Insight and information on the cultural scene in Denver Colorado. Find out what’s happening and when, who’s going to be there! News on the groups that support the arts in Denver.

rsz_football-big-thumbIt’s Friday night. The Broncos are in the playoffs and the Mile Hi City is tickled…orange. In Denver, we take our football seriously. Denizens will brave tomorrow’s freezing temps to celebrate at pre-game tailgate parties and freeze their own tails in the stands, while the taste of beer, brats and a Broncos victory creates an excitement that is palpable. It hasn’t been easy for fans the past few years; roster changes, close calls and heartaches have sent tears streaming over many a blue and orange painted cheek.
So does it take to push yourself over the goal line when your adversaries are strong and your opponents worthy? Sometimes it’s a matter of luck and game. He who wants it the most wins, and as Annette Bening famously shows us in American Beauty… The same goes for real estate.

Hopefully we’re not in character Carolyn Burnham‘s situation, but we can relate to her state of mind. I know I can. It’s not been an easy ride on housing market roller coaster, but now Denver has plenty to be excited about. The real estate market is one of the strongest in the nation, leading the way through the recovery. Home prices up 6.87 percent over a year ago according to the latest Case Schiller report, and mortgage interest rates are looking to remain low through 2013.
There have been times over the past few years when I wondered if it would change and how long it would take. Seeing people suffer has been difficult, helping them through it, gratifying, and somehow… on a wing and a prayer, by luck, pluck, with great cheerleaders and sheer force of will, we’ve made it…just like the Broncos.
It’s coming on game time. GO TEAM.

badass bardTheatre’s obsession with Shakespeare, coined ‘bardolotry’ by George Bernard Shaw, has always escaped me. While Voltaire called his work “an enormous dunghill”, my aversion to Sir Will is far less eloquent. Not knowing my First Folio from my “What ho Malvolio”, I’d quipped “I hate Shakespeare” in defense. “You don’t know what the hell he’s saying, he takes too long to say it and you know what’s going to happen in the end”. But truth is truth… it’s personal.
When I was a student at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in New York City, I was enrolled in the requisite Shakespeare class. Our teacher heaped praise upon the European students, fawned over the Renaissance Faire maids as they flitted twixt texts, winked at the tinfoil swords and paper crowns, taking delight in our dalliances. He found the good in everyone’s work… everyone but mine. It seemed that no matter what scene I chose or how long I’d rehearsed it, I’d leap “Once more unto the breach” to a tragic ending. I can’t tell you how many times I rushed out of the building to hail a taxi and hide my tears, or how much it cost in cab fare to sob my way home to Tribeca, but it felt like a pound of flesh. As this wasn’t the case with my other acting teachers, I was left to assume at Shakespeare I sucketh.
Being Stratford-upon-Avon challenged, I’ve managed to work around my shortcoming and carve out decades of work on stage, in film and on television without ever trodding the boards for the Bard. Until now.
I was at Water World when the call came in. It was the Denver Center Theatre Company with the offer of a role in “Romeo & Juliet”. I snorted my slushy out my nose, choking back surprise along with terror. “Me?” I asked. “Are you sure?” They were, revealing I’d be playing Lady Montague. “Is that Romeo’s mom?” I asked, trying to recall the Franco Zeffirelli film I saw at the drive-in lo these many years ago. “It is.” came the reply. Hmmmn. The play is’t called “Romeo’s Mother” so I can probably pull it off, I figured. Some rhyming verse, a ruffed collar and losing my metaphorical maidenhead beside men in pumpkin pants made it too saucy to resist. “Why not?!” I blurted out before they could catch their mistake.
There must be a million things we’ve held ourselves back from over some misconception of our youth, Brussels sprouts for example. Schoolyard taunts and misspoken remarks of friends and lovers twist the view we see in the mirror. I’m sure my teacher had no idea the lasting effect his critique would have on me, but I made the choice to break up with Billy Bardy, didn’t I? Shakespeare, like the bitter cultivar, may be an acquired taste but so is the taste of freedom from all that crap. Maybe, in spite of the Mayans, life goes on, stretching itself out to give us the time to circle back to find the sweetness in what was sour and to savor it.
Sitting at the rehearsal table with a talented group working through the script I find myself thinking… This guy’s pretty good. This guy’s badass, even if I do know how it ends.

