Thrills for the week

Thursday
April 10
The write stuff: Writer Mona Simpson has a real gift for weaving fiction out of the threads of autobiography. What's really amazing is how she manages to do it without boring anyone to tears. Simpson's notable 1986 debut novel, Anywhere But Here, and its followup, The Lost Father, gave first-person insights into the hardships of growing up in a splintered, fatherless contemporary family. Her third and latest book, A Regular Guy, again dallies with such themes, but in a new voice that incorporates a character based more than incidentally on Simpson's brother, Apple Computer maven Steve Jobs.

For her sensitive way of handling lifelike incidents in an imaginatively crafted literary infrastructure, Simpson will receive this year's Evil Companions Literary Award, given annually by CSU's Colorado Review literary journal and the Tattered Cover to an author who writes about or has ties to the West. Named in homage to a bygone circle of Denver journalists who used to drink and gab together in the '50s and '60s, the award will be presented at a reading, book signing and reception from 6 to 8 at the Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St. Admission to the event, which includes a one-year subscription to the review, is $35 ($20 students, $60 couple); call 1-970-491-5449 for reservations.

Out of Africa: Don't call it the Dark Continent anymore. The real Africa is the motherland of a thousand cultural lights, from joyful, spirited dance forms to powerful, politically charged poetry. The former will be the focus of a week-long learning celebration with the Chuck Davis Community Dance Project-Sankofa!, an African-American ensemble offering a variety of workshops and programs on West African dance and drumming. Davis, who's made it a lifelong quest to promote African traditions, will first host It Takes a Village: A Yado Workshop for Youth and Families tonight from 6 to 8 at the Eulipions Youth Institute, 2425 Welton St. The emphasis of the multi-arts program falls squarely on the family part, and admission is free. Tomorrow from 2 to 4, a pair of ensemble drummers give an African drum class at the Moyo Nguvu Cultural Arts Center, 1648 Gaylord St.; then Davis gives an intermediate-level dance class from 5 to 7 at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, 119 Park Ave. West. Both classes require a $10 registration fee in advance. And finally, Davis and troupe will assemble at the Boulder Public Library Auditorium to provide a lively introduction to the film Dancing Through West Africa, which screens at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow as part of the library's ongoing free film series. All events are sponsored by the Colorado Dance Festival; call 442-7666 for information or class registration.

The poetry end of things will be handled with flair tonight by Boulder's Left Hand Book Collective, which hosts an 8:30 p.m. reading by South African poets Dennis Brutus and Laurence Paverd. Offering an interesting juxtaposition pairing Brutus, a black man who has written widely on his imprisonment under apartheid law, and Paverd, a white man who writes about South African inequities from a different, though sympathetic, perspective, the event also will include a first-come, first-served open-reading segment. Left Hand is at 1825 Pearl St., upstairs from the Wild Oats Market; call 443-8252 or 402-0375.

Friday
April 11
On the road again: If Texas is like a nation all its own, it's no wonder Austin is its capital. Take a look at Austin's hotbed of a music community: The Lone Star seat harbors more American roots-music originals per square inch than nearly any other city we can think of--La La Land included. Blues, folk, rock, country, Tejano--if the idiom has a name, you can probably find it somewhere in Austin.

If there's any one standout hallmark in Austin's music, it would have to be a kind of human grit--that age-old dust swept up by weathered storytellers who still know how to have a damn good time. And guitar-slinging singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave--performing tonight at the Mercury Cafe in conjunction with the Swallow Hill Music Association's Best of Texas Series--fits that mold like a glove. Down-home and eclectic, LaFave and his band go on at 8; for tickets, $10 to $12, call 1-800-444-SEAT. The Mercury is located at 2199 California St.

Saturday
April 12
San Luis rays: One of the state's oldest, richest and best-preserved cultures will have its day in the sun at KUVO-FM radio's annual Canciones del Pasado/ Songs of the Past concert, taking place tonight at 7 at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St. Spotlighting musicians and troubadour-style theatrical performers of the San Luis Valley region of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, the folkloric celebration will also feature a presentation of traditional children's games and a reception with regional dishes available for a minimal cost. General admission is $5 per person; to reserve tickets in advance, call 480-9272.

