Skip to main content

Sugar House Journal

Artists get creative, offer original innovative shows at Kingsbury Hall

Nov 24, 2020 15h52 ● By Drew Crawford

Dancing Earth. (Photo courtesy of Kingsbury Hall)

By Drew Crawford | [email protected]

As cases of Covid-19 in Salt Lake City continue to surge, Kingsbury Hall is hosting innovative virtual performances by veteran artists who are eager to try out new ways of showcasing their work. 

“It hasn’t so much been about what’s the research behind it, what should we do, it’s been about each individual project relationship with an artist and saying, ‘What can we do if we can’t be together?’” Executive Director of Kingsbury Hall Brooke Ellen Horejsi said, describing the venue’s novel approach to putting on their shows. 

“For us a lot of the shift happened because of the relationship with the artists that we planned to work with this year,” Horejsi said. 

Current and upcoming performances highlight the desire of artists to perform and protect public health at the same time. 

With the increase of Covid-19 cases, Dancing Earth, an indigenous contemporary dance theatre group made up of young indigenous activist-artists based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Francisco, California, canceled plans to present live at Kingsbury Hall and opted for an episodic release of their work that can be streamed online. 

“Even if we could have audiences for our November show, they were all really like, ‘We don’t feel safe traveling. If we come to Utah to do a show, we contract something and then we take it back to our families and our communities and get our elders sick,’” Horejsi said, explaining Dancing Earth’s decision to showcase their performance. 

“They took the resources that we were paying them to present the live show and translated that into keeping their company members employed and recreating the whole thing for an episodic digital format which was a gargantuan task,” Horejsi said. 

The first episode of Dancing Earth’s performance was released in mid-November, with the next few episodes being released by the time of the publication of this article. The format of the show gives the audience the chance to experience the artwork gradually or all at once. 

Other shows that will be hosted by Kingsbury Hall this season have come to fruition organically. Taylor Mack, the 2020 winner of the International Ibsen Award who has previously performed at Kingsbury Hall, reached out to arrange another performance. Mack’s adult show, “Holiday Sauce Pandemic,” will focus on the isolation and loneliness that many people experience during the holiday season. 

Kingsbury Hall usually plans their performances 18 months in advance, and Horejsi recognizes that it will be a tall order to deliver on that this season. As a result, the venue is exploring an approach to the next season of performances with potentially surprising twists in store, including outdoor shows. 

“If we’re still in a situation where it isn’t safe to be gathering in large groups particularly indoors, one of the good options is to do outdoor projects where people can be distant, so we are considering activating next summer,” Horejsi said. 

While it remains to be seen what shows will be hosted during the summer, it is almost guaranteed that these shows will also be driven by the innovation of the presenting artists.

“One of the things that is really great about working with artists and supporting artists is that they’re natural problem solvers, and so they are always noodling a problem,” Horejsi said.  “Mathematicians do it too, and physicists do it too, but artists do it with an eye to ‘how do I solve a problem in a way that people want to watch the solution, or watch the process of solving it?’ which is different than a scientist in a lab.”

The local community hungers to watch performances at Kingsbury Hall, according to Ryan Ireland, assistant box office manager.

“They’re still holding, so that’s good. It’s just all a different ballgame. Utah is known for buying tickets late anyways, so people buy day of show,” Ireland said, citing how sales have been steady even as operations and methods of communication to patrons have changed.

While continued interests in the shows is encouraging, Horejsi wants attendees to know that the continued success of local arts is highly dependent on their support and contribution.

“If you can’t figure out how to survive this pandemic as an artist or a person that works in an art organization in Salt Lake City, then you’re never going to keep working and keep contributing to the larger content that’s out there,” Horejsi said. “That stuff won’t be there two years from now, there won’t be new things for people to see, if you don’t support what’s happening right now and the artists and the art organizations that are trying to survive this pandemic.”

For information on upcoming shows at Kingsbury Hall, including “The Journey,” a virtually interactive performance by illusionist Scott Silven, visit or