Thursday November 2 Pacific wind: Woven into Denver's history is that of the Japanese women who settled here--first in the late nineteenth century, as arranged "picture brides" for Japanese laborers, and later, during World War II, as denizens of internment camps in the area. Sensitive to Colorado's place in their story, Strength and Diversity: Japanese American Women 1885-1990, a traveling Smithsonian exhibit, opens today at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., along with the more personalized Past and Present: Colorado Japanese American Women, a second exhibit containing local artifacts, oral histories, quilt panels and other items linked to the region. A reception will be held from 7 to 9 this evening; in addition, Colorado-born author Mei Nakano, who's written a book on the subject, will speak at 7:30. Nakano will also host a discussion and story exchange at noon Saturday, followed by an intergenerational roundtable program moderated by Dr. Joyce Kobayashi at 2:30 p.m. A performance by the Denver Taiko Drummers and other lectures take place later in November; see the shows through January 14. Call 431-3939.
Signer of the times: One can't possibly understand how difficult it is to interpret an entire Shakespeare play in American Sign Language without having tried it. But former local Jaine Richards makes it look easy, with flying hands and an emotionally sensitive style. Richards, who honed her skill with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, will be in town for a single performance of the Denver Center Theatre Company's current production of Romeo and Juliet, tonight at 8 in the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Admission is $23 or $26; call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Friday November 3 Grave images: Though its purpose--honoring the dead--sounds serious, Pirate Gallery's annual celebration of El D’a de los Muertos is more fun than a barrel of bones. A centerpiece of the gallery's recurring exhibit of artful commemorative shrines and altars, the event combines a fiesta atmosphere with tradition, beginning at 6 with a round of free face painting and continuing with a spooky street procession at 7:30. Mariachi music, pinata parties and costume contests (including, it's rumored, a Newt Gingrich likeness for legal bashing) for children and adults will follow, beginning at 8:15. "Maestro Muerto" will preside; for additional information call 458-6058. Pirate is located at 3659 Navajo St. Also in the spirit: A similar exhibit of Day of the Dead artwork, this one by fifteen local artists, ends today at Galeria Mexicana, 3615 W. 32nd Ave. And on Saturday and Sunday at 8, catch a screening of avant-garde short films tied together by deathly themes at the Bug, 3654 Navajo (across the street from Pirate). Admission is $5 ($3 members and students); call 477-5977.
Quick-draw artists: Art? You mean them fancy-pants flower thangs hung on walls by city slickers in ber-rets? Tarnation! Try Baxter Black's Coyote Cowboy Cartoonists, a show opening today at the Aurora History Museum, 15001 E. Alameda Dr., for something a little more down-to-earth: It features illustrations to accompany Baxter Black yarns, as depicted by cartoonists Don Gill, Charlie Marsh, Bob Black and Dave Holl. Attend a reception today from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.; if you'd like to meet Black and the artists, hold on to yer horses, varmints, and wait until January 12, when they'll be in town for annual stock-show-related festivities and a second reception at the museum. The exhibit continues through the end of January; call 340-2220.
It's a toss-up: If you think Les Deux Hommes Tiennent Petits Batons Sur Leur Visages sounds like something out of a Magritte painting, you could be right, but juggler/dancers Jon Held and Peter Davison, more familiarly known as The Two Men Who Hold Small Sticks on Their Faces, wear it well. And they do wear sticks on their faces, though we don't know how they do it. An offshoot of the Colorado performing group Air Jazz, the Two Men will commit graceful absurdities at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, this weekend and next, at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West. To reserve tickets, $10, call 938-9824. And stick with it.
Saturday November 4 Shrine convention: Travelers heading south toward Taos and Santa Fe may have seen it while barreling down Highway 159 through the San Luis Valley. Somewhere before the "Vaya Con Dios" sign exhorting kindly as you exit San Luis, Colorado, is the Stations of the Cross Shrine and a brand-new adobe chapel still under construction. The stations, a series of bronze statues by a local sculptor, wind up a hillside, illustrating a familiar part of the area's Spanish roots and lore while adding a source of pride and accomplishment to the area. You can get involved, too: San Luis Nite in Denver, a local benefit to raise funds toward the chapel's completion this summer (already, the domed, heavy-beamed interior sports gorgeous frescoes and artifacts), will include a silent auction of Southwestern art, Mexican food, and dancing to Mood Express in Exhibit Hall C at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St., all for an easy $15. Events begin at 7 and continue until 1 a.m.; for information call 412-1366 in Denver or 1-800-258-1274.
Garden of eatin': Though you might think of it as a steak-and-potatoes, brew-swilling and/or upscale-yuppie-dining kind of town, Denver is actually an adventurous eater's paradise, boasting plenty of ethnic, cheap and unordinary food to choose from, all over town. Readers of Susan Permut's Adventures in Eating, a fabulous guide to eateries, markets and delis throughout the Denver-Boulder area, already know that, but for them and the uninitiated, Permut will sign copies of a new, improved version today at noon at the Tattered Cover, 2955 E. 1st Ave. For details call 322-7727.
Sunday November 5 Watergirl: Accordionist Sharon Shannon, once a touring member of Mike Scott's Celtic revivalist/popster combo the Waterboys, has plenty of fire now that she's her own bandleader. The extraordinary squeezebox artist builds on traditional influences--Irish, Cajun, Portuguese, Swedish, Scottish and more--yet all with her own strong, unforgettable contemporary mark and a virtuosity that's stood on end the ears of Van Morrison, Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss and others who should know. Shannon performs tonight at 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; admission is $15. Call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS for tickets and details.
Monday November 6 To jail or not to jail: Well, of course he did it. Hamlet murdered Polonius. But did Shakespeare's mad prince know what he was doing? The Trial of Hamlet, a mock trial pitting Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and U.S. Attorney Henry Solano as prosecutors against local barristers Walter Gerash and Isaac Kaiser as the defense, will decide once and for all whether or not the Dane was out of his gourd. And just to make it exciting, local celebrities and audience members will be chosen during a jury selection at the beginning of the event, taking place from 7 to 10 at the new Acoma City Center, 1080 Acoma St. Call 722-7994 to purchase tickets, $35; proceeds benefit Colorado Lawyers for the Arts.
Tuesday November 7 New Bjork, new Bjork: Once in a while an artist comes along who's so weird and eccentric that you can't put a label on her. Icelandic shrieker and ex-Sugarcube Bjork fits--or doesn't fit; you decide--the bill, mixing punk, pop, dance beats and, lately, a hokey big-band production number first recorded by Betty Hutton, into something strange, exotic and wonderful. Bjork brings her bizarre voice to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight at 8. Tickets, $20, can be purchased by calling 830-TIXS.
In the 'Nam of the author: Memoir is the powerful oeuvre of author Tobias Wolff, whose sad, funny, painful rite of passage This Boy's Life--both the book and the film with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio--struck a deep nerve in anyone whose adolescence was less than perfect. In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War, his latest, has Wolff casting his unwavering wit and candor on his own Vietnam War experiences. He'll read some passages tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. in Cherry Creek. Pick up a copy, now in paperback, for $12; for details call 322-7727.