Thrills for the week

January 30
Ai on life: The compelling and beautiful works of award-winning distinguished poet Ai--the author of four published collections and a guest professor and artist at CU-Boulder--cut straight to the point, telling forthright stories of the downtrodden in a parade of cracked, unremitting voices. And accordingly, whether you're a scholar, a devotee of modern poetry, or simply a sensitive soul in search of some meaningful language, Ai's presence tonight at Toads in the Garden, the Auraria campus poetry series, is something to whoop, peep and croak about. Toads, held weekly at the Daily Grind Coffee House, located in Tower Alley at the Tivoli Student Union, 900 Auraria Pkwy., traditionally begins at 7:30 p.m. with an open reading (sign up early at the door); Ai performs afterward, at 8. Admission is $2 ($1 for students with ID); call 573-JAVA or 556-3940.

Escape from L.A.: In case you thought the wicked recording studios of the City of Angels were inhabited only by tattooed, drug-addicted and obscenely pierced circus performers masquerading as musicians, take another look. A couple of fresh-sounding Los Angeleno transplants, Chalk Farm and the Wild Colonials, make unadorned music that seems--my God!--to have a point. Combining folkish touches (the Colonials feature fiddle, pennywhistle and didgeridoo in their saucy instrumentation) with thoughtful, principled lyrics, both groups merit a listen. They get together tonight at 8 in a double bill at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; you'll have a second chance to check them out Monday at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Admission to either show is five bucks; call the Bluebird, 322-2308, or the Fox, 443-3399, for ticket information.

SoCal yokels: Has the modernization of Shakespeare gone too far this time? Probably not. In fact, the Denver Center Theatre Company's newly updated take on The Comedy of Errors sounds as if it's right on the money, spreading out the bard's glut of hilarious stock characters on the beaches and boardwalks of sunny Southern California. Bedecked as surf bums, in-line skaters and other shoreside kooks, the reconfigured roles stick to tradition nicely--only in a different century. Sound like fun, fun, fun? The mistaken identities of yore collide in modern times, evoking belly laughs and hilarious hints of recognition on a set complete with real sand and a dune buggy, beginning tonight at 8 at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The run continues daily except Sundays, through February 23; for showtimes and tickets, ranging from $25 to $32, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.

January 31
Ladies write the plays: You don't have to be a woman to find something to enjoy at the Colorado Women Playwrights Festival--the six plays chosen for the fest sponsored by Industrial Arts Theatre Inc. traverse a curious gamut of subjects, from the life of flamboyant Mexican painter Frida Kahlo to the more bizarre effects of one woman's appointment with a psychiatrist. Two separate programs, featuring two and four of the varied women's works, respectively, will be presented in repertory at the New Denver Civic Theatre, 721 Santa Fe Drive, beginning tonight at 7:30 and continuing with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, through February 23. Admission is $11 to $13 per program or $20 for a festival pass; call 595-3821 for reservations and a complete schedule.

All keyed up: The Colorado Symphony Orchestra serves up an evening of pure delight tonight at 7:30 when it presents dueling jazz pianists Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis on the Boettcher Concert Hall stage. The joint is guaranteed to swing when Taylor--a scholar known to public-radio and morning-television audiences as an arts commentator, and a veteran musician who's toured alongside the likes of Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell and Mary Lou Williams--meets five-time Grammy winner Lewis, the man responsible for such mid-'60s instrumental hits as "The In Crowd" and "Wade in the Water." The pair will collaborate on a treasure box of tunes by Benny Moten, Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver and Duke Ellington, as well as a smattering of Lewis favorites; for tickets, $5 to $38, call 830-TIXS. Boettcher Hall is located at 14th and Curtis streets in the Plex.

February 1
Fun and gays: There's a definite niche for the growing ranks of gay and lesbian humorists, but the truth of the matter is this: Gay comics are funny, well, because they're funny, not because they're gay. Which means there'll be levels of high hilarity that anyone can applaud at the fourth annual Comedy Gay-La IV, presented tonight at 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets in the Plex. Presented by KBDI-TV/Channel 12 and Out Front Colorado, this year's show features a trio of outrageous outs--California standups Bob Smith and Robin Greenspan and Texan Paul J. Williams, best known for his white-trash real-estate-agent character, Nelda, a chain-smoker who flounces about in a beehive 'do. Gay-La tickets are $16; to purchase yours in advance, call 830-TIXS.