Romeo & Juliet runs January 25-February 24, 2013 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

greetingsLast Christmas I did the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the tree cutting, light stringing, bulb hanging and pine needle sweeping all in that mythical land of “spare time”. I remember collapsing into the couch one evening with a glass of wine and a cup of resentment, ready to smash every Christmas CD and swearing I’d never do it again. Why in the name of the Sweet Baby Jesus should I go dashing through the snow to fight for a parking place and the last Xbox game to feel guilty for spending too much money? It’s been a long time since Santa graced our chimney and we don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday, so what is it then, peer pressure? My sons have more than they need yet somehow I’ve been duped into thinking I must add to their infinite taste for consuming so they won’t be disappointed on Christmas morning. Spend the money now or on therapy later.
This year wants a lot more laughter and a lot less stress.
I’ve always loved the hunt for something surprising and special, the delight on the face of its pajama-clad recipient and the Christmas memory that lingers. When the boys were little Santa brought the highly-coveted goodies from his workshop while mom replenished the sock drawer, but as they grew up, those Legos became laptops and the joy of giving became the dread of obligation.
Honestly I don’t have bad kids, but like most middle class kids they are part of the generation who feels entitled to an Xbox or an iPod or a smartphone; whatever the latest invention served up to our youth for consumption. When did that letter to Santa morph into the “list of things mom should get me or she’ll feel like crap on Christmas morning”? It makes me sad. Maybe even sadder than the boys would feel if I pulled the plug on this whole string of blinking lights. I’m not sure if I have the ornaments to go that far, but I can make this be a Christmas to remember.christmas tree
This year will be more about giving than getting.

So on December first, in the spirit of renewal and re-connection, I popped the Sarah McLaughlin CD into the player, gathered the boys around a pot of coffee to talk about changin it up this year. “Rather than me producing the Christmas extravaganza while you kill zombies and aliens, why don’t we do something different? Ya know, do something good in the world, create something memorable, maybe have a little fun while we’re at it?” Rather than ask what they want, I ask what we can we give. I hear the sigh as the cheek hits the table; this isn’t going over too well. I dig deeper. “What do you think gives Christmas its magic? (Beat.) What do you want it to be about this year? I could have served up a bowl of boiled brussels sprouts for the same reaction. Mother’s getting desperate. “How ’bout a Twelve Days of Christmas where we exchange small things, or funny gifts?” I ask, trying to mask my ridiculous cheerleader expectation. *ping of incoming text* “What about a movie night? Doing something for charity?… Scrabble?” *sigh* “Can we go snowboarding?” Witherspoon fils queries.

This year there will be no presents, there will be gifts.
Somewhere between the end of the world and the fiscal cliff I vow to bring a kinder, gentler and cheaper holiday experience to our hearts. Rather than sweat it out at the mall, we’ll work it up at the holiday skating rink. Rather than online shopping, I’ll Google “Things to do in Denver in December”. We’ll return to the things we did when they were young and full of wonder- Zoo Lights, the Nutcracker, Christmas Eve service–each event building anticipation of the big day. It’s harder now, exhausted by the eye rolls and resistance. Maybe the magic isn’t gone, just lost in Teenville.
This year there will be no electronics, there will be turn-ons.
As a nation of stressed-out spenders, constantly bombarded with the notion that we must impale ourselves on our credit limits, strive to meet over-inflated expectations, and lose our connection in the process. If Jesus ain’t the reason for your season, American Express and Martha Stewart will gladly step in to take his place? I don’t think so, not this year. What if I took back the wonder? What if we discovered time within our crazy schedules, replaced the standard with the unusual and mixed the kitch into the cookie dough. What if we watched “Elf”, made tacky Christmas sweaters and wore them around town? What if what we gave to one another came from the true exchange of our gifts?
This isn’t a new thought, I know. Every year Hollywood cranks out a heartwarming holiday tale extolling the miracle of the season, the simple things that give it meaning, and for forty bucks sans popcorn, you and your family can be reminded of this.
It is something to think about. As you’re driving around the parking lot looking for a space.

