Thrills for the week

September 28
Bless the beasts: Man's best friends, whether they be feathered, furry, scaly or slimy, will have their day today at St. John's Cathedral's annual St. Francis Festival and Blessing of the Animals, one of the few occasions when it's considered perfectly all right to take your pet to church. Animals that participate in the short service and reception outside the church at 14th and Washington will receive special certificates; some of their homeless relatives from the Denver Dumb Friends League will also be on hand, hoping to be adopted. The event is free as a bird, but donations of pet food will be accepted; call 831-7115.

September 29
Spliced Kiwis: Filmmakers from New Zealand? You bet. Even more amazing is that so many filmmakers from the sparsely populated island nation are women. Jane Campion, director of The Piano, is at the top of the heap, but a number of other up-and-coming auteurs provide an ample supply of thought-provoking entertainment during tonight's Extraordinary Women of Film Festival at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. The benefit screening, a fundraiser for the Denver chapter of Women in Film, Video and Television, shows at 7 and 9 p.m.; for tickets, $7, call 322-2308.

September 30
Days and nights of wonder: It's difficult to call Cirque du Soleil a circus, though that's precisely what it is. But the Cirque's balletic, magical unfolding of acrobatics, balancing acts, trapeze artistry and clowning around makes it such a refined version of a circus, you'd rather call it a dream. The French-Canadian troupe, in the act since the early '80s, brings its latest big-top confection, Quidam, to a tent at 16th and Delgany streets, directly behind Union Station, for a five-week run. Featuring exquisitely original costumery, a contemporary score and a set equipped with an overhead conveyor used to create special effects and deliver performers to the stage, performances take place daily except Monday through November 2, with multiple performances offered Thursday through Sunday. Admission ranges from $15.50 to $44.50 for adults and $7.75 to $31.25 for children; reserve tickets by calling 1-800-678-5440.

Can do: Very Special Arts Colorado has a noble function: The organization is dedicated to promoting the artistic contributions of people with disabilities, not only by allowing them better access to educational arts programs and organizations, but also by showcasing their work. In order to do just that, VSAC is throwing ABLExpressions, a shindig that's part art walk, part block party, part auction and part variety show, beginning tonight at 6:30 on the 1400 block of Old South Pearl. It kicks off with a reception and silent auction at Hugh's New American Bistro, 1469 S. Pearl St.; artworks will be on view at Stella's, a neighborhood coffeehouse that's a short walk across the street. Featured will be Longmont sculptor Ivan Schlutz, whose creativity blossomed following a debilitating head injury. At 8:15 the action moves inside the Vogue Theatre, next door to Hugh's, where emcee Pam Daale will preside over a live auction and performances by Geri Jewell, a comedian and actress with cerebral palsy, and local bassist Jeffrey Marshall, who, because of a birth defect, plays the instrument with his feet. Admission is $25 in advance ($35 at the door); for reservations call 904-1820.

October 1
Outer limits: Excellent chops, appreciation of roots and a couple of keen ears for the jazz of the future make up the formidable vitae of bassist Michael Formanek and reedman Tim Berne; working both together and apart, these musicians have accrued a long list of recording credits and accomplishments. The Creative Music Works and the Lamont School of Music present the cutting-edge duo tonight at 8 in the Grout Theater, Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd., as part of their joint new-music series; tickets are $8 at the door ($5 students and seniors). Call 759-1797 for additional information.

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