I ambled downtown to the Junction Box, the new Wonderbound studio, to check out the space, witness the alchemy and have a chat with the wizard himself. The doors wide open policy at this vibrant new studio is perhaps the defining quality of the Wonderbound company. Walkers, wanderers and wayfarers are welcome to watch as Garrett and his lithesome dancers spread their joy, leaping tirelessly from repetition to repetition, stretching for perfection. Rush hour traffic idles, a homeless neighbor stops mid-shuffle and sways dreamily to the music. It’s all part of the soundtrack of community.
One of only a handful of American choreographers to be constantly presenting new works, I sat down with Ammon post-rehearsal for their new show, A Gothic Folktale to talk tutu. (I love when he does that).
Garrett_Ammon_2
TS- So, Innovator… about this award.
GA- Oh my god, it’s humbling. I mean, I’ve had so many opportunities to meet and work with some amazing people. I’m just a part of something much bigger.
No false modesty here, when Garrett speaks his authenticity draws you into his world. His vision is keen, his voice is clear and the feeling is that of an artist at peace with passion.
TS- Being a Realtor, I have to ask. How have things changed in the new space?
GA- Oh, completely, it truly fits our identity; the sense of urgency that urbanism creates, it expands on our relationship with our audience, and the need to make dance accessible.
TS- Denver really responds to you, like you’re our dance company. Why do you think that is?
GA- Hmmn. That’s nice. I think part of it is about how your art engages the world, your personal world and the larger. So dance, movement, exists in relationship to space, to humanity, but it also pushes the internals. I feel really connected, not just to the concept of connectedness, but to the energy of that union which exists in community. It’s like you embrace it, and—
TS- You build relationships.
GA- Yes.
TS- So the Arts Innovation Award is kinda like the city hugging you back.
GA- It feels that way, yes.
TS- Why do you think you’ve succeeded in creating this kind of intimate relationship with Denver?
( a long pause.)
GA- Because we’re not afraid to fail. Because we work really, really hard. And because at the end of the day, we want the same thing as everyone else in this city: to be fulfilled, to do something we’re passionate about, to be able to make a living doing what we love.
He looks out the open door at the river of cars.
GA- Isn’t that what we all want?
TS- What do you want?
GA- I want to keep pushing myself, of course. I don’t want to do the same thing because it’s that thing, so there’s that part. If I can build and sustain this company so that its members can live, you know, buy a house and really make this a career, that would be a great success.
TS- I love that. Especially the ‘buying a house’ part.
(laughs)
The Mayors Awards for Excellence in Arts and Culture will be presented to the recipients on November 14 from 6:30-8:00 PM at the Studio Loft. The event is free and open to the public. http://artsandvenuesdenver.com/events-programs/mayors-awards/
A Gothic FolktaleThe magic of autumn burns golden in its fiery leaves, reflecting on Denver’s cultural scene as it springs back to life. While the rest of us spent the summer at the beach and the ballpark, Denver’s creative community has been crafting their 2013-14 offerings. A highlight for me is the launch of Wonderbound’s inaugural season as they leap to life with a new work called A Gothic Folktale. The magic in Artistic Director, Garrett Ammon’s, choreography is often born in collaboration with other carefully selected artists, this time Denver musician, Jesse Manley, and mentalist Professor Phelyx are the lucky partners in the sublime. The effect is more than just magical, with its haunting strains and evocative story, the show is mysterious, engaging and even soothing as you lilt away to another time and place. The Wonderbound website vows to invert my reality: it was definitely twisted at the Sunday show. I took my fourteen year old son (not always an easy thing to do) and even he was transfixed. We were discussing the performance, elements of dance, the music and illusion, and then he pops out with my favorite observation. He looked at the audience that Wonderbound brings together, mix of ages and styles, and says, “Mom, this is the most interesting looking group of people I’ve ever seen in one room. It’s like the all have a really good secret in life.” Which they do. Well done, Mr. Ammon.
A Gothic Folktale plays this weekend, October 26th & 27th at the Parker Arts and Cultural Center. Tickets available.

all about eve
Working as a professional actress has taught me many things: tenacity and humility for one. (Ha!). Along with the starring roles and the smaller roles come the understudying gigs. They’ve kept me on my toes, fully insured and employed. Largely the experience hasn’t been in the glamorous, deceitful, clamoring-for-fame vein portrayed in the 1950 film classic, All About Eve, mine have had been more in line with the Girl Scout motto.
Three decades in the industry has kept me ambitious, created a strong work ethic and instilled a somewhat healthy insecurity that feeds my drive. Pounding the pavement, perpetually prospecting and practicing persistence is the perfect training ground for a career in the real estate business, but nothing could have prepared me for spring of ’13.
After Romeo & Juliet, my first foray into the First Folio, I was looking forward to a seasonal ramp up in the real estate world and my end of season gig at the Denver Center Theatre as understudy in “Other Desert Cities”. Shoulda been a cakewalk, it was not.
The rapid acceleration of the Denver housing market coincided with my ascension from understudy to starring role and the first audience in just eight days. (Actually it was a 5 character ensemble play, but ‘starring role’ does sound, well… more dramatic). Time to drill down and focus on my lines; stringing together the beads of this complex and demanding character would come later. I was hitting the wall as we hit our “10 out of 12”, theatre speak for long-ass day, when an offer came in on my hot Congress Park listing. Negotiating a deal and my way around the stage, I had to find my clients a replacement home. Dinner breaks became showing appointments, opening doors as my lines streamed through my headphones, I existed on chocolate bars and power naps until… “You’re on, Eve.”eve harrington
The show opened, the clients closed on their new house and the actress/Realtor spent a week in Vail recuperating, which is important as the pace has not slowed. The message of my Girl Scout leader, BE PREPARED, has a whole new meaning with the real estate market at a break neck pace. “Prepared” to drop what you’re doing to snap up a showing on a snappy place, “prepared” with a purchase contract ever-ready on the tablet, “prepared” to list a home on Thursday, hold it open on Saturday and present offers on Sunday. “Prepared” went from having snacks and water in your ditty bag to performing the above tasks for multiple clients, sleeping very little, and loving it. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, or both, I still have some treats in the ditty bag. Mostly chocolate.

