Thrills for the week

May 8
War and priests: Church-related issues run thick and deep in Racing Demon, David Hare's insightful theater verite based on the playwright's in-depth interviews of priests in impoverished London neighborhoods. While Hare pays homage to the grassroots efforts of Anglican clergymen on the streets of South London, he's not so kind to the machine that governs them: In the wake of the play's 1990 debut, Hare's dramatic criticisms drew an antagonistic response from Church of England officials, who felt he'd perhaps carved too close to the bone. Now the Denver Center Theatre Company brings Racing Demon to life for local audiences at the Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, where the play opens for previews tonight at 8. Performances continue daily except Monday through June 14; audience "Talk Backs" will follow selected shows throughout the run. Admission ranges from $25 to $32 ($20-$23 for previews, through May 14); call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS for reservations.

Listen and learn: In commemoration of National Holocaust Awareness Week, city officials will host Remember for Tomorrow, an evening of events that begins with a 6:30 p.m. dinner with Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Denver, 1750 Welton St. A free concert, featuring the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Children's Chorale and Yeladim Children's Chorale, as well as another appearance by Weisel, follows at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Dinner tickets, $150 to $250, benefit education programs of the CSO, the Holocaust Awareness Institute and the Denver Art, Culture and Film Foundation; call 512-8283 for reservations. The concert is free, but tickets are required and will be available at the Paramount box office beginning today at 10 a.m.

May 9
All the mall's a stage: You're never too young to appreciate and understand Shakespeare. After all, what kid wouldn't get a kick out of slapstick comedy, swordplay, mixed-up masquerades and melancholy princes speaking to real, actual skulls? The Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival, an annual spring event celebrating its thirteenth year, shows the rest of us just how much Denver schoolkids really do appreciate and understand the Bard's work. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, 3,000 elementary-to-high-school-age students from 42 schools will congregate on seven stages located on and around the 16th Street Mall to present Shakespearean scenes and sonnets along with music, dance, juggling and other Renaissance-period arts. The whole thing kicks off, rain or shine, at 10 with a costume parade from the Plex, at 14th and Curtis, to Skyline Park, 16th and Arapahoe. The Romp, a culminating "Shakespeare Jam" also at Skyline, provides a fitting finale from 3 to 4.

Dig it: Another time-honored tradition pokes its head out of the ground today. The two-day Denver Botanic Gardens Plant and Book Sale returns for the weekend, offering gardening bargain hunters a cornucopia of merchandise. Containers, seeds, Mother's-Day-appropriate gift items and nearly 20,000 used books will be on sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and tomorrow. New and unique items this year include an expanded selection of popular heirloom tomatoes, rock-garden specialties, aquatic plants and a new "Plant Select" release of five cultivars particularly suited to local growing conditions. To ease the expected parking crush around the DBG grounds at 1005 York St., a free double-decker shuttle will run from the Glendale Target store at 4301 E. Virginia Ave. For information call 370-8187. Sale admission is free.

Candid cameras: Photography's greatest gift is its ability to capture moments--both the glowing, human sort and the atmospheric, visual kind--and make immediate statements, all without uttering a word. One of pictorial art's best observers of the mortal coil, Parisian-born photog Willy Ronis, is the subject of an exhibit opening tonight at the Camera Obscura Gallery, 1309 Bannock St., where high-quality shows develop with astonishing regularity. Attend a reception tonight from 5:30 to 8:30, or drop in to view the show through June 8; for details, call 623-4059.

An interesting grab bag of thematic works by five local photographers makes up the exhibit Photo '97, also opening this evening from 7 to 10 at the Mackey Gallery, 2900 W. 25th Ave. The diverse showcase--which includes Andrew Beckham's orderly mixed-media constructions, Patricia Barry Levy's works juxtaposing human and industrial forms, Chris James's black-and-white night-shot images of Denver, Gene Jacob's straightforward studies of local squatter kids, and Kit Hedman's shifting, layered images--continues through June 14. Call 455-1157.

Swing time: When the dancers of Frequent Flyers Productions choose to swing, they take their swinging seriously. In its latest production, Swing, Swing, Swing, taking place tonight and tomorrow at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, the troupe combines its specialty--choreography incorporating the use of a low-flying trapeze--with the big-band music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others. So should you go, you'll be transported halfway between Roseland and the Ringling Brothers. It's different--and the music, blasted out live by the local, thirteen-piece Crystal Swing Band, promises to be a treat. Admission to the 8 p.m. show ranges from $16 to $20; call 830-TIXS. For more information, call Frequent Flyers at 444-5569.

May 10
City of hope: The city belongs to all of us, and that may be why Box City, during which kids in grades K-5 team up to plan and construct a cardboard metropolis, is such a fitting preamble to the annual celebration of Historic Denver Week. This year's Box City event will be held today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Park Central Complex lobby, 16th and Arapahoe streets, adjacent to Skyline Park. It's free and open to all; Historic Denver, Inc., provides the paper and glue, but the kids have to provide the know-how. Bet they'll do just fine.

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