Denver's El Centro Su Teatro proudly traces its roots back to the 1960s theatrical-political actions of Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino, which supported César Chavez and the United Farm Workers grape boycotts, and later evolved into the prototypical Chicano theater group. Such solidarity is just part of the package among the nation's diverse Latino arts groups, which also include spoken-word performers, musicians, dancers, fine artists and filmmakers, all bound together in a melting pot by language and a realm of experiences. So El Centro will be there, front and center, when Denver gets a sneak peek at Visiones: Latino Art & Culture, a six-part fall PBS documentary by Hector Gal´n, who hosts tonight's preview at the Starz FilmCenter. It's all in la familia, after all: El Centro's seminal cousin, Teatro Campesino, is profiled in the series, along with a staggering array that includes muralists, cartoonists, Nuyorican poets, New Mexican santeros, hip-hoppers, ballet dancers, salsa and Latin pop musicians, and more.
Also helping out will be Tom´s Riley and Adrian Aracibia, two of the Taco Shop Poets featured in the fifth installment, who will perform live prior to the screening. Part of a grassroots movement to repopularize Chicano poetry within the community, Riley and Aracibia began reciting their poetry, unannounced, in San Diego taco shops about ten years ago. "That guerrilla-theater approach got us chased out of venues more often than not," Riley says. Now they're more likely to be heard on college campuses. And they provide an excellent introduction to Visiones, which is all about art in action.
"This is not a survey," Gal´n says of the series. "These stories are character-driven, focusing on the individuals who are actually creating art." For instance, he adds, "Rokafella and Kwikstep [profiled in the fourth episode] are a wonderful couple of guys to take us into the world of hip-hop. While the segment showcases the evolution of hip hop, it's their story." Count the sons of Luis Valdez, Nuyorican poets Pedro Pietri and "La Bruja," and Riley and Aracibia and their Taco Shop friends among the series' more compelling figures.
The Visiones preview begins at 7 p.m. tonight at Starz, in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus. Admission is free; call 303-296-0219. The series begins September 5 on PBS; for details, log on to www.itvs.org. -- Susan Froyd
Sick & Twisted gets a Boulder twist
The Spike and Mike Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation is back -- and it's brought a few local characters along for the ride. Boulder-based animator Patrick Mallek and his staff of malcontents at Mighty Fudge Studios had the dubious honor of animating Spike and Mike for a two-minute short to kick off the festival. "A chance to animate the gods of animation? Are you kidding me? We were high-fivin' and crapping our pants at the same time," Mallek says. "This is as close to being a rock star as an animator can get."
But the creators of "Saturday Morning Cartoonsfor Grown-Ups" didn't just rely on their computer-given talents. They enlisted KBPI jock Uncle Nasty to provide the vocal stylings of Spike. "He did such a great job," Mallek says. "He's over-the-top amazing. He really brought the show to life."
In typical old-school Warner Bros. fashion, Mallek has Spike and Mike beating the crap out of each other, yapping and then finally launching the 21 new films, which are showing tonight through September 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Of course, the animators are each hoping that their segment will become the next Beavis and Butt-head, South Park or Powerpuff Girls to come out of Sick & Twisted. Mallek is betting on the premiere of his short, titled My First Boner, a spoof on the 1970s Schoolhouse Rock series.
Decide for yourself if Mighty Fudge Studios is sick and twisted enough to have been the first to ever animate Spike and Mike. Tickets are $8.50; visit www.spikeandmike.com for showtimes. -- Amy Haimerl
When politicians open their mouths, literary masterpieces rarely pour out. But tonight will be that rare exception, when Mayor John Hickenlooper, City Auditor Dennis Gallagher, Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez and University of Colorado regent Susan Kirk, among others, gather at the LoDo Tattered Cover at 7:30 p.m. for the eighth annual Words to Stir the Soul: Readings From the American West. For the event, sponsored by CU's Center for the American West, the celebs get to choose their own selections from Western-inspired literature. Gallagher, for example, will read from OJ Goldrick's account of the flood of 1865, "an overwrought, overwritten passage," says the center's Patricia Limerick. "And Regent Kirk reading from Robert Service will have to be something to see." Both Kirk and Gallagher, each repeat performers, are guaranteed crowd-pleasers, Limerick promises.
A second lineup -- including Brad Jones, former chair of the CU-Boulder College Republicans and one of the few GOPs to accept the center's invitation to read -- will offer their own selections at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 26, in room 150 of the Eaton Humanities Building on the CU campus in Boulder; a reception will follow. Both evenings are free; for more information, call 303-492-4879 or go to www.centerwest.org.
"You can see that people just love being read to," Limerick concludes. "If they could bring their blankies and curl up, they'd be very happy." -- Patricia Calhoun
There's a Fungus Among Us
Mushroom Fair isn't just for burnouts and chefs
"There's more to mushrooms than just eating them," notes Vera Evenson, curator of fungi for the Denver Botanic Gardens. "They are essential to our forests; they are partners with trees and almost all the vascular plants. No other organisms rot wood like fungi do. Fungi recycle for the planet." They also got me so obliterated one time, I thought Ferril Lake was the Pacific Ocean.
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"Hallucinogenic mushrooms are considered poisonous; they are to be avoided. We don't collect or promote them; they are illegal," Evenson explains.
Fair enough, especially when one considers the wide variety of fascinating, non-poisonous mushrooms on display at today's Mushroom Fair at the Botanic Gardens, 1005 York Street, from noon to 5 p.m.
"Because of all the moisture in the hills, this year is going to be fantastic," Evenson says. A bounty of mushrooms not seen in drier times will be labeled and displayed by the thousands as part of the fair. There will be numerous activities for children, and University of Wisconsin professor of biology Tom Volk will lecture on the impact of fungi on humans and history -- ranging from the devastating role the growth played in the Irish Potato Famine to the organisms' contribution to the Salem Witch Trials.
The fair is free with paid admission to the Gardens. For details, call 720-865-3500. -- Adam Cayton-Holland