I used to give my sons a box of Crayons and some newsprint, now it’s a zip file and video software.

 

rsz_okeeffe_georgia-chama_river_ghost_ranchThere’s nothing like a room full of O’Keeffe to make me want to take a road trip and the “Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam and the Land” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum is no exception. Horizontal landscapes of rugged terrain, softened under pastel lights and sharpened on the shadow stimulate my need for the wide and the wild. When Georgia O’Keeffe came to the badlands of Abiquiu she was already an established and successful New York artist. The untamed West, rendered by a soul who’d found her place on earth brings serenity to every city wall she hangs on. Heavy with landscape, the exhibit takes us away from the larger, more familiar cow skulls and flowers of our collective remembrance and sits us down on a rock at sunset. Shapes, shadows, fine strokes and drama draw the viewer deeper down the river. Hopi influences aside, or perhaps front and center I found myself transported to a different time and place, staring at a church or a chasm as if alone in the enchantment.  O’Keeffe crowds solitude with the thick heat and thin air of the high mesa desert, in a tone-on-tone moment that contains life and death without judgement.
“I longed for quiet, a sense of personal attachment and a place that held meaning”, Georgia said of New Mexico.  Not only did she find it she became it, inspiring us as layers of light call to the mind to open up, to share.  A pencil sketch becomes an intimate whisper, the high blue mesa a best friend. Georgia O’Keeffe is the retreat you long to give yourself, and now she has come to you.
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Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsnim & the Land at the Denver Art Museum through April 28, 2013

Before I die, I want to… rsz_before_i_die
Driving the streets north of Downtown Denver one might turn some dodgy corners. The gentrification of Curtis Park, Ballpark and Five Points neighborhoods has pushed up real estate prices as artist lofts and galleries, restaurants and the urban infill townhomes that follow, found their place beside the old Victorians. This quilted mix of luxe and lush is what gives the area its unique charm, but if you’ve ever stopped at a red light near one of the triangle parks you may have wondered… why doesn’t somebody clean that up? Often dirty, neglected and filled with those for whom a triangle in traffic is as close to home as they have, these inauspicious spaces have fallen through the cracks. So, whose responsibility are they?
Meet the Community Coordinating District No. 1, whose job it is to transform these hot spots into vital, safe and manageable environments for those who live and work in the area. Community works best when in communion; yet all too often disparate interests work, immune to or in spite of one another, making civic progress slow if not impossible. Created as an ad hoc adjunct “collaborative policy platform”, the CCD brings together government, public, non-profit and private sector organizations to facilitate those public improvements which are often dreamed up and less often realized. Adding working capacity to city-led initiatives, creating opportunities for revitalization and economic development, the CCD will scout out areas of the city that need attention and make sure they get it. Think of them as Denver’s Den Mother.
Born in 2010 as the brainchild of a collection of civic visionaries who’d been trying for decades to improve the areas northeast of Downtown Denver, the Community Coordinating District works across geographical boundaries to unite community stakeholders and thoughtful partners to leverage their assets, pool their resources and more efficiently effect change throughout the city.
Targeted areas of enhancement are Eddie Maestes Park directly across from the Denver Rescue Mission at Park Avenue West and Broadway. Long known as a staging area for the homeless, the park has been riddled with crime and drug-related activity. Rather than just “displace” these issues, the District is exploring opportunities for positive change and working through plans to implement them.
Last summer, Sonny Lawson Park gained some renewed energy with the installation of “Before I Die”, a world-wide, interactive art piece by Candy Chang . The interactive mural is like a giant blackboard with the words “Before I die I want to…” painted on it as a universal writing prompt. Visitors are encouraged to pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in a public space. The original Before I Die… mural was installed in New Orleans, where Chang transformed the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood into a giant chalkboard and stenciled it with the sentence. By the next day the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing. The wall turned a neglected space into a constructive one where neighbors had an outlet to get to know each other and remember their loved ones.
Having been installed in more than 20 countries around the globe, Candy Chang’s Denver incarnation has made its way downtown, where it lives outside the newly renovated McNichols Building at the corner of Colfax Avenue and Bannock, inspiring denizens through February.
The Community Coordinating District offers many opportunities for civic engagement and public participation through its weekly Monday morning meetings, volunteer ops and upcoming events. Strategic partnerships with Arts & Venues Denver, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Parks and Recreation, Denver Police Department, Department of Public Works, Denver’s Road Home, Ballpark Neighborhood Association, City Parks Alliance, Curtis Park Neighbors, Denver Biennial of the Americas, Denver Rescue Mission, Redline Gallery, St. Francis Center, Denver Shared Spaces, Ballet Nouveau Colorado/Wonderbound, Betterweather Inc., Dept. of Community Planning and Development, City Councilwoman: Judy Montero and City Councilman Albus Brooks, promise to keep it interesting.

“Before I die…” was brought to Denver through a partnership of Arts and Venues Denver, the Community Coordinating District, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, and Denver Design Build LLC. For more information on Denver’s Public Art Program, click or call 720-865-4313.

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