Material world: Well-worn baby blankets, christening gowns, Halloween costumes, patchwork quilts and wedding attire are the kinds of sentiment-charged mementos we stash in our attics for posterity. Cultural Threads: Ceremonial Textiles Around the World, a new exhibit opening today at the Mizel Museum of Judaica, 560 S. Monaco Pkwy., examines symbolic fiber arts from a myriad of cultures, juxtaposing an Afghani bridal robe with a rare hand-spun and embroidered Guatemalan huipil or an African tunic with a Muslim prayer rug. At the heart of the exhibit is a series of elaborate wimpels, or Torah binders, created by women artists. Though the binders traditionally follow young Jewish men through their many rites of passage, this collection celebrates life passages of both males and females. A reception featuring African and Caribbean drummers takes place tonight at 7; Cultural Threads remains on display through February 25. Call 333-4156 for information.
Give 'em a hound: A middle-aged husband goes gaga over a stray dog in Sylvia, a tender comedy by A.R. Gurney that explores the foibles of marriage and midlife with an even keel and a twinkle in its eye. The Denver Center Theatre Company stages Gurney's gentle lampoon beginning tonight at 8 at the Ricketson Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; the run continues daily except Sunday through February 14. For showtimes and tickets, ranging in price from $27 to $33, call 893-4100.
Off the mall: This month's Third Thursday Art Walk in Cherry Creek North, which falls a week before Christmas, not only offers fresh air and a change of pace from elbow-jostling in the malls, but also provides plenty of splendid opportunities for last-minute shopping. On the festive gallery jaunt in the area between 1st and 3rd avenues and University and Steele streets, you're likely to find one-of-a-kind menorahs at Show of Hands, silver and turquoise at West Southwest, wacky lamps and blown-glass blossoms at Pismo, futuristic salt and pepper shakers at Squisito, fancy fishing lures at the Angler and a shopping-bagful of other surprises. Gallery doors will be open from 5 to 9; for information call 831-0843.
Grow up, already: The kids are ho-ho-hoing the season away at Christmas plays about town--so what about you? Holiday stage fare tailored more to your adult intellect can be found at the Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma St., where Tales From the Snowside, a pair of wintry one-acts written and directed by local playwright Terry Dodd, run in tandem on Friday and Saturday nights, through January 31. The autobiographical Vaughan, New Mexico, Christmas Eve, 1956 recalls a family road trip, while a droll holiday version of Laurel & Hardy Sleep Together yucks it up with Grandma Tookey in her Airstream trailer; for tickets, $13 to $15, call 623-0524.
At Germinal Stage, 2450 W. 44th Ave., you'll find a looser aggregation of Yuleish entertainment in small-theater maven Ed Baierlein's Christmas for Adults of All Ages, an assortment of songs, readings and poems geared to enlightening the mind and lightening the soul. Baierlein stresses that "secular humanists are welcome and encouraged" to attend the show, which plays for three performances at 8 p.m. today through Sunday only. Tickets are $9; call 455-7108 for reservations.
Be there now: The wave of the future is a thing of the past--if you're not into martinis, pearls, decolletage and swing dancing, you're nobody, darling. But drape yourself in all of the above, set the beat to mambo, and you'll find yourself in the glamour zone, big time, dancing to the wildly popular local big-band ensemble Cabaret Diosa. Have some fun--the campy conglomeration puts on a show tonight at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder; for tickets, $6.50, call 830-TIXS.
Things will also be swinging tonight at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., to the more traditional Jazz West, a twenty-piece band even Fred and Ginger could appreciate. Arrive early for help with your fancy steps at a 5 p.m. class, then hang around for the full-tilt dancing at 7:30; admission is $5. Call 294-9281.
Creature comforts: Oh, to be a Hindu deity--you've got shopping bags in one arm, a tray of cookies in the other, three whining kids hanging off a third, and then there's little Zasu, who's tugging firmly at your kneecap. Our advice? Drop everything. Here are some of the places to which you can whisk yourself and your crabby brood for the day (and evening):
The Children's Museum of Denver, located by the Platte River at I-25 and 23rd Ave., offers a pair of kids' concerts with local musician Michael Stanwood, a well-traveled performer who brings along a spellbinding cache of instruments from around the world, today and tomorrow at 11:30 and 1:30; admission is $1 in addition to the usual museum fare of $2 to $5. While you're there, the tykes can take a slide down KidSlope, and you can all shop in a kid-sized Wild Oats store or marvel at the jewel-toned illustrations of Tomie dePaola; call 433-7444 for information.