Vincent van Gogh Basket with six oranges, 1888. Oil on canvas, private collection, courtesy of Heather James Fine Art.

The mention of Vincent van Gogh brings a flurry of things to mind: a coffee cup, a mouse pad, an umbrella, memories of Starry Night at the MOMA, the days of my youth spent in Amsterdam and the alley in Paris that looks like The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum (which was actually in Arles). Whatever your mind conjures up it won’t hold a (chair and) candle to what you’ll see at the Denver Art Museum’s new exhibition,
Becoming Van Gogh. As the Art Museum says it–

Organized by the DAM and curated by Timothy J. Standring, Gates Foundation Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the DAM and Louis van Tilborgh, Senior Researcher of Paintings at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Becoming Van Gogh brings together loans from more than 60 public and private collections from across Europe and North America to tell the story of a number of key formative
periods throughout the artist’s career.

As I would phrase the experience–

Vincent van Gogh, Vase with Gladioli, 1886. Oil on canvas, Van Gogh Museum.

A wondrous journey through a genius mind.
As the viewer follows the development of an artist, she also shares the journey of a passionate craftsman. There are the familiar paintings, landing in the collective haystack of what we understand to be “Van Gogh”, and then there are those which transport us to the moment of their creation; some studious, some spontaneous, others give us Van Gogh’s point of view as he shifts his sense of place. Sketches of female nudes, and humble oils of vases full of flowers bring the cloudy Dutchman into the mastery of living color. Parisian open space from the hill of Montmartre and Le Moulin de la Galette, Potato Eaters and wheat fields, still lifes and self portraits fill frame after frame as we progress toward the Van Gogh of legend. It is midway and the Basket with Six Oranges that stopped me still as it radiates from the canvas and bounces off the wall. Might be the most amazing thing I’ve seen since… well, just since.
Van Gogh is a harsh beauty, rough and delicate at the same time, like life. The complexity of his evolution is captivating, there are multiple moments in this show that will bring you to tears if you let it, for it’s not a story of being, it is the story of becoming.

Vincent van Gogh, The Blute-fin Mill, 1886. Oil on canvas, Museum de Fundatie, The Nederlands.


I don’t know how they keep doing it, but this is another DAM exclusive and your only chance to see this show. Timed tickets are essential, advance purchase is a must. I’ll revisit, even with the throngs it will be worth it. My fantasy version is a Night-at-the-Museum sleepover where I could wander through the wonder in my PJs, or lay in front of a painting and ponder. Something tells me that’s not gonna happen.
Becoming Van Gogh runs now through January 20, 2013 at the Denver Art Museum

It’s hard enough to build lasting relationships in real life, harder still to build a loyal clientele. Denver Fashion Diva, Denise Snyder, an expert at both–pushes the idea to the limit. Every well-dressed Denver woman knows Denise is the go-to gal for evening wear, and now the evening wear designer comes to her! Tomorrow, Ms. Snyder hosts a pre-event trunk show at her Cherry Creek boutique with the rare personal appearance of designer extraordinaire, Sue Wong. Making her Denver debut, Ms. Wong spends the afternoon at Mariel before jetting down the Valley Highway to the Flight to Luxury event and fashion show (hosted by Mariel) at Centennial Airport. Read more…

The current exhibition of works by prolific African artist El Anatsui at the Denver Art Museum is a visceral manifestation of the ancient storytellers. Using what the immediate has to offer, Anatsui’s wood work, metal sculptures, clay pieces and installations whisper deep into the soul. Shimmering tapestries of bottle caps hang and drape the Hamilton gallery space like stained glass windows for everyman. One of the artist’s quote stenciled on a wall “Rather than recounting history, my art is telling about what history has provoked” resonates within me as a playwright, while others make me want to scrawl them out large on my children’s walls… or perhaps my own.
Pull from your personal history for inspiration
Look for materials in the immediate environment
Travel, and bring your travel experience to bear in your work
Allow for the possibility of something unexpected and wonderful to happen
A professor for many years at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Anatsui teaches a way of seeing the world—a process rather than a particular style. His advice to his art students reveals much about his own art and his connection to a timeless wisdom.
Read more of my journey through this grounding and uplifting exhibit.

