Set for a spell: It's witching hour, ground zero. So, trolls and ectoplasms, what will be your favorite Halloween haunt tonight? Since there's no law that says ghosts and goblins can't be in shape, you might start out at the Halloween Hustle '96, a 5K twilight sally around Ferril Lake in City Park. Costumes and families are welcome, and little gypsies, hobos, Barney the Dinosaurs and Bart Simpsons--or gloved O.J.'s, for that matter--can participate in their own, scaled-down 1K Monster Dash and enjoy the hot cider and treats offered to all at race's end. Entry fees for the 6:30 run are $18 in advance ($12 children twelve and under, $2 more on race evening); call 758-2030 for details. You'd rather see someone else feel the burn? Frequent Flyers Productions combines aerial dance, low-flying trapeze feats, original music, spoken text, a belly-dancing bat and an upside-down, juggling emcee in a campy Theatre of the Vampires performance inspired by Anne Rice's blood-sucking sagas. The swinging Vampires, fast becoming an annual Halloween must-see in Boulder, hangs out for a long weekend at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 8. Admission is $15; call 786-7030 or 830-TIXS. A masquerade party with the Freddi-Henchi Band follows tomorrow night's performance; a separate admission is required. Now, you all have your opinions about what's truly frightful--and some think a right-wing administration constitutes the horror to end all horrors. If you count yourself among those legions, Fright the Right!--a Halloween party to which guests come dressed as their scariest political nightmares--is just the ticket. Hair of Dole? Eye of Newt? The fun lasts from 9 to midnight at the Denver Civic Theatre, 721 Santa Fe Dr. Admission is $6 at the door; proceeds benefit the Colorado Progressive Coalition and ACORN. Call 866-0908. Just wanna dance? The Dave Matthews Band provides the impetus to do so--with a freewheeling, loose and musical vengeance--tonight at McNichols Arena. Rhythm mistress Me'shell Ndegeocello warms up the floor at 7:30; for tickets, $22.50, call 830-TIXS.
Slings and arrows: Once the smoke cleared over the past month's presidential debates, every pundit in Washington could be heard lamenting the candidates' practiced, manicured, bite-friendly rhetoric. CityStage Ensemble's Bard Bytes takes the scripted debate a step further by pitting two politically orien-ted Shakespeare plays--Julius Caesar and Coriolanus--against one another, each represented by its own manipulative spin doctor. Armed with a multimedia larder of scenes and speeches from each play, each doc will do his damnedest to sway the audience's opinion. Exercise your right to vote tonight at 8 at the Theatre at Jack's, 1553 Platte St.; shows continue on weekends through December 1. Tickets are $10 to $12; for showtimes and reservations call 433-8082.
Key player: Virtuosity takes center stage this weekend at Boettcher Concert Hall when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra presents pianist Yefim Bronfman as part of its Great Performance Series. Bronfman, a onetime boy wonder who made his international debut while still in his teens, will perform a pair of piano concertos by Shostakovich and Liszt with the CSO tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:30 at the hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano conducts; for tickets, $5 to $38, call 830-TIXS.
Asia like it: At long last, blockbuster touring exhibition Imperial Tombs of China is here. The showy collection--opening today at the Denver Museum of Natural History and featuring over 250 artifacts culled from tombs and palaces spanning seven dynasties of Chinese history--is simply breathtaking, from its magnificent pair of nine-foot-tall stone guardian lions, each weighing 19,000 pounds, to a life-sized terra cotta horse and quartet of soldiers excavated from the tomb of a Qin Dynasty emperor. To celebrate, the museum--where Imperial Tombs will reside for several months--is throwing an Asian shindig today in City Park beginning at 9, complete with a people-powered dragon race and rickshaw rides outdoors and musicians, dancers, acrobats and hands-on activities, including calligraphy lessons and I-Ching readings, indoors. Tickets to view the show, which continues through next March, are $9.50 ($7.50 children four to twelve and seniors 65 and older); optional audio tours cost an additional $3.50 per person. Advance reservations are recommended, as tickets are issued for a specific date and time; call 322-4462 to make arrangements.
Zomed out: What's a Zometool? It's a system of balls and struts that fit together in astonishing architectural configurations. And oh, yeah, it's a toy--sort of a Lego set for the next generation that does away with the sharp corners and angles of conventional construction toys--for kids and adults alike. The small-fry fraction of that human equation is invited to take part in a Zome Planet Contest and Demonstration today at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St. The kids can not only watch experts at work with Zometool, but also compete to win their own Zometool kit by building something really, really wacky. The contest and demos are ongoing from 10 to 4; for details call 436-1070.