Boston beings: The Bug Performance and Media Art Center is shipping in East Coast experimental musician Ken Field tonight for an unusual performance featuring saxophone and percussion works from Subterranea, a well-received O.O. Discs album released last year. Additionally, Field, best known as a member of Boston's weird-music ensemble Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, will present animation works created by his wife and collaborator, Sesame Street filmmaker Karen Aqua, and enhanced by Field's original soundtrack material. Tickets for the one-night-only performance are $6 ($4 members, students and seniors); call 477-5977. The Bug is at 3654 Navajo St. in the Highland Arts District.

Fit to be tied: What is Jack LaLanne's lasting message to the world? Perhaps the first thing to consider is why the fitness guru would even want to leave one: At 82, LaLanne still looks fit enough to outlast his own message. Ah, what the heck--find out what the original man of steel has to say, at KBDI-TV/Channel 12's latest strange-bedfellows edition of The 11th Hour, taking place tonight at 8 at the Denver Center Media Studio, 1245 Champa St. Joining LaLanne on stage in the fourth-floor studio with their own personal messages will be Chinese human-rights activist Harry Wu and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa--which is just another way of saying there's no way to know what to expect. Tickets for The 11th Hour, which will be videotaped, and a post-reception, are $25; call 296-1212.

Sunday
April 13
Go for Baroque: There are baroque and early classical ensembles--and then there is Combattimento Consort Amsterdam of the Netherlands, which distinguishes itself from the pack by presenting a unique and often unexpected repertoire that mixes popular material with less familiar (but no less worthy) works. The group performs pieces by Rameau, Biber, Vivaldi, Fasch and J.S. Bach when it appears as part of the University of Colorado College of Music's Artist Series today at 4 in Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. Admission ranges from $10 to $30; to reserve tickets call 492-8008.

Monday
April 14
Expect the Wirtz: The boogie-woogie man is back. The Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, a gargantuan South Carolinian with a penchant for honky-tonk, R&B and professional wrestling, practices what he preaches, tickling the 88s in a properly reverent fashion that's part revival, part comic routine and part sweat-soaked raveup. Amen! Wirtz appears tonight at 8 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder; tickets are $10.50. Call 443-3399 or 830-TIXS.

Tuesday
April 15
Tax relief: T.S. Eliot said it best in "The Waste Land": "April is the cruelest month." And Tax Day is by far the most universal ritual we Americans celebrate each spring. But look at it this way--once you've dropped your returns in the slot, the weeks of procrastination are over. The check is in the mail. Whatever.

Maybe on paper Eliot's poem seems like an evil (not to mention late) April Fool's joke. But should you choose to swing by the Terminal Annex Postal Station, 16th and Wynkoop streets, you might be handed a free copy of the dour epic, courtesy of the University of Denver's Creative Writing Program. You see, it's also National Poetry Month. Funny how these things all fall together--though we presume the volumes won't be autographed.

Of course, you may prefer to drown--along with your copy of "The Waste Land"--in your own misery after the deed is done. How about extra dry, with a twist? The Fourth Story Restaurant and Bar, located atop the Tattered Cover at 2955 E. 1st Ave., will host an Absolut Martini Lounge tonight at 5:30, providing taxpayers of age with a sophisticated way to weep. Martinis will be priced per drink, and complimentary hors d'oeuvre will be served alongside. Early arrival is suggested, especially if the bad news is something you'd rather take sitting down. Call 322-1824.

Wednesday
April 16
It's all in your head: According to journalist and author Elaine Showalter, the power of suggestion is a mighty thing, especially in an age when a rumor can fly through the mass media like one supersonic bat outta hell. Showalter explores what she says are exaggerated and overhyped modern-day phenomena--from alien visitations to chronic fatigue syndrome--in her book Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture, a no-nonsense, rational put-down of what may be little more than global fads. She'll discuss these theories and sign copies of the book tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave.; for details call 322-7727.


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