The sound and the fury: Though they were called "degenerates" by the Nazis, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Kurt Weill have prevailed as geniuses of the twentieth century, along with lesser-known peers also banned by the Reich. Their legacy will be explored during Entartete Musik--The Beautiful and the Banned: Music Forbidden by the Third Reich, a concert and film series sponsored by the Mizel Family Cultural Arts Center of the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center. The series opens tonight at 8 with Jazz and Cabaret Music of the 1920s and 1930s, performed by the Colorado Chamber Players and featuring a selection of songs by Weill, a jazz sonata by Ervin Schulhoff and works by Bohuslav Martinu. Admission to the program, taking place in the JCC's Shwayder Theatre, 350 S. Dahlia St., is $10 ($8 students and seniors).

Future series offerings include the February 13 screening of a documentary film, September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill, a March concert and a special May 4 concert/film program commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. Admission to September Songs is $5, and concert subscription tickets are available for $25 ($20 students and seniors); call 321-8297 or 399-2660 for information and reservations.

February 2
Lotsa Luke: The impending re-release of George Lucas's visually bolstered Star Wars Trilogy is certain to set off a reverberating public mania for memorabilia and other commercial objects. It happened once, and it'll happen again: Get ready to be bombarded with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo action figures, Princess Leia dolls, Chewy masks and talking robots--not to mention a spate of incandescent sabers that could rival the Hula Hoop in terms of sudden popularity.

Or maybe you're one of the lucky ones who still has the stuff you collected twenty years ago: Because trilogy mastermind Lucas personally approved the first wave of Star Wars collectibles, including Kenner's innovative pint-sized figures (pre-Lucas action toys saw eye-to-eye with Ken and Barbie, while post-Lucas toys fit more easily in grubby little hands), scale models, posters and books, some of the items are now worth as much as $1,000. Check it out--these pricey gems of popular culture are the focus of a new exhibit at the Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. The museum is located in the historic Pearce-McAllister Cottage, 1880 Gaylord St.; admission is $3 ($2 for seniors and children ages two to sixteen). For details call 322-1053. Go, be a kid again--and really, may the force be with you.

February 3
Behind closed doors: Expressing lament over the ton of fine artwork that ends up in the exclusive environs and lofty high-rise inner sanctums of business institutions is a no-brainer. It's just a darn shame that nobody who isn't somebody in the firm ever gets a chance to see the stuff. In their favor, though, corporate art collections are a rich source of income for artists who might otherwise starve in their garrets. And, as one corporate collector reasonably puts it, "Art is not only the result of someone else's creativity, it can--and does--stimulate the viewer to be more open-minded and creative." A win-win situation? Whatever.

Now the rest of us can have a crack at appreciating the aforementioned inspirational qualities of all that fabulous, stowed-away corporate art: Corporate Collections '97, currently on display on the lobby and concourse levels of Republic Plaza, 370 17th St., features works created by an outstanding roster of national and regional artists and culled from the archives of twenty metro-area businesses. The show can be viewed through March 19; call 733-1868 for information.

February 4
Up on the roof: Here's the perfect chance to eat, drink and be merry--with a view. The well-windowed Fourth Story Restaurant & Bar, high atop the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover, at 2955 E. 1st Ave., hosts a Michel-Schlumberger Wine Dinner, complete with five-course meal and four award-winning wines presented by Sonoma County vintner Jacques P. Schlumberger. The oenophile's feast, which begins at 6:30, costs $69 per person, all-inclusive; for reservations (highly recommended) call 322-1824.

February 5
See Jane be a dick: Jane Austen and good, old-fashioned mysteries--they both have their faithful aficionados, many of whom quite likely overlap. Colorado author Stephanie Barron (aka Francine Matthews) satisfies both camps--and those who intermingle--in her ingenious new series of mysteries featuring Austen herself in the starring role as head sleuth and social observer. Barron will autograph copies of her second Austen mystery, Jane and the Man of the Cloth ($21.95 from Bantam), and discuss the mystery writer's craft from a personal point of view tonight at 7 at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 960 S. Colorado Blvd. For additional information call 691-2998.

Aria ready? Be sensible--leave your good crystal at home tonight when the Boulder Philharmonic presents internationally famous lyric soprano Kathleen Battle in a solo recital at Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. The Grammy-winning diva will exercise her super, glass-shattering vocal chops on various works by Strauss, Handel, Rodrigo and Donizetti, as well as a medley of spirituals, tonight at 8; a pre-concert lecture begins at 7. Recital admission ranges from $22 to $85, and the house is certain to sell out; call 449-1343 for information or to reserve tickets.


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