Today from 1 to 3 at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, 1880 Gaylord St., it's an Afternoon With St. Nick, featuring rides on an antique fire truck (please leave your 101 Dalmatians at home), a holiday ornament workshop and visits with the jolly one. Admission, which includes museum entry, is $4 to $5; call 322-3704.
At the Children's Library, 14th and Broadway, children can take time out to tend to their teddies during First Aid for Teddy Bears with the Rocky Mountain Good Bear Association. Bring in a torn toy for repair or learn to make your own bear from 2 to 3 this afternoon; for details call 640-6384.
Since kids are never too young to learn a lesson in philanthropy, and 'tis the season for giving, Cherry Creek North toy emporium Kazoo & Company, 2930 E. 2nd Ave., continues a holiday season Angel Book Project. Store patrons (and their kids, if they want) select books to buy for needy children whose names, provided by Denver Social Services, hang on Kazoo's angel-trimmed tree. The program continues through Monday; call 322-0973.
After dark, leave the driving to someone else: Hop on the bus and tour the town in search of eclectic and electric gaud. Colorado Charter Tours offers Holiday Lighting Tours from 7 to 10 nightly through December 30 (no tours December 24 or 25), and TourUSA's Christmas Lighting Tour Spectacular also runs nightly through December 23. Tour prices are around $20 for adults and $10 for kids (toddlers ride free); call CCT at 288-0273 or TourUSA at 694-1888 for reservations.
And finally, the annual Winter Solstice Revels present a homey evening for the whole family from 6 to midnight at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St. Part pagan ritual and part barn dance, the revels offer some holiday pomp in the form of sword and Morris dancing, along with community-oriented fun that includes a mummer's play, group singing and rowdy contra dancing for all. Admission is $20 ($5 for children ages 6 to 12); call 777-1003 or 449-9231 for tickets. For more information call 722-5391.
Hark, the herald angels sing: Choral music comes with a beautiful twist when performed by the Boulder-based Ars Nova Singers, one of the region's finest a cappella ensembles. The group's annual holiday concert, which begins at 7:30 tonight at Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., has a little bit of everything--early music, plainsong and polyphony, modern works and carols--all executed with stunning vocal precision by the forty-voice chorus. Admission is $10 ($8 for students and seniors); call 499-3165 to reserve tickets.
Meanwhile, everybody gets into the act when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra celebrates another Colorado Christmas with help from the CSO Chorus, Colorado Children's Chorale and you. The holiday concert, an undiluted hodgepodge of popular Christmas favorites, will indulge you with plenty of sing-along opportunities. Remaining shows take place at 2:30 or 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow at Boettcher Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; tickets range from $10 to $40. Call 830-TIXS.
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True crime: Local-history writer Phil Goodstein and colorful trial lawyer Walter Gerash teamed up on Murders in the Bank Vault: The Father's Day Massacre and the Trial of James King, a blow-by-blow true story based on the 1991 robbery and multiple murder at what was then the United Bank of Denver. Though the collaboration wasn't all roses for fact-digger Goodstein and controversial barrister Gerash, who defended the accused King in court, the finished product is now ready for the shelves, just in time for real-life-murder-mystery gift giving. Pick up signed copies today from 4 to 6 at Gerash's brownstone offices, 1439 Court Pl. (825-5400), or tomorrow from 4 to 6 at the Park Hill Cooperative Bookstore, 4620 E. 23rd Ave. (355-8508); for additional information call 333-1095.
Last 'cracker: Get cracking! The David Taylor Dance Theatre's far-out version of The Nutcracker returns to the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., just in time for you to get your seasonal fill of sugar plums--before it's too late. An annual treat with Roaring Twenties and Art Deco touches, the Taylor concoction marches on stage at the Arvada Center through December 28; for showtimes and ticket reservations, $12 to $24, call 431-3939.
Light your fire: It's not just Christmas Eve; it's also the first day of Hanukkah. That could simply herald one of the greatest last-minute shopping blitzes of all time, with folks of all faiths jockeying in the aisles for the last virtual pet in the world--but wouldn't you rather spend it with family and friends? Hanukkah gets a hospitable nod from singing rabbi Jack Gabriel and friends in Blinded by Delight, a family concert and candle-lighting tonight at 7 at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. Participants are encouraged to bring their own menorahs and candles to light along with Rabbi Jack; tickets are $7, or $21 per family. Reservations are recommended; call 399-2660.