Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Last fall, MCA Denver celebrated its first year in its spiffy David Adjaye-designed building at the edge of the Platte Valley. During that time, over 50,000 people made their way through. This response — not to mention the building itself — was orchestrated almost single-handedly by Cydney Payton, who served as executive director and head curator from 2001 through 2008. Payton not only oversaw the design process, but she ran the business end, as well, and programmed all the shows, which will continue to pull thousands of visitors into the place.
In this odd, enigmatic play by Edward Albee, Terry Burnsed played Julian, a humble priest destroyed by a Lawyer, a Cardinal, a Butler and a seductive benefactress named Alice, who may all have been acting on behalf of a corrupt and unimaginably vicious God. Burnsed's portrayal was at the heart of Tiny Alice's power and success; in fact, he acted with such integrity and passion that you wondered how he could endure repeating the role again and again through the run.
Tyee Tilghman brings dignity, subtlety and intelligent understatement to almost everything he does on a stage. This year's triumphs included a hardened street person in Curious's The Denver Project; a small but telling role in the Denver Center's Merry Wives of Windsor, where his low-key humor contrasted nicely with all the crazed hijinks going on around him; and a gravely beautiful portrayal of Orpheus in Sarah Ruhl's conceptually daring version of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, staged — again — by Curious.
Doubt is about a priest who may or may not be molesting a young boy at his school, and the nun who, convinced of his guilt, is determined to bring him down. Jeanne Paulsen made Sister Aloysius every bit as stern and judgmental as the script required, but she also showed us there was something admirable about the woman's strength, single-mindedness and lack of sentimentality — as well as her bracing and ironic sense of humor. Every now and then, there was even a flicker of tenderness. She was, in short, riveting.
All three divas in 3 Mo' Divas sang pieces that ranged from opera to blues to disco with great authority and power. All were sensational. But Nova Y. Payton stood out. When she gave her sexy, playful, yearning rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime," you felt as if you'd never heard the song before, and she stripped "My Funny Valentine" of its corniness. Her phrasing was original and her voice a wonder. Note to Denver directors: Bring her back to us.
Two knock-it-out-of-the-park performances, and another acting display so good it almost saved a not-very-convincing play — that was Emily Paton Davies's contribution to the theater scene this year. In Crimes of the Heart, she played ditsy husband-killer Babe. Describing the killing, this girl was so sweetly and transparently reasonable that you really understood why she'd had to make herself a jug of fresh lemonade immediately afterward (she was thirsty) and then offered her husband a glass as he writhed on the carpet (it was the mannerly thing to do). In Love Song, Paton Davies showed us that she could be tough, funny, brittle and deeply tender. This actress has been on the scene for quite a while, and she gets more versatile and talented with every year that passes.
These days, CDs are seen as outmoded technology — a point made in a witty way by EP01, whose sleeve duplicates the design of an '80s-era floppy disc. Unlike a floppy, however, the CD inside will work in a modern computer drive. That way, Able Archer fans can go old-school in a new-school way.
The Gypsy House, situated on the southeast corner of 13th Avenue and Marion Street, isn't just the place to get some of the best chai in town and relax in a calming bohemian setting. On the second Sunday of every month, it also hosts Textures, a showcase for underground ambient music and sound art from around the country and beyond. Performances take place in the basement, where the furniture and layout make you feel like part of a secret society. Since its debut in May of 2008, Textures has featured performances from the likes of Denver's own Temples as well as better-known artists such as Shelf Life, CloudLanD and Haunted Sound Laboratory. Always hauntingly fascinating.
Louis Vuitton Night proclaims itself "too smart for New York, too hot for L.A." And indeed, Denver ought to be flattered that the $3 anarchist variety show takes place here every so often at the Mercury Cafe instead of one of those two other places. They even do kid-friendly; the most recent incarnation of LVN took place at noon instead of later at night. The important thing to remember is that it's not at all scary. It's just a big party, usually with a theme, showcasing musicians, community organizations, zinesters, drag royalty, performance art, poetry, and DIY projects and fashion designers. A companion publication gets handed out with each show; the Louis Vuitton Review includes pieces on everything from community goings-on to celebrity gossip to anarchist theory — basically the party in book form. Anarchy is the answer.
Conceptual artist Christo and his collaborating wife, Jeanne-Claude, want to put fabric panels over the Arkansas River in southern Colorado, a $50 million project called "Over the River" that they've been working on for more than a decade. It's the second time the two have chosen Colorado as a site for their outrageous creations; the first was 1972's "Valley Curtain," in which they stretched an orange nylon curtain across Rifle Gap. Despite the fact that the curtain ripped almost immediately, the piece became internationally famous. This year, Jennifer Garner and Cecily Cullen, of Metro State's Center for Visual Art, worked with the artists to present Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects, one of the most significant exhibits in Denver last year. It was made up of more than a hundred items, including sketches and designs for "Over the River" demonstrating why the couple deserves to complete it.
At last count, this quixotic effort to crank out soft-wool caps to serve as helmet liners for our troops overseas had produced close to 10,000 noggin-warmers — almost double the initial goal of 5,280. That's a lot of wool, a lot of volunteers knitting away at a pattern posted online, and a massive organizational effort on the part of Fresh City Life's accomplished knitter Chris Loffelmacher and able co-conspirator Francine Lovato, in conjunction with the USO and a host of local sponsors. Regardless of how you feel about the politics of our current foreign entanglements, the soldiers deserve the best in headgear, and the DPL's heads-up contribution makes for a great yarn.
Sometimes, all you need to know about a band is its name to know that it is some kind of awesome. For our money, Sega Genocide is just such a name. Combining nostalgia for our 16-bit, Blast-Processing youth with the bad taste inherent in any reference to genocide, Sega Genocide is a name that captures the imagination in that special, blackly humorous, WTF sort of way that pretty much compels you to check the act out to see what they're all about. And isn't that exactly what a band name is supposed to do?