Alternative takes: Colfax Avenue plays host tonight to a pair of concerts you might not have expected: An eccentric British double bill, featuring cultish ex-Soft Boy Robyn Hitchcock and post-punk folkie Billy Bragg, punches things up at 9 at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax. Hitchcock ranges from brilliant to perturbing, while Bragg can be downright raw; for tickets, $18.50, call 830-2525 or 1-800-444-SEAT. Farther up the street, there'll be something familiar and something missing when The Heads, formerly "Talking" ones, drop by the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, for a back-burning, late-night show at 10:45. Though main mouthpiece David Byrne has left the flock, the still-tight rhythm section keeps impeccable time--same as it ever was. Their new album, made with the help of a battalion of guest vocalists that includes a throaty Johnette Napolitano, sounds a little thin, but, hell, you can still dance to it. Tickets are $20; call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS.
Let's do the twist: They were our girls of summer. While Amy Van D. was whomping through the water and rivals Devers and Torrence were clearing the hurdles and stirring the gossip mill, the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics troupe was twisting, vaulting, flipping, flying and contorting its way to a team gold medal and a group picture on a Wheaties box. Led by perky medal-brandishing Shannon Miller (ever since Nadia and Mary Lou, it seems perky is a prerequisite), a crack crew of Olympic acrobats will be on hand for World Tour of Gymnastics Champions, a leaping exhibition at McNichols Arena featuring not only women's-team stars Miller, Moceanu, Dawes, Phelps, Borden and Chow, but Ukrainian medal-winner Liliya Podkopayeva and a muscled selection of U.S. men's teamers as well. Admission to the 3 p.m. performance ranges from $19.50 to $35; call 830-TIXS.
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What's your sign? The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities celebrates its open approach to accessibility for people of all abilities with a full week of related performances and activities. Kicking off events is Curioser and Curioser, a new take on Lewis Carroll's Alice character--a subject that's been annotated, staged, filmed and translated into dozens of languages. But not this one: Today at 2, the National Theater for the Deaf performs in what is touted to be the first Alice production to be translated into American Sign Language. Music, stunning choreography and spoken words complete the interpretation, which weaves Carroll's fantastic fictional Alice together with his real-life source of inspiration, Alice Liddell. Admission is $18; for tickets and information about this and other events--including a tactile gallery collection on loan from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, a children's play with the Little Theater of the Deaf and a shadowing workshop with renowned interpreter Jaine Richards--call 431-3939. The center is located at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Classic act: When world-class cellist Yo Yo Ma teams up with country fiddle monster Mark O'Connor and bassist Edgar Meyer, you might think it's an unlikely mix. But the immaculately smooth blend actually recalls both the folk classicism of artists such as Norman and Nancy Blake and the ordered realms of chamber music. In other words, what these skillful guys do--without question--is make simple, elegant, beautiful music together. It works like a charm on their Sony CD, Appalachia Waltz, and it ought to be impressive when they perform live on stage at Boettcher Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tonight at 7:30. Meetings this magical are few and far between; for tickets and information call 777-3836.
Toe the line: Tap dance, the ultimate vaudevillian skill, has been raised to high art over the years by the likes of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Fred Astaire, Bunny Briggs, Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines and, now, Broadway phenom Savion Glover. A rhythmic combination of clackety-clack athleticism and street-corner grace, it's never been bigger. That's just one reason Tap Dogs, the rollicking, nonstop creation of Australian choreographer Dein Perry, is worth a look. See the touring Tap Dogs for one week only at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, beginning tonight at 8 and continuing through November 10. Admission ranges from $10 to $29; call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS for reservations and additional information.
Hail to the Hawking: One of our best documentarians, filmmaker Errol Morris, has created award-winning works ranging from the deadpan, tragicomic cinema verite Gates of Heaven to The Thin Blue Line, a fascinating dissection of crime and punishment in America. (The latter, by the way, led to a real-life acquittal.) Perhaps his best-known piece, though, is the riveting study of scientist and thinker Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, filmed exquisitely with complete cooperation from Hawking, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. A guest this week at CU-Boulder, Morris will be present on campus tonight at 7:30 for a screening of the film and a question-and-answer period afterward. The screening, shown as part of the school's ongoing International Film Series, takes place in Muenzinger Auditorium, located on campus in the Sibel-Wolle Fine Arts Building. Admission is free; call 492-1531 for more information.