successful movies - i.e. "Rain Man" - don't have to be lacking in substance, either in terms of story or characters. And don't necessarily have to have a number at the end of the title.
But I don't want to suggest anything too drastic or outrageous, so here are some of the movie-related things I'd like to see in the coming months . . . not that I'm particularly hopeful that I will:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger's name spelled correctly on a marquee.
- Eddie Murphy in a good comedy.
- Barbra Streisand in a musical where she moves her lips (unlike "Yentl").
- A "Friday the 13th" sequel with a different story.
- Alan Alda in somebody else's film.
- John Candy in a good comedy.
- Robert Redford in front of the camera.
- Kathleen Quinlan in a successful film.
- Richard Pryor in a good comedy.
- Christine Lahti in a successful film.
- A horror movie that is scary rather than gory.
- Annette O'Toole in a successful film.
- No Dirty Harry jokes.
- No Rambo jokes.
- No Elvis jokes.
By Christopher Hicks, movie critic
For the theater folks...
You know, I can't think of anything more presumptuous than for someone to make New Year's resolutions for someone else. But then, a theater critic is nothing if not presumptuous. Hence the following - my list of New Year's resolutions in behalf of members of the local theater community:
City Rep resolves to stick to children's theater, where artistic director Joanne Parker clearly has expertise.
Pioneer Theatre Company resolves not to bring in New York actors for parts that can be played just as easily - and perhaps better - by local actors. Nothing against the New Yorkers, mind you. They're generally very good. But seriously, aren't there Utah actors who could have done just as good a job as imports Katie La Bourdette and Nick Bakay in "Room Service"?
Salt Lake Acting Company resolves to find at least one "Steel Magnolias" every year. Sure, it's going to be tough to keep finding terrific material like last year's hit that expanded local artistry without assaulting local values. But if anyone can do it, SLAC can.
New Shakespeare Players resolves to do Shakespeare. At least occasionally.
Walk-Ons resolves to bring back Jayne Luke.
Promised Valley Playhouse resolves to remember the great lesson of 1988's Christmas production of "Annie" - that aesthetic success is far more important (and ultimately far more rewarding) than bringing in a star with marquee value.
The Lagoon Opera House resolves to bring back David Dean.
Hale Center Theater resolves to expand. Again. (We've at least got to come up with more parking, guys. Think of it as the price of success.)
Theatre 138 resolves to rekindle the artistic flame that burned with such energy when the company was in its prime.
The Utah Shakespearean Festival resolves to not get so carried away with all its growth and prosperity that it forgets its humble beginnings and original intentions.
By Joseph Walker, theater critic
On the music front...
New Year's - the day we turn over a new leaf on the calendar and think about doing the same in our lives. Is it presumptuous to think about doing the same for those who set the agendas in the arts? Perhaps. On the other hand, those of us presumptuous enough to call ourselves critics do it all the time anyway. So, with a few fingers pointing back in this direction, here are some resolutions yours truly would like to see adopted on the music beat in 1989:
1. That parents of very young children would resolve not to bring them to concerts. I'm all for music for the young, but a crying baby obviously isn't getting anything out of the experience and is probably spoiling it for hundreds of others. (More effective might be concert managements refusing to admit anyone carrying an infant, the same way they would bar someone with a camera or tape recorder.)
2. I also wish the grownups would refrain from talking, at least during the music. A good rule of thumb: If the performers are making sounds, then chances are you shouldn't be. (Reportedly the San Francisco Symphony has even begun passing out cough drops at its concerts.)
1. I wish a little more could be done locally to avoid bunchups. Joseph Silverstein may be a glutton for work, but how big an audience can there be for three or even four concerts by him in the same week? (For some reason violinist/conductors seem especially prone to this, as do choral organizations and piano competitions.) And did anyone else find himself OD-ing on the number of "annual Christmas concerts" we were faced with last month, especially since most of them took place two to three weeks before Christmas?
2. I wish the Utah Symphony well in strengthening its financial profile, since we're not just talking about expansion here but survival. But I suspect this resolution will have to transcend the verbal.
1. I will continue to pay more attention to new voices - especially in the world of classical music it's easy to get locked into the same old stuff, as a writer and as a listener.
2. By the same token, I will try to keep the phrase "musical Mecca" from creeping into any more of my travel stories.
By William S. Goodfellow, music critic
In Utah's visual arts...
What would I like to see happen in the visual arts in 1989?
To the public:
1. Visit art galleries more frequently. Don't just go there when you are looking for a work of art. You can enhance your art appreciation visiting galleries regularly and becoming familiar with artists, their philosophies and their styles.
2. Involve yourself in lectures and workshops. Most of them are free and provide a wealth of knowledge.
3. Find out what is happening in the visual arts by visiting museums and galleries outside the Salt Lake area. What's happening in Cache County? In Southern Utah? In Eastern Utah? Etc.?
To the artist:
1. Strive for a more individualistic approach to art. Stop imitating national and local styles and trends. Discover your own uniqueness.
2. Expand your vision: Broaden your appreciation for styles other than representational and select art for its own merits rather than looking for works containing colors that fit into a decor.
3. Become more streetwise and less gullible. Carefully check out art competitions before going to the expense of entering them and shipping off your work. Read the small print!
My resolution in 1989: To be sensitive to works by promising young artists, to new, creative directions by more established ones, and to the ever-changing art climate throughout Utah; then accurately report these feelings and findings.
Richard Christenson, visual arts writer
From the book editor...
(1) In literature, I'd like to see at least one of our bogged down American novelists produce the big novel that he or she has been promising.
Hemingway died talking about his upcoming "blockbuster." It never materialized. And for 10 years Truman Capote claimed to have a book on the back burner that would change the face of American letters. That blockbuster was just a buster.
J.D. Salinger, William Gass, Thomas Pynchon or some another major American writer who's been rather inactive for a decade or more, could publish a major work of fiction.
(2) I'd like to see a woman win the Nobel Prize for literature for a change; Doris Lessing or Joyce Carol Oates, perhaps.
(3) I'd like to see university creative writing programs stop pooh-poohing popular fiction (i.e. Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Ray Bradbury) and start offering courses in how to write the stuff.
(4) I'd like to see all our "national treasures" (hate that phrase) who are in their 80's - Eudora Welty, Wallace Stegner, I.B. Singer, Robert Penn Warren, etc. - have another healthy, wise and productive year.
(5) I'd like to see someone from the Utah, Colorado or New Mexico win the Pulitzer.
By Jerry Johnston, literary writer