THRILLS

Wednesday January 17 West meets West: Old and new images of the American West meet magnificently in Western Visions: An Exhibit of Place and Culture, a major juried show now on display at Republic Plaza, 370 17th St. Featuring over eighty pieces executed in styles from traditional to contemporary in a variety of media, Western Visions primarily represents Colorado artists--twenty of 'em, to be exact. See the exhibit, located on the building's lobby and concourse levels, at your own pace, from 9 to 6 weekdays or 9 to 2 Saturdays; it runs through March 7. Or choose to attend a lunch-hour art tour guided by show curators, offered from 11:30 to 12:15 today and February 7. For information call 733-1868. Also in a Western vein, though ninety minutes south on I-25, are a number of related exhibits chock-full of cowboy imagery at the nifty Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, 210 N. Santa Fe Ave. in Pueblo. But we'd happily take a Sunday drive just to see Peewees, Sharp Toes and Stovepipes: A Western Boot Exhibition, featuring some of the fanciest footwear ever stitched (for the likes of Roy Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor and Boris Yeltsin), along with more utilitarian models undoubtedly still encrusted with Civil War mud. The show includes more than 100 pairs of boots in all. Also of interest, and opening at the center this Saturday, is a collection of paintings and drawings by Fred Harman, the Colorado creator of fictional cowboy Red Ryder; a nostalgic sideshow of Ryder memorabilia will accompany the artwork. See these and other exhibits through early March (a reception will be held February 2 from 5 to 8 p.m.); call 1-719-543-0130 for details.

Thursday January 18 On the right track: Theatergoers in Denver are by now well-acquainted with the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, whose respected and epic canon of plays dealing with the African-American experience has been unfolding in the area--courtesy of the Denver Center Theatre Company--over the past several years. Two Trains Running, set in 1969 in a Pittsburgh diner and the latest in a series of Wilson dramas directed by Israel Hicks, opens tonight at 8 in the Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, with an all-star cast. Performances continue through February 17. Ticket prices range from $23 to $30; for reservations call 893-4100. Then acquaint yourself some more: Wilson, visiting in conjunction with the production, will speak at 4 p.m. January 29 and participate in a panel discussion at 2:30 p.m. January 30 (both at the Stage Theatre, also in the Plex). Although admission is free, tickets--available at the door only--are required for these special appearances. Call for information.

Friday January 19 Airheads: Some people walk with their heads in the clouds. But in a dancer's case, it only means she's hard at work, plying the barrel leaps and graceful sissonnes of her trade. JUMPSTART/Danceworks takes the business of getting a jump on the new year quite seriously by hosting two evenings of high-flying repertory works by artistic director Maureen Breeze and other guest choreographers. Performances, including the premiere of Breeze's Seasons of the Soul, two pieces by a pair of Seattle artists and a third by former Los Angeleno Tina Gerstler, take place tonight and tomorrow at 8 at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, 119 Park Avenue West. Tickets are $10 ($8 students and seniors); call 623-9024.

Saturday January 20 Building blocks: Sculptor/installation artist Michael Warrick, usually a visual-arts prof in Little Rock, has been hard at work all week here in Denver creating The Astronomers' Dream: Objects/Environments --a new work at Auraria's Emmanuel Gallery--while students, other artists and just about anyone who cared to, watched the installation process. Warrick will give a talk during a reception today from 3 to 5:30 for the now-finished work; the completed project can also be seen during gallery hours, through February 7. The gallery is located at 10th and Lawrence streets on the Auraria campus; call 556-2626 for information.

Flying colors: There are few sights in the natural world as majestic and memorable as that of a bald eagle. Once you've seen one, you'll have no problem understanding why the regal raptor is considered the nation's living, breathing symbol. So here's your chance: In celebration of the annual migration that brings over 100 baldies to roost at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge between December and March, the facility hosts its Eagle Expo Family Day today from 9 to 3. The free open house features exhibits, wildlife tours, kids' activities and more, including a visit with an Oglala Lakota leader who will explain the mighty bird's significance in Native American culture. Shuttles will carry participants to the refuge visitor center at fifteen-minute intervals from park entrances at 72nd Ave. and Quebec St. or 56th Ave. and Havana St.; for information about this and other eagle-related activities at the arsenal, call 289-0232.

Group dynamics: The list of comedians who've honed their early skills as house satirists with the Second City improv group has grown way too long to fit comfortably on this page. But suffice it to say the enormously popular Chicago boot camp--later joined by a twin venue in Toronto--has been so successful at turning out truly funny people that a road show was eventually formed. Chances are you won't recognize one name of the touring tribe, but don't count on any of them retaining that unknown status forever--the stars of tomorrow perform tonight at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. Tickets for the 7:30 show are $15; call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS.

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