If you’ve never had the joy of experiencing Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s Carry On with Paper Bird, you should consider giving yourself a gift. A dreamy collaboration of spirits which weaves the innovative choreography of BNC with an original score from indie folk fav, Paper Bird. Part love story, part natural phenomenon, it’s as magical as the Aurora Borealis on an open plain.
Read more on my Huffington Post blog as I kvell about the show and my conversation with Ballet Nouveau Artistic Director, Garret Ammons.
Carry On with Paper Bird, one night only. Friday night 9/7, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, presented by Arts & Venues Denver as part of the Western Arts Alliance Annual Conference. Tickets to one of my favorite things on the planet are available through TICKETMASTER.

Had such a great time at the SaddleUp!Foundation Denver Suitcase Party last summer, it’s time to polish up my vintage ACME Kickers boots, toss a toothbrush in my bag, and pony up again!
The bash is held in a decked out private hanger at Centennial Airport as the sun sets in glorious Colorado style. Mingle, nosh and bevies (and no that’s not a law firm) start the night out right and this year’s entertainment, country music singer Jessie James, is sure to get my saddle-sore fanny to the dance floor. As the evening settles in to the blue light of evening, guests whip out their raffle tickets to check the winning numbers as the stars light up the sky. Lucky winners board Chuck Latham’s Westwind II (hence the toothbrush) and jet off for a two night stay in 5-star accommodations at the Trinchero Winery in Napa Valley.
Tickets include a raffle entry and extras can be purchased at the door, $25 each or 5 for $100. 9 News anchor, Cheryl Preheim and Jonathan Wilde of 92.5 The Wolf’s “Jonathan and Mudflap Mornings” will keep the party going, and who doesn’t like a party for a great cause?
SaddleUp! Foundation is dedicated to empowering individuals with special needs through equine assisted activities and therapies provided at a family-friendly ranch. They bring their mission to life by upholding the highest level of equine facilitated activities and therapies for the mentally, emotionally, and physically challenged, including but not limited to, Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD, Traumatic Paralysis, Muscular Dystrophy, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis.
Hmmm….what to pack? Black, of course. White, of course, red lipstick, toothbrush… I think that about covers it!

It was a watershed moment at Saturday night’s Riverfront Park Fashion show as the skies opened up for an evening shower. Thankfully, the downpour took place between designers, but left the fashionistas running for cover in cabanas, under umbrellas and in cupcake stands. With hair drenched and clothes so wet they were see-through, guests cheerfully waited out the storm’s passing and when the DJ cranked it up again they took to the runway for a spontaneous dance party!
The natural intrusion was a great leveler, changing the see-and-be-seen scene into a live-and-let-live celebration, unleashing waves of childish joy.
To read my pre-bash post CLICK HERE, and to check out fellow Huff Post bloggess, Andrea Real’s post-show coverage and event slide show CLICK HERE.

Planning a trip to New York is always exciting, but planning a ten day trip with two teenage boys is a handsome cab horse of a different color. How could they see New York’s New York, my New York and find those “I Heart NY” moments for themselves? I knew I had to keep it real. With all of the touristy things on our plate, the trick would be to spin those with the sights and sounds, the smells, bells and flavors that make the city what it is. In New York the magic’s in the moment, so the more opportunities I could create for them to dance among its denizens, the better the interface would be.
Rule number 1.) Walk as much as you can.
Rule number 2.) Take the subway for maximum effect.
Rule number 3.) Do not put any limits on the day. Including what time it starts and ends.
And the bonus tip…No matter how well you know the city, allow yourself to get lost.

Throwing down a bit of historical context to match the immediacy of the New York minute, I worked in some tales of my time in Manhattan and a few irritating, “See that (painting, building, church, store, statue…)? It’s important!” stops along the sidewalks. Dinner at Joe Allen’s over Applebee’s, and meeting friends for picnics, lunches, or museum visits gave things the personal touch and sense of belonging. The overall effect…? “Mom. Can we move here?”

To read more on our adventure, plan your own or find out what made the boys’ “TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN NEW YORK”, click here.