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Stages to offer Oly alternatives

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While several Wasatch Front theaters will be closed during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games (some on college campuses and Hale Centre Theater are being used for a variety of Olympics-related meetings), a handful of others will be operating. But it won't exactly be business as usual.

Two local companies — the Children's Theatre of Salt Lake (formerly City Rep) and Desert Star Theater — have scheduled productions with themes that may interest Olympics visitors. The former is opening a stage version of "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" Jan. 11-Feb. 23 and the latter is premiering an original spoof, "Showdown at the 5-Ring Ranch — or 7 Bribes for Olympic Brothers," Jan. 11-March 9. Later in the month, Salt Lake Acting Company will play "Cabbies, Cowboys and the Tree of the Weeping Virgin," an evening of short plays by Utah writers, and the Off Broadway Theatre will be running its Laughing Stock "improv comedy" shows nightly (except Sundays), Feb. 8-23.

None of these, however, is an officially sanctioned "Cultural Olympiad" event.

"HANS BRINKER" will feature a 330-square-foot artificial ice sheet, being constructed by Viking Ice of Portland, Ore., on the Children's Theatre stage, 638 S. State.

Doug McNeill of Viking Ice said during a telephone interview that while his company markets and constructs the rinks, there is no real "ice" involved. The recipe's a secret, but it involves the same kind of silicone used in hip replacements. Viking Ice gets the silicone pellets and turns them into 2-foot by 4-foot panels with a "skateable" surface. No cooling pipes. No mini-Zambonis. (McNeill said his company has one upcoming order to replace a traditional frozen rink in San Jose, Calif., with a faux rink, largely due to the high costs of electricity in maintaining the standard rink.)

The Viking Ice rinks, pieced together with tongue-and-groove construction techniques, are also used for hockey training. A goalie-training school in Montreal has used the same sheet of Viking Ice for six years, requiring only the replacement of four or five panels.

CTSL artistic director Joanne M. Parker has adapted — and is also directing — the classic tale of "Hans Brinker" for the stage.

In the late 1850s, New York native Mary Mapes Dodge was widowed, with two young boys to raise. Her father encouraged her to write children's stories in order to maintain her independence. "Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates" was her second book and became a huge hit. Before she died in 1906, the immensely popular book had gone through more than 100 editions. The story revolves around the impoverished Brinker family in the Netherlands and Hans' determination to win an ice-skating race, enabling him to get help for his ailing father.

Parker's cast includes former Russian skater Milana Perepyolkina as Hans' mother, Logan Young as Hans, Bill Zwiebel as the Burgermeister, David Mitchel as Dr. Boekman and Olivia Dustman and Emily Miller double-cast as Hans' sister, Gretel.

There will be 16 performances for the general public on selected Fridays and Saturdays. Evening performances, at 7:30, will be Jan. 11, 18 and 25 and Feb. 1, 2, 9, 15, 16 and 22, with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on Jan. 12, 19 and 26 and Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Tickets are $8 per person.

There will also be a number of weekday, daytime "field-trip" performances for student groups. These are normally scheduled Tuesdays-Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. with discounted group rates ($4 per person). For all reservations, call 532-6000. Ticket orders can also be e-mailed to boxoffice@cityrep.org.

DESERT STAR THEATER'S Olympic spoof is a modified version of a previous melodramatic Western parody.

"Showdown at the 5-Ring Ranch" is subtitled "7 Bribes for Olympic Brothers." It plays Jan. 10-March 9. Scott Holman, who adapted Michael Claridge's original script, is directing.

The cast includes Steven Fehr as Mitt Ornrey, who has his sights set on the Bidwell family's expansive 5-Ring Ranch as a parking lot for the Olympics; Arika Schockmel as Sally Swail, Kathleen Richardson as saloon operator Rosie O'Grady, Holly Braithwaite as Virginia Bidwell, Christopher Glade as Chet Bidwell, Joel Wallin as ranch-hand Dave Johnson, and Holman in two roles, as the devious (and smelly) Skunk and ailing Grandfather Bidwell.

Performances at the cabaret-style theater will be Mondays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 7 and 9:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 3, 7 and 9:30 p.m. All seating is reserved, with tickets ranging from $6 (for children) to $12 for adults. For reservations, call 266-7600.

SALT LAKE ACTING COMPANY'S "Cabbies, Cowboys and the Tree of the Weeping Virgin" will play Jan. 22-Feb. 24. The 10 original works (pared down from 15 submissions) include David Kranes' "Catch and Release," Julie Jensen's "Water Lilies," Ron Carlson's "The Gold Lunch" and Mary Dickson's "Eager."

The three plays referred to in the title are Jeff Metcalf's "Where To?" (about an unorthodox, sardonic Wasatch Front cab driver), David Lee's "Incident at Thompson's Slough" and Charlotte McGuinn Freeman's "The Stigmata Incident," the latter centered around a weeping representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a tree in a Salt Lake City urban park.

All 15 of the commissioned plays will be published in book form and given to all audience members during the run of the production.

OFF BROADWAY THEATRE'S popular "improv comedy" shows will be expanded throughout the Olympics, with ticket pricing and curtain times considerably different from the norm. During the Feb. 8-23 period, OBT's "Laughing Stock" shows will be at 4, 6, 8 and 10 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays. All tickets for the hour-long performances are $10 each. All seats are reserved.

From now through Feb. 2, "Laughing Stock" will be performed at 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only. Ticket prices for these performances are $8 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens and $5 for children, 12 and under.

For the rest of OBT's 2002 season, expanded performances by the Laughing Stock ensemble will alternate with three staged productions — "Ivan Ho" in April, "Dracula vs. The Hunchback" in October and "Scrooge's It's a Wonderful Christmas Carol II" in December.

E-MAIL: ivan@desnews.com